Biblical Populism vs. Biblical Conservativism

There’s been some buzz in the Christian blogosphere recently about the questions raised by Christian Smith’s book The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture. Calvinist super-blogger Kevin DeYoung pounced on Smith in a review. Then popular evangelical moderate Scot McKnight struck back. I got wind of this conversation by way of Carson Clark.

I know these names mean very little to most people who read my blog. What in the world does Biblicism mean and why should you care? Let me try to unpack the debate in non-seminary-nerd language. Smith identifies ten different propositions which define the Biblicist view. I would use his list as a reference if it were shorter and easier to explain. But I thought I would describe Biblicism in a different way.

I haven’t read Smith’s book directly, but it sounds like what he is calling Biblicism is basically the way of understanding the Bible that I’ve usually heard called fundamentalism or Biblical inerrancy or literalism in the past. I think this Biblicism is actually the product of confusing and mixing together two different assumptions about Biblical interpretation, what I would label Biblical conservativism and Biblical populism. On the one hand, it’s conservative to say that the Bible is authoritative and that Christians should look at the world with Bible-shaped glasses whenever we read or experience anything else. The reason I call this “conservative” is because you’re recognizing one particular set of writings as an absolute standard by which all other truth is measured rather than saying that everybody is entitled to their own opinions which are equally valid since there is no absolute truth. A truly conservative view of Biblical interpretation would go further than this to say that we should study how people have read the Bible over the centuries to see whether we are reading it the right way.

Here’s the tricky thing: Protestantism revolted against the conservativism of the Catholic scholastic tradition in the 1500’s because the Protestant reformers felt that the Biblical interpretations of the scholastics were corrupt (yes, I’m oversimplifying). So in this sense modern-day Protestant evangelicals have a heritage that is conservative about the Biblical text itself but anti-conservative about its interpretive tradition. The Protestant reformer battle-cries included several different Latin phases that began with sola (only), most notably sola scriptura, which means that you don’t need to read ancient theologians like Thomas Aquinas or Tertullian or Augustine to understand the Bible; you just need the Bible itself. This type of claim is actually not conservative but populist in nature because it implies that any Joe Schmoe ought to be able to read the Bible on his own and have just as reasonable an interpretation as the distinguished Dr. Seminary Professor who has mastered Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and studied all the ancient church fathers. (I’m grateful to readers for pointing out that the Reformers understood sola scriptura differently, but I still think that what I’m describing is consistent with its caricature in contemporary Biblical discourse, i.e. it may have been a genuinely conservative perspective initially that has become populist as it’s been appropriated by people centuries later.)

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with populism, per se. I just think it’s important not to confuse populism with conservativism. Here’s an example. If I’ve studied enough Hebrew to know that the word translated as “day” in Genesis 1 is yom, which actually means an indeterminate unit of time, and if I also know that Adam is just the Hebrew word for “man,” then I can read the first few chapters of Genesis as an allegory which provides the reader with absolute moral truths about reality. Such a reading would stay within the boundaries of Biblical conservativism, because my particular interpretation does not compromise viewing the Bible as uniquely authoritative.

The need for the English translation of the Bible to be completely “literal” on the other hand — i.e. for “day” to mean a 24-hour solar day and for Adam to be the name of a historical person rather than just the Hebrew word for “man” — is a populist need, not a conservative one. It’s a need for the Bible to be saying the exact same thing to someone with a sixth grade education as it does to someone who has learned Hebrew. If the Bible is somehow more meaningful to someone who has studied ancient Near Eastern myths and recognizes similarities between the Akkadian and Babylonian stories of how the world was created and the Biblical account in Genesis, then that means that the playing field of Biblical interpretation is not level and that’s not fair to the Biblical populists (who rarely acknowledge that they’re concerned with leveling the playing field).

I’m totally sympathetic with Biblical populism when the root of its concern is openly identified. If reading the Bible is something that only people with Ph.D.’s are allowed to do, how is that conducive to an environment of healthy Christian disciple-making? It’s important to let people of all levels of education participate in the conversation of Biblical interpretation. What’s problematic is when you try to say that conservativism must also be populist, meaning that not only is the Bible authoritative and accessible to readers of all levels of intelligence, but the only correct interpretation has to be the most accessible one. This is the point at which Biblical “conservativism” becomes anti-intellectual by nature.

