If you’re not a Christian, I expect you’d say the answer is ‘yes’. But how do you view the Bible if you are a Christian? Throughout history God’s people have believed that the Scriptures communicate to us truthfully. The term ‘inerrant’, first used by Augustine, yet implicit in much earlier Christian writings, is one word often used to describe the truthfulness of the Bible. The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture, in the original manuscripts and when interpreted according to the intended sense, speaks truly in all that it affirms (Kevin Vanhoozer). In this clip, Don Carson briefly explains the term inerrancy:
The claim that the Bible is ‘inerrant’ in this sense, is not manufactured by humans, but made by the Bible itself: the words of the Lord are flawless (Psalm 12:6), the law of the LORD is perfect…the statutes of the LORD are trustworthy…the precepts of the LORD are right…the ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous (Psalm 19:7-9). All your commands are trustworthy…the statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy…All your words are true (Psalm 119:86, 138, 160). All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). What Scripture says is what the Holy Spirit says (Acts 4:25, Hebrew 3:7). Although God used fallible humans to write the Bible, he is powerful enough to have done so in a way that the Bible is without error, just as God himself is (Psalm 119:137).
Christians come to this high view of the Bible, through the claims of the Bible about itself, the nature of God, and also because Jesus himself had this view. Jesus never belittled or contradicted the Scriptures, he read them and knew them thoroughly, cited them as authoritative (Matthew 4:4, 7,10, 19:4-5), stated that though they were written by men they were in fact God’s words (Matthew 22:31-32,43, Mark 12:26), distinguished them from the traditions of men (Mark 7:8-13), and submitted himself to them (Luke 22:37). We can come to know Jesus through hearing or reading the Bible, even if we haven’t fully grasped the Bible’s significance. Yet as we grow to know and trust Jesus, the Living Word (John 1:1-14), we learn to fully trust the Bible for what it is – God’s written Word.
Christians will read all kinds of books, yet only the Bible do we recognise as God’s inspired and inerrant word. As Augustine said ‘I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the [manuscript] is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what is said, or I myself have failed to understand it.’ This approach is not intellectually unsound, rather a humble acknowledgement of a God whose wisdom is greater than any of us.
God’s word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It can penetrate and transform us. We can remain hardened to God’s truth, presuming to know better than him, increasingly alienating ourselves from him, or we can humbly submit to God’s powerful truth and experience the freedom and joy of growing to know him more and being changed by him. This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:2).
UPDATE: In this short video , GK Beale gives a short answer to the question: Are there contradictions in the Bible? (He refers to the Augustine quote above and gives an example of a seemingly difficult passage in Mark 1).
Some online references for further reading:
The inerrancy of Scripture (Kevin Vanhoozer)
The truthfulness of Scripture: Inerrancy (Michael Horton)
Responding to some common arguments against inerrancy (Bart Barber)
Various articles on Inerrancy (Monergism)
Scripture: the evangelical view (Jim Hamilton)
Inerrancy of the Bible: An Annotated Bibliography (Mark Dever)