(By James Scullin)
I once had a conversation with a pastor concerning Article IV of the faith:
“We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.”
I asked if we believe in plenary inspiration, why the reluctance to state the Bible was inerrant throughout. He replied that he preferred the term infallible, that is the Word of God cannot fail. According to the dictionary, infallible and inerrant, in their primary meanings, are synonymous. It is the secondary use of infallible, incapable of failure, that the pastor preferred.
But is the infallibility also limited to matters of salvation? It would appear so. Consider these statements:
“The “science” in the Bible poses especially difficult problems that call out for editing, or at least supplementary reflection.”
“The creation story in Genesis, to take the most important example, is embedded within an ancient worldview that contains primitive scientific ideas that we have rejected.”
“The first verse of the Bible – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” — claims that the earth was created at the same time as the “heavens.” We know, however, that the universe is billions of years older than the earth. Humans were created within a few days of all other life-forms according to Genesis, but we know, for example, that life existed for billions of years before we arrived on this planet.”
(Karl Giberson from a Huffington Post article: If Only We Could Edit the Bible)
Dr. Giberson teaches writing, and science-and-religion in the Cornerstone Program at Stonehill College, formerly a professor at Eastern Nazarene University.
How Dr. Giberson “knows” what happened billions of years ago is beyond me. Knowledge requires a firsthand account by an eye witness; clearly an impossibility for Dr. Giberson. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing of the Genesis account, is an eye witness, but His testimony is being rejected. That rejection carries a judgment that the Bible fails to get the facts correct concerning creation. This is admitted by Trevecca University President Dan Boone, at exploringevolution.com, Nazarenes Exploring Evolution. He states, “Sadly, we have determined that Gen. 1 is the factual story of the creation of the world.” He also says, “So while we believe God to be the Creator of all things, Gen. 1 is not necessarily the story of material creation.”
If not, then why should we believe any of the rest of the Bible, including what it has to say about salvation? This is of special significance, since the Bible tells us it was due to the actions of the first created man and woman that we need a savior.
Brent Strawn, Chandler School of Theology, Emory University, has this to say on Nazarenes Exploring Evolution: “Evolution-the-scientific-theory is a well-established fact in scientific literature for how biological life grows and develops; evolutionism-the-religion is a non-scientific but heavily philosophical and theological deduction from science to argue that, given evolutionary processes, natural selection, random mutations, and so on and so forth, there is no God, no Creator, no purpose in life, etc.”
In other words, evolution is fact, denying evolution is an opinion-based religion that seeks to deny the facts. My first question is how can a theory be a well-established fact? Secondly, there are scientists who disagree with evolution, isn’t Strawn ignoring their facts?
And there is theological fallout from denying the creation account. Romans 5:12 declares, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”: (KJV) This is undeniably a verse pertaining to salvation, and it informs us that death entered the world because of the sin of one man. It was the sin of man, not a lesser being. It was death, both physical and, for man, spiritual, and not just the death of man. This is the first death for animals recorded as well; God killed an animal to provide covering for Adam and Eve. If man was the result of billions of years of evolution, death was in the world long before the sin of man. If evolution is true, then this verse, which pertains to salvation, is a lie. You simply cannot pick and choose what is reliable and true from the Bible.
I will gladly accept Scripture by faith as opposed to accepting “scientific facts” that are actually faith-based as well. Man cannot replicate the evolutionary process to prove his “facts.” Man was not present at the onset of humanity on the planet. The only fact man can point to is that man exists. Enough of the flaunting of degrees telling me I must believe what I am told because I do not have a degree in physics, or biology.
The pastor I spoke with went on to say that only the original manuscripts were inerrant throughout. I believe he more correctly believed that we do not know if we have any perfect copies of the original manuscripts. For instance, examination of early manuscripts shows some text in the New Testament appeared as marginal notes in some copies of a document, and were incorporated into the body of the document in other copies. I have heard of an example from one of Paul’s letters, where a copyist saw Paul refer to Jesus in one part, Christ in other, and Christ Jesus in yet another. The copyist made all references the same. Do we have a perfect copy? No. Do we still have an inerrant copy? Certainly.
Playing the infallible card declares the Bible less than perfect, but perfectly effective, nonetheless. But how can that be, when throwing away the Genesis creation account undermines the need for salvation?
Jesus did not throw away man being created. Matthew 19:4 “And he answered and said unto them, Have you not read, that he who made them at the beginning made them male and female” Nor does the Genesis account reflect evolution. The formation of Eve from one of Adam’s ribs is explicitly stated. Why would we not be given the facts if man evolved from a lesser life form? Instead man and animal are shown as distinct formations. Genesis 2:19 refers to animals being formed. Genesis 2:7 refers to man being formed. Our English translations simply use “formed” in both cases. The Hebrew way-yi-ser is spelled with an extra yodh when speaking of man. It has been posited that this implied the ability to experientially comprehend morality; a trait the animals lacked, a moral awareness that reflected the image of God. Morality was instilled by God, not survival training.
Where does rejecting a Bible that is inerrant throughout, that says what it means, and means what it says, take us? In The Death of Jesus Historically Contingent or Divinely Ordained? A Paper Presented to the Thirty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society by Jirair Tashjian, Tashjian says, “Again, it is not that God demands the death of Jesus as a penalty for sin. It is rather that Jesus comes to the realization that his faithfulness to the kingdom of God will likely mean his own death. Rather than mandated by God, the death of Jesus is the result of the conflict that the kingdom of God creates in the world. Jesus will drink the bitter cup if that is the only way he can remain faithful to the kingdom of God. In this way, then, Jesus understands his own death to be not only for himself but also for others. It is “a ransom for many because the power of the kingdom of God is unleashed in the world and will transform history.” Tashjian is a professor of New Testament at Southern Nazarene University.
How can we get to a point where the blood of Jesus is not because of His substitutionary death on the cross? How do we get to a point where it is only the lifestyle of Jesus we need follow? Has it not been because of an erosion of respect of God’s Word? Has it not been because of a decrease in faith in God’s Word? Has it not been because of buying into what man “proves”, whereas the Bible asks for that faith? In some cases, has it not been because some prefer the ways of man?
How long before all of the Bible is rejected and the cry becomes, “You say infallible, I say inerrant; let’s call the whole thing off.”