Dear Reader… Thinking Out Loud about Biblical Inspiration

Dear Reader…

Today I want to do some thinking “out loud” about this question: What is so important about inerrancy? It seems to me that people want to hold on so tightly to this word, but that such a term is not helpful because it is often used dogmatically.  But before I get to that discussion, let me give you a central conviction about biblical authority: I believe the Bible is authoritative, not in itself, but because of the fact that God has delegated his own authority to it.  God is the ultimate authority. NT Wright says it well: “When we say ‘the authority of scripture’, then, we mean – if we know our business – God’s authority, Christ’s authority, somehow exercised through the Bible.”[1]

With that acknowledged, how about the distinction between “God Breathed” “Infallibility” and “Inerrancy?”  I first would ask about: what does the Bible actually say about itself? It claims to be God breathed.  The other two terms are imposed on the Bible, so we must be honest about that reality.  But, lets take them each individually.

“God Breathed” – This is what the Bible claims about itself in the area of inspiration and authority.  It is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness/justice.”  This gives us the foundational purpose of the Bible.  It can teach us how to live lives on the Rock of Jesus.  This ultimately affirms that God was involved in getting us the Word through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, while allowing the original authors to express – occasion, personality, nuance, rhetoric, genre of choice, etc.  Which is why Paul had the freedom to say things like “I, not the Lord,” (Corinthians) for instance.  I affirm this as my primary way of understanding biblical authority.

Infallible – I am very comfortable with this term in every way while recognizing it as a theological term that we impose on the Bible to help us.  As my confession of faith states in article 2: “We accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice.”  Now, infallibility means that the Bible is true as a guide for all matters of faith and practice.  This means that if the Bible teaches that this act or idea is wrong, well then it is wrong.  This is quite different then the word “inerrant” however…

Inerrant – This typically agrees with the other two terms but adds something on it that I personally am not convinced of.  Inerrancy imposes the belief that the Bible is “perfectly scientifically and historically accurate” (click this link to read a friend’s thoughts).  I reject this completely.  The Bible, in my opinion was not primarily for the purpose of recording perfect facts about science.  Why do so many people try to impose the ‘scientific method’ of modernity on to a pre-modern book?  If for some reason, I find that biblical cosmology is not in line with what we understand about the natural world, for instance, it does not shake my belief in the Bible’s authority. Because the Bible is not answering that set of questions.  Or, if there is a historical nuance that is wrong, that doesn’t mean the Bible loses her authority either.  The Bible, in most systems of inerrancy, is treated as a book that is to be read primarily in the ‘plain sense;’ and as we read the surface of the Bible, we get the facts about our world.  I have a big issue with this view of Scripture, but am hospitable towards those who embrace it.  I think we need to read the Bible in the genres each book/passage was written and with the questions in mind of the original authors.  If we start with our modern questions, we sometimes miss the truths that ancient world was addressing under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Inerrancy, as it is popularly understood, limits this in my opinion.

What are you ideas about biblical inspiration compared to mine?

Thanks for letting me “think out loud,”



PS – For some other thoughts on this subject, see my good friend Dan Martin’s blog.

You can also check out my article at the Ooze on “Post-Modern Biblical Authority

[1] For my complete view of the Bible’s authority read: The Last Word: Getting Beyond the Bible Wars, NT Wright


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  • This history side is what makes me hesitant here. I think Walton makes a great case for the idea that God did not reveal scientific principles to the writers that they would not have known, that wasn't the point after all.
    But the history matters on a different level. Because, as Wright also says, if our faith isn't based on real historical events we may as well be Buddhists or anything else.
    Not that the Biblical authors were interested in doing our type of modernist-Western historical writing, they weren't and that is perfectly fine.
    Now, I'm not saying that inerrency is the best way to capture this, but neither is the "faith and practice" approach, at least from where I sit. Because our faith and practice are based on things that happened. And if we can't say they happened, why are we living as if they did?

    • Kurt

      Mason… I agree. My understanding of infallibility does not wish to dismiss history at all. As you know, that is something I am passionate about. What I am saying is that modern western history is something quite different. I am also saying that if Luke 2 is wrong or fuzzy on a historical detail about a census, that it shouldnt cause us to question our faith…

      • I think history and science can be treated in much the same way. The Bible is primarily neither scientific nor historical but concerned with truth. Through millenia the Scriptures have been corrected only because of transcription errors and minor misunderstandings whereas science and history have often been found to be distorted, defective or downright lies. We should therefore glean scientific and historical truths from the scriptures not force science and history on it as we will only end up distorting it for dubious purposes.

