Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Lately, in the circles I move in, there has been some discussion on the topic of "the inerrancy of scripture." See, e.g., here and here.

One set of seminary notes that I, over the past 2 1/2 decades, have kept within arm's reach are my thousands of pages of hand-written notes of the Faber (my dogmatics prof) lectures. The following is an excerpt from a lecture on revelation, Nov. 20, 1986.

Dr. Faber is discussing the perfections of scripture. Under “authority” he said the following (I’m responsible for any errors):

To the traditional Reformed view of this perfection of scripture, we can add, today, the dependability, trustworthiness, of scripture. Also, the unity of scripture. These categories are implied in the authority of scripture. Rom. 3:2, “Though every man were a liar, yet God is true.” Psalm 12: the pure gold of God’s Word is set over against the words of man.

Nowadays we must talk about the historical reliability of scripture. (Recently the GKN [synodical, gvp]) issued a new report because of criticism against God Met Ons which starts on a philosophical footing. This new report admits the philosophical starting point  is not good, but defends that historical criticism is necessary. The new report maintains that.)

Today’s theology makes a distinction between “salutary contents” and “history.” The salutary contents are said to be dependable, but the dependability does not extend to the historical data.

G.C. Berkouwer speaks this way [his 1975 book on Holy Scripture, gvp]. He speaks of the scopus, the tendency of scripture. He says that what scripture intends to relate to us is salvation.

Critics of scripture say that the Bible has an old fashioned three-story view of the universe; we know better since Newton.

Dr. Faber does not make a distinction between scopus and data. There is some truth in saying that the scripture is not a history text book. Article 2 of the Belgic Confession, on scripture: “Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation.” The “scopus” of scripture is that it is God’s self-revelation unto our salvation. Thus we should not put to scripture questions that it is not meant to answer. We should keep in mind that scripture has a scopus. We read it in a redemptive-historical manner. “Redemptive” qualifies “historical.” The Bible gives us a history of redemption, not a history of the Ancient Near East.

Having said this, this does not mean that the historical data are unreliable. Berkouwer leaves open the possibility of attacking the reliability of the historical data. In the ch. entitled “Reliability” in a book on scripture by Koole, Berkouwer attacks the “inerrancy of scripture.”

We must, at times, admit that we cannot explain everything. Scripture, because it is God’s Word, is pure, infallible. Thus we can say “inerrant,” but “infallible” is a better word. “Infallible” stresses more the “troth” aspect. Behind “troth” lies the Hebrew concept of ENUMA: truthfulness. “Troth” includes correspondence to the facts, but it is a deeper concept. Troth implies reliability. “Infallible” implies “inerrant.”

Today’s inerrancy school is in danger of advancing rationalist arguments for the inerrancy of scripture. It is deeper than that. It is a faith conviction, faith created by the Holy Spirit.