It is sometimes argued by evangelical non-inerrantists that the doctrine of inerrancy is a recent theological innovation that finds little to no precedent in the church.  The early church fathers, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Bavink, and Kuyper, they claim, all held to a view of Scripture that was far different than what inerrantists advance today.  Furthermore, it isn’t until we come to B. B. Warfield and the Princeton theologians in the early to late 19th century that we begin to find concentrated efforts to write on the doctrine of Scripture.

The conclusion: not only is inerrancy a departure from the historic position of the church, it is a doctrine that owes its origin to a specific era of church history in which the Protestant response to the assaults of higher criticism compelled scholars to form a theology of Scripture according to modernistic rather than biblical categories.

A Valid Concern?
Although it is true the words inerrant or inerrancy were never used prior to the modern period, the concept of an error-free text has certainly been embraced by a large segment of the professing Christian church since the first century (as I’ve noted here, here, here, and here).

A question that naturally emerges as one considers the rigor with which inerrancy was defended and defined in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, is why so much attention was given to the doctrine during this time? Such a recent upsurge in scholarship devoted to the doctrine of Scripture generally and to inerrancy specifically does seem to give some weight to the claim that the idea of an error-free text—at least as it is currently defined—is a modern invention.

A Basic Question
But before we tag the doctrine of inerrancy with such a classification, we first need to ask a basic question.  Starting with the early church: why is it that we don’t find in the fathers a detailed doctrine of Scripture that includes nuanced descriptions of inspiration and inerrancy? I suggest there are two primary reasons: (1) Early church theologians and apologists, in most cases, simply assumed the divine nature of the Bible and advanced their arguments on this foundational premise; and (2) their theological efforts were mainly taken up with other concerns, like explaining and defending the nature of Christ, defending the coherence of the Christian message, and similar matters.  James Bannerman explains,

The question of the authority and infallibility of Scripture did not, however, pass through this process [of controversy] until many centuries afterwards. There are no definitions and limitations of the doctrine on one side or another, elaborately drawn out and reduced to systematic form, as if armed on every side to repel assault, or fortified around to prevent controversy or misunderstanding. The belief of the early church in an infallible Bible was too simple to require to be fenced about with the safeguard of explanations, and too unanimous to need support from argument. There was neither controversy nor theorizing demanded to satisfy the faith of Christians; nor did the one or the other appear in connection with inspiration for the first eight hundred years (Bannerman, Inspiration, 123).

In other words, the reason why we do not find significant doctrines of Scripture in the early church is that they were unnecessary.  The theological controversies of the time required extended treatment of other issues not directly related to the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy.  And, although matters of Scripture’s origin and reliability did receive more attention through the middle ages and into the Reformation, a similar observation could be made of these eras as well: Christian theologians devoted their time and energy to other pressing doctrinal issues. Systematic theologian Mark Thompson makes this very point when he writes,

As so often happens in the history of Christian theological reflection, the need for a detailed treatment of a specific theological topic became obvious only in the light of challenges and efforts to recast a long-standing theological consensus  (See “The Divine Investment in Truth” in Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture, 73).

Referring specifically to B. B. Warfield and company, D. A. Carson makes a similar comment:

The Princetonians had more to say about Scripture than some of their forebears, precisely because that was one of the most common points of attack from the rising liberalism of the (especially European) university world.  Beyond this, I suspect that even-handed reading of the evidence would not find Hodge or Warfield adopting a stance on Scripture greatly different from Augustine or Calvin, so far as its role in the structure of Christian theology is concerned (see Carson’s SBJT article here).

Legitimate Doctrinal Development
What the above comments highlight is this: the main problem with the argument that inerrancy is only of recent vintage is that it mistakes legitimate doctrinal development for theological innovation.

Christian doctrine, over time and as a result of encountering contemporary issues, grows and matures in nuance and detail.  As doctrines develop, however, they continue to retain fundamental aspects of the original teaching, as children retain the features that were faintly apparent in their prenatal state (consider the advances made between Nicea and Chalcedon).

In the case of inerrancy, it is misleading to suggest that it was a doctrinal invention conceived by Christian apologists in order to retain intellectual credibility in the throes of modernism or to counter the arguments of higher-criticism.  On the contrary, it is an example of what happens when a historic doctrine confronts contemporary issues related directly to what the doctrine originally asserted.

