Once More, With Feeling … (RJS)

Pete Enns has recently published a book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins and this means the inevitable must occur. No, not backlash, name-calling, admiration, or fawning … it is the inescapable cyber-space book tour.  As part of the now normal tour promoting his book Pete published a short column on the Huffington Post yesterday:  Once More, With Feeling: Adam, Evolution and Evangelicals. Before we dig deeper into the book this post brings up some topics worth discussing.

First from the Huffington Post:

Evangelicals have been butting heads with evolution for 150 years. A lot is at stake.

If evolution is right about how humans came to be, then the biblical story of Adam and Eve isn’t. If you believe, as evangelicals do, that God himself is responsible for what’s in the Bible, you have a problem on your hands. Once you open the door to the possibility that God’s version of human origins isn’t what actually happened — well, the dominoes start unraveling down the slippery slope. The next step is uncertainty, chaos and despair about one’s personal faith.

One of the major premises of The Evolution of Adam is that we need to rethink the intent of Genesis in its ancient Near Eastern context.

Since the 19th century, through scads of archaeological discoveries from the ancient world of the Bible, biblical scholars have gotten a pretty good handle on what ancient creation stories were designed to do.

Ancient peoples assumed that somewhere in the distant past, near the beginning of time, the gods made the first humans from scratch — an understandable conclusion to draw. They wrote stories about “the beginning,” however, not to lecture their people on the abstract question “Where do humans come from?” They were storytellers, drawing on cultural traditions, writing about the religious — and often political — beliefs of the people of their own time.

What questions does Genesis 1-3 intend to address?

What is the purpose of the Genesis and the Biblical discussion of origins?

The integration of Christian faith with modern scientific discoveries will result in changes, some of them major, in the Christian understanding of the world common within evangelicalism. But it is not clear that these changes undermine biblical Christianity. My view in fact, is that scientific discoveries on their own cannot undermine biblical Christianity. The world view of scientific naturalism drawn out of these discoveries does undermine biblical Christianity. This needs to be countered on the level of world view, not by challenging evolutionary biology or any other science.

Within Christian thinking the challenges posed by evolution and other scientific discoveries require a return to scripture itself, not to debunk or demythologize scripture, but to more completely understand it as an inspired revelation from God. This is where books such as The Lost World of Genesis One and The Evolution of Adam have an important role to play. These are not the last word on the subject by any means, but they are good places to start. We respect the bible as inspired by God when we read it through faith, but recognize that it is written in a different time and culture often with different expectations and questions. Some of the conclusions we have drawn out of the biblical narrative of origins simply may not reflect the intent of the teaching of the book, either to the original audience or to the church today.

Back to the Huffington Post article:

Evangelicals tend to focus on how to protect the Bible against the attacks of evolution. The real challenge before them is to reorient their expectation of what the story of Adam and Eve is actually prepared to deliver.

These kinds of conversations are already happening, though too often quietly and behind closed doors. Evangelicals owe it to their children and their children’s children to bring the discussion out into the open.

Read the rest of Pete’s essay on the Huffington Post and on and let’s continue the conversation about it here.

What do you think?

Is the challenge to reorient our expectation of Genesis 3 one that we should explore and embrace?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

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  • DanS

    Once again, though I know it will do no good, it is not about the genre and intent of Genesis 1-3 in isolation. The rest of the Bible references the creation account in ways that suggest fairly clearly the later authors understood the events as real history (as opposed to “scientific” depiction).

    Second, simply repeating over and over again, “the science is settled” doesn’t make the objections to the naturalistic consensus go away. Those who find the naturalistic explanations unconvincing are not folding up their tent because Pete Enns gets press at HuffPo, or because a few scholars suggest we should all bow to the pronouncements of the “recognized” experts in a particular field, nor should they. The debate will continue…

  • phil_style

    ” Evangelicals owe it to their children to bring this discussion out into the open.”

    Enns is right here, but there is a problem. Evangelicals (from my experiences) think that “bringing it out into the open” means getting an itinerant speaker from AiG along to a Sunday evening service. Job done.

    I’ve never once attended an evangelical church where anyone was given the chance to respond to a YEC-based sermon / advertising slot with a different perspective. I attended evangelical churches from the age of 10 until about 25.

  • Susan N.

    Hang in there, DanS, Part 2 of ‘The Evolution of Adam’ covers “Understanding Paul’s Adam.”

    “Is the challenge to reorient our expectation of Genesis 3 one that we should explore and embrace?”

    If our faith is strong, there is nothing to fear in listening and learning — even if it leads to the recognition that prior knowledge was in error, and beliefs need to be adjusted.

    I think that what Jesus was preaching in 1st century Palestine must have completely blown their collective mind, and required them to accept a total paradigm shift. Jesus advocated for and called would-be followers to have the courage to think outside of the box. Word!

    (And the above statement is more my own “declaration of independence” than a debate or judgment directed at anyone else.)

  • Paul W

    DanS @1

    “The rest of the Bible references the creation account in ways that suggest fairly clearly the later authors understood the events as real history.”

    That premise does not seem so ‘clear’ to me. And I think there has been a mixed opinion about that here and among Evangelicals.

  • But it is precisely *with* the worldview of scientific naturalism that these discoveries are being described – that the collected data is being arranged into a meaningful narrative. Then that narrative is what is being presented *as the data itself*.

    One of the main arguments by open theists (and others, I’m sure) is that the data itself is just that – data. Worldview is the interpretive tool by which we draw meaning from the data which, by itself, is just a box of brute facts that can be placed in more than one reasonable arrangement.

  • RJS

    DanS (#1),

    As Susan said, the second half of Pete’s book is specifically on Adam in Paul. I have every intention of working through the book slowly.

    Science isn’t settled – but certain conclusions are settled. The earth is not flat, on pillars, or 6-10 thousand years old. Biological death, storms, earthquakes, and meteor hits occurred before man was on the scene and cannot be the direct result of human sin. Some of the major conclusions of evolution could be wrong as some of the details certainly are (science is a process of discovery and we are not at the end or close to it yet), the Intelligent Design theory could be right in that “natural” processes alone are not enough, but this would not really change the issues that Pete and John address in their books.

    I am convinced that the only way forward is to meet the challenges head on. I don’t agree with Pete across the board (and I doubt he expects any one to simply follow his lead), but his book is an important contribution to the discussion. I worked through Jack Collins’s more conservative book – which is also an important contribution although one I find a few more problems with, and John Haught’s far more liberal book with which I had even more problems. I will continue to explore a wide range of approaches.

  • Richard Jones

    #1 @DanS I could say it no better. Bravo!

    And I completely agree that it IS about worldview AND how that worldview shapes one’s view and interpretation of scripture.

    #2 Phil and the problem here is that Enns states that Genesis 1,2 teach YEC. And Enns makes very clear he views YEC as wrong which means he views Genesis 1,2 as wrong and….the implications are clear.

    #4 Not that opinion matters PaulW — only what the Bible teaches matters — but it is certainly a minority of believers who have fallen in line behind Enns. Most of his supporters actually seem to come from those hostile to the Gospel as witnessed by his resort to air his views in HuffPo.

  • Norman

    In my opinion Genesis is history light and prophetic first and foremost. It appears to be much more crafted to retell the story of Israel with an eye to the messianic future. If prophecy was its intent and if it was constructed close to Israel’s exilic period then it simply falls into the same category of other second temple and OT literature that fosters judgment upon Israel and its corrupt rulers. Very likely it is simply a backdoor way of projecting the messianic message revolving around the need to change the way Israel will be governed which is the same theme that much of 2T literature projects.

    Genesis appears to have 11 divisions with Gen 1:1-2:4 as an introductory big picture prologue acting more as the table of contents framework for the rest of the Story. The next 10 stories all appear to be adaptations of Israel using historical themes to project toward judgment and a messianic reality. That is how I see Paul interpreting Genesis where he picks up and applies an analogical understanding to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, ect in the NT. The 2T literature out there also takes these stories and runs with them and interprets them from the messianic viewpoint.

    The debate in the first century was between messianic viewing Jews who accepted Christ as the realization of these prophecies and the corrupt Pharisaical Jews whom rejected Christ and essentially received judgment just as the flood story projects they would. Genesis is really not intended primarily as a history lesson to the degree that we might think. I would also state that it shouldn’t even be considered in the genre of ANE classical creation literature as that is not predominantly how it was interpreted by the Jews over the next 500 years by and large. I think we overly imagine the ANE creation understanding upon the Jews when their primary purpose was theological and prophetic. I believe we need to step back and look first at this literature in the way the Jews actually interfaced with it. I believe Pete does a nice job of that but I think he is just touching the helm of the garment from that exploratory approach.

    When we recognize the type of literature then it becomes clear that historicity is not the intended purpose and the evolution debate is essentially DOA because there is no conflict whatsoever.

  • phil_style

    @ Richard Jones:

    “Enns states that Genesis 1,2 teach YEC”

    That is a very bizarre interpretation of Enn’s material indeed, especially when I read this in Enn’s own voice:

    “It [the evangelical exception of the text] assumes that the Adam and Eve story is about “human origins.” It isn’t.”

    “It isn’t” seems a fairly clear statement of what Enn’s opinion is. You might think he’s wrong about Genesis, but you can at least report him accurately.

  • jason

    Richard Jones #7 ~ I don’t think you’re being fair to Pete. I teach in a public university, and am constantly interacting with Christian students who are wrestling with this issue. They’re confronted with extensive, and quite frankly, persuasive evidence for evolution, and are struggling now to make sense of this in the light of faith. And several of these students have mentioned the work of Enns, and biologos, as the only thing that has kept them from abandoning the faith altogether. This is the audience that Pete speaks to, not those “hostile to the Gospel.” And whether you like it or not, this audience is quite substantial, and not the “minority” that you wish to portray.

  • Tim


    I think the real difficulty for many Evangelicals in interpreting Genesis 2-3 as ancient storytelling (interweaving mythic motifs and idioms) is the idea that the NT authors didn’t seem to read it this way. In other words, it seems that some of the NT authors (specifically Paul) erred in their genre identification of this text.

