Richard Beck, ever vigilant to stir the pot, calls into question what most think they mean by “biblical.”
Recently I was invited to be a part of a conversation regarding how a community I’m associated with should approach a controversial topic. The stated goal of the conversation is to think about what a “biblical” approach would be regarding this issue.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about the word biblical and about what it might mean.
Here’s my basic observation: Whatever biblical means it doesn’t mean biblical.
What I mean is this. Are Catholics biblical? Methodists? Pentecostals? Amish? Presbyterians? Episcopalians? Baptists? And on and on? It seems everyone would own the word biblical. And if that’s the case, if biblical can embrace all this diversity, then I struggle to understand how, when I gather to discuss a “biblical” approach to a controversial subject, that anything other than a diversity of opinions will emerge. Strictly from an empirical standpoint, the bible doesn’t produce homogeneity of opinion. Rather, it produces heterogeneity of opinion. That is a fact. The bible does not produce consensus. And if you think that it could or should you’re just not a serious person.
The point being, a conversation seeking to find a “biblical” view isn’t heading toward a fixed destination. Rather, such a conversation will be airing a diversity of views that share a family resemblance. The word “biblical” here is the name we have for that family resemblance. Similar to the label “Smith Family Reunion.” Biblical means something like Smith Family Reunion.
Phrased another way, biblical is just a synonym for Christian…
And then this stinger:
This is what I think it means. Biblical is a word Christian communities use to describe their hermeneutical strategies. Biblical is a word that is used to describe how a particular faith community reads the bible. What this means is that the word biblical is a sociological label, a way of describing the interpretive strategies of a particular community.
Consequently, when a faith community gathers to discuss if a view is biblical or not they are asking how a particular view sits with their hermeneutical history and norms. The issue isn’t if a position is biblical or not (because, as I noted above, no one is being biblical) but if a position would cause a sociological rupture, a tear in the hermeneutical fabric that has held this community together. If the position can be woven into the hermeneutical web then it is declared biblical. But if the rupture is too great then the view is declared unbiblical.
In summary, this is my definition of biblical:
Biblical is a sociological stress test
So, what do you think?
My response: he’s got something for us all to hear in this claim. I can stand up and say the four spiritual laws are not the gospel, or double imputation is not the gospel, and I can say the King Jesus Gospel sure looks like what the Bible says in 1 Cor 15, the sermons in Acts and the Gospels, but some have all sorts of moves they make to support their “evangelical” and “biblical” gospel and I say right back to them, “Really, you think that’s what the Bible says?”
They think their view is biblical. So, what does “biblical” mean? Is it a power move? Or a truth claim? Or a method?