FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” -Psalm 19:7
The International Church Council Project (ICCP)
I have the privilege from October 16-20, 2017 to meet with pastors, theologians, and church leaders from around the world in Wittenberg, Germany at the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the Castle church door in Wittenberg. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss, make minor corrections in, if necessary, and to affirm twenty-four theological affirmations and denials on all the cutting edge issues facing the church in the world today. In a day when the church is once again plagued with fuzzy thinking on the authority and inerrancy of the Bible, leading to an outright denial and rejection of doctrinal positions the church has affirmed for two millennia, our hope is to ignite a worldwide movement back to Biblical fidelity, to rescue the church from worldliness, and to see God revive the western church through an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In a day when we hardly know how to define an evangelical, we need a cogent, concise, Biblically and theologically accurate statement which can be affirmed by believers around the world. The stated purpose of the ICCP is “To establish for the twenty-first century a united, Biblical-theological standard of doctrine for the global Body of Christ, which standard is consistent with the mainstream theology of the first twenty centuries.” This meeting in Wittenberg is to be followed up with two more far reaching meetings in Zurich, Switzerland in 2019, and in Worms, Germany in 2021.
Our topics will include:
Biblical Inerrancy, Biblical Hermeneutics, Essentials of the Christian World View, Articles on the Kingdom of God, the Omniscience of God, the Pelagian Controversy, the Judicial and Substitutionary Nature of Salvation, the Trinity, the Eternal Fate of Unbelievers, the Lordship of Christ, the Unity of the Body of Christ, Church Discipline, Concerning Culture and Contextualization, Christians’ Civic Duties, Biblical Economic Systems, Marriage-Divorce-and Remarriage, Biblical Distinctives between Males and Females, Homosexuality, a Biblical Approach to Counseling, Israel and the Church, Education of Christian Children, Sanctity of Human Life, God’s Law for All Societies, and the Biblical Perspective on Environmental Stewardship.
The meetings are being planned and executed by the Coalition on Revival (COR) which flowed out of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).
How did this movement begin? In his blockbuster book of 1976, The Battle for the Bible, Harold Lindsell exposed the massive infiltration of liberalism and neo-orthodoxy into nearly every denomination and seminary that considered itself evangelical. Many at the time thought Lindsell was too harsh, unloving, and divisive. Around the same time Jay Grimstead believed God was leading him to begin a night school and training center in the San Francisco Bay area which he called “The Reformation Study Center.” He asked R.C. Sproul for advice on how to begin and Sproul suggested Grimstead start with a conference on The Authority of Scripture. It was held at Mt. Hermon, California in February, 1977 and the five speakers were R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, Norman Geisler, John Gerstner, and Greg Bahnsen. A few months before the conference Grimstead wrote Lindsell and Sproul suggesting that someone ought to organize a national theological conference to deal with the issue of Biblical inerrancy and to expose the fallacies of the neo-orthodox view of Scripture. Just prior to the Mt. Hermon Conference, the five speakers noted above, along with Weatheral Johnson of Bible Study Fellowship, met for prayer on how God may lead them forward. By the end of the conference, which was attended by three hundred people, they had their marching orders. They would launch a new organization called the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). The ICBI was to be a ten year project. In October 1978, while meeting at the Hyatt Regency, O”Hare Airport, Chicago, three hundred evangelical theologians, including the five original speakers along with men like Carl F.H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, James Boice, Luder Whitlock, John Warwick Montgomery, Roger Nicole, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, John Wenham, and Henry Krabbendam carved out the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a series of nineteen affirmations and denials on the authority of Scripture.
It is impossible to underestimate the significance of the ICBI. The evangelical movement had long been adversely affected by the fundamentalist, separatistic views of many church leaders. The fundamentalist leaders seemed unable or unwilling to address with intellectual and theological rigor the neo-orthodox position which was dominant in many churches and seminaries. Besides the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy the ICBI also produced a statement on Biblical inerrancy (1978), Biblical hermeneutics (1982), and Biblical application (1986). R.C. Sproul wrote a commentary on all these articles entitled Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary.
I distinctly remember in 1988, after the ICBI had completed their ten year project, saying, “Well, these guys have nailed down the issue of inerrancy. This should not be a problem for a long time.” Well, it is time to dust off those old ICBI documents, read them again, digest them, and apply them to the present situation in the 21st century evangelical church because we are right back where we were in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. And we also need to go further. Hence the meeting in Wittenberg later this month.
The difference this time, however, is more subtle. Back then neo-orthodox pastors and theologians believed that the inscripturated word could become the word of God to a person. They denied that the Bible is the word of God. They tended to mock inerrantists as unscholarly, anti-intellectual types. Today we have a neo-liberal view. Those in the evangelical and Reformed world would dare not admit loss of confidence in the authority of Scripture. The result, however, is the same. Many are now pushing theistic evolution in evangelical and Reformed churches which is a complete denial of the literal Adam and Eve; and this view, of course, calls into question Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15, and 2 Corinthians 11. There is already the wholesale acceptance of women’s ordination, and shockingly the traditional, Biblical interpretation of homosexuality as an abomination is being questioned by many.
Increasingly we are finding pastors and theologians who claim their belief in the infallibility and inspiration of the Scriptures, but if pushed, will sometimes admit they are not so sure about inerrancy. Simply put, inerrancy refers to the Bible being true in all it teaches or touches. If the Bible says the sun stood still while Joshua finished off the Amorites (Joshua 10), if it teaches the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea (Exodus 15), if it teaches the virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1, Luke 1), and if it teaches Jesus’ bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15), then you can be certain these events all happened. If the Bible is “God-breathed” by the Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), then it is inspired; and it, therefore must also be infallible (what it teaches about life is true, like rearing children, applying the Biblical teaching on marriage). Inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy all stand together. God the Holy Spirit wrote the very words of God, working through the Biblical authors.
Please pray, asking the Holy Spirit to meet us powerfully at Wittenberg and to use the International Church Council Project to bring the church of Jesus Christ back to the doctrines believers have held, propagated, and died for for two thousand years.
Al Baker is an Evangelistic Revival Preacher with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship.