Christian Smith’s book criticizing biblicism, Bible Made Impossible, The: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture, has created a baffling conversation. I’ve read reviews by Bob Gundry, Peter Leithart, and Kevin DeYoung and … well, how to put it?
None of these reviews engages the issue at hand. None of them thinks biblicism is a problem. None of them thinks that what we believe about the Bible (in our biblicistic framing of how we view the Bible) should not create the problem it does. None of them, in other words, thinks pervasive interpretive pluralism undermines biblicism. Evidently, then, pervasive interpretive pluralism is fine and what we get when God gives us a Bible. None of them, in other words, is dealing with the problem.
What I see in the reviews is an attempt to sabotage the book by dealing with issues that are not central to the book. Instead of taking on the problem, the reviews deal with specifics not connected to the problem. So I have some questions:
Has Christian Smith adequately and accurately described a pervasive evangelical approach to the Bible? Biblicism.
Has Christian Smith adequately and accurately described pervasive interpretive pluralism? Is this an issue to you?
Does the second — pervasive interpretive pluralism — undermine biblicism or not? The central issue is this: does not our claim that the Bible is revelation and clear get a massive shock when we examine who pluralistic our interpretations are? Shouldn’t a clear Bible yield clearer interpretations? Or have we fallen so much for diversity that we don’t even see this as a problem.
Let me remind us that a few years back John Piper opined that too many evangelical seminaries and colleges were teaching too much diversity, he complained about — in other words — the “four views about atonement” approach to education — and said such approaches were undermining confidence in the Bible. I’m not sure Piper would agree with Smith, but I do think he’d embrace that our casual embrace of pervasive interpretive pluralism undermines what we think the Bible is. I would argue that Smith’s desire to find a place to stand that gives us a sound reading of the Bible and Piper’s more confessional Calvinistic approach to theology are varieties of the same species of solution to the same problem.
In my view, the only genuine way to engage this book is one of the following:
Prove that biblicism as he defines it is not characteristic of evangelicalism.
Prove that pervasive interpretive pluralism is not a real problem.
Prove that pervasive interpretive pluralism does not actually undermine biblicism.
But enough with the evasive tricks of avoiding the central theoretical issues at work in this book. The issues are biblicism and pervasive interpretive pluralism.