The word became text and dwells among us? an examination of the doctrine of inerrancy
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In 1978 a group of evangelical philosophers and theologians held a meeting to decide what the definitive statement on the doctrine of inerrancy would be. Drawing on the thought of B.B. Warfield and others this group came up with a statement comprising of a short statement, nineteen articles including both statements of affirmation and denial, as well as, an exposition of these articles. Taken in its entirety, this statement is intended to be the Evangelical statement determining all subsequent information about the doctrine of inerrancy. Leading evangelicals, including Carl F.H. Henry signed this document in order to establish a consensus on what one meant when using the term inerrancy. Almost three decades later this term is still used with a sense of confusion and the doctrine is no less controversial. In fact, it still is responsible for the division of departments in many evangelical institutions of higher education in North America. The following thesis hopes to help loosen this doctrine from its theological ‘stronghold’ and place it in a position where it will be less likely to cause division amongst evangelicals. By examining the thought of both B.B. Warfield, who helped create the doctrine, and Carl F.H. Henry, who played a contemporary role in the formation of the Chicago Statement and who might rightly be considered the evangelical theologian of the twentieth century, this thesis brings to light certain presuppositions of the doctrine of inerrancy that allow it take a position that undergirds other theological doctrines. By identifying the nature of truth and authority as the main tenants of the inerrantist position, the thesis examines these terms in light of the thought of both Warfield and Henry. Their thought is found to be remarkably similar to certain principles and concerns raised by Enlightenment philosophers and it is concluded that the understandings of truth and authority presupposed by the doctrine of inerrancy ultimately are biased by Enlightenment philosophy and so are an inadequate representation of the terms as used in Scripture and tradition. The thesis suggests that an adequate understanding of truth would be primarily Christological in nature and, therefore, a larger category than the one presupposed by the doctrine of inerrancy. Also, an adequate understanding of authority would presuppose the contemporary work of the Holy Spirit, which again makes for a much larger pneumatological category than the one presupposed by the doctrine of inerrancy as it is currently defined. Enlarging these categories in no way necessitates the denial of inerrancy altogether. Rather it removes the doctrine of inerrancy from its theological pedestal and places it amongst other beliefs that might support the truth and authority of Scripture but by no means establish them. The concluding chapter ends with a statement of what this new doctrine of inerrancy might look like.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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