The stated purpose of Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament is “to bring an evangelical doctrine of Scripture into conversation with the implications generated by some important themes in modern biblical scholarship—particularly the Old Testament—over the past 150 years” (p. 13).
The book’s primary audience is those readers who find it difficult to maintain their faith in God because “familiar and conventional” evangelical approaches often mishandle the challenges raised by modern biblical scholarship (p. 13).
Evangelicals commonly take a defensive posture to new ideas, and that such defenses are “exercises in special pleading, attempts to hold on to comfortable idea despite evidence that makes such ideas problematic. It is precisely the ineffectiveness of certain ways of thinking about the Bible that can sometimes cause significant cognitive dissonance for Christians who love and want to hold on to their Bible, but who also feel the weight of certain kinds of evidence” (p. 15).
I&I looks at three issues raised in modern biblical scholarship that are mishandled by Evangelicals: (1) the strong similarities between the Old Testament and the literature of other ancient societies; (2), theological diversity among the Old Testament authors; (3) how New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament in inventive ways that reflect Jewish practices of the time (pp. 15-16).In all three cases, the Bible behaves in ways that don’t seem very “inspired,” but rather very “human.” An incarnational model of the Bible as one way to take seriously these types of challenges.
This model draws an analogy between Jesus and the Bible: “In the same way that Jesus is—must be—both God and human, the Bible is also a divine and human book” (p. 17). The Bible is not “an abstract, otherworldly book, dropped out of heaven. It was connected to and therefore spoke to those ancient cultures….precisely because Christianity is a historical religion, God’s word reflects the various historical moments in which Scripture was written” (pp. 17-18).
The problems raised by the “human dimension” of the Bible for many evangelicals “has less to do with the Bible itself and more to do with our own preconceptions” of how the Bible “ought” to be (p. 15). An incarnational model can help evangelicals and other Christians reorient their expectations of Scripture and so come to peace with new developments in their understanding of the Bible.