The International Society of Christian Apologetics (ISCA) had its annual conference at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC, on April 10-11, 2015. The theme for the meeting was “Inerrancy and Evangelical Identity.” More than fifty apologists from across the country gathered to hear plenary lecturers Paige Patterson, Richard Land, Sarah Geis, and Donald Williams address the theme, and a number of parallel workshops address the theme and other apologetic topics.
Land and Patterson spoke in colorful detail about the history of the struggle for inerrancy in the Southern Baptist Convention. They began that struggle with very little hope of winning, but emerged victorious by the grace of God. Patterson concluded that the battle for Scriptural authority is never finally won; eternal vigilance is the price of biblical faithfulness. Geis spoke insightfully of the need to prepare the soil for planting the seed of biblical inerrancy. If we do not also defend the law of non-contradiction and the correspondence theory of truth, biblical inerrancy will be a moot question. Williams stressed that while the need for a defense of factual inerrancy is ongoing, the new front in the battle for biblical authority is the defense of determinative meaning. Our contemporaries now believe that meaning is created by readers when they read a text, not by authors when they write it. Once this Post-Modern hermeneutic has been adopted, authority is necessarily transferred from the Text to the Reader. Failure to mount a sufficient apologetic against this change in our philosophy of reading is a factor in our losing the “Culture Wars,” because documents such as the Constitution as well as the Bible cannot be insulated from this hermeneutical acid once it is accepted. He concluded, “You cannot win the battles for Philosophy, Theology, or Ethics if you lose the battle for Philology, faithful reading.”
In highlights from the workshops, Phil Fernandez noted changes from the consensus of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy among contemporaries who still claim to hold the doctrine in some sense, and concluded that “If these people are Evangelicals, then I must be something else.” Dan Guinn spoke eloquently of Francis Schaeffer’s defense of inerrancy which never compromised his commitment to valuing his opponents as persons and human beings. Donald Williams gave an Evangelical critique of C. S. Lewis’s view of inspiration and inerrancy. Norm Geisler noted the connections between inerrancy and hermeneutics. Other sessions too numerous to mention were also full of insight.
Audio recordings were made of the workshops and video recordings of the plenary sessions. When they have been edited they will eventually be made available on the ISCA website.
The general consensus reached by most of the participants in their papers and discussions was that, while affirming inerrancy is not necessary for salvation, it is not therefore a “secondary” doctrine. Inerrancy is not essential for salvation, but full submission to the authority of Scripture is essential for full faithfulness and spiritual health for an individual or a congregation, and a weak view of inerrancy inevitably compromises that authority and that submission. As ISCA president Donald Williams summarized it, “A better understanding of inspiration and inerrancy must impel us to devoted reading and faithful interpretation leading to loving obedience. If these things are not the fruit of our defense of inerrancy, it is but vanity and striving after wind.”
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