“High View of Scripture”

I’ve been fascinated by a new network that is developing between some very well respected Christian pastors/authors/bloggers. It’s called the Origins Project and from where I sit, it seems like an attempt from those involved to differentiate themselves from the “emerging/emergent” category in order to carve out, for lack of a better term, a more traditional territory. I think this is a positive development and I’m curious what come of it all. I don’t begrudge them from wanting to more specifically define their group. However, in checking out their website and listening to some of the conversation surrounding this effort, their often repeated statement that they share a “high view of scripture” is problematic. Here’s an example found on their website:

– Leaders, entrepreneurs, pastors, misfits, and artists who share a high view of Scripture and a radical commitment to evangelism while being faithfully committed to what is expressed in the Lausanne Covenant.

Whether they want to admit it or not, it is a dig at the more liberal elements of Christianity they are setting out to distance themselves from. If they share a “high view of scripture,” I’d like to know who they believe shares a low view. I’m curious if there has ever been a group of Christians that have professed to have a less than high view of scripture.

Maybe Dan Kimball or anyone else in the group can honestly clarify for me the purpose of this distinction. I’m all ears.


25 thoughts on ““High View of Scripture”

  1. Okay this comment has nothing to do with the post but I can’t find a way to just write you a comment.

    Interested to know your opinion on the Mexico City Policy that Obama is going to repeal today. So far, I’m absolutely loving our new President but this one is bugging me. Not trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill and I surely don’t expect to love every decision Obama makes but I just haven’t heard the argument as to why we want to repeal this thing, except for the whole people will get abortions anyway and do it the back alley way so we might as well pay for them to do it right with government money.

    Anyway, just curious to know your opinion on it. And I almost hate bringing it up for sounding like Tony Perkins or something. : )

  2. While I can admit to knowing what the folks at Origins mean by the phrase “high view of scripture,” more often than not it’s like the term “Biblical” – it is a way of distinguishing what one believes as more pure than those “other people,” who are not like us. [My personal favorite is “____ Bible Church” or the statement “We do things ‘Biblically’ here.”]

    What is unfortunate is the exclusionary nature of it all, as if said people have the corner on the market on all things true and “Biblical.” I’m with you. Why even say it? What point is trying to be made?

  3. i know it is not my opinion you were looking for…but i am in favor of this move by Obama. Women should be given all medical options and we should not as a secular government cut funding for an organization who provide the full range of options. It is not the governments role, no matter what our personal belief may be to limit medical choices.

    but i guess i would like to see a honest discussion within the community of faith about this issue.

    do we know with certainty that the soul/sprit of a person is given at conception? if we think so, where is that basis in our faith tradition?
    do we really believe that a grouping of cells at 6 weeks has the same value as my 13 year old? And if we do, is there a scriptural basis for that?
    is potential the same as the end result?

    i am not saying that i have the “final” answer to any of those. nor am I in favor of a increase in abortions.

    But i guess it would be nice to see a real discussion about these issues. I think you can truly be a person of faith and understand and support a women’s right to choice (rooted in social justice, anti-poverty, anti-exploitation biblical themes).

    to me the abortion issue is too easy for the church. everyone can rally around it. everyone can be against it (sort of like homosexuality) because most people in the pews aren’t required to change or be part of the solution. we can hold it at arms length. its fundementally easy.

    So in some ways I am not sure that we are as anti abortion as we project. sometimes i think we are just lazy. easier to be anti abortion than to deal with parents who are neglecting their kids (in the church), or kids dying of hunger, or kids starving for eduction or poverty, or our hypocrisy, or our selfishness or our consumerism…

    i certainly respect anyone’s right to be anti….but it is much harder to find mutual respect, for a person of faith (like me) who is pro choice.

  4. so i wanted to make sure i was clear. i am talking about me, when i say we can be lazy. i do the same thing. latch on to the easy things (that don’t require me to do anything). so i am looking down on anyone. i need to hear that as much as anyone else.

    and i know for some, the issue is a huge hot button..and something that is personally impacting (or something they have personally struggled with). I am not trying to say that everyone is not really passionate about the issue. anyway, i just wanted to make sure everyone knows, i respect your own passion about this issue.

