The chapter opens with a description of the Bible's current status with many North Americans: "The Bible is seen as archaic, lacking scientific integrity, and open to abuse" (p. 67). Once regarded as a book above critique, the Bible is now the target of books whose main aim is its criticism. To complicate matters further, Scripture is often poorly interpreted--sometimes with terrible consequences. How, then, should missional communities understand and use the church's book?
Before offering a positive answer to this question, Fitch and Holsclaw assess two other possible responses. The first is the defensive reaction of Neo-Reformed thinkers. Here Fitch and Holsclaw engage two of the most prominent persons in the Neo-Reformed movement, Baptists Al Mohler and John Piper. Instead of contextualizing their approach to Scripture for a changed and changing time and place, Mohler and Piper have dug in their heels and insisted on the traditional approach of conservative evangelicals--namely, inerrancy (the Bible is without error). Fitch and Holsclaw summarize, "The Bible is fundamentally understood as a book full of factual truth statements, otherwise known as propositions" (p. 68).
Fitch and Holsclaw agree that Scripture is "historical, true, and trustworthy" (p. 69). They do not find it prudent, however, to argue for its inerrancy. Efforts to do so set up a no-win battle with scientists and historians. Defenders of inerrancy "look at the Bible as an austere textbook" or "user's manual" or "textbook" (pp. 69-70). Instead, Scripture should be approached as a life-giving story. Moreover, whether the Bible is inerrant ultimately does not matter--after all, two inerrantists can interpret the same biblical text in two very different ways. (Here Fitch and Holsclaw might have also shown that inerrancy is intellectually untenable and demonstrably false.)
Next under the microscope is the emerging church's approach to Scripture, here represented by Brian McLaren. Fitch and Holsclaw, who earlier in the book emphasize the importance of humility, concur with McLaren that the Bible should not be seen "as similar to the U.S. Constitution," as this approach "often hardens into a single 'authoritative' interpretation of Scripture governed by an imposing authority figure (the pastor or denomination, for example)" (p. 71). But "the library model" that McLaren offers as an alternative leaves Fitch and Holsclaw wondering why the particular library of Scripture should be regarded as having more authority than other libraries.
The solution, suggest Fitch and Holsclaw, is simply to listen to the story that Scripture tells. Scripture has authority, yes; yet it more importantly narrates God's authority. In practice, this commitment to indwelling the biblical narrative has led Fitch and Holsclaw's church to have four Scripture readings during their worship gatherings.
According to Fitch and Holsclaw, people will come to know the Bible's authority as its story becomes their own (which, it seems to me, puts them closer to McLaren than to Mohler and Piper--Scripture's authority is something we experience more than explain). "[W]e should rarely find ourselves defending the Bible's authority," they conclude. "Rather, its authority becomes undeniable when its compelling reality becomes visible among us. The story of God as displayed in a people speaks for itself" (p. 82). In short, Christians should focus less on talking about the Bible and more on living out its story.