Just been reading the latest issue of Modern Reformation which contains a series of devastating interviews with those who have left mainstream evangelicalism for Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Emerging church, liberal Anglicanism and cultural atheism. It’s sobering reading. This one particular comment caught my eye. It’s in the interview with someone who has left for the Roman Catholic church and has a side swipe as he goes about Biblical interpretation, particularly in small group studies.
I’m sure there are a lot of good Bible studies out there, and a lot of well intentioned people, so I don’t want to go overboard. But it’s not only my opinion [that evangelicalism tends to be self-help rather than Christ-centred]. There have been some recent academic studies by anthropologists who have examined evangelical Bible studies. They report that people don’t pay too much attention to what the text actually says. People search around in their heads, their memories, and their feelings for something that seems to connect to the text. And then, they conclude “Oh yeah, that makes me fee like..” or “What I think is that….” or “In my opinion, what it means is…” Usually the text is serving as a pretext to affirm something they already believe, rather than as an authoritative text to challenge what they already believe. There’s no other way to put it. There’s a lot of sharing of ignorance.
Hmm. It’s what we’ve been saying for years of course. And thankfully, many of us will have worked hard to get away from precisely this kind of Bible study. And, to be fair, it’s one of only 95 (!) steps that led Christian Smith away from the evangelical faith. But it shouldn’t even register as one. For the answer to these kind of Bible studies (though they cannot really claim that title) is not to move to Catholicism, but to have better Bible studies. How often do you get around your small groups to hear what’s going on?