Verbal, Plenary Inspiration – Part 4
1 Peter 1:10–11
1 Peter Lesson #038
February 3, 2016
“Father, we’re thankful we can come to You and we have Your Word that gives us hope and gives us strength in difficult times. Father, we are particularly mindful of Rick Miller as well as Chuck Hagemeier and the fact that during this week you have taken both of their wives to be with You. This will be a test for both of them. We pray for them. We pray Your strength for them and we pray that believers around them will encourage them.
Father, we also pray for folks we have in this congregation, at least that we know of who have lost their jobs. We pray that You will provide jobs and income for them and that will be a great time for them to strengthen their faith, trusting in You.
Father, we thank You for Your Word, that we can count on it. We can trust it. We can rely on it and it is more real and more true than anything else we know of in this life. Father, as we continue our study on the infallibility and inerrancy of Your Word that You would help us to understand how important this is. We pray it might encourage us and strengthen our faith. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
All right, we are studying in 1 Peter. This is part of our 1 Peter series but as happens many times over the process of the study of a book, we come to certain topics, sections, and doctrines that we need to take some time to develop. This is one, as I’ve said in the last few weeks that is particularly significant. It seems like the battle for the Bible goes on and on from generation to generation because this directly impacts our understanding of God’s authority.
What is the core of the angelic conflict? It’s the authority of God. Satan’s original rebellion was against the authority of God. He wanted to set himself up to be worshipped as God. This issue of authority is at the core of so much in Scripture. Its corollary is either humility or arrogance. Arrogance rejects divinely established authority. Humility submits to and is obedient to the divinely established authorities.
So this battle rages on. In the 1970s it seemed to come to a head within evangelicalism. There was a conference in Chicago called the International Conference on Biblical Inerrancy. You can look that look that up on the Internet and you can read the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”.
That has become the norm for understanding the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. As you read through it you will notice that the way they articulate the doctrine after they have stated what it is is that they have a section that says what it is and what it isn’t. We understand truth not only in terms of a positive expression in terms of this is what the Scripture means, but we also need and this is true in any good pedagogy and in any field, to make clear what it is not.
That helps us to develop critical thinking skills. For example you can read a doctrinal statement at a church that says, “We believe that the Bible is authoritative and inerrant in all matters of faith and practice.” Now that’s fine as far as it goes but that doesn’t say it all. We believe that the Bible is inerrant in every area it addresses, not limited to faith and practice but where it refers to historical events, where it refers to economic things, whether it refers to political things. Whatever area it addresses, geography, history, or whatever it addresses, it is without error in everything it talks about.
That is the distinction. We have to be careful to not read something into statements that’s not there. I believe you have a lot of Christians and statements that are just duplicitous. They want people to think they believe the Bible but they really don’t.
I was at a church here in Houston and many people believed the pastor was really solid but with a little bit of biblical education and understanding something called neo-orthodoxy, you realized that when he talked about a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he was not talking about a physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He was talking about a spiritual resurrection. That’s neo-orthodoxy. It’s using orthodox language but with a new meaning. It’s very, very deceptive. A lot of people will read into these statements.
We got into this through these statements in 1 Peter 1:10–12, which describe something about the mechanics of the reception of prophecy among the prophets but it revealed to us that these prophets who received this revelation in the Old Testament inquired about it.
They had to study it. They had to think about it, which addresses one of my other pet peeves that there are many people, especially in doctrinal churches [I’m not sure I like that term, all churches should be doctrinal or teaching churches] but they give this impression that if someone has the gift of pastor-teacher, they can just open the Bible and teach. Folks, that’s mysticism.
There’s nothing that gives a pastor a “free from error” card so that he can just open the Bible and understand what it means. The gift of pastor-teacher is not a revelatory gift. The gift of pastor-teacher is a communication gift but he has to learn how to study the Word. He has to learn how to analyze the Word. He needs to know the original languages. He needs to know Hebrew and he needs to know Greek and he needs to know how to do exegesis.
