"Questions that Skeptics Often Ask
About the Christian Faith"
How do we know the Bible
is true and inerrant?
About the Christian Faith"
How do we know the Bible
is true and inerrant?
ASG - the Apologetics Small Group
This 12-week ASG is called:
"Questions that Skeptics Often Ask"
How do we know the Bible is true and inerrant?
Inerrancy - An Apologetic Question or
an in-house question?
In a sense, this question is not an apologetics question. Many evangelical scholars today view the inerrancy question as an in-house issue among Christians, and does not have to be a topic of debate with a non-believer.
A Christian can share the Gospel (and many Christian teachings) with a non-Christian without having to first prove the Bible is inerrant in all its parts. In the same way, a non-believer can come to faith in Jesus, accepting His Person and work for forgiveness of sins, without believing in the inspiration and inerrancy of the entire Bible.
I personally do not see the need to try to convince a non-believer of the inerrancy of the Bible in an evangelistic or apologetic situation. If my interlocutor were to become a Christian, then it is a natural part of growing in the Faith and submitting to God’s Word, that he/she would come to see that the Bible is indeed the inspired and inerrant Word of God and therefore authoritative for every Christian. In short, inerrancy is an in-house Christian issue. Watch Videos 1 & 10
Definition of Inerrancy
Although the adjective ‘inerrant’ and its noun form ‘inerrancy’ are modern terms, Christians have believed in the concept of biblical inerrancy from earliest times.
This is the belief that the books of the Bible, in their original manuscripts, are without error in all their teachings and affirmations. This may be stated another way by saying that the Scriptures, in the original autographs, do not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.
The Evangelical Theological Society puts it this way, "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs." Watch Videos 2, 3
Inerrancy - being without any error - only applies to the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek writings of the Bible. These original documents (called autographs) do not exist today; what we have are copies and translations. Therefore, one might ask:
How do we know that the original manuscripts
were inerrant if they no longer exist?
This is a good question, and it is important that a Christian face it head on.
Christians do not appeal to the original lost letters or books in order to hold to inspiration and inerrancy. We have excellent copies and translations of the originals that are amazingly accurate and it is to these that we can refer with confidence.
These copies of the original manuscripts are so many in number (literally tens of thousands) and come from so many different sources that they allow us to ascertain the original text with amazing accuracy. These copies allow us to translate the original manuscripts into modern languages with such precision that we may say that the Bibles we read today have a derived inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility.
Christians follow the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus believed in and quoted from the Old Testament although He probably never saw the originals. Like us today, all He had were copies of the original manuscripts, yet Jesus trusted the contents of the Tanakh.
What Peter wrote of Jesus can also be said of the Bible:
though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8,9
Although we who live in the 21st century have not seen the physical Jesus with our own eyes we believe in Him and love Him. We view the written Word the same way we view the Word incarnate, and this belief is supported by the best evidence. Our faith is not a blind faith but a confident trusting founded upon two things:
Watch Videos 4, 5
What constitutes an error?
Inerrancy means that the Bible is without error and authoritative in all that it affirms and teaches. To ascertain what a particular Bible text teaches we must discern the genre of the book or passage in question, the context of the passage and intention of the author.
The Intention of the Author
Some people imagine that there are errors in the Bible because they fail to discern the author’s intention or purpose.
When Jesus teaches with a parable or an illustration He uses it to teach a spiritual truth, not a truth about the physical world. For example, when Jesus explains the Kingdom of God in Mark 4:31-32, he says that:
“it is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches…”
In fact a mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed in the world, but nobody takes this to be an error because Jesus is not teaching botany, He is speaking proverbially about the Kingdom of God, and He makes His point clearly. His intention is therefore not to teach about the relative size of plants or seeds, but about the Kingdom of God. We must discern intention when interpreting Scripture.
Neither is the mustard plant the largest plant in a garden. Jesus must have known this for the mustard seed (black mustard - brassica nigra) only grows to about 8 - 12 feet; a common olive tree can grow larger.
Also, it is important to point out that context needs to be taken into account. Jesus didn’t have in mind all the seeds in the world, only seeds that were known to His hearers in Palestine at that time. Maybe there was a small garden nearby which Jesus pointed to and in that particular garden the mustard plant was the largest plant in that particular garden.
