Saying Yes to the Bible, and No to Biblicism (in post-Christendom Christianity)

HartThe following is an extended excerpt from Addison Hodges Hart’s new book Strangers and Pilgrims Once More: Being Disciples of Jesus in a Post-Christendom World, specifically, chapter 3 “Saying Yes to the Bible, and No to Biblicism” (part 1, pages 57-63). Eerdmans was kind enough to send me a word file of these pages, lest my wrists fall off typing it all out.

Hart’s articulation of the nature of the Bible will immediately ring true to some of you, I’m sure. It is, however, clearly intentionally provocative, which may be a barrier to some. But let me encourage you to try and listen anyway.

The excerpt is reprinted with permission of the publisher; all rights reserved. (I only highlighted some portions for you skimmers out there.) More information on the book can be found here at the Eerdmans’s website. Hart also echoes themes that I have addressed on this blog and elsewhere (here and here).

 

 

 

[The Reformers’] creed has been described as a return
to the Gospel in the spirit of the Koran.

The Very Rev. W. R. Inge,
The Platonic Tradition in English Religious Thought, 1926

When interpreted like any other book, by the same rules of
evidence and the same canons of criticism, the Bible will still
remain unlike any other book; its beauty will be freshly seen,
as of a picture which is restored after many ages to its original state;
it will create a new interest and make for itself a new kind of authority by the life which is in it.
It will be a spirit and not a letter; as it was in the beginning, having an influence like
that of the spoken word, or the book newly found.

Benjamin Jowett, “On the Interpretation of Scripture,” 1860

I.

Whether or not one sees Dean Inge’s remark above, regarding the biblicism of the Protestant Reformers, as a fair appraisal of their adherence to the doctrine of sola scriptura, it does highlight a problem that faces us still, one that should particularly concern Christians as we pitch our pilgrims’ tents in the post-Christendom epoch.

That problem is biblical fundamentalism or literalism. It is a mistake to think that “biblicism” (the term I will be using here for biblical fundamentalism) is just a Protestant phenomenon. We find it cropping up here and there throughout Christian history. We can come across it today among Catholics and Orthodox (especially, though not exclusively, in the United States). But the Bible, as Dean Inge was trying to get across, is not supposed to be received by Jews or Christians in the same way that Muslims receive their Koran. The Koran, according to Muslim faith, is simply and literally “the word of God.” Thus, every individual word of it is holy — “sacramental,” if you will — directly communicated by Allah. A truly faithful Muslim is supposed to learn Arabic, in fact, because the text should really be read as it was given, in the very language in which it was given. That’s what Inge meant by the phrase “the spirit of the Koran.” And, regarding the fundamentalist strand in Christianity, he was correct to make the comparison and the contrast.

The Bible is not the Koran, and Christians (and Jews) are not Muslims. We do not read the Bible as “a book,” for example, but as a collection of books. The Bible is better described as a library. Nor do Christians receive the Bible as the Word of God. That may come as a surprise to some, especially since we are often referred to — wrongly — as “people of the book.” But, we are not; and the Word of God is not a book. For us, the Word of God is God himself. We call him, in theological language, “the Son of God” and “the Second Person of the Trinity.” We say of him that he “became flesh and dwelt among us.” In other words, for Christians, the Word of God is Jesus. He alone “defines” for us fully the character of God; he is the divine writ small, in fleshly, human terms we can see, “read,” understand, and follow in our lives. We could not know the divine in its uncreated being, but we could know it in Christ.

When we refer to Scripture as “the word of God,” we mean it in a different sense. We mean that, in these books of the Bible, we find a collective testimony to God’s existence and interaction with a specific historical people, leading us finally to the one, who, from among that people, we receive as God made man. The Bible is the word of God in the sense that it brings us the word about God; but it isn’t to be worshiped or venerated as more than a collection of books that give us an outline and a direction for our faith.

