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Finished The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith (2/5 for presentation, 4/5 for the main point).

There is a fine balance between supporting your point and belaboring it. In this book, Smith makes a very important case against what he calls biblicism, but nearly everything you need to get the core point can be found in the introduction and the conclusion. The rest of the book expands the points made there, but not in a way that enlightens. But the core insight of the book is one of those valuable "ah hah!" ideas that is worth pondering for anyone who cares about how the Bible is read[1].

Rather than try to summarize the book, I'll link to a couple other reviews[2][3]. This quote from [3] nicely summarizes Smith's key point:

"What is biblicism? Concisely, it is a theory (often unstated) about the nature, purpose, and function of the bible. Its ruling idea is that the meaning of the bible is clear and transparent to open-minded readers. The implication of this idea is that when people sit down to read the bible a broad consensus can be reached about the will of God for any number of issues or topics, from gender roles to the plan of salvation to social ethics to the end times to church organization.

"The first part of Smith's book is engaged in blowing up this idea. Empirically speaking, the bible does not produce consensus. Empirically speaking, what we find, to use Smith's phrase, is 'pervasive interpretive pluralism.' Even among biblicists themselves consensus cannot be reached. For example, Smith points us to books like the Four Views series from InterVarsity Press. Surf over to that link and look at the titles of the series. Four (and sometimes five!) views on just about every topic in Christianity. What does that say when conservative evangelicals, who hold that the bible is both clear and authoritative, can't agree?

"Thus, Smith concludes that biblicism is a wrongheaded way of approaching the bible. Biblicism doesn't deliver on what it promises: consensus and clarity about 'the will of God.'"

[1] I can hear you saying, "Wait Erika, aren't you an atheist?" Yes I am, but I still care about how the Bible is read. First, how believers read the Bible impacts society and at large. Second, it's hard not to be interested in something when you spent a year intimately engaged with it (
[2] see the rest of the series about that book on Rachel's blog


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Erika RS

May 2012

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