Is the Bible Inerrant?
For someone coming from a background where the Bible was taken for granted to
be "The Word of God", writing this is something i never thot would be
required - to tell other Christians, including even Seventh-day Adventists,
that the original Bible is indeed free from error in any form or manner.
Sadly, there are many voices today in the church telling us that the Bible is
"Imperfect Yet Trustworthy"
(SDA sponsored web site), "discrepancies we find in the Bible"
(Samuele Bacchiocchi), and "James took the text...and misused it"
(William Grotheer) etc. Some people may not see any problems with this view
of the Bible, but this is in fact one of Satan's masterpieces in tearing down
the Christian's foundation.
This study will be divided into 5 parts:
1. Poll results on how Seventh-day Adventists and other Christians perceive
2. History of official SDA position on the Bible with word definitions
3. Compare Ellen White's writings on this subject with what is currently taught
4. Why do many (most) Adventist scholars reject inerrancy in inspiration?
5. Conclusion - based on belief, and what future plans Satan has to destroy the
Poll results on inspiration
Doesn't everyone believe that the Bible is the unerring Word of God? "No
- and what kind of Fundamentalist hiding under a rock type are you
anyway?" is the usual kind of response to this question. So just how many
people do believe in the Bible being perfect, unerring in all it says?
Biblical Inerrancy and Infallibility
"Historical support. What people believe, etc. What Christians really
A book by George A. Marsden, "Reforming Fundamentalism" quotes a
survey of student belief at one of the largest Evangelical seminaries in the
US. The poll indicated that 85% of the students "do not believe in the
inerrancy of Scripture."
This book also lists the results of a poll conducted by Jeffery Hadden in 1987
of 10,000 American clergy. They were asked whether they believed that the
Scriptures are the inspired and inerrant Word of God in faith, history, and
95% of Episcopalians,
87% of Methodists,
82% of Presbyterians,
77% of American Lutherans, and
67% of American Baptists said "No."
However, Christians generally are far more supportive of the inerrancy
position. The Barna Research Group
reported in 1996 that among American adults generally:
58% believe that the Bible is "totally accurate in all its teachings"
45% believe that the Bible is "absolutely accurate and everything in it
can be taken literally."
Support dropped between that poll and another taken in 2001. Barna reported in
41% of adults strongly agrees that the Bible is totally accurate in all that it
They also published beliefs by denomination:
Above average: Pentecostal / Foursquare: 81%
Assembly of God: 77%
Christian, non-denominational (mostly Fundamentalist) 70%
Seventh-day Adventist: 64%
Church of Christ: 57%
Seminary students, future pastors and leaders in the church, show very little
support for the inerrancy of the Bible position. What does that foretell about
the future of the church? Undoubtedly, just as the poll results show in the
1996 - 2001 time frame, the number of people believing the Bible is inerrant
will drop. It is nice to see my own SDA church in the "above
average" category, but sad to think that of every 3 people in the SDA
church, 1 of them does not believe the Bible is absolutely correct in
everything written in it. One other note about the poll - the denominations in
the "above average" category are also those in the "above
average" growth category. Is there a connection?
Short history of official church teaching on the Bible
For a little history of this issue in the SDA church, let's look at what the
Church Manual has to say about the inspiration of the Bible. In doing this, we
will need to define 2 words. First, let's look at the Manual's themselves.
Here is what the original Church Manual said in 1932: "That the Holy
Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God,
contain an all-sufficient revelation of His will to men, and are the only
unerring rule of faith and practice. 2 Tim. 3:15-17."
The fundamental beliefs have been updated several times, and now this reads:
"The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God,
given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they
were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the
knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible
revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of
experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record
of God's acts in history. (2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Ps. 119:105;
Prov. 30:5, 6; Isa. 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12.)".
The two words needing definition are:
1. unerring (inerrant)
American Heritage Dictionary
Adjective: Committing no mistakes, consistently accurate.
