Rethinking Evangelicalism Pt. 2

Growing up evangelical, one of the core teachings was of the significance of the Bible to our faith. In the future, this teaching will either mean radical changes to the evangelical faith or radical diminishment, as study after study show my generation displaying less and less interest in what the Bible says. One of the big struggles my generation has with Christianity, and in evangelicalism particularly, is with the teaching of the “Inerrant Bible,” the teaching that the Bible is without error.

This teaching came about in the early 20th century when fundamentalists saw how some people were questioning the nature of the Bible. They adopted the teaching of the “Inerrant Bible.” Among one of the proclamations of what it meant to be an evangelical came from David Bebbington who said that one of the four marks of an Evangelical is their regard for the Bible. Shortly before Bebbington came around their was an Evangelical theologian and professor from Princeton Theological Seminary named B.B Warfield who held to the belief in the “Inerrant Bible” but only in its original artifacts, original manuscripts. The wars over the “Inerrant Bible” are no longer. We don’t have them, and we probably never will. Although, Biblical archaeology is getting better all the time.

One of the pitfalls of Evangelical Christianity has been our ability to think we own the “Inerrant Truth” because we believe we have the correct interpretation of the “Inerrant Bible.“ David Fitch, in his wonderful book The End of Evangelcalism?, describes the potential chaos if we were to find the original artifacts. He says, “ ‘The Inerrant Bible’ in essence allows us to interpret the Bible to mean anything we want it to mean it to because after all we believe it to be ‘Inerrant.’ To exaggerate, we can say just about anything based on the Bible and then declare our allegiance to the Bible’s inerrancy. No one then can dare question our Orthodoxy!… As a result, ‘the inerrant Bible’ holds together a wide variety of institutions and churches that have very little in common in terms of their practice except of course the desire to self-identify as evangelical.” When we look at the difference of Churches who hold to an “Inerrant Bible” then we see a wide variety in what is claimed as Truth. Organizations and Churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek are going to have very different theological interpretations than Joel Osteen’s Church and World Vision, but both hold to the belief of the “Inerrant Bible”, so who is right and wrong?

The idea of Christian pluralism ought to be held for our social and biblical practices. It takes a strong ego to say we hold the whole truth. especially since, we don’t have the original artifacts. The ego that doesn’t allow pluralism cannot allow expression outside of its understanding. Therefore, how we interpret theology and mission of the Church is pushed aside by their “right” interpretation. If this ego is true, then how do we accomplish God’s mission of blessing others because we are blessed (seen in Abraham) and the reconciliation of all things (seen in Jesus). What I believe, is that we are called to trust in authority of the Bible, seen through Jesus Christ. How do we see God working through the narrative of the Bible, while maintaining a Christ centered reading. We understand God and his mission through the eyes of Jesus. This demands a more generous and creative reading of the Bible. And, to take the Bible more seriously than before. We should remain open to historical understanding and what God wants to reveal to us. This opens up the Bible to us and produces less hostile people. We simply cannot continue to have the theological wars and separation that we saw around Love Wins Especially when Jesus says that the world will know God by the way we love each other.

What do you think it means to be a Biblical Christian?


A video from someone I deeply respect (Greg Boyd),


4 thoughts on “Rethinking Evangelicalism Pt. 2

  1. Adam says:

    If we found the artifacts I don’t think it would help. We would just shift the center our fighting over to interpretation of the manuscripts (another messy branch of the innerancy discussion). It would also, I believe, foster an idolatry centered on the Bible itself – as opposed to God revealed therein. To me, the whole scope of the innerancy conversation points to the sovereignty of God. I think he understands that having innerant manuscripts would likely lead to all kinds of wars (rhetorical as well as literal) and division. The Bible as we have it reveals God, but also points us to rely on the Spirit for ongoing, active, personal revelation. An innerant Bible would, in an odd way, diminish the role of the Spirit in ongoing revelation.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I think you are right. I think Evangelicals have unfortunately made the Bible an idol at times. Fitch points out how Christians freaked out when they found the dead sea scrolls and how it caused them to question if anything they believed was correct. Can you imagine what it would be like if they found the originals? I think that’s why it’s important to trust the God in the Bible, and the way he is moving in and out of the story to reclaim his mission of humanity.

  2. […] Rethinking Evangelicalism Pt. 2 ( […]

  3. James says:

    What do I think it means to be a Biblical Christian…? I think one of the questions your getting at is Can we deny the inerrancy of scripture and still be a good Christian. My answer to that is Yes. If we view scripture as a book that was compiled by the fathers of Modern Christianity and see it as something that is inspired by God, much like modern worship songs are inspired by God. Then I think we can look at scripture and see that this is something that is beneficial for our lives. We see it as God’s message in human words and we can live our lives based on the principles found therein. I realize that this viewpoint makes me a post-conservative, post-modern, progressive Christian. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing.


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