Inerrancy Is Vital to Evangelism
By Bob Wilkin
Today a friend of mine, Dr. F. David Farnell, told me about a blog he posted, ‘The Danger from within the Church,” on January 20, 2018, at the Defending Inerrancy website. His blog has a link to a fascinating yet sad video where Dr. Bart Ehrman, agnostic, and Dr. Craig Evans, Evangelical, discuss the historicity of John’s Gospel. It is called a “debate,” but as far as I can tell they basically agree with other. In the article, which you can see here, Farnell shows that leading Evangelical New Testament scholar, Dr. Craig Evans, teaches that Jesus did not say any of the seven “I am” statements in John’s Gospel! Read that again. If that doesn’t get your heart rate up, you need to get your heart checked out immediately.
Those seven “I am” statements are key evangelistic texts.
Here is one: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believers in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Evans sees this as a creation of John’s followers (the Johannine community), not the words of Jesus.
Here is another famous “I am” statement by the Lord: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). Evans and Ehrman agree that those statements are not really the words of Jesus. According to Evans, a leading (and supposedly conservative) Bible scholar, Jesus said none—not one—of the “I am” sayings as reported in John’s Gospel. I don’t know about you, but, for me, if a Bible author says that Jesus said something, then it is clear that Jesus said it. The Biblical authors did not make things up. They accurately reported what was said and done.
Evans teaches at Houston Baptist University. He does not teach at some liberal, secular school. Formally, he affirms inerrancy. That is, he says that the Bible has no errors in it. But how can he say that while also saying that John Gospel gives fictitious quotes? Farnell’s helps to begin to make some sense of it. Evans’s point, like many who do not believe in inerrancy but who say that they do (“the emperor has no clothes!”), is that while there would be errors in the Bible if we judged the Bible on our modern view of historiography (the reporting of history), there actually are no errors because at the time they were written it was okay to make things up and falsely report it. It was supposedly not an error in the first century to say that the Lord Jesus Christ said something, when in fact He did not say that. The same with the reporting of what He did. Some of it He actually did. Some He did not.
The funny thing is that at several points–1:23:30-1:23-57; 1:24:20-1:24:30; 1:39:00-1:40:22–I find myself agreeing with Ehrman’s deductions about what Evans is saying. For example, if the Gospels report things that Jesus did not do and did not say, then they are not historically accurate. They would be erroneous books if what Evans is saying is true. Ehrman also concludes that Evans does not believe in inerrancy and that these arguments about ancient historiography have nothing to do with the question of whether there are errors in the Gospels or not.
It is a bit hard to watch this for very long because neither Ehrman nor Evans has a high view of the Word of God. If what Evans is saying passes today for a high view of God’s Word, then we are, as Farnell says in his blog, in deep trouble. Beware of the slippery slope. At first, Evangelical schools begin to question the historicity of Adam and Eve, of Noah’s flood, of Jonah and the great fish, and Job’s travails. After a generation or two, those same schools proceed to question the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When you share John 3:16 or John 11:25-27 or John 14:6 with someone, it is important that they grasp that these words are Jesus’s words. These are not your words. These are not some man-made words. While the listener need not believe in the doctrine of inerrancy to be born again, it is important that the evangelist believes in it. Otherwise he can no longer say with conviction, “Thus saith the Lord.” Our faith is based on the Word of God. That Word is eternal, unchanging, inerrant, inspired, and powerful. The grass withers. The flower fades. But the Word of God abides forever.
How do I know with certainty that I have everlasting life? Because the Lord Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, thought he may die, yet he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” The Lord of Glory really said that. He made that promise. That promise is one I can take to the spiritual bank.
Inerrancy is a wonderful apologetic for evangelism. The promise of everlasting life is true. 100% dependable. Totally reliable.
May we stand fast upon the Word of God!