Inerrancy: What’s At Stake for the Next Generation?

From on Jun 20, 2014


–A Voice from the New Generation–

Inerrancy: What’s At Stake for the Next Generation?

Copyright © 2014 Shawn Nelson. All rights reserved.

A History of Attack

With the Bible having been under attack now for a few hundred years, it might seem rather uneventful when a new battle for the Bible emerges.  Recently, however, a new battle for the Bible has begun and this one indeed is worthy of sounding the war cry.  What’s unusual about this most recent attack isn’t that it started from within the camp—that’s how many battles within the church have begun.  But it’s how quickly our leaders have jumped ship—and what little fight they put up!  The very generals who were supposed to protect us have willingly handed the troops over to the enemy before the skirmish had even begun!

This most recent battle I’m referring to began with a seminary professor named Dr. Mike Licona. In 2010, Licona wrote a book titled The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.  In his book, he suggested that the account of the resurrected saints mentioned in Matthew 27:51-53 did not actually happen but that it might be apocalyptic imagery, lore or legend (see pp. 548, 552).

As to be expected, some notable evangelical theologians began to cry foul, in particular Dr. Norman Geisler, who addressed an open letter to Licona, charging him with violating the inerrancy of Scripture.1  Licona left his position with the Southern Baptist and with Southern Evangelical Seminary Home Mission Board.  Yet what followed is rather alarming.

Incredibly, many notable evangelical scholars began to express their support for Licona.  Craig Bloomberg at Denver Seminary, William Lane Craig at Talbot School of Theology, Gary Habermas at Liberty University, Daniel B. Wallace at Dallas Theological Seminary, J. P. Moreland at Talbot School of Theology, W. David Beck at Liberty University, James Chancellor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jeremy A. Evans at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Craig S. Keener at Asbury Theological Seminary, Douglas J. Moo at Wheaton College, Heath A. Thomas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, William Warren at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and evangelical historian Edwin M. Yamauchi all voiced their support for Licona by signing an open letter in response to Geisler.2

These clearly stated that they were aware of Licona’s position concerning the resurrected saints: “He proposes that the report may refer to a literal/historical event, a real event partially described in apocalyptic terms, or an apocalyptic symbol” and furthermore, “we are in firm agreement that it is compatible with biblical inerrancy, despite objections to the contrary.”3  In other words, they were perfectly comfortable with the possibility that the account might not be factual history but could be an “apocalyptic symbol.”

What’s alarming is that these are the professors of some of the finest evangelical schools in the nation, who are responsible for training the pastors of today and future generations, and they stated that they were comfortable with this one verse not being factual.  Some say, “So what!  Why is this such a big deal?”  Here’s why.

The Three “in’s”

It’s been said that a table must have at least three legs to be able to stand.  Take away any of the three legs and it will surely topple.  In much the same way, the authority of the Christian faith stands on three legs.  These three legs are the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture.  These three “in’s” complement each other, yet each expresses a slightly different distinction in our understanding of Scripture.  Each concept in and of itself is important, yet they all depend on the other.  Take away one, and like the table, the Christian faith will surely topple.

The first “in” is inspiration, and deals with the origin of the Bible.  Evangelicals believe that “God breathed out” the words of the Bible, using human writers as the vehicle.  The human writers were not inspired, like we might say today of a rock star, “he was inspired when he wrote that song.”  No, inspiration speaks to the writings themselves—that the writings, not the people, were inspired, or “breathed out by God.”  That is how they originated.  This concept comes from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where it says that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”4

The next “in,” infallibility, speaks to the authority and enduring nature of the Word.  To be infallible means that something is incapable of failing, and therefore is binding and cannot be broken.  This is a fitting description.  1 Peter 2:23-25 says we have “been born again not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.  The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.’”  Here, it says that it endures without end, and as we have seen from the 2 Timothy 3:16-17 passage, has all authority.  This authority of Scripture cannot be broken.  Jesus affirmed this in John 10:34-35.  In addressing a difficult passage He said “the Scripture cannot be broken.”  In fact, He said, “one jot or one tittle will be no means pass away from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).  What is important to understand is that there is a distinction between inspiration being the origin of the Bible—that it was “God breathed”—and infallibility being that it cannot be broken and thus has all authority.  Yet, they are closely related and each depends on the other.

