Print | Back
Inerrancy of the Bible: An Annotated Bibliography
Behind the centrality of expositional preaching is the assumption of the authority and truthfulness of Gods Word. At a recent meeting with the pastoral assistants here at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, I gave a quick bibliography of the history of the controversy over inerrancy. I thought it might be useful for you, too. Many of these books will be well known to those of you who are my age and older, but many may not be known to those of you who are younger. Here, then, are some resources for you about the matter of biblical inerrancy.
Of the making of books on inerrancy, there is no end. Ours has not been the first generation to deal with the questions at the root of it, and, if the Lord tarries, ours will not be the last. Though the discussion changesnow weve largely moved on to discussions of epistemology, hermeneutics, and postmodernismwe continue to assume what we have learned, particularly in the massive amount of reflection that went on in the 20th century among evangelicals about this issue.
The roots of this discussion are, of course, ancient. Passing by Psalm 119, Our Lords use of scripture, early citations and the discussions of Aquinas and the Reformers, lets begin our modern bibliography with the work of Francis Turretin (1623-1687). Turretins work influenced generations of theologians and ministers both in Europe and
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
The classic work on this in the first half of the 19th century, which really acts as a backdrop to all the discussion to come, was by L. Gaussen, professor of systematic theology in
At the same time, on the other side of the
The Church in the
Pauline and Other Studies in Early Church History (Hodder and Stoughton, 1906)
The Cities of
PRINCETON AND WESTMINSTER
At the same time in the late 19th century, systematic theological reflection was represented by works from scholars at
Throughout his career at
Of course, this issue was at the heart of the creation of Westminster Seminary from the orthodox remains of
In the middle decades of the 20th century, the battle for inerrancy seemed over in the mainline and irrelevant for the convinced conservatives, the evangelicals. There were, nevertheless some more North American and British publications which continued to explore the issues.
On the North American side, a colloquium of the faculty at Westminster Seminary published its papers in a volume entitled The Infallible Word, edited by Ned Stonehouse and Paul Woolley (Westminster Theological Seminary, 1946). Undertaken to celebrate the tercentennary of the Westminster Confession of Faith, this was the first of many edited collections of essays on the topic to be forthcoming over the next forty years. The
On a more academic level (largely ignored in this article) our British friends were making further contributions to maintaining the inerrancy of Scripture. F.F. Bruce had first written The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? in 1943 (IVP). The book has gone through numerous editions and some expansion since then, never going out of print or losing its concise usefulness. These are 120 pages worth reading. In the same reliability genre, though out of chronological order, let me simply mention a couple of other books: Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP, 1987) with a foreword by F.F. Bruce, and Walter Kaisers The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? (IVP, 2001). F.F. Bruces contributions to the field of New Testament studies are many, but for the purposes of this topic, the one other book you should be aware of is his book The Canon of Scripture (Chapter House, 1988).
Two stalwarts in the academic trenches that were helpful to evangelical students from their publication in the 1960s until the present day were more technical introductions that helped students to sort through knotty questions of dating and authorship. They were the introductions written by Donald Guthrie and R. K. Harrison. Throughout the 1960s the Anglican clergyman Donald Guthrie was teaching at
THE CHANGE AT FULLER
All of this academic work took place against the background of shifting currents inside evangelicalism. The most significant change was the dropping in the early 1960s of Fuller Theological Seminarys commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible. George Marsden has given us a clear history of this in his book Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1987). This, read in conjunction with Longfield, makes particularly interesting reading.
The late 1960s and 1970s found evangelicalism digesting the changes that were happening. Clark Pinnock, a young Canadian professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, stoutly defended inerrancy. He had studied with F. F. Bruce, and in 1966 gave the Tyndale Lecture in Biblical Theology which was published the next year as A Defense of Biblical Infallibility (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967). For the next few years, Pinnock continued to ably defend this view. He did so most extensively in his book Biblical Revelation: The Foundation of Christian Theology (Moody, 1971; reissued with introduction by J. I. Packer, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1985). Throughout this period, Francis Schaeffer was exercising a strong influence on the rising generation of evangelicals. Many of his works presumed the importance of inerrancy. A good example of this would be in his little 1968 IVP book, Escape from Reason.
By 1973 more conservative evangelicals were understanding that significant shifts were underway and were wanting to respond to them. Popular teacher R. C. Sproul assembled a group of conservative leadersJohn Frame, John Gerstner, John Warwick Montgomery, J. I. Packer, Clark Pinnockto frame The Ligonier Statement affirming biblical inerrancy. They presented papers and published them in an informative volume, John Warwick Montgomery, ed., Gods Inerrant Word (Bethany Fellowship, 1974). (Pinnock, of course, would later disown this position in his book, The Scripture Principle, [Harper & Row, 1984].)
