God Loves Women

A blog sharing my love of God, the love He has for women and my frustration that the Church often doesn't realise this


The Inerrancy of Scripture?

Posted by God Loves Women on January 8, 2012 at 12:05 PM

I’ve been having a few conversations with people recently about the inerrancy of the Bible; that it is God’s Word and therefore cannot be wrong.  Anything that we do not understand is down to the Sovereignty of God and we must therefore accept it.  Their views are widely informed by 2 Timothy 3:16-17:


“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”


I understand this view and having grown up in the Church and with a Christian family; I have to some extent held the view myself.  I would say though that more recently my view on this has changed.  Rather than focussing on why my view has changed, I would rather examine the idea of inerrancy and why I don’t agree with it.


Firstly let us clarify that the original Greek wording of “God breathed” or “God inspired” is the word theopneustos which literally does mean “God-breathed.”   


From this many Christians say that as Scripture is God-breathed this means it cannot be wrong.  However, no matter how much we are convinced of this view, the reality is that “God-breathed” in no language translates as infallible/unable to be argued with/inerrant.


God breathed into Adam and Eve in order that they would have life, this did not make either of them infallible or inerrant, in fact as we all very well know; they failed quite miserably…


When Paul wrote this to Timothy, had he considered his letters as “Scripture”?  Probably not, so how can we be sure that the New Testament is relevant to these verses anyway.


If we believe in free will, as many of those who believe Scripture is inerrant do, how do we reconcile this free will with the idea that the authors of the Bible books are supposed to have written with complete inerrancy?  They were not robot people who wrote letters/poetry/historical records etc. with glazed over eyes while God took hold of their hands and wrote the words He wanted to be written.  Truly, that is not our God!  One of the glorious things about our God is that is not what He does.  He meets us in our own place and time and uses us, with our flaws, failings and the gifts He has given us.


Jesus did not say that He would leave us with the Scriptures; or with writings from His disciples and others to enable us to know how to follow Him and what do to.  He said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  (John 14:26)


Where does this leave us in relation to the Bible?  As someone I was talking about this with on Twitter said, “So should we just get rid of the bits we don’t like?”  I don’t believe this is about picking and choosing what is and isn’t inerrant in Scripture, but rather recognise that the Bible is written by men (and potentially one woman, if those rumours about Hebrews are true…) with the breath of God throughout it.  Rather than being legalistic about it being “all or nothing”, perhaps we should be guided by the Holy Spirit, and look to the only human being who has ever lived an inerrant life, and let that inform the way we live and the theology we hold.


I found a very interesting article to follow on from my thoughts which you can read here


What do you think?  Am I wrong to question the inerrancy of Scripture?

Is it possible to uphold Scripture as God breathed and yet accept it can be wrong?



Categories: The Bible, The Church, Women and the Church

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Reply tanya_Marlow
9:08 AM on January 9, 2012 
Hi there
I'm not completely sure if i've understood what you're saying, because you seem to be using 'God-breathed/inerrant/infallible' as synonyms - but then end up by saying that you think it's God-breathed?
But I hear that you're saying something like, 'how can we be sure that the WHOLE of the Bible is God-breathed and therefore infallible, when it was written by humans? and how can we be sure tht the New Testament included in the God-breathed bit?" (i hope that's roughly what you're saying.

This is just a quick response, but I'd want to encourage you to stick with the Bible being infallible/God-breathed etc. The reason I think that it's God-breathed (I don't particularly like the word infallible, but i think it's useful as a technical term) and above all, authoritative, is because Jesus did. It's not just that one verse in 2 Timothy - the whole of the Old Testament has 'thus says the Lord', the psalms and proverbs are full of reverence for God's word - and Jesus utterly upholds this. He quotes from scripture as God's word, and confirms its authoritative nature. If it was authoritative for Jesus, if he says that he hasn't come to do away with the law but fulfil it, then i need to take that seriously. It is true that it doesn't say specifically that Jesus would leave us with scriptures, but he did commissino the apostles to write the New Testament. Interestingly, the apostles themselves seem to have an awareness that they were doing that, and they view Paul's writing as authoritative as the Old Testament - see 2 Peter 3:15-16. Peter writes about Paul's letters: "his letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." If Peter thought that Paul's letters were as important as the OT scriptures, then I think we ought to take them as authoritative too. However, it is also comforting to know that even back then people found Paul hard to understand and were distorting his message!!

Saying that the Bible is authoritative, indeed supremely authoritative, over our lives does not mean that we don't wrestle to understnad it. It is not like the Qur'an, a list of commands and descriptions of God - as you say, it needs to be understood as literature that was written by real people in history, and i think we need an understandnig of genre, the big picture of the BIble, as well as the history and culture of the tiem that will help us to understand what it is saying. But it is much 'safer' in my opinion, to come from that point of view, saying, 'The Bible is God's word, and I try my best to understand and obey it', to say, 'It is right, I am wrong' - rather than the alternative which is to say 'I am right, it is wrong.' I think if we say that, we find ourselves on decidedly shaky ground!

I would actually be interested in what made you change your mind...?
Reply God Loves Women
2:33 PM on January 9, 2012 
Hi Tanya,

Thanks so much for your comments!

So my main thought is the fact that the Bible is God breathed does not mean it makes it inerrant or infallible. That even we humans are God breathed, doesn't make us completely one hundered percent correct all the time. Being God breathed is to have the essence of God, something very different from being written by God. I guess the only thing we can say that is definitely written by God is the Ten Commandments.

I would say the Bible is authoritative and I would say we should consider the Bible holy, but I struggle with the idea of accepting teaching in the Bible on the basis of "well it's inerrant and so must be true" when actually some of it is downright wrong! The testing of an unfaithful wife, the fact girls were valued as less than boys, the fact God destroys Onan for wasting his seed, but does not destroy Amnon when he rapes Tamar. I can however see God flowing through the narrative, catching glimpses of who He is, even in the midst of the very human portrayal of God in the Bible.

It is interesting what you say about Jesus using the Scriptures to back up His points, although He did do that, He also contradicted them on many occasions, Sabbath teaching, purity teaching etc. I do value the Bible as God's word, written down/translated -and I feel in places misunderstood- by failed human beings.

You're right a safer view is to think "'It is right, I am wrong" but should we take an "It's all right" approach? I don't know, I'm still considering that...

Perhaps I should write another blog about why I changed my mind huh?