(Portions of this post draw on the material of “A Post-critical Ecclesiastical Case Study.”)
Dr. Jackson “declares that the ‘defective’ old faith is inferior to the new faith which is a ‘scientific faith’ and a ‘twentieth century faith’ through which ‘this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ.’”
“Scientific faith” as a parallel to “twentieth century faith” and a contrast to “old faith” is taken subjectively. “Scientific” is another kind of faith foreign to the Scripture. By analogy, science would be the authority from which this kind of faith is derived. This is not some kind of undefined faith in the scientific method, but a new kind of faith motivated by science. With the “old faith,” faith came by hearing the Scripture, but with the deconstruction of the Bible, the source of faith is now science. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of scientists,” (read textual critics). It is scientific faith. Science now imparts faith to believe that science is the solution to that which plagues man.
As seen in a prior post, (“A Post-critical Ecclesiastical Case Study”) scientific faith is utopian. Scientific faith is inclusive; everyone will be in heaven. Scientific faith is kinder, the idea of shedding blood is repulsive and therefore symbolic. The idea that man is sinful is resolved by evolution and the rejection of the literal rending of the first three chapters of Genesis. Divinity resided in Christ just as it does in every man. God is seen about us in the goodness of man and the beauty of nature. And scientific faith is empathetic teaching the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. On every front, the results of scientific faith demonstrate a kinder, gentler world than that offered by the old Scripture and the old faith. The new Scripture reflects this new scientific faith, the solution to man’s problems, its radically historic interpretation essential to maintaining this “positive” movement forward.
When fundamental and evangelical groups separated from this ecclesiastical modernism in the early 20th century, they acted much like the Reformers separating from Rome. The Reformers kept infant baptism and the fundamentalists and evangelicals kept the modernist Bible. (See Fundamentalism’s Folly? Fundamentalist leaders boasted that they have never held to the KJV and were always critical text men). It was too much to say that Jesus was a mere man but not too much to say that the Bible was reconstructed according to the same historic, scientific principles. Contemporary MVOism is simply the historic evolution of early 20th century modernism’s scientifically formulated Scripture, and its current usage is historically consistent with Evangelical and Fundamentalist leaders of the past.
Which brings us to two key determinative issues. The issue of sufficiency and the issue of eschatological vision. As a matter of sufficiency, it would seem clear that if Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism have survived for over a century without maintaining the details of Reformation era Protestant orthodox bibliology, that the scientifically constructed Bible is sufficient for the Church and its mission. (The successes of Fundamentalism are more appropriately assigned to use of the KJV in the church. Though scorned by those in leadership, the rank and file held the KJV as the word of God in English.)
The other issue is eschatological vision. If one’s view of the future is one of continuous moral and spiritual normalcy, then a sufficient Scripture has proven itself to be enough and will remain so. There is no perceived need for a correction or return to pre-critical categories. Scientific categories, though not as nuanced as pre-critical formulas, are sufficient.
If, however, your eschatological vision sees the world in a spiritually deteriorating condition, then the claim to sufficiency is false. Sufficiency was just another word for degrees of increasing spiritual and ecclesiastical decline that over time revealed its true nature. A pivotal moment in church history vividly demonstrating this spiritual and ecclesiastical decline can be marked from the inability of the church to gain an ecclesiastical consensus and ascendency in social-political issues the most prominent being the 1973 legalization of abortion. This acquiescence manifested an internal indifference already present in the church. And to this day, the church acts ambivalently toward the killing of the unborn. This apathy may stem from a misguided interpretation of Romans 13, but the fact that there has been relative silence from the pulpits of America indicates the decline of virtue and spiritual strength.
Nonetheless, to make a compelling case for a return to the pre-critical Protestant orthodox theology and understanding of the Scripture, an apologetic must be made showing the claim for sufficiency to be a façade for spiritual and moral deterioration, and an eschatological vision of ecclesiastical and cultural decline. Otherwise, it appears that the KJV position is simply making too much out of little. If these two factors are considered uncritically, an argument can be made for “scientific faith” or a scientific kind of faith to create a Scripture sufficient for the Church and a normative future where that Scriptural sufficiency will remain sufficient and therefore in no need of correction. Sufficiency and apathy are coordinating affects. This is the worldview which cradles MVOism.
How then does one begin to challenge the sufficiency of this scientific faith when dealing only with the issue of Scripture? Already disassociated from modernist theological formulas cited above, how can the outlier of a historical critical reconstruction of Scripture be rejoined with a robust orthodox Theology, Christology, Soteriology, Anthropology and Ecclesiology?
The first step toward association must be passive. The content of MVO versions must be allowed to penetrate the spirit of sufficiency. Sufficiency will not accept active changes but sufficiency, because it is sufficient provides the platform for passive spiritual growth. One of my best friends was saved out of a Rheims-Douay Roman Catholic Bible because John 3:16 reads almost, if not word for word, the same as the KJV. After reading the passage he wondered why his priest had never showed him that passage. Indeed, before looking it up himself, he argued with me that the verse was not in the Bible at all. He was happy with his Bible, it was sufficient, until he read more of it. And so it is with the new versions. Reading through the ESV, et al each year, cross referencing noticed themes, asking for the illumination of the Holy Spirit while reading. The study of a sufficient Scripture will guide the saint and the Church in a manner spoken of by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the church in Philippi, “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that he may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”
The second step toward associating the doctrine of Scripture with the larger body of Christian Theology, also passive, is the willingness to hear the internal testimony of the Spirit through the words of Multiple Versions. 1 Cor. 2:13 says, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but that the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual with spiritual.” The Holy Spirit can use a sufficient Bible to allow the believer to “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The third passive step is to prayerfully meditate upon how the sufficient Scripture interacts with and is part of the larger body of Christian theology. What does the sufficient Bible tell us about the role of the Holy Spirit, the living Word and the written word, et al.
Internalizing, listening, meditating – all passive aspects of interacting with a sufficient Bible are steps toward freeing the doctrine of Scripture from its present post-critical isolation to its consolidation with the larger body of Christian theology.