In 1976 when evangelical leaders were beginning to contemplate what would eventually become The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, I was far from God, far from the Bible and far from Chicago. However, by 1978, when more than two hundred Christian theologians and pastors, including some prominent Southern Baptists, met for three days at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare to draft the groundbreaking document, I had been walking with God for about a year. Back then, I had never heard the word “inerrancy.” But as a college student, fresh out of the Jesus Movement, I was being exposed firsthand to what inerrancy isn’t.
For instance, in January 1977 I took my first college Bible course. I had been walking with the Lord about three weeks, so I was eager to learn. It was an Old Testament survey, and on the first day of class the young professor began eagerly teaching us the documentary hypothesis, a tenet of the school of 19th century German higher criticism. For those not familiar, there is no way to reconcile Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch with the documentary hypothesis, which insists the Pentateuch was pieced together over centuries by various authors and schools of authors. The theory, and related theological positions, decimated the faith of Europe and emptied its churches.
I attended a Baptist college. The professor was a recent Ph.D graduate from one of our seminaries. He wasn’t just teaching something he wanted us to know about; he was teaching us something he wanted us to believe. The Old Testament class wasn’t an isolated event.
For the next four years, all the students who took religion courses, including me, were constantly exposed to that theological perspective.
Fortunately, we had strong student fellowships, a few solid religion professors, our churches and hopeful news of a surging new emphasis on biblical authority growing in our denomination at that time. These resources helped reinforce our belief in the grammatical reliability and historical accuracy of Scripture. In other words, we had places to turn for encouragement and instruction where credible leaders still believed “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Now, more than 40 years after those college days, I still appreciate having places for fellowship where convictions about the trustworthiness and reliability of Scripture drive our confession and cooperation. It is primarily for this reason our church affiliated several years ago with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
The inerrancy of Scripture still matters. The conviction that God inspired Scripture, that the Bible was not patched together by competing and unreliable religious ideologies, that it “has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter” (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, Article I) must always be the foremost doctrine upon which all others rest.
Ultimately, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy matters because it’s true. For numerous reasons, therefore, it carries significant, practical implications for our ministries. I thank God the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is unambiguous concerning the bedrock truth of biblical inerrancy—identifying it as “the foundational element” of its core values. I know I’m among friends in the SBTC. Knowing the convention believes the Bible without equivocation gives my church, and me, a place to call home.