The Exodus of Inerrancy and Entrance Into Authenticity (Hardman, part 2 of 3)

The Exodus of Inerrancy and Entrance Into Authenticity (Hardman, part 2 of 3) March 12, 2014

Today we continue our 3-part series by Randy Hardman on his experiences as an official Christian apologist and why he felt he had to move on from that vocation. (The first part is here, with an important disclaimer. Readers interested in similar posts on this theme can find them beginning herehere and here.)

Hardman holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Appalachian State University and will graduate this Spring from Asbury Theological Seminary with an M.A. in Biblical Studies and an M.A. in Theological Studies. He blogs at, is the father of two wonderful children, a church consultant for a mainline Christian publisher, and a freelance writer.


In my previous blog, I outlined part of what it was like as a born and bred apologist, and I cautioned of a major problem with thinking so one dimensionally about faith. Apologetics can succeed in hiding doubt, fear, and faithlessness in any given person, as it did in me.

I played the game for so long that eventually I even wondered whether admitting to myself that I was just an “almost Christian” and getting things right was really worth the embarrassment of it all. As it turned out, it was—since obviously I am now writing this.

It took quite some time for me to admit that apologetics didn’t really save my faith but only gave me the impression that it did.

But, as I’ve stressed over and over, this denial was rooted in a particular way of thinking about Christianity which I think a lot of us evangelicals–especially those who have been captivated with apologetics–fall into: faith as science.

As the late Stan Grenz and John Franke note in their tremendous book Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, it is somewhat ironic that modernist thinking has extended so far in both the directions of the “godless” and the “godly.” For every atheist that’s incorrigibly committed to the truth of his philosophical naturalism there is an evangelical incorrigibly committed to his theism in such a way that neither one lacks the need to feel absolutely certain.

For these evangelicals, conviction leaves no room for doubt, and so in popular Christian apologetics doubt is something to be assuaged with answers.

I think central to this view is the idea of inerrancy. It is a doctrine that seems to pervade even to the point of our trust in salvation. Indeed, I got an email yesterday from a junior in college asking “How can I trust the Bible if the Gospel of John has Jesus die on a Thursday?! If that’s false, might the whole thing be false too?!”

Her answer is the result of Christian thought being in bed with modernist thought, wherein one’s faith is not truly faith but, rather, certainty rested on shaky foundations. Remove too many bricks from that foundation and the whole thing tumbles down! Like this college junior, I myself bought into such a notion of faith and it rested mostly on the doctrine of inerrancy.

Of course, it’s a non sequitur to say “If Genesis is not science then Jesus didn’t rise from the dead,” but that doesn’t mean that that’s not the sort of bargain most people have adopted, probably unknowingly. But, as I’ll talk about in the next blog, there are major consequences to this way of thinking.

For the moment, I want to end on a positive note about what can happen when one begins to think outside of the inerrancy framework.

I remember my senior year of college taking the last undergraduate class I would ever take entitled “The History of Creation and Evolution.” The class was one of the best classes I ever took (and not once did I think the professor was an evil minion of Satan wanting to strip our faith from us!), for it challenged me to wrestle with a question that set off an authentic pursuit for truth and, more importantly, a relationship with Christ rooted in knowing more of him than about him.

The question was this: if evolution is right, does that make Christianity false? It was a bargain, for whatever reason, I was unwilling to accept. And it was only from that point forward that I saw a new way of wrestling with my questions. Of course, searching for answers would always be part of it. But I began to see faith and knowledge as centering on two different things.

Faith, while incorporating beliefs to an extent, is not about what you know and how well you are convinced of it. It is about how intimately you trust a person, and I can tell you from personal experience in some of the darkest moments in my life, it is only covenantal faith–not knowledge or arguments–that can appropriate doubt.

It is trust, not data, that allows one to wrestle through the night with God, through the unanswerable, and, indeed, the irrational. It allowed me to approach questions differently and it allowed me, a couple months later, to re-examine my own life and concede what was true: I didn’t know Christ as much as I knew about him.

Since ridding myself of fear of reading Scripture outside of the inerrancy paradigm, I have returned to the Bible–not the systematic theologians or apologists–to answer the deepest questions, not needing to have the surface questions asked first.

In it I find beauty for God’s grace in allowing us to participate in its production, human error and all;

I find beauty in the multitude of voices, for the truth is sometimes life does seem nihilistic and we need Ecclesiastes to stand beside us or Job to yell at God with us;

I find beauty in reading Scripture primarily to save my soul and teach me how to live like and within Christ, not in teaching me what to believe and how to think about Christ.

