Theological Pillars of Inerrancy

Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture The teaching of the Bible’s inerrancy is not simply based on a few verses here and there.  It is also based on theology proper (who God is; his character and attributes).  Mark Thompson makes this point in his helpful essay, “Toward a Theological Account of Biblical Inerrancy.”  Here’s a summarization of Thompson’s five theological pillars of inerrancy.  Inerrancy is based on:

1) God’s Personal veracity (truthfulness).  The testimony to God’s truthfulness is consistent throughout Scripture.  As the creator of all, God knows all things as they truly are.  His word can be relied on (Num. 23:19, 1 Sam. 15:29, Prov. 30:5, Ps. 119:160, Titus 1:1-3, Heb. 6:17-18, Rev. 6:10, etc).  The truth of what God says is fully grounded in the truth that God is.

2) God’s concursive involvement in the created order.  The distinction between the Creator and his creation is no barrier to God’s genuine involvement in the created order.  God is involved in and alongside the ‘ordinary’ processes of everyday life.  This is called concusus or sometimes ‘compatibilism.’  His involvement in a fallen world never entails the compromise of his holiness and truthfulness.  As Warfield said, ‘The whole of Scripture is the product of divine activities which enter it, however, not by superseding the activities of the human authors, but confluently with them; so that the Scriptures are the joint product of divine and human activities, both of which penetrate them at every point.’

3) God’s willingness to accommodate himself for our sake.  God’s use of human language to express his purposes and describe his activity is one critical example of such accommodation. The truth about God is expressed in language that is clearly figurative at points and based on our experience of human agency at other points, and yet its proper reference is accessible to the skilled and the unskilled alike.  The most significant example of accommodation is the incarnation of the Son.  He became flesh, really and truly human, yet without sin.  In his word and in Christ, God is able to make himself and his purposes known effectively and truthfully.

4) God’s creation and use of human speech and writing.  Human language is a divine gift.  God used language to create all things, and the first humans were speaking creatures.  The words God uses are deemed by him as appropriate to convey his purposes in a way that is consistent with his character.  The theological significance of the place given to language in the opening chapters of Genesis ought not to be understated.  Language is not inherently distorting, even when used by fallen human beings.  God is the preeminent speaker throughout Scripture, and he uses words that can be understood by people – in that sense, genuinely human words.  Speech, words, and even writing are not foreign to God.  The capacity of language to carry truth about the true God is amply demonstrated from Scripture itself.

5) God’s gift of Scripture.  The Scriptures do not spontaneously arise out of the piety of the ancient Hebrews or the first followers of the crucified and risen Christ.  God addresses men and women personally in human words.  His relation to this particular body of writing marks it out from all other literature.  This is recognized in the Old and New Testaments (cf. 2 Pet. 3:15-16).  Scripture bears a unique authority because of its unique relation to the God who is Lord of all.

In other words, inerrancy is based on God’s truthfulness, the fact that he is involved in the created order, his accommodating himself to us, his speaking, and his inscripturated word.  Inerrancy is not just based on a few verses here and there (proof-texts), but also upon who God is (theology proper).

The above essay and the entire discussion of these five points can be found in Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? (p. 84-96).

shane lems

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