  5. Zach,

    I think the term “high view of Scripture” is not vacuous, but has some relevant meaning as a distinction. Classically, Protestants and Catholics alike have regarded Scripture as the norma non normata (the authority without an authority). That isn’t to say that their aren’t other authorities–there are other authorities: creed and church. Nonetheless, Scripture has occupied a special place in determining what one believes and how one sees the world.

    In contrast to this classical orthodox position, now, as at any time in history, there are people whose interpretations of life, faith and Scripture, are determined by other authorities. For the neologians, it was a Lockean rationalism. For the more extreme end of the emergent group, it is a Derridean deconstructionism.
    I think what the “high view of Scripture” camp is saying is that they are aiming at allowing Scripture to be their norma non normata, and not stripping it of its power as a confronting force. Oftener than not, liberalism of any stripe, postmodern or modern, is more accurately described as capitulation-ism to cultural trends.

    The Derridean emergent is going to simply say that every person is controlled by their context and their preconceived idelogy, so that the notion of letting Scripture speak on its own terms and confront culture is impossible. At the end of the day, however, that statement is akin to intellectual suicide-bombing. They’ve destroyed any grounds for talking about Scriptural authority for themselves and anyone else. Perhaps we should call it ‘destructionism.’ 🙂

  6. Matt, thanks for the reply but I think much of your characterization here is problematic. I think I could show you multiple examples in the Bible of biblical characters who righteously “capitulate to cultural trends.” And because of those examples in Scripture, one could make the argument that doing so now is a result of rationalism and revelation, which are both gifts from God.

    For instance, there are members of the Origins Project who are pastors and allow women to teach over men in their churches. If your view is correct, I could make a solid argument that those pastors have a low view of Paul and therefore a low view of Scripture. They are allowing their culture setting to influence their theology. They may say they aren’t influenced by culture, but if women today had the same social status as women did in the first century, we wouldn’t even be talking about women’s authority in church. They would not in any way feel compelled to independently work it out theologically so that Paul can be sidestepped because their cultural setting wouldn’t prompt them to.

    Maybe all of this is beside the point. My main point of contention is that this is a very hallow distinction to make. Maybe I’m wrong but the only conclusion I can come to as to why this is a part of their language is to placate the more conservative Christians and assure them that “Hint, Hint: WE’RE NOT LIKE THOSE EMERGENT VILLAGE LIBERALS.” In the end Matt, you and I probably have a fair amount of disagreement on how we allow scripture to inform our faith, but I would never think to undermine your view of scripture or characterize it as “lower” than my own. To do so would wreak of arrogance. Unfortunately, you and I both know this kind of behavior is prevalent in both liberal and conservative Christians. But that’s precisely why it should be called out.

  7. Zach, I understand your contention, but I’m curious as to why you take particular issue with the “high view of Scripture line” over and above the other statements, such as “a radical commitment to evangelism” or “work for the Gospel together rather than alone.” Surely Dan and the others aren’t claiming other churches or organizations don’t have a commitment to evangelism. While I can’t speak for people involved, I’m not sure it’s meant as a specific distinction from–or an insult to–Emergent Village. It just seems like a value they hold, similar to the values of EV found on their website.

  8. Joel, the other descriptors you cite seem fairly benign to me in comparison to the claim they share a “high view of scripture.” Implying someone isn’t an evangelical, in my view, pales in comparison to the implication that my view of scripture is in anyway “higher” than another’s. We may have differing interpretive lenses while interacting with the scriptures, but that does not mean that a more conservative lens is inherently more reverent than a liberal lens. I cannot reject that notion strongly enough.

    And to your last point, how is having a high view of scripture in any way a necessary value to promote apart from an effort to distinguish themselves from those who, by this implication, somehow have a less than high view of scripture? I think for a group of Christian pastors and writers, this particular value would go without saying, right?