At the end of it all, mere knowledge about God is about as useful to our lives as knowledge of plate tectonics. But certainly, if we strive to know him personally, to really develop a deep trust with him as “my Lord and my God” our knowledge about him will grow in tandum with our actual knowing of him.

When we rid ourselves of the need for an inerrant scientific like Bible, it has the ability to transform our faith from a need for certainty to a need for authenticity.

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  • William McPherson

    I think that every view of Scripture has issues with it. Unlike the
    writer of this article, I am not at all ready to toss out inerrancy
    because there are difficulties with it. I will say though that I agree
    that there is not a lot of room in the current paradigm for doubt and
    for reinterpretation. Faith must be accompanied by doubt, else there is
    nothing to compare faith to. We are fallen human beings who in our fallen-ness are graciously invited in Christ to connect with God. There
    will definitely be moments when we feel out of sync with who he is and
    what his purposes are. We miss the Jewish component of our faith when
    are not forced to wrestle with God and what Scripture reveals about him;
    we are left with a shallow and hollow understanding of what it means to
    be a disciple of Christ.

    I would caution though, what we believe about Christ determines whether
    or not we can authentically live as Christ. I am grieved that we are
    called to sacrifice one to embrace the other. Because I believe Christ
    is the risen Lord, I also believe the Holy Spirit lives in me to breathe
    his life into my life. The new, eternal life I have and am learning to
    live is intimately connected in my belief in Christ as Lord and Lord

    Evangelicals need to not depend so much on evidence based apologetics to buttress our faith; the debate about whether or not there are or are not gods or a God in the cosmos has raged since the beginning of human civilization. We either trust that Christ is truly alive and risen (based on some decent historical and subjective evidence, that while certainly not beyond doubt is quite convincing) or we do not. Science and evidence cannot provoke belief any more than signs and miracles can. After all, faith is the substance of hope, and its evidence cannot yet be seen. Faith is not without its evidence, but it is not the “beyond a shadow of doubt” certainty that is demanded by many Evangelicals today. There is room for struggle and doubt in the Evangelical faith, even if you do believe in inerrancy.

    • Well said, William. There is value in doubt and simply because certainty only comes in degrees (outside of logical certitudes; viz., I’m certain my brother is not an only child), does not require us to eschew it altogether. I fear there’s not a little bifurcation going on here as I can have both an inerrant Scripture (however that’s defined, even outside the Chicago Statement) and have a clear message about salvation and how to live for Christ. Indeed, I cannot know God/Christ personally without knowing about him.

    • Randy Hardman

      William, thanks for your thoughts. It’s interesting that you refer to “the Jewish component of our faith” as wrestling with God. I’ve often wondered to what degree Hellenism in Christian theology has encouraged the opposite of that with much Greek thinking centered on philosophy, doctrine, and clear-cut corners. I think while it’s true that an inerrantist can doubt and struggle just as much as a non-inerrantist can, I question to what extent an apologetics-inerrantist framework discourages one from allowing doubt and questions to exist unanswered.

      I don’t go down the road that some do in pitting faith and knowledge as antithetical to each other (I think that leaves us in a grave place indeed), but–as I’ve stressed–it is only faith that leads into knowledge, knowledge cannot lead into faith. Sure, as I noted in the first blog post, apologetics has helped rid myself of some doubts–and in that sense it was valuable–but ridding myself of doubts did nothing for my actual relationship with God, only my conception of him.

      • William McPherson

        I agree that there is a problem with the framework. I think the motivating factor of fear is what keeps conservative Evangelicals from being able to have tough conversations. I have differing views on evolution, violence, and some other political issues than other people in my camp. I tell people that I believe the wording and message of Scripture (what God used the authors to convey) is inerrant, but my interpretation is not necessarily so. I believe God is communicating to us through fallible human beings using the images and understandings from the culture he chose to reveal himself. I am not one for trying to make it all logically fit together, I think we sometimes have an idolatrous obsession with systematic logic (and systematic theology).

        As far as the Jewish-ness of our faith, I think that we are missing a lot of what it means to have Jewish understanding of Jesus’ and the Apostles’ teachings. That is why N.T. Wright and other scholars are so refreshing when they make us deal with those aspects of faith. I do not think that the faith being influenced by Greek philosophy and culture is a bad thing, I just think that while we gained Paul we lost James. A lot of the reaction to conservative Evangelicalism centers around its doctrinal dryness; in fact, the Social Gospel (whatever you think of it) was an overreaction to the heartlessness of the established, fundamentalist church. We are seeing history repeat itself here; the conservative Evangelicals are trumpeting mostly Paul and the neo-Evangelicals (emergents or whatever) are bringing back James. The problem is, in my view, that neither camp truly understands the implications of their overreactions to stability and harmony of the Christian faith. Can we not have both Athens AND Jerusalem? Why is it to be faithfully Christian I have to either throw out being a Christian or acting like Jesus? I think we need both.