It isn’t an end in itself, nor is it an authority in itself. It is, like dogma in the last chapter, an indicator and a signpost for what lies beyond its pages. It is “inspired,” we believe; that is to say, it is “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16; theopneustos), but not dictated word-for-word. One memorable line in 2 Peter puts it like this: “Men moved by [or “carried along by”] the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (1:21). For Scripture to be “God-breathed” means that writers were swept up and borne along, if you will, by a compelling insight, which they expressed in words according to their best abilities and lights. It is, taken as a whole, a grand, epical testimony to a historical community — in fact, two historical communities — evolving in an unfolding understanding of God. That evolution is, for the Christian, brought to its fullness with Jesus and the kingdom of God. Christ is the culminating revelation who sheds light on the adequacies and inadequacies of all that came before him in the scriptural record.

One way to describe “biblicism,” in contrast to “Bible,” is to say that what the former does, in effect, is flatten all the biblical books. It makes the rough places plain, certainly — just as plain as a checkerboard. But what happens in the process is that the mountains and valleys of the Bible disappear entirely, the variety of its landscapes goes unperceived, and we are left with the wholly mistaken notion that the Bible is a single book by a single author (God), in which every passage is to be received as of equal value and understood literally. In other words, a Biblicist reading of the Bible could conceivably require one to regard, for example, a passage in Leviticus (let’s say one that gives instructions about the high priest’s undergarments) as of equal worth as the Sermon on the Mount. Both are, it is believed, “God’s word,” and therefore must be treated with equal seriousness.

Another difficulty, one frequently raised by friends and foes alike of biblical religion, is how we can line up the violence and bloodshed of the Old Testament, sanctioned supposedly by God himself, with the message of Jesus, who preaches non-violence and love of one’s enemies, in the New Testament. A fundamentalist will have many unconvincing ways to hold such things together, never admitting that they simply can’t be held together in any rational fashion (and, if pushed, a thoroughgoing fundamentalist may go so far as to deny the value of “human reason” itself in this matter).

Reading these ancient texts literally, a fundamentalist will anachronistically insist on the scientific and historical accuracy of even the most transparently poetic and mythological portions. By any standard, of course, the Bible can be a confusing mixture of genres: fable, legend, history, parables, sayings, prophecies, letters, hymns, and so forth. Shockingly (for some), it includes irreverence (Ecclesiastes, Job), humor (Jonah), and even a dash of eroticism (the Song of Songs). In one unexpected instance, for example, it tells an intentionally hilarious tale about a “wise man” scolded by his talking donkey, right in the middle of a book of law and sacred history (Numbers 22). In another, even more familiar story, all the woes of human history are traced back to another talking beast, the serpent in the Garden; and — at the other end of the Bible — the end of the world is depicted in a dizzying display of apocalyptic images. One thing the Bible most clearly is not: it is not a single, flat book with a single, flat picture of God.

The Bible, as already said above, is really a collection of many books written and edited over a span of centuries. In Christianity the “canon” is made up of two canons, that of the Old Covenant (the Hebrew Bible) and that of the New. The word “canon” literally means “measuring reed,” which is a standard of measurement like a yardstick. In this instance, the canon of Scripture provides the dimensions of a revelation as it evolved over time, so that those who carry on its legacy into their own times may do so faithfully. The Bible isn’t the entirety of the revelation. It is a standard that sizes up the authenticity of the life and tradition of a community of Christian disciples. The two canons within the overall biblical canon define the identity of the communities that gathered, preserved, edited, and published them in the forms we have received. This is a vital feature to which we shall return. For Christians, both canons taken together provide the essential conceptual context for understanding Jesus and his message. For us, then, Jesus is the key to unlocking the Scriptures, and the Scriptures — in all their variety and occasional contrariness — lead us to a more lucid interpretation of his teachings.

Biblicism will undoubtedly be with us for some time to come. Despite its intellectual bankruptcy, it is tenacious. I don’t wish to belabor the issue; it is enough here to reiterate that it doesn’t genuinely represent classical Christianity, nor can it ever be a part of the sort of Christianity likely to impress intelligent people in the post-Christendom age. At the risk of sounding elitist (which I don’t believe myself to be), it isn’t viable or credible for thinking persons. Anyone who insists upon the accuracy of the “science” in the Bible, for instance (there isn’t any), or unquestioningly takes the Bible’s ancient form of historiography as being as accurate or scrupulous as post-Enlightenment historiography, or fails to acknowledge the variety of literary genres which can at times show up in even a single book of Scripture, or who refuses to believe that the Bible includes fable, or contains noticeable contradictions, is someone who simply misunderstands profoundly the nature of the holy book he holds dear. That person may love Christ and mean well, to be sure; but he is wrong about the Bible and its place in Christian faith. It may also be impossible to convince a determined biblical fundamentalist just how wrong he is. Fundamentalism is a tough nut. Nor is it, as I said, my wish to argue against such people in these pages. All I will add, then, before moving on to a larger discussion of biblical themes, is that a post-Christendom Christianity, if it is to have any positive influence with intelligent and informed people, will require a renewed intellectual appreciation of the Bible on the part of disciples — one which reveres the Scriptures as integral to our identity as Christians, but which is equally committed to an unflinching critical appraisal of all its constituent parts. Biblicism really must be avoided, on the one hand, for the sake of our credibility before a watchful world, and on the other, because it ultimately dishonors God and misidentifies the community of believers.

