The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives

The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives


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Edited by John MacArthur, this collection of essays by a host of evangelical pastors, theologians, historians, and biblical scholars presents compelling arguments from a variety of disciplines in defense of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433548611
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 03/31/2016
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,210,884
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, where he has served since 1969. He is known around the world for his verse-by-verse expository preaching and his pulpit ministry via his daily radio program, Grace to You. He has also written or edited nearly four hundred books and study guides. MacArthur is chancellor emeritus of the Master’s Seminary and Master’s University. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children.

R. C. Sproul (1939–2017) was founder of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian discipleship organization located near Orlando, Florida. He was also founding pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. His radio program, Renewing Your Mind, is still broadcast daily on hundreds of radio stations around the world and can also be heard online. Sproul contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, spoke at conferences, churches, colleges, and seminaries around the world, and wrote more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, Chosen by God, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

Alistair Begg serves as the senior pastor of Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio. He has been in pastoral ministry since 1975 and served eight years in Scotland at both Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh and Hamilton Baptist Church. He has written several books and is heard daily on the radio program Truth For Life. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.

Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and president of 9Marks ( Dever has authored over a dozen books and speaks at conferences nationwide.

Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, and assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He serves as board chairman of the Gospel Coalition and blogs at DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed. He is the author of several books, including Just Do Something; Crazy Busy; and The Biggest Story. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have eight children.

Sinclair B. Ferguson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and the former senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of several books, the most recent being By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Sinclair and his wife, Dorothy, have four grown children.


Michael J. Kruger (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is the president and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kruger is ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America and also serves as the pastor of teaching at Uptown PCA in Charlotte. He blogs regularly at and tweets at @michaeljkruger.

R. Albert Mohler Jr. (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the ninth president and the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology of Southern Seminary. Considered a leader among American evangelicals by Time and Christianity Today magazines, Dr. Mohler hosts two programs: The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview, and Thinking in Public, a series of conversations with today’s leading thinkers. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues.

Stephen J. Nichols (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as the president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries. He is an editor of the Theologians on the Christian Life series and also hosts the weekly podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.

Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College. He is an esteemed church historian and previously served as the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and Public Life at Princeton University. Trueman has authored or edited more than a dozen books, including The Creedal Imperative, Luther on the Christian Life, and Histories and Fallacies.

Nathan Busenitz (PhD, The Master's Seminary) is assistant professor of theology at the Master's Seminary. He previously served on the pastoral staff of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. He is the author of numerous books and a regular contributor to the blog Preacher & Preaching.

Ligon Duncan (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is  chancellor, CEO, and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, for seventeen years. He is a cofounder of Together for the Gospel, a senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and was the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004–2012. Duncan has edited, written, or contributed to numerous books. He and his wife, Anne, have two children and live in Jackson, Mississippi.

John M. Frame (DD, Belhaven College) is J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He has published many books, including The Doctrine of God and Systematic Theology.

Derek Thomas (PhD, University of Wales, Lampeter) is the Chancellor's Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and senior minister at First Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of many books, including Calvin's Teaching on Job, and serves as a teaching fellow with Ligonier Ministries.

Read an Excerpt


The Sufficiency of Scripture


John MacArthur

Psalm 19 is the earliest biblical text that gives us a comprehensive statement on the superiority of Scripture. It categorically affirms the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the written Word of God. It does this by comparing the truth of Scripture to the breathtaking grandeur of the universe, and it declares that the Bible is a better revelation of God than all the glory of the galaxies. Scripture, it proclaims, is perfect in every regard.

The psalm thereby sets Scripture above every other truth claim. It is a sweeping, definitive affirmation of the utter perfection and absolute trustworthiness of God's written Word. There is no more succinct summation of the power and precision of God's written Word anywhere in the Bible.

Psalm 19 is basically a condensed version of Psalm 119, the longest chapter in all of Scripture. Psalm 119 takes 176 verses to expound on the same truths Psalm 19 outlines in just eight verses (vv. 7–14).

Every Christian ought to affirm and fully embrace the same high view of Scripture the psalmist avows in Psalm 19. If we are going to live in obedience to God's Word — especially those who are called to teach the Scriptures — we need to do so with this confidence in mind.