The view that Scripture is entirely truthful and without error in all it affirms was largely assumed by the bulk of the church until after the Reformation so there was no need to argue strenuously for it. We should expect a stronger and more detailed emphasis on the error-free nature of Scripture when, in the nineteenth century, Christian scholars were faced with sophisticated arguments that undermined fundamental theological affirmations and the truthfulness of much of the biblical narrative.  It seems largely without warrant, then, to claim that the doctrine of inerrancy is a recent theological invention.

Photo by Bagus Ghufron on Unsplash

41 thoughts on “Is Inerrancy a Recent Theological Invention?

  1. Thank you for this article, Derek. Really helped me. Wish I could say more right now. In the block quote from Carson, it should read “would *not* find Hodge or Warfield…”

  2. I infer from the conclusion that the author believes Scripture to be inerrant, and the point of the article is that any opposition predicated on the concept that “inerrancy” is only a relatively recent argument is unfounded. I would have preferred then, that he use his column space to argue why we should believe the Bible is inerrant in 2014 notwithstanding its many irreconcilable contradictions and passages which suggest less than an all powerful, all loving God. FWIW, simply stating that it is not for us to understand the intent of God (regarding Biblical inconsistencies) will likely not convince many rational participants in the discussion.

    1. “FWIW, simply stating that it is not for us to understand the intent of God (regarding Biblical inconsistencies) will likely not convince many rational participants in the discussion.”
      Where in the OP does Brown say this? I don’t see it.

      As for your preference for how the blog space should’ve been used, you have a right to your opinion, and I’m sure Brown appreciates feedback from blog readers. I would say that the fact that the argument is unfounded hasn’t stopped people from making it, and that reason alone makes Brown’s use of blog space to refute it a reasonable one.

  3. Certainly there are some non-inerrantists who claim it’s a new invention, and they’re clearly incorrect. As your previous posts show, there’s a long history going back to the Church Fathers of the idea that Scripture is the Word of God and thus infallible.

    However, other non-inerrantists point out that while inerrancy has a long tradition in the Church, the modern understanding that modern evangelicals have of inerrancy is a new invention, dating back to the period that you claim.

    You have cherry-picked historical quotes without given deference to the work of past Christian theology as a whole. A comprehensive reading of the Church Fathers and medieval theologians makes this clear. For example, you quote Origen, but do not mention this quote from him: “where the historical narrative could not be made appropriate to the spiritual coherence of the occur­rences, [the Holy Spirit] inserted sometimes certain things which either did not take place or could not take place” (De Principiis IV, 15) He goes on to say with regard to the Creation story in Genesis: “I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.” (De Principiis IV, 16)

    Augustine also says “It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20, Ch. 19) So even Augustine argues that Scripture should not be taken literally if it conflicts with clear, certain scientific observations.

    The idea of multiple types of interpretation goes all the way back to the Church Fathers. John Cassian (360-435AD) described four ways of interpreting Scripture: literal, tropological (moral), allegorical, and anagogical (future-oriented). (Conference 14, ch 8). This is what the Schools of Antioch and Alexandria discussed and debated over.

    So yes, inerrancy goes back to the very beginnings of the Church, but not the kind of inerrancy that modern evangelicals espouse.

    1. It seems to be except for the Origen quote, you are arguing against strawmen. Thinking that a section is meant to be taken figuratively is not the same thing as errant. However, there are limits to that where it becomes an out for people. (Hey Moses didn’t exist but what this signifies… vs. Genesis 1 isn’t trying to be 100% literal account)

      1. If you make a clear distinction between inerrancy and literalism, then you’d be correct. But in my experience few evangelicals make that distinction and ignore the allegorical, anagogical and tropological methods of interpretation, and that includes many who have been to seminary.

      2. I don’t think the problem is the method of interpretation. You can always go allegorical for anything. There’s no brakes on that.

        A better way of approaching that would be just asking the question: what is the author intending? Or how was the author meaning for this to be taken? Something along those lines.

    2. But it is said that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God. You seem selective even somewhat callous to justification by faith. Your demarcation points align with an unfortunate lack there of.

  4. The early Church didn’t have the Bible as know it and authority in the Church rested within the Church led by the bishops. The Bible as we know it now really didn’t exist until the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. The Gospels were always first in the pecking order, and after Carthage the pecking order we now use (Gospels first, then epistles, and on through the OT) came into being. So the early Church fathers saw Scripture as true simply because the Church saw it as true. The texts themselves were inerrant (even while they recognized things like copy errors), in so far as they were seen through the eyes of the Church. Meaning that an individual can’t give his own spin to the text of the Bible and consider his spin to be inerrant. For it to be inerrant it must be seen through the eyes of the whole Church.

