The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate -- By: Norman L. Geisler

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 137:548 (Oct 1980)
Article: The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate
Author: Norman L. Geisler


The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate

Norman L. Geisler

[Norman L. Geisler, Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary]

How is it that evangelicals on both sides of the inerrancy debate can claim the Bible is wholly true and yet one side believes that there can be minor mistakes of history or science affirmed by the biblical authors,1 while the other side denies that there are any mistakes whatsoever? Some even claim to believe in inerrancy to the point that every word of the Bible is true,2 and yet they hold that Jesus’ statement that the mustard seed is the “smallest of all seeds” is scientifically incorrect.3 Some claim that the Bible is “the only infallible rule of faith and practice”4 but hold that Paul was wrong when he affirmed that the husband is the “head” of the wife.5 One errantist put it bluntly when he wrote, “We can speak of the Bible as being inspired from cover to cover, human mistakes and all.”6

Is this duplicity? Are those who believe the Bible contains errors intentionally deceiving their constituency? Do they hold a double standard of truth? As a matter of fact, it is not necessary to come to any of these conclusions. Errantists do not hold a double standard but rather a different theory of truth.

Could it be, then, that the real problem is that a fundamental issue that occasions the difference between the two major camps of evangelicals on biblical inerrancy is that they are presupposing different theories of truth? This writer proposes that this is indeed the case. One thing is certain: Different theories of truth will make a significant difference in what one considers to be an “error,” or deviation from the truth. In fact, what counts as an

error on one definition of truth is not an error on another definition of truth.7

Two Theories of Truth

A Noncorrespondence Theory of Truth

For the sake of simplicity of discussion, only one of several noncorrespondence views of truth will be discussed. One that is used by errantists may be called an intentionality view of truth.8 According to this view a statement is true if “it accomplishes what the author intended it to accomplish,”9 and conversely, a stateme...

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