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Biblical Inerrancy and Young Earth Creationism

Something I have noticed lately is that many people in our culture, especially non-Christian or nominally Christian people, seem to have gotten the idea that biblical inerrancy and young earth creationism are the same thing. People often say, “do you believe the bible is literally true, [i.e.] that the universe was created in six 24 hour periods?” In other words, “literally true” and “six 24 hour periods” get lumped in together and define each other.

In addition to being, in my opinion, biblically unwarranted, this association is also very historically strange. From Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, p. 262:

“Despite widespread impression to the contrary, both inside and outside the church, modern Creation Science was not the traditional response of conservative and evangelical Protestants in the nineteenth century when Darwin’s theory first became known. There was widespread acceptance of the fact that Genesis 1 may be been speaking of long ages rather than literal days. R. A. Torrey, the fundamentalist editor of The Fundamentals (published from 1910-1915, which gave definition to the term ‘fundamentalist’), said that it was possible ‘to believe thoroughly in the infallibility of the Bible and still be an evolutionist of a certain type….’ The man who defined the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, B.B. Warfield of Princeton (d. 1921) believed that God may have used something like evolution to bring about life-forms.”

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks, Gavin. One of the areas we need wisdom is knowing where, and where not, to say, “Biblical inerrancy requires/forbids this.”

    A literal, 24-hour view of the days of Genesis 1 is not required, in my view. I have heard some make that requirement and even connect “heresy” with any other view of Genesis 1. Any other view.

    I do believe in heresy — that is, I do believe that heresy is a legitimate category. And some views of the Bible, however sincerely held, are heretical. But I do not believe that declining a literal view of the days of Genesis 1 takes that fatal step.

    God be with you today.

  2. Gavin,

    This is an interesting observation, but I am sure that you are correct in thinking that many in our culture connect biblical inerrancy with young earth creationism. Mark Noll provides an interesting account of this in his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994), which you have probably read (esp. pp.177-208). I am not a theistic evolutionist, and I have serious reservations about the view. I am also inclined to believe that the six days of creation are in fact solar days, though I am aware of the other interpretations. I was recently asked, “Logan, how old do you think the earth is?” I answered, “I do not know. I am a pastor and a theologian, not a scientist.” My friend respected my response. :)

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