What if We Talked Like Evangelical Scholars?
After reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and Don’t Waste Your Life over the last couple of months, I wanted the next book I read have some scholarly and intellectual teeth to it. Unfortunately I picked up What Have They Done With Jesus? by Ben Witherington. This book was required reading for a class I audited (and hence didn’t have to read the book), so I really wanted to be favorable towards it.
I know next-to-nothing about Witherington’s theology or position in the evangelical world. In the book he comes across as thoroughly orthodox, with a slight liberal bent in regards to New Testament authorship (holding to the “First Witness” composition of Matthew, Markian Priority, and a rather unique position about the Gospel of John). The purpose of his book is to critically examine the bizarre world of alternate theories about Jesus and his relationships with his disciples. Witherington examines everything from the Gospel of Judas to The Da Vinci Code.
Despite some mildly beneficial content, I put the book down after about 65 pages. It was an incredible waste of time. This book serves as a microcosm of the problems with current mainstream evangelical scholarship. I say mainstream because the church is blessed with many many God-glorifying, courageous men like DA Carson and David Wells who refuse to cheapen the truth for the sake of fake “intellectual humility.” And I say current because it hasn’t always been that higher learning and tepid writing go together. To quote:
“Very likely Isaiah 22:15-25 lies in the background…” (64)
“Probably, then, the keys are a symbol of Peter’s authority in general…” (64)
“Perhaps one could argue…” (64)
“Peter may have been one…” (65)
“This may explain…” (65)
“We should perhaps envision…” (66)
“It is, of course, possible to see…” (66)
“If the reference…” (66)
I began thinking, what would it look like if we talked in everyday life like we did in evangelical scholarship?
“After studying the mathematics, I am persuaded that the bridge most likely will be able to support your car as it travels across.”
“Hello ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for flying Southwest. Our destination will possibly be Phoenix today.”
“Thank you for paying with PayPal. The seller might send you your package.”
A referee: “That perhaps could have been a touchdown.”
Parent to child: “It’s possible that we love you.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ matters far more than a plane flight or a football game. It is of far more importance than banking statements and engineering. So why do we reserve unreserved assertions of truth for only things that don’t matter?
It’s sad to see the life-giving gospel muddied by pandering to the culture of trendy intellectual uncertainty. I claim to speak a message that brings reconciliation and redemption to the human heart. May God grant courage to speak it with all the force and clarity and compassion the Son of God slain for us deserves.