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More on the ICBI

By Dr. Jay Grimstead

The “standing army” that we raised at the initial Chicago conferences of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI), included more than 60 inerrancy theologians and Christian leaders. Among them were the following major figures: Dr. Jay Adams, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Dr. James Boice, Dr. Bill Bright, Dr. Edward Clowney, Dr. W.A. Criswell, Dr. Charles Feinburg, Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. John Gerstner, Dr. Harold Heohner, Miss Weatheral Johnson, Dr. Kenneth Kantzer, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. George Knight, Dr. Henry Krabbendam, Dr. Harold Lindsell, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Josh McDowell, Dr. Roger Nicole, Dr. Harold Ockenga, Dr. Ray Ortlund, Dr. Luis Palau, Dr. J.I. Packer, Dr. Robert Preus, Dr. Paige Patterson, Rev. Moshe Rosen, Dr. Lorne Sanny, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. Ray Stedman, Dr. Merrill Tenney, Dr. Larry Walker, Dr. John Walvoord, and Dr. Luder Whitlock. Only future history will be able to give us an accurate account of what was accomplished by the ICBI’s 10-year existence. To see the historic document that contains the signatories click here (Acrobat Reader format - get reader here).

Two specific effects in post-ICBI history can be shown to have had a direct relationship in an informal, non-official and non-deliberate way with the ICBI. Neither of these movements were part of the ICBI agenda, but the actual connection seems to be clear. First, just as the ICBI was forming, certain Southern Baptist leaders such as Paige Patterson, W.A. Criswell, Paul "Judge" Pressler, and Adrian Rogers were discussing among fellow conservatives what was to be done about the drift away from inerrancy within their Southern Baptist Convention and the takeover of their seminaries by the liberal and neo-orthodox professors and administrations.

We believe the formation of the ICBI offered the Southern Baptist conservatives extra courage, manpower, resources and momentum to steer their denomination back to its conservative roots. One of the most interesting and perhaps critical meetings of this century went unnoticed and unannounced at the first ICBI conference in 1978. It was really amazing. Our inerrancy scholars, under Dr. Robert Preus’ leadership from the Missouri Synod Lutheran denomination, spent an evening of strategy and planning as they explained to an attentive group how the liberals had taken over their Lutheran seminary and denomination posts and then how they, under God’s mighty hand, got their denomination and seminary re-committed to the inerrancy of the Bible. 

Following the meeting with Dr. Preus,  a 10- to 15-year plan was set into motion by the Southern Baptists for recapturing their own denomination and schools by Baptist association rules and by wise political placement of new association presidents and other posts. It appears their plans have succeeded. It would be difficult to find any other instances in Church history wherein a denomination and its schools were increasingly coming under liberal control, but wherein the conservative forces rose up and took back the leadership of that denomination. 

The other informal, non-official effect we wish to mention is the formation of the Coalition on Revival (COR). COR has never had any formal connection with the ICBI. However, COR was birthed out of a commitment to take the inerrancy battle even further than the ICBI. There are undeniable theological, interpersonal, and historical connections between COR and the ICBI. I was instrumental in the creation and early leadership guidance of both organizations. As COR was forming, a number of scholars and Christian leaders within the ICBI ranks also enthusiastically joined COR and have remained on as faithful co-workers. COR would never have been born apart form the existence of the ICBI. 

In the first year of the ICBI, when I was the executive director, I convinced the Board that we should set a 10-year life span for the organization so we do not go the way of all institutions and become “institutionalized.” I mean the situation wherein the leaders of an institution quit running the organization for the purpose of accomplishing its original goals and begin making decisions based on the question, “What will further secure our assets and power as an organization and our position as leaders?” So we set a date for fall of 1987 to self-destruct as an organization. That happened on schedule in September 1987 in Washington, D.C. in an impressive and dignified manner. During a formal ceremony, the archives and record of the ICBI were turned over to Dallas Seminary for safekeeping and for historical research value. 

We do not know of other Christian organizations in this century which have set a time limit for accomplishing their goals such as was done by the ICBI. Our logic went like this: If we cannot turn the tide within evangelicalism in 10 years, it probably cannot be done by us with a longer span of time. And if we can accomplish our goals within 10 years, why keep the organization alive?

We praise God for allowing many of us to have a part in launching and running the ICBI and for what was accomplished for the Kingdom of God during those 10 years. We thought it would be timely to present this short history of the ICBI because the battle for the inerrancy of the Bible within evangelicalism needs to be fought once again. The ICBI statement on inerrancy needs to be heralded again for colleges, seminaries, and denominations as the only view ever taught by Jesus, Paul and all the Church history heroes until this century. A neo-orthodox view of the Bible is again being taught in classes to unsuspecting Christian college and seminary students. May those warriors who wish to get in on this part of the battlefield prepare themselves for battle.

For an audio history overview of the ICBI and COR, click here.



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