Evangelicals are gospel people and Bible people. Indeed, as their critics might put it, they are hot gospelers and Bible thumpers. The gospel they proclaim is news so good they feel compelled to share it: it is the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And what they declare about Jesus Christ—the gospel—they learn from what God has told the world about himself, using human language, in a collection of ancient documents providentially preserved and revered by Christians everywhere as the Holy Scriptures. As evangelicals celebrate God’s love in redemption, so they celebrate God’s wisdom in providing a sure source of knowledge about it. The authenticity of the gospel is established by the authority of the Bible.

Evangelicals agree with Martin Luther and John Calvin that the Bible is the standard by which all other religious authorities must be judged. They also believe with John Wesley that the Scriptures are “a most solid and precious system of divine truth, wherein is no defect, no excess. It is the fountain of heavenly wisdom.” In the two centuries since Wesley’s death, evangelical theologians have defended the truth-telling character of biblical revelation against both accommodationist theologies and destructively critical methodologies of various types. Carl F. H. Henry’s God, Revelation and Authority (1976–83) remains unsurpassed as a theological epistemology and epitome of the evangelical case against these skeptical trends.

In recent years, discussion of biblical authority has moved from revelation and inspiration to interpretation. And yet, if the study of the Bible is the soul of theology, as the Second Vatican Council says, and if the first task of the preacher is to listen ...

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