        I can happily defend God's Word against science and history but the three must always be near neighbours.

  • Good article. I'm pleased that you emphatically reject the inerrancy of the Bible as this is clearly not true. Our modern translations owe much to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls so if the NIV is inerrant the AV must be flawed and that's a nonsense. Inerrancy is also useless as the application of God's Word requires human interpretation which is always flawed.

  • YO
  • Kurt, I concur. I think the why behind the question is nuanced and layered. And from a congregational ministry perspective, let me add my 2 cents. Many who sit in pews each week have been taught from a "word" based theology, and I am not meaning a good John take on word either :). Many have been taught to read the word, memorize the word, study the word, share the word, use the word like a sword, swear on it, bandage wounds with it. We have at least a generation or two still very proficient in word practice, but not necessarily madly in love with the One who is word.

    We have misused it the the ability to be objective and rational in this conversation is threatened. We have many who worship the book and not the God of the book.

    I hear people saying "The Bible is our guide to life" or even "a roadmap" and so scripture is reduced to a handbook of how to get along well and manage sin. However, when it is correctly placed as a means by which we participate in the story of God, we can have the freedom to adjust our view a little. It allows room for continual revelation.

    Another layer that I see in the congregational setting is the fear of mystery. And so, the desire to understand and know and tie things up with pretty bows does not allow for an accurate position on inerrancy, inspiration etc. Just try to mention ordering, editors, structural issues in a congregational setting and you see the panic.

    Thanks for thinking out loud.

    • Juli

      I completely agree with your take on this. I grew up in "Biblianity" more so than "Christianity". I'm glad to find others who recognize the difference. 🙂

  • Gord Mayer

    It strikes me that this collection of documents we call the Bible has in it the regular bias and tack of the writers as does any compilation. The wonder of it comes from the infallibility of the representation of God's character and purposes. From the type seen in the Hebrew scriptures over and over again to the fulfillment of that type in the incarnation of Jesus the innerant quality is in the presentation of God. This is miraculous as, given the aforementioned bias, each writer would surely have taken the opportunity to "create god" in their own image had they not been acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (God-breathed). When you look at the devotional telling of history found in Chronicles and juxtapose the more historical telling of that same history in Kings it is easy to see each writer's intentions in the text. But the character of God and the intention of God for salvation and relationship with His people is never sullied. Seems to be humanly impossible in a compilation over thousands of miles of geography and an equal number of years and yet it is explict in all the texts.

    So I am with you in awe and support of our God-Brethed scriptures that infallibly present the character of God and His plan and purpose for us thus allowing us to utilize it for guidance. "Innerant" causes us to look at the text out of context as such. Much like examining the grammar and spelling of a thesis to determine if the writer has proven their point.

    My $0.02 🙂 Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  • Juli

    Great post. Thanks for sharing, Kurt.

  • JM

    Good stuff, Kurt. In addition to Wright's "The Last Word", you should read (if you haven't already) Ben Witherington's "The Living Word of God." It's the best book on Scripture and Inspiration that I've ever read, hands down.

    Here's what I teach in "Bible for the Rest of Us" on Infallibility, Inerrancy and Inspiriation:

    The Bible was not “dictated” by God with the authors serving as nothing more than ancient courtroom stenographers. This is closer to what Muslims believe about the Qur’an than what Christians believe about the Bible. No, the Bible is both human and Divine and is the product of the Holy Spirit guiding the individual authors in their writing so that what they wrote was exactly what God wanted written.
    However, it is important to understand what the Christian doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture does not teach. Inspiration does not mean that the English (or Spanish, or any other translation) Bibles that we have today are inspired in and of themselves. This is a common misunderstanding and needs to be clarified to all believers.
    What were inspired were the Original Authors and the Original Documents from their pen or the pen of their scribe. Our translations of the Bible can be said to be the Inspired Word of God insofar as they accurately reflect what the authors originally wrote. There is no “inspired” modern translation—KJV, NIV, ESV, NLT—all of these are translations of the original Inspired Scriptures into modern language. Many errors and false accusations against the Bible’s reliability have come about by people ignoring this distinction.

