This article shows that the Bible is both infallible and inerrant.

Source: Clarion, 2013. 3 pages.

Infallible and Inerrant? How True Is the Bible?

Recently I learned that there is a great difference between the infallibility of Scripture and the inerrancy of Scripture. Please do not be alarmed. I am running a bit behind. This difference has existed for some time al­ready and apparently major theologians have accepted it. Seems to be legit. Everyone should learn to accept this difference and work with it. Otherwise we may fall into fundamentalism, literalism, Biblicism, and populism etc. Not good.

Recently these monikers were liberally applied to me because of what I wrote in a previous editorial about Bible-thumping. It was also suggested that if we accept and apply the difference between infallibility and in­errancy we can better appreciate the efforts of scientists and will refrain from science-bashing. Clear skies and smooth sailing will follow. I am sensitive to that because I love clear skies and smooth sailing.

So much for that. Right now an explanation of the terms infallibility and inerrancy is necessary. This is not easy, for the terms do overlap. Infallibility means that the Bible is true and trustworthy for it is not a human but a divine word. This is a logical consequence of the doctrine of inspiration. Simply said, God cannot be wrong and so his Word is completely true. Infallibility leads to inerrancy.

But what do we do with obvious errors in Scripture? Well, some say that even though the Bible is infallible, the Bible is not inerrant, not without errors. Inerrancy means, strangely enough, that there are some errors in Scripture, not caused directly by God but by human transmission. One could say, then, that while the Bible is infallible, it is not inerrant. Somehow some errors have crept in from the time and era, the culture in which it was written.

Stay with me now, for the ultimate question is: Can I believe the whole Bible as being true? It is nice to make fancy distinctions which are meant to help the discus­sion, but the bottom line is always: is the Bible really true from beginning to end? Some have found another way out of the difficulty by introducing the idea that the Bible is inerrant only in matters of salvation. Does the Belgic Confession not state this in Article 7 when it teaches that Holy Scripture fully contains "all that man must believe in order to be saved"?

Explanation: the Bible is unquestionably true only in matters of salvation, but not necessarily when it comes to history, geography, mathematics, natural science, etc. Examples? One will suffice: the Bible says that the sun stood still, but nowadays we know that the sun is the centre of our universe and doesn't move. So the sun sim­ply cannot stand still. If we take the Bible literally here, there is a glaring error. If we acknowledge that errors have crept in here and there, our problem is solved.

Some say: the LORD accommodated his speaking to our human (level of) understanding. Like a father some­times uses baby-talk with children. Ga-ga-gaga-goo. Ac­commodation. Now that's a different kettle of fish. That also falls beyond the primary scope of this editorial. Per­haps I can sometime come back to this, too.

True in Matters of Salvation🔗

I referred earlier to Article 7 of the Belgic Confes­sion. This article is said to state the Bible is inerrant in matters of salvation but not necessarily in other mat­ters. Hmmmm. Is that really what it says? In other words, whenever it comes to the saving work of Christ, the Bible is true and without any error. But whenever it comes to other matters that are bound by time and culture, the Bible is not always reliable.

Let me give you an example. The Bible makes very clear that "mankind" fell into sin. To what extent fully-evolved persons like Adam and Eve were involved is not so important. Also, we know from biology that snakes and other animals cannot speak. Like Ballam’s donkey, the silly beast. The speaking of the beast is only a hyperbole to emphasize how foolish Balaam was and not how bright the ass is. We should not take this literally, I hear. Remember, I was warned about literalism. These things are like "metaphors," a spruced-up and spice-filled way of saying things. Take it literally? Nah. Watch out for fundamentalism and literalism and populism.

It is not important, I hear, exactly how something like the fall into sin happened, but it is important that we accept the reality of the fall and what it means for us today. Don’t touch that! What about the snake, the trees in the garden, yes, the whole garden itself? Exit, stage left. Probably never happened that way. What we read in Genesis 3 is a narrative that must not be taken literally.

Manoeuvering Space🔗

Article 7 of the Belgic Confession, however, does not allow for this maneuvering space. To say that the Bible is inerrant only in matters of salvation is blatantly false. Follow the articles 3-7 of the Belgic Confession with an open mind. Article 3 says that the Scriptures are fully the inspired Word of God. Here we confess that the Bible is true because it is inspired. A reference is made to 2 Peter 1:21, "Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."

The next article makes clear that only a very specific list of books is taken up into the canon (adopted and authoritative text) of the Bible. There are also apocryphal books (Article 6) and these books have some value, but they are not canonical, inspired books. "Apocryphal" means either that the origin of these books is unclear or that these books were hidden away in a drawer or cupboard and would not mistakenly be used in the Sabbath service.

Then follows Article 7 in which we confess the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures. In this context it is said that "all that man must believe in order to be saved is taught therein." The Scriptures are not only inspired and infallible but are also sufficient. This article contends against the Romanist idea that the Bible is not enough and that other sources are required, for example, the living tradition of the church.

But our confession speaks differently. The Bible is enough and contains all we need to know and believe in order to be saved. Nothing or nobody stands above the Bible; the truth is above all. Note that in Article 7 it also says "It is evident that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects." Most perfect. And complete. In all respects. There is no wriggle room here.

If we suggest that the Bible is inerrant only in matters of salvation, where do you draw a line and say: Well, this belongs to salvation, but that does not? Is there anything in the Bible that does not pertain to our salvation? Is the simple truth that God created the heavens and the earth an all that is in them as described in six days not a key matter of salvation? Why should we not take this literally, as it is written? Does the revelation of one week with one day holy to the LORD as day of rest and worship not need to be believed? Can we make this into a matter of millions of years?

Let us Hold to Both🔗

Infallibility and inerrancy are not two unrelated things. The one is the result of the other. If we confess infallibility we also confess inerrancy. Let us hold to both.

I understand that there are Christian scientists who in their daily work come across matters that seem to militate against Scripture. We have some academics also in our churches. Their struggle is not easy. I can appreciate that they are afraid of fundamentalism, literalism, Biblicism, and populism. But is it proper, then, to allay our anxieties (if we have them in this respect) with the thought that Scripture does have errors? When we start down this path, will we not lose the Scriptures altogether?

Our Lord Jesus Christ himself said, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life. And these are they which testify of me" (John 5:39). All Scriptures testify of Christ. From Genesis 1 – Revelation 22. I do not want to lose even the smallest verse of Scripture, for I would be losing something of Christ. The Bible is completely true or not at all. This touches the very heart of my faith, about which I can get very emotional. Forgive me. It reminds me of a beautiful hymn: (version: Chris Tomlin),

Lord, I need you
Oh I need you,
Every hour I need you,
 My one defense,
My righteousness
Oh God how I need you.

Therefore every attempt to cause suspicion on any Bible verse, no matter how well-intentioned, must be humbly and firmly resisted from the onset.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.