FIVE VIEWS ON BIBLICAL INERRANCY, J. Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett, eds.

Published on June 23, 2014 by Jim Zaspel

Zondervan, 2013 | 336 pages

Reviewed by Micah McCormick

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy adds a volume to the growing body of counterpoint books that take a given topic and bring together various contributors to offer their perspective. Often the views presented are to some extent mutually exclusive; however, in other cases at least some of the views could be seen as complementary perspectives. In this book there are five contributors – two systematic theologians, two biblical scholars, and one historical theologian. Although in various circles inerrancy has been viewed as a hallmark of evangelicalism, the book is framed in such a way as to present the topic as an open intramural debate – the back cover speaks of “showcasing a spectrum of evangelical positions,” and the editors go further, desiring their project to be a first step toward “disentangling inerrancy as the primary link to evangelical identity” (24). Indeed, not all the contributors believe that inerrancy should provide any kind of link to evangelical identity, but rather some see a need for significant revision or even abandonment.

In setting up the project, the editors asked the contributors not simply to articulate their position in regard to inerrancy, but to speak of God and his relationship to creatures, the nature of Scripture, the nature of truth, and inspiration – interacting along the way with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) and three specific passages that could be seen to pose a challenge for inerrancy. (I’m curious why the contributors also couldn’t have been asked to address three passages often seen to support inerrancy.)

To make things simple, in this review I will address each main contributor before offering a few concluding remarks. Here is my initial frank assessment of where each contributor stands on the spectrum in regard to inerrancy:

     Enns – doesn’t support the term or the concept
     Franke – partly supports the term but not the concept
     Bird – doesn’t support the term but seems friendly to the concept
     Vanhoozer – carefully supports the term and the concept
     Mohler – unabashedly supports the term and the concept

If this seems like a strange way to categorize the contributors I do so because some want to define inerrancy in their own way and some seem particularly leery of abuses they see relating to the term. But more on that below.


Of all the contributors Enns is the one who has perhaps garnered the most attention in relation to inerrancy – he left Westminster Seminary after controversy surrounding his teaching and his writing, including a book called Inspiration and Incarnation. In his contribution to this counterpoint volume he makes it clear that “the term inerrancy has run its course” and evangelicals need to talk about the Bible in other ways (115). For Enns, the concern is that evangelicals have let a certain notion of God and truth dictate the way they read the Bible, rather than letting the text lead them toward theological conclusions.

But to say that is not to go quite far enough, because it seems that for Enns it is not simply Scripture’s testimony to its own character that should adjust our notion of inerrancy but rather Scripture under the scrutiny of science, archaeology, and comparative Ancient Near East literature. So when Enns comes to the test case of Joshua 6 and the fall of Jericho, if current archaeological sentiment is against the biblical portrait of a walled city and its demise during the Israelite conquest, Enns reasons that the biblical story “is perhaps a significant elaboration on a historical kernel, not a reliable record of a historical event” (96). But this is to be expected, because ANE writing is characterized by a “mythologized history” (97) where events are embellished or fabricated to serve a purpose other than the historical reporting of facts. The humans who wrote Scripture could not help but be shaped by their own literary environment and creaturely bias, but in the end this only serves to highlight the God who “reigns amidst human error and suffering” – in fact, inerrancy actually “prevents us from grappling with the God of the Bible” (91). For Enns, the key metaphor is the incarnation – just as Christ is fully human so too Scripture is fully human, while at the same time retaining a divine quality.

But one of the problems with such an analogy is that Enns smuggles in the idea of errancy as if it characterizes human endeavor completely. Humans do at times err, but they also speak the truth, and they are no less human when they write true history. Indeed, Christ himself was fully human without ever sinning, a point other contributors ably bring out (120; 208-09, fn 26), so even on Enns’ own analogy why can’t the Bible be creaturely (employing the language and culture of the various human authors) without also being errant and contradictory?

Enns doesn’t offer much positive explanation
of how God’s Word is authoritative and true.

