Inerrancy at Stake

Well, I’ve about wrapped it up over at the Evangelutionist.

The last statement from GJG, the main guy I’m arguing with:

So it all comes down to that question. How does accepting a scientific approach to natural history in any way compromise fundamental Christian doctrine?

My response:

I already answered you a couple of times, but you didn’t apparently like the answer. And I’m sorry, but I think I’m just about done with the civility you value so much. The core doctrine you’re compromising is inerrancy and infallibility. You think the Bible has errors, lots of them, beginning to end. And you think that science is possessed of sufficient authority to correct Scripture, when the opposite is in fact the case. You think yourself in a position, possessed of sufficient wisdom, to correct the mistakes of Moses, Peter, Paul, and anyone else in the Bible that doesn’t match up to your level of understanding (even Jesus? He mentions Abel in Matthew 23:35- is Abel a real person?). And you say that the YEC-ists are lacking in humility! Your doctrine isn’t insulting to me. It’s insulting to God. You are lacking in humility. You are the one confused. You think your little telescope, your Discovery channel special, your Carl Sagan magazine article can correct the Holy Scriptures? You think your test tubes and Geiger counters are a more accurate source of information than the Holy Spirit? Moses talked with God FACE TO FACE (Deut. 34:10), as God said He would never talk to any other man until Christ came, and you think you know better than him. Appalling arrogance, and makes me realize what a waste of time this whole thing is, thinking you’d ever listen to me when you won’t listen to Moses. Scripture doesn’t need your help. You need its help, because you’re on the path to death. You apparently believe that God, who said that the mythologies of the nations around Israel were abominations, then used those abominations to teach Israel religious truth. Do you think God incapable of telling the the truth about His own creation in a way that they could understand? Do you really think the Israelites were such idiots that if God had told them “the universe is in fact very old” that they couldn’t understand it, despite the fact that other ancient cultures believed that too? That God could have told Moses (face to face, remember), that some of his details about who was whose parents and how long they lived weren’t right? And maybe Jesus (created all the world, remember) could have dropped a bug in Peter’s ear that Genesis 1 was just a “fable” before Peter would embarrass himself by relying on that fable in the very same passage that denies that he follows fables? Maybe you’d like to rewrite the Bible the way it should have been done? Could have avoided all those poor souls going down to hell because God wasn’t smart enough to write the Bible the way you thought He should have? You should be on your knees asking forgiveness. I could go into quite a bit of detail, how your doctrine destroys the parallel Paul makes in Romans 5, which wrecks the doctrine of imputation of sin and therefore the doctrine of imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The whole covenantal structure is standing on quicksand when the actual historical events that established the covenant may or may not have actually occurred. Original sin is foundering when Adam’s existence is called into question. Death is supposed to be the penalty for sin according to lots of passages (Romans 6:23 for one), but death is just part of God’s mechanism for progress if you’re right. Another contradiction. But you’ve failed to understand or deal with my arguments from the beginning, just accusing me of illogic and ignorance (even accusing me of being ignorant of the meaning of the word ignorant!). I’ve spilled thousands of words on this already. It’s all there. These are the doctrines you compromise as I’ve said from the beginning. I mention Bultmann because I thought you might be interested to know whose arguments you’re using, and what bitter fruit those arguments have borne. And just as a personal exercise I’ll try one more time with my argument about 2 Peter: Peter says that following a myth would be bad, and denies that he does it in verse 16 of chapter 1. Yes, he’s talking about Christ. If your argument is right, then just fifteen verses later, he does just what he said is a bad thing to do by using the flood as proof for his argument- he is following a myth. You seem to think following myths (”religiously, not historically”) is OK, but the word (”muthos”) or the concept everywhere in Scripture is something to avoid. A myth is something that is false, a lie, in Scripture. You say the mythological nature of the flood doesn’t affect his argument, but you apparently don’t understand his argument then. Here it is: Major: God punishes false prophets. (Proof: Flood, Sodom and Gomorrha)
Minor: False prophets exist today.
Conclusion: God will punish those false prophets as well. If the proof for the major premise didn’t happen, then the argument doesn’t work. And also just as a personal exercise, I’ll try this part of my argument again as well: What bar is there to using your exact interpretive method, as many have, to discount the resurrection of Christ? If historical and religious truth can be separated, couldn’t they be separated there as well? Couldn’t I believe in the principle of forgiveness of sins and resurrection and atonement without needing to actually believe in a virgin birth (which science tells us is impossible)? Or to put it another way, who are you to decide which doctrines of Scripture can be tossed aside and which are essential? Who are you to decide that any given truth that God saw fit to communicate to us in Scripture can just be discounted? I say these things for the benefit of anyone else who may be reading. It’s clear to me you’re not going to listen to any arguments I make. Why should you? I’m not greater than Peter. I’m not greater than Moses. You ignore them; you’ll ignore me too. John 5:44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? You appear very much to be more interested in being well-regarded by your fellow “scientists” than being approved by God. I won’t judge your heart, but I will warn you. See the above passage and prayerfully consider whether this applies to you or not. This is why I believe Genesis 1. I believe it because I love Jesus, my Savior, who died for my sins and rose again. I am not my own. I belong to Him. And He told me to believe Moses, without qualification. So I’m going to believe Moses, and all the “science” of the world be damned. Jesus didn’t tell me to believe Moses “religiously but not historically”. He just told me to believe him. If Jesus thought that belief needed a caveat, He could have mentioned it somewhere. See, all I care about is what I’m going to answer for myself when I’m standing in front of His holy throne. I don’t care if it turns people off to the gospel. That’s God’s business. He elects, He calls people to Him anyway. It’s not my job to make Scripture more palatable. It’s an offense, a stumblingblock, and it always has been. I’m not ashamed of it. So, worst case scenario- I’m completely wrong and you’re right. I think I will be able to claim good intentions, that God’s words on this point were a little unclear. I’ve lost nothing, really. I just believed God’s word. I have a hard time thinking God will condemn me for that. But switch it around- I’m right and you’re wrong. What are you going to do when you’re standing in front of God and He wants to know why you didn’t believe the plain teaching of Scripture, and taught other people to do so as well? Whose honor are you interested in receiving? Again, the essential doctrine is the cross of Christ. What’s the link? Verse 46 above. Jesus says if you don’t believe Moses then you won’t believe Him either. I think there’s a little too much at stake here for you to play your little word games. Just believe Moses. He spoke face to face with the creator of the universe, and he knows more than you. I know that you, in your breathtaking arrogance, don’t think that’s true. But I’m going to take the revelation of God over all your little scientists and rock hammers and telescopes and chemistry sets any day of the week. All who contradict the word of God will be weighed in the balance and found to be nothing, the chaff that is blown away. Repent, I am urging you. Your doctrine is the doctrine of devils, and leads to death.
UPDATE: His response is here.

