In response to the trend toward liberal and neo-orthodox interpretations denying the biblical
inerrancy of Scripture, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was produced by hundreds of
evangelical scholars and leaders in an international and interdenominational effort to affirm and defend
biblical inerrancy. This Statement was produce at a congress, sponsored by the International Council on
Biblical Inerrancy, in Chicago during the fall of 1978.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was signed by nearly 300 noted evangelical scholars,
including James Boice, Norman L. Geisler, John Gerstner, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, Harold Lindsell,
John Warwick Montgomery, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer, Robert Preus, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, R. C.
Sproul, and John Wenham.
The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy went on to produce another significant statement:
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics in 1982 for the purposes of clarifying hermeneutical
principles and practices.
For further information, consult Inerrancy by Norman L. Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
1980), God, Revelation And Authority, vol. 4 by Carl F. H. Henry (Waco, Tx.: Word Books, 1979), and
Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary by R. C. Sproul (Oakland, Calif.: ICBI, 1980).
Included at the end is the commentary on The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy by R. C.
The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian church in this and every
age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their
discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God's written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or
conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture
is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.
The following Statement affirms this inerrancy of Scripture afresh, making clear our
understanding of it and warning against its denial. We are persuaded that to deny it is to set aside
the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of
God's own Word which marks true Christian faith. We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation
in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstandings
of this doctrine in the world at large.
This Statement consists of three parts: a Summary Statement, Articles of Affirmation
and Denial, and an accompanying Exposition. It has been prepared in the course of a three-day consultation
in Chicago. Those who have signed the Summary Statement and the Articles wish to affirm their own
conviction as to the inerrancy of Scripture and to encourage and challenge one another and all Christians
to growing appreciation and understanding of this doctrine. We acknowledge the limitations of a document
prepared in a brief, intensive conference and do not propose that this Statement be given creedal
weight. Yet we rejoice in the deepening of our own convictions through our discussions together, and
we pray that the Statement we have signed may be used to the glory of our God toward a new reformation
of the Church in its faith, life, and mission.
We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love,
which we purpose by God's grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said.
We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences
of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess
this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and
habits, into true subjection to the divine Word.
We invite response to this statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations
about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we
speak. We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help which enables
us to strengthen this testimony to God's Word we shall be grateful.
-The Draft Committee
A Short Statement
1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in
order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer
and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.
2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended
by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be
believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as God's command, in all that it
requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.
3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His
inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all
its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history,
and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual
5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy
is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own;
and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
Articles of Affirmation and Denial
WE AFFIRM that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word
WE DENY that the Scriptures receive their authority from the Church, tradition,
or any other human source.
WE AFFIRM that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God
binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture.
DENY that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the
authority of the Bible.
WE AFFIRM that the written Word in its entirety is revelation given by God.
DENY that the Bible is merely a witness to revelation, or only becomes revelation in encounter, or
depends on the responses of men for its validity.
WE AFFIRM that God who made mankind in His image has used language as a means of
WE DENY that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is
rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human
culture and language through sin has thwarted God's work of inspiration.
WE AFFIRM that God's revelation within the Holy Scriptures was progressive.
DENY that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We
further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament
WE AFFIRM that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words
of the original, were given by divine inspiration.
WE DENY that the inspiration of Scripture
can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human
writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains
largely a mystery to us.
WE DENY that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to
heightened states of consciousness of any kind.
WE AFFIRM that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities
and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.
WE DENY that
God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true
and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.
DENY that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion
or falsehood into God's Word.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic
text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with
great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to
the extent that they faithfully represent the original.
WE DENY that any essential element
of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence
renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
WE AFFIRM that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible,
so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.
DENY that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions.
Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.
WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood,
fraud, or deceit.
WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual,
religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We
further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching
of Scripture on creation and the flood.
WE AFFIRM the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference
to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.
WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture
according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny
that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities
of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use
of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material
in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.
WE AFFIRM the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.
that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved vitiate the truth claims of
WE AFFIRM that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible
WE DENY that Jesus' teaching about Scripture may be dismissed by appeals
to accommodation or to any natural limitation of His humanity.
WE AFFIRM that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church's faith
throughout its history.
WE DENY that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by scholastic Protestantism,
or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.
WE AFFIRM that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers
of the truthfulness of God's written Word.