    “Inspiration refers to the Divine co-operation between God and the human author to produce a text that is the authoritative means of hearing from, or about, God in and through the voice, style, and personality of the individual author.”
    To say that Scripture is “Inspired” is to say that it is not simply the product of human authors. Nor is it a work of literature dictated or otherwise sent down directly from the mouth of God without any human element. To say that Scripture is “Inspired” is to say, as Paul does, that it is theopneustos—literally “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, though Scripture communicates clearly what God intends it to communicate (2 Peter 1:20), it also reflects the characteristics of all other literature penned by human hands.
    The doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture has led to debate by a number of camps within evangelicalism over such terms as “Inerrant”, “Infallible”, and “Authoritative.” I believe that much of this is simply semantics, but there are subtle differences that really do affect how one views the origin and authority of Scripture. Through my studies in seminary, interaction with other Christians, and (probably most importantly) my discussions with non-Christians, it is my belief that the terms “Unity”, “Integrity”, and “Authority” best describe what it means to say that Scripture is “Inspired.”
    Unity refers to the notion that Scripture, while written as separate works by separate authors, forms one complete message, which God intends humanity to possess in written form.
    Integrity means that Scripture is completely trustworthy in all matters on which it speaks (when interpreted according to correct genre norms), and does not teach anything that is not in conformity with truth (or “the way things really are”).
    Authority refers to Scripture’s role as the ultimate guide for the Christian faith and the measure by which any and all theological notions must be judged.
    Among passages which support the notion of Scripture’s Inspiration, Jesus’ statement in John 10:35 that Scripture is “not able to be broken” seems to be the most direct. It is Divine testimony that the message contained in the words that make up Scripture possesses complete unity, integrity, and authority.

    “The original text produced in this way is Inspired. Insofar as a translation adheres to and communicates the original text, it can be said to be Inspired as well.”
    This point is crucial for us in ministry to clearly teach to those under our care! Countless foolish arguments and empty critiques of Scripture’s truth have arisen within as well as outside of the Church because people equate “Scripture” with “the (fill-in-the-blank) translation/version.” We must be clear in teaching the Body that it is only the original texts themselves which are Inspired; not subsequent transmissions or translations of them. Every translation is an interpretation and we should acknowledge this openly. Pastors and teachers who are able should possess at least a working rudimentary knowledge of, and familiarity with, the original languages of Scripture. We should also encourage laypeople to do the same, as they are able. Thus, churches that hold to even the highest views of Scriptural Inspiration can confidently rely on the various solid translations because they will be equipped to study Scripture without falling victim to “translation bias.”

  • Kurt, articulately written and a very helpful summary, I'm with you – Ben

  • Hey Kurt, good post. I am in general agreement. You should read Divine Authenticity of Scripture: Retreiving An Evangelical Heritage by A.T.B. McGowan. He tactfully suggests that we give up the troublesome word "inerrant" and suggests that we change the phrase "Inspiration" to "Divine-Spiration" which he claims in the God breathing OUT the scriptures, not IN.

    On that note, I think the bible is historically accurate where it intends to be so. So for example, Genesis 1 is not historically accurate, but that is not an argument against inerrancy if Genesis 1 was not intended for historical accuracy. But if Jesus was born when Augustine taxed the known world, that text is meant to be historically accurate and it should be since the scriptures are historically accurate. Does that make sense?

    In any case, I agree with you that inerrancy is not necessary and creates many problems, especially for textual critics; i.e. which manuscript is "inerrant" and if only the autographs are "inerrant" which we no longer have then what does it matter anyways? It can't be proven.

  • Change *Augustine* to *Augustus* please. Sorry.

  • I concur.

    Like one fellow here sorta mentioned…to understand the nuances of scripture, but yet see how powerfully God has worked through them…to me is to more fully appreciate the majesty of God and the beauty of scripture. I am more 'in love' or captivated by the Bible than ever…now that I'm allowing myself to read it in this light. For years I have held on to Jesus Christ, in SPITE OF not truly believing in this scriptural 'inerrancy,' in a church environment quite unwilling to put up with anyone who didn't believe that. My faith, at times, suffered…but God is good…and never gave up on me.

    Because of that, I think this is a very important issue in the church that we must speak up about in love, because truly who is THE WORD? Well that is only Jesus Christ. I don't want biblianity (never heard that before this thread, but it's so often the case), but Christianity.

  • Ben Ault

    I can glean from your writing that you have given this much thought. I certainly respect such effort and I'm sure you will be adequately rewarded. I am curious as to views on history in particular in relation to the Bible being the Word of God.
    You stated "I think we need to read the Bible in the genres each book/passage was written and with the questions in mind of the original authors."
    In modern scholarship, it is universally accepted that, other than a few letters written by Paul, the authors of epistles and gospels are unknown. I don't want to go over whether you accept this claim–if you'd like to discuss it I'd be more than happy to utilizing a different medium. How does this claim affect your views pertaining to inerrancy?
    Ben Ault

    • Kurt

      Ben, great question. Here are some scattered thoughts.

