I had to give a working definition of Inerrancy today so I thought I would post an excerpt of the results here as well. If you are just interested in the conclusions just jump to the bottom, if you want the full text there is a pdf download at the bottom as well (or from my writing section). This post is by no means meant to be exhaustive.
Biblical inerrancy is an important part of Christianity, and any theology. Because the Christian faith has firmly rooted its authority in that of the Holy Scriptures, the inerrancy (or infallibility as some refer to it, though the terms are not totally synonymous) of the Bible plays a central role in the authenticity of Christianity and its message. The issue of infallibility has come to be used as an alternate definition from that stated below, meaning more that the Bible was not always factually accurate but that the purpose, meaning, and overall divine nature was accomplished.
Concluding Definition of Biblical Inerrancy
There have been countless theses and dissertations written on the subject of the inerrancy of scripture, so this working post can only serve as the most basic introduction into the material of inerrancy. Erickson in Christian Theology explains inerrancy as…
The Bible, when correctly interpreted in the light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms (see full text Position and Argument on the Inerrancy of the Bible for qualifications).
Why is Biblical Inerrancy Important Today?
There are many reasons why inerrancy is important, especially today, when we live in a pluralistic society that is intent on defining truth as whatever you make it out to be. From a scholarly viewpoint, there are theological, historical, and epistemological reasons for inerrancy.
From a theological point of view, Paul, the disciples, and Jesus among other people, all called on the authority of scripture. Jesus quoted scripture throughout his ministry and took the view that scripture was the inspired work of God. If God inspires the work, and God is all-powerful, all knowing, and completely Holy, He certainly could influence the final canon to be completed accurately. If the Bible was not accurate, our own view of inspiration, among many other theologies that come from the Bible, would not be accurate either. In other words, without inerrancy, much of what we believe in scripture could not be held out as truth either.
Historically, the early church long held to the inerrancy, dependability, and authority of Scripture. History has a way of being testing by time, and to disregard the history of the church would itself be in error. The early church had far fewer questions about the inerrancy of scripture. It was known to them to be true, and fully trustworthy. If we depart from inerrancy, we also must depart from many other doctrines formed by the early church.
An epistemological view would state that some assertions in the Bible are at least potentially independently verifiable. Viewed as a type of domino theory, if one falls, they all fall, if we hold certain propositions taught by the Bible to be true that are not, we cannot continue to hold any of the propositions taught by the Bible to be true.
How Do We View Inerrancy Today
As stated above, this topic is so far reaching, so broad in scope that any of the information above can only be taken as the most basic and brief overview. In our own personal walk in Christianity the inerrancy of the scriptures has to play an important role in what we believe as Christians. If the Bible is the inspired word of God, given to us by divine revelation, we must conclude it is inerrant. If we don’t, all we can do is proceed down a slippery slop of discerning which parts are and which parts are not accurate.
We hold to almost no absolute truths in our culture today. Society no longer allows for absolute truths, they are far too exclusive, far too judgmental. Truths have to be open for debate, flexible, changeable, and able to be managed and manipulated into our own culture and times in a way that benefits our desires and sinful nature.
If the Bible is inspired, and also found to be errant, then we can not conclude that the God of the universe, the God of creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of Jesus, is inerrant either. That is a simplistic way to make a conclusion, but if we as Christians do not hold the Scriptures as the ultimate inerrant authority, then how can we hold that Christianity is the only way, the truth, and the light.
[For a full version of this essay in pdf please download Position and Argument on the Inerrancy of the Bible]