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A Much Needed Word: Bibliolatry

John on November 20, 2007 at 12:30 am

I missed this when it appeared a few days ago. Sounds like J.P. Moreland really shook things up at ETS:

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,” he said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.”

The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.”

Suppose an archaeologist discovered a portion of the ancient city of Jerusalem that was specifically described in the Old Testament, Moreland said:

Could the archaeologist have discovered the site without the use of the Old Testament? Once discovered, could the archaeologist learn things about the site that went beyond what was in the Old Testament? Clearly the answer is yes to both questions. Why? Because the site actually exists in the real world. It does not exist in the Bible. It is only described in the Bible and the biblical description in partial.

And here’s one that’s bound to inflame some people:

“The sparse landscape of evangelical political thought stands in stark contrast to the overflowing garden both of evangelical biblical scholarship and Catholic reflection on reason, general revelation, and cultural and political engagement,” he said. “We evangelicals could learn a lesson or two from our Catholic friends.”

Lastly, Dr. Moreland had some equally shocking things to say about how we got into this sorry state in the first place:

Rather than developing a robust epistemology in response to secularism, he said, evangelicals reacted and retreated. Now evangelical theologians aren’t allowed to come to any new conclusions about the truths in Scripture, and they’re not allowed to find truths outside of Scripture. As a result, he said, they’re engaged in “private language games and increasingly detailed minutia” and “we’re not seeing work on broad cultural themes.”

A sharp commenter sums it up this way “Moreland is challenging SOLO Scriptura, not SOLA Scriptura.” Exactly so. This is what Roy Clouser calls the “encyclopedic fallacy.” I like Moreland’s term bibliolatry better. It’s simpler and has a nice ring (of truth). Good for you, Dr. Moreland.

Of course the most obvious place to apply such a view would be to science and empiricism. Somehow I don’t think Dr. Moreland is coming out in favor of the theory of evolution, even though that is far and away the most significant area of friction. Still, after reading this, I’m actually interested in reading his new book.

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Category: Religion & Faith |

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