To understand the nature of the Bible, theistic evolutionists at BioLogos have proposed that Christians compare Scripture with the divine and human nature of Christ. Underlying this proposal is their assumption that the authors of Scripture and our Lord were not inerrant. The apostle Paul is also singled out as the ultimate source of the “dis-ease” for Christians who are seeking to reconcile the Bible and evolution. First, I show what it is that BioLogos ﬁnds problematic to their cause, and I discuss three problems the BioLogos model creates for Christians. I then present a powerful apologetic to counter the logic of BioLogos: the logic of our Lord’s life in relation to Scripture. The apologetic suggests that BioLogos should consider that the ultimate source of their “dis-ease” is the nature and character of the Creator.
Keywords: Adam, Bible, BioLogos, evolution, Genesis, incarnation, inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration, Scripture, theistic evolution.
Recently professor of theology and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, wrote that evangelical Christians “are entering a new phase in the battle over the Bible’s truthfulness and authority” (Mohler 2010, p. 1). Indeed, the battle is now waged by evangelical Christians who believe the Bible is free from error in all its affirmations and assertions, and those professing “evangelicals” who don’t.1 The latter category of Christians refers to writers for The BioLogos Foundation (henceforth BioLogos), a group of scientists, theologians, philosophers, pastors, and educators who believe that “evolution, properly understood, best describes God’s work of creation” (BioLogos 2011).2 BioLogos not only thinks that Christians lack an adequate understanding of evolution; they also think Christians lack an adequate understanding of the nature of Scripture.
BioLogos accordingly proposes an incarnational model3 of Scripture that is analogous to the divine and human nature of our Lord (Enns 2010a, 2010c; Sparks 2010, p. 7).4 One of the advantages of the model, we are told, is that the Bible’s humanity “reminds us of how very near God is to us, how down and dirty he gets” (Enns 2010c, p. 11). The analogy BioLogos draws between Scripture and Christ, however, is bound to mislead Christians, for it rests on the following syllogism: all human beings err; Scripture was written by human beings, therefore, Scripture is not free from error. And that necessarily applies to our Lord as well.
In the first part of this paper, I do two things. First, I briefly show what it is that BioLogos finds problematic to their cause, and why. Second, I discuss three problems the logic of BioLogos creates for biblical Christians, which suggest that they cannot make the logic of BioLogos their own. In the second part, I present a powerful apologetic in further support of my contention: the logic of our Lord’s life in relation to Scripture. What I mean by “the logic of our Lord’s life” comprises three features: His attitude to the Old Testament, His intelligent and rational application of Scripture in His teaching and the settling of disputes, and what He expected from His disciples regarding their witness of Him after His resurrection and return to the Father. The apologetic suggests that BioLogos should consider that the ultimate source of their “dis-ease”5 is the nature and character of the Creator, and not the apostle Paul.
Section I: The BioLogos incarnational model
I highlight three items the writers for BioLogos see as problematic to their cause, and why. The first relates to the inspiration of Scripture. Dr. Francis Collins is the founder of BioLogos and one of the USA’s leading geneticists and Dr. Karl Giberson is the former executive vice-president of BioLogos and also professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College. For them it is a mistake to assume that the “concept of inspiration” entails the “factual accuracy” of Scripture, “as though God’s role were nothing more than a divine fact checker, preventing the biblical authors from making mistakes” (Giberson and Collins 2011, p. 102; see also Sparks 2010).6 Second is the doctrine of the Creator and creation. In this regard Robert Bishop—philosopher and physicist—found a correlation between the nature of God and the nature of creation which he expressed as follows:
There is nothing in the doctrine of creation, or the nature of God for that matter, implying that anything in creation should be optimal or perfect, now or in the past (Bishop 2011, p. 10, fn. 13).
The third problem for BioLogos is a literal-grammatical-historical reading of the biblical record of creation. Biblical scholar and former senior fellow of BioLogos, Dr. Peter Enns, provided the rationale:
Evolution demands that the special creation of the first Adam as described in the Bible is not literally historical (Enns 2010a, p. 3).
A few comments will accordingly be in order.
BioLogos is very well aware of the implications of their assertions and arguments. Enns, for example, wrote:
There is really little doubt that Paul understood Adam to be a real person, the first created human from whom all humans descended. And for many Christians, this settles the issue of whether there was a historical Adam. That is what Paul believed, and for his argument to have any meaning, both Adam and Jesus have to be real people. If there was no Adam, there was no Fall. If there was no Fall, there was no need for a savior. If Adam is a fantasy, so is the Gospel (Enns 2010b, pp. 3–4).
Instead of affirming Paul’s understanding of Adam, Enns singled him out as
the ultimate source of the dis-ease for Christians who are seeking a synthesis between the Bible [Genesis] and modern thought [evolution] (Enns 2010a, p. 3).