Although the book of Joshua certainly has a theological aim, it also reads as a historical account – where is the evidence to suggest that ancient Jews or early Christians recognized that the conquest narrative was more like one of Jesus’ parables than it was a historical book? It is hard to understand how Enns would have us discern God’s voice through Scripture amidst so much (fallen) humanness. Enns doesn’t offer much positive explanation of how God’s Word is authoritative and true. He simply encourages readers of Scripture to have faith that “no matter what is encountered, the reader is in the presence of the wisdom and mystery of our God” (114). But why is it incumbent to have such faith? What if readers simply want to believe that sometimes God is present through a flawed human book? And what if contemporary scientific consensus or our own theological sensibilities lead us to the conclusion that the Bible is not a divine book at all?


Franke makes much of the limitations of language and the difficulty of confident interpretation, and the murkiness of his essay provides good warrant for those sentiments. If Vanhoozer is only able to see through Franke’s essay dimly (302), what hope is there for the rest of us?

Franke is at his most lucid when he is describing possible reasonable explanations for the differing accounts of Saul’s conversion in Acts, and in his forthright conclusion that these details don’t really matter (283-84). His constructive proposal about inerrancy was not as easy to grasp. He begins by affirming the Bible as inspired, faithful, and trustworthy, that it is the Word of God, and that he embraces inerrancy when it functions to affirm those convictions (259). Then he goes on to acknowledge that amidst his own theological journey he has been increasingly asked if he holds to inerrancy and his response is, “Yes, as long as I get to define it” (260). On the surface this caveat is fair enough, since there is not always absolute agreement over how to articulate inerrancy. But he doesn’t concisely define inerrancy so much as scatter reflections on divine accommodation, social convention, the Spirit’s speaking, and communitarian understanding.

We read that Scripture is not divinized, but what this entails is that Scripture contains human speech acts that witness to truth in a situated and fragmentary way (268-69). We can affirm ultimate and transcendent truth in God’s personal revelation through Christ, but we need to maintain the interpretative character of human knowledge and activity (269), and as best as I can tell, for Franke Scripture falls more closely into that latter transitory category, otherwise we are not respecting the Creator-creature distinction. The Word of God is not fundamentally a book but an “act” or “event,” and Scripture is inspired in the sense that it witnesses to revelation (270).

The Spirit is not bound to Scripture but speaks through Scripture to the church in the present (271). Franke cautions against an anything-goes relativism (275), but it is difficult to discern what could arbitrate when and how the Spirit speaks through Word. Who is to say the Spirit is not speaking through the Mormon or Muslim community as they unpack Scripture… if we cannot ultimately appeal to the Scripture itself? Franke compares the unity-in-plurality of Scripture to the unity-in-plurality of God himself (276), but the godhead acts in complete and complementary harmony, not in discordant deformity. Franke sees the Jerusalem council as a paradigmatic way for the church to approach Scripture today—listening to the Spirit rather than slavishly following the text (280), open to theological change not because we misunderstood Scripture but because we have a different context.

Yet at the end of the day,
what Franke seems to leave us with
is a Bible that is so culturally conditioned and situational
that it is more like an ongoing church project
than it is a completely authoritative Word of God.

I wish Franke would have followed Enns’ line with a simple call to abandon inerrancy. His project is more than cosmetic – it feels more like the attempted illusion of a magician’s body double. Franke’s presentation of inerrancy is something entirely different, although the clothing bears some similarity. Of course he is welcome to bring forward his arguments, and an idea is not wrong simply because it is new or different. But to articulate his position under the veil of a conflicted and sympathetic inerrantist leaves a bad taste in the mouth. For all of Franke’s earnest talk of respecting the other, how is he respecting those with whom he disagrees and the way inerrancy has normally been understood by the believing community? The best I can say is that perhaps Franke doesn’t want to be brusque and he sincerely desires to engage more traditional inerrantists in a collegial way. But a more appropriate and respectful course of dialogue would be to say simply: “Evangelicals shouldn’t have opposed a neo-orthodox view of Scripture; rather they should embrace it and add the postmodern insights that would make it even better, and here’s why.” Yet at the end of the day, what Franke seems to leave us with is a Bible that is so culturally conditioned and situational that it is more like an ongoing church project than it is a completely authoritative Word of God.


