Review of Rehabilitating Inerrancy in a Culture of Fear by Carlos R. Bovell

This is a follow up to Bovell’s earlier work, Inerrancy and the Spiritual Formation of Younger Evangelicals, where the goal was to call for giving younger evangelical scholars doing work on bibliology breathing room to formulate their own views regarding the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. This work continues that call.

The book is composed of six chapters and a conclusion where Bovell outlines inerrancy in relation to psychology, philosophy, theology, and biblical studies.

In the first chapter Bovell argues two points, the first is that “reconciliation appears to be the primary religious value of those who devote their lives to the establishment and maintenance of peace and social justice” and second that the “habits of fundamentalist and evangelical inerrantism are fundamentally at odds with a spirit of reconciliation.” The rest of the chapter we find discussions about such luminaries as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and others and how young evangelical scholars are being impacted by their social justice sympathies on the one hand, and the stridency and absolutist mindset of inerrancy on the other that are often centered in an “us” versus “them” mentality.

Bovell argues in the second chapter for reestablishing hermeneutical distance between believers and the Bible. What this entails are the incorporation of hermeneutical considerations in the light of critical scholarship in work of doing bibliology. This results in the student not being locked into a straight-jacket of certain principles by which they approach and interpret the Bible based solely on strict inerrancy.

In chapter 3 Bovell directly engages with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy in relation to the question of the truthfulness of biblical narratives. Much of the discussion surrounds the philosophical and theological concepts of truth, including the notion of God as Truth. Bovell challenges the concept of propositional truth-claims and correctly criticizes inerrantists for not going far enough in incorporating critical postmodern insights in understanding how biblical narratives relate to reality.

Speech act theory in relation to biblical narratives is next examined. Bovell uses 1 Sam. 5 and 2 Sam. 12 to illustrate the difficulties with inerrantists’ notions of truth and narrative speech acts. Several language games are offered in the hopes of reconceptualizing biblical narratives.

Chapter 5 Bovell calls for giving students breathing room to formulate their own notions of inspiration and inerrancy without fearing being ostracized. Bovell argues that these new formulations need to be done separate from apologetic concerns. One of the major criticisms that Bovell focuses on here but is mentioned throughout the work is how inerrantists bring their notions of inerrancy to the biblical text before they have actually analyzed and examined the text and then how they conveniently read inerrancy out of the text.

In the last chapter Bovell takes a look at the notion of biblical phenomena and inerrancy in light of Old Princeton and specially the writings of Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, and Benjamin Warfield. Ultimately the question boils down to does one begin with the notion of inerrancy and then move to the phenomenon and teachings of the Bible, or does one begin with the phenomenon of the Bible, and look at the teachings which may or may not end with a doctrine of inerrancy? Reformed theologians and evangelicals in the main take the former view while Bovell, and other post-inerrantists argue the second.

To conclude his work Bovell discusses Avery Dulles’s criticism of propositional revelation within conservative Catholicism in his book, Models of Revelation, and shows how they parallel the criticism that he has towards Protestant evangelicalism’s view of biblical inerrancy. Bovell isn’t personally ready to give up on inerrancy quite yet, but is willing to allow the new generation of scholars to evaluate and come to their own conclusions and profit from their research.

One may ask, what is the difference between this work and the earlier one by Bovell? Bovell writes in a footnote to chapter 2 that he had come to the realization that change could not be achieved top-down but would have to come from students themselves, he writes, “[t]hey are going to have to create their own public theological space where they can dialogue and decide whether a workable bibliology for the twenty-first century should include inerrancy or not.” In this second work Bovell attempts to lay out some of that space for the dialogue to take place.

This work is highly recommended especially as it challenges individuals to think independently and to come to their own conclusions on whether the Bible is inerrant or not. I personally went through this struggle and came out the other side wholly rejecting it.


A Review of The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth

This is a very attractive work with full color photographs of the Grand Canyon on nearly every page and is written at a general level so anyone can read it.

The book deals with how the Grand Canyon came to be and looks at two basic positions: standard geology versus flood geology. Flood geology (which is a part of young earth creationism) is the view that most of the earth’s surface is the result of a global, cataclysmic flood that occurred about 4,000 years ago as recorded within the pages of the Bible, specifically Genesis 6-9, and is also known as Noah’s flood. Standard or modern geology sees the Grand Canyon rock layers as having been deposited at various intervals spanning over hundred of millions of years.