WE DENY that this witness of the Holy Spirit
operates in isolation from or against Scripture.
WE AFFIRM that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical
exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret
WE DENY the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying
behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its
claims to authorship.
WE AFFIRM that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of
Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm
that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.
that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected
without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.
Exposition (R. C. Sproul)
Our understanding of the doctrine of inerrancy must be set in the context of the
broader teachings of the Scripture concerning itself. This exposition gives an account of the outline
of doctrine from which our summary statement and articles are drawn.
Creation, Revelation and Inspiration
The Triune God, who formed all things by his creative utterances and governs all
things by His Word of decree, made mankind in His own image for a life of communion with Himself,
on the model of the eternal fellowship of loving communication within the Godhead. As God's image-bearer,
man was to hear God's Word addressed to him and to respond in the joy of adoring obedience. Over
and above God's self-disclosure in the created order and the sequence of events within it, human
beings from Adam on have received verbal messages from Him, either directly, as stated in Scripture,
or indirectly in the form of part or all of Scripture itself.
When Adam fell, the Creator did not abandon mankind to final judgment but promised
salvation and began to reveal Himself as Redeemer in a sequence of historical events centering on
Abraham's family and culminating in the life, death, resurrection, present heavenly ministry, and
promised return of Jesus Christ. Within this frame God has from time to time spoken specific words
of judgment and mercy, promise and command, to sinful human beings so drawing them into a covenant
relation of mutual commitment between Him and them in which He blesses them with gifts of grace and
they bless Him in responsive adoration. Moses, whom God used as mediator to carry His words to His
people at the time of the Exodus, stands at the head of a long line of prophets in whose mouths and
writings God put His words for delivery to Israel. God's purpose in this succession of messages was
to maintain His covenant by causing His people to know His Name-that is, His nature-and His will
both of precept and purpose in the present and for the future. This line of prophetic spokesmen
from God came to completion in Jesus Christ, God's incarnate Word, who was Himself a prophet-more
than a prophet, but not less-and in the apostles and prophets of the first Christian generation.
When God's final and climactic message, His word to the world concerning Jesus Christ, had been
spoken and elucidated by those in the apostolic circle, the sequence of revealed messages ceased.
Henceforth the Church was to live and know God by what He had already said, and said for all time.
At Sinai God wrote the terms of His covenant on tables of stone, as His enduring
witness and for lasting accessibility, and throughout the period of prophetic and apostolic revelation
He prompted men to write the messages given to and through them, along with celebratory records of
His dealings with His people, plus moral reflections on covenant life and forms of praise and prayer
for covenant mercy. The theological reality of inspiration in the producing of Biblical documents
corresponds to that of spoken prophecies: although the human writers' personalities were expressed
in what they wrote, the words were divinely constituted. Thus, what Scripture says, God says; its
authority is His authority, for He is its ultimate Author, having given it through the minds and
words of chosen and prepared men who in freedom and faithfulness "spoke from God as they were
carried along by the Holy Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:21). Holy Scripture must be acknowledged as the
Word of God by virtue of its divine origin.
Authority: Christ and the Bible
Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is the Word made flesh, our Prophet, Priest, and
King, is the ultimate Mediator of God's communication to man, as He is of all God's gifts of grace.
The revelation He gave was more than verbal; He revealed the Father by His presence and His deeds
as well. Yet His words were crucially important; for He was God, He spoke from the Father, and His
words will judge all men at the last day.
As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ is the central theme of Scripture. The Old
Testament looked ahead to Him; the New Testament looks back to His first coming and on to His second.
Canonical Scripture is the divinely inspired and therefore normative witness to Christ. No hermeneutic,
therefore, of which the historical Christ is not the focal point is acceptable. Holy Scripture must
be treated as what it essentially is-the witness of the Father to the Incarnate Son.
It appears that the Old Testament canon had been fixed by the time of Jesus. The
New Testament canon is likewise now closed inasmuch as no new apostolic witness to the historical
Christ can now be borne. No new revelation (as distinct from Spirit-given understanding of existing
revelation) will be given until Christ comes again. The canon was created in principle by divine
inspiration. The Church's part was to discern the canon which God had created, not to devise one
of its own.
