The Bible as Propositional Revelation

Propositional Revelation

It is not uncommon for non-inerrantists to attempt to modify or deny propositional revelation. Vanhoozer cites John Stott as being uncomfortable with inerrancy because the Bible “cannot be reduced to a string of propositions which invites the label truth or error” (Vanhoozer, 200). Similarly, he adds. “Inerrancy pertains directly to assertions only, not to biblical commands, promises, warnings, and so on. We would therefore be unwise to collapse everything we want to say about biblical authority into the nutshell of inerrancy” (Vanhoozer, 203).

Carl Henry is criticized by some for going “too far” in claiming that “the minimal unit of meaningful expression is a proposition” and that only propositions can be true or false (Vanhoozer, 214). However, it would appear that it is Vanhoozer’s criticisms that go too far.

It is true that there are more than propositions in the Bible. All propositions are sentences, but not all sentences are propositions, at least not directly. However, the CSBI inerrantist is right in stressing propositional revelation. For only propositions express truth, and inerrancy is concerned with the truthfulness of the Bible. Certainly, there are exclamations, promises, prophecies, interrogations, and commands that are not formally and explicitly propositions. But while not all of the Bible is propositional, most of the Bible is propositionalizable. And any text in the Bible which states or implies a proposition can be categorized as propositional revelation. And inerrantists claim that all propositional revelation is true. That is to say, all that the Bible affirms to be true (directly or indirectly) is true. And all that the Bible affirms to be false is false. So, any attack on propositional revelation that diminishes or negates propositional truth has denied the inerrancy of the Bible. Hence, inerrantists rightly stress propositional revelation.

The fact that the Bible is many more things than inerrant propositions is irrelevant. Certainly, the Bible has other characteristics, such as infallibility (John 10:35), immortality (Psa. 119:160), indestructibility (Mat. 5:17-18), indefatigability (it can’t be worn out—Jer. 23:29), and indefeasibility (it can’t be overcome—Isa. 55:11). But these do not diminish the Bible’s inerrancy (lack of error). In fact, if the Bible were not the inerrant Word of God, then it would not be all these other things. They are complementary, not contradictory to inerrancy. Likewise, the Bible has commands, questions, and exclamations, but these do not negate the truth of the text. Instead, they imply, enhance, and compliment it.