Pastor Bob O'Bannon
It is very common for evangelical Christians to believe in the doctrine of inerrancy when it comes to their view of Scripture. In fact, some might say that you must believe in inerrancy to be a full-blown evangelical. But evangelicals are very divided when it comes to the doctrines of Calvinism. There are many evangelicals who strongly object to the high view of sovereignty contained in the system of doctrine called Calvinism. My contention is that you basically are a Calvinist if you believe in inerrancy.
Let me define my terms. By “inerrancy,” I mean the conviction that the Bible is “breathed out” by God (2 Tim. 3:16) and without error in its original manuscripts. Those who believe in inerrancy believe that the Holy Sprit carried along the writers of Scripture (2 Pet. 1:20-21) so that they wrote exactly what God wanted them to write.
For the purposes of this blog, by “Calvinism” I don’t actually mean all five points of TULIP. A true Calvinist will affirm all five points, but the point I am making here is not that inerrancy leads to belief in, say, limited atonement (the third point TULIP). Instead, my point is simply that belief in inerrancy leads to a very high view of God’s sovereignty. The natural outflow of that conviction should then compel an affirmation of all five points of Calvinism, in my opinion, but I understand that this is not the case for everyone.
So, if we understand Calvinism here as simply a “very high view of God’s sovereignty in salvation,” then how are inerrancy and Calvinism connected? First of all, consider one of the main objections that people bring against Calvinism. The objection goes something like this: “God gave us free will, and He would never violate our free will by forcing us to do something against our will. Calvinism is wrong because it turns us into robots or puppets, as if God were controlling every move we make.”
But think of what we are affirming in the doctrine of inerrancy: We are saying that the Holy Spirit guided, influenced or “controlled” the Bible writers to ensure that they wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. Here’s what 2 Peter 1:21 says: “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” That sounds like a very high view of God’s sovereignty to me.
And yet at the same time, the writers of Scripture were not robots or puppets. They were not forced to act or think contrary to their desires or intentions. The sovereignty of God in guiding their writing did not empty them of their freedom, humanity and responsibility.
Here’s how Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck put it in Vol. 1 of his Reformed Dogmatics:
Scripture is totally the product of the Spirit of God, who speaks through the prophets and apostles, and at the same time totally the product of the activity of the authors” (p. 435).
In another place he writes, “All the various components that come under consideration in divine inspiration show that the Spirit of the Lord, so far from suppressing the personality of the prophets and apostles, instead heightens the level of their activity . . . Their whole personality with all of their gifts and powers are made serviceable to the calling to which they are called” (p. 432).
To deny God’s sovereignty over a person’s free activity, which is central to the doctrines of Calvinism, is to deny the doctrine of inerrancy. But to hold that God can superintend our actions while simultaneously allowing our freedom to flourish is to hold a high view of God’s sovereignty in healthy balance.