    Like I said, I greatly respect all of the people involved here and I really do look forward to where they are headed with this effort, but they need to think about turning down the dial on this kind of rhetoric. It’s extremely undermining and off-putting.

  9. I’m assuming that because it was an “often repeated” phrase it’s gotten Zach’s attention. I’m not familiar with the origins project, so I can only speak from a more general pool of experience. Whenever I have encountered the “high view of scripture” language it is often quite condescending, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally (again, not familiar with the origins project to be able to say anything specific regarding experience with that group). It’s usually also thrown in there with the bible being “The Inerrant Word of God”, literal six day creation, did the ax head float kind of stuff. Some of this seems to be a backlash against some forms of Pentecostalism where fresh revelations from the Spirit are given a lot of weight, in some cases even more than scriptures, which raises all kinds of new issues. Some of it seems to be defensive posture against people who are coming up with new or discovering really old interpretations. Often through studying the contexts in which different parts of the scriptures were written, something that had been lost is found and makes a huge difference. And I don’t think anyone would argue that the Church as a whole has gone astray in theology and practice at times throughout the years. But, these interpretations conflict with the theological systems of some groups who get defensive thinking that they have the correct interpretation of scripture because they take it seriously unlike all those people who are trying to make it say all these things that it doesn’t (of course there does seem to be people who do that out there as well). But, if they’re targeting to set themselves apart from the Emergent folks specifically my guess would be that it had more to do with Matt talked about with deconstructionism. Although I am grateful that God has been taking us somewhere that we don’t see the world the way we did one hundred years ago, much less hundreds and thousands. That can’t help but also change the way we view and interpret scripture. Otherwise we’d still be using scripture to argue that slavery was ok, the earth was the center of the universe, and the world is flat.

  10. Hey Zach!

    Hope all is well there in Arizona…. This new community is being developed from friendships and our common passion to focus on those who don’t know the saving grace of knowing Jesus yet. Our hearts bleed and desire with all we have for others to experience and know the joy of salvation and and joy of following Jesus. That is what is uniting us and why we formed this – and certain focuses is naturally why most networks or communties develop. Networks that are formed usually have a specific common focus that bring them together. So this is nothing new or nothing more than that.

    Saying we are going into this with a high view of Scripture is simply stating that we absolutely be using the Scriptures as our guide in this, along with the Spirit as we create this and go on this venture together. This passion for evangelism and mission comes from Scripture and Jesus’ teachings, so when we say we are using a high view of Scripture, we are simply stating that is from Jesus’ words and Scripture why we are passionate about this. I would read Scot McKnight’s “Blue Parakeet” book if you are interested in our view of Scripture and the wonderful exploration and adventure of it we are all on with Scripture. Scot is on the Creative Team for this network and if and read his book, you will see that none of this group by any means are “traditionalists” as I assume you are using that term.

    Anyway, call me up anytime, as you have my cell phone, if you want to talk about it further. It is quite encouraging seeing the response of so many people so far, who seem to have the same passion with mission and evangelism. So that’s what this is about – that’s all, as I know I sure get energized and encouraged being around others with this same passion as we learn from each other. Hope that helps and sign up for email updates if you want to be keeping more informed about what is happening. Call me anytime Zach!


  11. Dan

    Thanks for the response. Like I said in the post, I truly am looking forward to this venture you folks have started up. I have lots of respect for you and the others involved.

    With that said I must ask if you can understand that this distinction you make about the group’s “high view” of scripture might come across as condescending or undermining to more liberal Christians? Is a more conservative view of the Bible inherently more reverent than a liberal view? This may seem like nit picking and I’m sorry if this is how it comes off, but I think it’s an important question to ask. Sorry for being such a pain in the ass 😉

  12. It sounds like from Dan’s response that the point is not to make distinctions or divisions, but rather to point out that the people involved with Origins really love Scripture. Perhaps if the language were changed from “high view of Scripture” to “deep love for Scripture” or something similar? That removes the possible connotation that there is a “lesser view” out there. I agree that it’s a good question, Zach, as language and rhetoric are really important.

