Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Acts of Theological Rebellion

Richard Mouw's description of reading Bernard Ramm's The Christian View of Science and the Scripture not only was hilarious--he wrote, "When one of the speakers at the camp denounced Ramm’s book as heretical, my friend secretly showed me his copy—in that context it might as well have been an issue of Playboy! I got him to lend me the book and I read it, and the two of us discussed it at length. We were co-conspirators in a private act of theological rebellion." It also reminded me of my own theological act of rebellion from way back in my murky past.

It happened when I was a graduate student at Bob Jones University. Prior to going to "the University," I had been raised in a broadly evangelical environment--a Plymouth Brethren assembly and then a Bible church. We loved Moody Press and Charles Ryrie; and we were also open to various versions of the Bible--the first Bible my parents gave me was a NASB Ryrie Study Bible. We saw ourselves as participating in a broadly evangelical approach to Scripture interpretation and as appreciating evangelical scholarship on the Bible.

When I made my way to BJU via Liberty University (long story), I found that they were "only KJV" (as opposed to "KJV only"--the distinction being that "KJV only" people believed that the KJV was the only inspired English translation of the Bible while "only KJV" people knew that to be hogwash but , while using other translations for private study and personal devotion, agreed to only use the KJV for preaching and teaching). While many of my teachers were open to modern word-for-word translations (like the NASB), they were death on the NIV. The NIV was viewed as having too much "interpretation" in the translation and hence was not a "safe" bible for "Bible-believers."

Not only was the University not too friendly to modern translations like the NIV, but they also didn't care too much for modern biblical and theological scholarship. Even organizations like ETS, which was relatively small and very conservative in the late 1980s (this was a few years after Robert Gundry was forced to leave ETS over issues related to his Matthew commentary), were viewed suspiciously.

But as I have already noted, I wanted to be able to access, evaluate, and engage modern theological scholarship. And so, one day, I snuck down to the Family Bookstore at the local mall in Greenville, SC. Having saved up my money for some time, I knew what I wanted to buy; I looked both ways before I entered the store, worked my way casually over to the proper section, picked up what I wanted, bought it, and carried the sack quickly out of the store. I went back to my apartment and pulled it out of the brown paper sack...

...A new NIV Study Bible! At the time, the NIV Study Bible was the standard for study bibles, representing the best of evangelical scholarship in the study notes and translation (Covenant Seminary's R. Laird Harris, Harold Mare, and Wilbur Wallis contributed as did Westminster Seminary's Ray Dillard and Richard Gaffin). I still have this Bible, ragged cover and all--it reminds me of a "declaration of independence" of sorts from the type of fundamentalism towards which I was sorely tempted.


Bobby's blog said...

Thanks for the flashback. How I remember my fundamentalist college days of peering over my shoulder when I browsed books and music at the local Christian store in the mall.

Anonymous said...

PSSSST: When nobody's looking I urge you to sneak over to Google and type in "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" (little known facts about the PBs) and then sneak over to Armageddon Books and get a copy of "The Rapture Plot" (many more such facts - in fact, tons of them). Enjoying your good blog.
signed: not a PB member