By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist Convention leader said Aug. 22 that a contemporary Christian music artist who recently said he no longer believes in a literal Adam and Eve or Noah’s Ark trusts science more than the Bible.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a podcast news briefing that a recent World Magazine expose of shifting views by Dove Award-winning and Grammy-nominated musician Michael Gungor is more than “a tempest in a teapot.”
Mohler said Gungor’s problem boils down to “epistemology” — the theory of how people know — and that his words make clear that he believes science has intellectual authority to trump the teaching of Scripture.
Mohler said by categorizing Bible stories like the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Flood as myth instead of history, Gungor repeats the error of Protestant liberals in the 19th century.
“When Michael Gungor speaks of his perspective shifting, what he’s actually doing is shifting into theological reverse, moving right back to the last decades of the 19th century,” Mohler said, “associating with theological ideas, which were a part of that Protestant liberalism, which also came over to the United States, infecting many denominations and seminaries.”
Mohler said it’s impossible for a person to live without deciding what intellectual authority gets to trump other claims to knowledge.
“We will either believe the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God — that it is the specially revealed word of God, which is our ultimate intellectual authority, because it is, indeed, the word of God — or we’ll see it merely as a collection of inspirational and spiritual writings that are to be ‘reinterpreted,’” Mohler said. “That’s Michael Gungor’s word, when it comes to claims of a superior intellectual authority, in his case modern science.”
Mohler said Gungor’s view “is inherently arbitrary,” because he denies the historicity of some parts of the Bible but not all.
“Michael Gungor says he can’t believe in a historical Adam and Eve any more, but he wants to make very clear he still believes in the miracles of the New Testament,” Mohler said. “But why?”
“He has just pulled the rug out from under his own intellectual argument, because if he has just allowed the naturalist assumptions of modern science to deny the reality of Adam and Eve, how can he not follow those same naturalistic claims of science when they deny the possibility of the miraculous?”
Mohler said he is not suggesting that Gungor doubts the New Testament miracles or that a person who denies one doctrine necessarily must reject other doctrines as well, but there is “theological peril” involved.
“If you decide that you’re going to undercut biblical authority when it comes to very clear historical claims that you say now have to be reinterpreted by the assured findings of modern science, then when it comes to any other issue, if you fail to follow those same, naturalistic assumptions, you’re just being arbitrary,” Mohler said.
“It may not be that you will also deny all those other doctrines that run into direct conflict with the naturalistic, scientific worldview. But if you do not do so, it will simply be because you decided not to do so, not because you are consistently recognizing an intellectual authority, and that’s exactly what the Scripture claims to be.”
Mohler said in the evangelical tradition, the formula has been “when the Bible speaks, God speaks.”
“The issue remains that simple,” Mohler said. “In reality, the fact that Adam and Eve were real, objectively live human beings, who lived in space and time and history, is essential to the entire biblical narrative, not to just the interpretation of Genesis 1 and following.”
Mohler said “one of the saddest aspects” of Gungor’s thinking is that he seems to believe he has achieved something new.
“It isn’t new,” Mohler said. “It’s just back to the future. It’s back to Protestant liberalism.
“And what, by the way, did Protestant liberalism achieve? The undermining and subversion of the church in the name of saving it, saving it from itself. We’re not called to save the Bible from itself. The Bible makes explicit truth claims. We’re not trying to save the Bible from those truth claims, but rather to receive them for what they are — the word to us, which is the word of God.”