Adjective: 1. Incapable of erring: an infallible guide; an infallible source of
information. 2. Incapable of failing; certain: an infallible antidote; an
infallible rule. 3. Roman Catholic Church Incapable of error in expounding
doctrine on faith or morals.
Notice that part of the the first meaning of "infallible" is
"incapable of erring". Probably most people first think of this
meaning when they hear this word. The 3rd meaning struck me as having a direct
bearing on the question at hand - that is - a "limited" inerrancy.
This form of inerrancy is limited to "expounding doctrine on faith or
morals". It is with distress that i see this definition become the
standard usage in the SDA church to explain how we should view the Bible.
Because the word "infallible" is used, many people who believe in
absolute inerrancy see no problem with this definition. But those who believe
in "limited" inerrancy see the same word in a totally different
light, one that limits the Bible to being inerrant only in major doctrines, but
not in details such as matters of science, geography, and history.
Comparison of Ellen White's writings with current teaching
Of course Ellen White's writings are not above the Bible, but as an inspired
writer, let's take a look at what she had to say about the Bible's authority.
The Signs of the Times 01-03-1878: "The character of the people before the
flood as given by the unerring pen of inspiration is explicit." ST
04-17-1879: "In the providence of God the unerring pen of inspiration
withheld not the mistakes and sins of good men." Second Advent Review and
Sabbath Herald 07-10-1883: "All who take the word of God as their rule of
life are brought into close relationship with one another. The Bible is their
bond of union. But their companionship will not be sought or desired by those
who do not bow to the sacred word as the one unerring guide. They will be at
variance, both in faith and practice. There can be no harmony between them;
they are unreconcilable. As Seventh-day Adventists we appeal from custom and
tradition to the plain "Thus saith the Lord," and for this reason we
are not, and we cannot be, in harmony with the multitudes who teach and follow
the doctrines and commandments of men."
Above are 3 of the many quotes regarding the Bible as being
"unerring". Yes, there are a couple of places where problems are
mentioned in the Bible, but you will notice that both of these places have to
do with those people who were (are) committed with transmitting the Bible, not
the original writers. The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels, and
Satan and His Angels (1858) chapter 19: "I saw that God had especially
guarded the Bible, yet learned men, when the copies were few, had changed the
words in some instances, thinking that they were making it more plain, when
they were mystifying that which was plain, in causing it to lean to their
established views, governed by tradition." And probably the most famous
one among Seventh-day Adventists, regarding what is written in Daniel,
Christian Experience and Views of Ellen White (1851): "Then I saw in
relation to the "DAILY," that the word "SACRIFICE" was
supplied by man's wisdom, and does not belong to the text; and that the Lord
gave the correct view of it to those who gave the judgment hour cry. When
union existed, before 1844, nearly all were united". Also, this word
"sacrifice" is italicised in some Bibles, showing that the word has
There are two very powerful statements regarding how the Bible was transmitted
- R&H 01-22-1880:
"The scribes of God wrote as they were dictated by the Holy Spirit, having
no control of the work themselves." GC (1858) chapter 30: "He who is
the father of lies, blinds and deceives the world by sending his angels forth
to speak for apostles, and make it appear that they contradict what they wrote
when on earth, which was dictated by the Holy Ghost. These lying angels make
the apostles to corrupt their own teachings and declare them to be adulterated.
By so doing he can throw professed Christians, who have a name to live and are
dead, and all the world, into uncertainty about the word of God; for that cuts
directly across his track, and is likely to thwart his plans."
Twice the words "dictated" are used. What does Samuel Bacchiocchi, a
"conservative" scholar have to say about this? (In answering someone
who believes the Bible was dictated) "If that were true then the language
of the Bible should be that of the Holy Spirit who dictated every word to the
writers. Such a notion is discredited by the difference in style, vocabulary,
and sentence construction among the various books of the Bible." And
also: "Simply stated, their reasoning is that if God is perfect, the Bible
must be perfect (inerrant) because it is the Word of God. This absolute view of
inspiration, despite protests to the contrary, results in a
"dictation" view of inspiration which minimizes the human
And yet, despite protests to the contrary, the Bible, at least that penned by
the apostles, IS dictated.