The same is true for the last “in,” inerrancy.  Inerrancy simply means that the Bible is without error.  It’s a belief in the “total truthfulness and reliability of God’s words.”5  This isn’t just in passages that speak about salvation, but also applies to all historical and scientific statements as well.  It is not only accurate in matters related to faith and practice, but it is accurate and without error regarding any statement, period­.  It rejects any notion that the Biblical writers “meant well” but ultimately misrepresented the truth.

At first glance, it would make sense that if the Bible originated from God and contains all authority and cannot be broken then it must be without error.  So why is there a debate over inerrancy today?  When did this debate begin?  Why do some Christians believe that the Bible can contain errors?  And ultimately, what does this do to our ability to understand anything about God?

What Starts Well Doesn’t Always End Well

To those of us born into this controversy, it can feel as though the inerrancy debate has been around forever, but it hasn’t.  It might come as a surprise to some that it’s a relatively new issue.  Author and scholar Harold Lindsell stated, “Apart from a few exceptions, the church through the ages has consistently believed that the entire Bible is the inerrant or infallible Word of God.”6  It’s clear that the early church received the New Testament writings as inspired writings, and that they ascribed the same authority to them as they did to the Old Testament Scriptures.  This recognition of authority continued throughout church history, up until  a couple hundred years ago, until inerrancy gave way to new “scientific” thought, at which time the possibility of error was entertained, and the entire Biblical foundation unraveled into the mess we have today.  Let’s briefly survey what some of the church fathers had to say on this important subject up through the Middle Ages beginning with the Apostolic Fathers.

The Apostolic Fathers are the generation of believers who had personal contact with Jesus’ twelve apostles (c. A.D. 70-c. 150).  We have many of their writings which can help to shed light on what the early church believed.  In these writings, many references can be found which speak to the fact that these early church fathers believed in the inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.  While they did not specifically use these terms (they would be developed much later), it is clear that they believed what they teach.

Clement of Rome (c. A.D. 95) said to his readers: “You have looked into the holy scriptures, which are true, which were given by the Holy Spirit. You know that nothing unrighteous or falsified is written in them” (1 Clement 45:2-3).7  In speaking about Paul’s writings, Clement said, “Truthfully [lit. ‘by truth’] he wrote to you in the Spirit” (1 Clement 47:3).8  Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, also affirmed Paul’s writings when he said that Paul “taught the word of truth accurately and reliably” and since they had this teaching (his letters) they were to “examine them” (Poly. 3:2-3).9

There are many other writings, including those of Pseudo-Barnabas,10 Papias, Ignatius of Antioch, The Shepherd of Hermas, The Didache, and The Epistle to Diognetus which clearly show the early church held to inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy.  “Taken together, this important early material demonstrates that by about A.D. 150 the early church, both East and West, accepted the New Testament claim for divine inspiration. The Fathers looked upon those books with the same high regard as the New Testament writers did the Old Testament Scriptures, namely, as the inspired, authoritative, and absolutely true Word of God.”11

This belief continued throughout the Ante-Nicene and Nicene Fathers periods (c. A.D. 150 – c. 350).  Justin Martyr said of the Scriptures that “when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired themselves, but by the Divine Word who moves them.”12  Irenaeus, interestingly enough, had personal contact with Polycarp who was a disciple of the apostle John.  He made a profound statement about the reliability of Scripture when he wrote how “the only true and life-giving faith” was “received from the apostles and imparted to her sons.  For the Lord of all gave to His apostles the power of the Gospel, through whom also we have known the truth, that is, the doctrine of the Son of God.”13 He further said these writings were above all falsehood:

Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him.… The apostles, likewise, being disciples of the truth, are above all falsehood; for a lie has no fellowship with the truth.…14

Another father, Clement of Alexandria, said he had successfully “demonstrated that the Scriptures which we believe are valid from their omnipotent authority,” and therefore should be used to combat all heresies.  He then goes on to name those Scriptures as that which is “preached by the law and the prophets, and besides by the blessed Gospel.”15

