Biblical Infallibility: The Reformation And Beyond -- By: Harold Lindsell

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 19:1 (Winter 1976)
Article: Biblical Infallibility: The Reformation And Beyond
Author: Harold Lindsell


Biblical Infallibility: The Reformation And Beyond*

Harold Lindsell

Let us examine the age of the Reformers to see what their witness to Scripture is and what they believed and taught. It would be a mistake to suppose that the Reformers formulated a viewpoint such as those expressed by the early ecumenical councils when they were dealing with Christology. It must be remembered that the Reformers spent their time talking about the issues that were important in the struggle against the Roman Church. Since the Roman Church held to a view of Scripture that was not different from that held by the Reformers, there was no real problem. The problem came from adding to Scripture and was not concerned with whether Scripture could be trusted; it was about interpretation, not inerrancy. The role of the Church as the unerring interpreter of Scripture over against the universal priesthood of all believers was important, and the Reformers believed that the Church could err in interpretation.

Martin Luther

We come first to Martin Luther. And there is no better place to start than with his Ninety-five Theses. Their contents tell us what troubled him and are a synopsis of the chief subjects Luther wanted to discuss:

Four of the theses dealt with the gospel doctrine of repentance. Twenty-five covered the question of the pope’s power over the souls in purgatory.
Eleven proclaimed that church penalties were cancelled at death and that indulgences could guarantee no one’s salvation.
Twelve stressed that other Christian works were more important than buying indulgences.
Twenty-eight compared the value of indulgence preaching with the values of gospel preaching.
Ten dealt with related matters, such as the pope’s wealth and prayers for the dead once an indulgence was obtained.
Five brought into sharp relief the difference between an indulgence religion and true faith in Christ.1

Luther did not spend any time arguing about Biblical infallibility in the Ninety-five Theses, nor did he elsewhere. It was not a live question,

*This article is part of a chapter from its author’s latest book, The Battle for the Bible, to be issued by Zondervan Publishing House in April, © copyright 1976. The extract is used by permission.

for there was correspondence of belief between himself and the Church on that score. Luther believed and taught that the Bible was infallibly true in all its parts. Of that there can be no doubt. But it is useless to look in his writings for a developed thesis to support Biblical inerrancy. He believed it; it was not in dispute; he wrote ...

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