One of the paradoxes of Biblical interpretation is that when we try to force the Bible into a single coherent system of doctrine imposed upon the text from its exterior, we’re actually not being Biblically conservative, since we’re giving more authority to the extra-Biblical set of principles that we superimpose over the text than to the Bible itself. The need to boil the Bible down to four spiritual laws or five fundamentals has to do with accessibility, not authority;  i.e. it’s not conservative; it’s populist. To be a true Biblical conservative is to resist the temptation to airbrush contradiction out of the Biblical text and to allow it to remain raw and even inaccessibly mysterious at times. A Biblical populist might want for simplicity’s sake to say that everything in the Bible is completely clear and universally applicable at all times in all circumstances. It requires a more refined interpretive sensibility to recognize that some days are going to be days when we need to read Matthew 7 and other days call for John 14 (I just chose these chapters arbitrarily, by the way).

In any case, Biblical conservativism and Biblical populism both express legitimate concerns about how we interpret the Bible as Christians. If it makes me a Biblicist to say that the Bible is authoritative and that anybody ought to be able to read and understand it, then I’m okay with being called that. The kind of Biblicism I cannot accept is to say that only the lowest-common-denominator Biblical interpretation is the correct one (e.g. the Earth had to be created in 4000 BC in 6 solar days because it’s too hard for less-educated people to get their heads around it otherwise). Biblical populism and conservativism are legitimately deployed independently; as a confused mishmash coupled together, they are an utter disaster.

7 thoughts on “Biblical Populism vs. Biblical Conservativism

  1. ‘When Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story, he doesn’t give any rhetorical clues that what he’s telling is not an event that happened the month before.’

    In fact he does. “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem…” This introduces a story without names, a parable, which is clearly designed to make a point and is understood by everyone as such. The rhetorical form of the story declares it to be a parable. (If there really are people who insist it must also be an account of a real event, I don’t agree with them.)

    ‘It’s also pretty clear that the storytellers and scribes took liberties with some of the stories and added or subtracted details to make them easier to tell or more meaningful. Why couldn’t God inspire them to do that? Why couldn’t God be more interested in the aesthetics of the story than its historicity?’

    Because he is a God of truth. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. If he says things that are not true, he denies his own character. A parable is not intended to be an account of a real event, but the items you mention are. Now everyone who sees an event has his own impression of what he sees, and the various gospel accounts allow us to put some of those differing impressions together for a more complete account. I’m also quite prepared to accept that speech is written up long after the event (in the manner of Thucydides, for example) so as to record the gist of what was said, but not necessarily the actual words. (It’s a translation into Greek any way.)

    ‘Take for example the woman who anointed Jesus in Luke 7 and Matthew 26. Did she bring oil or spikenard?’

    According to the Greek of both versions a woman brought ointment (μυρον). Matthew adds that it was very expensive. The Matthew account is apparently the same as that of John 12, which says the dinner was at Bethany, and John says the ointment was of nard. Since a leper could not associate with others, we can assume that Jesus had previously healed Simon, so it would be natural for him to give a dinner in gratitude. The account in Luke is most probably a different occasion; there is no complaint there about the waste, the host is a pharisee and the point of the story is very different. Since Simon (Simeon) was a very common name, it is no problem for there to be two of them! We have accounts of only a few events in the gospels, as John points out (22:25).

    ‘When was the Last Supper in relation to Passover? Every gospel writer dates it differently according to its thematic purpose within their narrative. We don’t need to get hung up on this problem.’

    True, but it is interesting to do the work of putting it all together to get a coherent whole. It works. My attempt is at http://www.lfix.co.uk/oliver/christian/passover_downloads.html Taking the trouble to do this gives insight and a greater respect for the details of God’s word.

    To sum it up, my objection is that once you start to say that certain things are true only in some spiritual sense, you are actually saying that they are false. If a story is not true, why should the moral point it supposedly makes be true either?

    • How does using the phrase “a certain man” make the Good Samaritan story obviously not historical? I tell stories about real people all the time that start out with “a certain friend of mine.” Nope. Doesn’t work for me. Adam was simply “the man.” For Greek writers to use the Hebrew word for man as the representation of the proverbial first man in Judaism doesn’t mean they need for him to be historical. If Adam is a proper noun, then why is Jesus the second Adam?