The veiled logic underlying Enns’ characterization of Paul must therefore not escape our attention. If what Paul thought about and taught from Genesis 1–3 is wrong, then Jesus could not have been right in what He thought about and taught from these chapters. The reason is because Paul claimed to have received his gospel through a revelation from our resurrected Lord and Savior (Galatians 1:12). Thus, to claim that Paul was in error is to claim our risen Lord revealed falsehood to Paul, and that is a serious indictment against our Creator.
Dr. Denis Lamoureux (2010a, 2010b)—with doctorates in dentistry, evolutionary biology, and evangelical theology—told readers of BioLogos that Adam never existed, while he clearly acknowledged the trouble it creates for theistic evolutionists (Lamoureux 2010c, p. 4):
The greatest problem with evolutionary creation is that it rejects the traditional literal interpretation of the opening chapters of Scripture . . . Even more troubling for evolutionary creation is the fact that the New Testament writers, including Jesus Himself, refer to Genesis 1–11 as literal history (Matthew 19:4–6; Romans 5:12–14; Hebrews 4:4–7; 2 Peter 2:4–5).
These “tip-of-the-iceberg” examples7 reveal the nature of the hazards BioLogos brought into the evangelical camp of biblical Christians.8 But let us see whether the BioLogos incarnational model can remove any of the mentioned hazards.
The analogy and underlying logic
When we are considering illustration, explanations, or arguments by analogy, three points deserve consideration. First, when two objects or domains are compared, then we need to know whether they are like each other, and if different, whether their resemblance is enough to offset the ways in which they are different. Second, it is important to know whether the objects or domains of comparison are like each other in ways relevant to the analogy being used. Because the objects or domains are similar and dissimilar, both the quantity and quality of the respects of resemblance are relevant to the strength of the explanation, illustration, or argument. Third, it is important not to confuse the controversial, disputed, or less understood object or domain with the uncontroversial, undisputed, and the better-understood object or domain. In other words, an analogy is used to connect a well understood domain or object with one in which understanding is less developed.
The analogy which the incarnational model of BioLogos draws between Scripture and our Lord can therefore be stated as follows:
- To be human is to err.
- Therefore, neither Jesus nor Scripture are inerrant.
It would be a good thing to bear in mind that BioLogos is able to draw the analogy only because of what is written in Scripture. To put it in another way, without the revelation of the written Word of God, BioLogos would not have been able to understand the revelation of the incarnate Word of God. Further, BioLogos suggests that our Lord is better understood than Scripture, otherwise there is no sense in comparing Scripture’s alleged controversial nature with that of the undisputed nature of our Lord, who was God in human flesh (Matthew 1:23; John 1:1–3, 14; Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:1–3; 1 John 1:1–3). So this means that the divine and human aspects of Scripture cannot be thought of in isolation from each other. In the words of Enns:
When it comes to Scripture, there is no divine without the human, and there is no human without the divine. You cannot speak of one without the other . . . Deliberations on the nature of Scripture in contemporary evangelical thought would be well served not only by continuing to embrace this insight, but to work out its implications in our study of Scripture in its historical contexts (Enns 2010c, pp. 2–3).
Although we can agree that BioLogos is drawing an appropriate analogy between the written Word of God (Scripture) and the incarnate Word of God (our Lord Jesus Christ), we should also bear in mind that Scripture is not, strictly speaking, an “incarnation.” The Bible is composed of ink marks and paper, but the words of Scripture that are represented by the ink marks are non-material (cf. John 6:63). But BioLogos goes a step further. BioLogos uses the analogy as a justification for the denial of biblical inerrancy, which is not an entirely new thing for theistic evolutionists to do. Long before BioLogos, Professor Bruce Vawter already reasoned that,
A human literature containing no error would indeed be a contradiction in terms, since nothing is more human than to err. Put in more vital terms, if the Scripture is a record of revelation, the acts of a history of salvation in which God has disclosed Himself by entering into the ways of man, it must be a record of trial and error as well as achievement, for it is in this way that man learns and comes to the truth” (Vawter 1972, p. 169).
This kind of reasoning raises many problems, and three are relevant to the topic under discussion.
Problem issues regarding BioLogos’ view of the nature of Scripture
The first problem about the reasoning of BioLogos is that it subjects biblical Christians to circular reasoning and inconsistency. How can Christians formulate coherent doctrines from Scripture which they, at the same time, cannot trust? If Scripture contains errors, then Scripture cannot be used, for example, to show the truth of our Lord’s teachings, precisely because His teachings are recorded in a book whose historical accuracy is in question. Should Christians restrict the errors of Jesus to what is written in Genesis 1–3? If so, by what argument should His errors not be extended to His spiritual teachings? Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12). So if Christians wish to controvert the point they must be consistent; if they insist that the Bible’s recorded history is not factually true, then they must extend the same claim to the spiritual truth recorded in it.
