A couple of weeks ago I posted an article I wrote entitled, Seriously, But Not Literally?. While the main point was not to defend the inerrancy of Scripture, I did very briefly mention it. One of the problems with using theological jargon is that, quite often, folks who aren’t “in the know” aren’t quite able to follow along because they haven’t been taught the lingo. Therefore, I thought it might be helpful to offer a few posts which explain what is and is not meant by the term, “inerrancy,” when used by those who, in my humble estimation, are the most responsible adherents of that doctrine of Scripture.
Below is an introduction by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, which met back in the 1970s to hammer out a clarifying statement on the inerrancy of Scripture. You may still decide that you think they are wrong and that you don’t buy into inerrancy. However, I hope you will have a better understanding of what folks who do embrace the doctrine mean when they use the term.
The “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” was produced at an international Summit Conference of evangelical leaders, held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago in the fall of 1978. This congress was sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. The Chicago Statement was signed by nearly 300 noted evangelical scholars, including James Boice, Norman L. Geisler, John Gerstner, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, Harold Lindsell, John Warwick Montgomery, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer, Robert Preus, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul, and John Wenham.
The ICBI disbanded in 1988 after producing three major statements: one on biblical inerrancy in 1978, one on biblical hermeneutics in 1982, and one on biblical application in 1986. The following text, containing the “Preface” by the ICBI draft committee, plus the “Short Statement,” “Articles of Affirmation and Denial,” and an accompanying “Exposition,” was published in toto by Carl F. H. Henry in God, Revelation And Authority, vol. 4 (Waco, Tx.: Word Books, 1979), on pp. 211-219. The nineteen Articles of Affirmation and Denial, with a brief introduction, also appear in A General Introduction to the Bible, by Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix (Chicago: Moody Press, rev. 1986), at pp. 181-185. An official commentary on these articles was written by R. C. Sproul in Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary (Oakland, Calif.: ICBI, 1980), and Norman Geisler edited the major addresses from the 1978 conference, in Inerrancy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980).
The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.
The following Statement affirms this inerrancy of Scripture afresh, making clear our understanding of it and warning against its denial. We are persuaded that to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God’s own Word which marks true Christian faith. We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstandings of this doctrine in the world at large.
This Statement consists of three parts: a Summary Statement, Articles of Affirmation and Denial, and an accompanying Exposition. It has been prepared in the course of a three-day consultation in Chicago. Those who have signed the Summary Statement and the Articles wish to affirm their own conviction as to the inerrancy of Scripture and to encourage and challenge one another and all Christians to growing appreciation and understanding of this doctrine. We acknowledge the limitations of a document prepared in a brief, intensive conference and do not propose that this Statement be given creedal weight. Yet we rejoice in the deepening of our own convictions through our discussions together, and we pray that the Statement we have signed may be used to the glory of our God toward a new reformation of the Church in its faith, life, and mission.
We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we purpose by God’s grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word.
We invite response to this statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we speak. We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help which enables us to strengthen this testimony to God’s Word we shall be grateful.
Thanks to Michael Marlowe for his helpful website that contains the whole statement as well as many other helpful tools for biblical research. Stay tuned for Part 2.
Grace and Truth,