January 6th, 2009
Beale, G.K. The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evagelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 300 pp. $20.00. Westminster.
I think the teaser for the second Jaws movie says it best, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water.” For many evangelicals, especially those in the Southern Baptist Convention, the issue of Inerrancy had been fought and won. Well, since that “battle,” we have become lax in our defense of the doctrine of Inerrancy, that the Bible is inerrant in its original manuscripts (autographs). Now, G.K. Beale sounds a much needed alarm alerting us to the need to continue fighting this battle. The argument is centered upon the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and whether or not this confession is outdated given new findings and understandings of the original biblical manuscripts.
Since the topic of Inerrancy is a lightning rod still today, Beale limits the scope of this book to a debate between himself and Peter Enns over Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation. The first chapter is the first of Beale’s two reviews of Enns’ book and the second chapter is Beale’s response to Enns’ response of the review. Chapters three and four follow a similar pattern with the third chapter being the second part of Beale’s review. The final three chapters seek to understand specific problems with the view on Inerrancy. The appendices offer more in depth looks into the postmodern view of the Bible.
While Beale does cite extensively Enns’ papers in which he is responding to, and he tells you where they can be found, it would have been nice to read them. However, that would have easily added another one hundred pages to an already 300 page book. It probably would have added to the complexity of the subject matter thus missing the mark by which Beale was aiming—to make this discussion available to the layperson which I believe he did a decent job.
While I would not recommend this book to just anyone, I would highly recommend it to any pastor or seminary student or anyone wanting to understand the doctrine of Inerrancy today. It is important that we, as conservative biblical evangelicals, do not forget those who have gone before us and fought this battle over Inerrancy. If we do, I fear their work may have gone for naught.