Why do many (most) Adventist scholars reject inerrancy in inspiration?
"What we know is that Bible writers did not passively write down what God
whispered in their ears, because each of them uses his own language style and
sources available. It is a known fact that many of the books of the Bible were
compiled from older documents, history of kings, genealogies, and oral
traditions. The fallibility of these sources is clearly reflected in the
discrepancies we find in the Bible."
Some people think that dictation is something that God would not do, and they
try to show how silly the idea is of God dictating something. In this they
show their misunderstanding of what "inspiration" (breathed in) is,
and they put themselves above God's prophets. In effect, they are saying,
"we are better scholars than those of old. Let us determine for you what
is truth and error. After all, we have degrees showing that we are the
specialists". There is nothing wrong with a degree used for God, but so
often it makes the holder think him/herself wise enough to pronounce judgment
on God and his workings.
Is dictation only someone "whispering in the ear" and then someone
passively writing it down? No, of course not. The Holy Spirit can so work
thru an individual, that the words they write when under the Holy Spirit's
influence would be the exact words that God would write if he would write it up
in heaven, and toss the finished book down to earth. For reasons known only to
God himself, using humans to get his message across is the best way to reach
us. There are differences in writing styles and prose, because God has to use
these books to reach ALL of humanity in EVERY age of the earth. The Bible and
Spirit of Prophecy were not written solely for scholars from famous
universities in the 21st century. This is the biggest problem i see with the
whole "Bible has some little errors" position. People who hold this
position are in effect placing themselves above the Bible and God's
In a strange passage where Samuele Bacchiocchi is trying to debunk Biblical
inerrancy, he shows his colors: "One will search in vain for a biblical
passage that teaches that there are no inaccurate or misleading statements in
the Bible. The reason is that its writers were not apologists or systematic
theologians who had to deal with the modern critical views of the Bible that
question its authority."
"Thanks to modern critical views of the Bible, we are now so much more
enlightened on how there are small errors in the Bible" seems to be his
Why this is "strange", is because in the same article showing liberal
theologians are wrong in their interpretation of the Bible, he says: "The
negative impact of Biblical Criticism can be seen in the increasing number of
Bible scholars, preachers, and lay-Christians who have lost their confidence in
the trustworthiness of the Bible. While historically the Bible has been
regarded as God's revealed Word, today liberal critics refuse to identify God's
Word with the message of the Bible. The crisis of Biblical authority is a
fundamental problem facing many Protestant churches are facing today"
Then why are you adding to the problem Brother Bacchiocchi? Because you have a
reputation as one of the "most distinguished", "most
influential", "conservative theologians" in the Seventh-day
Adventist church today, does that mean you can redefine the authority of the
Bible? How much further confidence drop are you willing to contribute to?
In discussing Mark 6:8) and (Luke 9:3) Samuele Bacchiocchi writes: "It is
evident that the two accounts are inconsistent and at least one of the Gospels
is in error."
Which one is it? Have i been misled all these years by one of these
accounts? (maybe both???) I do not have any degree in anything except
computers, so cannot tell my exegesis from my hermeneutics. Perhaps i should
just leave the reading of the Bible to the pros...
Being on the front lines as a missionary in Japan, i can assure you that having
a "mostly error free book" is a sure way to turn off prospective
Bible students. Currently i know of an American missionary who is telling one
of my friends who is studying the Bible, "the first 11 chapters of Genesis
are not to be taken literally". My friend rightly rejects that advice,
recognizing that this missionary is putting his so-called knowledge above the
Word of God.
Just how deep has this "Bible has errors" thinking seeped into the
Seventh-day Adventist church? Well, it wouldn't be strange for
"liberal" scholars to believe this way, so i will give only one
reference: Alden Thompson, theology professor at Walla Walla College. "As
one who finds an absolutist approach to Scripture impossible to defend..."
