An Irenicon -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 052:205 (Jan 1895)
Article: An Irenicon
Author: G. Frederick Wright


An Irenicon

Prof. G. Frederick Wright

In current discussions concerning the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture it is evident that many of the disputants are proceeding at cross-purposes. Not only do they see different sides of the same shield; but much of the language employed by them is understood by each in a sense different from that intended by the other. We are confident that more careful attention to the meaning of the terms employed on both sides will largely remove the main grounds of dispute between the mass of those who really revere the sacred word.

On the one hand, many who object to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture do not fully take into account the qualifications introduced, and the explanation of terms given, by its advocates, nor do they make due allowance for the limitations to the doctrine afforded by the processes of interpretation which all employ to some extent and admit to be lawful.

On the other hand, the advocates of inerrancy do not all of them see how nearly their liberal principles of interpretation bring their statement of the doctrine down to the level of that of the moderate members of the opposing party. Neither do all of the so-called liberal party seem to be aware

that, in magnifying the discrepancies of Scripture, as they do, they fall into the same error of extreme literalism which they charge upon the so-called conservatives. To put it concisely: The conservatives are inclined to be too literal in their interpretation of the texts which teach inerrancy, and liberal in their interpretation of the passages containing apparent errors and discrepancies; while the liberals tend towards too great rigidity in their interpretation of the apparent discrepancies, and too great freedom in their treatment of the claims of the Bible to inspiration and infallibility.

For example: Dr. Charles Hodge’s full statement of the doctrine of plenary inspiration is by no means so rigid as many seem to suppose it to be. Thus, in his most formal statement of the doctrine he says: “They [the sacred writers] were not imbued with plenary knowledge. As to all matters of science, philosophy, and history, they stood on the same level with their contemporaries. They were infallible only as teachers, and when acting as spokesmen of God. Their inspiration no more made them astronomers than it made them agriculturists. Isaiah was infallible in his predictions, although he shared with his countrymen the views then prevalent as to the mechanism of the universe.”1 (The italics here, and later, are ours to call attention to significant qualifying clauses.) Again, in his treatment of alleg...

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