      First, I think that it is fairly reasonable to allow for the traditional authors to stay in tact. That said, many scholars I respect disagree with me. For instance, Richard Hays thinks that some of the epistles were written by one of paul's colleagues after his death… not deceptively, but in a mode that was common in that day. There is no doubt that if this is the case, that the tradition of Paul is preserved.
      NT Wright on the other hand, who is the greatest authority on the New Testament of our day (IMO) and who is in about 95% agreement with Hays on most theological issues believes that Paul wrote all of the epistles attributed to him.

      Ok, that said, I do not think biblical authority depends on the traditional authors. What is clear, is that as early as the late first/early second CE that the church believed all of these letters were authoritative.

      Now, the gospels are especially not a problem. They do not claim to be written by anyone, therefore if the tradition is wrong, it doesn't seem like a big issue. for me the stability of the scriptures being authentic and authoritative has to do with their authentic witness they give to the early church and the work of the Holy Spirit in those first century contexts.

  • Luke Thomas

    I think you greatly error in your description of what theologians who like to read the Bible for it's plain sense deem inerrant.
    My study of any of the theologians (Erickson and Grudem and Ryrie) all have gone through what inerrancy means and does not mean. Not one is trying to read into it scientific language or not allow for hyperbole.

    Here is Grudem's definition:
    With evidence such as this we are now in a position to define biblical inerrancy: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.
    This definition focuses on the question of truthfulness and falsehood in the language of Scripture. The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.
    Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine (90). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

    The allowances or qualifiers that I remember learning in regards to inerrancy included.
    1. Scientific language 2. allow for estimates 3. just cause something is in quotations does not mean it has to be word for word 4. Transmission issues (probably the most difficult issue to those that attack inerrancy 5. Allows for man or earth centered language (you do realize the sun does not actually rise, but spins)
    That is what I can remember from the top of my head.

    I guess the larger struggle is that these allowances are the basis of what I would call a plain reading of the text. I do not read the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds and assume that Jesus is speaking in scientific language. I assume he is speaking in hyperbole to create a word picture about the spreading of the kingdom of God. This would be normal or plain reading.

    A few questions beyond your post.
    1. If I am supposed not read a plain reading of the text, what am I supposed to read into it? Is there a deeper spiritual meaning or am I free to deconstruct the text as I feel fit?
    2. What do you mean by plain reading of the text? Who are examples of these theologians/ bible teachers? McCarthur? Piper? Ryrie? Dallas seminary? I think it is sometimes clearer to say who you disagree with and why?
    3. Is "faith and practice" good enough? If God does not lie and is an effective communicator, then would it not follow that his revelation through scripture would be truthful beyond just faith and practice but also in the world with all the appropriate allowances (normal communication).

    • Kurt

      Luke… Because you are my friend and former roomate… I am going to answer your questions in spite of my exhaustion. So, my ideas may not be very coherant tonight 🙂

      Here is what I am uncomfortable with… this quote: "The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact." This is completely hypothetical. There is not a single way to even argue this except by philosophical categories and assumptions. We do not have the original autographs and if we believe that the scribal process was reliable with minimal variation, then we ought to be comfortable affirming that the text we now have is pretty darn close to the real thing. So, when Luke says that there was a census but history says otherwise… do we blindly have to assume Luke was correct? What if history eventually can prove this as wrong? Well, then either inerrancy (a non biblical imposition on the Scripture) is wrong or we cannot trust history. Not a position I want to be part of putting the bible in.

      Also, if you read the Chicago statement on Inerrancy what is hilarious is the way in which the committee had to keep putting in exceptions. Their exceptions deconstruct their argument in my opinion. so, I see no need to maintain the status of a word that was established to beat the 19-20th century secularists agenda… those days are over.

      — scientific language… why does God get a pass here? If fact is fact, then this seems like a bit of a cop-out. If God communicates perfect truth in every word of the Bible, then why in the world is the science not perfect? As your quote says: "…it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true." Slippery slope reasoning here.
      –estimates… why would the Holy Spirit need estimates? Perfect knowledge should mean perfect knowledge.
      —– Your other qualifiers are legit… IMO

      Now let me mirror your question format…

      1. "Plain reading" is fine if by literal you mean “original intent of the author inspired by the Holy Spirit, in light of the occasion the wrote for, the genre they employed, the rhetoric they used, and the cultural context of the time, and the purpose for writing.” If this is your definition of 'plain reading', then I am with you. Unfortunately, this is not the definition of literal used since the 1800′s by dispensational / fundamentalists. They, in my opinion, ignore such things and thereby abuse the inspired word of God (although this is not their intent).

