Friday, May 17, 2013
Pulse: How We View The Bible (Guest Post by Brandan Robertson)
The issue of how we approach the Bible in general.
For me as an evangelical, I affirm the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and see it as the highest guide on all matters concerning faith and practice. But we need to grapple with what is the best way to approach and deal with the Bible. We have generally been handed two options: the literal approach, believing that every event and statement recorded in the Bible is scientifically, historically, geographically, and absolutely true in the modern sense of the word or a rejection of the Bible as a reliable guide for anything. Neither of these approaches works for the new generation of Christians. Most of us are ready to accept things like the fact of evolution and many of us want to embrace a hermeneutical framework that allows for egalitarianism to exist within our churches. But most of us have been told that to do these things we are either “selling out” or that we have to disregard the Bible as our authority all together.
Neither option is healthy. Neither option gets us anywhere.
If we don’t begin to look into history and try to find a better way to approach the Bible, we are going to see divisions continue to spring up and more and more injustice committed in the name of “the Bible”. Many support war, anti-environmental, anti-homosexual etc. sentiments with Biblical passages based on a skewed literal hermeneutic. Likewise, many Christians disregard the Bible and are embracing any new and colorful thing that comes their way. These postures will destroy the faith. Want proof? Look at the last 500 years since the Protestant Reformation.
2. In what (positive or negative) ways has our generation already engaged with this issue?
I think there is no doubt that we are all engaging with this issue. But the reality is, many of us don’t have a framework to engage this other than the two postures I mentioned earlier. Derek Flood, a young budding theologian, does an awesome job understanding and interpreting scripture in a serious, literal, but not fundamentalist way. So does N.T. Wright (who was born in the wrong generation).
Karl Barth and folks from the Neo Orthodox perspective also bring a fresh perspective to the table that I think our generation can relate to. Folks like The Gospel Coalition (whom I love) are unfortunately rehashing a fundamentalist approach to the Bible that isn’t very helpful but because of their popularity among millennial is being embraced. The answer to this issue is not to rehash the same old answers from the past 200 years. We need to stretch further forward and reach farther back in order to get a fresh and renewed way of dealing with Scripture. Scoffed, Edwards, Owens, and Calvin just aren’t cutting it anymore. We need some Clement and Chrysostom along with, dare I say, J.R. Daniel Kirk and Derek Flood.
3. What can we do to improve our relationship with addressing this issue? Or can things be improved?
We just need to be open. We need to work on not being so sectarian, so defensive. We need to be willing to rethink, reform, and renew our faith. (and that’s not just a shameless plug for the Revangelical movement). Until we can begin, with epistemological humility, to admit that we may not have the right way or the best way and begin to listen to traditions beyond our own, then we will never be able to address any of the pressing issues that face our generation. We need to listen. To learn. And to discern with grace what is best and true. If we can’t learn from Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Progressive, Liberal, Conservative, and Fundamentalist streams concerning hermeneutical approaches to scripture, then we are doomed to never see any change and instead see increased division and hostility.
I was recently having a conversation with an Evangelical friend of mine who comes from a fundamentalist background. I was suggesting that Evolution could be reconciled with the Genesis narrative. After a half an hour of discussion, he finally said something to the effect of, “You know what, I am a black and white guy! And I think you’re a heretic. Not the kind who is going to hell, but the kind that is teaching falsehoods.” I understand where he is coming from. Many of us have been taught a view of the Bible that has been fenced off with the warning “If you change this, you lose everything.” That kind of rhetoric is absurd, untrue, and stunts the movement of God in his Church. I used to believe that. I used to believe that our way was the only way. But that’s just not the case. Things aren’t as black and white as we want to make them. And our approach to the Bible cannot be reduced by modernism to simply either “everything is factually true in every regard” or “nothing is factual and is complete fiction.”
Neither is good. Neither is faithful. Neither helps anyone in the long run.
I hope that as we continue to discuss these topics as a generation, we will see new life spring up. I pray that walls will come down. I pray that we will grow closer to Jesus. And I pray that we would be pulled by the Spirit of God ever forward to fresh and new ways and ever backwards towards tried and true ways- living in that sacred and divine tension.
Brandan Robertson is a theology student at Moody Bible Institute, a blogger, podcaster, aspiring minister, and dreamer behind The (Re)vangelical movement.
You can find him on the web, twitter and facebook.