The book is divided into 5 parts and 20 chapters. Although this sounds daunting but it comes in at a little over 200 pages.

Part 1 consists of the first 4 chapters and outlines the two views, modern geology versus flood geology and delves into the time frames for each.

The chapters in Part 2 dive into the science of how geology works and covers sedimentary rocks, dating methods, the geologic column, plate tectonics, and how rocks can fracture, fault, and fold.

Part 3 tells the story of the fossil record of both plants and animals, and just as importantly, trace fossils. Part 4 is about how the Canyon was actually carved out. These chapters also show that each rock layer contains its own ecosystem, something that makes sense in light of modern geology, but cannot be explained in terms of flood geology.

The last part consists of the last two chapters which tie everything together. Chapter 19 takes us on a 7 mile hike in narrative form with lots of photographs and hits on the various details from previous chapters showing why and how flood geology simply cannot explain the many and various features of the Canyon.

Chapter 20 concludes with answering the question, is science and flood geology simply different worldviews or presuppositions when it comes to explaining how the Canyon came to be. The answer? Science is willing to follow where ever the data leads. And flood geology? It starts with the conclusion and seeks justification for its views. The data backs modern geology at every point.

This book, to the honest reader, is devastating to young earth creationism and flood geology and is highly recommended.

Recommended Books on Creationism, Evolution, and Related Topics

The following works deal with the topics of creationism, evolution, and the Hebrew Bible and its background. I consider these some of the better works in each area, some are written at a popular level, while others are more academic and scholarly. The reason why I put this list together is to challenge anyone who wants to take a deep dive into the issues of creationism, evolution and a critical approach to the Hebrew Bible. The reason why I included books on the Hebrew Bible and its background is because of how it impacts the creationist view. I have not included works on intelligent design and old earth creationism.

The books on creationism are fairly representative of modern young earth creationism. I tried to hit on the major issues and subject matters creationists would consider important. The same with evolution, I tried to hit on the major topics from the question of what is science to books critiquing creationism, to books by Christians defending evolution.

The resources on the Hebrew Bible and its background represent a fairly broad consensus of the scholarly community from progressive/conservative to liberal to unbelieving. Obviously fundamentalist believers will disagree, but I think that is part of the problem.

Books from a young earth creationist perspective


  • Creation’s Tiny Mystery by Robert V. Gentry
  • Creation Basics & Beyond: An In-Depth Look at Science, Origins, and Evolution by ICR staff
  • Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics by Duane T. Gish
  • Faith, Form, and Time: What the Bible Teaches and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the Universe by Kurt Wise
  • In the Beginning Was Information by Werner Gitt
  • Scientific Creationism by Henry M. Morris
  • The Natural Limits to Biological Change by Lane P. Lester and Raymond G. Bohlin
  • The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy by Nancy Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton
  • Thermodynamics and the Development of Order edited by Emmett L. Williams
  • Understanding Genesis: How to Analyze, Interpret, and Defend Scripture by Jason Lisle

Catastrophism and Flood Geology

  • An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood by Michael Oard
  • Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides? by Michael Oard
  • Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe edited by Steven Austin
  • Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation & the Flood, 2 Vol. by Andrew A. Snelling
  • Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study by John Woodmorappe
  • Rock Solid Answers: The Biblical Truth Behind 14 Geologic Questions edited by Michael J. Oard and John K. Reed
  • Studies in Flood Geology: A Compilation of Research Studies Supporting Creation and the Flood by John Woodmorappe
  • The Genesis Flood by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb
  • The Geologic Column: Perspectives within Diluvial Geology by John K. Reed and Michael J. Oard
  • The Global Flood: Unlocking Earth’s Geologic History by John D. Morris

Age of the Earth/Universe

  • Ice Cores and the Age of the Earth by Larry Vardiman
  • Rocks Aren’t Clocks: A Critique of the Geologic Timescale by John K. Reed
  • Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, 2 Vol. edited by Larry Vardiman, Eugene Chaffin and Andrew Snelling
  • Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe by Russell Humphreys
  • Starlight, Time and the New Physics by John Hartnett
  • The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods by John Woodmorappe
  • The Young Earth: The Real History of the Earth: Past, Present, and Future by John Morris

