- The doctrine of inerrancy, propounded for the past 150 years by many conservative Protestants, maintains that the entire Bible contains no errors of fact from a scientific, historical, or any other standpoint. Together with the doctrine of infallibility on matters of faith or morality, inerrancy is a response to the challenge of modern biblical criticism.Nearly all Protestants place the Bible at the center of their faith and ascribe to it an authority not claimed in either Catholic or Orthodox churches. However, over the centuries, disagreements as to the nature of that authority have arisen. in the 19th century, Bible critics questioned the authorship of biblical texts, theologians began to use the Bible as a historical text to be read much as other ancient texts, and scientists suggested that the creation accounts in the book of Genesis could not be taken literally, since they conflicted with scientific findings on the age of the earth and the process of evolution.in reaction, the main body of Protestant intellectuals tried to revise their understanding of biblical authority Some came to view the present text of the Bible as the end of a long process of development from oral tradition through a series of written documents. The different books of the Bible were often seen as witnessing a progressively more enlightened view of God, or as mundane texts that can become the instruments through which the word of God speaks to us (Neo-Orthodoxy).Many conservative scholars rejected the new direction. They began to argue for the integrity of the text as it stood, and to suggest that it was infallible on issues of faith and morality and inerrant on fact. in the 20th century, inerrancy became the crucial point.The first of these conservative voices was Swiss Free Church professor Louis Gaussen (17901863), who in 1840 published a defense of traditional biblical authority, Theopneustia: The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. The book found an appreciative readership, especially at Princeton Theological Seminary, where it inspired several landmark books. in the 1880s, Princetonians A. A. Hodge (1823-86) and Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) published Inspiration, which was followed in 1888 by Baptist Basil Manly Jr.'s volume The Bible Doctrine of Inspiration (1888). Warfield was followed at Princeton by J. Gresham Machen, who left Princeton in 1929 to teach at the new Westminster Theological Seminary.Though other issues assumed center stage in the disputes between Fundamentalists and the Modernists in the 1930s, inerrancy continued to be upheld. Important later works were The Infallible Word, edited by Ned Stonehouse and Paul Woolley (1946), E. J. Young's Thy Word is Truth (1957), and J. I. Packer's "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God (1958). More recently, a new generation of scholars such as F F Bruce (1910-90) have taken up the cause.In the 1960s, Fuller Theological Seminary, the flagship of Evangelicalism, dropped its requirement that faculty and students ascribe to inerrancy. Many intellectuals who identified with Evangelicalism came to accept Neo-Orthodoxy as a suitable substitute. However, within a few years Evangelical leaders (especially those from Presbyterian and Baptist backgrounds) seemed to have second thoughts. In 1973, a number of them drafted the "The Ligonier Statement," which affirmed inerrancy.The debate has raged in Evangelical circles ever since. In 1976, former Fuller professor Harold Lindsell (1913-98) published an attack on his former colleagues, The Battle for the Bible (Zondervan, 1976). Lindsell warned against what he saw as significant drift in both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The most important statement by his opponents was Jack Roger and Donald McKim's The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach (1979).in 1978, a gathering of Evangelical leaders issued "The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy," which in turn lead to the formation of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. During its 10-year existence, the council held conferences and published books and papers advocating inerrancy. in the meantime, the Missouri Synod experienced a schism as its more liberal members left to become part of what is now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.A similar split among Southern Baptists led to the founding of the cooperative Baptist Fellowship by more moderate members.As the 21st century begins, Evangelicals remain divided on the issue of inerrancy, though its supporters are more vocal than its opponents. Wording that supports inerrancy has been added to several denominational statements, such as those of the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren church and the Bible Baptist Fellowship international. Many other Fundamentalist and Evangelical churches have not seen the need to alter their older statements.Further reading:■ Mark Dever, "Inerrancy of the Bible: An Annotated Bibliography." Available online. URL: http://www.9marks.org/partner/Article_Dis-play_Page/0,,PTID314526|CHID626244|CIID15527 1 6,00.html, Accessed on January 15, 2004■ Louis Gaussen, Theopneustia: The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures (1841; reprint, Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage, n.d.)■ Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1976)■ J. I. Packer, "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1958)■ Ned Stonehouse and Paul Woolley, ed., The Infallible Word (Philadelphia: Westminster Theological Seminary, 1946)■ E. J. Young, Thy Word is Truth (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1957).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.