Infallibility and Ineranncy: A Greater and Lesser Term

Any teaching on the nature of the Bible must include an examination of the two words infallible and inerrant. They are easier to understand when you see them together as opposed to separate.

For something to be infallible it means that it cannot fail, and for something to be inerrant means that it does not contain mistakes. R.C. Sproul often explains the relationship between these two words like this, ‘Of the two terms…inerrancy and infallibility, inerrancy is the lesser term; it flows naturally from the concept of infallibility—if something cannot err, then it does not err.’

It is right for us to embrace these two words because we must recognize that error only comes from two sources, deceit and mistake. God never deceives and God never makes mistakes (Numbers 23:19), thus His Word is infallible and inerrant.  Is it really this simple? Yes, but this is not as accepted today as you might imagine.

The term inerrancy has fallen on hard times. It is seen as a kind of blind belief that we should grow out of as we mature in faith. Almost like a kind of childish view of the Bible. In the place of inerrancy many people now teach and believe an idea called ‘limited inerrancy’ which teaches that the Bible is errant when it speaks of history, science, or culture, but is inerrant only when it speaks on matters of faith and practice. And as you’d guess they leave it up to the individual to define what is inerrant in the Bible and what is not. This belief comes from a misunderstood view that the Bible makes mistakes when it speaks of historical events (like how many people were killed in a battle, or populating a certain city).

The reason we reject limited inerrancy and embrace a full inerrancy is twofold.  First, the Bible speaks in a different manner than our current literature does. Currently we have rules about plagiarism, dating, quoting, statistics, etc. When the Bible was written these rules weren’t in view, so to subject the Bible to our modern rules is to do the Scripture an injustice. The second reason is simple, Jesus held this belief about Scripture. He believed the Scriptures to be inerrant. Listen to a few passages from Jesus. Matthew 5:18, ‘Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.’ John 10:35, ‘Scripture cannot be broken.’ John 17:17, ‘Sanctify them in the Truth, Your Word is truth.’ Jesus also proved His case in various occasions by referring to the Old Testament simply saying ‘It is written.’

So we’ve covered the 3 foundational terms of Scripture: inspired, infallible, and inerrant. If we believe the Bible to be these 3 things, it automatically means much more as well. Flowing out of these 3 foundational terms are 5 more terms that we call the attributes of Scripture.  I’ll begin those 5 terms tomorrow…

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