I have had the privilege of studying theology for 7 years by now. I did 2 years at a Bible College and am currently in my 5th of 6 years at seminary (part-time). Studying theology is an absolute joy, most of the time. I enjoy delving into the depths of Biblical truths, wrestling with core doctrines and understanding historical figures and moments that have changed the church. However, not all of it has been fun.
Anyone who has studied theology, or even read into slightly more academic views of the Bible or theology, has undoubtedly come across Higher Criticism (HC). HC is a form of study or analysis of a Biblical text in an attempt to understand it’s form, literary features and the happenings in the world at the time of it’s writing. That sounds helpful right? Well yes it is, but often it seems that HC scholars are trying to pick apart the Bible rather than understand it more.
Don’t get me wrong there are those who take a critical approach to Scripture and it really is beneficial, but many scholars who take this approach are asking the same question the snake asked Eve in Genesis 3:1 “Did God really say…”
I’ve been studying for end of semester exams at seminary recently and so this topic has naturally been on my mind. I’ve been studying for an Old Testament exam and as I was discussing some of the sources with a friend, I thought ‘is it too strong to say that HC is a tool being used by Satan to distract people from the truth of the Bible and to make them think that faith in God is nonsense?’
If I’m being honest, I don’t think it’s too strong at all! Again let me reiterate, we benefit hugely from the academic study of the Bible and theology. However, there are scholars who seem to be on a mission to pull apart Scripture rather than understand it. There are people training candidates for Christian ministry that are not Christians and who have taken a HC approach to Scripture and say that it’s a fairytale.
It’s interesting to note that the passages and books that HC scholars try to take apart are those that might make you uncomfortable. They choose passages like the Law, the prophets pointing to Jesus, the words of Wisdom that point people to a right life with God. HC scholars are in a mission to make the Bible tame, east and comfortable.
Maybe your sitting there thinking ‘Alistair, this is a very niche topic, why is this important for the average Christian?’
It’s important because the church is buying into it! Seminaries are teaching it! Future ministers are being taught by scholars who believe this! People, even very devout Christians, are in danger of lapping this teaching up. But I think that it is a tool being used by Satan to cut off the edges, to simplify and make the bible more comfortable.
Following HC means that people will strike certain verses, chapters and whole books out of the Bible in the name of intellect. But how far much we fall before we remember that all wisdom comes from the Lord and there is no wisdom apart from Him?
The Bible is God’s perfect, inerrant Word, we cannot let Satan deceive us into thinking it’s not. Yes, we must engage our minds and seriously dive into Scripture. We cannot enter church buildings and leave our brains at the door. But we also can’t stand idly by as masses of academics and scholars try to butcher God’s Word for their own comfort!
We need a generation of Christians who think through, read and engage with HC for the up building of the church. We need Christians who are equipped and enabled to stand against the lies of Satan that try to divert our eyes from the truth. We need a new and renewed confidence in the Word of God!
Did God really say… Yes He did! And we would do well to listen and obey.