October 25, 2020

How We Got the Bible: An Evangelical Scholar Speaks

We’ve talked about (and critiqued) the evangelical view of how we came to have the Bible. I want you to see a video today to show you that I have not given you a caricature of their position. As you watch this, please note how Prof. Grudem completely omits the human side of the process of the writing, editing, and compilation of the biblical books and the history of canonization. It’s a short step from this approach to “the Bible dropped from heaven” understanding of many laypeople in the churches.

This is almost a perfect representation of the “binder” mentality we talked about in our post about Craig Allert’s book.

Dr. Wayne Grudem was a professor at the seminary I attended while I was there. His view is essentially how I was taught throughout my evangelical education. Grudem since has become a leading voice in evangelical theology and is currently Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona.


  1. Robert F says

    To the degree that his religious commitments prevent him from considering the entire background of Biblical formation, Grudem is not a real scholar. Unfortunately, he is only one of many, and they aren’t going away anytime soon.

    • senecagriggs says

      If Grudem were a “real scholar” he’d agree with you correct? smile

      • Dana Ames says


        Robert qualified his “real scholar” remark with “to the degree that his religious commitments prevent him from considering..” Grudem studied at prestigious institutions, but his biases prevent him from seeing certain things, same as everyone.

        Grudem would not last ten minutes on a stage with Scot McKnight, or five minutes on a stage with N.T. Wright. I like Scot and Tom a lot, but I don’t agree with them about everything. Being real scholars, they handle their areas of study on a much higher academic level than Grudem. Both of them identify as Evangelicals (though Scot thinks the term has been corrupted) and both believe that Jesus arose bodily from the dead.


        • Robert F says

          Exactly, Dana. I don’t agree with everything real scholars write, many of them disagree with each other, but they don’t simply ignore an entire facet of the subject(s) that they are expert in order to spare their own religious or presumptions.

      • anonymous says

        ‘Know it alls’ are never REAL scholars, no. Grudem has sorted out the Holy Trinity? Give us a break.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Grudem has sorted out the Holy Trinity? Give us a break.

          God is SO lucky to have him.

          That Rabbi from Nazareth said he didn’t know the date and time and details of The End, yet a LOT of know-it-all preachers DO. So why shouldn’t we see their Speshul Knowledge (Gnosis) in other areas than End Time Prophecy?

  2. Adam Tauno Williams says

    Wow. Errr….. yeah.

    I wonder if he has any self-awareness how much relativity is wound through his narrative?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “You can pick your friends; you can’t pick your relatives.”
      — Jimmy Carter regarding “Billygate”

  3. Iain Lovejoy says

    This guy is a professor???
    He really has absolutely no idea what he is talking about, has he?
    It is difficult to know whether he has simply not bothered to study or is blindly unaware of the existence of the wealth of evidence regarding the formation of the canon, or is being actively dishonest. In either event, just wow.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > This guy is a professor?

      Professor / Operative, they both have nine letters. Sigh.

      Note that he **begins** with a political justification as to why what he is about to say must be true.

      … also, it is important that we “believe what god wants us to believe”.

      • Dave Greene says

        Evangelical authors and professors can only say certain things lest they run afoul of the Evangelical Border Patrol causing them to lose book sales, speaking engagements, and influence.

        I do wonder how they deal with the words of the Apostle Paul who clearly stated that not everything in the Bible was from God: 1 Cor. 7:12 “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord).”

        • This is precisely what Pete Enns fell foul of, losing his tenure due to following where he felt the Bible led his scholarship. He talks occasionally of how many academics contact him behind the scenes to say they feel the same, but can’t afford to lose their jobs by disagreeing with the prevailing view.

          • Norma Cenva says

            Enns got off easy (so to speak).
            There was a time when it could have meant flogging, imprisonment, and depending upon how recalcitrant he was, horrific torture, and then the stake.

    • Very much this. It’s difficult to decide whether “Professor” Grudem has never read/heard any academic histories of the formation of the Biblical canon, or has rejected it all in favor of believing that every word of the Bible is the word of God, true and unaltered, chosen by God himself. There are centuries of scholarship that he manages to ignore by taking that approach. He is doing himself, and his students, a great disservice.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        … believing that every word of the Bible is the word of God, true and unaltered, chosen by God himself.

