The Inflexibility of Inerrancy

Many call themselves “Christians” but they pick and choose what they believe to be true in the bible. I call it Burger King theology and them heretics. Why would anyone bother bowing down and worshiping a half righteous, half true god? – Mike

Evangelical Syncretism: The Inflexibility of Inerrancy

by Cameron Buettel / Friday, November 15, 2019
The following blog post was originally published on March 2, 2015. —ed.

In October 1978, 334 evangelical leaders gathered in the city of Chicago to formulate what is now known as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. One of the younger attendees at that gathering was John MacArthur, who was just shy of a decade into his pastorate at Grace Community Church.

Those who formulated and signed the Chicago Statement did so in response to the large-scale assaults on biblical authority by theological liberals. Many of the signatories have since gone to heaven, but the statement lives on as their legacy. To this day, it continues to set the benchmark for what it means to hold to biblical inerrancy—Holy Scripture is God’s written, errorless witness to Himself.

Stealthy Syncretism

The great peril that the Chicago signers saw in 1978 was from an easily identifiable enemy—theological liberalism. The battle lines were drawn with two clear positions to choose from: evangelicals who submitted to the authority of Scripture or liberals who rejected it. But in more recent times, the battle has shifted increasingly away from conventional warfare to stealth attacks from soldiers wearing the same uniform.

Conservative evangelicals still love to open their doctrinal statements by professing their allegiance to biblical inerrancy. But as this series has demonstrated, making Scripture subservient to the demands of scientific theories, feminism, psychology, and other cultural pressures makes the truth of God’s Word subjective and robs inerrancy of significant meaning.

Moreover, the propensity of so many evangelicals toward ecumenical compromise, and their reluctance to preach man’s depravity, reveals an abject failure on their part to take the Bible seriously. What exactly does their professed allegiance to Scripture mean when they are so willing to either alter or ignore it?

In Defense of Inerrancy

Those who formulated the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy knew enough of church history to envision future attacks. They recognized the need to protect the doctrine by making it explicitly clear how they defined it. Two articles in particular reveal their foresight:

Article XII

We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

Article XVIII

We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.

Those affirmations and denials erect a protective perimeter around the doctrine of inerrancy. The examples of evangelical syncretism we have highlighted these last two weeks are obvious breaches of those guidelines, compromising the truth of Scripture and capitulating to worldly wisdom.

Statements Don’t Invent Doctrine, They Declare It

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is not inerrant. Its intent was to point people toward God’s inerrant Word by helping define and shape the way we understand it.

Nor was inerrancy the invention of those 334 men who assembled in 1978. They codified the standard belief held throughout church history in response to heretics who denied it. Athanasius defeated Arius, Augustine defeated Pelagius, Luther defeated the Catholic Church, and Christ defeated the temptations of Satan in the wilderness—all of those victories were won by wielding the sword of the Spirit, as godly men relied on the plain and perfect teaching of God’s inerrant Word.

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (Complete with Background and resources)

Inerrancy and Evangelical Syncretism

Inerrancy and Evangelical Syncretism

by Cameron Buettel Monday, October 28, 2019
The following blog post was originally published on February 13, 2015. —ed

Among evangelical Christians, the word syncretism usually conjures thoughts of third-world missionaries who blend their religion with the indigenous pagan practices they encounter.

A visitor to my home church related a conversation he’d had with a Roman Catholic missionary while touring South America. The priest wore his syncretistic practices as a badge of honor, boasting of how he intentionally incorporated native religious observances into his worship services. He was critical of Protestant missionaries who refused to likewise accommodate the paganism of the people they ministered to.

Syncretism is nothing new for the Catholic church. They have a long history of adopting and assimilating elements of indigenous religions into their missionary efforts—it’s why Catholic faith and practice, while supposedly united under the Pope, looks dramatically different in South America, Africa, and Europe. Put simply, Catholicism is a lie that easily absorbs and accommodates other lies.

God’s truth is far more resistant to mixing with error. And yet today, even among conservative believers, there are many preachers, teachers, and scholars who are working hard to make the church and the Bible more accommodating to contradictory worldviews. While they might outwardly affirm the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, their actions betray a lack of confidence in God’s Word. Intimidated by cultural agendas and eager to find favor with the unsaved world, these men and women capitulate to blending truth with all sorts of error—evolution, feminism, psychology, and ecumenism, just to name a few.

Are these people heretics? Usually not, but that actually makes what they’re doing all the more dangerous. By syncretizing truth and error, they encourage others to join them on the slippery slope of compromise, exposing them to erroneous doctrine and corrupt worldviews. That compromise encourages believers to allegorize, explain away, or ignore altogether the plain teaching of Scripture.

You can see the devastating effect evangelical syncretism has on the authority, inerrancy, perspicuity, and sufficiency of Scripture—it fosters dangerous skepticism. Why are so many theologians intimidated by the moving goalposts of Big Bang cosmology and “evolutionary science” when God has given them a clear and unchanging account of creation?  Why do so many evangelicals gladly join hands with Rome when Catholics still subscribe to the same damnable errors that they did during the Reformation? Why should we trust the seeker-sensitive pastor who preaches from a Bible that actually says nobody seeks after God? And how did so many biblical scholars abandon biblical views of male headship in order to appease the Baal of feminism?

Theologians have never been charged with the responsibility of shielding cultural norms from biblical assaults, yet that is precisely what many do. While syncretism rarely begins in the classroom, too often there are scholars willing to redefine the biblical text and find convoluted ways of accommodating the culture.

If biblical standards become subjective, then it makes inerrancy meaningless. What is the point of God speaking without error if each interpreter is allowed to adjust divine revelation to his own personal preferences? Clearly, the church continues to fall for Satan’s deceptive skepticism about what God really said (Genesis 3:1).

The church cannot allow the prevailing winds of culture to bend the sword of the Spirit. God’s Word is fully equipped to inform our view of culture, but cultural ideals have nothing to contribute to our view of the Word of God.

In the days ahead we’ll examine some of the most prominent forms of evangelical syncretism. We have two primary goals for this series. First, our ultimate desire is to point those under the sway of syncretism back to the true north of biblical fidelity. Secondly, we want to equip the church by pointing out major areas of compromise to avoid.

  • Note areas in bold are my emphasis