    1. “The early Church didn’t have the Bible as know it and authority in the Church rested within the Church led by the bishops.”

      I’m pretty sure Athanasisus would beg to differ with you.

      1. Actually, Athanasius in the 4th century was the first person to identify the 27 books that now constitute the New Testament. He also banned all the books that competed with his preferred list. But for Athanasius, we probably would have had a much larger collection of early Christian literature than the books found at Nag Hammadi.

  5. Inerrancy is still a modern concept. It has not only come to the fore because of new challenges from science and other modern thinking, but it also takes its shape and design from that very modern thinking. Inerrancy relies upon modern categories of inquiry. It is thus a category mistake to apply it to ancient literature. Scientific accuracy sans “errors” was simply not the way ancient people would judge writings like those in scripture. Categories such as trustworthiness and truthfulness are much more appropriate. Modern people must make room in their minds for truth to speak through literature that does not follow the rules of post-Enlightenment historiography and scientific evidence. Stories, parables, poetry, myths, wisdom sayings, songs, prophecies, apocalyptic scenes, speeches, retelling history in different ways, etc., are not forms of literature that can fit to the “inerrancy” box.

    1. ” Modern people must make room in their minds for truth to speak through literature that does not follow the rules of post-Enlightenment historiography and scientific evidence. Stories, parables, poetry, myths, wisdom sayings, songs, prophecies, apocalyptic scenes, speeches, retelling history in different ways, etc., are not forms of literature that can fit to the “inerrancy” box.”

      Could you please give an example of what you are talking about and contrast that with an evangelical view of inerrancy? And please not a common lay person’s view but something like the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

    2. Michael,

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate the interaction.

      I disagree that “inerrancy is still a modern concept.” The best evangelical representatives of inerrancy argue that the term has only ever meant “truthfulness”–despite the “modern” connotation “inerrancy” currently has. To say the Bible is inerrant is to say that the Bible is wholly true.

      Also, evangelical inerrantists do not claim that we must “follow the rules of post-enlightenment historiography,” etc. when interpreting the Scripture or when formulating a definition of inerrancy. The framers of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy recognized that we must judge Scripture on its own terms and according to authorial intention rather than foisting external–modern–categories on the text (see especially Article XIII). For example, if David killed 18,432 Edomites in the Valley of Salt, yet Scripture records 18,000 (2 Sam 8:13), the text does not err; it provides an accounting that is appropriate for the given context. (Even we “moderns” use round numbers on occasion.)

      “Stories, parables, poetry, myths, wisdom sayings, songs, prophecies, apocalyptic scenes, speeches, retelling history in different ways, etc., are not forms of literature that can fit to the ‘inerrancy’ box.”

      Again, I must disagree. Historically, evangelical inerrantists have shown rather well that stories, poetry, (I will discuss ‘myths’ in a moment), parables, wisdom literature, songs, prophesies, apocalyptic scenes, and speeches fit into the “inerrancy” box. For example, stories that are written to convey historical information are true and accurate; stories (like many of Jesus’ parables) that do not contain actual historical information (e.g., the Prodigal Son) still tell us inerrant–true–things about God, etc. Poetry, when rightly interpreted, conveys true knowledge about God, salvation, repentance, etc. The same can be said about the other categories you mention as well. A broad and charitable reading of the best evangelical inerrantists will demonstrate that all of the genre you mention (except ‘myth,’ see below) can be drawn under the inerrancy rubric without much trouble.

      As to the retelling of history: history can be retold from a particular angle or theological concern without presenting inaccurate or false information. To suggest that ancient writers (as opposed to “modern” writers) were not concerned with accurately representing events or other information sounds reductionistic. I would argue that men and women–because they are created in the image of God–have always operated according to the basic laws of thought (contradiction, non-contradiction, etc.) and have been always been concerned with accurately conveying information. Overall, I think the pre-modern-modern dichotomy is way overplayed.

      As to myths, I reject that myths exist in the Bible–if by myth you mean “an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true,” or “a story that was told in an ancient culture to explain a practice, belief, or natural occurrence (Merriam-Webster)” if that particular story is untrue. So I would agree with you that myths cannot fit within the “inerrancy box” because myths, by definition, are not true.


