Three arguments for Biblical inerrancy that need to be retired

Three arguments for Biblical inerrancy that need to be retired September 19, 2014

bible beaterOne of the most important books I read in seminary was evangelical Old Testament scholar Peter Enns’ Incarnation and Inspiration, which offers a way of understanding the Bible in which its authority can be respected even if some of the stories it tells are not historical events. Peter Enns just released another book called The Bible Tells Me So that has the Biblical inerrantists in a tizzy. For a long time, I’ve been wanting to name and repudiate three of the more frustrating arguments that inerrantists make for their position. So here goes.

1) Paul and Jesus believed in a historical Adam/Noah/etc.

This seems to be the biggest issue for many inerrantists. Jesus and Paul and other New Testament writers do make references to Old Testament stories in their discourse. Paul makes a contrast between Jesus and the first Adam. Peter talks about Noah’s flood as a metaphor for baptism. Jesus says that he will give the “sign of Jonah” by spending three days in the earth before being resurrected.

But the fact that Jesus, Paul, and Peter used Old Testament stories as illustrations in their writing and preaching tells us nothing about what they believed. All it means is that they used the resources of the common imaginative space of their audience to engage in teaching. If I used Mickey Mouse or Huck Finn or Quasimodo in a sermon illustration and someone two thousand years from now found the manuscript, there would be no way to tell whether I had been talking about fictional or historical figures.

Huck Finn is a real person because millions of American readers have journeyed with him down the Mississippi and then related their experiences for the rest of their lives to his story after having read it. Huck Finn is more real than the historical people from Samuel Clemens’ childhood that he amalgamated together to create Huck Finn, because Huck Finn continues to exist in the imagination of the American people.

So no, God did not need to design a fish whose acid-filled stomach was replaced by a pressurized oxygen-filled chamber in which Jonah could sit and pray for 72 hours in the depths of the ocean so that Jesus’ teaching isn’t invalidated by modern scientific considerations. Jonah can be a fictional story whose life was real enough in the imaginations of the Hebrew people that Jesus could use it as an illustration to explain his death and resurrection.

2) Are you saying that God lets people lie about him?

One of the analogies that Peter Enns uses to describe Old Testament accounts of God going into battle and decimating Israel’s enemies is to say that it’s like children bragging (not entirely truthfully) about their superhero fathers:

Children tell stories of their parents from their point of view as children, which is not the whole story. Think of boys bragging about their dads on the playground. I loved my father and I defended his honor. He was a mighty man who could lift heavy objects, was a sharpshooter, brilliantly smart, and as strong as any man anywhere. Not everything I said about my dad was fully and objectively true, but this is how I saw my father, a description born of love, from my youthful perspective, that followed the “rules of the playground.”

My friend Derek takes exception to this explanation because the Ten Commandments include a law against misrepresenting God with idols and if anything the Bible says about God isn’t perfectly truthful, then it’s a misrepresentation:

Now that would be odd wouldn’t it? For God to deliver commands to us about not falsely representing him and taking his name in vain, through narratives that falsely represent him and take his name in vain? What kind of confusing father is that? A little exaggeration here and there is one thing, but to fundamentally miss a key component like that is kind of a big deal. I mean, especially when God seems particularly picky about the “no false images” thing (Ex. 32-33).

I should cut Derek some slack because he’s not a parent yet so he’s never had to tell his child something that’s a little bit untrue because it’s impossible to explain the truth to them. Until you’ve had to deal with Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and “Where do babies come from?” you can be a Kantian rationalist about the meaning of truth. But once you’ve been a parent, you know that it’s necessary to tell your kids half-truths all the time. Sometimes we’re wrong to do this, but sometimes it’s legitimately the best way to accomplish a moral purpose. In parenting, the “truth” is never a purely objective category; it’s always pragmatic. You give your kids the “truth” they need to believe in order to do what they need to do. It would be horrible parenting to respond to your kids with robotic objectivity like Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory.”

I’m not going to dismiss out of hand the claim that God made miracles happen for the Israelites on the battlefield just because of science. But I think it’s also legitimate to say that God allowed the Israelites to believe and write down the things about him that they were capable of believing based on their historical context as well as what they needed to believe in order to evolve in the direction he wanted them to evolve. I would also contend that it’s not wrong to say that Israel got to know God better over time. The later chapters of Isaiah articulate a more refined account of God’s purpose for Israel in the world than the account of God in Judges. Jesus’ incarnation is the culmination of an evolutionary revelation process that is documented through scripture. If all that Jesus revealed about God were perfectly self-evident and entirely consistent with the understanding of God in the Old Testament, then the incarnation would be completely unnecessary.

Derek recognizes the legitimacy of saying that God “accommodated” his people in his revelation. Where I’m going to part ways with Derek is to say that whatever God was doing with the Israelites in the early years, the character of God extrapolated from those texts is a less reliable account of the character of God than the perfect revelation offered by Jesus. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” That verse has no meaning if all parts of the Bible are equally reliable depictions of God.

Again, being a parent changes everything about how you think on these matters. There are many times in my interactions with my sons that I have affected a level of sternness and anger that I didn’t actually feel on the inside for the purpose of getting them to obey my commands. I don’t think that the ancient Israelites perfectly understood what God was saying, but I also recognize that God throughout his supervision of the editing process of his sacred texts over the centuries has left in there what’s in it today. So while I agree that the text as it exists is what God wants to be there, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can take impressions of God from ancient stories out of context and put them all in a theological petri dish together in order to build an artificially constructed, systematic portrayal of God’s nature.

That’s why I think that R.C. Sproul is completely wrong in his landmark text The Holiness of God when he lets the God of Leviticus control his account of God’s holiness and set the parameters through which Jesus is supposed to be read. Jesus is the lens through which to interpret the rest of the Bible, not vice-versa. And this isn’t to say that Jesus is an uncomplicated gentle nice guy. He says plenty that’s crazy and disturbing and angry for us to wrestle with. But Jesus didn’t just offer a blanket endorsement of everything in the Old Testament as Derek claims. He took sides. When he quotes, “I desire mercy not sacrifice” to the Pharisees, he’s blatantly picking Hosea over Leviticus. When he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” he’s contradicting the understanding of Sabbath established when God tells Moses to stone a man to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath.

3) So you don’t think God is powerful enough to…?

This is the most annoying one. Don’t you believe that God had the power to make magic canoes for the kangaroos of Australia and the lemurs from South America to ride over thousands of miles of open ocean to the ancient Middle East so they could report to Noah’s Ark and get saved from the flood? Don’t you believe that God had the power to make strictly vegetarian dinosaurs as well as bacteria and fungus that subsisted on magic fairy dust to inhabit creation until Adam ate the apple and the curse of physical mortality was “created”?

Sure, God could have crammed all the millions of species of the world’s animals into an ark the size of a football field and created some magical means of nourishment so that lions whose digestive systems are only designed to process antelope and other meat would somehow be able to make nice for several months with all the other species in the food chain. Sure, God could have made it so that the animals would not only not need to ate the way they are biologically shaped to do but that they also wouldn’t pee or poop either and turn the ark into a massive disease pool. For a hilarious account of the logistical difficulties of Noah’s Ark, see this video that an atheist made about it.