Nearly all of the other Fathers held to the inspiration/inerrancy of Scripture, including Tatian, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian, Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Cyril of Jerusalem.16  Not surprisingly, this view continued through the great medieval church teachers (c. 350-c. 1350).  Jerome believed Paul was a chosen vessel “assuredly because he is a repertory of the Law and of the holy scriptures.”17 Augustine, considered by many to be one of the greatest theologians of all time stated the following:

For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of in truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason. I believe, my brother, that this is your own opinion as well as mine. I do not need to say that I do not suppose you to wish your books to be read like those of prophets or of apostles, concerning which it would be wrong to doubt that they are free from error.18

It was during this same period that the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 363), the Council of Hippo (A.D. 393), and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) affirmed the books of the Bible as being authoritative in nature, consistent with the admonition from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Bible, since it is “God-breathed,” is the absolute authority for conduct, binding, infallible, and able to lead into all truth.

This view prevailed throughout the medieval period, and can be seen in teachings of another prominent theologian, Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) who stated, “It is unlawful to hold that any false assertion is contained either in the Gospel or in any canonical Scripture, or that the writers thereof have told untruths, because faith would be deprived of its certitude which is based on the authority of Holy Writ.”19  Additionally he said, “A true prophet is always inspired by the Spirit of truth, in Whom there is no falsehood, wherefore He never says what is not true,”20  and, “it is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ.”21  He also affirms that he agreed with Augustine when he said, “Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them.”22

What are we to make of all of this?  If the Apostolic Fathers who had personal contact with the New Testament apostles, the early church fathers, and the medieval church teachers all held to an inerrant view of Scripture, when and how did the idea that the Bible could contain errors creep into the church?  And why are some evangelical theologians tempted to depart from this historical view today?

Influences Leading to the Erosion of Inerrancy

The philosophical influences of the Enlightenment are to blame for undermining inerrancy.  The first influence that led to modern criticism of the Bible was inductivism, led by Francis Bacon (1561-1626).  Bacon began his life as a devout Anglican.  During the ascension of King James to power Bacon began to question the extent of learning and our ability to understand.  He proposed a new approach for truth based on experimentation and inductive reasoning.23  This marked the beginning of the movement that ultimately would seek to remove the Bible from the pursuit of science and understanding.  While Bacon himself remained a devote Christian until his death, his inductive approach would ultimately be the spark of the beginning of the Enlightenment.24

What followed was materialism (Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679).  Materialism held that everything is finite, there is no infinite.  In other words, what we see in this universe is all there is; there can be no spiritual world beyond our physical universe.

This was quickly followed by antisupernaturalism (Benedict Spinoza 1632-1677).  If materialism is true, then there is no God, no heaven, and no hell—nothing supernatural.  The Bible needed to be rethought of in light of this new “truth.”  The demon possessed of Scripture became madmen.  Jesus couldn’t have really risen from the dead, but His disciples merely believed that He rose from the dead, and so on.  This “rethinking” of Scripture was the beginning of higher criticism of the Bible.

Antisupernaturalism led to skepticism (David Hume 1711-1776).  Hume became famous for his argument against the credibility of miracles.  The gist of his argument was that miracles are a violation of the fixed laws of nature, that there is far greater evidence for the continuity of natural law, and as such, a wise man should base belief on that which has greater evidence.  Hume’s argument was and has since been the intellectual argument against miracles, and while the argument is surprisingly weak, it has yielded disastrous results for the Christian faith, as we shall see.

Next came agnosticism (Immanuel Kant 1724-1804).  With miracles “proven” to be impossible and the Bible downgraded to a fairytale, what was left is agnosticism—that there probably is a God, but we cannot really know anything about Him.  Kant’s concept was the logical conclusion to the line of philosophical ideas preceding him.  His conclusion was that science is possible because it deals with the observable world, but we simply do not and cannot know what lies beyond that.

Finally, we arrived at evolutionism (Charles Darwin 1809-1882).  Darwin attempted to remove the last remaining weapon in Christendom’s war chest—the argument that complex life requires a creator.  Darwin’s theory of natural selection was a solution that did not require a supernatural origin.  Life could have arisen spontaneously, and through natural processes over time; it could have evolved into higher, more organized and better adapted life forms apart from a divine Creator—a theory which was accepted with open arms.

