I began this blog with a 6-part series on the gospel (beginning here). One of the points I made was that we should keep asking “What is the gospel?” not because we don’t have any idea, but because we’re always tempted to distort the gospel so that it serves us, rather than being convicted by it so that hearing the gospel results in a total reorientation of our lives to God’s purposes.

The Conservative Bible Project provides a prime example of what happens when we elevate political ideology over all else and recruit God to our “side.” (I’m assuming that it’s not a massive joke; if it is, it’s not funny. I also acknowledge that the extreme conservatism of this project has already been rebuked by various, more moderate conservative commentators.) In the interest of keeping this post relatively short, I refer you to the CBP link above. In brief, the CBP hopes to combat what it perceives to be liberal bias in current English translations of the Bible by producing its own “fully conservative” version. What follows are some thoughts about this.

The CBP is engaging in conceptual idolatry on a number of fronts. I’ll limit this post to naming two: (1) Its elevation of the modern liberal/conservative divide to ultimate importance and, subsequently, to its elevation of the conservative side to ultimate hermeneutical status; (2) its elevation of the English language to ultimate linguistic status.

1. From the CBP website, it appears that the folks behind it see the world through a harshly dualistic liberal/conservative lens. It’s strictly either/or: you’re either one of us or one of them. In fact, this modern political construct can, according to them, be applied backward 2,000 years to the biblical stories; one of their goals is to eliminate “liberal” biblical stories, such as the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (point #8 in their 10-point list). Ah, but they say this story was inserted “later” (and most biblical scholars agree); ok—so exactly when did the “liberal bias” begin? When do they think the story was inserted? Do they really think the first “pure,” unedited Gospel texts represent a “conservative” view? More to the point, do they think a political framework grounded in recent American history is really the ultimate way to read the biblical texts?

2. The CBP not only insists on reshaping the Bible (more specifically, the New Testament; is the Old Testament not valid as Scripture?) according to its own historically and hermeneutically limited perspective, it further constricts the biblical text by asserting that the English language is ultimately superior in conveying truth about God—but only when conservative principles are applied to it (see especially points 1, 2, 4, 7). Footnote 2 asserts that “Christianity introduced powerful new concepts that even the Greek and Hebrew were inadequate to express, but modern conservative language can express well.” So…conservative concepts expressed through modern English are the ultimate expression of Christian truth?

Folks, we’re in the realm of idolatry here. (Again, I want to make clear to my friends who consider themselves conservative that I don’t mean to lump them all in with this more radical, extreme mindset. I would encourage you to rehabilitate the term “conservative” from folks like the CBP, if you can.) Whenever you decide that your political position provides all the resources needed to interpret Scripture, and that in fact Scripture can be “purified” only by the application of principles you hold dear and in the language you speak, then you’re in danger of worshiping your own ideas rather than the God that Scripture points to in the first place. 

I have more nits to pick with the CBP as set forth at their website, but these should do for now.