Is the Bible reliable? – Part 4

Over the last several columns, I have discussed the reliability of Scripture. I have argued that the Bible is authoritative and inspired. That is to say, the Bible is the inspired Word of God and it has the authority of God in its declaration. In this piece, I want to discuss another important attribute of Scripture: infallibility.

Infallibility generally means that the Bible doesn’t err in things on faith and morals. Thus, whatever theological or ethical claims the Bible makes is without error. For example, if the Bible claims that Jesus was born of a virgin – even though that might seem scientifically impossible – it is true. Or another example, if Scripture claims that sexual immorality is morally impermissible – despite what personal or cultural sensibilities may be – it is so. Given that the Bible doesn’t err in things on faith and morals, it cannot mislead someone who places his or her reliability in its claims. In summary, infallibility claims: if Scripture makes a claim, that claim is true.

This is a bold claim. So why believe it? For one, there are several places where Scripture implies infallibility. In 2 Peter 3:15-17, Peter writes, “… our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You … take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people.” Peter’s meaning here is two-fold: 1) he is claiming that Paul’s writings are Scripture by equating Paul’s writings with the writings of other Scripture, and 2) Peter notes that the church should not be “carried away with … error”; implying that Paul’s writings contain no such errors.

If the Bible is true (without error), then it cannot contain any contradictions. Though there are certainly difficult passages within the Scriptures (both difficult to translate or understand and difficult to accept), if someone wants to claim that there is a contradiction within Scripture, he or she must produce the evidence. To my mind, though many have tried, none have produced such evidence.

Two of the most popular examples of “questionable” biblical claims are the historical evidence of the city of Jericho and the historical claim that the Hebrews had a great number that escaped from Egypt. Some, perhaps many, modern archeologists claim that the currently available data doesn’t seem to support the claim that Jericho was a great walled city – or a walled city at all. Some also claim that it was simply a small band of Hebrew slaves that escaped Egypt, not a vast congregation.

Without getting into a historical or archeological debate, if we are to take the critics concerns as reliable, there is a vast difference between, “current evidence doesn’t support the biblical narrative” (which is what the critics claim) and “current evidence outright contradicts the biblical narrative” (which isn’t the claim of most critics). In other words, there is a major distinction between, “we don’t have evidence to support such a claim” and “the evidence outright contradicts said claim.” Those who question the reliability of Scripture will generally claim the former; which doesn’t disprove Scripture, it merely shows more data is needed.

Chad Meeks is associate pastor of youth and discipleship at Cedar Heights Baptist Church, North Little Rock.

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