There is no question that Christians have attributed things to the Bible that it never attributes to itself. Ignorance of the Bible’s authors, its historical context, languages, canon, and overall purpose has led to all sorts of odd claims about the Bible down through church history. Claims that the Bible is a handbook to nuclear physics or that it contains startling scientific secrets are easily (and truthfully) refuted.
The acts of the ignorant over the centuries do not determine the nature of Scripture, however. We must think carefully and clearly about what Scripture is so that when we speak of its authority, nature, and accuracy, we are standing on solid ground. It is just this kind of clear, careful thinking that marks the work of the scholars who crafted the Chicago Statement in 1978.1 Though the entire statement is lengthy, the summary statement is brief enough to be of assistance to us here:
- God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God’s witness to Himself.
- Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: It is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.
- The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
- Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.
- The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.