Through out most of my Christian life I had embraced verbal inerrancy, however in the last several years I have been reevaluating some of my positions that I have held. Although I had embraced this position it never really sat well with me. Inerrancy for all it’s good intentions is a term that in my opinion has outlived it’s usefulness in the advancement of promoting the authority of the Bible, and it’s trustworthiness. It is a position that is difficult to defend, and further problematic because of the various definitions attributed to it.
I plan to post this as a series, mostly due to time and space so I’ll start with some introductions, move on to background and a bit of historical understanding, review the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI), how it’s defined from within, consider other useful terms, and finally a conclusion. Well at least something along those lines.
Inerrancy plainly means “without error, incapable of being wrong”. According to Millard Erickson there are at least four definitions of inerrancy:
1) Absolute inerrancy holds that the Bible, which includes rather detail treatment of matters both scientific and historical, is fully true.
2) Full inerrancy also holds that the Bible is completely true. While the Bible does not primarily aim to give scientific and historical data, such scientific and historical assertions as it does make are fully true.
3) Limited inerrancy also regards the Bible as inerrant and infallible in its salvific doctrinal references. A sharp distinction is drawn, however, between non-empirical, revealed matters on the one hand, and empirical, natural references on the other.
4) Inerrancy of purpose holds that the Bible in errantly accomplishes its purpose. The purpose of the biblical revelation is to bring people into personal fellowship with Christ, not to communicate truths. Millard Erickson, “Christian Theology” p248-249
As you can see inerrancy has many meanings. This is one of the major problems with this position, too many definitions. The term inerrancy has been hijacked to mean whatever a particular group wants it to mean. I believe these various meanings have resulted as an effort to preserve the term in order to remain “evangelical”. One can say “I affirm inerrancy”, but if you do not ask them to clarify what they mean, you may not be affirming the same thing.
Next posting I’ll discuss in details what proponents of inherency mean, some historical background and specifically I will look at Norman L. Geisler since he is a very prolific writer on this matter, and one of the prominent signatures on CSBI.