According to vast millions of Christians, the Bible is the Word of God. Mathematically and linguistically, we could formulate the following: The Bible = The Word of God. And, The Word of God = The Bible. To those millions who hold to an inerrantist view of the Bible, arguments over the validity of a scripture passage can come down to the following: “It says it, I believe it, that settles it.”
Along comes independent scholar Rodger Lawson Cragun, who not only challenges the Bible equals the Word of God, but audaciously and provocatively claims this doctrine is a harmful “ultimate” heresy.
So who is this Rodger Cragun that can write so vehement an attack on a beloved central doctrine of millions upon millions of sincere Christians? That Cragun is virtually unknown in scholarly circles and likely uninvited in ecclesiastical circles is a serious defect that hopefully my brief positive review can rectify at least a smidgeon. For I have carefully read this book in its early self-published version three times as well as referred to it often. Cragun offers outstanding scholarly research and analysis to support his thesis that the very credible witness of the Church in its holding The Bible to literally be the Word of God.
Just to say, Cragun did his graduate studies at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary under the mentorship of Professor Markus Barth (yes, son of Karl Barth), and helped his professor’s research as he wrote the Anchor Bible Commentary on Ephesians. Cragun convincingly demonstrates his scholarly capabilities in “Ultimate Heresy” with voluminous scholarly references. Importantly, Cragun deftly exegetes Bible passages to support his thesis.
So why is Cragun so bothered by the claim that The Bible is the Word of God? The Bible has no verse or passage that declares its scriptures to be the Word of God. However, the Bible does declare that Jesus is the Word of God, such as John 1:1. However, too often in real church life, scriptural passages in the Bible take precedence over the teachings and divinity of Jesus. Cragun laments that all sorts of evils have such as slavery, wars, genocides, church splits, and oppressions have been justified by interpretations of biblical passages that avoid Jesus. Rather, Cragun says that the Bible is tied to the Word of God (Jesus) and must be interpreted in light of the Son of God revealed to us in the Bible.
For example, Leviticus 24:17-24 is the Hebrew law for retaliation (Lex Talionis) of eye for eye, tooth for tooth. This is an improvement over indiscriminate retaliation. Jesus mentions this law, “You have heard…” but then goes to teach nonretaliation and then furthermore, love for enemies (Matthew 5: 38-48). The Old Testament is a preface and positioning for the fullness of God incarnate. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John behold Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah that displays a continuity. But at the end, Jesus is standing while the Voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, hear him!” (not them, other than how they point to Jesus)
Cragun has regard for the Bible and its authority, as long as it is consonant with who Jesus is and teaches. Over and over, scripture says the “word of God came to (Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Micah, John, etc.) who wrote as witnesses to what God was telling them. In other words, the Bible is a witness to God’s revelatory action in a time and place that might also bear truth for our situation if seen through the prism of Jesus.
Cragun meticulously exegetes numerous scriptural passages to press his thesis, including the lame interpretation that 2 Timothy 3:16 proves that scripture is the Word of God, rather than what it says it is as profitable. An important scripture is John 5:39 where Jesus confronts the Pharisees. “You search the scriptures because in them you think you will find life eternal, but it is these that witness to me.” Here is the function of Scriptures: They witness to Jesus.
In summary, I urge people to read “The Ultimate Heresy” with a teachable mind. It is a very important book to strengthen the integrity and witness of the Church to the saving lordship of Jesus.