Evangelicals in the Factory of Scripture

A Diverse Evangelicalism Means a Diverse Bible
Evangelicals are an unstable and shifting conglomeration of camps: Protestant Orthodox, Pietists, Dispensationalists, Pentecostals, charismatics, other traditions' conservatives, and lots of mongrels.
Evangelicals commonly profess (among other things) respect for Scripture.
Yet our different camps tend to see and use the Bible in different, even conflicting and contradictory, ways.
We See Scripture as We Use Scripture (and vice versa)
John Calvin (speaking for many others): we read through the Bible.
Inductive study shows a correlation between evangelical views and uses of Scripture.
Our variety, our heritages, and our uses of the Bible make it a 'factory of images' (and us the factory workers).
We envision Scripture in distinctive ways – in metaphors that generate correlated images for everything (e.g., Islam).
We are also 'a factory of Bibles': Our images of everything also lead us to use Bibles in certain ways.
We disagree and talk past each other in part because we see and use Scripture differently.
Popular Evangelical Metaphors
Warning: these generalizations are crude, they overlap, and communities almost always draw on more than one!
Metaphor Use Hermeneutical Guide Representative Figures Stereotypical Arguments Heritage Champions Paradigmatic CBD Bible Image of Islam
ultimate narrator The Bible locates us and everything else in its story of creation, judgment, and redemption. Apostles' and Nicene creeds; biblical narratives (e.g., Luke/Acts) Athanasius; Alexander Campbell The Bible does not belong to our world ('Athens'), rather we belong to the Bible's world ('Jerusalem'). premodern Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant; Restorationist traditionalists, postliberals; biblicists Keystone Family, Faith & Values Heritage Edition Bible (Fireside) $35.99 a biblical figure [Ishmael, Assyria/Babylon, God-fearers, Judaizers, the beast, the Pharisees, or Simon bar-Jonah]
God's Word to the Church Biblical rituals order our community, our calendar, and our life passages. lectionaries (magisterial churches and monastic orders); the Sermon on the Mount (baptists) Benedict, Thomas Cranmer; Menno Simons Standing for the Gospel reading acknowledges its centrality; following Jesus entails nonviolence. Catholic; baptist (sic) Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and 'high' liturgical Protesants; free churches Broadman & Holman Pew Bible (B&H) $10.99 social order both oppressive and supportive of Christ's body
mirror of personal life experience The Bible offers us self-understanding. Psalms and Proverbs, imaginatively 'autobiographical' Bible reading Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola I see myself as Peter denying Jesus under pressure, yet being restored. mystical Spiritualists, Pietists, individualists Extreme Teen Bible (Nelson) $17.99 Saul of Tarsus
judge The Bible proclaims our relationship with God. covenantal and kerygmatic passages Martin Luther, John Calvin Scripture proclaims our condemnation and our justification. Protestant traditional Protestants Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Zondervan) $31.99 legalistic substitute for (or refusal of, or candidate for) God's grace in Christ
means of conversion The Bible helps us become 'convicted' and change. conversion narratives (Paul, Jesus' circle, prophets, patriarchs) John Wesley, Friedrich Schleiermacher My own story fits the paradigm of Paul's past and present life. Wesleyan revivalists and sanctificationists

New Believer's Bible (Tyndale) $14.99

The Life Plan Study Bible (Nelson) $29.99

basis for conversion and sanctification (liberals: a basis for similar spiritual growth)
treasury of truth The Bible teaches the facts about God and the world. historical and propositional passages Charles Hodge; Thomas Jefferson The Virgin Birth really happened; passages teach universal principles. modernist Fundamentalists; liberals

NIV Study Bible (Zondervan) $31.99

Life Application Bible (Tyndale) $26.99

false ideology; a pointer to the same god
means of mission We translate the Bible and take it to those who need to hear its good news. the Great Commission, Acts' evangelistic passages, the nations around the throne William Tyndale, William Carey Translating the New Testament facilitates the gospel's inculturation. missionary indigenous churches and intercultural circles NIV Witness Edition Bible (Zondervan) $5.99 fallow mission field
past and future timeline We search the Bible to decode the future. synthesized genaeologies, chronologies, and apocalyptic passages Joachim of Fiore, John Nelson Darby The next chapter of cosmic history is imminent. Adventist Dispensationalists

Reese Chronological Bible (Bethany) $19.99

Dake Annotated Reference Bible (Dake) $29.99

apocalyptic enemy of God's people
means of power We wield the Bible to advance Christ's victorious kingdom. conflict narratives Charles Fox Parham, Martin Luther King We pray with Scripture to overcome adversaries and wage spiritual warfare. Pentecostal charismatics, liberation theologians

New Spirit-filled Life Bible (Nelson) $29.99

Life Recovery Bible (Tyndale), $19.99

domain of principalities and powers
Versatility, Practicality, Circularity, Complexity, Compatibility, Contradiction
"Meaning is use": interpretation means our Bible-uses dialogically discipline and are disciplined by our lives.
"Rationality is tradition": we do not so much make or choose metaphors as metaphors form and appropriate us.
Uses and images of Scripture emerge only as we use it, become familiar with it, and it shapes us.
Some metaphors are more inclusive than others, but no one metaphor seems to include or govern all the others.
Evangelicals share commitments and confidence in Scripture, but share no coherent 'evangelical hermeneutic'.
Scholarly communities cut across, and offer alternatives to, these communities (e.g., New Oxford Annotated Bible [Oxford] $35.99).
Our different Bibles reify and distinguish us (sometimes sinfully).
We adopt various hermeneutical strategies eclectically to serve our purposes.
Are We Competent Users of Scripture?
David Yeago: Understanding the Bible involves judgments that cannot be made technically or methodologically.
Using Scripture well entails and grows healthy community, obedience, exposure, training, skill, and virtue.
Sin impairs biblical interpretation.
Our sins include concupiscence, ecclesial division and strife, self-serving hermeneutics, dysfunctional institutions, biblical illiteracy, unskillful reading practices, shallow and poor training, and tendencies to look outside the tradition for quick fixes.
We cannot solve these problems with only greater technical expertise (Matt. 13:52).
R.R. Reno: The 'diminished' modern church (liberal and evangelical) is not ready to revise its judgments.
Ad Fontes/Ressourcement: the way forward 'dwells in the ruins' (Neh. 2:5) and goes back to the sources.
This is precisely why we need to respect our pasts which we might not fully understand, to strengthen our practices, and to nourish a safe environment in which to use and strengthen them.