LINDSELL VS. ROGERS AND MCKIM
The book that rocked the evangelical world as it has been called (by its own publisher) was published in 1976. That year Harold Lindsell, part of the losing faculty at Fuller ten years earlier, published his exposé of the theological slippage on the issue of inerrancy. He named names. The bookThe Battle for the Bible (Zondervan, 1976)is a must-read for understanding the whole controversy over inerrancy. He pinpointed problems in the
One thing Lindsells Battle for the Bible did was to stir up open opposition among evangelicals to inerrancy. The leader of these was perhaps Jack Rogers (who is still active in the PCUSA). In 1977,
Rogers and McKims work was subjected to a number of critical reviews, none more searching than John Woodbridges Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Zondervan, 1982). If you havent read them, suffice it to say that
THE ICBI AND ITS PROGENY
One of the unwitting results of Lindsells book, along with
James Montgomery Boice, ed., The Foundation of Biblical Authority (Zondervan, 1978). This was the first of the ICBI productions. It was quickly followed by a booklet published by ICBI, James Montgomery Boice, Does Inerrancy Matter? (1979).
Earl Radmacher, ed., Can We Trust the Bible? (Tyndale House, 1979). This was the second collaborative ICBI production. It was the companion piece to Boices Foundations of Biblical Authority. Boices edited volume had presented six position papers from the October 1978 ICBI Chicago Summit; Radmachers now presented six sermons from that same conference.
Norman Geisler, ed., Inerrancy (Zondervan, 1980). Another ICBI production, the collection of some of the papers from their first summit, the conference which produced the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. R. C. Sproul produced a brief commentary on the Chicago Statement, Explaining Inerrancy (ICBC, 1980).
Roger Nicole and J. Ramsey Michaels, eds., Inerrancy and Common Sense (Baker, 1980). This was a festschrift in honor of Harold John Ockenga, and served as a manifesto that the Gordon-Conwell faculty (which its authors mainly were) were supporters of inerrancy.
D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, eds., Scripture and Truth (Zondervan, 1983). This may be the best in all this series of edited volumes, its papers seeming to break through to a longer and somewhat more formidable level of scholarship. Thats a good thing!
Ronald Youngblood, ed., Evangelicals and Inerrancy (Nelson, 1984). This is a highly interesting selection of articles published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society in the previous 30 years on the topic of inerrancy.
Earl Radmacher and Robert Preus, eds., Hermeneutics, Inerrancy and the Bible (Zondervan, 1984). This was the collection of papers from the second ICBI summit. This is one of the best of all of these collections.
John Hannah, ed., Inerrancy and the Church (Moody, 1984). This is another ICBI production, this time focusing on the history of the churchs discussion of the issue.
D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge, eds., Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon (Zondervan, 1986). This is a companion volume to the other
Kenneth Kantzer, ed., Applying the Scriptures (Zondervan, 1987). This is the series of papers from the third and final ICBI summit.
Kenneth Kantzer and Carl F. H. Henry, eds., Evangelical Affirmations (Zondervan, 1990). These are papers from a conference not primarily on inerrancy, but it is interesting to see how the topic continues to be worked out in the papers of David Wells and others.
It should be mentioned during all this time that individual authors were also putting out volumes on the topic of the Bible and its inerrant nature. J. I. Packer in 1980 brought out a series of his articles on the topic, under the title Beyond the Battle for the Bible (Crossway). Ronald Nash did a fine little piece of popularized systematic theology on the issue, The Word of God and the Mind of Man (Zondervan, 1982). James Montgomery Boice published addresses he had given at ICBI conferences in a 1984 volume entitled Standing on the Rock: Upholding Biblical Authority in a Secular Age (Baker 1984; 2nd ed Kregel 1994).
Most notable of all was Carl F. H. Henrys 6-volume series God, Revelation and Authority (Word 1976-1983; rpt. Crossway, 1999). As we near twenty years from Henrys completion of his massive work, it looks clearly dated, but arguably even more important. Philosophical issues of epistemology and meaning have dominated the discussions during the intervening years, discussions which Henry was already engaging at a high level. More recently, David Wells No Place for Truth, or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology (Eerdmans, 1993), does some of the same kind of work in a more applied and contemporary manner. The implications of inerrancy and truthfulness are carefully considered and well-illustrated.
