Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Idolatry of Evangelical Intellectualism

A few decades ago when I became a Christian, I found that I had some disagreements with many evangelical scholars. Most of them believed that things like tongues and divine healing and other spiritual gifts had ceased while I believed they were for today. I had discussions with brothers in Christ about these things and we often agreed to disagree. But one thing that we had in common was that we believed that the whole Bible was the Word of God whether or not we understood everything in it. I took great comfort knowing that evangelical scholars could generally be relied on to stand up for the Word.

Sadly, this no longer seems to be the case. Evangelical scholars and ministers today often deny the inerrancy of the scriptures. In other words, they think that the Bible contains errors and they even think that Jesus and Paul and other authors of the NT were in error, at least about facts, though not about doctrine. Additionally, we are assured by these scholars that they are still orthodox and believe in the inspiration of the scriptures. But this post is not exactly about inerrancy but about where some who do not believe in it are going.

I am concerned that without the inerrancy doctrine many Christians have slipped down that proverbial slippery slope. It started with saying that little facts of history may not be perfectly accurate and has led to some asserting that Jesus was wrong about certain facts of history and now has "progressed" (pun intended) to the point where some are saying that God did not command Joshua and Israel to commit "genocide" against the Canaanites. Where this all ends up I am afraid to speculate.

Recently, I got into an online discussion with someone regarding the historicity of Adam and Eve. They denied it and I challenged them with the words of Jesus and Paul. Paul clearly teaches that Adam was a real person in history. Jesus spoke of Abel, Adam's son, as a real person. They still denied it, insisting that Jesus and Paul were mistaken. First of all, it is arrogance to the highest degree to state that one knows more than Jesus about the Bible. Even when Jesus was in His kenotic, limited state here on earth, He knew more about the scriptures than these people will ever know.

As I dug deeper into this I found out that these scholars were using scientific hypotheses to re-interpret the Bible. They said that there could be not a historical Adam since science tells us that the human race could not have descended from one pair of humans. Therefore, the first chapters of Genesis (1-11) were not history but fiction. And they said that God does use fiction to teach us truth. Jesus taught with parables. Yes, I responded, but everyone knew that His parables were fiction; Genesis, all of it, was written as historical narrative. Jesus and Paul treated it as historical narrative. Nevertheless, they deny it.

Here is the real point I want to make: These scholars insisted that to treat the Bible as inerrant when they "knew" that it contains errors would be intellectually dishonest. Therefore, they could not assert something they did not really believe. I want to suggest that this is not admirable intellectual integrity. It is closer to idolatry, an idolatry of the mind. I must listen to my mind even when the Word of God says I am wrong. This is what bothers me the most in all this. Do we think so highly of our own thoughts that when we read the Word, we insist that it must be wrong?

If we think that the Word is wrong, we are wrong. We must adjust our thinking to line up with the Word. We might have to admit that there are some things that we do not understand, but we must lay aside our own thoughts and accept the Word on faith. Of course, we may not have complete understanding of the Word and our modern, scientific understanding is not as sure or complete as we may believe. If we find some "contradiction" with "established" science we may need to reexamine the scriptures to see if we have understood it correctly. And we also may have to reexamine the science and its assumptions before we simply throw out what is clearly taught in scripture (e.g., Adam was a real, historical person). This is what I did in rejecting the hypothesis of evolution. (I am not suggesting that one cannot believe in inerrancy and evolution at the same time. I am only telling my own story.)

Intellectual idolatry is exalting our own minds above the Word of God. It is the opposite of humility and honesty. We must be humble enough to realize that there are things that God says that we do not like and that we have trouble accepting. The problem is with us and not the Bible.

I have far more respect for the rigid fundamentalist who believes the Bible or, at least, believes what he thinks the Bible says despite the fact that he may be wrong than I do some scholar or other Christian whose "intellectual integrity" leads them to deny what the Word clearly says.

God help us.

By the way, I suggest that you all visit Billy Birch's blog. He is really on a hot streak with his posts right now. Don't miss any of them. The website is:

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