Forget About Evolution and Inerrancy (for a Minute)

The “Weight” of Evolution

“What about evolution?”

This was her question. It was a question that before this day I was prepared to answer. I had read Ken Ham, been through the Morris training, and watched all of the Hovind videos. I could have shut this lightweight down in no time with flood geology, plate tectonics, the law of thermodynamics, and the dust on the moon. What about evolution? Pffft . . . soft ball!!

But not this time. It was not a soft ball. In fact, I was bound and determined that this ball not even get a chance to be thrown. I was about to bypass the “What about evolution?” question for the first time in my life. Why? First, I was not as sure about the subject as I used to be. The more I studied, the more I discovered that I was not a scientist (and that most scientists were not, either)! Second, I did not have time to talk about it. Third (and most importantly), it made no difference. It was literally becoming a light “weight” question.

Skipping Evolution and Getting to Jesus

The year was 1998. My sister had a friend she wanted me to evangelize. This friend was an atheist. She believed in evolution and did not believe in the Bible. But she was willing to sit down with me and talk for about an hour. The first thing she said was “What about evolution?” I immediately responded, “What about it?” She then proceeded to explain to me how evolution disproves Christianity. She expressed a desire to hear the “Christian side” of the issue. I told her that, while interesting and important, it did not make any difference right now. “It does not make any difference? What do you mean? It discredits your faith,” she said. “No, it does not. There are a lot of Christians who are evolutionists. I am not one, but there is no need for me to talk you out of evolution. I want to talk to you about Jesus.” It took a while for me to convince her that evolution did not need to be our topic that night, but she finally conceded and heard what I had to say about Jesus and his resurrection. We talked for a good two hours. She had never gotten past the evolution thing with Christians so she had never heard about Jesus and all the historical evidence showing that he rose from the grave.


After we were done there, we talked for a while about what it meant to be a Christian (still leaving the evolution thing out). She left with a very troubled perspective on her faith. I was not sure God was doing anything with her that night. However, no one ever accused me of being perceptive. Twenty minutes later she called my sister in tears. She said that she had not been able to stop crying since she left. She timidly asked what she was to do next with Jesus. My sister prayed with her over the phone.  Ten years later this Christian woman says it was that night that she trusted in Christ.

(BTW: Later in her Christian walk, she dealt the evolution issue. I had nothing to do with it, but she is no longer an evolutionist.)

The “Weight” of Inerrancy

“I don’t believe the Bible” he said as he pushed the black leather Bible back across the dinner table. “I think it has errors in it.” I pushed it back and said, “I don’t care . . .”

Let me back up. It was in Romania. The year was 2004. Two American missionaries want to meet with me over food (tomatoes and cheese—a Romanian delicacy!). “We were wondering if you would meet with this young man,” they ask me. “We have been meeting with his father for a while now and our conversations are bearing some fruit. But his son, a very intellectual graduate, makes things much harder on us. He is an atheist and he does not respond at all to the Gospel. Every chance he gets he undermines our work with his father. He is extremely antagonistic and very smart. Can you talk to him?”

I had very mixed feelings about this. First, I am not that smart. And if he is just looking for a win, a dishonest person can find a win out of nothing. But most importantly, this guy did not want to be evangelized. He had already heard it all. What was I going to tell him that he did not already know?


We met that night for dinner. The husband and wife missionary team introduced us at our table, then left me alone with him. He seemed very pleased. From my perspective, he was just out for an intellectual match and I was someone who could quickly become another notch in his belt. We made small talk for about ten minutes, then I changed the subject to the Gospel. He briefly told me his story and how he was an atheist. “Although there is no way you can convince me that atheism is not true,” he said, “I do want to hear what you have to say.”

I did not want him to think that I was just another naive Christian, so I started with the things that make me doubt my faith. I expressed the many struggles I have in my Christian walk. From the silence of God to problems with Old Testament laws, I laid myself bare. This is normal procedure with people like him. Not only is it an honest testimony, it serves to preempt some of the issues I suspected he had which were causing him to hold on to his atheism. I wanted him to get to a point where he said to himself, “If this guy knows all of these problems, and is not naive to their severity . . . why does he still believe?” And we definitely got there.

