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Quotes on Biblical Inerrancy

The Roman Catholic Church has started to distance itself from the doctrine of strict verbal inerrancy but it is not clear just how far it will go along this line. Until recently, the position of the Catholic Church can be summed up by the 1893 encyclical Providentissimus Deus of Pope Leo XIII:

All of the books, and the whole of each, which the Church receives as sacred and canonical were written down at the dictation of the Holy Spirit; and in fact, so far from there being possibly any error present in divine inspiration, this latter of itself not only excludes but rejects it with the same necessity that God himself, who is the Supreme Truth, cannot be the author of any error whatsoever...For the Holy Spirit himself with supernatural power so stirred and moved them to write, and so assisted as they wrote, that they both conceived correctly in mind, and wished to write down faithfully, and expressed aptly with infallible truth, all and each of these things which he bades, otherwise he himself would not be the author of the entire scripture. [1]

On this, the Protestants of the nineteenth century could not have agreed more with the Roman Church. Given below is a typical quotation (made in 1872 by Charles Hodge, the Presbyterian theologian from the Princeton Theological Seminary):

The Bible is the word of God. If granted, then it follows that what the Bible says, God says. That ends the matter. [2]

Such a view is typical of fundamentalism-the belief that the Bible is inerrant comes first-and provides the framework within which the typical fundamentalist views the world. Everything else -ethics, science and history- is judged on the standard of the Bible. This attitude has hardly changed at all to this day. Below is a statement made almost exactly a hundred years after the one above (by John Montgomery, then Professor of Melodyland School Of Theology, Anaheim, California)

I believe that the Bible is completely, entirely and verbally the word of God. I refuse to stand above and criticize it; I insist rather, on standing below it and letting it criticize me. [3]


1 Miller, God and Reason: p13-14
2 Wilken, The Myth of Christian Beginnings: p133-134
3 Montgomery, Damned Through the Church: p26

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