Yesterday, I read an article discussing one of the hot button topics in the church and in our society today. In the article was a quote by someone well-known in church circles. He made the following statement, “Even most liberal biblical scholars agree…” What followed was a statement of why “his side was right” in regard to this issue.
I have to be honest I found this quote unsettling on more than one level. Let me say this to begin with:
- • the issue is not simple
- • the biblical evidence is not overwhelming
- • And from a pastoral care standpoint—the topic needs to be dealt with many levels including its impact on all of God’s children.
Another of my concerns is the phrase, “liberal biblical scholars”. My concern has to do with the oppositional nature of the statement and its implication which is: there exist liberal biblical scholars that think one way and conservative biblical scholars who think another. I personally know several biblical scholars and honestly do not know of one who considers him/herself to be either a liberal or conservative biblical scholar – they simply consider themselves biblical scholars. It seems more often that those who evaluate a particular scholar’s position (according to their own understanding and theology) are often the ones who impose the labels liberal or conservative.
One more concern is that this assertion presupposes that such a group—liberal biblical scholars—exists, and we could seek them out for confirmation of this person’s claim about their position on this topic. Thus a strong and powerful position statement is made claiming strong support, and yet there is no way to confirm the writer’s assertion or conclusion.
What is most disturbing to me is that this way of defending his position shuts off any potential dialogue. The writer is positing that “most” liberal scholars agree and even though it is not stated, it could be implied then that “all” or almost all conservative biblical scholars agree. Thus…end of discussion!
Please understand that this is not my attempt to attack this person or even to diminish their stance. However, it is my hope that with the challenges the church is facing we can move beyond statements that further divide to find a place where we can begin an open and honest discussion.
Even if we do not all think alike…may we not love alike.