Fuller Theological Seminary illustrates the effect of a Christian institution or local church abandoning a solid doctrinal statement. The Domino Effect took place at Fuller Theological Seminary which was founded in 1947 by Charles Fuller.
Fuller’s first doctrinal statement read:
“The books which form the canon of the Old and New Testaments as originally given are plenarily inspired and free from all error in the whole and in the part. These books constitute the written Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” I think you will agree with me, this is a solid Biblical statement.
Every faculty member was to sign without mental reservation or voluntarily leave. In 1962, one board member denied inerrancy and nothing was done. Later two faculty members denied inerrancy and nothing was done.
In 1972, Fuller adopted a new doctrinal statement:
“Scripture is an essential part and trustworthy record of this divine disclosure. All the books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, are the written Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” One all important statement is omitted from the first statement: “free from all error in the whole and in the part.” Thus you have the denial of inerrancy.
Five years later (1977) Fuller’s professor Paul King Jewett in his Man as Male and Female said Paul’s teaching about the subordination of woman to male leadership in Ephesians 5 is an error and in contradiction to Galatians 3:28. In other words, now at Fuller, according to Jewett’s view, the Scripture is infallible only in the area of faith or salvation.
Look at the downward spiral which took place at Fuller.
1. Fuller went from believing the infallibility and the inerrancy of all Scripture (in their first doctrinal statement).
2. Fuller then moved to believing the infallibility of the Scripture only in faith and practice and no longer in inerrancy (seen in second doctrinal statement).
3. Finally, Fuller moved to believing the infallibility of Scripture only in the area of salvation (Jewett’s view). Or the Scripture is only inerrant when it speaks of salvation.
Neo-Orthodoxy made its influence on Fuller through Daniel Fuller who went to Bazil, Switzerland, to study under Neo-Orthodox theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968), who did not believe in inerrancy. Barth wrote about his view of errancy in his Church Dogmatics: “The Bible witnesses to a revelation from God …..The prophets and apostles are actually guilty of error in their spoken and written word” (Church Dogmatics pp. 507, 528, 529).
“The illustration that the Neo-Orthodox usually gives is that the Bible is like a minister preaching the Gospel. Although there may be many mistakes in his sermon, he is still witnessing to the truth, and this is sufficient to secure salvation for men” (Steward Custer, Does Inspiration Demand Inerrancy, p. 75.).
In 1978, the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy met at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago consisting of 300 noted scholars, including Wayne Grudem, Homer Kent, Jr., John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, John Whitcomb, etc. to combat this heresy and produced The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy. Article XI reads, “We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses. We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.”
This view of infallibility and inerrancy being the same is challenged today. Some would say that the Bible is infallible in areas of “Faith and Practice” or that the Bible is without error when it teaches us how to be saved and how to live the Christian life. The reason the Bible is infallible in these two areas, they say, is because this is the reason the Bible was written. But in areas of history and science the Bible is not inerrant. This is the view of Jack B. Rogers and Donald McKim in The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible.
What is our response to this reasoning that does not see the infallibility and inerrancy as equally important?
The Bible declares that “all Scripture is inspired.” The term “Scripture” includes the O.T. (Lk. 24:44), the gospels (Lk. 4:21) and the N.T. epistles (2nd Pet. 3:16). The New Testament authors trusted the smallest historical details from the Old Testament.
Hebrew 11:3 makes a scientific statement that must be accepted by faith. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
These conservative theologians at the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy not only saw the error that resulted from a doctrinal statement abandoned, they not only cursed the darkness, they lit a light and forged another solid doctrinal statement that now must be practiced and defended.
Justin Holcomb for the most part gives an accurate summary of the ICBI or CBSI. I disagree, however, with his caricature of fundamentalism as the following quotes shows. While all liberals downplay the role supernatural role in the writing of Scripture, not all fundamentalists downplay the human role in dual authorship as Holcomb accuses.
While not to be given creedal status, the CBSI is an important statement that Christians ought to affirm. One of the reasons is, the CBSI navigates between liberalism and fundamentalism. Liberalism so analyzes and assesses the historical background and literary features of a text (the human features) that the text’s authenticity and factuality is negated in the process. Fundamentalism so emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s activity in the writing of the Scriptures (the divine features) that the human authorship of the text is severely minimized or denied.