Skipping Inerrancy and Getting to Jesus

I then began to tell him about the resurrection of Christ. “I know what you are thinking,” I said. “Why do I still believe?” “Yeah, why do you?” he responded. “I don’t know what to do with the resurrection of Christ. It’s that simple.” I then pulled out the Bible, opened it up to a certain passage, and slid it across the table to him. He looked at me with one of those, “I got ya!” looks. Without even looking at the Bible, he said, “I don’t believe the Bible,” pushing it back across the dinner table. “I think it has errors in it.” I pushed it back and said, “I don’t care.” He immediately pushed it back and said, “You don’t understand, I don’t believe in inerrancy” (he was obviously well-versed in Evangelical theological lingo). “I don’t care,” I said as I pushed it back at him. One more time he pushed it back without having looked at the passage I wanted him to read, saying, “I don’t believe the Bible is inspired.” “I don’t care if you believe in inspiration or inerrancy. I just want you to look at this passage in this ancient letter. Don’t even call it ‘Bible’ or ‘Scripture’ or anything Christians call it. This is just a first century letter that has a testimony that I want to talk to you about.” After staring at me for a bit, not knowing how to respond, he finally conceded and looked at the passage. I began to explain to him the background of the epistle, when it was written, and by whom. From these I went to other first century documents (some of which Christians call the “New Testament”) and explained them the same way. For the next hour we focused on a historical study of the resurrection of Christ.  We treated the Bible as a collection of historical documents, each of which stood on their own. We set aside all other Christian presuppositions and discussed the story of Jesus in a way he had never heard before . . .  a person who actually lived and events that actually happened, both of which we have substantial evidence for.

By the time we were done (a couple hours later), I finally got back to eating my (now cold) food. He asked if he could just read for a minute. He read for about five minutes without saying a word. He looked up at me and said, “Are there any other passages like these?” “Yes,” I responded. “Can I keep this Bible?” “Yes,” I responded again. When I looked at him, I was surprised to see tears in his eyes. My non-intuitive nature let this slip again. I shook his hand and went home.

The next day I came down into the lobby of the hotel I was staying at and I found the missionary couple waiting for me. The looks on their faces were ones of great anticipation. It kinda scared me. “You know that man we had you talk to last night?” “Yes,” I said. “What did you say to him?” they asked. I told them a summary of what happened. “Well,” they said, “Something has changed in him. He read his Bible all night. He told us this morning that he wants to start coming to the Bible study. Something has changed in him. He seems to believe now. The atheist now believes!”

Evolution and Inerrancy Do Not Make-or-Break Christianity

These two stories are illustrations of the importance of keeping to the “make-or-break” issues of our faith when sharing the Gospel. The issues of origins, inspiration, and inerrancy are very important. We eventually need to discuss them. But they are not “make or break” issues. And they can be used to sidetrack discussions of the Gospel into endless and fruitless debate. They can often keep you from getting to Christ. The two people above may have never really heard an actual argument for the Gospel. They were both intellectual types who were ready to debate so many things that did not matter. I don’t need to convince an unbeliever that the Bible is inspired or inerrant. The issue of evolution does not matter if it is only keeping you from sharing the Gospel. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes people will have legitimate hang-ups about these and other things that need to be dealt with. But sometimes we need to deal with them by explaining that they have no bearing on whether Jesus rose from the grave. Once we establish Christ’s resurrection, you can get back to those things. But in our apologetics, we need to do everything we can to get to the historicity of the resurrection.

113 Responses to “Forget About Evolution and Inerrancy (for a Minute)”

  1. Awesome post. Very useful for my ministry. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Excellent post! Although I suspect, unfortunately, that it won’t make much of a difference to the folks who got so bent out of shape about the last post. Some people seem to be so engrossed in themselves that they are unwilling to consider or even think about ideas that challenge them. Which is quite a contrast to the people illustrated in this post.

  3. Tim,
    You’ve written some winners, but this one is exceptional. We were just talking about this issue in my worldview training class this week and I cannot wait to forward it on to them. Thank you.

  4. Great post! Nearly every interview or debate with a Christian that you hear nowadays takes a completely opposite direction than the one’s you mention here. The Christian feels the need to rebut every single little thing the other person says and before you know it, you’ve wasted a few hours discussing whether or not some inconsequential verse in 2 Chronicles makes sense or not. Like you say, these conversations need to be had, but certainly not in the context of evangelism.

  5. Michael, what you did was the right thing, but it was ultimately God’s work to save the people whom you mentioned in your stories. The way you go about it makes me feel like you are saying that they would not have been saved had you chosen to go another way about it. Surely you can’t say that they became believers because you acted smartly? It was God’s work and it was because God’s Spirit led you to do the right thing! Sure, these issues about evolution and inerrancy are used to sidetrack talking about the true gospel, and I agree preaching the cross is the true Gospel but ultimately these topics have to be addressed, especially inerrancy and inspiration, Otherwise on what basis are you going to tell a new believer to read their Bible? The Word is what sustains a new believer and if they don’t think it is God’s word, how are they going to hear what God has to say? How is their lives as a believer going to grow without God’s word? One who thinks that the Bible is not God’s word cannot continue being a true believer.

