Here are some notes that I used as part of a lecture during a Systematic Theology course. They discuss the Scriptures, particularly the doctrines of inerrancy and inspiration as they are used toward establishing biblical authority. I’m posting these notes in part to supplement a talk I’m giving as part of an ACTS64 meeting this Tuesday evening. These notes count as a resource for further thinking on the topic past what I’ll say in the talk. Feel free to respond for more info–this is a limited excerpt from my notes–there is more to discuss on developing a concrete and holistic theology of Scripture.

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Problematic Ways of Speaking about Scripture

The most familiar talk of Scripture that is likely common to us all is discussion which revolves around the ideas of Scriptural inerrancy and inspiration. Even now, as we encounter various challenges to the Scriptures, especially in terms of authority and veracity, we are often taught to defend the Scriptures using these concepts primarily. This method is usually advanced most often through apologetics, by authors such as Josh McDowell or Norman Geisler.

While there are some positive aspects to speaking of Scripture in this manner, there are even greater pitfalls that often go unnoticed. One of the significant problems with talking about Scripture primarily in terms of inerrancy and inspiration is that such talk works with presuppositions that force Christians to give up too much ground to their opponents, or in other words, to the ones with whom we are trying to argue for the authority of Scripture. In many ways, inerrancy and inspiration, which are better thought of as articles of faith, are used to do too much work in our arguments about Scripture in the face of challenges.

Inerrancy – what does the article of faith called inerrancy believe? Namely, that the Scriptures are without error. This article is used hand in hand with the article of faith called inspiration, but we’ll cover that in a moment. Inerrancy is a confession, a belief about the nature of Scripture. It has to do with certain presuppositions we hold about God and the Bible which He has given to us, his people, the Church. In our efforts to convince others of the authority of Scripture, inerrancy is one of the cards we play. It tends to look like this:

The Scriptures narrate a story which we believe is about real people and real events in real locations at some point in history. Therefore, we believe that we should be able to find evidence of these events, evidence of the existence of biblical characters, evidence that the locations which are spoken of in Scripture really existed. Often, we refer to the findings of scientific endeavors such as archaeology and other historical research to corroborate the testimony of the Scriptures. For example, Paul Maier might argue that we know the practice of crucifixion really happened because we have found the corpse of someone who still had the nails through his bones, or at least the marks left on the bones which would undoubtedly result from being crucified. Or he might point out the we have found the bones of Caiaphas, the high priest who played a role in the conviction of our Lord. Or we might reference the physical evidence of a stone tablet with the name Pontius Pilate, demonstrating he really lived. Such finds are often called upon to prove the truth of the testimony of Scripture, therefore supporting our belief in its inerrancy. Alternatively, the same practices can be used to disprove the veracity of Scripture. The recent controversy regarding the “Jesus Tomb” has demanded at the very least, that we reinterpret the message of the Scriptures, for if Christ’s bones have really been found, then all we can say about Christ’s resurrection and ascension is that they occurred in the spiritual sense, rather than in the material. This is a challenge to our belief of biblical inerrancy. What is more, as you can see, the same methods can be used by both sides, by the liberals and the conservatives if you will, or as they are sometimes called, by the fundamentalists as well as the historical critics.

However, what we must notice is that there are underlying presuppositions that play a strong role in our efforts to maintain the view that the Scriptures are inerrant. As I said before, our presuppositions often give up too much ground. In this case, when we look to prove the authority of Scripture by showing its inerrancy through verification of historical lives, events, or places, we are actually submitting the Bible’s authority, our belief in its inerrancy, to some other authority, namely, scientific disciplines like archaeology. In other words, the Bible’s authority, as well as our belief in its inerrancy are subjected to some other authority in which we, unwittingly, have placed more of our faith. It is like we are submitting ourselves to the judgment of a higher court, rather than allowing Scripture to be the highest court. We have come to the game playing by our opponent’s rules. In the end, we can only admit that using the idea of inerrancy in this way has forced it to do too much work–finally, it will not get us where we want to go, that is, toward an authoritative Scripture.

Inspiration – what does the article of faith called “inspiration” believe? It believes that the Spirit of God verbally inspired the Scriptures, and therefore concludes on that basis that the Scriptures are inerrant. In this way, as I said above, inspiration and inerrancy go hand in hand. Inspiration takes as its primary presupposition the infallibility of God, or, the idea that God cannot lie. Where the challenges arise in the idea of inspiration is in the notion that the Scriptures were not written by the hand of God Himself, so to speak, but by the hands of men. The question centers around how inspiration was manifest. This is not particularly for us to consider here, but only to maintain that it happened (and to fit the idea of inspiration into the larger context of the trinitarian economy, which follows below). Nevertheless, the point to show here is how inspiration and inerrancy have been used to do too much in our efforts to establish a sound argument on the authority of the Scriptures.

