A Jagged Contention: How Evangelicals Read the Bible


“Yeah. I read Scripture pretty simply even though I’ve been through seminary and everything else. I try to read with an open mind and be led by the Spirit. I try to picture myself stuck an island reading it over and over and ask, What would I naturally conclude? What would be the thing about God that I’d be most struck by? I would definitely be shocked and awed by his love, but I’m more stunned by his power, and his seriousness, his holiness maybe even more than his love. I don’t want to say his love’s no big deal. He loves us but nonetheless the reoccurring theme is about his power, his glory, his holiness.”

– Francis Chan in an interview from 2011 with Christianity Today.


What do you think of Chan’s approach to reading the Bible? Is it wise to approach scripture with nothing but an “open mind” and a willingness to be “led by the Spirit?” Should we consider ourselves alone on an island with nothing but our natural conclusions? What role does the church play in how we read the Bible?

Share your thoughts in the comments below


10 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: How Evangelicals Read the Bible

    1. Hmmm… those are interesting articles, Paul. I have to confess, as someone new to Lutheranism, the first article in particular seems strange to me. The second made more sense. Thanks for posting those.


      1. Paul, your blogspot says, “Therefore she is truly the Mother of God and yet has remained a virgin.” My copy says, “Therefore she is truly the Mother of God and yet remained a virgin.” The difference seems minor, but is typical subterfuge. The quote actually implies the Biblical notion that she was still a virgin when she gave birth, and does not mean she was always so thereafter. Naturally, that would be difficult when she is clearly shown in Scripture to have born several babies in the usual way, assuming she spent time with her husband to get them.

        And just for the record, any Lutheran paying attantion would say that if the Bible contradicted anything in the BOC, the Bible would be the norm of the other, and therefore the last word on it. It isn’t in contradiction this time, or anytime I’m aware of, but that would always be the case. Our so-called tradition does not carry the same weight as Scripture, ever; nor is it received in such a way that we would take speculation or assumption or wishes about what is true to be the truth. Galatians 1:8-9 plays out in this.


    2. Thanks for the additional info, Paul. Don’s way of explaining tradition and scripture makes more sense to me, but what do I know?

      I met with my pastor (I’m not a member yet but I’m attending an AALC church) and he doesn’t hold to semper virgo, either (at least not from what I’ve gathered).

      Anyways, I’m pretty much on board with Lutheran theology after a couple months of reading, but I’m not sure I could hold to a quia subscription on every issue. It seems like that would prevent me from being ordained in the LCMS, but that’s not really what I’m looking for anyway.

      Hopefully I’m not so quatenus that I’d be disqualified from membership.



  1. Chan’s view is unbiblical. First, not every Christian is called to teach (not even himself) and therefore, Chan has no respect for vocation. Second, the wisdom of God has been entrusted to the church, so Chan has no respect for sound ecclesiology.

    “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph 3:8-10)

    If it’s “crazy love” you’re looking for, Chan is NOT your man.


  2. He doesn’t seem to get much out of Scripture at all. No mention of grace, which has to be the most shocking thing there. No connection to the necessary discipline of church fellowship. He seems a man of the world, dependent only on his own understanding. That ought to scare him to pieces.


    1. Don,

      Philip Yancey, a writer who comes out of the fundamentalist evangelical tradition would agree with you. Part of his “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” confronts the gracelessness of much fundamentalist teaching. I, personally, find many evangelicals to be more obsessed with God’s majesty than His love and grace.

      Could come from this sort of reading. It also explains the desire to literally interpret and decode apocalyptic writing. I like Paul’s citations of apostolic interpretation, above (though, I don’t agree with the virginity thing as dogma.)


  3. Not exactly a response to the prompt, but I’m bad at following instructions, so I’ll say it anyways: When God came to Elijah in the cave, it was as a still, small voice; a whisper. So Mr. Chan may find himself focusing on things other than grace — the powerful fire, the earthquake, the gale — but it would appear he’s missing the point.

    I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising, though, since he’s taking the “ship without a rudder” approach to reading Scripture.

    (Great blog, by the way. Learned about it recently via Virtue in the Wasteland.)


Comments are closed.