Evangelical Jenga

Will the whole building collapse? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I’ve been communicating with a friend of mine who is coming out of a period of doubt and has said that part of the problem is what Dan Wallace, noted NT textual critic and conservative Christian, calls “Bibliolatry.” This is where we have put the Bible on a high pedestal so high that we must isolate it from anything that would seem to go against it.

Let’s state something right at the start. I have a great love for the Bible. It is the most important book out there. It is the book that I have spent the past decade defending and showing the reliability of. Yet at the same time, I do not wish to put the Bible in an isolation chamber. I also don’t want to put it on the throne of God. (And I have seen some Christians say the Word in John 1:1 is the Bible. That’s scary.)

The end result of all of this has been a sort of evangelical Jenga.

Most of us have seen or played the game Jenga. You get a tower of small wooden sticks and you have to take one stick out and put it on top without having the whole thing collapse. If you make a mistake and it collapses, then you are the one who loses that game.

There are some beliefs in Christianity that are absolutely 100% non-negotiable such that if they are not true, then Christianity is not true. For instance, if there is no God, there can obviously be no God revealing Himself in Christ. If Jesus is not deity, then we cannot have God among us and if there is no Trinity, then we have a huge problem with who Jesus is. If there is no physical resurrection, then death is not conquered.

Now here are some other areas to consider.

Let’s suppose you hold to a pre-trib dispensational view of Scripture. An honest question to ask yourself. If it turns out that this view is wrong, does that mean Christianity is wrong? If it turns out that orthodox Preterism is wrong, does that mean I have to reject Christianity?

People like Ken Ham have stated that the reason youth are falling away is because they do not understand young-earth creationism. I would contend it’s the opposite. If YEC becomes synonymous with Christianity and that is called into question, then that means that Christianity must fall since the two have to stand.

Question again. If you are a YEC and you find out that it turns out the Earth is really not young but is rather old, does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

In fact, let’s make the question even more pointed than that. Let’s suppose that it turns out that there really was a process of natural selection that took place in an evolutionary history that shows that life is here through a process of evolution. Does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

Let’s suppose that it is found that there is a bona fide contradiction within the text of Scripture. Question. Does that convince you that there is no reliable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?

For an example of this kind of thinking, take a look at a post by James White with a link below. He is responding to someone on a message board and he is answering about William Lane Craig.

“First, William Lane Craig was not jesting with his atheist opponent. He was being perfectly serious in suggesting that his opponent become a Christian “who simply doesn’t believe in inerrancy.” Can you make heads or tails out of such a suggestion, sir? What was Craig asking him to do? Believe Jesus died and rose from the dead solely on the basis of the “greater probability” of the event from a historical perspective? What if his opponent then asked, “But, even if I believe that, what does it have to do with me…and don’t answer by reference to the Bible, since, of course, I don’t believe it is a divine revelation to begin with.” What then? Given the context of the debate, was it not obvious that having this as the final statement made by Craig that night communicated very clearly that the authority, accuracy, and consistency of the Bible is very low on his list of apologetic priorities? Do you think this was a wise way to end the debate? Do you think it is wrong to point this out and discuss it and point to a better way? Why is it “harsh” of me to do so?”

Actually, I can make heads or tails of becoming a Christian that does not believe in Inerrancy. It simply means someone believes Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but they are not convinced that the Bible is 100% reliable in all that it teaches. Is this a position I agree with? No. Yet I can tell you I would rather have someone come to the resurrected savior with a less than perfect view of Scripture rather than be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who would say they believe in Inerrancy but do not have the Jesus of the Bible.

The reliability of the Bible is important to Craig, but apparently more important is getting people to recognize Jesus as Lord. White seems stunned someone would base this belief on a greater probability argument. Well what does he think the early church did that didn’t have a Bible? They had to actually give evidence that Jesus was risen and let the people examine it.

White’s approach is that of bibliolatry. In fact, it is an excellent example since it includes in there the notion of 100% certainty. If you do not have 100% certainty, then you do not have a good foundation. Before moving on to explain this further, let’s ask a couple more questions.

