Inerrancy of the Bible: An Annotated Bibliography
Behind the centrality of expositional preaching is the assumption of the authority and truthfulness of God’s 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 changes—now we’ve largely moved on to discussions of epistemology, hermeneutics, and postmodernism—we 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 Lord’s use of Scripture, early citations and the discussions of Aquinas and the Reformers, let’s begin our modern bibliography with the work of Francis Turretin (1623-1687). Turretin’s work influenced generations of theologians and ministers both in Europe and North America. The section on Scripture was translated, edited and printed by John W. Beardslee III (Baker, 1981). This volume—in its Latin original—exercised great influence upon generations of evangelical ministers trained at Princeton and other evangelical institutions.
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 Geneva, Switzerland. It was translated into English in 1841 as Theopneustia:The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, and has been reprinted many times.Additionally, Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853), a celebrated professor of legal evidence at Harvard, had lectured on the reliability of the gospels. These lectures were published posthumously as The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence in 1874 and have been re-printed many times. In some ways, the arguments here are the grandparents of those which have been recycled many times by people from the late Sir Norman Anderson to Josh McDowell and other apologists.
At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, the historian and archaeologist Sir William Ramsay was publishing a series of works which, among other things, established the historical veracity of the accounts of Luke and Paul in the New Testament. Among this series of works are
The Church in the Roman Empire before A.D. 170 (Hodder and Stoughton, 1894)
St. Paulthe Traveller and Roman Citizen (Hodder and Stoughton, 1895)
Pauline and Other Studies in Early Church History (Hodder and Stoughton, 1906)
The Cities of St. Paul (Hodder and Stoughton, 1907).
This series of volumes—10 in all—have often been reprinted, and they have continuing historical value.
PRINCETON AND WESTMINSTER
At the same time in the late 19th century, systematic theological reflection was represented by works from scholars at Princeton and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1881, A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield co-wrote an influential article on Inspiration (later reprinted under the title Inspiration, with an introduction and appendices by Roger Nicole (Baker, 1979). A few years later, Basil Manly, Jr., published his little volume The Bible Doctrine of Inspiration (A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1888). This volume grew out of the controversies at Southern Seminary regarding the theological apostasy of an Old Testament professor there, C. H. Toy.
Throughout his career at Princeton, B. B. Warfield published articles on the doctrines of the nature, inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. After his death, they were brought together in what has become perhaps the most influential book among conservative evangelicals on the topic—certainly the most often-cited:B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948). he book is really a collection of articles by Warfield written in the late 19th century.These articles are often referenced, but too rarely read. They are dismissed by caricatures when they are in fact models of careful exegetical work. More could be said, but let me simply commend them to the reader.
Of course, this issue was at the heart of the creation of Westminster Seminary from the orthodox remains of Princeton. J. Gresham Machen argued out that Christianity and liberalism are really two different religions. In 1923 he published these arguments as Christianity and Liberalism (reprinted by Eerdmans). This argument would be picked up again by J.I. Packer forty years later in his “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God.Bradley Longfield has provided an excellent historical overview of the Princeton struggle, with some reference to the theological issues in his book The Presbyterian Controversy:Fundamentalists, Modernists & Moderates (Oxford, 1991).
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 Westminster faculty continued to be helpful. Ned Stonehouse encouraged Norval Geldenhuys, a South African minister, to publish Supreme Authority (1953).In 1957, Westminster Professor of Old Testament E.J. Young published his quite substantial volume, Thy Word is Truth (Eerdmans, 1957), perhaps the most significant work on the topic to that date by an evangelical in the 20th century. Also in 1957, R. Larid Harris published his careful work on the Inspirtation and Canonicity of the Bible (reprinted as Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures,1995).In 1958 Carl F. H. Henry, the editor of the new magazine Christianity Today, edited a large collection of essays, Revelation and the Bible (Baker [US]; Tyndale [UK], 1958), in which many of the leading evangelicals of the day summarized Christian teaching. Henry’s wide scope was a foreshadowing of what was to come from him later.