    Even in the example that you gave, you can clearly see that its not what you said, but what he read that changed his heart! In the other case its the word, preached by you which caused the girl to believe. So for us it all comes back to the written word and, without it there would be no Gospel or salvation.

  6. These are great examples. Now I get what you meant in that last post about the 8 issues.
    I’m still not sure if I agree with you on all those 8 points –seems like dropping inspiration in particular messes with Revelation in general, which in turn feels like its got to have serious implications even for initial evangelization.
    But, I have to think through that more. This is a new way of looking at things for me. I think it is for many people.

  7. Definitely concur with the bulk of the blog post. People get lost in the weeds pretty easily.

  8. Thanks for this post, but I kind of agree with Greg.

    What you’ve said is important and certainly true. When it comes to *evangelism,* the best tactic in some cases is Matt 6:33. Sometimes it’s wise to give milk first (1 Cor 3:2). But we remember that we’re to grow in our faith and to come to a realization of the Truth of the whole of Christianity (2 Tim 3:7).

    I know you know all this. My point is that the *whole* of Christianity, when we’re mature in our faith, does indeed include many of the non-“essentials” on your list. If you go your whole life while compromising in each of those areas, you are definitely *not* a “Christian!”

    So it seems to me that you’re actually saying that evangelism (not Christianity) does not depend on these things. But I suspect you would agree that a mere intellectual assent that yes, Jesus did indeed rise from the dead is not the same thing as faith in the person and work of the risen Christ. And without faith (which necessarily rests upon many of the items on your list), one does not have Christianity and is not a Christian.

    Christianity is much more than the historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead. After all, his resurrection would be completely meaningless if the atonement wasn’t applied to us through faith. So Christianity is about *more* than just the historical fact of his resurrection.

  9. Good doctrine is important.

    But we are not saved by it.

    God loves heretics, too.

  10. Michael. Another great post. I’ve already decided that frankly, I’m not a scientist. I don’t know how to debate science. Therefore, I won’t. I get after Dawkins and Harris and others who are not theologians or philosophers for commenting on those topics when they aren’t skilled in them. I’m not going to make the same mistake.

    Is evolution true? I’ll leave it to the sciences to decide. I’m just not going to marry my theology to a viewpoint lest there come a painful divorce. I’ll wait for the facts to emerge and if they don’t in my lifetime, oh well. I will instead comment on what I do know well, and that’s the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That is true regardless of whether or not evolution is true.

    The church instead made a retreat when evolution showed up. Let’s sit back and let scientists do their work and if their conclusion is shown to be true, well we have to accept it. There is no double theory of truth. If those who do not believe in evolution are correct, that truth will also win out.

  11. Greg, what he’s getting at here is you don’t have to debate those things. Most unbelievers aren’t going to know the theological implications of these things — they just know it’s a good block. CMP’s just saying, don’t let them block you with that.

  12. Michael – thanks for a great post. We do get lost trying to prove we are right when in fact we need to preach the rightness of the Gospel of Christ. These are important issues of the faith, some even foundational (e.g., inerrancy of scripture, etc.). However, in the presentation of the Gospel, as you’ve outlined above, we’re introducing the unbeliever to the Person of Christ.

    Paul T – with respect, I don’t think CMP implied it was what he said that led to belief. In fact, explicitly noted with the Romanian intellectual that it was the Word that changed him. CMP was illustrating that in order to present the Gospel we must get to the Gospel. His examples were to show the importance of that over trying to destroy every misconception of an unbeliever.

    Austin – again, with respect, I don’t think CMP argued for Christian ignorance but for getting straight to the Gospel during evangelism. We can’t disciple the unbeliever (boy, that is a message many churches should learn today…). Only after he becomes a believer can we help him grow in faith. Finally, faith doesn’t rest on orthodoxy; faith ultimately rests in the Person of Christ. It’s the gift of faith in Him that He has given us. The 8 items CMP listed in a separate post are important. But at the end of the day, as Christ repeatedly proclaimed (especially in John), “believe in [Christ].”

    Greg – again, with respect, is your argument that anyone who believes that evolution might be a possibility is not a believer? I agree the Bible teaches against it. But every believer is on his own, God-ordained, post-conversion path, growing from faith to faith. Completion of that path is not adherence to orthodoxy but heaven, and only then will we see. (1 Cor. 13:12)

    Orthodoxy is crucial in defining the church. We are all on our own path to get there. We can’t expect an unbeliever to be orthodox before they believe and we can’t expect total agreement in the Church this side of heaven. I could be…

  13. CMP,

    If I may share a recent insight of mine that I think is relevant to the ongoing discussion at this blog.

