Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A fresh start

Is inerrancy burdensome for younger evangelicals?

Well, for some young people within evangelicalism that would be an extreme understatement. The fact is that inerrancy is in danger of sapping evangelicalism's most creative resource: its youth. In Inerrancy and the Spiritual Formation of Younger Evangelicals, I tried to convey six representative critical discoveries that younger evangelicals tend to make by the time they reach the age of thirty. The upshot? Evangelical leaders and teachers must become more responsible in the way they lead discussions regarding the inspiration and authority of the Bible, since a failure to do so will lead several of their students to successive stages of doubt, "liberalism," and unbelief.

Here's an opportunity to promote some constructive dialogue amongst interested parties. I hope this might become a preliminary forum where some thoughts can be shared, openly and without consequence.

A recent comment I was not able to import from my yahoo360 blog:

"A book that helped me a lot in this area is Peter Enns' book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. He talks about the lame ways varius 'biblical difficulties' are explained and proposes a different approach - that the bible was written in terms of its culture of the time... After reading quite a bit in the realms of science and creationism (including Ronald Numbers book 'The Creationists' as well as Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evanglical Mind I have come to the conclusion that the doctrine of inerrancy as it now is understood is part of the problem. So I am looking forward to reading this book. I haven't really seen any critiques of the doctrine." -Steve Ranney

I agree that inerrancy is part of the problem; in fact, I think it's THE problem. Inerrancy should not be the defining doctrine for conservative evangelicalism, the doctrine that distinguishes the real believers from all the 'liberals'--as many are taught to believe. For when students of Scripture finally become disabused of the notion, they will immediately be posed with what I've called the evangelical ultimatum: if the defining doctrine of true Christianity proves false (inerrancy), then the whole faith must be false.

Here's a perfect example of what I'm talking about. J.P. Moreland recently attempted to caution evangelicals that they should not convince themselves that truth can be found only in the Bible. Word of his Evangelical Theological Society paper hit the web and now not a few people are up in arms.
All Moreland tried to say is that when people say that they believe that the Bible is evangelicalism's ultimate authority they should not understand that to mean that the Bible is evangelicalism's only authority. If that's how people respond to an established conservative evangelical thinker who merely sounds (and I don't know how anyone who has actually read the paper can say that he even sounds) as if he is saying something negative about the Bible, imagine how others will be received if they actually are constructively criticizing inerrantist views of the Bible. That's how scared evangelicals are to entertain even the slightest doubt about the authority of Scripture; they cannot stomach the thought that a fellow believer would say anything critical about inerrantist views of the Bible--so much so that they cannot even hear what Moreland is saying. I think younger believers observe this and say to themselves, "Inerrancy can't help but perpetuate an intolerant, spiritual and cultural paranoia. I do not want any part of this kind of fear-filled faith. This is no different from the fundamentalist Muslims they talk about in the news."