For further discussion on this see: The Problem of the Mustard Seed https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/ntesources/ntarticles/gtj-nt/sproule-matmustard-gtj-80.pdf
Errors of Chronology
Some people see inconsistencies in the chronology of the Gospels and read them as errors. This view has a total disregard for the genre. The fact is that the events recorded in the Gospels were not necessarily acted out in the order that they are recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. For example, one Gospel writer has Jesus’ cleansing of the temple at the beginning of His ministry while another synoptic Gospel writer has it towards the end of His ministry. This does not necessarily mean that there is an error or that were two cleansings of the temple.
The Gospels conform to ancient biographical writing and as such they bear the marks of ancient biography which did not catalogue all events in a person’s life in a chronological way. No one who understood the genre would suggest that one Gospel writer was in error because he has the cleansing out of sequence.
Thus, it can be seen that when the reader takes the genre and context into consideration supposed errors vanish. We need to be careful not to impose on God what we think ought to be the standards of inerrancy.
Reading the Scriptures
with an attitude of
humility and teachability,
submitting to what God intends to teach us,
is the way to truly profit from its contents.
Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/what-price-biblical-errancy#ixzz3GsrSb5oT
I have found that studying the supposed errors in the Bible and their answers is a very interesting and profitable way to study the Bible. Rather than erode my faith, I find this form of Bible study to be exciting and faith-building. Watch Video 6, 7, 8
Inerrancy is a corollary of inspiration and is therefore important to the Christian faith, yet inerrancy is not a cardinal doctrine and it doesn’t stand at the center of our faith.
Although many non-Christians will bring up the topic of inerrancy when we share the Gospel with them, making it a kind of ‘red herring,’ it is not an issue we need to address with a non-Christian. When sharing the Gospel with a non-believer we should keep the Gospel central. We need to be careful not to make the focus of our evangelism the issue of inerrancy rather than Christ. Jesus Christ is the stumbling stone, not the doctrine of Scripture. It is also important not to force or expect a non-believer to accept the doctrine of the inerrancy or infallibility of Scripture before they can accept Christ.
When speaking with a non-Christian
The Gospel is central,
convincing a person of biblical inerrancy is not.
Let's be careful not to get sidetracked from our central theme as ambassadors for Christ.
Only use this material if the issue of
biblical inspiration is a real stumbling block
for your interlocutor.
Infallible, Inerrant & Inspired
Although the terms infallible and inerrant can be used as synonyms they do actually differ in meaning.
The term ‘infallible’ indicates that because the Bible is of divine authority; it shares God's holy and truthful character. The Bible will not deceive or mislead a person, so it ensures that the Bible is a sure, safe and reliable guide for the reader.
The term ‘inerrant’ refers to the Bible being free from falsehoods or mistakes and thus safeguards the truth and trustworthiness of the entire Bible.
The adjective ‘inspired’ means that God, by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The Bible, therefore, has divine origin and bears God’s holy character, because it was breathed out (Greek qeopneustos - literally means ‘expired,’ but is usually translated ‘inspired’) by God. This term ‘breathed out’ comes from 2 Timothy 3:16 -
“All Scripture is inspired by God
and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction,
for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate,
equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16
“…know this first of all,
that no prophecy of Scripture
is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
for no prophecy was ever made
by an act of human will, but
men moved by the Holy Spirit
spoke from God.”
2 Pet. 1:20-21
Combating Divergent Views
Some modern scholars claim that only the intent or ideas behind the Scriptures are inspired, but not the words. Others claim that Scripture is inspired in the way that Shakespeare was inspired to write his plays and poetry. Although we may refer to the biblical authors as being inspired, the Bible uses the word to refer specifically to Scripture itself.
In order to combat heresies such as these that have a habit of arising and influencing many, scholars have felt the need to add adjectives to the word ‘inspiration.’ Christians often talk about verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures.
The term ‘verbal’ means that the words are inspired not just the ideas of Scripture or the authors. Shakespeare might have been inspired in the artistic sense, but divine inspiration is qualitatively different. It is not the inspiration of the author, but the writings which are inspired (or God-breathed). The term ‘plenary’ means full and indicates that the Scriptures are inspired and authoritative equally in all their parts.
The Inspiration of the Old Testament Books
The O.T. has the authority and character of God Himself.
One class of passages include for example, Romans 9:17 which ascribes to Scripture what God says.
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”
For Paul, to speak words of Scripture is no lesser authority that to speak the direct words of God Himself.