    In my opinion, much of the push-back that you’ve gotten comes from a perspective that feels threatened by merely entertaining the possibility that biblical inerrancy is wrong, even if only for the purposes of evangelism. Moreover, I think there is a perfectly natural explanation for this.

    When people initially come to faith in Christ it is almost never with an unmediated faith in the person of Christ alone, and for good reason since Christ is a heavenly being that cannot be directly perceived in this life. This is why, at least initially, most everyone’s faith in Christ is mediated by their trust in the correctness of other authority figures that can be so perceived such as the Bible and/or an individual (e.g., a friend, evangelist, pastor, etc.). However, so long as the individual’s faith in Christ is mediated by these other authority figures, the prospect of the latter being undermined would also mean that the former is undermined as well, which is a very serious matter. Hence the reason why many people lose their faith when important spiritual figures in their life let them down and/or when they realize that the Bible may not be everything they thought it was, they reason that if their trust in such things is misplaced then the same goes for their faith in Christ.

    Indeed, these things through which our faith in Christ is initially mediated should be understood as guides that help us build a mature, unmediated faith in the person of Christ as part of a life lived with him via God’s spirit. Naturally, such faith takes a long time to develop (maybe two or three decades at least), but when it does then the individual is no longer as threatened by the prospect of their trust in the prior authority figures being somewhat misplaced.

  14. And Greg, we’ll be here fighting against you.

    This was a great post, Michael. Even more clearly sets out what you were truly saying in the previous post. And some just are unable to see it. They lack the ability.

  15. Good post. There are always a few that can’t see the trees through the forest. The issue is the essential doctrine of Jesus and the critical message of the Gospel that has the power to save. Good Theology is important and there is a time and place for theological debate, but a person can believe in creation or intelligent design and not be a child of God.

    As a point of contrast I have had many opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus through the reasonableness of non-essentials juxtapose to secular humanism. A recent example is at work I was involved in a conversation on the issue of homosexual marriage/civil union. Speaking to a group of unbelieving men about the Christian view of marriage along with all the benefits which our Creator intended (Ephesians 5) made sense and this gave them a reason to listen to the message of the Gospel.

  16. CMP,

    This is a great post. Thank you for the last one, and thank you for this one illustrating the last one.

    This one reminds me of the beginning of 1 Corinthians 2:
    “1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

    Thanks for sharing the stories. It really is touching to hear accounts of the power of the Spirit of God as unbelievers first learn of our Lord, Jesus. It made my day that much better. Be blessed.

  17. I strongly agree with your approach of focusing on the core gospel issue but strongly disagree with your approach to evolution. To say that she later abandoned her belief in evolution just continues to confuse the issue as if that is some sort of prerequisite or result of accepting the gospel. The science, reality and truth behind evolution is true and therefore from God and needs to be dealt with more openly and honestly by the church. Ken Ham, Kent Hovind and the rest are doing a huge disservice by “lying for Jesus” rather than dealing honestly with the facts. My son and I accept the science of evolution and are strong Christians. These are not incompatible.

  18. Accusing someone of “lying for Jesus” is a serious charge. Still more so when endorsing a position that was not held by Jesus, Paul, or any Christian prior to 150 years ago.

    A good article Michael, focus on the vital so that people may come to Christ. Inerrancy as a doctrine should always be subordinate to the Bible as historical document.

  19. It does seem that so many in my tradition believe in, as James Sawyer put it, the Father, Son, and the Holy Bible.

    We often accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary (and many, against the best ideals of Catholicism, do). But many Evangelics (against the best ideals of Evangelicalism) do.

  20. It’s the message of the Bible, not the Bible. After all, if it were not, we would all be in trouble as the best most work from is translations. On top of that, even for those of us who know Greek and Hebrew, we don’t have the originals.

  21. I always come back to the inescapable fact that in the book of Acts evangelism always takes the form of proclamation of the lordship of Jesus, proven by the historical fact of his resurrection from the dead. You never once find Paul or anyone else demanding pagan people to accept, as a starting point, inerrancy of Scripture or six-literal-24hr-day creation. If these things are so essential, how come the apostles never got the memo?

  22. It’s like there’s some binary string of 0s and 1s, one digit for each possible theological statement. If you believe that statement, your string has a 1 in that place, and otherwise it has a 0 in that place.

    So 011001 might be “no evolution, inerrancy, original sin, no unconditional election, no transubstantiation, alien righteousness”.

    The key is of course much longer, but that’s an example.

    Your start out with an essentially random string. The process of sanctification is to read the Bible and flip the corresponding bits based on what the Bible says. The Bible teaches original sin? Better flip that bit! Bible doesn’t teach libertarian freewill? Flip that bit, too!

