The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy: Article 2

It is the written text of Scripture and the ministry of God’s Spirit that alone bind the consciences of God’s people. The church is not the Holy Spirit. There is one Master, our Lord Jesus, to whom every Christian must answer and he is able to make all his servants stand (Romans 14:4).

Article two of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy reads: “We affirm that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture. We deny that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible.” This is an affirmation consistent with the Reformational doctrine of sola scriptura, or Scripture alone, and a denial of Roman Catholicism’s doctrine of Scripture and Tradition, and thereby a denial, in principle, of its doctrine of the Church. To understand the direction the implications of this statement take us, we need to unpack the features of the relationships expressed by the article. These relationships revolve around the word authority.

Given the anti-authoritarian age in which we live, it is no surprise that there is not only much confusion regarding what is meant by authority in any given matter in which the term and concept is used, but also an outright attempt to deny authority altogether. But this latter move is literally absurd. Authority is an essential aspect to life. One is certainly free to deny authority in principle, but that does precious little in doing away with it. Authority is to human living what oxygen is to it—a necessary and constituent aspect of it. This is not to say that everyone’s exercise of authority is always done rightly. Far from it. It is to say that anyone whose fundamental orientation to life is to live in rebellion against authority is going to find that they have a very rough go of it. You might as well try and walk by chopping off both your legs.

The term and concept of authority expresses both power and responsibility in some sphere. Article two fundamentally asserts that God’s written word is that rule and power by which God binds every human conscience. Since God’s church is made up of—you guessed it—people, God’s church has neither the power nor responsibility to bind the consciences of others. Therefore, the leaders of every congregation, denomination, or branch of God’s church should not presume to try and bind the conscience of anyone. God, through his Word and Spirit, binds and obligates all people, and we therefore are, ultimately, answerable to God for everything.

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