Scholars Trying to Redefine Inerrancy [Excerpts]
Inerrancy is foundational to all other essential Christian doctrines. It is granted that some other doctrines (like the atoning death and bodily resurrection of Christ) are more essential to salvation. However, all soteriological (salvation-related) doctrines derive their divine authority from the divinely authoritative Word of God. So, epistemologically (in a knowledge-related sense), the doctrine of the divine authority and inerrancy of Scripture is the fundamental of all the fundamentals. And if the fundamental of fundamentals is not fundamental, then what is fundamental? Fundamentally nothing! Thus, while one can be saved without believing in inerrancy, the doctrine of salvation has no divine authority apart from the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.
The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) was founded in 1977 specifically over concerns about the erosion of inerrancy. Christian leaders, theologians and pastors assembled together three times over the course of a decade to address the issue. At the first meeting, a doctrinal statement was jointly created entitled “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.” This document has been described as “a landmark church document” created “by the then largest, broadest, group of evangelical protestant scholars that ever came together to create a common, theological document in the 20th century. It is probably the first systematically comprehensive, broadly based, scholarly, creed-like statement on the inspiration and authority of Scripture in the history of the church.”1
Despite this modern safeguard, in 2010, Dr. Mike Licona, an evangelical professor, wrote a book entitled The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. In this book, he suggested that the account of the resurrected saints walking through the city might be “apocalyptic imagery” (Mat:27:51-53). In other words, he suggested that the events did not actually happen, but that it was lore or legend. Subsequently, Licona resigned from his position with the Southern Baptists and at Southern Evangelical Seminary. What followed is rather alarming. Incredibly, some notable evangelical scholars began to express their support for Licona’s view, considering it consistent with a belief in inerrancy.
Of course, in order to defend Licona’s view they had to redefine inerrancy to include what were previously considered to be errors. Some did this by misinterpreting inerrancy as expressed by the ICBI framers.
Since 2011, more alarming statements from Licona have surfaced, including: (1) A denial of the historicity of the mob falling backward at Jesus’ claim “I am he” in John:18:4-6 (RJ, 306, note 114); (2) A denial of the historicity of the angels at the tomb recorded in all four Gospels (Mat:28:2-7; Mark:16:5-7; Luke:24:4-7; John:20:11-14) (RJ, 185-186); (3) A denial of the accuracy of the Gospel of John by claiming it says Jesus was crucified on the wrong day (debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Spring, 2009); (4) A claim that the Gospel genre is Greco-Roman biography which he says is a “flexible genre” in which “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (RJ, 34). Amazingly, these views continue to gain support among the evangelical community.
These are the professors of some of the finest evangelical schools in the nation, who are responsible for training the pastors of today and future generations, and they are saying that they are comfortable with these verses not being factual. This is an outright departure from the historic definition of inerrancy.