If I were awarding a Dave Barry humor prize among these contributors, then Bird would win in a landslide. But the topic of the book touches on the nature of God’s Word – a sober theme indeed. And in all fairness I don’t think Bird is merely trying to entertain but rather to provoke and engage, and he shines in both of those aspects.

For Bird, the inerrancy conversation is too dominated by a peculiarly American flavor, epitomized in the CSBI. Inerrantists are wrapping generally helpful ideas in red, white, and blue stripes and then foisting the entire package on the Christian world.  Furthermore, the rest of the Christian world doesn’t seem so enamored with the term “inerrant,” preferring instead to speak of the Bible’s infallibility and authority.

So what is it about CSBI and the American inerrancy tradition (Bird coins AIT) that is so gratingly American for Bird? The simple initial answer is that Americans are the main people involved. Warfield and the Old Princetonians were Americans. Even though CSBI was touted as an international symposium, it was basically composed of Americans.

In response, I can understand why such a billing could come across as condescending, and unfortunately American culture does have a habit of thinking it has the best word and the last word. But to turn the question back on Bird, is something wrong simply because Americans articulate it? I’m sure Warfield could have benefitted from more interaction with African Christians, but is it not also possible that he foresaw attacks on Scripture from the academy that they would eventually have to face and provided a cogent defense that they could benefit from? The basic question is not first world or third world or majority world; rather, what is being said should count more than the nationality of the speaker.

Bird would follow up by objecting not to Americans per se but the way American ideologies are joined at the hip with the idea of “inerrancy.” I acknowledge and regret that this can happen, but in the context of Bird’s essay it is a red herring rather than an argument. The abuse of any doctrine isn’t a reason to abandon a proper application of it. Furthermore, Bird seems to exaggerate (albeit perhaps for comedic effect) the degree of American politics that comes with “inerrancy.” After all, are there really that many recognized American evangelical scholars and pastors who say supporting gun control denies inerrancy? One searches Warfield in vain for a declaration that he defends inerrancy in order to overthrow the mighty evil of government health care.

The closest Bird gets to forging a link between inerrancy and American interpretation is his assertion that CSBI demands a literal interpretation requiring young earth creationism and seven 24 hour days (147), but even here he makes some significant assumptions. First, surely he would acknowledge that the genre of Genesis 1-3 and the kinds of claims it makes are more significant considerations than whether or not Pakistani Christians should have American style worship. Second, he needs to demonstrate why and how such an understanding of Genesis is patently American – is he confident that most (all?) other Christians throughout the centuries and around the world would read the early chapters of Genesis and naturally assume an old earth or a framework interpretation of the days of creation? Third, and most germane to his criticism, CSBI simply denies that “scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood” – it doesn’t specify that teaching in terms of a specific age of the earth or a specific commitment to the seven days of Genesis.

[Bird] would suggest that ancient historians
were storytellers given to creativity

and filling in the gaps (168),
so Scripture is not really intending to affirm every detail
of what is ostensibly historical narrative.

In addition, Bird suggests that tying CSBI tightly to the stream of church history is revisionist history. He musters quotes from Chrysostom and Origen to the effect that the Bible is true in matters of faith and practice even though it perhaps has other minor discrepancies. These are not insignificant men, but this is a far cry from demonstrating significant divergent viewpoints on inerrancy throughout the history of Christian thought.