After all, faith (not moralism, good works, vows, sacraments, or rituals, but belief in Christ as he is revealed in Scripture) is what makes a person a Christian. "Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb. 11:6); "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works" (Eph. 2:8–9a).

The only sure and safe ground of true faith is the Word of God (2 Pet. 1:19–21). It is "the word of truth, the gospel of [our] salvation" (Eph. 1:13). For a Christian to doubt the Word of God is the grossest kind of self-contradiction.

When I began in ministry nearly half a century ago, I fully expected I would need to deal with assaults against Scripture from unbelievers and worldlings. I was prepared for that. Unbelievers by definition reject the truth of Scripture and resist its authority. "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" (Rom. 8:7).

But from the beginning of my ministry until today, I have witnessed — and had to deal with — wave after wave of attacks against the Word of God coming mostly from within the evangelical community. Over the course of my ministry, virtually all of the most dangerous assaults on Scripture I've seen have come from seminary professors, megachurch pastors, charismatic charlatans on television, popular evangelical authors, "Christian psychologists," and bloggers on the evangelical fringe. The evangelical movement has no shortage of theological tinkerers and self-styled apologists who seem to think the way to win the world is to embrace whatever theories are currently in vogue regarding evolution, morality, epistemology, or whatever — and then reframe our view of Scripture to fit this worldly "wisdom." The Bible is treated like Silly Putty, pressed and reshaped to suit the shifting interests of popular culture.

Of course, God's Word will withstand every attack on its veracity and authority. As Thomas Watson said, "The devil and his agents have been blowing at scripture light, but could never prevail to blow it out — a clear sign that it was lighted from heaven." Nevertheless, Satan and his minions are persistent, seeking to derail believers whose faith is fragile or to dissuade unbelievers from even considering the claims of Scripture.

To make their attacks more subtle and effective, the forces of evil disguise themselves as angels of light and servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13–15). That's why the most dangerous attacks on Scripture come from within the community of professing believers. These evil forces are relentless, and we need to be relentless in opposing them.

Over the years, as I have confronted the various onslaughts of evangelical skepticism, I have returned to Psalm 19 again and again. It is a definitive answer to virtually every modern and postmodern attack on the Bible. It offers an antidote to the parade of faulty ministry philosophies and silly fads that so easily capture the fancy of today's evangelicals. It refutes the common misconception that science, psychology, and philosophy must be mastered and integrated with biblical truth in order to give the Bible more credibility. It holds the answer to what currently ails the visible church. It is a powerful testimony about the glory, power, relevance, clarity, efficacy, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture.

In this chapter, I want to focus on a passage in the second half of the psalm — verses 7–9, which speak specifically about the Scriptures.

This is a psalm of David, and in the opening six verses, he speaks of general revelation. As a young boy tending his father's sheep, he had plenty of time to gaze at the night sky and ponder the greatness and glory of God as revealed in nature. That's what he describes in the opening lines of the psalm: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (v. 1). Through creation, God reveals himself at all times, across all language barriers, to all people and nations: "Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" (vv. 2–4). God declares himself in his creation day and night, unceasingly. The vastness of the universe, all the life it contains, and all the laws that keep it orderly rather than chaotic are a testimony to (and a manifestation of) the wisdom and glory of God.

As grand and glorious as creation is, however, we cannot discern all the spiritual truth we need to know from it. General revelation does not give a clear account of the gospel. Nature tells us nothing specific about Christ; his incarnation, death, and resurrection; the atonement he made for sin; the doctrine of justification by faith; or a host of other truths essential to salvation and eternal life.

Special revelation is the truth God has revealed in Scripture. That is the subject David takes up in the second half of the psalm, beginning in verse 7. Having extolled the vast glory of creation and the many marvelous ways it reveals truth about God, he turns to Scripture and says the written Word of God is more pure, more powerful, more permanent, more effectual, more telling, more reliable, and more glorious than all the countless wonders written across the universe:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
The precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
The rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether. (Ps. 19:7–9)

In those three brief verses, David makes six statements — two in verse 7, two in verse 8, and two in verse 9. He uses six titles for Scripture: law, testimony, precepts,commandment, fear, and rules. He lists six characteristics of Scripture: it is perfect, sure,right, pure, clean, and true. And he names six effects of Scripture: it revives the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, and produces comprehensive righteousness.