In the United Kingdom, other resources were coming to help with the inerrancy controversy. In 1958, J. I. Packer published “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God (IVCF, 1958) in response to high churchman Gabriel Hebert’s Fundamentalism and the Church of God, and to liberal criticism of the recent Billy Graham crusades in Cambridge and London. Packer’s concise summaries and arguments were powerful and influential. He immediately became something of a spokesman for the conservative evangelicals in the Church of England and beyond. His book used some of the same arguments as Machen’s earlier volume, but somewhat refined—less polemic, more taxonomy. In 1965 the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion published another work of Packer’s, even more focused on Scripture, called God Speaks to Man. It was expanded and reissued by IVP in 1979 as God Has Spoken, and then published by Baker in 1988 (this time including the Chicago Statements) and came out in a third edition with a new foreword in 1993.It is an excellent introduction to the whole discussion. In 1976, the Australian New Testament scholar, Leon Morris, published a book (Hodder & Stoughton, UK; Eerdmans, USA) in the “I Believe” series, I Believe in Revelation. Morris had decades earlier established his controversial and scholarly credentials with his defense of the idea of propitiation in the atonement over against C. H. Dodd’s work. And in 1978 Brian Edwards, a free church pastor, brought out a popular volume called Nothing but the Truth. This was expanded and reissued in 1993 (Evangelical Press).
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 Kaiser’s The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? (IVP, 2001). F.F. Bruce’s 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 1960’s 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 1960’s the Anglican clergyman Donald Guthrie was teaching at London Bible College and publishing his introductions to various portions of the New Testament. They were finally brought together and published as one volume in 1970 (IVP) and have remained in print since then, with a final, fourth revised edition appearing in 1990. And in 1969, Professor R. K. Harrison of Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Canada, published his magnum opus, Introduction to the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1969).
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 1960’s of Fuller Theological Seminary’s 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 1960’s and 1970’s 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 leaders—John Frame, John Gerstner, John Warwick Montgomery, J. I. Packer, Clark Pinnock—to frame “The Ligonier Statement” affirming biblical inerrancy. They presented papers and published them in an informative volume, John Warwick Montgomery, ed., God’s 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 book—The Battle for the Bible (Zondervan, 1976)—is a must-read for understanding the whole controversy over inerrancy.He pinpointed problems in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, in the Southern Baptist Convention, and in Fuller Theological Seminary, among others. To some the book was infamous; to others it was a clarion call to action. To it, more than any other, we probably owe the torrent of literature on the topic that was about to be written. (Francis Schaeffer did publish a rather similar, though more wide-ranging critique, The Great Evangelical Disaster [Crossway, 1984].)In 1979, Lindsell published a follow-up, The Bible in the Balance (Zondervan, 1979), updating the various criticisms and observations he had made.
One thing Lindsell’s 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 edited a volume, published by Word, called Biblical Authority, in which he got various leading and respected evangelicals to question the clarity of Lindsell’s vision. He and Donald McKim then followed up two years later with what has become the Bible of the anti-inerrantists—Jack Rogers and Donald McKim’s The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible:An Historical Approach (Harper and Row, 1979), in which they suggest that the history of the church revealed that the current conservative evangelical position on the inerrancy of the Bible was an historical novelty and simply a rationalist philosophical position wrongly obtruded on believers.Warfield was their chief bogeyman and old Princeton their chief target.
Rogers’ and McKim’s work was subjected to a number of critical reviews, none more searching than John Woodbridge’s Biblical Authority:A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Zondervan, 1982). If you haven’t read them, suffice it to say that Woodbridge, a more careful historian than Rogers and McKim, absolutely disassembles their thesis.Woodbridge’s book, however, is rarely read by non-evangelicals and so has not served to stop the myth that Rogers and McKim have rather successfully sold to an uncritical audience that wants to agree with them.