The second class of passages includes Matthew 19:4-5,
4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
Here, Jesus quotes O.T. Scripture, but says that God Himself said it.
“When we take the two classes of passages together, in the one of which the Scriptures are spoken of as God, while in the other, God is spoken of as if He were the Scriptures, we may perceive how close the identification of the two was in the minds of the writers of the New Testament.”
[B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, P&R, 1948]
The Inspiration of the New Testament Books
When the Apostle Paul says, “All Scripture” in 2 Tim.3:16, he means primarily the Old Testament. But from our vantage point, after the church recognized the N.T. canonical books, we have very good reason to include the N.T. in Paul’s statement even though the N.T. had not been completely written at the time of his writing.
Christians have good reason to believe that this key verse – 2 Timothy 3:16 - bears on the character of the N.T. including the books which were yet to be written. Reasons for this include:
16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Notice that Paul says, “by the word of the Lord,” thus showing that he considered his own writing to be from God, not just from himself.
Galatians 1:14-15 confirms this:
“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Paul knew that his message was directly from God and that he received it by direct revelation from God.
Paul’s letters are referred to as Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16.
In John 14:26 we read,
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."
Knowing that the role of the Apostles was to record what Jesus said and did, this promise bears direct reference to the accurate recording of what Jesus did and said.
10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
Paul claimed inspiration in a number of places,
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.
1 Thessalonians 4:8,15
7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
Contents for week 7:
1. Inerrancy - apologetic or in-house question?
2. Definition of Inerrancy
3. How do we know that the original manuscripts were inerrant if they no longer exist?
4. What constitutes an error?
5. The intention of the author
6. Errors of Chronology
8. Infallible, Inerrant & Inspired
9 Combating Divergent Views
10. The Inspiration of the Old Testament Books
11. The Inspiration of the New Testament Books
Greg Koukl - Is Inerrancy Necessary?
What is 'inerrancy'?
Understanding the Doctrine of Inerrancy - D.A. Carson
254. What Does It Mean That The Bible Is Inerrant?
255. How Do We Know The Bible Is Inerrant?
"Does The Bible Have Errors?"
by Dr. Norman Geisler
Inerrancy Under Attack (Selected Scriptures)
Inerrancy Panel Q&A (Selected Scriptures)
Below are the video clips for this week's study. Play some of them to your group at the appropriate time in the Week 7 session.
In your preparation time, leaders should first study the Week 7 notes in the left column and know your material before you present to the ASG. Encourage your ASG Members to read the notes and watch the videos in the week to come.
Leaders: Don't forget to send out a mid-week email (or other social media that members are in to) to encourage and remind them to study hard.
What is the One Minute Apologist ?
It is an excellent series of simple short YouTube interviews with apologists speaking on various subjects. Each interview only runs for about one minute.
Go to:- www.oneminuteapologist.com
Who is the
'One Minute Apologist?'
In fact, Bobby never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ until he was nineteen years of age. While playing college baseball in Southern California, a teammate invited him to church to hear an evangelist by the name of Greg Laurie.
After several visits to hear this evangelist and many questions later, Bobby was ready to give his life to Jesus Christ. This marked a moment of colossal change in Bobby's story. Bobby gave up the baggage from his past, let go of his vices and fully surrendered to live his life for Jesus Christ. Bobby has been quoted as saying, "The last job my buddies from the past would have ever imagined me doing is serving as a pastor or Christian apologist!"
The One Minute Apologist provides quick, credible answers to apologetic questions that resource people with a hunger to defend their Christian faith. Check him out on YouTube.
Archaeology supports the Bible
Example after example could be given of supposed biblical errors identified by previous generations which have now been resolved in light of more recent discoveries. One of my favorite examples is Sargon II, an Assyrian king mentioned in Isaiah 20:1. Earlier critics claimed that the reference to Sargon was an error because there was absolutely no evidence that an Assyrian king named Sargon II ever even existed—until, that is, archaeologists digging in the region of Khorsabad unearthed the palace of one Sargon II! We now have more information about Sargon than about any other ancient Assyrian king.
William Lane Craig
Listen to John Piper explain why he believes the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God. Brilliant!
Inerrancy - Did God Really Say...?
What Is Inerrancy? (William Lane Craig)
Dr. William Lane Craig gives his thoughts on the inerrancy of scripture and the Bible.
