Embarrassed about the Bible?

In a recent article for First Things, Gerald McDermott writes about the reluctance of some evangelical scholars to identify with their own tradition:

“Evangelical theologians, like other orthodox thinkers, are susceptible to the peculiarly academic sort of ambition that seeks acceptance and recognition by their liberal colleagues. We want the academy’s approval, and so we are tempted to write and teach a theology that will be consistent with its moral and theological sensibilities.”

The spirit of the age has little room for evangelical distinctives like inerrancy, soteriological exclusivism, the doctrine of hell, etc. So it is no surprise that McDermott observes that the evangelical left tends “to reject the idea that the actual words of the Bible are inspired.” Such a confession simply doesn’t mesh well with the ideological mores of modern people. Evangelical scholars who are willing to swim against this powerful stream seem to be few and far between.

That is why I love Jim Hamilton’s recent blog post “Why I believe the Bible.” The post is a brief narrative from a scholar who isn’t afraid to put his flag in the ground and say “here I stand.” Jim writes:

“I think that my belief that the Bible is the word of God was probably most strongly challenged during the PhD program. It wasn’t challenged, though, by arguments so much as by the ‘peer pressure’ of the academic guild. That is, the initiates in the guild weren’t producing evidence, logic, and an overwhelming case against the Bible. It was more like an unspoken entrance requirement: if you want to join the ranks of the real scholars, you can’t believe that the Bible is inerrant, and you can’t hold that the attributions of authorship are accurate. Those ideas aren’t allowed here. I actually had an editor of a semi-evangelical journal tell me that I needed to become a real scholar and stop betraying so many evangelical assumptions about the Bible in my writing. Never, mind you, was any of this actually argued. The strongest pull seems to come from things so deeply entrenched that they don’t need to be argued. I was disgusted by the ‘peer pressure’ from the esteemed guild to reject the Bible.”

Read the rest of Hamilton’s post here. And if you haven’t done so yet, go buy Hamilton’s new book, The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. It’s a must-read.

16 Responses to Embarrassed about the Bible?

  1. KnutTheBear March 30, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    Many academic evangelicals accept evolution for the same reason, career protection.

  2. Donald Johnson March 30, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    I do not think science and faith are in conflict, except that some atheists might try to take science too far into scientism, which is to be rejected; and some people of faith are unwilling to change their interpretations of some texts, despite what science indicates.

    So there is this strange agreement between some atheists and some people of faith that science and faith cannot co-exist, except that it can.

  3. yankeegospelgirl March 30, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    Donald has it in a nutshell.

  4. RD March 30, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    I’m working my way through Jim’s book right now. I don’t use the term “working” lightly. God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment is a serious work by a serious scholar. It is not something you sit and read while eating your breakfast cereal. Jim requires that you bring your best game to his book. More importantly, you’ve got to bring your best game to the study of scripture. Like Denny, I highly encourage everyone to order a copy of Jim’s book!

  5. Kevin March 30, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Maybe RD, the problem is with your choice of breakfast cereal. Which kind were you eating?

  6. Charlton Connett March 30, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Dr. Hamilton was one of my favorite professors in Seminary. In every one of his classes you were challenged to take scholarship seriously, and to have a passionate love of the Word of God. I have not had the opportunity to purchase or read Dr. Hamilton’s book, yet, but I look forward to the day I can do so.

  7. Christiane March 30, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    I found this statement to be of interest, and it resonates of some of the more controversial changes that occurred when the 63 BF&M was ‘re-Worded’ in the 2K BF&M, to do with the Words of Christ in the Bible:

    “Because the meaning of the Word is found not in the words of the Bible but in the theology of the Meliorist interpreter, sola scriptura can become—despite the best intentions of its leading thinkers— sola theologia, with the charismatic theologian the final authority.”

