Let’s continue our look at (conservative Calvinist) Ligonier Ministries’ recent survey on “The State of Theology”. (For Part 1, see here.)
The survey asks millennials to state their level of agreement with this statement:
“The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.”
42% of respondents agree with that statement while 20% disagree and the rest check off either somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or not sure. The writers of the survey conclude:
“young adults appear to be drifting away from the Christian worldview in other areas. Millennials are most likely to agree that the Bible is not literally true.”
So according to “The State of Theology” survey, a “Christian worldview” requires one to accept the Bible as “literally true”. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some statements from the Bible:
Genesis 6:6 (NIV)
The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.
Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
Psalm 18:8-10 (NIV)
8 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
9 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
Psalm 137:9 (NIV)
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!
Presumably, to take the Bible as literally true entails taking the component parts (i.e. particular statements) in the Bible as literally true. With that in mind, it would appear that to have a genuinely Christian worldview requires the following: you are a nihilist who believes God is a dragon that regrets having made human beings and that people who bludgeon the infants of their oppressors are especially blessed.
Of course, one can imagine that Ligonier Ministries will have a series of rebuttals. Perhaps they’ll say Genesis 6:6 is an anthropomorphism, Ecclesiastes 1:2 is ironic, and Psalm 18:8-10 is a metaphor. (Not sure how they’d handle Psalm 137:9.) But note that with every particularized interpretive strategy, they further erode the meaning of the claim that the Bible is “literally true.” And with that, the stark nature of the false dilemma in the original statement — ancient myth or literally true — becomes more glaringly obvious.
The real lesson of this survey is not that Christian millennials have an un-Christian worldview. Rather, it is that the folks at Ligonier Ministries have allowed meaningless platitudes and false dilemmas to obscure a proper engagement with Scripture in all its nuanced complexity. Once again, we see that for all their talk of Scripture and doctrine, Christian fundamentalists retain a surprising level of basic biblical and theological illiteracy.