Inerrancy: Does God Matter to the Discussion?

The physical act of writing out letters and then physically sending them in the mail to others is part of a bygone era. These days, fingers strike digital keyboards and send icons, and digital texts and emails are electronically sent. But while the format of writing and sending letters has largely changed in our digital age, two things have remained the same: Who writes the letter and what they have to say still matters a great deal.

We largely care about the content of letters because of who has sent them. If I were to receive a certified letter from the President of the United States and, within this letter, he was to present me with an invitation to the White House, wherein I was to be honored with a reward, I would pay special attention to every word written. As one in a position of authority and power, his words in such a letter would carry significance and weight. On the other hand, when I receive an email from the latest displaced Nigerian prince requesting I give him full access to my bank account, I give much less weight to what is written. The former writes from a position of power and authority; the latter writes with no authority.

The biblical doctrine of inerrancy has just as much to do with who has inspired the Scriptures as it does with what the inspired Scriptures have to say. If, for example, we were to contend that the Scriptures had been inspired by a mere mortal man, then we would place much less significance on what they have to say. Even if the man purported to have inspired them was generally acknowledged as good, trustworthy, and mostly faithful to the truth, we would still have to consider it likely that he had gotten certain facts wrong. We would even need to agree that his directions and commandments could be the result of his own faulty desires, and therefore not always good. We could hardly claim a book inspired by a mere mortal man was inerrant; on the contrary, we would be forced to admit that it was extraordinarily likely that there were multiple errors and inconsistencies to be found throughout.

The wonderfully good news is that we can confess the inerrancy of Scripture precisely because we confess that the Scriptures have been inspired by none other than God Himself. Within the revelation of the Scriptures, we have God’s own disclosure of Himself. Since He is perfect, His Word is perfect. Since He makes no errors, His Word cannot contain error. Consider D.A. Carson’s exposition of John 1:1, wherein he writes that, “God’s ‘Word’ in the Old Testament is his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation and salvation, and the personification of that ‘Word’ makes it suitable for John to apply it as a title to God’s ultimate self-disclosure, the person of his own Son.”[1]

The Scriptures disclose who God is; the incarnation of Jesus in Scripture is the ultimate self-disclosure of the triune God. In John 1:1, John writes of Jesus that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The inspiration of Scripture legitimizes Scripture’s divine revelation of who God is, while the divine revelation of who God is self-authenticates Scripture’s divine inspiration and inerrancy.

This Jesus, who is the Word incarnate, claimed in John 14:6 that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Since Jesus is God and it is God who has “breathed-out” (inspired) the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16), we can rightly claim that Scripture itself, as the revelation of God’s self-disclosure, reveals the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Or, to put it somewhat differently: Because Jesus alone is the way to Heaven, the foundation of all Truth, and the source of all Life, His inspired Word is the only document that rightly reveals the Way to salvation and eternal life, the only document that is ultimately True, and the only document that leads one to everlasting life in Jesus Christ.

Each attribute of God that He has disclosed within the Old and New Testament further confirms the inerrancy of His Word. Since He is good and all good things flow from Him (James 1:17), His Word is good and (when rightly understood) only good can flow from it. Because He is righteous (Ps. 11:7), His Word is righteous and reveals the path of righteousness. Because God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), His Word is loving. Since God is true (Jn. 14:6), His Word is true. Since God divinely rules over men (Dan. 4:17), His Word is authoritative over the lives of men.

Scripture is about God and His glory, and we can trust its inerrant revelation about Him precisely because He is without error and has inspired the Scriptures.

Jacob Tanner is pastor of Mt. Bethel Church of McClure in Central Pennsylvania. He has spent time as a reporter, journalist, and editor, and has written for various Christian websites. He and his wife, Kayla, have one son, Josiah. He is currently completing his M.Div. through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

[1] D.A. Caron, The Gospel According to John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publish Company, 1991), 116. Kindle Edition.


Jacob Tanner