Bird acknowledges a normative tradition that sees the Bible as true and free from falsehood, but he suggests greater diversity in regards to how those claims were worked out (149-50). He cites Woodbridge’s critique of the Rogers and McKim proposal in a footnote, but it would have been nice to see him interact with Woodbridge more in this section. To claim, as most inerrantists would, that the term “inerrancy” wasn’t used in earlier times in part because the notion wasn’t controversial and Christians didn’t doubt the veracity of Scripture in all matters – whether “spiritual” or “historical” – seems like a reasonable hypothesis to me given many of the statements throughout church history. But rather than further interact with that possibility Bird is content to observe that confessions even as orthodox as the Westminster Confession of Faith simply affirm the “infallible truth and divine authority” of Scripture. I remain unconvinced that the Westminster divines meant simply to affirm total truthfulness in the spiritual realm or simply in matters of faith and practice. Bird is not necessarily suggesting this, but he seems to posit the idea that the affirmations of historic documents like the WCF in regards to Scripture’s authority and truthfulness are perhaps something (substantially?) less than the exactitude of CSBI. I would certainly like to sit Augustine and Thomas Goodwin and R.C. Sproul down in the same room and see if they would get into a spirited disagreement over the nature of inerrancy, but I very much doubt that would be the case.

To say it differently, Bird seems overly critical of CSBI and overly agnostic about church history. The most striking example is Bird’s appeal to the Lausanne covenant as a better worldwide representative than CSBI (155) – yet he himself later quotes the Lausanne covenant that the Bible is “without error in all that it affirms” (162). So I’m baffled how the absence of the exact word “inerrant” in Lausanne is so significant.

The closet Bird comes to distinguishing his own viewpoint is his critique of CSBI for their attention to reconciling alleged discrepancies (148-49). If he is simply saying don’t major on minors then it is a caution that could be helpful to those who may inadvertently lose sight of Christ amidst angst over minor historical and literary questions. But if he is saying that accounts in Scripture normally understood to be true history (among other things) do in fact contain real contradictions in terms of what they affirm, then his position would be different.

His brief discussion of the healing of a blind man seems to point in that latter direction (148; cf. 160). If Matthew under inspiration was affirming that Christ healed exactly two blind men while Luke and Mark under inspiration (describing the same event) were affirming that Christ healed only one man, then there seems to be a question over the nature of inerrancy from a CSBI perspective. While this is in one sense a minor detail, if Scripture teaches that it is true in everything it affirms then a significant teaching would be in question, not to mention the fact that further discussion would be needed to arbitrate what exactly constitutes a minor detail – for some of the contributors of this book the fall of Jericho, the whole conquest narrative, and perhaps even the exodus lie on the plane of minor detail.

However, Bird also states plainly that he has certainly not come to the table to preach “an erroneous Bible” (146), and the poem he ends with is an encouraging illustration of the power of God’s Word to withstand all the assaults of skeptics (173).

Perhaps a part of the question in regard to Bird’s view boils down to literary genre and expectation. He would suggest that ancient historians were storytellers given to creativity and filling in the gaps (168), so Scripture is not really intending to affirm every detail of what is ostensibly historical narrative (albeit with a theological purpose), nor would original readers come with those kinds of expectations. For my part, creativity in terms of arrangement of the details (e.g. loose rather than strict chronology) seems different than fabrication of the details. But literary questions push us ahead to Vanhoozer.



Towards the beginning of his essay Vanhoozer asks, “Is Jesus’ passion narrative true in the same way that proverbs, parables, and Pride and Prejudice are true, or is biblical truth always and everywhere a matter of historical fact?” (200). This question points his compass in the direction  of language and literature, their nature and uses. Vanhoozer says that Scripture is inerrant and that this means that “the authors speak the truth in all things they affirm (when they make affirmations), and will eventually be seen to have spoken truly (when right readers read rightly)” (207).

He brings out the analogy of a map, observing that different maps highlight different features, and that Bible books are like different kinds of maps (211). Proverbs doesn’t picture truth in the same way as Joshua or Revelation. When we recognize that something counts as an error only if it fails to make good on its own claims (210 fn33), we have to ask about the nature of the Bible’s claims in its various literary contexts, keeping in mind the parts as well as the whole.