      You’ve decided that true and historical are reducible to the same meaning. That’s a very impoverished vision of truth. I’ve found truth in a lot of different genres of writing. You think you’re standing tall against the modernist attack on Christianity but you’re surrendering to the premises of modernity. How much time do you spend coming up with convoluted ways of forcing the historicity to work when you could be just accepting the meaning that God wants you to take from each story?

      I just don’t want for people who work in a scientific field to let that be a barrier to their becoming a Christian disciple. I really don’t have that great an investment in this struggle, other than my interest in evangelizing people like one of my friends who ask me how 5 million species of animals could fit in a boat five stories tall the length of a football field. It perplexes me that fundamentalist Christians try to fight modernity by surrendering to its terms. God told the ancient Israelites what they needed to hear in terms they could understand building off of other ancient creation stories that they would have known about. Why do You demand that God explain quantum physics to ancient peoples? Why can’t what He said to them be every bit as true as quantum physics and in fact more true because it’s more relevant to how we live?

    • Hey brother, it sounds like you’re very passionate about this. I’m not sure I have the stamina to keep up with you. You’re not going to convert me to your perspective. I just hope that your passion for creationism isn’t undermining your ability to evangelize those for whom it’s a stumbling block or the time you spend on Bible study for personal discipleship purposes. Beyond that, I wish you the best!

  2. Some more points from your reply:

    ‘I think it’s hard not to conclude that numbers served a symbolic rather than literal purpose. 40 days is simply a long time, while 40 years is a very long time. 144,000 is 12 times 12 times 1000 which equals a “bazillion.” Hebrew numbers are a real chore to write out.’

    With this approach, how is one to determine which numbers are genuine and which aren’t? David and Solomon each ruled for 40 years; Jehoiachin for three months and ten days. Are they all symbolic? Or is the last real and the earlier two not? But David rules for 7 years in Hebron and 33 years in Jerusalem; is that also symbolic? Of what?

    Then you mention 144,000 in the context of Hebrew numbers. In fact, the only place I can think of that uses that number is Revelation, written in Greek. Neither language had a convenient numbering system, though both have numerical values for every letter, which enables gematria in various kinds. But Greek does have a word for a very large number: μυριας (myrias), from which we get myriad. It also means 10,000 and is usually so translated in Rev 9:16. If John (or rather, Jesus) wanted to signify an indefinitely large number, there was a word ready made to be used in Rev 7. Now I’m sure the 12,000 from each of 12 tribes is symbolically significant, but that doesn’t stop it also being literally correct. God shows his glory by his exact predictions. See for example the story in 2 Kings 7, where Elisha prophesied the exact low price of food the next day and also that the unbelieving captain would see it but not eat of it. Similarly, Jeremiah prophesied the exile of Zedekiah to Babylon while Ezekiel prophesied that he would not see Babylon. Zedekiah ridiculed the prophecies, believing they were contradictory, but they were exactly fulfilled, since his eyes were put out before he ever got to Babylon.

    Thus I believe all prophecy will be literally fulfilled, though not always in a way that we can predict beforehand. It is no problem for God to commission exactly 12,000 from each of the selected tribes. The number also makes a point about completeness and probably other things (I would have to read up on biblical numerology).

    ‘I haven’t studied Hebrew enough to know this for sure but I imagine there are hidden meanings in the ages of Methusaleh and the other super-old guys in the genealogy. The Hebrew writers did a lot of things with acrostics and patterns that are only visible in the original language; they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to make meaning, not to satisfy the literalist needs of modernity.’

    You’re quite right about that, but again it is to the glory of God that he inspires things that are both aesthetically pleading as well as true. Genesis makes a good literary account, but God was going to write the story of what he did; why should he not also act in an aesthetically pleasing way? I don’t know about the ages, but the names of the patriarchs from Adam to Noah actually spell out the gospel. There are many other supernatural features of the bible, that is, things that could not be deliberatedly arranged by their authors, because of separation of time or sheer humnan incapacity, and therefore demonstrate divine authorship. But if God cannot speak clearly to all men, how can we know what he wants of us? “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?”

