Like some of you I’m very much looking forward to our conversations here about Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible. Christian sent me an autographed copy and expressed a wish that he would hear what my students think of the book. Well, I won’t be using it as a text anytime very soon, but perhaps Christian will listen in here and find out what I and you think about the book.
Christian sent me a manuscript of the book about a year ago and asked for my feedback which I gladly gave him. He (or Brazos Press) didn’t ask for my recommendation for the jacket of the book. I guess he/they didn’t think my feedback was positive enough. I will say that I am in overall agreement with his proposals, but I doubt they are going to be a cure for the disease of biblicism he identifies and describes. And I think the very term “biblicism” is broad enough to encompass what he suggests. (I don’t give up on good words like biblicism easily. Christian tends to equate it with fundamentalism. I don’t.)
One criticism I have is that most, and perhaps all, of Christian’s proposals are old. He is a master at packaging and defending ideas moderate and progressive evangelicals have been promoting for decades. I would call his book a model of what I call postconservative evangelical theology. But much of what he argues for (as an antidote to what he calls evangelical biblicism) was offered by Stan Grenz. And yet Stan isn’t even mentioned in the book except in a list of theologians in a footnote. I guess Christian came to the same conclusions independent of Stan, but there are striking resemblances between their approaches to the Bible. Also, Christian’s approach is very similar to Kevin Vanhoozer’s (and he does mention Kevin). I get space in the book (for my dogma, doctrine, opinion taxonomy) and I can tell Christian read Reformed and Always Reforming.
None of this detracts from the value of Christian’s book. To get the same ideas (without his book) you’d have to read quite a few books. He pulls much together in a way not elsewhere between two covers in less than 200 pages.
So watch for my first review of the book this coming Monday. I will discuss two chapters at a time which will take four messages here. The fourth one will be over only one chapter and the conclusion. If at all possible, please read the book before Monday or during the discussion.