Dan Fuller and Inerrancy

From the following quotations it would appear that Daniel P. Fuller holds to inerrancy (quotations from The Unity of the Bible, 1992):

“. . . rather than simply stating at the outset that the Bible is indeed the verbally inspired, inerrant Word of God, I arrive at this conclusion by beginning with facts and axioms and then work upward from these to establish the Bible’s verbal inspiration” (xvii).

“. . . I have felt that to follow this method was most appropriate in establishing the Bible’s inerrancy and unity” (xviii).

“In chapters 3 and 4, then, I conclude that the twenty-seven books composing the New Testament canon are also [with the OT] inerrantly and verbally inspired by God” (24).

But in describing “Black Saturday,” December 1, 1962, in Reforming Fundamentalism George Marsden recounts that

While Ockenga, as chairman, could have left it at that, he opened the door for major debate by asking immediately, ‘But why do we need a new creed?’ He could see no such need. Dan Fuller, the model of candor . . . saw his chance to assume his new leadership role. He pointed to what he saw as a vital need to revise the statement on inerrancy. ‘Dr. Ockenga,’ he asserted before the whole faculty and board, ‘there are errors which cannot be explained by the original autographs. It is simply not historically feasible to say that these errors would disappear if we had the autographs.’ He went on to explain his whole theory of the nature of biblical inerrancy—essentially, that the Bible claimed inerrancy only for its ‘revelational’ teachings, that is, matters that make one wise unto salvation. . . .

Ockenga responded with thinly veiled indignation. 'Well, what are we going to do then? Dan Fuller thinks the Bible is just full of errors' (211–12).

Then Marsden records this fascinating detail: “As a matter of course, stenographers had made a shorthand record of the entire planning conference. Within a few days the elder Fuller [Dan’s father, Charles, the evangelist who with Ockenga founded Fuller Seminary] had gathered all the notes and the transcripts typed from them and placed them in his safe. Eventually they disappeared” (215).

The account goes on,

A few days later Ockenga called him [Dan Fuller] in and asked him if he could sign the statement of faith. Fuller said ‘sure’ he could. He observed that Article II of the creed, that concerning Scripture, combined the statement that the Bible was inerrant with the classic formula that it was ‘the only infallible rule of faith and practice.’ That phrase, Fuller argued, implied that it was as a rule of faith and practice that the Bible was ‘free from error in the whole and in the part’ (216).

It seems to me that this is a classic case of “equivocation,” which exploits the ambiguity in the meaning of words or phrases. On the one hand, Fuller asserts that the Bible has errors, and on the other hand, he signs a statement saying the Bible has no errors. Then, 30 years later he publishes The Unity of the Bible and defends “inerrancy”! Did his mind change or does he mean by “inerrancy” what he meant in 1962? What Fuller meant by the term was clearly not what the conservatives at Fuller (e.g., Ockenga, Carl Henry, Harold Lindsell, Wilbur Smith) meant by the term.

Marsden recounts that in the view of at least one of the Fuller trustees, “Those who were not in accord with the creed should, in honesty, leave” (215).

Unfortunately, those who disagree with creeds are apparently never willing to leave. They stay around and either change the creed or ignore it. As Marsden notes on the previous page,

Beginning with the gradual slippage of Harvard into Unitarianism, the past two hundred years had seen an endless repetition of the same story. Most of America’s greatest academic institutions had been founded by conservative Bible-believing evangelicals. But nearly every one of these schools had eventually fallen to the onslaughts of theological liberalism, and then to outright secularism. A vast empire lay in ruins (214, and see further Marsen’s The Soul of the American University).

Those interested in a full explanation of Inerrancy should consult “The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy,” which in my view accurately represents what the Bible claims about itself.

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