Tim Gombis ran a most interesting post at his blog this week, discussing a phenomenon he has observed when teaching the Bible to evangelical people in various settings. Gombis remarks that he has become puzzled, for he keeps hearing a particular comment from evangelicals when they learn something new from the Bible.
But then I heard another variation: “I’ve never heard this before. What you’re saying isn’t biblical.”
I asked for clarification. The student responded by saying, “well, I think there’s a verse somewhere that says something like . . . ,” proceeding to blend together three different passages with the chorus of a praise song.
I figured this sort of thing was just the arrogance of youth, but it began to happen regularly. Just about three weeks into every semester, a student would raise his or her hand and say, “I’ve never heard this stuff before.”
I began to respond by saying, “you’re welcome! You or your parents are paying me thousands of dollars to tell you things that you don’t know. This is what we call ‘education’ and it sounds like I’m doing my job.”
It began to dawn on me, however, that there was something about evangelical culture that was making these students assume that if something was unfamiliar, it was unbiblical.
What surprises and disappoints Tim Gombis is that evangelicals don’t seem to have the same thrill of discovery that he developed in studying the Bible. They are hesitant about the unfamiliar. He does say these folks from evangelical churches don’t seem to be challenging him about what he is teaching. Rather, they seem genuinely bewildered about why they don’t recognize what he is teaching as “biblical.”
Is this just an anecdotal observation from a single Bible teacher, or has Tim Gombis uncovered something potentially significant here, a crack in the foundation of “Bible-believing” evangelical church life? He thinks it may be significant – “I think this indicates that there’s something warped about how evangelicals regard the Bible.”
I will be following his next few posts to see how he follows up on this initial observation. In the meantime, I thought his comments provocative enough to encourage a good discussion here.
Is it possible that Tim Gombis on to something here?
CT ran a post about creation this week that made my heart sing. David Wilkinson encourages us to go beyond the constricted apologetic conflicts that have dominated the subject and move toward “recapturing the doctrine of Creation in its scriptural fullness.”
And so Wilkinson suggests, for example, that the Christian doctrine of Creation is never an abstract, academic concept. We must learn to celebrate creation as the Bible does — through a rich variety of literary and creative styles and expressions that burst forth with imaginative as well as theological depth. The author notes that these texts are also used for many different purposes in the pages of the Bible: ”to inspire worship, to encourage the weak, to call for holiness, and to offer reassurance in times of trouble.”
We must not forget this and reduce our considerations of this vast and complex theme to opinions and positions to be advanced in culture war debates. To do so is certainly not “biblical” — that is, it does not reflect the inspired witness of Scripture that promotes awe, wonder, and endless adoration of our Creator through exploring his endlessly fascinating creation.
David Wilkinson explores a number of other ways to recapture the fullness of the Bible’s teaching about creation, including keeping Christ at the center of our thinking about creation, and looking at creation through the lens of the new creation. In this brief article, he effectively communicates a variety of ways that we can faithfully apply the theology of creation. He commends the value of worship, study, scientific vocations, benevolent care for our environment, and, most of all, pursuing a faith relationship with the personal God who has breathed life into us, his creatures.
Finally, I recommend Matthew B. Redmond’s cautionary post on how certain evangelicals have greeted the new Pope with various forms of contempt. Matt’s incisive point is captured in this paragraph:
And then it landed on me this morning. The reason I was ill at ease about evangelicals making light of the papal process and then using Luther to defend it was this. Luther was taking aim at his own tradition. Not the tradition of his neighbor alone. Luther was not trying to start a new religion or denomination or sect. He was trying to reform the church already there. Luther was Roman Catholic, if you will. not Lutheran.
Therefore, Redmond suggests, if certain people want to re-fight the Reformation or be like Luther, they ought to take aim at their own traditions, not Roman Catholicism.
Here is what I think, you wanna be like Luther? Set your aim on all the silliness with evangelicalism. The legalism. The celebrity. The concerts disguised as worship. The worship disguised as concerts. The marketing ad nauseum. The legalism. The calls for radical living from pastors with iPads and iPhones who live in the suburbs with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Set your aim on the cover-up of sexual abuse. The legalism. Set your aim on a theology that questions everything and stands for nothing. The pastor as CEO. The pastor as rock star. The legalism.
You go, Matt. Kudos for calling out those who are sitting in their little neo-reformed bunkers and lobbing bombs at the Catholic Church and its new leader.
Frankly, I heard more wisdom in just a few lines of Pope Francis’s message at his Installation Mass than I’ve read in many pages of neo-reformed ranting. “Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives,” he said in his homily. “We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness.”
You tell me which is more Jesus-shaped.