Monthly Archives: July 2011

Finding the moral of the story

One well-intentioned but misguided method of reading (and teaching) the Bible is this: we read Bible stories as though they are essentially fables, designed for us to learn the moral of the story so we can be better people (or, perhaps, better Christians). This kind of reading, while not unprofitable, inclines us all too often to miss the point of the biblical author.

Let me offer what is, in my mind, one clear example of this kind of exegesis. Some very memorable Bible stories come from the book of Judges; Samson and Gideon are both first-ballot members of the Flannelgraph Hall of Fame. But the overall point of the book of Judges is not to highlight great models of heroic faith; rather, the author is recounting the dark days in Israel in which everyone did what was right in his own eyes because there was no king in Israel. Thus, if we teach the story of Gideon primarily to admonish us to greater obedience in faith (or to make some such other immediate application), we have failed to understand the point that the author was trying to make: Israel needs a king. Ultimately, we need a King. We miss the point of the stories if we fail to relate them to the story of the Bible.

That story, the story of the Bible, is the story of God’s working to establish a Kingdom for his Son.

My point here is not to dissuade us from looking for and preaching practical applications from narrative passages; rather, I want to admonish us all to do so only secondarily, after we give careful attention to the point of the narrative within the bigger story of God’s ultimate purposes.

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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Theology


Apologetics and the Kingdom

In the day of the coming Kingdom, it will not be necessary to write endless volumes on Christian “evidences” and “apologetics.” Debates on the existence of God will become absurd and obsolete, suited only to be classed with arguments over the existence of sunlight.

Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom, 176.

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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Apologetics


Sam Gipp and NIV-onlyism

To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never engaged KJV-onlyism on this blog, and I don’t intend to make it anything like a regular topic. However, I recently stumbled upon this article from Sam Gipp, and decided that it was interesting enough to merit a remark or two.

If you didn’t click the link, the gist of Gipp’s claim is this: if all KJV-only proponents were to announce that they had become NIV-only, those who object to KJV-onlyism would still be unsatisfied. This dissatisfaction indicates (to Gipp) that his opponents object not merely the supposed perfection of the King James, but are inclined to reject any book as God’s revealed, unquestionable authority.

But, don’t believe me! Go ask one. Say to an opponent of the King James Bible, “If tomorrow all the King James Bible believers recanted their belief and said it wasn’t perfect, would that be good?” See what they say. Then add, “They all said they threw out their King James Bibles because they had come to realize that it’s actually the New International Version that is the perfect Word of God without error. What do you think of that?” See what they say!

Their hatred isn’t for us. It’s for the One who put a perfect Bible on this earth and forced them into such a tight spot!

In reply, this is nothing like a good argument, but it’s a new one (at least to me), and so has that going for it. I’ve heard opponents of KJV-onlyism joke about becoming NIV-only, but I’ve never heard a KJV-only proponent suggest it as a basis for his defense of the King James.

It seems to me that Gipp’s claim is very similar to those who insist that doctors really aren’t interested in a cure for cancer, because should such a cure be found, the medical industry would lose so much money (in research funding, current extensive treatments, etc.). While one could make this case sound plausible economically, it is only believable if you are convinced that a good majority of doctors are truly sub-human, merciless creatures. Even the most robust belief in total depravity hardly underwrites such cynicism.

A similar maliciousness is necessary to believe that all of those doing textual criticism are not really interested in determining the original readings at all, but are instead interested only in preserving doubt about the text (presumably for the sake of employment, book deals, etc.). Perhaps such folks do exist; Bart Ehrman comes to mind in this regard. But, then, no one is suggesting that Ehrman’s pursuit of textual criticism (at least on the popular level) has anything to do with finding the original text in the first place.

So Gipp has offered us a question: “What if we became NIV-only?” I’m offering a counter-question: “What (non-question-begging) reason do have for thinking that those studying textual criticism have no real interest in finding the original, authoritative text?”


Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Fundamentalism, Theology