The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

As Stephen Nichols writes in his biography, R. C. Sproul: A Life, “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy made and makes some wince.”[1] Perhaps the main reason for that wince is the nature of the Statement. It is a line in the sand. It is a boundary marker. In our day, when something as sturdy biology becomes elastic, many fail to appreciate such lines. However, the council creating that statement, The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, was led by two friends: R. C. Sproul (President) and James Montgomery Boice (Chairman). Lines did not make these men wince. And under their leadership a document was created that has guided generations since.[2]

The story of the Council’s beginning and first formal meeting at the Hyatt Regency at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on October 26-28, 1978, is a human-interest story in itself.  The Bible was under attack and in 1976 Harold Lindsell published a bombshell of a book titled, The Battle for the Bible. To say that it caused a stir is an understatement. However, despite the Council’s beginnings, the statement they produced is chiefly what matters most because the attack on God’s word never takes a respite.

But why is the ICBI still necessary?  The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals web page answers that question.

The authority and accuracy of the Bible are foundations of the Christian faith.  Yet we are witnessing the erosion of these foundations.  As we have observed the preaching in many local churches, the teaching in some seminaries and much popular Christian literature, we sense that sizeable numbers of evangelical believers are being turned away from the Bible as their final authority in matters of Christian doctrine and Christian living.  There seems little question that this turning away is directly related to the denial, in many quarters, of the historic doctrine of the verbal inerrancy of the Bible.  Teaching on inerrancy is being diluted; many evangelical institutions are omitting the doctrine of inerrancy from their statements of faith.  In short, the Bible is no longer accepted or believed as fully trustworthy by many.  As one seminary professor described it, "What we are experiencing is an existential mood in the country.  Many of our students come to us with a relative view of the Bible."  If the evangelical Church does not awaken to this situation, it will not be able to stand for or recognize God's truth in an increasingly unbelieving and pluralistic world.

The ICBI wishes to avoid the harshness that sometimes characterized those who defended inerrancy in earlier years.  We want to discuss differences in a spirit of Christian love and concern for the truth.  We see that belief in the inerrancy of the Bible has been the position of the Church historically.  We believe that thinking Christians should be aware of the solid foundations that support inerrancy and recognize its importance for today.[3]

The ICBI continues to be an important document for our generation. If you have never read the statement on Inerrancy or the other accompanying documents, you should.[4]

But in addition to reading the statements it would also be helpful to read commentary on them. Over the next several weeks Theology for Everyone will be running a commentary on each of the Articles of the Council’s Statement on Inerrancy.  I would encourage you to check them out because inerrancy is not an abstraction. Inerrancy reminds us that when the Bible speaks, God speaks and He does not fail to utter the truth.

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA.  He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is the Editorial Director of Ref21 and Place for Truth both online magazines of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. 

[1] Stephen J. Nichols, R. C. Sproul: A Life (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2021), 131.

[2] Actually, more than a single document was produced.  Check out the link to see what the Council produced.


Jeffrey Stivason