        As much as I disagree with some individuals in the current Christian scene, we need their voices because sometimes God uses pagans (or heretics, or schismatics, or honest, erring brothers and sisters, or even atheists) to shame his people (e.g. Babylonian Captivity and, to extent, Jesus choosing to give the Church to pseudo-Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles over the religious teachers of the Law). If some conservative would begin to address some of these things in a gentle, Christ-like manner while being intellectually honest and emotionally vulnerable, maybe we could actually begin to see what God is up to.

        But, alas, I am not holding my breath.

  • Jeff Martin


    Very good post, though I think you will lose some people through an unnecessary comment you made at the end – “At the end of it all, mere knowledge about God is about as useful to our lives as knowledge of plate tectonics.”

    I think you had an opportunity here to reach out to those still on the other side by thinking about our knowledge about God more. I don’t think it is an accident that Genesis 1 starts out with telling one about God as compared to the other gods. This knowledge gives us the impetus to want to know and trust God.

    But I agree that a lot of Christians get obsessed with knowledge about God which is unhealthy.

    • Randy Hardman

      Hey Jeff, thanks for the thought…What you say IS correct. I guess a lot hangs on my use of ‘mere knowledge’, that is ‘knowledge alone.’ And in that sense, as James 2.19 points out, even the demons believe the right things…*mere* knowledge gets us nowhere.

  • JD Walters

    According to Aquinas, theology IS the ‘divine science’ and even though he bifurcated theological truth-claims into those that could be ascertained by human reason and those that could only be ascertained by divine authority, the basis of the latter’s authority was the performance of miracles by God’s spokesperson’s. Faith HAS to be a science, no one should take Christian theology’s claims seriously unless they are backed by good evidence. And again, you can’t trust a person unless you are sure that person exists.

    • mark

      I don’t exactly disagree with what you’re saying

      the basis of the latter’s authority was the performance of miracles by God’s spokesperson

      but I’m surprised at two things.

      I’m surprised that you don’t mention the resurrection since this, I believe, was regarded by the early Christians as God’s seal of approval on all that Jesus said and did:

      Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

      I’m also surprised at your characterization of Jesus as “God’s spokesman.” Even this passage from Acts, while it may appear to represent a “low” Christology–“a man attested to you by God”–I believe points to a higher Christology, the one that Paul expresses when he says that we see “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” i.e., God’s self revelation. “God’s spokesman” doesn’t seem to do justice to early Christian faith an the christology in which that faith was expressed.

      • JD Walters

        Hi Mark,

        My point in bringing up the attestation by miracles was that for Aquinas even those teachings said to be beyond the capacity of human reason to discern are attested evidentially, not ‘by faith’, unless by faith you mean ‘assent based upon acceptance of previously demonstrated authority’. Certainly the resurrection was the main way in which God demonstrated the authority of Jesus and vouched for his teachings, and I don’t hold to a low Christology at all. I didn’t mean to give the impression that Jesus was ‘merely’ God’s spokesperson. But throughout the Bible whenever we are supposed to take a prophet’s teachings on authority, that authority is always established by miracles or fulfilled prophecies.

    • Randy Hardman

      In speaking of ‘faith as science’ I am not suggesting any extreme postmodern notion of relativity, wherein there is no such thing as doctrinal accountability or theological progress. I am all for robust theological conversations and trying to get at what I think is more likely true. Nor am I saying that there are not foundations which are critical to the whole things: certainly, if God doesn’t exist and the resurrection is not true, than this whole falls flat (Crossan would disagree, but there you go).

      What I am speaking of is the underlying principles that underlie the Cartesian mindset and that mindset, as well as anything else, found its way into theology–both in liberalism and fundamentalism. The immediate suspicion that people have when one abandons the whole Cartesian epistemology is that one is buying into a whole-sale relativist approach, but that’s not what I’m saying, nor are most of your theologians who have recognized the benefits of postmodern theology. Rather, the house of truth is not built on the shaky foundation of inerrancy or certainty such that if that goes everything else goes with it (like the girl said, “if John says Jesus was killed on Thursday and the synoptics say Friday, how can I believe anything at all?!’). No…the foundation itself is God as revealed in Christ’s death and resurrection. And even that is not dependent upon whether or not we can prove by historical argument that it happened or not (that is the “science” approach I am referring to). That is great if we can, of course, but our faith is not dependent on how much evidence we have for something (try telling a child that they can’t have faith until they have seen the evidence–no, a child’s faith is entirely justified). At most that gets us to a natural theology but that may still be–and it was for me–light years away from true trust.

