Inerrancy, Adam and ETS

Posted By on December 7, 2013

It’s been two weeks since I attended the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (held this year in Baltimore). The theme this year was inerrancy. I know it’s a tired subject for many, but it’s still quite current within ETS, due in no small part to recent books that force the question. I speak here primarily of issues surrounding the historicity of Adam.  Consequently there were whole sessions devoted to inerrancy and the historical Adam, subjects about which I’ve blogged here at length.

For those who didn’t attend, there are two convenient ways to get a good feel for the discussion.

First, the major session on inerrancy is included these speakers and topics:

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Classic Inerrancy is Necessary for Evangelical Integrity

Peter E. Enns (Eastern University)
Abandoning Inerrancy Is Necessary for Evangelical Integrity

Michael F. Bird (Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry, Australia)
Inerrancy is Not Necessary for Evangelicalism Outside the USA

D.A. Carson (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
An Evaluation of Some Recent Discussions on the Doctrine of Scripture

Ben Witherington III (Asbury Theological Seminary)
The Truth will Out: an Historian’s Perspective on the Inerrancy Controversy

Panel Discussion on Inerrancy

These sessions are accessible by audio. I found links to the audio of the sessions on Google Drive (hover over the files at the link to see the session titles). I’m not sure what Google Drive really is (i.e., if you have to have a GMail address), but there you go.

As far as the historical Adam discussion goes, the four scholars below and their topics can all be found in the book, Four Views on the Historical Adam (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).

Denis O. Lamoureux (St. Joseph’s College, the University of Alberta)
No Adam: The Evolutionary Creation Position

John H. Walton (Wheaton College)
Adam and Eve as Archetypes

C. John Collins (Covenant Theological Seminary)
Adam and Eve: Who They Were and Why We Should Care

William Barrick (The Master’s Seminary)
A Historical Adam, Young-Earth Creation View

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11 Responses to “Inerrancy, Adam and ETS”

  1. deuteroKJ says:

    I attended ETS this year, then read both just-released Zondervan Counterpoint books on Inerrancy and Historical Adam (yes, this is how I spent my Thanksgiving break!). Unfortuantely, the sessions that interacted with the authors of each volume were at the exact same time (I chose the Historical Adam section). Debates at ETS, like any four- or five-views book, is a mixed bag…and I think frequenters to Naked Bible will appreciate good debate on important topics but always be wanting more nuance (“But, but, but…”) and less socio-political rhetoric (IMO). Not to brown nose, but I sat through several sessions wishing Heiser was part of them! (For the record, I’ve never met Mike, but find him a kindred spirit). I have been wondering for some time if there is some “movement” to split the ETS crowd on inerrancy (i.e., between those who want to tighten the Chicago Statement and those who want to broaden it), but I didn’t come away with any sense that any such agenda is underfoot.

  2. terrythecensor says:

    A modern scholarly debate about the historicity of Adam! My mind is blown.

    Even so, I’m adding that book to my wish list (if I can ever manage to finish my review of the Hill abduction case).

  3. Patrick says:

    Walton has a new book out basically about proper hermeneutics and I love his view of inerrancy. “Lost world of Scripture” I think.

    Locution is not inerrant, obviously the sun didn’t stop moving in Joshua cause it never started moving. God accomodated human secular knowledge in the locution.

    It’s the illocution that is inerrant. What God meant for the reader to grasp from those passages theologically.

    • MSH says:

      I like the distinction (and it’s a good example), though many would not. Walton’s co-author is Brent Sandy for those interested. Looked at it at ETS. John told me a few months ago they were working on it and it looks very worthwhile.

  4. Stephen says:

    Slightly off topic but not too bad as Enns mentions it in his discussion, but I was reading one of your old posts on here and I saw you mention the mythopetic “option” of interpretation. In that comment you made to someone, I got the vibe you said you were now leaning towards that over the more “literal” reading of the Gen 6 “Sons of God” stuff. But it was a short comment so I may have misunderstood it.
    Given your recent posts about the DC book meeting (great news by the way!), I got to wondering where you’re at these days on it?

    • MSH says:

      The mytho-poetic view doesn’t relegate the episode to allegory, but it does basically eliminate the literal cohabitation (or at least the need for it). Still thinking about both.

  5. Palladin says:

    If the mytho-poetic view is valid, then the Joshua situation is either a myth or the nephilim are? First time I’ve heard of that term, so just asking.

    • MSH says:

      The mytho-poetic view focuses on what the writers believed with respect to events that happened (i.e., how the writers parsed things in the context of their own worldview). The accounts would be theological statements expressing that worldview. The connections between the worldview and “real time” history are not necessarily 1:1 correspondences, but there are connections to events that did happen.

      Modern day (hopeful) illustration. A Christian at your workplace excitedly tells you that God got him his job at your company. He relates a series of events that drive that conclusion for him. None of them seem unusual on their own, but their connection does create a discernible path to the job. Your friend is convinced God engineered each circumstance and that the outcome was predestined. You wonder, “Is that the case in real time history?” Each event in the sequence is something critical to the sequence, but normal (went to X college, had X roommate, moved to X city, joined X church, met someone at X church who also knows your old roommate and who owns a business, his business has an opening, he applied, he got the job using his old roommate as a reference).

      Your friend has a “mytho-poetic” worldview – that is, he parses the events theologically in such a way that God himself was actively at work in every event, even to the point of predestining each one and the outcome. You aren’t processing things that way. You don’t think God had to be literally “in” each circumstance. You believe God gave freedom in each decision, but since your friend made wise choices (choices that led up to each of the “events”) in line with the good thinking in biblical wisdom lit., the outcome was the outcome of your own decisions — and you could have made the choice to not apply for the job and another one could have come along.

      Neither view denies history. Neither view denies the reality of God or God’s interest in our lives. But your friend’s theology dictates how your friend parses the series of events. If your friend wrote an account of it, that’s how it would get written. Does it conform to actual reality? It might or might not. Let’s say you are correct and your friend is not. The events in your friend’s account are still factual, but his interpretation of the events – an interpretation that motivated his account to be what it was – is not.

      Does it matter?

      You might say “yes, if the other side of the analogy is the Bible.” Really? That depends on your view of how inspiration “works.” If God used humans to write the material can he let them do that without downloading the words into their head, letting them write it the way they’d write it – in their own context, time, place, worldview, etc.? Or must God download everything? The latter (“must download”) would make God a deceiver in terms of a mytho-poetic account. The former (“no download needed”) does nothing of the sort.

      Anyway, that’s a rough illustration off the top of my head.

  6. Patrick says:

    That’s helpful and I appreciate you taking the time to show this.

  7. shaun says:

    That’s a helpful illustration

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