The Bible’s historical statements are foundational to its spiritual truth. Paul said, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15). If we cannot be certain that Jesus came into the world, then we cannot be certain that He came to save sinners. And if we cannot be certain that Jesus died, was buried, and rose bodily from the dead, then Christians’ faith is in vain and they are still in their sins and can have no hope of resurrection after their own deaths (1 Corinthians 15:1–19). The fact that about two-thirds of the Old Testament and over one-third of the New Testament are written in historical narrative shows that the history of the Bible is foundational to its theology and morality.
Part of the problem of circular reasoning is the contradictory messages we receive from BioLogos. On the one hand, BioLogos wants their readers to believe that they do not dispute the “Spirit’s primary authorship” or that the Scriptures’ human element “imply error” (Enns 2010c, p. 6). On the other hand, we are also told that Christians make a mistake to assume that the biblical record of Creation is literally, historically, and factually true (Giberson and Collins 2011, pp. 102, 206). Furthermore, if Jesus were a finite human being, then “there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, [and] John wrote Scripture without error” (Sparks 2010, p. 7). Yet in none of their works cited in the Introduction of this paper is our Lord’s understanding of Genesis 1–3 even discussed, which could not be an oversight, let alone be not a matter of little importance to followers of Christ, as we shall later see in more detail.
The second problem with the reasoning of BioLogos is that their conclusion about human error can only follow if other relevant factors are excluded from consideration, or are poorly understood or deliberately distorted. Here I have in mind a concept of the nature and character of the Creator and Holy Spirit. Humans are certainly finite and fallible beings and therefore subject to error, but just because it is true of humans in general does not mean that God was unable to prevent the human writers of Scripture from making errors or from recording falsehood. An answer to the next question is therefore crucial: how should Christians understand the concept of divine inspiration?9 And where should they begin to make sense of this question?
It is natural for biblical Christians to take their Lord as their point foundation for this question. Jesus was conceived by the sinless Spirit of God (Luke 1:35), born of a virgin (Luke 1:26–27), and was morally excellent in all respects (Hebrews 7:26). He never confessed a sin (Hebrews 4:15) and no one ever convicted Him of sin (John 8:46). He always taught the truth because truth is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:21) and He is the truth (John 14:6). He was God in human flesh (John 1:14) and in God “is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5) for He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). Therefore, we have rational grounds to accept that Jesus neither proclaimed falsehoods nor taught from Scriptures that were false in any way. Likewise, the sinless Spirit of God is all-powerful, all-knowing (Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 40:12–14, 21, 25, 26, 28) and cannot lie, for He is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13; 1 John 5:7). Since He inspired the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16) as He moved men to write (2 Peter 1:20–21), then we have rational grounds to accept that the Scriptures are inerrant. Note that I assume two things here.
First, a Christian’s point of entry to knowledge of the things of God, including knowledge of the kinds of things that exist, their natures, and their coming to be is the Bible. If the Creator intended for readers of Scripture to believe its content is factually true, while it is not, then the Creator was and is deceiving them. Secondly, if one decides to take, for example, the consensus view of the majority of scientists as one’s ultimate source of knowledge and uses such knowledge to reinterpret what Scripture affirms and asserts, then the issue becomes a matter of authority:10 either that of an all-powerful and inerrant God or the finite and errant opinions of man.11 Scripture provides ample evidence for Christians to believe that, in matters of authority and knowledge of reality, a Christian’s thinking proceeds “top-down” (that is, from God to man) instead of “bottom-up” (that is, creature to Creator). Here are two examples to substantiate the point:
- “. . . We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
- “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5; cf. the two kinds of wisdom contrasted in James 3:13–18).
The previous problems lead to a third and related problem, which is the conceptual inappropriateness that follows from a disjunction between divine authority and truthfulness. It leads to a dilemma for Christians: the logic not only leads to the denial of the inerrancy of Scripture, but also to the inerrancy of our Lord, and therefore to a denial of the authority of both. But the opposite is also true: if Christians affirm the truth and authority of Jesus, then they must, to be consistent, affirm that of the Scriptures. The dilemma follows from the fact that the two natures of our Lord form an inseparable unity (he is the God-man), and the analogy suggests that Scripture is like Him. If not, then the analogy between Scripture and our Lord breaks down. Therefore, if Christians are prepared to affirm the inerrancy of both Scripture and our Lord but also think that two truths could oppose each other, then this would require believing that a proposition could be true and false simultaneously, which is absurd; the truth then would be opposed to itself.
