Apologetics Blog

The three ‘I’s of Scripture: Inspired, Inerrant, Infallible

Dan DeWitt05.30.19

In asking the question, “Where did we get the Bible?” ultimately we must answer that we received it from God. This is, in fact, the claim the Bible makes for itself. The apostle Paul says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

The biblical word for ‘inspired’ means Scripture is “breathed out” by God. The apostle Peter describes this process, “First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21). God breathed out His Word by using godly men to write down exactly what He wanted them to write.

Christians use a number of words to describe what they believe about the Bible. Three common words Christians use are inspiredinerrant, and infallible. But if you’re new to the faith, or if you haven’t grown up around the church, these words can be a little confusing. So, what do they mean?

Inspired

When we say that the Bible is inspired we mean that God is its definitive author. While God used human beings to record his words, it is God himself who is behind what they wrote. God didn’t just inspire the big ideas behind the Bible, but the very words of Scripture.

To be clear, we don’t believe these human writers became like robots or fell into a trance and mindlessly penned God’s message. God breathed out His message, moving them along, to record what He wanted, yet without making them something less than human agents.

Inerrant

When we say the Bible is inerrant, we mean God used these human authors to pen exactly what God wanted, without any mixture of error. God used these men – with all of their personalities, their writing styles, their accumulated vocabularies, their life experiences, their illustrations and metaphors – to express His message, as He wanted it, yet without error. In this way, the Bible has a dual-authorship: God and man. Yet we recognize it is God himself who is behind the Bible’s message and authority.

Infallible

When we say the Bible is infallible, we mean that God’s Word is incapable of error. Because God is perfect, so is His revelation of himself. God’s Word will accomplish exactly what God wants it to, “My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do” (Isa. 55:11).

What we believe about God and what we believe about the Bible are intertwined and cannot be separated. What we know about God comes from the Bible. Scripture says God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). If the Bible is God’s Word to us, and if He cannot lie, then His Word also must be incapable of error.

Your skeptic friends might quickly challenge this as being a form of circular reasoning. They might say, “You believe in God because the Bible tells you to. And you believe in the Bible because God tells you to (in the Bible).” To be fair to your friend, they’re right. But circular reasoning is a problem for them too.

Ultimate authority

Every way of the seeing the world, every worldview, begins with a commitment that cannot be proven outside of that particular worldview. Consider a rationalist for example. A rationalist is a person who believes human reason is the chief authority for understanding the world. If you asked them to defend this position they would give you a rational response. They would presuppose their worldview to be true in order to argue for it. This is true of every worldview.

The Christian begins with the commitment that God exists and that He has revealed himself. The Bible is a coherent story, written by 40 authors, in three languages, over 1,500 years. It makes sense of the world we live in, where the world came from, and what it means to be human.

The Bible is inspired: God is its ultimate author. The Bible is inerrant: God used human authors to write exactly what He wanted without error. The Bible is infallible: It is incapable of error and will accomplish exactly what God wants.

The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. Every person who has experienced a life-transforming encounter with Jesus understands the importance and power of the Word of God for their lives. We are able to say with the apostle Paul, “God must be true, even if everyone is a liar, as it is written: That you may be justified in Your words and triumph when you judge” (Rom. 3:4).

This series of presentations was part of the "Islam & North America: Loving Your Muslim Neighbor" conference held May 2, 2019 in Alpharetta, Ga. Speakers include Kambiz Saghaey, Ed Stetzer, Micah Fries, Keith Whitfield, Jon Akin, Aslam Masih, Bart Barber, Andy Defelice and Bob Roberts. More about the conference >