5.10.2006

A Case for Inerrancy: Argument from Animation

Varying definitions of “inerrancy” exist today. However, an orthodox interpretation should include the idea that the Bible, when correctly interpreted, is completely truthful and accurate in all and every respect and that its original autographs are free from error. This paper is not exhaustive on the subject of “inerrancy” because there are so many paradigms to consider; however, one particular view that this paper considers is the “argument from animation.”

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16 NKJV

This paper presupposes that its readers understand and affirm the “divine inspiration” of Holy Scriptures. However, the phrase “given by inspiration of God” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is one Greek word, theopneustos. It literally means “God-breathed”.[1] If the book is God-breathed, then it is God's Book and not just man's book. In the Genesis 2 God formed man (Adam) from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. The body was present, created by God, but it was dead. It had no animation—no life. The difference here is between life and death.

We should not understand the Holy Scriptures as written merely by people but as breathed into by God (as in the case of the Adam). The words of the Bible came from God but were written by men. The apostle Peter affirmed this when he said that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21 NKJV). These men were literally “moved” (Grk. phero) to write or go into the destination that the Holy Spirit desired. It is as if the Holy Spirit picked them up in one place and carried them or bore them to another. They did not write by their own will, but were moved by the Spirit. These writings are living, not inanimate, and have the ability to encourage and convict the hearts of people.

It has been a common thing for non-believers to argue against the inerrancy of Scripture. In recent times, however, many Christian scholars have come to disallow in part or in whole the scriptural doctrine of inerrancy (Jack Rogers of Fuller Theological Seminary affirms limited inerrancy[2]). In view of this attack against the reliability, inspiration, and veracity of Scripture from those within and without the ranks of Christianity, it is important that Christians be able to defend and articulate the proper position on the inerrancy of Scripture against all attacks. Here is my personal statement on inerrancy; it is basically a modification of Article XII of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

“When all facts are known, the Scriptures--the original autographs--properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. This inerrancy is not limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. Past, present, or future scientific hypotheses about earth history will not overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”

Without understanding or perhaps realizing their position many preachers or lay persons have made statements like this, “Well, the bible does not claim to be a science book so it may have some errors about biology or creation.” Such a statement is on par with “limited inerrancy” and should be avoided. If the bible is God’s book, and God is omniscient, it is only counterproductive to use such reasoning. Usually the faux pas is the fault of the exegete. Typically the texts are not interpreted properly or the translations make an error—not the original texts. In any case, all supposed biblical errors in English translations have a plausible explanation.

Another common argument against the true inerrancy of the Scripture is that man wrote the bible, man is errant, thus there must be mistakes in the bible. This is a circular argument. None of us would question the fact that George Washington was the first American president. Yet, we can only know this fact by reading the historical writings of men. Another attempt to undermine inerrancy is the change in certain terminology. Some scholars prefer the term "inerrancy" over "infallibility." “Infallibility” is the “idea that Scripture is not able to lead us astray...”[3] This switch of terms, most likely, has to do with the insistence of some that one could have an infallible message while also having an errant biblical text.[4] Here, we should wonder if the critics really understand or affirm divine inspiration.

As Christ made no room in His claims to simply be a “good man” or a “good prophet”, so the Holy Scriptures affirm that all of Scripture is profitable for us (2 Timothy 3:16) and that all of it is "God-breathed." Thus it is completely pure (Psalms 12:6), perfect (Psalms 119:96), and true (Proverbs 30:5). The Bible itself does not make any exclusions or special restrictions on the class of subjects to which it speaks truthfully or un-truthfully. As Jesus told us that He is “the way”, so the scriptures tell us that they are breathed by God Himself—they have life and animation by Him.

A denial of inerrancy presents us with the snowball effect. It begins like this, since the scriptures are indeed inspired of God, yet is not inerrant then it is possible that God has inspired lies. If God is a liar, and we are being made into God’s image should we expect to lie? This would lead us to wonder if we can really believe anything God says. Thus, by discounting certain passages as errant we are making the claim that we have a higher level of understanding and truth than God’s Word. Essentially we end up in a humanistic paradigm, where human reasoning has exalted itself above God. Therefore, we end up with Pandora’s Box and all of biblical doctrine subject to error and easily dismissed.

The Bible lets us know about its human authorship, but it also makes us aware of its divine authorship as well—dual authorship (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21). The argument for Spirit animation, in my opinion, is a very strong argument—albeit significant others do exist. Dr. Elmer Towns, of Liberty University, says, “Since the process of inspiration is “in-breathing” God did more than breathe accurate content into the Bible, He breathed His Spirit into it.”[5] God is not a stranger to the supernatural. The Incarnation is accompanied by a virgin birth—a supernatural infusion of divinity and humanity. The Word of God should be seen as no less supernatural—an infusion of a divine author and human authors. Thus, we have a supernatural book. This supernatural book has the ability to transform lives. It is a supernatural book that has the power to convict, convince, and convert.

NOTES:


[1]Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4: Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament library (Page 196). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
[2] Belief that the Bible is free of error only in its theological content, and not in its historical or scientific statements
[3] Systematic Theology, Copyright © 1994 by Wayne Grudem. All rights reserved.
[4] Horton, Stanley M. Systematic Theology © 1994, 1995 by Gospel Publishing House. All rights reserved
[5] Theology for Today, Elmer Towns. Copyright © 2002 by Wadsworth Group. Pg. 72

4 comments:

bro dave said...

Brother, You raise an interesting point.
Evolution says that if Genisis is wrong then Revelation is wrong.
We are going to build our house on primordial soup or the Rock.

Jason Dulle said...

You talked about the view that says the Bible is true when it comes to its spiritual claims, but not necessarily true when it comes to its scientific and historical claims. Greg Koukl argues against this position by noting, (rough quote) “If we can’t trust the Bible to get it right in the areas we can test (history and science), how can we trust the Bible to get it right in those areas we cannot test (spiritual claims)?” I think he has a very good point. By force of logic if the part of the Bible we can test prove to be false, it gives me reason to doubt the claims it makes regarding things I cannot test.

Jason

James Anderson said...

Bro. Dave:

This is so true. We must not allow evolutionist and liberal scholars influence our view of scripture.

James Anderson said...

Jason:

That is an excellent point, and as usual Koukl and STR have great insight. I think this argument shocks us from our complacency because many just take such things for granted. Such a logical conclusion cannot be denied.

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)