It was late Saturday night in Washington, D.C. As I walked away from the huge Convention Hall in the center of the capital and headed back to my hotel, I had a good feeling. We had just concluded the final session of the Second Congress on the Bible sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI)—and had officially voted the organization out of existence.

It all began ten years ago in Chicago with a meeting of some 250 men and women who were seriously committed to a consistent evangelicalism that included a doctrine of biblical inerrancy. That meeting produced the now widely accepted “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.”

Two further scholarly sessions followed, one on biblical hermeneutics and the other on the practical application of an inerrant Bible to social, political, and moral issues of the day. Then came an interminable number of planning sessions, a spate of books and articles sponsored by the inerrancy council, a congress in 1982, and now this final meeting. Of the long-term gain for evangelicals flowing from ICBI, it is not for me to speak. Time alone will tell that tale. I do, however, see two significant gains stemming from its work.

First, we have sharpened our definition of inerrancy. More people now know what that potentially explosive term means: that the Bible is wholly true. Even Time magazine has caught on that inerrancy is not a synonym for obscurantism, and that it does not mean every statement in the Bible must be taken literally.

Second, we have had our collective consciousness raised as to the importance of this doctrine for the health of the church. The Bible, as Martin Luther taught us long ago, is the crib in which the Christ child comes to us. If we take the baby out of the crib and lay it in the street, it dies. Even if the crib is shaky, it jeopardizes the safety of the baby. So inerrancy is one safeguard for a wholesome and consistent Christian faith.

What made me feel especially good as I walked back to my hotel that Saturday night, however, was a sense of “mission accomplished.” Here was one organization, brought into being for a specific purpose, that accomplished its goal and dissolved. This is almost a first in the history of Christian organizations.

One of the hardest things in the world for an organization to do willingly is close up shop—especially if money is coming in regularly in support of that organization. All sorts of arguments can be made for keeping the thing going—even if the organization’s reason for being no longer exists. The “Old Boy Syndrome” takes over. Those who have guided an organization from its beginnings or through its deepest valleys just cannot resist the warm, fuzzy, comfortable feelings their associates bring them. To stop the organization is viewed as casting a vote against motherhood and apple pie.

To their everlasting credit, the leaders of ICBI knew when to quit. After authorizing the officers to pay off all debts (and they had adequate resources to do this), they simply voted the organization out of existence and dispensed its assets to other like-minded Christian projects.

I know 25 other Christian organizations that ought to do the same thing right now—or yesterday. Perhaps ICBI’S action will inspire some of them to do it. It might start a new trend of immense worth to evangelicalism. It would certainly save kingdom resources for other worthwhile ministries, and increase the efficiency of the whole Christian cause.

Who knows? Maybe in the long run, that could prove to be the greatest single contribution of ICBI to the evangelical world.


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