In his book by this title, Carlos R. Blovell argues that institutional commitments to a doctrine of biblical inerrancy like that found in the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society are not conducive to the spiritual formation of younger evangelicals. He notes,
“It has been my experience that younger evangelicals feel the tension most when they are left with an authoritative Bible whose authority has been practically all but voided by philosophical and exegetical details that regularly keep popping up. What ends up being authoritative in the end is the evangelical tradition and this tradition has to be taken on faith to the effect that it best represents what is ‘in’ the Bible.”
As younger evangelicals face the demand that inerrancy is the doctrine on which evangelicalism, or, more personally, their true faith, stands or falls, along with the multitude of qualifications, challenges and even incoherencies in that doctrine, Blovell sees the tension leading them away from the Christian faith altogether. If inerrancy is strictly essential to real Christianity, and inerrancy falls apart under what they take to be rigorous examination, then they are left with no choice but to leave.
Blovell wishes to remain both a Christian and an evangelical. He challenges the current generation of evangelical teachers to discover ways to have a high view of the Bible and its authority that are (a) truer to Scripture, (b) truer to the history of the way Scripture has been used by the faithful through out the ages, and (c) sensitive to the spiritual needs of their students. While he says that he wishes to contribute to such an account in the future, this book serves to identify the need rather than to offer the right way forward.
Evangelicals, especially those in positions of authority in evangelical institutions, are faced with the constant challenge of “going liberal,” or appearing to “go liberal.” Since maintaining the centrality of inerrancy is perceived as the main bulwark against going liberal, I’m not optimistic that many will listen to Blovell any longer than it takes to write him out of evangelicalism. One might think that Wesleyan evangelicals, given the fact of less of an interest in inerrancy in their own tradition might be able to take this step. Since Wesleyans are already suspect in an era when evangelicalism is primarily defined by Calvinists, it will likely be hard for them to take this step, however.
Interesting stuff. I remember the helpfulness of my NT profs at Asbury when I was navigating the tensions of having one foot in mainline Protestantism and one foot in evangelicalism, not to mention carrying the tag, “younger,” with regard to both.
I’m so glad Asbury doesn’t use the word “inerrant” in any of its materials.
We use the words “inspired, eternal, and true” at this church.
I love Blovell’s notion that a high view of Scripture (not inerrancy) is truer to the way
Scripture treats itself. How else do you make sense of the different perspectives of
Proverbs and Ecclesiastes? Goldingay’s Theological Diversity and the Authority of the
Old Testament is a brilliant analysis of the issue.
What was Fuller like in this regard? What did you study there?
My main areas were philosophy and history. I don’t remember doing anything with the doctrine of inerrancy. My impression of the faculty was that they had a high view of scripture though they didn’t feel the need to endlessly theorize about it and apologize for it.
Sunday’s HOUSTON CHRONICLE ZEST magazine had a review of a book, 318 A.D., about the strapping together of church and state that happened gradually around that time and which really hobbled the spirituality of the believers.
one change in public discussion I am happy to see is represented by the phrase ” maybe that’s not the right question to be asking?” Specifically, I think of a young woman concerned because those unbelievers are going to hell because they won’t say “Jesus is Lord.” But, what of the question : are we Christians representing Christ and His claims and life sufficiently? I think of John 13. (I know that is a place Jesus put some succinct guidelines. Maundy Thursday. I think I better go read it again. OK i’m going to go read and do.)
I meant A.D.381:HERETICS, PAGANS AND THE DAWN OF THE MONOTHEISTIC STATE by Charles Freeman. Overlook Press.