For Vanhoozer, a key strategy in articulating inerrancy is to employ, wait for it, speech-act theory (let the well-versed Vanhoozer reader understand). The literal sense of any given Scripture is not necessarily the most literalistic understanding but rather the “illocutionary act an author is performing” (220). In other words, Scripture at times does more than simply convey information and assert states of affairs – we find commands and covenants, irony and rhetoric. To collapse our doctrine of Scripture into mere propositionalism turns the colored canvass of Scripture into a black and white print. Since the Bible is a unified book inspired by God himself, it is a theological book with theological aims. We cannot read “simply to discover ‘what actually happened’” (228), but a key word is “simply.” The conquest narratives are not myths or legends, and readers are within their rights to trust the testimony of Scripture to the events it describes (228).

Vanhoozer has a warmth, patience, and gentleness that comes through in his writing. In facing unbelieving skeptics, I appreciate his challenge towards an “inerrancy of the cross” that at times must in faith “endure” textual difficulties rather than railing historical tit for tat against those who oppose. He also has a strong command not simply of literary philosophy but of the story of Scripture itself – the way he unpacks God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites is theologically rich, gospel centered, historically sensitive, culturally informed, and exegetically astute (in my opinion easily the best of the five contributors’ answers when asked to compare the OT conquest with Jesus’ command to love our enemies).

I don’t mean to minimize
the more finely tuned questions of genre and symbolism
that Christians disagree over
and to which Vanhoozer could likely provide great help,
but at times I wonder
if those coming away from Vanhoozer might be tempted
to emphasize nuance at the expense of perspicuity.

My only hesitation with Vanhoozer is that what is a clear strength and interest of his (linguistics and language philosophy) could in some contexts lead to uncertainty rather than confidence. I realize this would be an unintended (perlocutionary) effect, but while the church as a whole could benefit from Augustine’s view and use of Scripture, not everyone needs to have Augustine’s magisterial learning in order to read Scripture rightly. Most Christians do understand that the Bible warns us and doesn’t simply inform us, whether or not they have read Searle. Most Christians recognize that the trees of the field “clapping their hands” is a poetic device that is not meant to be taken literally. I don’t mean to minimize the more finely tuned questions of genre and symbolism that Christians disagree over and to which Vanhoozer could likely provide great help, but at times I wonder if those coming away from Vanhoozer might be tempted to emphasize nuance at the expense of perspicuity.



If Vanhoozer is the sympathetic priest than Mohler is the forthright prophet. Against those who suggest that inerrancy is passé, clunky, or simply overemphasized, Mohler writes that “inerrancy has never been more essential to evangelicalism as a movement and as a living theological and spiritual tradition” (30). What’s more, he declares, “I do not believe that evangelicalism can survive without the explicit and complete assertion of biblical inerrancy” (31). Although there are complicated issues, at the end of the day one affirms the total truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture, or one affirms something less than that (31).

Mohler offers his argument in three simple parts – Scripture’s own testimony, church history, and the Bible’s function in the church. One of Mohler’s deepest concerns is that our view of Scripture reflects on the very character of God and his trustworthiness – this is what makes an attack on any detail of Scripture so serious.

At times Mohler is repetitive, but then again so is the biblical mantra, “Thus saith the Lord.” I do wish Mohler would have spent more time walking through the biblical text in a greater level of exegetical detail. Granted he is not writing a companion volume to Warfield, but perhaps he could have spent more than three pages discussing the Bible’s testimony to itself (37-39) and less space on CSBI and the three problem cases.

Having said that, Mohler doesn’t misuse verses, and after succinctly summarizing some of the explicit claims and implicit assumptions of Scripture, he draws the reasonable conclusion which can be summarized:

1) The Bible speaking is God speaking (inspiration)

2) God is perfectly truthful and incapable of lying (as Scripture affirms)

3) Therefore, the Scriptures’ “perfect inspiration implies and requires that they are without error” (39).

