The Inerrancy of Scripture & Fuller Theological Seminary

The following is excerpted from ??Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the Development of Evangelical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), chapter 5 “The Inerrancy of Scripture”.

Perhaps the most notable institutional example of the drift from affirming the inerrancy of Scripture to affirming the infallibility of Scripture was Fuller Theological Seminary. Its original Statement of Faith (written several years after its founding in 1947) contained the following article on Scripture: ???The books which form the canon of the Old and New Testaments as originally given are plenarily [fully] inspired and free from all error in the whole and in the part. These books constitute the written Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.???[1] Through the years, by hiring and attracting faculty and trustees who did not uphold the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, a revision of the original document became necessary. In 1971, the board of the school voted unanimously to adopt a new doctrinal statement in which the phrase ???plenarily inspired and free from all error in the whole and in the part??? had been removed: ???Scripture is an essential part and trustworthy record of this divine self-disclosure. All the books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, are the written Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.???[2] Clearly, Fuller Seminary moved away from the historic doctrine of the full inerrancy of Scripture and embraced a Bible that is infallible in matters of faith and practice but which can and does indeed contain errors in matters of history, science, geography, and the like. Reaction to this shift was pronounced. Harold O. J. Brown lamented Fuller???s disconcerting drift from orthodoxy to liberalism, following similar swings at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton seminaries.[3] Harold Lindsell, in The Battle for the Bible, denounced forcibly this development at Fuller.[4]

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[1] Cited in Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), p. 107.

[2] Fuller Theological Seminary, Statement of Faith, 3.

[3] Harold O. J. Brown, ???Can A Seminary Stand???? Christianity Today, vol. 19, no. 10 (February 14, 1975), pp. 7-8. When Brown positively used the term infallibility, he was referring to Fuller???s founding belief in the complete truthfulness of Scripture (or what had traditionally been called inerrancy). I have obtained personal correspondence from a key leader at Fuller (who respectfully requested that the letter not be published) that corrects Brown???s statement that ???several??? conservative faculty members resigned from the seminary over this issue. The corrected number is two, yet in reality Brown???s ???several??? is correct, because Charles Woodbridge, Wilbur Smith, Harold Lindsell, and Gleason Archer reassigned their faculty positions over this issue. Also, this correspondence demonstrates a disconcerting naivet?? concerning the doctrinal drift that was afoot at Fuller.

[4] Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), ch. 6.

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