That the Scriptures are authoritative is not a matter of proof or of some sense of scientific certainty, to the point that the world must finally admit that they are accountable to the Scriptures. Such an attitude tends to result in “biblicism”, or a faith that takes its object in the Bible, rather than grasping the promises of God’s saving work through Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit.

Problematic Ways of Speaking about Scripture

As we enter the seminary, the most familiar talk of Scripture that is likely common to us all is discussion which revolves around the ideas of Scriptural inerrancy and inspiration. Even now, as we encounter various challenges to the Scriptures, especially in terms of authority and veracity, we are often taught to defend the Scriptures using these concepts primarily. This method is usually advanced most often through apologetics, by authors such as Josh McDowell or Norman Geisler.

While there are some positive aspects to speaking of Scripture in this manner, there are even greater pitfalls that often go unnoticed. One of the significant problems with talking about Scripture primarily in terms of inerrancy and inspiration is that such talk works with presuppositions that force Christians to give up too much ground to their opponents, or in other words, to the ones with whom we are trying to argue for the authority of Scripture. In many ways, inerrancy and inspiration, which are better thought of as articles of faith, are used to do too much in our arguments about Scripture in the face of challenges.

Inerrancy – what does the article of faith called inerrancy believe? Namely, that the Scriptures are without error. This article is used hand in hand with the article of faith called inspiration, but we’ll cover that in a moment. Inerrancy is a confession, a belief about the nature of Scripture. It has to do with certain presuppositions we hold about God and the Bible which He has given to us, his people, the Church. In our efforts to convince others of the authority of Scripture, inerrancy is one of the cards we play. It tends to look like this:

The Scriptures narrate a story which we believe is about real people and real events in real locations at some point in history. Therefore, we believe that we should be able to find evidence of these events, evidence of the existence of biblical characters, evidence that the locations which are spoken of in Scripture really existed. Often, we refer to the findings of scientific endeavors such as archaeology and other historical research to corroborate the testimony of the Scriptures. For example, Paul Maier might argue that we know the practice of crucifixion really happened because we have found the corpse of someone who still had the nails through his bones, or at least the marks left on the bones which would undoubtedly result from being crucified. Or he might point out the we have found the bones of Caiaphas, the high priest who played a role in the conviction of our Lord. Or we might reference the physical evidence of a stone tablet with the name Pontius Pilate, demonstrating he really lived. Such finds are often called upon to prove the truth of the testimony of Scripture, therefore supporting our belief in its inerrancy. Alternatively, the same practices can be used to disprove the veracity of Scripture. The recent controversy regarding the “Jesus Tomb” has demanded at the very least, that we reinterpret the message of the Scriptures, for if Christ’s bones have really been found, then all we can say about Christ’s resurrection and ascension is that they occurred in the spirit sense, rather than in the material. This is a challenge to our belief of biblical inerrancy. What is more, as you can see, the same methods can be used by both sides, by the liberals and the conservatives if you will, or as we are sometimes called, by the fundamentalists as well as the historical critics.


However, what we must notice is that there are underlying presuppositions that play a strong role in our efforts to maintain the view that the Scriptures are inerrant. As I said before, our presuppositions often give up too much ground. In this case, when we look to prove the authority of Scripture by showing its inerrancy through verification of historical lives, events, or places, we are actually submitted the Bible’s authority, our belief in its inerrancy, to some other authority, namely, scientific disciplines like archaeology. In other words, the Bible’s authority, as well as our belief in its inerrancy are subjected to some other authority in which we, unwittingly, have placed more of our faith. We have come to the game playing by our opponent’s rules. In the end, we can only admit that using the idea of inerrancy in this way has forced it to do too much work–finally, it will not get us where we want to go, that is, toward an authoritative Scripture.

Inspiration – what does the article of faith called “inspiration” believe? It believes that the Spirit of God verbally inspired the Scriptures, and therefore concludes on that basis that the Scriptures are inerrant. In this way, as I said above, inspiration and inerrancy go hand in hand. Inspiration takes as its primary presupposition the infallibility of God, or, the idea that God cannot lie. Where the challenges arise in the idea of inspiration is in the notion that the Scriptures were not written by the hand of God Himself, so to speak, but by the hands of men. The question centers around how inspiration was manifest. This is not particularly for us to consider here, but only to maintain that it happened (and to fit the idea of inspiration into the larger context of the trinitarian economy, which follows below). Nevertheless, the point to show here is how inspiration and inerrancy have been used to do too much in our efforts to establish a sound argument on the authority of the Scriptures.

That the Scriptures are authoritative is not a matter of proof or of some sense of scientific certainty, to the point that the world must finally admit that they are accountable to the Scriptures. Such an attitude tends to result in “biblicism”, or a faith that takes its object in the Bible, rather than grasping the promises of God’s saving work through Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit.

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