The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism

The Christ the Center panel, ably augmented by Dr. Carl R. Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary, interacts with Dr. Greg K. Beale, the Kenneth T. Wessner Professor of New Testament and coordinator of the MA program in Biblical Exegesis, at Wheaton College Graduate School in Wheaton, IL, about his recent book The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism. In addition to this book, Dr. Beale has written the New International Greek Testament Commentary on Revelation, The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, We Become What We Worship, and several other books and articles. Dr. Beale discusses the significance of Biblical inerrancy, its Scriptural basis, and the problems with jettisoning the doctrine. In addition to a proper concern for inerrancy, Beale explains how scholars can rightly approach the use of Ancient Near Eastern and 2nd Temple Jewish literature without undermining the authority and perspicuity of Scripture. Along the way the panel considers the influence of postmodernism on Biblical studies. All in all, this is a very interesting discussion that hopefully will lead to further interaction.


  • Greg Beale
  • Carl Trueman
  • Jeff Waddington
  • Nick Batzig
  • Camden Bucey


Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998.

—. The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism : Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.

—. The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God. InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.

Carson, D. Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church: Understanding A Movement And Its Implications. Grand Rapids Mich.: Zondervan, 2005.

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

Geisler, Norman. Biblical Errancy, 1981.

Hannah, John D. Inerrancy and the Church. Chicago: Moody Press, 1984.

Institutes of the Christian Religion 1541 French Edition. Eerdmans Pub Co, 2009.

John Calvin’s Impact on Church and Society, 1509–2009. Eerdmans Pub Co, 2009.

McGowan, A. The Divine Spiration of Scripture: Challenging Evangelicial Perspectives. Nottingham: Apollos, 2007.

Packer, J. I. “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God: Some Evangelical Principles. Christian classics series. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1996.

Selderhuis, H. John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life. Downers Grove Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009.

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

Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge, Samuel G. Craig, and Cornelius Van Til. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1948.

Woodbridge, John D. Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1982.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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G.K. Beale and Carl Trueman on Inerrancy

11 years ago

[…] Trueman joins the regular panel on Christ the Center to interview Greg Beale about his new book The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism.  The book […]

In Light of the Gospel » Blog Archive » The Erosion of Inerrancy: An Interview with Greg Beale

11 years ago

[…] guys at Christ the Center have asked Dr. Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary to join them as they talk with Dr. […]


11 years ago

for example, If Genesis 1 says God created animals before man, and Genesis 2 says God created animals after man and that Adam named all the animals of the earth…

how is the Bible still considered inerrant in any way?

If Beale says it still is so, does the adjective “inerrant” really mean anything anymore?


11 years ago

Genesis 1 is clearly stated chronology. In Genesis 2 the chronological relationship between man and animals is neither stated nor implied, having already been established– the text has moved on to other exposition.

Every Scripture was given by the God who cannot err. Part of His inerrant plan was to give the rebellious plenty of rope with which to hang themselves, should they insist upon doing so. But He also commands those who trust in Him [according to His inerrant Word] to cast down our vain imaginations and high thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of Christ, subjecting our minds to obedience to Him. It is impossible to obey anyone whose instructions are not known to be reliable.

Those who wish the Bible to be fallible will have no problem convincing themselves of their arguments toward that end. God will graciously grant them the desires of their heart [to believe lies]; it requires only that they deny Him, their Creator and Redeemer, according to the given testimony of Him who cannot lie. If we have no sure words from God, we have nothing greater than self-centered, self-serving mankind upon which to build our lives.

The definition of “inerrant” has not changed, being absolute. What change has occurred regarding inerrancy is in the agenda of the would-be definers.


11 years ago

Genesis 2:19-20:
” 19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.”

Do you think Adam named all the animals, like kangaroos and Polar Bears and pandas? If so I say you are being the close-minded one, not me.


11 years ago


Just out of curiosity, where did you get the authority to stand over top of Scripture and assess it’s contents as to their truthfulness?

I mean, Scripture itself claims to be breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16), so it would follow that you’d need some pretty impressive credentials- such as being smarter than Jesus (Matt. 19:4-5)- to accuse it of error on any point.

By the way, my question isn’t rhetorical- I’d love to hear your answer.

joshua york

11 years ago

Is that what you’re getting from that text…whether or not Adam named the polar bears?…ouch…have you ever considered the narrative of the story…maybe the purpose this was included?

Camden Bucey

11 years ago


That’s a good question as it gets right to the issue. We need to ask what our “principium” is. What is our ultimate authority and what does it claim to be?


11 years ago


“I mean, Scripture itself claims to be breathed out by God”

Just because a book claims to be the Word of God doesn’t mean it is. The Koran claims the very same thing, do you accept it for that book as well?

Is there anything in the Bible that could not have been written/inspired by men?


I am just taking the verse at its literal most straightforward meaning. It says that Adam named ALL the animals. Do you believe Adam named the polar bears?


11 years ago

Hi Drew,

That’s true. But you still didn’t answer my original question.

Why should I listen to you instead of Jesus?


11 years ago


Honestly, that is a very good question. You definitely shouldn’t take my word for it! But the gospels are not necessarily Jesus’ original words either, but copies of books written by men who give their intrepration of what Jesus said and who He was.

