Can The Bible Be Completely Inspired By God And Yet Still Contain Errors? A Response To Some Recent “Evangelical” Proposals -- By: G. K. Beale

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 73:1 (Spring 2011)
Article: Can The Bible Be Completely Inspired By God And Yet Still Contain Errors? A Response To Some Recent “Evangelical” Proposals
Author: G. K. Beale


Can The Bible Be Completely Inspired By God And Yet Still Contain Errors? A Response To Some Recent “Evangelical” Proposals

Special Lecture

G. K. Beale

Gregory K. Beale is Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. This article is a revised version of a special lecture he gave at the seminary in the spring of 2009.

There has been much literature written over the past fifty years on the topic of the authority of the Bible, especially discussions within so-called “evangelicalism” concerning the nature of the notions of infallibility and inerrancy. Recent writers have especially questioned the traditional understanding of inerrancy. In particular, a central idea underlying inerrancy has been that since God is true and without error and, therefore, his oral word is true and without error, consequently, his word in Scripture is true and without error. This implication or theological inference that reasons from God’s flawless character to flawless Scripture has been challenged, and it has been argued that it is a logical deduction that is never made in the Bible. Accordingly, it is argued that though God, of course, is true and without error, he can, and indeed has, inspired all of Scripture in such a way that, nevertheless, the marks of human fallibility are woven into it. Thus, there are what we would consider to be “errors” in the biblical text, but God has inspired even those “errors” to form a part of his message to his people.

There have been recent books that have argued this.1 But perhaps the clearest example is A. T. B. McGowan’s recent book, The Divine Authenticity of Scripture.2 McGowan says, for example:

The basic error of the inerrantists is to insist that the inerrancy of the autographa is a direct implication of the biblical doctrine of inspiration (or divine spiration). In order to defend this implication, the inerrantists make an unwarranted assumption about God. The assumption is that, given the nature and character of God, the only kind of Scripture he could “breathe out” was Scripture that is textually inerrant. If there was

even one mistake in the autographa, then God cannot have been the author, because he is incapable of error.3

Again he says that the inerrantist argument is that

Since God is perfect and does not mislead us and since God is all powerful and able to do all things, it is inconceivable that he would ...

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