Video: Is Biblicism Bad?

My latest Davenant Institute video has just gone online. This time, Brad Belschner and I are discussing what ‘biblicism’ is and whether it is bad. Take a look!

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Bible, Revelation, Scripture, Theological, Video. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Video: Is Biblicism Bad?

  1. Geoff says:

    I am not sure whether this is well timed, is a result of points raised hot in the MF Trueman podcast as a result of his comments on Catholic criticism, such as Christian Smith’s of Protestant view(s) (pervasive interpreted pluralism) on scripture, known as biblicism, linked to clarity of scripture and perhaps more particularly Systematic Theology. Cal, in his comment on the podcast, clearly doesn’t think Trueman sufficiently addresses the point.
    Your video doesn’t directly address those issues, but considers wider issues, not confined to meaning of scripture, but the sufficiency of scripture.
    What is scripture for?
    It doesn’t give an exhausive list of how to keep the Sabbath, of what amounts to work, that Rabbi’s counselled.
    By the way, it doesn’t give a detailed list of good works.
    We do live beyond the detail of scripture, but not above it. Doesn’t all truth, come from God, from his very nature.
    You keep returning to sexuality to demonstrate natural law, which can be discussed without referrence to the bible, but, ultimately, natural law is scriptural. The question then becomes a one of persuasion. An advocate dosen’t cite legal authority, to peruade a jury.

    • Natural law isn’t scriptural. Natural law isn’t merely a theological theory, but the law of human existence which is discoverable through experience and practice. The Bible has very little to say about natural law, but it presumes it.

  2. Geoff says:

    PS. In Jurisprudence, the source of Natural Law is God.

  3. cal says:

    Given the example of necrophilia, no, there are no explicit verses that address the subject, but there are verses that define the parameters of sex, marriage, communication with the dead, interactions with the dead, etc etc. Understanding prohibition of necrophilia would be that exercise of prudence in feeding on, ruminating on, meditating on, God’s Law.

    However, I agree with your concern for engaging with non-believers over an issue like marriage. But I’m not sure treating Scripture and nature as distinct sources within a similar genus is helpful. What if I said Scripture reveals the natural order? Or, even more so, Scripture reveals God’s work of salvation as well. It is possible to imagine that an Egyptian, standing at the shore of the Red Sea, saw the waters part and collapse, go home, and write an account of it. God’s works are, in this way, empirical, but still sovereign in the way they are received (i.e. the work of miracles blinding unbelief). Scripture provides the necessary commentary on the natural order, which without it would leave one confused as to what it is (i.e. all of creation speaks, preaches, worships, but our minds are darkened).

    There are many aberrant practices that are socially absorbed as normative and natural. And there are true social practices that Christians adhere to that other societies may find abhorrent (e.g. celibacy, forgiveness/meekness/self-sacrifice as virtues individually and socially, forsaking accumulation of wealth, diminishing ultimate place of the family etc.). Christians must work out of the Bible to see such as such definitively, but in engagement, the method ought to be inductive reasoning, sharing the common ground of the social arrangement’s instantiation and moving upwards to thinking about the order of things (i.e. specific social arrangement of marriage -> general category of marriage/family/progeny -> telos of human life), which may eventually, but not necessarily, reach an appeal to Scripture. I don’t like the presuppositional approach because it seems to make all physical reality and its arrangement subjective and pliable in the mind. However, I don’t think the hard approach to natural law is right either. It many times takes away the apocalyptic edge of Christ’s Kingdom, and can import worldliness into the Church with which it constantly struggles with, justifies, and may concede to. Magisterial Protestantism’s legacy has been such.


    • cal says:

      PS. I presume that virtues and Human excellence (which include Christ’s commands) are natural, in the sense that they adhere to Human nature (c.f. St. Maximus).

  4. Geoff says:

    Alastair, your view of natural law (both expressed and implied from Genesis onwards) differs from mine, but I am open to be persuaded. Mine would include gravity as natural (though God created) law. Not sure how the somewhat extreme example of necrophilia furthers your point in natural law being discoverable through experience practice, as experience and practice is relative, varies from society to society and times to times, precisely the arguments used to defend and promote homosexual practice.

  5. Geoff says:

    There may be some interest in this: “Ancestral wisdom is insufficient for this present precipice”(sexual/gender) There is a need to generate a new wisdom – at approx 6:30 mins. There is an acknowledgement that the tenets of evolution have been jettisoned, abandoned in the promulgation of new identities. So far I’ve not listened to it all. Jordan Peterson is part of the panel, though he is not the one making the point.

  6. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Alastair,
    This is interesting!
    I think we are given some clues about the natural order in the story of Noah’s Ark. When we were kids at Sunday school back in the days when we had never heard a whisper about same-sex marriage, we heard without question the words ‘…and you shall go into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every lining thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.’ Do you think this could be an instance of God taking it for granted as it were that people already knew about heterosexual pairs, and did not need a detailed explanation from God on the subject of sexuality?

  7. Dave K says:

    Interesting video and very helpful. Awful furniture and brick a brac though!

    Have you ever read Creation and law by Gustaf Wingren? I found him an interesting person to read on the topic of natural law.

  8. Gary says:

    Only poorly informed fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist atheists read the Bible literally.

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