James Boice

Today I am kicking off a brand new series of articles I am titling The Defenders. Through brief sketches of Christian leaders, I hope to draw attention to believers known for defending the church against specific theological challenges or false teachings. I will be focusing on modern times and have chosen to begin with James Montgomery Boice, a long-time defender of the doctrine of inerrancy.

Inerrancy

The Christian faith stands or falls on the Bible. It stands or falls on the trustworthiness of the Bible. It is no surprise, then, that the Bible has often been attacked at this very point. A long list of dissenters have maligned the Bible by insisting that it cannot be fully trusted, and asserting that errors have crept into it. The doctrine of inerrancy addresses the Bible’s trustworthiness.

Wayne Grudem defines the doctrine in this way: “The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.” Said otherwise, “Inerrancy is the view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrines or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences” (P. D. Feinberg). If it is true that the Bible is reliable and contains nothing contrary to fact, then it is worthy of our trust and able to guide us in matters pertaining to life and godliness.

It was this doctrine, and the attacks upon it, that drew the attention of James Montgomery Boice.

James Montgomery Boice

James BoiceJames Montgomery Boice was the much-loved pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death in 2000. A prolific author, he penned dozens of books and commentaries, including a massive and influential four-volume work on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. His long pastoral ministry was unblemished and his congregants remember him as a kind and loving pastor. But outside that congregation he is remembered as a fierce defender of the doctrine of inerrancy.

In a stirring tribute to his friend and mentor, Richard Phillips says that Boice’s ministry can be roughly divided into three phases. The first of these phases lasted from the mid-1960’s to just around 1980, and it was here that Boice distinguished himself as a defender of the doctrine of inerrancy. Phillips explains:

These were the years when Boice was wrapping up the education he received in liberal institutions like Princeton Seminary and the University of Basel. In his John commentary, dating from these early years, one will frequently read Boice defending the Bible from the interpretations of liberals like Rudolf Bultmann. These were also the years when Boice was ordained in the liberal United Presbyterian Church, so that the context for his ministry was that of opposition to liberal attacks on the Bible. It is no surprise that Boice’s chief concern during these years was to defend the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, as seen in his leadership of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).

The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy was founded in 1977 for the express purpose of defining and defending the doctrine of inerrancy. Boice, who that year would publish Does Inerrancy Matter?, was asked to serve as Chairman. The Council met in 1977 and determined they would write a book-length response to Jack Rogers’ Biblical Authority, an influential work championing neo-orthodoxy and denying inerrancy. Boice served as editor for that work and in it he warned “even among evangelicals, Christian doctrine and Christian living are moving progressively away from the biblical standard and from the classical teachings of the church.” In the fall of 1978 the ICBI held their first conference with nearly 300 Christian leaders in attendance. During that conference the Council met repeatedly and wrote what came to be known as The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

In 1988 the ICBI was disbanded, having completed the work it was created to do. Mark Dever says explains that “The plan, all along, was to have a limited life, so as not to form another institution which could go astray. Its purpose was to hold conferences and publish books to the end of championing the traditional position on the inerrancy of Scripture. And their efforts—and those of their friends at the time—have left us one of the richest stores of literature on inerrancy.”

While Boice’s ministry progressed through two more phases, each with a different focus, he did not leave inerrancy behind. In 1984 he wrote Standing on the Rock: Upholding Biblical Authority in a Secular Age. In his theological work Foundations of the Christian Faith he returned to inerrancy, saying:

Can God reveal himself to humanity? And, to be more specific, can he reveal himself in language, the specifics of which become normative for Christian faith and action? With an inerrant Bible these things are possible. Without it, theology inevitably enters a wasteland of human speculation. The church, which needs a sure Word of God, flounders. Without an inerrant revelation, theology is not only adrift, it is meaningless. Having repudiated its right to speak on the basis of Scripture, it forfeits its right to speak on any other issue as well.

He continued to display leadership among Reformed Protestants. In 1994 he convened a meeting with a number of key leaders and together they founded the Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals, a work that carries on today, and continues to champion a high view of Scripture.

Boice once wrote these words (italics are mine):

It is sometimes said by those who take another position that inerrantists have just not faced the facts about the biblical material. This is not true. These men have faced them. But they are convinced that in spite of those things that they themselves may not fully understand or that seem to be errors according to the present state of our understanding, the Bible is nevertheless the inerrant Word of God, simply because it is the Word of God, and that it is only when it is proclaimed as such that it brings the fullest measure of spiritual blessing. May God raise up many in our time who believe this and are committed to the full authority of the Word of God, whatever the consequences. In desiring that “Thus saith the Lord” be the basis for the authority of our message, the seminaries, whether liberal or conservative, are right. But we will never be able to say this truthfully or effectively unless we speak on the basis of an inerrant Scripture.

