The Inspiration, Inerrancy & Authority of the Holy Scriptures

Morris Fork Baptist Church

Historic Baptists believe in the verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures (Mat. 4:4; I Cor. 2:9-13). This means that the divine inspiration of the Scriptures extends to the very words of the original Biblical text, not merely to the thoughts and concepts of the Biblical writers.

Religious liberals reject and ridicule this doctrinal truth. At best, they believe and teach that God suggested the thoughts of revelation to the Biblical writers, but left it completely up to them to put those thoughts into words. At worst, they believe that the thoughts and words of the Biblical writers were wholly their own. According to the liberal view, the written Word of God consists not of the very words of God, but only of the words of men.

Religious liberals overlook the indisputable fact that thoughts and concepts can only be conceived and conveyed by means of words and language. The late Dean John Burgon expressed this truth very well when he wrote, "As for thoughts being inspired apart from the words which give them expression, you might as well talk of a tune without notes, or a sum without figures. No such theory of inspiration is even intelligible. It is as illogical as it is worthless, and cannot be too sternly put down." Inspiration includes the form as well as the substance, the words as well as the thoughts.

Historic Baptists also believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures (II Tim. 3:16-17). This means that all Scripture from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 is God-breathed and equally-inspired, though it admittedly may not all seem equally inspiring to the reader.

Religious liberals scoff at this doctrine also. At best, they believe and teach that inspiration (whatever they mean by that term) includes only those parts of the Bible that directly relate to faith and practice or only to the teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the four gospels. At worst, they deny the inspiration of the Scriptures in toto.

According to the liberal view, all Scripture is not given by inspiration of God and all Scripture is not profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, or instruction in righteousness, regardless of what Scripture claims for itself. This confused notion has been ably refuted by Carl F. H. Henry, who writes, "An examination of the Biblical texts from which a Scriptural doctrine of inspiration may be derived indicates that no distinction of inspiration exists between parts of the Bible. Nowhere is any hint to be found of the compatibility of inspiration with error or that some parts of Scripture are to be segregated from others as more, or less, trustworthy." Inspiration includes the whole and every part of God’s Word.

Historic Baptists believe as well in the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures (II Sam. 7:28; Ps. 19:7,9; 111:7; 119:142,151,160; 138:2; Prov. 30:5-6; Jn. 17:17; II Tim. 2:15; Jas. 1:18; Rev. 21:5). Inerrancy means that the Bible is entirely true and trustworthy and wholly without error in all that it affirms, whether those affirmations concern doctrinal, practical, moral, historical, geographical, or scientifical matters. The Bible is not primarily a textbook on history, geography, or science, but where it speaks on these matters it is totally reliable and does not err in any way. Timothy George defines this principle very well when he writes, "Let us affirm clearly: what the Bible says, God says; what the Bible says happened, happened—every miracle, every event in every book of the Old and New Testaments is altogether true and trustworthy."

John C. Whitcomb also calls attention to the monumental importance of the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy when he writes, "The inerrancy of Scripture is absolutely essential to Christianity. This is true for at least two reasons. First, Christ and the apostles taught this doctrine. Therefore, if the Bible is not what they said it is, then they either lied or were mistaken---and in either case the entire foundation of Christianity collapses. In the second place, a Bible that is not completely inerrant is hopelessly untrustworthy because no one could be sure that what he reads in the Bible is an inerrant portion. One would have to be omniscient to know which words are correct and which are not correct. Only if all Scripture is true can it be confidently read and obeyed."

Religious liberals deny the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. At best, they believe that Scripture is only true and trustworthy in matters of faith and practice, not in its historical, geographical, or scientifical teachings. At worst, they believe that Scripture is not even true and trustworthy in certain matters of faith and practice. According to the liberal view, God’s Word is erroneous in many of its teachings and is not completely dependable.

This low view of Scripture is diametrically opposed to the high view of Scripture held by the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who claim to be disciples of Christ certainly ought to hold the same high view of Scripture that He held. If Scripture was true and trustworthy enough for the Lord Jesus Christ, then it is true and trustworthy enough for every professing Christian.

Historic Baptists also believe as a matter of deeply-held conviction in the supreme and final authority of the Holy Scriptures (Isa. 8:20; Mat. 4:4; Jn. 17:17; Acts 17:11; II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:19-21). This means that we literally depend upon the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible as our one, objective, final authority for determining what to believe, what not to believe, how to behave, and how not to behave. The Bible serves as our final court of appeal for deciding the difference between truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil, and morality and immorality.

W. A. Criswell, pastor emeritus at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, expresses a proper Christian attitude toward the authority of God’s Word when he writes as follows: "The Bible is our final court of appeal. We have no other final and ultimate authority than the Bible. It is not a question of what I think or what anyone else thinks. The question is always, ‘What saith the Scriptures?’ Therefore, it is for me to bow to God’s authority, to submit to His Word, and to obey His teachings." The late David Nettleton, also a longtime Baptist pastor, adds the following on this point: "We dare not look for authority to human experience, scholarship, history, science, sociology, or anything else but the Bible. All else is fallible and changing. The Bible stands."

Religious liberals deny the doctrine of the supreme and final authority of the Holy Scriptures by subordinating the Bible to either human reason or religious experience. Some religious liberals elevate human reason to the place of final authority and are willing to accept as true and authoritative only those things that seem reasonable according to human standards or that are in agreement with their own subjective way of thinking. This, of course, rules out the whole realm of the supernatural and miraculous. Other religious liberals elevate religious experience to the place of final authority and are willing to accept as true and authoritative only those things that they have experienced to be true in their own lives. Consequently, reason, in the former case, and experience, in the latter case, become more authoritative and binding than God’s Holy Word.

This rationalistic, subjectivistic approach to the Bible robs it of its supreme and final authority and places man in a position of being his own final authority and, therefore, his own god. Under liberalism, every man ends up believing and doing that which seems right in his own eyes, which inevitably leads to chaos, confusion, calamity, and catastrophe.

The number one distinctive of historic Baptists is our rock-solid belief in the supreme and final authority of the Holy Scriptures. All of our other distinctive beliefs and practices grow and flow out of this distinctive belief, including our belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible itself. May we ever cling to this majestic principle!

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Revised: May 24, 2010