Anti-evolutionary works

  • Bones of Contention by Marvin Lubenow
  • Darwin’s Enigma: Ebbing the Tide of Naturalism by Luther D. Sunderland
  • Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels edited by Robert Carter
  • Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record by Duane T. Gish
  • Evolution: The Grand Experiment, 2 Vol. by Carl Werner
  • Genetic Entropy by John S. Sanford
  • Origin of Species Revisited: The Theories of Evolution and of Abrupt Appearance, 2 Vol. by Wendell R. Bird
  • The Biotic Message: Evolution Versus Message Theory by Walter J. ReMine
  • The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Refuting Dawkins on Evolution by Jonathan Sarfati
  • The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution by A.E. Wilder-Smith
  • The Scientific Alternative to Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory by A.E. Wilder-Smith
  • Vestigial Organs are Fully Functional by Jerry Bergman

Resources on understanding the Hebrew Bible and its historical context

How to approach the Bible

  • Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering by Ronald E. Osborn
  • Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament by Peter Enns
  • God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship by Kenton L. Sparks
  • Is the Bible Fact or Fiction? An Introduction to Biblical Historiography by Barbara E. Organ
  • The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins by Peter Enns
  • The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals when it Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It) by Thom Stark

How to interpret the Bible

  • How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel
  • The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically and Religiously by Marc Zvi Brettler, Peter Enns, Daniel J. Harrington
  • The Nature of Biblical Criticism by John Barton
  • The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us by Douglas A. Knight and Amy-Jill Levine

Historical context

  • Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible by John H. Walton
  • Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East by Christopher B. Hays
  • Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible Between the Ancient World and Modern Science by Kyle Greenwood
  • The Biblical Cosmos: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Weird and Wonderful World of the Bible by Robin A. Parry
  • The Symbolism of the Biblical World: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book of Psalms by Othmar Keel

Introductory texts

  • Introduction to the Hebrew Bible by John J. Collins
  • The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction by Norman K. Gottwald
  • The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures by Michael D. Coogan

Books from an evolutionary perspective

What is Science

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Scientific Method by Stephen S. Carey
  • Just a Theory: Exploring the Nature of Science by Moti Ben-Ari
  • The Sciences: An Integrated Approach by James Trefil & Robert Hazen
  • Thinking About Science: Essays on the Nature of Science by Massimo Pigliucci
  • What Science is and How it Works by Gregory Derry

The Theory of Evolution

  • Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo by Sean B. Carroll
  • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald Prothero
  • Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved by Ivan R Schwab
  • Evolutionary Analysis by Jon C. Herron and Scott Freeman
  • The Evidence for Evolution by Alan R. Rogers
  • The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution by Sean B. Carroll
  • The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Stephen Jay Gould
  • Understanding Evolution by Kostas Kampourakis
  • What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr

Age of the Earth/Universe

  • Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The Age of Earth and its Cosmic Surroundings by G. Brent Dalrymple
  • How Old Is the Universe? by David A. Weintraub
  • Nature’s Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything by Douglas Macdougall
  • The Age of Everything: How Science Explores the Past by Matthew Hedman

Human Evolution

  • Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins by Ian Tattersall
  • The Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA by Daniel J. Fairbanks
  • The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease by Daniel E. Lieberman
  • Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin

Miscellaneous Topics

  • Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life by Hubert Yockey
  • Information Theory and Evolution by John Avery
  • The Cambrian Exposion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity by Erwin Douglas and James Valentine
  • The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma by Marc Kirschner and John C. Gerhart
  • The Walking Whales: From Land to Water in Eight Million Years by J. G. M. “Hans” Thewissen

Critique of Creationism and Intelligent Design

  • Denying Science: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Doubting Darwin? Creationist Designs on Evolution by Sahotra Sarkar
  • Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism edited by Andrew J. Petto and Laurie R. Godfrey
  • The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth by Davis Young
  • The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood by David R. Montgomery
  • The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? edited by Carol Hill, Gregg Davidson, Wayne Ranney, Tim Helble
  • Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) by Matt Young and Paul K. Strode
  • Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism

Christian defenses of evolution

  • Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology by Darrell Falk
  • Paradigms on Pilgrimage: Creationism, Paleontology and Biblical Interpretation by Stephen Godfrey and Christopher Smith
  • Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution by Kenneth Miller
  • Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul by Kenneth Miller
  • Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux

Biblical Criticism and Inerrancy

What is biblical criticism

Biblical criticism is the academic or scholarly study of the Bible using various tools and methods. One website defined it this way, “biblical criticism simply refers to the scholarly approach of studying, evaluating and critically assessing the Bible as literature in order to understand it better.” Biblical criticism is often used interchangeably with the historical-critical method.