God did raise up those people, and Boice’s efforts were rewarded with a generation committed to the inerrancy of the Bible. The Chicago Statement remains a clear, strong, and scriptural call to inerrancy. Boice’s ministry still resonates in the church even fourteen years after his death, and it will continue to do so long after his name is forgotten. At his death his friend R.C. Sproul said it well: “Here we had a valiant warrior for the church militant in our age.”

Recommended Reading

On Inerrancy:

By James Montgomery Boice

The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever
Click on cover to purchase from Amazon.Com

Hell and humor between the same two book covers. Seriously? As a co-founder of Cruciform Press, I like to provide occasional updates on news and tell you about our books. Our recent release, The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, by Thor Ramsey, is as unusual and compelling as its title.

In recent years, some very famous books have claimed that the hell described in Scripture doesn’t actually exist. These books have gotten a lot of attention and generated a ton of controversy. Bible-believing Christians understand that we can’t deny this doctrine (it’s taught plainly in Scripture), but we tend to be uneasy about it just the same. As Ramsey says, “In today’s age of peace, love, and misinformation, the subject of hell seems to make church leaders sweat even when they’re not trying to be ironic.”

Ramsey doesn’t think this attitude is wise or ultimately helpful. He even goes so far as to say that he’s learned to delight in the doctrine of eternal punishment. As he shares his delight, you will see how he managed to write a book on hell that actually does turn out to be encouraging.

This might seem shocking to you, but I delight in the doctrine of hell. Let me explain myself before you tell me to go there. I didn’t arrive at this mindset overnight, but now I delight in everything that God has revealed to us about himself. Any glimpse into the workings of the mind of God should delight a Christian.

Ramsey starts with the question, “What do we really lose if hell freezes over?” As he works through this, we see that the answer is…everything. The orthodox doctrine of hell is closely tied to the fear of God, the holiness of God, the gospel of God, and the love of God. Ramsey unpacks each of these four points in separate chapters that make up the heart of the book.

Ramsey is an unusual guy. Besides being a pastor and teacher, he spent 20 years as a Christian stand-up comic, and it shows in this book. Some have wondered whether a book about hell from a comedian could truly work. It does work, though. Ramsey’s sense of humor comes through, and the book is entertaining and even funny in places, but he’s not flippant or disrespectful. Sometimes the humor catches the reader by surprise, but isn’t that the nature of humor?

With the reality of hell still actively under attack, this accessible, winsome book on a difficult subject is truly needed. If you’re halfway familiar with the debate about hell, you’ll know whose ideas Ramsey is dismantling. Ramsey, however, does not focus on the teachers, but on the doctrine. As he says, “The person is not the point. The bad theology is.”

So while this book does correct recent false teaching, it does more than shore up a besieged doctrine. It logically and theologically integrates an orthodox view of hell into the gospel, thus reminding the reader to delight in the beauty and cohesiveness of the whole of God’s Word. With endorsements from author Eric Metaxas, actor Stephen Baldwin, and Drew Dyck of Leadership Journal, I doubt you have read anything quite like it. You will come away from this book with a better understanding of a doctrine that many reject, while growing in appreciation for God’s love and holiness. Along the way, you will probably even chuckle, and more than once. Now that’s no small trick.

You can buy The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever at Amazon (Kindle; Softcover) or direct from Cruciform Press (all formats).

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Dan back in February 2011. Dan addressed the popular but false ideas behind the slogan “Love, not doctrine.”

As usual, the comments are closed.

Breaking news: Jesus talked about love!

Well honestly, the way I see it mentioned hither and yon, you'd think there was a segment of the church which denied that statement. If so, I've yet to meet it. Certainly there are parts which aren't very good at it, but denial? Denigration? I don't think I've ever heard anyone deny or denigrate genuine, Biblical love — not the way folks have repeatedly denigrated doctrine.

Love is the mark of a disciple (John 13:34-35). In this passage, our Lord does not say that doctrine is the mark of a disciple, or that correctness is the mark of a disciple, or even that truth is the mark of a disciple. So love, some would say, clearly supplants concerns about correct doctrine.

Not so fast. Why stop there? Jesus also does not say that monotheism is the mark of a disciple. He does not say that abstaining from murderrape, or theft is the mark of a disciple. He does not say that wearing clothes or eating are marks of a disciple. He does not even say that believing in Him, in any sense, is the mark of a disciple.

So what have we established? Only that Jesus didn't say what He didn't say in this passage. Which, hopefully, all are agreed upon. We had better hope He said other things, somewhere. Because if all we had were this passage, we would not even know what this passage meant! I mean, what is love? Warm feelings? Cheesy sentimentalism? Coddling? Indulging? Unconditional approval and enabling? Indifference towards damaging (or even damning) error? Treacly benevolence?

