The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy: The Introduction

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) was issued in 1978 by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). In the introduction, the Committee defined the Statement as consisting of three parts: a summary statement, Articles of Affirmation and Denial, and an accompanying Exposition. However, the Introduction to all three of these parts is instructive for the person who would know what the ICBI had in mind for their Statement.

An Historical Perspective

The Introduction is five short paragraphs, each with a very clear point. The first paragraph is a simple reminder that “the authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age. For those who would like to explore this theme it would be helpful to consult the title edited by John Hannah, Inerrancy and the Church published in 1984. However, in this first paragraph the committee tips its hand. This is not merely an academic endeavor. Inerrancy is a matter of discipleship because the reality of discipleship is seen in “humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word.”

A Fresh Reminder

In the second paragraph the ICBI recognizes that in the present moment there is a great need to affirm “this inerrancy of Scripture afresh.” They go on to say, “We see it as our timely, duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians…” If I may take liberty at this point, the reason why Place for Truth is running this series is because we believe that the church over fifty years later needs a fresh reminder.

The Nature of the Thing

The third paragraph is a description of the nature of the Statement. After acknowledging limitations “of a document prepared in a brief, intensive conference” the Committee recommends that the Statement should not be given “creedal weight.” This was an opportunity for hundreds of Evangelical scholars to rejoice in the “deepening of their own convictions” through discussions which led to a Statement bathed in prayer.  Though the Statement should not be given creedal weight the committee was hopeful that God might use it toward a new reformation in the Church.

The Nature of People

The fourth paragraph offers the Statement in humility. Though inerrancy does have a major consequence on one’s sanctification, the Committee is not contending that belief in inerrancy makes a perfect Christian.  The Committee “gladly acknowledges that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior.”  Moreover, they are equally conscious that those “who confess this doctrine often deny it in life” by failing to bring thoughts and deeds into true subjection to the Word.

The Invitation

The last paragraph is a genuine invitation for discussion. The Committee invites to the table those who read the Statement and see the need for amendment. However, they do qualify their invitation. Anyone who would offer an amendment must do so under the infallibility of Scripture and any amendment made about Scripture must be done by the light of Scripture itself.  In other words, the Committee believes that Scripture is its own best interpreter and therefore any amendment that would contradict Scripture must be rejected.  However, this rejection is not on the basis of the Committee’s own authority or infallibility but that of Scripture itself. 

In a day when evangelicals are once again influenced by liberal scholarship and trends that will lead us away from the doctrine of inerrancy, it is time we took a fresh look at such a rich document.  Or to put it the way the Committee phrased it, let us take the opportunity to rejoice in the deepening of our own conviction about God’s Book that our lives might be continually conformed to it.

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. 


Jeffrey Stivason