Inerrancy vs Scriptural Trustworthiness

Another blast from the past - almost 5 years ago! The good stuff is in the comments!

My wife Ann is reading (and I am reading excerpts from) the post-evangelical by Dave Tomlinson. To the left is a page that I found to be an interesting one. You can read the next page here.

I am interested in your thoughts on this and would like to have a dialog around scriptural inerrancy. So feel free to leave me a comment or perhaps pose a question for discussion. The more interaction the better :)


  1. A few quick thoughts:

    1) God promised to preserve His word. Psalm 12:6-7: "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."

    2) God is capable of preserving His word and does not break his promises.

    3) If we cannot claim an inerrant Bible, then Bible "scholars" become our authority, rather than God.

  2. I Timothy 6:20 – O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: (21) Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.

    I can only speak to what the Bible means to me, and has meant to me for all these years. It is to me The Living Word of God and speaks to me truth and revelation as I need it, or rather usually as I am ready for it.

  3. I often find myself upsetting conservative evangelicals because I do not accept the inerrancy of scripture.

    This does not generally lead to a sensible discussion and is often cited as evidence that I can not be saved.

    I can not see anywhere in the creeds or in the sayings of Jesus which require acceptance of inerrancy a being eterminative of salvation.

    I wonder why so many Christians are anti-intellectual.

  4. Thanks everyone for getting the discussion started. The next page of the book says that:

    1) inerrancy and inspiration are not the same thing. One can embrace inspiration but not necessarily ascribe to inerrancy.

    2) scripture does not have to be scientifically and historically precise to be inspired.. or for that matter inerrant.

    For example, the Genesis story of creation does not have to be literal to be inspired.

    The fact that God created all of creation is not devalued if a God-day is equal to many years (ala 2Peter 3:8) or if it is not.

    The fact that early man sinned against God after being tempted by the devil is a story worth telling whether it happened exactly as Moses recorded or not.

    The fact that God created man unique from all other created beings is a truth worth embracing no matter how He did it.

    For me these concepts do not devalue the scriptures but cause me to embrace them even more fully. It communicates to me that the story is often more important than the minutae of the facts/figures.

    Another reason I like this approach is because it resonates with the way that God has dealt with me these past 32 years. His message in my life is seldom about the details of my life but more of trusting Him to accomplish His purposes in my life.

    I also like what Tomlinson says about Stott embracing the inerrancy of the autographs.. it is similar to my thinkings.. if you believe in inerrancy you probably aren't too much different than Stott (or me).. unless you only accept the KJV :)

    How about you? Any other thoughts?

  5. I can not see anywhere in the creeds or in the sayings of Jesus which require acceptance of inerrancy a being determinative of salvation.

    Does anyone say that belief in inerrancy of the Bible is necessary for salvation? I've never heard anyone say that.

    I wonder why so many Christians are anti-intellectual.

    I wonder why so many people equate belief in Scriptural error with intellectualism.

  6. scripture does not have to be scientifically and historically precise to be inspired.. or for that matter inerrant.

    This seems wrong, unless we are redefining the terms precision and/or error.

  7. Bob,
    Intersting post brother.
    Thank you for sharing this with us all.

  8. I think that I see where you are coming from Jason. I think that the anti-intellectual sentiment isn't so much about scriptural error error but more about dogmatism. I know many folks who are very resistant to change.. holding on to older translation of the scriptures and unwilling to give any of the new ones a try.. and I am not limiting this to the KJV-only folks. I found myself resistant to The Message (paraphrase) and other more recent versions of the scriptures.

    I think that inerrancy is about theautographs and not the translations. You originally said that "God is capable of preserving His word".. I agree as long as this preservation is not embodied by only one transalation. When this happens then "translator-scholars" then become our authority.

    I think that precision is a very relevant term.. it means something different depending on the context. When we evaluate a book we all evaluate if differently depending on our bent - an English teacher might be concerned with the precision of the prose.. a philospher might focus on the precision of the message of the book.. a math teacher might ask if the book is logical.. a science teacher might wonder on the provability of the book's assertaions.

    I think that when we make "translations" of the bible inerrant in all aspects we begin to venture into the world of bibliolatry.

    Enjoying the discussion.

  9. "Does anyone say that belief in inerrancy of the Bible is necessary for salvation? I've never heard anyone say that."

    Jason, you are reading the wrong blogs clearly.

    No, actually I was, and I don't recommend them. However I still get visitors from them who berate me as a false teacher and worse.

    It seems I was a troll because I didn't agree with their views.

    I rather like trolls.

  10. Bob: if you have the time and you have no already done so, can I suggest some reading of Walter Brueggemann You sound to be on his wave length.

