A Historian Looks At Inerrancy -- By: Harold Lindsell

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 08:1 (Winter 1965)
Article: A Historian Looks At Inerrancy
Author: Harold Lindsell

A Historian Looks At Inerrancy

Harold Lindsell

During the summer of 1964, CHRISTIANITY TODAY polled the membership of the Evangelical Theological Society. Its members were asked to designate the major areas of conflict in the theological arena. Two thirds of those who responded to the poll (2/3 of 112 respondees) said that biblical authority is the main theological theme now under review in conservative circles in America. The replies left this writer with the definite impression that the overall theological viewpoint of any man will ultimately be a reflection of his answer to the question, “What is the nature of inspiration and authority?”

Now I am not a theologian in the formal sense of that term. However, this does not disqualify me from speaking on the subject of biblical authority for I shall deal with it in a perspective consonant with my formal training. Just as a judge must be familiar with the law and make decisions about matters outside the realm of his intimate knowledge, so the historian can come to the conclusions about men and movements that operate within complex disciplines outside his own competence but which can be subjected to historical scrutiny competently. I speak, therefore, as a historian, and as a member of that craft I wish to take a hard look at the inerrancy of the Bible, a subject that is intrinsic to the question of biblical authority.

One of the historian’s first conclusions is that in every period in the history of man some central issue has dominated that age. This is true both for profane and sacred history. We are concerned here with sacred history, and to that area I will limit myself.

Any serious study of the Old and New Testaments will show that the writers devoted little space to the careful formulation of a doctrine of revelation, inspiration, and inerrancy. Nowhere in Scripture is there any reasoned argument along this line such as will be found for justification by faith alone in Romans and for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead in 1 Corinthians. This may appear strange at first until we recognize that this is true for many of the key doctrines of the Christian faith. There is no great apologetic for the existence of God or for the Trinity. Everywhere these truths are enunciated and taken for granted, however. Yet they are not the subject of formal treatment in the same sense that justification by faith and the resurrection from the dead are dealt with.

Search the Gospels and you will find little that deals directly with this question of the Scriptures. Jesus Christ constantly refers to the Old Testament Scriptures, but nowhere does he speak with the view to defend them. Rather he takes it for granted that the Scriptures are inspired, authoritative,

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