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This is my own deductive argument for the inerrancy of the scriptures. From what I can tell, people who deny Biblical inerrancy still accept God’s inspiration of the scriptures (as espoused in 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

  1. The Scriptures are Breathed out by God, that is, God played a direct hand in their authorship, by inspiring the writers of the texts to write what he wanted them to.
  2. God cannot lie and knows all facts.
  3. Lying is communicating something other than the truth when you know the truth.
  4. Therefore the scriptures will not communicate something other than the truth, that is, they will not contain errors.
  5. Thus the scriptures are inerrant (without error).

I’m just curious to hear potential responses to this, as I can’t think of any.

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    In order to make it deductive I suggest one more premise is needed, to define what is meant by inerrant. (Or I suppose you could remove the last 3 words from the conclusion and then #4 would be a deduction from 1-3 as well) Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 20:28
  • 2
    Adding to what @HoldToTheRod said, 1. what does 'breathed out' mean? 2. What does 'inerrant' mean? 3. What does 'scriptures' mean (as composed in God's mind, as written originally by a human, as we have received them today?)? Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 22:17
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    I don't deny Biblical inerrancy, but I don't affirm it (yet). I don't know if it's true - it's a conclusion I might reach after more research. Why don't I affirm it? Because the writers aren't marionette's - they're human beings with their own wills. So I imagine God's inspiration of the writings involving this human layer which might introduce their own beliefs. Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 22:32
  • @HoldToTheRod I have now defined innerancy in the argument. Please let me know if you think any other changes are needed :)
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 23:13
  • 1
    @OneGodtheFather The necessary changes have been made :)
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 23:14

2 Answers 2

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This is not a valid deductive argument. 4 does not follow from 1, 2, and 3. Even the proposed edit to 4 that removes the phrase "and are inerrant" would not make it valid.

4 does not follow from 1, 2, and 3 because it is only stated in 3 that lying entails falsehood, whereas other acts may also entail falsehood, and nothing is said of these in relation to God. For instance, if God could Himself be deceived, He could then put falsehoods into Scripture without lying. Hence, 4 does not follow.

To amend this, 2 ought to be adjusted to say "God can neither intentionally deceive (that is, lie) nor can He Himself be deceived (that is, He cannot be mistaken about a matter of fact)." Then, 3 ought to be adjusted to say "Falsehoods can only be propagated by those who either are deceived, or lie, or both." From this, it follows that no Word of God can be false.

This edit still does not cause 4 to follow from the premises unless we precisely define what "breathed by God" means. Does it mean that God spoke and the authors of Scripture wrote what they heard? Does it mean that the Holy Spirit guided the authorship of Scripture, but that the authors were ultimately in control of their own wills? If the latter, it is evident that 4 does not follow from the premises, since the authors of scripture both can lie and can themselves be deceived.

Assuming that we take the former position, and say that God literally spoke every word of Scripture Himself, then this is a valid argument. Opponents of biblical inerrancy might then level attacks against the very weak premise that God literally spoke every word of Scripture, undermining its soundness.

This is also not to say that proponents of biblical inerrancy need to believe that God literally spoke every word of Scripture. I personally believe, and my church teaches, that the Holy Spirit inspired the authorship of Scripture while permitting the authors to retain controls of their own wills, and yet that the words of Scripture are factually inerrant. However, this takes faith in those authors, and in the wisdom of God, to not permit the Scriptures to be corrupted by wicked men. A reasonably sound deductive argument probably does not exist to support biblical inerrancy.

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  • Hey Jared (I think that’s your name) I’ve made updates to the question if you are interested.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 23:15
  • @LukeHill I still think you need to add a premise about God not being able to be deceived in order to make this valid.
    – jaredad7
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 23:27
  • @LukeHill you could add between 3 and 4 something like "God cannot fail to know what is true."
    – jaredad7
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 23:28
  • the edit has been made
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 1:14
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This is a challenging matter to argue deductively, especially given that a) the critical passage from 2 Timothy doesn't define key terms like "God-breathed" & "scripture", and b) the passage that supports premise 1 is part of the body of text that is being defended by this argument.

I do not agree with all of the objections I will suggest below, but I will attempt to offer a survey of the types of objections I am aware of.

Premise 1:

  • There are people who believe in inspiration & inerrancy, there are people who believe in inspiration but not inerrancy, and there are people who believe in neither. The latter group would object to anything that follows from premise 1
  • The human factor remains--if this were an argument that God personally penned the Biblical manuscripts we could probably construct it in a manner that was as logically air-tight as a geometric proof...but the medium of human authors leaves some grey area. Did God give them the exact words, did He give them the ideas to convey in their own words, did He consider their good-but-imperfect consecrated efforts adequate for His purposes despite their human limitations, etc.?
  • The argument will be more persuasive to those who already believe the text is inspired, but it will not be persuasive to those who are investigating the matter and remain unsure, because we are using the Bible to argue for the credibility of the Bible. Those without separate grounds for trusting the Bible would perceive this as circularity
  • There is no delimiter here...what is covered under the umbrella of "scripture"? Paul almost certainly had in mind the Tanakh/Septuagint when he wrote this to Timothy. What set of books counts? People who believe in a 39/46/66/73/74+ book canon could all use this argument and still come to strikingly divergent conclusions regarding what writings are inspired

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Premise 2

If the target audience is people who already believe in an Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnibenevolent God, this premise is probably pretty secure.

Those who don't already hold this belief would put no stock in premise 2, and would argue that the Bible is the source for believing premise 2 in the first place, leading again to circularity.

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Premise 3

Is communicating some but not all of what one knows truthful? One could argue that God only speaks truth, but deliberately withholds information that would be unhelpful, overwhelming, or unproductive, even if the result is that readers' understanding is (for the moment) incomplete.

--

Point 4/Conclusion 1

Everything but the last 7 words follows deductively from the first 3 premises. The last 7 words offer a definition that would be split out into a separate premise in a formal proof.

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Point 5/Conclusion 2

This point is offering a definition of terms, the logical deduction was complete with point 4. It leaves open (perhaps intentionally if it's outside the intended scope of this argument) whether "errors" contemplates matters of doctrine, matters of science, matters of history, matters of grammar, etc. In what sense are they not in error?

One might also object to the present-tense verbs--is the argument focused on inerrancy of the autographs or inerrancy of a present-day text?

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Conclusion

I would classify this argument as abductive rather than deductive--it makes a point that many will find persuasive, even if it is not logically air-tight. As noted by jaredad, using a Biblical passage to argue for Biblical inerrancy probably won't give us a deductive argument.

My own observation is that most of us who believe the Bible do so on the basis of the personal witness of the Holy Spirit, often with supporting arguments derived from history, linguistics, archeology, and so forth. I shared my thoughts on a variety of these argument in this post. That may not get us all the way to a theology of inerrancy, but it certainly appears to have given millions (if not billions) compelling reason to trust the Bible as a reliable source.

It is my personal belief that God is able to get His work done through imperfect people and their imperfect efforts.

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  • Premise one - It seems to me that if you put any stock in Christianity, you have to have the Bible as an authority. If the Bible is an authority then you should probably accept the verses that say the scriptures have been inspired by God and their writers carried by the spirit.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 4:15
  • Premise two is just one Christians should accept. Not only is there good biblical evidence for such things, but philosophical arguments can also demonstrate these truths.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 4:17
  • Premise three - While I agree that God can with old certain truths, I do not accept the belief that God can directly lie.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 4:17
  • As for my conclusion points - I just wanted to make sure I didn’t include any leaps in logic.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 4:19
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    +1 What a wonderful answer. Especially like the last sentence. Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 6:42

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