    ‘Fundamentalists are the ones who have caved to secularism by applying the dispassionate literalism of modernist historicism onto the Biblical text rather than just accepting it as our story. If you get hung up on Adam needing to be a literal historical figure, then his story ceases to have representative value in your own life. I eat the forbidden fruit all the time, every time I choose to be my own god rather than trust God. Adam’s story is my story.’

    If the story is not true in its facts, God is a liar. Of course it also tells a spiritual story that we can apply to our own lives, but if it isn’t true, what is the point? In that case, nothing can be trusted. Why not go on with the liberals theologians and claim that the resurrection is a story for our encouragement, though not actually true in its facts? After all, science denies the resurrection too!

    It is because I know and trust God that I believe what he says in Genesis and Revelation; he obviously has the power to create a universe at a word, and to bring it to a rapid end too. Why should I believe he has done it and will do it in any other way than that which he describes?

    ‘Adam’s story is my story. I am not guilty because of what somebody else did. I am stuck in original sin both because of the fallen world that I am born into and because of choices I make quite readily as a human which I cannot blame God for even if it’s pretty well impossible for me to stay innocent.’

    Without the account of the fall, there is no explanation for why this is a fallen world. If evolution were true (and the Genesis account false) death existed long before your symbolic Adam existed, but the scripture says death results from sin. Isaiah tells of a restored world in the Messianic kingdom where the lion shall lie down with the lamb. This is clearly better than what we have now, but God says that everything he created was very good. Therefore there can have been no death at that stage. Why is there death now? Because Adam sinned and we are all involved in his sin. His spirit died [was ruined] and so he could not beget a child with a perfect spirit; sin is in fact inherited, which is why you cannot choose not to sin until you are converted and receive the Holy Spirit.

    [to be continued]

  3. Lets look at science first. The one scientific process you mention is radiocarbon dating. I suppose lots of people have heard of it; the thing you obviously don’t realise is that it supports recent creation. Let me explain.

    Carbon mostly exists as isotope 12 (6 neutrons and 6 protons), but isotope 14 (2 extra neutrons) is produced in the upper atmosphere by the bombardment of nitrogen by cosmic rays. C14 decays over a relatively short time, and by the end of 100,000 years every atom of a mass of C14 should have decayed. C14 is chemically the same as C12 and is taken into living things by respiration; that process ceases at death, of course. So by measuring the proportion of C14 to C12 (by machines that count individual atoms) and making the assumption that “all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4), it is believed that the age of formerly living organic material can be calculated. However, this process is only good for a maximum of around 60,000 years; after that time there should be no C14 left.

    The RATE project tested coal (supposedly 230 million years old) and diamonds (supposedly 1 billion years old) and found that they contain C14. It is impossible to find organic material that does not contain C14. This demonstrates that the supposed millions of years don’t exist; the earth is young (in secular thinking, though 6,000 years is actually very old). We can see from the scripture that it is in fact about 6,000 years old, since we have the genealogy with the age of each father at his son’s birth going back from Abraham to Adam. The dates calculated by C14 dating are calibrated by assumptions that exclude God’s creation and the flood. They also fail to take account of other factors that affect the calculation of decay times. The RATE project also found that there had been episodes of accelerated radioactive decay, affecting alpha and beta emitters differently, which account for the disparity in ages given by other radioactive dating methods. This is shown by the presence of excess helium in zircon crystals, and polonium radio-halos in granite in circumstances that show that the rock must have cooled quickly and while accelerated decay was happening. So detailed investigation of radioactive decay and its products actually demonstrate a recent creation. Every other dating method I know of suggests an upper limit for the age of the earth which is far lower than the conventional 4.5 billion years.

    Other interesting evidences contradicting the standard account come to light from time to time. For instance, I recently read that, in the 1960s, flower pollens were found in Cambrian rocks (supposedly dated long before flowering plants existed). The discoverer could not understand it, and the finding has been ignored by secular scientists. This is the fate of any discovery which does not agree with the long age, evolutionary paradigm. What we might call origins science battens off proper experimental science and uses the credit of the latter to bolster its reputation. But in fact, Darwin was unacceptable to most scientists of his day because of the lack of evidence for his theory. It was compromising churchmen and eager atheists that seized on his theory. Evolutionary biology is full of story telling instead of science. The same goes for cosmology, where the standard nebular hypothesis is actually contradicted by a number of inconvenient facts, not least of which is that the supposed pre-solar-system gas cloud would not actually condense under any reasonable conditions.