    In Heaven, there is a master encryption key that is the TRUE string of 0s and 1s. At judgment, God will take your personal binary string, and compare it to the master key (using bit-wise &).

    If you match, good job! You get to go to Heaven.
    If you don’t, sorry! You failed to crack the code. Should’a believed the Bible more literally.

    It’s just such a weird form of religion.

  23. Truth Unites... and Divides March 22, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Hi CMP,

    Read your post after reading Steve Hays’ take on it. Terrific stories of God using ordinary means, faithful dedicated, and broken-vessel means, to share the Gospel with radical skeptics. Thanks Michael.

    Have you ever encountered something roughly like the following?

    Unbeliever: “Does your God’s Bible teach that same-sex genital behavior is a sin?”

    Believer: “Yes.”

    Unbeliever: “I cannot follow your God, your Jesus then.”

    Believer: “I’m very sorry to hear that. But I don’t have the authority to water down God’s Holy Word. In fact, it would be a sin for me to dilute, or otherwise distort the plain teaching of Scripture.”

    Unbeliever: “Well, I’m not going to become a Christian because your “Holy” Book says that homosexual behavior is a sin, and that’s hateful religious dogma. Christians like yourselves are haters. And I don’t want to be a hater like you guys and your God.”

  24. Truth, yes I have. And I do turn to issues of the person and work of Christ. Not only do I try to assess their orthodoxy in regard to such, but their level of conviction. If someone is ready to bend the Scriptures left and right to fit their desires, then that is a sign that they are not really convicted of who Christ is and what he did. So what do I do? You guessed it. I start there.

    I encountered this not long ago with a practicing homosexual Christian. After some conversation, I realized that he did not really beleive in the person and work of Christ too deeply. To the degree that one believes in such is the degree that they can be committed to his teaching. But when it is lacking, there is no reason for me to argue with them in too much detail about what the Scripture says about homosexuality. They are not able to respond. I always try to get back to What do you believe about Kesus?

  25. I think this is a great ost. Since our church purchased the church history dvd and some books, can I tell your story on Resurrection Sunday? If Christ is not risen, really nothing else matters.

  26. (Edited by mod)

    @C Michael Patton: really great post. I will translate it to brazillian portuguese, hope you dont mind ;)

    • Folks, at least while I am involved in this thread, I have and will be editing some. No one has done anything wrong, I just don’t want this to turn into an evolution/creation debate. Keep from that topic (except as illustrative toward our current subject).

  27. CMP,
    I enjoyed this post and your point was thoroughly clearer than the other one. If you could, I would be interested to see if you have had these type of opportunities as it relates to your #9 and 10 items; perhaps that would keep you from being burned at the stake as easily!

    I also took your last post wrong, but it was helpful for me in as much as I don’t know how to deal with some of the points myself. In the past (and recently), difficulties in any of those areas has made me want to jump ship. Perhaps those are my “battle scars” (as you’ve put it elsewhere) or doubts/struggles. So the former post was helpful for me in that way.

  28. Thank God for the work that he’s done, using these broken vessels to carry precious waters! Your stories are inspiring and much-appreciated CMP. I’d be interested to know which scriptures you shared with the young gentleman who initially found the Bible untenable.

  29. I am rrealizing how volatile this subject truly is. It seems that this post helped clear things up a bit, but there is still a lot of misunderstanding as evidenced here and by many other bloggers who are attempting to take me out to the woodshed. (This does not include “watch bloggers” as they don’t even try to understand in the first place:) )

    But, in my opinion, this subject is the most important subject the I can write on myself. I think the concept itself (doctrinal taxonomy) is discipleship 101. So, I am going to continue to write on this for a few days. Someday I will put it all into a book called “Of First Importance.”

    But seeing as how I have been thought of a few times as presenting a “least common denominator” approach, I am going to rework an old post next which deals with that. Then, God willing, I will define and defend what I have been calling “Resurrection Apologetics”.

  30. For the most part, it was a very general NT overview. In many cases such as these . Since there are so many Scriptures dealing with the resurrection it is a matter of establishing the reliability of said document through manuscript evidence and historiography. But most importantly, you must show how you have already been there yourself. You don’t actually have to become an atheist or a hyper- skeptic, but you must show that you have asked all the tough questions.