In fact, a pastor who is not referencing technical Greek and Hebrew matters in an understandable way from the pulpit to help people understand what the text says, is not doing his job. He is falling short of the standard. It doesn’t have to be esoteric. It doesn’t have to get so technical that you’re teaching a Greek or Hebrew class, although sometimes I know people think that. If I or any pastor is going to stand in a pulpit and say, “Well, this is what this verse means” and then you quote the verse and the way you’re quoting it is not like it is in the black-and-white text in front of folks, if they’re thinking people they are going to wonder why is it the pastor says it means this when my translation says this and the guy next to me has a translation that says something different, why are you saying it’s says what you say it’s saying.
It goes to credibility, helping people to understand what the text actually says. It’s like the verse I talked about Sunday morning in Malachi 2:16 that in many translations is either translated as “God hates divorce” or “God said, ‘I hate divorce.’ ” In the Russian Synovial text it says, “If you hate your wife, divorce her.”
Now we think they didn’t know any Hebrew when they did that but that’s not true. There are actually some English translations and some English commentators which think that is how the Hebrew should be translated because it is an extremely vague or ambiguous way of stating something. There’s a lot to that. We’ll get into that on Sunday morning.
Just to point out that the pastor’s job is to develop the skills to study the Word and to teach the truth. A pastor is the highest calling on earth because a pastor’s responsibility is to feed the sheep. He does that by teaching the truth of God’s Word. Because it is the infallible, inerrant Word of God we have to take that seriously. We have to have high standards for who we allow to get into a pulpit and to pastor.
They used to have high standards. Presbyterian Church tradition always had high standards. You always had to have education. Unfortunately some other traditions just thought that anyone who had the so-called “call of Jesus” had the right to get in the pulpit. That’s why we have such fragmentation in American churches and why there are so many differences of opinion.
It’s part of the Satanic attack because when people in the pew hear twenty-five different interpretations of a passages they walk away saying, “No one knows what it means.” It leads to a spiritual agnosticism and people just drift away from church because they think, “It’s just one guy’s opinion over another guy’s opinion.”
That’s one of the reasons why I take the time to try to show why the Bible says what I’m saying it says so that people can understand the rationale behind it and that I’ve done a little bit of homework.
What happens in the process and the mechanics of inspiration is that God communicated information to the writer of Scripture and then he wrote it and somehow mysteriously, within that process, God would superintend or govern or oversee the writing process so without interfering with the author’s personality or style or other human factors, he would still record exactly what God wanted him to record
We’re probing this because this is such an issue today as I pointed out in the previous lessons that we need to understand this doctrine. So we’ll be looking at the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
Here’s our long definition. I just want to focus on the first part of it. “God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture …” Dr. Ryrie used the term superintended. I don’t think superintending in this kind of context is best. We think of a superintendent of schools or a superintendent of a building. That’s not necessarily a user-friendly term.
I try to use something a little bit different here. But God the Holy Spirit is the primary Author. Human writers are the secondary authors. We see that in passages like 2 Timothy 3:15–16. 2 Timothy 3:16 is the key verse that “all Scripture is breathed out by God.”
The noun there is THEOPNEUSTOS. It doesn’t mean inspired by God but that He breathes it out. THEOS plus the noun relating to breathing it out. That was the first point we made, that the Holy Spirit is the primary Author of Scripture.
This is also emphasized in 2 Peter 1:20–21 that God spoke to us. At the end of verse 21 it says, “God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Now I went through a lot of passages as we studied that to show that this is the internal view of Scripture. In the Old Testament you have places where David would write a Psalm but then it’s quoted in the New Testament as “God said”. You have other passages that emphasize that someone spoke by the Holy Spirit.
