Presuppositional commitment to God’s word
Updated (scroll down)
Mike Duran at his blog posed what he considers a dilemma regarding the relationship between apostasy and abandoning the Bible as authoritative.  Duran invoked the example of Leo, son of the famed intelligent design proponent Michael Behe, who said that his trust in the Bible was shaken by reading The God Delusion by Dawkins and considering for the first time “the fallible origin of Scripture.” 
It did not occur to me until later in life to examine the reliability of the Bible, the infallibility of which my Christian opponents would always agree upon. 
That point in particular was what originally shook my specific faith—Catholicism—and planted seeds of skepticism … 
Once my trust in the Bible was shaken, I still believed strongly in a theistic god, but I realized that I hadn’t sufficiently examined my beliefs. Over the next several months, my certainty of a sentient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity faded steadily. I believe that the loss of a specific creed was the tipping point for me. 
This erosion of trust in the Bible “is often the first step in Christian apostasy—‘the loss of a specific creed’,” writes Duran, quoting Behe’s phrase.
The first step toward the deconstruction of Christianity must always be the deconstruction of Scripture. For once “the foundations are destroyed” (Ps. 11:3), you are free to construct another worldview, preferably one to your own liking.
However, this creates a problem. If we can’t question and debate the authenticity, authority, and limits of Scripture, how do we know we can trust it? Unquestioned belief in the Bible is just as wrong as unequivocal rejection of it. 
“Unquestioned belief in the Bible is just as wrong as unequivocal rejection of it,” he said, to my astonishment and incredulity; and both his statement and the point raised in his article intuitively brought to mind the Edenic narrative wherein Eve was led by temptation to second-guess God and his word, so it surprised me that neither Duran nor anyone in the comments area invoked the point illustrated in that narrative. Did not the apostle Paul state that, by second-guessing God and his word, Eve fell into the state of “transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14)? In our context here it is uncontroversial that rejecting God’s word is wrong, but exactly how is it “just as wrong” to believe God’s word without question?
On the contrary, if the Edenic narrative taught us anything it’s that accepting and trusting God’s word as authoritative and embracing that attitude existentially is our only sure good! In his second letter to the Corinthian church the apostle Paul expressed the godly jealousy he had for them, such that he promised them as a pure virgin in marriage to Christ their one husband; and yet, he said, “I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3). Just as Peter encouraged the saints about defending the faith, our task begins from a foundation of setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15), a foundation Paul echoes in his letter to the Colossians: “Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority” (Colossians 2:6-10; emphases mine). It is on the foundation of accepting and trusting God’s word as authoritative and embracing that attitude existentially that our evangelical and apologetic weapons “are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; emphasis mine; cf. Romans 1:18-22 for “against the knowledge of God”).
On the one hand we have Eve who fell into the state of transgression by second-guessing God and his word; on the other hand we have Jesus Christ who, as the spotless Lamb, never once second-guessed God and his word, who at all times and in every moment trusted and did the will of the Father in all things. Do we follow the covenant-breaking pattern of our first parents and their posterity, or do we embrace the covenant-keeping pattern of the Son of God and his posterity? In this sense it raises a glaring red flag when I hear people suggesting that it may be proper to entertain the question apart from or beyond his word (like Eve did), “Has God really said…?” In stark opposition to Duran, unquestioned belief in the Bible is not wrong; as God’s own word, it is our only sure good.
May we “question and debate the authenticity, authority, and limits of Scripture”? There is so much packed into this question that it is difficult to answer. What is meant by authenticity? And what is meant by authority? And what is meant by limits? Insofar as these are hermeneutic questions answered by historical and grammatical exegesis, we certainly may answer them from the scriptures. But if we are disassociating truth and knowledge from the triune God of scriptures, then what authoritative source are we standing upon to question God and his word? And is that not the very sin by which Eve fell into a state of transgression? This is God’s universe, we are his creation, and his saints are captivated only by such philosophy as that which is according to Christ, setting him apart as Lord in their hearts, who is the head over every authority and to whom by grace in love their minds and hearts are obedient.
“How do we know we can trust it?” I don’t think it is an epistemic question of knowing but an existential question of doing; namely, either we do or we don’t take God at his word as authoritative in all things. As for me, and my church family also, we do not conclude but rather presuppose the truth of the Bible’s content as our foundational starting point. To the extent that people seek to establish the authority of the Bible on some basis apart from the Bible, they demonstrate that it is not their final authority; whatever that extrabiblical basis might be, that is their final authority.
Update: 13 March 2012
Mike Duran stopped by to publish here his response (see the comments section below), which began with his displeasure that I did not include in my article here his concluding summary, thus potentially misleading readers to think that he questions such foundational beliefs as captured by his home church’s statement of faith. I don’t want Duran or anyone else thinking that I was insinuating anything of the sort, so at his implicit behest I wish to include the sentence by which he summarized his point at the end of his article:
Doubting Scripture, asking hard questions of it, is part of the process of spiritual growth and arriving at Truth. But it is also the first step in the path of apostasy.
What Duran believes about the Bible is captured by what his home church affirms in that regard, which he quotes as follows: “We believe the Bible is the authoritative record of God’s self-disclosure and is wholly trustworthy. All the books of the Old and New Testament are given by divine inspiration and are the written word of God, the only infallible rule of our faith and practice.” Duran says that he whole-heartedly agrees with that statement, and I want our readers to know that. He states in his comment:
Not only am I not questioning the truth of God’s word, I’m suggesting that how we arrive at the belief that God’s word is true is of utmost importance.
But in his article Duran did appear to be saying that it’s not only permissible but a moral obligation to question such foundational beliefs (though he might now possess satisfactory answers himself). Maybe I am misunderstanding his point, but he not only suggested that we can “question and debate the authenticity, authority, and limits of Scripture”—for how do we trust it otherwise?—but he also suggested that failing to do so is “just as wrong” as unequivocally rejecting the Bible. But then again, as I said previously, it is important to know what he meant by authenticity, authority, and limits; for example, he could mean those terms differently from their foundational sense.
Also, a commenter named Sally said,
You are wrong to say that Duran sins like Eve when he says unquestioning belief is as wrong as unequivocal unbelief. … You can hardly expect us to take you seriously when you make the outrageous claim that Duran is guilty of the same sin as Eve.
Therein lies another potential confusion I want to avoid. I never accused Duran of that sin. I was arguing that unquestioned belief in the Bible is the opposite of wrong; “On the contrary,” I had said above, “if the Edenic narrative taught us anything it’s that accepting and trusting God’s word as authoritative and embracing that attitude existentially is our only sure good!” It is second-guessing God and his word that is wrong.
 Duran, 2012, par. 2ff.
 Shaffer, 2011, par. 12.
 Ibid., par. 6.
 Ibid., par. 12.
 Ibid., par. 14.
 Duran, pars. 7-8; emphasis his.
Duran, M. (2012, March 2). “The prerequisite to all apostasy.” deCompose [web].
Shaffer, R. (2011, September–October). “The Humanist interview with Leo Behe.” The Humanist [web].
Other related Aristophrenium articles:
- The God Delusion: Updated (1)
- Does ID Damage both Science and Theology? (4)
- We Don’t Hate Sin. So We Don’t Understand What Happened To The Canaanites (4)
- Can Science Disprove God? (4)
- The Greatest Hoax on Earth (5)
- Answering the charge that my presupposition cannot be held as axiomatic (4)
- “Discussing” God, Science and Sanity (9)