Dissolving the Inerrancy Debate: How Modern Philosophy Shaped the Evangelical View of Scripture

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The debate among American evangelicals over scriptural inerrancy has received less attention in recent literature than it did during its height in the 1970s and 1980s. Nonetheless the issue itself remains unresolved; indeed, many consider it beyond hope of resolution. Recent work by certain philosophers, however, suggests that there is a way out-not by resolving the debate but by dissolving it. In particular, a model developed by Nancey Murphy for understanding the history of the split between Protestant liberals and conservatives can be appropriated for understanding the history of the inerrancy debate. Examining the history of this debate through the postmodern lens of Murphy's model reveals that certain shortcomings of modern philosophy fed into the debate, forcing theologians to overstate the significance of certain claims. As the debate progressed, there was a steadily increasing concern that Scripture be considered accurate in all matters, including the precise recording of detailed historical events and matters of science. For some conservatives this eventually became a test of orthodoxy; that theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin did not share this view reveals the force of modernity's influence. Looking beyond the current evangelical view of Scripture, a postmodern world provides room for an even stronger commitment to the Bible's authority, though one that does challenge certain evangelical assumptions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal for Christian Theological Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • inerrancy
  • Bible
  • truth
  • history


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