It will be useful, in light of the preceding discussion, to see how BioLogos reasons in order to persuade Christians to accept that the apostle Paul and our Lord were not free from error. Right after Enns informs his readers that Paul is the ultimate source of the “dis-ease” for Christians who are seeking to reconcile the Bible and evolution, he makes the following remark: “After a virtual silence on the subject in the intervening centuries from Genesis on, Paul suddenly appeals to Adam and holds him side-by-side with Jesus (Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15)” (Enns 2010a, p. 3). Why is Enns startled by this? Should a Christian be? Elsewhere, he tells his readers,
As important as Adam is to Paul, he is not a figure that gets a lot of airtime in the Old Testament. In fact, after Genesis 5, Adam makes his lone Old Testament appearance in 1 Chronicles 1:1. [O]f the 923 chapters that make up our Old Testament, [Adam] is mentioned only in Genesis 2–5 [and 1 Chronicles 1:1] (Enns 2010b, p. 5; cf. also Enns 2010a, pp. 9–10, fn. 5).12
For now, two observations will suffice. The first relates to the highly misleading message Enns communicates to his readers, namely, that the truth of Paul’s argument about the first and last Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 depends on the number of times Adam—as a type of Jesus—is referred to or is discussed in the Old Testament. To see why it is misleading, note that another type of Jesus, the bronze serpent in the wilderness, is referred to only twice in the entire Old Testament (Numbers 21:8–9; 2 Kings 18:4) before Jesus refers to the bronze serpent in John 3:14–16 as a prophetic type of His crucifixion for the healing of our souls.
The second observation is that Jesus could not have referred to the bronze serpent in this way if what is written in Numbers 21:8–9 is not factually correct.13 If the account of the bronze serpent was a product of someone’s imagination then so must be the teaching of our Lord. But since we know that He indeed died on a cross and rose from the dead, we conclude that the number of times a thing or person is referred to in the Old Testament and then discussed by a New Testament writer is not a criterion by which to judge the historical accuracy of the Old Testament passage. But Enns has another argument to consider here.14
He tells his readers that Paul could not have been right about Adam and Jesus, because “Paul was an ancient man, not a modern one” (Enns 2010b, p. 9). What Enns means is that Paul shared views of the world and human origins common to those of his culture, which were “pre-scientific”; he lived long before modern science and could not possibly have known that God actually created the world through evolution. One comment suffices here. It is an egregious thing to think that the Creator allowed Jesus and the writers of Scripture to hold false beliefs about the special creation of a literal Adam—on the sixth day of creation (Genesis 1:26–31), directly, separately from animals, and in mature form (Genesis 2:7)—and then waited over 1,800 years before He revealed to followers of Lyell and Darwin how He actually created the world. The evidence to be presented later in this paper will show how ludicrous this idea is.
The reasoning of BioLogos about our Lord is as follows:15 Jesus was completely human. Therefore, it is possible that He could have missed a nail and hit His thumb. It is possible that He could have been distracted from His work and forgotten where He placed His saw. He could have looked across a crowd and mistook someone else for His brother James. Because He was human, He was finite, and because He was finite, He was subject to limitations for Scripture says “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature,” (Luke 2:52) and Jesus did not know when the end of the world would come (Mark 13:32). Therefore, “If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, [and] John wrote Scripture without error” (Sparks 2010, p. 7). If this kind of reasoning is correct, then the following inferences must also be true, which is absurd: (1) no child of, say, between 3 and 18 can ever speak the truth, for they are in a process of growth and development, and growth and development imply error, and (2) no one (including the scholars associated with BioLogos) can ever claim to speak the truth about anything for no one has exhaustive knowledge of everything, for finite knowledge implies limitations, and limitations necessarily entail error. However, the simple fact is that human limitations do not necessarily entail error.
I shall now attempt to show how the logic of our Lord’s life in relation to Scripture confounds the conclusions of BioLogos. I begin by taking a brief look at the self-understanding of the Old Testament prophets because it helps to explain our Lord’s attitude to Scripture.
Section II: Jesus and Scripture
The Old Testament prophets
A reading of the Old Testament quickly leads to the conclusion that the Creator used various means to communicate to a specific person or the people of Israel. The writer of Hebrews states it this way: God “who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1). But the author of Hebrews also tells is us that God now speaks “to us by His Son” (v. 2). Although the human instruments (the prophets) were God’s predominant means of communication, He also spoke directly (for example, Genesis 3:17–19, 6:13, 12:1–3) but also through angels (Hebrews 1:13–14) and even through a donkey (Numbers 22:21–35; 2 Peter 2:16). This suggests that we should never forget that our God is both sovereign and almighty in power.
One of the first things we notice about the prophets is the fearsome responsibility that rested on them, for carelessness in expressing God’s message could result in nothing less than the death of the prophet. It is therefore not surprising to see that the standard by which they were to be judged was the truth of what they said. This is how Moses put it to the Israelites:
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?”—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him (Deuteronomy 18: 20–22; cf. 13:1–5).
Why is it not surprising that our Creator established such a high standard as the truth (the complete absence of any falsehood)? There are at least two answers to this question. First, it accords with the nature and character of our Creator; He is “. . . the God of truth . . .” (Isaiah 65:16), and “. . . cannot lie . . .” (Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19). Thus, and second, for a prophet to say “This is what God says . . .” when God has not, would have implied that He is a liar, and further, that God contradicts Himself and should therefore not be trusted. It is for this very reason that He issued stern warnings to those who would not believe or obey His prophets, for not to believe or not to obey a prophet entailed unbelief and disobedience to God Himself—whether in verbal or written form (see Numbers 22:38; Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, 19:18–19; Jeremiah 9:1; Ezekiel 2:7).
