Here is the problem with Higher Criticism/Higher Critical Thinking: Once a pastor “cracks open the lid” to Higher Criticism, even if it is on a very minor issue like whether or not Methuselah really lived to be 900+ years old as the literal reading of the Bible states, then he has opened Pandora’s Box. He has opened Pandora’s Box because if the layperson cannot trust the Bible when it says in very clear language that Methuselah lived to be over 900 years old, then why should the layperson trust the Bible on even more fantastic claims such as a universe created in six days, human beings created out of dust, or a dead Savior who walks out of his grave with a superhero-like body; that walks thru locked doors and eats broiled fish lunches with his former fishing buddies??
If the man in the pew is told directly or it is insinuated to him that he is incapable of sitting down and understanding the Bible himself; that he needs his pastor, a theologian, or an apologist to explain to him even the most simple teachings in the Bible, such as how old the oldest man really was, then it’s either time for the man in the pew to toss his Bible in the trash and simply accept as fact everything that his pastor, theologian, and apologist tells him, or, he can start investigating the evidence for the validity of the Bible himself. And once the layperson starts looking at the thousands of documents on the internet that expose huge holes in the evidence claims for the Bible, he realizes: My pastor is trying to pull the wool over my eyes. He is trying to cover up the many holes in Christian teaching which conflict with basic science, archeology, and historical facts, with complicated theological theories (“spin”) so that he doesn’t have to explain to parishioners why “nine hundred plus years” does not mean “nine hundred plus years”…and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.
All the above can be avoided by simply telling the man in the pew: You can believe what the Bible says. You can believe what the Church Fathers have always said it says. Don’t let science and ‘writing analysis experts’ convince you that the Bible contains errors. It can’t because God promised he would not allow one jot or tittle of his Word to be lost or changed.
Here is an example of what I believe LCMS pastors should NOT do:
Noah and the Flood
Some LCMS pastors and even many evangelical apologists are now adopting the overwhelming secular geologists’ assertion that the sediment layers and the fossil record absolutely rule out the possibility of a world-wide flood. However, these (higher criticism) Christians are now claiming that when God/the Bible says in Genesis that the whole earth was flooded that God/the Bible only meant the “earth” of the Euphrates River Valley and that when God/the Bible says that even the highest mountains were covered with 22 cubits of water, that He really meant was that the little hills along the Euphrates were covered with 22 cubits of water. Bottom line, “earth” does not mean “earth” and “mountain” does not mean mountain.
So, at what point does “is” not mean “is”??
Christian pastors should instead say this: “You have a choice, Mr. or Mrs. Christian. You can believe God or you can believe man. God, in his inerrant, Holy Word, said he flooded the entire earth, 22 cubits above Mt. Everest. Since God is all-powerful and all-knowing, He is perfectly capable of flooding the entire world but yet create the sediment layers and the fossil record to APPEAR as if no world wide flood had ever occurred. Why would he do this? How many times do we see in the Bible situations in which God works in mysterious ways to confound the wise and arrogant? God very well may have “fixed” the sediment and fossil layers to appear to contradict the Bible for the very purpose of bringing down the proud and saving only those humble enough to accept his Word by faith, not by evidence.”