Going Beyond Scripture?

In a recent conversation, an RE in our church noted that, in our circles, the burden of proof in a debate falls on the side that argues what is perceived to be a more “liberal” position. The so-called “conservative” position is the default and does not always face the same scrutiny.

In my upbringing in conservative evangelicalism of different varieties,[1] I have found this observation to be true. There are social sanctions for suggesting or taking a position that is perceived as more liberal according to the traditions and norms of that community—and those who take a more conservative position are praised as “defenders of the faith” who “hold the line.” Of course, the converse is also true of various liberal circles: liberals compete with one another to see who can present the most “tolerant” or “liberating” expression of religion, or who can come up with the edgiest challenge to traditional dogma. Those who postulate along more conservative lines—or even those whose theological agenda, while still liberal, is not concerned with the particular strain of “liberation theology” found in those dominant liberal circles—may be belittled or ostracized.[2]

I was raised in a Christian context that would be identified “conservative,” “evangelical,” and “inerrantist.” As an adult, I embrace all these designations, and would add “Reformed”—meaning that I believe that the tradition and churches stemming from John Calvin to be the most faithful expression of biblical truth.

Yet I am concerned about the societal and social pressures faced by American evangelicalism, and particularly Reformed evangelicalism. Christians feel farther and farther out-of-step with American society as norms and values drift away from traditional Christian worldview and practice. Societal pressure then creates a spectrum of responses within our small social community of evangelicals—a spectrum between the two extremes of utter capitulation and staunch resistance.

I do not wish to rehash the debate on differing views of the relationship between Christ and culture. I will say that a traditionally Reformed framework has seemed to me to be the best starting point from which to debate particular issues in the area of the Christ/culture relationship. Reformed theology has a rich heritage wrestling with issues of epistemology and faith, church and state, the roles of Christians in society.

I am conservative. I am Reformed. I embrace wholeheartedly the notion that Scripture is revelation from God, inerrant and authoritative on all matters to which it speaks.

It is dangerous to construe Scripture as affirming less than what it actually does affirm. Yet it is also dangerous—and perhaps a more common danger in our circles than in some others—to construe Scripture as affirming more than what it does.


[1] The son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Messianic Jewish father, I was raised from my earliest memory in dispensational Messianic Jewish congregations, Conservative Baptist churches, and a Christian & Missionary Alliance church. I became drawn to Reformed theology while attending a historically dispensational university (Cairn University—formerly Philadelphia Biblical University).

[2] My experience with more liberal forms of Christianity includes much of my graduate study in Old Testament, active participation in the Society of Biblical Literature, and even some unique opportunities to speak as an evangelical in liberal contexts (including the bastion of liberal theology, Union Theological Seminary in New York).

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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One Response to Going Beyond Scripture?

  1. Pingback: Best of 2013 | think hard, think well

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