Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Two Extremes

There was an insightful comment by Stephen under Rachel Held Evans’ post, The problem of biblicism. Stephen states the following:

“If one has to attend 3-4+ years of seminary and do a PhD, all the while being informally mentored by other evangelical academics, in order to put “biblicism” into practice, then it’s a failure. The continued protestations of inerrantist gatekeeping intellectuals only serves to show their elite intellectualist and doctrinal model of what Christianity most basically is: the production and consumption of complex and sanctioned evangelical theological discourse. This practically makes their version of Christianity unavailable to 97% of people since the requisite material, social, and economic conditions for participation in their model of Christianity are only available to a minority of people.”

I wonder: Why would God reveal his will for us using a book that contains the writings of historical periods, cultures, and languages that are different from our own? Should it take a Ph.D. to understand the will of God—-especially when Ph.D.s and seminarians themselves disagree about what the Bible means?

I don’t want to go to the other extreme, though, the extreme that says “God revealed his will to common people, not to intellectuals, and so therefore I have the authority to beat you over the head with my interpretation of the Bible, even if there’s no scholarship backing it up, and you have to accept that as a ‘Thus saith the Lord’.” Okay, I paraphrase! I characterized some of that view accurately, and, near the end, I was giving my opinion as to where that position has led. In any case, I’m uncomfortable with both extremes.


  1. Limited creatures such as people can only know so much, and different people will have different degrees of understanding, and there might even be unresolvable differences in understanding. It looks like God 'saves' people with little or no understanding of things. And consider, that even in heaven we will be limited creatures, so it looks like differences in understanding will persist there! Which is not to say that we should just give up trying to understand, but we seem to need to understand about what understanding might be and do too!

  2. Hi Davey! How do you interpret that passage in I Corinthians 13 about knowledge some day coming to an end? Some interpret that to mean that we'll know everything in the afterlife. But I'd like to think----like you----that there will be room for learning and growing even there.

  3. I reckon there will be continued learning and growing in heaven. I am inclined to think infants will grow up, even! But, one way or another, there will still be experience of things like infants and infancy possible - say by virtual reality (yes, even in heaven!). I think knowledge will come to an end not in the sense of us knowing everything but in knowing enough about certain crucial things, whatever that might be. I don't think we will ever understand why there had to be suffering, but that won't matter when we know enough to know there won't be any more.

    What am I doing here but letting my fancy roam - but how can one not imagine about such things?!

  4. I say let it roam! :D

    I like how one Christian professor of mine envisioned heaven: going to listen to Mozart, then going to hear a lecture, etc.


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