The "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy" was
produced at an international Summit Conference of
evangelical leaders, held at the Hyatt Regency OíHare
in Chicago in the fall of 1978. This congress was
sponsored by the International Council on Biblical
Inerrancy. The Chicago Statement 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
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 Godís 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 Godís own Word that 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
misunderstanding 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 propose
by Godís 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
that enables us to strengthen this testimony to Godís
Word we shall be grateful.
I. Summary 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 Godís
witness to Himself.
2. Holy Scripture, being Godís 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 Godís instruction, in
all that it affirms; obeyed, as Godís command, in all
that it requires; embraced, as Godís pledge, in all that
3. The Holy Spirit, Scriptureís 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 Godís acts in creation, about the
events of world history, and about its own literary
origins under God, than in its witness to Godís saving
grace in individual lives.
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 Bibleís own; and such lapses bring
serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
II. Articles Of Affirmation And Denial
We affirm that the Holy Scriptures are to be received
as the authoritative Word of God.
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
We deny that church creeds, councils, or declarations
have authority greater than or equal to the authority of
We affirm that the written Word in its entirety is
revelation given by God.
We 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 revelation.
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 Godís work of inspiration.
We affirm that Godís revelation in the Holy
Scriptures was progressive.
We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill
earlier revelation, ever corrects of 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
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, through not conferring
omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance
on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved
to speak and write.
We deny that the finitude or falseness of these
writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced
distortion or falsehood into Godís 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
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
We 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
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 metrical, variant
selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use
of free citations.
We affirm the unity and internal consistency of
We deny that alleged errors and discrepancies that
have not yet been resolved violate the truth claims of
We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded
in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.
We deny that Jesusí 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 Churchís 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
Godís 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 Scripture.
We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text
or quest for sources lying behind it that leads or
relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its
teaching, or rejecting its claims of 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.
We deny 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.
Our understanding of the doctrine of inerrancy must
be set in the context of the broader teachings of
Scripture concerning itself. This exposition gives an
account of the outline of doctrine from which our
Summary Statement and Articles are drawn.
A. Creation, Revelation and Inspiration
The 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 Godís
image-bearer, man was to hear Godís Word addressed to
him and to respond in the joy of adoring obedience. Over
and above Godís 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 judgement, but promised salvation and began to
reveal Himself as Redeemer in a sequence of historical
events centering on Abrahamís 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
judgement 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. Godís purpose in this succession of messages
was to maintain His covenant by causing His people to
know His nameóthat is, His natureóand 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, Godís incarnate Word, who
was Himself a prophetómore that a prophet, but not
lessóand in the apostles and prophets of the first
Christian generation. When Godís 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
tablets 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 writersí 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" (I Pet
1:21). Holy Scripture must be acknowledged as the Word
of God by virtue of its divine origin.
B. 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 Godís communication to man, as He is of all
Godís gifts of grace. The revelation He gave was more
that 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
isóthe 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 Churchís part was
to discern the canon that God had created, not to devise
one of its own.
The word Ďcanoní, signifying a rule of 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
Fatherís instruction given in His Bible (our Old
Testament), so He requires His disciples to doónot,
however, in isolation but in conjunction with the
apostolic witness to Himself that 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 that together make up our Bible.
By authenticating each otherís 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.
C. Infallibility, Inerrancy, Interpretation
Holy Scripture, as the inspired Word of God
witnessing authoritatively to Jesus Christ, may properly
be called Ďinfallibleí and Ďinerrantí. These negative
terms have a special value, for they explicitly
safeguard crucial positive truths.
ĎInfallibleí 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, Ďinerrantí 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 its assertions.
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 penmanís 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, nonchronological
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 (for example, 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 writerís 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.
D. Skepticism and Criticism
Since the Renaissance, and more particularly since
the Enlightenment, world views have been developed that
involve skepticism about basic Christian tenets. Such
are the agnosticism that denies that God is knowable,
the rationalism that denies that He is incomprehensible,
the idealism that denies that He is transcendent, and
the existentialism that denies rationality in His
relationships with us. When these un- and anti-Biblical
principles seep into menís theologies at
presuppositional level, as today they frequently do,
faithful interpretation of Holy Scripture becomes
E. 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 appears 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
Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and
all translations are an additional step away from the
autograph. 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 Spiritís 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).
F. 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
that 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 that God
gave loses its authority, and what has authority instead
is a Bible reduced in content according to the demands
of oneís critical reasoning 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.