We need to read the Bible “like any other book,” the Victorian Master of Balliol College, Benjamin Jowett, wisely advised, so that we might rediscover in our own age why it is truly “unlike any other book.” He goes on, in the quotation given above, to make a comment suitable for serious reflection. The Bible, he says, when critically interpreted by those who do so carefully and caringly, not those who merely have a bone to pick with it, “will be a spirit and not a letter; as it was in the beginning, having an influence like that of the spoken word, or the book newly found.” So, it isn’t a Bible “in the spirit of the Koran” that Christians honestly need, but a Bible that will become for us “a spirit and not a letter.” We will surely need that wise and reasonable spirit in the post-Christendom age whenever we approach or present to others our Scriptures.

 

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  • http://www.prophecy102.com/ Dave Roberts

    Peter, has God ever actually made Himself real to you? Has He ever spoken to you? I can’t know the answer to that question unless you tell me, but it’s answer is the key to the Scriptures and understanding them.

    He is the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through Him. His name is also a Stone that causes all men to stumble.

    “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because
    they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also
    appointed.

    For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    If the Bible isn’t the literal, living Word of God, then there is no path to salvation for anyone of us. If what you say is true, then no-one can know how to enter in at that narrow gate.

    But what you say Peter is false. God has literally spoken to me twice in my life, in clear unmistakeable words. It is still possible for us to know Him intimately for He loves us all. That’s why He sent the Living Word to die on a cross and shed His literal blood for our salvation.

    Seek Him still, Peter. He wants us to seek Him out and find Him, and the Word (Jesus) is the sole path through which we can enter into His presence. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

    Dave
    ps. to read the story of how I came to find and literally hear God speak to me, please click on the following; prophecy102.com

    • Rick

      If not satire then, “If the Bible isn’t the literal, living Word of God, then there is no path to salvation for anyone of us.”
      Isn’t are salvation found in Christ?
      Cannot the Bible have authority without being “literal”? Are not different genres, some that are not to be understood literally, found in Scripture?

      If satire, then funny.

      • charlesburchfield

        if satire…but i think no, not. it’s sad, sick, and makes me feel lost & lonely. yuk!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          In an Age of Extremes like today, a Dead Serious True Believer will always be able to out-sad, out-sick, out-exaggerate, and out-extreme any satire. Because as over-the-top as you can go for satire, there’s going to be a True Believer out there twice as over-the-top and Dead Serious.

          “Because Missionary Man he got GAWD on his side…”
          — The Eurythmics

          • charlesburchfield

            thx 4 that! i try not to engage w/ gawds annointed. i find that disagreement w/ missionary man is like waving a red bandana in front of an angry bull.

    • Taylor Burns

      Is this a real post?

      • peteenns

        The post is a real satire.

        • Lars

          That’s the problem with really good satire – you just can’t tell! Like this quote from Dave’s website: “President Obama is a judgement from God on the USA.” Satire or not?? I have no idea.

          • peteenns

            Actually, my bad. I was multitasking and not paying attention closely enough to which post In was commenting on. Hart’s piece is most definitely not satire, but a diagnosis of biblicism. The satire was my defense of the historicity of the Exodus movie, which, amazingly enough, some readers are convinced was a serious post. Taylor’s comment above was to Dave Roland’s comment, but you can see now, perhaps, why my brain was confused. Dave’s comment above is definitely not satire, and I think none of the rest of you was as confused as I was, so carry on.