Thus, in just a few hundred years, the biblical worldview had been completely overturned.  The book which was once thought to be without error, unable to be broken, and the final absolute authority for the church, was now “proven” riddled with mistakes, legend and superstition.  Yet, Christianity continued—with a serious problem.  With all of this “new truth” from the Enlightenment, what did real Christians who wanted to follow Jesus Christ do with the Bible?  As we will see, many compromised.

A Smorgasbord of Biblical Views

There are four major views of Scripture that came in the wake of these destructive philosophies and these views remain today.  We have the evangelical, liberal, neo-orthodox and neo-evangelical views of Scripture.  The first is the early historical position, and the last three are concessions based on the “new truth” of so-called scientific advancement.

The evangelical view of Scripture is that the Bible is the Word of God.  This would include belief in the three “in”s discussed earlier—belief in the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible.  Evangelicals also hold to Sola Scriptura, that famous reformation doctrine which states that Bible alone is authoritative (as opposed to the pope, or apostolic tradition), and the concept of the preservation of the Bible.

Liberalism believes that the Bible contains the Word of God.  On one hand liberals believe that the Bible contains errors, that the human authors often made mistakes and misrepresentations about the truth, that the written record is corrupt, that commonly believed authors of various books did not actually author those books, and so forth.  Yet, on the other hand, liberals believe that there is still some truth to be discovered in the pages of Scripture.  They embrace higher criticism to help identify truth from error.

The neo-orthodox position is closely related and asserts that the Bible is becomes the Word of God.  Even though the Bible is considered to be errant the voice of God can be heard through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.  It becomes necessary to try to distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of man.  Like the liberal view, this view also embraces higher criticism of the Bible to determine what’s true and what’s not.

In these ways, some Christians have attempted to find ways to cope with the “new truth” gained through the Enlightenment.  They believe that a fallible Bible is perfectly compatible with Christianity.  However, this is wrong, and the evangelical would do well to avoid making similar concessions.  Here’s why.

Inerrancy Was The First Leg To Fall

Earlier, we looked at how the Christian faith can be likened to a table standing on the three legs of inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy.  What is clear in our review of the Enlightenment is that inerrancy was the first leg to fall.  Beginning with Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume and the like, we see this line of reasoning develop: (1) Miracles are not possible, (2) there is no supernatural (everything is natural), (3) the Bible is wrong when it talks about these things (not inerrant), (4) it cannot have originated from a perfect being (not inspired), and (5) it therefore is not absolutely divinely authoritative and not binding (not infallible).

Where Does it End?

The problem is once the floodgate opens, where does it end?  When a passage is determined to be not possible, and is stripped of its supernatural strength, the only conclusion is that the biblical authors made a mistake, inerrancy falls, followed by inspiration and infallibility.  Once allowance is made in one passage on the basis of it sounding like lore, legend, or too great of a miracle, what prevents us from erasing other passages?  Some might say this is a “slippery slope” argument.  However, it should not be quickly dismissed.  If an accountant claimed to be divinely infallible and inerrant but made one mistake, then we have reason to not trust the accountant’s infallibility claim in anything they said. Likewise, if the Bible claims to be the infallible/inerrant Word of God and makes one mistake, then we cannot trust it as infallible and inerrant in anything it says.  We would have good reason to question whether any passage has divine authority.

Once a concession is made about a passage being lore or non-factual, the Pandora’s Box of doubt is opened on the entire gospel record.  Indeed, in the recent case of the reevaluation of the account of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27, it led to the reevaluation of other significant passages as well.  In addition to denying the physical resurrection of the saints, Licona goes on to further assert the following: (1) The denial of the historicity of the mob falling backward at Jesus claim “I am he” in John 18:4-6;25 (2) A denial of the historicity of the angels at the tomb recorded in all four Gospels (Mt. 28:2-7; Mk. 16:5-7; Lk. 24:4-7; Jn. 20:11-14;26 (3) The claim that the Gospel genre is Greco-Roman biography which he says is a “flexible genre” in which “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins;”27 (4) Additionally, in a debate with Bart Erhman at Southern Evangelical Seminary in the spring of 2009, Licona asserted concerning the day Jesus was crucified: “I think that John probably altered the day in order for a theological—to make a theological point there.”28

Is Mike Licona the Next Bart Ehrman?

