The authority, inerrancy and sufficiency of the Scriptures has been and remains the view of Evangelicals, which is consistent with how the church has understood the Word of God as well.
In the late 1970s a number of Evangelicals were concerned about shifts and changes occurring within Evangelicalism and without regarding the doctrine of the Scriptures. As a response to these moves and in order to articulate a contemporary defense of the church’s view of the Scriptures, these Evangelicals founded the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.
When founded, they had a clear goal/purpose and a life-span. They were going to address the issues of inerrancy, hermeneutics and application, and they would do so within ten years after their founding. In the introduction to the final Summit’s document, the following was included as an outline of the goals and history.
The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy [ICBI] was founded in 1977, with a planned life-span of ten years. Its goal, under God, was to seek by means of scholarly writing and teaching to restore the ebbing confidence of Christian people in the total trustworthiness of the Scriptures. Because this loss of confidence leads both to loss of clarity in stating the absolutes of authentic Christianity and to loss of muscle in maintaining them, the task was felt to be urgent. The years of special effort to turn the tide of uncertainty about the Bible did not seem to be too much to pledge, nor to ask the Christian public to support. In its tenth year, the Council sees what has been accomplished as cause for profound thanksgiving to God, from every point of view.
The three scholars’ Summits that the Council has mounted were conceived as a logically connected series, each having a unitive as well as a consultative purpose. The 1978 Summit achieved a major restatement for our time of the historic Christian view of Holy Scripture as canonical revelation from God given in the form of composite human testimony in God’s will, works and ways. The 1982 Summit reached a wide-ranging consensus on hermeneutical guidelines and controls for biblical interpretation. The 1986 Summit seeks to show seeks to show the relevance of a rightly interpreted Bible to some key areas of confusion and dispute in North America culture today. The need for the second and third Summits was always clear, for professing belief in an inerrant Bible does us little good till we know how to interpret it, and interpretation involves applying biblical truth to the realities of contemporary life.
Here are the documents from the three Summits.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (October 26-28, 1978)
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (November 10-13, 1982)
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Application (December 10-13, 1986)
There is also a document that contains the three Statements, along with a preface and explanations of each of the Statements.
I include an excerpt, the overview in the form of “A Short Statement,” from the first Summit, The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
- God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God’s witness to Himself.
- Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.
- The Holy Spirit, Scripture’s divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
- Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.
- The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
Many know of the Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, but have not read it. However, the numbers of those who are even aware of this document are decreasing. Most are unaware that there are two other Statements there were written as part of ICBI, Biblical Hermeneutics and Biblical Application. Although they can be read with profit individually, there is also a unity and wholeness to reading all three of them. It is really a statement on biblical inerrancy in three parts.
I would encourage you to read these documents and then have your leaders read them. Plan an evening of study and discussion about this important doctrine of the Scriptures.
In relation to ICBI’s time of writing and defense of the Scriptures, it is not the final work or word on inerrancy, hermeneutics or application. It is, however, a timely and needed word. It is also important as a foundation as we ponder a response to and defense of the doctrine of the Scriptures today. ICBI was a response to the height of modernist thinking. It was necessary and sufficient. However, we now live in a postmodern day in which new questions are being asked and new (and some not so new!) issues are being raised against the inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. Building on the excellent work of ICBI, we need a present-day response in this new day.
We need not fear this study. God’s Word is true and has withstood all the assaults against it. It will do so again. God has promised his word will not pass away (Matt. 24:35). And all the hammers that have attempted to dismantle and crumble it have instead been destroyed in its attempts (Jer. 23:29).
This is one of the important reasons why we are addressing the theme of The Doctrine of the Scriptures at our upcoming Theology Conference.