Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Premier Christianity (January 2015) compares and contrasts two views of Scripture: Evangelical and progressive Evangelical. The former view is articulated by Andrew Wilson. The latter view is espoused by Brian McLaren.
Christianity is all about Jesus. As Christians, we always want our lives, our words and our beliefs to line up with what Jesus said and did. So when it comes to forming a view of scripture, the best place to start is not with contemporary culture, modernist foundations or the postmodern rejection of authority (although we have to think these things through eventually). The best place to start is with Jesus’ view of scripture.
Progressive Evangelicals view the options of understanding Scripture in the following manner:
Post-evangelicals often present the options as (1) an infallible Bible and an infallible Church, or (2) a correctable Bible and a correctable Church. But if we were to present these options to Jesus or Paul or Moses – or Gregory, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Wesley, Spurgeon and the rest – I suspect they would splutter in astonishment and tell us about option (3): an infallible Bible, and a correctable Church. That, surely, is the way to preserve divine authority and human humility; a word from God that never fails, and people that frequently do.
In contrast to these options, the best way to understand the Scriptures is to follow Jesus’ view of Scripture.
Jesus, as always, is at the centre of Christianity. So if we are confused about something – like how we should view the Bible in a generation that dislikes authority, for instance – we can turn to him. My hope is to describe a Jesus-based theology of scripture, exploring its authority, inspiration, coherence, canon, clarity and even its dangers. But if all that sounds complex, simply open your Bible.
Ken Kantzer used to say that as Christians, our view of the Scriptures ought to be Jesus’ view of the Scriptures. And our submission to Jesus Christ as Lord is evidenced in our understanding of and submission to the Scriptures.
But in the postmodern era, claims of inerrancy and infallibility are a liability. In the aftermath of colonialism, environmental exploitation, the Holocaust, slavery, apartheid and other exploits of the last few centuries, we have seen where excessive confidence leads.
Conservative Protestants and Catholics mistakenly double down on infallibility or inerrancy – whether of the Bible or the Pope – because they fear that if they abandon absolute confidence they will be left with no confidence at all.
Meanwhile, many of us are exploring another path. We seek not absolute and incorrigible confidence, but a proper confidence born out of being teachable, and a hunger and thirst for justice and truth. This confidence is found in the Bible, not read as an inerrant or errant text, but as a powerful narrative of learning and growth. We want something greater than infallibility; we want corrigibility, something that is able to be corrected.
It is important that you catch the view of the progressive Evangelical: “We want something greater than infallibility; we want corrigibility, something that is able to be corrected.” At the end of the day, this is the old liberal view of the Bible dressed in new, contemporary garb, and this time worn by those claiming to be Evangelical.
From the beginning, God and His Word are absolute and ultimate. One’s response to these truths are a watershed matter, which makes all the difference.