9 thoughts on “Inerrancy at Stake

  1. That was an…um…interesting exchange. I think the exchange went far beyond a discussion over six day creation. I know and respect some who reject six day creation and accept a framework hypothesis or something of that sort. I don’t necessarily agree with them, but I respect them, because, whatever we think of their hermeneutics, they desire to maintain the accuracy of the testimony of the prophets and apostles. They would say that we simply misunderstand what Moses, through divine inspiration, intended to communicate. Regarding your antagonist’s position, call me a cynic, but I don’t understand the desire to demythologize the Scriptures as a whole. It would seem to me that if there are so many false statements in the Scriptures, even atrocious, laughable errors, the easier and more natural conclusion would simply lead us to dismiss the biblical record as yet another collection of ridiculous fables, about as useful for moral purposes as the fables of Aesop. In reality the text would be more of a propaganda tool than a communication of divine truth. The Scriptures claim to be God-breathed. If they are, then I would expect them to be true. If they are not true, then I guess I would ask why I should even be concerned about various defenses of its content. If they are not true, then God would be unjust to condemn men in the Last Day who did not believe them. If God asked, “Why did you not believe my testimony and follow it?” One could reply, “Uh, because you lied.” If a man lies to me about various things, even small details, why should he be trusted regarding more important things? If “God” lies about creation, the flood, and other myths that He presents as truth, why should I trust His testimony regarding Christ and the Law? This kind of deconstructionist Christianity has no future. It never has, and it never will, because it fails to inspire true, spiritual faith and righteousness. The faith of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church has endured for ages, and it will continue to endure as long as the Lord tarries, long after the scientific “facts” of the present are derided as naive nonsense in future generations.


  2. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for the effort invested in the exchange. As painful as it is sometimes, I think this is an example of a positive exchange, at least in view of a great many of other conversations I’ve had on this subject.

    I went through all the comments in your thread today, and while I would echo a great many of the things glovergk said, I did seize on the “wager” you offer above. I think that’s worth a post to discuss, which you can find on my blog if interested.

    In any case, I appreciate your participation in the exchange, and your obvious passion and commitment to the Lord.



  3. Matt,

    Interesting that he wants to use a scientific line of inquiry which questions assumptipons except its very own…but hey everyone needs a god…even Stoics and Epicurians.


