Evangelical Jenga

Will the whole building collapse? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I’ve been communicating with a friend of mine who is coming out of a period of doubt and has said that part of the problem is what Dan Wallace, noted NT textual critic and conservative Christian, calls “Bibliolatry.” This is where we have put the Bible on a high pedestal so high that we must isolate it from anything that would seem to go against it.

Let’s state something right at the start. I have a great love for the Bible. It is the most important book out there. It is the book that I have spent the past decade defending and showing the reliability of. Yet at the same time, I do not wish to put the Bible in an isolation chamber. I also don’t want to put it on the throne of God. (And I have seen some Christians say the Word in John 1:1 is the Bible. That’s scary.)

The end result of all of this has been a sort of evangelical Jenga.

Most of us have seen or played the game Jenga. You get a tower of small wooden sticks and you have to take one stick out and put it on top without having the whole thing collapse. If you make a mistake and it collapses, then you are the one who loses that game.

There are some beliefs in Christianity that are absolutely 100% non-negotiable such that if they are not true, then Christianity is not true. For instance, if there is no God, there can obviously be no God revealing Himself in Christ. If Jesus is not deity, then we cannot have God among us and if there is no Trinity, then we have a huge problem with who Jesus is. If there is no physical resurrection, then death is not conquered.

Now here are some other areas to consider.

Let’s suppose you hold to a pre-trib dispensational view of Scripture. An honest question to ask yourself. If it turns out that this view is wrong, does that mean Christianity is wrong? If it turns out that orthodox Preterism is wrong, does that mean I have to reject Christianity?

People like Ken Ham have stated that the reason youth are falling away is because they do not understand young-earth creationism. I would contend it’s the opposite. If YEC becomes synonymous with Christianity and that is called into question, then that means that Christianity must fall since the two have to stand.

Question again. If you are a YEC and you find out that it turns out the Earth is really not young but is rather old, does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

In fact, let’s make the question even more pointed than that. Let’s suppose that it turns out that there really was a process of natural selection that took place in an evolutionary history that shows that life is here through a process of evolution. Does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

Let’s suppose that it is found that there is a bona fide contradiction within the text of Scripture. Question. Does that convince you that there is no reliable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?

For an example of this kind of thinking, take a look at a post by James White with a link below. He is responding to someone on a message board and he is answering about William Lane Craig.

“First, William Lane Craig was not jesting with his atheist opponent. He was being perfectly serious in suggesting that his opponent become a Christian “who simply doesn’t believe in inerrancy.” Can you make heads or tails out of such a suggestion, sir? What was Craig asking him to do? Believe Jesus died and rose from the dead solely on the basis of the “greater probability” of the event from a historical perspective? What if his opponent then asked, “But, even if I believe that, what does it have to do with meā€¦and don’t answer by reference to the Bible, since, of course, I don’t believe it is a divine revelation to begin with.” What then? Given the context of the debate, was it not obvious that having this as the final statement made by Craig that night communicated very clearly that the authority, accuracy, and consistency of the Bible is very low on his list of apologetic priorities? Do you think this was a wise way to end the debate? Do you think it is wrong to point this out and discuss it and point to a better way? Why is it “harsh” of me to do so?”

Actually, I can make heads or tails of becoming a Christian that does not believe in Inerrancy. It simply means someone believes Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but they are not convinced that the Bible is 100% reliable in all that it teaches. Is this a position I agree with? No. Yet I can tell you I would rather have someone come to the resurrected savior with a less than perfect view of Scripture rather than be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who would say they believe in Inerrancy but do not have the Jesus of the Bible.

The reliability of the Bible is important to Craig, but apparently more important is getting people to recognize Jesus as Lord. White seems stunned someone would base this belief on a greater probability argument. Well what does he think the early church did that didn’t have a Bible? They had to actually give evidence that Jesus was risen and let the people examine it.

White’s approach is that of bibliolatry. In fact, it is an excellent example since it includes in there the notion of 100% certainty. If you do not have 100% certainty, then you do not have a good foundation. Before moving on to explain this further, let’s ask a couple more questions.

Suppose you become convinced that Luke is actually not the author of Luke. Does this mean that you no longer hold that the gospel of Luke is a reliable source? Let’s suppose you hold that Peter did not write 2 Peter or Paul did not write Colossians. Does this mean you have no reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead?

If having your beliefs above be proven wrong was enough to get you to think Jesus did not rise from the dead, you have a problem.

Let’s go back to White and consider his idea. Most of us make numerous life decisions every day on less than 100% certainty. I don’t have 100% certainty when I go to the store to buy groceries that I will be coming home. I could get in a car accident on the way. I still act and I in fact act with great certainty. I act as if nothing will happen and don’t really take the possibility of the contrary seriously.

Let’s suppose you were someone like White with Inerrancy being such a major factor and then add in the other beliefs. You have to hold to the authorship of this book, have to hold that there are no contradictions, have to hold to a certain doctrine of the end times, and have to hold to a certain view of the age of the Earth.

Do tell me this. How is it going to be possible that you will always have in your memory all the information that you need to deal with every objection?

You won’t.

In fact, you will come to every objection on edge ultimately since if one part of the tower falls, then the whole thing will collapse. Is it any wonder so many people have their faith in shambles? They are walking on a tight rope and are afraid to breathe. They are unable to have their positions examined because if one goes down, the whole edifice will collapse.

Realize this. If you hold any position that is true, research will not change that if it is done properly. There is nothing wrong with your having your presuppositions. We all have them. Just be aware that they are there and don’t let them dominate. You don’t want it to be that the case is decided before you examine the evidence, especially while telling unbelievers to not do the same thing.

What would be a better technique? How about majoring on the essentials instead? Perhaps you cannot give a great answer to an evolutionist if you don’t study science, like I don’t. Still, what if you can demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead? Isn’t your case made either way? Perhaps you have to change your view of Genesis. That’s a whole lot better than having to find a new worldview entirely isn’t it?

Maybe you don’t know enough to answer that one potential contradiction in the Bible. Okay. Does that mean the testimony in 1 Cor. 15 of the resurrection of Jesus is automatically wrong then? It sounds like a strange view of Scripture doesn’t it? Either everything is right or everything is wrong? Does that mean if there is one contradiction you have to believe Jesus never existed since the Bible says He does?

Our game of evangelical Jenga is unfortunately burdening us all and making us retreat into nice little bubbles of isolation where we cannot really let our beliefs be challenged and let true investigation take place. I find it ironic that those who seem to want to shout the loudest about how trustworthy the Bible is live in dread of a mistake. I am quite sure of how trustworthy it is which leads me to say to skeptics “Go ahead. Examine my book. Test it. Let’s talk about your findings.”

Let us hope the game of Jenga ends soon, because unfortunately, our youth who apostasize are being the losers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

James White’s entry can be found here