Last night I finished " 'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God" by J.I. Packer. This last portion is mainly dedicated to a critical analysis of Liberal scholarship and Literary Criticism up to the time that Packer wrote this particular book. While Packer wrote this book in 1958, his analysis of those who criticize the Evangelical view of Scripture is not completely dated. Even those who label themselves Evangelicals have continued to adopt the tents of Literary Criticism when considering the Inerrancy of Scripture or individual books within the Scriptural Cannon.
Literary Criticism began with a call among 19th century scholars to do justice to the human characteristics of the Bible. These scholars correctly pointed out that previous exegesis of the Bible was concerned entirely with doctrinal content. Each book of the Bible had its own historical background which was being ignored. So far, so good. Unfortunately, this movement was influenced by the Romantic revolution which emphasized emotion over reason; Scripture was seen not as an authoritative guide to doctrine and conduct for the Christian but a record of human religious experience. The divine origin of the Bible was rejected by this movement. Eventually, the key to unlocking the meaning of Scripture, according to Literary Criticism, was Evolution. The Bible was considered to be a record of primitive religious thoughts and practices evolving into more advanced forms until the final product emerged, the religion of the New Testament. Israel's faith was seen to be an internal phenomenon, not a historical record of a Deity who is totally separate from the created world molding a people through a series of divine encounters. Ethical monotheism was seen to be introduced not by Moses, but later prophets. This view is articulated by those who still adhere to the JEPD theory popularized by Wellhausen, even though that theory has been refuted by modern scholarship decades ago. Even today in the Evangelical world there are those who still espouse the view that Moses was not the author of the book of Genesis. To those who say that Evangelicals have broadened the Evangelical view of these matters, I say if one holds these views, one is not an Evangelical, whether you label yourself one or not, whether you label yourself a Wesleyan or Calvinist. By the time Packer wrote " 'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God", non-Evangelicals had publicly abandoned the old Liberal Criticism, yet they still maintained the presuppositions of that view, primarily that we cannot accept the view of Scripture as divinely inspired as a starting presupposition when analyzing Scripture. What Scripture says about its own origins was still rejected. Those Packer criticized believed that Scripture contained not Biblical fact but a Biblical outlook. Packer briefly mentions Neo-Orthodoxy, which views the Bible as containing God's infallible truth within Man's fallible word. The contents of Scripture are increasingly seen to be a myth, which Packer defines as a quasi factual narrative, which, despite its form, is intended only to tell us some truth about our own lives in the present without reference to events past and future. I am concerned with the contemporary trend to speak of Scripture in mythical terms such as "the meta-narrative." When you start using myth, or the language of myth, as a vehicle to promote Scripture as the "superior meta-narrative", you run the risk of adopting language and religious ideologies incompatible with Biblical doctrine, confusing everyone concerning Biblical truth. The result could be a form of non-Christian mysticism.
Although I have finished " 'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God", I am not finished with it, or the subject. I will post the Scripture references provided by Packer on my study blog. The next edition of "Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual" will consider the subject further, including a review of Francis Schaeffer's "No Final Conflict." Being a Wesleyan in theology, one may wonder if I will explore non-Calvinists on the subject. I most certainly will. The subject of inerrancy and infallibility will be explored in great depth by the Hand (that's me) on this blog and on my study blog.