On Idolizing Scripture
Friday, June 24, 2016
Friends once referred me to a popular blogger-writer. He was someone who thought outside the box and even wrote a book on the rapture based on his innovative perspectives. I found some of his material intriguing (though unconvincing) at the time.
More recently I discovered he'd plunged into "New Exodus" Replacement Theology. He wrote that Israel was an oppressive state and dispensationalism's "literal interpretation" promoted eschatological confusion. That one needed to dig deeper into Scripture because prophecy "disguises the truth."
I responded to him in a blog. He contacted me advising that we shouldn't be smug in our own understanding given the many other views to consider. I was informed that "humility is the key so that we do not deceive ourselves."
In fact, he sounded like a man who has figured out the deeper truth and keen to inform others. Lately, he's been writing about how Genesis means something different than what it says while sharing BioLogos tweets and articles.
Since our brief interaction, I've regularly come across the word "humble" being used against the certainty of biblical understanding. The reconstruction of Genesis is a recurring theme in these circles.
One example is Rachel Held Evans who warns against idolizing the Bible. She asserts that infallible Scripture requires an infallible reader. While she appreciates reverence and respect for the Bible, she says it isn't self-interpreting: "Humans must infer meaning even as they seek to extract God’s truth.” She asks her readers:
"Have we made the Bible into an idol? Does the concept of inerrancy place too much emphasis on the infallibility of the reader? What is the primary purpose of the Bible?"
Evans admits to being an original Bible nerd. But then her intellectual doubts crept in. Would a loving God really order the Israelites to commit genocide? What about evolution? She saw comparisons between the Epic of Gilgamesh and the book of Genesis...and a litany of other concerns. She thought Gleason Archer's 500 page response to alleged difficulties was a red flag. Why so many problems to answer?
These "difficulties" are addressed because those who pose them sometimes lack biblical understanding. Many are easily answered objections regularly posed by dedicated skeptics. It isn't the quantity of objections that's the issue, it's their validity.
Everyone has questions and difficulties with various Bible passages and themes at some point. My intention isn't to target Evans personally. Regrettably, she (and those she cites) is popular and is representative of a growing disease of biblical doubt and capitulation to science within the professing evangelical church. The question is: are they honestly looking for answers?
Evans recommends reading biblical-deconstructionist Peter Enns' book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. Enns is a senior fellow at the theistic-evolution promoting BioLogos organization. Do his objections carry weight? I get the sense his followers (for their own reasons) would like them to.
Read some responses to Enns' claims and decide for yourself:
1) Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell (AIG)
2) Lita Costner (CMI)
3) Michael J. Kruger (TGC)
According to Michael J. Kruger:
'In the end, The Bible Tells Me So is a book about contradictions. Enns intended it to be a book about contradictions in the Bible. But it becomes quickly apparent that the contradictions are really in Enns’s own worldview. He claims the Canaanite conquest is immoral, yet argues the Bible provides no clear guide for morality. He claims the Bible presents a diabolical genocidal God, yet insists we still “meet God in its pages”'
For more on the alleged Canaanite conquest problems, I recommend visiting the Associates for Biblical Research website. Peter Enns wrote another book called The Sin of Certainty. Calvin Smith (CMI) reviews it HERE. Smith writes:
"Peter Enns’ latest book reads like the average village atheist attempting to discredit the Bible, all the while assuring you that he’s a Christian trying to illuminate you on how to build your faith. It’s basically a re-hash of similar concepts we’ve seen before in his previous writings and reiterates that while the Bible doesn’t contain the truth, you can still believe and trust in God (whoever that might be)." (Emphasis mine)
Still another example is Pastor Greg Boyd, also associated with BioLogos. Boyd wrote an acclaimed book called Benefit of the Doubt - Breaking the Idol of Certainty. Exploring Boyd's ideas in-depth is beyond the scope of this article (and my expertise). However he notably admits his doubts began with reconciling the creation days of Genesis.
BioLogos, evolution, doubt - do you see a connection? Steve Anderson (AIG) discusses Boyd and a few others in his article The Influence of Postmodernism. Popular Emergent Philosopher, Peter Rollins' comments are also worth noting:
"...fissures [Bible problems] help to prevent us from forming an idolatrous image of God, ensuring that none of us can legitimately claim to understand God as God really is. Consequently, the text bars any attempt at colonization by individuals or groups who claim to possess an insight into its true meaning.” (Cited by Evans - emphasis mine)
It's astonishing to me that those who claim doubts about Genesis happily run to the shelter shed of theistic evolution when there are abundant rational defenses for the creation account. Doing so doesn't clear away doubt. Theistic evolution widens the doors to it. Even as a 14 year old I realized the ramification of evolution to the integrity of the gospel message.
For more on this topic I recommend reading What Happened in the Garden - The Reality and Ramifications of the Creation and Fall of Man. It is written by members of The Master's Seminary and edited by Abner Chou. See especially chapter 13 by John MacArthur.
Finally, Scripture is God's revelation to us. It doesn't make any sense to assert that one needs to be infallible to understand themes like Creation and The Fall in an infallible Bible. If Scripture meant to convey something different, God would have provided an equally simple text reflecting that truth.
God is perfectly capable of communicating and preserving His Word in such a way that it can be understood. In fact, I have more trouble understanding the convoluted language used by postmodern philosophers than I do Scripture.
For example, the theme of sin and penal-substitution is so thoroughly entrenched throughout both Testaments that it over-rides the possibility of anyone missing the point. Yet many postmodern thinkers routinely question it.
Being truly humble is accepting God's revealed Word, not someone else's "humble" doubts about the Bible. We don't idolize Scripture; we honor God's written Word to us.
Bible skeptics aren't neutral. We all have motives. I can't speak for all of them, but I suspect the promotion of scriptural doubt and uncertainty is often rooted in rebellion and unhealthy engagement with this world. It's far easier to ride the waves of cultural demand than to swim against the tide.
Scripture is God's Self-revelation to us. He engages us with the eternal promises and divine plan found in the Bible. How can we possibly respond appropriately when we question its validity? Doubt eventually robs us of faith and the joy of eternal assurance.
What a pity!
Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight. Isaiah 5:21
About Alf Cengia
Last week: Church in the Tribulation
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