The Importance of Inerrancy -- By: Charles C. Ryrie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 120:478 (Apr 1963)
Article: The Importance of Inerrancy
Author: Charles C. Ryrie


The Importance of Inerrancy

Charles C. Ryrie

[Charles C. Ryrie, Dean of the Graduate School, Chairman, Department of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Every generation has its doctrinal problems and this one is no exception. Sometimes those problems develop within the circle of conservatism, a fact which is also true of this day. The discussions which have arisen among conservatives in the field of eschatology are well known, but the debates and sometimes defections in the area of bibliology are less evident. However, they are more serious, since they touch the heart of the authority—to say nothing of the truth—of our faith.

One of these contemporary problems concerns the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Inerrant means “exempt from error,” and dictionaries consider it a synonym for infallible which means “not liable to deceive, certain.” Actually there is little difference in the meaning of the two words, although in the history of their use in relation to the Bible, inerrant is of much more recent use. If there is any difference in the shade of meaning it is simply this: infallible includes the resultant idea of trustworthiness while inerrant emphasizes principally the truthfulness of the Scriptures.

History of the Doctrine

A survey of the history of the doctrine of inerrancy shows that the discussions concerning its importance belong to the modern period. The fathers accepted the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures as an assumed and self-evident fact. Scripture was used to prove the deity of Christ, for instance, in the early debates over this doctrine. Origen constantly referred to the Scripture as final authority in his controversy with Celsus. Augustine has a clear statement concerning inerrancy: “For I confess to your charity that I have learned to defer this respect and honor to those

Scriptural books only which are not called canonical, that I believe most firmly that no one of those authors has erred in any respect in writing.”1

The medieval period saw little development in this area of doctrine. Indeed, sterility was the characteristic of the time. Interest was centered “in defining the status of the Bible in relation to that of other authorities in the Church.”2 Abelard expressed doubt as to the inerrancy of the text, though generally a high view of inspiration was held by most.

It was the Reformers who gave proper emphasis to the doctrines of inspiration and infallibility. And yet these did not occupy a large place in their...

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