  8. Oh-Jay Lackmon-Bay March 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    That change was made in the BFM so that moderate christians could no longer say “Oh, I know Paul said that about homosexuality (for instance), but Christ would NEVER be that exclusive so Paul couldn’t POSSIBLY have meant that.”

    Real Christians, in contrast, realize that the entire Bible is God’s word, all the words in it are God’s words, and that the gospels are not more authoritative than Paul’s epistles.

  9. yankeegospelgirl April 3, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    What’s wrong with stereotyping liberals? They ask for it.

  10. Christiane April 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    “What’s wrong with stereotyping liberals? They ask for it.”

    ‘gospel’ truth? What ‘gospel’ teaches stuff like this?

  11. yankeegospelgirl April 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    It’s not unfair when a certain group of people has consistently proven that everything we criticize them for is true.

  12. Christiane April 3, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Since when is it ‘gospel’ to treat a whole group of people poorly ?

    I honestly think this:
    that the Holy Gospel is for people ‘of good will’ who try to follow Our Lord’s Great Commandment.

    If there IS a ‘gospel’ giving approval for people to show ill-will towards their fellow men,
    can that ‘gospel’ be identified as having any credibility among Christian people ?

  13. yankeegospelgirl April 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    My intended major is philosophy, but for privacy reasons I would prefer not to say where.

    I don’t want to get mired in a long debate here, but I will just say that you can only give people so many chances. I don’t think it’s necessarily true that everybody MUST have something good or valuable to say. If you really take time to understand a (for example) liberal perspective, looking at the kind of material they have put out consistently through the years, then you will realize just how much they have wrong. I have zero patience with them not as a knee-jerk reaction from having heard the label used in a negative way, but because I’ve studied their positions on many vital issues. My conclusion is that they have dangerous and incorrect ideas that careful Christians should oppose.

    I think that being dismissive should not be viewed as automatically bad—Jesus and the apostles could be very dismissive and even what some might call rude when they saw something that called for sharp criticism. Christians need to be thoughtful, careful, and alert, keeping in mind that there is such a thing as objective truth. If once we allow ourselves to fall into the idea that one man’s truth is as good as another’s, we are falling into a trap that is inconsistent with Scripture.

  14. yankeegospelgirl April 13, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    “Really? Like when?”

    Um, try reading Paul some time. To my recollection, I’ve never told anybody to castrate himself. 😉

    I brought up relativism because you said I was dismissive of postmodernists. And assuming that one man’s truth is as good as another is exactly what postmodernists are all about. I’m contending that this is inconsistent with Scripture and something that should therefore be avoided.

  15. Charlton Connett April 14, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    Joshua,

    I believe that you are guilty of error in your above post as it regards what YGG has said of herself and her attitude toward Liberalism. She said of herself that she has studied it and interacted with liberals for an extended period of time, and having a somewhat extensive familiarity with the literature and arguments they put forth, she now is dismissive of the position as a whole and rejects them. You then went on to cite that Paul is dismissive of the circumcision party only because he had spent a significant amount of time understanding and attempting to correct said party. Thus, according to your own logic, and based on YGG’s own statement, she has reason now to be dismissive of Liberalism, as she has studied it and found it wanting as a philosophy.

    Moreover, I submit to you that even Jesus encouraged that position. As Jesus and his disciples were traveling, as mentioned by Matthew, Jesus looked to his disciples and told them, “Beware of the leaven of the scribes and pharisees.” His point being that they should not be captivated by the teaching of the pharisees. Matthew makes clear that Jesus was warning his disciples not to be influenced by the pharisees, thus rejecting that whole school of thought in just a few words. Thus, Jesus was dismissive of those whom he knew to be in error, or at the very least saw no need to learn anything from them, or for his disciples to learn anything from them.

