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Stephen Nicols

1 Thess. 2:9 et seq

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 1 Thessalonians 2:13

“How Did We Get Here”

How did we get here talking about inerrancy? We already got here with the Chicago Statement in 1978.

Paul was not merely a relational pastor, he gave them words.
In John 17, Jesus tells the Father that he has accomplished his mission:
For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. John 17:8

How is this given now? First by apostles, now by pastor-teacher.

Paul: received, ἐδέξασθε

There was no end to the words of men in the 1st Century. Paul, we are not peddlers of the word.

The end of knowing the Word of God is not information, but it is formation, transformation.

Luther said the Word of God assaults us and comforts us.

There is no purpose for our time if the Word of God is not at work in us. But the Word of God is effective to accomplish its task.

As I see Paul’s words to the Thessalonians and see the drift among even evangelicals away from inerrancy I tremble for the church. Yes, Paul did not use the word “inerrancy”, but else could it be.

Warfield: if the Word is divine, is inspired then it will bear the character of God in every word. Therefore, it is true.

The challenge to inerrancy comes from three areas:

First, exegetical attack.
Warfield saw this in his day, Brigg: who studied in Germany, returned and taught at Union. In his inaugural address, he said inerrancy is a boogeyman to scare children (I don’t know how this scares children).
Brigg was defrocked, but Union found alternative funding source and brought Brigg back in end.

Bavinck, in his inaugural address wonders at modernity. But there is a price tag to pay for modernity, and that price is we think we have outgrown God. (1911)

1912 address of Bavinck: When I was at Leiden, my professors gave me stones for bread. Bavinck never caved. They have reduced the great claims of Christianity to symbols (but they remained realities to him).

Spurgeon in the Downgrade Controversy, at its heart was the challenge to the authority of Scripture in the modern world.

The argument: these ancient texts are use mythological constructs which we must work through them to find the truth

Philosophical Challenge
In pre-modern the philosophy was concerned with what is being. In the modern, Decartes forward, the problem is knowledge: how do I know. In the 20th Century, philosophers gave up looking for the basis of knowledge, and now just talk about language (logical positivist, pragmatism). Now we are at post-modernity. There is no view from nowhere; we are all situated and thus what we say only has meaning within our tribe, but there is no absolute reference to our words. Sprachspiel. Even the biblical text is situated within a context.

Cultural Challenge:
Rob Bell: let’s stop referring to letters that are 2,000 years old. The irrelevance of Scripture. What a terrible thing to stand in reference and fear and awe before Oprah. The hubris it takes to say, I’ve read this book and I’m not impressed.

What an odd moment it is that you can choose & change your gender. How is that not an assault on Genesis 1?

We are made in the image of God, yet we as a culture slaughtered that image when we legalized abortion.

Culturally, there is an entire front that stands in opposition to the Word of God.


Church history: Augustine & Jerome, the exchange between Peter & Paul in Galatians. Jerome thought, Peter can’t be wrong; therefore, Galatians must be wrong.

A bad theological position (Peter’s infallibility), finds a problem with the text, which then attacks the text to solve the theology.

Augustine: the Scripture, unadulterated authority. Cast aspirations on one text of Scripture because you can’t fit in to your theology, you will lose the whole.

A man demands credence for himself above credence for the Word of God.

What we find here is a common thread in the challenges: a refusal to submit.

Church history contains many references:

Peter Van Maastrict: the bedrock attribute of Scripture is their authoritative. Because it is authoritative it is [its other attributes]
Scripture is divine, from, about God. And ultimately Scripture leads us to God. Everywhere Scripture’s divine essence is apparent.

Calvin: Institutes, re the Holy Spirit giving revelation. The Spirit cannot be at variance with himself.

Dominus dixit.

In the Canon discussion we have “received” the text.

In every century in every age, the church has stood for the authority of Word of God.

The Chicago Statement was instrumental in the return of the Southern Baptist winning back the denomination & seminaries.

It’s ultimately not the inerrancy of Scripture at issue, but rather the authority of Scripture & our submission.

Who knows what will be seen in the next generation in North America. We may be very facing persecution. You equip them and prepare them for the battle by giving them the doctrine of Scripture. We must hold to inerrancy, but we then must look to Scripture as sufficient in all areas of our life.

Do we take the Scripture seriously as the Word of God and then live it out?

It is the Word of God. It is at work.