        • charlesburchfield

          i don’t think it is satire but it is sad. i think dave may be in the last stages of an addiction. Is he angry & very lonley? You bet!

    • archidude

      Wow, Dave you missed it. Prophesy is subject to the prophets. Who are the prophets? Why those filled with the Spirit. I am filled with the Spirit, and according to the word, so is Peter. Prophesy, like interpreting the scripture, is not something done in a bubble. It requires faithful and loving discussion. Faithful and loving discussion in not always easy, nor do we always understand each other. However, we are to honor one another.

      To assume that Dr. Enns is not part of the Kingdom is a mistake on your part. First, judgement is way beyond your or my pay grade. This belongs to Jesus. Second, I find your misuse of the scripture disturbing. You never use the word Jesus yet critique as one representing the King. The rock of offense is Jesus not obedience to (your reading of) the word. The gospel is the power of God. Also, I find it interesting that you equate the “literal” word with God and your ability to hear what is “literally” spoken. Your categories are problematic on several levels.

      We serve the Father, Son and Spirit – everything else is testimony to that glory. You have no authority to add to the trinity i.e. Father, Son, Spirit, and word.

  • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

    I just got done reading Andrew Perriman’s Re: Mission, so it seems like this issue is “in the air,” and works like that and this are helpful to me.

    I’ve said this before, but as time goes on, it becomes clearer to me that we (meaning evangelicals of basically conservative-ish bent) have created this mess, ourselves. We’ve spent so much effort drilling into our people that if the Bible isn’t literal fact on every page, then none of it is true. In doing this, we’ve basically sown the seeds to create atheists out of our very ranks. When you tell people those are their only two choices, then what else will people do when confronted with the fact that the Bible is not an ancient newspaper?

    I had an OT prof who used the example of a man writing a letter to his beloved and including the line, “Today, I thought of you as I watched the sun set.” The beloved’s heart is broken. “He doesn’t love me! We all know the sun doesn’t actually set. That’s the rotation of the Earth!” This is the hard-edged dichotomy we’ve created for our people: either the sun has to literally set, or our letter is a lie.

    I’m very thankful for the work being done these days to establish a relationship between the Bible and believers that is more organic and sets it in its rightful place as a pointer to the living Word. It can be messy and true at the same time.

  • John

    Pete, I really like this excerpt, but I kind of feel like a lot of this has been said before (although let’s be fair – Barth is about as accessible and transparent as moon rock). In fact, it is not a lack of clear, concise scholarship upon which fundagelicals stumble. The problem with Hart (and Christian Smith) and others is that they approach the entire issue with different presuppositions. Hart even admits that “rational” arguments won’t work – True Believers will just question rationality itself. I would almost call it a lost cause…but then I remember that there was a time when I held some of these same views (to be fair, I never accepted CSBI, as it is intellectual and philosophical suicide). So maybe the effort is well spent.

  • Dean

    Even though this has all been said before, I think it is worth saying again and this excerpt is probably the best summary of the argument I’ve read recently. I think what’s probably missing though, is an alternative to biblicism, meaning, the fundamentalist is immediately going to argue that if you take away biblical “inerrancy”, then the Bible becomes a free for all. I’ve read a few alternatives, like using Jesus as the “canon within a canon” or recognizing the “trajectory” of the biblical narrative. I like those alternatives, and maybe there are others, but frankly, I until progressive Christians are able to communicate a clear and practical alternative to stilted literalism, it’s going to be hard to really convince people to jettison it. I actually think that biblical literalism allows you much greater latitude to pick and choose than fundamentalists want to admit, that’s another argument we should really hammer home.

    • Johnny Number 5

      While as an ex-evangelical, I understand the desire for some clearly articulated practical alternative to literalism, this desire seems less necessary when considering the historical roots of literalism. ~150 years ago, there was worry about having a clearly articulated and easily defended position about why Christianity should be followed and why the Bible should be trusted. The result arising from this worry was an elaborate defense of that stilted literalism. If we once again go down that path of trying to find an alternative that nevertheless accomplishes the same kind of clarity and non-free-for-all-ness, I wonder if we have to just end up in about the same or almost the same place as the literalism that we now want to jettison. It seems like there’s something about that kind of quest for epistemic certainty that almost guarantees we’ll find some version of certainty, but we won’t ever like the strictures it places on us.