THE ICBI AND ITS PROGENY
One of the unwitting results of Lindsell’s book, along with Rogers and McKim’s thesis, was to galvanize conservative evangelicals into reflection and writing. And so the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy was formed and operated from 1977 to 1987. The plan, all along, was to have a limited life, so as not to form another institution which could go astray.Its purpose was to hold conferences and publish books to the end of championing the traditional position on the inerrancy of Scripture. And their efforts—and those of their friends at the time—have left us one of the richest stores of literature on inerrancy. Here is an incomplete list, but perhaps comprising the most important productions of the period:
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 Boice’s Foundations of Biblical Authority.Boice’s edited volume had presented six position papers from the October 1978 ICBI Chicago Summit; Radmacher’s 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. That’s 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 church’s 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 Carson and Woodbridge volume, again not an official ICBI product, but sympathetic and with papers of a high academic quality.The final chapter in this volume is an excellent essay on the canon by David Dunbar.
Kenneth Kantzer, ed., Applying the Scriptures (Zondervan, 1987). This is the series of papers from the third and final ICBI summit.
Harvie Conn, ed., Inerrancy and Hermeneutic (Baker, 1988). This is a good collection of papers from the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary.
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. Henry’s 6-volume series God, Revelation and Authority (Word 1976-1983; rpt. Crossway, 1999). As we near twenty years from Henry’s 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. Criswell’s 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 survey—Baptists 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 Ridgecrest, called “The Conference on Biblical Inerrancy.”In many ways, this was a command performance by many of the main “northern evangelicals” with responses by a liberal, and also by a conservative Southern Baptist leader. The speakers included historian Mark Noll, Lutheran theologian Robert Preus, and many others, including J. I. Packer, Kenneth Kantzer, Millard Erickson and Clark Pinnock.The papers were published as The Proceedings of the Conference on Biblical Inerrancy 1987 (Broadman, 1987). No editor is listed. The papers are of varying quality, of course, but of great interest historically. An odd combination of an historical and theological collection of essays is Beyond the Impasse?Scripture, Interpretation & Theology in Baptist Life, edited by Robison B. James and David S. Dockery (Broadman, 1992).A number of the leading figures on both sides of the controversy contributed essays to this volume.
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 Ammerman’s Baptist Battles (Rutgers, 1990).This is the work that demonstrated (to those still doubting it) that the struggle in the SBC was not just about power—but it was, as the conservatives had maintained—about theology. David Dockery edited an interesting volume, Southern Baptists and American Evangelicals (Broadman & Holman, 1993), which shows the depth of the questions that the inerrancy controversy had raised.Two notable recent recountings of the struggles are Paul Pressler’s A Hill on Which to Die (Broadman & Holman, 1999) and Jerry Sutton’s The Baptist Reformation (Broadman & Holman, 2000)
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 reading—something 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 McDowell’s 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.
I’ve saved the best for last. If I could just recommend one book on the inerrancy of the Bible it would undoubtedly be this one—John Wenham, Christ and the Bible (Tyndale Press, 1972 [UK]; IVP, 1973 [US]). Wenham’s 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 Scripture—as 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 Lord’s View of the Old Testament. In Christ and the Bible, Wenham, an Anglican evangelical who taught Greek for many years at Oxford, has done us all a great service in providing us with a book which understands that we do not come by our adherence to Scripture fundamentally from the inductive resolutions of discrepancies, but from the teaching of the Lord Jesus.Only because of the Living Word may we finally know to trust the Written Word. May God use these resources of those who’ve gone before us to equip and encourage us in so trusting.
[BOXED BRIEF SUGGESTION]
To get up to speed on this issue, and to help you with your ministry, consider the following recommendations.
MUST READ: à Wenham
SHOULD READ: Warfield, Packer’s “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, Lindsell, any one of the edited volumes of your choosing!