    As to activist atheism in science, Lyell (the founder of uniformitarian geology) had a stated aim of removing Moses from geology. He was definitely anti-Christian (and his science is obviously flawed). Darwin turned against God (not that he could ever have had a genuine faith in a Unitarian family) and quietly promoted atheist ideas while at first putting on a conventional faith for show, In modern times we need only look at people like Ernest Mawr and Dawkins. These are the spokesmen, but their ideas are deep into the whole secular world, to the extent that they have managed to make it illegal to mention other ideas in US pubic schools, and they are trying to achieve the same thing here.

    This is hardly surprising, since the scripture tells us that the whole world lies under the domination of the evil one, also referred to a the god of this world. If he can corrupt the educators and entertainers, he has an easy task corrupting the majority of the young generation too. Far too many people have looked at Genesis, read it in its plain sense as it is intended to be read, and concluded that it cannot be true because they have been fed fake science that contradicts it. The cure is to demonstrate that good science supports the bible.

    Since you clearly don’t know much about the science, I suggest you look at the many articles at http://creation.com and get informed.

  4. “If I’ve studied enough Hebrew to know that the word translated as “day” in Genesis 1 is yom, which actually means an indeterminate unit of time, and if I also know that Adam is just the Hebrew word for “man,” then I can read the first few chapters of Genesis as an allegory which provides the reader with absolute moral truths about reality.”

    You can read it so, and the use of this example strongly suggests that you do read it so. However, there are a lot of problems with what you say.

    First, “yom” in Hebrew has a similar range of meaning to “day” in English; its meaning in a particular case is determined by the context. So to say that it means “an indeterminate unit of time” is wrong. It can mean that in certain contexts. Does it mean that in Genesis 1? The context strongly suggests that it does not; a day is related to evening and morning and therefore is naturally taken to mean a day in its basic sense of a single revolution of the earth on its axis. This is supported by Exodus 20:12, which says that God made heavens and earth in 6 days, in the context of keeping the Sabbath day as a day of rest out of the seven days of the week.

    I do not believe that you will find any competent Hebrew scholar who will agree that in the context of Genesis 1 the days of creation are supposed to mean indeterminate periods of time. See also http://creation.com/the-days-of-creation-a-semantic-approach

    Second, “adam” does mean man, but it is also used throughout the bible as the name of the first man, without any indication that he did not exist as an individual. The genealogy of Jesus is given by Luke back to Adam.

    Third, the New Testament bases the whole doctrine of salvation on the truth of Genesis and on our solidarity with Adam as our ancestor (1 Cor 15:22). Jesus is the second Adam. Adam’s sin caused the fall of the whole human race and Jesus’ sacrifice provides salvation for the whole race. If Adam is not real, then Jesus’ sacrifice is useless and ineffective. Paul too speaks of Adam as a real person (2 Tim 2:14).

    Fourth, biblical allegory is signalled in an obvious manner, but Genesis is written in the same style throughout, that of narrative history. It is written as an account to be taken at face value, not allegory at all.

    No ancient commentator took Genesis 1 in any but its plain sense. Everyone accepted that it meant creation in 6 ordinary days. The only reason for changing that interpretation is to make it fit with atheistic science. The latter has been so successfully pushed on society that it is taken for granted by most, but it is founded on the axiom that God does not intervene and never has intervened in the world, indeed that he does not even exist. Any system of knowledge founded on that basis is bound to be wrong. However, a majority of Christians are so overawed by supposed discoveries of science that they do not have the confidence to trust what God says but instead subordinate the scripture to human philosophy. Good science does not contradict what the bible plainly teaches!

    All this is a prelude to a discussion of the term “populist”. It is a pejorative term, and suggests that those who take the bible in its plain sense are uneducated and ill-informed, in contrast to those who are intelligent and academic and above the common herd. Now it is clearly the case that knowledge of background is helpful to understanding the scriptures better. For example, understanding of ancient treaties and covenant practices help to demonstrate that all of the Torah truly is the work of Moses and not of some writer 1,000 years later, when those practices had died out. However, such knowledge must not be permitted to contradict the bible or distort it to mean something other than what it says. Since it is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is intended for all cultures and times, it is necessarily capable of being understood in those cultures and times.

