“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16 NIV
“The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.” Evangelical Theological Society
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deut. 8:3
In any discussion about Creationism, it is necessary to understand the importance of Biblical infallibility to Conservative Protestant Evangelicals. Although Intelligent Design proponents have removed all Bible specific aspects of Young Earth Creationism from their theory, it would be disingenuous not to recognize that most ID proponents also believe that Christian scripture is infallible.
1 : incapable of error : unerring
2 : not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint : certain
3 : incapable of error in defining doctrines touching faith or morals
In its mildest form, this assumption of infallibility only applies to matters of faith and practice (Limited infallibility) . In this form, it is admitted that the Bible makes historical, geographical, and scientific mistakes; it is only in matters of faith and doctrine where it remains unquestioned. This is the form that most Catholics and “liberal” protestants believe, While this belief seems very odd to the non-believer, it generally does not cause very much cognitive dissonance for those who believe. They can rest easy that the Bible got the important things right, and that science has also gotten things right. The two domains remain non-overlapping.
The strong form is called “Biblical inerrancy”, which claims that the Bible is 100% accurate and free from contradiction in all matters, including science and doctrine. This is the dominate belief system for Evangelical supporters of Intelligent Design and Young Earth Creationism. This dogma is the primary reason why Evangelicals are so hostile to Evolution.
Both groups find that interpretation of scripture is of utmost importance. This is called “hermeneutics”; the process of interpreting the Bible theologically. Those who believe in Limited Infallibility generally read the Bible using some sort of historical-metaphorical or historical-grammatical heurmanetics. Those who claim the stronger form of infallibility interpret the Bible more literally, only accepting non-factual interpretations when it is explicitly identified by the text or context. When in doubt, they assume the Bible is meant to be understood as factual first, and metaphorical second. For both groups, Biblical infallibility is the very bedrock of their religious world-view.
Questioning or contradicting this belief is considered a direct attack on Christianity.
Why this is the case is not hard to understand, but it’s best to use an analogy. All US law is subservient to the Constitution of the United States. All governmental authority is derived from our Constitution. All federal and local law must not contradict the Constitution, otherwise it is struck down and not considered law. The Constitution must be interpreted, and for all practical purposes the interpretations of the Supreme Court ARE the highest law of the land. Similarly, a Christian considers themselves a citizen of God’s Kingdom, and the Bible is their Constitution. All authority is dependent on it. All law is subservient to it. The Bible is interpreted by leaders of the different sects, and for all practical purposes these interpretations are the final word in Christian theology.
But there is an important difference between the Bible and the Constitution. The Constitution is a product of a democratic process; while the Bible is the elite witness of early church founders. Because all law is up for a vote in a democracy, it was important that the Constitution did not assume infallibility, and that it contained a process by which it could change itself.
The authority of the Constitution is based on the consensus of the governed. In contrast, the authority of Scripture is based on the belief that was inspired by G-d. While the former requires question and modification, the authority of scripture CANNOT BE QUESTIONED or it looses its absolute authority. To question the Bible is to question all of Christian morality and belief, from the Golden Rule to the Eucharist.
In the next part of this series I wll explore Young Earth Creationism and its latest incarnation, Intelligent Design.