So I am reading God’s Word in Human Words by Kenton Sparks as it was mentioned by @Christy in another thread. I am hoping it doesn’t revert to what I consider “typical evangelical apologetics” when it comes to Biblical criticism but I am a few sections in and so far it is showing a lot of promise. He states there is a growing movement within evangelical circles in the direction of accommodation.
The introduction starts poignantly with the Church’s well known reticence to let go of geocentric ideology. We all know the story of Galileo who was convicted of heresy, sentenced to imprisonment and remained under house arrest until he died. This is a classic example where the external (in this case scientific) evidence was clearly pointing in one direction but the Church refused to admit it, instead relying on its interpretation of the Bible.
The issue from the perspective of Biblical literalists in a pre-scientific time is understandable. The earth itself does not appear to move. Not only this, but what they perceived as the inerrant and infallible word of God also taught this as you can see in 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1, 96:10, 104:5 and Isaiah 45:18. As these verses show us, the earth was deemed fixed and immovable. Even in Joshua we see phenomenological language where the sun stood still. In actuality, we know it is the earth’s rotation that causes a daily sunrise and sunset. The sun does move. Well, it spirals around the milky way galaxy but this has nothing to do with the sun’s appearance in the sky for we, along with the rest of the solar system, move with the sun. So strongly was it thought the Bible and common sense teaches this that John Calvin, as he mocked the absurdity of their view, could claim that people disputing the geocentric view of things had the spirit of bitterness, were deranged, had a monstrous nature, they argue out of pure malice and were possessed by the devil.
Starting with Galileo sets up Sparks segue into the issue of contemporary Biblical criticism, where many in the evangelical community strongly resist some of its most basic claims. He points out six commonly known points of interest where conservative interpretation and biblical criticism clash.
1) The Pentateuch: Conservatives belive Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Pentateuch well over 3,000 years ago and it presents accurate historical accurate narratives. Scholars believe it containes had multiple authors, was written hundreds of years after Moses is reputed to have lived, has myths, legends and a host of traditional stories.
2) Authorship of Isaiah: Conservative believe Isaiah was written in the 8th century by Isaiah whereas scholars contend it was written by several authors (prophets) over a few hundred years.
3) Authorship of Daniel: Conservatives attribute the book to Daniel (6th century BC) whereas scholars believe it to be pseudonymous, written by an unknown author(s) in the 2nd century BC.
4) The Four Gospels: Conservatives believe all four gospels are historical and their details compatible. Scholars think some of the material is not historical and they are four different portraits of Jesus that are not compatible in all details.
5) Pastoral Epistles: Conservatives believe Paul wrote all the NT epistles attributed to him, including Titus, and 1 &2 Timothy which collectively are known as the pastorals. Scholars believe they are pseudonymous works written in Paul’s name.
6) Revelation and the Parousia: Conservatives believe the second coming is set sometime in the future. Scholars believe it incorrectly predicts the second coming during the Roman period.
So my question is where do those of you subscribing to the accommodation of scripture sit on these 6 issues? Are they important or relevant? How far do you think accommodation actually goes? Are you just attributing it to pre-scientific and seemingly immoral comments in the Bible or the full monty? Do you consider any of these dealbreakers for inerrancy? What happens when accommodation enters the New Testament, the epistles and gospels? Personally, I think biblical scholars are correct on most if not all 6 of these points. A few I haven’t studied in enough detail to fully affirm or deny. I have yet to see fully where Sparks stands or how he fits inerrancy (if he does) but so far so good.
Sparks states that “historical criticism has often been a dangerous and destructive force in the life of the church” and fully affirms his evangelical nature as “committed fully to the Bible as God’s authoritative Word,” profoundly appreciates the evangelical commitment to inerrancy and declares for creedal Christianity. He wonders:
“If biblical criticism leads to false and destructive results, and if it is indeed as intellectually bankrupt as some theologians aver, then why have so many thoughtful believers entered university graduate programs with a vibrant devotion to God” only to emerge on the other side of their studies with a dead of failing faith, and with the firm conviction that historical criticism easy bests the traditional viewpoint? Do Christian graduate students easily succumb to the deceptive power of university professors? Are they really wayed to sacrifice their faith on the altar of academic respectability? Is hubris so endemic to academic inquiry that most graduate students – even Christian graduate students –arrogantly use critical scholarship to escape God’s claims on their lives? Perhaps. . . . Is it possible that the persuasive power of historical criticism rests especially in its correctness? Could it be that historical criticism—like the astronomy of Galileo—has been destructive not because it is false, but because the church has often misunderstood its implications?”
His overall goal for the work: “I would like to consider the possibility that historical criticism—in spite of its potential faults and negative import—might offer a relatively accurate portrait of Scripture that will be of theological value once the church correctly understands its insights.”