Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thinking themselves to be wise...

I have posted recently on the continued efforts by Biologos to destroy confidence among God's people in the Bible as God's authoritative and fully trustworthy Word. Biologos professes to be evangelical and has recruited supposedly evangelical biblical scholars to advance their curious ideas about the Bible.

Now Kevin DeYoung has weighed in with a helpful post. Along the way, he raises some interesting questions like, "Why would evangelicals see BioLogos as “one of us” (and, while we’re at it, why would the president of Gordon College be one of five persons on the BioLogos
Board of Directors)? DeYoung points to a specific series of posts at the Biologos blog where the author (a local Old Testament professor) not only challenges biblical inerrancy but openly mocks the idea as "intellectually disastrous."

I recently came across an article online on the BioLogos site entitled “After Inerrancy: Evangelicals and the Bible in a Postmodern Age.” It’s a multi-part article (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) written by Kenton Sparks, a professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University. Here’s how it starts:

I write for Evangelicals who either believe or suspect that our tradition has painted itself into an intellectual corner. The Church has been down this road before. In the 16th and 17th centuries it mistakenly criticized Copernicus and Galileo because their scientific views were clearly “unbiblical.” And just as the evidence finally came crashing down on Church dogma in those days, so in ours, the facts are stacking up quickly against fundamentalistic beliefs in “creation science” and in the kind of “biblical inerrancy” that supports it.

While there was perhaps a period in history when Evangelicals could deny the substance of these new theories because the available evidence seemed thin, it seems to me that we’ve now crossed an evidential threshold that makes it intellectually unsuitable to defend some of the standard dogmas of the conservative Evangelical tradition. Holding fast to these old dogmas merely perpetuates the “intellectual disaster of Fundamentalism” and the “scandal of Evangelical Mind.”

The intellectual cul-de-sac in which Evangelicalism finds itself can be traced back to many causes. But it seems clear, at least to me, that a fundamental cause of the scandal is its doctrine of Scripture. Often this doctrine involves a strict adherence to “Biblicism” … to a belief that the Bible provides inerrant access to the truth about everything it touches on … from biology, physics and astronomy to psychology, history and theology. In more progressive Evangelical circles inerrancy is sometimes defined more delicately, in a way that allows the non-biblical evidence to carry more weight in our reflection, but even here the subtle influence of inerrancy often engenders poor, or at least inferior, judgments about science, history, human beings and theology. In the pages that follow I will briefly explain why conventional Evangelical understandings of Scripture simply cannot be right. I will also survey some of the important resources that can help the Church get its bearings in a world without Biblicistic inerrancy.

I’m not sure what Biblicistic means, but any time you turn a word into an “ism” and then add an “istic” on top of that, it must be really bad. I’m pretty sure biblicistic is here to make inerrancy sound as lame as possible. Later, just to be crystal clear, Sparks opines, “Biblicist inerrancy is an intellectual disaster.”

Where Inerrancy?
The authority of Scripture has been, for the past two or three centuries been under almost constant attack. So it’s no surprise see it again. Even Christians hoping to be counted in the evangelical fold are eager to call into question the full and complete inspiration of Scripture. This means it is crucial that we understand, defend, and celebrate the authority of the Bible in our homes and in our churches.

One struggles to know where to begin with Sparks’ assault on biblical authority. A single blog post is not the place to launch a full-on defense of inerrancy. There are many fine books and articles written in years past that do just that, including Robert Yarborough’s fair-minded, yet devastating review of Sparks’ previous work.

Another angle on the subject might look at what constitutes evangelical theology. Sparks writes from “our” evangelical tradition, and yet he disavows any notion of penal substitution and understands the Scriptures to be fallen like creation and in need of redemption. In the comments thread after the fifth post, he argues, “I have no interest in preserving Christianity … I believe because, as I understand it, it makes sense of human experience. But if it turns out that Christianity fails to do that, I’ll simply turn elsewhere.” I don’t know Dr. Sparks and am not an expert on his thought. I just don’t see how he can claim to speak as an evangelical scholar (to use language from his book). And with articles like this, why would evangelicals see BioLogos as “one of us” (and, while we’re at it, why would the president of Gordon College be one of five persons on the BioLogos Board of Directors)?

So there are a lot of things one could say, but let me simply call to mind the Apostle Peter’s assessment of Holy Scripture:
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the mourning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produces by the will of man, but men spoke from God as theywere carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21).
Read DeYoung's entire article HERE.

It is a vicious cycle. The more man elevates the authority of his own judgments, the more he diminishes the authority of Scripture. And, the more he diminishes the authority of the Scriptures, the more elevates the authority of his own judgments. The end result is death. We need only look at the continued death throws of the PCUSA, ELCA, Disciples of Christ, American Baptists, and the Episcopals. "I believe because as I understand it, it makes sense of human experience. But if it turns out that Christianity fails to do that, I'll simply turn elsewhere." Of that I have no doubt.


Harley A. said...

Quote from BioLogos site:

“BioLogos is a place for conversation. We are trying to help the Church see that there is no doubt about the scientific data and we are also trying to stimulate conversation about the theological and pastoral ramifications of the data. We ask questions, and we seek answers. For example, since there is no doubt about the earth being old, what are the ramifications of that for an understanding of Genesis One?”

No doubt about the scientific data, no doubt about the earth being old. Sound like a “place for conversation” to you? Sounds like a short conversation to me.

Todd Pruitt said...

They are happy to converse so long as you agree that they are smarter than you. They are the new fundamentalists.