Can human writers really produce inerrant Scripture?

Monday Musings for September 07, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

One of Mainsail Ministry’s distinctives is the way we view scriptural inerrancy. We believe that God used the common language of common men to communicate uncommon things in the Bible. We affirm that he joined with human authors — in a confluent manner — to write the documents that would become the 66 books of the Bible
(2 Peter 1:21).

With that understanding, the original documents (aka “the autographa”) were certainly “inspired” by God — this, by definition! But we go on to affirm that these documents are also inerrant. The problem is, since we don’t “have” any of the original manuscripts, the text of what we consider to be inerrant has been reconstructed from secondary sources. But don’t worry; the final product is nearly 100% accurate compared to the originals.

You see, we have over 99% of the autographa reconstructed faithfully, so it’s just a technical point that our translations are not inerrant. (Click here to see the details of that accuracy) Therefore, the prudent thing to do is to treat every translation as if it were inerrant. This is not to say that we should look down our noses at the project of textual criticism. On the contrary; textual criticism supports much of what believers claim to be true about the Scripture.

Today’s emphasis is that God superintended the production and distribution of Scripture so that people of every nation have the version of “God’s word” that is appropriate to their time and culture. The written word is a relatively new invention in the history of humankind. But judging by the things people wrote about when writing finally got going, God’s “general” revelation (Creation) had just the right amount of influence before his “special” revelation (Scripture) kicked in.

When it did kick in, we humans were its penman, so it should be no surprise when we hear human voices throughout the Scripture. But since the human authors were writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they were telling the stories that God wanted them to tell.

If you are going to take anything home from today’s musings, let it be that the basic unit of writing in Scripture is the story. It’s not the paragraph, sentence, word or letter... it’s the story. This is critically important to understand the portions of God’s word that were orally transmitted.

Today, we are so used to by having Scripture in writing that we’ve lost the freedom that comes from communicating truth through storytelling. In that medium, as long as the story got through, the way it got through didn’t matter. If different people changed a story’s details to suit their cultural moment, as long as the core truths got through, then inerrancy is preserved.

It’s helpful to think of God’s word as if it were the cargo on an ancient sailing ship. God knows what he wants to be delivered and when, but the cargo is going nowhere unless men also determine to deliver it. So they built a ship and hired a crew. Now, that ship is going nowhere without the wind — but it’s going nowhere purposefully without the crew. Both have their roles.

A review of the journey can be interesting and instructive, but it cannot change the fact that the cargo God wanted to be delivered has been delivered. Furthermore, it is in broad distribution. Amen!

(Click here to read the article referenced above. For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)