  13. Dan,

    to additionally clarify myself, i didn’t say “traditionalists.” the term i used was “a more traditional territory.” Is that not accurate? If not, my apologies.

  14. Hi Zach,

    I guess if you are looking for something you can find it anywhere. When I look on the Emergent Village web site and it says they are “missional” – they aren’t using that term to be condenscending to say others aren’t missional. It is just a term used to describe a focus. Or as you write “Finding Rhythm”, you are not saying in a condenscending way that you are finding ryhtym and others aren’t.

    Saying a “high view of Scripture” is not saying others don’t – it was just a term saying that as we join together, we will have a high view of Scripture as part of this. That’s all!

  15. Dan,

    I’m sorry you feel I’m just pulling this out of thin air. In listening to your tele-seminar with Eric Bryant you did state that what was happening within Emergent wasn’t “resonating” with you and that you were finding other leaders who share values that you were not finding in Emergent Village. In the tele-seminar you implied that Emergent didn’t value mission or evangelism, or at least to the degree that you would like. So in that context I don’t think I’m stretching here in asking why the term “high view of scripture” was made since all three of those distinctions seem to be couched tightly together rather consistently when I hear about your new network.

    To be absolutely clear, I in no way begrudge your desire to sharpen your group theologically and philosophically. I think that’s a great thing. I agree with you that the Emergent category is so broad that in some ways it’s no longer all that helpful when considering all of our differences. But from where I sit, and I could be terribly wrong here, the way this distinction is made may have the effect of putting people off. As you also say in your tele-seminar with Eric Bryant, words matter and so that is why I even bother to bring this up. You may think I’m just imagining it all up and maybe that’s the case, but the context of what you’ve said about Emergent in the past matters. And saying you have a “high view of scripture” absolutely, without a doubt, implies that a low view exists. The only way I know to say I’m cold is to know that it’s possible to be hot. Without a low view of scripture, a high view isn’t possible. You may not have meant to imply that others have a low view, but it’s unavoidable. It’s like if you your worship pastor made the statement that, “Vintage faith only plays really good worship songs.” Implicit in that statement is that really crappy worship songs exist and other churches play them….and I know you and I can agree on that one. 🙂 Maybe there is a way to make this distinction without making these kinds of implications.

    A last point, I want to clarify what I read when I hear “high view….” To me a high view means reverence and respect, not necessarily a higher interpretation. We all think our interpretations are higher or we wouldn’t have them. But I think while we might prefer our particular interpretations, we can’t assume that our reverence or respect for scripture is any higher or lower than others based on the differences of our interpretations.

    I think I’ve said my peace. Thanks Dan. I really appreciate your response and clarification.

  16. Those who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ certainly ought to hold the same high view of Scripture that He held. However, many professing Christians today, including most pastors, hold a much lower view of Scripture than was held by the Saviour. What, then was Jesus’ view of Scripture?

    The Lord Jesus Christ wholeheartedly believed in :

    1) The Genesis account of creation (Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-8);

    2) The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Matt. 8:4; Jn. 5:46; 7:19);

    3) The historicity of Abel (Matt. 23:35; Lk. 11:50-51);

    4) The historicity of Noah and the Noahic Flood (Matt. 24:37-39; Lk. 17:26-27);

    5) The historicity of Abraham (Jn. 8:56);

    6) The historicity of the account of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:15; 11:23-24; Lk. 10:12);

    7) The historicity of Lot and the account of his wife having been turned into a pillar of salt (Lk. 17:28-32);

    8) The historicity of the account in which Israel was given manna from heaven (Jn. 6:31,49,58);

    9) The Davidic authorship of some of the Psalms (Matt. 22:43; Mk. 12:36; Lk. 20:42);

    10) the historicity of the account of Jonah’s having been swallowed by a whale (Matt. 12:39-41; Lk. 11:29-32);

    11) The unity and single authorship of the book of Isaiah (Matt. 13:14-15; Mk. 7:6; Jn. 12:38-41);

    12) The Danielic authorship of the book of Daniel (Matt. 24:15);

    13) The canonicity of the entire Jewish Old Testament, which excluded the Apocrypha (Matt. 23:35; Lk. 11:50-51; 24:44);

    14) The Christ centeredness of the Old Testament (Lk. 24;25-27, 44-46);

    15) The verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture (Matt. 4:4; 5:17-18);

    16) The divine preservation of Scripture (Matt. 5:17-18; 24:35; Lk. 16:17; Jn. 10:35);

    17) The vital importance of studying and knowing Scripture (Jn. 5:39; Matt. 22:29);

    And 18) The judgment of all mankind by God’s Word (Jn. 12:47-48).

