My paper was read at an academic conference for an audience of professors. Thus, precision was a premium. It was not intended for a lay audience because lay folk have a tendency---and this is not meant to be harsh—of running with ideas beyond the context in which they were originally given. A professorial friend of mine preached at a church I used to attend and argued that, while he was totally against condom distribution in the public schools, nevertheless, a widely used argument by Evangelicals was a bad argument, and he showed why. After the service, I personally heard several parishioners criticize him for promoting condom distribution in the schools!
While I am sure it was well intended, the CT editor’s summary of my paper is generally fair (though the use of “bibliolatry” in the title is a bit sensationalistic—I used it once in my paper and clarified it’s meaning by the over-commitment claim), but it is still a summary, and as such, did not and could not provide the needed context for understanding my paper. What followed was a large number (but by no means all) of misleading, irrelevant and tangential comments that had little and, often, nothing to do with my paper.
In the paper, I make clear that no one could be over-committed to the Bible (the inerrant Word of God) in loving, promoting and seeking to obey it. By over-commitment, I mean specifically that too many Evangelicals do not believe we can have extra-biblical knowledge or justified beliefs about God, morality, and other important, related matters: e.g., the existence of God and some of his attributes; the nature of the moral law and some of the absolutes that constitute it; the nature of the human soul and its functional relationships to the brain, parenting, defense mechanisms, childhood development, etc.; the reality of demons and important information about how they work in a specific culture along with important and effective ways to deal with them; and God’s guidance and speaking though impressions, circumstances, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom, dreams, and so forth. In all these cases, information that is contrary to scripture is to be rejected, but extra-biblical truth and the knowledge thereof is very, very important.
We are harming people terribly, we are embarrassing the cause of Christ, and we are failing to help people appropriate and wisely use these sources of information when we are over-committed to the Bible in and only in the precise sense I define in the paper. It is time for us to mature as a community in this way and overcome the secularist socialization that lead to our over-commitment, a position that I claim in the paper cannot be justified biblically or theologically. Does anyone seriously think that non-Christians who have never seen a Bible have no knowledge of God or the moral law? That folk in Brazil have no knowledge of how demons work even though they have never seen a Bible? That God never speaks to people and guides them in ways that carry an appropriate degree of authority in their lives (under scripture and to the degree they are justified in believing it was God who was guiding them)? Are there abuses in all these areas? Of course, but that was not part of my talk which was, after all, a mere 40 minutes including Q & A!! Besides, the proper response to abuse is not Ostrich-like denial of the reality of these areas of knowledge, but rather, wise and mature usage. Am I becoming a Catholic? I am a Protestant Evangelical of the Third Wave sort, and I have no inclination whatever to change my views on that. Finally, my paper should not be faulted for not addressing things for which I had no time or which I was simply not addressing. Nor should people fault me for a lack of clarity or charge me with “having plenty of explaining to do” when my paper is, in fact, quite clear within the limited scope of my intentions. And please do not attribute to me views or implication that I do not hold or draw.
I am posting a version of my paper on the website for my book: www.kingdomtriangle.com. I would also recommend reading my book Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan; just released about 6 months ago) for additional discussion and bibliography about how to avoid abuses in employing the sorts of extra-biblical knowledge I mention in the paper.