I just don’t think that the most likely explanation for the ancient stories that the Bible borrowed from other more ancient cultures is that they historically occurred exactly as they are written. I imagine there was a devastating ancient flood somewhere in the ancient world that got reported in the epic of Gilgamesh and other ancient myths before it was reinterpreted theologically in the Hebrew Bible. There was also a point in ancient history when people stopped being monkeys and realized they were naked and vulnerable so that they lost their innocence and began to hurt one another deliberately out of fear for their mortality. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a genius representation of the strange innate curse of our consciousness. I doubt the world ever had a single common language, but I do believe that God has always found ways to sabotage the hegemony of empire that the Tower of Babel story represents even when that hegemony is Christendom itself.

Bottom line is I absolutely agree that the scriptures are “God-breathed and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in discipleship” (2 Timothy 3:16). None of them should be thrown out because the Holy Spirit has a purpose for all of them. I just don’t think that this also means that the scriptures are perfectly flat and equivalent in their historical accuracy or reliable portrayal of God’s nature.

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  • Brother, I love ya, but…come on.

    I know I don’t have kids, but let me ask you a question: If your kids start going around telling their friends that you told them to go beat up other people who didn’t deserve it, or that you went around beating, even killing other dude because you were big and strong, even though you’d never done it, would you go along with it? Wouldn’t you correct your boy? My point in the article is that the God of the narrative is a God who cares about his kids worshipping him rightly. If the critics are right, and our post-Enlightenment, liberal instincts about the tidiness of God’s ways in the world are true, and he never would have done something like invaded Canaan, etc, then these are extremely serious mischaracterizations of God that don’t just confuse a few, understandable details, but create an extreme contradiction in the revelation of God’s character.

    And I’m not being a “Kantian rationalist” about truth. Well, unless you’re being a “Rortyian” or “Foucaldian” pragmatist about it, who sees rhetoric as matter of what works, or the exercise of power, rather than about the communication of the real. In which case, yes, Kantianism.

    Finally, “mercy not sacrifice” is not about picking between threads of revelation, or denying sacrifice, but about clarifying their priority and nature. Jesus does not “pick” books of the Bible over each other. He affirms the whole thing. He does correct misguided interpretations and misappropriations just as the prophetic tradition did before him. These hyper-political and disjunctive readings aren’t doing us any favors.

    • So are you completely opposed to the thought that Israel *grew* in their knowledge of God from the time of Moses to the time of the prophets?

      • Andrew Stravitz

        Could you tease that question out? I don’t see how Derek’s critique wouldn’t jive with Israel’s progressing comprehension/reception of God’s revelation.

      • “Growing” can mean a lot of things. In the way you’ve got it, there’s a disjunctive either/or implied, rather than a both/and that encompasses a broader, or clearer picture. I don’t think it’s because Moses was wrong, though, or the prophets were disagreeing with them.

        • I think it must be a Calvinist thing to grow in your knowledge of God from one point in time to another but be completely perfectly right at every point on that timeline. 😉

          • Nah, that’s not a Calvinist thing. Total depravity, remember? In any case, if I thought that, then I would have never gone Reformed. You forget that I was closer to your team a few years ago.

  • Tim Ownbey

    Your first point would have more merit if not for the fact that Luke, in his genealogy, traces Jesus all the way back to Adam. Sure, Jonah could be real like Huck Finn is real, but unless Luke interspersed his genealogy with fictional characters, it is quite evident that he and the people of his time believed in a real historical Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc.

    • Matthew Crockett

      You don’t seem to understand how recitations of genealogy were used in ancient times. It’s always a “for instance” of famous ancestors, not a comprehensive list. It’s also true that many legends have been linked to a real-life “inspiration”.

      • Tim Ownbey

        I never said that a genealogy was meant to be a comprehensive list. But if I were trying to convince my readers of the legitimacy of, say, Barack Obama’s presidency, I would not say his predecessors were George Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, JFK, Atticus Finch, Harry Truman, FDR, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, Huck Finn, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.

        • Scott

          Specious argument given that all of these people lived in an era of written language. Many biblical figures did not.

  • Joshua Gillies

    Kant wasn’t a rationalist, and Kantianism is not rationalism.

    • Elaborate on that. What came to mind for me was the way that Kant said it was always morally wrong to tell a lie. I’m often guilty of using “Kant” as shorthand for the Enlightenment, modernity, or whatever it is that old white guys with Ralph Reed haircuts believe in.

      • Joshua Gillies

        Kant was a transcendental idealist. His entire project was to overcome what he saw as the weaknesses of the dominant positions in epistemology, empiricism, where all knowledge comes thru the senses, and rationalism, where all knowledge is a priori. He also developed the analytic/synthetic distinction in a posteriori/a priori knowledge, which has been further developed by Saul Kripke into the necessary a posteriori and contingent a piori, and rejected by W.V.O. Quine. Kant’s project here was to figure out what the mind must be like for us to have any experience at all – which lead to his famous idealism, where he posits causality, space and time as constructions of the mind as well as his phenomenal/noumenal distinction.

        His ethic is called the categorical imperative, which can be summed up in his famous maxim about acting in such a way that can be universalized as a moral law for all people. His ethics stem from his attempt to figure out how to make sense of our moral experience – its not too far removed from his method in epistemology. We have this inescapable sense of right and wrong, of duty, the sense of ‘ought’. Thru a long process I won’t go into here, Kant postulates
        both freedom and God as necessary conditions for this experience of our moral life.

        The categorical imperative derives from his grounding morality in reason alone – ethical reasoning for Kant cannot be derived from empirical data. Once you do this, that is once you discount the empirical, your moral reasoning is grounded in pure reason alone and hence is universal and hence binding on everyone else. Hence why Kant was able to assert that lying, for example, is always wrong.

  • Benjamin Martin

    Fiction, yes. Just be consistent, ok?

    Just as it was in the days of [figurative/literal] Noah, so also will it be in the days of the [figurative/literal] Son of Man. Luke 17:26

    For just as through the disobedience of the [figurative/literal] one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the [figurative/literal] one man the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19

    For as in [figurative/literal]Adam all die, so also in [figurative/literal] Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:22

    • Alan Christensen

      There is no reason to take an all-or-nothing approach to Scripture when it comes to factuality. Just because Adam or Noah is fictional doesn’t mean Jesus is. You know very well that the Bible is made up of many different types of literature, from history to letters to poetry to parables (i.e., metaphor).

      • Benjamin Martin

        I know very well.

        • Gregory Riley (2001) The River of God: A New History of Christian Origins. HarperCollins.
        • Randel Helms (1988) Gospel Fictions. Prometheus Books.

  • bobbygrow


    I agree that inerrancy can be an unhelpful albatross of sorts, but then so can a non-inerrantist approach (either of these can actually be placed on the same type of rationalist/positivistic continuum that seems to be bothering you, esp. when applied to ethics). But in response to some of your points:

    I would just affirm Derek’s response to you. And affirm that Jesus’ view of Scripture, and usage of it, is never discontinuous with its general reality (which is Jesus), but coordinate with it in its radical mystery that Jew and Gentile would be one in Christ. There is a book you should check out someday called Christ and the Bible by John Wenham. Here is the blurb:

    Defense of the Bible begins with rational proofs for the historicity and accuracy of its documents. Christ and the Bible places the argument for the authority of scripture squarely on Jesus. With uncluttered logic and straightforward prose Wenham marshals Gospel evidence to show Jesus’ own view of Scripture-that it is (1) historically accurate, (2) authoritative, (3) the standard for ethics, and (4) the verbally inspired revelation of God. He then considers why we should listen to Jesus when he makes such claims and why “Christ’s view should be the Christian view.” The study substantiates Jesus’ reliability influence on all New Testament writers. Finally, Wenham considers two related problems: first, which writings really belong in the Bible; second, the reliability of the text as now available. The presentation is easy to read and understand. This third edition updates and dialogs with recent developments.