      • John

        Which, pardon me if I am barking up the wrong tree, seems to imply that the real rascal here is foundationalism – a barbaric task-master indeed.

        • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

          I think a lot of unspoken Christian epistemology was created by that great “theologian” Descartes.

          • John

            Yes indeed. The reason some Christians talk past each other on this issue stems from the fact that many evangelicals have not considered their epistemic foundation – in fact, most Americans are largely ignorant of the Great Conversation.

      • Dean

        Yeah, I think you’re probably right.

    • Ross

      A big part of me thinks that the “cohesion” and “certainty” of the biblicists is a tough act to follow and I wonder what “progressives” or non/post-inerrantists can do to compete or rally round. However, at the moment I’m thinking that if we just believe and trust in the God and Saviour, to whom the bible points we may start getting there.

      Maybe the “World” will never really sit up and take notice, regardless of what we do. But if we love one another and our enemies too, maybe this is a good alternative to believing and trusting in an “inerrant” bible and the associated doctrines and dogmas which come with this.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      I actually think that biblical literalism allows you much greater latitude to pick and choose than fundamentalists want to admit…

      Which is why when they’ve disposed of all those Heathens, Fundamentalists go for each others’ throats as Heretics.

      Type example: Compare the John Nelson Darby/Hal Lindsay choreography of Revelation with the Seventh Day Adventist one. Totally different and incompatible scenarios, Proven From Scripture(TM) with the exact same proof texts/zip codes.

  • http://www.godconversations.com/ Tania Harris

    Great excerpt. I like the description of the Bible as a witness. It’s the way the stories were always viewed when they were passed on in an oral culture. The power and authority lay in the word itself, first spoken to the prophets, then through the life and teachings of Jesus (as the Living word) and now through the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures testify to the living word that remains consistently true and authoritative throughout the ages.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      I like the description of the Bible as a witness. It’s the way the stories were always viewed when they were passed on in an oral culture.

      Before (as theorized by Chaplain Mike over at Internet Monk) the Age of Reason and Industrial Revolution turned those Old Old Stories into a Spiritual Engineering Manual of FACT, FACT, FACT.

      “When you point at something with your finger, the dog sniffs your finger. To a dog, a finger is a finger and that is that.” — C.S.Lewis

      “His mind is made of wheels and metal.” — Treebeard re Saruman

  • Gary

    Sloppy rhetoric. Lots of wordings of “we” this and “we” that when we don’t really do this and don’t really do that but perhaps we *ought* to do this and *ought* to do that. Not until the last paragraph does the author get a bit more honest and say that we *need* to do something. I hang out with a lot of Christians. Good luck telling them what you think they need. They’re already saved you know…

    • lou77

      I’ve been thinking this for years! what ought ‘we’ to do about the homeless man I saw walking on the street at dusk tonite as I was going home on the bus? he was facing the 4 day forcast of the 20’s overnight. all he had was a tatty old green blanket around his sholders.

  • gingoro

    Pete
    Has the impact of accepting an old earth and evolution been factored into biblical studies as of yet beyond its obvious impact on understanding the early chapters of Genesis. It would be interesting to hear about any impacts especially the violence and genocide in the OT. Also a chapter by chapter discussion of “Disarming Scripture” by D Flood would be of helpful if you have time. In any case keep up the good work. DaveW

  • Daniel Merriman

    I suppose reading the Bible like any other book in order to discover that it is not like any other book might be a worthwhile endeavor, but isn’t that its own form of biblicism? The excerpted material strikes me as an effort to coat Barth’s fundamental insight about what the Word truly is in today’s post- Christendom popular rhetoric. I suppose it might be necessary to come up with new rhetorical tools to bash fundamentalists with in order to sell books to liberal or progressive Christians these days, but as someone whose age (64)probably shows and who has recently had a stark reminder of my own mortality, I find this debate increasingly tiresome. I hope to share eternity with people who love Jesus and have sought to follow him; I expect many or most of them will have views of the Bible that differ from mine.

  • http://www.paulfrantizek.com/ Paul Frantizek

    Reading things like this make me glad I’m a Thomist.

