A Moratorium On The Word Biblical?

I’m sure you’ve heard about the biblical truth, having a biblical worldview, the biblical view of manhood and woman hood, the biblical view of marriage, the biblical view of… And on and on it goes. In general terms, the use of this adjective biblical is to say that here is how the Bible views this or that subject. However, that itself is often to claim too much. Plus, any claim is always a matter of interpretation which will be shaped by a person’s hermeneutics or how they read the Bible.

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My concern is the way I see the word biblical used to contrast one view, the alleged biblical view, against another view. Most recently I’ve encountered this in relation to conversations about racism and critical race theory. Now I don’t know enough about critical race theory to evaluate it but I do know there are some Christian who see some value in critical race theory while other Christians don’t. But for those that don’t, to say that critical race theory is inconsistent with a biblical world view is to claim too much. Such a claim appears as just an inconspicuous way for Christians to equate their interpretation of scripture as the totality of what the Bible says.

For anyone to claim their interpretation as the biblical view, as though their understanding is what the Bible teaches in toto is too much of a claim. Perhaps the interpretation is fairly consistent with certain teaching in scripture but it may also be that the biblical view, even the so-called “biblical worldview” is absorbed in another worldview. Plus, while the Bible tells a complete and coherent story from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is a collection of sixty-six writings. These writings, which constitute different genres, span several covenants within particular historical periods and were originally written to different people in a variety of different circumstances. As a result, the Bible is hardly monolithic and at times is likely to express several different views on any given subject.

Also, maybe it’s just me but sometimes it seems that using the adjective biblical is just a way of shutting down consideration of other viewpoints. It works similar to when people say “if you disagree with me on ____ then your argument isn’t with me, it’s with God.” There’s another theological term for this called Hogwash. It’s hogwash because it is entirely possible for sincere followers of Jesus to read the Bible and draw different conclusions about what the Bible says regarding a slew of different issues. In fact, some of these conclusions may even be the result of putting the cart before the horse in what amounts to eisegesis rather than exegesis. As Christian Smith said, “far from scripture functioning as an independent authority guiding the lives of believers, the Bible is often used by its readers in various ways to help legitimate and maintain the commitments and assumptions that they already hold before coming to the biblical text” (cf. The Bible Made Impossible, 75). So for anyone to claim their understanding as the biblical view of… may in fact be rather audacious and presumptuous.

Anyway, I’m saying all this to say that maybe it’s time we place a moratorium on using the adjective biblical when expressing our understanding of scripture. Instead, let’s just say that as followers of Jesus who take the Bible seriously, this is how we understand whatever issue we are talking about.



Update: I’m speaking with hyperbole when I suggest placing a moratorium on the word biblical but I’m doing so for a reason. This adjective is used so frequently that it is almost meaningless (again, I highly recommend Smith’s book “The Bible Made Impossible”). Also, the Bible doesn’t always present a monolithic view on some subjects (e.g., manhood/womanhood, divorce, etc…), so the question isn’t what is the biblical view but which biblical view. This is why I suggest moratorium, which is always temporary, so that Christians might better learn to speak about the Bible and in some cases, not use that adjective as a way of stifling any further conversation.

2 responses to “A Moratorium On The Word Biblical?

  1. Without wanting to sound condescending, I believe you need a good course in a Systematic Theology. If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that we were created by a God Who is incapable of communicating clearly to His creatures. I’m not always correct in my interpretation, but study usually reveals this. In fact, there is only one correct interpretation for any Biblical claim or text. Opinions are cheap, everyone has them… truth is precious and that is why we have the Word. For what it’s worth…

    • Well, I’ve had several courses in theology and I neither said nor suggested that God does not communicate clearly. All I have said is that the way people use this adjective “biblical” has become rather meaningless and sometimes only used to discourage any further dialogue. It’s funny though how seemingly bothered people can become over one English adjective that isn’t even in the Bible.

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