The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy was originally drafted in an attempt to define for a generation of evangelicalism what it means to believe that the Bible is an inspired and inerrant authority. But now, 37 years later, there is fear among many Christian leaders that the importance attached to inerrancy is starting to fade. And when pastors lose urgency as it relates to inerrancy, they quickly lose the capacity to preach with clarity and conviction.
At The T4G conference Ligon Duncan (the CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary), Kevin DeYoung (Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan), and Al Mohler, (President of Southern Seminary) explained how that change happens.
“Without an inerrant and authoritative bible, the minister has nothing to preach, because we depend on an authority that is not our own to declare to people. And if we don’t have confidence in the absolute authority and perfection of the word of God, our authority in preaching is completely compromised.”
When pastors lose their trust in inerrancy, they lose their confidence in the word; but they lose something more. They lose a very basic element of Christlikeness—after all, even Jesus was respected by his enemies for his unwavering mastery of God’s word. And when that authority is gone, the pastor has nothing else left to give, DeYoung said:
“In one sense, all we have to offer the world is truth and grace. And if you think you can maximize grace by minimizing truth, you are going to end up with neither. We don’t’ have an authoritative word if we don’t have an inerrant word.”
Mohler then described exactly how the waning of inerrancy worms its way from the mind of the pastor to the heart of the listener:
“This gets to the bottom line issue: What is the preacher doing? If the preacher is not standing and saying “thus sayeth the Lord,” then to some degree he is simply reflecting his own opinion. And when it comes down to that kind of opinion, quite frankly the distinction between “thus sayeth the Lord” and “here is what I think” is an infinite difference. The bottom line is what the congregation needs is the word of God. And the confidence in the word of God is what the pastor has to have, and then must share with that congregation. If the Bible is something less than inerrant, than it is something less than authoritative, and inevitably it will show up in preaching. The congregation is going to know it, and the preacher is going to know it. Because what isn’t heard is “thus sayeth the Lord.”
As Mohler said, “If the Bible is something less than inerrant, than it is something less than authoritative.”