Multiple Version Onlyism (MVO) and the 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy

            Perhaps the most useful convocation of Evangelicals for the propagation of MVO was by the writing and signing of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy in 1978. Signed by 300 noted Evangelical leaders, (including James Boice, Norman L. Geisler, John Gerstner, Jay Grimstead, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, Harold Lindsell, John Warwick Montgomery, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer, Robert Preus, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul, and John Wenham), all advocates of MVO, their endorsement of the statement did much to support the credibility of MVO, something the statement’s drafters, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, thought was falling into question.

For those less familiar with MVO, personal endorsements are essential to the movement, both for the endorser and that being endorsed. The endorser shows his allegiance to MVO orthodoxy while also lending their notoriety to the credibility of the position. It is not an overstatement to say that the endorser’s entire reputation as a credible scholar hinges on their dedication to MVO orthodoxy. While approving of the aggregate, endorsements by an advocate of MVO gives the sense of “better” without compromising the whole. Because the aesthetics of the version’s content is not decisive, endorsements become determinative within MVO. Through prominent endorsements and subsequently by applying the statement to MVO, each version of the aggregate was considered inerrant, a needed response to the recognized versional dissonance within MVO.

Differences within the aggregate were codified by the statement as variations on the same theme and not errors empowering the position MVO held in the Academy and Church with this statement on p. 13, signed by the 300 Evangelical leaders: “Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional step away from the autograph. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach.”

Utilizing historic orthodox categories regarding inspiration, the work of the Holy Spirit, and authority gave the statement the ring of historic theological authenticity. More importantly, with the statement, MVO was codified as the position of the Evangelical believing community, replacing pre-critical theological bibliology that, due to prejudiced irreconcilable errors, were excluded from the statement. But like all organized systems that relate to MVO, the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, after serving its purpose has slipped into the sphere of forgotten documents.

After the initial fanfare, the statement is rarely spoken of, and when it is mentioned, the statement is more of a novelty than confession-like. The statement smacked of the long-forgotten oversight of a theological standard of a single self-attesting, self-authenticating, and self-interpreting authoritative text and version, the antithesis of MVO. Holding to MVO while agreeing to the statement in the final analysis could not be justified in the mind of the adherent. MVO had too powerful an influence on the conscience to accept the validity of a unified statement. The apparition of the 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy remains in force conceptually though the body of the proposition has long since been buried, because 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy has no actual theological application within MVO.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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