  • peteenns

    I’d like to remind everyone of my comment policy I announced a while back. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/10/superamazing-major-announcement/

  • John

    I couldn’t disagree more. You can harmonize the bible. You just don’t like what you get. As for me if one jot or tittle is false then Christ himself is false and God is not true. So far though despite repeated and highly destructive to the body attacks you have yet to make your case. I’ll keep the bible.

    • http://www.melcthompsonpublishing.com/ Mel C. Thompson

      If you watch the great Jewish and Muslim and Atheist scholars who are about ten times as learned in world scriptures as most scripturally-illiterate Christians are, (I used to be a fundamentalist from Orange County), you’ll see the Bible is a complete mess from beginning to end. I’m a textual critic with a B.A. in Philosophy and former Evangelical. It took decades of sifting through layers of denial, to finally see that the Bible is really sick and twisted and crazy and just plain schizophrenic when used as a literal manual for life.

    • Mark

      Then you can explain to me how God needed to break the covenant He had with the Hebrews and establish a new one, or how an eternal Hell of torment came to be in the New Testament, when the Hebrews had gone centuries without God telling them of it.

    • John

      1) Your first sentence means very little without context. I can harmonize the Bible as well. It just requires me to ignore, reinterpret, or subjugate texts to my own presuppositions rather than coming to terms with the author. Regardless, you haven’t demonstrated why anyone should harmonize the Bible.
      2) It is absurd on its face to say that if one jot or tittle is than Christ himself is false. I will charitably assume you used such language as hyperbole to communicate your emotional dissatisfaction with such a notion. You are aware that there are thousands of manuscripts out there, no two of which are alike (and it is more than jots and tittles that don’t match)?
      3) Are you keeping the Bible? Or your received tradition?

  • David Tiffany

    You’re welcome to not post my comments. It’s your blog, your prerogative. And you are welcome to not post this one. But what you are doing is not new. Many have come before you calling God’s Word into question. And it’s dangerous.

    • http://www.melcthompsonpublishing.com/ Mel C. Thompson

      One of the ways to see the bankruptcy of what I call “Book Idolatry,” which is what fundamentalism is, is to spend several hours watching the best Torah scholars teach. For one thing, you quickly lean about all the translation fraud still going on by Christian translators trying to duct-tape together what amounts to several disparate religions. The Bible simply isn’t God’s word, because not God would be schizophrenic as any God who, as one entity, dictated so many crazy ideas and conflicting theories. I was once biblical literalist, but finally, I saw that biblical literalism isn’t even spiritual, but is a sad grasping at the worldly control of spiritual life. We all want to have iron-clad insurance, but, sadly, I learned that the real spiritual life isn’t like an insurance contract. It’s tricky, and no for control freaks. Biblical literalism is for folks who can’t take a defeat, can’t handle negotiations, but want God and people and governments to just shut up and take orders. That won’t happen. Also, I’ve not met a fundamentalist Christian who, once confronted with a serious debate, doesn’t resort to trying to get the other side t shut up. In the end, Biblical Literalism winds up being just like Islam, a total moral disaster. (Note: Most congressmen who voted to cut Food Stamps and let people starve, are from districts that are majority Biblical Literalists. So Biblical Literalism as the tendency to produce really horrible people as well as super-evil theology.)

      • David Tiffany

        Calling studying God’s Word “Book Idolatry” is just a convenient way to try and manipulate God’s people into not studying what God has given us as a standard by which we can grade everything we read, hear and think. It doesn’t work on me. There are too many places in the Word of God that encourages us to study the Word of God. I worship God, and reading His message to the world is profitable. And as far as Biblical literalism goes, you weren’t there, God was. I choose to read His account of Himself rather than your opinion.

        • Tim

          Oops; my false dichotomy detector just went off…

        • Dean

          “…you weren’t there, God was.”

          I feel like you’re not having the same conversation that everyone else here is having.

    • Andrew Dowling

      One common trait of cults is viewing those on the “outside” as “dangerous” and wanting to corrupt those on the inside. Thus, the authoritative figures on the inside cannot be questioned, for questioning equals dissent, and dissent is viewed as permitting the corruption from the outside to infiltrate. You see this in all corners, from 1918 Bolsheviks to 2014 Christian fundamentalists.

