ACU: Stronghold of “Radical Criticism”

By Wayne Jackson

Abilene Christian University has stripped itself of every vestige of its previously clandestine operations of smuggling radical criticism into the brotherhood of Christ. The recent announcement of a forthcoming One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, which typically will “espouse standard critical conclusions (multi-source Pentateuch, multiple Isaiahs, two-source hypothesis for the Synoptic Gospels),” etc., will strike out “in directions that will be new to most general readers within the [restoration] movement.” So wrote Mark Hamilton, Bible professor at ACU and editor-in-chief of the commentary project, in a recent issue of the Stone-Campbell Journal (2006, 200-201). We hasten to add, the views will be “new” to the Bible as well!

More recently, the ACU Graduate School of Theology announced the upcoming Carmichael-Walling Lectures (November 8) at ACU. In this program Dr. Wayne A. Meeks, a former professor at Yale University, will lecture on “Bible interpretation in and for contemporary culture.” Dr. Meeks is an ordained Presbyterian minister. How very incredible! With due respect, a sectarian theologian who does not even understand the meaning of the Greek verb baptizo (immerse) is going to lecture to young ministers on “Bible interpretation.”

In promoting this event, an ACU web site asserts that the Bible has played a Jekyll-and-Hyde role in “our history.” Supposedly, the church has been abused by those who have used the Bible to proof-text every form of evil imaginable, e.g., the oppression of women, homophobia, the suppression of scientific inquiry, etc. But the ACU commentary crew will straighten us out!

If anyone has played the Jekyll-Hyde role it has been ACU. For a considerable time now, the university has portrayed itself as a Bible-respecting, benevolent Dr. Jekyll, while the destructive Mr. Hyde has been lurking in the shadows—but now is emerging with fiendish vigor.

The promotional article, that reeks of arrogance, disdains those who have sought to “tell us what ‘the Bible teaches,’” or state “the Bible doctrine,” on various subjects. It ridicules the idea that it is a “simple matter” to discover what the Bible says. Emphatically, it contends, “It is not”—despite Paul’s admonition: “Stop being foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:17).

The author generously shares his wisdom, namely that he and others of his upper-stratum ilk must uncover “the ways in which our language masks the real processes involved when people invoke the Bible as authority.” O the wisdom that is harbored in the “holy of holies” at Abilene!

The article continues: “[W]e must face up to the failures as well as the successes of modernist biblical theology and historical criticism.” It would be interesting indeed to have the catalog of “successes” that “modernist biblical theology and historical criticism” have produced. I do not doubt that this is what we can anticipate in the forthcoming commentary. What a shocking index this is of the noxious concoction of “critical” poison that is seething in the Bible department at ACU.

The ACU promo lashes out at the “politics of dishonesty that so frequently infects public displays of Biblicism.” It speaks of the “curious irony” of those who regard themselves as “evangelical,” but in fact are “biblically illiterate.” The ACU “scholars” swagger even as they sit and spew their venom towards the illustrious men of our brotherhood past. In all candor not one of them is qualified to even stand in the shadow of a J.W. McGarvey.

The brotherhood of Christ faces an impending war the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetime. It will not be won by the “softies” who are adverse to any sort of controversy and who are loath to identify culprits. Nor will victory be achieved by glazed-eyed, right-wingers who see a “liberal” behind every bush. It will take studious, courageous, credible, and forceful lovers of truth, who are willing to go on the offensive, rather than sit passively while wolves ravage the flock of God.

[Note: Click here to see the ACU lectureship promotion.]

Sources/Footnotes
  • Hamilton, Mark. 2006. Stone-Campbell Journal, Fall.
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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.