When applied to sacred writings, inerrancy is the belief that the words are God's true revelations to mankind. An inerrant text is considered infallible, truthful, reliable, totally free of error and absolutely authoritative. Inerrancy is not restricted to moral and religious truth. It is normally applied to all statements of fact in the Bible: "scientific, historical, or geographical."
The main emphasis for inerrancy came as a result of the Enlightenment, when the "higher criticism" began to come into vogue. Church leaders wanted to establish a bulwark against attacks on the Bible, so they wrote papers and published positions on "the inerrancy of Scripture."
The concept then began to be taught in all our major seminaries, and is considered part of the 'fundamentals of the faith" for many.
The word "inerrant' or its cognates does not appear in Scripture in any form or implication.
However, the Bible does claim inspiration for itself.
There are many passages to support this, but the most popular is 2 Timothy 3:16--"All scripture is inspired by God..."
It must be noted, though, that Paul wrote this to Timothy when there were as yet no New Testament writings. Only the Old Testament was available; so Paul could only have been referring to that portion of the Bible.
To use that verse as "proof" that the Bible is inspired is called circular reasoning, which is an illogical argument that appeals to itself as a standard.
If you've read this far, then you are probably wondering where Heretic Hill is headed this time.
Not to worry.
I accept, defend, and promote the "verbal, plenary inspiration of the scriptures."
This has all been simply by way of introduction to the main thrust of this article.
There is as I see it, a problem with the way we use the scriptures.
Currently, anyone can take any verse and apply it in any way that they see fit for any situation that strikes their fancy.
I'm not completely confident in this approach to the Word.
For instance, the Bible says that Judas "went and hanged himself." (Matt. 27:5).
The Bible also says, "Go, and do thou likewise." (Luke 10:37)
I can put those two verses together to justify suicide (or use as a squelch for an irritating person).
A popular verse being bandied about is Jeremiah 29:11--"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Christians have been taught to "claim the promises of God" for themselves, and I am not necessarily opposed to that. However, lifting this verse out of its context is simply not wise.
This particular promise is about understanding the necessity of God's harsh dealings with the Jews and the Babylonian captivity. It is more about "suck it up," because your troubles are your own, but I am here to make sure that it ends.
I have seen numerous people "crash and burn" trying to salvage their life through promise claiming.
"A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text." (D.A. Carson) This statement mainly refers to trying to prove a particular doctrinal stance, and is something of which we should be aware when specifically studying doctrine.
It is true in this context of which I am writing also, though maybe not as severely important.
Surely the Lord will take a verse out of its context and speak it to your heart and you may be comforted or instructed in a particular situation. And, yes, there are plenty of verses that seem to have universal application for all people for all time. But, to go thumbing through the Bible looking for a verse that "fits your situation" is less effective than studying tea leaves for omens.
Even this misappropriation, however, is minor when compared to our mishandling of the meaning of scripture.
I mentioned in a previous post how our 'control beliefs' affect our understanding of a verse.
One writer wisely responded that none of us are immune to approaching the Word with our 'control beliefs.' This is true due to our humanity.
My problem (and it is, admittedly, MY problem), is often our control beliefs are founded more on logic than on even a single verse of scripture.
For instance, John 3:16 uses the phrase "whoever believes in Him." People have taken this to "prove" that it is up to the individual to "choose" Jesus. Yet, nothing is said even remotely about choosing Jesus. This is based upon the human reasoning that says we have free will.
Scriptures are appealed to for this also. I've heard people say, "God tells us to choose who we will serve. He wouldn't tell us to choose if we didn't have free will."
I often hear people wrongly state that "God says," when in fact, that is not the case. "The Bible says" may be true; but that does not mean that God said it. And that can make all the difference in the world.
So, now we have come full circle to where we began.
Does the Bible contain errors?
Humans who handle the Word do make errors, though.
And God is able to go far beyond our inability to properly apply the Word, and salvage our meager attempts so that He is glorified regardless.
"...For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord..." (Isa. 11:9)
Comments, questions, and criticisms are welcomed here. Please add to the discussion by giving yours. Thank you.