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Blog / Michael Bird on Biblical Inerrancy: Is Inerrancy Needed Outside the U.S.?

Michael Bird on Biblical Inerrancy: Is Inerrancy Needed Outside the U.S.?

5 Views on Biblical InerrancySo far in our exploration of different Christian views on biblical inerrancy, we’re heard from two commonly-held perspectives: that biblical inerrancy is necessary for a sound understanding of Scripture, and the countering view that insistence on inerrancy can actually impede that understanding.

Today, we shift gears to hear from a very different perspective: that of the global church. According to this view, explained by Michael F. Bird below, insistence on biblical inerrancy is largely an American phenomenon—and the fact that the church outside America is thriving is evidence that biblical inerrancy isn’t actually fundamental to the Christian faith.

Here’s an excerpt from Michael Bird’s essay in Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy.

Inerrancy Is Not Necessary for Evangelicalism Outside the USA

By Michael F. Bird. Excerpted from Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. Copyright © 2013 by Zondervan. Use by permission of Zondervan. Some footnotes were removed from this text for ease of online reading.

Michael BirdIt falls to me now to write a minority report on inerrancy, from a position that approximates the view of Scripture held by the majority of evangelicals who make up the global evangelical church. 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…

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. While the contexts for the international evangelical church are varied, in no place has it been necessary to construct a doctrine of inerrancy as a kind of fence around evangelical orthodoxy. In what I have observed, such doctrinal fences, far from preserving orthodoxy, tend to divide believers, inhibit Christian witness by assuming a default defensive stance, and risk making the Bible rather than Christ the central tenet of Christian faith. What best represents the international view, in my opinion, is a commitment to the infallibility and authority of Scripture, but not necessarily a doctrine of Scripture conceived in the specific terms of the American inerrancy tradition as represented in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI)…

Rather than “inerrancy,” a better categorization of Scripture’s claims for itself would be “veracity,” or “divine truthfulness.” Instead of stating how or in what way the Bible is not untrue—which is an odd thing to say, when you think about it—we are better off simply asserting that God’s Word is true as it correlates with God’s intent for what Scripture is to achieve, because he is faithful to his world and to his Word…

There are a number of ways in which the truthfulness of Scripture has been expressed in the global evangelical churches. Many of these churches are denominationally aligned and proudly hold to their confessional heritage. So the 60 million Anglicans in the global south hold to the Thirty-Nine Articles, with its reference to the “authority” and “sufficiency” of Scripture for salvation, leaving open how Scripture relates to history and science. The 75 million Presbyterians around the world, with major concentrations in Brazil and Korea, hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which affirms the “infallible truth and divine authority” of Scripture. The 2 million members of the Church of Southern India believe that “the Scriptures are the ultimate standard of faith and practice.” The Baptist World Alliance, representing some 41 million Baptists, in their Centenary Congress of 2005 declared that “the divinely inspired Old and New Testament Scriptures have supreme authority as the written Word of God and are fully trustworthy for faith and conduct.” …

The truthfulness of Scripture is secured by the faithfulness of God to his own Word. God’s Word is always conformed to his character as just, holy, righteous, and true… God is the theological grounds for the veracity of Scripture—God and nothing else. I trust God the Father, I trust his Son, the Spirit leads me to that truth, so I trust God’s Holy Book.

What do you make of Bird’s argument? Stay tuned for another perspective on inerrancy tomorrow. If you missed our earlier posts on this topic, see the roundtable discussion that kicked it off last month, and essays by Al Mohler and Peter Enns earlier this week. And for a more in-depth treatment of the topic, see the book Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, from which these essays are drawn.

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