  31. How would this differ from a pragmatic “decisionism worked for lots of people, so that’s all the argument necessary” approach in the doctrine of evangelism? It seems that you take the same approach with doubt, as well – which I’ve critiqued several times in the past.  There never seems to be an argument *for* the approach offered – just “this works” – which, honestly, is an appeal to experience, not argumentation in a meaningful sense. Further – when are we going to get a counter-exegesis that deals with the texts we argue are in opposition to this “minimal facts” methodology, ala Craig and Licona? This isn’t anything new – a “resurrection apologetics” as distinguished from Licona or Craig’s “minimal facts” arguments, it eschews inerrancy and inspiration as relevant in favor of a “neutral” historicity. It’s the same approach. Where in Scripture are we told to argue this way?

  32. Why does it seem that it’s more important to people to convert others to Inerrancy instead of to the resurrection. It’s almost like saying what you believe about the Bible is more important than what you believe about Jesus.

  33. Good job Michael.

    I feel like a complete moron as a result of our exchange on the other post.

    Savor this one boss, as it is rare you will find me conceding to you. :D

  34. The finite contains the Infinite.

    The text doesn’t need to be infallible (every jot and tittle)…because the Word is.

  35. Whatever Evolution is? Darwin’s version is certainly in error! I am myself an old earth creationist, but we must see the unity of the Book of Genesis, both in doctrine and theology, and this includes the literary and aspects of genre. But we also must respect the blending of history and law, for here is both the Salvation History of God and the Covenant/covenants of God! To “the Jew first,, then the Gentile” (Rom. 1: 16) Indeed Paul always holds closely both the Old and New Covenant, but ‘In Christ’!

    Btw, Calvin’s Genesis Commentary is still to a good read! (Banner of Truth Trust)…”Since the infinite wisdom of God is displayed in the admirable structure of heaven and earth, it is absolutely impossible to unfold The History Of The Creation Of The World in terms equal to its dignity.”

    May we be humbled by the Word itself!

  36. Excellent examples, Michael! A good reminder to us all to not let secondary issues unnecessarily obstruct the sharing of the Gospel. This is exactly the approach I teach.

  37. Bravo! I cannot more heartily agree with or commend this article. It is foolish to ask people to follow Jesus into the difficulties when the only thing they know anything about is the difficulties themselves and not Jesus himself. As a college ministry leader I see this often. We churched folks often assume that the people we’re arguing with ACTUALLY KNOW the gospel that is the basis for our opinions on other matters. We are often wrong. I think it wise to do all we can to get people to engage with the Main Thing (or Main Person, rather) on His own turf, rather than for us to continually give ground to the devil and spend our time debating other issues first. Well said, sir.

  38. As a former evangelical Christian now atheist, these stories strike me as disingenous at best. Evolution is a fact and it needs to be dealt with by Christians. It destroys the notion of original sin (which gene is the sin gene, BTW?) and the notion that humans are special among creation. If the Geneisis story is not literally true (and you seem to indicate that you believe it is), there is no explanation for the origin of sin and no need for a savior. I used to believe that Christianity and evolution were compatible but I eventually realized they stood in opposition to one another. At that point one must choose which path to follow. I understand why many follow Christianity – I really do – but some of us prefer uncomfortable truths to comfortable deceptions. Evolution has all the evidence behind it whether you choose to accept it or not. Christianity has none.

    With regards to the resurrection, there is no good evidence it occurred. Matthew reports that perhaps hundreds of people were resurrected when Jesus died. It doesn’t seem like resurrection was a big deal at all. The more likely story is that Jesus’ was a real person who attained mythical status. There is no reason to believe that the four gospels were written by the attributed authors. Paul was likely a mystic with epilespy or a similar condition. There are a thousand better explanations for what transpired in first century Judea than what is recorded in the Bible.

    I’d say the two people were not fully informed about the science or the historical problems with the Christian story. They couldn’t have been if they jettisoned their principles so easily. As a former Christian who has studied these issues carefully, I know that Christianity has nothing to offer to those who value truth over contentment.

  39. Why does it seem that it’s more important to people to convert others to Inerrancy instead of to the resurrection.

    Because if the Bible is not completely true in all it affirms, why would you trust it to be true in the resurrection>

    It’s almost like saying what you believe about the Bible is more important than what you believe about Jesus.

    Well, since what we know about Jesus comes only from the Bible, it seems obvious you had better trust what the Bible says to believe in Jesus.

  40. AJG,
    Thanks for commenting. I find your thoughts beneficial as well.
    I do have a few short comments though. They will be really short because it is off topic from the post.
    1) Even recently, I’ve joined the ranks who don’t see the doctrine Original Sin as Biblical due to Biblical evidence. I say that because I don’t think saying that Evolution invalidates it really means much.
    2) I myself had become an atheist but re-converted when God broke into my life again against my will. I say that because I understand your difficulties but it is hard for me to perceive that as “comfortable deception” because re-conversion was completely uncomfortable for the reasons you mentioned and I fought it for several months.
    Though in the spirit of the post, it would help me to understand the following: what do you see as disingenuous? In your first few statements you seem to say that Evolution has a direct impact on the truthfulness of the Resurrection. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, would you then say Evolution must first be addressed before one can talk about the Resurrection? Did your view of Evolution influence your view on the Resurrection of Jesus? Do you think your view of Evolution biased your view of the Resurrection? Or, in your perception do you think you are treating the evidence unbiased and testing the resurrection on its own merits?

