The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy: Article XI

The terms Inspiration, Infallibility, and Inerrancy rise or fall together in our doctrine of Scripture. They are really in it together, we might say. Thus, it is no surprise that Articles VI through X of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy are so focused on explaining the doctrine of divine Inspiration, and what bearing this has on our understanding of the Bible as God’s Word to man through men. In Article XI, the Statement links Inspiration to Infallibility on the way to defending the Inerrancy of Scripture. This Article begins:

We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.

In this affirmation, the Statement simply and logically brings together the truths which Paul proclaims in 2 Timothy 3:16 and Ephesians 2:20. He reminded Timothy in the former text, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” He pronounced to the Church in Ephesus in the latter text that they had “been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” In other words, because God’s message delivered through “the apostles and prophets” is “inspired by God,” it is not merely useful, but true and reliable in all the matters it addresses; on God’s Word, God’s people are built up together as God’s spiritual temple (1 Pet. 2:5).

As recognized by the Westminster Confession of Faith (and the saints of old), the “Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written” includes “all the books of the Old and New Testament… All of which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life” (WCF 1.2). Ultimately, we are to receive and regard the whole counsel of God contained herein in the manner which Christ teaches His disciples to handle “these words of Mine” (referring specifically to His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount) in Matthew 7:24, heeding and acting on them. In this is true wisdom that – far from misleading us – withstands the spiritual storms of this present evil age.

For example, the Apostle Paul characterized the Church in Colossae as “firmly rooted and now being built up in [Christ] and established in your faith” (Col. 2:7). With Christ as the perfectly reliable and load-bearing cornerstone, we shall not be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). But as John Calvin warned in commenting on Christ’s parable of the builders at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “The Gospel, if it be not deeply rooted in the mind, is like a wall, which has been raised to a great height, but does not rest on any foundation.”[1]

Because the Bible as God’s Inspired Word is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses, it is Inerrant, or ‘without error.’ This is precisely what The Chicago Statement expresses in the denial under Article XI:

We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions.

Because the Bible is Inspired by God (who is perfectly and unchangeably true), it shares with God the characteristic of Infallibility, an absolute impossibility of falsehood (and thus perfect reliability). Being Infallible, it is necessarily Inerrant, or without error in the original autographs. To be unable to err means – by necessity – to be without error. Put another way, to be perfectly true and reliable is to be completely devoid of any and all falsehood. The Chicago Statement concludes this Article with a brief explanatory note:

Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.

Such as is the case with so many theological pairings (e.g., faith and repentance; holiness and justice; divine goodness and divine glory), the terms Infallibility and Inerrancy are inseparably united, even if we can – and must – distinguish them in our thinking. However, there is a logical sequence that The Chicago Statement accurately portrays in its treatment of these intimately related concepts. The Bible is inerrant because – and only because – it is infallible. Furthermore, its infallibility – and thus its inerrancy – rests on the doctrine of divine inspiration.

If we understand what the framers of The Chicago Statement were doing in Articles I-XI to establish the divine authority, divine inspiration, and finally, divine infallibility of the Scripture as God’s Word, then we can appreciate the faithful presentation of biblical inerrancy in Articles XII-XIX.

Zachary Groff (MDiv, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) is Pastor of Antioch Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Woodruff, SC, and he serves as Managing Editor of The Confessional Journal and as Editor-in-Chief of the Presbyterian Polity website.

[1] John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, trans. William Pringle, vol. 1, Reprint Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989): 370.


Zachary Groff