I started reading Inerrancy and the Spiritual Formation of Younger Evangelicals back in December because I am currently obsessed with the doctrine of scripture and biblical inerrancy. I had to set it aside because that is the life of a graduate student. However, it’s a book that has caused me to think deeply, so I wanted to do a little writing about it.
Carlos Bovell wrote this book for professors, pastors and other teachers because of a phenomenon that is common throughout the church. Children grow up in the church and, through high school and college, they find that the things they learn cause them to reject biblical inerrancy. Because faith is so closely tied to inerrancy in evangelical culture, often, when someone rejects biblical inerrancy, they completely reject Christianity.
My Christian history actually includes my almost walking away from the faith because of my concerns with biblical inerrancy and interpretation. In fact, it’s still a shaky area for me, which helps to explain my obsession.
Bovell believes that tying faith to inerrancy is a mistake, and finds six “recognitions” that make the dogma of inerrancy unhelpful for “younger evangelicals,” which are those who are between high school age and about age 30, when worldview tends to be completely formed. I thought, as I think through the book, that I would share a little bit from each chapter, starting with first chapter today.
The first recognition Bovell shares is the idea that Evangelical Worldview Philosophy is Corrupting our Youths. Bovell means the classic platonic sense of corrupting here, or leading astray with bad advice. Giving students bad advice about worldview philosophy is setting those students up for an eventual spiritual fall.
In apologetics classes, we are taught apologetic proofs and ideas, but we’re also taught about worldview. We are taught that each person views life through the lens of a specific worldview and that it is the job of the apologist to determine the worldview that a person is using as they begin to talk to that person about faith. Often the Christian faith is presented as the “only” worldview that is fully comprehensive, coherent, and factual.
As Bovell says though, it is unfortunate that the same Christians who insist this are the same Christians who revert to the idea of “mystery” to explain complex doctrines such as the Trinity, free will, and God’s sovereignty. These apologists neglect to realize that a person often has more than one worldview at work in their lives.
I can only agree with Boswell here as my political worldview as a libertarian often helps frame the lens through which I view the world. My faith also is a lens. My womanhood and my motherhood are both lenses that I use. Worldview philosophy then is too “flat” to be able to explain the supremacy of the Christian faith in the classical sense that many apologists do.
However, I do not know that this properly relates to inerrancy. It seems tangential. Instead of applying to the inerrancy of Scripture, this idea of the utilization of multiple worldviews seems to fit more aptly with the ideas of interpretation of Scripture. Since many Christians confuse the inerrancy of Scripture with the correctness of a particular interpretation or hermeneutic for Scripture, realization that we are not totally bound to one worldview lens can be freeing in terms of interpretation.
Perhaps a more suitable way to express this concern is by having educators tell their students that interpretations are not set in stone. We all have worldview lenses that we use and many times we are not aware of these lenses. We use multiple lenses and filters and that’s okay.
It still doesn’t truly touch inerrancy itself and the implication for these different lenses of viewing the text does not require an errant text.
I’ll be back when I have read a little more of the text.