The Bible Made Impossible, by Christian Smith

Christian Smith makes an impressive contribution to the ongoing conversation regarding how we interpret the Scriptures. In part one of his book he defines and then exposes the inadequacies of Biblicism. In part two Smith presents what he believes would be a truly evangelical approach to biblical interpretation.

Smith thoroughly makes his case in part one. Only the most religiously intransigent and willfully blind would persistently cling to the notions of biblicism after reading this book. Doctrine apart from context is usually erroneous.

It is in part two of Smiths book that various objections to his book arise. It seems to me that the authors impeccable reasoning in part one was irrationally jettisoned in part two. While in part one Smith invites the reader to examine the claims of Biblicism from the wider perspective, such as in noting ‘the problem of pervasive pluralism’, in part two he dives blindly back into the Christian ‘bubble’ neglecting the overwhelming reality of Divine absence in the world at large and throughout time.

Though many Christians will both applaud and appreciate Smiths call for a Christo-centric reading of scripture, if we used the same reasoning offered in part one, in part two, we can’t help but find even this interpretive approach lacking. Smith seems to recognize that his clever arguments in part one inevitably lead to agnosticism, yet he attempts to undermine that legitimate conclusion in part two. He seems to want his cake and eat it too. Philosophical arguments aside, if we ‘faithfully’ assume, as we often do, that God exists and that Jesus is exactly who Christians say he is, then we fall back into the same pattern of thinking that Smith so eloquently dismissed in part one.

Here’s my point in brief. If, as Smith so clearly presents, Biblicism is impossible simply because pluralism is so pervasive, how can we settle for even a Christo-centric interpretation of scripture when the God who is love doesn’t lovingly intervene? It is refreshing to read the scripture through the lens of Jesus, yet his lens upon the world existed in our reality for less than three years, two thousand years ago! Wouldn’t the ‘pervasive’ absence of God’s tangible love within our world mitigate against any belief in God? Or, will Christians only discuss these issues within the bubble of belief rather than in the wholeness of reality?

Read this book. Decide for yourself. If you are unwaveringly committed to Christ, yet tired of Biblicism, you will be immeasurably blessed by this book. If you are post-Christian, you will resonate with part one, and probably scratch your head in part two.

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