The Bible is inerrant (it has no errors in it) and the Bible is clear (you can understand it without a teacher). Both these claims are unpopular. So let me explain it, in the name of Jesus.
It is true that the term inerrant was not used by Lutherans before the 1930’s. In fact no one used the term inerrant before the 1900’s. Infallible the old term. An infallible Bible meant that the Bible itself had no errors in it.
Yale Divinity School, as late as the 1850’s, described the Holy Bible as infallible meaning that the Holy Bible has no errors. And Yale is still a pretty prestigious American institution.
So what changed.
The term inerrancy was new for a reason. Before the 1930’s Lutherans described the Holy Bible as infallible and they knew what that description meant. The influence of both higher critical and lower critical methods of reading the Holy Bible led Lutheran scholars to change the meaning of infallibility. They read the Bible critically. They did not believe what was written until it could be confirm by another source. So, kept the term infallible but gave it a new meaning. Infallible came to mean there are no doctrinal errors in the Bible. The Bible contained all that was needed for salvation but not for the history and geography claims asserted within the Bible.
So infallibility was changed to mean no doctrinal errors rather than no errors.
Every denomination in the U.S. has experienced the War Over the Bible. Does the Bible have errors or not?
Those who believe there are errors - describe the Bible as infallible (with its new meaning).
Those who believe there are NO errors - describe the Bible as inerrant. Inerrant is the new term but the old meaning. Inerrant means no errors.
A former Bishop (David Preus) of the American Lutheran Church (the ALC) before it was merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (the ELCA) once observed that Lutherans never used the word inerrant before the 1930’s. He liked the new meaning of infallible. He wanted to use the old word infallible because the new meaning was that the Bible had no doctrinal errors and was the traditional term used to describe the Bible. He wanted the ELCA to adopt the word infallible because it meant the Bible had errors.
The LCMS Walkout in 1974 was our version of the infallible vs. inerrant controversy. It was called the Battle for the Bible. Those seminary professors who believe the Bible has errors of history and geography and such, walked out of their teaching positions and formed a Seminary in Exile. It’s nickname is Seminex. Those who believe the Bible has no errors is what the LCMS is today. But warning, the controversy continues.
What kind of errors could the Bible have?
Those who hate the word inerrant would give answers like these:
The Bible says, God created the earth in six 24 hour days. The infallible group disagrees.
The Bible says, Adam and Eve are real people. The infallible group disagrees.
The Bible says, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. The infallible group disagrees.
What else does the Bible say about itself? Let’s hear it again:
Psalm 119:105 Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
John 10:34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods” ’? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
2 Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: The the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Some say the Reformers did not teach inerrancy. But hear this:
Quote from Large Catechism, “Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err.”
So, the Word of God cannot err or deceive. Anyone who excludes Biblical inerrancy from the Book of Concord is not agreeing with the Bible or the Book of Concord. Teachers can be ignorant, in which case they err. Also, teachers can knowingly teach against inerrancy, in which case the deceive. God our Father is neither ignorant nor deceitful.
Finally, a quote from C.F.W. Walther from our own Christian circles writes this: “That is the reason why nearly all of them reject the verbal inspiration of the Bible and subject all books of the Bible to criticism such as only enemies of the Bible would engage in. Of course, they are not conscious of being enemies of the Bible. They have turned the Christian religion into a religious philosophy (Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel).
You can be certain that God has given you a full witness to Himself in the Bible you have in your hands or in your home. You can be certain that God speaks the truth and cannot be mocked. You can be certain that upon you confession, He forgives you all your sins and gives you His righteousness; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, guard you and keep you through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.