      • JD Walters

        Ironically Descartes’ error was not that he strived for certainty, but that he doubted too much in human experience and centered epistemology on the human subject rather than metaphysics. It was Descartes’ radical skepticism that led to the disasters of the modern project, not his quest for certainty. Pre-modern philosophers and theologians were no less foundationalist than Descartes, but they had a much richer foundation to build on, as they could assume the robust resources of classical Aristotelian metaphysics. Edward Feser gives a good account of where modern epistemology went wrong in his The Last Superstition:“No…the foundation itself is God as revealed in Christ’s death and resurrection. And even that is not dependent upon whether or not we can prove by historical argument that it happened or not (that is the “science” approach I am referring to).”To which I would counter with Wolfhart Pannenberg’s observation that if historical reason is unable to establish that something happened, faith is certainly unable to do so either. It may not be incumbent on every individual believer to thoroughly understand the ins and outs of the resurrection debate, but if they are to rationally trust their pastors and priests the latter had darned well better be able to do so. A child’s faith is justified by repeated, concrete experience of the parents’ constant nurturing. Just see what happens to a child’s faith if the mother does not come every time she is called, or if sometimes the father comes with comfort and sometimes with a beating.

  • OwenW

    Loved reading this! This is “faith seeking understanding” (using Anselm’s words) rather than “understanding making faith.”

    That is the problem is modernity; it seeks to build a sturdy foundational structure upon which it can build its faith (whether in Jesus, science, etc.) and thereby, legitimize their faith as the right, rational choice and seek to enforce it on everyone else as the ‘rational’ always correct option at the risk of ridicule and shame. It is a form of social control. In many ways, modernity is the arrogance of man seeking to find power over others through rationality (oh gosh, I just sounded post-modern there!), hence your previous life you described as an “official apologist.” So, when it comes to Scripture and inerrancy, we feel we have to build our theoretical knowledge for understandng Scripture (the doctrine of inerrancy) before we can have faith in what the Scriptures testify to, thereby we rationally ‘evangelize’ the rest of the world in an obsessive and intrusive way.

    While we don’t need to make the mistake of throwing away rational thought and inquiry as supplemental and as helping us to put the dots together sometimes, it is the revelation from the God who understands the fullest depths of our hearts, including our pain and our sin, that speaks to our souls and nourishes our faith, not the systematic defense and explanation of it.

    What is at our foundation determines the structure of our being: if modernistic rationality is the fiber of our being, it will make our being very condemning, feeling contempt for others, and a delusional sense of self-righteousness through our *perceived* sense of right thinking. If Jesus and His Word is, well, Scripture speaks to what the real followers of Christ will be like; I don’t need to rehash that. Just as He said you can not worship God and mammom, because only one will you truly love and form you, you can not serve both Jesus and rationality. A rationality centered ‘faith’ is the wrong foundation.

  • Lari L

    Good post Randy. However, there’s one point I don’t get. You (and Pete as well) talk about trust instead of belief. What exactly do you mean? If you mean “trust” in the traditional Christian sense, then that assumes belief in God’s existence on the bottom of it, doesn’t it? Or do you mean something like “hope” – in the manner of Louis Pojman, in whose writings “hope” is wishful thinking, but rather a level of credibility of a belief in God which in some moments might find itself under 0,5 (0 being atheism, 10 being full assurance of truth of the Christian God). So what is it I’m not getting?

    • Randy Hardman

      Hi Lari,

      I’ll repost something I wrote that came off of a Facebook feed this morning. I can’t speak for Peter, though I think we’re thinking along the same lines:

      ‘I draw a distinction, then, between belief and trust, for the former is concerned with doctrines, ideas, opinions, etc. And in that sense, I can equally say ‘I believe God exists’ and ‘I believe in evolution’…but I cannot exchange the word there for ‘trust.’ I do not ‘trust’ evolution, for it is only a concept in my mind. But I can say, “I trust God” because he is so much more than an idea…He is a person (technically 3 persons in one). Likewise, I believe my father and mother exist–that’s all great. But that means nothing at all as to whether I love them or hate them….I love them, of course, and that is because I trust them.” All of that to say, belief in Scriptural dogmas and doctrines only gets us to an abstract point…at most, a proper understanding. But true knowledge of Christ comes in going way beyond that…and that, I think, is the point of Scripture. So yes, belief matters, but even the devils believe the right things (James 2.19).