    Do I agree with everything is this book? No. But it serves as a corrective on a view that suggests that Jesus did not see Scripture as authoritative, and in direct corollary with who he is in fulfillment (i.e. the promise/fulfillment motif).

    I don’t expect any of this to change your mind, but I am hopeful that the binary you seem to be reading things through (i.e. culture war polarities) might find some relief someday.

    • Wow those are quite some conflations there. So scripture can only be authoritative if it’s historically accurate?

  • Victor Galipi

    How do we know Jesus and the NT writers didn’t believe that the OT characters were real people and the OT stories real stories. There is nothing to indicate they did not believe the people and the stories of the OT to be real and factual. They talk about them as though they were real and truthful.

    Someone or something being real in history and being real in “our imaginations” are two very different things. The Bible is not a book of imaginations, it is a book of truth. It is inspired by a God Who is truth and does not lie, and He tells us that His Scriptures are not a matter of or subject to our own interpretations, inventions or imaginations (2 Pet 1:19-21).

    God and His word are not subject to modern science either; and the Holy Scriptures do not need to reconcile with science or make scientific “sense”. Jonah being swallowed and then spat out by a big fish is a miracle, the ark and how all of the animals got to it and lived together on it is a miracle–just as the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death is a miracle.

    If the stories of Jonah and Noah are not true, how do we know the story of Jesus Christ crucified, buried, risen, ascended and returning is true? Once you start picking and choosing what is true and the Bible and what isn’t, it can all be declared untrue. And sure enough, there are many–in the church institution–who declare that Jesus Christ never rose from the dead, and was not God.

    Yes, God is powerful enough to put a bunch of animals on an ark, powerful enough to have a big fish swallow Jonah and spit him out three days later, and resurrect the crucified Christ three days after He died. It’s not about magic canoes and fairy dust. It’s about miracles, the power of God, and the fact that God is Truth and tells the truth. He inspired the writers of the Holy Scriptures to write His truth. It is not our place to “re-intepret” that truth. It is our place to hear it and obey it.

    And honestly, making Bible truths subject to our scientific wisdom, reducing Bible stories to childish exaggerations and lies, and making light of and limiting the power of God is not helpful.

    Morgan are you writing from a bias that already assumes some Bible truths are not true, that denies miracles, and that makes human wisdom such as science superior to the wisdom, the word and the power of God. Because that’s how it comes across to me.

    By the way, monkeys are not made in the image of God, humans are created in the image of God.

    • Question for you then. In Genesis 1, God creates the plants and animals *before* the humans. In Genesis 2, God creates “the man” (ha adam) in verse 7 before there were any plants (see verse 5). The plants get created in Genesis 2:8 to be a garden for the man to till and the animals are created in Genesis 2:18-19 in order to give the man a suitable partner. It’s only after God sees that none of the animals are a suitable partner for the man that he creates a woman from his ribs in Genesis 2:22. So my question is this. Did God create the animals before humans as it clearly says in Genesis 1 or after the man as it clearly says in Genesis 2? Or did your translation of the Bible edit this problem out of the text?

      • Victor Galipi


        Doesn’t the fact that you see this as a “problem” already show a bias?

        Yes, the fact that I don’t see one is also a bias, a bias based on my belief that God the Author of the Scriptures is the Author of Truth and is The Truth. The fact that Gen 1 and Gen 2 give different chronologies doesn’t bother me in the least. I don’t have to understand it to believe it.

        To me, a far bigger problem is what I have already addressed.

        So I’ll put it into the form of some questions for you:

        How do you know Jesus and the NT writers didn’t believe the OT persons and events were real and factual?

        And if those stories are not true, then how do you know the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is true? What’s the difference? Isn’t resurrection from death at least as contrary to the laws of science as Noah’s animal ark and Jonah being swallowed by a big fish?

        How do you pick and choose what in the Bible is true and what isn’t?

        • You didn’t answer my question so why should I answer yours. The Lord be with you.

          • Victor Galipi

            I did answer your question. I said I take it as a matter of faith and that the differences don’t bother me just because I don’t understand them.

            The Lord be with you as well.

          • Victor Galipi

            Morgan, I have pointed out that I did answer your question. Also, I actually asked you at least one question (and more, by implication) in my first post here, before you asked me anything.

            Yet you are still not answering my questions?

            You write things that you should know are bound to raise questions, but you are unwilling to answer those questions when they come.

            If you don’t have any answers for my questions, why not just say so?

          • That’s not actually faith, though, because you haven’t let that trust be challenged. Faith needs to be strong enough to stand back up after the wind bends it, but it needs that wind to strengthen the hold of its roots. What you describe is the willingness of a child to put one’s hands over one’s ears, shout “LALALALA I’M NOT LISTENING!!” and continue to pretend that what one didn’t want to hear wasn’t actually said. You’re not faithful, you’re naive and really quite stubborn.

    • Scott

      If man can ruin God’s perfectly divinely inspired Eden AND Earth… how do you know that 500 years of telephone between illiterate goat-herders couldn’t in any way taint the Bible?

      • Victor Galipi

        “19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Pet 1:19-21).

        “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

        Scott, the Bible says it is inspired by God, through writers who were moved by the Holy Spirit and spoke from God.

        I have two choices: I can believe what God says is true, or I can believe the Bible is tainted. If I believe the latter, I can pick and choose what is tainted and what isn’t, what to believe and what not to believe. What then is the point of reading, studying, preaching, teaching and living the Bible? What is the point of God’s word?

        I choose to believe the Bible is not tainted, and by that I mean that it contains the truth of God, all that we need for full salvation. I believe that I don’t have the right to pick and choose what in the Bible is true and what isn’t, and I don’t have the right to interpret it to bring out whatever meaning I want or whatever meaning is politically correct.

        This belief is a matter of faith, yes. The Bible says we are to live by faith and not by sight, that we are not to follow our own wisdom but ask for the wisdom of God.

        And isn’t believing the Bible is tainted also a matter of faith? What proof do you have that it is tainted?

        Why is it so important that the Bible is tainted?

        Yes, the sinful choice of humankind did taint God’s creation including we who are made in His image. But it was a sinful choice that did the tainting. It was Adam and Eve trusting their own wisdom instead of the wisdom of God.

        I believe that when God inspired those who wrote the books that make up the Bible, he was able to keep sinful choices, to write contrary to what He wanted them to write, out of the equation. It is possible for God to keep us from sinful choices.

        Sinful human words in God’s word would not be inspired by God and would not be profitable. The Bible says it is inspired by God. That is what I choose to believe.

        I don’t have to reconcile every so-called contradiction or scientific conflict; again, it is a matter of faith. Just because I can’t understand or explain it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. A God limited to my human understanding is a God way too small for me.

        • Scott

          History tells us that the Bible has been reinterpreted, re-edited, and mistranslated. Entire books that would have been a part of the Bible during Jesus’ own time, are now considered non-canonical.

          The Bible is “divinely INSPIRED.” Thats like saying “The following is ‘inspired’ by actual events.” It doesn’t mean its an entirely factual depiction of events as they happened, it means its a dramatization inspired by the truth.

          Think of it this way: God made heaven perfect, and the Devil rebelled. God made man in his own image, and Man rebelled. God made Eden and Earth and man has trashed both. Name ANYTHING other than the Bible in Gods Creation that Man hasn’t tainted at some point. And your only evidence that The Bible is perfect in every conceivable way, is because The Bible says it is.

