His [Christian Smith’s] argument will look a bit like this: the problem is called biblicism (defined below).
1. He sees biblicism in evangelicalism (not all of it) and in most charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity.
2. Biblicism involves belief in the Bible’s exclusive authority, infallibility, perspicuity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability.
3. Liberalism is the corrosion of historic orthodoxy and is intellectually naive and susceptible to some reprehensible social and political expressions, but opposing liberalism — which Smith does — does not lead to or require biblicism. There are other alternatives.
4. What ultimately defeats biblicism is “pervasive interpretive pluralism.” The Bible says and teaches different things — if you listen to biblicists carefully — about most significant topics. It is, he argues, meaningless to talk about the inerrancy of the text if the interpretation of that text is up for grabs.
5. His goal is to become more evangelical, not less, in approach to Scripture.
6. Christian Smith, a notable Christian sociologist, has become a Roman Catholic, but he wrote this book before that move took place. He had these problems with evangelicalism before he became Catholic, but these problems are part of the reason he became Catholic.
The Bible is central to most evangelical thinking and this has led to biblicism.
What is biblicism? It is a belief that finds expression in this set of ten factors, some holding each factor while others hold most of them. It is characteristic — listen to this — he says of perhaps 100 million Christians! Here are the ten factors of biblicism:
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.
If we are to approach Christianity with integrity, we will have to admit that the Bible does not have support for many of the claims of Christianity and that many of the major doctrines arises from the interaction of Scripture and the Church (especially Creeds). Reading Karl Barth has helped me to appreciate the relation between the Word of God and God’s revelation. So are we really guilty of biblicism? Has the Bible became our God?
What do you think?