The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) was born in 1977 with a planned lifespan of ten years. Formed by conservative Bible scholars, its purpose has been to restore confidence in the “total trustworthiness of the Scriptures.”
At its first major summit in 1978, ICBI produced a 19-point statement articulating the doctrine of inerrancy. The council’s 1982 summit produced a 25-point set of guidelines for interpreting Scripture. And ICBI’S final summit of scholars, held late last year in Chicago, focused on applying the Bible to today’s issues.
At this meeting, some 300 inerrantists produced the “Chicago Statement on Application of Scripture,” which consists of some 170 positions on the sanctity of life, divorce, sexual deviations, and other issues.
ICBI chairman James Boice called the summit “eminently successful” with respect to its goal of producing a meaningful statement. Said theologian J. I. Packer, one of five who served on the statement’s drafting committee: “The feeling was that God had brought us through to a very fine place.”
Packer said some thought an attempt to seek agreement on the application of Scripture would lead to division among inerrantists. But instead, he asserted, “credibility has been given to the belief that commitment to inerrancy is a unitive commitment.”
However, according to Kenneth Kantzer, the chief editor of papers prepared for the conference, agreement was not as thorough as some had hoped. Explaining, Kantzer said, “Some hoped we could produce a document we could all sign.” He added that once it became “abundantly clear that this was an impossibility,” participants were asked to agree generally to the thrust of the statement.
Only 5 of the 176 resolutions brought to the floor of the final summit gathering were voted down. Four of the 5 were related to divorce, with participants unable to agree on what to say about the Bible’s teaching on divorce and remarriage.
Norman Geisler, professor of theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and convenor of the drafting committee, attributed the inability to reach agreement in this area to a “militant majority” that pushed “for their view instead of for a consensus view.”
First drafts of the resolutions were written by those who presented papers on particular topics at the conference. The statements were refined throughout the three-day meeting. One resolution in its original form specifically allowed for the use of nuclear weapons. But in its revised form, the resolution states, “We deny that the circumstances of modern warfare destroy the right and duty of the civil government to defend its territories and citizens.” Regarding the change, Geisler explained: “We didn’t want to wave a nuclear flag.”
Geisler said inerrantists who subscribe to pacifism could not agree to the ICBI’S resolutions on war. “We don’t propose to be speaking for all inerrantists, let alone all evangelicals.” He stressed that those signing the statement may not have agreed to everything in it, but only with its “overall thrust.”
Kantzer observed that despite the “deep spiritual unity” among conference participants, “there was a decided difference of opinion on many ethical issues.… When we apply basic convictions to a complex world,” he said, “we inevitably come to different conclusions.”
Packer agreed that there is room for disagreement among inerrantists. However, in his preamble to the resolutions, he wrote, “The three hundred of us who met at the Summit believe that anyone who allows Scripture to deliver its own message on these matters will end up approximately where we stand ourselves.”
ICBI will stage a major lay conference on the application of Scripture this September in Washington, D.C. Then, in accordance with its ten-year plan, it will go out of existence.
By Randy Frame in Chicago.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.