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The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture

, 2012
ISBN: 9781441227256
  • Format:Digital



Biblicism—an approach to the Bible common among some American evangelicals—emphasizes together the Bible’s exclusive authority, infallibility, clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability. Acclaimed sociologist Christian Smith argues that this approach is misguided and unable to live up to its own claims. If evangelical biblicism worked as its proponents say it should, there would not be the vast variety of interpretive differences that biblicists themselves reach when they actually read and interpret the Bible. Far from challenging the inspiration and authority of Scripture, Smith critiques a particular rendering of it, encouraging evangelicals to seek what he calls a more responsible, coherent, and defensible approach to biblical authority.

This important book has generated lively discussion and debate. This edition adds a new chapter responding to the conversation that the first edition has sparked.

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Get even moe on Scripture from Brazos with the Brazos Bible Interpretation Collection (3 vols.).

Key Features

  • Provides a unique perspective on understanding Christian
  • Challenges long-standing assumptions about the role of Scripture in Christian theology
  • Unpacks the implications of Smith’s perspective on Scripture for believers


  • The Impossibility of Biblicism
    • Biblicism and the Problem of Pervasive Interpretive Pluralism
    • The Extent and Source of Pervasive Interpretive Pluralism
    • Some Relevant History, Sociology, and Psychology
    • Subsidiary Problems with Biblicism
  • Toward a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture
    • The Christocentric Hermeneutical Key
    • Accepting Complexity and Ambiguity
    • Rethinking Human Knowledge, Authority, and Understanding

Praise for the Print Edition

Evangelicalism is cracking apart not because of theological drift to the left but because the only theology that can sustain a genuine evangelicalism is—to use the only word appropriate—a catholic theology. Many who were nurtured in American evangelicalism (as Christian Smith was) and now find it seriously deficient (as Christian Smith does) seem to be those on whom the light has dawned. I first saw a chapter of this book and was stunned; I’ve now read it all and am delighted. Here is a genuinely evangelical catholic understanding of scripture.

Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

Biblicism remains one of the most entrenched and pressing problems facing the church. In his characteristically lucid, direct, and fair-minded fashion, Christian Smith asks questions about biblicism that need to be answered. Smith also begins to articulate an alternative, Christ-centered approach to biblical interpretation that is supremely constructive—a truly evangelical account of Scripture.

Douglas A. Campbell, associate professor of New Testament, Duke University Divinity School

I do not think that biblicism has been quite as destructive as Christian Smith describes it in this book (for example, among evangelicals there is very little ‘pervasive interpretive pluralism’ in understanding John 20:31). Despite this reservation, I think Smith has written an extremely valuable book. Although his account of the problems besetting biblicism is devastatingly effective, his appeal for a Christ-centered approach to Scripture is wise, encouraging, and even more effective.

Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

Smith demonstrates, respectfully but critically, that the type of biblicism that often characterizes evangelicalism cannot account for how scripture itself behaves. Biblicism is retained, however, because of its sociological value for ‘maintaining safe identity boundaries.’ Smith’s analysis of the problem of biblicism and his offer of a way forward are important contributions to the current developments surrounding evangelicalism and the Bible.

Peter Enns, author, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins and Inspiration

  • Title: The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture
  • Author: Christian Smith
  • Publisher: Brazos
  • Print Publication Date: 2012
  • Logos Release Date: 2016
  • Pages: 256
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Bible › Evidences, authority, etc; Bible › Hermeneutics; Evangelicalism
  • ISBNs: 9781441227256, 9781587433030, 9781587433290
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2019-10-30T23:55:03Z

Christian Smith (PhD, Harvard University) is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, where he has been cited as an outstanding faculty member. He is the award-winning author or coauthor of numerous books, including What Is a Person? Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and Moral Good from the Person Up and Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. His research focuses primarily on religion in modernity, adolescents, American evangelicalism, and culture.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition