Are you struggling to get a good perspective with some of the controversial issues in the Church today? Before we can ask the question like, “What about gay marriage?” or “Should the church ordain women?” or, “what is an acceptable form of worship?” or “should infants be baptized” a more pressing and foundational question must be answered: “Is the Bible trustworthy?” (see the prequel to this post – link).
This question of trustworthiness (labeled by theologians Inerrancy), because of its foundational nature, is the real issue behind most of the debates in the Church from the Reformation to the present day, and seems to have been and still be the particular issue of conflict throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Saying that inerrancy (or the trustworthiness of the Bible) was the real issue upon which the church would rise or fall through the 20th century, is not to argue that other vital doctrines were not in strenuously debated and critical. But as Spurgeon’s magazine argued 150 years ago, “where ministers and Christian churches have held fast to the truth that the Holy Scriptures have been given by God as an authoritative and infallible rule of faith and practice, they have never wandered very seriously out of the right way”. Continue reading
Charles Spurgeon was right when he said: “it behoves all who love the Lord Jesus and his gospel to keep close together, and make common cause against deadly error”. Many are familiar with the famous motto of Rupertus Meldenius now adopted by many denominations, including the Evangelical Free Church of Canada: “In Essentials Unity; In Non-Essentials Charity; In All Things Jesus Christ”. There are many debates in the Church, which have to do with people’s interpretations of particular doctrines. There will always be diversity on some issues, and sometimes believers must agree to disagree on the non-essentials. But there is a foundation upon which they must agree, if they will be able to agree to disagree! Because of its foundational nature, inerrancy is the real issue upon which the unity and vitality of the Church will live or die, and so one’s view of the “trustworthiness of Scripture” became the watershed doctrine of the historic evangelicalism from the Reformation to the present.
What does Inerrancy mean? Feinberg defines the doctrine in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Continue reading
It may be that the church, since the reformation, has risen and fallen directly in proportion to our embrace or rejection of the doctrine of inerrancy. Charles Spurgeon has written of the crises in his day:
The Atonement is scouted, the inspiration of Scripture is derided, the Holy Spirit is degraded into an influence, the punishment of sin is turned into fiction, and the resurrection into a myth, and yet these enemies of our faith expect us to call them brethren, and maintain a confederacy with them! (Another Word about the Downgrade).
When I began talking about whether the evangelical doctrine of Inerrancy was in error (link), I quickly came to see that I was not the only person talking about this issue, right now. Answers in Genesis has recently tacked this very question (link). I also received the following excellent link giving testimonies to and definitions of inerrancy (link).
John Gerstner has written: “Bible Inerrancy (or the doctrine that “what the Bible says God says”) has been under relentless attack since the Bible was written, but never more so than today” (link).
I have become even more convinced of the centrality of this doctrine as I studied evangelicalism from the 1870’s through the present and I hope in the next few blogs I post to help my fellow evangelicals to become reacquainted with the importance and the current urgency of our grappling with this issue. Is it really worth fighting over inerrancy? Read a “sneak-peak” of thursday’s post below.
Was God’s public display of Jesus Christ, “as a propitiation” for sinners (Romans 3:25), the very foundation of Christian proclamation, or divine child abuse? Did Paul teach the imputation of Christ’s righteousness justifies the ungodly (Romans 1:17), or is it time for a new perspective on Paul? Is the gospel of God the power of God for salvation; to all who believe (Romans 1:16), or is are good deeds, a more effective draw than old creeds? Today the Church is wrestling with a whole host of challenges, and once again the foundations of authority are being questioned.
The vital question of authority has traditionally been framed by the question, “Is the Bible our inerrant authority for all matters upon which it addresses?” Some today make plain that it is not, whether they come at it from the perspective of skepticism in the emergent movement, by some sociological driven segments of the missional movement or the pragmatism that continues to be an authority for those in the seeker movement. Continue reading