In a previous post, I discussed the schism between the higher critic and the lower critic.
You may wonder why Adam Hamilton wants to focus on such a topic in his book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White.
Well here is the easy answer. His book is about things in this world that divide us and over the years people have argued quite a lot about the Bible. This has evolved into the position of the Bible scholar who questions the Word of God [the high critic] and the position of the Bible scholar who accepts every word as God’s Words [the low critic].
If I could imagine what was in Pastor Hamilton’s mind as he planned his book, he probably is greatly concerned about how the Christian community has not been very interested in an even-handed approach to these two positions, people lining up for one position and casting stones at the other side.
There it is; it is all about looking at extreme positions and how people tend to adopt an extreme position and then castigate those who don’t think like they do.
How does this play out in our world today?
The low critic, fundamentalist or conservative believer is most concerned with winning people to Christ. That is a noble goal and no one could say that this objective is not emphasized in God’s word.
Jesus said “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” [Mark 16:15].
The high critic, modernist or liberal believer is most concerned with the social gospel, taking the ideas of the Bible as a foundation for making our world a better place. Jesus came to improve the world, preaching “Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” [Mark 12:31].
That is a noble goal and it would seem logical for a Christian to help others less fortunate; hence making the world a better place.
The conservative believer reads the Bible literally, affirming that the creation occurred in the last ten thousand years; the modernist does not hold to that literal interpretation, given the nature of science and evidence of the age of the earth.
The conservative believer rejects the idea that women can serve in the church in leadership positions; the modernist does not believe that this idea is practical for our world today. The conservative believes “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” [1 Timothy 2:11-12]. That is very clear; the modernist discounts that Scripture.
Which position is right? Which position is wrong?
That is the dilemma that a believer faces today.
Pastor Hamilton states “Most Christians find themselves between these two poles of the most conservative and the most liberal Christians….They would reject a literalistic reading of the Bible, embrace a willingness to ask questions and an openness of the possibility that not everything recorded in the Gospels is strictly historical.” That does not mean that there is not great reverence for God’s word and the hard rock fundamentals of the Gospels are accepted. The Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures in some way. Jesus was born of a virgin. Christ died for the sins of the world, He rose from the dead and that He worked miracles while He was here on earth.
From my own personal point of view, I feel like it is my job to be aware that the liberal bias exists. The fact that some extreme liberal scholars push the idea that Jesus actually said only 18% of His words in the Gospels is important. I need to be aware of their point of view, even though I don’t accept it. I feel like it is my job to be aware of the conservative bias that all authors of the Old Testament are as stated. I don’t have a problem with the idea that some books may be wrongly attributed. That does not make them less the “Word of God.”
It is important to not blindly accept extreme positions.
Think about what is being said, weigh it according to your faith, apply some common sense and by all means, never stop learning.