But lets just say the gospels do accurately portray what Jesus really said:

Matthew 24:37-39 (Jesus speaking)
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

From this we have two options:

1) Noah’s Flood did occur and Jesus was speaking the truth as the sinless Son of God

2) Noah did not fit all the millions of species of animals into the ark, nor did isolated species such as kangaroos in Australia swim to the middle east.

In essence you have to decide: did kangaroos swim from Australia or is Jesus an untrustworthy source of truth (or you say that the gospels are not the accurate words of Jesus).

So what do you think?


11 years ago

Hi Drew,

Three points:

1) The gospel writers themselves were certainly unaware that they were just interpreters: John 21:24-25, Luke 1:1-4. Two thousand years later, it seems kind of egotistical to assume we know better than them.

2) You are working from the presupposition that your autonomous reason is a valid reference point for truth.

This presupposition is something you can’t reason to or prove; rather, you must assume it in order to reason or prove anything else. Therefore, it is a faith commitment.

With that in mind, I’ll re-phrase my first question again: why what authority do you impose your faith committment upon others, or upon Scripture, or Jesus- to Whom all authority on heaven and earth has been given? (Matt. 28:18)

3) Yes, kangaroos. See my point #2. Why should our lack of understanding on a certain point cast any doubt on the truthfulness of Scripture? Arrogance, and a blind faith committment to ourselves- that’s why.

On the other hand, there are plausible answers for legitimate questions: http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c006.html


11 years ago


1) That is what I was saying, that the Gospels are not from the mouth of Jesus directly but interprations from the authors of the books. So you are not trusting in Jesus when you believe in the Gospel truth, you are trusting in the divine inspiration and interpretation of the Gospel writers.
2&3) Who is using the greater presupposition: one who claims without sufficient evidence that kangaroos swam from Australia, Adam named all the animals, and a book is the very word of God, or someone who witholds belief in these claims until sufficient reason is provided to believe them? You don’t believe in Allah – is this just because you have an arrogant presupposition or because there isn’t sufficient evidence to believe in Allah?


11 years ago


I am not sure from what direction you are coming but I would classify myself as Reformed and at the same time I would agree with you that the Priestly and Yahwist creation accounts do offer competing timelines, but does this undermine the doctrine of inerrancy? Well not really, neither are historical writings but saga and the differences are really irrelevant.

Far more problematic for the inerrancy issue is its definition in Article 10 of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I must confess to having serious reservations about this not least the assertion that, “We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.” The autographic text of Scripture was inerrant, we don’t have this anymore so the whole question is rather moot in that what I hold in my hand is not inerrant for it isn’t the autographic text of Scripture. Furthermore, one should ask whether the autographic text of Scripture ever existed in reality.

I far prefer to speak of inspiration and leave you Americans to fight over inerrancy. 😉

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11 years ago

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Elliott Simko

11 years ago

Chris and Drew,

Thank you for your thoughtful dialogue, I hope you don’t mind if I interject here.
Chris, I wanted to comment on your Feb 3rd post. I think what Drew is trying to get at (and correct me if I’m wrong Drew) is that you are starting from a beginning point from which you judge which scriptures you will accept, and which you will deny. It really comes down to a question of worldview. Or, to put it into a question, through what lens are you viewing the world? After your last comment it seems that rationalism, empiricism, and objectivism are some of the major components of your worldview: “one who claims without sufficient evidence,” “someone who witholds belief in these claims until sufficient reason is provided to believe them,” “because there isn’t sufficient evidence to believe in Allah?” You repeatedly use post-enlightenment terms such as words like “reason” and “evidence” which reveals to me that this is your starting point from which you judge everything else. One might argue that even if Jesus were to make a compelling miracle in front of you to prove he was God, if you didn’t find the miracle rationally compelling enough to evince Christ were the son of man, then you would not believe he were. What Drew is trying to say is that there is no better or more truthful platform to start from than a biblical foundation. We should start from scripture to measure the worth of other things in the world (such as objectivism, empiricism, and rationalism) not the other way around. God’s word is the truth, the only worthwhile starting point. He is the measuring rod, the way, the truth, and the life.

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Bruce Sanders

5 years ago

The statement “The Bible is inerrant” immediately raises the question, “Which Bible”? Not all Bibles are the same.

The original Canon listed 73 books … some churches still use these 73 books as Scripture; other churches have downsized to 66, consisting of an Old and New Testament / Covenant.

For the Old Testament, some churches have the Greek Septuagint as the underlying text, while other churches have the Hebrew Masoretic text (an eclectic text created and pointed by Rabbis for their purposes. Ten percent of the words are hapex legomenon, meaning they only occur once, and even today there is uncertainty and dispute over the meaning of some of these words). The Dead Sea Scrolls have a text different from the Masoretic. The Septuagint text differs from both.

For the New Testament, the “Received” text was initially used for the 1611 King James Version (considered by some Christians to be the only true text), however, more recent discoveries by Westcott and Hort, etc have resulted in updated Bibles for most versions (New King James, New Revised Standard, etc).

Not to be overlooked is any given Bible today has most likely been translated with a doctrinal / theological bias.

To sum up, you cannot go into any church, pick up a Bible, open it to any page and say, “Every word on this page is the inerrant Word of God.”

Consequently, “Biblical inerrancy,” as a general statement, has no meaning and should not be used.

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2 years ago

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