We looked at those passages but tonight what I want to do is just throw in some other quotes to show you the view of the early church fathers. How did the early church understand the inspiration of Scripture? How did they look at the process of inspiration? By early church I’m talking about the period sometimes referred to as the apostolic fathers. These were usually students or disciples of apostles. They were in that first generation from about AD 70 until about AD 150.
Then we go a little bit further than that into the next section. There’s an overlap. Usually church historians break it down into the next period of the theologians and the apologists. I just want to go up to approximately the early AD 200s just to give you a little bit of sense that the early church fathers clearly understood the process of inspiration.
So we have Clement. Clement is the pastor in Rome. If you’re Roman Catholic you’ve been told that he’s the first pope. He’s the pastor in Rome. His dates are AD 30 to 100. He was led to the Lord by someone in Rome. We know it wasn’t Peter, probably Paul. Peter wasn’t there until just before he died so Peter was never there to establish the church in Rome.
Clement was the pastor there from approximately AD 60–65 until the time that he died. He wrote a letter to the Corinthians which is often quoted in a collection of works called “The Apostolic Fathers”. In that work he says, related to the divine Author of Scripture, “Let us act accordingly to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit saith, ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom’)” quoting from Jeremiah 9:23. So he understood that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate, primary Author of Scripture.
Another quote from Clement also from the First Epistle to the Corinthians he says, “For He Himself by the Holy Ghost thus addresses us: ‘Come ye children, hearken unto me’ (Psalm 34:11) Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.” So he clearly sees God the Holy Spirit as the Author of Scripture.
Then another early church father is Justin Martyr. Justin’s dates are AD 100–165 so he’s a witness in the early part of the second century. He says, “We must not suppose that the language proceeds from the men who are inspired …” In other words, they didn’t originate it. “But from the divine Word which moves them [in the original from the divine Logos which is related to Jesus Christ]. Their work is to announce that which the Holy Spirit, descending upon them, purposes, through them, to teach those who wish to learn the true religion.” He clearly sees the primary Author as God.
Another key figure in the early church, one of the most important lived in the mid-second century. His name was Irenaeus. He’s the Bishop of Lyon in France. One of his most significant works is “Contra Haeresis” in Latin which is translated “Against Heresies” in English. He was writing against the heretics, the false teachers, those who were distorting the Person and work of Jesus Christ, those who were trying to introduce other writings. By the mid-second century is when you start picking up some of these other gospels that are talked about by some people today.
He’s writing against them. His works are very, very important. He says, “We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect.” That’s inerrancy. “Since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit.” He’s talking about his view that both Jesus, the 2nd Person of the Trinity and the 3rd Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, are involved in the process of revelation.
Then we have a guy who on some days is a good guy and other days he’s a bad guy. That’s Origen. Mostly he’s really bad because he introduced a lot of Greek philosophy into the theology of the early church and he is also someone who introduces allegorical interpretation into the early church. But he understands inspiration. He says, “Therefore we shall endeavor, so far as our moderate capacity will permit, to point out to those who believe the Holy Scriptures to be no human compositions, but to be written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” That’s his work on the “First Principles”, usually referred to by its Latin title, De Principii.
Then we have the affirmation of human authors. This lengthy quote is from Justin Martyr, in his work, “Hortatory Oration of the Greeks”. Remember he’s in the early part of the second century from AD 100–165. He says, “For neither by nature nor by human conception is it possible for men to know the things so great and divine.” He’s got such a high view of revelation that we can’t know those things through rationalism. We can’t come to know those things through empiricism. They are far beyond our knowledge.
Then he says, “But the gift which then descended from above upon the holy men who had no need of rhetorical art, nor of uttering anything in a contentious or quarrelsome manner, but to present themselves pure to the energy of the Divine Spirit, in order that the Divine plectrum itself, descending from heaven.” He’s using a musical sort of analogy. “Descending from heaven and using righteous men as an instrument like a harp or a lyre, might reveal to us a knowledge of things divine and heavenly. Wherefore, as if with one mouth, and one tongue, they have in succession and in harmony with one another taught us both concerning God, and the creation of the world, and the formation of man, and concerning the immortality of the human soul, and judgment which is to be after this life, and concerning all things which it is needful for us to know, and thus in divers times and places have afforded us the divine instruction.”
