Vic Reasoner’s The Importance of Inerrancy: How Scriptural Authority Has Eroded in Modern Wesleyan Theology is a short book written “to introduce a defense of biblical inerrancy to contemporary Wesleyans.” Reasoner engages with Wesleyan theologians past and present in a straightforward and accessible way. At just 88 pages and $1.99 for the Amazon Kindle version, I highly recommend this little book to every Wesleyan who is serious about the Bible. The following 20 quotes provide a window into the book.
Inerrancy is a watershed issue. John Wesley declared, “Nay, will not the allowing there is any error in Scripture, shake the authority of the whole?”
The doctrine of inspiration means that the Spirit so superintended the process of revelation that humanity was temporarily elevated beyond error. Logically, the original autographs had to be perfect and without error if they came from an infallible God and were inspired by the Holy Spirit. God cannot err. The Bible is his Word. Therefore, the Bible cannot err.
Just as the living Word, the logos, must be understood theologically within the tension of the hypostatic union, so the written Word must also be understood within the tension of the human and the divine.
The same Spirit who overshadowed the virgin Mary so that the living Word was conceived without Adam’s sin also overshadowed the human authors so that their word became the written Word of God without error. Why should that be hard for us to accept since we believe that the indwelling Spirit can also keep us from sin? Since Wesleyan theology has given a greater emphasis to the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, can we not say that the perfecting grace of the Holy Spirit temporarily enabled the human authors and superintended the canon of Scripture so that we have the infallible Word of God? To deny that the Holy Spirit had the freedom to insure the accurate transmission of divine revelation through human authors does not seem very Wesleyan. The same Holy Spirit now uses that Word of God to perfect the Church of God.
The Bible we have comports with the original autographs, so we do have the Word of God insofar as it has been accurately copied. Any textual discrepancies are inconsequential. The only significant variations amount to 1/1000 of the text or less than ½ of one page of the Greek New Testament.
Jesus declared that the word of God is truth, and we are sanctified or made holy by that truth (John 17:17). “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” The word aletheia refers to things as they are or that which conforms to reality. The reliability and consistency of the sanctified life are tied to the reliability of the Word of God, which is an extension of the very character of God.
The claim that the Old Testament picture of the universe is prescientific and therefore must be reinterpreted in the light of modern scientific theory makes biblical revelation inferior to modern scientific theory.
It seems that the difference between soteriological inerrancy and limited inerrancy is that in the first case you merely state the positive proposition and hope that no one asks about the negative implications. If they do ask, you then claim you are being misunderstood. In spite of semantic gymnastics, there seems to be no practical difference between soteriological and limited inerrancy.
Scripture was not only God-breathed, but that God-breathing is ongoing as God continues to speak through his written Word. Is modern Wesleyanism afraid that science will discredit the Scriptures? If the Bible is described in terms of a bridge, then the good news is that it is solid and in no danger of collapse.
If Scripture is not always infallible, then an infallible authority must tell us when we can trust Scripture. Thus, by necessity there must be a final authority. In the case of the limited authority of Scripture, our ultimate authority becomes the final verdict of the scholars.
Unless the Scriptures are accepted as our final authority (a major theme of the Protestant reformation), the content of the gospel can be changed. And in many cases today the gospel is being redefined.
Those who hold to a high view of inspiration will find that most of our problems are matters of hermeneutics. I approach the text with the assumption that God knew what he was saying, but the problem is with my limited understanding.
How can the Bible be trustworthy in one area but not in other areas? Partial trustworthiness makes as much sense as a partial pregnancy.
The only question up for debate regards who or what will be our final authority.
The Scripture, though propositional, is encountered by humans existentially. We come to know it is the Word of God through the testimonium Spiritus sancti. John Calvin applied the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit to the internal testimony of the Spirit persuading the regenerate that God is the author of Scripture. The Wesleyan doctrine of the witness of the Spirit is directed toward personal assurance of justification and adoption. But both applications of the doctrine are existential.
If existential realities have no basis in propositional truth, they cannot be valid. There is something about the Word of God, in and of itself, that makes it the Word of God. It does not depend upon our encounter with it to make it the word of God.
There was nothing unique to Wesley about his hermeneutic. He utilized Reformation hermeneutics — the grammatical-historical approach.
The real battle is whether we should utilize a grammatical-historical hermeneutic or a critical-historical hermeneutic which utilizes destructive higher criticism. This “hermeneutic first” approach is analogous to modern schools of journalism which stress advocacy rather than objectivity. If God’s Word is forever settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89), it serves no useful purpose to undermine its full authority here on earth.
These modern attacks upon the authority of God’s Word take the Bible from the hands of the common man. Who decides which parts of Scripture are trustworthy?
The doctrine of complete inerrancy is vital because the sola scriptura principle, that Scripture is our final authority, cannot be maintained without it. Anyone who declares there are mistakes in the Scripture is setting himself or herself up as an authority above Scripture.