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A couple of days ago, posted an article “Inerrancy ‘drift’ festers in Christian academia.”  The piece reports on a panel discussion at the recent Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Baltimore featuring presidents from three Baptist school lamenting the failure of Evangelical institutions to maintain a strong view of inerrancy.

There are many ways of articulating such a view, but the quotes as captured in this piece read like an inerrantist parody of itself–as if they are aiming to trammel out every fear-driven cliche in the book.

  • Inerrancy is a “continental divide.”
  • “Inerrancy is not “one doctrine in a basket full of doctrines”  but “the doctrine that determines which basket full of doctrines you have.”
  • The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy “undergirds everything we do.”
  • “Special revelation, or the doctrine of Scripture, has to have preeminence.”
  • We we say about the Bible “affects how we do sociology; it affects how we do biology; it affects how we do psychology. If you don’t have that, then you’ll find in certain areas that you creep away from a biblical worldview because you’re not tied to a standard.”
  • Presidents of these institutions are not there to foster learning but “to enforce the doctrinal standard,” i.e.,  “minding the store” by carefully controlling who is on the faculty.
  • Human sexuality is “the driving issue” in all this, and weaker-minded leaders who do not uphold the “biblical” view are simply capitulating to constituencies; they are the “worst kind of poison” because they claim to be a Christian institution when in fact they are not.
  • Academic freedom is not “neutral” but “designed deliberately for the toleration of leftward views on the faculty of all sorts.”

It continues to be most disconcerting to see intellectual leaders seemingly wholly oblivious to the fact that plenty of Christians have functioned quite well for 2000 years, and continue to function today, without this stressful stranglehold on what these panelists (and the traditions they represent) mean by “inerrancy.”

They also seem to be working in complete isolation from reasoned criticisms of the positions they articulate here. There is no hope here of reasoned, learned, discourse. Only circling the wagon and protecting turf.

More importantly, the panelists also come close to the idolatry of Bible worship when they say that “the doctrine of Scripture has to have preeminence.” I understand they mean “preeminence” in the sense of the intellectual foundation of their system of doctrine, but I get extremely nervous when I hear Christian leaders–who are responsible for educating the next generation–saying things about the Bible they should be saying about Jesus. I wonder what Paul would say. (Actually, I don’t wonder.)

What I will say, though, is that the views expressed by the panelists in this article are logically consistent and at the end of the day necessary within a system that is self-consciously based on an inerrantist foundation, which is one of several points I made in my essay in the recently published Zondervan volume, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.