      1. “I would argue that men and women–because they are created in the image of God–have always operated according to the basic laws of thought (contradiction, non-contradiction, etc.) and have been always been concerned with accurately conveying information.”

        Sadly, that is just not the case. Information is conveyed much more often with persuasive ends in mind. From wartime propaganda (and some of the OT stories can be read as such) to political persuasion to religious intimidation (Jonathan Edwards comes to mind), accuracy of the information is too often the least consideration and the first casualty.

        “As to myths, I reject that myths exist in the Bible–if by myth you mean ‘an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true,’ . . . .”

        In response to this, I quote from D. Streatfeild, Persephone: A Study of Two Worlds (The Julian Press 1959), page 17:

        “[R]eligious legends . . . are necessarily true in the psychological or innner-world sense by virtue of the fact that they have at some time exerted a fascination over the minds of men and have, incidentally, thereby changed the course of history; . . . . The question of their historical or factual truth is quite another matter, and, from the inner-world popint of view, completely immaterial. . . . So far as Christianity is concerned we must learn to distinguish between the inner image of he Christ and the historical character (or possibly characters) called Jeshu or something similar, who once caused a disturbance in Palestine. Whoever the latter may have been, and whatever he, or they, may have done, the image of the Redeemer exists, and has always existed, as a living force in the human mind . . . .”

        On another level, Robert Wright argues in The Evolution of God (Little Brown 2009) that at some point, which was probably in the 5th century BCE, the ancient texts which were coming together to form the Torah got a substantial redaction to deliberately edit out myths of the type found in Greek or Babylonian legends. For instance, the start of Genesis 6 seems to begin the tale of a clash between Yahweh and the giants in the earth. But it goes nowhere and immediately turns to Noah, whose story has nothing to do with giants. The myth of the giants was deleted.

        Likewise, Psalm 74 appears to refer to an ancient legend, common to other religions of the time, about God having to fight a sea dragon [Leviathan] before being able to commence the creation. Given the opening line of Genesis, one has to wonder if that legend had not been edited out.

      2. So, in your view, would one hold an adequate view of the Bible’s truthfulness if he/she held that: Genesis 1 is not a historical report of creation but a metaphorical depiction of God establishing his temple in the world, that “Adam and Eve” are representative humans and not the first created ones, that the Exodus and Conquest may not have happened exactly as depicted, that stories like Ruth, Esther, and Jonah may reflect what we would call “historical fiction” or short stories more than they do precise historical narrative, that many of the speeches and conversations recorded in the Bible are not verbatim reports, that some scriptures are deliberately designed to contradict and argue against other parts of Scripture, for example Job vs. Proverbs, that the NT gospel writers shaped their historical presentations of Jesus to make theological points, such as Luke’s Christmas story with its allusions to Caesar or Matthew’s “new Moses” theme, or using contradictory chronologies which cannot be harmonized, or that, on a broader scale, the entire OT shows innumerable signs of having been edited and shaped during and after the exile to reflect the interests of that audience?

        Realizing these and countless other human elements in shaping and writing the Bible have strengthened my faith in its reliability as a truthful guide to Christ, whereas many of my inerrantists friends find it shocking that anyone would even consider such “liberal” perspectives on the Bible.

        From my perspective inerrancy is simply an unnecessary capitulation to our own fears and our need for a sense of absolute certainty with regard to religious faith. This is nothing but pure foundationalism. The person of Jesus Christ is our foundation, and the Bible a reliable witness to him. We need no more than that.

  6. Inerrancy is a position that holds that the Bible is true in the literal sense of the words contained in it (e.g., if it says that the sun stopped in the sky, then the sun actually and physically stopped in the sky). This is a new concept, one dating from the late 19th century.

    The Catholic Church for the most part viewed the Bible as a moral and ethical work with lessons to be learned from the various passages. The emphasis was on what the Bible could teach you as to how to live. The Bible, therefore, required interpretation, which was why it was not put freely into the hands of the common person. Interpretation was left to theological scholars who put the magisterium together. Literal truth was irrelevant to such analysts. They wanted theological truth.

