Pseudochristian Teachers Part 1: Scripture

We live in interesting times, times when Christians cannot ignore Apologetics, but this introduces a danger as well, some apologists along the way to answering objections to the faith, seek to answer those questions by modifying the faith, without realizing that the are producing something that is, in fact, no longer Christianity despite their continued use of Christian terminology and forms. This is not an old question, it was answered, I believe somewhat definitively, by Gresham Machen in his book Christianity and Liberalism, in which he demonstrated that theological liberalism’s departures from orthodox doctrine marked them as a non-Christian movement, and was the guiding principles of the Fundamentalist-modernist debate of the early twentieth century. Theological Liberalism in a sense, maintains elements Christian thought, termology and culture, but their theology substituted German Idealism for Christian doctrine, particularly in doctrines that Kantians and Hegelians would consider embarrassing. That is, theological liberalism attempted to replace components of a Christian worldview with those of German idealism. This was further developed by accommodating Hegelian epistemological assumptions in Biblical Studies, most famously by Bauer in the New Testament and by Wellhausen in the Old.[1]

This same trend has begun in modern American Evangelicalism, and it needs to be uprooted. Care here must be taken, however, I am not calling for a witchunt, and there must be a distinction made between laymen who have been failed by the church to provide an adequate theological education and those who teach and propagate false doctrine as if those doctrines are compatible with Christianity. A former professor I greatly respected once noted that, as a very young believer, he became involved with a supposedly Christian group that was involved in spiritualism and automatic writing; at the time he didn’t know any better. This is stated to point out two truths, first we need to be careful to avoid lumping misled sheep with the wolves. Second, there is a need for better doctrinal education in many of our churches, particularly in matters of the fundamentals, and one that presents to teens in particular the full robustness and the explanatory power Christianity provides for the world. There are, in particular, three trends that Christians should be aware in this regard, only one of which will be covered in this article.

I am suggesting, however, that professors and writers advocating certain viewpoints should be subject to church disciplinary procedures, as well as removal of ordination for views that are, from the standpoint of Christian theology, heretical.

The Standard of Scripture

The first issue is the role of the Bible in Christian thought, or more specifically some writers seem to believe that we can dispense with the traditional view of the Bible within Christian theology. By this I mean we have writers dispensing, both theologically and practically, with both the doctrines of the inerrancy of Scripture and the infallibility of Scripture. These two terms can easily be misunderstood due to the tendency of new heresies to attempt to redefine terms, often for deceptive purposes.[2] The term Infallibility means that the Scriptures contain no errors in doctrine (this would include things like ethics, or the existence of the soul) and therefore the Scriptures are fully authoritative in matters of faith and practice. Inerrancy takes this standard one step further and argues Scripture contains no errors whatsoever.[3] As Warfield demonstrated, inerrancy has been the traditional position held by most Christian thinkers throughout church history, and I am a firm inerrantist. I furthermore believe that denominational bodies with creedal commitments to inerrancy within their documents should rigorously enforce that point in regards to their officers and professors. Nevertheless, I draw the line of orthodoxy at infallibility,[4] there are four reasons for this, first, because the issue is rarely dealt with in a way that is clear,[5] and as often as note, strawman arguments have become so standard, they make comprehending the issue difficult. Second, and related to the first point, there is an issue of worldview that is not often acknowledged in this discussion. Modernism viewed good scholarship as not maintaining predetermined viewpoints, and this I think has led some genuinely good scholars in the 19th and 20th century to be misled on the point; in part through various myths about the enlightenment period that were considered historical facts for several centuries; in point of fact, the enlightenment did not move to the purely rational thought processes, as so many assume. Rather they substituted one set of premises for another; naturalism is not, as so many modernists have claimed it, the default set of assumptions, but rather it is an arbitrary premise that is maintained as inviolable. Third, because it gives time for younger believers to work through these questions without the type of pressures that we sometimes use that are counter-productive, particularly given the spirit of the age.[6] Fourth, and finally, Infallibility answers the question of the Bible’s role in our systematic theology sufficiently to allow some communication with a divergent viewpoint; that is, if one is an infallibilist, then it will not impact systematic theology provided their infallibilism is rigorously maintained (and where the problem really develops is when people claim to be infallibilists, but then do Biblical and Systematic theology as if the Biblical authors made doctrinal or ethical errors).

One might immediately ask where is the problem, after all, aren’t some people just advocating infallibility, which I begrudgingly allow as orthodox? The problem is some advocate infallibility in theory, but deny it in practice, or they are openly dispensing with infallibility. Thus, in a recent conversation with a man who has confirmed himself in this heresy a few times, the Bible’s testimony about the existence of the soul is irrelevant because there is no scientific evidence of such a thing.[7] This is immaterial (pun intended), to the question, if one accepts the infallibility of Scripture than Scripture is itself sufficient to establish the doctrine; claims science has disproven it are ultimately faulty.[8] The issue ultimately is that some deny that the Bible is, the “Word of God,” a phrase meaning it is what God has spoken.[9] This is why both Jesus and the apostles treat “Scripture says” as a fully authoritative on any point, and Jesus implies the same of the teachings of the apostles, the apostles recognizing Paul as the equal of Peter. If Jesus rose from the grave, and is, therefore, Who He claims to be, his Imprimatur is sufficient.[10]