The Necessity of Circular Reasoning:
Someone said: “We do not believe in Christ because we believe in the Bible; we believe in the Bible because we believe in Christ.”
We all know that circular reasoning does not make for a good basis of argument, and one will notice the circularity of that statement, yet it is not a circularity that a Christian need be embarrassed by.
We only know of Christ through the Bible’s testimony to Him. Therefore, our argument ends up being circular in nature. We cannot avoid circular reasoning when it comes to accepting the Bible as being the inerrant Word of God. But don't worry; everybody has this 'dilemma,' not just Christians.
John Frame writes: “Arguments are always circular when they seek to validate an ultimate principle of thought.”
[The Doctrine of the Word of God, p.24- 25]
Everyone has this ‘problem’ of circularity, both Christian and non-Christian when one tries to justify their first principles.
Those who hold that reason is primary must use reason to prove reason. Everyone's argument becomes circular, yet this circularity does not hurt the argument for the argument can still be sound, logical and very persuasive.
It is impossible to establish knowledge in a certain realm without at the same time presupposing some knowledge already. Take for example our sense perception. How can we prove the reliability of our sense perception without presupposing that reliability. We have to use our sense perception in order to use prove the reliability of our sense perception.
To demonstrate this listen to a part of the 'question time' of the following debate on YouTube between Christians and atheists.
Christian - Atheist Debate at UNCG Greensboro - Full Debate
"Circularity is necessary when any system of thought seeks to defend its first principle, its supreme authority. A rationalist must defend his rationalism by appeal to reason. A Muslim must ultimately defend his religion by appealing to the Qur’an. And one who believes in the supreme authority of Scripture must appeal to Scripture. Nevertheless, those who are not committed in advance to the authority of Scripture should at least take an interest in what it says. Certainly, if Scripture were to deny its own authority, Christians (and everyone else) should deny it, too. But if it affirms its own authority, and gives sufficient reasons for believing in that authority, then Christians (and everyone else) should accept its claim."
[John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, p.45-46]
Following are some great sites to listen to or read on this topic:
The CARM website: Why should we believe the Bible?
Evidence of biblical inspiration
The Christian Courier website. Article: What is Bible “Inspiration”? https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1158-what-is-bible-inspiration
Can I Trust the Bible? By R.C. Sproul PDF at http://www.wtsbooks.com/common/pdf_links/9781567691825.pdf
Why We Believe the Bible is True - John MacArthur http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE7d7QEeVks
Ravi Zacharias Q & A: How Do We Know the Bible is True? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjGASRROnMk
Is the Bible really True? (John MacArthur) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FeJdSyghrs
For further study go to: APOLOGETICS PRESS http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=898
How do we know the Bible is inspired?
Traditionally Protestant Christians have answered this question by referring to different areas of study or scholarship which demonstrate the truth and reliability of the Bible. Examples would be archaeology, astronomy, history and textual criticism. These wonderfully corroborate the claim to inspiration and inerrancy, but they cannot prove the case irrefutably any more than the proofs for God’s existence can prove His existence to an unbeliever. Belief is a gift of God in both cases. What we can show is that belief in both is reasonable and rational.
communicating in words and God acting is found in 1 Kings 13:1 “Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense.”
Texts like this turn the spoken word of God into an agent – it is a way of talking about God Himself acting in this world.
So in Psalm 29:5 we read,
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The point here is that the Hebrew parallelism in each case equates God doing the action with God communicating the action by words. This truth is expressed in Isaiah 55:11, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
This reaches its fulfillment in Jesus Christ who is the ultimate expression of the Word of God. He is the Word incarnate and when He speaks, even the elements are subjected to Him. This brings us to the Gospel of justification by faith, for when God declares (speaks in words) that a sinner is justified, then the sinner is in actuality justified before God. [Timothy Ward, Words of Life, IVP, 2009, ch.2.]
“Thus, in biblical language and theology, God speaking and God acting are often one and the same thing.” (Ward, p.26)
All this raises the question:
Why equate God’s words with the O.T. or the Bible?
No answer to this question will satisfy everyone. What Blaise Pascal the French philosopher and mathematician said of God’s existence may also be applied to the Bible: "God has given us evidence sufficiently clear to convince those with an open heart and mind. Yet evidence sufficiently vague so as not to compel those whose hearts and minds are closed.”
This evidence includes:
The creator of this website can be contacted at ASGapologetics@gmail.com