Gigliogate and Evangelical Identity

Fred makes the salient point that Gigliogate and the Chik-fil-A fustercluck are basically the same. Evangelicals wade into the public square, air our their opinion on a social issue, take a beating in said public square, and then crawl back into their holes, wailing that they’ve been discriminated against.

Well, Christian Smith predicted all of this. 

Smith did all of us who follow American evangelicalism a great service with his 1998 book, American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving.  Therein, he described how evangelicals have developed a “sub-cultural identity,” wherein they told themselves a story about their own position as an embattled minority, even as they became the most powerful bloc in our society.

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The Bible Made Impossible: Part Three – The Fatal Flaw

This post is part of a three-part series on The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith

The AilmentThe Cure – The Fatal Flaw

This is an extremely difficult post to write, primarily because I consider Christian Smith a friend.  I am a huge fan of his work, and I have admiringly cited him in almost all of my academic work.  Both his research and his theory are, I think, the very best in the sociology of American religion these days.

Also, I have stood in solidarity with him in the past as he struggled with the theology and policies of Young Life.  In fact, knowing something of his struggle in that regard, I am tempted to think that his struggles there led directly to this book.  And possibly to what I consider its fatal flaw.

Further, I think this is a very, very good book, and I’m glad that Brazos published it.  It is both well-written and well-researched, as are all of Smith’s books.

To summarize the posts of the last two days, Smith argues that biblicism, practiced by a large number of conservative evangelical Protestants in America, is an untenable position to hold.  It is, he argues, ultimately unreasonable.  For instance, biblicists claim that the Bible is without error, yet they seem unable to account for the myriad evangelical interpretations of a particular passage or issue in the text.

Instead, Smith proposes a christological hermeneutic, which he borrows from Karl Barth (by way of Jeff McSwain, who was at the center of the Young Life controversy).  In this reading, Christ is the key – Christ renders unimportant the contradictions in the Bible; Christ makes the archaic prohibitions in the Bible inapplicable (e.g., women should wear head coverings and stay silent in church); Christ and his salvific acts supersede all arguments about ancillary biblical issues and texts.

So far, so good.

But here’s the paragraph from the introduction where this all comes undone for me, and herein lies the reason that this post is so difficult to write:

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The Bible Made Impossible: Part Two – The Cure

This post is part of a three-part series on The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith

The Ailment – The Cure – The Fatal Flaw

This book is fatally flawed.

I know, I wrote that yesterday, and you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow for the payoff on that.  But I wanted to remind you that I think that before I today look at Christian Smith’s solution to the problem of biblicism — a problem that I don’t have.

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The Bible Made Impossible: Part One – The Ailment

This post is part of a three-part series on The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith

This book is fatally flawed.

That is, I think there’s a problem with this book that undercuts it’s premise entirely.  But you’re going to have to wait until Friday to read my opinion on that.  In the meantime, I’m going to look at Smith’s diagnosis of the ailment affecting how some people read the Bible, and his proposed cure.  Today, the diagnosis:

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