Inerrancy: Righteous God Righteous Word
My family recently faced a very frightening and disturbing loss: our long-time auto mechanic retired. As strange as it sounds, this was really quite sad for us. Rick was not only good, he was also honest. I know nothing about cars and so a crooked mechanic could make a lot of money off of me. But Rick never took advantage of my ignorance and on numerous occasions made inexpensive repairs when much more could have been made. We didn't have to worry, because we knew Rick as a person. He was trustworthy and had our best interests in mind.
In a similar way, when we consider Scripture and issues such as inerrancy, we must not lose the connection between our confidence in its Author and our confidence in His Word. Scripture constantly reminds us the One who is True has given us a Word that is true, and we can rest in it because we rest in Him. We need not worry that we are being misled or misinformed. Psalm 119:137-144 helps us to see this, as it powerfully connects the character of God with the character of His Word.
The first two verses declare the perfect righteousness of the LORD's person and his judgments, and recognize the righteousness of the Word. "Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are your judgments." We begin by praising the Lord and recognizing His righteousness, an attribute of God in His very being and nature. He is morally perfect and right. The Scriptures are full of statements that declare this truth. For instance, He says of Himself in Isaiah 45:21, “There is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me.” And because He is righteous in His being as the One True God, everything He does is therefore righteous and without hint of sin or imperfection. Deuteronomy 32:3-4 adds, “Proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.” It is simply impossible for the LORD to do anything that is not righteous and upright. He is a rock – steady, sure, and unchanging in His attributes and His actions. He does not change His essential nature as God, and so He is always righteous. Certainly the special revelation of God, His Scriptures, would reflect the perfect righteousness of the God who gives them. To be anything less would be inconsistent with His character.
Several years ago, I made dinner for the family using a recipe I found on a random web site. The description seemed quite nice and so I made the dish according to the instructions. The results were very disappointing – “order a pizza” disappointing. I learned from that episode. I now go to recipe pages of cooks that I know and like. Alton Brown, for instance, has a tremendous recipe for Country Style Steak. When I stick to these recipes, the results are always nice and we can save pizza for another day. There is something to be said for knowing the quality of the author, which speaks to the quality of his or her product. How infinitely more relevant this is when thinking of God and Scripture.
Later in the psalm, we're told of abuse that the writer endures from others because of God's Word. “I am small and despised, yet I do not forget Your precepts.” Now, there are many reasons over which people might be willing to suffer abuse. But the worse the abuse, the more compelling the reasons need to be. As our culture moves more and more in a direction of marginalizing those who hold to biblical standards, this comes to life quite vividly. Some will be tempted to be biblically “flexible,” because this can relieve some of the pressure. Maybe it's not worth holding onto so tightly. Perceived imperfections begin to be found that were somehow not there before. Why would we stubbornly hold on to something that will get us into trouble, maybe into deep, deep trouble?
When the pressure is on, we would cling tighly to the Bible only if we have full confidence in our God and what He has said. We embrace the truth of Scripture as the very Word of God, our infallible rule for faith and life, and the standard He has given to determine our beliefs and behavior. In that light, we are less afraid to be considered freaks. We belong to the Lord, who has saved us and called us to live for Him, by His standard and for his glory. The God who has graciously taken hold of us by His grace to us in Christ tells us to continue to hold firmly to His Scriptures and not conveniently “forget” them. And so we remember.
The psalmist then says, “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth.” The righteous and eternal God has given us a Law that is not merely occasionally true, or generally expresses truthful ideas, but, like Him, actually is righteousness and truth. Because of this, it is also sure and steadfast. It does not expire. It is not limited. His gospel, His instruction, His promises, His encouragements, are all "truth," and that truth, like the God who gave it, does not change. Cultures change. Human standards change. Men will adopt new standards and abandon old ones. That's a fact of life and history. When I consider how much our culture has changed in the course of my timetime, I'm truly amazed. Yet this is nothing new. People in many generations in every part of the world could say much the same thing. But the Scripture transcends these changes. While it is true that applications of eternal truth need to be established in every culture and time, the truth is still the truth, and the standards of God's moral law are unchanging, because they are given by the unchanging God. 1 Peter 1:23-25 reminds us, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” The truth by which we've come to know Christ is reliable and sure. It does not expire within our generation, or down through all generations. And yet it is alive and active, and by it, we have come to eternal reconciliation with the unchanging, eternal God.
The psalm closes, “Your testimonies are righteous forever; Give me understanding that I may live.” God’s unchanging and righteous Word is where we go when we ask the Lord to give us understanding, that we may truly "live." It is only by God's grace in Christ that we have been raised up and resurrected from being dead in sin to being alive in Christ, in whom we trust. And we live in fellowship with the righteous and Triune God, who guides us by His trustworthy Word. Our relationship exists and is maintained only becaue God and His Word are completely righteous and true. What a powerful comfort this is in an unclear, untrue, unreliable, inconsistent world.
Vince Scavo is a graduate of the Reformed Presbyterian Theology Seminary and currently pastors a congregation in New Kensington, PA. He is married to Elizabeth and they have three children and a daughter in law.