  11. I know many folks who are very resistant to change

    Which can be a good thing, at times!

  12. I think that inerrancy is about the autographs and not the translations.

    If that were the case, we would be in trouble, because we do not have the autographs. All we have is copies and translations.

  13. Bob,
    very interesting thoughts here. I was taught that the Bible is inerrant and literal. But over time in my personal journey I have seen people so polarized over biblical issues that they both have scripture to back up that I tend to take many things figuratively instead of literally.
    The language of the bible is clearly not scientific, so much is beautiful poetry & imagery why do we humans have to complicate everything so much?
    I absolutely believe that God HAS preserved His Word and His word is true, but that doesn't mean every thing is literal fact, although I think many things are.
    Seems to me we are back to the old Letter vs. the Spirit argument again. I suppose as long as we are here it will be an issue.
    I hope we can all agree on the important things and leave the unknown to the Mystery that is God.
    Some things we will never understand. I mean really , how profitable would it be for me to argue about the Eucharist with a Catholic or a Lutheran? Just because there is a division there doesn't mean it's a point I need to argue and who knows? The exact opposite of what I believe could end up being the truth. Why bother?

  14. Why bother?

    Because Truth is worth discovering and then defending.

    I am reminded of a conversation between two characters in C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength:

    "I suppose there are two views about everything," said Mark.

    "Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one."

  15. This debate is challenging no doubt, but I agree with Tomlinson. You can believe in inspiration and not ascribe to innerancy. I do.

  16. I agree that the Truth is worth discovering Jason.. unless He discovers you first :)

    Of course the best defence is a strong offense.. the fruit and wisdom of the Spirit usually works best.. whether you are on offence or defence.

  17. "If that were the case, we would be in trouble, because we do not have the autographs. All we have is copies and translations."

    Which transalation/copy do think to be inerrant Jason?

  18. Which translation/copy do think to be inerrant Jason?

    There is not just one, for there are many translations in many languages. But since we are all speaking in English, I'll stick to that: the King James.

  19. Great discussion.

    I have always been taught the inerrancy of Scripture, and only recently have I even been in contact with people who thought otherwise--people like Doorman-Priest.

    Not having studied much myself on the subject, and having no knowledge of that book except the page you presented us...I can't weigh in as an expert, only a guy with an opinion.

    First--I really like the term "trustworthiness" more than "inerrancy"--not because the term inerrancy causes debate, but because it is such a loaded word that means different things to different people. It's a can of worms.

    Second--I think we have to take into account that our view of inerrancy is often based on a literalist, modernist, scientific approach to Scripture that is relatively new in history. That doesn't have to change our opinion about it--it just means we should, for example, stop acting like the Bible was dropped out of heaven in complete, perfect form. It was actually progressively passed down and expanded over many generations.

    Third--the canon itself is a matter of trust in the judgment of man as well as the Spirit of God. We have this canon because centuries ago, believers *decided* it was the canon. It wasn't God speaking out of the sky, but I do believe it was God guiding man's steps.

    Fourth--I have to throw Jason a curve with one example about the KJV. A study of Hebraic roots reveals that every time the name James is written, it was actually "Jacob." King James insisted that his English name be superimposed on the Jewish version of the name. So what does this do to absolute word-for-word inerrancy?

    Having said all current opinion is that Scripture is truly inspired (God-breathed), and is to be trusted. I also believe that the original intent of Scripture is inerrant, that the content itself is trustworthy. However, I acknowledge the fact that over time Scripture has been passed down through the hands of imperfect man, and over time translation and re-translation, among other things, has created some minor imperfections and inconsistencies in the documents we have today. But I emphasize that those imperfections are man's, not God's, and part of our job in interpreting Scripture is to weed through some of that stuff to try and find the original intent. It is at that level that we find the inerrancy of Scripture.

    For Scripture to have lasted in this form for as long as it has, and to have so *few* inconsistencies in it...that itself testifies to me that it is Divinely inspired, and trustworthy.

  20. The KJV response surprised me Jason.. not sure what to make of it? Were you serious? What about the NKJV? I believe that it uses the same manuscripts as the KJV yet it uses the language of our day.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation Jeff.. I especially agree with the last sentence of your comment.

  21. Completely serious, Bob.

    I do not use the NKJV, for the reasons outlined here.

  22. Guess I just don't agree with the perspective of the Fundamental Baptists quoted in your link. Given that you said..

    "If we cannot claim an inerrant Bible, then Bible "scholars" become our authority, rather than God."

    I am surprised that you agree with them about the exclusivity of the Textus Receptus manuscripts. Seems that a denomination (the fundamental baptists) becomes the authority rather than God.. but maybe I am just misunderstanding what you are saying?

