Christian Smith’s new book The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture is nothing short of a frontal assault on the way we as Evangelicals read the Bible. I’ve been reading it in the evenings before bed the last couple of nights (I’m to ch 3) and Smith’s thesis is haunting me.
Biblicism is that approach to the Bible that posits theological assumptions about its nature, assumptions such as verbal and plenary inspiration, the perspicuity of Scripture, the internal harmony, the universal applicability, and the Bible is a compendium of divine teachings on a limitless range of subjects. The approach is most clearly illustrated, according to Smith, by Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.
Have you read the book yet?
Biblicism, Smith contends, does not deliver what it promises. Irrespective of the truthfulness of the underlying assumptions about the Bible, those assumptions are completely undermined by how Evangelicals actually read and interpret the Bible. His basic question as I see it is: how can biblicism be true when there is a plurality of interpretative options for the Bible generally and discrete passages individually. If the tenets of biblicism were true then there should not be the diversity of interpretations that exists among biblicists.
Let me offer only this thought now: I think perhaps the core issue in this discussion is the relationship between the humanness of Scripture and its divine inspiration. I think we as Evangelicals need to wrestle with the nature of a book that is both human and divine. To me it is likely that the reason there is a plurality of interpretations among Biblicists of all stripes has to do with the situated-ness of the text. Yes it is divinely inspired, yes its the word of God (notice little “w”), but it is an incarnated word.