  • Lari L

    I meant in Pojman’s writings hope is NOT wishful thinking…

  • Inerrancy.

    I was raised as an inerrantist and embraced it completely. It was some decades after Bible college that I was confronted with the conviction that inerrancy did not hold true. It was a crisis of faith in which I grieved the loss of God for over a year; it was a pall over my life every moment of that time.

    However, I now have greater stability and trust in Jesus than I ever did as an inerrantist. I believe inerrancy, and other forms of belief that the Bible is the propositional truth of God, is the root of the most serious doctrinal baggage, such as angry, violent, vindictive God, hell, legalism, creationism, and homophobia.

    I really like your statement: “It’s a non sequitur to say “If Genesis is not science then Jesus didn’t rise from the dead,”

    • William McPherson

      The problem I have with your statements here is that is seems you are saying inerrancy is not true because you do not want it to be that way. That is like saying that I am a follower of Christ because I think an atheist’s worldview is a black hole.

      You also, I recommend, should be careful about demonizing cardinal doctrines of Scripture that believers have sincerely wrestled with for ages. You want your views to be considered, so if you are really desiring a “conversion” (for a lack of a better word), you need to be more sympathetic to the people you claim to be delivered from, including myself.

      I agree though that those doctrines are very hard, very trying things (I have different views though on each one, so don’t lump me together) to believe. However, some of us do bear the conviction, and its consequences, that such things are true. I respect your view, and the view of others on here, I agree with some of what you guys are saying, but remember that part of the humilty of our faith is recognizing, and even appreciating, where you have come from. Thanks.

      • Hi William,

        You are correct that it would be a problem if I rejected inerrancy because I didn’t want it to be that way. However, this is not the case. I was perfectly happy with inerrancy until evidence forced me to acknowledge it as misguided–and the process was very painful.

        I do respect the views of others. And I do engage in dialog with other viewpoints; I am not combative and have no need to convince others to agree with me.

        I cherish my roots and am sensitive to those who disagree with me, but I do think the doctrinal issues I mentioned are harmful for individuals and the church.

        • William McPherson

          Well, I certainly appreciate that. It is not easy to come on board like this and be in the camp of “the enemy.” I am certainly interested in learning from any who are willing to discuss. So if you do not mind, I would ask you two questions (because I do not know you): For you, what changed your mind about inerrancy? Also, what doctrines do you think are dangerous and why do you think this way?

          • William, I don’t have enemies and I don’t think Peter does either.

            It’s difficult to answer your questions adequately in the space available here, but if you are interested in what changed my mind you can look at My Spiritual Crisis

            To see what doctrines I think are harmful and why, you can see the introduction to my blog at, and you can also click any topic you wish on the category cloud in the right column to find my thoughts on specific issues.

            This might be more than you care to do, but I am willing to dialog with you in a respectful, non-combative way on any less general question you have, and I will not try to change your mind on anything; if my beliefs make sense–fine. If not, that is also okay with me.

      • toddh

        I’m just curious, but which of these are “cardinal doctrines of Scripture that believers have sincerely wrestled with for ages?”
        – hell
        – angry, violent, vindictive God

        – legalism
        – homophobia
        – creationism

        • William McPherson

          Todd thanks for your responsee. I was thinking more a long the lines of hell than the others listed. Sorry, I admit that I did not clarify what I meant.

          Hell, I believe, is taught in Scripture. I am not going to really get into a debate of decide who goes there, but I think for God to be just and loving to the cries of his afflicted people, he offers two options: 1) believe upon the eternal, sufficient sacrfice of Jesus or 2) be eternally separated from God forever (which I think is more traumatic than any of the imagery used to conceptualize what that would be like). I may be wrong, but my conscience is tied to this and I stand on what I believe is a tension: God’s holiness is bound up in his love, just as his love is bound up in his holiness. However, as James notes, God’s mercy always triumphs over judgment, God is merciful to all who seek mercy. Sin does not just corrupt us, it hurts those around us; that is why it is offensive in the extreme to a holy, pure, and loving God. As C.S. Lewis put it, we have committed “cosmic treason,” and this rebellion against how God intends for the world to be deserve punishment. But bellief on Jesus depends a lot more on what you believe, but what you actually trust the Spirit to do in and through you in that belief. I do not think it is helpful however, to separate those beliefs.