      2. Plain reading is the assumption that the surface of meaning to us is always the right interpretation. Again… "if the plain sense makes sense seek no other sense." This is a flawed approach from my view. If we take this approach we end up with 'literal' 7 day creation for example which (with all due respect to you my friend) is not a faithful interpretation. This is the imposition of 'our' understanding of how language functions on 'their' cultural Holy Spirit inspired Word. And yes, all the teachers you mention I have serious difficulty with. Once in a while I appreciate Piper, especially concerning his correct view of new creation.

      3. Faith and practice is good enough. If on all matters of faith, the bible is true… this means the essence of Scripture is true. In other words: life, death, resurrection, miracles, and proclamation of Jesus; prophecies; Moses; Early church; etc are all TRUE. But, if some historical nuance is slightly off or if the assumed scientific view of the day is present, we don't have to worry about this because it doesn't affect the truth as it pertains to faith and the 'practice' that flows out of such.

      Finally, I want to be clear that I DO believe in biblical authority that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!!!! I just think we need to address that on its own terms rather than applying the scientific method and post-enlightenment rationalism to a book that couldn't be further from such ideologies.

      PS – If you do not think that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, then why do you not apply that same logic to Genesis 1???? Just a question 😉

      One more question: Why is it that inerrancy and dispensational theology seem to fit together so often? If plain sense is the best sense and if Scripture is inerrant in the way that many understand the term, you end up with irresponsible eschatology. I think the ridiculous nature of such futurist readings make a mockery of the world of Jesus' day.

      • Luke Thomas

        I will start with Gen. 1.
        Purpose of writing: To show God's power over gods of the age and creation.
        The original readers: The children of Israel. I know the date is of debate, but I propose that Moses wrote for those about to enter the promise land.
        How the original readers took it: They took the seven day creation so literally that they decide to believe God's law and base their seven day sabbath on the fact that God rested on a seventh day.
        Genre: Poetry- cool, the literal seven day week was presented in beautiful prose. Probably easier for Hebrew children to understand the literal seven day creation.

        This fully fits your categories. It is responsible. It is not hyperbole. No normal reading allows for this when considered in conjunction with the law.

        I will stop here to say that the terms unfaithful, irresponsible have been applied to theology of dispensationalists without engaging any serious dispensationalist or why they engage that view.

        • Luke Thomas

          Ironically, the seven day creation which would have been taken as true by the Israelites (the original readers). Is being rejected because of new information that came from modernism. I would argue to say that you have adjusted your believe on creation to make allowances for modern science.

          • Kurt

            Luke… you may not beleive this, but I actually think that the the word 'day' is a 24hr day. I just don't think that was the point. BUT, EVEN IF YOU DO, there is no need to hold to a 7 day creation. here is my article on this based on the book: The Lost World of Genesis One, john walton. If you do not know, he is OT prof at Wheaton… He is very much a conservative evangelical… ( Text…

            The most convincing interpretation of the passage at hand is found in John Walton’s, The Lost World of Genesis One. After reading this book, my view of the chapter has evolved. I am going to attempt to summarize Walton’s perspective, but would strongly urge you to read his prolific book in its entirety. His basic thesis is: “Throughout the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture.”[1]

            Walton persuasively argues that we have a problem when we approach Genesis one as moderns. We hold to material ontology (“the belief that something exists by virtue of its physical properties and its ability to be experienced by the senses”[2]) but the ancients held to what is called functional ontology (“the ancient world believed that something existed… by virtue of its having function in an ordered system”[3]). Material ontology could be understood as something that you can touch like your computer, whereas functional could refer to the creation of a business. Is a business something you can touch or is it more of an organized system that exists as it finds itself functioning systematically to offer its unique services? In other words, if we imagine a grocery store being built with the tangible materials needed to build the actual building, this is completely different from that material building actually becoming a store. It becomes a functional store when the employees are in place to make the building function so that it is stocked with food and ready for customers. Walton further explains:

            I do not refer to an ordered system in scientific terms, but an ordered system in human terms, that is, in relation to society and culture. In this sort of functional ontology, the sun does not exist by virtue of its material properties, or even by its function as a burning ball of gas. Rather it exists by virtue of the role that it has in its sphere of existence, particularly in the way that it functions for humankind and human society… In a functional ontology, to bring something into existence would require giving it a function or a role in an ordered system, rather than giving it material properties. Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not “exist” if it has not become functional.[4]