Suppose you become convinced that Luke is actually not the author of Luke. Does this mean that you no longer hold that the gospel of Luke is a reliable source? Let’s suppose you hold that Peter did not write 2 Peter or Paul did not write Colossians. Does this mean you have no reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead?

If having your beliefs above be proven wrong was enough to get you to think Jesus did not rise from the dead, you have a problem.

Let’s go back to White and consider his idea. Most of us make numerous life decisions every day on less than 100% certainty. I don’t have 100% certainty when I go to the store to buy groceries that I will be coming home. I could get in a car accident on the way. I still act and I in fact act with great certainty. I act as if nothing will happen and don’t really take the possibility of the contrary seriously.

Let’s suppose you were someone like White with Inerrancy being such a major factor and then add in the other beliefs. You have to hold to the authorship of this book, have to hold that there are no contradictions, have to hold to a certain doctrine of the end times, and have to hold to a certain view of the age of the Earth.

Do tell me this. How is it going to be possible that you will always have in your memory all the information that you need to deal with every objection?

You won’t.

In fact, you will come to every objection on edge ultimately since if one part of the tower falls, then the whole thing will collapse. Is it any wonder so many people have their faith in shambles? They are walking on a tight rope and are afraid to breathe. They are unable to have their positions examined because if one goes down, the whole edifice will collapse.

Realize this. If you hold any position that is true, research will not change that if it is done properly. There is nothing wrong with your having your presuppositions. We all have them. Just be aware that they are there and don’t let them dominate. You don’t want it to be that the case is decided before you examine the evidence, especially while telling unbelievers to not do the same thing.

What would be a better technique? How about majoring on the essentials instead? Perhaps you cannot give a great answer to an evolutionist if you don’t study science, like I don’t. Still, what if you can demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead? Isn’t your case made either way? Perhaps you have to change your view of Genesis. That’s a whole lot better than having to find a new worldview entirely isn’t it?

Maybe you don’t know enough to answer that one potential contradiction in the Bible. Okay. Does that mean the testimony in 1 Cor. 15 of the resurrection of Jesus is automatically wrong then? It sounds like a strange view of Scripture doesn’t it? Either everything is right or everything is wrong? Does that mean if there is one contradiction you have to believe Jesus never existed since the Bible says He does?

Our game of evangelical Jenga is unfortunately burdening us all and making us retreat into nice little bubbles of isolation where we cannot really let our beliefs be challenged and let true investigation take place. I find it ironic that those who seem to want to shout the loudest about how trustworthy the Bible is live in dread of a mistake. I am quite sure of how trustworthy it is which leads me to say to skeptics “Go ahead. Examine my book. Test it. Let’s talk about your findings.”

Let us hope the game of Jenga ends soon, because unfortunately, our youth who apostasize are being the losers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

James White’s entry can be found here

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9 Responses to “Evangelical Jenga”

  1. Dave Richards Says:

    Nick,

    Very good analysis.

    “2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

    Dave

  2. The Problem WIth Fundamentalism | Deeper Waters Says:

    […] Diving into the ocean of truth. « Evangelical Jenga […]

  3. Andrew T. Says:

    Good post. It isn’t “Father, Son, and Holy Book”, rather it is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.

    The problem with Bibliolatry is that it causes modern believers to place faith in a book the ancient believers didn’t have, rather than in a Spirit they did. Also, it mistakes the bible’s ink, parchment, and bindings for the word that was breathed out. what is recorded on paper is only a manifestation of what was originally Spirit inspired ‘prophet’s speak’. Biblioatry is idolatry.

    Finally your post raises the question, what is ‘minimum essential doctrine’ for a teaching to be considered Christianity (for the purpose of salvation). I don’t entirely know, but I look to the thief on the Cross who was saved the last moments of his life:

    1. He professed Christ’s innocence and his own guilt.
    2. He confessed that Jesus was Lord who would rise into His kingdom with authority (deity of Christ)
    3. He ask Jesus to Jesus to have him (thus a request for salvation).

    I would argue, drop any of those things, and you drop essential doctrine.

  4. theologyarchaeology Says:

    God lamented “Why do ye call me Lord yet do not do the things I say” What God says to us, in the most part, is found in the Bible. Obeying what God has told us to do is NOT making the Bible out to be an idol or part of the Trinity, it is accepting what God has said, acknowledging that it is true, inerrant and inspired, and being obedient.