          I do believe that the term “wrath” is a anthropomorphism rather than actual description of what God’s wrath is. The strongest expression we have to what God actually thinks about sin. I do not think God is necessarily exuding emotion as much as he is protecting us from the essence of who he is. Sin cannot dwell in his presence and we must be cleansed of sin to be able to safely have fellowship with him. As to the genocides ordered by God for the Hebrews, the Scripture seems to make the point that God had endured the incredibly detestable practices of the Canaanite religions to the point where it was time for them to be purged from the land; God’s people would not be influenced by the beliefs of their neighbors, or so it was intended. My own thought is that the Holy Spirit had not yet found its resting place in our every believer because God had not yet stepped into our world. Anyway, I believe that anger is a human, incomplete way of showing the extremity of God’s reaction to sin and those who practice it; that is why God himself had to die, otherwise there would be no hope for any of us Jew or Gentile.

          Legalism is when the traditions of men supersede what has been revealed from God. Jesus was heavily against any form of legalism and his harshest words (and the context where he often spoke of hell) was when he was speaking to the religious leaders. I do not that trying to obey the spirit of the Law by adhering to Scripture transformed life is necessarily legalism. I do think that the Scripture can be taken to be more than it is (e.g. the only way we can see God in world), but I do believe that is the primary way.

          Now as far as homosexuality goes, Scripture never speaks of it positively, in either testaments. I have read some of the arguments for cultural or even incestual understanding but I am not convinced. However, I am not for forbidding homosexual rights in a pluralistc society that is largely governed by Enlightenment principles. I believe people have the right to engage in sinful practice (as long as they accept the consequences of such practices). I also do not believe homosexuality is completely choice based; there is something to there being a more genetic propensity in some individuals. But just because it is natural does not mean that it is not in some sense corrupted. I am theologically and morally opposed to the practice of homosexuality, but I am not going to say that having homosexual tendencies or urges means you are sinning. I also want to note that just because you believe it is wrong does not make you “phobic” over it. I believe that greed is wrong, but does not make me scared of money. Again, I may be wrong, but this is where my conviction currently sits.

          Creationism (especially in the 6 literal days sense) is not something I can accept. I have to admit, being honest, the first eleven chapters of Genesis frustrate my greatly. I do believe that there is some sort of process (right now the thinking is evolution, and with science, that might change as new paradigms are worked out) that brought us all into being. I do believe God was at the center of it, and I believe that the point of the first few chapters of Genesis are not to give a detailed explanation of “how” God created the heavens in the earth. John Walton’s “cosmic temple” explanation is pretty good in my estimation, but it seems to me to be polemical triumph of God over the gods of Canaan (much like the Ten Plagues in Exodus are triumph of God over various gods of Egypt). I will say though, for me personally, that the most frustrating part of Genesis is the flood narrative with Noah and the Ark that is way too small to hold the biodiversity of the Earth. Unless the Ark was like the TARDIS on Dr. Who, I just do not see the dimensions as being even close to being enough.

          The point of all of that is that, while there are problems with my beliefs (especially in the eyes of some in this forum), I do not think that I am being untrue or ill-informed. I do not think anyone here is a “false prophet” or “wolf,” this is just an Internet forum for crying out loud. You guys, like the vast majority of Christians throughout the ages, are just trying to live out your belief in Christ in a way that impacts and makes sense in your time. You may be wrong (or I may be wrong!), but I do not judge your motivations. God will judge between us, so let us all pursue him, and trust that he will be merciful to us for wanting be like him.

          • toddh

            Yeah, fair enough. I think hell aptly fits that description. Thanks for clarifying.

  • Ross

    Unfortunately, like so many things, “Inerrancy” as a term can be interpreted in different ways. There are some definitions of Inerrancy and Infallibility which I can whole-heartedly agree with. However as the term is most commonly used or understood, I don’t agree with it or its use. I appreciate the comments of some here that I and others need to be careful how we put this point across.

    Generally I feel I can easily converse and worship with those who hold to Inerrancy and Infallibility, but there becomes a point where this becomes very problematic. The Chicago Statement and the related “separatist or purity movement”, is I believe deliberately but unnecessarily divisive. When adherence to this as doctrine is required to join a congregation or denomination, then I think its use is actually dividing the body.

    I understand that Scripture needs to be revered and used as authoritative, I also agree that a “liberal” view which treats scripture as purely man-made is wrong and should not be accepted. Yes we need to recognise there is a real-live God and He is the God of Scripture.

