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What is the Bible? The Infallibility of Scripture




Many people who know me, know that I love debate. While I was getting my Master of Divinity degree at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, I would spend my lunch debating fellow students about what the Bible says about different things. While these debates were edifying, there was always a problem with the debate, which was there were only three outcomes. Either I was right, and the other person was wrong, I was wrong, and the other person was right, or both of us were wrong. The worst outcome is the last one, but it is always a possibility because people are fallible. This applies to every person who has ever lived. They can be wrong. Scripture, on the other hand, can never be wrong. So, as we continue to answer the question “What is the Bible?”, we’ll look at the infallibility of Scripture and what makes Scripture different is that it’s never wrong.


The History of Infallibility

Scripture, since the reformation, has formally been confessed as “infallible.” The Belgic Confession, in Article 7, states: “Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this [the Bible] infallible rule.”[1] The Westminster Confession of Faith, in Chapter 1, states: “Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”[2] The word “infallible” was defined, at this time, as “incapable of being wrong.” The word infallible would fall to disrepair during the modernist controversy and the rise of the German liberals, where it was given a new definition. Beth Felker Jones, in her Logos mobile ed class, defined infallibility as scripture “will do what God intends for it to do.”[3] Another way infallibility has been defined is that Scripture is incapable of failing in its purposes.[4] The historical definition and the more modern definition are not synonymous. The modern definition wrongly describes the Bible, but the historic definition describes the Bible well. So while the term “infallibility” during the 20th century became a buzzword among liberals, it is still a word worthy of use when the historical definition is used to describe the Bible.


Incapable of Being Wrong

The doctrine of infallibility is a practical belief about the Bible. Scripture is the highest scholar. To go back to the debate illustration, the Bible is the most superior debate partner. When one stands to debate against it, the Bible will always come out the victor. Infallibility ultimately is about the wisdom of the Bible and how it is wiser than everyone. We live in a world that constantly objects to the Bible and says it’s wrong. Not only does the world do that, but our flesh objects to the Bible and says that it’s wrong. Then, Christian popular culture will object to the Bible, and claims that it’s wrong. The world, the flesh, and Christian culture call Scripture to have a debate, and infallibility stifles their objections.


Scripture v. The World

The world attempts to correct Scripture. The current trend is for the world to say that Scripture is immoral. When we look at our culture now, a common claim is that Scripture is homophobic. This isn’t a claim about accuracy as the world will rightly acknowledge that Scripture condemns homosexuality. Rather, this is a moral claim. The world will say that for Scripture to condemn homosexuality is immoral and it must change with the times. So, in the debate between the world, which says that to condemn homosexuality is immoral, and Scripture, which says homosexuality is immoral, the infallibility of Scripture says that the Bible is right. The Bible wins this debate and any other claim the world brings.


Scripture v. The Flesh

Our flesh also tries to object to Scripture. As Christians, this typically happens in a different way than the world. Our flesh objects by subtly ignoring Scripture and treating it as if it were wrong, even if we don’t outright say it’s wrong. We’ll read Scripture, acknowledge it as true, and then live our counter to it. We read Scripture’s command to fear God, and then we live with no fear of God. We read Scripture’s command to love one another, and then we fail to love. When we do this we’re saying with our lives that Scripture is wrong. Infallibility tells us that when our flesh objects to Scripture, no matter how reasonable we may think we’re being, the Bible is right. The Bible wins the debate against our flesh.


Scripture v. Christian Culture

Christian culture also objects to Scripture at times. The Southern Baptist Convention is in the throes of this right now with the debate over female pastors. The SBC recognizes that Scripture commands that only men can be pastors, yet our convention is in a heated debate over whether churches with female pastors can be in friendly cooperation with the convention. This is a challenge to whether Scripture is actually right in its command. Once again, Scripture being infallible says that no matter what Christian culture says, the Bible is right. This extends further; Christian culture can extend beyond our time and go back into Christian history, and at times object to Scripture. Even if heroes of the faith contradict Scripture, the Bible is always right. In the debate against Christian culture, the Bible wins.


Application

As previously stated, infallibility is a practical doctrine. When we approach Scripture, our starting point should be that Scripture is right. Our presupposition should be that Scripture is correct in everything it says, no matter who objects to it. The Bible is wiser than you. The Bible is always right and never wrong.



Article written by Klayton Carson


 


[1]“Belgic Confession | Christian Reformed Church,” accessed January 14, 2024, https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/belgic-confession.

 

[2]“Belgic Confession | Christian Reformed Church.”

 

[3]Beth Felker Jones, “Mobile Ed: TH200 Christian Thought: Orthodoxy and Heresy (8 Hour Course),” 2016.

 

[4]Kevin Vanhoozer, “The Inerrancy of Scripture,” C.S. Lewis Institute (blog), accessed January 15, 2024, https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/resources/the-inerrancy-of-scripture/.




The "What is the Bible" series will also be on the Text-Driven Podcast. You can listen to the Text-Driven Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at www.textdriven.org/podcasts.



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