    The Galileo incident was an object lesson in this. There were, of course, some literalists in the Church – not the first pope who addressed the issue, but the second pope to do so, for instance. But the long term position of the Church was that stated by Cardinal Bellarmine to Father Foscarini, dated April l4, 1615, in which he wrote:

    “Third, I say that, if there were a real proof that the Sun is in the centre of the universe, that the Earth is in the third sphere, and that the Sun does not go round the Earth but the Earth round the Sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and we should rather have to say that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true.”

    After Galileo, the Catholic Church never again placed scripture up against science on the physical, external level. Indeed, it seems obvious that the writings of the Bible are addressed not to the realm of the external or physical, but to that of the internal, the mind, the soul, and all that is spiritual in a person.

    1. “Literal truth was irrelevant to such analysts. They wanted theological truth.”

      Unfortunately for your analysis Christianity is based on historical events. There is a huge difference between saying “sunrise” doesn’t have to mean the Earth is the center of the universe and that Adam, Moses, Jesus, etc. didn’t exist.

      Is this why Roman Catholics aren’t concerned that there are historical errors in the Apocrypha?

      1. Did Adam exist? Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

        “We cannot say: creation or evolution, inasmuch as these two things respond to two different realities. The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. It explains their inmost origin and casts light on the project that they are. And, vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. But in so doing it cannot explain where the ‘project’ of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature. To that extent we are faced here with two complementary — rather than mutually exclusive — realities.”

        Two realities, as I said.

        Catholicism is based on two related events which it holds to be true: the death and resurrection of Jesus. In what way the resurrection is true is less clear. The man the disciples met on the road to Emmaus did not physically look at all like the Jesus they knew, for instance. His actions were those of Jesus, however, or of someone inspired by Jesus, perhaps. The Gospel of Mark did not originally include a resurrection passage. And that was the earliest of the accepted gospels.

    2. Michael,

      There is a lot here, but generally speaking I would say that the approaches you suggest to these specific issues are inadequate.

      Genesis 1:1ff can be an accurate historical narrative while also including elements of God establishing a garden-temple. I actually believe that is exactly what Moses is doing! In fact, an excellent treatment of the garden-temple theme is Genesis has been offered by G.K. Beale–a Chicago Inerrantist! See Beale’s The Temple and The Church’s Mission.

      A historical Adam and Eve are vital for Christological and soteriological reasons (Romans 5:12ff). The apostle Paul grounds the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to his people on the historical reality of Adam’s sin. (I reject any kind of evolutionary framework with regard to human-universe origins. Such a framework cannot be reconciled with Scripture and is, in and of itself, an unstable, incoherent system.)

      Regarding Ruth, etc., we need to be careful to not draw a false distinction between story and historical accuracy. There is no necessary connection between story and fiction where the former must imply the latter. In other words, there are such things as true stories.

      I reject the idea that some Scriptures are deliberately designed to contradict and argue against other portions of Scripture because (1) this wreaks havoc with our understanding of divine inspiration and the nature of God; (2) it is non-falsifiable. That is, it cannot be proven that this was the intention of the biblical authors.

      Regarding the gospels: again, we must be careful not to draw a false dichotomy between historical accuracy and theological emphasis. These two concerns (which Luke, for example, obviously had [Luke 1:1-4]) are not incompatible. Matthew can report events accurately while also developing a New Moses theme.

      “Contradictory Chronologies.” Men much better equipped in this area than I am have dealt with these issues in the past and offered reasonable solutions.

      I agree that the OT (mainly the Pentateuch and the Psalms) shows signs of editing, but you and I would probably need to discuss specifics. Anyway, I think we can fit the reality of OT editing within an inerrancy framework where the inspiration process occurs over the whole period of OT inscripturation, so that the edits are under divine supervision as well. See Michael Gristanti’s article “Inspiration, Inerrancy, And The Ot Canon: The Place Of Textual Updating In An Inerrant View Of Scripture.” You can find it online. It’s very helpful.

      “From my perspective inerrancy is simply an unnecessary capitulation to our own fears and our need for a sense of absolute certainty with regard to religious faith.”

      Perhaps for some inerrantists that might be true. I don’t know the inner-motivations (e.g., feelings of fear, etc.) of other evangelical theologians.

      Nevertheless, I think the specific approaches to biblical interpretation you mention above could be a capitulation to scholarship that begins with unbiblical, anti-supernatural assumptions. I am often surprised by how often evangelical non-inerrantists do not take into account the Enlightenment’s influence on historical studies, approaches to science, and epistemology, often embracing the work of historical-critical scholars as if it is unbiased, purely objective research. In my judgement, that is a naive approach to biblical scholarship in light of what we know about presuppositions (recognized or unrecognized by the researcher), the weighing of evidence, and the development of historical and scientific theories.

