Recent Interpretations of Biblical Authority Part 2: The Rogers and McKim Proposal in the Balance -- By: John D. Woodbridge

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 142:566 (Apr 1985)
Article: Recent Interpretations of Biblical Authority Part 2: The Rogers and McKim Proposal in the Balance
Author: John D. Woodbridge

Recent Interpretations of Biblical Authority
Part 2:
The Rogers and McKim Proposal in the Balance

John D. Woodbridge

[John D. Woodbridge, Professor of Church History, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois]

[Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of four articles delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, November 6–9, 1984.]

Within recent years evangelical historians have devoted considerable energies to the task of determining the beliefs of earlier Christians regarding the authority of Holy Scripture. An assumption underlies this quest: The views that Christians advocated in the past, though not binding, may afford insights into the perspectives evangelicals should espouse. The Bible’s self-attestive teaching about its authority is decisive; but if a doctrinal position is out of line with what the Reformers proposed, for example, then there are at least some grounds for wondering if the position is sound. In his courses at Princeton Theological Seminary, Charles Hodge noted that evangelicals should be interested in the teachings of earlier Christians about Holy Scripture without making those teachings determinative.1

A neoorthodox historiography regarding biblical authority has left a decisive imprint on the thinking of several historians who see themselves as evangelicals. These historians do not usually accept the neoorthodox historiography in its entirety. They generally argue that the central church tradition includes the motifs that the Bible is in fact the Word of God written but it is infallible only for matters of faith and practice. This stance distances its proponents from neoorthodox writers who argue that the Reformers in particular believed that the Bible witnesses to the Word of God without being the Word of God per se. It distances its proponents from those evangelicals who affirm that the central church tradition

teaches that the Bible is infallible for all matters touched on in Scripture whether of history, science, geography, or salvation.

A widely discussed book which attempts to carve out a middle ground between a neoorthodox interpretation of Scripture and what is defined as an orthodox evangelical position is The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach, written by Jack Rogers and Donald McKim.2 It finds much of its own contextual background in debates regarding the confessions of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., and in a reaction against the views of Scripture proposed by Harold Lindsell and t...

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