  41. “There never seems to be an argument *for* the approach offered – just “this works” – which, honestly, is an appeal to experience, not argumentation in a meaningful sense”

    I did not get the context of this post but I thought I would use it for a minute. (I probably ought to do a post on this though as it represents the common evangelical buyin to the rationalism of modernism.

    Let me say this first: experience is an integral part of epistemological warrant. Put it another way: people can and should appeal to experience when experience is an important part of knowledge justification (and 90% of the time it is).

    Pragmatism, the appeal ONLY to experience to the exclusion of other sources of knowledge, is almost always wrong (except when experience is the only source available).

    The argument used above could be used against Paul’s conversion. “Paul, your belief in Jesus resurrection is based only on pragmatic experience. Just because you say you saw him and just because you experienced a blindness of the eyes, does not have any argumentation in a meaningful sense. Just because it worked does not mean it is true.

    Evangelical epistemology has always had a very important role for experience to play. The Weslyan Quadralateral is a good example. Reason, tradition, experience, and the Bible are all sources of knowledge. When the Bible speaks on something, it is the norming norm (the final authority). However, the Bible itself assumes the importance of experience in our interaction with him. Otherwise we would find no analogy of being with issues forth into an analogy of language.

    So be careful next time you demean the importance of experience. Just because it can be and often is abused does mean we throw the baby out with the bath water.

  42. Hi Aaron,

    Though in the spirit of the post, it would help me to understand the following: what do you see as disingenuous?

    I see the arguments above as disingenous because instead of attempting to deal with real issues that challenge orthodox Christianity, they are brushed aside as if they don’t matter. Michael then acknowledges that they must be dealt with in time because he understands they are irreconcilable with traditional Christian ideology. This is akin to “reel them in” and then indoctrinate them once they are in the fold.

    I appreciate your point of view, but I don’t see any compelling reason to accept Christianity anymore. Most of what is passed off as “evidence” for Christianity or the resurrection would be laughed out of court.

  43. Akg,

    Welcome my friend.

    “Michael then acknowledges that they must be dealt with in time because he understands they are irreconcilable with traditional Christian ideology. ”

    I don’t think you understood the post as this comment is not at all true. While I might disagree with them, someone can certainly be an evolutionist and not believe in inerrancy and remain a Christian. I would not make it a priority to convert them (though we may have some passionate discussions).

    Why couldn’t have God used evolution? Original sin? Which part? Inherited sin or imputed sin? Either way, there is no way to definitevely say that either of these could not be compatible with evolution. But in the end, we are under no obligation to solve all mysteries are we? Christianity is not true so long as we can put every peice of the cosmic puzzle together. Christianity has had a long standing tradition about the necessity of apophadic theology (theology of mystery). After all, God devoted three chapters to the whole of the creation and the fall. This tells me that 1) he did not care to give us too many details and 2) it is an abbreviated account that does not demand we take everything literally.

    Concerning inerrancy. Why would there have to be absolutely no error in the Bible for it to contain a generally reliable historic account? Do you require that of all history? If so, are you a complete agnostic toward every event in history?

    If the Bible got a detail Wong here and there, so what? The question the historian asks is whether the main events are true. None of the accounts disagree about their proclaimation of the resurrection.

    Finally, it starts with the historicity of the resurrection. If that happened, there will be many implications. But remember, it is the authority of the person of Christ that is ultimately at stake.

    I am sorry that some have led you to believe that the Bible is the Alpha and Omega. It is not. I encourage you to keep studying ths, consider my position deeply, reevaluate you position based on my thoughts here.

    I will pray for you brother.

  44. Well-told stories, Michael. I’m no longer on board with the doctrines involved in “the historic Christian faith” (or orthodoxy, etc.) and “evangelizing” people into that. But I CAN see what was going on in these (& probably many more) examples, & how you helped meet a need.

    These folks were actually pre-disposed, of their own senses or by influence of family & friends, to WANT to believe in and connect with God somehow. Your approach was very disarming and welcoming. I’m at a place similar to, yet perhaps significantly different from AJG’s (#48). After decades of adult faith within Christian orthodoxy, including the centrality of Jesus’ resurrection, my ongoing deep study of the Bible & related disciplines, eventually led me to conclude solidly against several core doctrines: Israel as God’s uniquely “chosen people”, followed by believers in the “new covenant”; the historicity of most of the Jesus-related accounts, particularly of the “Passion” and resurrection (although the core of his mission and teachings are historical, and “appearances” of Jesus, of some type, must have happened to his disciples and to Paul); the divinity of Christ & concept of a “trinity”; the bodily “return of Christ”.