    Now, I along with yourself and Peter Enns do affirm the genre of Genesis 2-3 as ancient storytelling as described above. The evidence in favor for that view given all the discoveries in ANE scholarship does seem very robust. But how then do you then deal with genre mus-identification in the NT?

    Is this considered an incidental or trivial issue, or something that ought cause some fair amount of consternation among Evangelicals? How do you deal with that and what hermeneutic then results?

  • Norman

    @Tim #11

    I’m not sure how one could even begin to state categorically that Paul and the NT authors didn’t read Gen 2 & 3 as ancient storytelling and analogical.

    Paul allegorizes “death” and continues to do so with other Gen story lines as well. I think part of the problem is that scholarship hasn’t yet firmed this issue up yet and presupposes that Paul and the NT writers were reading it in a manner that they still impose.

    It’s not Paul who made the mistake but those who think they know his mindset that is mistaken would be the better observation.

    There are better ways to get through this issue than to throw up our hands and just state that Paul was mistaken. I believe that illustrates a lack of a coherent grasp of Pauline theology. That seems to be a trend among some modern scholars who haven’t seen other better alternative answers yet and just give up on the quest.

  • AHH

    Tim @11,

    Patience. As RJS said, Enns devotes the whole 2nd half of his book to Paul’s use of the Adam story. And he puts it in the context of Paul’s use of OT scripture in general which I think is a much needed perspective. There are LOTS of places where Paul pulls in an OT passage to make his point about Jesus and uses it in a way that doesn’t fit its original context — but such a way of handling Scripture was common in the Judaism of Paul’s day.

    And yes, the idea that Paul’s incidental uses of OT passages reflect his context of 1st century Judaism and are not determinative of the correct interpretation of the OT passage is a bit jarring to typical Evangelical hermeneutics. But it is a question that would exist independent of these passages that mention Adam.

  • DRT

    Clearly evangelicalism risks being seen as a cult. If people are to believe about things not of this world, they can’t be irrational about the things of this world.

  • Robert A

    Dialogue is important…heck its vital. Also important is helping the earnest people in our pews and chairs understand that a lot of the conversation around these issues is complicated and will often be confusing. This, of course, is one of the products of attempting to have a technical and developed conversation in the midst of a largely under educated group of people. (Also, let’s just be honest, scientists are nearly as compelling as the oratorical preachers so many grew up listening to.)

    The reality is that it is still two faith claims (essentially) butting up against each other. Science and scientists can’t (reasonably) claim exhaustive knowledge about these things. Yet as they talk (just like in Enns’ text) there is a means of speaking with a confidence perceived as arrogance. We can’t know what happened and can barely understand the data before us. Science, though extraordinarily helpful, is still a limited discipline. So at some level scientists are making faith claims on the best inference on the evidence available. But neither our ability to see historically nor understand the lingering evidence is exhaustive or absolute….thus it is, at the simplist level, a faith claim.

    RJS, I truly have appreciated the posts and appreciate your voice here. This is the kind of conversation that needs to take place. While I don’t hold to a YEC view of creation, I am sympathetic to many who do (like my parents) because of what it means to them.

    The nature of cosmological expression in the ancient world is certainly an excellent discussion. Isn’t it interesting how much of Genesis 1 lines up as refutation of similiar pagan myths? Also I find it compelling that much of orthodox Judaism and Islam believe in a literal 6 day creation. Perhaps we need to consider our position of humility and recognize the implicit (and explicit) faith claims at the base of all of our understandings of these things. With that, hopefully, brings less arrogance and more understanding.

  • DRT

    Perhaps someone more versed in biblical study can help me with the following.

    I forget where (that would help…) but I was reading about how the ancient Jews did not really talk about abstract concepts and manipulate those concepts. Instead, they made things into tangible actions and those actions stood for the concepts that they were discussing. It is not so much like they are explicitly using allegory, or more specifically, that they are writing and thinking in a purposeful way to make allegory, it is just that any time they want to convey broad concepts they make it tangible and use the tangible way to describe it.

    ISTM that this is quite consistent with early Genesis.

  • Fish

    Here’s the thing: Science always wins these debates.

    No human being can stop the march of science. Science can be wrong, but it perpetually seeks the truth and refines itself accordingly.

    God created us to to progress, to continually learn, to continually seek to understand more about His creation. Without our drive to advance ourselves, we might as well be really smart monkeys with souls, and we were not created that way. Science is a significant part of God’s plan, not an enemy of God. IMHO.

  • Tim Hallman

    Thanks for the post and encouraging this discussion. I like Enns attitude and approach. Fresh reading is needed on Scripture, a Renaissance or Reformation of sorts.

  • I hear so often that the case is settled (or at least somethings are per RJS comments) and that evangelicals who don’t accept it are just “sticking their head in the sand” or some such thing. Then I hear that it is no “one thing” that makes it settled but a holistic case made up of many premises.

    so regarding the settling of science on these issues, is there a book one would recommend that outlines the major case for why one should consider evolution?

    what one book should I read?


  • DRT

    MikeB 19, said “Then I hear that it is no “one thing” that makes it settled but a holistic case made up of many premises.”

    Here is one to start



  • scotmcknight

    MikeB, I will tell you the best one I have read: EJ Larson, Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory.

  • Tim

    MikeB (#19),

    There is no “one book” that makes the case for evolution so thoroughly that I think would satisfy most who are skeptical or sympathetic to a creationist point of view.

    That said, I think that “Why Evolution is True” is one of the better single books out there and a great place to start. Its most significant detractor is that it doesn’t present the genetic evidence for evolution / common descent. For the genetic evidence, I could recommend to you “Relics of Eden.” Additionally, Dennis Venema’s articles on Biologos are excellent: http://biologos.org/blog/author/dennis-venema

    However, none of these resources by themselves will usually prove sufficient convince a non-scientist of the overwhelming case for evolution if they read them in tandem with the typical counterarguments from sites such as AIG, ICR, and the Discovery Institute. The difficulty here lies in distinguishing between misrepresentations and propaganda and robustly supported science. To work past that, you have to look more to look more in depth, have some sense of the history of developments in evolution and creationism, and learn how to critically evaluate scientific claims / arguments for credibility.

  • AHH

    Mike B #19,
    I would recommend Coming to Peace with Science by Darrel Falk. Written (by a Christian biology prof) at a level accessible to the non-scientist.
    As a bonus you get Falk’s personal reflections about coming to see evolution as compatible with his faith.

  • Susan N.

    MikeB (#19) – I was greatly enriched by reading Francis Collins’ ‘The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.’

    Are you reading or planning to read ‘The Evolution of Adam?’

    Going back to the first two questions posed in this post:

    “What questions does Genesis 1-3 intend to address?

    What is the purpose of the Genesis and the Biblical discussion of origins?”

    “Genesis in particular shows us how Israel thought about itself amid its own troubled history and among the surrounding nations…the more we understand the kind of information Genesis is prepared to offer, the less likely we will feel the need to reject Genesis in view of evolution, reject evolution in view of Genesis, or bring the two into uneasy “harmony.” Science and Scripture speak two different languages and accomplish quite different things.” (Intro pp. xviii-xix)

    Of additional interest to me was that modern biblical scholarship understands the Pentateuch as having been formed/completed in the post-exilic period as a response to the Babylonian exile. A significant historical detail!

    This brings more order to the chaos in my mind about certain of the biblical texts, rather than causing any crisis of faith. I’m extremely grateful for writers such as Collins and Enns. FWIW, I highly recommend them both!

  • Mike, #19
    Besides the recommendations, I will add Denis Alexanders, “Creation or Evolution: Do we Have to Choose?”

    I came to rely more heavily on the work of professional Christian scientists, of which Alexander is one. Also Collins (the first one I read), Venema’s posts on BioLogos.

    These are people that know science and LOVE Jesus – there is no conflict here.

  • Nancy Rosenzweig

    I’m looking forward to reading Enns’ book – it should be a great contribution to the current debate. To add to the list of recommendations of books that address evolution and theology: Denis Lamoureux’s “I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution” is a good starting point.

  • Richard Jones

    #9 @phil “Bizarre” is a term best reserved for the “hermaneutic” touted by Enns although more derogatory terms would be appropriate. I will stand by my characterization of what he is saying. The analysis is not original with me.

    #10 Joey I also have academic credentials and faculty appointments. All that is irrelevant to the primary issue which is the truth contained in scripture which has radically saved me from death. It is that reality to which I refer my students. The approach espoused by Enns et al would undermine the authority of that truth. I’m sure he has a ready following at HuffPo which is totally delighted at the implications of Enns’ claims.

  • Tim

    Richard (#27),

    Which do you think is more “true”, God’s Word or God’s Creation? Which do you think involves human “reason” in reaching an interpretation, God’s Word or God’s Creation?

    What I don’t get is this idea that any Christian with a good head on their shoulders and a strong faith can open up the ancient anthology of writings that is the Bible and somehow come to an essentially infallible understanding of what the Bible “clearly says” (despite of course the many contentious divides on no small number of Biblical issues among believers that attest to the contrary), whereas somehow the fallibility of human “reason” in the sciences yields enormously far less confident and “suspect” results.

    But maybe Richard you can explain to me how you know the mind of God oh so clearly while no less thoughtful Christians (and scientists for that matter) arrive at different views.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Try Richard Dawkins’ “Ancestor’s Tale”. When looking for a thorough summary of the massive evidence for biological evolution from molecules to human beings, go with a first-rate evolutionary biologist who is also a first-rate teacher. Ignore the fact that he is a lousy theologian. Great theologians also tend to be terrible evolutionary biologists. For explanations of basic evolutionary principles and events to a general audience, Dawkins is near the top of the heap.

  • @Richard Jones #27 – I had not entered this conversation yet. I think you meant @jason #10. I agree with you though, and am glad you are teaching your students as you are.

    @MikeB – you have a lot of reading to do! Good luck with that. I would humbly recommend that you do so with an open Bible nearby, and allow time for deep meditation on God’s Word. All those books, even if 100% scientifically accurate, do not contain the truth that leads to life.

  • Sorry, long day yesterday followed by Greek class…
    Thanks for all the suggestions, I am going to check out the TOC/first pages on Amazon.

