What is the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy?
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is a statement released in October 1978 by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) after a 3-day conference in Chicago attended by almost 300 evangelical leaders. These leaders felt the need to define and defend the inerrancy of the Bible against a trend toward liberal conceptions of Scripture. The Statement has three parts: a summary statement, nineteen articles of affirmation and denial, and an accompanying exposition.
The summary statement, known as the "Short Statement," has five points. First, God being Himself Truth inspired Scripture in order to reveal Himself to mankind. Second, because it is inspired by God, Scripture has divine authority and should be believed, obeyed, and embraced. Third, the Holy Spirit both authenticates and illuminates Scripture to us. Fourth, being God-given, Scripture is infallible in all its teachings on matters theological, historical, and scientific. Fifth and finally, if biblical inerrancy is not upheld, the authority of Scripture is impaired and will result in serious loss both to the individual and the church.
This statement is then followed by nineteen articles that follow the pattern "We affirm . . . We deny . . ." to expand upon the summary points. Some assertions made are that: Scripture is the authoritative Word of God and therefore supersedes any church creed or tradition; Scripture is a progressive revelation but never contradicts itself and is now complete (a closed canon); the Bible was inspired by God using human authors with their personalities and writing styles while not allowing their fallenness to distort His Word; Scripture was inspired in the original language and translations of the Bible are only accurate in as much as they convey the original; the Bible must be interpreted using grammatico-historical exegesis without dehistoricizing or relativizing the text; Scripture is infallible in all the matters it addresses while recognizing irregularities in grammar and spelling, the use of hyperbole, round numbers, and figurative language; the Holy Spirit always bears witness to Scripture and will never operate against it; inerrancy is not a new belief but has been integral throughout church history; and finally, a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to sound doctrine. These nineteen articles, while being thorough, do allow for Evangelicals from many different denominations to agree because the statement does not call for blind literalism, but allows for figurative, poetic, and phenomenological language. Many leaders within the faith whole-heartedly signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Among them were: John F MacArthur, J. I. Packer, Francis Shaeffer, R. C. Sproul, Robert Preus, James Montgomery Boice, Carl F. H. Henry, and Roger Nicole.
The exposition following the Articles of Affirmation and Denial outlines the doctrines that guided the council to come to those conclusions. However, the exposition is rarely included or referenced when people talk about the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
After releasing this statement, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy recognized the need for a shared biblical hermeneutic, or framework for interpreting Scripture. So in 1982, they released the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics and in 1986, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Application before the council officially disbanded in 1988.
Paul wrote that, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Clearly studying Scripture as God's inerrant and authoritative Word is a worthwhile endeavor. Furthermore, Paul exhorted Timothy to "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching . . . for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:13, 16). Reading, studying, and teaching the Bible in the ways supported by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy can bring people to a knowledge of salvation and equip them to grow in Christ. May we believe and obey God's Word.
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