  4. When we try to stand on the two legs of science and scripture, the legs are unequal and produce imbalance.

    Science is totally the work of man, the result of his observations and measurements of God’s creation. Science is NOT natural revelation, but only a narrow aspect of man’s observation of one part of natural revelation–that accessible to the senses.

    The Bible is not the work of man, for it is the direct and special revelation of God, in words. The theologies are our work and are ever bit as contradictory as the sciences, but that is our fault, not the fault of the material we work with.

    Creation in totality, including the spiritual realm of angels and the souls of men, is the direct work of God. It is never in conflict with the Bible–man’s science often is, just as men’s theology often is.

    It is not necessarily dangerous to oppose a man’s theology and not necessirly dangerous to oppose a man’s science. It is deadly to oppose or corrupt the matter that both work with: creation or the

    Our quarrel with evolutionis is that we do not believe that creation is saying what they say it is saying, but as we don’t believe that the Bible says what Pelagius said it says.

    Both the Bible and Creation speak with authority. I will get into trouble is I do not listen to them. The difference is that the Bible speaks much more clearly and directly to me, and can be read in a few hours. Such is not true of creation. Ignoring Creation may bring temporal pain and loss; ignoring the Scripture brings damnation to the soul.

    When in doubt follow the eternal, the kingdom of God, and the promises of those things which cannot be seen.

  5. There are so many things wrong with your position here that it’s hard to focus on just one, but I’m particularly troubled by your misuse of John 5, which seems to be a touchstone of your position.

    It’s obvious from the context of John 5 that when Jesus refers to the teaching of Moses the reference is to the messianic references in the Torah.

    Addressing the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus says the Father testifies to his (Jesus’) messiahship; John the Baptist testified to his (Jesus’)messiahship; and Jesus’ earthly ministry self-authenticates his messiahship. On top of all that, Jesus tells the Jewish religious leaders, they have the testimony about him by Moses, whom they claim to revere. Thus, they are condemned for rejecting Jesus based on multiple lines of testimony concering his status of Messiah, including the messianic portions of the Torah.

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with the creation narratives, much less what sort of hermeneutic should be used to understand those narratives, what sort of literary genre they represent, or how to properly exegete them. We can disagree about how to understand the creation narratives while agreeing that the Torah and the rest of scripture testify to Jesus as Messiah.

    It seems to me that you are plucking a few lines out of John 5, ripping them from context, and establishing a proof-text threat that those who disagree with you are rejecting Christ. It’s deeply unfortunate, IMHO, that you choose to take this kind of divisive approach.

  6. David,
    The position hardly rests on John 5. It is the case throughout the Gospels that the Jewish Scriptures are viewed as authoritative, without caveat. John 5 is just one example of that. Whenever Jesus says “do not the Scriptures say?”, it is enough to end the argument for him. It is the end of the discussion. Jesus told us to believe the works of Moses, without caveat, never giving us permission to edit or alter the meaning of those texts at all. And in John 5, Jesus does not say what aspects of Moses point to Him- they all do, including Genesis 1-11. Therefore they must all be believed.

    The book of John in general posits a sharp difference between knowledge that is gained through human wisdom and observation, and knowledge that is gained by faith, recognizing the word of God and believing it. John 5 is just another example. How do you know that Jesus is the Messiah? Not by proofs or external evidence- they ate the bread of the miracle and still didn’t believe. You believe because the man of God recognizes the word of God when he hears it, and believes it without reservation. By faith we know that the worlds were framed by the word of God, not by observation. Thus, it is perfectly appropriate within the context of John as a whole and its consistent approach to epistemology to apply Jesus’ statement in John 5 to any part of the work of Moses, including Genesis 1-11. This is the whole point- do you believe it’s true or not?

    You say it’s divisive. But that’s simply begging the question. If I’m right, then you’re the ones being divisive by teaching error. You don’t prove anything just by calling me divisive.

  7. Whenever Jesus says “do not the Scriptures say?”, it is enough to end the argument for him. It is the end of the discussion.

    Yes, I agree that Jesus viewed the OT as authoritative scripture, and that we must do so as well.

    But this doesn’t establish for us any hermeneutical or interpretive principles. We always need to exegete and interpret scripture before we can claim to be stating a scriptural principle. The question about what Gen. 1-4 means is not one of authority, it is one of interpretation.

    What if I were to say to you, on the authority of scripture, that you must hate your parents? After all, in Luke 14:26, this is exactly what Jesus says we must do. Is it enough for me to assert “this is what the scriptures say” and nothing more? Of course not.

    The fact that we must engage in interpretation before we claim scriptural authority for any proposition is a basic one that is not disputed by serious Bible scholars of any doctrinal persuasion.

