Ted Olsen over at CT has written an interesting postcard from the San Diego ETS meeting. Here is an excerpt:
[N]o session was as packed as J.P. Moreland’s “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It.” While the average breakout session seems to be attended by fewer than 50 people, easily more than 200 packed the room to hear Moreland’s talk, with dozens standing and more listening outside the door.
It’s little wonder why so many people attended. ETS membership has only two doctrinal requirements: you must affirm the Trinity and the inerrancy of Scripture. The first part has not been controversial of late, but the second was the focus of the society’s recent fight over open theism and was named as a reason why Francis Beckwith could not remain as ETS president after his conversion to Roman Catholicism.
In short, to accuse evangelicals of over-commitment to the Bible at ETS would be like accusing environmentalists of talking too much about climate change at a Sierra Club meeting. But Moreland, who has gained some prominence as a philosopher and apologist, wasn’t pulling any punches.
“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,” he said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.”
Based on Olsen’s summary of Moreland’s lecture, I think Moreland’s identifies a problem but misfires completely in terms of a solution. It is wrong-headed to speak of over-commitment to Scripture. It is important, rather, to show how sola Scriptura, properly understood, leads to a qualified but positive appropriation of tradition, experience, and reason. Moreland, in my view, makes a hash of things.
I would argue that evangelicals are sometimes not committed enough to Scripture’s attested openness to sources of knowledge beyond those of special revelation. But the phrase “over-commitment to Scripture” is a rhetorical dud.