Why is “Believing Criticism” considered Heresy?

Warning: Michael F. Bird has been charged with heresy for the following by Joseph M. Holden, President of Veritas Evangelical Seminary :

My own approach is what I would term “believing criticism.” This approach treats Scripture as the inspired and veracious Word of God, but contends that we do Scripture the greatest service when we commit ourselves to studying it in light of the context and processes through which God gave it to us. Scripture is trustworthy because of God’s faithfulness to his own Word and Scripture is authoritative because the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it. Nonetheless, God has seen fit to use human language, human authors, and even human processes as the means by which he has given his inscripturated revelation to humanity. To understand the substance of Scripture means wrestling with its humanity, the human face of God’s speech to us in his Word.

After due allowances are made for the artistic license, theological embellishment, and inherent biases of the tradents of the tradition, our witnesses to Jesus remain steadfast in their conviction that the Jesus whom they narrate is historically authentic as much as he is personally confronting.” (Emphasis added.)

This means that we are actually liberated to read the Gospels as they were intended to be read: as historically referential theological testimonies to Jesus as the exalted Lord. It does not matter then whether there was one demoniac (Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27) or two demoniacs (Matt 8:28) that Jesus healed on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus healed a demon possessed man in the vicinity and Matthew just likes couplets, making everything two’s where he can! Similarly, trying to prove that mustard seeds really are the smallest plants of the earth (Mark 4:31) or that Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock first crowed and then three times again afterwards (Matt 26:69-74; Luke 22:56-60; John 18:16-27; Mark 14:66-68) is like trying to understand the Magna Carta by arguing about whether the commas are in the right position. John Calvin himself said: ‘We know that the Evangelists were not very exact as to the order of dates, or even in detailing minutely everything that Christ did or said.’[Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 216]. The Evangelists give us the big picture about Jesus, the gist of his words, the major outlines of his career, they position him in relation to the prophetic promises, and they declare the all important significance as to who he was and why he died. The details should not be treated with indifferences, but they are not the focus of the stories we call “Gospels.” While I think the overall historical reliability of the Gospels is vitally important less we treat Gospels as religiously laden fiction, we should not import anachronistic and modernist criteria of historical reality into our treatment of the Gospels and make it a condition for theological validity:” (Emphasis Added.)

So then, how do we as a believing and confessing community approach the critical questions that the texts of the Gospels present to us?….  It entails we go through the Gospels unit by unit and ask what exactly did Jesus intend and how would his hearers have understood him. It equally entails asking why the Evangelists have told the story this way and why do they have the peculiarities that they do. Third, we have to explore the impact that the Gospels intended to make upon their implied readers and how the Four Gospels as a whole intend to shape the believing communities who read them now.” (Emphasis added)

Because it “de-historicizes” the biblical text in its “aversion to the correspondence view of truth,” according to ICBI.

According to NT scholar Craig Blomberg, who has also been lumped with Mike Bird, genre interpretation is in accordance with ICBI inerrancy.

This is what happens when you go heresy hunting.

This entry was posted in Criag Blomberg, Inerrancy, Michael F. Bird and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Why is “Believing Criticism” considered Heresy?

  1. Jon Hughes says:


    This sort of approach by Michael Bird is liberating. Strict inerrancy is a heavy burden, and books defending it are usually the theological equivalent of watching paint dry. It amazes me that scholars such as Blomberg, Bock and Licona get stick for their approaches – it’s so obvious to anyone outside the fundamentalist bubble that these men are highly conservative.

    Blomberg’s recent book is well worth reading, as he is not averse to naming names – he’s clearly passionate about the issue – with Norman Geisler and Albert Mohler being portrayed as bullies. As for Licona, he effectively lost his job due to his position on Matthew 27:52-53 (and this, despite his clear defense of the bodily resurrection of Christ).

    It’s madness.

  2. Lon says:

    I guess I’m late to the party. I haven’t heard of any new approaches to inherency. I’m familiar with B.B. Warfield’s famous work, and the Chicago statement, but I’ll have to look up “believing criticism” since I haven’t heard the term before.

    • TC Robinson says:

      Lon, understood. Here it is in a nutshell: “Scripture is trustworthy because of God’s faithfulness to his own Word and Scripture is authoritative because the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it. Nonetheless, God has seen fit to use human language, human authors, and even human processes as the means by which he has given his inscripturated revelation to humanity.”

      • Lon says:

        Thanks TC. If that’s the definition, I’m uncomfortable with the subjectivity of “authoritative because the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it.” vs. the traditional basis of authority, i.e. prophetic or apostolic authorship. I’ll have to learn more. Thanks again. Lon

  3. TC Robinson says:

    Lon, I can see where a person, coming from a traditional understanding of things, might be uncomfortable with what a Mike Bird is proposing. But think about it, Are they just words on paper if the Holy Spirit doesn’t breathe life into them? Is this what Paul is intimate in 1 Cor. 2:13-14? We cannot separate them. It’s an unholy divorce if we do.

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