He’s emphasizing human authors. We also see he emphasizes the Divine authorship. So he sees dual authorship in Scripture.
Another quote from Irenaeus in “Against Heresies”. “Let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel. … The writings of those apostles … being the disciples of truth, are above all falsehood.” This tells us that he understands human authorship. The earlier quote was on divine authorship.
Then Origen speaks of human authorship. “That the Spirit inspired each one of the saints, whether prophets or apostles; and that there was not one Spirit in the men of the old dispensation, and another in those who were inspired at the advent of Christ.” In other words, it’s the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Old Testament and the New Testament writers. There’s not going to be a contradiction. This is clearly taught throughout the churches. He is affirming that same principle.
We’ve seen in the definition that we have here which is a paragraph taken out of the doctrinal statement of West Houston Bible Church that “God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture, that without waiving their human intelligence, vocabulary, individuality, literary style, personality, personal feelings, or any other human factor …”
We have the divine Author and the human author. Then the result is that “His complete and coherent message to mankind was recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages of Scripture [we could add and the original autographs].” Inerrancy applies to the original, not to copies. The definition goes on to say, “The very words bearing the authority of divine authorship.”
Before we go any further I thought this would be a good place to introduce you to the different views that are out there today and have been related to inspiration.
The first is the orthodox view. Most evangelicals hold the orthodox view of Scripture. Orthodox is a word that refers to that which is straight, like “ortho” when you go to the orthodontist. He’s going to straighten your teeth. So ortho has to do with that which is straight.
Orthodoxy has to do with correct or straight teaching from the word DIDACHE. The orthodox view is that the Bible is divinely inspired in its very words, including matters of history and science. Everything that the Bible when it touches on anything, like science, it’s going to be accurate.
You always hear people talking about the conflict between the Bible and science. But no one yet, except on human origins, has really found something provable and demonstrable where the Bible conflicts with science. Of course, the conflict everyone brings up is the conflict with Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church. They present this as a conflict between the Bible and science, that the Roman Catholic Church took the heliocentric view and the Bible took a geocentric view of the universe. But the Bible doesn’t do that. Not anywhere. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church didn’t get their geocentric view from the Bible. They got it from Aristotle. By the middle ages the Roman Catholic Church was so compromised by Aristotelianism that that was their view of science. The conflict was between old science, Aristotle, and new science which was based on more up-to-date empirical knowledge. It’s not between the Bible and science.
So the orthodox view is that the Bible is inerrant in everything and that inerrancy and inspiration descend down to the very words.
By the early 19th century with some precursors back into the 18th century, scholars began to cast doubt upon the accuracy of the Scripture. It was at the same time they began to come up with dating techniques [which doesn’t mean they were going to go out with new partners] but they dated rocks and the age of the earth. They began to come up with these ideas that maybe the earth wasn’t just 6,000 or 8,000 years old but maybe it was 50,000 or 60,000 years old.
Initially they weren’t into millions of years. That didn’t fit a biblical chronology so there were different ways people were beginning to try to assimilate and solve that problem. This was the foundation of liberalism. Liberal theology.
I think there’s a relationship between liberalism as a political philosophy and liberalism as how you view Scripture. This is the development of liberal theology. It rejected the authority of the Bible. It is the child of “The Enlightenment”. It is the rejection of biblical authority.
Liberal theologians (those who deny supernaturalism) deny that God can reveal Himself to man and they deny the reality of miracles. They put their ultimate knowledge totally and exclusively on rationalism and empiricism and deny the ability of revelation. Revelation is excluded completely from their data set.
