Dr. Kremer’s sermon begins with the following claim, which I find utterly baseless for reasons I shall relate afterwards:
“Few words in the last thirty years have caused more mischief than the little adjective “inerrant.” “Inerrant” would seem to be a perfectly fine word that when applied to the Scriptures appears to guarantee the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible. Yet I tell you plainly, the word “inerrant” has been misused and manipulated. Indeed, it would be fair to say that the sundering and destruction of the Southern Baptist Convention could be attributed to the manipulation of this single word – inerrant. This word has in fact done horrendous damage to the character of the Bible – and ruined countless lives. The cause of Christ is being damaged by its use even now. Yet “inerrant” continues to be employed frequently with reference to the Bible, usually by those who do not understand its implications.”
We wonder if Dr. Kremer has taken the time to fully comprehend the implications of an errant Bible, for this is what he promotes instead. But let us reserve judgment for the moment. Perhaps he misunderstands what inerrancy means and is merely barking up the wrong tree.
In his sermon, Dr. Kremer, who holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, offers the same definition promoted by the late Adrian Rogers:
“[Inerrancy] means the Bible is truth without mixture of error historically, philosophically, scientifically and theologically.”
He also provides Paul Feinberg’s lengthier definition:
“…When all of the facts of are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be without error in all that they affirm to the degree of precisions intended, whether that affirmation relates to doctrine, history, science, geography, geology, etc.”
He goes on to opine that these men “were making claims about the Bible that the Bible does not make for itself.” Very well, let him defend his charges against these men and their teachings concerning the Bible!
Here is the spare meat of his argument:
“Simply put, the Bible is not a history book. It certainly contains history – a lot of history, in fact – but the Bible’s history concerns the history of humanity’s encounter with God and with the revelation of God in Christ. The Bible does not intend to offer a chronicle of historical events in the same way an account of the American Civil War is a history book. The Bible is not a philosophy book. It contains philosophy – the book of Ecclesiastes, for example, has been hailed as one of the most incisive philosophical statements ever penned. But the Bible’s purpose is not to articulate any particular philosophy. The Bible is not a science book. Those who assert that the Bible is correct in its teachings on geology grossly misinterpret the Bible’s purpose. The writers of the Scripture had no idea that some endeavor of inquiry called geology existed! The Bible makes but one clear and profound statement about the world: that God is the origin of all creation — in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth — and all reality owes God a debt for the gift of its existence. But the Bible has absolutely no interest in offering a scientific explanation for how God brought this heaven and earth into being. The Bible says WHO created the universe. It offers no explanation as to HOW this process of creation occurred. Anyone who doubts the veracity of this observation need only examine the first two chapters of Genesis. In the creation account of Genesis, chapter one, God creates everything in the world, then creates humanity last. In Genesis, chapter two, God creates humanity first, then creates the remainder of the natural order. The brilliant editor who brought those two accounts into one sacred text was fully aware of the discrepancies in the accounts – but he did not care! He was not offering a scientific explanation for how reality came to be; he was simply offering the theological observation that all that is owes its life unto God. When you try to turn the Bible into a scientific text, you misuse God’s word.”
I am disappointed that Dr. Kremer has chosen invoke the old chestnut that Genesis 1 and 2 are two contradictory creation accounts. This old canard has been answered ad infinitum. Of course, until recent times this argument was only used by atheists and skeptics wishing to discredit the Bible entirely! The simplest answer is that Genesis 1 gives an overview of the Creation Week, while Genesis 2 fleshes out details of Day 6. For those who wish a fuller refutation of Dr. Kremer’s mistranslation of Genesis, see my other post, Two Different Creation Accounts in Genesis 1 & 2? Or Two Complementary Accounts? Suffice it to say that it is a ridiculous – utterly ridiculous! – notion to suggest that when Moses assembled the toledoths he didn’t care that the sacred text was full of discrepancies! This same Moses received the Ten Commandments inscribed by the very finger of God, the 4th Commandment of which reads:
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11
So it seems we do in fact have reason to doubt the veracity of his claim that “The Bible says WHO created the universe. It offers no explanation as to HOW this process of creation occurred.” We also point out that the Bible does say how this process of creation occurred: God spoke and creation came into existence. Furthermore, the Bible tells us HOW LONG the process of creation took: a mere 6 days, a fact of history reiterated in the 4th Commandment.
Oddly enough, Dr. Kremer affirms that it matters how we use the Bible. His concerns are well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided:
“I don’t want young people thinking they have to discard their faith because some scientist has made a discovery that seems to contradict some Biblical principle. I don’t want a scientist having to put his/her brain on ice because his/her discoveries contradict what the Bible allegedly teaches about one scientific discipline or another. A recent science professor at a local university had to leave his faculty post, complaining that the administration had instructed him on what theories concerning creation he ought to teach – even though there was no empirical data to support their claims. Why would administrators with no scientific training be trying to teach scientists how to teach science? Because, they think of the Bible as a scientific book that reveals to us the age of the earth as only six thousand years old. (Looking out on the congregation, I suspect some of ya’ll are older than that!) Essentially, this college administrator was instructing his scientist to turn a blind eye to the fossil records, to ignore the evidence of geological shifts and continental drifts, to pay no attention to the pottery shards – all of which make the point that six thousand years is but a sliver of human existence on this earth, much less the history of the earth as a whole. Again, let’s be clear on this point: when you try to turn the Bible into a science book, you misuse God’s Word.”