    If it weren’t for your choice of example, I would have accepted what you say without dispute. There is indeed a simplistic approach, which becomes almost a self-caricature when it comes to certain groups like the KJV-onlyists. But your example suggests that you think that conservatism ought to accommodate to what is at root unbelief and should defer to the unbelieving academic world on matters that are foundational to the gospel. On the contrary, it ought to accept the plain sense of scripture as the primary sense and reject atheistic arguments to the contrary.

    • Thanks for your response. So you’re a youth earth creationist then? And in England? I had thought that was a purely American phenomenon created by the political needs of 20th century American fundamentalism.

      I don’t think that radioactive carbon dating was developed in the interest of promoting atheism. It’s a stretch for you to insinuate that science is activist in its atheism. I do have the same problem with always deferring to the scientific method because of its anti-teleological premise and I do agree with John Milbank’s thesis that Western secularism as an ideology is a category of Christian heresy rather than being a “neutral” vantage point.

      But the ancient commentators and Biblical writers did not think about history in the same way that we do in a secularized modernity. I think it’s hard not to conclude that numbers served a symbolic rather than literal purpose. 40 days is simply a long time, while 40 years is a very long time. 144,000 is 12 times 12 times 1000 which equals a “bazillion.” Hebrew numbers are a real chore to write out. Have you ever tried memorizing them? I really struggled with them. Doing math in Hebrew is extraordinarily difficult. I haven’t studied Hebrew enough to know this for sure but I imagine there are hidden meanings in the ages of Methusaleh and the other super-old guys in the genealogy. The Hebrew writers did a lot of things with acrostics and patterns that are only visible in the original language; they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to make meaning, not to satisfy the literalist needs of modernity.

      Fundamentalists are the ones who have caved to secularism by applying the dispassionate literalism of modernist historicism onto the Biblical text rather than just accepting it as our story. If you get hung up on Adam needing to be a literal historical figure, then his story ceases to have representative value in your own life. I eat the forbidden fruit all the time, every time I choose to be my own god rather than trust God. Adam’s story is my story. I am not guilty because of what somebody else did. I am stuck in original sin both because of the fallen world that I am born into and because of choices I make quite readily as a human which I cannot blame God for even if it’s pretty well impossible for me to stay innocent. It doesn’t bear any fruit for my congregation’s discipleship for me to insist upon them believing that some other guy’s sin makes them guilty out of a slavish need to keep John Calvin’s covenantal theological system intact. The essential of original sin to me is that we’re born into fallenness; it’s both unavoidable and completely useless to blame God.

      When Jesus tells the Good Samaritan story, he doesn’t give any rhetorical clues that what he’s telling is not an event that happened the month before. Parables in the Bible don’t need to say, “By the way, this is just a story,” or “This is a literal event that happened,” because the people writing and reading them weren’t cranky modernists. It’s also pretty clear that the storytellers and scribes took liberties with some of the stories and added or subtracted details to make them easier to tell or more meaningful. Why couldn’t God inspire them to do that? Why couldn’t God be more interested in the aesthetics of the story than its historicity?

      Take for example the woman who anointed Jesus in Luke 7 and Matthew 26. Did she bring oil or spikenard? Did it happen at the beginning or end of Jesus’ career? Was it at the home of Simon the leper or Simon the pharisee? Was it because of her guilt for a life of sin or to prepare Jesus for burial? It doesn’t scandalize me to think that there was a guy named Simon the pharisee who had skin problems and hosted a banquet where a woman anointed Jesus and two different witnesses told two different stories about with two completely different teachable points. I suppose a literalist says, well, it had to have been two different Simons and two different women. But there are many stories that are shared between the gospels which couldn’t have happened more than once but differ in their details. When was the Last Supper in relation to Passover? Every gospel writer dates it differently according to its thematic purpose within their narrative. We don’t need to get hung up on this problem. We just preach on the account of the Last Supper that has the most to say to our congregation at that particular moment in time.

      I believe the Holy Spirit shepherded the whole process and that what we have is everything we need to be faithful Christian disciples. It’s only offensive to a secular modernist for the Holy Spirit to have allowed for something other than historical literalness to count as God’s truth. When we need for all of it to be historically literal, we reveal that our outermost frame of reference is secular modernity, not the Bible.

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