They say that only parts of the Bible were divine. Of course you have arguments later on about which parts. Someone might think one part is divine and someone else thinks another part is. That ultimately went to seed in what was called the “Jesus Seminar” in the 1990s, if you remember. That was a bunch of esoteric intellectuals who were educated far beyond any credibility.
They went along marking passages in the gospels on a scale of one to five, determining whether or not Jesus would have said that. It’s all determined by their presupposition of what Jesus was like. So they created an idol in their mind of what Jesus is and then they take the statements of that idol and they superimpose that back on the Scripture.
They say, “Jesus wouldn’t have said that.” Only a very small part, less than 10% of what the Bible records as Jesus having said, they would recognize as being authentic. They said the rest of it was just made up later on. That’s the idea of liberalism, that man is smarter than someone who lived 2,000 years ago.
Despite all of the historical validation of the Scripture and the authors of Scripture, etc., all of that has to be rejected and so they believe that only parts of the Bible are actually divine. They will give a little and say, “There are some good things in the Bible.” They also think there are some good things in the Koran and in the Bhagavad Gita and any other religious literature.
Most of the Bible they reject as myth and some of it they just flat reject as barbaric, such as going out and stoning your rebellious adolescent children. They would just think that and the death penalty was barbaric.
Liberalism came in the early part of the 19th century. It expands its influence after the American War Between the States. It impacts and infiltrates the seminaries by the mid part of the 19th century and it’s in the pulpits by the 1870s and 1880s. That causes the splits to start taking place in many of the denominations.
One of the last to split was the Presbyterian. Of course all of them split in the 1850s leading up to the Civil War. You had Northern Presbyterian, Northern Baptist, Northern Methodist, and northern everything because the Yankees just didn’t want to pay any kind of financial support to a missionary from the South who might be coming from a family that might own a slave.
All of the denominations split. That’s why you still have Southern Baptists. They didn’t reunite. The reason you have United Methodist and United Presbyterians and United Church of Christ is that those denominations reunited after the War Between the States by the 1870s, the 1880s, and later on. Anyone know when the Northern and Southern Presbyterian Churches reunited? In the late 1980s.
One of the issues that affected Houston here is that First Presbyterian in Houston was a fairly conservative church and had a lot of fairly conservative Presbyterians in it. When the Southern Presbyterian Church reunited with the Northern Presbyterian Church, they had to affirm the ordination of women as pastors. The conservatives at First Presbyterian in Houston when that unification took place left the United Presbyterian Church. They started a church called Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church which is right down here on I-10. For many years they met at Rogers Junior High before they went over there. I knew a couple of people involved with the starting of that church. That’s what they split over—women’s ordination.
We’re still having battles over that because very few people have accurately taught what the Scripture says about the role of women in ministry. Very few people can do justice to handling 1 Timothy 2:8–12 because Paul says, “I don’t allow women to teach or have authority over men.” In a post-feminist world it is very hard for a lot of women who have been infected by feminism to accept the truth of that passage. They want women to be deacons and on church boards but those were all positions of authority. Paul says it’s not just teaching but not in a position of authority over men in the church
So liberalism came in and attacked the churches and you had a reaction in the early 1900s, the early 20th century. There was a man by the name of Curtis Lee Laws who wrote a book called “Baptist Fundamentals” which was fairly solid and fairly orthodox. The fundamentals of the faith had to do with infallibility and inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth, the reality of miracles, the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the Cross, salvation by faith in Christ, the Second Coming of Christ, and the literal, physical resurrection of Christ.
Those were the fundamentals of the faith and if you believed in the fundamentals then you were a fundamentalist. At that time fundamentalism and evangelical were basically synonymous. In the 1930s you had a reaction that set in and you had a right wing of this segment who became a little more militant in their conservatism.
They became known as fundamentalists in contrast to the rest of the evangelicals. After World War II you had a rise of an evangelical movement that then got high jacked by liberals in that group. By the 1960s you had the rise of neo-evangelicalism. Confused?