    Are you saying that the only inerrant English translation is the KJV? If so please tell me why in your own words.

  23. Seems that a denomination (the fundamental baptists) becomes the authority rather than God

    There is no denomination called "fundamental Baptists." And there are self-identified fundamental Baptists who use modern translations.

    Are you saying that the only inerrant English translation is the KJV?

    Yes. There are differences in the translations. Therefore, not all of them can be the 100% preserved Word of God. Which one do you consider to be the Word of God?

    If so please tell me why in your own words.

    I wish I had the time, for that's not a one paragraph answer. Thankfully, I found something I wrote to a friend several years ago:

    The KJV is different from modern translations largely due to the "line" of texts they rely on. These manuscripts are considered from the Antioch line of manuscripts. The modern translations are based on two manuscripts -- Codex Vaticanus and Codex Siniaticus -- that are ultimately derived from Alexandria, Egypt (the Alexandrian line of texts). The modern translators based their versions on Vaticanus and Siniaticus because they are older. However, they also don't always agree with each other, nor do they always agree with the majority of the other texts we have. The King James translators had Vaticanus and Siniaticus available to them, but rejected them.

    And then there are modern translations that aren't word-for-word translations from any ancient manuscripts, but are rather paraphrases.

    I've read other versions, most notably the Today's English Version, the NIV, and the NRSV. The KJV has blessed me personally more than any other translation. Additionally, I trust the KJV translators more than modern translators. Modern translations are a big money making business. Now, I don't think it's wrong for Christians to make money. But it is something else to consider. It's a major reason why new translations -- ostensibly more "accurate" or more "relevant" -- come out all the time. Also, I think too many of the modern translators don't believe they're handling the Word of God. They instead believe they're handling the best copy we have of what once was the inspired Word of God. That makes a difference in how you translate, and allows for more liberty in the translation (and political correctness -- e.g., making everything gender neutral).

    The new translations also do some strange things. For instance, the NIV takes the traditional passage for the fall of Satan (Lucifer) -- Isaiah 14:12 -- and changes "Lucifer" to "morning star." But Jesus is called the "Morning Star" in Rev. 22:16.

    Here's a good article on this:

    And here's a good resource page:

    Clearly no one will go to Hell for using the wrong translation. But it's nice to have a standard.

  24. I would be interested in learning how you came to the position that the KJV is the ony inerrant translation Jason. Does your church or denomination advocate that position or is it one that you have studied and arrived at yourself?

    Have you ever studied the culture and language of 16th/17th century England? It seems that you would have to know something of it to be able to understand the vernacular of the KJV.

    I think that at one time the KJV was a modern transaltion that used the vernacular of everyday people. It was groundbreaking. I think that translations like the NKJV try to communicate the scriptures in the vernaculer of our day.

    For me, I enjoy reading many translations. I get a lot of insight from word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence and paragraph-by-paragraph translations.

  25. Bob,

    1) I studied the issue on my own.

    2) My church teaches the same thing.

    3) I would not belong to a church that preached out of modern translations. (What confusion would exist -- everyone reading out of different translations; though I understand there are many churches where people do not even bring a Bible to church.)

    4) The KJV is not hard to understand.

    For me, I enjoy reading many translations.

    But which one is the right one, when they differ?

  26. From the sequence of your comment am I to assume that you selected your church (after studying the issue for yourself) based on their KJV only position?

    32 years later I have to say that there is has not been any confusion in church because different translations are used. On the contrary, using alternate translations of sentences/words is often helpful in the teaching of scripture.. some even use explanations of the Greek words.

    I think that Matthew 19:14 (suffer the children) is one of many instances where you have to understand the antiquated language of the KJV.

    "But which one is the right one, when they differ?"

    Maybe you can point me to one major instance of substance where the KJV differs from the NKJV.

    Enjoying the conversation Jason. Sorry about the Facebook diversion.

  27. From the sequence of your comment am I to assume that you selected your church (after studying the issue for yourself) based on their KJV only position?

    That was one of the (necessary) criteria. There are actually at least four KJV churches in my city.

    Maybe you can point me to one major instance of substance where the KJV differs from the NKJV.