The word canon, signifying a rule or standard, is a pointer to authority,
which means the right to rule and control. Authority in Christianity belongs to God in His revelation,
which means, on the one hand, Jesus Christ, the living Word, and, on the other hand, Holy Scripture,
the written Word. But the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one. As our Prophet, Christ
testified that Scripture cannot be broken. As our Priest and King, He devoted His earthly life to
fulfilling the law and the prophets, even dying in obedience to the words of Messianic prophecy.
Thus, as He saw Scripture attesting Him and His authority, so by His own submission to Scripture
He attested its authority. As He bowed to His Father's instruction given in His Bible (our Old Testament),
so He requires His disciples to do-not, however, in isolation but in conjunction with the apostolic
witness to Himself which He undertook to inspire by His gift of the Holy Spirit. So Christians show
themselves faithful servants of their Lord by bowing to the divine instruction given in the prophetic
and apostolic writings which together make up our Bible.
By authenticating each other's authority, Christ and Scripture coalesce into a single
fount of authority. The Biblically-interpreted Christ and the Christ-centered, Christ-proclaiming
Bible are from this standpoint one. As from the fact of inspiration we infer that what Scripture
says, God says, so from the revealed relation between Jesus Christ and Scripture we may equally
declare that what Scripture says, Christ says.
Infallibility, Inerrancy, Interpretation
Holy Scripture, as the inspired Word of God witnessing authoritatively to Jesus
Christ, may properly be called infallible and inerrant. These negative terms have a
special value, for they explicitly safeguard crucial positive truths.
lnfallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and
so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable rule
and guide in all matters.
Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood
or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all
We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that
it is infallible and inerrant. However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in
each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production.
In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman's milieu, a milieu that God
controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.
So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor
as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences
between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance,
non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no
expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers.
When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have
achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards,
but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its
The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of irregularities
of grammar or spelling, phenomenal descriptions of nature, reports of false statements (e.g.,
the lies of Satan), or seeming discrepancies between one passage and another. It is not right to
set the so-called "phenomena" of Scripture against the teaching of Scripture about itself.
Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly
achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we
shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances,
and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.
Inasmuch as all Scripture is the product of a single divine mind, interpretation
must stay within the bounds of the analogy of Scripture and eschew hypotheses that would correct
one Biblical passage by another, whether in the name of progressive revelation or of the imperfect
enlightenment of the inspired writer's mind.
Although Holy Scripture is nowhere culture-bound in the sense that its teaching
lacks universal validity, it is sometimes culturally conditioned by the customs and conventional
views of a particular period, so that the application of its principles today calls for a different
sort of action.
Skepticism and Criticism
Since the Renaissance, and more particularly since the Enlightenment, world-views
have been developed which involve skepticism about basic Christian tenets. Such are the agnosticism
which denies that God is knowable, the rationalism which denies that He is incomprehensible, the
idealism which denies that He is transcendent, and the existentialism which denies rationality in
His relationships with us. When these un- and anti-biblical principles seep into men's theologies
at [a] presuppositional level, as today they frequently do, faithful interpretation of Holy Scripture
Transmission and Translation
Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary
to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the
need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the
course of its transmission. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text
appear to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster
Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of
Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.
Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional
step away from the autographa. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking
Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations
and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed,
in view of the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it deals and also of
the Holy Spirit's constant witness to and through the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture
will so destroy its meaning as to render it unable to make its reader "wise for salvation through
faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15).
Inerrancy and Authority
In our affirmation of the authority of Scripture as involving its total truth, we
are consciously standing with Christ and His apostles, indeed with the whole Bible and with the main
stream of Church history from the first days until very recently. We are concerned at the casual,
inadvertent, and seemingly thoughtless way in which a belief of such far-reaching importance has been
given up by so many in our day.
We are conscious too that great and grave confusion results from ceasing to maintain
the total truth of the Bible whose authority one professes to acknowledge. The result of taking this
step is that the Bible which God gave loses its authority, and what has authority instead is a Bible
reduced in content according to the demands of one's critical reasonings and in principle reducible
still further once one has started. This means that at bottom independent reason now has authority,
as opposed to Scriptural teaching. If this is not seen and if for the time being basic evangelical
doctrines are still held, persons denying the full truth of Scripture may claim an evangelical
identity while methodologically they have moved away from the evangelical principle of knowledge
to an unstable subjectivism, and will find it hard not to move further.
We affirm that what Scripture says, God says. May He be glorified. Amen and Amen.