What is controversial, in addition to the title of his paper, is what he says at the beginning of the second paragraph:
Today, I am more convinced of inerrancy than at any time in my Christian life, but the charge of bibliolatry, or at least a near, if not kissing cousin, is one I fear is hard to rebut. To be more specific, in the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ. And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often, ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.
How can one be “over-committed” to the Word of God? It seems like a really poor choice of words, until you remember this is a wordsmith who crafts language carefully. Professionals don’t make sloppy errors—repeatedly.
He’s saying exactly what he means to say.
When he says “Evangelicals are over-committed to the Bible” he is intentionally not qualifying this with “some.” He means all. He’s not saying “some Evangelicals,” “Reformed theologians,” or “cessationists” (those who deny most spiritual gifts are for today). He means all Evangelicals.
When he says “over-committed,” he’s choosing not to say “under-committed,” “wrongly committed,” or “improperly balanced.” No. He’s a pro. He means exactly what he says, and says exactly what he means.
Why this attack on Evangelicals? What’s his real agenda? I don’t know, but I’ll bet it has something to do with his recent interest in signs, wonders, prophecies, words of knowledge, demonic activity, exorcisms, divine healings, miracles and people rising from the dead.
I’m open to the gifts, so I’m not opposed to these things.
But, I do wonder if he would now include Pentecostals and Charismatics in the set of “Evangelicals that are over-committed to the Bible.” Perhaps not. This must be very uncomfortable for the Biola community as they begin to celebrate their centennial next year. After 100 years of solid commitment to the Bible and resisting the encroachment of liberal theology, they now have perhaps their most visible professor giving a paper at ETS on Evangelical over-commitment to the Bible.
Sad. But, it’s not Biola that has changed.
On November 2, the new Biola President Barry Corey stated in his inauguration speech (here):
As we look at the cornerstone of this university with words that have weathered time, our commitment to the authority of God’s Word has held us firm, and this conviction must remain at the core of Biola’s vision to be an exemplary Christian university.
The documents read from 1913, “It should … be understood that these buildings are not to be a monument to any man nor to any set of men, but are to forever stand solely for the promulgation of the eternal truths of God’s Holy Word.”
If we get wobbly on the doctrine of Scripture, core underpinnings get knocked loose, and loosened convictions on biblical truth will be the early steps toward institutional drift.
Every kind of heterodoxy starts with unfaithfulness on the subject of Scripture and in a mischievous hermeneutic of the Bible.
I applaud the role of the Talbot School of Theology in its careful work of taking biblical fidelity seriously in our doctrinal statements and in the our faculty searches.
What do you do with a professor who directly challenges the bedrock convictions of the institution within which he serves?
Pray for Biola.
I think a lot of this has to do with the Word-Spirit tension all Christians since the book of Acts have struggled to keep in balance. Both the head and the heart should be fully integrated in a mature disciple of Jesus—but, one can err either way. Imagine Jesus showing up in the midst of a small group. If the group is too far in their “heads,” they might say, “Jesus, don’t bother us right now, we’re studying the Greek word for ‘worship.’” And they’d go right on worshipping the word rather than its Author. If the group was too far in their “hearts,” they might say, “Jesus, don’t bother us right now, we’re waiting for the Holy Spirit to anoint us.” And they’d go right on worshipping the gifts rather than the Giver of the gifts.
Christians have always struggled to properly balance Word and Spirit. But a sine qua non for Protestants is their commitment to Sola Scriptura—nothing should be elevated to the authority of Scripture—not tradition (contra Catholics), not reason (contra Unitarians) and certainly not religious experience (contra Mormons and many others). All things need to be tested against the standard of Scripture.
We’ll be hearing more from Moreland on all this, no doubt. But for now, I see the same big red flags that other Christian bloggers, including Ted Olsen have expressed—in spite of Moreland’s rebuttal here.
I just can’t imagine the Holy Spirit guiding a believer to be less committed to the Bible.