“A growing numbers are asking whether their reading has become too rigid, too simplistic and too alienating.” That’s the intro to a new Orange County Register article titled: Rethinking the Bible: A reassessment among some evangelicals. Here is an excerpt:
What is the Bible?
It’s a straightforward question. But for Christians these days, it turns out there’s no straightforward answer.
Not even for evangelical Christians, who for centuries have remained near unanimous in their belief that the Bible is the authoritative word of God – until now.
At a time when fewer Americans than ever read the Bible or even regard it as sacred, even evangelical Christians are beginning to ask whether their historic embrace of Scripture has become too rigid, too simplistic and too alienating in an increasingly pluralistic society.
“We’re in a moment of history where things are shifting,” said Rob Bell, a best-selling evangelical author and former megachurch pastor who lives in Laguna Beach.
Bell is one of several prominent evangelicals who in recent months have published books or extended online essays questioning traditional claims that the Bible, as Bell put it in all capital letters in a blog post, “IS THE INERRANT TRUTH ABOUT WHICH THERE CAN BE NO COMPROMISE.”
In churches, seminaries and online, evangelicals are asking whether the Bible was directly inspired by God; whether Scripture truly condemns homosexuality; and whether strict observance of biblical rules is even possible given the complexities of language, history and culture inherent in biblical interpretation.
“The Bible is complex and, while influenced by God, it is not dictated by God,” prominent megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton told the Religion News Service in May.
Hamilton was speaking about a book he published in March that encourages Christians to abandon overly literalistic approaches to Scripture.
Also urging Christians to re-evaluate their Bibles is a 24-year-old gay evangelical from Kansas named Matthew Vines, who leads a national network of evangelicals dedicated to promoting tolerance of homosexuality in churches.
“Bible passages” appearing to condemn homosexuality “have been misinterpreted,” Vines wrote in a book he published this year called “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Marriage.”
“You can affirm same-sex relationships and uphold biblical authority,” Vines said.
Karen Winslow, a Bible scholar at Azusa Pacific Seminary, said evangelicals are re-evaluating their approach to Scripture for several reasons.
First, she said, a younger generation of Americans is growing up with less biblical knowledge than ever before, requiring pastors to start from scratch when teaching in church.
A study this year by the American Bible Society found that nearly 40 percent of Americans under age 30 never read the Bible, while 16 percent of young adults consider the Bible “the actual word of God.”