Vol. 1 - No. 4 

April, 1982

Book Review

by Byron Gage

 Inerrancy and Common Sense, Roger R. Nicole and J. Ramsey Michaels, editors, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

This book contains a series of eight essays dealing with a variety of subjects falling under the common heading of Inerrancy and Common Sense. They are: "Inerrancy: Some Historical Perspectives," by Richard Lovelace, "Inerrancy or Verbal Inspiration? An Evangelical Dilemma," by J. Ramsey Michaels, "The Nature of Inerrancy," by Roger Nicole, "Inerrancy and Textual Criticism," by Douglas Stuart, "Biblical Interpretation and the Analogy of Faith," by R. C. Sproul, "Genesis, Inerrancy, and the Antiquity of

Man," by John Jefferson Davis, "Hermeneutics and Common Sense: An Exploratory Essay on the Hermeneutics of the Epistles," by Cordon D. Fee, and "Preaching as Biblical Interpretation," by James I. Packer. In this review we will deal with each essay briefly, but first, notice some statements from the introduction.

The editors seem to be quite correct in suggesting that, in the minds of many, inerrancy and common sense are two incompatible notions. The essays contained in this book attempt "to combine these two features: a firm belief in the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Writ on the one hand, and a robust adherence to common sense on the other." The melding of these two concepts into an acceptable stance regarding the Scriptures is made very difficult by liberal and modernist tendencies in the "religious" world today. This book will tend to clarify why this is so. The book's main thrust focuses on properly defining, limiting, and placing in perspective the subject of inerrancy.

In the first essay, ''Inerrancy: Some Historical Perspectives," by Richard Lovelace, a history of "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" movements of the last two centuries is cited, and its effect on the development of both unity and divisions among the religious world is discussed. The basic premise of the essay, with which I disagree, is that unity may acceptably be enjoyed in a denominational context. Efforts designed to salvage mainline denominations are supported and and with these efforts I disagree. Yet, the methods suggested are not without merit. A common view of Scripture would, indeed, not only be desirable, but necessary. Yet, a common view without common obedience and application is merely an academic or theoretical unity without practical or Scriptural advantage. For example, the stating of one's belief in the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is meaningless without practical application in the doctrine and life of the individual. The author, however, does address the crux of the matter in viewing the problem of division in the religious world as being laid at the feet of differing views of Scripture as to their authenticity, authority, and applicability. The difficulty stems from opposing definitions of inerrancy. The next essay deals with this question.

''Inerrancy or Verbal Inspiration? An Evangelical Dilemma," by J. Ramsey Michaels deals with definition and explanation of terms, and the results of misunderstanding what others perceive when the terms are used. The fact that inerrancy means one thing to one person or group and another thing to someone else tends toward confusion and disagreement. Add to this the inability or unwillingness to express concepts in terms understandable to persons without seminary experience, and you have no clear cut view of Scripture among the masses. The author upholds the inerrancy of the Bible in that it does what God designed it to do, it being verbally inspired in all its parts. This does not argue that our present popular translations are mistake free due to human error, but that the Scriptures as God gave them taught no error. A mistake in copies seldom, if ever, changes the truth of God, and this is the subject of the next essay.

"The Nature of Inerrancy," by Roger Nicole, is excellent material for the most part dealing with areas of misunderstanding, including: "The relationship between the autographs and the copies in the original languages, the process of translation, spelling, grammar, phenomenological use of language, approximations, fragmentary information, lack of uniformity, etymologies, transcendent truths " In defining inerrancy he writes, "Inerrancy will then mean that at no point in what was originally given were the biblical writers allowed to make statements or endorse viewpoints which are not in conformity with objective truth."

The nest essay, "Inerrancy and Textual Criticism," by Douglas Stuart, is an easily understood general statement on the problems of textual criticism. Inerrancy, to the textual critic, may have an entirely different connotation than to the "average" individual.

"Biblical Interpretation and the Analogy of Faith," by R. C. Sproul, presents excellent arguments on the totality and harmony of Scripture which is a must for Biblical interpretation. "Scripture is to be its own interpreter," the "cardinal rule of interpretation," is "The Analogy of Faith." Good material for all.

Although difficulties in grasping the various theories herein described exist, this essay, "Genesis, Inerrancy, and the Antiquity of Man," by John Jefferson Davis, is both interesting and valuable in sparking further research.

The next essay, "Hermeneutics and Common Sense ," by Gordon D. Fee, exposes

the difficulty of a unified stance regarding a proper view of Scripture due to hermeneutical or interpretative inconsistency. It matters little what one says concerning his view of Scripture, if honesty and integrity is lacking in interpretation. Good material.

The last essay, "Preaching as Biblical Interpretation," by James I. Packer, is excellent material on the need and goals of preaching. Although there are some points of disagreement between myself and the authors of this book I believe it to be well worth the price, time, and effort of obtaining and studying it. Though couched in terms which most will find unfamiliar (a good dictionary will help), the book is very good in promoting understanding of various schools of thought concerning the Scriptures in the religious world today.