The Bible as a Magic Text

Lately, I’ve become convinced that modern Evangelicalism/fundamentalism uses the Bible as a magic text.

For instance, the concept of “praying the Bible” and “singing Scripture” as the forms of prayer and worship that God finds most acceptable. In this practice, the believer takes his/her sacred book (i.e. the Bible), and, on account of its sacredness (it is often believed to be the very words of God), believes it to have some sort of special efficacy in bringing about divine action or currying divine favor.

Another example is using the Bible as an augur, divining from it “God’s will for your life.” Of course, a subset of Evangelicals (often the Neo-Reformed) denies the validity of this practice; however, so far as I’ve seen, a great many Evangelicals use the Bible in this way. In this practice, the practitioner, when faced with a decision, uses the Bible to learn what is the divinely sanctioned choice, in order to avoid being “out of God’s will.

I’m interested in reading scholarly engagement with this idea, which I’ve been unable to find. Can anyone recommend any sources? I’m specifically interested in sociological or “religious studies” discussions, rather than theological debate.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Bible as a Magic Text

  1. Aaron R. Gilbert

    Hey Cory! This is Aaron Gilbert from Union. I hope you are doing well. We should catch up sometime. “The Bible Made Impossible” by Christian Smith might be a good read! It is definitely on my list. I can recommend Kenton Sparks “Sacred Word, Broken Word”. I found that one to be very good.

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Aaron! I hope you’re doing well.

      I’ve looked at those books, and they’re on my list of books eventually to buy. Do they talk about people using the Bible as a means of deciding what God wants them to do in non-ethical situations? (Like what job to take, what place to live, etc.)

      • Aaron R. Gilbert

        I believe Smith is arguing that the Evangelical/Fundamentalist view of the Bible (bibliolatry, handbook for all of life’s problems, etc) doesn’t work. We need to accept the Bible for what it is and not what we want it to be. Spark’s book is from more of a theological/biblical criticism perspective (with some epistemology thrown in the mix) and Smith’s from a sociological perspective. I also believe Spark’s book is an abridged/adapted for a broader audience version of his book “God’s Words in Human Words”.

      • Wonderful. Thanks for letting me know!

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