    Someone asked:
    “Are you reading or planning to read ‘The Evolution of Adam?”
    – eventually, but having read Enns blog posts over last few days I find I agree with him that evolution + theology = problem

    Peter Enns (via blog): “One advantage that the first group has over the second is the frank admission that evolution poses a serious challenge to how Christians have traditionally understood at least three central issues of the faith: the origin of humanity, of sin, and of death. That is true.”

    – However, I don’t agree with him that evolution is “settled”. After reading/finishing Elegant Universe will read up per the recommendations.

    – I also don’t agree with him (via blog) that only scientists can evaluate the claims of evolution. It may be hard for the non-scientist to understand the details, but a good teacher can logically state the observations, hypothesis, and conclusions and a good student can assess their case. More so when science is making claims and answering questions about the past then if we are building a rocket to the moon.

    – Therefore, I am interested in the topic, but I don’t feel the need to rush out and read this.

    and DRT, Dilbert is always good for a laugh!


  • RJS


    I agree with you completely on your last sentence … “All those books, even if 100% scientifically accurate, do not contain the truth that leads to life.” We don’t study science for the truth that leads to life. But nor can “100% scientifically accurate” conflict with that truth that leads to life. As God is creator and sustainer of all that is and ever will be, what we study in science is nothing more and nothing less than God’s creation.

  • RJS,

    Amen to that. And I agree that “100% scientifically accurate” will not conflict with the truth that leads to life. Where we disagree is in the scientific accuracy and authority of things that require “re-thinking” of Scripture.

  • Tim

    Joey (#33),

    What give you the confidence that your interpretation of Scripture is more accurate than that of Biblical Scholars and other Christians with whom you disagree? Along the same lines, what gives you the confidence that your interpretation of the ancient Biblical text is more accurate than scientists’ interpretation of creation?

  • DRT

    Joey, I would contend that there are things in scripture that need re-thinking. I would like to use the foundations of the earth as an example. You say “Where we disagree is in the scientific accuracy and authority of things that require “re-thinking” of Scripture.” Where do you draw the line of when it is acceptable for us to rethink the foundations of the earth?

    Obviously, by extension, at what point does the scientific evidence for something against your belief system have to tip the scales for it to warrant re-thinking of scripture?

    Given that you said the “scientific accuracy” as a criterion, I would think you would have some way to tell us when such a level is achieved.

    I like Tim’s question#34, you are obviously weighing your opinion against pretty much all scientific evidence. When would the evidence be enough?

  • Obviously, I am just stating my perspectives on things, and we already know many here disagree. Hopefully I am giving many here insight into how people with my convictions think. And I hope my presence on here at least indicates my willingness to engage the conversation and be as informed, humble, and honest as I can.

    @Tim –

    I don’t expect all Christians to agree on everything. But we should expect all Christians to agree on the essentials of the faith, which we get from a proper (even objective) intrepretation Scripture. So, if your question applied to the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation, for example, as Christians we can confidently say that any interpretation that concludes that there are multiple roads to salvation, would be incorrect.

    So the question itself about how I know my interpretation is more accurate is a little worrisome. But as it applies to science, all I am saying, and have been saying, is that re-thinking Scripture to account for the “conclusive” evidence that Adam was not real or evolved from something else, is both scientifically and theologically irresponsible. Scientifically, because it is not observable that a new species can be created by natural selection alone, so it becomes just an alternative faith claim. Theologically, because a symbolic Adam does not fit with the redemption narrative of Scripture, it confuses our creation in God’s image, it disconnects us with personal sin, and it makes the reality of a second Adam in Christ less coherent. Not to mention the genealogies in both the Old and New Testaments that become impossible to reconcile.

    I realize I may not be the majority opinion upon scientific-minded Christians. But the likes of Enns have more than “mainstream evangelical consciousness” to convince, as he says in his HuffPo article, although I believe even that is not likely to ever happen. There are more than just naïve, ignorant Evangelical pastors and lay people holding the hill of a literal Adam, and accusations that we are destroying the faith and causing people to abandon the church are not, from my vantage point, legitimate. By that I mean, people do not ultimately abandon the faith for intellectual reasons alone.


    “Re-thinking” the essentials of Scripture is my concern. Ok, so maybe we define the essentials differently. But I’m not going to let vagueness on the essentials lead us to “re-think” what we shouldn’t. I am not going to argue that a young earth is essential, as AiG and certain conservative evangelicals I respect would (John MacArthur). But I am going to argue that a literal Adam is essential. So the “re-thinking” that Enns and others are doing is problematic, and in my opinion, not necessary.

    Scientific evidence has to be looked at within the parameters of God’s creation, which is ultimately revealed to us in Scripture (you can’t from science give evidence to explain Genesis 1:1, for example, but it is the foundation of all scientific study, as RJS even contends in point #32). So if “evidence” indicates something in conflict with the essentials of Scripture, it is not valid to me. But that is where we disagree – you think it doesn’t conflict because you don’t think a literal Adam is essential. I think it does conflict because a literal Adam is essential. So we disagree – but we already knew that.

    I’ll get some help adding to my points:

    “Problems arise when we find truths that seemingly contradict the truths of Scripture and, rather than subject those truths to the authority of Scripture, instead consider those truths to invalidate the truths of Scripture. Such is the case today when it comes to the biblical account of Adam and Eve and some modern scientists’ disbelief of the scriptural account in favor of the scientific account. Believers who are scientists bear the primary responsibility for affirming scriptural truths over scientific ones and figuring out how the truths of science affirm the truths of Scripture—not the other way around. It’s impossible to serve two masters.

    “Just as there are many ways to interpret the chronological and methodological ways in which God created and still be in the realm of Christian orthodoxy by affirming the intended truth of those Scriptures—that God created—there are also many ways to internalize the truths of the historicity of Adam and Eve as taught in Scriptures. What one cannot do, however, is deny the existence of Adam and Eve and remain faithful to the Scriptures and their account.

    “As C. John Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary writes, “The purpose of the stories [in Genesis] is to lay the foundation for a worldview, without being taken in a ‘literalistic’ fashion. We should nevertheless see the story as having what we might call a ‘historic core,’” namely that Adam and Eve were real persons through whom came the fall and sin and our need for salvation, which can only come through Jesus, his death and resurrection. Any other story or worldview is in contradiction to Scripture and thus to be rejected.”

  • Tim


    I disagree that you are stating just your own “perspectives on things.” You seem to be equating your view absolutely to God’s truth. So I don’t think you’re speaking as having some opinion or provisional claim as to truth. You seem to be coming across as having an absolute claim to truth, with contrary claims (for the Christian anyway) as by default being wrong.

    Or is this a wrong impression of your mindset? Would you be even open to re-evaluating your position if given cause – if a robust argument could be made for a different point of view? I’d really like to know.

    The thing about “essential” truth claims for the Christian as seems to be defined by Biblicists Evangelicals, is that what is often considered “essential” is so very expansive. So, you can’t just say, “well, the Resurrection is essential.” You instead say something like, “Proposition A is essential, as it impacts Proposition B, and as we all know, Proposition B impacts Proposition C, and of course if Proposition C is erroneous in any way, the Proposition for the truth of the Resurrection is threatened. And as the Resurrection is “essential” Christian doctrine, so by extension are Propositions A, B, and C.”

    So as this is practically applied, essentials can include pretty much anything. Biblical Inerrancy. Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch. A literal Adam & Eve (and some would go so far to claim a 6,000 year old earth and a literal 6 day creation). Traditional genre identifications. A literal, chronological harminization of all the NT accounts (including days of specific events such as the Crucifixion, the travels of Paul, etc.). A 6th century BCE authorship for the full Book of Daniel. A specific genre identification for Revelation. Proper interpretation of Isaiah 7. Accurate play-by-play of the Conquest in Joshua. And so on.

    So this moves us pretty far away from what the early creeds saw as “essential.” And I seriously wonder why you see the need to do this. It’s like you’re taking the “essential” loaves of doctrinal fish & bread and multiplying them more extensively than when Jesus fed the 5,000.

    So again, you are holding up as some exemplar of truth your own perspective, while seeming to dismiss the utility of engaging differing perspectives on the matter, even from entire communities of Christian Biblical Scholars who spend their lives studying Scripture, and entire communities of scientists (and even specifically Christian scientists) who spend their lives studying creation.

    So again, what gives you such confidence that the INFERENCES you make concerning God’s Word are so certain that you feel that disregarding all differing points of view is warranted?

    PS, I’d advise reconsidering your perspective on what has or hasn’t been observed concerning Evolutionary science. Have you even exposed yourself to the evidence out there as presented in reasonable depth and comprehensiveness by those who most strongly argue for the veracity of evolution / common descent? As opposed to being presented only by its detractors?

  • DRT

    Joey, I agree with what Tim eloquently said.

    I will only add one thing. When you have “truths of Scripture”, “is essential”, “remain faithful to the Scriptures and their account”, “is in contradiction to Scripture” should all be immediately followed by “according to my interpretation. The point that I, and I think Tim, is trying to make is that you are not giving adequate weight to the fact that all of us are also god fearing bible beliving christians who in good conscience feel that they are doing each of those things. I feel I am being faithful to the truths of scripture, that what I am saying is essential, that I am remaining faithful to the sriptures and their sources and what I am saying is in no way in contradiction to scripture.

  • DRT

    …and Joey, I do appreciate you coming here and telling what you really think. I appreciate that a lot.

  • @DRT

    Thanks for the kind words. It has been an honor to dialogue.


    With all due respect, your last comment was not completely intelligible to me. First, you said:

    “I disagree that you are stating just your own ‘perspectives on things.’” And not long after, “So again, you are holding up as some exemplar of truth your own perspective.”

    So, I’m not sure where to start. I will try to make my response as little about “my perspective” as I can to prevent confusion.

    First, less importantly, yes – I have exposed myself to evidence for evolutionary processes at, what I would consider, a reasonable depth. I appreciate your advice on reconsidering my perspective on what has or hasn’t been observed from evolutionary science. However, I continue to contend that the change from one species to another by natural selection alone has never been observed. By that I mean, can you name the million-year old scientist who has observed it? So to me it is no more than a faith claim, which is fine, just not one that I hold. Add to that the fact that on a molecular biological level such a thing is basically not possible, and I express my doubts with absolute confidence. I used an example from molecular biology in a comment on another post that I’ll refrain from copying again here. But you can see it #35: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/01/17/adam-in-genesis-and-paul-rjs/.

