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Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority, and Hermeneutics

, 2004
ISBN: 9780830875115
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By definition, a high view of Scripture inheres in evangelicalism. However, there does not seem to be a uniform way to articulate an evangelical doctrine of Scripture. Taking up the challenge, Vincent Bacote, Laura Miguélez and Dennis Okholm present twelve essays that explore in depth the meaning of an evangelical doctrine of Scripture that takes seriously both the human and divine dimensions of the Bible. Selected from the presentations made at the 2001 Wheaton Theology Conference, the essays approach this vital subject from three directions.

Stanley J. Grenz, Thomas Buchan, Bruce L. McCormack and Donald W. Dayton consider the history of evangelical thinking on the nature of Scripture. John J. Brogan, Kent Sparks, J. Daniel Hays and Richard L. Schultz address the nature of biblical authority. Bruce Ellis Benson, John R. Franke, Daniel J. Treier and David Alan Williams explore the challenge of hermeneutics, especially as it relates to interpreting Scripture in a postmodern context. Together these essays provide a window into current evangelical scholarship on the doctrine of Scripture and also advance the dialogue about how best to construe our faith in the Word of God, living and written, that informs not only the belief but also the practice of the church.

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Top Highlights

“Beginning in the 1820s, the reticence to theologize about the Bible began to wane. Some theologians came to insist that the truly evangelical approach to Scripture includes the affirmation of verbal inspiration and biblical inerrancy, together with a literalist hermeneutic. The roots of this growing focus lay in the post-Reformation era known as Protestant scholasticism.” (Page 28)

“This raises a fundamental question: are the words or the authors inspired?” (Page 161)

“Two strands—the Pietistic and the scholastic, the warm-hearted and the right-headed, the experimental and the doctrinal—inhabit the evangelical psyche. As a result, some evangelicals view the Bible primarily as the means by which the soul is nourished, whereas others elevate its role in the process of determining right doctrine.” (Page 39)

“Formerly, inspiration was viewed as primarily vertical—God’s Spirit working in and through one individual. Today, it increasingly is being viewed as horizontal—God’s Spirit continuing to work for generations, even centuries, through a series of anonymous individuals and groups.” (Page 160)

“Nothing in an evangelical doctrine of inspiration excludes the contribution of inspired, even if anonymous, authors and editors to a book such as Isaiah, for we probably are in their debt for the production of most, if not all, of the Old Testament historical books.” (Page 167)

Product Details

  • Title: Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority, and Hermeneutics
  • Editors: Vincent E. Bacote, Laura C. Miguelez, and Dennis L. Okholm
  • Publisher: IVP Academic
  • Publication Date: 2004
  • Pages: 245

About the Editors

Vincent E. Bacote (Ph.D., Drew University) is assistant professor of theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

Laura C. Miguelez is assistant professor of theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

Dennis L. Okholm (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) teaches in the department of theology and philosophy at Haggard School of Theology, Azusa Pacific University. Previously he was associate professor of theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and an oblate of a Benedictine monastery (Blue Cloud Abbey, SD).

