Here are a couple of recent items on a recurring theme around here. The first is from Greg Carey at the Huffington Post and the second is from Kenton L. Sparks’ introduction to God’s Word in Human Words.
Here’s Carey on “Where ‘Liberal’ Bible Scholars Come From“:
Biblical scholarship is an academic discipline, taught and studied at universities, colleges and divinity schools all around the world. So it should be no surprise that biblical scholars run in all shapes, sizes, colors and denominations. What would surprise many people, though, is that a very large number of us love Jesus and the church, and we spend hours upon hours communicating the love and wonder we experience with the Bible. Indeed, some of our secular colleagues justifiably complain there are too many of us in the field. More surprising might be this one fact: many of us have our roots in fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. The best way for conservative churches to produce “liberal” biblical scholars is to keep encouraging young people to read the Bible.
That’s how it worked for me. …
… Mark Twain is supposed to have said, “The best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible.” If he did say that, his wisdom didn’t take in my case. Though I understand it differently, I love the Bible as much as I ever have. I’m just as passionate for Jesus and for the gospel as I ever have been, though I understand them differently too. But I can say this: Reading the Bible is a terrific cure for fundamentalism. That’s exactly how many of us so-called liberal Bible scholars got our start.
Go read the whole thing. I’d tell you to read the whole of Sparks’ book, too, except that I haven’t done so myself yet — only the little teaser sample you can read for free on the Kindle. But this bit from Sparks’ introduction is astute:
For the old-school evangelicals, the chief danger to be feared has been that our teaching might explicitly or implicitly undermine the authority of Scripture, and this is a concern that I very much share. But there are other threats to the gospel that this generation of scholars has not taken seriously. Chief among them is the possibility that their version of the Christian faith might harbor false ideas and beliefs that, because they are mistaken, serve as barriers to faith for those who see our evangelical errors. As one example, evangelicals often fail to recognize the possibility that, by arguing strenuously for the strict historicity of Genesis 1, they are more or less shutting their church doors to countless scientists and scholars who might otherwise have come to faith. In essence, the old-school evangelicals have been so sure that they are right that they no longer consider seriously the possibility that they are too conservative; “conservative,” not in the sense of theological orthodoxy, but in the sense that they are unable to really think critically about whether their traditions are intellectually adequate and spiritually healthy.