      To discount the need for certainty regarding religious faith seems to go against explicit statements in Scripture that call for certainty. All throughout the Bible people are told to “know for certain,” etc. (e.g., Gen. 15:13; Joshua 23:13; 2 Sam 5:19; Jeremiah 42:19; Matt 17:12). Luke wrote for the very purpose that we would know for certain the things that occurred (Luke 1:1-4). Neither certainty nor the desire for it is a modern invention. Because man has been created in the image of God and created to worship God in Spirit and truth, he has always desired certainty with regard to religious faith. In his marvelous goodness, God has given us a certain word in Scripture.


      1. Correct me if I’m wrong. But a lot of the higher critical stuff started with Rome’s counter-reformation. To undermine Protestantism you have to undermine the Bible and have people put their trust in the “one true church.”

      2. Derek, with all due respect, I find your arguments completely unsatisfying, not true to the book we have before us, and further evidence that inerrantists put faith in rationalistic systems they have constructed, into which the Bible is forced. There simply is no recognition of the messy, ambiguous nature of the “evidence” that is used to promote a sense of certainty. I happen to think the Bible we have, which has a multitude of marks of human ingenuity and imperfection as well as marks of divine inspiration and revelation, is a much richer source of a more genuine and humble and less triumphalistic faith than the Bible we would like to have — an unambiguously perfect book which is plain and clear and systematic in its presentation of heavenly truth.

        Rather than feeding people with living bread, you have posited another doctrinal theorem which they must defend in order to be considered faithful Christians.

      3. Can you show any evidence that Jesus, devout 1st century Jews, the apostles, or the early church generally thought about Scripture in the way you speak?

        I know Jesus says things like “Scripture cannot be broken”. I know Jesus refers to Jonah, Sodom, etc. without any hint they are myths. Peter about Noah as well.

        Can’t it be likely that you have been affected by the unbelief of modern scholars more than inerrantists are imposing a foreign paradigm on Scripture?

      4. ” (I reject any kind of evolutionary framework with regard to human-universe origins. Such a framework cannot be reconciled with Scripture and is, in and of itself, an unstable, incoherent system.) ”

        Science does not have to be reconciled to scripture. Scripture, however, at times may have to be reconciled to science. And the science of the origins of the universe and of the evolution of species is pretty well set. True, we do not know everything about everything. But the study of evolution is only 150 years old, and has mushroomed only in the last 60 years. But still we have multiple millions of data points. This is hardly incoherent and unstable.

        Do you understand that if you reject evolution and astronomy and physics (including red shifts of light and mutation of viruses), then you reject meteorology outright, modern medicine virtually in its entirety (certainly all of virology and nuclear medicine diagnostics), all that is now known about biology and the structure of matter, etc. etc. ? As was said in a Doonesbury cartoon, if you really, really don’t believe in evolution and you get tuberculosis, then stick with the cure that worked in the 1950s.

        The universe is vast beyond comprehension. It has been expanding for 14 billion years. That should create a sense of overwhelming awe, not fear that such immensity would destroy belief in a personal god.

      5. attyfam,

        Anyone with a semblance of an understanding from an Old-Earth, Young-Earth, or just general Intelligent Design framework would be able to tear apart your assertion that modern medicine relies on believing in the entirety of the Neo-Darwinian framework.

        Neo-Darwinism is falling apart. (Btw, I am not an Young-Earther) Don’t sell your faith heritage for a bowl of porraige.

        At one point in time secular science would have had you believe in an eternal universe. And if you were around I would assume you would have tried to fit Scripture’s clear teaching on God creating everything into some sort of mythology so you can harmonize science and your faith. And then we learned about the Big Bang.

        Sometimes, we do need to modify our understanding of Scripture by science. But sometimes it does indeed go the other way.

  7. The discussion regarding inerrancy vs mythology and whether it makes a difference reminds me of the South Park episode on the Mormon faith. At the end of the program, a Mormon father is teased for believing the Joseph Smith story about the origin of the Book of Mormon and all that it entails. He responded something to the effect that, “you can judge me on what I believe, or you can judge me on how what I believe leads me to behave.” I found that to be the best simplification of all of this complexity. Too bad it’s not more widespread in its application.

