In these discussions on the supposed errors in the Bible there is an unacknowledged gorilla in the room. (See Incoherent Inerrancy, Who Ya Gonna Believe, There’s Accommodation, and then There’s …?, and Check Your Facts!, God.)
Specifically it is the question of Creation as reported in Gn 1:1-2:4. For those who affirm an error-laden-inerrancy, this is the really big error in the Bible. After all, Secular Science has all but proven that evolution, both biological and cosmological, is the unquestionable fact.
Sitting in classes at WTS, it was this problem that most exercised the “young evangelicals” around me (I was in my later 30’s when I went to WTS.) Enns’ solution (God’s accommodation to man’s errors) was the “cage” that finally contained this gorilla for a number of them. I daresay, caging this particular gorilla has been at the forefront of the “error-problems” of many of the errantists participating in this blog. (I could be wrong, but …)
I admit to appreciating the angst of younger evangelicals concerning this subject. Popular culture is a serious idol to go up against. One is foolish to do so with any weapon but the honest to goodness sword of truth. If in some way Gn 1:1-2:4 on the face of it acts to dull the sword of truth, by all means let’s fix this.
The problem again begins with one’s presuppositions. I for one am not ready to crown Secular Science with inerrancy and infallibility. Meteorologists still get it wrong, crops still fail, people still die. I.e., Secular Science has a long way to go before it can claim the inerrancy/infallibility that is inherent in God’s being and His word. Thus I see the seriousness of the challenge.
But there is something more important than being laughed at by a bunch of mocking unbelievers who think any of my convictions are just so much evidence of my weak mind and foolishness. I’m not ready to conclude that God has used error to communicate some of the most critical truths in the Bible.
Assume for the sake of discussion that God’s creation account accommodates itself to the errors of the ANE cosmogonies common during Moses recording of Genesis. That is, God had Moses not record a factually accurate account, but specifically used the erroneous ANE’s creation myths as the basis for his creation story.
O.k. then, let’s deal with the question of trustworthiness, of reliability. Assuming that the account is not all pure myth (error), how do we determine what parts are true? Not what parts are true, but what hermeneutical principle(s), found in the Bible itself, will enable us to reliably determine what parts are true and can be counted upon to be trustworthy?
I dare so you will search in vain for such hermeneutical tools.
The structure of Genesis (i.e., the waw-consecutive) requires that we read the succeeding stories as one whole cloth with the creation story. But let’s limit our questioning to Gn 2-3. If the creation story is error-laden, then on what basis are we to prove that Adam is historical? If we do not have a historical Adam, then what of the Fall? I.O.W., following the necessarily logic of the error-laden-inerrancy reading of Gn 1:1-2:4, we are left concluding that Adam and the Fall are nothing more than myth, and that God used these errors to rhetorically communicate some “truth” in these passages.
Take this to its next necessary connection, Romans 5:12-20. If Adam and the Fall are merely rhetorical, then Jesus’ atonement is as well. There is no other conclusion we can reach. Get this, beginning with the presupposition that Secular Science must be right, and the Bible’s creation account must be an accommodation with the ANE error-laden creation myths, we end up with nothing more than a rhetorical atonement.
How trustworthy is that?
- Reed DePace