Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Truth of the Bible

Someone presents an argument: If all the Bible isn’t true, then none of it is true.

Now I have never heard anyone actually make this argument. Perhaps you have. I have only heard people who disagree with the argument say it.

It is a stupid argument? Well, yes, in a way. But calling it that probably won’t open a door for conversation.

The argument should actually be made quite differently: If all the Bible isn’t true, then we have no way to know what is true in it.

Some people argue for a limited inerrancy. They want to say that the Bible is inerrant in all that it affirms, but is not necessarily inerrant in all that it says about matters of science, geography, etc.

First, the very notion of “limited inerrancy” is, well, shall we say non-sensical. Inerrancy is binary. Something either is inerrant or is not inerrant.

Second, the notion of “limited inerrancy” really says nothing specific. Virtually everything but the baldest of bald-faced lies partakes of limited inerrancy. The problem with people who lie sometimes is that you never know what to believe.

Third, the notion of “limited inerrancy” is a charade of the worst sort. It is a construct of modernity, a way to affirm a historic teaching without actually affirming the historic teaching. It is a way of maintaining the dignity of a name without partaking of its corresponding indignity (as some would consider it).

Fourth, the notion of “limited inerrancy” does not comport with the Bible’s affirmations. When the Bible teaches that Moses parted the Red Sea, that is presented as a historical fact to be believed. It is teaching us about the life of Moses. When the Bible says that “X did Y,” it is teaching that as a fact to be believed. These teachings are no different than affirmation the the Lord will accomplish salvation for his people.

Now, to be sure, “inerrancy” does not require (and has never required) that one hold to the notion that trees clap or that stars sing. Inerrancy has never claimed that figures of speech should be anything other than a figure of speech.

Inerrancy has never required that people ignore the cultural and historical context in which the Scripture were written.

But what we must recognize is that figures of speech and historical and cultural contexts do not mean that the Bible is inaccurate.

And we cannot legitimately define “inerrant” or “truthful” to be something other than “truthful.”

This is an area where not much critical thinking has been done. People blindly accept the assertions of limited inerrancy or cultural accuracy without considering the serious ramifications of it. As a result, we are left not knowing what in the Bible is actually true.

We need a more robust scholarship, not a lesser one. We need a revival of historic bibliology that refuses to kowtow to modern notions of intellect that defy the propositions of Scripture.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


D.A. Carson just finished a book that perhaps provides the "robust scholarship" you eluded to. It is called "Collected Writings on Scripture. Here is the link to the book at