Biblical Inerrency

John Bayer asks in the comments –
“…Also, Raymond Brown is criticized by tradionalists for denying Biblical inerrancy. Is this criticism unfounded? What is the Lutheran view and particularly what is Parson Brown’s position on Biblical inerrancy…”

To the first question, the criticism is not unfounded. Raymond Brown absolutely would deny a tradionalist statement of inerrancy. When I wrote that Raymond Brown was a critical scholar, you’ve used the technical/theological term for what that was pointing at. Raymond Brown puts reason over scripture to the point that if there are percieved “errors” the problem is with Scripture and not with the interpreter. Raymond Brown is not beyond using the text as we have it to “peer behind and reconstruct” the “original text” in his understanding. This form of Higher Criticism is why I could not recommend Raymond Brown for a layman. (Sorry, that sounds snobby.) It is also why I thought it fair to point out that I was reading him. Many people would not find him kosher. That said, I have found Raymond Brown to be helpful and insightful, especially if you know his starting point. He is a writer that one can argue with, sometimes loudly.

To the second point, a hearty and loud yes! to scriptural inerrency is my personal confession. I’m going to sketch out that case really quickly here, and maybe elaborate a little over the next few days.

A. Inerrency of scripture is the universal testimony of scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21 as the clearest examples, Luke 24:44, John 2:22, Acts 1:16, and several other supporting passages)

a.1. Yes this is a circular argument, but all interpretation/understanding of our world begins somewhere. To make a mathematical analogy, all geometry rests on axioms taken as truth. Arguing with Euclid over parallel lines never touching is lunacy, because that is an axiom of Euclidian Geometry. The interpretation cycle of the church begins with Jesus Christ as the revelation of the Father. Christ testifies that the scriptures are all about him. They are Christocentric and every word they contain was or will be fulfulled in Christ (Luke 24:44). Scripture is the bedrock and norm or everything including itself. Scripture interprets Scripture, or Sola Scriptura.

B Inerrency of scripture is a statement of faith. Just like the universal church, the Una Sancta, is a statement of faith. Ultimately you cannot “prove” revelation. Like the message of the Gospel, revelation is accepted or rejected. The Nicene Creed states in the 2nd article that “on the third day He rose again accoring to the Scriptures” putting forward the Scriptures as the valid and true testimony of Christ. It also holds in the 3rd article the “Holy Spirit… who spoke by the prophets” which affirms the old testament Scriptures. The creeds, the rule of faith and the summation of the scriptural witness which we confess, hold the scriptural testimony to be true.

C. Our recent Synod’s writings on inerrency give a fully rounded view. This link takes you to the Commision on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) document on “The Inspiration of Scripture. Pages 10-11 address inerrancy. The money paragraph in my mind is the quotation in II.A.2 (p 11):

Inspiration was not mechanical dictation but rather an operation of the Holy Spirit
that allowed a function to each author’s individuality in writing the Scriptures.
Therefore the predication of inerrancy to the Bible does not imply that when the
New Testament reproduces and applies Old Testament statements this must
always occur by means of verbatim quotations, or that there must be verbal
correspondence between parallel accounts of the same event wherever they are
found either in the Old or the New Testament.
Each writer inerrantly imparted God’s truth as the Holy Spirit moved him to do so
in his own way, from his own perspective, and for his own purposes. Far from
impugning the veracity of the Scriptures this multidimensional application of
whatsoever was spoken aforetime and this multidimensional view of events
reported serves to impart more fully the truth which God reveals for the
edification of His people. The Biblical conception of inspiration does not see
these differences as errors, but as inspired variety which we should recognize
with thanksgiving and study prayerfully imploring the Spirit’s help so that we may
receive all the instruction He wishes to imparts.

This is getting a little long, so I’ll stop there. If anything is really unclear, let me know, or if anyone wants to take me to task.

5 responses to “Biblical Inerrency

  1. Thank you for the explanation and for your position on the matter. I just wanted to be absolutely sure as sometimes (as during Sunday School class) we talk about the early record more in human terms and often forget about the Spirit’s role in the recording of scripture. For instance, we talked about Luke’s presence in the events of Acts which allowed him to write a “more accurate” record.

  2. Parson Brown

    “More accurate” might not have been the best choice of words. Maybe more direct a witness, or less reliance on sources would have been better.

    The two natures are a tough thing. According to its human nature, we can talk about genre from apocalyptic to poetry and how that might influence interpretation (i.e. employment of symbolism, historical method, etc.). According to Scripture’s divine origin, we have its inerrency. The two are together in one Scripture/Word.

    Thanks for the comments.

  3. Understandably, often our choice of words in casual conversation (e.g., Sunday school class), where there is a mutual understanding among the folks, do not necessarily accurately depict a theological position. I didn’t mean to be so picky. —- Good point about a circular argument. It is what faith is all about; trust without proof. Without Biblical inerrency, we would have nothing. How could we build our faith upon a flawed revelation?

  4. Random Passerby

    >>How could we build our faith upon a flawed revelation?<<

    You already *do* build your faith upon a flawed revelation — namely *your own understanding*. What good is it to have an inerrant text when *you* are errant?

    If you can build up your faith via your own, errant, close-but-not-perfect understanding — why isn’t it possible for us to build up our faith via the Biblical authors’ own, errant, close-but-not-perfect understanding, set down in words?

  5. Parson Brown

    Random Passerby –

    While our understanding is indeed flawed, and I am errant, that is not the basis of building my faith. In fact my Faith is not my own, but it is God’s work in me. My flawed nature will intrude and make wrong interpretations, but that is why we continually return to the inerrent scripture. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16 – “all scripture is God-Breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Scripture, through the Holy Spirit who brought me to faith even while I was still evil, works to correct my poor interpretations. While the biblical authors were fallen men, when writing Scripture they were also the means through which the Holy Spirit operated (2 Peter 1:21). You catch some of the flavor of that from Paul in Philippians 2:12-13 when he says “work our your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” We do not build our faith or our salvation, but we do work with fear and trembling to carry it out to completion. We run the race of faith straining on to what lies ahead.