A year ago, I had a rare conversation with a politically progressive friend. She explained to me why she supports abortion and LGBT+ rights, and in response to my dissent, she argued, “Because society is constantly changing, the things that were applicable in the Bible when it was written might not necessarily fit into a progressive and contemporary society.” As much as we disagreed, we walked away with a better understanding of each other.
Our conversation also revealed something about my worldview: it relies heavily on the Bible. I’m pro-life foremost because Scripture affirms the life and worth of the unborn. I don’t support homosexuality because Scripture condemns it as a sin. But my friend, perhaps summarizing the feelings of my generation, merely replied, “I’ve always just thought the idea of taking a religious text word for word is a little outdated.”
Yet the Bible claims its own relevancy over the changing world: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). If Scripture was relevant at a single point in history, it must be relevant at all times. The Bible is either the Word of God or it isn’t. And if it’s the Word of God, it must be inerrant―wholly true and free of mistakes.
Because of our sinfulness, inerrant is often the last thing we want the Bible to be. In my struggle with an eating disorder, the greatest difficulty wasn’t recognizing the idols of my heart but turning away from them. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Elsewhere, Scripture tells us, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31) and “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1).
Because of our sinfulness, inerrant is often the last thing we want the Bible to be.
Even if the Bible doesn’t specifically address eating disorders, it clearly speaks to the underlying sins. As I tried to justify my behaviors to myself, Paul reminded me that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Ultimately, the issue was not that I doubted whether Scripture addressed my sin. The issue was that I desperately wished Scripture was wrong.
I didn’t doubt the inerrancy of the Bible, but I mourned it. As Scripture exposed my sinfulness and offered a path that seemed only painful, I wished Jesus hadn’t said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). If only he taught that I could serve two masters as long as God came first. If only he left some leeway for me to make concessions with my sin. If only the Bible was wrong.
But the inerrancy of Scripture is also profoundly good news for sinners. It was through Scripture primarily that the Holy Spirit showed me the grace of God. I learned to trust in him as he promised me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9) and “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). The same Bible that trapped me with inescapable truths began to sustain me with the steadfast promises of my Savior.
While I once wished I could distort Scripture to fit my agenda, I now relied on the assurance that God’s objective Word didn’t depend on my own strength. Rather, “every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30:5).
In our stubborn self-sufficiency, the inerrancy of Scripture can seem a hard master forcing us down a path of pain and difficulty. But this is God’s great love for us: as a parent shouts sharply to a child about to wander into a street, our Father corrects us to keep us from the great danger of sin. As Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”
Blessing in the Dark
In C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, Aslan gives Jill a set of four signs to guide her quest. Among them, she and her friends must find a ruined city and follow instructions written in stone. The signs don’t tell Jill what to expect: long days in the wilderness, a brutal snowstorm, man-eating giants. She and her friends nearly miss the etched instructions of the third sign, and obeying it leads them deep underground and into the realm of an evil witch. Far beneath the surface, trekking through dark caverns, they begin to “wonder whether sun and blue skies and wind and birds had not been only a dream.”
The same Bible that trapped me with inescapable truths began to sustain me with the steadfast promises of my Savior.
Surely this couldn’t be what Aslan intended? But as Jill’s friend Puddleglum reminds her, “Aslan’s instructions always work: there are no exceptions.” And work they do, though perhaps in unexpected ways.
Even as we find ourselves in dark places where we nearly forget what hope feels like―even when we doubt the love and sovereignty of God―his Word holds fast as “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). His Word is vital when it exposes our sin, calling us to repentance and restoration. And his Word is our true guide when it leads us to unpopular conclusions―for example, that life begins at conception or that marriage is between one man and one woman.
In all these things, we’re called to trust him and his wisdom as revealed through Scripture. As sinners, this is no easy task, but as saints saved by his love and mercy, it’s one filled with joy and peace.