J.P. Moreland Making Waves at ETS

This past week was the annual west coast meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Diego.  I didn’t attend, but have been hearing more and more about a paper that BIOLA professor J.P. Moreland presented, entitled “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible  and What can be Done about It.”  Now Moreland is someone that I highly respect.  He’s a giant in the apologetics field and has written some of the best works available today, including “Love Your God with All Your Mind” and “Scaling the Secular City”.  When I first saw the title of the presentation, I figured he was just trying to catch someone’s eyes and cause a double take.  But as I have investigated further, I’ve discovered that he’s serious.

Moreland’s main objective was to say that the Bible is not the sole source of authority for believers today.  Todd Bolen, who was in the room, had this to say:

“He gave an analogy from archaeology that made sense. But it faltered when it got to psychology and fell apart when he started talking about learning about demons from sources outside the Bible. (Did he really say that if you command a demon in the name of Jesus to tell the truth that they will be bound to do so?) He’s so concerned about this issue because of the damage that is being done to American evangelicals (but he made it clear that such problems lie primarily with Americans and not those outside).”

Moreland had this to say

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ, and it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.”

Another concern of Moreland’s was that evangelical theology has become so defined that there is no room for new thought.  He says that people are not allowed to find new truths outside the Bible.

To read the paper yourself, you can get the .pdf paper here.

Read a critique here and then Moreland’s response here.

It will be interesting to track the growth of this story.

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8 comments on “J.P. Moreland Making Waves at ETS

  1. BethsMomToo says:

    While I have GREATLY enjoyed and benefited from Moreland’s books, I have not necessarily agreed with all of his views. In my mind I have grouped him with Mark Noll – academic Christian voices whom I respect for demonstrating that intelligent Christian belief is not an oxymoron. On the other hand, not everything they say is necessarily true, and should be closely examined in the light of Scripture. You do have to remember that these guys’ lives and thoughts are constantly attacked by the anti-Christian ivory tower, and one could almost expect they would become skewed in specific areas in response to that. I am, however, saddened to hear about his presentation at ETS. I iwill be praying that he would hold a high view of Scripture…or all the good he has done is for naught.

  2. Beth says:

    I read his paper and I agree with it and don’t agree with it. I agree that people need to acquire knowledge, wisdom, learn how to think and act in our current world AND the scripture is sufficient for all- but an over comittment to scripture does not result in a lack of acquition of knowledge, wisdom, and ability to reason. His cause and effect statements don’t make sense- I agree with A and B, but not that A caused B. I think he’s exhorting us to not be afraid to be a CS Lewis.

  3. Linda Bronkar says:

    Tim,
    I have been following the controversy from Doug Groothius’s blog, The Constructive Curmudgeon. BTW, it is “Biola,” not “BIOLA.” It no longer stands for the Bible Institute of Los Angeles and it is no longer an acronym.

  4. ehudadams says:

    I don’t want to sound like I’m coming out against Moreland. Like Beth, I agree with some things Moreland says, but not necessarily HOW he said it or some of the conclusions he came to. Another thing to keep in mind is the audience to whom he was speaking. He was speaking to a largely highly educated audience, and I don’t think he would give this same presentation were he at Biola’s chapel or another place. I think that may be important to keep in mind.

    Linda- Thanks, I wasn’t aware of that!

  5. richard says:

    I think what he is getting as is that not all truth is contained in Scripture (ie John’s admission Jesus did many more things than were recorded). 2 Timothy teaches that Scripture is materially sufficient for our salvation and instruction. This doesn’t mean it is sufficient for all knowledge, or even all religious knowledge. To use a Catholic argument… the table of contents of the canon was is not in Scripture. Scripture could give principles, but not a table of contents. SOME knowledge must be outside of Scripture. Perhaps this is an angle that he could be pursuing. I would say that Americans prooftext themselves into heresy, and as such, are dangerously pursuing the Bible as an idol. The Spirit guides unto truth, not just the words on the page. Perhaps he intended something different, but that’s my two cents.

  6. Beth says:

    I agree with you Richard. This is why Christians need to be reading the good stuff. I’m working on Owen’s mortification of sin. What Owen writes is in alignment with the Bible, but expands it. Owen’s writing helps me understand God and my position before God on a much deeper level. Great Christan writers are gifts to us to better understand God’s word. Unfortunately, many of the Christian authors that are alive and writing today are not as insightful and gifted as the historical “greats”.

  7. Victor says:

    There goes JP Again. I loved him as a prof, and he is still at it. I think it is important to understand is that he is arguing for something as much as arguing against something. Since everyone has quoted what he is against, it is important to remember what he stands for, especially things that he mentioned in this paper. He is arguing that the Bible is the ULTIMATE authority for faith an practice. What he is criticizing and arguing against is the idea that the bible is the ONLY authority for faith and practice. That distinction is at the heart of this paper. Seriously, read it if you don’t believe me. The thing that he points out is that everything that happends in the world happens in the world, not in the Bible. If you want to witness to your friend is out there, in the world, not in the Bible, and if you want to witness to him, you have to make some choices on how you are going to do that. The Bible tells you the principles and what the message is, but you still choose about how your going go about it, and not everything feature of your act of witnessing is going to be a factor thats is decided by scripture. Maybe you’ll take the four spiritual laws approach. Maybe you’ll just tell him how great Jesus is and invite him to Church. Maybe you sense that he is ready to turn to Christ and all you have to do is just asking him if he accepts Jesus as his Lord. The fact of the matter is, that making a choice among these choices doesn’t come down to any spiritual issue, but whats going on in the World (at least between you and your friend). I think what people forget about Moreland’s perspective is that he isn’t simply a Christian apologist. He is a Christian leader and he has do deal with alot of different types of Christians and he has seen more than his share of Christians arguing with each other for all the wrong reasons. And while there are issues that Christians out to be dealing with, we also hurt each others unnecessarily. And also keep in mind that as a prominent Christian Apologist, he develops and sticks to his guns when he feels that a debate is worthwhile are important, but he also wants to do his part in getting Christians to avoid pointless and counterproductive debates. And, really, is it possible that maybe, just maybe many of these pointless Christian arguments and divisions are due to Christians approaching the Bible the wrong way?

  8. Victor says:

    woops, correction:

    The fact of the matter is, that making a choice among these choices doesn’t come down to any <<<<>>>> issue….

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