          I have faith in God. You have faith in letters on a page.

          • Victor Galipi

            I answered your question, clearly you are for whatever reason unwilling to answer mine. My faith is not in letters on a page, it is in God Who inspired people to write those “letters on a page”, which are much more than that. And when the Bible says it is inspired, it clearly does not mean it in the way you are describing. The events didn’t inspire the writing, the God of the events inspired them.

            How do you know the Bible is a “dramatization inspired by the truth”? Again, where is the proof? Where is the reason for even thinking that.

            That the Bible has been misinterpreted and mistranslated doesn’t mean there is not truth to be found in a number of good translations.

            Yes, there are plenty of misinterpetations of the Bible. The Bible also says it is not subject to our misinterpretations. And that instead of trying to reinterpret it, we should just listen to what God is saying in His inspired word (2 Pet 1:19-21).

            Thanks, but I’ll stick with my evidence that The Bible is inspired (I never said perfect in every conceivable way) in the way that the Bible says it is, because it says it is.

          • Scott

            You actually tossed several questions at me, but I’m assuming you mean “What proof do you have that it is tainted?”

            Well we know that passages were mistranslated from the original language. Certainly your spiritual leader has spoken about such nuances. But it goes deeper than this. Many books of the Old Testament which Jesus would have been familiar with were later reclassified as non-canon. So to a reader in Jesus time, this would have been the infallible WORD OF GOD, only to be determined at a later date, NOT to be the WORD OF GOD.

          • Victor Galipi

            Actually, Scott, I meant all of the

            And you answered the question you
            did answer without providing proof. It’s circular reasoning. “We know it’s
            tainted because we know it’s tainted”.

            Even if I concede there are some
            mistranslations, which I don’t (except for the many false translations out there), that doesn’t mean that God’s true word and message did not come through. It also does not mean we have the right to pick and choose what is right
            and what needs our correction.

            Head down that path, and sooneverything is thrown out, including the resurrection of Christ–as some UM’s and others have done.

            Head down that path, and we go the way of the Gnostics, who thought they had superior spiritual knowledge and
            enlightenment greater than that of anyone else, including the human authors of the Holy Scriptures.

            Exactly what books do you know were considered part of the OT canon that Jesus knew about that were later considered non-canonical? Again, offer proof, and examples, for your assertions. And before you mention the books sometimes known as the OT Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books, they were never considered to be canon. That came later, unfortunately, in the Roman Catholic Church.

            And I’ll ask again, “How do you know the Bible is a ‘dramatization inspired by the truth;? Again, where is the proof? Where is the reason for even thinking that?”

            Here’s another question for you: Why is it so important to
            you that the Bible is tainted?

          • James M

            IMHO, Esther reads far less like an inspired book than Ecclesiasticus AKA Sirach does. Yet the CC accepts both. Esther is a morally tawdry book – the two main characters even seem to have names of Babylonian origin. It falls far short of Jeremiah, Job or Second Isaiah.

            There is some stuff in the Bible that is morally repellent, and impossible to reconcile with the self-sacrificing Love of Christ – Esther and her vindictiveness, and the Jews who kill their enemies, are not a mirror of God’s Character in the way that Christ Crucified is – for He shows us what God is really like toward men. Some OT books threaten to obscure that, so they have to be judged by what is revealed of God by Christ Crucified.

            As for Jesus on the OT – maybe what He said was not intended as timeless, contextless, universal truth, but as something true within its specific context. IOW, His words are to be understood functionally. This is the late James Barr’s suggestion, & I think it makes a lot of sense. So the references to Noah & the Flood are not infallible Divine discourses guaranteeing the faultless accuracy & historicality of the Flood in Gen.6-9, but are to be understood functionally, within the context of the epsodes in the gospels in which Jesus mentions them.


          • Victor Galipi

            James, how do you or how do I know what an inspired book does or doesn’t read like? Spiritual inspiration is something that can’t be understood by human wisdom alone, it is hard to grasp that’s why we need The Holy Spirit to guide us in all truth.

            Absolutely I agree that there are things talked about in the Bible that are morally repellant and impossible to reconcile with the self-sacrificing love of Christ. But those things are given to us as examples, negative examples. (1 Cor 10:6). There is no Biblical command or intention that we for example respond to the lament of the Psalmist by taking the children of our enemies and dashing them on rocks, or that we stone adulteresses.

            Christ’s fulfillment of the Law (Rom 10:4) changes things. We are to love our enemies as well as our neighbors. We not only don’t murder people, we should not hate them either. And I can eat bacon!

            James, I don’t believe the story of Noah and the Flood is true in order to guarantee “the faultless accuracy & historicality of the Flood in Gen.6-9” But I do believe it is true, that it happens as described in Gen 6-9, and I see no reason not to do so.

          • James M

            “…how do you or how do I know what an inspired book does or doesn’t read like?”

            ## One of the stock arguments against the inspiration of “the books called Apocrypha” is that they don’t “feel” inspired. I agree with you, up to a point – but that was not my argument. I “feel” about Esther as many Protestants “feel” about Judith or Tobit – I’m using a Protestant argument, & applying it to the books agreed by all Christians to be Scripture, rather than to those books deemed by Protestants not to be Scripture. What is my certainty for which are Scripture ? Ultimately, the age-long practice of the Church.

            ISTM that there is some force in the objection – after all, one could say that the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Scripture answers to the ministry of the same Spirit in the heart of the Bible-reading believer, certifying to the believer that the book is “of God”. I think that argument has a lot of weight, and is, in part, how the canon was finalised over the centuries.

            A further answer: literary discrimination. If one is soaked in the work of a creative artist, one develops a sense for fakes and copies. Thebooks said to be in the Bible, to that extent at least, are no different from the works ascribed to C. S. Lewis, some of which are said not to be his.

            “But those things are given to us as examples, negative examples. (1 Cor 10:6).”

            ## There are such passages in the Bible, agreed. I’m concerned, not with them, but with those parts of Scripture in which, rather than an evil being rebuked, conduct that seems evil is alleged to have God’s command or approval. The persecution by Josiah is for that reason not the same sort of action as the idolatry of his son Manasseh, but belongs with the massacre of the prophets of Baal by Elijah; Joshua is an even more painful case, because he is *commanded* by God to slaughter the Canaanites; 1 Sam. 15 is a comparable passage. Such passages strongly suggest that revelation is progressive, and that these barbarities are indefensible & needn’t be defended. The God of Jesus Christ does not sanction murder – if He does, He is not the God of Jesus Christ. The Christian understanding of Christ would be destroyed, if mass murder were as acceptable to God as martyrdom for His Name. Our moral sense that revolts against such things is God’s gift, no less truly than the Bible is.

            “Christ’s fulfillment of the Law (Rom 10:4) changes things…”

            ## Definitely. But that does not mean the passages mentioned cease to be in the Bible.

          • Victor Galipi

            James M, thanks for your thoughtful reply. It looks like we might have some common ground.

            “One of the stock arguments against the inspiration of “the books called Apocrypha” is that they don’t “feel” inspired. I agree with you, up to apoint – but that was not my argument.”

            That is not my argument either, and I apologize if I gave that impression. My argument is that “the Apocrypha”, in places, does not match up with the books Protestants believe are The Bible. My certainty of which books are Scripture is the age-long practice, and belief and tradition, of The Church as a whole.

