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No Slippery Slopes

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August 4, 2010 Tags: Biblical Authority

Today's video features Joel Hunter. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video Conversation, Joel Hunter addresses the “slippery slope” argument supported by many evangelicals and suggests that not only is this perspective flawed, but it also may prevent believers from appreciating the fullness of God’s creation.

Hunter explains that when evangelicals argue that to accept science is to reject God (and biblical inerrancy), what is really being protected is a singular way to interpret scripture. Many evangelical parents are guarding the only type of literalistic interpretation that they themselves were taught because they fear that supporting scientific thought would negate the messages they have learned from scripture—when in fact, we can believe in the inerrancy in scripture without discarding scientific truths.

Hunter points out that sometimes we may be approaching biblical texts from an analytic or historical perspective when instead they are meant to be read as metaphor or poetry. By limiting biblical interpretations to a literalistic approach, we are missing pieces of the puzzle; the same is true if we ignore discoveries of the natural world. Thus, if believers are really raising children to know God, they will understand that allowing them to see more of God in nature (through science) will in turn allow them to see more of the creator in scripture.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Joel Hunter is senior pastor at Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood, Fla. Hunter is also a board member of the World Evangelical Alliance and author of the book A New Kind of Conservative.

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conrad - #24491

August 4th 2010

Joel Hunter is absolutely brilliant!

The fight over HOW TO INTERPRET SCRIPTURE is key.

The second day of creation tries to tell us about Guth’s period of rapid inflation which formed our universes pattern of galaxies.

The word is raqiya and it means expanse.
But it was used in the context of pounding bronze to expand it into a thinner AND MUCH LARGER, MORE EXPANDED SHEET.

Well do you take the meaning that “expansion” is the main portion of that meaning or that “solid sheet of bronze”  principle meaning.

If you go for the “expansion” meaning then cosmic inflation theory is a wonderful affirmation of our faith.
If you are a “dome” emphasizer,... [or as I like to call them “a tin roof Christian”] then science and the Bible are at loggerheads and they can never agree.

But the “tin roof” Christians are not fighting for the BIBLE!

That kind of authoritarianism is what the world rejects AND IT IS PREVENTING YOUNG PEOPLE FROM FINDING THE LORD.

Of all the men who contribute to this blog Joel Hunter is the best!

Mike Smuts (South Africa) - #24494

August 4th 2010

I agree that at the base of the “slippery slopes” (dominoe effect) argument lies the problem of interpreting Scripture. If we insist on consequently using literal interpretations of Scripture, we will not only get tied up with impossible texts to interpret, we will also violate the same Scripture that we presume to protect. 

Respect for Scripture requires that we appreciate what it is all about.  Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself to us in order that we may know Him, receive His salvation and be guided in a lifestyle that honours Him fully.  In this Revelation of Himself, he employs a variety of gendres of litterature - eg. history, parables, poetry, apocalyptic literature, gospels (as preaching the good news about Christ), epistles, wisdom texts, etc.)  These different gendres need to be respected in interpreting the message of the Bible. E.g. applying a literal interpretation to history texts is fine, but not to parables or poetry, etc.

To return to “slippery slopes”: I agree that it is an attempt to protect a certain view on the message of the Bible with a restricting fear that our faith may be at risk.

conrad - #24495

August 4th 2010

I Generally support literal interpretation, particularly in chapter One of Genesis.

But I do think the Garden of Eden story is a parable describing modern man’s “Out of Africa” migration.

But there again science is our friend.
Spencer Wells has done research on mitochondrial DNA confirming that all humans descend from one female.


SOMEBODY “ATE FROM THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE” and moved up into a more stressful lifestyle at about that time.

Dan - #24505

August 4th 2010

Stereotypes and misrepresentations in the premise:  “when evangelicals argue that to accept science is to reject God”.  But no one I know of rejects “science’.  They reject naturalism and particular definitions of science, but that is quite different.  Nuance anyone?

“by limiting biblical interpretations to a literalistic approach, we are missing pieces of the puzzle”.  Again, no arch conservative denies that there are figures, metaphors and parables in scripture.  This is a false charge.  What is at issue is whether Genesis 1-11 is in fact historical with allegorical implications or merely allegorical.  Conservatives argue that hermeneutically, an allegorical interpretation is not permitted because scripture in other places (Romans 5, Genealogies, etc.) treat it as historical.  To make Genesis 1-11 less than history is to force the New Testament and other references to those events to be interpreted in ways that assume the later writers were quite misinformed about the cosmos, which undermines trust in their testimony about things beyond the natural realm.

I don’t care too much about a “scientific” understanding of Genesis, I do care whether it is historical.  Prior to the modern era most assumed it was.

conrad - #24506

August 4th 2010

I am all about the scientific literalism.


