In keeping with my continuing interest in Biblical Inerrancy, last Friday I read a very short pamphlet on the the subject by Francis Schaeffer entitled "No Final Conflict." Schaeffer's concern when he wrote this (1975) was whether Evangelicalism would remain true to a doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility. Would the Evangelical world adhere to the conviction that the Bible is the verbal communication of God true in all it states involving history and the cosmos? Or would the view that the Bible was true only in what it affirmed about religious matters? This is not a matter that is now irrelevant to today's issues. Today we see those in the Evangelical World laud Francis Collins as the perfect example of a scientist and a believer with a strong doctrine of Scripture. This is incredible considering the fact that Collins believes that the natural world can tell us nothing about God. Collins totally ignores Scriptures most famous example of Natural Theology (God reveals Himself in nature) in Romans 1. (See my review of Collins's "The Language of God" here and especially here and here.) In matters concerning the cosmos, where the findings of modern Evolutionary dogma conflicts with Biblical material,Collins sides with Evolutionary dogma. Collins is just the sort of scientist Schaeffer warned us against in 1975, a scientist who claims that the Bible can teach us nothing in which science has an interest.
As Schaffer points out, Evangelicalism's position concerning the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture is the one position that has been the historic teaching of the Church since its beginnings. "Evangelicalism is not consistently Evangelical unless there is a line drawn between those who take a full view of Scripture and those who do not." This statement of Schaeffer's is relevant to two strands of current groups claiming to be Evangelical. The first is the Emergent Church, which denies the importance of the propositional nature of the truths contained in Scripture. The second are those who claim to be Evangelical yet argue against the inerrancy and infallibility of Scriptures with discredited arguments from the past which have their origin in the denial of the divine origin of Scripture. This second group repeats these same arguments without explicitly espousing the unbelief in the divine origin of Scripture these arguments are rooted in. Such arguments include a denial of Mosaic authorship of Genesis or the entire Pentateuch or that there was more than one author of Isaiah.
The contents of the book of Genesis can't be divided into religious truths and those statements we can ignore because they touch upon the areas of history and the cosmos. As Schaffer points out, Genesis is a book which contains religious truth in a book about history and a book that touches upon the cosmos as well. To those who accept the historic validity of Genesis only from chapter 12 on, Schaeffer responds with two agruments: internal and external. The internal argument demonstrates the unity of the entire book of Genesis. The first example demonstrating the unity of Genesis is the use of toledoths, or those passages that are expressed this way in the King James Version, "these are the generations of." This phrase appears uniformally at the end of the section preceding it rather than at the beginning of the section following. This is the case throughout Genesis, indicating a unity. This phrase is repeated in the first 11 chapters of Genesis six times, while the rest of the book repeats it 5 times. This nearly equal distribution throughout both both sections of Genesis is evidence of a unified whole. (Gen 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 11:27, 25:12, 25:19, 36:1, 36:9, 37:2) A second internal evidence to a unity of the entire book is the feature of the narrator consistently dealing with unimportant matters first before proceeding on to important ones. Often when brothers are introduced, the brother less important to the story is mentioned first and then the narrator moves on to the more important brother. The external argument Schaffer makes is that the New Testament assumes, and at times affirms, that the entire book of Genesis is a book of history. (Mt 19:4-5 (here Jesus links Gen 1 and 2, undercutting the theory that Gen 1 and 2 contain two separate creation accounts), Lk 3:38 (which mentions Enos, Seth and Adam as historic figures), Rom. 5:12 (the historicity of Adam is equal to the historicity of Moses), Rom 5:15 (the historicity of Adam is equal to the historicity of Christ), I Cor 6:16, 11:8, 9, 12, 15:21, 22, II Cor 11:3, Eph 5:31, IITim 2: 13-14, I Jn 3:2, Jude 11. Schaeffer clarifies the phrase "the Bible is not a science textbook." The statement is true in that science is not the Bible's central theme. However, the phrase should not be used by Christians to mean that the Bible has nothing to say concerning anything science has an interest in. The Bible does speak of the cosmos in reference to its central theme. Gen. 1 speaks of the creation of the cosmos. The focus on Gen. 2 is upon mankind. Because of what we read in the previous chapter, we can understand mankind's setting.
"No Final Conflict" has a whole chapter on the freedom anyone has in interpreting Scripture in determining the origin of the created world, including how old is the earth. I won't go into detail here but will say that what Schaeffer presents can prevent Christians from being too dogmatic with other Christians on their own take on what the Bible states about creation. (I am speaking here of disputes among all who affirm the historicity of the Bible's account of creation.) The realization that the genealogies in both New and Old Testaments were not meant to be read as straightforward chronologies may blow some minds, especially those who believe that the Bible explicitly states that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Yes, I believe in the Bible's account of creation, but I have always been skeptical of the earth being so young. Examples include the following: Gen 5:32 and 9: 24 where the order of Noah's sons is different, Ex.2, where the reader may infer that Moses is the older son is clarified by Ex. 7:7 in which it is stated that Aaron was actually 3 years older, IChron. 6:3-14 and Ezra 7:2 shows that Ezra deliberately left out some names (which was a common practice in ancient genealogies), IChron 26:24 omits 400 years of history, Mt. 1:8 omits three generations. The purpose of these genealogies is not to present chronological history, Schaeffer points out, but to show that certain Biblical figures came from a specific origin. The genealogies were more interested in showing trends of history rather than all figures of a family tree. Genesis 10 shows one man could bring forth not sons but whole peoples and places (v. 4, 7, 15); this would indicate greater passage of time than allowed in certain theories of what the Bible actually says of creation. A much more detailed study of these matters can be read in a book I read in seminary, "The Ancient Orient and the Old Testament" by K.E. Kitchen (a book I hope to study soon on my study blog).
"No Final Conflict" is just a pamphlet less than 50 pages, and it is a fast read, but how much valuable insight it contains! This is well worth your time and money. It was originally published by Intervarsity Press. It is usually available to order with other Schaeffer works.