Monday, December 28, 2009

Editing and Inspiration

In a recent Washington Post interview, J.I. Packer describes his conviction that divine inspiration of Scripture is not compromised if we conclude that an inspired editor shaped the final published form of the biblical text. Here's the exchange:
Q: On a radio program, you explained why different Bible translations have different endings to the Gospel of Mark. How does this jibe with the inerrancy of God's word?

A: The inerrancy of Scripture applies to the material as prepared for publication. I'm saying that quite deliberately because I want to allow the editor in. In some Old Testament books, it's very evident that an editor has been at work. That's quite all right. It's part of the process.

Q: But some people believe that every word written and every "i'' dotted came strictly from the hand of God to the author. At the other extreme, atheists and liberal Christians say, "No one knows what's true in the Bible because it's been changed so much." How do you see this?

A: I'm saying that an editorial process that is preparing the material for publication counts as part of the inspiring process whereby God, in his sovereignty, gave every word. Some people ask for trouble by not allowing for the reality of editorial processes. The editorial process is very important for preparing the work for public consumption. It's part of the inspired process.
I know what I believe on this point, but I'm really curious to hear what the sort of folks who read this blog believe and have been taught. So I'll shut up and look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can We Be Together for the Gospel with Fundamentalists? (Part 1): Why Are the Young Guys Leaving?

I’ve heard more than a few explanations for why so many younger men (and let's not forget the women) are distancing themselves from fundamentalism and embracing conservative evangelicals. Here are a few:
  • Lust for status or academic respect
  • Rebellion
  • Itch to participate in worldly activities (rock music, movies, alcohol)
  • Rejection of dispensationalism
  • Frustration with what fundamentalism has tolerated (appalling preaching, bad conduct, hypocritical leaders, anti-intellectualism)
  • Disgust with legalism
  • Impatience waiting for leadership
  • Desire for mentoring
  • Impulse to be part of something bigger
People who move away from fundamentalism aren’t monolithic. They have different theologies. Different priorities. Different opinions. Different idols. (Yes, we all have them.) So I’m guessing that all of these reasons that have been proposed are true, though certainly not all for every single person. I’m guessing there are many more I haven’t listed. I’m guessing that most people in this group have been influenced by more than one of the items on this list. I’m convinced that many of these reasons overlap. And I certainly don't claim to speak for everyone.

But there’s another factor that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone mention publicly. I’m persuaded that it’s a significant factor, at least for some. And if it’s a legitimate basis for walking away from fundamentalism, even for one person, then it ought to provoke some serious soul-searching, particularly among people who are committed to the fundamentalist idea and who believe that the residue of the fundamentalist movement best preserves that idea.

That factor—that factor to which some people are so committed that they’ve grown disillusioned with the fundamentalist movement . . . the factor that has led them to build bridges to other partnerships, coalitions and affiliations . . . that factor is the gospel.

In other words, some young people are leaving fundamentalism for the sake of the gospel. Some young people think they’ve found a more biblically faithful articulation and practice outside the residue of the fundamentalist movement. Some young people think that people who really care about the gospel will talk more about the gospel than fundamentalism or separation (or anything else).

You might not like it. You might disagree with the facts. You might question their judgment or their priorities. But you’d be wrong to deny the reality of their convictions.

In Part 2: "The Logic of Fundamentalism: Presuppositions," I hope to explain how separatist theology creates a formidable standard for its own advocates.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Bait and Switch Evangelism

Act 2 of the November 6th installment of "This American Life" is worth a listen. Don't be put off by the title; it's af exposé on disingenuous evangelistic strategies. What's most intriguing is the opportunity to hear a self-conscious non-Christian perspective on sham evangelism.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Power of the Gospel and How We Deny It

Chris Anderson's piece, "Is God Still Working?", published in the OBF Visitor, is worth a read. He argues that we functionally doubt the gospel in two ways: 1) supplementing or replacing it, and 2) expecting no conversions. I think he's exactly right, and I want to propose a third way we deny it.

A few years ago a Christian leader told me that he doubted whether teenagers could ever really love God, so we need to control their behavior until they're old enough for God to work in their hearts.

I believe that doctrine emasculates God and guts the gospel.

When we doubt that God will inflame the hearts of his people–whether teenagers, single adults or retirees—with a growing desire to exalt the name of Jesus Christ and to live lives of holiness; when we say God said things that God never said; when we teach as doctrine the commandments of men; when we create an atmosphere in which the doctrine of justification is marginalized—displaced by a culture of hedges around the law; when we do all those things, we've compromised the biblical gospel just as surely as if we flirted with ecumenism.