Philosophical Perspectives On Inerrancy -- By: C. Fred Smith

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 07:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: Philosophical Perspectives On Inerrancy
Author: C. Fred Smith

Philosophical Perspectives On Inerrancy

C. Fred Smith

Dr. Smith is Associate Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary Lynchburg, Virginia


Behind every broad movement within Christianity lies an understanding of what the Bible is and how it functions in the community of faith. Scripture is determinative for where one stands on a host of doctrinal and theological questions. This especially is true for evangelicals who have defended the Trinity, the virgin birth of Christ, the Resurrection and the bodily return of Christ on the basis that they are revealed in the Bible. The commitment to Scripture as God’s revelation has kept evangelicals on solid ground for these and a host of other doctrines. Indeed, as Francis Schaeffer said, “Evangelicalism is not consistently evangelical unless there is a line drawn between those who take a full view of Scripture and those who do not.”1 Maintaining a commitment to inerrancy must be a priority if evangelicalism is to continue to uphold truth.

In the nineteenth century, the nature of Scripture was examined extensively by John Bascom2 and William Sanday.3 After this, little attention was given to Scripture by philosophers of religion until the 1930s, when their focus turned to the examination of language itself. A survey of the literature in the field over the past two or three generations makes this clear. Emil Brunner in his book The Philosophy of Religion from the Standpoint of Protestant Orthodoxy4 gave revelation a central place, but rejected the idea of seeing revelation in terms a divine book, something fixed, timeless, and enscripturated. For Brunner, revelation had to do with an existential encounter between the believer and God. Edgar Brightman,

writing in 1940, briefly treated revelation as a way of knowing God, but did not seriously consider the possibility that God had revealed himself in Scripture.5 In 1954 Daniel Jay Bronstein and Harold M. Schulweis did not discuss Scripture in their Approaches to Philosophy of Religion: A Book of Readings6 at all. John Wilson in his Language and Christian Belief7 discussed religious language but not the Bible. Geddes MacGregor treated the way one makes assertions about religious subjects in his Introduction to R...

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