            “ISTM that there is some force in the objection – after all, one could say that the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Scripture answers to the ministry of the same Spirit in the heart of the Bible-reading believer, certifying to the believer that the book is “of God”. I think that argument has a lot of weight, and is, in part, how the canon was
            finalised over the centuries.”

            James, I want to be sure I understand what you are saying here. Could you clarify what you mean by “the ministry of The Holy Spirit in the Scripture…”?

            If you are talking about how The Holy Spirit works in the Scripture to reveal His word to Bible-reading believers as He works in us and “guides us in all truth”, then I agree with you.

            “There are such passages [negative examples]in the Bible, agreed. I’m concerned, not with them, but with those parts of Scripture in which, rather than an evil being rebuked, conduct that seems evil is alleged to have God’s command or approval.”

            There are many passages in which God may seem to be commanding or approving of evil, that I can look at and conclude that God for whatever reasons in His divine purposes permits us to do evil and works through us, even though we do evil, and in spite of the evil we do.

            But I admit that passages like those in which God commands the destruction of the Caananites trouble me.

            What I could say is that, speculatively, the hearts of these people were hardened on the path of destruction past the point of no return, and God commanded His people to destroy them before they led more people astray into idolatry.

            For me, that is a more satisfactory answer than relegating those commands “non-Scripture”, but it is somewhat speculative and I’m not confident about it.

            What I ultimately do with such passages is admit that my human wisdom is limited and that I don’t understand the mind of God and why He would command things like this, then choose to trust Him, trust that He is true, trust that His word is true.

            Many are not comfortable with that, but when we head down the path of declaring Scripture passages non-Scripture it just doesn’t stop, as we can see in many who reject the core Christian truth of the resurrection of Christ. And I’m definitely not comfortable with that. (By the way I am in no way implying that’s what you do, it’s a general statement to make my point.)

            “Definitely. But that does not mean the passages mentioned cease to be in the Bible.”

            On that I totally agree, and I apologize if I gave the wrong mpression. Christ’s fulfillment of the OT sacrificial laws, for example, did not make those laws non-Scripture (Mt 5:17-19).

          • James M

            “My argument is that “the Apocrypha”, in places, does not match up with the books Protestants believe are The Bible.”

            ## Which raises, the question, I think, of how one tells Esther (admitted to be canonical by all) from Judith (which is not). Ecclesiasticus “feels” to me as canonical as Proverbs does, or Ecclesiastes. (Though one needs to allow for immaturity of perception of the things of God – but for whom is that not a problem ?)

            “My certainty of which books are Scripture is the age-long practice, and belief and tradition, of The Church as a whole.”

            ## Me too – though that is (for me) an external argument. My position is well expressed by the Westminster Confession, chapter 1 sec.V., which, very strikingly, does not found its argument on inerrancy:

            “We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”


            ## IMHO that is a fully Catholic & Evangelical statement, and should help to break the impasse over inerrancy.

            “If you are talking about how The Holy Spirit works in the Scripture to reveal His word to Bible-reading believers as He works in us and “guides us in all truth”, then I agree with you.”

            ## Yes, that’s my meaning – the Holy Spirit “ministers” & acts in & through the written word, and in the reader, and in the Church & (primarily & most of all) in Christ. One Spirit – many modes of operation.

            “What I could say is that, speculatively, the hearts of these people [= the Canaanites] were hardened on the path of destruction past the point of no return, and God commanded His people to destroy them before they led more people astray into idolatry.

            For me, that is a more satisfactory answer
            than relegating those commands “non-Scripture”, but it is somewhat speculative and I’m not confident about it.”

            ## I have no difficulty believing that such passages are genuinely Scripture – but I don’t think they function as Scripture so clearly as (say) Isaiah 40, or Psalm 51, or Romans 8. I believe God can work through even our most depraved ideas – & maybe that is happening in these “immoral” passages; God is working even in them, without compromising His Goodness or Holiness or Righteousness.

            I don’t believe that God orders the destruction of anyone – the problem is, that such an order would not be a fact of history, but would be totally super-natural. So it would be possible to argue that any tyrant had been commanded by God to kill his enemies – and such a claim would be impossible to disprove. Parts of the Book of Joshua are too much like Nazism in their ideas, to be credible as a good expression of the character of God: I can’t see a moral difference between the extermination of the Canaanites in Joshua 10, and the massacres of Oradour & Lidice.

            I hope that meets all the points you made 🙂

          • Think of it this way: God made heaven perfect, and the Devil rebelled. God made man in his own image, and Man rebelled. God made Eden and Earth and man has trashed both. Name ANYTHING other than the Bible in Gods Creation that Man hasn’t tainted at some point. And your only evidence that The Bible is perfect in every conceivable way, is because The Bible says it is.

            I have faith in God. You have faith in letters on a page.

            It’s comments like this that illustrate why I have not yet lost faith in Christians as a whole. +1.

        • And isn’t believing the Bible is tainted also a matter of faith? What proof do you have that it is tainted?

          Well, for starters, it contradicts itself like WOAH, and secondly, the historical record shows that it itself is actually a composite of Semetic polytheism repurposed as monotheism as a tool of propaganda to assert the authority of ancient rulers:

          Now, that does not mean that monotheism is an invalid belief (it’s just one belief about the nature of the Divine out of many beliefs about that nature), nor does it mean that the Bible is lacking in wisdom from that Divine source –it simply means that the Bible as it is known today is a composite created by mortal beings with a specific purpose in mind, meaning that it simply cannot be taken as a literal truth about history. Even the NT was hand-picked by the Nicean Council, a council of mortal humans, and now-Aprocyphal books were banned on account of being too subversive and potentially undermining the control of the “Holy” Roman Empire. If all scripture is inerrant, well, THOSE books are Scripture, too –but human beings took them out because they could potentially lead the people to question the authority of Rome (or lead to other subversive behaviours).

          The fact of the matter is, Biblical literalists base their understanding of history, the Divine, and all manner of subject in-between on what everyone else in the world knows to be a propaganda tool of a corrupt government from 1600 years ago, and by that fact alone, it simply cannot be seen as a literal inerrant word of the God of Abraham or any other God, but as a creation of Man that holds within it certain truths to be lifted from allegory.

          I know this is probably falling on deaf ears, with regards to yourself, in particular, but just in case anyone else was on the fence, I figured I’d throw that out there.

          • Victor Galipi

            Lots of people see contradictions in the Bible. Most
            everything in the Bible, right up to the resurrection of Christ, is seen by someone as a contradiction. If we take everything in the Bible that we see as contradictory and toss it out, we toss out pretty much the whole Bible. This leaves no foundation for the Christian faith. But just because we don’t understand something in the Bible doesn’t mean it is a contradiction, it just means we don’t understand it.

            Neither does the revisionist history put forth in your link.
            But one of numerous revisionist histories is hardly enough to convince me that The Bible is “actually a composite of Semetic polytheism repurposed as monotheism as a tool of propaganda to assert the authority of ancient rulers”

            There is too much good in the Christian faith, too much Good News and hope for the world, for me to discard it so easily.

          • So you’re willfully ignorant? Good to know.

      • Robbert Yoshimaru

        i don’t know if you’re willing to admit this but there’s an assumption in your argument here and that assumption is that God is either not there or unable to ensure the accurate transmission of His word. You’re also ignoring the parameter that God laid out to Man in Eden. Something just occurs to me. Did you post this just so you can use the term, ‘illiterate goat-herders’ ? I’ve read that little barb before…let’s see who could you be parroting…hmmn.

