Without Deceit

Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God’” (v. 29).

- Matthew 22:23-33

Three words that are used to describe the Christian doctrine of the Bible are inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy. The doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible means that the human beings who wrote it were directed by God the Holy Spirit, so that the end product was the Word of God. The doctrine of inspiration does not mean that God dictated the Bible to the human authors (except for those parts of the Old Testament which God dictated to Moses and other writers). Nor does the doctrine of inspiration mean that the human authors became mere automata while God made their hands move as He wished. In fact, quite the reverse is the case. Just as we experience a great self-awareness in God’s presence and a blossoming of our talents as we encounter Him, so the personalities of the human authors came to life in their writings.

When we say that the Bible is inerrant, we are saying that it contains no errors in any of its claims. When we say that the Bible is infallible, we are saying that it is impossible for the Bible even to contain errors. God cannot make mistakes, so His word cannot possibly contain mistakes. God’s Word, then, is infallible by nature, and thus it is inerrant. The process of inspiration is infallible, since God is at work, and thus the end product (the Bible) is inerrant.

In recent years, a number of semiconservative theologians have rejected the term inerrant but have continued to say that the Bible is infallible. What these theologians mean by infallibility is that the Bible does not fail in its purpose. While this notion is true enough, it does not do justice to the traditional and biblical doctrine of infallibility, which is that God’s word is incapable of error (infallible); therefore, the Bible does not err (inerrancy).

All this is to say that the Bible is true. It was the liberal Rudolph Bultmann who studied the biblical word truth and concluded that what the Bible means by truth is something that is without deceit, without fraud, and communicates real states of affairs. What orthodox Christianity affirms is that the Bible is true in terms of the Bible’s own definition of truth: on every page the Bible, without error, communicates real states of affairs.

Coram Deo

That the Bible is the Word of God leads to two inescapable conclusions, that it has no error and that it is absolutely binding. Have you ever overlooked a particular demand in the hope that it might be a mistake? Commit to following God’s Word not just when it is convenient to do so, but in all its parts, no matter the cost.

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 40:8
Acts 17:11
Colossians 2:6–9
2 Timothy 2:14–17

We Recommend

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343