Scot McKnight blogs about Christian Smith’s new book, The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture.
Smith lists ten characteristics of biblicism. This, he argues, is the way that many, if not most, ordinary evangelical Christians read and understand the Bible. As a layman, I found his synthesis of biblicism to be very helpful.
1. Divine Writing: the Bible is identical to God’s own words.
2. Total representation: it is what God wants us to know, all God wants us to know (he quotes JI Packer here) in communicating the divine will to us.
3. Complete coverage: everything relevant to the Christian life is in the Bible.
4. Democratic perspicuity: reasonable humans can read the Bible in his or her language and correctly understand the plain meaning of the text.
5. Commonsense hermeneutic: again, plain meaning; just read it.
6. Solo [not sola] Scripture: we can read the Bible without the aid of creeds or confessions or historical church traditions.
7. Internal harmony: all passages on a given theme mesh together.
8. Universal applicability: the Bible is universally valid for all Christians, wherever and whenever.
9. Inductive method: sit down, read it, and put it together.
10. Handbook model: the Bible is handbook or textbook for the Christian life.
You might be saying, “This is silly.” Well, no, it’s not. It’s a straight arrow description of what many evangelicals really do believe, and I would point straight at someone like Wayne Grudem as a very good example of this kind of biblicism. He gives pages of examples, stuff like how the Bible teaches about health or money or womanhood or how to be a good dad and on and on enough to make me choke. (Sorry for that edginess.)
So, what’s the problem with bliblicism? Interpretive pluralism. Biblicists believe the Bible is clear and readable and understandable but their diversity disproves what they believe and demolishes the biblicist approach. He quotes some well-known evangelicals who have pointed to the same problem: Robert K. Johnston, Mark Noll, Tom Wright, Kevin Vanhoozer, D.A. Carson, Geoffrey Bromiley, John Nevin … and back to the later Luther and even to Tertullian. The Bible alone will not yield either eccesial or theological unity. No matter what we say about it, our interpretive history disproves it.
It’s time for all of you Bible scholars and theologians to chime in.