Over the past 40 years, the principle of biblical inerrancy has come under increasing fire from theological liberals. On Thursday morning, June 20, Dr. Ligon Duncan III, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss., hosted a discussion at the 41st General Assembly with Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the history of antagonism to biblical inerrancy and why a firm belief in inerrancy—what Mohler calls “total truthfulness”—is just as crucial for modern Christians as any time in the past.
Mohler explained that he grew to theological adulthood as liberal theology was growing in popularity in U.S. seminaries, including Southern Baptist, his alma mater.
“I remember one of the first things one of my professors said, ‘I don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture,’ ” Mohler recalls.
But Mohler diverged from his contemporaries, being influenced by Reformed thinkers such as D. James Kennedy, Francis Schaeffer, and R.C. Sproul. Under such teaching, Mohler became convinced that without a conviction of the total truthfulness of God’s Word, you don’t have anything.
“There is no safe place out of an unashamed biblical inerrancy,” Mohler said. He contends that those who waiver on inerrancy but still think they can hold orthodox theological positions about the Trinity, or God’s sovereignty, for example, don’t have solid ground to stand on. Mohler calls such in-between places “halfway houses”—positions that are ultimately transitory, in the direction of error.
“If you reject biblical inerrancy, you don’t necessarily become a heretic,” he said, adding, “but your children will.”
The only option, then, for modern Christians is to reaffirm what believers have held for centuries: “What Scripture says, God says.”
Ironically, he explains, the modern atheists—folks such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens—have accidentally assisted the argument for inerrancy. By posing arguments against the supposed “immorality” of Christianity and Christianity’s God, citing such examples as “genocide” in the Old Testament, such atheists have forced the theologically liberal to admit that their views are inconsistent, splicing and dicing the parts of Scripture that seem uncomfortable to them.
“You can’t just show up being ‘mildly genocidal,’ ” Mohler said, half in jest.
In his opinion there are just two options: either a person throws out the entire Bible or one takes the whole thing, troublesome parts and all, and reaffirms what Christianity has always affirmed—that the whole Bible presents God just as He says He is: perfectly loving and perfectly just.
The modern Christian must not shy away from this proclamation—not the 80-year-old nearing the end of her life nor the 18-year-old entering the college classroom subject to all the intellectual fury of his theologically progressive professor.
“We must be celebratory of this truth,” Mohler said, “not concessional of this truth.”
Because, when all perspectives have had their say, “You only have the Gospel if the Bible is the Word of God.”