Is the Bible the infallible and inerrant word of God?

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      Using passages like II Timothy 3:16, Fundamentalists maintain that the original writings of scripture were all plenary (i.e. full, complete, without error) and that the Bible is infallible (i.e. true and reliable in all matters it addresses) and inerrant (i.e. free from falsehood, fraud and deceit). However, in addressing this issue, many Fundamentalists fail to point out that they are actually talking about the original writings and not the Bible that we hold in our hands today.

In 1978, an International Council on Biblical Inerrancy made up of 300 evangelical scholars composed the Chicago Statement on Scripture. Article X of this statement says, "We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original." A man named Joseph Smith, Jr. made a very similar statement 130 years earlier in saying, "We believe the bible [King James Version] to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly."

Neo-evangelicals say that the Bible's purpose is to save, and it is "infallible" only in that it accomplishes that purpose. However, they would say that it is not inerrant in all its statements. So there is division among evangelical Christians about what they mean by "infallibility" and "inerrancy." And many fail to clarify that the Bible we hold in our hands today might have minor factual errors.

In discussing how the original autographs were without error, Norm Geisler and William Nix, say:

Or, how did God produce an infallible book through fallible men? A frank and forthright answer, yet one often very reluctantly given by biblical scholars, is "We don't know." .... Several solutions have been suggested for this problem, all of which have their own inherent difficulties .... In the whole question of the modus operandi (mode of operation) of inspiration, a balance must be sought between the two extremes of divine dictation and human fallibility.

Norman L. Geisler and William Nix
A General Introduction to the Bible
Moody Press, Chicago, p. 45-47

In other words, even the idea that the original autographs were without error is an assumption that Fundamentalists have created. Instead of balance, the fallibility of human authors is simply ignored making any theories about the original autographs arbitrary and capricious.

As adherents of Christ's restored gospel, we believe that the Bible contains minor factual errors that have no bearing on its veracity regarding the gospel, salvation, sanctification, creation, God's relationship to man, etc. However, regarding such important issues, there are instances where the Bible does not express these concepts in a manner that can be clearly understood by the average reader. As a result, we believe the Bible to be an authoritative standard for faith and practice, but we do not promulgate a belief that the Bible is free from error in every factual detail.

If you adhere to the neo-evangelical definition of "infallibility" (i.e. able to save), then we would certainly agree that the Bible has the ability to bring a person to salvation. As to the original autographs being without error, we could not tell you because we have never seen them. Anything beyond this is speculative, even presumptuous.

The translation [King James Version] was published in 1611 and very rapidly went through several editions, nearly all of which had some changes in the text.... In 1870, the Church of England authorized a revision of the KJV .... The work was carefully, not to say pedantically, done, and in the NT alone about 30,000 changes were made, over 5,000 of them on the basis of a better Greek text .... The complete Bible appeared in 1885, with an appendix which listed the changes preferred by the American scholars .... In 1833 Noah Webster published a complete KJV in which he corrected some 150 words and phrases that were either misleading or wrong .... Many Bibles and perhaps as many as 250 NTs in English have appeared since 1611 .....
Harper's Bible Dictionary

When fallible human beings are involved, it is difficult to understand how the original autographa for every book of the Bible could be perfect. With all of the changes that have occurred, it is even more difficult to understand how today's Bible could be considered absolutely inerrant in every respect.

It is entirely possible for the Bible to contain minor factual errors that do not affect questions of importance (i.e. salvation, creation, sanctification, etc.) and still serve as a source of authority for our lives. We believe that the Bible is the word of God and should serve as an authoritative standard by which we can know the truth and make decisions for our lives, but we do not believe that every word in modern bibles is inerrant or infallible.

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