The reason I said that is that all of this fracturing and fragmenting has to do with how you view the authority of God’s Word. You had these fundamentalists who reacted by the 1930s and they were reacting against liberalism. Their view was that the whole Bible was verbally dictated by God. They go too far. They say that God dictates every word.
You have really different styles between John and Mark and Luke and Paul so you have to allow for the human differences.
The fourth view is neo-orthodoxy. What happens is you have orthodoxy which is the straight road and then you have this reaction to the Bible called liberalism which takes you way off to the left out here. Part of the tenet of liberalism was a post-Millennium optimism. Everybody is getting better and better in every way. Late 19th century was going to bring in the kingdom which is now a human-sourced kingdom. We’re going to end war and we’re going to bring in perfection.
Then you had the creation of Flanders Field in World War I. With the advent of industrialized warfare and machine guns and artillery and aircraft and all the brutalities and horrors of World War I, liberalism was shipwrecked. The optimism of liberalism just fell apart. We weren’t getting better and better. We were worse.
So you had a German theologian by the name of Karl Barth who came along and realized that liberalism just didn’t work in the real world. He said we’d have to have a “back-to-the-Bible” movement. He only went half way back to the Bible. The followers of a Barthian theology became known as neo-orthodox.
They went back and talked about the Bible as the Word of God but they didn’t mean an inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God. They talked about Jesus rising from the dead but He didn’t rise physically, bodily from the dead. So they used orthodox terminology and orthodox structure but they didn’t have an orthodox meaning. That became known as neo-orthodoxy.
Neo-orthodoxy is another reaction to liberalism but it’s not one that returns to a fully orthodox view of Scripture. They did not believe that the Bible was an objective revelation from God but it was a fallible human record of the revelation God gave of His past actions in human history.
In other words God does not reveal Himself in words but only in events and in broad ideas. So they would say that a lot of the ideas of Scripture are inspired but not the very words that are part of that description.
Then by the post-World War II period, you get a segment of “Liberal Evangelicals” that come along. They believe that the Bible is wholly human in origin, replete with historical, scientific, and religious errors. They say God takes these human words and “elevates” them to some sort of spiritual truth to be a vehicle of His word. So you get this development.
Then under the sixth point you get neo-evangelicalism which came out in the 1960s. That has really gone to seed in the church today. A lot of evangelicalism is just neo-evangelicalism. It really doesn’t treat the Word of God as totally authoritative and inspired.
Where you see it, folks, is in the sufficiency of God’s Word. That’s where it falls apart. Their application falls apart. They talk but in reality they don’t believe in the total sufficiency of God’s Word. If you don’t believe in the sufficiency of God’s Word then your understanding of the inerrancy and the infallibility of God’s Word is really wanting.
A lot of contemporary debate today is between the orthodox and evangelical Christians, the conservative ones like Norm Geisler, Charles Ryrie who is now 90 was very much a part of this. So is Earl Radmacher. These are men who signed the “Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy”.
You have this new crop of evangelical scholars coming up and they do not have quite the high view of Scripture that these older men do. That’s what gave rise to the quote from the Bob Wilkinson article I quoted several lessons back from Craig Blomberg at Denver Seminary who said that these men like Geisler and Thomas and several others [one would be David Farnell at Masters Seminary who is going to speak at the Chafer Conference in 2017] were “hyper-right wing extremists on the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture”.
Those are the men who wrote the standard definition for it so we see how evangelicalism has shifted to the left in their understanding in inerrancy. This is neo-evangelicalism that “the Bible speaks with divine authority and complete truthfulness on salvation matters but is not inerrant [without error] in historical or scientific matters. This is why creationism is so critical. This is at the very core of this.
This is just to give you an area of terminology.
There’s another area of terminology we need to deal with and that has to do with terminology related to the inspiration of the very words. In our doctrinal statement we also have the statement that we believe the Scripture in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, both Old and New Testaments, to be the plenary, verbally inspired Word of God.
