Biblical Inerrancy: The Last Twenty-Five Years -- By: Millard J. Erickson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:4 (Dec 1982)
Article: Biblical Inerrancy: The Last Twenty-Five Years
Author: Millard J. Erickson


Biblical Inerrancy:
The Last Twenty-Five Years

Millard J. Erickson*

The Evangelical Theological Society was founded with just a single item as its doctrinal statement: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.” It was not felt necessary to spell out further any additional doctrines, since they follow from this basic principle of authority.

The Society did not intend that this would be the only or even the sole doctrine discussed within its circles. Nevertheless the doctrine of Scripture, and specifically the inerrancy of Scripture, has come in for more attention than any other single area of theology during the twenty-five years of existence of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and its predecessor, the Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society. An examination of the contents of JETS and BETS reveals that inerrancy and related topics have received a great deal of attention. This is appropriate, for the authority of Scripture has been under considerable debate during this period of time. Inerrancy serves as an “index” doctrine, much as did the virgin birth when the deity of Christ was at the forefront of theological discussion. In the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early portion of the twentieth century, some theologians subscribed to the “divinity of Christ” but meant by that only that he was divine in a sense different from other humans in degree and not in kind. Someone who could subscribe to belief in the virgin birth, however, obviously held to a qualitatively unique deity of Christ. Similarly most Christian theologians today would in some sense declare that they believe in the authority of the Bible, but some mean that its authority is of the same type as writings by great sages within society. The inerrancy of the Bible carries with it the ideas of the unique and thorough inspiration and authority of the sacred Book.

The quarter-century of discussion has not been mere repetition and rehashing of the same matters, however. It is my contention that there has been genuine advance in the understanding of the doctrine during this period. In this article I shall attempt to survey that progress in several areas.

I. History

There has been progress in the understanding of inerrancy from an historical perspective. By this I do not mean history as it relates to the issue of the historical dependability of the Biblical text. Rather, I am referring to the study of the history of Christianity as that affects our understanding of the doctrine of inerrancy. This has shown itself in two ways.

*Millard Erickson is professor of systematic theology at Bethel Theo...

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