The rumblings are louder. They are echoing across such unlikely places as Grand Rapids, Winona Lake, Wheaton, Colorado Springs, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara. This month, as if to exploit such reverberations over the nature of biblical inspiration, came a 223-page amplifying commentary from Westminster Press.

The Inspiration of Scripture by the sometime evangelical scholar Dewey M. Beegle might not rate a second look under other circumstances. Its fuchsia-and-brown jacket cloaks basic tenets that amount to a rehash of old arguments. A carefully conceived appeal, however, overtly invites evangelicals to forsake their conviction that divinely inspired original manuscripts of the Bible were free from error, and assails the verbal-inspiration view.

In support of his position, Beegle makes clever use of quotations from trusted evangelical sources, without reflecting important differences. That is one reason some observers predict the book will stir wide controversy.

Another reason is the book’s timely appearance. It coincides with discussions and tensions over the authority of the Bible at numerous evangelical institutions scattered across the land. Also, informal discussions between independent evangelical leaders and leaders in the ecumenical movement have now begun to move toward a discussion of the doctrine of Scripture.

A book from evangelical sources arguing against the Bible’s inerrancy could pit conservative against conservative in theological battle. Some ecumenical spokesmen are increasingly disposed to focus upon inerrancy as the vulnerable spot in the evangelical armory. If emphasis on biblical authority can be detached from biblical inerrancy, they feel, the climate will be more amenable to ecumenical discussion, which ...

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