What is the relationship between infallibility and authority?
The inspiration of Scripture extends not only to its thoughts but also to its very words, and that every part of Scripture is equally and totally inspired. Inspiration rightly understood guarantees inerrancy. Formerly, when people said that they believed in the inspiration of the Bible, one could assume that they also believed it was inerrant (i.e., accurate in every detail). But a situation exists today in which many people who insist that they believe in the Bible’s inspiration are denying its inerrancy. There is today an attempt to divorce inspiration from inerrancy and to argue that the one does not necessarily imply the other.
“An inspired Bible means an inerrant Bible. They are one and the same thing. To put it another way: an inspired Bible is a completely inspired Bible. If it is completely inspired it is, as we have shown above, a completely inerrant Bible because God cannot err or lie” (John Gerstner, A Bible Inerrancy Primer, p. 43).
“. . .if Scripture is the Word of the God of truth it cannot but be true and trustworthy at all points” (J. I. Packer, God Has Spoken, p. 99).
Everyone has an authority to which he/she appeals in life. It forms the basis for his/her beliefs and decisions. For the rationalist it is reason; for the mystic it is intuition; for the Roman Catholic it is the voice of the church; for the historic Protestant it is revealed Scripture.
This is not to say that all these authority options are mutually exclusive. But it is true that only one of them can be the final or ultimate authority. There may be several lower courts, but there can be only one Supreme Court. Note how the following positions divide:
A. Rationalism: Reason is the Supreme Court. Thus it has a subjective ground of authority, making decisions on the basis of logical mental processes.
B. Mysticism: Intuition is the Supreme Court. Thus it has a subjective ground of authority, making decisions on the basis of inner feelings or convictions.
C. Roman Catholicism: The voice of the church is the Supreme Court. Thus it has an objective ground of authority, making decisions on the basis of what the church, as the interpreter of God’s Word and will, says.
D. Historic Protestantism: The Bible is the Supreme Court. Thus it has an objective ground of authority, making decisions on the basis of what Scripture says.
With historic Protestantism, we hold the Bible to be our supreme court. It is “the Divine and final authority for all Christian faith and life.” We, like the Reformers, appeal to “Sola Scripture” (Scripture alone). Matters pertaining to our faith and spiritual life begin and end with the question, “What does God say in His Word?”
“And He was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at His teaching, for His Word possessed authority.” (Luke 4:31-32 ESV)
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)