A Provocative Book

Here is a provocative book being put out by Brazos Press later this fall (August). The Baker spring catalog has an excerpt:

I contend that the biblicism that characterizes the thinking and practice of much of American evangelicalism is not so much “wrong” as it is  impossible, even taken on its own terms. It simply does not work as proposed and cannot function in a coherent way.

In order for evangelical biblicism to appear to work, those who believe in it have to engage in various forms of textual selectivity, denial, and contortion—which actually end up violating biblicist intentions. Most of these are practiced covertly, not in any sneaky way, but simply as the learned, taken-for-granted, and therefore largely unintentional habits of a particular subcultural style of thinking and behaving. Contemporary Christians who want to be theologically orthodox, biblical, and evangelical (in the best sense of the word) can and must do better. But before anyone is motivated to do better, we must confront the real problems with the current, inadequate biblicist account.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that all American evangelicals are biblicists. Some are not. And some others mix biblicism with other forms of authority, such as personal “leadings of the Spirit.” Many simply assume a kind of background biblicism without giving it much systematic thought. Many academic and more thoughtful evangelicals also tend to be more selective and careful in the way they articulate their biblicism. Furthermore, while I am focused here on evangelicals in particular, nearly all American Protestant fundamentalists are also biblicists, as are many if not most charismatic and pentecostal Christians.

Though I’ll probably never read it, I find a slight satisfaction that the book has been written. I didn’t hear of “biblicism” until I came to West Michigan. I grew up in a conservative Baptist home and church, but the term biblicism was never used. When I did hear it, I was dumbfounded that people actually think that they live in a theological vacuum. Of course, this also gave me a reason to do what I’m doing: historical theology. History critiques our assumptions and confronts our short-sightedness. Without it, we deceive ourselves and those that we teach that we our exempt from space and time.


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