Biblical criticism does not start with whether or not the Bible is considered inspired or inerrant. It approaches the biblical text like any other text and begins asking questions such as who is the author? Who is the audience? What type of literature is this? What are the historical circumstances of the writing? How do modern audiences understand the text? What are our assumptions when approaching the text? Some of the tools and methods used include textual criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism, narrative criticism, social-science criticism, feminist criticism, reader-response criticism, postcolonial criticism, etc.

What is inerrancy

Inerrancy is the view that the Bible (in the original autographs) contains no errors of fact, not just in areas of faith and morality, but extends to matters of history and science.

Although biblical criticism does not preclude inerrancy it can help us to see whether or not the Bible contains errors of historical or scientific fact. I will argue that scholars have found by using these various methods and tools that indeed there are countless examples of such errors. For brevity’s sake I’ll briefly list two.

The historicity of the exodus

One of the crucial episodes recorded in the Penteteuch is the exodus. After 10 devastating plagues Moses, who was a prince in the royal Egptian family, leads Israel out of slavery to the promised land. When biblical scholars began using the tools of historical research they found that there was no evidence whatsoever of the events surrounding the exodus. Nothing in the records of ancient Egypt of a Moses, 10 plagues, or a mass exodus of Hebrew slaves, nothing in the archaeological record. How do inerrantists respond? Most take it as a matter of faith that something had to have happened, some argue that at best some of the events could have happened or at least are historically plausible when considering the contemporary culture. Another tact is to claim that Egypt would not have memorialized such a event, but even so, we would expect something in the record, even if veiled, perhaps Egypt changing the defeat into a victory or claiming such a defeat to be punishment from their gods (see Sparks, God’s Word, pgs. 155-157). It actually makes better sense when you see this account as a “founding myth” of Israel where Yahweh delivers his people, placing them in his covenant.

The spherical earth

It is alleged by inerrantists that the Bible describes the earth as round or a circle (Isa. 40:21-22; Prov. 8:27; Job 26:10), and hence a sphere and that it is suspended in space (Job 26:7) just as science says. There are multiple problems with this thinking. First, we must be careful that we are not reading modern concepts of cosmology into the ancient texts. Second, the translation of “circle” is not the same as “sphere” and in fact it’s often translated as “horizon” and the word for “earth” often means “the land.” The real problem is one of history. In the 6th century BCE the Greeks first proposed that the earth was a sphere, but it was a matter of philosophical speculation and remained so until the third century BCE when Eratosthenes was able to estimate its circumference. It was gradually adopted from then on. The cosmology of the Ancient Near East (ANE) however sees the earth as a flat disc resting on pillars covered by a solid dome. The various biblical texts from the Hebrew scripture make better sense in the light of their surrounding culture of the ANE. Inerrantists will not be convinced by the evidence seen by the fact that they still claim falsely that the Bible prefigures modern science, when in fact the Bible reflects the surrounding culture during the time it was written.


The findings of biblical criticism have demonstrated that the idea of inerrancy cannot be supported by evidence. This does not tell us if the biblical texts are still in some sense inspired, that’s a matter of faith, but it does tell us that the Bible is a very human book and that we can get to a better understanding of it using the various tools that are at our disposal.

Sources for further reading

Barton, John. The Nature of Biblical Criticism. Westminster John Knox, 2007.

Davies, Eryl. Biblical Criticism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury, 2013.

Enns, Peter. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Baker Academic, 2005.

Law, David. The Historical-Critical Method: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury, 2012.

Sparks, Kenton. God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. Baker Academic, 2008.

Stark, Thom. The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals when it Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It). Wipf and Stock, 2011.


One of the things that I am always contending against is tribalism, an “us versus them,”  “my team versus your team,” or in-group mentality. Tribalism can be found among the political and religious right-wing, partisan Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians, liberals, conservatives, and even moderates and centrists. No one is fully exempt from in-group thinking, but we should be aware of it and try to overcome it as much as possible.

Tribalism is unhealthy as it can lead to unnecessary divisions, foster hatred of those who are not in the in-group, and prevent calm discourse.