    Moreover, your position that postmodern philosophy does not all lead to relativity is also in error. The fact is that postmodern philosophy is very much built around the idea that there is no universal truth, or that there are no meta-narratives. In every major postmodern philosopher you find this same strand. Either the meta-narrative is rejected, or the terms are so redefined that the idea of “truth” no longer has an absolute value. (This stems from the fact that the loss of meta-narratives means that “knowledge” becomes compartmentalized, and what is true in one given system is only true for that system, there is no meta-narrative that exists that can combine systems and thus reveal true-truth, there is only the subjectivisation of truth, wherein I experience truth or reality but cannot put forth the experience in linguistic terms due to the break down communication, or the inability to form, comprehend, or articulate a meta-narrative. While you may argue that this then is not the breakdown of truth into subjectivity, in the fact that I cannot communicate this truth I am held to subjectivity in that for all I know your truth could be different from my truth.) If you disagree with this position then please give a citation wherein postmodernism is understood differently. For my own evidence I submit to you the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/postmodernism/. (Yes, this is an appeal to authority, but as we are arguing about an established school of philosophy we must rely upon some authority as the definition of that school, otherwise the whole conversation is meaningless.)

    Further, in your paragraph beginning, “But let’s bring this closer to home” you argue, apparently, that Paul did not recommend a complete rejection of pagan philosophies, because he did not explicitly tell the Athenians, “By the way, you’re worshiping a bunch of false gods that are really demons and you are all bound to hell.” However, if you note, in his speech before the Areopagus, Paul makes very clear that there is only one God, that he does not live in temples made by human hands, and that he has now come to put all things in order, permitting the past transgressions so that he might now reveal himself in full through Christ. Therefore, while Paul did not explicitly state that the Athenians were worshiping demons, he very clearly told them that their worship was false and useless, and that they needed to repent and come to the one who had been raised from the dead. That is a wholesale rejection of pagan religion and the philosophies tied to those religions.

    Just because Paul does not reveal to the Athenians that they are worshiping demons does not mean that he did not reject their system of belief. The point of telling them, “You are worshiping demons” would be what exactly? Paul’s desire was not to tell men about demons, but about Christ. There is no point in saying that unless Paul gave a full discourse on the evils of paganism he did not fully reject paganism. It is sufficient to say that Paul said, explicitly, that the only way to God is through trusting in the one God raised from the dead to recognize that Paul thus rejected all other religions.

    Your argument that we must “become all things to all people” is certainly inline with Scripture, and I commend you for that. However, you have created a false dichotomy, that in rejecting a philosophy, wholesale, I must also reject what few truths may be incorporated into the philosophy. The fact is I can utilize the worldview of another person without actually holding to that worldview. Philosophies can be rejected even while acknowledging that there are grains of truth within the philosophy that can point a person toward Christ. The fact is that any livable philosophy must contain at least some elements that correspond to reality, or else the person could not survive in this world. Thus, I think you take YGG’s word too far when you act as though her rejection of liberal philosophy means that she must reject every part of that philosophy as well. (Moreover, her position was, “My conclusion is that they have dangerous and incorrect ideas that careful Christians should oppose.” Therefore, according to her statement, she rejects the ideas and conclusions of liberalism, not every aspect of the philosophy.)

    YGG,

    I beg pardon for making assumptions of your meaning. Holding, I believe, similar views to yourself I have attempted to explain more in detail what I think your position is, and to defend that position. If I have articulated your position incorrectly, then you have my sincerest apologies.

  16. yankeegospelgirl April 14, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Joshua, I actually did not read your response until yesterday. So it took me a few minutes to think of my response, which could have been much longer and which probably would have been even less to your liking. 😉

    Thanks for the castration suggestion, but er, I’m afraid that’s impossible. I could return the favor, but I won’t. 🙂

    Charlton, I don’t mind at all, and you’ve given a very lucid summary and defense of my beliefs. Thank you. To clarify regarding my rejection of liberalism, honestly the most I could say for them is that very occasionally they come to the right conclusion for the wrong reason. For example, they believe the war in Iraq was a mistake. I also believe the war in Iraq was a mistake. But unlike them, I don’t demonize Bush for it.

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