Protective Strategies and the Prestige of the “Academic”


A Religious Studies and Practice Theory Redescription of Evangelical Inerrantist Scholarship


In: Biblical Interpretation
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  • 1 Brown University, USA


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This article examines how Evangelical Christian inerrantist scholars theorize their biblical scholarship and its relation to the broader academy, highlighting (1) their self-representation as true academics, and (2) the ways they modulate historical methods to prefer interpretive options that keep the Bible inerrant. Using these characteristics of inerrantist theorizing, the article redescribes their scholarship in terms of the religious studies rubrics of “protective strategies” and “privileging” insider claims. It then exploits this redescription to explore various characteristics of inerrantist religiosity from a Practice Theory vantage point, noting especially inerrantist religiosity’s highly intellectualized nature as well as features of its fields of discourse production and consumption, and their participants, that differentiate them from broader academic fields focused on the Bible. Overall the article thus provides a detailed positive account of inerrantist scholarship and introduces scholars to the utility of this data set for studying contemporary religiosity and religious “protectionism.”


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  • 6

     See, for instance, Henry 1979: 166–67, 176, 187, 201–207; Feinberg 1983: 19, 23, 27–28; Ferguson 1988: 60, 63–64; Grudem 1992: 32–33, 51–53. See also CSBI, Article XIII and Exposition: Infallibility, Inerrancy, and Interpretation.

  • 18

     See also Henry 1979: 173–74, 185, 190–91, 401; Payne 1980: 89–90; Oswalt 2009: 16–17.

  • 22

     See, for example, Payne 1980: 90–93; Sproul 1980: 127. The CSBI articulates the underlying principle concisely: “We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant” (Exposition: Infallibility, Inerrancy, and Interpretation). See also Richard Schultz’s comments: “One of the primary threats today to a traditional understanding of biblical inspiration and inerrancy is the unrestricted employment of historical-critical tools by evangelical biblical scholars” (Schultz 2004: 150).

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