    From the article I linked to previously:

    MATTHEW 7:14

    KJV “Because STRAIT is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

    NKJV “Because narrow is the gate and DIFFICULT is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

    The word “difficult” in the NKJV (and “narrow” in the KJV) is a translation of the Greek word “thilbo.” Strong’s Concordance defines it as “to crowd (literally or figuratively).” In the KJV, this Greek word is translated “afflict,” “narrow,” “throng,” “suffer tribulation,” “trouble.” When referring to a path, it means that one’s way is restricted. Regardless of what it could be translated in other passages, it is the context of a word that always defines its meaning, and the context of Matthew 7:14 is salvation. We know from other passages that salvation is not difficult. Jesus said that to be saved one must come as a child (Lk. 18:17), but if salvation were difficult, as the NKJV says, it would not be possible for a little child to be saved. The Bible describes salvation in terms of coming (Mat. 11:28), drinking (Jn. 4:10), eating, (Jn. 6:35), and taking a gift (14 times in N.T., Eph. 2:8-9). These are not difficult things.

    As the KJV rightly says, the gate to salvation is strait and narrow. The terms are basically synonyms, referring to the truth that the sinner must humble himself and put his trust in Jesus Christ alone, that there is only one narrow way to God. The world at large despises this One Way and follows the broad road to destruction.

    The NKJV translation creates doctrinal error by making the reader think that salvation is a difficult thing. That fits in with the false gospels that are preached by so many groups today. They teach that the sinner must trust Christ PLUS do many other things. Contrary to the warning in Romans 11:6, they intermingle works with grace, law with faith. That does indeed create a difficult salvation, because the sinner must do many things or he will not ultimately be saved, but it is a false gospel. The door that Jesus opened for us with His own death and blood is strait and narrow, but praise God, not difficult. All the sinner must do is enter in by faith; he must simply reach out his hand and receive the lovely Gift (Eph. 2:8-9) that the Savior has purchased for him. The erroneous NKJV translation also fits in with a Lordship Salvation doctrine that confuses justification with practical sanctification, salvation with discipleship.

  28. "Because STRAIT is the gate, and narrow is the way"


    "Because narrow is the gate and DIFFICULT is the way"

    ..interesting distinction Jason.

    I guess I don't see doctrinal error as the article asserts. Really, a "difficult way" is synonymous with salvation by works? To me it speaks to perseverance in trial.

    And what is a STRAIT gate anyway?

  29. And what is a STRAIT gate anyway?

    It is a narrow gate. So, in that instance, the NKJV, which changes "strait" to "narrow", keeps the same meaning. It changes the meaning, though, when it substitutes "difficult" for "narrow."

    Strait can also mean difficult, it is true. But difficult and narrow are not the same thing. So, we must judge the appropriate meaning from the context.

    Strait, like any other word used in the KJV, is easy enough to look up. I suggest a Webster's 1828 Dictionary (the original). Or, you can get the definition here.

  30. Your explanation goes to the problem I have with the KJV Jason. Needing an 1828 dictionary seems to point to a translation that is a bit out of touch with its readers.

  31. Good stuff here. I need to print off and digest.

  32. Needing an 1828 dictionary seems to point to a translation that is a bit out of touch with its readers.

    You don't need an 1828 dictionary. I linked to a modern source noting the same definition. I just recommended Noah Webster's original dictionary as an excellent resource, whether you use the KJV or not.

  33. Bob, check out this link that relates to your discussion.

    The one below it also relates. Both about the NKJV.

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. Thanks Cheryl. I did not know about the Original Preface to the King James Version

    I liked this recap of it by Bobby V:

    "The biggest surprises that comes to those who are not familiar with this remarkable document are: 1) the translators of the King James Version were not then and never would be King James Onlyites; 2) Even within this document itself a large share of the scripture quotations made by the translators themselves are from the GENEVA BIBLE rather than the King James Version!!!!!!; 3) The translators knew they were not producing a fresh or original translation but rather they were part of a living tradition and were highly dependent upon the work of William Tyndale; 5) we learn that the translators believed it would be folly to try to understand and translate the text without seeking aid in various other translations and scholarly works such as commentaries; and finally 6) we learn that the translators fully expected to be roasted for their work ... and they were for quite a long time after 1611."

  36. I agree with Stott. Scripture is inerrant in the original manuscripts. I would say they are infallible in matters of faith and doctrine.

    You know though the more archeologists discover the more the Bible is found to be trustworthy in matters of history as well.

  37. You certainly stirred up an interesting string of comments. Reminds me of a talk I heard last year about the aftermath of the Reformation and specifically how the claim of biblical inerrancy (or infallibility) arose among some Protestants to fill the void once occupied by the Pope. The Bible, she argued, became our Paper Pope.

    Stott's position, it seems to me, is reasonable. Another nuanced way of dealing with it is to say that Scripture is inerrant "in all that it affirms." That can probably be accepted by nearly everyone (though they will differ widely on what it affirms).

    1. A Paper Pope to fill the void once occupied by the Human Pope! I like that Bill! Speaks to our need to be led by something other than the Holy Spirit.


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