In The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture Christian Smith defines biblicism as the following ten things (Chapter One: The Impossibility of Biblicism, Kindle Edition):

(1) Divine writing: Each word of Scripture is God’s word “written inerrantly in human language”.

(2) Total representation: The Bible represents the totality of God’s communication to humans. It says all God needs to say to us.

(3) Complete coverage: God’s will about everything pertaining to Christian doctrine and living is contained in Scripture.

(4) Democratic perspicuity: Any “reasonable person” can read Scripture translated into their language and understand it.

(5) Commonsense hermeneutics: If one reads Scripture in its historical-grammatical context paying attention to the most obvious meaning a correct interpretation will emerge.

(6) Sola Scriptura: We don’t need creeds, confessions, and traditions to inform right doctrine. All we need is Scripture.

(7) Internal harmony: Scripture is like a big puzzle and all the pieces fit together if one reads Scripture correctly.

(8) Universal applicability: Everything written in Scripture has some modern application for people in all ages.

(9) Inductive method: All the pieces of the puzzle can be put together by sitting down with Scripture and working through it to find the clear ‘biblical’ teaching.

(10) Handbook model: The Bible functions as a guide book for everything we need: finances, health, marriage, politics, etc.

As I read through this list I realized that while I may not arrive wherever it is that Smith seeks to take the reader, there is no doubt in my mind that this list of symptoms describes correctly an epidemic I’ve seen over the years.

I will leave the inerrancy piece alone since I’ve explained elsewhere that I am sympathetic to this view (because I know many great Christians who affirm it and I see that it does bring a positive approach to Scripture in some instances) but decided that the word demands more than I am willing to affim.

As someone who was raised Pentecostal/Charismatic I was a bit surprised to be introduced to (2) as I entered evangelicalism. It seemed odd to me that Scripture depicts God as speaking to people outside Scripture but then some readers of Scripture act as if the Spirit cannot speak any other way.

I found (3) troublesome since I don’t think the Bible has advice for many of the issues we face today. If so, why give the church the Spirit and why can’t we agree on what the Bible says about so many things?

As one who does my best to make the Bible approachable for everyone it is simply reality that the Bible is not simple and easy to understand. I’ve been studying it for years and many things confuse me. So (4) seems accurate to me. I think the same basic insight applies to (5).

If Sola Scriptura is true then I think we must prepare to abandon some important doctrines, including the Trinity. In fact, we may want to abandon the canon itself since it is not found in Scripture. So I see the point of (6).

As regards (7) I think Smith is right and wrong. Some big picture aspects flow throughout Scripture, but as someone who is currently working on the Synoptic Problem I agree that sometimes the puzzle doesn’t always fit together.

I was raised around Christians who use Deuteronomy 22.5 to tell women they shouldn’t wear pants. I think this is simply absurd, especially since Deuteronomy 22 is filled with many things no one obeys. And I don’t think there is any reason to try to find some “principle” for what it means for Christians today (one could dig deep to talk about gender distinction, I guess) so (8) makes sense.

I agree with (9) since again, I’ve studied Scripture for years and the more I study the easier its been to realize that someday I will die being ignorant of many, many things regarding Scripture.

Finally, to (10) I say “amen and amen”. When I see books on “biblical manhood and womanhood” I shake my head, especially since I know where that leads. When Wayne Grudem wrote a book on politics according to the Bible I felt the same. Likewise, I am troubled by Bible diet books, Bible dating guides, Bible finance books, and the like. I am not denying that the Bible addresses these things, but not quite the way authors of these books make it out to address them.

Again, I am quite sure I will disagree with Smith on a variety of issues, but his critique is one we should hear…even if it does result in many Christian authors and publishers losing money!