I’ve recently listened to an interview by Grant Palmer who is a former Mormon but applied “critical analysis” to the Mormon Bible and converted to Christ. In his interview, he also expressed some concern with the Christian Bible including:     1. timing issues in the creation account       2. Adam and Eve being actual/symbolic        3 the tower of Babel being actual/symbolic    and      4.  the global flood of Noah

I found his interview to be refreshingly honest about his former faith as well as his new faith. (What also comes to mind is former missionary and author Kenneth Daniels- after he left Christianity starting from when he studied the evolution of ancient languages).   As someone that has interest in letting others know about Jesus, my thoughts/question are:  What are the main reason(s) as to why missionaries/teachers try to teach that the Bible is inerrant? Is this something that is encouraged by Jesus or God in the Scriptures?   If we only hold on to the validity of the words of Jesus (as reported in the 4 gospels )and that that He is God’s son, He died and rose, and offered redemption do you see any potential or critical pitfalls with this type of “pick and choose ” faith?   In your experience, is it dangerous to concede that the Bible may not be 100% accurate- before trying to speak about the validity of Jesus?  Thanks for your thoughts


This is a complicated question (the part about inerrancy, anyway). I believe that the Bible is, in its entirety, inspired by God. I believe it is VERY dangerous to compromise on this core conviction even in the slightest. If the Bible is not inspired, which it clearly claims to be (2 Tim 3:16) then anyone can believe anything they want and Christianity becomes a religion which I am totally uncomfortable with.  If we reject inspiration, then Christianity is no longer biblical.  It is based on opinion.

I also believe in inerrancy of the Bible. God does not make mistakes, and, in the production of his inspired Word, clearly he does not make mistakes. At least, that is how I see it. However, I also believe that the definition of the word inerrant needs to be established carefully. Clearly there are errors in the Bible if we use a blunt-fisted definition. There are errors in copying. There are “errors” in that Bible authors do not use a strict chronology. There are “errors” when a writer uses hyperbole, for example when David says “Against you only have I sinned.” (Psalm 51) I assume that you can tell from the tone of these sentences that I do not believe these are errors, but when we defend biblical inerrancy, it is a tricky thing. There is what is known as the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy which is pretty good. You might want to check it out.

Let me give an extremely brief response to the specific inerrancy issues you raise.

1. On the timing issues of the Genesis account, this is an interpretation issue, not an error issue, as far as I am concerned. I believe that the days are real, but that the length of time they represent is metaphorical. I do not see this as an issue of potential error but of literary expression. To me, this is similar to the example I use above in which David said “against you only have I sinned.” Technically, this could be described as an error, but, given the literary type and the purpose of the author, this is not an error.

2. I believe that Adam and Eve are real. They were the first two humans created in the image of God. Those who think differently–those who say that the creation story is a mere metaphor, with no valid historical information–will have to defend whether this metaphorical Adam and Eve is an “error” on the part of the Hebrew writers.  Some use the accomodation theory, saying that God “accomodated” the ignorance of the Hebrew writers and used their wrong ideas to frame the theology he wanted to teach.  I do not agree with this.  The problem here is that Jesus and Paul certainly seem to be speaking as if Adam was an actual person. This is a tricky issue.

3. I believe that the tower of Babel was an actual building which was actually built. If someone allegorizes this one, I disagree with this.

4. I believe that there was an actual flood. If there was not, then it seems clear that there is an error in the Bible.

There are many relatively liberal believers who take a very different view than I on #2,3,4 on your list, but who probably take a similar view to issue #1 on your list that I take. In my opinion, to take the more liberal view of #2,3,4 would raise issues about inerrancy, which is one of the reasons that I do not go in that direction.

Here is my suggestion: You need to take our class on Biblical Reliability, Inspiration and Inerrancy. It is offered as part of our Apologetics Certificate program. We go in considerable depth into this question.

John Oakes

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