    RJS asked a good question in how I would explain this to an evolutionary biologist. My answer was (via email to RJS):

    “On your question about how to address the evolutionary biologist, the comments and discussion without me seem to cover it pretty well. But I wasn’t clear on whether this person was a Christian, or if not, open to spiritual things. If they are a Christian, I would say the same things I said above in a cautionary, yet loving and respectful tone. If they were not a Christian, but open, I would talk less about science and more about the gospel. For me personally, and from experience, I have trouble explaining personal sin to someone who doesn’t believe in a literal Adam (or who specifically rejects it), but perhaps that would not be a challenge for this person. The problem, I think, with telling a non-Christian who embraces evolution that they can be a Christian too, and still accept evolution, is that it doesn’t put the authority of Scripture as the higher authority in their mind and heart. It is like telling them it’s ok to bring their ultimate authority of science into the faith, and while they’re at it, accept the Bible as mostly authoritative also. Instead, I think it is preferable to encourage them to, as you said, submit to God and the authority of Scripture, and then embrace science as a means to glorify God, who is revealed to us specifically in Scripture, and generally in creation. An evolutionary biologist who happens to be a Christian is not good. You can’t serve two masters. In my context, a businessman who happens to be a Christian is no good as a witness. A Christian who happens to be an evolutionary biologist (or businessman) is great! Bet you didn’t expect me to be a businessman. 🙂

    “If this person isn’t a Christian and is not open to spiritual things, I would humbly listen, respect their field and experience, maybe give some of my own thoughts about biology, etc., and look for opportunities but not really claim any scientific, or even Biblical (because that wouldn’t mean anything to them), authority, and just pray for them and love them however I could. I wouldn’t tell them that I believe the literalness of Adam and the interpretation of Genesis and Paul is still up in the air though, because that would be dishonest. I don’t think that. I wouldn’t tell a Hindu that I believe there are multiple ways to salvation, either. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for them that, for the Christian, the Bible needs to be a higher authority than science, no matter what you believe about Adam, or anything else.”

    Second, and much more importantly, the confidence I have that my “inferences” from God’s Word are certain enough for me not to consider “any different doctrine” (1 Timothy 1) is the Word of God itself. It is the Word of God. Your lack of response to my individual references to the essential truths of the Gospel that I believe to be affected by the dismissal of a literal Adam, leads me to question what you hold dear about Christianity at all. Is there nothing we can know for sure? Vagueness on essentials does not give me a warm and fuzzy about your allegiance to the authority of Scripture. I know you would say this is unfair, but I’m just being honest. My tone on this side of the computer is more of a desperate plea. I don’t understand and am quite worried how much push back and criticism I get for holding the authority of Scripture over science and claiming absolute truth about Christianity; all the while trying my best to embrace science within the revelation of Scripture.

    I met last night with my Pastor who memorized and has meditated for hours over the Book of Hebrews this last year, is finishing 1 Timothy now, and the power and truth of God’s Word pours out of him constantly in transforming ways for people in suffering, boredom, or worldly joy. It is very hard for me to even continue to engage with people who accuse me of expanding the essentials of the faith to prove my own points, after experiencing someone who is holding on to those essentials so tightly and faithfully that he is saving both himself and his hearers. That does not mean that scientific discovery is off the table and irrelevant. It’s just crazy for these discussions to prevent us from celebrating the wonder of the Gospel, and the redemption in Jesus, who came to save us from the sin imputed to us by Adam. Maybe these discussions are not preventing that – I’m just popping by to encourage that they certainly shouldn’t. And without Adam, a legitimate challenge exists. Enns has accepted that challenge. Good for him.

    But I don’t value very highly absolute claims on science that act like they are holding to the general authority of Scripture, yet claim to be “re-thinking” it, and then are surprised when I question that approach, as if I can’t know anything for sure from Scripture. You question my coming across as having an absolute claim to truth as if that’s a bad thing, something that is abnormal or dangerous for Christians. We hold the absolute truth that leads to life. Our faith was once for all entrusted to us. Right?

    At the end of the day, of course we can disagree. That’s why I am engaging here. I am trying to do that in a loving way to the benefit of the Body of Christ. I hope I am succeeding. Truly, I do. I am not expecting to convince anyone of anything; just offer some caution and encouragement. Is that welcome? Either way, I will continue to accept the same in return, because I know I need it. I love and I hate blogs. Chatting over a cup of coffee or a beer would be a much more fruitful way to discuss these things, yet I realize that is less accessible and realistic. I will continue to try to communicate my respect and appreciation for the thoughts shared here in light of what I consider most important, as long as I am welcome.

  • Tim

    Joey (#40),

    “I have exposed myself to evidence for evolutionary processes at, what I would consider, a reasonable depth.”

    This is a fairly common response, even among those who’s only significant exposure to Evolutionary science comes from it’s detractors.

    So I’d like to follow-up with a question. Who did you read? What book? What author? What research? What resource? Could you be specific?

    As more often than not, the resources are places like AIG, ICR, Discovery Institute, or other creationist/ID organizations, or literature such as Darwin’s Black Box, Signature in a Cell, etc. So I’d be interested in knowing what your immersion is.

    As far as “perspective” as I used it above, I was meaning a view that you recognize you’ve come to by the way of inference and would fall somewhere on a probabilistic scale – as opposed to some more one-to-one link to absolute truth that can’t in any way be questioned and would of necessity render all opposing views as wrong by default.

    I think according to your response I’ll quote below, you seem to favor the latter:

    “the confidence I have that my “inferences” from God’s Word are certain enough for me not to consider “any different doctrine” (1 Timothy 1) is the Word of God itself. It is the Word of God.”

    And if such is your perspective, then of course all we can do is agree to disagree. Any learning will be unfortunately stiffed by a conversational participant who a priori refuses to ever consider other arguments for merit.

  • @Tim

    Before I answer your questions, may I request you to answer mine: who is your million-year old scientist? What truths do you hold as essential to the faith?

    I will admit I had to wikipedia “priori”.

  • Tim


    Do you ask the same thing of a detective investigating a crime scene? Where is your eye witness? No, you don’t have one? Then you clearly don’t have a case! You weren’t there!

    The answer I would give to you is the same answer a detective would give. We have forensic evidence we can investigate. Sometimes the forensic evidence aligns in such a way that the underlying cause can be confidently inferred. Sometimes this evidence is so compelling that to fail to provisionally grant acceptance would be intellectually perverse. This is the same situation for the evidence for evolution / common descent. No eye witness required.

    So, I’ve answered your question…

  • I guess I hold to the intellectually perverse version then. Though, I would never call the contrary position to mine intellectually perverse. That’s a bit much.

    Thanks for answering my first question. I understand your logic, but I personally need more than foresnic evidence for a view that contradicts the revelation of God.

    My second question, then?

    You already know I haven’t read the people you want me to read. What I find fascinating is your implication that I am obligated to read who you consider the experts. I’m not opposed, just don’t have that much time. I’m working on it. But if you really think my exposure to “scientific consensus” is going to cause me to “rethink” Scripture, I’m afraid you’re wrong. I’m really sorry about that. I’m just holding on to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Timothy 3:9)

  • Tim


    I was making a general statement concerning an intellectual response to overwhelming evidence. I was not calling your position “intellectually perverse.” Obviously one criteria would be awareness of the evidence. You still haven’t established what that awareness is. Could you please let me know per my earlier questions on this?

    Concerning “essentials” of the Christian faith. I think the early creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed is a good place to start.

  • AHH

    Joey @44 said,
    I personally need more than foresnic evidence for a view that contradicts the revelation of God.

    I think it is important and right that such statements be modified — “contradicts the revelation of God” should really be “contradicts my interpretation of the revelation of God”. If the forensic evidence is strong enough, that should cause one to at least be willing to consider if one is holding to a mistaken interpretation. After all, the created world is also a “revelation of God” in a sense and should not contradict Scripture — if a contradiction seems to exist it means we are wrongly interpreting one or the other.

  • @Tim,

    The funny thing is, I really was going to abstain from commenting on this post – I feel like I have been overstaying my welcome – but then @MikeB asked about what books he should read on evolution for an intro, and like 5 people suggested 5 different books. I thought it a little humorous that people expected him to read all those books. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he will (I should too!), just that the expectations of what all needs to be read, studied, and discovered concerning evolutionary science is pretty extensive. I’m glad the Bible is more accessible.

    The whole premise that Christians have to expose themselves to all this “overwhelming” evidence in order to know that they have a faithful interpretation of Scripture is a bit crazy. Or at least, it’s not realistic. If I was a Pastor that felt it necessary for my congregation to embrace evolution, but the only way they would truly be convinced of it and therefore embrace it, was to expose themselves to tons of technical, scientific research, I wouldn’t have much confidence that would ever happen. And truly, it would convince me pretty strongly that embracing evolution was far from “essential” to a faithful, and accurate, interpretation of Scripture.

    So, I think one thing that people like you (Christians who embrace evolution) need to acknowledge when dialoguing with people like me (Christians who reject evolution), is that it’s going to be more important for you to convince me of your commitment to the authority of Scripture, than it is for me to convince you that I have exposed myself to all the evidence. Why? Because Scripture is a higher authority than science. It just is. Right? So if you can convince me that you hold to the authority of Scripture over science, than I’m game – tell me what to read. And in general, even though your questioning about my subjective Biblical interpretation, and your vagueness on the essentials of the faith (your last comment did help clarify this a bit), is strange to me, I would say that I believe you hold to the authority of Scripture.

    So, I’m serious, I will commit to read one concise, accessible, non-technical summary of the evidence of evolutionary science, and I’ll let you pick. For what it’s worth, if I showed you my 2012 reading plan for my marriage, work, church, and general pleasure, I hope you would be sympathetic and appreciative that I would commit to reading one book on evolution. So, pick the book.

