This post will be sort of a first review of the book entitled The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith. I say sort of because I will primarily be discussing something that the book brought to mind and not the book itself. The book is primarily about how many evangelicals have put the Bible into an impossible position by their very narrow interpretations. It goes into quite a bit of detail to back up this proposition. While the subject of the book is captivating the book is somewhat dry and full of biblical terms not commonly known by laymen. I will struggle through the book to glean the info it provides but it will not be particularly enjoyable. With this brief introduction out of the way let’s get on to the topic at hand.
Here is a quote from the book to start this discussion:
If what I have said in the book so far is true, one would think that biblicists would be deeply troubled by interpretive pluralism and the implications it has for the biblicists theory of scripture, revelation, and truth. But for the most part they are not…..One possibility concerns the structure of social networks among biblicists. We know sociologically that the principle of “homophily” (love for and attraction to what is similar to oneself) is one of the strongest forces in social life. As a result biblicists (and many other Christians) who interpret the Bible in the same way have a very strong tendency to cluster together into homogeneous social networks…
Long story short those who believe in a very narrow view of the Bible never study anything outside of that belief. So, if the only thing you expose yourself to is your narrow view of something it is very difficult to see the consequences of your actions or to effect any change in your belief system. During some discussion with my “literal and inerrant” friend this topic came up occasionally. I had asked him a number of times if he had read this or that book and he always said he didn’t. Once I gave him a copy of a book that was in no way controversial as far as theology was concerned. It concentrated totally on God’s love for us and our fellow-man. About two weeks later I asked him if he had read the book and he said that he skimmed it and found too much that he didn’t agree with to read anymore. I was totally shocked by his comment! The book was about God’s love and that was it.
This and other incidents like it showed me that my “literal and inerrant” friend read very narrowly when it came to religious matters. It saddens me that those who hold very narrow views of God and scripture will make no attempt to understand those who view things differently. I can only imagine that they might believe that if they do venture outside their current belief system they may come to doubt some of the things they hold so dearly.
The way to enlightenment in almost any area of life it to study the different possibilities and then come to a knowledgeable and nuanced conclusion. By locking out that possibility the “literal and inerrant” group are insuring their eventual demise and given the current church membership statistics that demise seems to be approaching more quickly these days.