Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Westminster Standards and Biblical Inerrancy

The Westminster Assembly
"We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts."
- Westminster Confession of Faith I:5

The first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith is devoted to the doctrine of scripture. The logical basis for that choice was that the Assembly wanted to set out immediately their standard for everything else that they would declare. Since they held that the Bible alone is and should be the source and judge of all that we are to believe about God, the spiritual condition of man, and the relationship between the two, they set their doctrine of scripture as the gateway to the Confession.

As you can see, in this paragraph, the Bible is called the "Word of God." In Paragraph 8, it is described as "inspired by God." And in Paragraph 9, it is called "infallible." We now use the adjective "inerrant" to mean the same thing.

The answer to question 4 of the Larger Catechism teaches the same precept: "The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very Word of God."

Thus, we see that the orthodox, confessional view of Presbyterians is that the Bible is inerrant, because it is the actual Word of God. The instrumentality of its writing is by men, but the words are from God. As Peter explained (II Peter 1:21), "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." While liberal Presbyterians have been denying the inerrancy of the Bible for the last century, the confessional statements above prove that the claim of such teachers to be Presbyterian is a deception.

I want to bring to your attention another part of those confessional statements. Both the Confession and the Catechism state that the inward witness of the Holy Spirit is necessary for the individual to believe the nature and teachings of the Bible. If the inspiration and necessary inerrancy of the Scriptures are self-evident, as the Standards teach, why don't all professing Christians, at the very least, believe it?

God in His own word says that we should believe because of who He, its author is. Zechariah 12:1, "Thus declares the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him..." He is the Creator of everything around us, and even our spirit within us. Thus He claims a singular qualification to be believed. Yet, so much of the world refuses to believe. And His word explains why.

Romans 1:18-20 is a description of the spiritual condition of unregenerate men. Notice especially verse 18, which describes "men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." Sinful men hate God's Word, so they suppress their knowledge of its truth. The Apostle Paul also describes this spiritual condition in two places in I Corinthians. I Cor. 1:21 says, "the world did not know God through wisdom." Natural wisdom blocks out the knowledge of God. And I Cor. 2:14 much the same: "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." The unregenerate man cannot perceive spiritual truth because his sin blocks it from his awareness. He is like the spoiled child who sticks his fingers in his ears and sing-songs, "La-la-la, I can't hear you," to avoid acknowledging the instructions or admonishments of his parents.

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