        (and look to Islam for the side effects of such Verbal Plenary Inspiration)

  4. Christiane says

    oh . . . my . . . Goodness

    so this is THE Wayne Grudem in his own words


    • Christiane says

      And on the ‘scholarship’ of this man, was built the whole ESS (Eternal Subordination of the Son) heresy to shore up the patriarchal treatment of women???


      didn’t anyone in evangelical circles challenge him who DID have a classical orthodox Christian understanding of Church history and tradition???? There must have been someone who realized WG was in error, or in ignorance, or just ‘winging it’ ?

      I sense a story here. I’m going to look at Wade Burleson’s writings to see what he thought of this person, as Wade never bought into the extreme patriarchal authoritarian teachings in the SBC. I’m sure to find some answers there.
      Please, anyone, give me some links as to how this man WG was able to pull off the whole ESS nonsense and convince so many decent people of a heresy with roots into the early Christian heresies. WG must not have known about the teachings of the Cappadocian Fathers, or how and why the Creeds were formed, at least he must not have known with any depth.

      Hearing WG speak is a shock. I don’t know what I expected, but certainly not something like this from him, no. Very thin . . . . more like a salesman than a scholar. I’m sorry but that is my initial reaction. Maybe he is ‘talking down’ to people in his world who are not scholars and not familiar with Church history???

      • “WG must not have known about the teachings of the Cappadocian Fathers, or how and why the Creeds were formed, at least he must not have known with any depth.”

        Evangelicals (at least those outside the Reformed circles) are very weak on church history and historical theology. The old joke that “church history went on hiatus at AD100 and didn’t restart until AD 1517” is far more true than it ought to be.

        As far as where ESS came from… well, take the evangelical weakness of historical theology mentioned above, toss in a liberal (pun intended) dose of pure biblicism (aided and abetted by the ‘top-down’ revelatory model Grudem displays above), mix in a deeply entrenched hierarchical view of theology, nature, and sexual roles, and season with a dash of cultural anxiety… voila, ESS Stew, ready to serve.

  5. His educational pedigree includes Harvard and Cambridge. Gruden is also responsible for that bastion of patriarchy, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Woman Hood. He also wrote an article entitled Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morrally Good Choice. Here’s the link: https://townhall.com/columnists/waynegrudem/2016/07/28/why-voting-for-donald-trump-is-a-morally-good-choice-n2199564

    • Forgive the atrocious spelling.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > His educational pedigree includes Harvard and Cambridge

      I believe the street cred of these institutions is really taking a beating; at least among those not invested in the street cred of the ivys. They sure do unload some clinkers onto the world.

      • Christiane says

        I remember a haircutter in our city whose advertising stated that he was trained by Vidal Sassoon, the famous British haircutter of many years ago.

        Now this man was good, and very popular, but it turned out that his ‘training’ by Vidal Sassoon was limited to one ‘workshop’ for which the man paid to attend. Only one.

        So when I hear that someone has an ‘education’ from a prominent university, it rings a bell and I wonder just how MUCH education went on. Usually those coming out of the major American and British institutions of higher learning have some gravitas that presents itself publicly in how they conduct themselves.

        I took some classes in special education at George Washington University in DC after my first child was born with Down syndrome . . . . but those classes didn’t make me a qualified special education teacher, no.

        You have to wonder just how ‘solid’ a person’s education creds are when they present in the manner of WG. All I can surmise is that he is ‘talking down to his base’ in terms the ‘base’ can grasp. He doesn’t present with depth or give references to his statements, or connect what he is saying up with the works of other known scholars and theologians, no. I’m confused about this. Something is not as it should be. (?)

        • Grudem and Piper form the Axis of Neo-Puritan Hokem Pokem.

          • These names go together; Piper, Grudem, SGM (C. J. Mahaney), Mark Driscoll. Grudem provides the theological ammo, albeit of the Eternal Subordinationist kind.

