The Direct Link Between the Inerrancy of Scripture and the Sovereignty of God

Cornelius Van Til writes of B.B. Warfield’s view of Scripture: “For him the classical doctrine of the infallible inspiration of Scripture was involved in the doctrine of divine sovereignty.” Warfield was professor of theology at the old Princeton. He was one of the last great Presbyterian theologians at Princeton before theological liberalism swept its halls. Warfield was born in Lexington, KY in 1887 and he died in Princeton, NJ in 1921. Warfield is easily one of the greatest Reformed theologians of the 20th century and also one of the most influential Reformed theologians of all time. He is most noted for his defense of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture—a battle that rages on into the 21st century, approaching one hundred years after Warfield’s death.

According to Warfield, God’s very character and nature is at stake in the battle for the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. This has proved true over the centuries. Those camps that have denied the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture typically have a small view of God’s sovereignty. Theological liberals have a limited understanding of God’s sovereignty and they do not believe God’s Word is perfect and without error. In fact, it would be strange to hold a high view of God’s sovereignty and a low view of God’s self-revelation. Van Til continues, “God could not be sovereign in his disposition of rational human beings if he were not also sovereign in his revelation of himself to them.” What Van Til is observing in Warfield’s theology of the Bible is that if we abandon God’s sovereignty in perfectly revealing himself to man, we must also abandon God’s sovereignty in all things. Either God is sovereign or he is not. There is no middle ground here.

If he is an all-sovereign being, then he is sovereign in all realms. I had a conversation with a fellow member of my local church recently where we both marveled at the grand sovereignty of God in salvation. We were astonished as we shared stories of God saving five year-olds, fifty-five year-olds, and ninety-five year-olds. There have been times when I have taught the gospel like a man on fire with no response. However, there have been times when I have struggled to make sense of what I was teaching, yet a child trusted Jesus or found deep encouragement in my words. My words were jumbled, I stammered, and even gave a poor illustration, but God worked in, through, and despite them to draw sinners to himself. None of us question God’s sovereignty in these cases.

We should equally cherish God’s sovereignty with regard to his knowledge and revelation. When was the last time you sat in total amazement that God chose to reveal himself to unworthy sinners? Have you ever marveled at the fact that when you read your Bible you hold in your hands a book that was inspired by God? I asked these same questions to a small group of K-3rd graders. One kindergartner responded, “Well, that is all very interesting, but I can’t read!” Even the little boy in the group still learning to read was somewhat amazed that God has spoken. He just has to settle for having the Bible read to him right now!

The point is that when we contend that God has chosen to reveal himself in a redemptive way, it is an attack on God’s being and character when we also say that such revelation is flawed, no matter how we sugar coat our accusations of the Bible. This realization led Van Til to write, “As one deeply interested in the progress of the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace, Warfield put all his erudition to work for the vindication of an infallible Bible.” Warfield’s arduous work to defend the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, which has since been surpassed by none, is the product of his commitment to the sovereignty of God.

If you are like me and find incomparable joy in God’s sovereignty over all things, then firm up your commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture. Cultural attacks on traditional Christian values dealing with the family, marriage, gender, sex, sexuality, the origin of the universe, the dignity of man, and morality in general are either directly or indirectly attacks on the Word of God. And if Warfield and Van Til are correct, which I believe they are, then these cultural attacks from political and theological liberals, are attacks on the nature and being of God more than they are attacks on conservative, evangelical Christians. If you are going to survive as a Christian in the ever-changing landscape of American society, you must have confidence in the self-revelation of the God who saves and reigns as rightful Lord over his creation.

Like Warfield and Van Til, let us marvel at the sovereignty of God by upholding the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. I pray that my generation would continue in the Reformed tradition of a high view of God and a high view of the Bible and that we would boldly affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and see this affirmation as a celebration of the sovereignty of God.

In the end, the goal of both God’s self-revelation in Scripture and the defense of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture is truthful, spiritual, and passionate worship of the God who saves. In the words of B.B. Warfield,

The religion of the Bible thus announces itself, not as the product of men’s search after God, if haply they may feel after Him and find Him, but as the creation in men of the gracious God, forming a people for Himself, that they may show forth His praise.

What is important to recognize is that the Scriptures themselves represent the Scriptures as not merely containing here and there the record of revelations—“words of God,”—given by God, but as themselves, in all their extent, a revelation, an authoritative body of gracious instructions from God; or, since the alone, of all the revelations which God may have given, are extant—rather as the Revelation, the only “Word of God” accessible to men, in all their parts “law,” that is, authoritative instruction from God.[1]



[1] Quotes taken from Warfield’s “The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible”

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.


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