    There is the big issue that if “Inerrancy and Infallibility” are dropped, (unless we maybe redefine what these terms mean, which I think unlikely) or given less weight, then there are great problems with drifting or descending to relativism and a Godless faith. I think that this is the place where many of us are and need to be. It is not necessarily an easy place to be as we are called by some “So-called Christians, Unbelievers, Never-Believers etc”.

    For me I can accept people who ascribe to Inerrancy/Infallibility as brothers and sisters in Christ, however, it seems to be, too often, that this does not work the other way.

    • Tim

      Absolutely; This is one of the reasons why inerrancy can be such a difficult subject to talk about. It means different things to different people; not only in definition, but in the significance attached to the definition they give it.

      Another term that has similar issues is “free-will”. I think we do have some free-will (after a fashion), but practically speaking, it’s really quite limited. Far more limited than many would tend to suppose.

  • Jason

    Absolutley loved what you said here: “Faith, while incorporating beliefs to an extent, is not about what you know and how well you are convinced of it. It is about how intimately you trust a person, and I can tell you from personal experience in some of the darkest moments in my life, it is only covenantal faith–not knowledge or arguments–that can appropriate doubt.”

  • Stuart Blessman

    “if evolution is right, does that make Christianity false?”

    God help me, but I can’t say yes. Or maybe I won’t say yes. I’ve arrived to the conclusion that no, if evolution is right, it does not make Christianity false.

    And that’s a conclusion many of my peers and friends and leader refuse to hear me say.

    • Stuart Blessman

      Honestly, my hope is built on nothing less nowadays. I really, really hope and pray this is true. Otherwise I’ve got nothing.

      “When we rid ourselves of the need for an inerrant scientific like Bible, it has the ability to transform our faith from a need for certainty to a need for authenticity.”

      • Jason

        Stuart, thanks for your honesty. It’s refreshing.

        • Stuart Blessman

          I try, Jason. It may not be as bad as I make it sound, but some days it definitely feels like it.

  • SC

    I’ve been driven by one compelling question: “What way of seeing things corresponds most with reality and does not contradict what I clearly know to be true?” Asked differently, “What seems to be the most plausible way of seeing things in light of what we know about humanity, the observable world and its history?

    I believe a Christian worldview offers the most logically consistent and plausibly realistic understanding of life and the world. It simply does the best job explaining the world we encounter each day. And it offers the best explanatory frame for the most extensive range of evidence in the world and in the human spirit.

    Even more, it speaks in deeply satisfying ways to shared human intuitions about meaningful and hopeful existence. It specifically addresses universal human needs regarding matters like love, forgiveness and peace.

  • The author has, I believe, mentioned Martin, but I wonder if he ever went all the way to Van Til and Presuppositional Apologetics? Does anyone return from that path?

  • Ronald Slyderink

    Very interesting topic and good discussions. Like so many things humans put their minds to, there is the potential for misuse and corruption in both reasoning and forming conclusions and foisting those on others because they are reasonable and ‘right’. Apologetics can be said to be the science and art of defence of one’s faith (philosophy, religion, worldview, position..)and it is a natural human attribute and endeavour (this btw is where the problem lies-we need God’s Spirit to see and focus on what is important). Humans defend and rationalise and justify themselves and their beliefs all the time to varying degrees. It is prolific in politics, advertising and marketing, education, …where rationalising and persuasions are occurring constantly. So what is the problem? Sin is the problem. It is people’s disposition to be sidetracked away from God’s voice and ways, in essence the spiritual battle between God’s Spirit and Satan’s spirit, that is a key issue. It comes down to this, what is behind the apologist’s argumentation and defence? Is it to rationalise the ‘faith or is it to exalt Jesus Christ? Is it to increase faith in Jesus Christ to embrace him as Lord and Saviour trusting and following him, forsaking all, or Is it to rationalise knowledge about him? Until we know Jesus Christ in a personal way, where we reach out to him, in weakness, even not knowing precisely all the answers, where knowing about him and having reasons for believing about God and Jesus and the Bible may actually be a hindrance. They are not enough. Until we humbly come to the foot of the cross, and see our abject lost state and cling to the gracious one who has died and rose again to live in and through us, giving us hope and power, it is misguided. Christ in us is the glory of God and for that he came and our purpose than is to believe and trust Jesus and receive the Spirit of God, and bear his fruit, praising God and living as a child of the King. The danger of any academic approach where we use human reasoning to establish ‘truth’, is that we are focusing away from the one who is the truth, from the heart and Spirit which are essential to being in Christ and being one with our brothers and sisters walking in love and the truth as it is in Jesus. There is nothing innately wrong with using our minds, indeed, we should use our minds as they belong to God, but they need to be submitted to God by faith in Jesus, that is primary and honours God. That leads us to love the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul, and our neighbour as ourselves. That is God’s will for us and we cannot do that unless God invades our lives with his Spirit. Our arguments may have a place but it is more important how we conduct ourselves in any discourse with others, and the reasons and rationale for our beliefs, no matter how ‘right’ or superior they are to any opposition, can never a substitute love and our faith and growth in Jesus on a personal experiential day to day growing level. It may complement it. There are pitfalls, and we need to put on the armour of God to stand with the Lord and for the Lord, in his power.

