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.
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.
American evangelicalism is a textured and varied collection of believers, scholars, and students. Despite the variety of belief and practice, one idea unites them: the centrality of the Bible, and the determined appeal to sola scriptura that has defined their religious basis from earliest times. The much published Smith, a professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, sets out in this finely constructed volume to question not just the wisdom but even the possibility of depending only on the Bible to define faith and practice. The "Bible only" foundational belief is so ingrained in the consciousness of evangelicalism that asserting its irrationality and logical impossibility strikes at the very heart of what motivates and defines the evangelical community. Smith makes a persuasive case for shifting one's focus from the sole authority of the words of scripture to the one whom scripture proclaims to be "the way, the truth and the life." Such a shift, he insists, is necessary for American evangelicalism to move forward. (Aug.) Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information.