Thus, the Holy Spirit — with an astounding and supernatural economy of words — sums up everything that needs to be said about the power, sufficiency, comprehensiveness, and trustworthiness of Scripture.

Notice, first of all, that all six statements have the phrase "of the LORD"— just in case someone might question the source of Scripture. This is the law of the Lord — his testimony. These are the precepts and commandments of God himself. The Bible is of divine origin. It is the inspired revelation of the Lord God.

By breaking down these three couplets and looking at each phrase, we can begin to gather a sense of the power and greatness of Scripture. Again, the opening verses of the psalm were all about the vast glory revealed in creation. Thus, the central point of this psalm is that the grandeur and glory of Scripture is infinitely greater than the entire created universe.

God's Word Is Perfect, Reviving the Soul

David makes his point powerfully yet simply in the first statement he makes about Scripture in verse 7: "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul." The Hebrew word translated as "law" is torah. To this day, Jews use the word Torah to refer to the Pentateuch (the five books penned by Moses). Those five books, of course, are the starting point of the Old Testament — but the Psalms and Prophets are likewise inspired Scripture, equally authoritative (cf. Luke 24:44). So when David speaks of "the law of the LORD" in this context," he has the whole canon in mind. "The law," as the term is used here, refers not merely to the Ten Commandments; not just to the 613 commandments that constitute the mitzvot of Moses's law; not even to the Torah considered as a unit. David is using the word as a figure of speech to signify all of Scripture.

Throughout Scripture, "the law" often refers to the entire canon. This kind of expression is called synecdoche, a figure of speech in which part of something is used to represent the whole. You find this same language in Joshua 1:8, for example. That verse famously speaks of "this Book of the Law," meaning not just the commandments, but all of Scripture as it existed in Joshua's time — Genesis and Job as well as Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Psalm 119 repeatedly uses the same figure of speech (cf. vv. 1, 18, 29, 34, 44, etc.).

When used this way, the language stresses the didactic nature of God's Word. "Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law" (Ps. 94:12); "Graciously teach me your law!" (Ps. 119:29). David is thinking of Scripture as a manual on righteous human behavior — all Scripture, not merely Moses's law. After all, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

And all of it is "perfect." Many years ago, I researched that word as it appears in the Hebrew text. It's the Hebrew word tâmîym, which is variously translated in assorted English versions as "unblemished," "without defect," "whole," "blameless," "with integrity," "complete," "undefiled," or "perfect." I traced the Hebrew word through several lexicons to try to discern whether there might be some nuance or subtlety that would shade our understanding of it. I spent three or four hours looking up every use of that word in the biblical text. In the end, it was clear: the word means "perfect." It is an exact equivalent of the English word in all its shades of meaning.

David is using the expression in an unqualified, comprehensive way. Scripture is superlative in every sense. Not only is it flawless, but it is also sweeping and thorough. That's not to suggest that it contains everything that can possibly be known. Obviously, the Bible is not an encyclopedic source of information about every conceivable subject. But as God's instruction for man's life, it is perfect. It contains everything we need to know about God, his glory, faith, life, and the way of salvation. Scripture is not deficient or defective in any way. It is perfect in both its accuracy and its sufficiency.

In other words, it contains everything God has revealed for our spiritual instruction. It is the sole authority by which to judge anyone's creed (what they believe), character (what they are), or conduct (what they do).

More specifically, according to our text, Scripture is perfect in its ability to revive and transform the human soul. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). For believers, the piercing and soul work described in that verse is a wholly beneficial procedure, comparable to spiritual heart surgery. It is that process described in Ezekiel 36:26, where the Lord says: "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." The instrument God uses in that process is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. "Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth" (James 1:18). Jesus said, "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63b). David acknowledges the life-giving principle of God's Word by saying, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul" (Ps. 19:7).

In the Hebrew text, the word for "soul" is nephesh. As used here, the idea stands in contrast to the body. It speaks of the inner person. If you trace the Hebrew word nephesh through the Old Testament, you will find that in the most popular English versions of the Bible, it is translated in a dozen or more ways. It can mean "creature," "person," "being," "life," "mind," "self," "appetite," "desire," or "soul" — but it is normally used to signify the true person, the you that never dies.