The Big Bang made me think that Genesis 1 was literally, scientifically. correct.

R Hampton - #24510

August 4th 2010

Ken Ham explains the Conservative Evangelical motivation:

It is true that whether one believes in six literal days does not ultimately affect one’s salvation, if one is truly born again. However, we need to stand back and look at the “big picture.” In many nations, the Word of God was once widely respected and taken seriously. But once the door of compromise is unlocked and Christian leaders concede that we shouldn’t take the Bible as written in Genesis, why should the world take heed of it in any area? Because the Church has told the world that one can use man’s interpretation of the world (such as billions of years) to reinterpret the Bible, it is seen as an outdated, scientifically incorrect “holy book,” not intended to be taken seriously.

As each subsequent generation has pushed this door of compromise open farther and farther, increasingly they are not accepting the morality or salvation of the Bible either. After all, if the history in Genesis is not correct as written, how can one be sure the rest can be taken as written? Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12; NKJV).

R Hampton - #24511

August 4th 2010


It would not be exaggerating to claim that the majority of Christian leaders and laypeople within the church today do not believe in six literal days. Sadly, being influenced by the world has led to the Church no longer powerfully influencing the world.

The “war of the worldviews” is not ultimately one of young earth versus old earth, or billions of years versus six days, or creation versus evolution—the real battle is the authority of the Word of God versus man’s fallible theories.

- Ken Ham & Dr. Terry Mortenson, April 29, 2010
Chapter 12: What’s Wrong with Progressive Creation?

conrad - #24518

August 4th 2010

How is a day measured when the sun does not exist?

Absolute time does not exist.

Chris - #24521

August 4th 2010

To requote Ken Ham:
In many nations, the Word of God was once widely respected and taken seriously. But once the door of compromise is unlocked and Christian leaders concede that we shouldn’t take the Bible as written in Genesis, why should the world take heed of it in any area?

I agree that this is the issue, but I think Ken Ham has it all backwards.  He acts as if people have “compromised” on a whim. The reality is that its not compromise at all, its facing facts. 

Here is how I would rewrite it to reflect what Ham is really doing:
The Word of God was once widely respected and taken seriously, and most believed it was literally, historically, and scientifically inerrant.  However, now it has become quite clear that it is not historically or scientifically inerrant.  Yet I (Ken Ham) cant get my mind around the concept that scripture is not fully inerrent.  Therefore, I refuse to believe this evidence just because I don’t want to, and refuse to accept any alternate position and scoff at it as a compromise to Satan. I am personally holding onto an outdated notion of reality, and I am actively persuading others to do so as well.  I don’t care if this serves to relegate Christianity to a cult.

conrad - #24522

August 4th 2010

What word should the writer have used to indicate a period of time of uncertain length?

‘Day” is an English word.
The biblical word was “yom”.

If the writer meant a period of time of uncertain length what word should have been used?

gingoro - #24569

August 5th 2010

I appreciate that BioLogos tries to provide a precis of the video posts.  However, I would encourage them to provide a more complete transcript of what is said than they are currently doing.  This morning the video would not start at all so I read the summary.  Eventually I managed to get the video to start, I expect that network congestion was the problem but who knows?  I do have high speed, wired ADSL access but some days the video sites like YouTube also fail.  When I am away from home I use a wireless connection and do not usually even try to view videos both because of the connection speed issue (256KB/sec) and the high cost per MB for traffic (1$).  I suspect that there are lots of places in the world where BioLogos is being read where network availability and performance are poor, thus I would encourage a more complete transcript of the video’s contents, otherwise following the comments is very frustrating and I usually ignore that thread totally.
Dave W

Mike Smuts - #24706

August 6th 2010

When we as Christians perceive a conflict between scientific findings and our interpretation of the Bible text, and then reject the findings of science in order to protect the validity or “inerrency” of Scripture, we are not protecting the Bible but only our own fallible interpreation of it. In the process we are not serving the purpose. We are in danger of attaining the opposite.

While we affirm the validity of the Bible as God’s introduction of Himself to us in order to bring us to faith and a relationship with Him, we should also respect the validity of scientific research to understand His creation more fully.  When our interpretation of Scripture comes in conflict with scientific findings, we should seriously revisit our methods of interpretation, as we can expect science to continue revisiting their scientific theories.  If we believe that the truth of God, our Creator, is present in Scripture and in Nature, the two can not be in conflict.  When we perceive conflict we, from both sides, need to revisit our positions and keep on searching.  To reject or ridicule each other is not serving the purpose of moving closer to God’s truth as revealed in Scripture and Nature.

1Cor.13:9-13 applies. We need humility and love!

Argon - #24994

August 7th 2010

conrad - #24518: How is a day measured when the sun does not exist?

God probably counted the number of electronic transitions between the two hyperfine ground states of cesium-133 atoms. :*)

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