It appears that Licona might well be on his way to becoming the next Bart Ehrman, with an impressive list of evangelical scholarship following closely behind.

Who is Bart Ehrman and why is he important to this discussion?  Bart Ehrman serves as a warning sign of what can happen to evangelicals who are tempted to dismiss difficult passages in the Biblical text.  In Ehrman’s story we see that when it is carried to its logical conclusion, one denial ultimately ends in a complete denial of the Christian faith, leaving the former believer in a miserable state of agnosticism.

Ehrman began as a typical evangelical Christian.  He encountered the gospel while in high school at a Campus Life Youth for Christ club where he made a decision to become born-again.  As a new Christian, Ehrman displayed passion and zeal for the Lord, and held a fundamental, evangelical view of Scripture.  He believed that the Bible was authoritative, without error, and was committed to studying it as such by enrolling at Moody Bible Institute to study Biblical theology, eventually transferring, and then graduating from Wheaton College.  He then enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary for higher education.

It was at Princeton that Ehrman’s perspective on the Bible changed.  It all came down to a term paper surrounding a challenging passage in Mark 2.  In the passage where Jesus says David went in and ate the showbread, Mark says Abiathar was high priest (Mark 2:26) while the verse Mark was quoting from (1 Samuel 21:1-6) seems to suggest that Ahimelech was high priest—how can this be if the Bible is without error?29  Ehrman filled up his term paper with “a long and complicated argument” on how to resolve this difficulty.  And he assumed that his professor would appreciate his hard work in resolving it.  But in his Ehrman’s own words:

…at the end of my paper he made a simple one-lined comment that for some reason went straight through me.  He wrote: “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.”  I started thinking about it, considering all the work I had put into the paper, realizing that I had had to do some pretty fancy exegetical footwork to get around the problem, and that my solution was in fact a bit of a stretch.  I finally concluded, “Hmm … maybe Mark did make a mistake.”30

Here’s what happened next:

Once I made that admission, the floodgates opened.  For if there could be one little, picayune mistake in Mark 2, maybe there could be mistakes in other places as well.  Maybe, when Jesus says later in Mark 4 that the mustard seed is “the smallest of all seeds on the earth,” maybe I don’t need to come up with a fancy explanation for how the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds when I know full well it isn’t.  And maybe these “mistakes” apply to bigger issues.  Maybe when Mark says that Jesus was crucified the day after the Passover meal was eaten (Mark 14:12; 15:25) and John says he died the day before it was eaten (John 19:14)—maybe that is a genuine difference.  Or when Luke indicates in his account of Jesus’s birth that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth just over a month after they had come to Bethlehem (and performed the rites of purification; Luke 2:39), whereas Matthew indicates they instead fled to Egypt (Matt. 2:19-22)—maybe that is a difference.  Or when Paul says that after he converted on the way to Damascus he did not go to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before him (Gal. 1:16-17), whereas the book of Acts says that that was the first thing he did after leaving Damascus (Acts 9:26)—maybe that is a difference.31

The concession that there might be one little error in Mark 2 turned Ehrman into a full-fledged liberal.  He eventually became an agnostic.  And this the point—if we allow even one little error in the Biblical text, nothing can have divine certainty in the Biblical text, and the very foundation of Christianity crumbles.  But why must it end this way?

The Bible Is The Only Special Revelation We Have

An attack on Biblical inerrancy is an attack on special revelation.  There are only two avenues whereby we can know truth.  The first is general revelation and the second is special revelation.  Through general revelation we can know some things about God.  Using rationality and reason, we understand that there must be a creator and designer of this vastly complex universe.  We can also clearly understand that there is an absolute moral law.  We know right from wrong by our own reaction when wrong is done to us, and we intuitively know we should not treat people this way.32  However, there is a limit to what we can know about God through logic, rational senses, and reason.

