Origin Confusions part 3: Limitations and Heresies


The last two articles have been steps in developing an article I wrote called Mea Culpa some time ago. I raised a digression, a discussion of the difference between the way an apologist or a theologian approaches this issue, and the need to try to keep from bringing every element of the discussion into our evangelism and our apologetics. Soulwinner’s leave gospel tracts with those they seek to win, they do not leave an entire apologetics library. In short, the apologist is a part of the church’s spiritual munitions industry, the theologian is a part of her domestic industries. Discussing the differences between interpretations of Genesis with an unbeliever is like the digression the woman at the well wanted to make in her discussion with the Lord about where worship should happen. A discussion of origins is well and good with the theologians in the church, but with unbelievers, this is something like explaining the sine, cosine and tangent to those who have not even mastered addition. In these contacts, keep it as simple as possible; answer objections where needed and press the point that all we see cannot come about without a creator.  The first piece, two weeks ago expanded the basic main point of mea culpa, which is the need to exercise charity in the way we discuss issues where Christian brothers disagree on doctrinal issues.

But there is a limit to evangelical charity in these discussions, there are doctrinal commitments that are necessary for one to claim to be an Evangelical, one of which is the infallibility of the Scriptures, and there are some who are crossing that line in this particular issue, particularly writers such as Denis Lamoureux and Peter Enns, who are arguing that the Old Testament is a myth. Let me explain the difference for a moment. A proponent of the day age theory of the earth, or a proponent of the gap theory is not arguing that Scripture is wrong about the origin of the earth and universe, they are arguing that a young earther like myself has misunderstood what Genesis means. Denis Lamoureux and Peter Enns instead argue that the Bible is simply wrong about science and history, and yet still claim to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, they merely argue this term needs to be redefined. I am currently focusing on Lamoureux because I know his work better.

Of course, this is not in keeping with Evangelical teaching, but what these men are doing is trying to redefine the term “inerrancy.” There is a sense in which their use of this term is simple dishonesty, theologians in the twentieth century began to develop a theological vocabulary to allow for a discussion of bibliology that allowed for more nuance, thus inerrancy (Scripture contains no errors) was distinct from infallibility (Scripture contains no errors in doctrine). Of course, because many churches have inerrancy in their doctrinal standards, this becomes a problem for those who disbelieve that the Bible is inerrant. And there are historical reasons to be concerned about those arguing the Bible is infallible but not inerrant, after a while the claims that the Bible is infallible begin to be diluted when inerrancy is abandoned.[1] Yet, Lamoureux does not argue that Scripture is infallible but not inerrant (an honest way of describing his position); to do so would be to cut oneself off from churches and funding that require one to be an inerrantist.

One does not merely disregard an argument because it is inconvenient to the positions one has taken; Enns and Lamoureux have raised an argument that should be answered, and I have been working on these answers amidst other processes. Essentially, their argument is that the Bible reflect ancient science which has been disproven, and therefore we should simply ignore any attempt to apply the Bible to origins and treat the universe as essentially naturalistic with a few miracles allowed in the context of the Gospels (although Lamoureux claims Jesus makes scientific errors as well in discussing mustard seeds). For example, Lamoureux argues that the Old Testament presents the sky as existing of a solid dome, and since this is false, one cannot accept the Bible’s proscriptions about science and therefore we treat Genesis as a myth that contains valuable information. Yet, the problem with his approach is that this ultimately becomes a point where Christianity is falsified, because of the importance of the fall in discussions of Human death in the Pauline epistles and thus Scripture is not infallible either.  One must also wonder about Jesus’s treatment of the Torah as the works of Moses. Again, we cannot simply assert that, because the conclusions are distasteful that the argument is false, although we may argue a counter argument outweighs Lamoureux’s work. But, there are significant problems in the case Lamoureux has made. These include the following:

  1. Lamoureux treats language in the Bible as if it is being used as a scientific term, this is something I call semantic naivete, and I’ve had a piece published in a Answer’s research journal recently discussing this point.[2] My argument is that terms used in ancient science will have had an impact on the language being used to describe the world and metaphorical language overtime becomes a “literal” meaning of the term.
  2. Related to this, the terms used as semantic connections in this theory use secondary sources with the surety as if they were primary sources of information. Lamoureux uses the etymological history of a term as if it were a primary source for understanding it’s meaning, and at other times translations, comparisons to related languages, or translations (such as Lamoureux’s references to the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament) are used as sources to ground his argument. But these are sources of secondary value, and one must therefore modify the certainty of the argument they are raising from these sources.
  3. The approach they take is an old approach that underlies those arguing the gospels are myth. This approach was a common one in the gospels in the past in scholarship and today has some popular levels of support. This is sometimes referred to as an aspect of the religionesgeschitelich Schule or the history of religion approach. For example, Lamoureux argues that the narrative of Genesis one is taken from pagan myth, but has been denuded of references to pagan gods and monsters to make the rhetorical point that God is the originator of creation. The thing about this particular way of discussing the gospels is it misses what actually happened that led to this approach being largely dismissed from the gospels texts. Simple comparison can’t be based simply on age of a tradition, when we don’t have the sources for the Torah or the pagan versions in hand, otherwise we are begging the questions. Just as Lamoureux argues from comparisons to ancient myths, Young Earth Creationists often discuss the flood by comparing it to ancient myths, the only difference being those young earthers usually have a broader number of sources they are working from.[3] The differences in the analysis comes down to assumptions, one can make arguments about what is prior, but just as the Christian YMCA preceded the Hindu YMHA in india, it does not follow that a tradition with older extant material is necessarily prior.



I have argued that we ought to exercise charity in our discussions with other believers in issues of origins, and that we should be cautious not to make specific models central to our apologetics. Yet there is a limit to our graciousness, and those claiming the Bible itself contains errors should be treated as we might someone that denies the deity of Christ or the virgin birth. The arguments that these men are raising are themselves flawed, and therefore they do not demonstrate that the Bible is false.

[1] See Marston’s Reforming Fundamentalism. Marston is a historian of the Fundamentalism/Evangelical conflict although he is perhaps better in discussing Evangelicals than Fundamentalists, but it is clear that at Fuller, the faith was watered down and the doctrinal and ethical authority of the Bible were implicitly weakened.

[2] https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/phenomenological-language-and-semantic-na%C3%AFvet%C3%A9/ This journal is peer-reviewed.


[3] Lamoureux limits himself to Semitic sources, but there are flood narratives in other civilizations, although some borrowing cannot be discounted. There are some scholars who believe Hesiod’s Theogony (a poem discussing the origins of the Greek gods) has roots in Semitic writings.