  • Bev Mitchell


    Thank you for this brave and honest series. I’m so glad that you found your way (rather, allowed the Spirit to show you the way) to the other side of certainty. One of your most revealing sentences so far is:

    “It took quite some time for me to admit that apologetics didn’t really save my faith but only gave me the impression that it did.”

    It raises an important question for over-strong apologetic behaviour on behalf of any cause “Who is this champion really trying to convince?”

  • Fred Smith

    I think you’ve said something
    important, but you’ve missed something equally important as well.

    I’ve been teaching the book of
    Genesis at church recently. I’ve run into the wooden “apologetics” way of
    reading the Bible, in my group (mostly 40-60 year old serious
    Christians). For example, they read the story of Noah, and the main question
    for them was “How do we show that the skeptics are wrong.” I am
    sympathetic to that question, for I teach apologetics during the week.
    However, I am trying to show them how the story fits into Moses’ purposes
    in writing this for Israel about to enter Canaan, and for God’s purpose in
    preserving the story for us today. It is so much more than just an
    apologetics puzzle, or a “historical fact that we’ve got to prove!” Some
    of them even see it as no more than a test of orthodoxy—“how fervent can I be
    in my affirmation of the truth of this and my denial of evolution!” (I remind
    them that those questions were not even in the minds of Moses and his readers.)

    Also, as an apologist I’ve
    experienced the suspicion that I too am sometimes not dealing with God, but
    simply propositions about God—that apologetic arguments, or
    critical/intellectual arguments become a substitute for faith.

    You are quite right—we should read
    the Bible as a medium to come to know God better (and to understand our
    experience of life better). (I don’t think you really separated those two
    in your post, but they are different ways the Bible helps us. We
    should not read the Bible merely as a set of propositions to be “proven” or
    “affirmed” but as a window into the heart of God and a source for understanding
    our own experience of life.

    However, I think you are setting up
    a false dichotomy—either I believe the Bible to be inerrant in all that it
    teaches, or I read the Bible for “authenticity.” Reading the
    Bible wrongly is not an inevitable result of believing certain things about the
    Bible. I can read it as a message from God—even with it multivalences,
    layers of meaning, different ways of speaking etc.—without necessarily saying
    “Adam was not a real person; the flood was local; there were three Isaiahs”

    Remember also—When I say “Adam was a
    real person who lived at a certain time and place in the world” and you say,
    “Adam was a paradigmatic character, one who shows us the sinfulness of all
    mankind, but not a real person of history”—we are both believing certain
    propositions about the text. We are both being “modernist” in the sense
    that we are “certain” of the claims we make regarding the text of the Bible.
    That has nothing to do with how we read it, how it “functions” for
    us. BTW, just as there are “fundamentalists” (and evangelicals) who
    read the Bible woodenly, in a purely Cartesian way, so also there are
    “liberals” who do the exact same thing. (This is why Stanley Hauerwas
    says the positions are two sides of the same coin.) Both groups stop
    short of reading scripture in the way that you say we should read it. But
    changing out one set of certainties regarding the text, for another set of them
    does not get us out of the problem. The key is the attitude we bring to
    scripture, what we look for in it, not what we believe about it.
    You link a proper approach to reading scripture to one set of
    presuppositions, and seem to believe that the other set (inerrancy) will
    inevitably lead us away from reading it in that way. It just doesn’t
    happen that way.

    Also, I wonder, if we read the Bible
    for “authenticity” are we looking for a certain kind of “experience” rather
    than seeking God? Is that any different from the pietist who combs
    through Scripture seeking “a word from God” and who believes he has found it
    when he reacts to a text in some emotional kind of way?

  • accelerator

    ” It is about how intimately you trust a person…”

    Blah blah blah. One who has been dead 2000 years and about whom ALL “facts” come from an ancient book and ancient tradition you question rather incessantly. So forgive me if I have to ask on what logical basis you are trusting on anything or anyone, given your epistemological platform. Caricature traditionalists all you want, but give them credit for consistency.