This is why special revelation is important.  While we’re limited with general revelation, we can know everything God has chosen to reveal to us through special revelation.  Through special revelation, we learn of the truths of  (1) the tri-unity of God, (2) the virgin birth of Christ, (3) the deity of Christ, (4) the all-sufficiency of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sin, (5) the physical and miraculous resurrection of Christ, (6) the necessity of salvation by faith alone through God’s grace alone based on the work of Christ alone, (7) the physical bodily return of Christ to earth, (8) the eternal conscious bliss of the saved and (9) the eternal conscious punishment of the unsaved.33

The Bible is the only record of special revelation we have.  If we remove special revelation all we are left with is general revelation.  All we would know is that there is some kind of God who gave us moral law, and we individually have failed to keep it.  We would be incapable of knowing this God, reminded constantly of our own failure to please Him, uncertain of our past or our future, living out our days in a wretched state of miserable ignorance, until we cross the void into the unknown.  What a horrible state of existence!

And it all begins with making a simple concession that the Bible contains one little error, just like Ehrman did, and just like Licona and others are now doing.  If history repeats itself, with further reasoning, they may very well end up agnostics.  Of course, it doesn’t always end this way, but it certainly is the logical conclusion.  Consider the following hypothetical argument.

Basic Logical Argument

If we accept that the Bible contains error what we are saying is this: (1) 0.0_1% to 100% would be error.  The amount would be unknown.  It could be slightly in error or 100% of it could be in error.  (2) Conversely, 0% to 99.9_% would be true. (3) But what is not true does not even correspond to reality, and therefore cannot be divinely authoritative. The Bible would then be 90% divinely authoritative, 80%, or 0%–this amount, too, would be unknown.  (4) Furthermore, Jesus would be in error for He believed 100% was divinely authoritative.  (5) Jesus could then not be God because God cannot err (either intentionally or unintentionally).  (6) Jesus would also not be an acceptable sin sacrifice because He would be a sinner with blemish (He lied and/or misrepresented the truth), and we would still be in our sins.  (7) Additionally, we couldn’t be certain about anything we profess to hope in as Christians that comes by way of special revelation: Jesus’ sinless life and qualifications for being a substitutionary sacrifice for sin, salvation by faith in the finished work of Christ alone, hope of the second coming, eternal conscious bliss of the saved, etc.  (8) We would only be certain of what comes through general revelation: that there is a God and that we have failed to keep His moral law. (9) We would be left in a miserable state where we are condemned and cannot know God (agnosticism).

This is precisely where the philosophers of the Enlightenment have led us as a society, precisely where Bart Ehrman has ended up personally, and where Mike Licona and others who adopt his methodology may very well end up over time.

Preventing Truth Decay

What can be done to prevent “truth decay?”  Thankfully, steps have already been taken to ensure that the evangelical view of Scripture is upheld for generations to come.  The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) was founded in 1977 specifically over concerns of the erosion of Biblical inerrancy.  Christian leaders, theologians and pastors assembled together three times over the course of a decade to address the issue.  At the first meeting a doctrinal statement was jointly created titled “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” which clearly defined Biblical inerrancy.  This document has been described as “a landmark church document” created

by the then largest, broadest, group of evangelical protestant scholars that ever came together to create a common, theological document in the 20th century. It is probably the first systematically comprehensive, broadly based, scholarly, creed-like statement on the inspiration and authority of Scripture in the history of the church.34

Because the document is described in this way, it is included in its entirety under Appendix 2.  All who hold a high, inerrant view of Scripture would do well to read, understand, affirm and promote the points touched upon in this document.

Calling A Spade A Spade

However, it would appear that simply having a document like The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is not enough.  It must be enforced, so to speak.  Anybody who has children knows that it is not enough to simply have rules around the house.  These rules must be enforced.  Otherwise, the children behave as if there are no rules at all, and there is further breakdown.

In conclusion, the concern is that we are now seeing within certain academic evangelical circles a departure from the traditional view of inerrancy, yet once again.  And the rules must be enforced.  If Dr. Mike Licona (who is now at Houston Baptist University) and those who support him want to believe that there is legend and lore in the gospel records, and that the records are not one-hundred percent factual, fine.  But they should not be allowed to present this as if it’s inerrancy.  Call it what it is, but don’t call it evangelical. It is really a Neoevangelical view.  It’s time for seminary leaders and the evangelical community to take a stand lest we see further erosion.  In the words of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstanding of this doctrine in the world at large.… We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we purpose by God’s grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word.35

May God help us to this end, for inerrancy is the foundation of everything.

