Inerrant, not Literal

The doctrinal building block of looking at the Bible as inerrant is a big deal. Christian history shows us that. The Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s and the Puritan Revival in the 1600’s and then evangelical revivals since have turned on this view of scripture.

Inerrancy says that all scripture is “breathed” by God, thru the pens and voices of real men who wrote or spoke in their own languages of the time.

Literalists usually believe thaat too, but are very concerned about when to take it each word as it is written.  In poetry, like a Psalm, or prophecy, like Isaiah or Jeremiah, taking something literally can really affect the meaning and application of the passage.

Moses wrote while camping in the Sinai desert.  Finally, John the apostle, who knew Jesus intimately enough to lean on his chest as they talked quietly, wrote letters and about his visions while on a Greek island, exiled because of his claim that Jesus was the one Moses’ had said was coming.

Who cares whether we use the word “inerrant” or “literal?”

Look at Isaiah, for instance. In chapters 43 and 44, the preacher is calling on the nation of Judah to turn back to God and His plan for saving them. He predicts the greatest world empire of the day, Babylon, will be destroyed (v. 14). He then draws a refreshing picture of streams in the desert and wilderness beasts praising Him because He refreshes and redeems this community of people who have nothing to fear. They are God’s loved ones.

But, to quibble over whether there are literally streams in the deserts and ostriches praising God is to miss the whole point. The gospel is here. Jesus is here. There is no other rock or foundation upon which we can stand for survival into eternity. The Holy Spirit brings about praise and refreshes us as much as water in a desert.

Taking it all as without error would include remembering that in 516 or so BC, Persia invaded Babylon and sacked the greatest city and empire the world had ever seen. Isaiah got it right.  He, of course, got it right in his first book about Judah being the only nation saved from the Assyrians too. And he had predicted the Babylonian takeover of the Assyrians. His prophecies were never wrong.

 Inerrancy was a banner of the Reformation.  It led to an exaltation and study of God’s word.  That led to repeated revivals.  The literal approach came in later, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as people struggled against those who had rejected inerrancy.  But, it has led to the rejection of a lot of the Reformation doctrines.

Read your Bible like this–for yourself, in your own language.  As God’s word, without error if the translation is right.   But, always with a view of how it affects your heart.  For instance,  why do you care about the Babylonian Empire?  If Isaiah got it right about that, then you can trust his predictions that God would provide a Savior, provide righteousness for you, and sustain and strengthen you in whatever you are facing today.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  (Isaish 41:10)

That is why inerrant, not literal, matters.  Inerrancy with application leads to personal experience in worship.

About Carol Brandt

I earned a B.A. in History from Florida State University and M.Ed in.Higher Education from Florida Atlantic University. I taught high school social studies before “retiring” to full-time homemaking and raising two daughters. Now I love being a grandmother to four boys and a girl. I have also raised five collies.

My husband, John, was an optometrist, who worked tirelessly for his profession through private practice and as a consultant, and served on the Board of Trustees of Illinois College of Optometry for twenty years.

Ernest Reisinger was my chief mentor in this warm-hearted application of Calvinism. He gave me many books! The Founders Journal and Founders Conferences, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Charles Spurgeon have been other sources of Reformed thinking as well as the other warm-hearted ones listed in my book, “Warm-hearted Calvinists.”

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