Evangelicals, inerrancy, and the quest for certainty : making sense of our battles for the Bible

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Theology


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: William Vance Trollinger


This dissertation seeks to understand and evaluate the hermeneutical logic and apologetic mentality behind American evangelicalism's appeal to biblical inerrancy during its twentieth- and twenty-first-century battles for the Bible. In nuanced agreement with Christian Smith's charge that evangelicalism's pervasive interpretive pluralism renders appeals to biblical inerrancy meaningless, I argue that what drives the perpetuation of such appeals is a fundamental desire for epistemic certainty in the face of what is perceived to be a devastating subjectivism. This is a certainty said to be obtained and maintained by an oversimplified conception of sola scriptura and a biblical hermeneutic replete with modernistic assumptions about textual objectivity and the effects of history and tradition upon interpretation. After attending to the intersection of the hermeneutical theory of Hans-Georg Gadamer with those of high-profile evangelicals James Packer and Clark Pinnock, I propose the adoption of a more community-centered conception of biblical authority alongside a rehabilitation of faith as trust in God's own faithfulness.


Bible Inspiration, Bible Criticism and interpretation, Bible Evidences, authority, etc, Modernist-fundamentalist controversy, History, Modern History, Religious History, Religion, Theology, Evangelicalism, inerrancy, certainty, sola scriptura, biblical hermeneutics

Rights Statement

Copyright 2015, author