Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ancient Words, Changing Worlds--Overview of Chapter 3

A few months ago, I posted a book review of a book published by Crossway titled Ancient Words, Changing Worlds by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt.  I wanted to share with you some observations I've made after having read the book again.

In chapter 3 of the book Ancient Words, Changing Worlds, the author gives an overview of the doctrine of inerrancy in the 20th century. He begins by looking at the development of controversies surrounding inerrancy in various Protestant denominations in America: the SBC, the PCUSA, and the Lutheran Church. He further discusses the reaction against the concept such teaching by Daniel Fuller, Jr, that some scripture was revelational (the texts dealing with how a person can be saved) and that some scripture was non-revelational (texts that assert matters of science and history). According to Fuller, revelational scripture was inerrant whereas nonrevelational scripture was not. In response to this and other challenges to the doctrine of inerrancy, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy was formed in 1978 and in that same year the ICBI held a conference in which a document called the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was written which defined biblical inerrancy. Prominent leaders from various evangelical denominations signed the document demonstrating that though they disagreed on various points of doctrine they all recognized that the source of divine truth was the Bible and that the Bible was inerrant. The author discussed some objections to inerrancy and proposed possible solutions such as observing that while the term “inerrancy” might not be found in the writings of church fathers in historical documents, the concept appeared to be recognized as valid. The author further asserts that while there are issues within the biblical text that do not have an immediately obvious solution that “…a life of faith means trusting in God…” (p. 81). In other words, just because we don’t know the answer that does not mean that there is no answer.

As I read this chapter, I began to think about the objections that are proposed against biblical inerrancy. It appears that many of those arguments boil down to the idea that “It’s just too hard to maintain that the bible is inerrant”. In other words, they deny inerrancy because it solves certain problems for them. I was reminded as I read the chapter, however, that to deny inerrancy creates many more theological problems that it solves. I affirm inerrancy based on my conviction that God speaks truth and therefore, since the bible was inspired, whatever is in the bible must be true, regardless of my inability to reconcile some textual, scientific, or historical difficulty.

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