Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 145:578 (Apr 1988)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

The Unfettered Word: Southern Baptists Confront the Authority-Inerrancy Question. Edited by Robinson B. James. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987. 190 pp. Paper, $8.95.

Persons knowledgeable of Southern Baptist life are well aware of the intense theological (and some would say political) struggle that has been underway in that denomination for at least a decade. The major issue has been the Bible: Is it or is it not the inerrant Word of God? The so-called fundamentalists have insisted that it is and they feel comfortable with the term “inerrant.” The so-called moderates, on the other hand, while claiming a commitment to biblical authority, resist the adjective “inerrant” and prefer to use some other term such as “authoritative” or “trustworthy.”

The book under review comes in response to the trend across the denomination toward an inerrancy position. More specifically, it seems to be a reaction to the book by conservatives L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles, Baptists and the Bible; the powerful chronicle of the inerrantist movement by James Hefley, The Truth in Crisis (strangely and unfortunately not even listed in James’ bibliography); and the Southern Baptist Conference on Biblical Inerrancy held at Ridgecrest, North Carolina in May 1987. Clearly it is a call by the moderates to resist fundamentalist inroads and to derail their efforts to impose what the moderates perceive to be the straitjacket of inerrancy on Southern Baptist intellectual and theological thought.

The foreword and afterword of the book are by Mark Noll and Clark Pinnock respectively. It is distressing that these two evangelicals give their support to the major thrust of the collection—that the Bible is not inerrant—though Noll appears to be equivocal in his brief statement

(pp. 5-7). Those who have followed Pinnock’s pilgrimage since his Set Forth Your Case of 1967 will not be surprised to read now that “over-belief in regard to the Bible has been a problem for centuries” (p. 186) and that “we must continue the work of educating people, as this book does so well, in a more intelligent and mature understanding of what the Bible really is” (p. 186).

It is impossible here to review each of the 12 essays in this book. What is clear is that most of them (the one by Tom J. Nettles being an obvious exception) present a point of view that is ordinarily understood as inconsonant with evangelical faith. James himself speaks of “strict inerrancy” as a fetter on the Word that is direct and oppressive (p. 23). R. Alan Culpepper remarks that Jesus said nothing about inerrancy and placed His own authority above that of Scripture (p. 29). Culp...

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