Then the doctrinal statement defines these terms and it’s important to understand what they mean. For example when Congress meets and it’s the House and the Senate it’s a plenary session. Everyone is there. It’s a full house. Plenary means that all of the Scripture, the full Scripture, all of the Scripture is equally and fully revealed and inspired by God.
Whether we’re talking about the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1–9, the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11, and Matthew 1, these are all equally and fully inspired by God. Whether you’re talking about Genesis 1 or Genesis 2 or Genesis 6–9 with the flood, these are all equally inspired by God and revealed by Him.
Now “verbal” refers to the principle of inerrancy, that inspiration extends to each and every word. “Plenary” says all of it is equally inspired, whether you’re talking a passage in 2 Chronicles or a passage in Malachi or a passage in John or Revelation, it’s equally authoritative and equally inspired. “Verbal” describes the principle that the very words themselves are inspired.
God did not inspire merely the thoughts or the ideas expressed in the text but the very words themselves. So if this word is used in the text as opposed to that synonym, then we need to understand why. Why is it that this word is used rather than that word? We ought to not quit until we can see why there might be a difference.
Now there may be cases where it may be a matter of style but I think those are few. We see that today scholars say that it’s just a stylistic difference. That’s their default position, that God is just using a synonym for stylistic variation. The Holy Spirit doesn’t do that.
There are many places in Scripture where the Holy Spirit again and again and again uses the same word. In English, you look at any English professor or writing instructor or teacher, they would say that’s terrible. Well, it’s not awful if you’re trying to make a point and yet when these translators of Scripture come along and they translate these sections, they choose various English synonyms to translate that Greek word so the English reader doesn’t get the point. It’s not emphasized.
Every single word is inspired and breathed out by God. Those words are important and so it’s important to determine what that means and exactly what the significance is. If only thoughts are inspired then there can be considerable freedom in the choice of words used to express those thoughts.
This is part of the problem. When you start going to this stylistic variation explanation that lays the groundwork for an idea type of inspiration, rather than the various words. There are many passages in Scripture that make it evident that the focal point of explanation and inspiration is the written word of the Scriptures. That is very important.
We also have terms like inspiration which translates the word “God-breathed” in 2 Timothy 3:16. It means the Bible is God’s complete and connected thought to mankind. It is coherent and it’s consistent. That covered the words “verbal”, “plenary”, and “inspiration”.
Here we have two other words that are used in the discussion. One word is infallible. Infallible is simply another theological term that was chosen to express the idea that every word is equally authoritative.
Originally, let’s say in 1800, you would say, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God.” After a while through the development of the battles for the Bible you had to say, “I believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God, that you can’t break it, that it’s all true.” After a while that wasn’t enough and you had to say that the Bible was the inspired and infallible Word of God. Then you had to say you believed in the inspiration of the Bible, that it was verbal and plenary and the Bible was infallible. Now you have to say it’s inerrant. You have to add all of these words just to say what you used to say because there’s always these battles that take place that attack vocabulary.
The last term “inerrancy” means no error existed in the original autographs. When Paul wrote it was without error. When someone copied it they might have made a mistake. It’s not talking about your English Bible. It’s not inerrant because it’s in English, not Greek or Hebrew and not necessarily the original but it expressed infallible truth. Inerrancy only applies to the original document itself.
Inerrancy emphasized that every word is inspired because it’s verbal and plenary. Now you have to insert the word “unlimited” because there are people who speak of limited inerrancy. Don’t you love it? Satan is always trying to destroy the authority of God’s Word so we have to constantly be on guard against these attacks by Satan.
Now part of what we need to do is understand what inspiration doesn’t say. There are misunderstandings about this. I found this list in Norm Geisler’s “Systematic Theology”. I thought he did a good job with this. He’s written a tremendous amount on inerrancy and infallibility.