            Based on the functional ontology of the ancient world, we can rethink our approach to this text. Genesis one seems not to be concerned with material origins (“out of nothing”), but rather with functional origins. This passage is about taking unorganized materials that already exist (which, we must still believe God is the source of) and organizing them into the various functions that benefit humanity and the whole of the cosmos. This becomes clear when we consider that the Hebrew word translated “create” always refers to God as the subject and to objects being arranged for functionality, not to new forms of matter. And the word for “beginning” is regularly used to introduce “a period in time, rather than a point in time.”[5] Therefore, it is evident that “verse 1 serves as a literary introduction to the rest of the chapter.”[6] Throughout the rest of Genesis is a phrase: “this is the account of…” which introduces the eleven sections of the book that follow starting in verse 2.4. So, if we put all of this together, verse 1.1 uses “beginning” to introduce the initial period outlined in the whole of the book of Genesis and the following eleven sections are introduced by the above phrase for a total of twelve divisions (which would be significant to a Hebrew minded person). Walton proposes the following translation for the first verse in the Bible: “In the initial period, God created by assigning functions throughout the heavens and the earth, and this is how he did it.”[7]

            Having placed Genesis one within a functional ontology, we are now free to rethink its relation to science, as it no longer is about the beginning of materiality. But if this is truly the case, then what is this passage about? Walton suggests a perspective that he has coined the “cosmic temple inauguration view.”[8] In the ancient world, deity was expected to dwell restfully in a temple. Day seven reflects that when God is finished organizing the functional elements of the world to operate for the benefit of human image bearers, that God rests. The difference in this instance than say, Solomon’s Temple, is that this passage envisions God as setting up the universe to function as his cosmic temple. After the “chaos” (pre-historic evolutionary material reality) has been arranged to function with “order,” God’s world is now a place where God rests and humanity functions as his care providers for the earth. It is important to point out that rest never meant that the deity (God) was inactive, but rather in a functional ontology exactly the opposite was true. “When the deity rests in the temple it means that he is taking command, that he is mounting to his throne to assume his rightful place and his proper role.”[9] Resting in a temple, especially the cosmic temple, is all about God settling into his cosmic home to set up “headquarters” or the “control room” for the newly organized world that is set up for the new era of human functionality.[10]

            So, what does this view of Genesis one leave us with (may I remind the reader of the importance of reading Walton’s book in its entirety in order to fill in the important gaps that I did not have time to explore)? It allows us to understand this significant chapter as a time in the history of God’s ongoing creation of materials in the world, when he intervened to set up the cosmos as his functional temple for the benefit of humankind who, for the first time were branded with his divine image to become higher than all of the animals. Prior to this time, it is possible that the evolutionary processes (which God initiated) progressed for several billion years, but at the right time the tohu va vohu (the chaos of verse 2) of the prehistoric age was organized in a way with God at rest and humanity as ready to function as his image-bearers. After the six days of God organizing functions, “it was very good” because the world now was set up to work for the benefit of all people.[11]

        • Kurt

          Luke.. let me say that by "unfaithful" I do not mean a moral disposition toward God, but 'incorrect' on the Bible's terms. Sorry if that came across as an insult, it is not intended as such. This is why text is a limited medium of communication. Irresponsible future views of eschatology… this I stand by. here is why. If you are up for some more reading, I will give you a link to a paper I wrote on Mark 13. I earned a scholarship for it so I feel like it will give you some "engaging" of the view as you asked for above.

          Luke, I hope you are not taking this dialogue personally… This is simply a debate and not a reflection on how I feel about your faithfulness to Christ or your godly example.

          • Luke Thomas

            Kurt in your debate without answering the point I raised, you called me unfaithful (incorrect on Biblical terms) and irresponsible (which needs explanation). They were both strong words without a clear argument or other explanation on the point. There was no argument against the view pointed out. I have no problem engaging debate, but frankly speaking writing off all of some of those guys that I listed before is irresponsible. It is at it's core very strong language. I engage this blog as another view and debate but clearly that was not a respectable or faithful position.
            In that I challenge you to actually take on a legit dispensationalist. (You may think that oxymoron. I am merely stating that taking on a board game maker is not really engaging it scholastically). What is the hermaneutic? Why do they stay dedicated and how dedicated are they too their end times beliefs? What is the view of Israel and why? How do they engage covenants?
            If I continue speak on the blog, how do I not just respond in name calling. If you just called my position unfaithful and irresponsible, what can I do but to say the same thing back.

          • Kurt

            Luke… I am not trying to be rude and am sorry if I came across that way. I take pride in civil conversation bro… and I mean all of the things I said about you as "not a reflection on how I feel about your faithfulness to Christ or your godly example."

