Biblical Authority: Towards An Evaluation Of The Rogers And McKim Proposal -- By: John D. Woodbridge

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 01:2 (Fall 1980)
Article: Biblical Authority: Towards An Evaluation Of The Rogers And McKim Proposal
Author: John D. Woodbridge

Biblical Authority:
Towards An Evaluation Of The
Rogers And McKim Proposal

John D. Woodbridge


Today a number of evangelical scholars are expending considerable energies on a renewed historical quest. They are seeking to ascertain the ancient attitudes of Christians towards biblical authority.1 Their enterprise often has an apologetic and very personal impulsion. Some want to demonstrate a concordance between their own beliefs and “the historical position of the church.”

Most of the evangelicals involved in this quest acknowledge formally the principle of sola Scriptura. They agree that the Bible’s self-attestation about its own authority should play the determinative role in formulating their beliefs. Nonetheless, they also understand that even if Protestants have not historically given authoritative weight to “tradition,” as have Roman Catholics, and Anglicans in a special way, Protestants have frequently attempted to bolster the case for their own position by appealing to the witness of Christians of past centuries. From the patristic Fathers in the early church, to Luther and other reformers in the sixteenth century, to French Reformed pastors in the seventeenth, Christian theologians have tended to associate doctrinal innovation with heresy.2 They have struggled with the problem of determining whether or not a development in doctrine is a healthy clarification of the biblical data or a dangerous departure from evangelical orthodoxy.3 If a doctrine has a long history of acceptance by their church, or by “the Church,” Protestants along with Roman Catholics generally give it serious consideration.4

In a similar vein some evangelicals today believe that their own views on biblical authority will gain more credence in the evangelical community if they can demonstrate that these views have deep and sturdy roots in the rich soil of church history. Therein lies the motivation for their quest.

In the present study, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), Jack Rogers of Fuller Theological Seminary and Donald McKim, a United Presbyterian minister, challenge several well-entrenched beliefs among American evangelicals. Evangelicals have commonly assumed that the biblical writers, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, wrote infallibly. Their contention is usually based on the internal claims of the writers that what they had written came from God. It is also founded on an a priori premise: God ...

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