Review: “Inerrancy and the Undermining of Biblical Authority”

30-9-517

In this video presentation, Dr. Mortenson addresses the apparent lack of consistency that has become evident among many of the signers of the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Article XII of the Chicago Statement includes the following denial:

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”

But the fact is that a number of the signatories to this important declaration have expressed agreement with the findings of evolutionary geologists and cosmologists, who hypothesize that the world came to its present condition through a process of development that has been ongoing for millions of years.

Mortenson addresses some very important questions in this presentation. First of all, he asks, “Is it possible to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture while at the same time accepting a form of evolution over millions of years?” And his answer is “Yes, it is. Thousands of seminary professors and other Christian leaders do.” But he follows up that first question with this one: “Is it actually consistent to believe in inerrancy while at the same time holding to the idea that the universe has evolved over millions of years?” And his answer is a good one: “No!” The fact is, that inconsistency undermines the authority of God’s Word.

Mortenson provides a number of examples, and an able refutation of the conclusions that many have drawn. I’ll just mention one of those examples for the purposes of this review, that of Dr. Norman Geisler. Dr. Geisler was one of those who signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, but he has shown a real inconsistency in his own subsequent writings. In rejecting Dr. William Lane Craig’s “limited inerrancy” view, Geisler wrote: “Unlimited inerrancy contends that the Bible is inerrant not only on all matters it address, not only on redemptive matters, but also on historical and scientific matters as well.”

However, in his book Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith, Geisler wrote the following:

In terms of the order of nature and appearance of new life forms, the fossil record indicates that they appear in the following order:

  1. Invertebrates
  2. Fish
  3. Amphibians
  4. Reptiles
  5. Mammals
  6. Humans”

Geisler goes on to state:

In presenting the design model, we are not interested in assigning exact dates and ages to all of these events; we will leave that up to you to decide. We will offer a suggested time scenario later, but our purpose right now is to show that the Genesis account of the origin of living things is essentially in accord with modern science.”

Geisler continues:

Now, let’s assume that the order of appearance is correct but that the corresponding dates, as proposed by gradualist macroevolutionary geologists, are in error… after carefully considering all the evidence, the progressive view of the design model (or something like it) appears to be a viable model of origins. Three independent fields of study support its integrity: cosmology, molecular biology, and paleontology.”

Mortenson points out a number of problems with Geisler’s approach, including his gross simplification of the order of the fossil record. But the overarching problem is Geisler’s inconsistency. While holding to the Chicago Statement’s denial that “scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood,” Geisler goes on to use these “independent fields of study” to do just that.

It is an inconsistency, and it is a serious one, because the conclusions drawn on the basis of an interpretation of the physical evidence completely undermine the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture. It is inconsistencies such as this one that strike at the foundation of our faith: God’s Word.

It is important that we use Biblically-informed discernment when dealing with all sides of the issue of creation and origins. We must be critical readers and watchers, whether we’re studying the message of evolutionary science or that of “creationists.” Not all material that is labelled as “creationist” is equally helpful, and some creationists, in their zeal for defending Scripture, have ended up misusing Scripture or overstating their conclusions. With that in mind, I do not hesitate to highly recommend this video for high school students and Bible study groups, as a springboard to further instruction and discussion of these vital issues.

“Inerrancy and the Undermining of Biblical Authority” is part of the “Answers in Genesis Creation Library Series” of videos. Dr. Terry Mortenson has a PhD in history of geology from Coventry University, and he has also written a very helpful book on the history of geology, The Great Turning Point: The Church’s Catastrophic Mistake on Geology – Before Darwin.