    Please understand though, that by definition, holding to Scripture as my absolute authority means that I might still reject what may appear to even be “overwhelming evidence” from man’s perspective. In other words, if indeed the forensic evidence for the biological evolution of man from another species is compelling, I will reject it with a clear conscience. Why? Because it confuses the creation of man in God’s image, and it confuses our connection with the original human Adam and our imputed sin from him – both of which (among other things it confuses) I consider essential.

    You may say I am going into my study of evolution narrow-minded, with preconceptions, and incorrect interpretations or understandings of the purposes of Scripture. And that would be a legitimate argument. I’m just letting you into the mind of people like me. We believe evolution, at its core, to be a faith claim. We believe, despite the evidence, however compelling, that at some point you have to acknowledge mystery and the unexplainable (which you obviously have to do either way), and to do so in a way that “rethinks” the traditional, orthodox interpretations of Scripture, is holding science over Scripture, which should not be acceptable for the Christian.

    I hope that at least makes sense to you. And I hope it increases the amount you speak about your devotion to the authority of Scripture and the essentials of the faith, when discussing these topics with those that disagree with you. Because I can tell you, if it doesn’t increase that devotion, you’ll never get off square one when talking with people like me, and that would be a shame. Just like you don’t take me seriously until I read about all the evidence, those like me will not take you seriously until you evidence your commitment to Scripture and orthodox doctrine (even if you define that differently). Because at the end of the day, even if we embrace evolution, we must be Christians who happen to embrace evolution, not evolutionists who happen to be Christians.

    @DRT and @AHH

    Does that make sense in light of our interactions also, and recent comments?

  • Tim


    In way of response I would say that I don’t expect every Church-goer out there to extensively immerse themselves in the literature presenting the scientific support for evolution / common descent. That’s obviously too high a bar to set. But what I would say is that, if one wants to consider themselves as having an informed opinion on the matter, there is a certain amount of due diligence that could reasonably be expected. It might flow like this:

    1) Understand the overall landscape. How strong is the consensus? Who makes up this consensus? Broadly speaking, what are the reasons / lines of evidence for this consensus? (Time required: Maybe 30 minutes to an hour – taking Wikipedia as a starting point and following up with their sources briefly from there)

    *Now, you could just stop there if you like. This should be enough to let you know how to contextualize your view. If you have very little knowledge on the subject of evolution, or if all your knowledge came from only critics of evolutionary theory, then an appropriate response could be to perhaps hold your views a little more cautiously or openly given that you would be in disagreement with 99.85% of life/earth scientists representing the bulk of expertise on a matter that you know little about.

    2) Expose yourself to a summary treatment of the evidence. A single book here could suffice written by a reputable scientist targeted at and appropriate for the general lay public. If you still want to learn more, reading some high-quality articles such as Dennis Venema’s on Biologos or another supplemental text could also be helpful. (Time required: 3-5 days on the light end, 1-2 weeks on the heavy end)

    *Again, you could stop here if you like. You now have a moderately informed overview as to why so many scientists accept evolution / common descent.

    3) Expose yourself to counter-arguments.

    *This is completely appropriate if you happen to be skeptical. You are testing the explanations you’re given supporting evolution for validity by listening to the arguments of its critics.

    4) Expose yourself to counter-arguments to the other camps counter-arguments.

    *If you’re going to test arguments back and forth between creationist/ID and evolutionary camps, then if your objective is to arrive at the truth, you owe it to yourself to not just stop with the counter-argument that ideologically suits you best and then say you listened to “both sides.”

    5) Continue (3) & (4) as necessary, exposing yourself to new material for learning as appropriate, until a clear picture emerges.

    *Note that this is only necessary if you really do want to get into the the back-and-forth process of challenging and re-challenging in an effort to sort solid scientific wheat from the faulty/pseudoscience chaff should you be of the mind that the 99.85% consensus view and the 0.15% minority view should be investigated rigorously in vetting their truth claims.

    In any event, if you were to read just one book, I would recommend Why Evolution is True. If you were to read just one set of articles, I would read Dennis Venema’s on Biologos. If you wanted a single resource to fact-check creationist/ID claims, I would recommend Talk Origins.

    I hope you found this helpful. Again, please appreciate that we all make inferences when we come to data. Scripture is not excluded. Neither is creation. I really would encourage you to not just collapse the layer of inference in one area, essentially pretending it’s not there or that it is negligible, while accentuating it in the other. There doesn’t in my view seem to be any justifiable basis for doing this, and it doesn’t recommend itself to a balanced, humble, mindset conducive to learning and instruction.

  • DRT

    Joey, I think you would benefit from AHH#46. Let me say it the way I would frame it up.

    You keep referring to the “view of scripture” or “what scripture says” but you need to recognize that what you are really saying is your interpretation of scripture, not what it really says. That is the hubris that is leading you to the inevitable conclusion that you will not change your mind because you are equating your interpretation of scripture with the word of god. When I read Genesis 1-3 it seems plainly evident to me what it is saying and it is entirely consistent with evolution. You have to be willing to acknowledge that your interpretation may be inaccurate.

    So then, you are faced with the question that we all struggle with, how do I know that my interpretation of scripture is accurate. So we embark on wide ranging studies to see the various interpretations and external corroborating evidence that may inform our interpretation. The scripture is not changing, but our context makes a big difference in how we interpret. Again, you seem wed to believing that your interpretation is equivalent to the word of god so you seem to not want to test whether your interpretation is correct.

    Now in testing interpretation, you look to reference works of ancient language, look at the stories and religions surrounding the biblical text, the political situation going on at the time, and the only truly infallible check, the creation itself.

    So, when we look at creation, just like when we look at the bible, we are forced to interpret what is there. Just like in biblical studies there are experts who understand biblical interpretation (and many do say Gen 1 is allegory), there are various experts that interpret creation. This wiki article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_of_support_for_evolution pretty much summarizes the consensus for the interpretation of creation. The estimate there are 700 scientists out of 480,000 that are creationists. These are the people whose job it is, with many years of training, to interpret creation. That’s what scientists do.

    So you have two things, your interpretation of the bible and your interpretation of creation. Both are created by god.

    I really believe the one stumbling block that you keep showing is that you believe your interpretation of the bible is indeed the correct one. But there are many exprerts who disagree with you. And there is a lot (see the wiki article) of external evidence that also disagrees with you.

    Try to spend some time reading Gen 1-3 as allegory and you may be surprised how rich it becomes.

  • Tim Marsh

    I am thankful to Peter Enns for writing a book focusing on the genre of Genesis 1-3 as a way forward in the science-religion debates. Thank you for sharing!

  • @Tim

    Thanks for the outline of a good way to approach the study of evolution. I will follow it as much as I can!


    This is going to sound a little sarcastic, but in respect, I am trying to benefit you by showing you how others with my convictions react to these things.

    Reading Genesis 1-3 as literal, which I believe is the way it is meant to be read (as you know), makes alive to me the literal glory of God, the literal wonders of creation, and the literal, eternal promises of God in the Gospel in ways that are transforming and beyond rich. This reading experience I am referring to may be subjective, unscientific, spiritual, and even a little mystic, but it is true. The Bible to me, when I read it, is actual grace from Jesus Christ on the spot. Not allegorical grace – actual grace. Perhaps I am a fool, and this experience is not real. Do you think?

    So, ok, I’ll try reading Genesis 1-3, the beginning of the true story of the creation of everything, the beginning of the story that sets the stage for the glorious culmination in the life, death, and resurrection of the Second Person of the Trinity, who gave his life so that we may be counted righteous through faith, and rose from the dead to ensure the Father’s approval of his sacrifice – as if its only allegory – as if God didn’t bother giving us a literal account of such profound events because an allegory would suffice.

    As a follow-up question, when can I start reading it as literal?

  • Tim

    Hello Joey #51,

    Thank you for your above comment. Regarding your dialog to DRT (and I hope I’m not intruding), I’d suggest examining why you feel that a literal genre is more valuable or preferable than those that are non-literal. Which literary forms we prefer and why is very much influenced by our culture. And I would suggest that while the Bible may have been written “for” us, it wasn’t written “to” us. It was written (or if the original form was oral, spoken) to ancient audiences. The modes of communication that would have been most valued and effective to the ancient Israelites aren’t necessarily the exact same forms that we would prefer. Now, I wouldn’t consider Genesis 2-3 as “allegory.” That implies loads of symbolism and metaphor. Rather, I believe the genre was storytelling, something that any ancient Israelite would have immediately recognized and appreciated. Storytelling is a viable method for communicating a deeply meaningful message to your audience, just as Jesus’ parables were for communicating his. Storytelling can draw on common cultural motifs and idioms, including those based in legend and history, myth and cosmology, knowledge common to the community as well as creative and imaginative novel work. It is a very respected and treasured form of connecting with your audience and delivering your audience – at least it was seen this way in ancient times. Perhaps you should ask yourself why we seem to denigrate so vocally today? Is this a genre that is beneath God? I don’t think so.

  • Tim

    *oops on the “Hello” – must have thought I was addressing an email there for a second 🙂 *

  • Joey Elliott


    You want me to reexamine why I think literal is preferable to the storytelling genre you described? For the exact reasons I stated in my last response. Literal grace on the spot.

    If you can experience that through parable style storytelling, that is wonderful. If you can’t, I would suggest not selling yourself short on a less than literal reading of the Word of God.

    This all to me seems like a lot of complex explanations of what Genesis might have been taking away powerfully from the clarity of the gospel. But that’s just me.

  • Tim


    So if you were to extend that logic you would then say that Jesus’ parables don’t convey grace “on the spot” as they are not literal? Jesus’ audience found the parables appropriate enough of a form. Perhaps you feel he lost something in teaching through them?

  • DRT

    Joey, I don’t mind at all that you attempting to school me. I need it.

    I am also believing that there is no chance of my arguments changing your mind. That is what I have learned from this conversation.

    But the one thing I still don’t think you are willing to give, is that my belief in god being the creator of all using the mechanisms (largely) we have been talking about, is equally mystical, spiritual, grand and wonderful.

  • @Tim

    I am not talking about Jesus’ parables, which he himself referred to as parables, and which clearly impart grace as they are. Nothing was lost in his teaching of them in parable, which he did for various reasons not relevant here. I am talking about Genesis, which nowhere in the text is referred to, or even implied, as parable.