      • lou77

        how do ya know when yur inna cult? l’ve narrowed it down to lack of honesty, lack of empathy. I’d like to be like will rogers; ‘a stranger is just a friend I haven’t met.’

    • Dean

      Dangerous as in getting physically injured or dangerous as in you might change your mind? How can the latter ever be dangerous? Ostensibly you only believe things that you think are true, which is s good thing for survival in this world. How can that be characterized as dangerous?

  • SoundOn

    Merry Christmas everyone! I invite all to read the Book of Mormon and compare it to the doctrine in the bible and decide for yourself if it is not also another witness of Jesus Christ.

    • charlesburchfield

      how about a comparative study to the doctrines in bible, book of mormon & mein kamf by adolph hitler?

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        Don’t forget the Protocols of Zion and On the Jews and their Lies.

        • charlesburchfield

          sounds interesting! ok lets include them

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          And the trolls are out in full force…

      • SoundOn

        How about it? You think the bible compares well to mein kamf?

        • charlesburchfield

          i suppose it depends on whose reading these and the purpose they have for compareing them.

  • Veritas

    How can the creation story be held literally, yet john chapter 6 as metaphor? There are other examples of course but they show wide range of ways to interpret literally. Many who love God and have personal relationships with Jesus disagree on interpretation. They can’t all be right. So, does this mean it all crashes down since we can not know?
    The faith is more resilient than that because faith is the right response to an encounter with a person, God.

  • Bcrew

    So God inspired His Word but allowed writers to include lies? Really? How do you decide what is true and what isn’t? There are so many false statements in this article it is appalling. Liberal Christianity like that displayed here is what is bankrupt.

    • lou77

      fear not, the holy spirit teaches. who loves ya baby!?

    • John

      I’m having a little difficulty interacting with your statement, because it is somewhat disjointed. Would you like to flesh your ideas out further?
      So God inspired His Word but allowed writers to include lies? Well of course, there are lies recorded in the Bible, but I don’t think that is what you mean. I think what you mean is that if a story is not an empirical-rational analog for a space-time event then it is a falsehood. That is a very interesting epistemology. I don’t think many philosophers (particularly in language studies) would agree, but maybe you could explain this further.
      How do you decide what is true and what isn’t? This cannot really be interacted with until the previous is resolved, but maybe I’ll put the question to you – how do you decide? Which canon do you use? Whose interpretation? How do you know which one is correct? I would be interested to hear you make your position more clear.
      There are so many false statements in this article it is appalling. This does not follow from your previous, and is an assertion. Please share which statements are false and why. I think I could learn better if you would share your ideas more carefully.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I believe his ideas can be summarized as “The WORD of GOD! The WORD of GOD!” followed by whatever is Kynge Jaymes Englyshe for “AL’LAH’U AKBAR!”

    • Dean

      I don’t know if it would be right to characterize discrepancies in the Bible as “lies” but the discrepancies are there nonetheless. How would you account for them? I could make you a list, but if I have to do that, then you should probably do some homework first before trying to engage in an adult discussion like this.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    …because the text should really be read as it was given, in the very language in which it was given.

    Kynge Jaymes Englyshe?

  • newenglandsun

    I question the view that the Reformers would be understood as Biblicists in the modern day Evangelical sense. Evangelicals interpret Biblicism to be using the Bible as the final trump card in theological debates (in other words, tradition is advisory but it is susceptible to errors). Calvin and Luther went back to the Bible and to the church fathers to create their own traditions though. Both of these guys held a very high view of the church (the Bible is read through church tradition). Correct me if I’m wrong here.

    • Charlie Johnson

      Both Luther and Calvin were aware of a fair amount of the Christian intellectual tradition, but they had no reservations about disagreeing with and discarding parts of it where they thought it conflicted with (their interpretations of) the Bible. For both, only the Bible retained unquestionable authority.

  • Frank McManus

    Addison Hodges Hart is a very good spiritual writer; too bad he’s so little known. I don’t always agree with him, but I agree enthusiastically with every word of this piece. To me, it sounds like a mainstream Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox perspective on scripture, which means it’s pretty much completely traditional, in the best possible way. And yet, as I think Hart implies, biblicism has become a problem even in those communions.

    Peter, do you think this problem is inherent in the reformation, or is it a modern innovation? Or maybe a little of both?