Dr. Kremer here makes a common mistake. He confuses the claims scientists make with the evidence. He claims that creationism has no empirical data to support our claims, but he fails to see that the origins argument isn’t about evidence. Creationists and evolutionists have exactly the same evidence – the same universe, fossils, geological record, plants animals, DNA, stars, etc. But facts do not speak for themselves. Facts are interpreted. Facts are generally interpreted according to one’s presuppositions; for example, an evolutionist will never interpret the evidence in a manner inconsistent with evolutionary theory, any more than a Biblical Christian would consider interpreting the evidence in a way that contradicts the Bible. Furthermore, he fails to realize that science has chained itself to pure naturalism, a game in which supernatural explanations are never allowed. In essence, science can only provide us with all-natural answers which may or may not be true – and are most certainly false wherever supernatural agency was involved. I wish that Dr. Kremer could bring himself to declare, “Let God be true and every man a liar!” when faced with a discrepancy between the all-natural claims of men who refuse to allow a Divine foot in the door and the God-breathed Scriptures.
It is disappointing that he invokes oft-refuted the straw man argument that anyone is saying the Bible is a science textbook. Rather we are saying that the Bible is true and accurate in all that it speaks upon, whether speaking of theology, history, science, etc.
Kremer admits “there are a few passages in the Bible that suggest plenary verbal inspiration. For example, God dictates to Moses the Ten Commandments and Moses writes them down. But think of something as simple as Psalm 16. God would have to be pretty egotistical to be dictating to David, “Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever!” Can you imagine God dictating unto David in Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Surely God is not so insecure as to bother dictating words of praise about Himself for us to write down? When the Psalmist exclaims “The Lord is my shepherd,” he is giving evidence that he has experienced the living God profoundly in the midst of his life. His spirit swells up with joy so he can share his experience of God with others. He is not simply recording a speech that God dictates into his head.”
Article VIII of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states:
“We affirm that God in His Work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.
We deny that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.”
This means that it was perfectly acceptable for the Psalmist to praise God and thereby truthfully relate both God’s attributes but also His worthiness to be praised. It does not make God egotistical in the least, for such praise, inspired by the One Who is both True and Holy, is instructive to His creatures. We should be careful to note that Dr. Kremer is here attacking the degree to which the Bible is God-breathed. Up until this point, he was attacking the degree to which the Bible is accurate. He supposes that the Scriptures could not be inspired in their original autographs because he in his obvious omniscience does not believe that the original autographs ever existed.
His low view of Biblical inspiration and inerrancy has serious consequences for how we read the Bible. In essence, he must suggest that the God who never lies was either not omnipotent enough or omniscient enough to overcome the fallibility of His chief creation so that His Word was recorded with accuracy. He is suggesting that the God who foreknew that such a thing as history or geology would come to be would allow things to creep into His Word that simply weren’t true. Why would God allow such a thing, knowing as He must that this would reduce the interpretation of His Word to arbitrariness and subjectivity, though this self-same Word would declare that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation?
Dr. Kremer himself illustrates my point better than anyone else:
“So, when the Shorter University statement of faith declares, “We believe in the inerrant and infallible Word of God,” is that true? Yes – yes, in a way. For when the Bible is talking about the character of God, the Bible is indeed inerrant. When the Bible is talking about the nature of redemption, the Bible is absolutely infallible. When the Bible is presenting the revelation of God in Christ, we can trust that information with perfect confidence – for such is precisely the Bible’s purpose. It is for these matters the Bible is intended to be used and consulted. The Bible is a book about redemption, and on this point the Bible is indeed inerrant. During one of our Vacation Bible School convocations a couple of weeks ago, our children’s minister Susan West-Colding asked the children why we did a pledge to the Bible. A young voice answered, “Because it tells us about God.” Yes! Yes! The Bible tells us about God, tells us about redemption, tells us about the love of Christ and how to live in right relationship with the divine. On that score the Scriptures are pristine and true.
But these subjects are concerned with an entirely different ambit than geology or geography!”
Ask yourself: how does he know that the Bible is true and accurate when it speaks of God, about redemption, and the love of Christ? He tells us we cannot trust it when it speaks of history or geology or geography; why should we trust it here and not there? And by what standard do we determine when a passage is errant or even inspired? He must be completely arbitrary. If he holds the all-natural claims of science as his ultimate standard, he negates the very possibility of the literal, physical historical resurrection of Christ upon which authentic redemption depends per Romans 10:9. Why? Because naturalism forbids the idea of a Virgin Birth, of a God-man, of a Creator God, of miracles, of prophecy, of supernatural revelation itself and – yes – of the very concept of rising from the dead after three days. Atheist critics often refer to Jesus as a zombie to express their contempt for this violation of naturalism. If he is an authentic Christian, Dr. Kremer affirms the literal, bodily historical resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth; however, in denying the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture to the level he does, he can only make this affirmation arbitrarily. He has no ultimate standard by which to determine when a scripture is true or accurate. This reduces interpretation to a subjective level: Bible ala’ carte.