        • Scott

          I used the term because its accurate, not to ruffle feathers. The Word was passed down orally before written language was common-place.

          I’m not saying EITHER that God doesn’t exist, nor that he is “unable (or unwilling) to ensure an accurate transmission of His word,” merely that its a possibility, which literalists are too afraid to consider.

          • WilmRoget

            “I used the term because its accurate, not to ruffle feathers.”

            Pull the other leg for a while.

  • Nicholas Kr.

    Discarding Jesus for a moment, I’m pretty sure that the authors of the Gospels believed in a literal Adam and Eve and adhered to a fairly literal interpretation of Genesis. Why wouldn’t they? They didn’t exactly have any evidence to the contrary.

    • Darach Conneely

      Actually 1st century Jewish writers like Josephus and Philo thought the story of Adam and Eve was meant allegorically. They didn’t have modern science, but they understood how story and metaphor worked.

      • Nicholas Kr.

        Did they think that it should be interpreted allegorically, as opposed to literally, or did they think that it should be interpreted as both – as literally happened events also having an allegorical meaning? Genuine question, I honestly do not know.

        • Darach Conneely

          It’s a fair question, Paul for example interpreted the crossing the Red Sea as a figurative picture of baptism 1Cor 10:2, yet people understood parables and apocalyptic imagery as stories with a message. With Adam and Eve, Josephus thought the story was written intentionally as an allegory instead of as a plain description of what happened while Philo was quite rude about people who tried to read it literally.

          • Gary

            Good shout Darach and though I’m not a massive fan of Augustine he thought the same (as far as not being literal).

        • or did they think that it should be interpreted as both – as literally happened events also having an allegorical meaning?

          You’re missing the point —by its very definition (one might say ironically) and allegory cannot be literal truth. It’s a rhetorical, literARy, or artistic device used to convey *a* truth, moral, or other lesson. Something that literally happened cannot, by definition, be allegory. Josephus and Philo did not literally believe in the historicity of Adam & Eve as modern Biblical literalists do.

  • Gary

    Great to see stories like the Epic of Gilgamesh talked about here. These types of stories are way too similar to be ignored!

    Enûma Eliš is another ‘borrowed’ myth used in the context of genesis 1. I think we miss the genius of the story telling and the deep truths being told when we have a flat, literal interpretation. There is more wisdom in these writings than what we get from them and it is a great shame.

    Thanks for this Morgan, I have Pete Enn’s book on my list to get and it is further up that list now!


    • James M

      The Enûma Eliš seems very relevant to Genesis 11 – the gods building Marduk’s temple in Babylon are replaced by human beings trying to make a name by building a tower.

  • Pronounce

    This issue, along with many others, is a difficult topic to discuss with Christians. Because many of my fellow Christians feel like they have to go to Holy War over topics like this. (They play the Jude 1:3,4 card.) The cost of Christian fellowship is pretty high when talking about these topics, and so I don’t.

    So I turn to my non-Christian friends who won’t disfellowship me when talking about the Bible. There are many well read and thoughtful pagans, agnostics, and atheists who know the Scripture and will ask your opinion about difficult verses in the Bible. These people are easy to talk to and strengthen your faith. I guess this is the diaspora.

    Really the only people who can attend church are the hypocrites, because if you live authentically you’ll get “burned at the stake” for being a heretic. (Welcome to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Where every Christian has an opportunity to believe they are the voice of God.)

  • When a pastor today plays a clip from Star Wars to illustrate a spiritual point we all know not to take every detail in the story as gospel truth. We listen for what the teacher is trying to get at and recognize the rest is just part of a story. Should it be surprising if the people of bible times knew when something was a story and not actual history, even if a teacher treated it as if it had actually happened just like he’s describing?

  • Patrick

    There are two words for the above article: complete BS. Essentially, what I am understanding from you is that the Bible is somehow not compatible with your view of science and natural law as the be all, end all — so you neuter it to fit your own worldview. Reprehensible.

    • JasonMankey

      I think BS is better used to describe your comment. Stories illustrate truths, the stories themselves don’t have to be literally true to articulate those points. Human imagination is a powerful and rich tool.

      • Patrick

        Sure. But if everyone I knew along with myself thought Huck Finn was a true story, and was authoritative for how we should live our lives, then someone comes along and finds out, you know what — that whole thing was just a fable/myth, etc with a few good points — my reaction would be really? You mean I just based the way I live my life on stuff that was made up? I can tell you this for sure — I certainly wouldn’t give a crap about any supposed truth in that story, I’d be throwing it all out and wouldn’t think twice.

        • WilmRoget

          And that is the problem intrinsic to biblioatry, when people worship the Bible, rather than pursue relationship with God aided by the Bible.

          For me, if archaeologists dug up some ancient library with scrolls demonstrating that the Bible was cooked up as a work of fiction

          my relationship with God and my faith would not be altered. The Bible is wonderful, but my faith in is God, not in the book.

          • And that’s what faith really is –somethingthat stands when challenged. Maybe one has to examine the structure from time to time, but it still holds up when challenged. You’re right to say that biblical literalists are more worshipping the Bible than building the relationship with the God of Abraham that’s aided by the text.

        • David

          But Patrick, what if the Huck Finn story that you now discover to be a myth did contain some truth, wisdom would you retain the wisdom. For example when you found out that Santa clause coming down the chimney from the north pole with his reindeers wasn’t true, did you stop giving and receiving gifts at Christmas or stop buying postcards with Santa Clause on it? Or did you understand that Santa clause was used as a metaphor for giving, sharing and bringing cheer to persons and so you continued to do just that.? I hope you did.

          • Patrick

            It’s like this: You dad says: “Son, Santa Claus is real. He’s a real person, and he has the right to tell you what is wrong, and what is not. You should live your life based on the way that Santa Claus lives his life.” Suddenly, you discover “Oh wait, I was lied to – Santa Claus is not real, I’ve been basing my life on something that is made up.” Would I then try to take stories from Santa Claus’ made up life and apply them to mine? No, I would forget there ever was such a person as Santa Claus, and go on with my life. To me, either the Bible is authoritative (which I believe it is) or it’s a waste of time. Not in between.

          • What is the verbal cue that you find in Jesus’ telling of the Good Samaritan story that indicates that he was just telling a story and not talking about a real person? I continue to be puzzled as to why you’re insistent that fictional stories cannot convey real truths. I hold the Bible to be authoritative but that doesn’t mean that I believe that
            God gave kangaroos magic jet-skis to travel over thousands of miles of open ocean to get from Australia to Noah’s Ark in the Middle East.

          • How long would it take a tree sloth from Costa Rica to get to the Middle East? I watched one take an hour to move 6 feet down the length of a branch. He had to take 6 naps in the process.

          • David

            So would you say the that parables are a waste of time just because the prodigal son and the good samaritan were not actually real historical persons? I am sure some small kids sometimes think of them as real persons at one time of another.

          • Then you’re truly ignorant. I don’t even have to be a Christian to see that.

          • You’re forgetting the original audience wasn’t told those stories actually happened so they weren’t lied to. They knew they were stories just as well if not better than you know a parable is a parable.

        • So you’ve never read a story that taught you a lesson? What about stories that Jesus told? Jesus didn’t give any explicit verbal cues to indicate that he was making up a story with any of his parables. Does this mean that we have to believe that the Good Samaritan and the prodigal son are historical figures? Jesus just said, “Once there was a man…” He didn’t say, “Now I’m about to tell you a fable that makes a point.”

