The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy: Article XII

Following the scientific community’s widespread adoption of Darwinian evolutionary theory and the geological uniformitarianism of Charles Lyell in the nineteenth century, Christian scholars were divided into three camps. On the left were the theological Liberals (i.e., Modernists) who sought to shoehorn the rapidly changing scientific consensus into the Bible or otherwise reject the Bible writ large. On the right were the theological reactionaries (i.e., Fundamentalists) that vigorously rejected the purported findings and theorizing of natural scientists. Between the two were those who sought honestly and sincerely to figure out what was going on.

Having established that Scripture is inspired by God (Articles VI through X) and infallible in nature (Article XI), the Chicago Statement proceeds to defend the Inerrancy of Scripture in all that follows. We have come to the heart of the matter. Article XII begins:

We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

By this affirmation, the Statement makes two important theological moves. In the first place, it draws out the necessary implication of the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible as Holy Scripture. We know that God is truth (John 14:6) and does not change (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17), and we confess with Christ our Lord that His Word – being the God-breathed Word of truth (2 Tim. 3:16) – is likewise immutably true (John 17:17). If something is immutably true, then it must be without error (i.e., inerrant). God’s Word is immutably true and therefore necessarily inerrant.

In the second place, this affirmation includes an elegant explication of what it means for the Bible to be inerrant. The three terms used here as contrasts to inerrancy – falsehood, fraud, and deceit – clearly overlap in some measure. But are they simply synonyms? Did the framers of the Chicago Statement crack open a thesaurus and pick out three descriptors to develop the doctrine of inerrancy with a superficial statement of redundancy? I think not.

The inerrant Word of God is “free from all falsehood” in that it does not contain any error. There is neither jot nor tittle (Matt. 5:18) out of place or composed in error in the original manuscripts of God’s Word. The content of the now-lost autographs has been “by [God’s] singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages,” in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which means that the Hebrew (and Aramaic) Old Testament and the Greek New Testament “are therefore authentical” (WCF 1.8). There are no errors or falsehoods due either to innocent mistakes, uncertain hypotheses, or malicious intent in God’s Word.

God’s Word is “free from all…fraud” in that it does not lie. Unlike the capricious false (and fraudulent) gods of the nations, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is true to His Word. We read in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” The Apostle Paul grounds “the hope of eternal life” at the beginning of his letter to Titus in the ancient promise of God, “who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2).

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