A.W. Pink (1886-1952) said “Christianity is the religion of a Book.”(1) As a Christian how can one trust the reliability of the Bible? By addressing it’s authority, inspiration, and inerrancy.
I’ll start with how the Bible is authoritative. The writers of and/or the main characters in the Bible—i.e. the prophets, the Apostles, Jesus, God, and others—claimed to either be speaking from God, for God, to God, or of God, so when the authoritative statements in the Bible were penned, the authority isn’t from the human authors but God. Maybe you’re thinking, “I can say God told me to write something too. Does that mean what I write is authoritative?” No, not without God confirming that He is the source of your revelation. Once God revealed Himself to and through the people in the Bible with signs, miracles, prophecies foretold and fulfilled, and so on, what the human authors recorded about Him or from Him in the Bible became authoritative because of the testimony of Himself. As a scholar wrote, “Because the Bible points beyond itself to God, it has a conferred authority. Yet the Bible has a real authority in itself as the authentic embodiment of God’s self-disclosure.”(2) The Bible is authoritative because of God’s undeniable revelation of Himself throughout it.
So how can we trust these so-called “human authors”? That is a matter of inspiration. The human authors who penned the Bible were supernaturally led to record just what God wanted them to record for their time and times to come. The Apostle Peter wrote,
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”(3)
The Apostle Paul said,
“But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”(4)
And in another place Paul recorded, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”(5) Furthermore, Old Testament writers repeatedly stated, “Thus says the LORD” or “The LORD said”, when they spoke or kept record of what was said; indicating they were speaking and writing God’s word not their own. Hence, because of inspiration the Bible has dual authorship, God and humans.
Does this mean that the Bible is perfect (without flaw) because God inspired it? Yes, that’s exactly what it means. Some of the characteristics of God revealed throughout the Scriptures are He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfect. Just from these three characteristics how can a God who inspired what to be written in His book not keep it free from error? That’s logically incompatible. The Bible then is inerrant. Yet, there are those who disagree. They say if there is even one mistake found then it is not inerrant. But that would mean that God’s testimony of Himself is not true, and for centuries they have found no errors but more confirmations. Another disagreement is that this “inerrancy” view came in later centuries and was not adopted by the earlier saints, nor is “inerrancy” taught in the Bible. However, the earliest saints—i.e. the Apostles and the disciples after them (Clement of Rome, Augustine, etc)—acknowledged that (6)“Every Scripture is God-breathed”. And even Jesus Himself said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”(7) As we can see, while there are arguments against this, the arguments for the Bible being inerrant are much more solid. Because God has divinely inspired what was written in the original autographs it bears His character throughout it, one being His perfection.
If a person who calls themselves a believer plays down the authority, inspiration, and inerrancy of the Bible, it is difficult to hold on to biblical certainty and conviction. As for me, these three ensure that what I believe stands true and solid, and because of that I can be totally open when reading, studying, and living what is in God’s Word.
1. Arthur W. Pink, The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Guardian Press, 1976), 5.
2. Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic), 153
3. 2Peter 1:19-21 (New King James Version)
4. 1Corinthians 2:10-13 (New King James Version)
5. 2Timothy 3:16-17 (New King James Version)
6. 2Timothy 3:16 (Amplified Bible)
7. Matthew 5:18 (English Standard Version)