A Brief Thought on Inerrancy in the Classroom

“Inerrancy” is a belief about the Christian Scriptures that many embrace, some question, and some outright reject. If you are a Bible teacher, surely all you need do is educate your learners on what the Bible is and says, right? There is a temptation to simplistic Bible teaching that models not only a low view of the Scriptures, but may also enable lazy reading in the teacher and the learners. David Dockery tells us, “[we] want to affirm that theology is foundational for the development of mature, thoughtful followers of Christ.”[1] By holding firm to the doctrine of inerrancy, the educator’s Bible teaching is appropriate and enhanced.

Inerrancy Defined

            Several attempts at a definition of inerrancy have been put forward in various monographs, conferences, and theologies. The usual standard for understanding inerrancy is the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. It has “A Short Statement” in the beginning, which is quoted here as a definition for the term.

1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God’s witness to Himself.

2. Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.

3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.

4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.

5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.[2]

An Objection to Inerrancy and Its Solution

            There are some who object to use a term about Scripture which does not originate in Scripture. It is true that the word “inerrant” does not appear in the Bible. However, the Bible speaks of itself in particular ways, as do a number of biblical figures, that treat it as what we call inerrant. For example, read any of the Gospels and you will see Jesus correct the Sadducees and the Pharisees because they did not know the Scriptures. His correction usually takes the form of quotes from or allusions to Old Testament texts. John tells us, “Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35, ESV). In addition, we already use many terms not in Scripture to describe God, for example. “Omnipotent” is not found in the Bible; yet, it accurately describes the God revealed in the Scriptures.

Implications for the Classroom

            Strong theological convictions about core issues are necessary when teaching the Bible. They create a depth in the teacher and engender a hunger for study in the learner. A passionate teacher will always have a greater impact on his or her learners than an ambivalent one. An inerrantist’s dedication to read the Bible for what it says and to treat it as the authority we believe it to be creates precisely this infectious passion. But, does such a commitment stifle learning? Dockery puts it best in his book.

Do these theological commitments stifle honest intellectual exploration? We do not think so. Our challenge is to preserve faithfully and pass on the Christian tradition while encouraging honest intellectual inquiry. We believe these two things can co-exist, even if in tension, in an enriching dialectical dependence.[3]

 

[1] David S. Dockery, “Introduction – Faith and Learning: Foundational Commitments,” Faith and Learning: A Handbook for Christian Higher Education, David S. Dockery, ed. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2012), 13.

[2] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/icbi.html, accessed 4/25/2014). See also Rick and Shera Melick, “Teaching that Transforms” (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 20-30; Craig L. Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible?, Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2014.

[3] Dockery, 12.

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