That’s me ‘hanging out’ with the Coast Guard… Every chaplain at the Basic Navy Chaplain School had something about which they were anxious. For my roommate it was the swim test. For me it was the ‘Holy Helo’ training. When a Carrier group is deployed, the only way to get the chaplain from one ship to another ship in the group is by means of a helicopter.(hence the nickname Holy Helo.)
I was really sweating this one. It was winter time in Newport Rhode Island. (then the home of the Basic Course) On the day we were to do the Holy Helo training it was so cold that they hoisted a flag that indicated that no one would be able to train outside. Surely this was a miracle to spare me from being hoisted up in a horse collar. The course officer apologized to those of us who would not be able to take the Holy Helo training, assuring us that we would get this experience later.
A few years later I was filling in for the Coast Guard chaplain at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod’s Massachusetts Military Reservation. The man I was to replace told me that there was nothing unusual on the schedule and that it should be an unremarkable few weeks. The day after he left on leave, I got a call from the Navy Chaplains’ School (Newport isn’t that far from Cape Cod) I was informed that the next day they would conduct the Holy Helo training at our base and that I would act as one of the ‘subject matter experts. ‘Are you kidding me?
I got my game face on, swallowed the grapefruit sized lump in my throat and tried to act like a ‘subject matter expert.’ They lowered the cable with the horse collar attached. I was so stiff, they later told me they thought I was a cardboard cutout. The cable was not very thick at all. Just before I left the earth, I had an alarming thought…Did they farm out the contract for this cable during a period of labor strife?”
The following is an excerpt from Fatal Drift: Is The Church Losing its Anchor? (Note: The original title was Why it Matters–Avoiding Shipwreck at Cape Disappointment)
“This book represents my conviction that the abandonment of the doctrine of inerrancy of scripture has brought about a perilous situation. When I considered the title for the book, I remembered a TIME magazine cover which showed a page of The United States Constitution which was half destroyed in a paper shredder. The title on the cover read, Does it Still Matter? As I stared at it I thought, “That could just as easily be the first page of Genesis, and the same question could be asked of synods and seminaries, preachers and parishioners.
Drawing upon illustrations gleaned from a lifetime of pastoral ministry, a twenty year career as a Navy Reserve chaplain and a decade as a Bible College professor, I hope my experiences will serve to underscore the importance of inerrancy. I mean to tackle this issue head on. A.B. Simpson once said,
“God is looking for men on whom He can put the weight of all His love and power and faithful promises. God’s engines are strong enough to draw any weight we attach to them. Unfortunately the cable which we fasten to the engine is often too weak to hold the weight of our prayer. Therefore God is drilling us, disciplining us to stability and certainty in the life of faith. Let us learn our lessons and stand fast.”
Is it important that any discussion of inerrancy has all but disappeared from our seminaries? Is it a significant development that today many pastors doubt that whole passages of scripture were inspired? Do we need to accommodate the culture or confront it? These questions beg answers. I have already experienced the rebukes of some who feel that this book represents an overreaction on my part, and that it really doesn’t matter whether the Bible is inerrant. I respectfully disagree. Frankly, I believe it is the defining issue of our times In the pages that follow, it is my earnest prayer that you, dear reader will come to see,
Why it matters…”