            • Christiane says

              I hear you. Thanks, Tom

              Piper is a bit of a misogynist also, I take it. I’ve heard he has problems with muscular women. (?)
              Strange folks, these

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                I think his exact quote (search Wartburg Watch for the essay) is “Masculine Musculature on a Woman can beget Unnatural Arousal in a man”.

                To which my response, then and now, is a link to Josie Cotton’s
                “Johnny, Are You Queer?”

                And the observation that with Pious Piper’s height and build, most women could fold him up and stuff him in a dumpster.

        • Well he claims a PhD thesis in New Testament studies under Prof. C. F. D. Moule. Title is “The Gift of Prophecy in 1 Corinthians”, 1978 (google books has available some of a revised version). I would say on the whole he does have PhD from Cambridge. It would be from the Faculty of Divinity.

  6. Burro (Mule) says

    I regret having to pile onto poor Dr Grudem, seeing that he and I share so many unpopular opinions, but that talk makes me wonder if Evangelicals are really Chalcedonians. He gave the divine side of the canonical process but entirely overlooked the human side. What? Is he afraid that if some poor goober in a church somewhere learns about the numerous redactions and permutations Scripture has undergone hell decide that Malachi 3:10 isn’t binding?

    • Dana Ames says



      the Canon came together under those men in funny hats – Roman Catholics of course – who corrupted primitive “biblical Christianity”. He is either ignorant of or chooses to ignore the history of the Church.


    • Many evangelicals are functional Docetists, amongst other theological flaws.

      • Christiane says

        I think many evangelicals struggle with ‘creedal’ beliefs as defined by the early Church creeds. Certainly, they have problems with the ‘doctrine’ of the Holy Trinity, yes. And my goodness, you can get them to agree that Jesus Christ is the ‘son’ of God, but not that Jesus Christ IS God.

        as for questions like
        ‘Who died on the Cross’? well, don’t be surprised if you are told that Christ’s human nature died on the Cross, and not His divine nature. The other answers to that question will give a lot of insight into their comfort level with creedal theology from the first Councils of the Church. It can get murky, what they agree to believe; and the only thought I have on their behalf is that they are using the Bible as their catechism and do not have an understanding of the early creeds, or the early councils, or why those councils were called and why those creeds were formed. They don’t know much about the early heresies (ergo, sometimes they wander into those early heresies blindly without realizing that the Church dealt with them almost 2 millennia ago. . . .

        I have some sympathy for evangelical people who do not know the history of the Church. But WG ought to have known it. Hence, I am confused about him. What was he playing at?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I have some sympathy for evangelical people who do not know the history of the Church. But WG ought to have known it. Hence, I am confused about him. What was he playing at?

          Just like his Utterly OMNIPOTENT God.

          “The only goal of Power is POWER. And POWER consists of inflicting maximum suffering upon the powerless.”
          — Comrade O’Brian, Inner Party, Airstrip One, Oceania, 1984

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Docetism = “Christ was so much GOD he couldn’t possibly have been human, he only appeared/pretended to be”.

    • I think it’s a circular argument from the theology they end up with: humans are totally depraved, their minds are useless, & overall they are worthless hence God would never really use them in that way to write the Bible, no matter what it says. For them anything that is less than 100% God is some way along to road to works righteousness. This is then read back into everything, including the formation of the Bible.

  7. Such naïve fundamentalism was forgivable in the relatively untutored ministers of the rural Baptist church in which I was raised but given his background I can only assume that Prof Grudem knows better. This is why evangelicals are so discombobulated when Bart Ehrman publishes a book. Ehrman is considered a wide-eyed radical when all he is doing is writing popular books reflecting standard scholarly views taught in every reputable seminary in the land. What conclusion can I draw but that Grudem is being deliberately dishonest?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Such naïve fundamentalism was forgivable in the relatively untutored ministers of the rural Baptist church in which I was raised but given his background I can only assume that Prof Grudem knows better.

      Does this mean John 9:41 applies?