    These same believers (the examples) may mature into a vital faith which does not require adherence to these or other “historic” dogmas. I hope so.

    I see it as unfortunate and unhelpful that so many Evangelicals believe that Jesus must have been raised bodily and that “historical” arguments via the texts we have can establish that…. Careful analysis I believe clearly shows they CANNOT and DO not.

    Paul’s concept of resurrection is substantially different and, followed carefully, including the famous I Cor. 15 passage, actually undermines the Gospel accounts regarding the implications of an “empty tomb” (which a temporary one may well have been, but not due to a resurrection). And what Paul does NOT say is indeed significant…

  45. Hi Michael. I enjoy your blog. It’s one of the few Christian blogs I can actually stomach nowadays mainly because you are gracious. Thank you.

    While I might disagree with them, someone can certainly be an evolutionist and not believe in inerrancy and remain a Christian. I would not make it a priority to convert them (though we may have some passionate discussions).

    If evolution is true (and it is), then death – painful and violent death at that – has been a part of history since the dawn of life. A God that used such a method of finally arriving at human life created in His image is a cruel God indeed. Certainly he is not the God of the Bible. Would you call a man who killed, tortured and stepped on others to attain a perfect society? I would hope not, and yet that is the picture of a God that used evolution as a means of creation.

    Concerning inerrancy. Why would there have to be absolutely no error in the Bible for it to contain a generally reliable historic account? Do you require that of all history? If so, are you a complete agnostic toward every event in history?

    The Bible makes the claim that it is the uniquely inspired Word of God. If it’s just like every other history book told from a biased perspective, it loses its claim to authority. There’s not much to it at that point.

    Finally, it starts with the historicity of the resurrection. If that happened, there will be many implications. But remember, it is the authority of the person of Christ that is ultimately at stake.

    I have never seen a good argument to support the idea that the resurrection is a historical event. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    I do think Jesus’ teachings are largely good for us, but they are no better or worse than the ethical creeds of other religions. I suspect if Christianity is true, then Universalism is as well. If so, there is little reason to devote one’s life to that which seems unlikely

  46. Thanks Howard,

    However, I don’t want anyone to misunderstand. I do believe according an historic orthodox theology and while it has been challenged in my life, it has only become stronger. Just because I don’t believe that these issues were essential in the evangelism described above, that does not mean I don’t beleive they are important. Inspiration, in particular, is not something I would wink an eye at. If someone was a Christian and rejected inspiration, I would desire a great deal that they change their position for the sake of their own stability.

  47. Ajg,

    I would figure that the implications of inerrancy and evolution are a good discussion even if I disagree with you (and many other good Christians like Ham and Morris, et al.)

    However, let me just put this to the test. If you were convinced that Jesus rose historically from the grave, would you come back to him? And (I suppose this is the most important), could you objectively look at the issue of the historicity of the event without evolution and inerrancy tainting the discussion? (Not that I have time for such a discussion, I am just curious. )

  48. However, let me just put this to the test. If you were convinced that Jesus rose historically from the grave, would you come back to him?

    Yes, but I cannot envision a scenario in which this could be proven. Since resurrection is against all known naturalistic laws, it would require a supernatural event. Since supernatural events are, by definition, unrepeatable and untestable, I can’t see what evidence could be put forth to prove this satisfactorily.

    I suppose this is the most important), could you objectively look at the issue of the historicity of the event without evolution and inerrancy tainting the discussion?

    Evolution? Yes. Inerrancy? No. I suppose there could be a good explanation why a God would use a blind naturalistc process to create life (although I cannot see how a GOOD God would do so), but a document that claims to be the One True Word of God that contains so many inconsistancies and has such uncertain authorship cannot be trusted to be accurate.

  49. CMP,

    Do christians who assert the importance of inerrancy “worship” the Bible?

    You said:

    If the Bible got a detail Wong here and there, so what? The question the historian asks is whether the main events are true. None of the accounts disagree about their proclaimation of the resurrection.

    This is an incredible statement. Did God breathe out, “inspire” Scripture? Does God inspire error?

    Is the Bible only a reliable historical document?

    I think AJG’s comments are very perceptive. If the Bible isn’t completely true, why should I believe any of it is true?

  50. To many non-Christians, evolution and inerrancy are akin to this passage: “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”


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