"Unless I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis, my conscience is captive to the Word of God." With these famous words, Martin Luther publically recovered Scripture from relative obscurity in the medieval church. For Luther and the other Reformers, the recovery of justification by faith alone coincided with a conscience-bound need to affirm the full authority of the Bible. Christianity is, after all, a revealed religion, one in which the gospel is good news but also new news that is presented to us exclusively in the pages of Holy Scripture. As with salvation, Scripture's author and perfecter is God who stoops down to us in both redemption and revelation; in neither case do we climb up self-made ladders to heaven.
While we constantly labor in these pages to explore the redemption that is made known in the Bible, we do not as frequently attend to revelation in a technical sense, that is, to the manner and mode of the production of Scripture along with the implications for its trustworthiness. It is always presupposed, but in this issue we take up the matter fully by turning to two substantive theological topics: the doctrines of inspiration and of inerrancy.
Editor-in-Chief Michael Horton begins with a precise discussion of divine inspiration. The Word of God is not something that wells up within us, but breaks in from the outside at the behest of God the Father himself who always works through the Son and by the perfecting agency of the Spirit. If we take seriously this divine whence of Scripture, Knox Seminary professor Michael Allen rightly supposes that our devotional lives will take on new meaning. A number of misunderstandings have arisen on this topic, however, and so we should note at the outset that the doctrine of verbal inspiration does not mean that Scripture was produced either by direct divine penmanship or immediate mechanical dictation. On the contrary, there is a proper appreciation of the human authorship of the Bible, even as their writings were set apart and sanctified by the Holy Spirit such that they can be said to be the very Word of God. Complexities abound, to be sure, and Rick Ritchie demonstrates for us how to deal with seemingly contradictory passages.
The second half of the issue is given over to the doctrine of inerrancy, or the conviction that divine inspiration guarantees that the Bible is without error in all that it affirms. Here again there is no little controversy, and for this reason Michael Horton contributes a second article in explanation of what the doctrine does and does not mean. We think that too many evangelicals have rejected inerrancy without ever having learned it properly, which is why we reproduce the articles of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy for your consideration (see page 30). One thing is sure, evangelical affirmations of inerrancy have not ruled out doctrinal divergences, a point well made by David Wells as he reflects upon the aftermath of the Chicago Statement. We do give our friendly critics a fair hearing in a roundtable discussion, where it will be left to readers to decide whether this conversation advances the debate or gets bogged down in misapplication. Next, New Testament scholar Michael Kruger offers a crucial apologetic resource by tackling some objections to inerrancy that arise from modern textual criticism. And finally, Paul Helm rounds out the issue by explaining that our full persuasion of the truth and authority of Scripture comes finally from the inward work of the Holy Spirit.
This issue is full of substantive articles because a genuine recovery of Scripture requires that we also come to terms with a positive confession of what we believe Scripture to be, namely, the divinely revealed Word of God written, a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path.