            I am calling into question the interpretive methods often associated with inerrancy. I have numerous posts on the theology of dispensational premillenialism. I am sorry for using the word "irresponsible". I am not trying to be mean, but I just have some real difficulty seeing it in the bible. Above, I gave you a link to check out that gives a well reasoned rebuttal to the theology in question. If you would like, I invite you to read it. You are free to disagree and critique me. Would love to have your thoughts. I again, am sorry for the way my comment came across.

            To give you the reason why I used "irresponsible" to describe many popular forms of dispensationalism is that they lead to assumptions about the fate of the planet that have huge ramifications for how we live today. In my mind the connection to ethics is a concern… I hope the paper will give you some insight into my reasoning.

            Here are some other links:

          • Luke, I don't know you, but I have to say I'm a bit surprised by the way you seem to be bristling at Kurt's comments. I went back and read this thread, and never did he call you irresponsible or unfaithful. When those words were used, he called insistence on a six-day creation story "not a faithful interpretation of the text." Later in the thread he referred to dispensationalism as leading to "irresponsible eschatology."

            You may disagree with those interpretations–obviously you do–but it seems unreasonable to take those descriptions as ad-hominem insults. A "plain sense" reading of the comments suggests otherwise…

            Grace & peace…

          • Luke Thomas

            Sorry for the delay.
            I think God is teaching more and more about the power of words and their dividing power. On another blog I offended same way that I was offended here.
            I have no problem coming to different conclusions. What I strive for is some sort of unity. When dispensationalism or a 7 day creation view are upheld as irresponsible and unfaithful those are powerful words and I strongly disagree. I take them as divisive because they say that "I don't respect or have to listen to the view. They are unworthy."
            I entered this particular discussion on inerrancy because I felt that Kurt misrepresent what I was taught and conclusions that I have come to based on my education in a dispensational system. The accusations in the original post did not align with what I was taught. This lead to our previous debate about the 6 day creation on previous blog in which I was trying to engage with a hermaneutical arguments that was consistent with both Kurt's and mine. However, by holding a six day creation view it automatically means my hermaneutic is done with a modern, scientific reading of the text which is not how I read the Bible.
            I have no problem with God communicating in unscientific, earth centered, hyperbolic (etc.) terms. I do have a problem that the original readers would have law set up on 7 day creation related sabbath. The original readers would be taken it very literally. I do have a problem that Adam created from dust is not addressed well (Kurt I respect Tim Kellar but I do not think that his explanation satisfies on how evolution would have played into the process). I think there is a difference between a detail (smallest seed mustard) and seven day creation that was the basis of the sabbath rest.
            That said we are not all that different. Is my explanation there unfaithful biblically? Does it allow for the other explanations that God is trying to show his power mainly especially over the sun and moon gods that were part of his poem.
            These are hardly unfaithful and undeserving of that particular word.

          • Luke Thomas

            I would like to dialog with your views eschatology. I hold my premillennial views with open hands not convinced with full assurance. Your Mark 13 paper was well written presenting a well stated preterist view. I did not have time to go through it with a fine tooth comb. I am okay to disagree with you on this. Dispensationalim as Amillenialism are systems. One chapter break downs are not enough for me to be convinced. I would much rather at this point discuss the differences in person, but also to discuss the accusation the ethics of eschatalogy. Again I have written enough words on on this posts and will again take you invitation to meet in person.

          • Kurt

            Luke. I think that agreeing to disagree is ok as well. I wonder if there is a difference in the types of dispensationalism we were taught? I was taught (undergrad) in a very traditional setting and I understand that there are newer forms of this system…. I hear that 'progressive dispensationalism' is taught more often in the well known seminaries. that may be part of our gap.

            Finally, let me say that the choice of words: unfaithful and irresponsible were too strong. For this I want to apologize again. Once more for clarity – Unfaithful (i meant that I don't see it in the text) and Irresponsible (I have seen many forms of dispensationalism which lead to justification for terrible foreign policy [Israel always gets a pass] and poor stewardship of justice/environmental issues [the world is all going to burn, so lets save souls and forget about AIDS and global warming]) Those were honestly what my comments meant.

            Anyway, I will look forward to hanging out soon bro.

            PS – My paper gives a 'partial preterist' perspective 🙂

  • Kurt,

    Great topic, and more important than we might imagine…as the approach to the Bible informs not only our doctrine, but sadly it's a big factor in the barriers believers often build between each other, and whatever the scriptural writers intended, that certainly was not part of it.

