THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Bible Errors and Losing Faith
Young Earth Creationism
By Dr. Christopher Plumberg
See also: Bible Errors and Young Earth Creationism
It's a not-uncommon scenario. Someone is introduced to Jesus and sees what a great man He is. The seeds of faith are planted as the individual learns more about grace and sin and faith. And those seeds are watered when he digs into the Word of God to learn more.
But, eventually, whether in weeks or years, the person begins to find anomalies in the text. Errors and contradictions become apparent. Or he goes to a website or video that points out discrepancies in the Bible. At the best, the seeker simply "has faith" that the apparent errors have an answer somewhere. At the worst, the seeker turns away, convinced that the Bible is a lie.
The question I want to address in this essay is, is the Bible really a lie? And what is the proper response of a person who has come to believe that the Bible is full of errors? Is it simply blind faith? Or is it better for such a person to reject the Bible entirely?
Of course, refusing to face up to the really difficult questions about Scripture is fundamentally disingenuous, and I respect the intellectual honesty of anyone who made what must have been a difficult choice to walk away from both their ministry and their heritage as a believer. Fortunately, GotQuestions exists precisely because Christians ought to think deeply and critically about their faith, in seeking to obey the command to "love the Lord your God...with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37, NASB). The purpose of this ministry is to help believers to do just that, without having to compromise on what Scripture teaches.
Before I dig into the issue of errors in the Bible, let me tell you a little about myself. I am a scientist, and I actually used to believe that the Bible contains errors. I could even have pointed out many apparent contradictions or tensions which did not appear to me to have a resolution. At the time, I was convinced that God had simply allowed some mistakes and errors to be included, insofar as Scripture was a human enterprise, with some naturally human characteristics (like errors and mistakes, in addition to less problematic cultural idiosyncrasies) mixed in. The problem with this view, of course, is obvious: it is not consistent with what Scripture says about itself. Second Timothy 3:16 says that "all Scripture is inspired by God" (literally, "God-breathed"). But, if Titus 1:2 says that God "cannot lie" (NASB), and yet every word of Scripture is presumably uttered by Him, then there cannot be any falsehoods contained in Scripture which are presented as true. Consequently, there does not appear to be a middle-of-the-road on this topic; either Scripture really is completely true, or it is completely false. Quite a lot appears to hinge on this alternative.
I will begin with the first objection. As a scientist, let me be unequivocal here: the statement is completely false. Science has never shown any such thing. Rather, science has demonstrated that certain models and theories may be constructed which can apparently account for several large-scale features of the universe (the structure of the cosmos, the diversity of life on earth, etc.) without directly resorting to the existence of God as an explanatory resource, which may also be extrapolated several billion years backwards in time. However, these models and theories are subject to a whole host of problems, and assume far more than is justified without an appeal to God. Let me consider just a few examples.
First, the scientific method itself is not justified if God does not exist. This is because if human consciousness and reasoning are simply evolved, without any dependence upon divine intervention, then this undermines our warrant for believing our thoughts to be true. In fact, evolutionists regularly use this reasoning to try to explain the pervasiveness of theistic belief, by claiming that God is simply a "convenient fiction" which helped our society to develop a more mature and systematic morality based on reason. The problem is, this assessment is equally applicable to science itself: the scientific method may simply be a "convenient fiction" which gives us technological advancements (of only pragmatic value), without really communicating anything which is objectively true. To put it succinctly: if evolution is true, then you have no right to believe that evolution is true.
Like the field of biology, the field of cosmology is heavily dependent on extrapolations of known science indefinitely far back in the past. The Big Bang theory is not, as is commonly claimed, "just physics"; it also includes hidden assumptions, including (but not limited to): 1) the universe is not young (otherwise, there would be no point in "rewinding" the evolution of the universe to the initial singularity); 2) the universe has no center; and 3) the earth does not occupy a "privileged" location in the universe (i.e., there's nothing special about where the earth happens to be situated in the universe).
If one grants these (often unquestioned) assumptions, then there may be good reason to think that the earth is old. However, science offers little support for these assumptions, and therefore cannot compel us to reject the belief that the earth is young. In fact, we can say something even stronger: there is a great deal of good, scientific evidence for a young earth. I encourage you to consult the GotQuestions.org website for more details on this.
Moreover, even if the universe is billions of years old, this is really not a good basis on which to reject the whole of Scripture. Although the best understanding of Genesis entails a literal reading, it is not inconceivable that this reading could be incorrect in some way (if, for instance, the figurative reading turned out to be the correct one). Consequently, this would not really constitute an error in Scripture; it would simply mean that the opening chapter(s) of Genesis had been misread by many Christians. In short, it is important to realize that the evidence does not exclusively support an old universe, and even if it did, this would not truly present a fatal blow to the inerrancy of Scripture. From a strictly logical standpoint, only contradictions internal to Scripture (and involving incontestable readings thereof), or between incontestable readings of Scripture and other external and incontrovertible facts, could truly undermine the doctrine of inerrancy. The "old universe hypothesis" involves neither incontestable readings internal to Scripture nor is it an incontrovertible fact, and so it cannot ultimately provide a sufficient reason to reject the Bible.
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Tags: Biblical-Truth | Controversial-Issues | Theological-Beliefs
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