THE SOUTHERN BAPTISTS
Though some of the authors just mentioned are Southern Baptists (e.g., Carl Henry, Ronald Nash, Roger Nicole), I want to give special attention to what was happening among them. Lindsell targeted the Southern Baptist Convention especially with one chapter in his Battle for the Bible, but all he did was help to ignite a controversy that had been going publicly, though intermittently, since the early 1960s. W. A. Criswells Why I Preach That the Bible is Literally True (Broadman, 1969) was the text about the whole issue for many Baptists. In 1980, Russ Bush and Tom Nettles, at the time both professors at Southwestern Seminary, did some historical excavations among Baptist theologians of the past and produced their own, denomination-specific rebuttal of Rogers and McKim. No suggestion that inerrancy was alien to the Baptist tradition could well survive this 400-plus-page surveyBaptists and the Bible (Moody, 1980).
As the ICBI wound down, the heat was boiling in the SBC. In 1987, Duane Garrett and Richard Melick, Jr., edited Authority and Interpretation: A Baptist Perspective (Baker, 1987). Official denominational authorities produced an ICBI-like conference at
On a purely historical note, the pointed question of inerrancy raised the even larger question of Baptist identity. It was all part of the struggle going on to define the denomination and its agencies. One piece done so early that it became a part of the struggle was Nancy Ammermans Baptist Battles (
THAT'S NOT ALL, FOLKS...
Many other books could be mentioned. Let me simply give you one more related category. Questions of inerrancy often arise from particular difficulties that seem to arise from readingsomething that seems hard to understand, or even a discrepancy. There is a genre of books which deal with just such passages in the Bible. A few of them are John W. Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (1874; rpt. Baker, 1977), Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan, 1982), Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Victor, 1992), and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., and others, Hard Sayings of the Bible (IVP, 1996). A number of Josh McDowells books would also fit in this category.
There have also been fresh efforts to examine and consider the sufficiency of Scripture. Noel Weeks wrote The Sufficiency of Scripture (Banner of Truth, 1988). Don Kistler has edited Sola Scriptura! The Protestant Position on the Bible (1995) with contributions by Robert Godfrey, Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur and others. Keith A. Mathison has written The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Canon Press, 2001). David King and William Webster have collaborated to produce Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith (3 vols., 2001), a careful look at biblical and historical evidence for the sufficiency of Scripture. And an excellent new British initiative has just resulted in the publication of Paul Helm & Carl Trueman, eds., The Trustworthiness of God: Perspectives on the Nature of Scripture (IVP, 2002).
Three very different books remain to be mentioned. One book which is not written by an evangelical Christian, but which has proved to be good medicine when first encountering various literary criticisms is Frederick C. Crews, The Pooh Perplex (E. P. Dutton, 1965). In this book, Crews carefully, sarcastically and humorously proves that the Winnie the Pooh stories actually have multiple authors. There could hardly be a more enjoyable send-up and devastating critique of many kinds of literary criticism, not to mention an expose of the arbitrariness of any such studies' assured results.
One particularly important area of controversy about inerrancy has been the renewed controversies surrounding the life of Jesus. Legions of books have been published about this. Perhaps the best one volume to get to introduce the whole topic is a volume composed, in part, of a debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. It is called Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?, edited by Paul Copan (Baker, 1998). It is engaging, sharp, makes reference to other contemporary literature, and is presented with additional sections which help the reader with particular concerns.
Ive saved the best for last. If I could just recommend one book on the inerrancy of the Bible it would undoubtedly be this oneJohn Wenham, Christ and the Bible (Tyndale Press, 1972 [UK]; IVP, 1973 [US]). Wenhams book has been through three editions and makes the simple point that our trust in Scripture is to be a part of our following Christ, because that is the way that Christ treated Scriptureas true, and therefore authoritative. (Robert Lightner, a professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Seminary published a similar book a few years later, A Biblical Case for Total Inerrancy: How Jesus Viewed the Old Testament [Kregel, 1978].) Wenham had first put these ideas in print with a little Tyndale pamphlet in 1953 called Our Lords View of the Old Testament. In Christ and the Bible, Wenham, an Anglican evangelical who taught Greek for many years at
[BOXED BRIEF SUGGESTION]
To get up to speed on this issue, and to help you with your ministry, consider the following recommendations.
MUST READà Wenham
SHOULD READà Warfield, Packers Fundamentalism and the Word of God, Lindsell, any one of the edited volumes of your choosing!