He tries to back up his claim by pointing to small differences of detail in the resurrection accounts. He claims that these “small details of difference that undermine the concept of inerrancy. If God were dictating to writers the record of something as important as the resurrection, God wouldn’t be dictating differing versions to different writers.”
I quote again from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, simply to point out that the point he’s trying to make has already been addressed:
“Article XIII: We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.
We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.”
These accounts aren’t conflicting, as he falsely asserts, but rather complementary. These variant details actually add to the credibility of the accounts. To explain, let’s suppose that three people see a traffic accident involving a man and his wife in a truck and a family in a station wagon. One witness says that Bob smashed into a station wagon. Another says that two vehicles were in an accident [without naming anyone or assigning blame]. Another says that Mr. and Mrs. Smith cross the median, that both occupants of the truck and the driver of the station wagon were treated for minor injuries, but that Mr. Jones’ family wasn’t injured. If you put all of these complimentary accounts together, you get a fuller picture. Taken by themselves, the accounts are no less true but tell us more about the witness by what they emphasize or de-emphasize.
Dr. Kremer suggests that none of the resurrection accounts may “have matters exactly right.” Is he suggesting that they contain falsehoods? Misinformation? Legendary material? Stuff people just made up for theological reasons? He doesn’t say; instead he suggests it really isn’t important how accurate these accounts are so long as we come away with the Big Idea:
“All four accounts are exactly right on their main point: God raised Jesus from the dead! All four accounts are right in saying that our God is a God of resurrection power, and that we live in hope because our God through Christ has defeated death. The fact that one version of the resurrection speaks of one angel and one version speaks of one man and one version speaks of two men and one version speaks of none — such niggling differences do not matter to the authenticity and importance of the message. The message is, our God is a God of resurrection power through whom we have hope beyond death. On this point the Scriptures are infallible.”
The ultimate fallacy he commits here is the idea that we can believe in the concept of resurrection power or that God raised Jesus from the dead apart from taking the Biblical accounts as true history.
He does the same thing with two other passages with variant details:
“I tell you plainly, you can find differences in the Scriptures, even with regard to the same event. For example, in Matthew’s version of Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s slave, the centurion himself comes to Jesus to ask for healing help. In Luke’s version of the same healing, the Jewish elders come on behalf of the centurion to ask Jesus for help with regard to his slave. What really matters to the centurion’s slave is that Jesus had compassion on him and healed him. According to Mark, Jesus is leaving Jericho when he encounters blind Bartimaeus. In Luke, Jesus is entering Jericho when he encounters blind Bartimaeus. All that matters to blind Bartimaeus is that Jesus gave him his sight! What matters to us is that Jesus gives us our sight and has compassion on us in our weakness and in our need.”
But how can we trust that Jesus gives us our sight, or has compassion on us in our weakness and in our need unless we can trust these Biblical accounts as historically accurate narratives? What would we base our belief on if these historical narratives cannot be trusted? In short, if we cannot trust the history of these Biblical narratives, how can we trust the conclusions we take away from them? See what a contradictory and arbitrary mess his low view of Biblical inerrancy and inspiration make of interpretation? Over and over again, Dr. Kremer is committing the fallacy of the fact/value distiction.
Dr. Kremer concludes with the following remarks, oblivious to the fact that he has in no wise established his case:
“The Bible is not a science book. The Bible is not a history book. The Bible is not a philosophy book. The Bible is a book that tells us about God. Moreover, the Bible never claims perfection for its words. The Bible claims perfection only for the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. Indeed, the pledge that many of us have been making to the Bible since we were children in VBS years (or even decades ago) still holds true. “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my heart, that I might not sin against God.” That’s the Scriptures’ purpose and power. When we have lost our way in life, the Word illumines our path. When we are not sure how we should conduct ourselves, the Word is our lamp and our guide. When we are desperate for a word of encouragement, the Word offers us the way and words of life. And if we follow these words and hide them in our heart, they will lead us rightly. Of that we can be certain.”
As for the claim that the Bible never claims perfection for its words, Dr. Kremer has amply illustrated how a rejection of Scriptural inerrancy provides no basis for trusting any truth the Bible might contain or any non-arbitrary method for determining what that truth might be to begin with! On the other hand, we might offer several passages suggesting that the word of God is true and accurate in its entirety: Numbers 23:19; 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 12:6; 33:4; 119:160; Proverbs 30:5; Romans 3:4; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 3:15-16; Revelation 3:14.
The Bible is not a science book, a history book or a philosophy book; it is the revealed Word of a God who never lies, true and accurate on all that it speaks of, be it history, theology, philosophy or even science. This view is the only one which provides a non-arbitrary basis for discerning the truth contained in its God-breathed pages and for trusting the conclusions we draw from it.
So let God be true and every man a liar.