For some time now, there has been a growing skepticism about the ability of higher criticism to provide adequate answers to the questions we bring to the Bible. In its place, it would seem that literary criticism is taking its place as the biblical study du jour. I, for one, think this is largely a good thing. This means that the biblical text is taken as it exists and studied as such without feeling any compulsion to do the messy work of attempting to pull it apart limb by limb. Dissection gives way to observation as identifying literary devices supplants finding redactors.
In spite of the strengths of bib-lit-crit, I wonder if in its rise something that has historically been emphasized has been neglected. Upon completing my first semester of seminary, I was asked by a friend what I thought about biblical inspiration. To my chagrin, I realized that I had not even thought about it at all during the previous semester. If that brief dialogue were isolated, I might have just assumed it was discussed in class while my brain wandered through the Alps or something. However, subsequent conversations with classmates revealed that this is more than incidental. An emeritus faculty member even mentioned it as a criticism of where the school as a whole is headed. Needless to say, this is troubling. What about inspiration? If my school represents anything of the trends happening in 21st century evangelicalism, what has changed that this no longer warrants discussion?
My suspicion is that inspiration has been lumped with a good deal of theology that has, in many places, fallen out of fashion. And so, as premillenial dispensationalism and Dobson-esque Republican Christianity have disappointed many younger evangelicals, and therefore been (probably rightly) abandoned, inspiration has likewise been tossed out with the proverbial bathwater. This is further enhanced by the rise of an approach to biblical studies that does not demand inspiration as a key doctrine. Whereas much of the older conservative biblical criticism attempted to hold out against form criticism by emphasizing inspiration, the new criticism is amenable to both liberal and conservative approaches. The Bible then becomes, reverently, very good literature, but what makes it distinctive from Dostoevsky is lost.
Any thoughts from the other corners of Christendom?