Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing with you different views on inerrancy as found in Zondervan’s new book, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). This book contains the views, in their own words, of 5 Biblical and Theological schoars: Dr. Al Mohler, Dr. Peter Enns, Dr. Michael Bird, Dr. Kevin Vanhooser, and Dr. John Franke. This is an important exploration of a passionate doctrine in contemporary Christianity.
The first essay in the book is from Dr. Al Mohler is President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he received his Master of Divinity and PhD degrees, the last being in Systematic and Historical Theology. His chapter is entitled “The Classic Doctrine of Inerrancy.”
Dr. Mohler begins the chapter with this affirmation:
An affirmation of the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible has stood at the center of evangelical faith as long as there have been Christians known as evangelicals. The Reformation itself was born out of a declaration of the supreme authority of the Bible and absolute confidence in its truthfulness.
Despite Roger Olson’s contention that inerrancy “has become a shibboleth— a gate-keeping word used to exclude people rather than to draw authentic Christians together for worship and witness,” Mohler believes “that the inerrancy of Scripture is crucial to the project of perpetuating a distinctively evangelical witness into the future. Without inerrancy, the evangelical movement will inevitably become dissolute and indistinct in its faith and doctrines and increasingly confused about the very nature and authority of its message.”
And for Dr. Mohler, this issue of inerrancy is an all or nothing decision:
Those who would affirm the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible must make clear the extent of that affirmation. Do we really believe that God breathed out and inspired every word of the Bible? Do we believe that the Bible, as the Word of God written, shares God’s own perfection and truthfulness? Do we believe that when the Bible speaks, God speaks? If so, we affirm the inerrancy of Scripture without reservation or hesitation. If we do not make these affirmations, then we have set ourselves upon a project of determining which texts of the Bible share those perfections, if any.
He would also go on to say,
Though many efforts have been made to suggest that the issue of inerrancy is too complex to be reduced to simple alternatives, the simple alternatives steadfastly remain: we will either affirm the total truthfulness of the Bible in whole and in part, or we will concede that at least some parts, if not the whole, are something less than totally truthful and trustworthy.
Mohler then states his explicit belief on the idea of inerrancy: “I do not believe that evangelicalism can survive without the explicit and complete assertion of biblical inerrancy.”
Moving from his statement about the importance of inerrancy, Mohler spends several pages discussing the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This statement, produced in 1978 by over 200 evangelical leaders, states in part, “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.”
Using this statement, Mohler will begin to explain his understanding of inerrancy and its application to three passages which all the authors will explain using their understanding of inerrancy as the interpretive framework. Those passages are Joshua 6, fall of Jericho, the discrepencies of Paul’s Damascus Road experience from Acts 9 and Acts 22, as well as the extermination of the Canaanites as the Israelites enter and settle in the Promised Land.
In the next post, I will continue to explore Mohler’s view of inerrancy.