  8. Hmm. At the risk of suffering the wrath of others here, Grudem’s video didn’t seem as awful as I was expecting or as awful as you all think. Maybe it’s a bit one-note, but I didn’t get the sense that he wasn’t acknowledging the human hand in the Bible’s development. He constantly says that the original words given Moses have been added to by others (Joshua, the Prophets), and at the 5:30 mark he even says, “The words of scripture prove themselves to the words of the Creator in the way no other human writing does.” Seems an overreach to claim he’s saying something else. Sure, he leaves out a lot of what some of us might have honed in on had we done a video like this, but I didn’t see anything overly offensive here.

    • I wouldn’t call it “offensive,” Rick, just simply and utterly naive and either completely unaware or unwilling to deal with anything beyond the standard evangelical talking points.

    • Iain Lovejoy says

      The problem is that he is apparently utterly ignorant or out-and-out lying, in that Jewish canon was not settled on until at least the 1st Century AD and possibly later, and the content of the NT canon was still being argued over in the 3rd Century, and isn’t universally agreed among Christian churches even now, and we also still can’t agree on which bits of the OT canon to recognise. Unless he is breathtakingly ignorant, his fairy story of each book of the OT being reverently and authoratively added to the canon as soon as it was written down as dictated by God, and the NT canon being assembled on the laid down instructions of the apostles is simply a blatant lie. Neither option is good.

      • Christiane says

        if his ‘history’ of ‘how we got the Bible’ is in sync with the fundamentalist-evangelical version, then how did that version come to be?

        there must have been someone or some group that cooked up an ‘origin’ myth about the existence of ‘the Bible’ in a way that by-passed the early Church councils, but who did this, and what were they up to?

        • Iain Lovejoy says

          I suspect that no one really cooked up an origin myth, rather the Biblical literalism crowd simply assumed this must have been the case, knowing no better, and chances like Grudem tell them what they want to hear and what it is useful to have them believe.

          • Robert F says

            Good reminder about how the unsettledness of the Jewish canon lasted right up into the first centuries of Christianity. That means that when Jesus and Paul and the others in the New Testament were quoting Hebrew scripture, there was no comprehensive consensus in Judaism about the exact extant of it, and there was disagreement about a number of books that some authorities considered canonical, but others didn’t.

            • As I understand it, some of the quotes were of the Septuagint, so not even the “original text”…

  9. Dana Ames says

    God’s very words to believe and obey… no mention of existential realities, and no mention of any kind of telos. I know it’s a short talk, and one can’t say everything, but please, give me six minutes of Fr Stephen, or Tom Wright, who give my soul actual food. I feel sorry for Dr Grudem. And aside from the points Chaplain Mike is making, who exactly were the leadership of the people of God in the A.D. years (they were bishops/overseers, so yes, they were part of a kind of hierarchy) and did they do things like today’s Evangelicals? (No, they were liturgical, and interpretation of Scripture was tightly interwoven with the kind of worship they practiced.)

    Besides all that, all those early Church leaders believed that the Word of God was Jesus Christ himself, not the writings about him (though they held those writings in high regard). Holding this definition of “the word of God” in mind when reading the context of those words in the NT makes those passages abundantly clear – if people are willing to have ears to hear.

    And, what Iain said in both of his comments.


  10. Burro (Mule) says

    Could I hijack the conversation briefly to ask a question? What is the Eternal Subordination of the Son? Is it different in concept from the Eastern concept of the Monarchy of the Father? We Easterners do not believe (strenuously) in the double procession of the Spirit from the Son and the Father, so in that sense we hold to the Father as the Head or Source of all Divinity, but the idea of the Eternal Word being somehow
    lesser or subordinate to the Father because of this smacks of the rankest Arianism.

    While we are talking on Trinitarian themes, I had the unparalleled privilege to hear a symposium? discussion? trialogue? between a Muslim, a Catholic, and a Sikh, all three fervent believers in and defenders of their respective traditions, arguing about the meaning of monotheism. These three were light years beyond me, so I just listened. The Sikhs are monotheistic but pantheistic in practice. From what I was able to discern it is kind of an emergent religion with God as an animating force within nature.