To help overcome tribalism we should be thinking of ways for us to get along, find common causes, and seek ways to communicate that is not full of spin and verbal abuses. This means that compromise will be at the heart of this endeavor. Unfortunately for many, compromise has become a dirty word. Much of the in-group thinking is culturally and psychologically conditioned, and can even be a part of our genetic makeup.

So, when you are discussing things with people, be aware of how tribalism can often effect and even impede that communication. Try to expand your thinking by listening to what others are saying, being sympathetic towards their views, even when you disagree, try to find areas of agreement, and be understanding. I know this can often be difficult, and for some people it will be impossible, but if we are going to get past many of our disagreements and partisan bickering we need to start somewhere, and overcoming tribalism will be a big step in the right direction.

Book Review of Eric Seibert’s Disturbing Divine Behavior

Seibert’s work is divided into three parts, consisting of twelve chapters, and two appendixes. The first two sections outline the problems related to various biblical texts and narratives from the Hebrew Bible regarding “disturbing divine behavior.” Such behavior includes God’s genocide of people, directly killing individuals, commanding others to kill, causing natural disasters, etc. These sections are done fairly well. He then works through some of the approaches that have been proposed throughout church history to explain these portrayals and finds them lacking. In part three he proceeds to give his own explanations by first making a distinction between the “textual” God and the “actual” God, and then proposing a distinctive “Christocentric” hermeneutic.

Seibert argues for a hermeneutic built on the statements of Jesus that he believes advocates for a nonviolent God. With this foundation he reexamines many of the texts and narratives often arguing that the text is simply wrong, that it represents how Israel saw God in terms of their own culture of the Ancient Near East. For Seibert, God is nonviolent and no text or narrative should violate that principle and if it does then it should be rejected. He does argue that even with these rejected verses we should approach the passage with humility and should attempt to find something that is theologically valuable.

There are a couple of problems with Seibert’s specific “Christocentric” approach. One issue regards the question of the historical Jesus and what we can know about what he said and did. Seibert briefly discusses the issue and doesn’t see it as a major hurdle, but the situation surrounding historical Jesus studies is much more complex and nuanced. Without going into a discussion of the various “quests,” I’ll mention just the most recent. This quest often uses what is known as the “criteria of authenticity” to determine what Jesus said and did, the Jesus Seminar is well known for this. This view is coming on hard times and scholars like Anthony Le Donne, Chris Keith, and Rafael Rodriquez are attempting to revitalize the quest by appealing to social memory theory. Even here the best we can do is a general outline of what Jesus may have said and did (and some scholars like Zeba Crook argue that social memory theory actually makes the quest impossible and argues for a no-quest).

Another problem with Seibert’s “Christocentric hermeneutic” is that it privileges the New Testament and leaves the Hebrew Bible unable to stand on its own to explain these various portrayals. I’m sure Jewish scholars would not agree with his explanations nor would this gender him any accolades in current Jewish-Christian dialogues.

What makes Seibert’s “Christocentric” hermeneutic distinctive? He argues that Jesus teaches that God is fundamentally nonviolent and couldn’t have been guilty of any of the violent and immoral acts that the Hebrew Scriptures ascribe to him. He argues for this starting in chapter 10 and then expands on it in Appendix A, “Reexamining the Nonviolent God.” Although some Christians will find this argument persuasive, especially those from a more pacifist/peace tradition, most will not. What I found most unconvincing was his attempt to reconcile the violent portrayals of the apocalyptic passages in the New Testament with his view of a nonviolent God. The author has also written a second volume specifically dedicated to defending this position, it is titled, “The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament’s Troubling Legacy.”

I’m sure a lot of Christians would have a lot of objections to Seibert’s views, most centered on the topic of the Bible’s inspiration. Seibert briefly mentions these issues in the main body of the text but leaves an extended discussion for Appendix B. Here he argues against strict views of inspiration, especially inerrancy and argues for what he calls a “general revelation” view.

Despite the fact that I found Seibert’s solutions ultimately unconvincing I still recommend the volume for those interested in the topic of the Hebrew Bible’s portrayal of a violent God.

Why this blog

At the suggestion of a few friends, and I’ll name drop one of them, Joel L. Watts, I’ve decided to create a blog. I plan on posting my thoughts and musing about different topics, occasional book reviews, links to interesting articles, and whatever else that may come to mind. My hope is to generate discussion, find common ground when possible when disagreements occur, and to be an occasional pain in the butt for friends and family. 🙂