Appendix 1: A Satisfactory Answer To The Mark 2:26 Passage

We have recently put the solutions to When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties36 online. This online archive covers every major bible “contradiction” from Genesis to Revelation. You can access the Bible “contradiction” archive here.

Here is the solution to Mark 2:26.  It provides a satisfactory answer to the passage that caused Dr. Bart Ehrman to depart from inerrancy.

Appendix 2: Full Text of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy

In the online version of this article, the full text of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy can be found here: http://defendinginerrancy.com/chicago-statements/


1 R. Albert Mohler, “The Devil Is in the Details: Biblical Inerrancy and the Licona Controversy,” accessed September 14, 2011, http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/09/14/the-devil-is-in-the-details-biblical-inerrancy-and-the-licona-controversy/.

2 Credo House Ministries, “Press Release: Michael Licona Response to Norm Geisler,” accessed September 8, 201, http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/09/press-release-michael-licona-response-to-norm-geisler/.

3 Ibid.

4 The phrase “given by inspiration of God” is the single Greek word ?e?p?e?st?? (theopneustos) and means quite literally “God breathed.”  That is a great description of Scripture—that it is breathed out by God.  The word ?e?p?e?st?? is also translated “by inspiration” and forms the basis of the evangelical concept of inspiration.  Because it is God-breathed, it is authoritative, and profitable for reproof and instruction.  The basis for its authority is that it is breathed out or inspired by God who cannot error, and therefore all of it is without error.

5Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), 90.

6 Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Zondervan, 1978), 42-43.

7 R. Brannan (Trans.), The Apostolic Fathers in English (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Pseudo-Barnabas is so named because it was initially believed to be written by the wrong person.

11 Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1: Introduction, Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002), 284.

12 A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), First Apology 36.

13 Ibid., Against Heresies 3, preface to chap. 1

14 Ibid., Against Heresies 3.5.1

15 A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume II: Fathers of the Second Century, (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), Clem. Al., Str. 4.1.

16 Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1: Introduction, Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002), 284-288.

17 P. Schaff & H. Wace, Ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume VI (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 98.

18 Philip Schaff Ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume I: The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin With a Sketch of His Life and Work (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 350.

19 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Complete English ed. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), STh., II-II q.110 a.3 resp.

20 Ibid., STh., II-II q.172 a.6 ad.2

21 Ibid., STh., I q.1 a.10 ad.3–2

22 Ibid., STh., I q.1 a.8 ad.2

23 M. Galli and T. Olsen, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 354.

24 It is worthy of noting that Francis Bacon actually believed strongly that the use of rationality and his inductive approach would lead one to conclude that God exists. His high regard for both science and the Bible can be seen in his statement: “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first, the volume of Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.” See Henry M. Morris, Sir Francis Bacon (El Cajon, CA: Masters Books), 1990.

25 Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), 306, note 114.

26 Ibid.,185-186.

27 Ibid., 34.

28 (Geisler, Licona’s Denial of Inerrancy: The List Grows 2011) Norman Geisler, “Licona’s Denial of Inerrancy: The List Grows,” accessed December 22, 2011, http://www.normangeisler.net/Articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/Licona/evidencebroadens.htm.

29 There are many satisfactory resolutions to this passage.  One can be found under Appendix 1.

30 Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (HarperOne, 2007), 9.

31 Ibid., 9-10.

32 The Bible validates general revelation.  Paul says mankind clearly perceives God but doesn’t receive Him (Romans 1:18-22) and later says that mankind has the work on the moral law on their hearts, so they are without excuse (Romans 2:14-16).

33 These along with inspiration are the beliefs that define an evangelical Christian. See Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1: Introduction, Bible (MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002), 15.

34 See “Records of the International Council On Biblical Inerrancy,” Dallas Theological Seminary, accessed May 12, 2014, http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI.shtml.

35 International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” 1978, http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf.

36 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992), 370.