In the last post on Rachel Held Evans’s (RHE from now on) new book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again we talked about her view of the Old Testament. Today, we’ll discuss her view of the New Testament.
All totaled this project has been several hours of work. Between reading the book and writing these posts, it’s taken valuable time away from me. But the reason I’ve committed to doing this is because I think that many people, even in the Bible Belt, hold to similar views as RHE. They may not quite express it like she does, but in their minds, there is disagreement with Scripture. They deny the authority, sufficiency, and clarity of Scripture.
Doubting the Bible is not a virtue, especially from someone like RHE who clearly has the ability to know better. Instead, her “doubting” is more about rebellion to what God has actually said. We should be angry that she is treating the Bible so flippantly, but we should also sincerely love her enough to pray for God’s mercy in her life, and that His grace would rescue her from this path she has chosen, for the end of this road is disastrous. And, we should be willing to offer a biblical response to the nonsense she is publishing. That’s what I’m attempting to do in these posts.
The New Testament Canon
RHE says “Christians were arguing over the shape of their canon well into the Protestant Reformation” (pg. 103). This is disingenuous as it makes it sound as though the New Testament canon was fluid over the course of the majority of church history. This is simply untrue. Several church councils in the 4th century affirmed the New Testament canon but in reality, it was accepted by the churches well before that. This post isn’t designed to go into all the details of canonicity, but suffice to say that God has perfectly watched over His Word so as to give us a clear canon of New Testament Scriptures (and it didn’t take 1500 years to do so).
I addressed genres in the last post, but it’s important to recognize that the New Testament authors wrote in specific genres as well. Let me reiterate here that none of the genres found in the New Testament are meant to be understood as untrue. In fact, the very reason certain books were not recognized as canon in the early church is because they were either written by a pseudo-author or contained falsehoods.
So, the gospel narratives are presented as factual accounts, instead of myth. No, they aren’t meant to be read like a Newspaper (a different genre!), but this doesn’t mean people in the 21st century are the first to reject fake news. The gospels were written as credible accounts of events.
It is interesting to me that RHE talks a lot about God becoming man, but also has serious problems with the miracles of the New Testament. The point of the miracle stories, she says, is to “unlock the deeper meaning” (pg. 181). So, Jesus didn’t really walk on water but there is inspiration there for us to glean.
Of course, this is quite a preposterous view if one holds to the incarnation. Like, Jesus walking on water is totally unbelievable! But yeah, God became man. Do you see the discrepancy there? This reveals that RHE is ok with accepting miracles as truth as long as it fits her agenda (and the incarnation fits her agenda because she thinks conservatives ignore the significance of God using women in Scripture).
“What does this mean for a perpetual skeptic like me who isn’t certain any of these miracles actually happened?… A better question than ‘Do I believe in miracles?’ is ‘Am I acting like I do?’ Am I including the people who are typically excluded? Am I feeding the hungry and caring for the sick? Am I holding the hands of the homeless and offering help to addicts? Am I working to break down religious and political barriers that marginalize ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities and people with disabilities? Am I behaving as though life is more than a meaningless, chaotic mess, that there is some order in the storm?” (pg. 186)
“Act like you believe and maybe, at long last, you will” (pg. 188). Again, undermining people’s belief in the miracles of Jesus is a trajectory set on undermining one’s belief in Jesus Himself. You’re going to balk at Christ calming a storm, but you’re ok with God taking on human flesh? There is a disconnect in this line of reasoning. The point of the miracles in the New Testament is not for us to “act like we believe them” but it’s God’s way of “proving” to us the legitimacy of Christ’s ministry that we might ask “What manner of man is this!?” in our own hearts and see and believe that we might have life in His name.
Unbelief in the miracles of Jesus is an expression of unbelief in the ministry of Jesus and the deity of Jesus. You can’t have it both ways.
RHE is probably most “famous” for her liberal stance on women preaching and affirming homosexuality as a viable Christian lifestyle. So, it’s no surprise that she dismisses the sound doctrinal teaching of the New Testament epistles.
She writes: “The authors did not consider their letters Scripture at the time, nor did the recipients” (pg. 200). This is in direct contradiction to what Peter says in 2 Peter 3:15-16
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
Or Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:18 “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’ That last line about ‘The laborer deserves his wages’ is from Luke 10:7.
The point is that we have Biblical evidence that both Paul and Peter saw the New Testament writings as Scripture when they were written! And mind you, Paul later says “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).
But, don’t you see how easy it is to dismiss the parts of the Bible you don’t agree with if you can show how they aren’t really “God-breathed”? That’s the whole purpose behind RHE’s book. She works to cast doubt on the “clarity of Scripture” (pg. 209) so that readers will walk away with her worldview instead of God’s.
Of course, RHE fails in her attempt at de-inspiring God’s Word. She marches out tired arguments about how homosexuality doesn’t mean homosexuality, how Paul didn’t really write all his letters, and love is more important than doctrine, etc. She says Paul didn’t want women in authority over men in the church only because it would have upset the culture of the day when Paul grounds his argument in creation not culture (1 Tim. 2:12).
Instead of letting the New Testament speak for itself, and letting Scripture interpret Scripture, RHE seeks to impose her worldview over the Scriptures which gives her license to cut, twist, and dismiss the parts of the Bible that make her uncomfortable.
Here are all the posts in the series: