I began teaching in 1976. That's 47 years ago. That's a very long time. I know, because people sometimes ask me, "What was it like way back then? Was the earth dry yet?"
Truth is, things haven't changed all that much in the four and a half decades I've been a teacher. 1976 was the year that saw the publication of one of the century's most important books. It is a highly readable -- and disturbing -- account of the bitter battle that was taking place in the American church over the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Harold Lindsell's The Battle for the Bible really shook me up.
"I have written this book," wrote the former editor of Christianity Today, "largely for the evangelical lay people in the pew who may not be aware of the central issue facing them, their denominations, and their institutions." The issue, you ask? "The battle that rages over the Bible today centers around the question of infallibility -- whether the Bible is fallible or partially trustworthy .... To ignore the battle is perilous. To come to grips with it is necessary. To fail to speak is more than cowardice; it is sinful."
To prove his point, Lindsell documented how a defective view of Scripture inevitably leads to disaster down the road. Compromise always and only ends in more and more concessions until every last truth of the Scriptures is dismissed with disdain by "true" scholars. Fuller Seminary wasn't the only institution to fall to the infestation of a postmodern mindset.
I was wondering, as I thought back to 1976, if there was something I could share with my students that might prepare them to better face the challenges of their own generation. Perhaps the best thing I can do to help them arrest the slide of evangelicalism toward a liberal view of the Bible is to argue strenuously for its inerrancy. This I hope to do next Saturday in Charlottesville, and you are most cordially invited to attend this free seminar. We will discuss, among other things, why no true evangelical should ever talk about "errors" in Mark's Gospel that were "corrected" by Matthew and Luke. We can't avoid issues like these. The Bible is under attack. To ignore the battle is indeed perilous.
47 years ago, American evangelicalism was more widely accepted by the culture than it is today. The year 1976 was, in fact, declared the "Year of the Evangelical" by none other than Time Magazine.
After all, we even had an evangelical in the White House, right? Today all that has changed. The wind, as they say, is against us. Or if I many change the metaphor slightly, "All of our games are away games now."
Lindsell concluded his book by saying that "when all of the mysteries of Scripture have been unlocked, we shall see what we have always believed -- that the written Word of God is free from all error, and all parts of it in some fashion or another bear witness to the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ the righteous Branch, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords."
When inerrancy is lost, the historicity of Christianity will disappear with it.