So rather than camping on this passage as if it were the only thing Jesus ever said, without any context, what if we — oh, I don't know — considered everything Jesus said? Shall we?

So we ask: is this the only thing Jesus ever said about love, or about what should distinguish His followers? Hardly. Let's start with the latter:  “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” Jesus asks (Luke 6:46). So right away, we know that Jesus expects obedience to His words to characterize His real followers.  Nor do we see a hierarchy, as if one may obey some but disregard others. Jesus seems to think that He is our Lord, or He is not; and if He is, what He says should produce obedience in us.

Whatever He means by “love” in John 13, then, it must be characterized and framed by obedience to His words — which, as we just saw, leads us to the rest of the New Testament, and back to the whole of the Old Testament as well.

In fact, Jesus Himself ties those ideas together, repeatedly (John 14:15, 21, 23-24, 15:10). So would He ever have tolerated a notion of love divorced from a specific, set doctrinal framework? Fantasy-Jesus, yes. Fantasy-Jesus thinks all sorts of things, largely things that will keep the world's good graces. The actual Jesus, however, the one who really lived and lives — He would never have conceived of such a view.

Love for God comes first (Matthew 22:37-40). Then, and only then, is it followed by love of neighbor. And what, pray, is love for God? The concept is explained and given full color in the Old Testament, whence Jesus mined this gold. Let's just lift a snippet:

“You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.” (Deuteronomy 11:1)

Do you see it yet again? Love for God walks hand in hand with wholehearted acceptance of the full authority of all of God's words. But what is more, plugging in Deuteronomy, it means doctrinal loyalty, it means clinging wholly to the true God — which is to say as well, to the doctrinal truth about God — in the face of all opposing doctrines. It is loyal devotion to God, as His doctrine is revealed in Scripture alone.


by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Phil back in May 2010. Phil warned against the legalism of both the Judaizers and the Pharisees.

As usual, the comments are closed. 

Legalists sometimes defend themselves by claiming that legalism, properly understood, is just what Paul condemned in Galatians 1: the sin of making justification conditional on some work or ceremony performed by the sinner. In other words, legalism is works-salvation. So, they say, if you formally affirm the principle of sola fide and preach that people can be saved without any prerequisite work, you can't possibly be a legalist, no matter how many rules you make and impose on the consciences of people who are already converted.

No. Legalism is the error of abandoning our liberty in Christ in order to take on a yoke of legal bondage (Galatians 5:1). There are actually two kinds of legalism.

First is the one recognized and despised even by the fundamentalist with his thick rule-book. It's the legalism of the Judaizers. The Judaizers wanted to make circumcision a requirement for salvation. They had fatally corrupted the gospel by adding a human work as a requirement for salvation. That is certainly the worst variety of legalism, because it destroys the doctrine of justification by faith and thereby sets up “a gospel contrary to the one you received” (Galatians 1:8-9).

But another kind of legalism is the legalism of the Pharisees. It's the tendency to reduce every believer's duty to a list of rules. This is the kind of legalism that often seems to surface in our comment-threads. At its root is a belief that holiness is achieved by legal means—by following a list of “standards.” This type of legalism doesn't necessarily destroy the doctrine of justification like the legalism of the Judaizers. But it does destroy the doctrine of sanctification, and it is certainly appropriate to call it what it is: legalism—i.e., a sinful misapplication of law; an attempt to make law do work that only grace can do. Like the Judaizers' brand of legalism, it brings people under a yoke of bondage Scripture has not placed on them.

That is precisely what happened in the fundamentalist movement, and one of the major reasons that movement has failed so notoriously. Legalism diverts people's attention from sound doctrine, so that the typical fighting-fundie legalist is doctrinally ignorant, reserving his or her “convictions” for a silly man-made system of rules. Ask the typical self-styled fundamentalist to define the difference between imputed and imparted righteousness, and he will not be able to do so. Suggest that it's OK for women to wear pants, or for people to use another version besides the KJV for Bible study, and the same fundy will lock and load his angry dogmatism, ready to do battle or even die for some ridiculous man-made “standard.” Thus, as Jesus said, they have nullified the Word of God for the sake of their man-made traditions.

Let me say this plainly: It is a sin to impose on others any “spiritual” standard that has no biblical basis. When God gave the law to Israel, He told them, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). And, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).

If we add rules that Scripture doesn't make—especially if we try to impose our man-made rules on other people's consciences as a standard of spirituality—we are guilty of the same sin as the Pharisees and worthy of the same harsh rebukes Christ leveled at them.