    This can all be very argumentative, and you can continue to break down my logic if you want. All I’m saying is I’m glad God communicated to me the historical story of the first human, who was created in His image, and was the beginning of the trajectory of His redemptive purposes and glory in the world, in plain words instead of yet-to-be-fully-defined parables. That, to me, is more gracious than if he revealed this to us in a way that is not even yet fully figured out, and requires the likes of Pete Enns to realize.


    I believe and am glad that your belief in God as the creator and sustainer of all things, through even evolutionary processes, is grand and wonderful to you, and I will give you the benefit of the doubt that this belief can and does offer you the same grace and experience as does my belief in God doing the same without these “mechanisms”. I hope in some ways, my influence has motivated you to more clearly articulate the authority of Scripture and the hope of Jesus in the midst of your scientific discussions. Your influence on me has motivated me to take more seriously the wonder of natural discovery as a profound (and even necessary) support to the supernatural revelation of God.

  • Tim


    “I am not talking about Jesus’ parables, which he himself referred to as parables”

    He did this routinely? As in, “Hello everyone, what I’m about to tell you is a story made up for your moral instruction. Please be aware that all events referenced herein contain no historical truth or otherwise literal validity. With that said, I now introduce you to the story of the father and his prodigal son…”

    Was that about how it went?

    Or did it go something like this:

    “Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them…”

    So what Jesus is saying is that there was a man who had two sons. And then he goes on to tell about them. Literal right? No need to make this complicated right?

    “This can all be very argumentative, and you can continue to break down my logic if you want. All I’m saying is I’m glad God communicated…”

    What you are saying is that you know the mind of God. You seem to think that God’s method of communication would have been clear to…who exactly? Well, perhaps it was clear to the original audience. Certainly that could be expected. But what about the cultures that lived after them? Five hundred years later? One thousand? Two thousand? Three thousand (which is about what it would be for the Genesis 2-3 story)? At some distant point in our future, maybe a million years from now, when the USA as a country may not even solicit any recognition, and our way of life, not to say anything of the way of life of the ancient Semitic people of the Near East is long since forgotten, how clear would it be then? Keeping in mind that God knows what would have happened in literary styles and developments and what the new norms and preferences would be. Would it still be clear then?

    Oh right, it would be clear because the Bible teaches that Scripture is perspicuous right? Note I’m not saying that it teaches that it is useful for instruction. But that it is actually fully and completely perspicuous to the common man, no matter what the culture, education, background, or time – allowing essentially erroneous genre identification and interpretation if prayerfully and honestly read. That’s what the Bible teaches right? Where exactly? Or is it just what we would naturally expect from God? Because, well, you know, he’s so very knowable on such a fine and precise level right? Not at all so beyond us to be in many ways beyond our comprehension? Nope, he’s super easy to figure out.

    Is this where you’re going with this? Or could you acknowledge that maybe your presuppositions could use some examining, being the product of your culture that you are, that we all are. We should think outside our current bubble and see what more life, and God, could have for us out there.

  • Tim


    Should be: “…allowing essentially INERRANT genre identification and interpretation”

  • @Tim

    Why so defensive? I’m just giving my personal experience.

    My point about Jesus referring to his parables as parables comes from passages like this:

    — And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
    “they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
    lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

    And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold. —

    Who said anything about the audience sometime in the distant future? Why are you so worried about them?

    I’m not sure you can be serious about this question:

    “Oh right, it would be clear because the Bible teaches that Scripture is perspicuous right? Note I’m not saying that it teaches that it is useful for instruction. But that it is actually fully and completely perspicuous to the common man, no matter what the culture, education, background, or time – allowing essentially erroneous genre identification and interpretation if prayerfully and honestly read. That’s what the Bible teaches right? Where exactly?”

    Do you even claim to have a take on the doctrines of the clarity of Scripture and the knowability of God? If not, no wonder you are defensive. You don’t even know what I’m talking about because you haven’t shared in the experience I am talking about.

    Also, yes, I have the mind of Christ. You don’t? I’ll just quote Scripture because that’s what I do when my words fail and people stop listening to what I’m saying. This is the Word of God.

    — Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
    “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
    what God has prepared for those who love him”—
    these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

    For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

    The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. —

    — Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.–

    — His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.–

    — For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.–

    — But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.–

  • DRT

    Joey#57 says “I hope in some ways, my influence has motivated you to more clearly articulate the authority of Scripture and the hope of Jesus in the midst of your scientific discussions.”

    Sorry, but it definitely has not done that. I don’t mean disrespect, but when you say “authority of scripture” is gives me a visual of people bowing down to the bible, and I think that is exactly what you and others are doing. I feel frustrated that cannot impact that view.

    But God bless you, I believe you are a good person.

  • @DRT

    So you don’t hold to the authority of Scripture at all? That does not have to mean bowing down to the Bible. It means holding up the Bible as the Word of God. What is wrong with that?

  • DRT

    Joey, You are continuing to confuse your interpretation of the word of god with what you think. This is why the perspicuity of scripture is not sound. It is why the inerrency of scripture is not sound. His methods have become unsound…

  • DRT

    Joey, peace brother. Perhaps it is nice to have confidence in what you believe as you do. I have far more doubt than that. The bible is the word of god, but, in my opinion, it cannot be made to be inerrent. I believe it requires interpretation, and that gives me the humility to believe that my interpretation may be wrong.

  • Tim


    I stand corrected on the parables. Those are sufficiently announced. But these are really two separate points: one, whether any Biblical text explicitly identifies its genre (and whether or not we should limit non-literal genre identifications to only such instances), and two, whether a non-literal genre is in any way “less than” a literal genre.

    I would presume that you would not find Jesus’ parables, or the Song of Solomon, or Psalms, as of less worth due to their non-literal genre. Or would I be wrong? In this event, I fail to see how your argument that identifying Genesis 2-3 as ancient storytelling (i.e., a “non-literal” genre) in any way strips “grace” or any worth from the text.

    I would also suggest that it doesn’t in any way violate this tenet: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”

    With respect then to the other issue, genre identification, I would say that the context of Genesis 1, which seems to read as a Temple Creation Text (see John Walton’s recent work), along with the numerous mythic motifs and idioms, general poetic structure, and the naming of the primordial man as ‘Adam’ which really means ‘human’, provides textual cues that you are not reading a literal, straight-forward account of history. So is it as obvious as when Jesus makes clear he’s telling a parable? No. But the cues remain nonetheless.

    Now, with regard to the rest of your post, you seem to be claiming that the Holy Spirit is what makes the Bible so very clear to you. However, the tone in these descriptions seems to be so over-the-top certain and emphatic, that one almost gets the impression that they are listening to someone who thinks themselves a prophet.

    To this, I would simply point out to you that no shortage of likewise devout, passionate, and of course, dead-certain Christians holding Biblicist/inerrantist views of Scripture arrive at just too many divergent conclusions to put stock in the sort of prophetic clarity you seem to feel you have. Armenian vs. Calvanist. Is the opportunity for salvatory grace really available to everyone? Some very devout, Biblicist Christians say no – and Emphatically no (e.g., 5-Point Calvinists). They will tell you that they’ve prayed about it. That when they read Scripture as illuminated by the Holy Spirit that this is the final Word of God on the matter. Done. Period. And then there are other equally devout, Biblicist Christians who also read Scripture and know, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that salvatory grace is available to all, no matter how mysteriously that might come about – as this is the nature of God so clearly described in the Bible. Done. Period. And of course we could go on. There’s just too much fragmentation in views among Biblicist Christians for your account to hold water to anyone, perhaps, outside of yourself.

    But I also have to ask why your account even holds water with you? Do you honestly feel that other Christians’ experiences who disagree with you are in any way less powerful, compelling, sincere, and seemingly authoritative? Among “prayer warriors”? Among King James Only Christians? Among 5-Point Calvinists? Among tongue-speaking Presbyterians? Among Christian Perfectionists? Among Faith-Healing communities, even those who forbid their own members and families to receive medical care? Do you think you all converge on exactly the same interpretations of Scripture in all those areas that you (and they) deem Scripture to “speak clearly” and authoritatively? I can tell you you don’t.

    I would instead suggest to seek a humble approach. And by this I don’t mean humbling Scripture. But simply recognizing that perhaps your mind-link to God isn’t so perfect as you might have thought it was. If you don’t allow some modicum of humility in, to simply understand that you are fallible just as your other Christian peers that hold different views than yours are fallible, then you by default elevate yourself above them. Is this the meek spirit that Jesus exhorted us to have? If one day you walk through those Pearly Gates and come to find that you were right all along, then great! But if you’re wrong, do you really want to live the rest of your life haughtily, looking down on the views of others as just not as in tune with the Big Guy as you are and therefore not worthy of respect or consideration?

    All I’m suggesting is to take a step back and think a little bit before slamming the door on what could be a more open way to relate to others, to relate to God’s creation, and to learn.

  • @DRT

    Peace to you as well my brother!


    I am sorry you have completely misunderstood my tone and my heart. I am sorry that words like “Biblicist”, “salvatory grace”, “inerrant”, and even “Calvinist” are bad words to you because of your exposure. I am sorry that “over-the-top certainty” about the essentials of your faith is not desirable for you. I am sorry that your opinion of the heart behind reformed theology is from the way it’s been misrepresented or the way you have understood it, and your feelings toward it are now set. Done. Period. I am sorry that you believe my certainty does not hold water to anyone, even myself. I am sorry that the Holy Spirit’s illumination of Scripture to the individual believer is to you an abnormal experience. I am sorry that a Christian who talks like me is so foreign that it sounds like an arrogant prophet, instead of a faithful ambassador to Christ. I don’t know what else to say. I’m sorry. I don’t doubt your salvation, your love, or your God-glorifying influence on the world. I don’t doubt your ability to correctly interpret Scripture, even where we disagree. I don’t know how to work that out, but I believe it’s worth the try. Do you agree with my last three sentences applied to me?

    I take your suggestions for humility and open-mindedness very seriously. I have a lot of prayer I need to do to further engage in these conversations.