    Being obedient tells the world that we recognize the speaker of the words of the Bible to be God and our master and that His words are true. It does not make the Bible an idol. the problem comes in when supposed followers of God doubt His words and start to follow unbelievers. The Bible warns against doing that.

    If secular science says the earth is old and life developed via a process then a person has a choice–believe God or believe an unbeliever (any christian who takes the side of secular thinking becomes an unbeliever because he no longer believes God).

    The believer doesn’t say, well that is science and it is an ‘authority’ so I must take its word for it knows better. No, he must apply the biblical texts that instruct him or her to consider the source. Unbelievers are blind and do not have the truth, evolutionary ideas come from men who reject God and the Bible, they do not have the truth. God does not lie and is the truth

    Thus one must be for God or against him and if a believer sides with secular arguments over God’s word then they are not for God. They have sided with his enemies.

    The age of the earth is a non-argument and doesn’t even come into consideration for God only says ‘in the beginning…’ but we do know that anything evolutionary goes against what God said He did thus OEC is a false idea. Evolution is a false idea as is PC, TE etc.

    Thus saying God created not too long ago is not making the Bible synonymous with God but keeps it as it is–a revelation by God to inform us of what He did.

  5. apologianick Says:

    Thank you for coming here and demonstrating the fideistic attitude that is so problematic.

  6. 1mag0de1 Says:

    theologyarcheology, your analysis is far too simplistic. One cannot simply draw a line between the secular and the Biblical, the two are intermingled and interdependent. For instance, without secular understanding of Greek language we wouldn’t be able to translate the Bible. Without secular history we wouldn’t be able to show the Bible to be historically reliable, much less understand its historical context which is crucial to its interpretation. Furthermore, the Bible itself teaches that God has made the world so that it is rational, and reveals truth. Thus the Bible gives us reason to trust secular science. Now, if the two come into conflict, both must be scrutinized. It is not as simple as choosing one over the other. We must analyze our interpretation of scripture, and the scientific evidence. Whenever I do this, I find enormous insights into both the Bible and science.

  7. The Bible, a thief stealing praise. -   - Page 2 - City-Data Forum Says:

    […] Evangelical Jenga | Deeper Waters Bibliolators are never able to answer the question about the early Christians, many of whom had NO scriptures to read or learn from throughout their entire lives. Indeed, I recall reading an account of a man in medieval England who traded a wagon load of hay (a valuable sum in those days) for just a small section of the Letter of Paul to the Phillipians. Many early churches in England had no Bible at all, and where one existed it was often chained to the pulpit. Quote: […]

  8. Rick Says:

    1 Tim. 3:16. We downgrade the word of God at our peril. The “early” church had the old testament (many were Jews) and the apostles. The new testament is made up of the apostles writings those early Christians loved and died for. This world of evolutionary “theoretical” science is not rational and despite what some may think has been successfully challenged and shown for what it is -naturalism. Why would we adopt it ?
    There is a misunderstanding of human rationality here. Human rationality is in a fallen condition. The rejection of the word of God based on irrational philosophies like evolution are just more evidence of it. Man will never come to God by logic alone. We can argue all the “logic” we want but man’s sinful nature will not be overcome except by the Holy Spirit through the word. It is true we do not worship the bible, we worship it’s author who said ” my word is truth”.Fortunately God has ordained that child-like faith is
    required to enter His kingdom not reason alone. This opens his kingdom to everyone who will come.

  9. Paulus Says:

    Rick
    If, as you say, human rationality is in a fallen condition, how can we trust conclusions we draw and decisions we make on a daily basis rationally?
    E.g. conclude that a bottle which reads “hydrochloric acid” contains a dangerous liquid and not orange juice and decide to not drink from it?
    Or conclude that Jesus was who he claimed he was and that he rose from the dead and decide to live a life in obedience to the Spirit and God’s will?
    If we can’t trust reason (which is never apart from God and his attributes, of course), how can anyone trust his understanding of the Bible? And why did God give us the Bible, which is by definition a book and, as such, is to be understood rationally?
    In Christ,
    Paul

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