    I do think the commenters so far have accepted the usual definition of 2 Tim 3:16 too cavalierly, however. I've teased this out more fully on my own blog (thanks for the shout-out by the way), but to put it succinctly as I can:

    1) To take that verse's πᾶσα γραφὴ (pasa graphe…"all writing" or "each writing") as somehow applicable entirely and only to the 66 books of the current canon is to assume the conclusion before considering the evidence. The only way Paul could have intended this to be true, would be if we already assume that the Spirit was guiding Paul to write this about a canon God eventually intended to bring to fruition. Once you make that assumption, 2 Tim. 3:16 is not evidence, it's merely a cog in the externally-constructed system. It's more reasonable to take this verse in its local context, 2 Tim. 3:14-17. Then we realize that just before in verse 15 Paul referred to "the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (ESV). 16 then flows naturally…Paul is referring to that subset of "sacred writings" which have the effect of making one wise unto salvation.

    This leads me to the second point:

    2) People tend to assume that all the translators got it right when translating θεόπνευστος (Theopneustos) as "God-breathed," and then assume that the word refers to the sourcing of the writings. They fail to take into account the fact that Paul coined a term here…"theopneustos" does not occur in contemporary or earlier Greek literature. We are therefore left to deduce its meaning from the compound "Theos" (god…not necessarily our God even in our canon) and "pneuma" which can be translated "spirit," "wind," or "breath" at different places in our texts…it's the same word in a different form that is used to describe everything from the Holy Spirit to a natural wind to the life-force that one loses at death.

    People also assume that the "be" verb is in the right place: "all writing IS theopneustos." But that verb is not explicitly in the text, which means we have to figure out (in English) where the implied verb belongs. The original 1904 ASV is the only version I've ever seen to wrestle with this notion, and they translate the text "Every scripture inspired of God [is] also profitable…" which turns the claim on its head: instead of "every text is inspired" they are saying "every inspired text is profitable." VERY different claim!

    Putting these thoughts together with some thinking and studying I've been doing about the Holy Spirit (also on my blog), and I'm thinking a better translation of that passage would lead us to consider, not the effect of the Breath of God on the authors of the scriptures, but rather the readers and hearers. Whatever writing, when "in-Spirited" by God's Breath in the reading/hearing/studying of that writing, becomes "profitable" and even "able to make you wise for salvation."

    So in a nutshell, 2 Tim. 3 has been abused for years, forcing it to say something it did not. Likewise the other "proof texts" for biblical inspiration and inerrancy I have studied. I'm not going to bore you with any more now. Suffice it to say that the application of "word of God" to the scriptural writings is also completely unfounded in the texts themselves. If we allow ourselves to escape these artificial boundaries created for us by centuries of church hierarchy (Catholic and Protestant), and instead engage the texts on their own terms, we will still find the foundation stands firm to teach us to faithfully follow of Jesus. We also find that many of the "endless controversies" that have divided the church today (and throughout history), lose their foundation.

  • Good post. I'd say from the description of your beliefs on this matter that I'm in pretty much the same place. In my late teens I struggled with this and made a leap of faith that ignored all evidence in order to embrace views that included a young earth and literal 6 day creation. There were negative consequences down the road for this direction I took, and am thankful to have returned in recent years to faith in Scripture as truly authoritative but not "inerrant." It's been eye-opening, to say the least, and I've been surprised at how I now draw out MORE from some passages that I used to read concretely.

  • I really appreciated this post. I think you hit the hammer on the head when you asked the question: What does the Bible actually say about itself? And went further to say, "It claims to be God breathed. The other two terms are imposed on the Bible, so we must be honest about that reality. "

    I have felt a lot of conflict also with the assertion that the Bible is error-proof. In fact, that was once a very real stumbling block to my faith, for at one point I was convinced of that, taught that that was true and when I started to see that that couldn't possibly be entirely true, I started to question the entire message of the Bible itself, thinking the inherent message was compromised.

    I've come to believe that the Bible was never intended to be a science or history text book and thus should never be interpreted or used as one. It's God's love letter to man and His instrument to speak to and guide our hearts towards redemption and salvation. Dissecting every little part of the Bible to see if it holds true to man's knowledge is futile…for isn't our knoweldge continually evolving and changing anyways? Thus, such a book will always seem to contradict…for God's knowledge isn't man's knoweldge anyways. And to endlessly refute any seemingly obvious contradictions wastes time and energy away from glorify God and really doing His will.
    Just my thoughts 🙂

  • Oops, didn't realize how long that post was, I aplogize for its length.

    • Kurt

      Jessica! You can write as much as you want!!!!!! No need to apologize… honored by your response 🙂