“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

My good friend Don forwarded me this article in CNN’s Belief Blog section. Although I’m immediately dubious of almost anything that CNN says about religion they have, on occasion, surprised me. This is not one of those times. This is a perfect example of the so-called “higher criticism” that has infected theological study and, therefore, the church. Read for yourself.

My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions

One of the finest definitions of this method of biblical interpretation is found in John Rothra’s work, Critique of Higher Criticism. He defines this school of study as “a historical approach to scripture that investigates the “composition, date, and authenticity” of scripture in order to determine its “place in history.”  In other words, higher criticism looks beyond the text and into the historical setting surrounding its construction and development. This endeavor requires the critic to accept a presupposition of doubt, meaning he must acknowledge uncertainty exists regarding the precise origins of the present-day biblical text.”

Alarmingly, higher criticism, despite its unique ability to cloak itself in semantics that cover what disbelief lies underneath, is alive and well in many mainline seminaries and denominations, secular graduate schools of theology, and pulpits. I would be curious about your pastor’s response to, “What do you believe about JEDP or the Q Source?”Although my purpose here is not to deep-dive into the intricate arguments for and against higher criticism – as the amount of literature on this subject is absolutely massive – I would like to state 4 simple but critical issues surrounding this scholarly strategy as we see it in this CNN blog.

First, it is based upon dangerous presuppositions. Although every system of thought has them, higher criticism’s starting point is doubt, presuming that the Bible is inaccurate. And, quite often, they use these “unreliable texts” to prove that Scripture is unreliable. Using doubt as a platform for any faith (See the contradiction?) or study is almost certain to pre-determine that the object of your faith or study is false. The blatantly misguided statement of this article’s author – “First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it” – reflects this logic. This is patently false – there are many erudite biblical scholars who maintain the total veracity of the Scriptures. All men, including scholars, are biased in some way. Christianity and Scripture, however, is self-authenticating when we start with the idea that it is God’s Word and, therefore, reliable.

Second, we see as another subtle and insidious problem – the notion here is that the Bible contains truth but is not THE truth. This can be then said of virtually any book ever written (even some of mine would fit into that broad category). The Bible then is not the Word of God but God does speak His truth through it. But, then, so does the Koran, Shakespeare, Keats, and Hemingway. Scripture, in higher criticism, is nearly relegated to the same standard as all great human writings (to be fair, these scholars would probably claim the Bible does contain more of God’s truth than nearly all other writings).

Third, if my second point is true, then who determines what part of Scripture is true or false, relevant or irrelevant, correct or incorrect, applicable or not? The reader (or scholar). The final authority on what has God has really said or done is not objective but subjective. It is left to the interpreter or theologian to decide. Do we see the danger in this? We, then, become the god of what we believe, because we have made ourselves the final arbiter of what is truth. Not the Bible, but us. At that point what we believe is not Christianity but “Selfianity.” We, and what we decide to be true, have become our god, deciding for ourselves what is worth believing and how we should live. And, if you are like me, I don’t trust myself or my intellect that much.

Last, the basic premise of higher criticism is the rejection of anything supernatural (creation, miracles, physical resurrection, etc,). Those parts of Scripture must be inaccurate as such events aren’t “scientifically verifiable.” This is both false and causes the definition of God (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. etc.) to be invalid. And who would want to worship a God who has been stripped of His powerful attributes? Not me – because, at that point, He is no longer God.

I choose to believe Scripture of be God’s Word without error and the final source of truth and authority. This is a wonderful statement of what I believe and I pray what you believe as well – The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

So I will leave you with a quote from the Apostle Peter. He nails this issue dead on:

“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 19-21).

*Please note this is not a discussion about those who believe in the plenary inspiration and authority of Scripture having different interpretations of the Bible. Those who trust in the reliability of God’s Word are in consensus that fallen man cannot fully apprehend His truth and will often disagree. These differing opinions, however, are not an argument against the validity of Scripture but, in a real sense, affirms what it says about the transcendence and holiness of God and man’s sinful nature. No, this post is about those who think themselves to be so smart that they have concluded that the Bible, in its original text, is filled with unexplainable errors, myth, and legend and its primary value comes from them discerning what is true and false (i.e. what Jesus actually said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do).