Mohler doesn’t especially tackle the question of what constitutes an error, but when Jesus said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures” (Matthew 22:29), he also seemed to operate on the basic assumption that his listeners knew what an error was.

I realize some inerrantists at times misuse the doctrine,
but I have no evidence
that power grabbing and ravenous motivations
are the main issue.


Concluding Thoughts

First, while I enjoyed reading this book, I grew weary of all the political accusations and rhetorical overtones. Over and over the reader has to endure the way inerrancy is “wielded,” how it becomes a tool for “political power,” and how it leads to “theological colonialism,” to give just a few examples. (In fact, we even read that “more often than not” inerrancy has been deployed for political rather than theological reasons [124].) I realize some inerrantists at times misuse the doctrine, but I have no evidence that power grabbing and ravenous motivations are the main issue. Rather there is more fundamentally a basic disagreement over the nature of inerrancy and its importance. The fact that many Christians believe that inerrancy is extremely important and should in some sense mark out a level of Christian partnership in certain spheres doesn’t mean that those Christians are fire-breathing modernists on a crusade to be presidents of the evangelical empire – maybe they just think inerrancy is really important. Disagree with them if you want, but do so in a way that tolerates their right to be unwavering without suggesting they are prostitutes of abuse and power.

When we step into the world of the Bible we find a high view of Scripture everywhere commended, and we don’t find Jesus warning the Jews about foisting their view of Scripture on the Romans with a kind of cold-blooded colonialism. To be sure, if someone believes that inerrancy is simply a reading of biblical reverence through the lens of cultural or philosophical assumptions alien to Scripture then they should speak that concern, but they should engage the position rather than a caricature. It is possible that those who accuse inerrantists of drinking at the fountain of Descartes are themselves imbibing a bit too much Foucalt.

When we step into the world of the Bible
we find a high view of Scripture everywhere commended,
and we don’t find Jesus warning the Jews
about foisting their view of Scripture on the Romans
with a kind of cold-blooded colonialism.

Second, some legitimate questions were raised as to the precise ways in which inerrancy is defined, defended, and used. If inerrancy is important, than it can be helpful to refine, address, and clarify, and not simply to assume a general consensus of the concept. For example, Bird asks how a focus on the autographs relates to possible further editing before a collected canon (151-152). Is the inerrant Scripture the autographic text or the canonical text, or are these texts one and the same? (Granted this question doesn’t strike at the heart of inerrancy – in an article on the OT text Peter Gentry, who teaches at Southern Seminary, suggested that describing inspired Scripture as the canonical text is preferable to CSBI’s “autographic text,” and Mohler hasn’t asked him to leave his evangelical credentials at the door.)

A further question is why NT authors appear to quote the OT so freely and loosely if they are intent on preserving verbal precision (152). Bird also points out that despite Augustine’s high view of Scripture, what he did with inerrancy may disturb modern inerrantists. Bird goes on to say that modern inerrantists haven’t given “sufficient attention to the philosophical, theological, and hermeneutical paradigms that have often accompanied inerrancy-like affirmations in church history,” and whether such paradigms are “extrinsic or intrinsic to a doctrine of inerrancy” (154).

I would rephrase the question because the extrinsic/intrinsic language lends to the kind of false dichotomy implied at various places in the book (e.g. Scripture isn’t a methodical, journalistic, historical, and scientific piece of research by 21st century standards, so it need not lay any claim to historical or scientific truthfulness). Perhaps something like this: to what extent has the doctrine of inerrancy been shaped by forces outside of Scripture’s own teaching or necessary implications and applications? Perhaps some contributors would answer: in no appreciable ways at all. Perhaps others would answer: so significantly that faithfulness demands abandonment or total redefinition. But regardless of one’s answer it is a legitimate question to ask, provided the focus does not subtly shift away from the Bible’s teaching and onto other cultural and philosophical paradigms.

