The People of the Two Hats—or What Really Drives Me Crazy About ETS

There was a time not so long ago that I would have fit right in at the Evangelical Theological Society. I remember scrambling to come up with ways John 7:53-8:11 could be authentic or attempts to successfully harmonize the Gospels. I felt I had to. I felt that if I couldn’t find the answers to such difficulties, then my faith would be invalidated. The change was subtle at first, but eventually I came to believe that my redemption was in a person not in a text.

That is not to say that the text no longer matters.  It is supremely important, but belief in its absolute historical perfection would have required a lifetime of cognitive dissonance. It would require denying those obvious truths which God has granted us within the limits of our earthly epistemology. Likewise, I got sick of the way that the biblical authors were muzzled by the texts bound up on either side of them. In the end, it was a desire to hear the voice of the author that swayed me. Luke could not be heard in the din of Matthew, Mark, John, and a Holy Spirit that was conspicuously shaped like my own theology.

In the end, I realized that the inerrantists and I trust in the same thing, our heavenly Father, to achieve the same result, the instruction unto salvation. So what was the big deal? Apparently, refusal to adhere to inerrancy must  invariably lead to heresy! Comparing my theology to the historic measures of Christian orthodoxy, I appear to pass. Trinitarian? Check. Jesus, fully human, fully God? Check. Born of a virgin? Check. Crucified under Pilate? Check. Risen again on the third day? Check. Seated at the right hand? Check. Nevertheless, somewhere along the way I lost my evangelical privileges.

I’m not allowed in the ETS, not allowed to come together with my brothers and sisters in faith, and why? Not because of a thing I believe about God nor because of some foul heresy building in my heart. No, it is because of something I believe about the Bible. It is not for lack of love or devotion to Lord that I am barred, but for the tertiary concern of what terminology I use to describe the work of inspiration carried out by the Holy Spirit. The truly insane part of the whole thing is that certain people within the ETS hold views about God that go against the norm. I have no problem with Open Theists, but it is mind-boggling to me that more leeway is given in regard to what one believes about God than about the Bible.

You are probably wondering at this point why I even care. I’m clearly coming to interpretive conclusions different from those presented by the old guard innerantists, so why would I want to join an assembly filled with those with whom I disagree? The simple fact is that I wear two hats. I seek to be a scholar in the truest sense, but I am also a believer. It is clear that those in the SBL who only wear one hat do not wish me to bring along my second. Where does that leave people like me? Where can the people of two hats go to be scholars and people of faith? Because of what many of us believe about the Bible, the answer is nowhere, and that is, in my biased opinion, the real tragedy of the so-called ETS.

  5 comments for “The People of the Two Hats—or What Really Drives Me Crazy About ETS

  1. June 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Out of curiosity, if the Bible is not the final authority in your Christian walk, what is?

  2. June 16, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Out of curiosity, where did I say the Bible was not authoritative? I think I said the Bible is not inerrant. Authoritative != Inerrant.

  3. John Stovall
    July 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    “…it is mind-boggling to me that more leeway is given in regard to what one believes about God than about the Bible.”

    Quite true–one of my concerns about ETS and the squishiness of ‘evangelical’ as a technical term.

  4. Ashleigh
    July 6, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I’m curious if you would propose a new definition? Or a different term? Or some other way of addressing the situation? What would you call an organization like ETS and who would be in it?

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