The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture  -     By: Christian Smith
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The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture

Brazos Press / 2012 / Paperback

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Product Description

Biblicism, an approach to the Bible common among some American evangelicals, emphasizes together the Bible's exclusive authority, infallibility, clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability. This, says Christian Smith, is impossible.

In The Bible Made Impossible acclaimed sociologist Christian Smith argues that this approach is misguided and unable to live up to its own claims. If evangelical biblicism worked as its proponents say it should, there would not be the vast variety of interpretive differences that biblicists themselves reach when they actually read and interpret the Bible. Far from challenging the inspiration and authority of Scripture, Smith critiques a particular rendering of it, encouraging evangelicals to seek a more responsible, coherent, and defensible approach to biblical authority.

This important book has generated lively discussion and debate. The paperback edition adds a new chapter responding to the conversation that the cloth edition has sparked.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 256
Vendor: Brazos Press
Publication Date: 2012
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 158743329X
ISBN-13: 9781587433290
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

Biblicism, an approach to the Bible common among some American evangelicals, emphasizes together the Bible's exclusive authority, infallibility, clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability. Acclaimed sociologist Christian Smith argues that this approach is misguided and unable to live up to its own claims. If evangelical biblicism worked as its proponents say it should, there would not be the vast variety of interpretive differences that biblicists themselves reach when they actually read and interpret the Bible. Far from challenging the inspiration and authority of Scripture, Smith critiques a particular rendering of it, encouraging evangelicals to seek a more responsible, coherent, and defensible approach to biblical authority.

This important book has generated lively discussion and debate. The paperback edition adds a new chapter responding to the conversation that the cloth edition has sparked.

Author Bio

Christian Smith (PhD, Harvard University) is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He is the award-winning author or coauthor of numerous books, including What Is a Person? Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and Moral Good from the Person Up and Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. His research focuses primarily on religion in modernity, adolescents, American evangelicalism, and culture.

Endorsements

Christian Smith plainly says what so many others have been thinking or implying for some time--namely, that many strands of evangelicalism believe things about the Bible and theology that are simply impossible. Smith exposes the scholastic alchemy that holds this fragile theological edifice together and helps us understand that serious damage is done to the church and its witness when we perpetuate the errors of biblicism.
-Kenton L. Sparks,
professor of Hebrew Bible, Eastern University

Evangelicalism is cracking apart not because of theological drift to the left but because the only theology that can sustain a genuine evangelicalism is--to use the only word appropriate--a catholic theology. Many who were nurtured in American evangelicalism (as Christian Smith was) and now find it seriously deficient (as Christian Smith does) seem to be those on whom the light has dawned. I first saw a chapter of this book and was stunned; I've now read it all and am delighted. Here is a genuinely evangelical catholic understanding of scripture.
-Scot McKnight,
professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

Biblicism remains one of the most entrenched and pressing problems facing the church. In his characteristically lucid, direct, and fair-minded fashion, Christian Smith asks questions about biblicism that need to be answered. Smith also begins to articulate an alternative, Christ-centered approach to biblical interpretation that is supremely constructive--a truly evangelical account of scripture. Here his words fall like water on parched ground. We may expect the church to flourish as it reads them.
-Douglas A. Campbell,
associate professor of New Testament, Duke University Divinity School

I do not think that biblicism has been quite as destructive as Christian Smith describes it in this book (for example, among evangelicals there is very little 'pervasive interpretive pluralism' in understanding John 20:31). Despite this reservation, I think Smith has written an extremely valuable book. Although his account of the problems besetting biblicism is devastatingly effective, his appeal for a Christ-centered approach to scripture is wise, encouraging, and even more effective.
-Mark A. Noll,
Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

Smith vigorously presents a compelling possibility: The Bible could be more alive, the church could be more unified, those of us who care deeply about scripture could be less fearful about some collapse of authority and more honest about what is actually in the Bible if we simply began to listen with more humility and openness to what it is God seems most concerned to reveal. A great book for this time in the life of evangelicalism.
-Debbie Blue,
pastor, House of Mercy; author, Sensual Orthodoxy and From Stone to Living Word

Christian Smith's The Bible Made Impossible is a slap across the conservative evangelical face: a challenge to a duel/debate over the nature and practice of biblical authority. Ever the sociologist, Smith forces readers to confront and account for the stubborn fact that not everyone who ascribes supreme authority to 'what the Bible says' hears God saying the same thing. Even those, like me, who are not persuaded by his 'truly evangelical' alternative will benefit from this strong dose of realism about the way in which evangelicals actually interpret and appeal to the Bible.
-Kevin J. Vanhoozer,
research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Many books have been written either defending or detracting from an evangelical view of the Bible. Christian Smith, as a trained sociologist, offers a much-needed perspective: explaining evangelical biblicism as a sociological phenomenon. Smith demonstrates, respectfully but critically, that the type of biblicism that often characterizes evangelicalism cannot account for how scripture itself behaves. Biblicism is retained, however, because of its sociological value for 'maintaining safe identity boundaries.' Smith's analysis of the problem of biblicism and his offer of a way forward are important contributions to the current developments surrounding evangelicalism and the Bible.
-Peter Enns

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  1. Blue Springs, MO
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: Male
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Can be a useful tool...
    June 10, 2013
    Jonathan Becker
    Blue Springs, MO
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: Male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 3
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Pros:

    1) Smith treats those who hold to a biblicist model with considerable respect (at least compared to the way they would treat him).

    2) A number of good objections are raised against biblicism.

    Cons:

    1) Smith seems to rely too much on pervasive interpretative pluralism as an argument against biblicism. Not that this fails completely, it's just that his case may be overstated AT TIMES.

    2) Smith is not a theologian. Thus, his comments are purely sociological and do not fully appreciate the biblical text (not saying that one has to be a theologian to do this, only that Smith doesn't do it fully.

    3) Smith can reduce his argument to mere assertion at times.

    All that being said, I want to state that I accept (with only minor qualifications) the argument proposed in the book. Biblicism is not the best way to read scripture. However, this kind of book could have been more powerful if the above cons were avoided. Unfortunately, one must balance argumentative force with size, something I think this book does well.
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