I Highly Recommend The New Book by Christian Scholar Kenton Sparks.

Christians do not trust the scholarship of atheists. They think we have an agenda and that we misrepresent the facts because we’re God haters. Okay, I guess. But Christian scholars are saying many of the same things we're saying while trying to maintain their faith. If you doubt what we say then try your hand at what your own scholars are saying.

Dr. Richard Knopp (pictured left) is using my book in his Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion classes at Lincoln Christian College and Seminary. He’s also attempting to answer my criticisms by requiring his students to read and evaluate Kenton L. Sparks book, God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. I’m reading Sparks’s book right now and it’s excellent. Sparks is a Christian scholar who affirms inerrancy. If someone is concerned about his commitment to Christianity or whether he has some God hating agenda, Sparks has no such agenda.

I like how his argument progresses. He begins with Galileo in which Christians learned to re-read the Bible in light of the heliocentric universe. He argued that it wouldn’t do any good to ignore what was learned through science so Christian scholars began looking at the Bible differently. Sparks wrote: “Just as Galileo invited us to turn a critical eye toward the cosmos, so modern biblical scholars bid us to reflect critically upon our assumptions about the nature of Scripture and about how it should be read.” (p. 18) If Christians ignored the findings of Galileo it would discredit their faith. From this Sparks says there is a parallel tragic paradox, in that “the church’s wholesale rejection of historical criticism has begotten the irreverent use of Scripture by skeptics, thus destroying the faith of some believers while keeping unbelievers away from the faith.” (p. 21). His purpose in this book is to render the results of higher biblical criticism “theologically safe” just as Christian scholars did by admitting the results of modern science beginning with Galileo. (p. 23).

Sparks shows how that with the rise of philology we can date ancient writings because language changes throughout time and place. There is, after all, an Old- Middle- and Modern English, as well as British, Australian, South African and American dialects. This discipline began with the discovery that the “Donation of Constantine was a Christian forgery,” which was purportedly written in the 4th century whereby Constantine donated all of the Western Roman Empire to the authority of the Pope.

Sparks then takes us through three periods of hermeneutics, pre-modern, modern and post-modern, and shows us that people have not always treated texts in the same manner. He shows us how difficult it is for people who think they can understand a given text to do so, especially one in the ancient past. But since we must try anyway he proceeds.

The next part of his argument is where it gets good. He shows how historical criticism works with regard to the Assyrian Annals, which contains a lot of propaganda, and Babylonian Chronicles which are more accurate records, and why we know this. He shows how there are many texts in the ancient world which were psuedoprophetic, purportedly to be prophetic about the future but which were not, like the Uruk Prophecy. He also argues that “narrative stories that have the appearance of history may be fictional,” that these texts "can be the product of a very long literary process,” “sometimes written by different authors, and written in different historical periods, than the texts claim or imply.” (p. 71). From these parallels found in the literature of the ancient near eastern world he argues that “the evidence adduced above challenges the common evangelical charge that critical scholars approach the biblical texts with more skepticism than other ancient texts.” (p. 72). Right that.

Then in chapters three and four he shows why the Biblical critics are correct about the Bible, “in many instances,” especially with the Pentateuch, also called the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible. The Bible itself, if taken seriously, leads these scholars to think they were written by the same standards of other ancient near eastern literature in many places. It’s clear that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, if we take what it says seriously. There are problems of chronology, diverse narratives, legal diversity, and religious institutional progression, all reflecting a lengthy written process complete with anachronisms. Then there is the problem of Deuteronomy and the Exodus story itself. The normal evangelical “traditional” answers to these problems do not solve these issues, he argues.

This book is like a good novel. The reader wants to know how he solves these problems for his Christian faith and how he can maintain an inerrant Bible, so I won’t spoil his conclusions. I really like the fact that he’s being honest about what we can know about the Bible. I do not agree with his conclusions at all. In the end I think he undermines the basis for believing. See for yourselves. See if you can maintain your faith once you get done reading this book. I doubt you can.