Recent Interpretations of Biblical Authority Part 4: Is Biblical Inerrancy a Fundamentalist Doctrine? -- By: John D. Woodbridge
BSac 142:568 (Oct 85) p. 292
Recent Interpretations of Biblical Authority
Is Biblical Inerrancy a Fundamentalist Doctrine?
[John D. Woodbridge, Professor of Church History, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois]
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth 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.
Who are American evangelicals? The question of evangelical self-identity is once again sparking debate among students of contemporary religion.
In the mid-1970s analysts attempted to answer that question with care. Jimmy Carter’s candidacy for the presidency of the United States had forced the issue on rather perplexed academicians and media people. Mr. Carter confessed that he was a “born again” evangelical Christian. Many newspersons began to take crash courses in conservative Christianity. What was Carter talking about? These newspersons simply did not know what to make of the term “born again,” let alone the designation “evangelical.” Carter was elected president. Time magazine, America’s secular “Bible,” dubbed 1976 the year of the evangelical. And pollsters informed the nation that from 30 to 50 million Americans claimed to be evangelicals. This was startling news for those who had imagined that conservative Christians had vanished in the mists of the Tennessee mountains after the Scopes Trial in 1925. A spate of books appeared in the 1970s explaining to a somewhat baffled public who evangelicals are.1
Today another round of books and articles is appearing which describe who evangelicals are. But there is a new twist to the arguments of several of these books. A number of authors want to exclude a commitment to biblical inerrancy as a major defining characteristic of an evangelical’s beliefs. This is a different perspective than many scholars maintained in the 1970s. In 1975, for
BSac 142:568 (Oct 85) p. 293
example, Martin Marty wrote that “both evangelicals and fundamentalists insist on the ‘inerrancy of Scripture’ as being the most basic of all their fundamentals.”2 No friendly partisan of biblical inerrancy, Marty nonetheless understood quite well that evangelicals generally emphasized the importance of this basic doctrine.
In several new books and essays, however, biblical inerrancy is enumerated solely as one of the defining characteristics of Fundamentalism and not as an authentic belief of evangelicalism. In After Fundamentalism: The Future of Evangelical Theology (1983), Ramm beckon...
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