Historical Criticism and the Evangelical

By Osborne, Grant R. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Historical Criticism and the Evangelical


Osborne, Grant R., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Bell & Howell Information and Learning: Foreign text omitted (...)

Since the inception of historical criticism (hereafter HC) in the postEnlightenment period of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, conservatives and evangelicals have wrestled with their relationship to this discipline. Due to its origins in rationalism and anti-supernaturalism, it has been a stormy relationship. In the nineteenth century, the Cambridge trio Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort opposed the liberal movements of rationalism and tendency criticism (F. C. Baur) with a level of scholarship more than equal to their opponents, and in Germany Theodor Zahn and Adolf Schlatter opposed the incursion of HC. In America scholars like Charles Hodge and Benjamin Warfield in theology and J. Gresham Machen and O. T. Allis in biblical studies fought valiantly for a high view of Scripture along with a critical awareness of issues. However, in none of these conservative scholars do we find a wholesale rejection of critical tools.

From the 1920s to the 1940s little interaction occurred as fundamentalism turned its back on dialogue with higher critics, believing that to interact was to be tainted by contact with the methods. It was then that wholesale rejection of critical methodology became standard in fundamentalist scholarship. However, in the late 1940s the rise of evangelicalism (including the birth of ETS!) renewed that debate, and scholars like George Ladd and Leon Morris once more began to champion a high view of Scripture within the halls of academia. Since then evangelicalism has continuously debated the extent to which evangelicals could participate in higher critical studies and still maintain a high view of the authority of the inerrant Scriptures.

I. THE RECENT DEBATE

Alan Johnson in his 1982 presidential address to ETS used an excellent analogy when he asked whether higher criticism was "Egyptian gold or pagan precipice," quoting Augustine on the Christian use of pagan philosophy in his On Christian Doctrine (II, 40.60).

Just as the Egyptians had not only idols . . . so also they had vases and ornaments of gold and silver and clothing which the Israelites took with them when they fled.... In the same way all the teachings of the pagans contain not only simulated and superstitious imaginings . . . but also liberal disciplines more suited to the uses of truth.... When the Christian separates himself from their miserable society, he should take this treasure with him for the just use of teaching the gospel.1

Johnson concluded that Augustine's point applied to the evangelical use of historical criticism. While extreme caution should be exercised, he called ETS "a Society where those who are involved in the refinement of critical methodologies under the magisterium of an inerrant scriptural authority can move us gently into a deeper appreciation of sacred Scripture and its full appropriation to our lives and to the mission of the Church in our age."2

Others, however, have rejected any possibility of evangelical involvement in HC. John Montgomery called such pursuits the death knell of evangelical orthodoxy.3 In fact, when questioned in a meeting of this society if he was not "throwing out the baby with the bath water" in his rejection of redaction criticism, Montgomery replied, "The difference is, you think there's a baby there, and I don't." This is indeed the question: "Is there a baby in the bath water of critical methodology?" Norm Geisler argued that the philosophical roots of HC were so pervasive to its methodology that to use them would de facto constitute an attack on inerrancy.4 Gerhard Maier began a lengthy debate in Germany by arguing that the historical-critical method does not elucidate Scripture but rather is contrary to the biblical concept of revelation and replaces inspiration with human reason, propositional truth with faith-encounter, and divine revelation with human experience. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Historical Criticism and the Evangelical
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.