The Bible Made Impossible: Part Two – The Cure

The Bible Made Impossible: Part Two – The Cure December 8, 2011

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.

Smith writes that biblicism is overcome by picking an interpretive framework — what you might call a hermeneutical lens.  Biblicists, of course, argue that this is not necessary.  “The Bible says what it says,” they protest, “Just stick with the plain meaning.”  But by this point in the book, Smith has utterly destroyed that posture as a chosen naïveté.  Everyone’s got a lens.  Just admit it and get on with your life.

So then the question becomes, Which lens?  To this question, Christian Smith goes with Karl Barth: the best lens through which to read and study the Bible is a christological lens.  With this I agree.  But it needs some nuance.

Plus, many evangelicals will protest that’s exactly what they already do.  In college, I was required by Campus Crusade to purchase a Bible that had intros to every book that showed “Christ in _____.”  I remember, for instance, reading what it said about finding “Christ in Esther” — it was, as you can imagine, a bit of a stretch to find Christ in a book that doesn’t even mention God.

But this isn’t what Smith is driving at.  He’s looking for a more robust christological hermeneutic. He’s saying: the story of Israel, the God of the Old Testament, the letters of Paul, the Apocalypse of John — they only make sense as seen through the salvific acts of Christ.  In that way, this book is like the book we looked at last week.

This is good, as far as it is.  Tomorrow, however, I will post about my ultimate disappointment with this book.

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  • Adam

    I anticipate the problem: no matter how Smith may want to narrow the field, there’s going to be a pervasive interpretive plurality of Christological lenses. I agree that his solution to that isn’t entirely convincing. But it seems a little strong to call that a fatal flaw. I find the book valuable simply for how it clearly identifies the problem — I didn’t really go in expecting a coherent solution.

  • Paul D.

    So he’s saying nothing in the Tanakh makes sense to Jews?

  • Chris Smith

    I wait in suspense for part 3. Meanwhile, Paul, the book neither says nor implies that. It’s not about how Jews ought to read scripture. It surely says plenty to them, including pointing to Christ. Barth is fantastic in CD on a Christian view of the Jews, btw, writing in the 1940s no less.

  • I admit that I am eager to read the next part, Tony. After all, you seem to affirm several aspects of the book, yet say it is “fatally flawed”. That’s a big leap & can’t wait to read your thoughts.

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