As I reflect on interactions that occur around issues such as creation, design, and evolution, or around the inerrancy of the Bible, or women in ministry, I am often as aware of the theological or hermeneutical commitments that drive the conclusions as I am about the data and conclusions themselves.
In particular, I am aware of how I have changed by becoming less interested in conserving than I once was. (Roger Olson coined the term “post-conservative Evangelical,” and I find that it fits me fairly well.)
I have a number of titles in mind of books or articles that will never sell because nobody would want to read them. One of these is, “How abandoning inerrancy saved my faith.” And I imagine that the theological postures it would depict would develop this image from the film Armageddon:
“Imagine a firecracker in the palm of your hand. You set it off, what happens? You burn your hand, right? You close your fist around the same firecracker, and set it off. Your wife’s gonna be opening your ketchup bottles the rest of your life.” –Roland Qunicey, “Armageddon”
In my own trek through various ways of expressing Christian faith, I’ve discovered that a conservative theological posture is like that hand clenched around the firecracker. Your only option is to deny the firecracker is lit, or else submerge your hand in water so that it looses all its power.
“If the Bible has errors, the Christian faith is based on a lie!” some might say. The hand is clenched. So what happens when we discover that Quirinius wasn’t the governor of Syria, that there wasn’t a census in Judea, until Judea was annexed to Syria after the deposition of Herod Agrippa?
Your hand is about to explode.
Opening the hand always feels like the route to losing what’s in your hand. It feels less secure.
But I found that kissing conservatism goodbye, that opening my hand to what “must be true” in order for Jesus to be the reconciler of God and humanity and inaugurator of new creation, has not only “saved my faith,” but given me a faith that is more capable of dealing with both the Bible we actually have and the world in which we actually live.
Or: I know that it seems like rock is stronger than paper, but when playing rock-paper-scissors, open hand beats it.