Professor David S. Dockery, formerly of the fundamentalist Criswell College, then of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, identified nine possible positions held by various theologians with regard to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.


1.  Mechanical Dictation

          God dictated every word of the Bible.  This view ignores style differences between various authors as well as differing historical and cultural contexts.

Proponent: John R. Rice


2.  Absolute Inerrancy

          The Bible is true and accurate in all matters.  This view uses the plenary-verbal concept of inspiration, attempting to separate itself from the dictation view while assuring that the Bible is the written word of God.  It does not take seriously the human aspect, or the historical contexts, in trying to harmonize the apparent differences and difficulties in Scripture.

Proponent: Harold Lindsell


3.  Critical Inerrancy

          The Bible is completely true in all that the Scripture affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the original author.  This view does not seek to harmonize every detail.  Scientific matters are considered to be treated with phenomenological language rather than technical and scientific thinking.  This view allows the cautious use of critical methodologies in interpretation.  It takes seriously both the human and divine elements.

Proponents: Roger Nicole, J. Ramsey Michaels, D. A. Carson, John Woodbridge


4.  Limited Inerrancy

          The Bible is inerrant in all matters of salvation and ethics, faith and practice, and matters which can be empirically validated.  It is inerrant only in matters for which the Bible was given.  This view seeks to be empirical, i.e., guided by observation alone without using science or theory.  Some call this view “simple biblicism.”

Proponent: Howard Marshall


5.  Qualified Inerrancy

          The Bible is taken - upon faith - to be inerrant in all matters of salvation and ethics, faith and practice, and matters which can be empirically validated.  This is the same as the previous statement, except for the faith element.  It attempts to take seriously the human and divine elements.  This view is difficult to define.

Proponent: Donald G. Bloesch


6.  Nuanced Inerrancy

          The Bible’s inerrancy varies with its types of literature: narrative, poetry, stories, or proverbs.  Some passages require dictation in inspiration, while others, as in poetry, stories, or proverbs, may require only dynamic inspiration.  This view takes seriously the human and divine elements.

Proponent: Clark Pinnock


7.  Functional Inerrancy

          The Bible is inerrant in its purpose or function.  It is inerrant in its power to bring people to salvation and growth in Christian life.

Proponents: G. C. Berkouwer, Jack Rogers, Donald McKim


8.  Inerrancy is Irrelevant

          Inerrancy is neither affirmed nor denied.  The doctrine of inerrancy is pointless, irrelevant, and concerned only with theological minutić.

Proponent: David A. Hubbard


9.  Biblical Authority

          The Bible is authoritative only to point one to an encounter with God.  This view does not take seriously the divine element in the words of the Bible.  It freely admits human errors and finds them of no consequence.

Proponent: William Countryman






          The fact that inerrancy can be viewed in so many ways is an argument against its plausibility.  It seems pointless to argue over belief in something that is too nebulous to define.