Unbreakable Scripture (2)

Rev. Stewart is a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches to the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Northern Ireland. This series is being reprinted with permission from the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship website, Volume IX, Issues 13 & 14.

Last time we considered the fact that the phrase, “I said, Ye are gods” (Ps. 82:6) is a poetic hyperbole from an otherwise obscure portion of the OT. If this statement “cannot be broken” (John 10:34-35), then surely no Scripture can be broken.

However, there is an argument against this interpretation—an argument even made by some leading evangelicals—which would nullify this testimony to the inerrancy of Scripture from Christ’s words in John 10:34-35. They say that when Jesus said, “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), he was making an ad hominem argument. That is, they say that Christ did not personally believe in the inerrancy of Scripture or at least that He was not affirming it here. Rather, they say that He knew that His Jewish opponents believed in the inerrancy of Scripture and (while He did not believe it Himself) He used this against them.

This interpretation fails for two main reasons. First, where Jesus disagreed with the Jews and their religious leaders, He told them plainly. He did not evade issues or let them pass. He spoke clearly against their erroneous understanding of God’s moral law (Matt. 5). He opposed their view of divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19). He rejected their earthy views of the Messiah (John 6). Against the Sadducees, He asserted the bodily resurrection of the dead; and against the Pharisees, He explained that the Christ was David’s son and David’s Lord (Matt. 22). Fearlessly, He told the unbelieving Jews that they were not sons of Abraham but sons of the devil (John 8). If the Jews were wrong in believing the OT to be inerrant, would not Christ have corrected them?

Second, we know that Jesus did not say “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) merely as an ad hominem argument, because He always wielded the Scriptures as God’s unbreakable Word. “For verily I say unto you,” He declared, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18). His confession of Scripture was “thy word is truth”—all of it, absolutely (John 17:17). In the wilderness He triumphed over the devil with the Scriptures as His final, unassailable authority (“It is written;” Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). How could He have said these things if He believed that the Bible contains errors? How could He have said these things if He did not believe that God’s Word is inerrant?

Saints of God, we have a wonderful gift from our Father: the unbreakable Scriptures! You can trust its proclamations for your salvation. You can rest on its promises for your hope beyond the grave. Place your full confidence in the Holy Bible and in the glorious Savior whom it presents!

John 10:35 teaches us the origin of the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. This doctrine did not begin in the last 100-150 years with the Princeton theologians, such as Charles Hodge or B. B. Warfield. Lutheran, Reformed and Anglican theologians have been teaching it for centuries. How could you square the Westminster Confession’s (1647) statement about the “entire perfection” of Scripture (1.5) with errors in the Bible? The Belgic Confession (1561) does not allow for mistakes in the Word either (4, 5, 7). Quotes too could easily be produced from Luther, Augustine (354-430) and many, many others for the inerrancy of Scripture. This is simply the doctrine of the prophets and the apostles. But our text teaches that Christ Himself taught this: “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). We even know the time and place of Christ’s proclamation: one winter at the feast of dedication in Jerusalem (22).

Thus the doctrine of inerrancy does not rest merely on inferences such as the following. The Bible is God’s Word; God is wholly true; therefore His Word is wholly true and free of error. The Bible is God breathed; God’s breath is perfect; therefore the Bible is perfect and contains no errors. The Bible was written by the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit does not make mistakes; therefore there are no mistakes in the Bible. Inerrancy is taught by Christ’s direct statement: “the scripture cannot be broken.”

Inerrancy then is not merely some philosophical construct (“foundationalism”), as some supposedly evangelical scholars (e.g., Stanley Grenz) say. It is not a philosophical but a theological doctrine, taught by the Son of God: “the scripture cannot be broken.”

This means that the doctrine of inerrancy rests upon the exact same basis as all other biblical doctrines, such as blood atonement and sovereign grace. The basis for all doctrines is the teaching of Scripture, and the Bible says, “the scripture cannot be broken.”

The doctrine of inerrancy is foundational to all other Christian doctrines. How do you prove that Jesus is God? You quote the Bible. But if the Bible is not entirely trustworthy, how do you know that what you quoted is not an error? And if the Bible’s teaching of inerrancy (John 10:35) is false, why trust its teaching on heaven and hell?

Thus those who reject biblical inerrancy are guilty of heresy. Those who cannot say “the scripture cannot be broken” contradict the testimony of the church, the creeds and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Moreover at this point the rejectors of inerrancy are less orthodox than the Pharisees and Jews of Jesus’ day who received this doctrine! Thus to oppose inerrancy is to reject the clear testimony of Scripture, to walk contrary to the Spirit and to call Christ a liar.