The Bible, Biblicism, and Lutheran Perspectives
Among the many issues that I, personally, have been wrestling with since seminary days, and that our church body has been struggling with since, well, those seminary days some forty years ago, is the nature, authority, and function of the Scriptures. I have found it puzzling and troubling that, aside from Prof Jim Voelz’ What Does This Mean?, no serious work on the Scriptures and their use has appeared among us in the last thirty years. Is it because we’ve solved all the problems? Hardly.
Some of my recent reading has focused on these questions, and I came across the following definition of, or rather, list of characteristics of, a “biblicist” view of Scripture. I won’t yet disclose the author or work (and try to resist the temptation to google this stuff). For now I’ll simply list this particular author’s ten “assumptions” of “biblicist” reading and invite (plead for) your comments. Hopefully, this is a safe environment where you can comment without fear of The Man. For what it is worth, I find at least something problematic (if not flat wrong) in every one of these ten items. I’m simply asking what you all think on — and post your thoughts on — the assumptions listed. Are they helpful? Misleading? Misguided? Perfect?
1) Divine Writing: The Bible, down to the details of its words, consists of and is identical with God’s very own words written inerrantly in human language.
2) Total Representation: The Bible represents the totality of God’s communication to and will for humanity, both in containing all that God has to say to humans and in being the exclusive mode of God’s true communication.
3) Complete Coverage: The divine will about all of the issues relevant to Christian belief and life are contained in the Bible.
4) Democratic Perspicuity: Any reasonably intelligent person can read the Bible in his or her own language and correctly understand the plain meaning of the text.
5) Commonsense Hermeneutics: The best way to understand biblical texts is by reading them in their explicit, plain, most obvious, literal sense, as the author intended them at face value, which may or may not involve taking into account their literary, cultural, and historical contexts.
6) Solo [sic] Scriptura: The significance of any given biblical text can be understood without reliance on creeds, confessions, historical church traditions, or other forms of larger theological hermeneutical frameworks, such that theological formulations can be built up directly out of the Bible from scratch.
7) Internal Harmony: All related passages of the Bible on any given subject fit together almost like puzzle pieces into single, unified, internally consistent bodies of instruction about right and wrong beliefs and behaviors.
8) Universal Applicability: What the biblical authors taught God’s people at any point in history remains universally valid for all Christians at every other time, unless explicitly revoked by subsequent scriptural teaching.
9) Inductive Method: All matters of Christian belief and practice can be learned by sitting down with the Bible and piecing together through careful study the clear “biblical” truths that it teaches.
10) Handbook Model: The Bible teaches doctrine and morals with every affirmation that it makes, so that together those affirmations comprise something like a handbook or textbook for Christian belief and living, a compendium of divine and therefore inerrant teachings on a full array of subjects—including science, economics, health, politics, and romance.