Inerrancy Part 4-How the global church sees the issue

To paint this debate with strokes of black and white only, would not do justice to the debate or those scholars who position themselves between these two limits. The first position is those who do not consider this an issue of extraordinary importance. The Bloomsburg T & T Publishing Company puts out a seven volume set on Bibliology entitled, A Guide for the Perplexed. The numerous authors include Lee Martin MacDonald, Tomas Bokedal, Anthony J. Frendo, Rafael Rodriguez, William Lamb, David Fergusson, and John Webster. These men all have excellent backgrounds and many years of experience in the study of theology. One thing these men all have in common, all of their doctoral work took place in the United Kingdom. A scan of this seven volume set finds only ten references to the inerrancy debate. Many scholars in the United Kingdom do not believe inerrancy important enough to allocate a substantial amount of research.

Another scholar that has articulated a similar opinion is Michael F. Bird. Speaking from his contribution to Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy:

I will endeavor to show that while the American inerrancy tradition possessed a certain utility in the “Battle for the Bible” in the twentieth century, it is not and should not be a universally prescriptive article of faith for the global evangelical church. That is because the American inerrancy tradition, though largely a positive concept, is essentially modernist in construct, parochially American in context, and occasionally creates more exegetical problems than it solves. So my objective is to modestly articulate a view of the veracity of Scripture that is genetically independent of the American inerrancy tradition and then to evaluate inerrancy from such a position.[1]

Bird goes on to list several issues he has with the inerrancy debate and how many groups outside the USA view the debate.

First, Bird is not here to preach an errant view of scripture. Bird states, “But do not think I have come therefore to preach an errant or erroneous Bible, megenoito (may it never be!). Let the record show that in other writings, I have defended the historicity of the virgin conception and Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead.”[2] Bird does intend to show the inerrancy debate is not a necessity of faith:

My point is that the American inerrancy tradition is not an essential facet of the faith, because most of us outside of North America get on with our mission without it, and we are none the worse for not having it! Our churches uphold Scripture as the inspired Word of God. We therefore study it, teach from it, and preach it, but without the penchant to engage in bitter divisions over which nomenclature best suits our theological disposition.[3]

Bird goes on to state he prefers to focus on the infallibility and authority of scripture rather than building a protective structure around evangelicalism.

Bird begins by reviewing one of the tenets of the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, the need to interpret using the grammatico-historical method everything in the Bible. He states, “For many biblical interpreters , Genesis 1– 3 is not a blow-by-blow literal account of creation as much as it is about establishing a monotheistic worldview of God as Creator in the context of competing creation accounts in the polytheistic environment of the ancient Near East.”[4] Bird does not believe it is necessary to be an inerrantist in order to declare one is a faithful Christian.

Bird’s second point is to look at all the organizations that do not bother to put inerrancy in their statement of principles. Bird begins, “Here is the problem: there are thousands of churches around the world that are both evangelical and orthodox and get on with their ministry without ever having heard of the CSBI and without ever using the word inerrancy in their statement of faith.” Bird considers the insistence by Americans the need to accept the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, as nothing short of an attempt to return to the days of colonialism.

A list of the organizations that do not refer to inerrancy is extensive but not exhaustive: (1) the Anglican Church, (2) Westminster Confession of Faith, (3) Church of Southern India, (4) Baptist Alliance, (5) Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians, and (6) Lausanne Covenant.

Bird concludes his argument with this closing statement, “To insist on inerrancy as the singular doctrinal device for global evangelicalism’s affirmation of scriptural authority makes about as much sense as insisting that African, Asian, or Australian sports fans abandon their enthusiasm for local sports and start following American football instead.”[5] Outside the USA, the veracity of the Scriptures is accepted but it would seem inerrancy is not viewed the same.

[1] Michael F. Bird, “Inerrancy is not Necessarily for Evangelicalism Outside the USA,” in Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy, ed. J. Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), p. 140.

[2] Ibid., p. 141. See Michael F. Bird and James Crossley, How Did Christianity Begin? A Believer and Non-believer Examine the Evidence (London: SPCK; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2008).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., p. 142.

[5] Ibid., p. 164.

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