The Self Identity of Evangelicals



Woodbridge, John D., “Evangelical Self Identity and the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy”,

The Gospel Coalition Website, September 5, 2011

THEO 525 (Spring 2012)

Systematic Theology I

Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

Rick Mangrum (ID# 21757355)

February 19, 2012





            In his article from September 2011, John Woodbridge presents an analysis of biblical inerrancy and its place in the doctrine of evangelical believers.  Woodbridge’s thesis is that to really understand the doctrine of evangelical Christianity one must understand the role of biblical inerrancy as a “central teaching” of Christian churches since their beginnings.1  Biblical inerrancy is fundamental to the doctrine of evangelicals and understanding its history and development help gives the believer a stronger self-identity as an evangelical follower of Christ.  Woodbridge writes for The Christian Coalition Website, a weekly online journal presented by a nondenominational organization founded by Pat Robertson in 1993.  Woodbridge writes from his position as a professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

Brief Summary


            Woodbridge presents a timeline of support for biblical inerrancy from 405 to present day.  The details supporting his position are in the beliefs, work and lives of the Christian theologians he describes.  His article is detailed and precise in its thesis and supporting evidence.  It is a very substantial journal article on the subject at twenty nine pages and over one hundred references.

Critical Interaction

            At stake in Woodbridge’s article is the importance of biblical inerrancy to modern Christians.  He begins his article with a story of an academic colleague, disturbed at being labeled as a fundamentalist by others for his strong belief in biblical inerrancy. Woodbridge sees that label as one of honor as his colleague took it as an insult.  He outlines the history of inerrancy and it central place in the development of the evangelical Christian church.  Inerrancy is truly fundamental to evangelical Christian belief from Woodbridge’s perspective.

Woodbridge presents a detailed timeline of inerrancy, tracing it back to St. Augustine in 405.  Augustine’s “all or nothing” stance on inerrancy was “central” to church doctrine and tradition from its beginning.2  From Augustine he moved to Johannes Eck in 1518 and detailed Eck’s criticism of Erasmus, one of that era’s most brilliant theologians.3  Erasmus had implied that Matthew had made a mistake in his choice of words in one passage.  Eck was clear and loud in his public response on behalf of the church.  Woodbridge continues by detailing the work of Richard Simon in 1689, Pope Leo XIII in 1893, Hodge and Warfield in 1881, Pope Pius XII in 1943, Billy Graham in 1956 and C.F. Henry in 1991.   He detailed the work of Luther and Calvin as background to other examples.  In each example he cites the position of the person supporting inerrancy, the opposition they faced and their reaction to that opposition.  He cited biblical references in many instances.  Although inerrancy is never taught in the Bible, he makes a detailed biblically supported case for its validity.4

Woodbridge’s theological perspective is clearly on the side of complete biblical inerrancy.  His goal is to persuade the reader to share his point of view.  The strengths of his arguments are the consistency of position of inerrancy advocates over almost two thousand years.  His list of advocates is a who’s who of Christian theology.  This article clearly supports the idea that biblical inerrancy is an idea supported by Christian theologians since almost the beginning of biblical study itself.


            Woodbridge proved his thesis and supported it with an impressive list of sources, their positions and detailed analysis of the success or failure they experienced in their lifetimes.  This student was persuaded by his presentation and moved by both its simplicity and its depth of detail.  The only weakness of Woodbridge’s analysis was in his obvious support of this thesis.  The opposing viewpoints of his examples were not as detailed as the points of their positions that supported his view.


1Woodbridge, John D., “Evangelical Self Identity and the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy”, The Gospel Coalition Website, self-identity and the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, September 5, 2011, Accessed February 15, 2012.




3Montgomery, John Warwick, God’s Inerrant Word, (Minneapolis, MN:  Bethany House Publishers, 1974), 146.


4Gielser, Norman L. and William C. Roach, Defending Inerrancy:  Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Publishing Group, 2011), 322.




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