An Over-Commitment to Scripture?

exalted bible

There is an interesting article over on the CT blog site. It concerns remarks made by J.P. Moreland at a recent gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society. He strongly voiced his objectiona to the  ‘bibliolatry’ among American Evangelicals:

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,” he said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.”

The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.”

….more provocative was Moreland’s argument about why evangelicals became over-committed to the Bible. Rather than developing a robust epistemology in response to secularism, he said, evangelicals reacted and retreated. Now evangelical theologians aren’t allowed to come to any new conclusions about the truths in Scripture, and they’re not allowed to find truths outside of Scripture. As a result, he said, they’re engaged in “private language games and increasingly detailed minutia” and “we’re not seeing work on broad cultural themes.”

These are just a few of his remarks and the rest of the article may be viewed at:

J.P.Morleand is the Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California.


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  1. #1 by ambrosia on November 20, 2007 - 4:54 am

    Truthiness is hard to swallow. English is a language more synthsized than others–a compendium of Western German, Latin, and Greek. Our syntax, rhetorical device, prose, and sounds are Greek. Our Grammar and rhetorical tradition are Latin. Didn’t make it up, its just how it is.

    Does it bother you that English isn’t Language Prime?

    Besides, English is not a language driven by grammar, as is Greek. English is driven by meaning, context, word order, interpretation–in other words English is very Macro in its meaning and usage (which is why people like GWB use such vague generalities and people just nod their heads and flip their channels).

    I have many presuppositions, but I prefer them served on a platter of rationality with logic (Kant’s logic) for dessert.

    Van Til is a presuppositionalist, as is Francis Schaeffer. C. S. Lewis is a evidentialist.
    Both schools use evidence–but the evidentialist is more willing to synthesize new information. Geisler is a combinationalist.

    I stand firmly non-committed to the evidentialists–presuppositionalists (like Marvin Rosenthal) argue with too many things taken for granted.

    I used to adhere, outwardly, to many things. Then I took a course “Moral Theories in the History of Ethics” in which I read about 60 works by 40 authors. After this, I began a MS in writing. Much of the work in composition theory has been from a postmodern and constructionalist point of view (talk about presuppositions). My world view–in which I was intellectually dishonest–became unglued.

    As the quake settles, I still believe in God, and Christ, and the historic Christian doctrines, to a degree. I love Christmas, although the holiday is depressing because of our family situation. I find deep existential wonder in songs like “Angels We have Heard on High (which proports to be the oldest Xmas Carol on record–I shake with wonder at it all) I also shiver with Joy to the World and its restorative/millenial theme.

    Easter–gotta believe in the resurrection.

    On other stuff, creation, end times, time (illusory as it is) frames, I remain joyously non-committed. I can live with this much better than pretending I’m a fundi.

    OOh Chris, is this what you mean?

    I prefer the unsolicited sarcasm.
    Ambrosia signing off.

  2. #2 by ambrosia on November 20, 2007 - 4:57 am

    Oh! Silly me. I meant booby-hatch cooks who work at short schools.

  3. #3 by Christian on November 20, 2007 - 7:38 am

    “I used to stand for defending the Bible until I met Chris who convinced me to become honest on the issue.”

    I doubt if I had much to say that influenced you, Bruce. 🙂 If anything it is the other way around. But a little bit more explanation might be in order here.

    I take you to mean (based mostly on our private discussions) that you no longer hold the Bible to be the sole source of revelation, that certain strongly held Biblical interpretations are often taken as God’s personal declaration (even though many other Christians may disagree with these) and that a rigid ‘defense’ of these interpretations might possibly obscure the Gospel of Jesus.


  4. #4 by ambrosia on November 20, 2007 - 5:58 pm

    Hmm. Let’s say that it depends on the type and use of revelation. Let’s say that the Bible is the best source of revelation about faith–but Plato is a good source of revelation on self-knowledge (just a hypothetical). Or maybe there is a better term for writings like Plato or others–not revelation, but another kind of wisdom, inspired or otherwise.

  5. #5 by Christian on November 20, 2007 - 6:03 pm

    Makes sense.

    In the West, don’t we often interpret things based upon our prior revelatory experience, even though we are often unaware of it? I mean, let’s say our training has been Platonic as opposed to Aristotlian (?) – wouldn’t we tend to interpret things (such as the Bible) in that style, perhaps leading ourselves to different conclusions than someone with another foundation?

    Does this make sense?

  6. #6 by ambrosia on November 20, 2007 - 6:45 pm

    Hmm. I believe most of our training is Aristotilian–at least in language and English (which is Aristotilian in an extreme, from Kindergarten we learn Aristotilian sentence structure, etc.) Our basic scientific methods are also very Aristotilian (or from whomever Aristotle got his ideas) obeservation/inference/conclusion in a context that is understood in a cultural sense.

    Aristotle has a strong influence in the NT, especially the Fruit of the Spirit and the concept of moderation (the Golden Mean). To say it is not is to deny the 800 lb gorilla.

    Platonism? Calvinism is highly Platonic, as is Augustine.

    I’ll have to think on this one.

  7. #7 by ambrosia on November 20, 2007 - 11:19 pm

    Jason–I recommend a cold shower, because you need to chill.

    “Time is an illusion” is from Kant.

    Framing of a debate is a way people answer to their advantage through their own arguments–sort of like you being so nasty to thos who believe Jesus’ death appeased the wrath of God, and through faith in Christ, one inherits eternal life.

    Who can Jesus save? Anyone lighter than a rock too big for God to move.

    J–you really ought to read The Rhetoric of Religion by Kenneth Burke. Maybe then all of your answers will be questioned.

    JJ, Listen, you show a little trope you badself, antimetabole “strongly you feel about not feeling strongly about things?” Pretty good for a neophyte.

    Gotta blast. I’ve real stuff to do.

    Yo C. Sorry I missed you at YIT maybe next time like in about a month if the snow ain’t too deep.

    Oh J can you see? I’m talking rhetoric–study the stuff–heavens to Murgatroid, don’t be such a futz. The retors define their terms, that is what I mean

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