  8. Geoff, I think you need to read what I wrote a little more closely. I did not mention Neo-Darwinism, a term that has been applied to two or three different concepts in the last 150 years – you can look them up for your self. I did mention evolution. And evolution is quite distinct from any particular hypothesis about it that may be popular from time to time. My point was quite simple. Bacteria evolve. In the last 60 years, the tuberculosis bacterium has evolved many times and has developed resistance to medications that were used in the 1950s. If you don’t believe in evolution, take the medicine that used to work, as it should work now. If you believe in evolution, take what your doctor prescribes – unless he is an inerrantist.

    Now, as to the universe, yes there was a time when the concept of an eternal universe was accepted. Aristotle proposed it, but he was not using science, but reason (based on limited knowledge) to support the idea. Kant, however, recognized logical contradictions in believing either that the universe had a beginning or that it was eternal. Again, scientific analysis was not involved in his view, but rather philosophical analysis of thesis and antithesis. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Hubble’s discoveries of galaxies beyond our own and his confirmation of the Doppler Effect have put a quietus to that kind of debate, while leaving another set of questions as yet, at least, unanswered.

    Young earth models of the world fail to explain observable phenomena. Dinosaur bones, for instance, which can be dated back multi-millions of years by the techniques of physics (e.g., luminesence, or radio-metric dating of the half-lives of uranium, potassium or carbon, or magnetostratigraphy, or tephrochronology), that you objected to in my earlier post. Rejection of the Old Earth model requires rejection of these methodologies of physics and chemistry, methodologies used in modern medicine, by the way. Old earth models have no such problems. Old earth models can explain our solar system – including why there is an asteroid belt. New earth models have to pretend it does not matter.

    1. So you have so watered-down “evolution” where a Young Earth Creationist would agree with you. And somehow that has something to do against inerrancy?

      1. I’m being serious here. A Young Earther would affirm what you said about evolution. Bacteria change over time. And they remain bacteria. And they develop resistance to antibiotics. The most adamant 6,000 year old Earth person would affirm all of that.

      2. Happy Holidays. I have not limited my definition to changes in bacteria. If you need a working definition, this one from Hall, Brian K.; Hallgrímsson, Benedikt (2008). Strickberger’s Evolution (4th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers is fair enough:

        “Evolution is the change in the inherited phenotypic traits (characteristics) of biological populations over successive generations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including the biodiversity of species, individual organisms and at the level of molecular evolution, such as in DNA and proteins.”

      3. You can disbelieve very easily and with very good evidence that evolution cannot account for all of life’s biodiversity. And at the same time that would not affect how one would approach science at all. Seriously, not even in a little bit.

        I could give plenty of scientific reasons I wouldn’t buy into this. Needless to say I definitely wouldn’t give up inerrancy for this.

      4. “I couls give plenty of scientific reasons . . . ” Whenever I read such statements followed by nothing, I cannot credit the statement.

      5. With limited space, what do you think I should cover?

        A complete inability for any plausible Origin of Life scenario? Molecular studies producing contradiction after contradiction to a Tree of Life that backs common descent? The complete inability of naturalism to have anything that can explain the sudden appearance and then stasis of forms in the fossil record (think Cambrian Explosion)? The numerous irreducibly complex features in biology? The studies that show organisms that have tons and tons of generations (malaria, e. coli) don’t evolve much of anything and what they do evolve is usually due to breaking things instead of creating novel information?

      6. Do you have any idea how long 3.5 billion years is?

        Do you then reject the stages and timelines for human evolution as summarized in the following Wikipedia article?

        If you do not reject that timeline, do you then ascribe to a theory of ensoulment at some point along the way? If so, when did that occur?

        As to “molecular studies producing contradictions”, please give examples.

      7. 3.5 billion years is an extremely long time. And even with that amount of time a purely naturalistic account of evolution will still not work.

        I’m not sure what you are asking about in terms of the theory of ensoulment. I assume you are asking about a normal view of evolution and then at some point some hominids got souls and they were Adam and Eve. Don’t confuse agreeing that the Earth is over 4 billion years old with accepting the normal evolutionary history. The main point of disagreement is not that different species appeared, but that they appeared through purely naturalistic means.

        In regards to molecular studies shredding the concept of one unified Tree of Life this link should give you plenty of reading material:

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