. Most liberal thinkers do not think in absolutes, so of course the Bible
itself is open to their "higher-critical" interpretation.
Why would "conversative" scholars trumpet the same tune? This
article is written mostly as a response to Samuele Bacchiocchi's views on Bible
errors, but in researching this, i was stunned to find out the the official
church position is that the Bible is NOT inerrant. Here are some quotes from
church officials. Please read them keeping in mind the Fundamental Statements
of Belief, where the Bible has changed from being "unerring" to
This is written of Neil Wilson when he was the president of the General
Conference: "As Wilson continued, he described the church as standing at
the crossroads. "We must go one way or the other. That is the reason for
this meeting." He depicted the church as "largely conservative,"
but as not "extreme in its conservatism." "Adventism has always
developed its own approach to Scripture. We have not adopted inerrancy, though
some of our group may hold that view.""
In reviewing the book: "Messenger of the Lord (1998)" written by
Herbert Douglass, authorized by the Ellen G. White Estate, and co-sponsored by
the General Conference Department of Education and the Board of Higher
Education, Alden Thompson writes: "Perhaps most importantly, in spite of
lingering skirmishes, he has stepped away from inerrancy and infallibility. If
the book can help break the stranglehold of inerrancy in Adventism, it could be
a great blessing."
Larry Kirkpatrick, a pastor who usually stands tall for the truth writes:
"The theory of inerrancy, which creates more problems than it solves and
can force labored harmonizations, is not compelling."
Roger Coon of the Biblical Research Institute writes: "In inspired
writings, ancient and modern, there are inconsequential errors of minor,
insignificant detail. This is true of the Bible, as well as the writings of
Why has this happened? The progression from "unerring" to
"infallible" (meaning some small errors) seems to be caused by the
way Ellen White's writings are viewed. We saw earlier in this article that
Ellen White wrote the Bible was "dictated". Yet it is true that
things purported to have been written by her, for example, the preface to the
1888 Great Controversy, say the opposite. This little article is not going to
delve into this problem in detail, but it should be remembered that the man
most opposed to Ellen White, the chief editor at the Review, publicly said a
committee of his was going to "remove the...imperfections"
. In any case, for many of us SDAs the slide from believing the Bible is
inerrant, to being mostly free from errors, usually starts by questioning what
we find in the Spirit of Prophecy.
Conclusion, and Satan's future plans
So which way should we believe? Is the Bible totally accurate in everything it
says, or are there some mistakes and errors? It all comes down to a matter of
belief. No matter what anyone says, no matter how many purported
"discrepancies" there are, i choose to believe that the Bible is just
what Jesus said: "the word of God"
. There may be some who would like to point out the errors to the one called:
"The Word of God"
when they get to heaven, but i don't care to join them.
Is all this just an academic exercise, trying to prove who is right? No, you
see, Satan is planning in the very near future to send his angels to speak for
the apostles, and to act their parts
. Those watching and preparing for this almost overwhelming delusion will not
be taken in when they see on the news where Peter, John, and Paul have appeared
telling everyone that what they really wrote was a little different. That
little difference will be the difference between eternal life, and eternal
What will happen to those who imagine errors in the Bible when the actual
writers of the Bible (played by Satan's angels) appear and tell how they really
wrote it? What foundation will they be able to stand on? If they have to
qualify a "thus saith the Lord" with "except for small
unimportant errors", how will they be able to stand? Satan's angels and
all the world will riducule them for good reason - they've built their trust on
an almost sure foundation!
May we build on the eternal rock, on the sure foundation, and be prepared to
stand during the Shaking so we can give the Loud Cry with force and give glory
to our lovely Saviour - Jesus Christ.
Biblical Errancy And Inerrancy Endtime Issues No. 102 - Part 2 19 August 2003
"Watchman, what of the night?" 9(03) p.5
Church Manual (1932) p. 180
Selected Messages Book 3, page 96
Mark 7:13, Luke 4:4, John 10:35
1858 Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels, and Satan and His Angels
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