Solomon gave us a very clear indication of the quality of the words of God when he wrote, “Every word of God is pure . .&nbs; . Do not add to his words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5–6). Solomon’s point is that the words of God are flawless—every word is tested—meaning it was proved true. Again, this is in perfect accord with the nature and character of God, whose “eyes are too pure to approve evil” (Habakkuk 1:13) and what the Psalmist said about His word: “Your word is very pure; Therefore Your servant loves it” (Psalm 119:140; cf. Psalm 19:8). But who could have been responsible for this flawlessness or purity?16 The answer is the Spirit of God.
The prophets let us know that they were aware that they were speaking under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Brian Edwards (1993, p. 79) points out that expressions such as “The Lord spoke,” “The Lord commanded,” and “The Lord said” occur nearly 4,000 times in the Old Testament, and around 500 times in the first five books of the Bible alone. This suggests that they were able to speak and write words under the inspiration and direction of the Spirit of God and that their words carried absolute divine authority; none of the prophets ever spoke in his own name. David said, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me . . .” (2 Samuel 23:2–3); Micah said, “. . . I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD . . . ” (Micah 3:8), and Zechariah accused Israel of ignoring “. . . the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 7:12).
There is one more point we need to emphasize, in close connection with the previous one: there is no indication in either the Old or the New Testament that the prophets ever thought of their message as originating from themselves or was the product of their imagination. In contrast, consider the false prophets:
- “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, . . .” Jeremiah 23:16;
- “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’” Jeremiah 23:25;
- “How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, . . .” (Jeremiah 23:26–27).
- “And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, . . .’” Ezekiel 13:1–2;
- “. . . ‘Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit . . .’” Ezekiel 13:3;
- “They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD!’ . . . Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, ‘The LORD says,’ but I have not spoken.” Ezekiel 13:6–7;
- “My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; . . .” Ezekiel 13:9
- “Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people . . .” (Ezekiel 13:10).
These passages clearly reveal a relationship between authority and truth. False prophets, who prophesied falsehoods, had to be ignored, in contrast to the prophets of God whom Israel should fear and obey (Deuteronomy 18:22). The authority and messages of the false prophets, and the interpretation of their messages, had their source in the false prophets themselves: self-generated impressions and experiences rooted in deceptive hearts, as the prophet Jeremiah informed us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; . . .” (Jeremiah 17:9). The false prophets may have been sincere in what they said and did, but nowhere in Scripture do we find an indication served as a criterion by which prophets were to be judged as true or false. Of God’s prophets, the apostle Peter said, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20–21). That can only mean that they proclaimed the words prompted by the Spirit of God, rather than simply their own words. We can also put it differently: the prophets used their minds when they compiled Scripture but they did not make up the message.
In short, false prophets did nothing less than lying, perverting the Word of God, and deceiving the people of Israel. “Woe to them!” God said. With this in mind, let us now focus our attention on our Lord’s life in relation to Scripture.
The boy Jesus among the teachers in the temple
The Bible informs us that when God came into the world in the form of a human person (John 1:1–3, 14), He was part of a nation whose culture revolved around a set of writings that was accepted as the Word of God. These Scriptures are what Christians referred to as the Old Testament. What the Gospels reveal is that Jesus immersed Himself in those Scriptures. In Luke 2:41–52, we read that Jesus accompanied His parents to Jerusalem year after year to attend the Feast of the Passover, for such was their custom. On one such occasion, when He was 12, He went missing. After an anxious three-day search for Him, his parents found Him in the temple, in the midst of teachers of the Scriptures busy listening to them and asking them questions in response to what they taught (v. 46). There are three points about this event worth emphasizing.
First, “And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and answers” (v. 47). Second, His response to His parents is highly significant: “. . . Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). By asking them this question, Jesus established a relationship between His presence in the temple, the Scriptures, and His knowledge of the affairs of His Father. Should we think that Jesus, at age 12, possessed exhaustive knowledge of what the affairs of His Father entailed? There is no reason to think so. Does lack of exhaustive knowledge imply or entail that the relatively little that He did know contained errors. Hardly.
Consider His reasoning. There were really three options open to Jesus as He faced both these Jewish teachers and His parents.
- He could have turned to the teachers and told them that they should not accept their Scriptures as inspired writings, but then would have contradicted Himself in what He said to His parents.
- He could have accommodated the teaching of the teachers without actually accepting it, but then would have faked or denied His self-conscious knowledge of the affairs of His Father.
- He accepted their Scriptures as inspired and inerrant writings and acknowledged His awareness of the affairs of His Father.
