“A Bible Inerrancy Primer,” John H. Gerstner, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich.; 63 pages, paper bound; $.85.
The author of this little brochure is Professor of Church History and Government at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He is evidently a conservative Presbyterian, loyal to the Westminster Confession of Faith.
It is evident from the very title of the book that the author is committed to the truth of the Bible’s inerrancy, or infallibility. This fundamental position of the author becomes abundantly clear in these pages also, and this is to be appreciated.
The purpose of the booklet is apparently to furnish a stringently logical proof for the inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture. In Part One, Mr. Gerstner treats “Some Unsound Bases for Sound Doctrine” (on Bible Inerrancy, of course). He rejects as unsound bases: the Bible’s Own Testimony, the Holy Spirit’s Testimony, the Believer’s Testimony, and the Church’s Testimony. All these, while they may be true and valuable in themselves, can, according to the author, not serve as bases for a sound doctrine of Bible inerrancy. In Part Two he attempts to furnish what he calls “A Sound Basis for Sound Doctrine.” The main thrust of his argument is the Testimony of Divinely Commissioned Messengers as the Basis for Bible Inerrancy. In this section Mr. Gerstner argues first from Commissioned Messengers to Inspired Bible, and then from Inspired Bible to Inerrant Bible.
It would require another 63-page booklet, perhaps, to treat all that Prof. Gerstner writes. Briefly put, I do not believe that the inerrancy of Scripture is a subject for logical proof apart from the testimony of Scripture itself. Moreover, I believe there are several links in Mr. Gerstner’s chain of proof that he cannot sustain without an appeal to the very Bible whose inerrancy he is trying to prove. This, according to the author is the fallacy, for example, in arguing from the Bible’s own testimony to its inerrancy. But it appears to be the fallacy in his own position also.
Scripture’s inspiration and infallibility are a matter of faith; and no amount of proofs will satisfy or convince an unbeliever.
Nevertheless, I like this little booklet. My chief reason is that the author is committed to the doctrine of Bible inerrancy. That is fast becoming a rare position in our day. Secondly, the booklet is simply and clearly written. If one remembers that it is intended to be no more than a “primer,” then it also cannot be criticized on the score of brevity. In the third place, the appendix on “The Confession of 1967” (of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA) is valuable to those who are interested in that currently much discussed subject. I must confess, however, that I stand aghast at the author’s claim that this new Confession “also permits adherents of the Westminster Confession of Faith to remain in the church in good conscience.” This possibility is based on the ambiguity of the new Confession.
To those interested in this subject of Bible Inerrancy, I recommend this Primer.