What Does the Inerrancy and Sufficiency of Scripture Mean?

These are the two pillars upon which the Conservative Baptist Network (CBN) stands. While I am not providing formal definitions for the CBN, I am defining the terms for those who have asked because they know I am a part of the CBN. The two pillars provide the product and provision that result from divinely inspired Scripture.

Inspiration speaks of the process of inspiration: The very words of Scripture originated in the mind of God and were communicated to and through man so that the human authors freely participated in the writing of Scripture. This writing reflects their personal characteristics, vocabulary, and style. This process transpired under God’s superintending care so that Scripture is uniquely God’s Word through man’s words and humanity (2 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 1:20­–21).

Inerrancy speaks to the product of inspiration: Inerrancy was the battle cry of the Conservative Resurgence (CR), and the CR was successful in returning the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and all of its agencies to a clear affirmation that the Bible is the Word of God without error.[1] Inerrancy reflects the Scriptures’ claim that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim 3:16). Inspiration speaks to the process of conveying the Scripture from God to man in the Bible. This understanding is also replicated in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which says Scripture is “truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.”[2]

Every word is directly from the mind of God; accordingly, we believe in verbal, plenary inspiration, which means every word and every part is inspired by God; therefore, the Scripture is inerrant. This means we are precisely accurate when we say the Bible is the Word of God. It was given by God to his prophets and apostles and superintended by him through the process of inspiration so that the written Scripture is the Word of God without error, inerrant.

Inerrancy speaks of the absolute accuracy of the autographs (original manuscripts) written by those inspired by God. Our translations are the Word of God to the degree they are accurately translated. There are reliable translations such as the New American Standard, English Standard Version, and the King James Version, although the latter relies on fewer manuscripts to base its translation.[3] These translations are considered word-for-word translations.[4] Other popular translations such as the New International Version focus on communicating the thoughts or ideas rather than a word-for-word translation.[5] The Christian Standard Translation seeks a middle ground between word-for-word and conveying thoughts and ideas.[6]

Sufficiency speaks to the provision of inspiration: The sufficiency of Scripture is the CBN’s battle cry. We maintain the inerrancy of Scripture as did the CR, but today there is a vital need to showcase the sufficiency of Scripture without diminishing biblical inerrancy in the slightest. We see even some who claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture undermine the sufficiency of Scripture.

Sufficiency means that the Scripture provides everything explicitly or principally that people need to know to follow and honor God. This includes all spiritual and, ultimately, important life matters such as origin, identity, morals, direction, comfort, and destiny (Ps 119:1; 19:7–14; Isa 9:6; 51:12; John 14:16; 2 Cor 1:3). While sufficiency does not require exhaustiveness, it does require comprehensiveness. Accordingly, when Scripture speaks and is appropriately applied, it provides correct guidance, and therefore, it is the definitive standard. Consequently, we can evaluate everything within the concern of Scripture in light of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16­–17; 2 Pet 1:3; Heb 13:20–21).

Following are a few brief explanations to broaden our understanding of each of the statements in the above definition.

— “Scripture provides everything . . . people need to know to follow and honor God.” There is nothing beyond the Scripture that is essential to living for God. Scripture sufficiently reveals God to us, our obligation to him, and ourselves to us.

— “Sufficiency does not require exhaustiveness.” While the Scripture may not tell us everything we want to know, it tells us everything we need to know.

— “Sufficiency . . . does require comprehensiveness.” Scripture is a reliable guide for every situation that pertains to Scripture.

— Sufficiency requires that “when Scripture speaks and is appropriately applied, it provides correct guidance, and therefore, it is the definitive standard.” When we understand the Scripture as intended by God and received by the initial recipients to whom it was written, we can accurately and authoritatively speak God’s truth about contemporary life.

— “Therefore, we can evaluate everything within the concern of Scripture in light of Scripture.” We can biblically evaluate every thought, idea, and act that the Scripture specifically or principally addresses. For example, we cannot rely on Scripture to decide what lawnmower to buy, but we can rely on Scripture regarding all relationships. The Bible is a book about relationships. First and foremost, it teaches us about the relationship that exists within the triune Godhead. Second, Scripture addresses the relationship that exists between God and mankind. Third, it speaks to the multifaceted relationships between people, whether this is in respect to marriage, childrearing, working, friendships, racial, or any other human relationship.

Thus, bringing in ungodly foreign philosophies such as critical race theory and intersectionality is biblically unwarranted. This is true whether we call them “analytical tools” as was done in the adoption of Resolution 9 at the Southern Baptist Convention, 2019, or what they are, divisive and sinful tools that undermine the truth and the sufficiency of Scripture. Philosophies such as critical race theory and intersectionality do not help but rather undermine the Scripture and dangerously potentiate, eventually relegating Scripture to a subservient role in the mind of man.


 

[1] A more expansive definition of inerrancy is, “The idea that when all the facts are known, the Bible (in its autographs, that is, the original documents), properly interpreted in light of the culture and the means of communication that had developed by the time of its composition, is completely true in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author’s purpose, in all matters relating to God and his creation.” David S. Dockery, The Doctrine of The Bible, (Nashville: Convention Press, 1991), 80.
[2] An Exposition from the Faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, Lawrence Smith and Bryan Cribb, eds (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2001), Article I, 47.
[3] The King James Version relies upon what is called the Byzantine manuscripts and excludes other manuscripts, which are considered in other translations whether they are Formal Equivalence or Dynamic Equivalence translations.  These two categories include translations of both kinds: NASV, KJV, or NIV, respectively.
[4] This type of translation is referred to as a Formal Equivalence translation. “Formal Equivalence translation philosophy places a premium on word-for-word translation – preserving as much syntactical structure from the original languages as possible. These translations are less interpretive than ‘dynamic’ translations. Translations that are known to follow this general philosophy: KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, RSV, NRSV.” The abbreviations respectively mean, King James Version, New King James Version, New American Standard Bible, English Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, and the New Revised Standard Version. I do not recommend the Revised or New Revised Standard Version.  https://evangelicalbible.com/translations/bible-translation-guide/, accessed 11/7/20.
[5] This type of translation is known as a Dynamic Equivalence translation. “Dynamic Equivalence: translation’s premium is on the thoughts and ideas expressed in passages, rather than translating each phrase word-for-word. The focus of this philosophy is to make the meaning of each Scripture reference accessible to modern readers. This philosophy is necessarily interpretive. Translations that follow this general philosophy: (NLT, CEV, NJB). The NIV uses both dynamic and formal equivalence. These abbreviations respectively mean New Living Translation, Contemporary English Version, New Jerusalem Bible, and the New International Version. The NIV is the most popular, but it lacks the accuracy of the Formal Equivalence translations such as the NASB.  https://evangelicalbible.com/translations/bible-translation-guide/, accessed 11/7/20.
[6] https://csbible.com/about-the-csb/translation-philosophy/ , accessed 11/7/20.