Dusting Off the Old ICBI Documents
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple (Psalm 19:7).
In his blockbuster book of 1976, The Battle for the Bible, Harold Lindsell exposed the massive infiltration of liberalism and neo-orthodoxy into nearly every denomination and seminary that considered itself evangelical. Many at the time thought Lindsell was too harsh, unloving, and divisive. Around the same time Jay Grimstead believed God was leading him to begin a night school and training centre in the San Francisco Bay area which he called The Reformation Study Center. He asked R. C. Sproul for advice on how to begin and Sproul suggested Grimstead begin with a conference on the Authority of Scripture. It was held at Mt. Hermon, California in February, 1977 and the five speakers were R. C. Sproul, J. I. Packer, Norman Geisler, John Gerstner, and Greg Bahnsen. A few months before the conference Grimstead wrote Lindsell and Sproul suggesting that someone ought to organize a national theological conference to deal with the issue of biblical inerrancy and to expose the fallacies of the neo-orthodox view of Scripture. Just prior to the Mt. Hermon Conference, the five speakers noted above, along with Weatheral Johnson of Bible Study Fellowship, met for prayer on how God may lead them forward. By the end of the conference, which was attended by three hundred people, they had their marching orders. They would launch a new organization called the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). The ICBI was to be a ten-year project. In October 1978, while meeting at the Hyatt Regency, O’Hare Airport, Chicago, three hundred evangelical theologians, including the five original speakers along with men like Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, James Boice, Luder Whitlock, John Warwick Montgomery, Roger Nicole, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, John Wenham, and Henry Krabbendam carved out the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a series of nineteen affirmations and denials on the authority of Scripture.1
It is impossible to overestimate the significance of the ICBI. For one thing, it no doubt brought the Southern Baptist Convention back from liberalism, and it breathed life into a waning evangelical movement that had been adversely affected by the fundamentalist, separatistic views of many church leaders. The fundamentalist leaders seemed unable or unwilling to address with intellectual and theological rigour the neo-orthodox position which was dominant in many churches and seminaries. Besides the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy the ICBI also produced statements on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), Biblical Hermeneutic (1982), and Biblical Application (1986). R. C. Sproul wrote a commentary on all these articles entitled Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary.
I distinctly remember in 1988, after the ICBI had completed their ten year project, saying, ‘Well, these guys have nailed down the issue of inerrancy. This should not be a problem for a long time.’ It is time to dust off those old ICBI documents, read them again, digest them, and apply them to the present situation in the 21st century evangelical church because we are right back where we were in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The difference this time, however, is more subtle. Back then neo-orthodox pastors and theologians believed that the inscripurated word could become the word of God to a person. They denied that the Bible is the word of God. They tended to mock inerrantists as unscholarly, anti-intellectual types who believed in a literal heaven and hell, that sex outside of marriage is sin, that the Bible is true in all that it teaches, and that God created the world in six literal days. Today we have a neo-liberal view. Those in the evangelical and Reformed world would dare not admit loss of confidence in the authority of Scripture. The result, however, is the same. Many are now pushing theistic evolution in evangelical and Reformed churches, which is a complete denial of the literal Adam and Eve; and this view, of course, calls into question Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 6, and 2 Corinthians 11. There is already the wholesale acceptance of women’s ordination, and some are not so sure the traditional interpretation of homosexuality as an abomination is really what Moses and Paul meant. ‘Might those biblical references actually be addressing homosexuals in numerous, perverse relationships, not in monogamous ones?’
Should we not seriously apply the opening words of the Chicago Statement?
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.
Should we not seriously apply the affirmations and denials of the Chicago Statement. Consider Article X:
We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.
We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.
And check out Article XII:
We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.
We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.
Increasingly we are finding pastors and theologians who claim their belief in the infallibility and inspiration of the Scriptures, but if pushed, will sometimes admit that they are not so sure about inerrancy. Simply put, inerrancy refers to the Bible being true in all it teaches or touches. If the Bible says the sun stood still while Joshua finished off the Amorites (Josh. 10), if it teaches the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea (Exod. 15), if it teaches the virgin birth of Jesus (Matt. 1, Luke 1), and if it teaches Jesus’ bodily resurrection (1 Cor. 15), then you can be certain these events are true. They really happened. If the Bible is ‘God-breathed’ by the Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16), then it is inspired; and it therefore must also be infallible (what it teaches about life is true, like rearing children, acting on the biblical teaching on marriage). Inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy all stand together. God the Holy Spirit wrote the very words of God, working through the biblical authors.
Bottom line my friends – you must always begin with Scripture, not what science, the latest survey, or your friends say. If the Bible teaches it or forbids it, then listen and act upon what you know to be true. Never, never, never doubt the authority, inspiration, inerrancy, or infallibility of Holy Scripture.
On this subject, see also Thy Word Is Truth, by E. J. Young.2
- ‘How the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy Began’, Dr. Jay Grimstead www.reformation.net.
Some Thoughts on the Biblical Doctrine of Inspiration
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple (Psalm 19:7). In his blockbuster book of 1976, The Battle for the Bible, Harold Lindsell exposed the massive infiltration of liberalism and neo-orthodoxy into nearly every denomination and seminary that considered itself evangelical. Many […]
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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