Another question involves the relationship of extra-biblical evidence to our understanding of Scripture. We don’t want to give shifting scientific consensus the level of canonicity, but we should be willing to question certain specific assumptions and interpretations (e.g. arguing against Copernicus because the Bible says God has established the earth and it won’t be moved). Could we suggest that while we shouldn’t let historians or scientists calibrate Scripture, the information they provide can serve as a check to our own interpretations?

Closely related to this question is the question of right reading, genre, and intention. Vanhoozer quotes Timothy Ward to the effect that inerrancy in and of itself doesn’t elucidate a list of principles that tell us how we know whether to treat a given section of Scripture as metaphorical or literal. For some, to believe in inerrancy entails a commitment to a literal understanding of the 1,000 years of Revelation 20. For others, the historicity of Jonah has no relevance to the question of inerrancy. Many understand that these two issues vary in significance, but it’s not always easy to explain (with precision!) how or why.

It is possible that those who accuse inerrantists
of drinking at the fountain of Descartes
are themselves imbibing a bit too much Foucalt.

Third, I wonder about the relative importance of the term “evangelicalism” in this conversation. Over and over the contributors speak of inerrancy in respect to its relationship with evangelicalism and vice versa. I realize the book was in many ways set up along these poles, so I can forgive the contributors for their exacting attention to this movement and prescription for it. However, at many points I simply wished for more interaction with Scripture (or at least with specific individuals) and less interaction with an amorphous “evangelicalism.”

Mohler says evangelicalism must maintain inerrancy and Enns says it must not, Vanhoozer says evangelicalism should maintain inerrancy and Franke (essentially) says it shouldn’t maintain it in any recognizable form, and Bird says evangelicalism would be better off using other terms to describe inerrancy. I appreciate the desire to transcend denominational differences and to mark out Bible affirming Christians in the context of theological conversation. But even aside from significant disagreement over the sine qua non of evangelicalism, I fear that at times such a generic “evangelical” emphasis shifts attention away from more fundamental and God ordained units of accountability and fellowship. I care very much what pastors teach their people about the nature of God’s Word. I desire very much for congregations to hold their ministers accountable to a high view of Scripture. I applaud denominations who take a stand against a rising tide of doubt concerning the origin and authority of Scriptures. I think seminaries should draw doctrinal boundaries to which their faculty must ascribe. But there are concentric circles of importance and fellowship, and trying to circumscribe the circuitous flights of all self-professed “evangelicals” feels like giving five air traffic controllers flashlights and sending them out into the middle of an airstrip at O’Hare while saying, “Do what you can.”

I affirm the judgment which says: it is important for Christians to know what they believe about the Bible, why they believe it, and how that belief plays out in their lives. I also acknowledge that all of these contributors have likely had incredibly agonizing conversations with (former?) friends over some aspect or trajectory of the evangelical project, and their personal investment in the moniker “evangelicalism” is much stronger than mine. Yet while I don’t long for evangelicalism’s demise (speaking again of the group label and not the doctrine behind it), if evangelicalism ever becomes a new Babel then I don’t fear its dismantling because Christ will still build his church.

So land your church on the authority of God’s Word. Land your denomination. Land your school. That is work enough for most. If God gives you time, and opportunity, and influence, then exhort other churches, and pastors, and denominations, and schools, and agencies, but consider doing it as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ under the authority of your church, not mainly as an ambassador of evangelicalism, whatever that may be.

Fourth, finally, and most importantly, God’s Word is true and trustworthy. While I have expressed significant reservations about some of the contributions to this book, the book also contains ample testimony to the authority, majesty, and integrity of God’s Word. To use a common analogy, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy contains some bones, but it also contains some delicious fish. As Christians continue to reflect on the nature of Scripture and the mysterious process of inspiration behind it, we can hardly do better than to confess with the Psalmist: “This God – his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him (Psalm 18:30).”

Dr. Micah McCormick is Assistant Pastor at New Hyde Park Baptist Church, New Hyde Park, NY.


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Five Views On Biblical Inerrancy

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