Is the Bible true?
Is the Bible inerrant (without error)?
Are those the same thing?
These are important questions that influence how we read and understand Scripture, and Christians have historically answered them in different ways. Last month, we liveblogged a friendly roundtable discussion between five Christian thinkers and leaders, each of them with a different perspective on the question of Biblical inerrancy.
These five individuals—Peter Enns, Albert Mohler, Jr., Michael Bird, Kevin Vanhoozer, and John Franke—have continued the discussion in the form of Five Views on Inerrancy, a book recently published by Zondervan Academic. Since we hosted the roundtable discussion, we thought it would be interesting to also share some material from that book here on the blog.
Each day this week, we’ll share a short excerpt from Five Views on Inerrancy, touching on a different perspective each day. Tomorrow and for the rest of this week, we’ll hear from the other authors:
- The Inerrancy Debate, Part 2: Peter Enns on Biblical Inerrancy
- Michael Bird on Biblical Inerrancy: Is Inerrancy Needed Outside the US?
- Kevin J. Vanhoozer on the Dangers of Biblical Inerrancy Without Biblical Literacy
- John R. Franke on Inerrancy: The Bible as Witness to Missional Plurality
Today we’ll start with Al Mohler, who holds to the view that belief in biblical inerrancy is a critical part of the Christian faith. Here’s how he introduces his perspective.
When the Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy
I do not believe that evangelicalism can survive without the explicit and complete assertion of biblical inerrancy. Given the pressures of late modernity, growing ever more hostile to theological truth claims, there is little basis for any hope that evangelicals will remain distinctively evangelical without the principled and explicit commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible.
Beyond this, inerrancy must be understood as necessary and integral to the life of the church, the authority of preaching, and the integrity of the Christian life. Without a total commitment to the trustworthiness and truthfulness of the Bible, the church is left without its defining authority, lacking confidence in its ability to hear God’s voice. Preachers will lack confidence in the authority and truthfulness of the very Word they are commissioned to preach and teach. This is not an issue of homiletical theory but a life-and-death question of whether the preacher has a distinctive and authoritative Word to preach to people desperately in need of direction and guidance. Individual Christians will be left without either the confidence to trust the Bible or the ability to understand the Bible as something less than totally true.
The way out of hermeneutical nihilism and metaphysical antirealism is the doctrine of revelation. It is indeed the evangelical, biblical doctrine of revelation that breaks this epistemological impasse and becomes the foundation for a revelatory epistemology. This is not foundationalism in a modernist sense. It is not rationalism. It is the understanding that God has spoken to us in a reasonable way, in language we can understand, and has given us the gift of revelation, which is his willful disclosure of himself, the forfeiture of his personal privacy…
Without reservation, I affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I affirm the document and agree with its assertions in whole and in part. To be true to the Scriptures, I believe, evangelicals must affirm its stated affirmations and join in its stated denials…
There is much more to be said and confessed about the Bible, but not less. Like every doctrinal statement, the CSBI was developed at a particular moment in the life of the church, and in a particular social, historical, and cultural context. Since 1978, new challenges to the truthfulness and authority of the Scriptures have emerged, but every one of the challenges addressed by the CSBI remains relevant…
Each contributor to this volume has been asked to address three specific test cases. The texts in these cases have been identified as “problematic” with respect to the affirmation of biblical inerrancy. In truth, I do not believe that these texts are more inherently problematic than any other text of Scripture, but the discussion of these texts and the issues they entail will reveal how our views of the authority, inspiration, truthfulness, and trustworthiness of the Bible operate at the level of interpretation…
The affirmation of biblical inerrancy is necessary for the health of the church and for our obedience to the Scriptures. Though necessary, it is not sufficient, taken by itself, to constitute an evangelical doctrine of Scripture. Evangelicals must embrace a comprehensive affirmation of the Bible as the Word of God written. In the end, inspiration requires inerrancy, and inerrancy affirms the Bible’s plenary authority. The Bible is not inerrant, and thus the Word of God; it is the Word of God, and thus inerrant.
The affirmation of biblical inerrancy means nothing more, and nothing less, than this: When the Bible speaks, God speaks. — by Al Mohler
Is Mohler’s case convincing? Why or why not? How does it match, or differ from, your own views on biblical inerrancy? Does anything here make you reconsider your beliefs on this topic?
We’ll be back tomorrow with a different perspective from Peter Enns! (If you can’t wait until then, or if you want to read more of Mohler’s argument, grab yourself a copy of Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy.)