A Review of The Inerrant Word. Edited by John MacArthur.
The foundation of the Christian faith is the authority and trustworthiness of the Word of God. Scripture underpins our entire faith, and those who seek to destroy the Christian faith always seek to destroy Scripture. Since this assault on the Bible is relentless a solid defence of Scripture is a perennial task of the church.
As MacArthur says in his afterword: “The authority and accuracy of Scripture have been attacked in every generation since Satan first spoke words of doubt to Eve: ‘Did God actually say…?’ (Gen. 3:1). From the dawn of human history until now, assaults on the veracity of God’s Word have come in steady, ever-increasing waves, from every quarter.”
Or as R. C. Sproul says in the foreword to this book: “The church’s defense of inerrancy rests upon the church’s confidence in the view of Scripture held and taught by Jesus himself. We wish to have a view of Scripture that is neither higher nor lower than his view. The full trustworthiness of sacred Scripture must be defended in every generation, against every criticism.”
Thus the need for an ongoing defence. And the case for Scripture has had a good run just of late. In a recent article I mentioned more than a dozen new volumes in which a vigorous defence of Scripture is offered: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/02/24/the-importance-authority-and-trustworthiness-of-scripture/
This volume is a welcome addition to that list. In 400 pages comprising 25 chapters, here a team of Christian scholars and experts make a persuasive case for the full reliability and trustworthiness of Scripture. Writers include: MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Kevin DeYoung, Mark Dever, Michael Kruger, John Frame, Albert Mohler, G. K. Beale, Sinclair Ferguson, and Alistair Begg.
All the major aspects of this topic are carefully covered, such as: the biblical case for inerrancy; inerrancy and church history; theological responses to the critics; and inerrancy and pastoral practice. As to defining the term, several helpful definitions can be mentioned here.
As Mohler, echoing Warfield, succinctly puts it, “When the Bible speaks, God speaks.” Michael Vlach offers a simple definition: “Inerrancy is the view that the entire Bible is true in all it affirms. There are no errors in the Scriptures. Whatever topic the Bible addresses, it does so accurately, with no mistakes.”
John Frame offers a theological framework for the term, first examining three others: inspiration, authority and infallibility. He then says inerrancy is “the quality of being without error, whether caused by ignorance or deceit. Since God cannot deceive or be ignorant, God is inerrant in what he thinks and what he says. Given that Scripture is his Word, Scripture, too, is inerrant.”
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is included as an appendix to this volume. It says in part: “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.”
Of course those defending inerrancy are referring to Scripture as it was originally given. They mean only the original documents, not later texts, copies and translations. The first seven chapters in this book go on to explain in great detail what this all entails, examining the biblical data on inerrancy.
Many note how Christ’s view of Scripture is so important here. Because he had such a high view of Scripture, so should we. Commenting on Matthew 5:17-20, Kevin DeYoung says this: “In one brilliant paragraph, Jesus established the one sure foundation we all need for Christian maturity: the authority of Scripture and his own authority as the Christ. They are not opposed. If you want to find Christ, you must run to the Bible. There are no shortcuts.”
Four important chapters on inerrancy in the history of the church demonstrate clearly that this has been the long-standing view of the church, and not some recent invention. While the Reformers obviously had a very high view of Scripture, Nathan Busenitz reminds us that there were also plenty of church leaders before the Reformation who took the same view.
He examines a number of the church fathers for example, and says this: “Even a cursory reading of patristic literature demonstrates that early Christians considered the Scriptures to contain the very words of God. Because they understood that God is perfect, they recognised that his Word is also perfect. Because God cannot lie, his Word is necessarily without error or falsehood.”
Nine meaty chapters are devoted to answering the various critics on this issue. For example, many critics emphasise the human authorship of Scripture while downplaying or denying divine authorship. Defenders of inerrancy have always asserted that Scripture has dual authorship, but insist that what God wanted to convey as truth comes through, even when human authors are used.
Matt Waymeyer reminds us that God is the ultimate author of all that is written (2 Tim. 3:16). And the “same God who providently prepared the human instruments also superintended these authors in such a way that when they composed the biblical text, they wrote the very words that he was communicating through them (2 Pet. 1:20-21).”
Al Mohler has a chapter on biblical interpretation and inerrancy. After explaining in detail what such a hermeneutic might look like for those with a high view of Scripture, he concludes, “To be human is to be a hermeneutical creature. To be a Christian is to be a hermeneutical disciple. To be an evangelical, in the fullest and most urgent sense, is to hold to a believing hermeneutic that affirms that the Bible, in whole and in its parts, is the Word of God.
As an example of supposed errors and contradictions in Scripture, Greg Beale spends an entire chapter on Matthews’s use of Hosea 11:1. He examines the problems and the options in resolving the problems, then offers his own take on how Matthew is using the OT passage. He concludes: “Matthew’s quotation of Hosea 11:1 shows exegetical and grammatical-historical sensitivity to the immediate context of Hosea 11:2-11, together with the broader context of the entire book.”
Finally four chapters on applying all this to the personal life of the believer are presented. As Stephen Lawson writes, “Because the Bible is what it claims to be – the inerrant Word of God – it is able to do what it claims to do. . . . The inerrant Word of God is a superior weapon that is entirely able to carry out the purposes of God.”
He examines seven symbols of Scripture as found throughout the bible and then concludes with these powerful words which make for a fitting conclusion to this article:
Because Scripture is flawless, it is therefore forceful. Because it is trustworthy, it is consequently triumphant. I call every preacher to wield the sword, to hold up the mirror, to scatter the seed, to serve the milk, to shine the lamp, to spread the flame, and to swing the hammer. Stop with the secular wisdom in the pulpit. Cancel the entertainment in the church. Fire the drama team. Get rid of the shtick. Unplug the colored lights. Put the pulpit back in the center of the building. Stand up like a man, open the Bible, lift it up, let it out, and let it fly. It is the inerrant Word of God, and it is full of invincible power.
(This volume is available in Australia at Koorong Books.)
5 Replies to “A Review of The Inerrant Word. Edited by John MacArthur.”
Thanks so much for this. I’ve been looking for a gift & this will make a brilliant one 😉
Dear Bill, It is refreshing to read of this type of material being out to the world. So often we hear of the trials and tribulations awaiting Christians with an onrushing world system attacking.
The Church needs to stand firm on God’s Word. To facilitate this, the Church needs to accept God’s Word as it is, not diluting nor twisting it for human desires. This means that Christians need to accept the Bible as God has given it: inerrant, reliabile and trustworthy. This is the only way to convince the unsaved of their necessity for responding positively to God’s call. They have to be shown that God’s Word is different to the other offerings of the world; Christians need to not succumb to downplaying the Bible to worldly standards- doing so robs the Scriptures of any effectiveness. History has demonstrated that when the Bible is preached and practised Biblically, people respond favourably. They get to see that the Bible is trustworthy and therefore demands belief. This is what Christians need to be believing and practising.
Thanks Bill. Though the possible state of the church is displayed in that I suspect I know some who would never read the book just because they see the name “John MacArthur”
Thanks ever so, Bill. This one’s going straight to the top of the acquire and read list.
Regrettably male preachers have been almost totally supplanted by female preachers. If these female preachers can stand up like a man and stick with bible inerrancy then they are alright with me.