Richard Coords, “Inerrancy”

, posted by Martin Glynn

Calvinists teach that if free-will was true, then it would overthrow biblical inerrancy because the human free-will of the prophet or apostle would be prone to introducing errors into the biblical text. Hence, only exhaustive determinism can guarantee that the Bible is 100% inspired. However, have you ever heard a pastor pray from the pulpit, “Lord, may I step aside, and allow the Holy Spirit to take over, and speak through me”? Now, if that actually happened, and the Holy Spirit really did take over and speak through that person, then the pastor’s free-will did not spoil this, but rather, the pastor’s own free-will yielded to the Holy Spirit. So if you imagine Scripture being written in similar manner, then it’s not hard to understand how free-will and biblical inerrancy could be compatible.

What do Calvinists believe?

George Grant: “Arminianism has real implications for the doctrine of Scripture. How can God superintend men’s words so carefully and so precisely so as to ensure an inerrant Scripture, if God is a God who allows absolute freedom, and allows sinners, like the apostle Paul, or sinners like the apostle Peter, to make absolute choices? If the Arminian God is inspiring Scripture, we would expect it to be filled with some mistakes, because that’s the nature of freedom. If on the other hand, we have the sovereign God who exercises His good providence for the purpose of mercy upon His creatures, then we can expect that there are times when He does not allow freedom, in order, for a particular task to be accomplished, thus superintending every single word that the Apostle Peter writes. Though the Apostle Peter, as we know, is prone to sin.”198

Thomas Nettles: “The Arminian says, ‘no you have to have free will that operates on its own, and divine sovereignty respecting free will.’ If that is so, how can we be guaranteed that the persons who penned the Bible did not sometime exert their free will, apart from the sovereignty of God, and put some mistakes in it? And this is the common way that Arminianism leads. It leads to higher criticism. It leads to a man-centered understanding of the Bible and the inspiration. Eventually, you lose the doctrine of Inerrancy.”199

Roger Schultz: “Arminians have a problem defending the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture because the way it would require God to override the free will of man.”200

Eric Holmberg: “Of course, this is not to say that all Arminians today are likely to compromise on the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. Many, thankfully, do not. What we are saying, however, is that one who consistently holds to the doctrine of free will, the foundation for believing the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God, will ultimately be compromised.”201

Our reply:

In the example of Peter, if he freely yielded to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then free-will presents no problem. As an analogy, if I normally drive a car, but I chose to take a flight aboard a plane instead, then I am no longer in control during the course of the flight, as it was my choice to yield full control over to a professional airline pilot in order to reach my destination. Even if I tried to interrupt the pilot, I would be restrained. My freedom ended the moment I freely yielded control.

The whole concept of divine inspiration conveys the meaning of divine intervention, in which God steps into a particular matter to express Himself. However, if as Calvinists say, that God had decreed “whatsoever comes to pass,” then wouldn’t we have to conclude that all things are subject to divine inspiration? That’s what becomes deeply problematic for Calvinists. For example, we know that God literally penned the Ten Commandments into stone tablets, and so if all things were exhaustively fixed and determined by God without the slightest deviation ever, then all things would be similarly set in stone, and hence, there would be nothing in existence that is outside of divine inspiration. That would mean that the daily life of every individual is every bit as much inspired as the Ten Commandments. It would mean that every book, not just the Bible, is inspired by God. Follow the Calvinist’s trail of logic: How can God guarantee the accuracy of His immutable decree if individual persons could at sometimes exert their free will, apart from the sovereignty of God, and thus introduce mistakes in the divine decree? So, Calvinists are not merely denying free-will in times of inspiration, but also denying free-will in total, and so when Calvinists hold to exhaustive determinism, then they are also holding to exhaustive inspiration. The existence of sin, therefore, would be just as much divinely inspired as anything else in existence, and hence which leads to the common “author of sin” charge, rightly applied to Calvinism.


198 Arminianism: The Root of “Christian” Liberalism? 3:01-4:10, taken from the DVD entitled, Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism.

199 Ibid., 4:11-4:39.

200 Ibid., 4:40-4:49.

201 Ibid., 4:50-5:14.