Is Inerrancy Essential to Biblical Authority?
Is inerrancy essential to biblical authority? Yes, says J. I. Packer. Can we speak meaningfully of the authority of the Bible in and over our lives if it is riddled with factual error and historical mistake and chronological discord and theological inconsistency? No, says Packer. Packer insists “that in the realm of belief, authority belongs to truth and truly only. . . . I can make no sense – no reverent sense, anyway – of the idea, sometimes met, that God speaks his truth to us in and through false statement by biblical writers” (Truth and Power, 46). He continues:
“The importance of recognizing biblical inerrancy as a fact of faith is that, on the one hand, it reminds us that all Scripture is instruction in one way or another from the God of truth. On the other hand, it commits us to consistency in believing, receiving, and obeying everything that it proves to say. The more completely heart and mind are controlled by Scripture, the fuller our freedom and the greater our joy. God’s free servants know God and know about God. They observe God-taught standards and restraints in living and in relationships. They trust God’s promises and in the power of Bible certainties live out their days in peace and hope. Modern man needs to hear more of this message of freedom from the church. The church needs to learn again how basic to that message is the truth of the inerrancy of Scripture, on which the fullness of biblical authority depends” (53).
“Biblical veracity and biblical authority are bound up together. Only truth can have final authority to determine belief and behavior, and Scripture cannot have such authority further than it is true. A factually and theologically untrustworthy Bible could still impress us as a presentation of religious experience and expertise, but clearly, if we cannot affirm its total truthfulness, we cannot claim that it is all God’s testimony and teaching, given to control our convictions and conduct” (134).