Later, at the beginning of His ministry, He introduced Himself to the Jews in the synagogue by quoting the Scriptures. After reading Isaiah 65:1–2, He said: “. . . ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled . . .’” (Luke 4:21). It seems to be the most natural and logical thing for our Lord to have done: “You search the Scriptures, . . . and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).
The third point worth emphasizing is Jesus’ obedience to the Scriptures. Luke states that He went with His parents to Nazareth, “. . . and was subject to them . . .” (Luke 2:51). By obeying Exodus 20:12 (“Honor your father and your mother”) Jesus proved Himself not only a listener of Scripture, but also a doer of it. This shows that Jesus accepted the authority of the Scriptures because He accepted them as expressing the will of God.
Jesus and the temptation
The writer of Hebrews informs us that Jesus “. . . but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). To understand the nature of our Lord’s temptation by Satan, we have to shift our attention for a moment. The apostle Paul reminded Christians that the tempter and deceiver’s goal is to take “advantage” of them, and to that end employ various “devices” (plans, tactics) to achieve that goal (2 Corinthians 2:11). It appears that one of Satan’s favorite ploys is to raise doubt in the nature and character of the Word of God. The reason is very simple: if he can succeed in raising doubt in the minds of people about its truthfulness, then it is a very short step before they will reject its authority. In the Garden of Eden, Satan succeeded in doing exactly that, hence the apostle Paul’s warning to Christians: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). In the Garden he approached Eve with what God has indeed spoken, but with a twist; he admitted its truth in the form of a question, and then went on to deny its literal meaning (Genesis 3:1, 4). Satan’s issue with the spoken word of God at the beginning of creation is again evident at the time he confronted the incarnate Word of God by means of the written Word of God, right before He commenced His public ministry (Matthew 4:1–10; cf. Luke 4:1–13). Four points are worth highlighting here.
We have already alluded to the first point. Satan’s work has never changed since the beginning of creation; his special target is Christians, and his aim is to get them to doubt and deny the Word of God. Second, Satan’s use of Scripture to tempt Jesus suggests that he did not doubt its content for a moment; instead he used it out of context to put Jesus to the test. Third, Jesus answered the deceiver three times with “It is written . . .” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10), which beyond question confirms the nature (truth and authority), value, and purpose of the inspired Scriptures. As Paul states, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16). The word “all” at the beginning of this text cannot possibly mean “some” of the Scripture. This is also confirmed by how our Lord answered Satan: “. . . ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Although Jesus used “word” in the singular, He qualified it with “every” to reinforce His point. In other words, our Lord accepted the inspiration and authority of every single word that God had given, without exception. What Scripture says, is what God says. Finally, Jesus’ use of and reverence for Scripture must have been pleasing to the Father, for Jesus informed His listeners, and now His readers, that “. . . I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). It is therefore no wonder that the apostle Paul instructed Timothy to present himself to God “. . . a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15; cf. Proverbs 30:5–6).
Let us now see how our Lord interacted with those who considered Him a source of frustration in light of their high regard for their traditions and own interpretation of Scripture.
Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees
In Matthew 15:1–14 we read that Jesus was berated by a group of Pharisees who observed that He allowed His disciples to eat without washing their hands. What was problematic for them was that such a practice was in clear contradiction to the stipulations of their human tradition: “the tradition of the elders” (v. 2). Jesus turned the tables around; He accused them of transgressing the “commandment of God,” (v. 3), quoted what “God commanded” in Exodus 20:12 (v. 4), and charged them with “[making] the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition” (v. 6). Quoting Isaiah 29:13 He reproved them: “. . . these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men” [that is, by memory or a fixed procedure without thought of the meaning].
We notice that Jesus’ reference to “commandment” is part of their Scripture, and what Scripture says Jesus considered as something God had said. This again shows that Jesus accepted Scripture to be divinely inspired and as revealing the will of God. But that is not all. Jesus clearly showed that He did not accommodate Himself to the traditions of men (“culture”), which proves that He regarded Scripture to be the highest authority in deciding matters of truth and falsehood, and rightness and wrongness, in both the sight of God and man. He scolded the Pharisees for disregarding that authority and mixing their traditions with the revelation of God. There is therefore just one reasonable conclusion: Jesus accepted the Old Testament as the true (inerrant) and authoritative Word of God.
Jesus’ interaction with the Sadducees
One group of Jewish teachers, the Sadducees, believed in neither the resurrection of the dead nor the existence of angels and spirits (Acts 23:8). In Matthew 22:23–33 the Sadducees asked Jesus who, in the resurrection, will be the husband of a woman who had been married successively to seven brothers on earth. The motive was to set a trap for Jesus. They thought that in reply Jesus had only three options open to Himself. First, He could have denied the reality of the resurrection, and so accommodated Himself to their view of reality. But He would then have contradicted Himself because He already informed them of His own approaching death and resurrection from the dead (cf. Matthew 12:38–42, 16:1–4). Second, Jesus could have accepted polygamy and adultery and pleaded ignorance as to whose wife she would be in heaven. But then He would have proved Himself a charlatan to be ignored, for He would have contradicted Himself on what He already taught them concerning marriage and adultery (Matthew 5:27–32). Third, Jesus could have said she will be married to one brother alone, but with no grounds on which to base such a belief, thus undermining the foundation for Him to say that He spoke the truth and that He came from the Father (John 8:14, 16, 18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 38, 42, 49, 54, 55).
