Celebrating Inerrancy--Yes, Human Language Can Convey Divine Truth


It became fashionable in the modern era to claim language is insufficient to convey any truth especially that within the sphere of the divine. If those ironically using language to argue that language is inadequate for truth claims then Scripture cannot do anything but weakly point to truth rather than contain truth itself. Yet, as J.I. Packer and Gordon R. Lewis contend in “Inerrancy” (1980), the Bible itself counters such claims.

Packer points out that Jesus and the Apostles clearly quote Scripture as clear and authoritative. Moreover, such a skeptical approach, while trying to defend the transcendence of God, end up greatly limiting God as if the Tower of Babel caused as much confusion among the Trinity as it did among creation. With all due respect, it is arrogant to claim to have a better hermeneutic than Jesus and His chosen Apostles!

Furthermore, the modern objection to sound doctrine often takes the form of, “that’s just your interpretation.” Yet, such a defensive statement ignores two thousand years of orthodox discussion about the Bible by Godly men and women as well as the transparent nature of so many Biblical claims. For example, when Jesus states “Jesus stated, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6), is this really a vague claim? Try to tell a police officer that when running a Stop sign that it is “open to interpretation.”

It is true (and Scripture affirms) that we cannot know God fully but, as Packer often notes, we can still know God truly through His Word and His Spirit. If you stop and think this coheres with our day-to-day existence. I cannot everything to know about my wife, my son or my friend Jim, but is it true that I cannot know many true things about them they have conveyed in ordinary language? Of course!

The error proponents of the inadequacy of language make is rooted in a fundamental problem of balancing God’s transcendence/immanence. It was a mistake most famously made by the influential theologian Karl Barth. Such a question is beyond the scope of this short blog post but for those interested please check out the excellent article on the subject by John Frame HERE. For now, it is enough to quote Frame on Barth, “To Barth, God’s transcendence implies that he cannot be clearly revealed to men because Barth’s thinking ran on good Kantian lines…(but) Scripture itself never deduces from God’s transcendence the inadequacy and fallibility of all verbal revelation. Quite the contrary: in Scripture, verbal revelation is to be obeyed without question, because of the divine transcendence…”.

Similarly, human authorship of Scripture has also claimed that it is incapable of giving us completely accurate information about God, ourselves and the way to live. Yet, as Gordon Lewis notes, Scripture itself does not claim to be purely human but the product of God working through human beings (2 Tim. 3:16). It is a modern oddity for professing Christians to dismiss the very claims of one of the pillars of their faith, limit the divine and claim a better interpretive scheme than Christ Himself.