    The Muslim emphasized the transcendence of Allah and the submission of all to him, and of course the Franciscan emphasized Christ as unifying both of these monotheism and making them accessible to us as a Person. As he talked, it came to my mind that Islam treats the One God as if He were all the Father and the Sikhs as if He were all the Holy Spirit, then it came to my mind that I was oversimplifying and full of horse manure, but I don’t think so, not entirely.

    • “Those who espouse ESS… take a specific position in respect of the relationship of the Father and the Son in the Godhead – particularly in relation to the divine will. They assert that the subordination of will and obedience that we see in the Gospels is not simply a product of Jesus’ incarnation but a reflection of the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. The Son obeys not merely as man but as God. And obedience is the eternal nature of the relationship between the first and second persons of the Trinity.”


      • And then on this is built the doctrine that as the Son will always be submissive to the Father, so women will always be submissive to men through eternity. It’s hard not to feel that has played quite a big part in why it was pushed so hard, & by so many.

        • I believe there was a Lutheran seminary professor, Mo Synod, who was teaching similarly a number of years ago. He was taken to task for false teaching.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          It’s hard not to feel that has played quite a big part in why it was pushed so hard, & by so many.

          Because “I GET TO HOLD THE WHIP! GAWD HATH SAID!!!!!”

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Monothelitism, then, come back to pester us yet again. This is not Christian Orthodoxy. Both Islam and Calvinism seem to share a preoccupation with God as sheer will.

        • “Both Islam and Calvinism seem to share a preoccupation with God as sheer will.”

          The more distance I put between me and Calvinism, the more truth I see in that insight.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            You get a God who is nothing but POWER, a Cosmic Kim Jong-Un.

            In the words of JMJ/Christian Monist:
            “A God who is Omnipotent but NOT Benevolent.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          “Both Islam and Calvinism seem to share a preoccupation with God as sheer will.”

          Not just “will”, but “Will To POWER”.
          Because that makes God nothing but POWER.
          He Who Holds The Biggest Whip, Praise Him enough and he’ll use that Whip on someone else.
          “I don’t need to outrun the bear, I only need to outrun YOU.”

          Both Mohammed and Calvin were focused on Predestination and God’s Omnipotence. I would be surprised if they DIDN’T have similar corollaries and side effects.

      • Robert F says

        Obedience is central to the intra-trinitarian relationship in ESS, not love. Or more accurately, subordination based on different roles is thought to be intrinsic to love, never mind that this subordination means that a de facto inequality must exist between the parties in the relationship.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          In the fields of the Blessed Trinity, which is entirely lLove, Obedience and Command twist, morph, and lose their distinction. I am reminded of the saying of Charles Williams ‘the City is simultaneously hierarchical and republican. I am also reminded of the prophetic word where “justice and mercy kiss each other”

          My objectionable opinions about relations between the genders are entirely cislunar.

    • Dana Ames says


      Definition as Eeyore gave, so different than the monarchy of the Father. But what Eeyore quoted is only part of the picture. The current form of it arose in the 1980s or so, as a supposed “biblical” justification for the eternal subordination of women to men (some believe wives to husbands only, others believe all women to all men). The analogy is made that as Christ was subordinate to the Father (and the Church to Christ), so women are to be subordinate to men. The way this disrupts Trinitarian relations is that the Son becomes something less than truly God; the logical outcome of this vis-a-vis men & women is that women become something less than truly human. This notion has contributed to the ideals of the “Quiverfull” movement and to those groups who believe a woman should always be “under the covering” of a man, usually her father until she marries; so single women are expected to remain at home and serve their fathers until and unless they gain husbands. This is very far from the true complementarity of Orthodox understanding, and esp that of St Maximos regarding the ***healing*** in Christ of the division between the sexes.

      I was having coffee with Scot McKnight a dozen years ago, talking about this very thing. He said he presented the ESS idea – without attribution so as not to prejudice because of personality – to Brad Nassif, with whom he was on faculty at the time. Dr. Nassif replied, “That’s nothing but Arianism.”