What did He do instead? He went to the essence of the matter. First, He corrected the false assumption that undergirded their beliefs, namely, that there is marriage in heaven. Second, He backed up His statement by exposing their lack of understanding of both the Scriptures and the power of God (Matthew 22:29).17 In quoting Exodus 3:6 (“. . . ‘I am. . . the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ . . .”) Jesus corrected their second false assumption, which was that Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac referred to deceased people. He informed them that our Creator is a God of the living, not of the dead! It is a claim, in other words, that Jesus could only have made if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive, if they had continued to exist after their bodily death on earth.
Let me summarize the key teachings of this passage of Scripture: (1) Scripture is completely reliable; (2) Scripture is authoritative over human reasoning; (3) arrogant minds cannot understand Scripture (cf. Isaiah 66:1–2), and (4) God’s power is greater than what the human mind can conceive. In a word, Jesus showed His confidence in Scripture, and considered Scripture accurate and unassailable. It is therefore difficult to conceive how the Scriptures that “cannot be broken” (John 10:35; cf. Matthew 5:19) can be somehow defective.
Jesus’ view of Scripture
Before we consider what Jesus believed and taught from Genesis 1–3, it will be helpful to summarize a few more things Jesus said and did to reveal His view of Scripture.
- Jesus affirmed to God our Father, “. . . Your word is truth” (John 17:17), an affirmation which excludes the possibility that it could contain error of any kind.
- Jesus often asked, “Have you not read?” (for example, Matthew 19:4), and then He took the quoted Scripture literally.
- Jesus often said, “It is written. . .” (for example, Matthew 4:1–10; Luke 19:46) or “. . . as it is written . . .” (Luke 3:4) or “Today this Scripture is fulfilled . . .” (Luke 4:21), which clearly reveal that He accepted both the truth and authority of the Scriptures.
- Jesus often referred to “the prophets” (Luke 18:31) or a whole book, such as the “Book of Psalms” (Luke 20:42), which imply that He considered every part of the Old Testament as inspired, true and authoritative.
- He taught from the Old Testament after His resurrection (Luke 24:27), which shows that what was true and authoritative for Him before His death remained true and authoritative for Him after His resurrection. In different words, our Lord did not undergo a change of mind about the truth and authority of the Scriptures.
- In Matthew 24:35 Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” In this text our Lord assigned permanence to the words that He spoke on earth just as He did to the words of the Old Testament (cf. Matthew 5:18). As one New Testament scholar observes,
If Jesus could insist on the retention of even the smallest letter of the Hebrew OT [Old Testament] and even the smallest part of a letter of the Hebrew OT, one should expect that the Holy Spirit would preside over the inspiration of the NT [New Testament] with the same degree of accuracy. If Paul could insist on Timothy’s close attention to details of Scripture [cf. 2 Timothy 2:15, 3:14, 15], one of those details would be the very words spoken by Jesus (Thomas 2004, p. 201).
- Whereas “amen” is used in the Old Testament to give assent to God’s will or a prayer which agree with God’s character (for example, 1 Kings 1:36; Nehemiah 5:13, 8:6), the Gospels indicate that Jesus placed “amen” 75 times before His own statements to emphasize their truthfulness (for example, Matthew 5:18). In the 25 times that such an amen occurs in the gospel of John, it is always doubled (for example, John 3:3, 5, 5:19, 24, 25). The reasonable conclusion is that Jesus’ use of “amen” signals His authority and veracity; what He said was absolutely true and the will and word of God.
No one who has knowledge of the Old Testament can doubt that our Lord’s thinking was full of its words and phrases. He lived and taught the Scriptures as the authoritative and absolutely trustworthy Word of God. He used them directly and indirectly, and never did He give His approval to anything other than the words of the Old Testament. It is difficult not to conclude that, for Jesus, what Scripture said, the Creator said.
Jesus and Genesis 1–3
What Jesus Christ, our Lord, thought about the history of the earth and the origin of man ought to be of the highest concern to Christians, and accepting what He taught, including what He taught from Genesis, is beyond question a mark of discipleship. The apostle John recorded this fact in no uncertain terms: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word [that is, teachings], you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31–32). That truth will protect His disciples from being enslaved to false ideas. In John 5:46–47 Jesus asked His listeners, and now us: “[I]f you believed Moses, you would believe Me; . . . But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” There can be no doubt about Jesus’ view of the writings of Moses; He believed Moses and what Moses taught was foundational to His teachings. Let us briefly consider a number of things Jesus said in reference to what is written in Genesis 1–3.
