Sunday, April 10, 2011

Redefining Inerrancy

In the late 70s and early 80s, a group of 300 pre-eminant evangelical scholars known as the International Council for Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) put together the definitive statement on the doctrine of inerrancy. These statements outline the parameters of what it means when we say the Bible is the error-free word of God. A complete archive of events and documents is available on the Dallas Seminary web site.

The ICBI statements are part of the official doctrinal statement for Reasons To Believe (my employer) and form the foundation for many other denominations, societies, seminaries, colleges and ministries. These are as close to being an "authoritative" position that evangelicals have. It was agreed upon by a broad coalition of scholars.

It came to my attention recently that Answers in Genesis believes that the ICBI's statements are "inadequate" and have "opened the door to false ideas in the church." As a result, they have proposed an "addendum" or "supplement" to the original document, containing an additional set of Affirmations and Denials. It is signed by several pastors and scholars, including pastor John MacArthur. It calls for others with advanced degrees in theology to sign the statement and "do all they can to encourage Christians in their sphere of influence to embrace, teach, and defend these additional affirmations and denials." How can one organization attempt to rewrite an entire doctrine that has been so widely agreed upon? They lay out their case for this change in a book by a group of young-earth scholars called, Coming to Grips with Genesis.

If I am understanding this article accurately, it appears as though AiG wants to redefine the doctrine of inerrancy in such a way as to categorically exclude old-earth creationists and is calling Christian leaders to vigorously do the same. This gives me new insight into why we have so many problems getting into homeschool shows and the like. All this time I've been thinking this is an issue over the interpretation of Genesis 1-11. That's actually a secondary issue, however. The REAL issue of dispute for my young-earth friends is inerrancy, and consequently, authority.

I certainly want to commend AiG's efforts to preserve orthodoxy. I'm sure they are making their best attempt to follow their conscience. However, I do think it's worth asking whether AiG's concerns on this particular issue are miguided.

In my mind, one of the key questions is this: Is AiG attempting to add something to the definition of orthodoxy that isn't required? This is a sincere question and I understand the complexities that stand behind the question, especially since I'm not Catholic and there is no Magesterium to pronounce a decision on the matter. Even so, I think it's a legitimate question to explore.


Virginia Peterson said...

Awhile back while browsing around, I came across this group, which claims to be somewhat of a successor to the ICBE: The International Church Council Project On the face of it I don't see anything in particular to be concerned about in their list of documents without reading them. However, the ICCP is sponsored by something called Coalition on Revival. On their page are "Christian Worldview Documents", one of which is on science and technology, and turns out to be co-written by Duane Gish. Have you ever heard about these groups, or how influential they are?

Theology Mom said...

No, Virginia, I'm not familiar with these groups. And if I haven't heard of them, then they must not be influential, right? Ok, just kidding there.

Virginia Peterson said...

I just read a review of "Coming to grip with Genesis" on Amazon. The author, William Brown, seems sympathetic to the YE cause, but was disappointed with the book. The last paragraph is interesting; it would be nice if more people saw things so clearly:

"Working through the issue of the age of the earth and the proper interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is vital to the health of the church. Sadly, many of the contributors to Coming to Grips with Genesis approach this critical issue with a disheartening lack of academic integrity, Christ-like humility, and gracious charity for fellow believers with whom they disagree. Although I greatly valued a couple of solid, fair, and convincing chapters in this work, I was mostly saddened by the state of "Christian" discussion in some circles surrounding this issue. Rather than being reminded of Christ speaking hard truth in love, I was reminded of the legalistic and ungracious Pharisees seeking to twist the words of their opponents in an effort to uphold their preferred scriptural interpretations and religious institutions. Disappointing."

Luke said...

Number 9 gave me pause: "We affirm the supernatural creation of Adam from dust and the supernatural creation of Eve from Adam's rib in a very short period of time (seconds or minutes) on the sixth day of Creation." did Adam have time to go through naming all the animals (Genesis 2:18-20) in the seconds/minutes they affirm? I don't really see the point of affirming minutes/seconds from Scripture. I mean, I get it from a literal 24-hour thing (I guess, but even then I'd give Adam most of the morning to realize he needs a woman, not an animal). Interesting.


Terri said...

I would like to know more about RTB's inability to get into homeschool conventions. I am aware that Ken Ham and AiG have openly campaigned against old-earth Christians, or those that offer OE materials (such as Sonlight), but I have wondered who else they've managed to exclude. If you could expound on this, and particularly on any conventions at which RTB has been welcomed, I would appreciate it.

By the way, have you seen Ken Ham's blog in which he calls all old-earthers "pagans"? It is in the entry on Moody Bible Institute.
Just in case you wondered where old-earth Christians fall in his eyes, that's pretty definitive.

Virginia Peterson said...

Here is the link to the AiG blog post on Moody:
I mentioned this to someone and they pointed out that Solid Rock Lectures is basically 3 guys with day jobs, and this post ironically gave them much more exposure than they would have gotten otherwise. Their website is here:

Theology Mom said...

Rock Solid Lectures is run by my friend Ken Wolgemuth. He's a good guy and a competent geologist. His vision is to reach seminary students and pastors with the message of old-earth geology with the hope that the message will trickle down to the masses, especially high school and college students. He has had incredible success getting to the highest levels of seminary leadership, including presidents.

I'll need to ask Ken about their web site domain, as the last time I talked to him this time last year, he told me they were NOT going to emphasize the creation angle so they could leave it open to theistic evolution. Perhaps he's had a change of mind since then.