      • Burro (Mule) says

        My objection to the modern sexual Jacobism is the blurring of distinctions between the sexes. I believe what Maximus is taking about, and who among us these days is dispassionate enough these days to understand him? is healing through a deeper distinction between the sexes and the reconciliation of that in ways that the chest-beaters and cookie-bakers (forgive me), or me , can even imagine.

        • Dana Ames says

          “My objection…” – Yes, mine too. I also object to gender essentialism (found among those of all political stripes – see current advertising in the media) – seems to me to be the other side of the same coin.
          “who is dispassionate enough…” – Of course, though perhaps a few may understand something. Not claiming this for myself, only the hope of it.
          “Is healing deeper…” – Most likely it is, and that union will be characterized by peace, shalom – all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

          Just because people go off into the ditch on one side of the road doesn’t mean that the solution to the problem lies in going off into the ditch on the **other** side.


          • –> “Just because people go off into the ditch on one side of the road doesn’t mean that the solution to the problem lies in going off into the ditch on the **other** side.”

            LOL. And there’s the current political environment in the good ol’ USA in a nutshell!

      • Christiane says

        Dana, Wade Burleson wrote about this also:


    • “…but the idea of the Eternal Word being somehow lesser or subordinate to the Father because of this smacks of the rankest Arianism…”

      Or Paulism since that the Son is subordinate to the Father and is elevated because of his self denial is of course the view of the Apostle Paul. See the great hymn in Philippians 2. Of course Paul didn’t express it in such Trinitarian terms because the idea of the Trinity hadn’t been invented yet.

      • Dana Ames says

        Stephen, it was there. The doctrine was not explicated until later, but “the idea of the Trinity” was not “invented” – it’s in the text of the NT already. Also, in Judaism in Jesus’ day there was an understanding about “the angel of the Lord” as being somebody “next to” God; this is very interesting. See N.T. Wright, and other scholars, both Christian and Jewish. Semitic languages such as Hebrew and Aramaic, I am told, don’t have the vocabulary to clearly speak about these things, but Greek does, and as Christians wrote more and more in Greek, it was easier to begin to put some doctrinal language on these ideas. That was happening well before Nicea.


      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        “…but the idea of the Eternal Word being somehow lesser or subordinate to the Father because of this smacks of the rankest Arianism…”

        Eternal Subordination of the Son justifies the Great Chain of Being, especially “Me Biblical Man! Me Wanna! You Mere Woman! You Shut Up! GAWD Saith!”

        The Great Chain of Being — Boots Stamping on Faces all the way down, God to Pastor to Elder to Biblical Man to Woman to Son to Daughter to Animal.

  11. Rick Ro. says

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone. You’ve helped me understand and see the validity of the critique. Yes, this mindset is a bit more troubling than I originally thought. And my guess is (based upon experience with church leaders like this) that behind that very pleasant smile resides a passive/aggressive personality that would rear itself at those anyone who might voice these concerns directly to him.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Like I said below, WAYNE GRUDEM GO WAYNE GRUDEM(TM) has been covered by Wartburg Watch, none of it good.

  12. Robert F says

    I guess a large part of the evangelical world feels compelled to treat the definite, reliable historical knowledge we possess of how the canon was formed as a dirty little secret that should be spoken of or referred to only obliquely and fleetingly, when it cannot be avoided. Mostly they seem to avoid it, as if it were a disreputable, shameful chapter in the family pedigree.

    • It is somewhat like an ongoing discussion I had years ago with an acquaintance (wasn’t really a friend) about the superiority of the KJV and the majority text (his view). It made no difference to him at all that I could point out clear evidence (with specific examples) of how the texts in that family tend to ‘clarify’ ambiguous details (over time), particularly as it regards Christ’s divinity. His theological convictions (God gave us a perfect Bible, embodied in the majority Greek texts, and perfectly translated by the KJV translators in 1611) simply prevented him from considering any evidence to the contrary.

      Among evangelicals in general it is probably more due to simple ignorance, and the anti-intellectualism that is part and parcel of evangelicalism.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Instead, they substitute an origin story like the Koran, except in Kynge Jaymes Englyshe.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Ah, Yes.
    He was covered a lot in Wartburg Watch over the years.
    None of the coverage was good.