- On the beginning of the earth and the creation of Adam and Eve: “. . . ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate’” (Matthew 19:4–6); “But from the beginning of creation, God made them ‘male and female’” (Mark 10:6); “For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be” (Mark 13:19).
By connecting the “beginning of creation” with Adam and Eve and human suffering, Jesus confirmed a young earth, for God created heaven and earth in six days (cf. Genesis 1:1–2:3; Exodus 20:8–11), and Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation; He showed that He took Genesis 1 (vv. 26–27) and Genesis 2 (vv. 21–24) as equally literal, therefore, regarded the record of Genesis 1 and 2 as the literal, historical, and factual truth.
- On Abel and the foundation of the world: “Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah . . .’” (Luke 11:49–51).
Luke shows that Jesus connected the “foundation of the world” with the existence of Abel, which implies that Abel’s parents, Adam and Eve, must have been literal people (cf. Genesis 4).
- On Satan: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8 also says that “. . . the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
This means that Jesus took these events as something that really happened. Thus, a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1–3 would have to disregard the literal-historical understanding of Jesus of those chapters.18 Put another way, to believe in a creation, including of Adam and Eve, over millions or billions of years, as theistic evolutionists maintain, calls into question the truthfulness and authority of Jesus.
Jesus and the disciples
In John 15:26–27, Jesus said to His disciples: “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” The passage makes it clear that Jesus told His disciples that there will come a day when they will bear witness of Him. Their task, as we know, was to propagate His teachings: “. . . ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go . . . make disciples of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you . . .” (Matthew 28:18–20; cf. Acts 1:2, 8).
But Jesus assured His disciples that they would not have to carry out their task all on their own, without the help of the Spirit of truth. And He further assured them that their Helper would enable them to remember His teachings: “. . . the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). Now if Jesus intended that His disciples would one day write inspired Scripture, do we have any reason to think that the outcome would be full of human mistakes and errors about history? It suffices to make two further observations.
First, Christians have no Christ except the one whom the apostles have given to them. The apostles were dependent on our Lord for the truth of their teaching and knowledge, as we are dependent on them for ours. Second, if Christians discredit those on whose testimony alone their beliefs and doctrines depends, then they must assume that what our Lord taught the apostles could not have been true. But since it is clear that our Lord committed Himself to their teaching after His return to the Father, can it mean anything less than that our Lord became an accomplice in error and falsehood? We thus see, to the extent that the apostles are discredited as authoritative teachers of truth, to that extent our Lord is discredited with them.
Several conclusions emerge. First, theistic evolutionists do their best to convince Christians that the biblical record of creation cannot be trusted as a straightforward historical account because such interpretation is contrary to “science” (by which they mean the evolutionist majority view of origins). But such an approach flies in the face of Jesus’ view of inerrancy and authority of Scripture and His interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis as literal history. BioLogos leaders and other theistic evolutionists profess to believe that the Bible is true in matters of faith (that is, salvation and spirituality) but not necessarily always true in its statements related to history or science. But if the Bible is in error in its historical or scientific statements, then how can it be trustworthy in matters of faith?
Second, God used the unique thinking, life experiences and writing styles of the human authors to pen Scripture, but we have no reason to think that their humanness corrupted the final result with errors. Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament writers thought their books originated from themselves. They were writing for God and by His Spirit. God is a God of truth; He cannot lie, and He has “. . . purer eyes than to behold evil . . .” (Habakkuk 1:13). It would have been an evil thing indeed for God to have watched the writers of Scripture record what they believed to be true, but which God knew was actually false. Therefore, to posit errors in Scripture is to question the truth and all-knowing nature of God the Holy Spirit.
Third, contrary to what BioLogos assumes, is that the divine element in the inspiration of Scripture guaranteed both its intelligibility and infallibility, because the God of the Bible is both intelligent and infallible. Moreover, Jesus was both “Son of Man” and “Son of God,” and as “Son of Man” He was a unique man among and above all others: He was and is the Truth (John 14:6). If anything of what He taught cannot be accepted as true, then He cannot be trusted. The same applies to His Word, the Scriptures. As the Son of Man was fully human and yet sinless (because He was also the Son of God), so the Scriptures are fully human and yet inerrant (because it is not merely the words of men, but more importantly the Word of God).
We can summarize the conclusions. BioLogos forces upon readers of the Bible a dual crisis of confidence: a crisis of confidence in the accuracy of Scripture, and a crisis of confidence in the nature, character, and authority of Jesus Christ, the Creator. This logic suggests that the ultimate source of the “dis-ease” of those who wish to reconcile the Bible with evolution is not the apostle Paul, but the nature and character of their Creator.
I wish to thank the reviewers of this paper for a number of very helpful and appreciated suggestions and corrections.
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