Biblical authority has always been challenged. Post-Enlightenment scholasticism, higher criticism and modernity have challenged widely held convictions regarding biblical authorship, authenticity, authority, inerrancy and infallibility. How can I live without having to submit to or be accountable to biblical authority? How can I create a reality that is free from widely held convictions regarding ethical absolutes? I must challenge biblical authority. I must challenge the absolutes. I must remain autonomous–able to define myself, reality, ethics, etc. without Scripture as a norm. We simply have to refer to Scripture as man-made. Or in the case of Bauer and Ehrman, we have to refer to “orthodoxy” as man-made.
What is truth? In a world in which at times right seems wrong–or even worse, where the lines between right and wrong are blurred to the point that we are no longer sure if there even is such a thing as right and wrong– Pilate’s question to Jesus takes on new urgency. Instead, all truth, including morality, becomes perspectival and subjective, a matter of nothing but personal preference and taste. In such a world, like in the days of the judges, everyone does what is right in his or her own eyes, but unlike in the days of the judges, this is not meant as an indictment but celebrated as the ultimate expression of truly enlightened humanity.
All is fluid, doctrine is dead, and diversity reigns. Not only in restaurants and shopping malls, but even in churches and houses of worship, what people are looking for is a variety of options, and if they don’t like what they see, they take their business–or worship–elsewhere.
Consumers control which products are made. Children are catered to by parents, students determine what is taught in our schools and universities, and no one should tell anyone else what to do–or at least not acknowledge that they do. We live in an age that prides itself on its independence, rejection of authority, and embrace pluralism. Truth is dead; long live diversity!
— Kostenberger & Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), pp 15.
In 1934, a German named Walter Bauer published “Lexicon to the New Testament.” It had little influence in the United States until its translation for the English-speaking world in 1971. The Bauer Thesis, as it became referred to, has had a tremendous influence on spokespersons like Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, and the fellows of the Jesus Seminar. Adopting and popularizing Bauer’s thesis, Ehrman is most widely known, read and revered for his books Misquoting Jesus (2005), God’s Problem (2008), and Jesus, Interrupted (2009). Kostenberger & Kruger continue:
In this topsy-turvy world of pluralism and postmodernity, where reason has been replaced as the arbiter of truth by perspectivalism and the unfettered and untouchable authority of personal experience, conventional notions are turned on their head. What used to be regarded as heresy is the new orthodoxy of the day, and the only heresy that remains is orthodoxy itself. “The Heresy of Orthodoxy” . . . is an epithet that aptly captures the prevailing spirit of the age whose tentacles are currently engulfing the Christian faith in a deadly embrace, aiming to subvert the movement at its very core. The new orthodoxy–the “gospel” of diversity–challenges head-on the claim that Jesus and the early Christians taught a unified message that they thought was absolutely true and its denials absolutely false.
I have the opportunity to counsel with teen boys and their parents each week; sometimes several. We discuss his education, his home life, his spiritual life. We discuss his strengths, goals, beliefs. Through the interview process, I see the fruit of a post-Christian paradigm played out constantly. In today’s society, we are not free to believe something absolutely anymore. We may have ideas or thoughts in one direction or another. We may prefer one but not the other, but we are not allowed to have certainty about anything. Without fail, pluralism comes in to fill the vacuum of missing absolute truth. What is “pluralism?” What does it look like practically? See part 2.