    Do you hold the same high view of Scripture that Jesus held?

  17. sorry i took that quote from a fundamentalist I went back and looked at it and could see why you would think it was condescending but this is what is meant by a high view of scripture-verbal plenary inspiration every jot and tittle is the word of God

  18. To me this group is problematic for the reasons you sight and because they are going backwards to a way that is no longer relevant in our society. Barna’s report is a case in point as Christianity is no longer the default religion in the USA. The USA is getting even closer to catching up with Europe in becoming post-Christian. They will only be preaching to the choir and quickly find themselves obsolete with culture at large. Godspeed to them!

  19. Existential Punk, I’m confused by your contention with the project. How is Origins going the way of irrelevancy and “preaching to the choir?” Where do you believe their irrelevancy lies when the project has barely begun? It appears to me that you’ve made a judgment call on a group of people without clarifying what is problematic, which isn’t helpful to the conversation.

  20. Joel,

    i am not meaning to make a judgment call. It is an observation and a critique, which is ok to do in life. Critiques can be helpful to conversations. i am not trying to come across mean-spirited and i know Dan Kimball and think he is a great guy. We just disagree on some things. And, i have clarified what is problematic, but maybe i was not clear enough for you, so i will try again. If i am still not clear, just ask me again. Thanks!

    They ascribe to the Lausanne Covenant which is VERY evangelical and becoming quickly outmoded in our culture. i do not subscribe to it in where i am in my faith journey. That is what i meant and what i said above. So sorry if it was not clear to you. Did you read Barna’s recent findings? Christianity is NO LONGER the default religion in the USA. By preaching to the choir i mean that within a certain Christian subculture they will use outmoded and irrelevant means of being a Christian and it will only be relevant to them and not the outside culture at large. Make sense now? Evangelism does not work for the most part from my personal experience of being in YWAM for 2 years. Christianity is more than having people say a sinners prayer and converting people to faith so they can go to heaven when they die. That is a consumeristic religion i want nothing to do with anymore. Christianity is about living out the Kingdom of G-D here on earth. i read an early version of their website so maybe they have fleshed it out more.

    Warm Regards,

  21. Just to clarify, I don’t think the group itself is inherently problematic. It’s only their use of the term in question is what I find problematic. I personally think it’s a great development. I’m looking forward to what comes of it and I think the Christian community will benefit greatly from their effort.

  22. Existential Punk, thanks for the thoughtful response, it simply wasn’t clear for me what you disagreed with about Origins. Thank you for clarifying, and now that I take a second look at my comment, I hope it didn’t come across like I made a judgment call on you! 🙂

    I have read Barna’s recent findings about Christianity not being the default religion of America, which I found thought-provoking. These findings are part of the reason why I’m kind of excited about the Origins project, as this community seems to value a missional and holistic approach to the Gospel (unlike the sinner’s prayer and escapist theology you referred to). I think they would agree with you–and so would I–that the Gospel of Jesus is about living out the Kingdom here on earth (Rick McKinley even wrote a great book about it). It’s too early to tell what this project/community will eventually become, but I respect the foundation they’re setting and am eager to see where this goes.

  23. Joel,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response back! i guess i am hyper sensitive to anything evangelical because i have been so burned by evangelicals and more so since coming out 2.5 years ago. i will wait to critique more until the group has evolved more. i have become much more of an inclusivist in my faith and believe G-D speaks to/reaches people outside the bounds of Christianity.

    Again, thanks for the spirited dialogue! Blessings to you!

    Warm Regards,


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