    I just know that I am not so naïve to think that the lack of certainty on things of faith and objective interpretations of Scripture is outside the influence of the enemy who would make us doubt everything, and leave us without a Word of God and without a Savior. The fact that no one here seems to be taking that seriously (or is assuming its not a legitimate concern) is mind-boggling to me. I’d even take a simple, “I disagree with your urgency or observation, but I understand your point and I will pray for that not to happen.” Something!

    Please accept my apology for any pride or arrogance that has come through. This side of the computer is a man on his knees pleading with his brothers and sisters in Christ. I may be wrong, and by all means, I need to be told that I am wrong, and that is why I surround myself with a community of believers (outside the internet) who speak wisdom in my life. I also believe, though it does not trump the accountability I receive in the context of my local church, this context is valuable for correction and rebuke, and God is giving me it through these conversations.

    But He is also increasing my convictions. I have to say, your last paragraph to me could just as easily apply to you, and I will challenge you to take your own words very seriously. Your perspective that my perspective is not open enough could use humility as well. Humility does not necessarily mean open-mindness. It also means accepting those less open-minded than you, and respecting that maybe they have something to offer to the conversation as well.

    All I’ve tried to do is accept a learning posture on things I am less sure of (scientific discovery) and be vocal on the things I am more sure of (authority of Scripture). I have taken a step back to consider other more open ways to relate to others, and I continue to do so. Most of the response I am getting is definite statements (which is ironic) that I can’t be sure of anything and that my understanding of authority and interpretation of Scripture is subjective, so I should go away and think harder and open my mind.

    I would love to buy you a cup of coffee or a beer so you could get to know this “Biblicist Christian” and “5-point Calvinist”, who believes the Bible is inerrant and authoritative, which is for God’s glory and our joy, who loves Jesus and loves his neighbor and is just trying to guard the truth that leads to life – so you could have the opportunity to meet an exception to what you have in your mind about Christians like me. I would love the day when those that deny a literal Adam, for example, can respect the fact that those that still believe in one consider it fundamentally important, and if that priority is not enough to convince, than at least it be respected in a way to make these conversations a lot more productive. The tone that the only way forward is for everyone to come around and interpret Scripture the same way as Pete Enns, is not only offensive, but also its unrealistic. I am here to tell this forum of people that there are loving, humble Christians who are open to science, but are not being convinced by this “re-thinking” of Scripture, and we want to explain to you why, but if that isn’t welcome, we want to listen and at least be respected as equally competent, Biblical, faithful, and effective ministers of the Gospel.

    I am a sinner and wrong on many things. But that doesn’t mean my influence, or the importance of what I am right on, and those like me, should be looked down on or ignored. If you feel I am looking down on you, I am deeply sorry. Please don’t look down on me in retaliation. If I can keep up (which is no small task!), I would like to stay in as many of these conversations as possible, if I am welcome.

  • Tim


    Where are you getting that I’m using any term as “bad”? I’m merely identifying your perspective as Biblicist/Inerrantist, not in the pejorative sense but as an accurate descriptor of your approach to Scripture. I then point out that similarly Biblicist/Inerrantist, devout Christians (e.g., Calvanists and Armenians) arrive at very divergent views, on issues of no less importance as, say, “salvatory grace.” Now, I’m certainly not using that phrase as a “bad word”!

    So where are you getting this idea? I feel like you’re reading INTO what I wrote, not WHAT I actually wrote.

    So where are you getting this?

  • @Tim

    Even if you’re not referring to my perspective as “bad” (probably poor word choice on my part), or inferior, you still are insulting my intelligence by identifying my position for me, as if I don’t already know it, and “suggesting” I change it. Not sure which is worse, but either way, my point was let’s pursue humility together per the rest of my last comment.

  • Tim


    I think you’re misreading me. I’m simply acknowledging your Biblical approach so you understand that I’m on the same page with you. And then I’m simply demonstrating that within communities of devout Christians that adopt this very same approach, one that entails proclaiming the Bible as inerrant (in a strongly detailed and literal sense) and proclaiming a strong sense of (very expansive) doctrinal and interpretive certainty, that the range of views across important, and “certain” topics is quite broad.

    In other words, you could take Christians from each of these Biblicist/inerrantist communities, and while they’d tell me what you’re telling me, that the Bible is Inerrant and that through the Holy Spirit you can have CERTAIN knowledge of what Scripture CLEARLY means, they would then go on to tell me DIFFERENT interpretations on many identical topics.

    So this I would argue ought lead one to question how CLEAR and CERTAIN their interpretation truly is. As how would your experience be any different then than in all other respects identically devout and Biblicist Christians holding DIFFERENT interpretations?

    That was my main point.

    As far as intellectual humility on my end, all I can say is that I will remain open to any argument, even the argument that one ought not remain open to any argument. To say that one is inappropriately closed-minded is always a probabilistic standpoint – at least according to my present view. I am not expressing dogmatic certainty here.

  • Tim,

    So, the fact (which I agree with) that people can have different interpretations of the exact same text, while both claiming certainty, makes certainty to you, on any topic, impossible and unnecessary? Don’t throw out the baby!

    I am not fighting for total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irrestible grace, or perseverence of the saints here (I could and would elsewhere!), all of which I know people disagree on while simulataneously holding to the certainty of their own interpretation and the inerrancy of Scripture. I am talking about being certain on the essentials of Christianity so, as Christians, we don’t lose them, which is naive to think is not at risk. I put the inerrancy of Scripture in that category. I know you disagree. A problem beyond my pay grade is that Christians no longer agree on the essentials.

    But I think that disagreeing over predestination, for example, is a lot different than disagreeing on the inerrancy of Scripture. I think because of the inerrancy of Scripture we (all Christians, of all convictions) can know things for sure that are matters of life and death. If I come across an “inerrantist” who also argues for a non-literal Adam, for example, I am not going to worry about it that much. It actually would almost immediately become a non-essential to me. I can trust that his understanding of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ for salvation, the Trinity, etc. are intact because of his view of Scripture, which is out ultimate revelation. The problem is I’m not sure this person exists. And if he does, he needs to speak up because he could solve the entire problem that Pete Enns is addressing. An inerrant Bible but a non-literal Adam – that would be some combination for the progress of the science and faith dialogue!

    The approach of denying the inerrancy of Scripture and therefore not having a clear line on what is essential, is worth speaking out against, I think. The concern of a lessening view of the authority of Scripture the more we “re-think” it is a legitimate one, I think. I think this because the enemy would love us to not hold anything essential, continue to “re-think” all of God’s truth, and therefore have no uniqueness as Christians, and have no saving faith and no influence on the world.

    Can you respect that? Do you see my concern and urgency? Can you at least join me in praying against it, even if my concern is an overreaction?

  • Tim


    I am not here, now, arguing with you over inerrancy in some basic sense. I am, however, challenging you to re-examine perspicuity as well as how far you feel it necessary to “drill down” inerrancy to very expansive sets of doctrines and interpretations. It seems based on our conversation thus far that a literal genre identification of Genesis 2-3 got snagged in your hermeneutical net. So a literal Adam seems to be defended as vigorously as anything else you believe in Scripture. It is this I’ve been challenging.

  • Tim,

    So you don’t see my concern and you won’t pray with me?

  • Tim


    I think that your putting inerrancy in the category of “essentials” of Christianity is not something I would agree with. I would note, however, that it has not been my goal in this thread to focus so much on debating the validity of inerrancy specifically. That would be another conversation entirely, and a lot more than Genesis 2-3 would go into it (and I don’t really see genre identification of Genesis 2-3 as that pertinent to inerrancy in any event). In any case, I’ve mentioned before that I think the early creeds are good indicators of what is “essential” in Christianity. I don’t see these as particularly under threat, and I’m certainly not threatening them or wishing them to be.

    So I think we have to recognize that we have different concerns. What most troubles me are ideological barriers we create between ourselves, and our understanding of creation, and really any matter pertaining to “truth”. This can (and does) lead to all sorts of problems. It can lead to parents who refuse medical treatment for their children. It can lead to divisions within families. It can lead to efforts that impinge on good science – whether pertaining to evolution, climate science, vaccinations, etc. It can lead to personal enforced ignorance, even excessive intolerance or even bigotry.

    These are the concerns I feel most acutely. We are progressing as a society, and there is so much potential God’s creation holds out there for us. But there are ways of thinking that sacrifice our ability to connect with this potential, with this reality, to enforce rather rigid, ideological views of many amongst ourselves and our communities.

  • Tim,

    I said a long time ago (maybe not to you, but to someone) that I acknowledge the concerns being spoken to here. Specifically, I acknowlegde yours:

    “What most troubles me are ideological barriers we create between ourselves, and our understanding of creation, and really any matter pertaining to “truth”. This can (and does) lead to all sorts of problems. It can lead to parents who refuse medical treatment for their children. It can lead to divisions within families. It can lead to efforts that impinge on good science – whether pertaining to evolution, climate science, vaccinations, etc. It can lead to personal enforced ignorance, even excessive intolerance or even bigotry.”

    I do. I pray that these things do not happen. I acknowledge that avoiding them needs to be a priority in the church.

    But I STILL have not heard you even imply that you acknowledge my concerns, namely, that the “re-thinking” of Scripture without holding to its absolute authority (over science) is giving the enemy a foothold – leading to the “re-thinking” of essential truths that would cause us to make shipwreck of our faith, and many to lose matters of life and death (saving faith). You say the creeds are not under threat, but I am saying, that the Word of God that informed those creeds is being re-interpreted all the time, and there has to be a limit to this. Maybe that limit is way past the Adam issue. But I’m trying to get you to admit that it can’t happen indefinitely, and to prevent it, some more emphasis to the authority of Scripture (even if short of inerrancy) is necessary.

    Its a simple question – do you respect me enough to take my concerns seriously, especially considering the fact that I am openly taking yours seriously?

  • Tim


    “But I STILL have not heard you even imply that you acknowledge my concerns, namely, that the “re-thinking” of Scripture without holding to its absolute authority (over science) is giving the enemy a foothold – leading to the “re-thinking” of essential truths that would cause us to make shipwreck of our faith, and many to lose matters of life and death (saving faith).”

    I think a lot of this begs the question (and by that I mean the logical fallacy of begging the question).

