When God speaks to us, we dare not criticize what he says. Our only recourse is to believe and to obey. Now, what of inerrancy? Well, the inerrancy of Scripture is certainly implied in what I have said already, if we are permitted to take "inerrancy" in its normal, dictionary meaning. "Inerrant" simply means "without error," or "true" in the sense that we normally speak of true sentences, true doctrines, true accounts, true principles. Were God to speak to us in person, "directly," none of us would dare to charge him with error. Errors arise from ignorance or deceit; and our God is neither ignorant, nor is he a deceiver. Similarly, we dare not charge his written Word with error.
This is not a mere "modern" position...it is the position of Scripture itself. Augustine in the fifth century declared, "None of these (scriptural) authors has erred in any respect of writing." Shall we speak today of biblical "inerrancy?" The term does, to be sure, produce confusion in some circles. Some theologians have gone far astray from the dictionary meaning of "inerrant." James Orr, for example, defined "inerrant" as "hard and fast literality in minute matters of historical, geographical, and scientific detail." Well, if "inerrancy" requires literalism, then we should renounce inerrancy; for the Bible is not always to be interpreted literally. Certainly there are important questions of Bible interpretation that one bypasses if he accepts biblical inerrancy in this sense.
But we should remember that Orr's use of the term, and the similar uses of contemporary theologians, are distortions of its meaning. Perhaps those distortions have become so frequent today as to inhibit the usefulness of the term. For the time being, however, I would like to keep the term, and explain to people who question me that I am not using it in Orr's sense, but rather to confess the historic faith of the church.
From an article published in 2002. Read the whole thing here.