bible made impossible

Talking and acting as if the Bible is God’s only and highest self-revelation is completely “unbiblical,” even when considered in biblicist terms. God’s truest, highest, most important, most authoritative, and most compelling self-revelation is the God/Man Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ—and not the Bible—who is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). It was in Jesus Christ that “God was pleased to have all of his fullness dwell” (Col. 1:19).

As C. S. Lewis wrote, “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit, and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.” Such a view of scripture is rooted in the earliest church. For instance, the first-century church father Ignatius of Antioch, in answering those who said they can believe about the gospel only what they can find in the Old Testament scriptures, claimed in response that the “records” that really matter are not written texts but “Jesus Christ. For me, the sacrosanct records are the cross and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the faith that comes through him.”

If we want to know anything authentic about who and what God is, that is revealed to us in Jesus Christ.If we want to know the message that God truly and reliably speaks to us, we need to look to Jesus Christ. The evangelion, the gospel, is not simply some cognitive information gleaned from the Bible to which we have to give intellectual assent. Jesus Christ himself is the gospel.

-Christian Smith, Bible Made Impossible, The: Moving from Biblicism to a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture

Interviewing Ikons: Christian Smith

Christian Smith 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. Smith’s research focuses primarily on religion in modernity, adolescents, American evangelicalism, and culture. Smith received his MA and PhD from Harvard University in 1990 and his BA from Gordon College in 1983. Smith was a Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 12 years before his move to Notre Dame. He is the author of 14 books, including The Bible Made Impossible, How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood. He also coined the term “moralistic therapeutic deism” to describe the prevalent religious beliefs held by American teenagers. I am thankful to Dr. Smith for taking the time to answer my questions.

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As Keith Ward notes, “For a Christian, every part of the Bible must in some way point to Christ, to the living person of Jesus who is the Christ, and to the unlimited, liberating love of God which is revealed in Christ. To put it bluntly, it is not the words of the Bible that are ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’ It is the person of Christ, to whom the Bible witnesses.” And as Bonhoeffer says of scripture, “In its entirety and in all its parts it is nothing but this witness of Christ, his life, his death, and his resurrection.” Another way to say that we must read the Bible christologically and as committed trinitarians is to state clearly that any doctrine of revelation, scripture, or inspiration must, in any larger theological system, be properly located within the doctrine of God and not as a foundational prolegomenon or epistemological preface. Unfortunately, the latter is what typically happens in biblicist evangelical theology:

Christian Smith,
Bible Made Impossible, The: Moving from Biblicism to a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture