Hard to believe that the Shepherd’s Conference started with less than 20 people. This year there were approximately 4500 in attendance. There are so many reasons to attend the Shepherd’s Conference, but this year’s focus on Inerrancy was the singular reason. This conference was nothing short of amazing. Not just the fact that some of the church’s most well known and respected pastors, scholars and theologians were present but because of what they presented. Powerful preaching, strong exhortations, biblical sagacity and gracious unity. We need conferences like this. The hour is late, the times are dark and the church is splintered in a thousand directions. For those reasons I am incredibly grateful to Shep-Con.
Did The Summit Accomplish Anything?
I got the sense from some folks on line that what they might have expected from the conference was more like a counsel, or a redrawing, or redrafting, amendments or some type of formal interaction with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy; there was none of the above. Although talked about, there were no clarifications, corrections, or even hardly any citations to the historical document on Inerrancy. Instead, what was accomplished was setting forth, with ample ardor, the need to keep our view of Inerrancy alive and well in a new day with new challenges presenting themselves. During a Q/A session, Dr. Albert Mohler asked at one point, [paraphrasing] ‘where specifically are some of the fires coming from.’ Mohler asked for names of people and places that pose a contemporary threat to inerrancy; a great question. The answers however seemed to continue to focus on old controversies and older battles e.g. with Fuller Seminary, Peter Wegner, and still older- Neo Orthodoxy and liberal Germans like Bultmann and Schleiermacher.
But this should not surprise us. Attacks upon Scripture are seldom new and often old. That is, we consistently have historical reference points in heretical movements and views. While the Summit did not draw up a new document, form a committee or convene an official counsel; it did bring us all to the place of awareness and vigilance.
Points of Emphasis
The conference had many points of emphasis that are important and help us to see the overall necessity for an inerrant resolve. The majority of the emphasis was expositional in nature. It was designed not so much to teach us something new about inerrancy but to affirm our convictions about the necessity of the inerrant word of God.
Particularly important was Carl Trueman’s presentation on the issue of the Reformer’s view of Scripture. The reason that inerrancy issues are not readily found in the Reformers is because they believed that Scripture was God’s word and inspired by God, therefore without error. They were more concerned with its authority than its inerrancy! They were not surrounded by liberal higher critical German scholars but with an apostate Roman Catholic Church that denied the authority of the Bible. Sola Scriptura was the main focus of Reformed Bibliology not inerrancy. However, as a consequence to the Church’s view, stemming from the early church through the medieval age and up to and after the Reformation, inerrancy was indeed affirmed— sufficiency is another matter of course.
As might have been expected there were several passionate pleas for authoritative preaching that stands on the foundation of inerrancy. Steve Lawson pointed us to the nature of Scripture as God’s inerrant powerful word showing us seven critical facets of the inerrant word. Perhaps at this point, we should connect the dots a bit. Because God who cannot lie gave us His word, it is both inerrant and, as Lawson put it, “invincible” in that it has the power to transform our lives. As a pastor, this ignited in my heart continued resolve to preach Scripture as God’s inerrant oracles, all other ground is sinking sand. The masterful exposition of Sinclair Ferguson showed that the apostolic preaching of God’s inspired word is a matter of pneumatology.
Of great interest to me was G.K. Beale’s presentation on how the NT uses the OT. His study focused on Mt. 2’s use of Hos. 11.1, “out of Egypt I have called my Son.” I think Beale added a much needed redemptive-historical component, subsequently affirmed by Dr. Mohler and utilized by Mark Dever on Ps. 119 (an amazing Christo-centric session). This was a pleasant surprise for me personally having spent so much on that method of interpretation on recent years. I think many folks were a bit surprised that MacArthur allowed, supported and added his amen to the use of such redemptive-historical exegesis (at least he did not object to it during the conference). As could have been expected, Beale was brilliant showing how in one portion of Scripture (as in countless other places) the redemptive-historical method is used by NT authors because it was used by OT authors and thus it resolves what many critical scholars see as a historical problem when in reality it is a typological point of hermeneutics not a blatant blunder by an NT author who everywhere else seems to know better. Beale made the powerful point that Matthew used the same hermeneutic as Hosea— a redemptive-historical one rooted in typology and biblical imagery.
The Home Church
As with everything, I always like to think of things in relation to the local church. How does inerrancy issues apply to the church, the pastorate and how do we show our people that it’s important? If Ian Murray’s session at the conference taught us anything it would be to stay near to Jesus, to realize the passing fashions of liberalism and the value of the old paths. For me, the conference was a tremendous boon of encouragement, strength and personal reflection on the preaching ministry. With such a high view of Scripture set before us at this mammoth conference where so many of the Church’s best convened to speak to us, the only question that was left to ask was the all-important one, do we believe this? Do we believe this is God’s inerrant word? Do we believe in Scripture’s power to sanctify to regenerate to with stand the assaults of the evil one? Do we believe that our view of Scripture will affect our walk of holiness? Do we believe that Scripture is sufficient and that the church can rid itself of its useless props and maintain the strict diet of Scripture alone? If we believe that God who cannot lie has not lied to us about the “jots and tittles” in His word, are we living in the light of His inerrant truth? Our lives and ministries will show it.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.