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My Evangelical Response to Historical Criticism, Cherry Picking and Verse Lifting

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[todaysdate]

By Eric Blauer

Scholarly passioned people don’t have to abandon the Bible as Scripture or toss it into the irrelevant, untrustworthy pile of mere literature. The liberal handling of the Bible is the root of a host of developing alternative views of morality, theology and spirituality that us conservatives claim undermine confidence and faith in the Bible as Scripture.

Since I was recently singled out as a “cherry picker and verse lifter” on SpokaneFAVS, I figured I needed to respond to the charges. I’ll keep my defense fairly short, below is an article that I think pinpoints the central issue between liberal and conservative bible scholars. The unwillingness to believe in the supernatural requires liberals to produce alternative views that explain away the spiritual with the natural. This is at the root of the multiple lines of authors, dates, Y(j) E, etc. The challenge against the authority of the Bible is at the center of almost all my engagements on this site.

The defense of the Bible as God’s word is under attack from every angle today. Authority in every sphere is continually mocked, undermined and challenged from the classroom, to the pulpit, to the living room. If the Bible can be dethroned from its place of authority in our cultural mind, it removes the central compass for truth, opening up the way for what the prophets called “lawlessness.” On all fronts we still hear that Edenic second guess that echoes throughout human history with the serpentine challenge of: “Did God really Say…?”

I am not opposed to good or challenging scholarship, but I do oppose scholarship that’s premise is unbelief that encourage further ungodliness and idolatry. These old Bible words simply describe when people enshrine themselves as God. This temptation is at the primordial root of all rebellion, the desire to be God, vs the gift of sanctification which enables us to become more like God through grace, community, word and spirit.

At the end of this short paper I reference, is a bibliography of evangelical scholar’s works if someone desires to read deeper into the conservative position. Here are are a few important quotes from the paper:

  • “Attempts to date the synoptic Gospel’s after 70 are based on the a priori denial of predictive prophecy (i.e. the predictions of the fall of the temple must have been written after the fact).
  • “Liberal scholars assume that the Bible is merely another piece of human literature that is the product of the evolution of religious thought and that this idea is the product of Hegelian (ie the rational alone is real) views of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis.”
    -Archer, A survey of Old Testament Introduction
  • “The possibility of Scripture being inspired and infallible is rejected a priori, and as Archer notes “even to suggest an investigation of these evidences is absolutely unthinkable in the minds of the liberal establishment. “

Young makes a similar point when he states that everyone who studies the Bible is influenced by foundational presuppositions which determine the in result of the research.

While higher-critical scholars do not think of themselves as being biased, Young points out that their conclusions are affected by Darwinistic and non-theistic presuppositions which a priori rule out the possibility of the Bible being the word of God.” (A Brief Survey of Contemporary Evangelical Responses to Historical Criticism of the Bible)

The Apostle Paul warned a young pastor named Timothy about the challenges and dangers connected to learning, teaching and passing on the apostolic faith, we’d do well to heed:

1 Timothy 3:10-17
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

I stand firmly on the “sacred writings” and the historical examples of those men and women who lived lives worthy of emulating. I also believe they were used by God to write to us words breathed upon by God that can trusted as scripture be they the cherries or the pie.

I encourage you to read, meditate, sing, write, pray and build your faith on and in Jesus, the Christ, who is the Word of God and whom the sacred writings proclaim and point us to in faith.

About Eric Blauer

I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.

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8 comments

  1. Good article, Eric. You often come to different conclusions than I do, and I this is definitely one of those cases, but I can’t question the seriousness or integrity with which you approach those questions. It’s food for thought, and I think you’re absolutely correct that the heart of the question is how we handle that conflict between scripture and what we think we know about the world.

  2. Interesting! Clarify first must I, accused you were not by me. My comment merely noted a POSSIBILITY of (not transgression of) inappropriate context.

    If you don’t mind my asking, Eric, how is it you so easily classify human beings into “liberal” and “conservative” camps? What exactly is YOUR litmus test for the dividing line?

    Do “liberals” equate to “evil people” or “impostors” as mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:10-17?
    While I am NOT accusing you of such, I can EASILY see how one might interpret your choosing this verse as affirming solidarity with peers in much the same way ancient accusers quoted verse to disassociate themselves from Jesus. Please hear I intend no hidden message between words, Eric. (Well, maybe the Yoda accent, but you asked for that.) Simply, I question what appears as need to distinguish yourself among people. For me, there is a major difference between distinguishing beliefs and distinguishing people.