          • Patrick

            I think anyone that understands nuance would be able to tell that Jesus clearly was telling a story in the case of the Good Samaritan, and other parables, and that when referring to Moses and Noah he was clearly referring to historical people, and actual stories. To say that he was only referring to them (Noah, Moses) that way because the people believed Moses and Noah and their stories were historical fact is to say that he was deceiving his audience. You may be comfortable going there, but I for sure am not. My point about Huck Finn is this — people for centuries have believed that the Bible is an authoritative, inerrant word from an infinite, eternal God that is applicable for every aspect of our lives. That’s exactly what I believe the Bible claims to be. And so, if it claims to be that, and then turns out to be mostly myth, I’m sorry, but I’m ditching the whole thing. Huck Finn, or other stories, do not claim to be authoritative to my life, and so I can accept the truth in them, all the while realizing the stories aren’t actually real. I realize that you almost certainly will disagree with my statement that the Bible claims to be inerrant, and authoritative, so there is likely little use for an argument. Have a good day.

      • James M

        The parables of Jotham, Nathan & Jesus are good examples of fictions that convey truths. If Christ did not have problems with telling imaginary stories to convey truth about God, why must it be believed that Gen.2-11 is sober history, and not inspired fiction ? Maybe fictions are the only sort of story that can communicate certain kinds of truth.

    • WilmRoget

      Your empty dismissal simply indicates that you cannot provide a cogent, reason based rebuttal.

      • Kenneth

        WilmRoget, Patrick is 100% correct. The writer of this article has a secular godless worldview based on FLAWED liberalism and he is trying to force scripture to fit his unbiblical worldview. His view of God does not line up with the God of scripture. The historical events described in God’s word are 100% accurate and happened just the way scripture says they did. The writer here is saying that God’s word cannot be trusted, that Paul’s reference and Jesus’s reference to Adam and Jonah and the flood are just allegorical stories with no truth to them. Um, where in the biblical text is this indicated???This writer is READING HIS FLAWED godless, faithless worldview into the biblical text. He’s saying that the historical narratives in Genesis, Jonah, etc., even though they read as historical narratives, aren’t really historical narratives. WHAT? God’s word is truth and 100% accurate especially when recording historical events, this writer is dead wrong. He calling God a liar and also the writers of scripture, and the Holy Spirit as well since it was Him that inspired and worked through the biblical writers when they wrote the scriptures to begin with. As God’s word states, from 2nd Peter 1:

        20 Understand this first: No part of the Holy Writings was ever made up by any man. 21 No part of the Holy Writings came long ago because of what man wanted to write. But holy men who belonged to God spoke what the Holy Spirit told them.”

        • What always amazes me about fundamentalists is the way that you have no qualms with bearing false witness against other people. Do you really have no fear of the Lord? Do you think he loves and defends my honor less than he cares about yours? Because I have a different Biblical interpretation than you, you say that I’m calling God a liar or that to call something allegorical means that there’s no truth to it. When you do these things, you incur the wrath of God against you. You can believe that I’m wrong. But don’t lie about what I’m saying. Because that’s against the Ten Commandments.

          • Kenneth

            You are incuring the wrath of God by calling Him a liar, by implying that the historical events recorded in scripture are made up, or not accurate, which implies that you REALLY don’t believe God’s word IS God’s word. You obviously didn’t really read my post correctly, because I wasn’t speaking to you, I was speaking about the writer of the article. When Paul, or Jesus, or Peter spoke of old testament events, they spoke of them as ACTUAL HISTORICAL EVENTS that took place in REAL TIME. Whenever ANYONE says that these stories are just allegorical, they are IGNORING the actual text, and reading things into the text that simply aren’t there. Every historical event recorded in God’s word happened JUST AS GOD’S WORD says it did. if you choose to ignore that, that’s not my problem, that’s yours.

          • WilmRoget

            “You are incuring the wrath of God by calling Him a liar,”

            It was not God’s honesty that was questioned, it was your honesty that was questioned. You are not God.

        • WilmRoget

          “WilmRoget, Patrick is 100% correct.”


          ” The writer of this article has a secular godless worldview”

          You are bearing false witness, which is sin. Please repent.

          “The writer here is saying that God’s word cannot be trusted,”


          “?This writer is READING HIS FLAWED godless, faithless worldview”

          Actually, it seems more like you are reading your ego-driven, self-centered, sinful worldview into the Bible, and reading your malice into this essay.

  • John Powell

    So how do YOU know what is real/literal and what is metaphor/symbol/fiction/typology/imagery, etc.?

    • Rob Smith

      Catholics (of which I’m one) rely on the Magisterium and Tradition to interpret and provide context to the Bible.

      • John Powell

        Ok, that begs the question of how do THEY know?

        • James M

          What SirThinkALot said, mostly. The “Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament” is an excellent example of interconfessional study of the words of the Bible – about 1100 of them. The authors of the articles include Calvinists like G. W. Bromiley, Catholics, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox, & (I think) Jews. And unless one knows the religion of a given contributor, it can be next to impossible to tell.

        • Rob Smith

          The Church has nearly two thousand years worth of writings that go back to the Original Apostles and early Church Fathers that they can rely on.

          • And Protestants don’t have two thousand years of writings that go back to the original apostles and early church fathers that we can rely on? We have the same body of writing to inform us as you do. The only difference between Protestants and Catholics is that Protestants admit that each of us decides for ourselves what we consider authoritative while Catholics will never admit that each individual Catholic is his own final authority by deciding that his church is the final authority. Think about it.

    • SirThinkALot

      The short answer is study and thinking. There really isnt any ‘one’ approach to this, since ‘the’ Bible contains a number of books, written by various authors written over a thousand years, and covering a huge swath of genres.

  • Michael Brian Woywood

    Great post as always, Morgan. It is unfortunate that you have awakened the great beast of proof – texting and Biblical idolatry. What so many literalists may not understand is that most of us who believe the way that Morgan does once believed in a literal, inerrant Bible. Coming to the realization that the Bible could not be honestly read that way was painful for most of us. It’s not a belief rooted in a desire to sin. It’s a belief rooted in the desire to know God in the most authentic way possible.

  • David

    Well ,written and persuasive: one of the better/useful ones I have written on this subject. Two question: (1) can one subscribe to “biblical inerrancy” without necessarily subscribing to “literalist reading” of the bible? – are the two concepts mutually exclusive? (2) How far do you take your approach – how do we determine exactly which passages of the bible (O.T) should not be read literally and which should be adopted in light of what Jesus said in the NT (surely we cant adopt a “cafeteria approach”)?

    • SirThinkALot

      1. It would depend on how you define ‘inerrancy.’ If you define ‘inerrancy’ as referring to the original intent of the Biblical text, then you could hold that the Bible is inerrant even if, for example the opening chapters arent literally true, since they were never meant to be taken that way.

      2. The short answer is study and thinking. There really isnt any ‘one’ approach to this, since ‘the’ Bible contains a number of books, written by various authors written over a thousand years, and covering a huge swath of genres.

      • James M

        1. Given that the originals are not available for study, how far can one usefully discuss them – if at all ? The Warfieldian appeal to originally inerrant archetypes of the texts is – amusingly enough, and perhaps ironically – a Fundamentalist form of the literary-critical-historical argumentation that Fundamentalists so often object[ed] to.