    The book of John in general posits a sharp difference between knowledge that is gained through human wisdom and observation, and knowledge that is gained by faith, recognizing the word of God and believing it.

    I think you are in danger here of interpreting John’s gospel in a Gnostic fashion — a not uncommon mistake. In fact, John lays quite a different epistemic groundwork in the first chapter, summed up in 1:18: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only [Son], who is himself God and [b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” Far from being Gnostic, John’s epistemology is incarnational. While God is invisible, hidden in a sense, He has made himself visible, revealed Himself, in Christ.

    We do not believe blindly, then, merely because some book tells us to. We believe because we are able to perceive that God has come in Christ. Christ himself is the revealed “word” (John 1:1) and it is because of his testimony that we recognize the authority of the written scriptures.

    This, indeed, ties very nicely into Jesus’ argument with the Jewish leaders in Chapter 5. Note that in 1:17, John states that “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” This in a sense prefigures Jesus’ argument in Chapter 5 that his Messiahship is self-authenticating, but that even Moses testifies to it.

    I would agree, then, that faith is a necessary presupposition for knowledge, but I would not agree that a Biblical worldview suggests a radical disjunction between faith and reason. Indeed, I would argue that the Biblical worldview — starting in Genesis with the creation of humans as rational beings in God’s image — is just the opposite. Faith and reason are not at odds; reason functions properly with faith.

    How do you know that Jesus is the Messiah? Not by proofs or external evidence- they ate the bread of the miracle and still didn’t believe.

    For me, as for I think a vast number of Christians, there certainly is an evidential component to my faith. In particular, I’m convinced that the historical evidence strongly supports my belief that Jesus really did rise from the dead. Consistent with the Apostle Paul’s theology, the resurrection is a keystone of my Christological beliefs.

    Now, I’d agree that evidence of this sort only goes so far. Given my own Reformed convictions, I’d agree that people come to faith through the work of the Holy Spirit rather than primarily through reason. Nor do I think the Christian faith can be “proven” through reason. However, I think it’s possible, and important, to demonstrate that the Christian faith is reasonable.

    Thus, it is perfectly appropriate within the context of John as a whole and its consistent approach to epistemology to apply Jesus’ statement in John 5 to any part of the work of Moses, including Genesis 1-11.

    It would be an extraordinarily strange hermeneutical approach to try to define an epistemology in John and then to suggest that epistemology adds some kind of extra meaning to the clear context of a given passage such as Jesus’ discussion with the Jewish leaders about his status as Messiah in Chapter 5. Even if John’s Gospel evinces the sort of Gnostic epistemology you propose, there doesn’t seem to be any warrant for employing that as an interpretive framework over the whole book. The context of Chapter 5 seems very clear, and I think you’ve clear exceeded it. In any event, as discused above, I don’t think John’s Gospel implies an epistemology of the sort you propose.

    You say it’s divisive. But that’s simply begging the question. If I’m right, then you’re the ones being divisive by teaching error.

    What is divisive is not the mere fact that we disagree. If I were completely right and you were completely wrong, that would not necessarily mean you were being divisive. The suggestion of divisiveness has nothing to do with the merits of the discussion and therefore doesn’t beg that question.

    What is divisive is your suggestion that anyone who doesn’t hold your view on this particular issue is thereby rejecting Christ’s claim to be Lord. Thoughtful believers can disagree on many things, including this, and still affirm together that Christ is Lord. If you insist on questioning the faith of anyone who disagrees with your view on this, you are being divisive.

    This also, I think, demonstrates why your “wager” argument is a very bad one. You are suggesting that God will reward those who are afraid to wrestle with the difficult questions the text of scripture sometimes presents us as we try to understand and apply it in our particular historical setting. To the contrary, I think God expects and calls each new generation of the Church to engage in the hard work of exegesis and application of scripture. Nor does God promise us anywhere that this task will alway be easy. (Indeed, even Peter acknowledged that some of Paul’s letters are “hard to understand” — 2 Peter 3:16). It seems to me that your “wager” would counsel people not to ask the hard questions that lead to careful study of scripture.

  8. David,
    Go back and read his argument again. His argument has nothing to do with hermeneutics. His argument is that Moses was mistaken about a number of things. He is making the argument that Moses’ understanding of the history of the world was wrong, and that Peter was wrong too when he mentioned the flood as if it actually occurred. I never said anyone that disagreed with my opinion of Genesis 1-11 was denying Christ’s Lordship. But I do say, and will continue to say, that anyone who says that Scripture is wrong about anything it says is denying Christ’s Lordship, and this is His argument.

    And yes, your claim is begging the question. If I’m right, and you’re undermining Scripture, then I’m supposed to be divisive. Being divisive is not always a bad thing.

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