So what is the statement saying? Scripture, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, can revive and regenerate someone who is dead in sin. Nothing else has that power — no manmade story, no clever carnal insight, no deep human philosophy. The Word of God is the only power that can totally transform the whole inner person.

God's Word Is Trustworthy, Imparting Wisdom

The second half of Psalm 19:7 turns the diamond slightly and looks at a different facet of Scripture: "The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple." Here Scripture is spoken of as God's self-revelation. A testimony is the personal account of a reliable witness. That word is normally reserved for formal, solemn statements from firsthand sources — usually either in legal or religious contexts. An eyewitness gives sworn testimony in court. A believer relates how he or she came to faith, and we call that a testimony. The word conveys the idea of a formal declaration from a trustworthy source.

Scripture is God's testimony. This is God's own account of who he is and what he is like. It is God's self-disclosure. How wonderful that God has revealed himself in such a grand and voluminous way — sixty-six books (thirty-nine in the Old Testament, twenty-seven in the New), all revealing truth about our God so that we may know him and rest securely in the truth about him.

"The testimony of the LORD is sure." That is its central characteristic. It is true. It is reliable. It is trustworthy.

The world is full of books you cannot trust. As a matter of fact, any book written by man apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit will contain errors and deficiencies of various kinds. But the Word of the Lord is absolutely reliable. Every fact, every claim, every doctrine, and every statement of Scripture comes to us in "words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:13a).


Excerpted from "The Inerrant Word"
by .
Copyright © 2016 John MacArthur.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword R. C. Sproul 9

Introduction: Why a Book on Biblical Inerrancy Is Necessary John MacArthur 11

Part 1 Inerrancy in the Bible: Building the Case

1 The Sufficiency of Scripture: Psalm 19 John MacArthur 25

2 "Men Spoke from God": 2 Peter 1:16-21 Derek W. H. Thomas 40

3 How to Know God: Meditate on His Word: Psalm 119 Mark Dever 52

4 Christ, Christians, and the Word of God: Matthew 5:17-20 Kevin DeYoung 73

5 Jesus's Submission to Holy Scripture: John 10:35-36 Ian Hamilton 80

6 The Nature, Benefits, and Results of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 J. Ligon Duncan III 91

7 Let the Lion Out: 2 Timothy 4:1-5 Alistair Begg 101

Part 2 Inerrancy in Church History: Showing the Precedent

8 The Ground and Pillar of the Faith: The Witness of Pre-Reformation History to the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura Nathan Busenitz 115

9 The Power of the Word in the Present: Inerrancy and the Reformation Carl R. Trueman 134

10 How Scotland Lost Her Hold on the Bible: A Case Study of Inerrancy Compromise Iain H. Murray 147

11 How Did It Come to This?: Modernism's Challenges to Inerrancy Stephen J. Nichols 170

Part 3 Inerrancy in Theological Perspective: Answering the Critics

12 Foundations of Biblical Inerrancy: Definition and Prolegomena John M. Frame 185

13 Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth: Inerrancy and Hermeneutics R. Albert Mohler 197

14 The Use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15: Inerrancy and Genre G. K. Beale 210

15 Is Inerrancy Inert? Closing the Hermeneutical "Loophole": Inerrancy and Intertextuality Abner Chou 231

16 Can Error and Revelation Coexist?: Inerrancy and Alleged Contradictions William Barrick 244

17 The Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures: Inerrancy and Pneumatology Sinclair B. Ferguson 255

18 How the Perfect Light of Scripture Allows Us to See Everything Else: Inerrancy and Clarity Brad Klassen 275

19 Words of God and Words of Man: Inerrancy and Dual Authorship Matt Waymeyer 288

20 Do We Have a Trustworthy Text?: Inerrancy and Canonicity, Preservation, and Textual Criticism Michael J. Kruger 304

Part 4 Inerrancy in Pastoral Practice: Applying to Life

21 The Invincible Word: Inerrancy and the Power of Scripture Steven J. Lawson 319

22 The Mandate and the Motivations: Inerrancy and Expository Preaching John MacArthur 334

23 Putting Scripture Front and Center: Inerrancy and Apologetics Michael Vlach 346

24 "All That I Have Commanded": Inerrancy and the Great Commission Miguel Núñez 360

Afterword: Keep the Faith John MacArthur 373

Appendix: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 378

General Index 384

Scripture Index 392

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