Tag Archives: Inerrancy

In the Words of the Deniers: Inerrancy is the Historic View

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy

There is a series published by Zondervan entitled Counterpoints.  Several perspectives are presented on different theological issues.  From that series, I’ve been reading Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy.  Albert Mohler has the first essay in this volume.  Most of his contribution is quite run-of-the-mill — nothing surprising to those who’ve followed this topic.  He discusses the history of discussions about inerrancy.  He notes the Rogers & McKim thesis that inerrancy is something relatively new in Christian theology.  But then he pulls out something that was for me a new revelation.

Identical twin brothers Anthony and Richard Hanson are both ordained Anglican ministers.  In 1989, they co-authored a book entitled The Bible without Illusions.  In this book, the brothers Hanson reject not only inerrancy, but even the divine inspiration of the Scriptures.  Yet, they have a remarkable honesty about the history of the discussion.  Mohler quotes these words directly:

Again, as we have seen, the writers of the New Testament certainly believed in the inerrancy of the Old Testament, which constituted for them the scriptures.  The Christian Fathers and the medieval tradition continued this belief, and the Reformation did nothing to weaken it.  On the contrary, since for many reformed theologians the authority of the Bible took the place which the Pope had held in the medieval scheme of things, the inerrancy of the Bible came to be more firmly maintained and explicitly defined among some reformed theologians than it had ever been before.  Only since the very end of the seventeenth century, with the rise of biblical criticism, has this belief in the inerrancy of Scripture been widely challenged among Christians.  (Hanson and Hanson, 51-52)

Rejecting biblical inerrancy is the recent development, not affirming it!  Remember, that comes from men who are denying inerrancy.  Even they recognize that the Rogers & McKim thesis is not tenable.

Knocking Down Straw Men is Too Easy

Straw-ManIt has been some time since we have heard from the bloggers at Reformed Academic. Last week, however, a post finally appeared from Dr. Freda Oosterhoff. In this post, she is interacting with an article in Clarion written by Rev. Klaas Stam. She claims that Clarion refused to publish her response and so it now appears on Reformed Academic. The focus of her article is a critique of Henry Morris. Certainly some of what Morris writes is worthy of critique and my goal here is not to defend Morris. Instead, I want to interact with the last of her conclusions.

Click here to continue reading at Creation Without Compromise…

The Extent of Inerrancy

Leiden Synopsis

I’m working on my review of Synopsis Purioris Theologiae, also known as the Leiden Synopsis.  This is an important piece of our Reformed theological heritage.  It was first published in 1625 and served as a reliable theological handbook for many years.  It’s only just appeared in English translation.  My review is being submitted to The Confessional Presbyterian, by the way.  Let me just share a brief excerpt from my review:

The Leiden Synopsis is surprisingly relevant on some important theological issues facing the Church today. For example, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy continues to be debated, with some claiming that it is a modern invention, perhaps dating back to the nineteenth century at the earliest. However, in disputation 2, we find Walaeus writing, “It is made clear to us that the authority of Holy Scripture is much greater than that of the Church by the fact that the Church is capable of erring while Scripture cannot” (71). Sometimes it is claimed that biblical inspiration or inerrancy only extends to doctrines. In other words, the core teachings of Scripture are inspired and even inerrant, but this does not apply to peripheral matters.  This notion existed in the days of the Leiden Synopsis already and Walaeus had a ready answer in thesis 28:

And here one ought not to pay heed to Socinus and several other Christians who grant that Holy Scripture is divinely-originated in issues of special importance, but that its authors in situations and circumstances of lesser importance were abandoned by the Holy Spirit and could have erred. Because this opinion paves the way for contempt, and expressly contradicts Scripture which testifies that “everything that was written was written for our instruction (Romans 15:4), and “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). Likewise, “no Scripture is of one’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20); indeed, “not even one iota will disappear from the Law” (Matthew 5:18). “And it is not permitted for any man to add or to remove from it” (Deuteronomy 4[:2], Revelation 22[:18-19].” (69)

In a footnote, the editors point out that besides Faustus Socinus, Walaeus noted elsewhere that Erasmus displayed “the same pernicious view.”

So am I going to recommend the Leiden Synopsis?  Absolutely!  More information about the book can be found here.

CanRC Signers of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

The other day someone drew my attention to this list of people who originally signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  There are lots of well-known names:  R. C. Sproul, Greg Bahnsen, W. Robert Godfrey, D. A. Carson, John MacArthur and many others.  But there are also three Canadian Reformed ministers who signed:  Jelle Faber, Heinrich Ohmann, and Lubbertus Selles.   This was in 1978 and these three men then made up the full-time faculty of the Canadian Reformed seminary here in Hamilton.  Faber taught dogmatics, Ohmann taught Old Testament, and Selles taught New Testament.   This further proves that there is a tradition of affirming biblical inerrancy in the Canadian Reformed Churches.  At one time, the entire faculty of our seminary affirmed it!

Fuller Seminary’s Departure from Inerrancy

Reforming Fundamentalism

A significant number of my books were gifts from a retired dairy farmer in Ontario, Gilbert Zekveld.  Following his retirement and especially after the death of his wife, Gilbert spent a lot of time reading and studying and translating Dutch books into English.  He contacted me after I reviewed one of the books he translated and we became good friends — especially since he lived just down the road from us in Hamilton.

One of the books I received from Gilbert was George Marsden’s history of Fuller Seminary, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism.  I finally got around to reading it over the last number of weeks.  As I was reading it, I was thinking:  why would Gilbert buy and read this book?  What would interest him in this book?  Since he’s now with the Lord, I can’t ask him directly anymore.  But he did leave a lot of notes in the book that give some clues.

Gilbert spent much of his life in the Christian Reformed Church.  Many of the books I received from him bear the evidence of that — there are CRC bulletins scattered through many of them.  However, like many others in the 1960s and 1970s, Gilbert became concerned about the direction the CRC was taking, especially in regards to how it considered the authority of Scripture.  This would later bear fruit in decisions made by the CRC on women in office.  Gilbert eventually left the CRC because of these concerns.

But how does that connect to Fuller Seminary?  Well, Fuller started off as a fundamentalist institution with very strict views on the nature and authority of Scripture.  In the first decade of its existence, and probably also into its second, the notion that women could serve in ecclesiastical offices would have found no home at Fuller.  However, all of that began to change significantly in the 1960s.  By the early 1980s, nearly 20% of the M.Div. students at Fuller were women.  In some ways, the trajectory followed by Fuller is the same as that followed by the CRC and Marsden does mention some direct connections between Fuller and the CRC.  I think that’s why Gilbert Zekveld was interested in this book.

Harold Lindsell was deeply involved with the early history of Fuller.  However, in the 1970s, he was greatly troubled by the direction that Fuller had taken and was vocal about his concerns.  In his 1976 book Battle for the Bible he wrote:

Down the road, whether it takes five or fifty years, any institution that departs from belief in an inerrant Scripture will likewise depart from other fundamentals of the faith and at last cease to be an evangelical institution in the historical meaning of that term.  This is the verdict of history.”  (quoted by Marsden, 277).

Whether it’s the CRC or Fuller or ourselves, when one starts tinkering with the doctrine of Scripture, there are serious consequences.  That’s why it’s important for us to be confessional churches.  The Reformed confessions, when subscribed and believed seriously, keep us anchored to a biblical view of the Bible.

(The above was first posted on the old Xanga Yinkahdinay on January 15, 2009)