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  1. Igor Foukzon

    Igor Foukzon


    A golden, much needed fairway between the gloomy fundamentalist and the evasive "liberal" spirits. Here are some key quotations: ...is the Bible primarily the locus of the one, complete, timeless body of correct doctrines compiled and scientifically systematized by the theologian? Or is it primarily the Spirit's means of the ongoing process of accommodated revelation, stretching from the inspiration of human authors to the illumination of human readers? (from Introduction) The Pietists… differentiated sharply between mere theological knowledge, which anyone can attain, and true saving knowledge, which only the Spirit can give. (Ch. 1) It is possible that inerrancy might be better conceived, defended and employed as an interpretive strategy, a theological hermeneutic that called for the suspension of disbelief in favor of faith in what Scripture reveals and that was developed as a strategy of resistance to the pressures of the historical-critical method, rather than as a polemic in the service of ecclesial or doctrinal purity or as an apologetic argument for a supposed generically verifiable epistemological soundness of the sacred text. (Ch. 2) If the word inspiration were tied to a fixed state of affairs—something alleged to be true of the Bible apart from the relation to God that it acquires through God’s use of it—then what one would really be saying is that the Bible has the Word of God as its predicate. But the Word of God is God, and God cannot be made the predicate of anything creaturely. (Ch. 3) I have always wondered (since my teenage years!) why the first verses of Hebrews are not the locus classicus answering how we know about God: that God has revealed God’s self in “many and diverse ways,” culminating in these last days in a Son who is the very image of God. The point of Scripture was to communicate life in the first place rather than truth, though the latter was not ignored. (Ch. 4) I would argue that inerrancy is a modern construct that is somewhat alien to the biblical world. The biblical authors and church fathers spoke in terms of the trustworthiness of Scripture rather than its inerrancy. The New Testament authors extended this concept of truthfulness and accuracy to their extant copies of the Scripture (the Old Testament), not just to the autographs. In other words, when the New Testament authors made statements concerning the origin, nature and authority of Scripture, they had in mind the extant copies available to them (not some long-lost autographs). (Ch. 5) ...admitting the humanity of Scripture’s authors does not negate the objective and authoritative voice of Scripture; rather, it means that the authoritative voice of Scripture is best understood when we account for the frailty of its human authors. In other words, our readings of Scripture find their theological traction in a God who never errs rather than in human authors who do. To make God out as errant is heresy; to make the human authors of Scripture inerrant is docetism. (Ch. 6) Our English Bibles are really hybrids in the Old Testament—following the LXX for canonical order but following the MT primarily, but not always, for text. The apostles viewed the LXX as the Word of God, as did the early church. And even if is established that the MT is a later literary development of the LXX Vorlage (and I am not convinced that it is), this proves neither that the MT is the inspired edition nor that the LXX should not be used text-critically to move back in time toward a better, more original text. (Ch. 7) Most evangelical treatments of the prophetic books have surprisingly little to say concerning the nature of prophetic inspiration. This neglect is understandable because if one closely examines the prophetic literature itself, one finds only a few references in the classical prophets to their dependence on the activity of the Spirit (e.g., Is 59:21 and Mic 3:8). (Ch. 8) “Real objects” can never be fully present to our minds. Derrida thinks that the “I,” the self, is in a similar situation. Derrida argues that no words give us a full “expression” of meaning. Derrida clearly implies that authors have intentions, and that he is no exception. Derrida translates the word Husserl uses for meaning (Bedeutung) as vouloir dire, “wanting to say.” One cannot help but think here of Paul’s “I would not have you ignorant” or “I want you to know.” Thus “to mean,” for Derrida, is precisely the state of having a desire to say something. (Ch. 9) Which has priority, Scripture or the church? This fundamental difference still animates contemporary dialogues between Catholics and Protestants. However, posing the question in this manner is ultimately unhelpful in that it rests on foundationalist understandings of the derivation of knowledge. Scripture is authoritative because it is the vehicle through which the Spirit speaks. That is to say, the authority of the Bible is ultimately the authority of the Spirit whose instrumentality it is. And apart from the Christian community, the texts would not have taken their particular and distinctive shape. Apart from the authority of the Christian community, there would be no canon of authorized texts. (Ch. 10) Does acknowledging the human authorship and cultural complexity of theological systems necessarily diminish biblical thinking and theological conviction? Must we, in other words, choose either a wooden propositionalism or the worst pitfalls of postmodernity? (from Ch. 11) Jesus’ central claim to be the truth demands of us that we follow that path: to know that Jesus is the truth is to walk this path (1 Jn 2:6). This metaphor highlights the reality that there is simply no room for the Christian to “possess” the truth without also being one who walks in the way. (from Ch. 12)


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