Apeitheo: Current Resistance To Biblical Inerrancy -- By: J. Barton Payne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 10:1 (Winter 1967)
Article: Apeitheo: Current Resistance To Biblical Inerrancy
Author: J. Barton Payne

Apeitheo: Current Resistance To Biblical Inerrancy*

J. Barton Payne, Th.D.

[*The Presidential address delivered at the annual meeting of The Evangelical Theological Society on December 27, 1966 at the King’s College, Briarcliff Manor, New York.]

“The whole Bible?” If such an inquiry into their beliefs were to be directed to today’s theologians, the response of the large majority would be, “Apeitho: I am not persuaded, I disbelieve.” Doubts about Scripture’s veracity, moreover, are no longer limited to convinced doctrinal skeptics, whether of an unreconstructed sort of liberalism or of a more repentant kind of neo-orthodoxy: they are being currently voiced among theologians generally classified as evangelical, among men who would look to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Furthermore, their resistance to the authority of the entire written Word, which the E.T.S. designates as Biblical inerrancy, is producing an effect in conservative institutions, conferences, and denominations, especially among our more advanced students and younger scholars. But why should those who have been reared in Bible-believing environments now experience attraction to the posture of apeitheo? It is not too much to conclude that the very future of the E.T.S. and of the Biblical position which it represents lies at stake, as we ask how, and why, some of our former colleagues have turned against us and what the Christian’s approach to Scripture really ought to be.

I. The Nature of the Present Declension. Most modern skeptics prefer to cloak their opposition to the Bible beneath words of recognition, or even praise, for its authority. Except for communists and a few atheistic cranks, it is no longer the thing to ridicule Scriptural inspiration. Among the more liberal this may be traced to a war-induced disenchantment with man’s native capabilities and to an existentialistic yearning for a transcendent point of reference. Among the more conservative, whether they be Roman Catholic or ex-fundamental Protestant, vested interests seem to require their continued use of the term “inerrancy,” either to uphold the dogmas of previous popes or to pacify an evangelical constituency that might reduce financial support should the term be discarded. As one of the latter group told me, his institution doesn’t really accept inerrancy, but they keep using the term because otherwise supporters would think they were becoming liberal (!).

But despite this haze in the current theological atmosphere, certain criteria serve as genuine indications of where people stand. (1) Those who resist inerrancy tend to express themselves on the mode of inspiration rather than on its extent. They may protest, for example, that the Bible is God’s word as well as man’s, or t...

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