INERRANT OR INFALLIBLE?

Does the Bible being ‘inspired’ mean that every account of a situation like the account of the blind man in Mark 10:46-52 (cf. Luke 18:35-43) getting healed is the same? Well, if your definition of ‘inspiration’ includes word by word agreement, you’re in a bad light when you read Matthew’s account (Matt. 20:29-34). Matthew had two blind men while Mark and Luke had one blind man. Also, if you will notice Mark and Luke have the idea of “…when they came to Jericho,” or “…approaching Jericho” while “…when they were going out of Jericho” is what Matthew has. Now is it one or two? “Coming into Jericho” or “Going out of Jericho? I think we have to deal with this question. If one of them recorded this account in an inappropriate manner, does that mean the Bible has errors?

A group from the conservative school of Princeton led by B.B. Warfield has emphasized on what they call the inerrancy of the Bible; in other words, they have majored on the fact that every word is ‘inspired’, and every word is chosen by God, and that the essence of inspiration is in the words and in the form. However, that is not the position of historical Christianity. Christianity beginning with the early church fathers has not used the word ‘inerrant’, rather it has used the word ‘infallible’, and it has not focused on the form. It has focused on the content. You say, it’s just a semantical difference. But it is all the difference in the world if you’re going to say that every word is inspired by God, and every word was chosen by the Spirit. I think the validity of the Word of God is proved by the fact these men (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are recording every remembrance of this event to the best of their ability, and they don’t feel threatened by saying, “Let’s make everything mechanically fit. No, they’re not worried about that. It seems that the characteristic of Matthew’s Gospel is to see a wider group of people, and the characteristic of Mark’s Gospel is to pinpoint in on the reaction and on the details of one particular individual in this account.

Well again, does that make one wrong and one right in this seeming incoherence in one and the same event? I don’t think those are appropriate terms to describe the Bible. We tend to be so literalistic that we force the Bible into a mold. I feel much more comfortable saying that the message of the Bible is completely Spirit-filled and completely infallible than saying that every word is inerrant, and majority of Christendom uses the word ‘infallible’ and not the word ‘inerrant’. We must remember when you’re dealing with people’s remembrances and recording them up years later, we’re not talking about right and wrong; we’re talking about Spirit-directed remembrance, and I think the trustworthiness of the Bible is not compromised on the differentness of eyewitness accounts. What is crucial is not so much in the Bible’s mechanical unity as it is in its Spirit-directed message. [Compare also Matthew’s account of Jesus healing two Gadarene Demoniacs (Matthew 8:28) with Mark’s of the same event in Mark 5]