        Reference to the text may seem irrelevant to the point you make, but unless we have a text to read, we can’t discuss the intention of its author. All that is needed for religious purposes, I think, is a text that is sufficiently well established to function as a text; that there are scores of uncertainties as to what should be read – one thinks here of the shorter Masoretic version of 1 Samuel 14 as compared with the longer LXX version, the different endings of Mark 16, & so on – doesn’t affect the drift of the passages in question. The uncertainties are a shame, but they do not cripple, much less destroy, the overall meaning of the passages, of the theology of them, or the power of Scripture as a Divine Word.

        Such textual problems are not greater in kind than the many questions of interpretation or reading that have arisen over the course of the centuries, or that arise now. Christians have been able to take these difficulties in their stride before – why should they not do so now ? And the Bible they have used, and use now, has been functionally not inerrant, even if in theory inerrant. So why does it need to be inerrant ? If the Bible is to be inerrant, that requires a given text to be inerrant; which means those texts that differ from it are not inerrant. So KJV-onlyism is logically unassailable – if the AV/KJV = the Bible, those Bibles that differ from it are ipso facto in error, and we should all hasten to learn 16th-century English if we wish to read the Bible.

    • I think that all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching. But in order for it to be useful for teaching, some passages have to be read non-literally. For example, God looks really insecure and angsty in his response to the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 if you take it at face value. But that passage speaks powerfully to God’s innate opposition to human empire. I’ve preached on it multiple times. I usually put it into contrast with Pentecost in which everybody spoke different languages and God was in control of a situation that was completely chaotic from a human perspective.

  • James M

    The trouble with the inerrantists’ appeal to God’s Omnipotence as a device to to save the total inerrancy of the Bible on all matters it touches on, is not just that doesn’t work; it also allows any argument to be made to. For example, God ois Almighty, and wanted two of every beast on Earth to be saved from the Flood. How did He bring this about ? Simple: He sent Superman back in time to Noah, Noah told Supey about the need to save two of every animal, & Supey went to Antarctica, Japan, Australia, Canada, Israel, the US, India, etc., & scooped them up in his (invulnerable) Kryptonian cape. Supes probably miniaturised them and put them in a bottle like the bottle holding the city of Kandor, gave the bottle to Noah, and Noah took it into the Ark.

    On inerrantist logic, there is no reason why this could not have happened – they appeal to God’s power & to explanation by miracle, but they don’t have a coherent understanding of either – the two things are treated as nothing bjut devices to save the Bible from the difficultyt of seeming to be in “error” – & that in itself takes for granted that its authors were as bothered about total inerrancy as modern US total inerrantists seem to be. As though faith in Christ were not far more important than whether the statistics of a plague or battle or patriarch’s age have been preserved with flawless accuracy ! Salvation is not through the precise age of Adam or Methuselah, but through the Blood of Christ. Insistence on total errancy has a horrible tendency to become a little god – IOW, an idol.

  • Trevor Morgan

    Interesting points. My only quibble is with your parenting analogy. Maybe it’s because I have Aspergers, and don’t cope well with metaphor, but I’ve always told my kids the truth about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and ‘where babies come from.’ I’ve never understood the point of doing otherwise. Whatever question my children have, I’ll always try to answer to the best of my ability, and in accordance with my current understanding of the matter.

    • Brian

      And fail to set a trajectory for facing the issue of them finding out that Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the stork, etc. aren’t real but having them stay convinced that God is? What a parenting strategy.

  • Brian Forbes

    I read a Luke 3 genealogy comment already, so I won’t spend too much energy on that. You can’t be descended from a fictional being. I would also add that 1 Chron. 1 takes particular care to trace the lines through Noah to Adam. Nobody would say that those passages were for the purpose of illustration. On the contrary, they were for the purpose of recounting history and tying living people to their past. If Adam wasn’t real, Abraham wasn’t real. They have the same authority.

    Half-truths are not lies. It would be impossible to give every detail when telling a story, let alone every relevant detail. I’m not sure I could take the oath to give testimony in court without the “so help me, God”! There’s stuff we forget, stuff that might be important that we leave out for the sake of time, etc. Nobody can say that the Bible is a short book, so I treasure every detail written in it, even down to the cups of the temple and weights of sacrifices. If you tell an untruth, or you intend to deceive with a half-truth, that’s a different matter.

    The God of Leviticus IS the God of Jesus. They are one and the same. God doesn’t change. (Num. 23:19, Mal. 3:6) We change, which can change his mind about us, but He doesn’t. In fact, most of the major OT prophets say that the Mosaic-style sacrifices will be restored in short order. (Isa. 66, Zech. 14, Zeph. 3, Hos. 3:4-5, Ezekiel – last third of the book, etc.) God still gets mad when people sin. In fact, it’s worse for a Christian when they sin than it would have been for those before the cross. (Heb. 10:26)

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that the “useful for doctrine” scripture doesn’t start with “scripture”. It begins with “all scripture”! Implied there is the accepted revelation of God’s prophets (i.e. Moses, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc.). What is not implied there is “some scripture”. You can’t pick and choose what God reveals. He either did reveal it or He didn’t. Either they are a prophet or they are not. If they are, accept the words as given from God. That’s how the people in the Bible read the Bible. Look at how Daniel interpreted Jeremiah.

    The meat of the problem with this article, though, and the reason I wanted to write a reply is not for those minor details above, but for the major problem of buying into the lies and half-truths of atheists. The Godless have no truth. I don’t mean that they don’t hold to anything that is true – that if they say something, anything, that you can accept the statement as absolutely false. I’m saying that you can’t drink pure water from mud. Their truth is convoluted. They get excited when the half truth is spoken about kangaroos on canoes. They claim that there are millions of species that have to go on the ark and that the waste would just collect in the pins. Every one of these issues have both believable speculation and historical answers from ancient Jewish sources (i.e. Jasher, Jubilees, and targums). For examples, sure, there were many nations that didn’t have writing for a long time, but Adam could write. That was handed down to Enoch, who wrote a fine book, and then down to Noah. From Noah, the skill was given to Abraham (according to the book of Jasher), and Abraham spread it to many places. There’s no reason to think that they couldn’t write. Egyptians, for instance bragged to Herodotus that they had kept records since the beginning. And when you study writing, every form seems to spring up all at once. That would be an impossible coincidence if, say, man evolved some 200k years ago. 97% of man’s existence had nothing to show for it, then, BAM! – 4-5 styles of writing within a couple hundred years. Also, the land was considerably changed as a result of a global flood. Collecting the animals would be easy, because it says in the text that God brought the animals to Noah. They just led them onto the ark. When they got off the ark, there was water trapped all over the land, and the ocean levels were low. There were land bridges to everywhere. For more speculation on that, you can read Ice Age Civilizations by James I. Nienhuis and In the Beginning by Walt Brown. That’s not to say that their speculation is the end all of answers, but it is to say that you can get creative when you want to believe something. That’s why physicists invented dark matter, isn’t it? If you have a problem, we can come up with a solution. We can develop an answer for everything, because…

    This is a matter of faith. Do you believe God could? It may be an irritating question to you, but it really is the crux of the matter. If you believe God can’t, then you’ll be an atheist. Period. If you believe God can, you’ll find an answer for anything. Period. This isn’t a matter of evidence. It’s a matter of faith. Faith is where we went wrong in the garden. If it was a real account or if it was a parable, learn from the story of Adam and Eve. I would rather be guilty of trusting Moses when I stand before God than to have to defend my atheist adopted speculations. Kangaroos on canoes indeed.

  • AugustineThomas

    This is why the One True Church is so important. Its teachings about how to understand the bible are perfect. Protestants ALWAYS get it wrong one way or the other.