Question: "What is the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy?"
Answer: In October 1978 the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) sponsored a conference in which several hundred Christians representing forty-one churches and thirty-eight Christian denominations met to study, pray, and deliberate over an essential doctrinal issue: the inerrancy of Scripture. The delegates formulated the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Over 300 Evangelicals, including John F. MacArthur, J. I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul, and Josh D. McDowell, signed the document.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was written to address the inerrancy of Scripture, the doctrine that the Bible is free from error. The statement includes a preface, a short statement, and nineteen articles, each affirming a position and denying a falsehood regarding inerrancy. The preface establishes that “the authority of Scripture is essential for the Christian Church in this and every age.” The short statement following the preface outlines five major points regarding the doctrine of inerrancy and the significance of the issue. The articles then detail issues such as divine inspiration through human writers; progressive revelation; manuscripts and translations; infallibility; unity of Scripture; witness of the Holy Spirit to Scripture; interpretation of Scripture; and the centrality of biblical authority, infallibility, and inerrancy to the Christian faith, confession of which should result in a life increasingly transformed to the image of Christ.
Divine inspiration is addressed first. The drafters of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy agreed that the Holy Scripture is the authoritative Word of God because it is inspired by God in order to reveal Himself to humanity. If the Bible did not have divine origins, it could be argued that Scripture receives its authority from the Church, tradition, or any other human source. It is because the Bible is the inspired Word of God that it is free from error. Furthermore, the statement affirms that the Scriptures are God’s communication to us. God made us in His image and chose to relate to us using our language; we do not have to worry that language is inadequate for divine revelation. Neither do we have to be in a heightened state of consciousness to receive or understand the Word.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy also discusses the reliability of the biblical text. Several of the articles confirm that the Bible is true and reliable in all matters it addresses and that Scripture exhibits unity and internal consistency. As a result, we can use Scripture to interpret Scripture. Scripture should also “be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices.” When we study Scripture, we should keep it in context, understand its original meaning, and not make the truths relative, based on human understanding or lack thereof. God further provides understanding through the Holy Spirit. As believers read the Bible, the Holy Spirit establishes the truth in believers’ hearts and minds and reminds them of what they have read and heard.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is a concise and helpful description of the components of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and its importance to the Christian life. The signatories affirm that belief in biblical inerrancy is not necessary for salvation but warn that there are serious consequences to doubting the veracity of the Bible, both for the individual and the church at large.
The doctrine of biblical inerrancy is foundational for every believer. We can trust what the Bible says. We can allow God’s Word to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us in righteousness so we can be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17). If the Bible is God’s inspired Word, then it is true. If it is true, we should follow it. Blessed are those who hear the Word and keep it (Luke 11:28; Proverbs 19:16; Revelation 1:3).