The grounds for much of this new heresy comes in battles over origins, as some supposedly Evangelical thinkers have adapted various liberal interpretations of alleged claims about science in the Old Testament, particularly with Genesis 1, or the accounts of the flood which they claim are borrowed from pagan myths. I have addressed part of this problem elsewhere, the basis of the argument they are applying is semantically naïve, and their treatment of the Biblical material is surprisingly ham-handed. There is this odd tendency to speak often of the “Genres of Scripture” by people who in my estimation have very little skill in understanding of the actual genres of Scripture. In the main, however, this is a regurgitation of the various “History of religions approaches” that the theological left explored in the first half of the twentieth century, until they began, at least in New Testament studies, to realize they were engaged in question begging. Yet, the supposed Christian engaged in this type of approach is not understanding the ramifications of which he asserts, if the Bible is merely retelling old myths—to whatever purpose one might claim it to be, if the Bible is (as Barth noted) is merely a record of the impressions God has left on man, or retelling myths with a theological purpose, then it is evidence that Christianity is false, and should be discarded, it is not an argument for modifying our understanding of Scripture.[11] There is a similar discussion here when it comes to discussions claiming God’s behavior is unethical and therefore traditional views of Biblical authority should be discarded.[12] This applies to discussions of supposed “OT cosmology” but it also applies to attempts to assert Paul’s discussions of the role of women in the Church or as I will point out in the next piece, to the question of original sin.

[1] This is one point that is not often explained in discussions of early Fundamentalism. Early Fundamentalists along with earlier reformed writers drew from their epistemology from Scottish Common Sense Realism rather than from continental schools of thought that became popular in America at this time, and this shift itself is one of a change in academic fashion more than a discussion of disproof.

This also becomes one of the great issues in Biblical studies, there are elements of these assumptions that are still maintained by many scholars or which underlie many theories that are widely held, sadly many Evangelical scholars included, as if these partisan Hegelian assumptions constitute some neutral ground in the interpretation of Scripture.


[2]In an apologetics group in facebook I see have seen a number of posts in recent years that suggest new definitions of inerrancy. When I have noted they are presenting an already existing distinction between inerrancy and infallibility they tend to be dissatisfied with the answer, in part one or two noted it created a problem because some denominations require inerrancy as a standard in hiring for professors in their schools or as pastors in their churches; they wanted to change that standard so that their views could be propagated at those institutions. This is as much an issue of integrity as it is doctrinal definition.

 [3] See the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.

 [4]That is, if I were a seminary president, I would not accepted water-down approaches to the Bible for faculty members if the seminary articles of faith require a standard of inerrancy. Nevertheless, I might work with a scholar who holds the lower standard of infallibility on a given project, invite them to speak on an issue not impacted by the point, etc.

 [5] For example, The Chicago Statement on inerrancy is viewed by many as containing too many caveats, and that these caveats somehow negate the concept entirely. This is fuzzy thinking in a sense, and misses the history of the document, which seeks to answer the numerous strawman arguments that had previously been raised on the issue by several generations of the theological left, as well as by English Deists.

[6]As an example, a little more than a decade ago, I read The Book of Enoch, an apocryphal book that is quoted by the book of Jude. Reading the book led to a six week period when I questioned its inclusion in the canon—the conservative answer here is sound, but I needed to assimilate the data and apply it for myself.

[7] Atheists claim the soul has been disproven. The problem is they misstate the case that has been made, they have demonstrated significant (though I do not believe fatal) problems for Cartesian Dualism. The problem is, Cartesian Dualism is not a restatement of the traditional position that preceded Descartes. Descartes’s take on the absolute split between soul and body is probably drawn from Plato, and differs from earlier Christian views of the relationship between the soul and the body, where the body/soul were treated as intertwined rather than dichotomous. While I do not consider it a perfect answer to the question, I consider the relationship between the soul and the brain to be similar to the distinctions in a computer between the hardware and the software.

 [8]It has been suggested that physicalism and freewill have been disproven through EEG and other brain scanning technologies. In the case of freewill, there are assumptions about what it means to possess freewill in the assessments that are problematic. Freewill is not necessarily an absolute, and it is not incompatible to automation. That is, we can, of our own freewill, form principles that guide our decision making without significant thought at the time. Second, the assumptions on the soul are based on a Cartesian dualism which is what the study claim to disprove, but Christianity is not necessarily Cartesian. This is no insult to Descartes, but his conception of the soul as completely distinct from the body (something that he might have borrowed from Platonic philosophy) is asomewhat original claim, but early generations of theologians did not make the divide so complete. My own working model on the mind/body problem is as an analogy to the hardware/software divide on the computer. Both exist, both are necessary for the function of the machine, but they cannot be divided in practice. I do not imply the soul is merely data, but rather than the soul performs a similar role in guiding our actions.

[9] The New Testament borrows this from the Old Testament prophetic writings who conveyed the Word of Yahweh as something spoken or given to them. Paul describes the Scriptures as “God breathed” that is, words that come from God’s mouth.

 [10] At some later date, this will be addressed as it influences apologetics from the standpoint of Christianity as a worldview. Some seem to think we need some external support of every Christian idea and doctrine within an apologetics framework. But, this is the borrowing of a foreign set of epistemological principles. Some will object to discussions of epistemology within a discussion of worldview, on the misunderstanding that such a concept is relativistic. Relativism is not a necessary component in worldview studies, arguing that worldview impacts epistemology does not imply all discussions of epistemology are merely examples of a worldview. The very fact that people alter and change their worldviews, and with it their epistemological principles demonstrates that worldview does not go all the way down to the epistemological bottom, there is an underlying epistemological process that allows for the adoption, shifting and wholehearted rejection of a worldview. Rather, our worldview embodies our metaphysical and axiological premises, along with some of the rules we use to develop those premises.


[11] By this I include heretical writers such as John Walton, Denis Lamoureux, et. Al.


[12] This view is taken in Eric A Seibert’s Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God.