Continuing our look at Timothy Ward’s book Words of Life, we now turn to his doctrinal outline of the attributes of Scripture. He begins by expositing the necessity, sufficiency, clarity and authority of Scripture. I skip over these here to move on to what has been an area of interest to this blog in the past: inerrancy and infallibility. Ward’s location of the doctrine is a helpful place to start:
What I shall say here about the question of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture should not be thought of as the doctrinal climax to which the previous sections in this chapter have been leading. Nor should it even be thought of as a section to be set alongside Scripture’s necessity, sufficiency, clarity, and consequent authority, equal in significance to those topics. Instead the claim that Scripture is inerrant is an outworking of the authority of Scripture. Specifically it is an outworking of the trustworthiness of Scripture…” (130).
In an important follow-up statement, Ward claims, “In other words I shall argue that inerrancy is a true statement to make about the Bible, but is not in the top rank of significant things to assert about the Bible” (130). Infallibility, as Ward defines it, means that the Bible does not deceive, while inerrancy adds the additional claim that it does not “assert any errors of fact.” Ward offers 3 qualifications against misinformed critiques of inerrancy: 1) First, the concept of inerrancy is not, as many assume, the invention of modern rationalism; 2) biblical inerrancy accepts issues of common language use (genre, colloquial approximations, grammatical forms, metaphor, parable, hyperbole, etc.); and, 3)biblical inerrancy does not thrive when Scripture is whittled down to facts and compilations, but when God chooses to speak of himself as faithful (hence, presumably, the large use of narrative, etc.).
Ward builds on this to offer two summary points for his understanding of inerrancy, which he goes on to unfold: “inerrancy is no more and no less than a [1)] natural implication of the fact that Scripture is identified as the speech act of a God who cannot lie, and [2)]who has chosen to reveal himself to us in words” (135).
What do you think? Is this the kind of account you would want to offer? Why or why not?