There are certain things that inspiration does not guarantee. First of all, he says that it does not guarantee that every part of a parable is conveying a truth. A parable is a story designed to teach one thing. It’s like an analogy. Not every minute element in an analogy is going “to walk on all fours”. It is the point that the story itself is trying to communicate.
So not every part of a parable is conveying a truth. For example, he gives Luke 18:2.
Second, not everything recorded in the Bible is true. Genesis 3:4 where the serpent said to the woman, “You will surely not die.” If you just took that verse out of context that’s not true. Satan is lying. It is a true recording of Satan’s lie. So not every verse in the Bible is true because some verses in the Bible are recording a falsehood.
Third, this does not mean that the Bible doesn’t use figures of speech or hyperboles, which is exaggeration in order to communicate certain things. For example we’ve seen this in Matthew when Jesus says it’s better for your eye to be plucked out, He’s using hyperbole. He’s not talking about literally poking your eye out.
Fourth, not that all statements about God and creation are purely literal. For example, Revelation 19:15 says that “out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations: and He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron: and He Himself treads the winepress of fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” So there you have various images and idioms and figures of speech that are used to express a truth.
Fifth, nor that all factual assertions are technically precise by modern standards as opposed to being accurate by ancient standards. They’re not writing history according to modern standards of history where you have to have fifteen footnotes for every statement to make sure that everyone understands it. We have to interpret the Scripture in the light of when it was written.
Sixth, nor that all statements about the universe must be from a modern astronomical perspective. In other words, it talks about the sun rising. That doesn’t mean that is denying the rotation of the earth on its axis. It is written in phenomenological language. When I say that the sun is going to come up in the morning, you and I all understand that the sun is not what’s literally going to be moving. It’s the earth that’s moving.
Seventh, it doesn’t mean that all citations of Scripture must be verbatim. God the Holy Spirit is the Author. He can paraphrase as He wishes and many times when the New Testament authors quote from the Septuagint they are quoting a bad translation of the Old Testament but nevertheless the translation of the Septuagint is true that is quoted.
Eighth, nor that all citations of Scripture must have the same application as the original. This has to do with how is the Old Testament being used in the New Testament. We’ve gone over that quite a bit.
Ninth, nor that the same truth can be said in only one way. The same truth can be stated using different figures, different idioms, in order to communicate the same truth. It doesn’t have to use precisely the same language every time.
Tenth, nor that whatever a writer personally believed (as opposed to merely what he actually affirmed in the Scripture) is true. Matthew 15:26 is an example of that. So a writer may state something that is reflective of their personal belief rather than what the Scripture says.
Eleventh, nor that truth is exhaustively revealed or treated. It’s treated accurately but not exhaustively. We don’t have exhaustive knowledge of God’s will, only accurate knowledge of God’s will even though it may be limited.
Twelfth, nor that quotations imply the truth of everything in the source it is citing, rather than only the part cited. Titus 1:12 is a quotation of a Cretan proverb that all Cretans are liars. That is not an affirmation that is a true statement. It is quoting it as a proverbial statement used in that statement.
Thirteenth, nor that the grammatical construction will always be the customary one. Sometimes it uses awkward or idiomatic grammar in order to convey the truth.
So I thought that was an interesting list because people don’t always understand how inerrancy works. How does it take place? I want to stop here because I want to go through some exegesis of some key passages so we’ll stop here. That’s a good stopping place.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to be reminded of the accuracy of Your Word because it tells us You are true, You’re accurate, and You’re omniscient. It is from Your omniscience that You reveal the truth so we can rely upon it. It is sufficient. It is more than enough. We can trust it fully even when Your Word goes against everything in our experience, we need to trust Your Word.
That’s when we learn that we really trust You and we really believe You. Just as Peter walking on the water looking at Christ rather than looking at the water and relying on His experience was relying on You. He was trusting in Christ to stay on the water. He was believing that over all of His experience and that’s how we should be.
Father, encourage us with what we’ve learned about Your Word. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”