From a reader of Inspiration and Incarnation:
I recently read your book ‘Inspiration and Incarnation‘. I’m a 35 year old who came up in evangelical churches and at one point considered going to seminary to become an OT scholar. However, years of reading the bible, thinking through everything, and reading tons of books eventually lead me away from evangelicalism. Ultimately, I became disenchanted with the dishonesty of evangelical scholars, and their willingness to jump through all kinds of hoops to defend their view of what scripture needed to be. This pattern of intellectual dishonesty left me feeling that evangelical scholarship could not be trusted, and that seminary would have just been a big exercise in self justification. Just from my own reading, I developed a gut feeling that there was no way to be intellectually honest and stay an evangelical. So, I nixed my seminary plans and went into IT. But I have always carried an undercurrent of dissatisfaction that I could not find a way to be an intellectually honest evangelical. I want to believe the evangelical beliefs about Jesus, but have also always been a rigorous, uncompromising truth seeker. I’ve always held myself to a standard of ‘The truth, wherever it leads’, and will not let my desire for Christianity to be true get in the way of what shows itself to be true. So, I feel stuck because of honesty, with there doesn’t seem to be a way out.
I was directed to your book by a pastor who was trying to talk me through my questions, doubts, etc. I’ve been through this routine so many times over the years with well-intentioned pastors, so I wasn’t expecting much. However, upon getting into your book, I started getting really excited, as this was the first book that seemed to acknowledge the problems in scripture honestly. Since you’re an evangelical, the suspense was really mounting for me to see how you were going to turn it all around and pull off a satisfying answer, given all the things to reconcile. In the end, it didn’t give me the breakthrough I was hoping for, but no matter. In my opinion, that is an impossible task anyway. But your book was a really good attempt at synthesis and reconciliation, and I heartily commend you for that. I also want to applaud your courage to be honest, especially given the fallout that has occurred since. Intellectual honesty is so rare with evangelicals, so your book is praiseworthy in it’s commitment to that, among other things.
I’m familiar with the arguments for and against evangelical views. That said, in end for me, it all comes down to a question of logic and fairness. I know you’re busy, and so I understand if you can’t respond. However, if you can find time, I’d love to know your thoughts. This is just one honest person respectfully reaching out to another with a very basic question:
HOW IS CHRISTIAN FAITH REASONABLE?
In a nutshell, the world is expected to arrive at Christian orthodoxy (right beliefs about Jesus) or end up in hell. But how can this be fair when we can’t ‘know’ anything for sure? It’s like asking someone to make an eternal gamble based on speculation and second hand evidence. That aside, can people even control what they believe? You expose yourself to ideas and try to the best of your ability to be unbiased and rational, but through that process, certain things stick and other things don’t. That seems to be a process that just happens, and can’t really be controlled. If that is true, then how could God hold anyone accountable for arriving at certain conclusions when it could be out of their control?
And as regards your christotelic view. If we’re forced to start with faith and work backwards, how is that fair? Isn’t that just starting with a conclusion then finding any means necessary to justify it? And even if one believes the typical evangelic MO for all that (the Spirit gives faith and illuminates understanding), that view itself presupposes the truth of the NT from which it is derived. So, it seems to come full circle to the evangelical idea that God gives faith in the first place, and without that, one cannot come to the truth. Even a pure, open heart and an intellectually honest mind are not enough for the seeker. He must be given faith in the first place to even take the first steps towards a hidden world of truth that is kept from the unenlightened man. Is this what you believe? Whether it is or not, can you comment on this way of thinking and perhaps give a way forward?
For me, intellectual honesty is the truest thing I have. With everything I’ve ever learned, it only leaves me able to say ‘Yes, that COULD be true’, but no way to actually know anything for sure. And that being the case, am I doomed to eternity in hell because I cannot somehow conjure the conviction of the truthfulness of these things? I have always been more honest than any of my evangelical friends for whom faith is easy, and it seems like cruel punishment that my ‘reward’ for all my integrity is this ‘no man’s land’, while they never lose sleep over anything. What is more pure and deserving of God’s grace and good pleasure than someone who is, above all things, true? I think having a high regard for truth (and yet not overstating my ability to know truth) is the ‘truest’ thing I can do. How can faith (acquiescence, actually) in ‘facts’ (about God, Jesus etc.) be more valuable to God than a high regard for the nature and scope of truth, and true living? Seems all wrong to me.
Anyway, that’s the gist. Thoughts?