Berkouwer insists that when “the concept of error in the sense of incorrectness is … used on the same level as the concept of erring in the sense of sin and deception … we are quite far removed from the serious manner with which erring is dealt in Scripture … (as) a swerving from the truth and upsetting the faith (2 Tim. 2:18)” (Holy Scripture (HS), p. 181, emphasis and brackets mine).
Berkouwer rejects “the formalization of inerrancy” (HS, p. 181, emphasis mine), “a mechanical, inflexible ‘inerrancy’” (HS, p. 265, emphasis mine), “a rationally developed infallibility” (HS, p. 32, emphasis mine).
He does, however, seek to interpret positively both infallibility and inerrancy: “the Holy Spirit … doe not lead us into error but into the pathways of truth … The Spirit, with this special concern, has not failed and will not fail in this mystery of God-breathed Scripture” (HS, pp. 265-266).
When we consider Berkouwer’s criticism of “a theoretical concept of inspiration or infallibility” (HS, p. 33, n. 70), which is inclined to tell us what Scripture must be if it is to be regarded as the Word of God, it is important that we do not lose sight of his positive interpretation of the concepts of infallibility and inerrancy.
In these positive interpretations, we see Berkouwer’s real concern – a constructive attempt to understand Scripture more clearly.
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