    • Riff,
      Using titles and categories is often necessary when trying clarify or pinpoint people who present positions that originate from various groups, ideologies or traditions. I know that it can be too vague today for many people, even myself at times, but it’s often needed to get out of the bush.

      Ultimately, I think we all have to submit to 2 Timothy 2:19 as the true litmus test:

      “But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.”

      In admitting that, we still have to engage the hard work of the rest of the passage:

      14 Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.

      15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

      16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 17 This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus. 18 They have left the path of truth, claiming that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred; in this way, they have turned some people away from the faith.”

      So we have a responsibility to call out “Hymenaeus and Philetus” in an era when truth is relative, there are no bad people or wrong beliefs just misunderstood potential friends, and everything is healthy to eat in the proverbial garden, never anything you can’t touch, no “cancer” etc.

      My use of the verses you referenced isn’t to name my debaters or detractors, but to acknowledge the biblical boundaries.

      • Hard work, indeed. To correctly explain the word of truth AND avoid worthless, foolish talk is a very tall order to take to heart.

        The WORD of truth will always have a relativity to it’s nature. This is why there are so many translations of the Bible.

        The Truth of which the Bible reads is never changing.

        There truly are no bad people, however, there most definitely are misguided beliefs.

        As always, there is poison in the garden.

        The greatest poison affecting America today is the illusion of an absolute liberal/conservative divide between good and evil. If we fight THIS illusion headon via more right actions and fewer self righteous words, we CAN be shaken from deep slumber.

        “Using titles and categories is often necessary when trying clarify or pinpoint people who present positions that originate from various groups, ideologies or traditions.”

        I seriously question this statement and sincerely ask you to consider if a different approach is not possible before defaulting to vague generality. The saving grace in Truth is its precision. If we are to proclaim our use of language rises to Truth’s absolute level, great care indeed we must take.

        Thanks, Eric 🙂

    • More important does it collapse American Political rhetoric of Liberal/conservative into a theological Conservative (literal)/Liberal (historical criticism) when the Classical orthodox doctrine differs from both. As Pope Francis reminds us that the Free Market Idolatry (mammon worshiping) that dominates American Political Conservative movement stands in opposition to traditional Christian doctrines. I wonder how I and the many faithful like me are categorized? We uphold the classical Creeds and the authority of the Bible but reject political philosophies that bow to the Ayn Rands that fuels the Tea Party movement? We are a small minority here in the US, but dominate the numbers of the faithful worldwide and historically.

  3. LAWLESSNESS as the prophets so describe it reflect exactly what the VAST majority of Professing Christians SUPPORT & thereforeASK yourself call EVIL GOOD, they castigate those who would side with God pitting scripture against itself to maintain their man made satanic influenced codex.

    Ask yourself what the new covenant is. What does the bible declare. What are it’s elements?

  4. Very good article, Eric. My have three points I want to make, out of many thoughts you stir up in me. First, I do not think liberal Christian scholarship is the root of the wrongs and dangers you point out. Not is religion, as some would say. There is a more basic problem in our culture that effects us all, and it can strike liberal and conservative interpretations. It is the fear and greed based thinking that I see across the board. While some liberals, whomever that term may designate, fall prey to this evil, many don’t. Same for conservatives.
    That is why I think we need each other to keep us honest and respectful. Your comments help me to grow intellectually and spiritually, even though I disagree with much of what you say. As much as I am chaffed by your approach and ideas, I value your writings.
    The third thing is that I never did nor would say you “lifted” Bible quotes. That term, as opposed to “cherry picking” implied a dishonest attempt to steal something. You are not dishonest, so I would not choose to use metaphors that suggest that you are. Please, quote me correctly. You did enclose the phrase in quotation marks, attributing to me something I did not say. That is a no no.
    You do a similar thing when you characterize an approach with negative and pejorative metaphors that are gross descriptions of very subtle positions. We all can make the mistake of calling bad names at those things we dislike and using glorious terms for those we like. That is usually not productive and can be counter productive, glossing over and dismissing ideas without noticing their worthy points. Please be careful, and take a look at the metaphor you use. Does it really say what you want. or does it say too much, most very false or inappropriate. That is why I would not be happy with myself if I had said you lifted ideas.

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