    I don’t “assume” that God’s Word has “authority” over God’s Creation. Actually, that doesn’t even make any sense for me. Rather I see that we interpret both. This has been a point I think that multiple commenters have tried to make on this thread. I also think the way you object to “re-thinking” “essential truths” begs the question. It begs the question that your current interpretation is “true.” It begs the question that whatever is in dispute is, in fact, “essential.” And it begs the question that “re-thinking” of your present interpretation is actually a bad thing.

    I also question the idea that the inerrantist hermeneutic is some bulwark against one’s faith being “shipwrecked.” If you end up going for advanced study in certain fields, having accepted hook, line, and sinker the inerrantist hermeneutic and the worldview that results, you may very likely find yourself in the unenviable position of having your faith stacked like a deck of cards, ready to come down once inerrancy no longer seems intellectually tenable. The reason for this is of course the Fundamentalist/Biblicist argument that the inerrancy of Scripture is the foundation for your faith. I would, of course, advise to build your house on a rock – not what many people later find to be sand.

    If you want to hold to the “essentials”, I would suggest rather holding to Jesus’ ministry and the resurrection, and branching out from there. It’s far less vulnerable IMO than inerrancy.

  • Tim,

    So your answer is no, you don’t acknowledge my concerns, because you think they are based on fallacy, and because you don’t distinguish between God’s special revelation (Scripture) and his general revelation (creation). And you assume that inerrancy has become or will become intellectually untenable, and if so, this would possibly lead me (or anyone) to a bad place spiritually. Worse yet, you consider my faith to be built on sand, and advise that I build it on the rock (which is Christ) instead. Is that a fair synopsis of your answer?

    My goodness. If so, you don’t understand the faith of those who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture at all. You don’t see the wonder, joy, and security in such a faith either. You even consider it dangerous. That is a shame. My Christian faith is not going to always be the most “intellectually tenable” to the world. I know this. If it was, I would be worried – it is supposed to be foolishness. Have you ever looked in the mirror and spoke out loud what you believe about Jesus? If not, I suggest you try. It should sound ridiculous if you are a Christian.

    How do you expect progress in these dialogues? I am saying I take seriously your concerns and you are saying you don’t take seriously mine. You would say you can’t take seriously what you don’t understand, but I’m not sure how to state it more plainly.

    The Resurrection and Jesus’ ministry (as you define the essentials) is next up for debate if our views on the authority of Scripture do not hold. Sorry, that’s the prophet in me speaking. And what will we have? Objective scientific discovery to prove the Resurrection? Evidence from God’s creation to prove supernatural miracles that accompany gospel proclammation? Cultural perspectives to verify God’s moral standards and Jesus’ teachings? I recognize that Enns is going to great effort to think through supernatural events (virgin birth, miracles, etc.) through an intellectual, even natural lens. This is not altogether unhelpful as our view on the authority of Scripture lessens. Likewise, human philosophy on the moral goodness of man I’m sure has some benefits to confirm the authority of Jesus. But relying on these things ahead of Scripture is futile if it becomes the norm in the church.

    Alas, I am afraid I can’t continue to beat this horse, and consider my efforts at offering a humble caution to a Christian brother unsuccessful. God bless you anyway.

  • Tim


    The “fallacy” I was trying to bring to your attention is begging the question. This fallacy does not in any way mean that your conclusions are wrong. Rather, it focuses on how you are expositing your ideas in your argument. It means that you are assuming that your audience agrees with some argument you are making from the start, so you neglect to then support your argument. Hence the “question” is being “begged” of your audience. So I would suggest to you that some assumptions you are bringing to the table that you think are so OBVIOUS that any CHRISTIAN would implicitly acknowledge their VALIDITY, aren’t in fact so very obviously recognized by Christians here on this thread, or on Jesus Creed in general, or in life in general. They are recognized perhaps in your community, but I would advise you to refrain from seeing that as by default somehow normative.

    Now, I do consider inerrancy to be intellectually untenable – not just to others, or the “world”, but to me. Many others who are Biblically literate have come to the same conclusion. Why? Because in my study of the Biblical text, I’ve run across what seems very clearly to me to be too many errors in it. Is this so unexpected? You have to recognize that Scriptures do have some element of humanity in them after all. I find many who hold to Biblicist ideas pay lip service to this, but in practice all but dismiss it.

    I do find it curious though that you think I have no knowledge of why people hold to inerrantist views, why it is so dear to them, and what that “experience” is like. I held to inerrantist views as a Fundamentalist/Biblicist Christian for almost twenty years.

  • DRT

    Joey and Tim, listening to both of your really strikes me as a morals issue exactly like Dr. Haidt discusses in his TED talk. It is naturally easier for conservatives like Joey to understand the stance of Tim than it is for Tim to understand Joey. Listen to the talk and you will see why. The only that that may not be clear, is that when you look at the graphs, recognize that a score over 3 means you feel that is valuable, while a score under 3 means you feel you are against it being valued, which is how the liberals generally score on 3 of the factors.


    An 18 minute video…

  • DRT

    Let me make Joey’s argument more concretely, and see if he agrees. Joey recognizes the value and effort that has been put in to building the understanding that he is representing. He recognizes that the centuries of struggle vesus not only other groups, but also the rule of evil has landed us at a place of significant value. Rethinking all of these things is, frankly, dangerous. We can’t simply ignore the value of what we have.

  • Tim


    I would not go out on a limb and say I don’t “understand” Joey. I believe I understand where he’s coming from, though I hesitate to say anything too emphatic relating to a person I’ve only met online.

    What I get is that he wants to preserve the “authority” of Scripture and sees that authority as the basis for his faith. He essentially equates inerrant with authoritative in this capacity, meaning that he can’t see how the Bible could be authoritative if it isn’t also inerrant.

    He also seems to have completely adopted the slippery slope argument. Such that giving up inerrancy seems to then open up an “anything goes” policy with respect to Scripture. And that such an approach he sees as putting everything sacred and near and dear about Christianity at risk, including the resurrection, salvation by grace, all of it.

    He has no other worldview with which to replace an inerrantist view that holds Scripture to be “true” and “authoritative.” The predominant alternative view he feels is the default choice if one “gives up” inerrancy is liberalism. And he likely understands liberalism the way most Fundamentalist Evangelicals do, as an elevation of “man’s wisdom” over God’s, perceiving it to be misguided, dangerous, corrosive to the faith, and flat-out wrong.

    What Joey seems to be looking for is for someone to acknowledge these concerns, to share them, and to try to navigate through the science/faith issues with them in mind.

    The problem is that while I understand that Joey has these concerns, I personally don’t share them, and furthermore I disagree with the validity of many the arguments and assumptions behind them.

    My suggestion to Joey is to challenge his assumptions. Take a look at ways other devout Christians have approached these issues. And try to avoid appreciate the diversity and nuance of perspectives out there, rather than simply accept the stark Biblicist vs. Liberal Manichean dichotomy imposed by many Fundamentalists.

  • DRT

    “The problem is that while I understand that Joey has these concerns, I personally don’t share them, and furthermore I disagree with the validity of many the arguments and assumptions behind them.”

    Well, that is exactly the problem. They are valid concerns and we need to understand how to value them.

    I too, do not naturally value them. I have to go out of my way to appreciate them.

    Watch the vid.

  • Tim


    I am not saying that it isn’t “valid” that he has those concerns. But that’s a personal statement, one I can say the same for a lot of people across a lot of concerns that I personally don’t share.

    I can certainly appreciate where he’s coming from, but he’s let it be known fairly clearly that he considers inerrancy to be non-negotiable and “essential” to a Christian faith. And how am I supposed to “value” that, when I feel the arguments against this view are far more robustly supported than the arguments for it!

  • Tim

    …by the way, can’t watch the vid right now – I’m not in an environment where I can turn on my laptop’s speakers.

  • DRT

    Dude, you need headphones

  • Tim


    I watched the video, and it is very insightful. However, I think you may be reading something into Joel’s concerns.

    The presenter in the TED video certainly brings me back to my Psychology days.

    The presenter stated (and I certainly agree) that our moral, social minds are already predisposed to facilitate cooperation and in-group/out-group behavior at the expense of “blinding us to the truth.” The benefit of course is all the order (including moral order) that submission to authority, communal standards of “purity”, and loyalty to one’s group can help create and sustain.

    But this is a societal argument. It invites us to ask the question as to whether an embracing of openness to knowledge and experience at the expense of loosing the societal order derived from in-group behavior sustained by loyalty, submission to authority, and communal standards of “purity” is worth it. Are removing the in-group blinders to truth worth it, given the cost? This is a value question.

    But I don’t think that Joel is making so much the conservative argument as to preserving our “Judeo-Christian Inheritance” as the “Moral Foundation” of our country. This certainly would be an question that could be well informed by the TED video you linked.

    But rather, I think Joel is arguing about allegience to the “Truth.” He wants to know what is true, and he doesn’t want to lose it. He feels of course that he has it. I feel of course that the worldview he’s become convinced of keeps him from much of it. So ours has been an argument as to truth primarily. The implicit value that seems to be agreed between both Joel and myself is that knowing the truth is “worth it.” So I don’t see that we’re having a conflict of values at that level.

  • Tim

    *Oops – replace “Joel” with Joey – Sorry Joey! Too early in the morning 🙂

  • Tim and DRT,

    This has actually been fun for me to sit back and observe comments trying to understand my perspective and value my concerns. DRT, thanks for your efforts to gain common ground so this conversation can be productive. I don’t know that you stated my perspective perfectly clear, but it wasn’t completely off either. And thanks for the link to the video.

    I realize this post is a bit old at this point, and you’ve both probably moved on to other things (which on this blog alone I continue to be impressed by the amount and depth of content to interact with). I haven’t had a chance to keep up with this post, let alone new ones, but if you’re willing to wait a few days, I can take a look at the video and try to respond in full to it and to the comments made above about me, but without me.

    Until then, have a great weekend!

  • Tim


    Saw your last post. If you’d like to continue discussing the issues you’ve raised, I’d be happy to continue our conversation.

  • Joey Elliott


    I realize this is several months later, but if somehow you see this, my response to our conversation became a blog post, after much time and thought. Here it is if you’re interested: