What does it mean for Scripture to be "inerrant" or "without error?" Is there one definition of "error" and what if Scripture does have "error?" Is it possible for something constructed in human language to be free from any errors?

I have wanted to give further attention to the doctrine of inerrancy for some time now. This morning I sent out a short questionnaire to a handful of people asking if they would respond and if they’d be willing to allow their responses to be shared on this blog. I hope to gain a better understanding of the doctrine, especially because it seems quite nuanced. There are many people who won’t use the word “inerrancy” but who have a doctrine of Scripture that sounds like it could fit. There are others who use the word, but it comes with this or that caveat that others may declare invalid. I don’t expect everyone I wrote to response and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few decline because it is a contentious subject.

Personally, I have struggled with the word over the years not because I find the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy convincing. I think it tries too hard to squeeze Scripture into a modernist framework. Rather, I have found Scripture to be liturgically or sacramentally trustworthy. As with the Eucharist meal it is something limited that provides access to things eternal. I found comfort in the words of the Roman Catholic theologian Scott Hahn when he said that before Scripture was “a document it was a sacrament.” Scripture is a place where Christ meets his people. Yet I know there is more to Scripture and its traditional role in the church. For Christians it is the place where doctrine and practice is established. For those traditions that give less respect to tradition there is even more at stake.

I don’t expect Scripture to be a textbook on science, or economics, or the like. I know that there are those like Kevin J. Vanhoozer who defend the doctrine of inerrancy, but it isn’t wooden like some others. Then there are those who find Scripture utterly reliable like N.T. Wright and Craig A. Evans, but they avoid using the word inerrancy. When we discuss this subject are we saying the same thing?

I want to post the questions I sent in my message here on the blog for readers to answer. It would be good to hear from you then see what is said by those I wrote. Maybe from this discussion we’ll all gain a better understanding of a word we either accept or reject as an accurate description of the doctrine of Scripture. We can come to understand what others mean when they use this seemingly very flexible word. Let me know your thoughts on these questions:

(1) Do you use the word “inerrancy” to describe your understanding of Scripture? Why or why not? (If not, can you explain your “doctrine of Scripture?”)

(2) If you were to provide a brief definition of the doctrine of inerrancy what would it include? 

(3) Can there be a doctrine of inerrancy divorced from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy? If so, what are the “practical” consequences? If not, why? 

(4) How does your doctrine of Scripture impact your hermeneutics? Can you use Genesis 1-11 as a case study/example?