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Middle Tennessee evangelical culture enveloped Zack Hunt during his younger years and now as an adult and author Hunt is trying to push that envelope.
Largely inspired by his experiences in Nashville area evangelical churches and schools, Hunt’s newest book, “Godbreathed,” challenges the notion of biblical inerrancy, or the belief the Bible is without error.
The book by itself is provocative, especially for an area that is home to influential Christian institutions, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, that are deeply committed to biblical inerrancy. But Hunt took it a step further when he purchased billboards along Interstate 65 to advertise the book.
Hunt’s billboards say: “It’s ok to admit when the Bible is wrong,” “You are not going to hell,” and “God didn’t write the Bible. People did."
Hunt acknowledged his tactics are unconventional, but said his aim isn’t solely to get a rise out of conservative Christians.
“For me, it’s been encouraging, uplifting,” Hunt said. “My ultimate goal is that folks like myself who grew up in conservative evangelicalism and either implicitly or explicitly were forbidden from criticizing the Bible, and are asking questions about the Bible, can find the freedom to do that.” Hunt grew up around the local Church of the Nazarene scene, attending Trevecca Nazarene University for his bachelor’s. He then pursued a Master of Arts in Religion degree at Yale University Divinity School before returning home to start a family and a life as a public theologian.
Often online, Hunt frequently comments on the intersection of religion and political and social issues in Tennessee. He sat down with The Tennessean to discuss his journey and how it led to his new book.
What is your criticism of biblical inerrancy?
Hunt: Inerrancy transforms the Bible into God incarnate. Whether intentionally or not, the Bible itself becomes divine. It becomes beyond questioning. When that happens, is we remove ourselves from the equation. So, the Bible is used as this weaponized proof text to control, oppress, marginalize, damn, and attack whoever we want. Even though they are interpreting, making the selection, they pretend the Bible is clear. ‘Your problem is not with me; this is just with God.’
In “Godbreathed,” you discuss your experience at Trevecca Nazarene University as being foundational to your work today. How so?
The first chapter of this book is an anecdote from my time at Trevecca. Like I’ve told my professors there: who I am and how I think, even though it diverges from things I think now, or I diverged from things that they profess, my radically inclusive theology. My biblical theology, my understanding of the Bible as an imperfect witness to the good news, all of that started at Trevecca. I feel like my theology and my practice are the natural conclusion of what started for me there.
Adding to that, you include in “Godbreathed” an anecdote from your time at Yale Divinity School when your professor posits, “What if the Bible is wrong?” Talk more about that experience.
It was like a bomb going off in my theological education. Because I had certainly considered whether the Bible is wrong about the creation account. I’m thinking about the Bible being wrong scientifically. But what he was saying was something wholly different. He was saying ‘what if the Bible is ethically, morally wrong? like teaching something that is wrong.’
Do you see “Godbreathed” and the billboards as a type of subversive theology?
The subversiveness is intentional. When you live in the buckle of the Bible belt, you live amongst people who have grown up with the church and think they have it figured out. I feel like the message coming out of Nashville right now is dominated by our state legislature and folks like the Daily Wire who have ginned up white supremacy and bigotry and hate in the name of Jesus. If I can find some small way to offer an alternative message to our neighbors, even if it’s in the form of a billboard or a book, I wanted to do that.
This Week on the Podcast:
“Admitting we could be wrong about the things we are most convinced of, that are so fundamental to who we are, is painful and becoming someone new is scary.” (an excerpt from Godbreathed, Zack Hunt)
Zack Hunt (sometimes known as Zaack Hunt around the internet, a deconstructing dad, former pastor, prolific author and BBQ magician extraordinaire, is our guest this week.
Zack has spent the last decade writing about the interplay of faith and politics and when not doing that good work, he can be found traveling and trying out new restaurants with his wife, playing with their two little girls, and sneaking out onto his back porch trying to smoke the perfect rack of ribs on his beloved smoker.
After we dive into Zack's never-ending and evolving faith journey, we dive into the space of how he got to the place of "I might be wrong," and where that wild idea that has taken him.
We speak about all kinds of fancy theological terms like exegesis and "sola scriptura," but in the end of the day, we share stories about fear and grief and walking this very nuanced and difficult road of parenting in this new found space and how LOVE is the beginning and end of the story.
Zack's humor will have you laughing and his vulnerability will have you crying. And you will find out why it matter so much that we are all God-breathed. Plus, you will find out why the heck most of his internet spaces are Zaack. Listen in.
You can find Za(a)ck at the following spaces:
We decided to join in the "BLACK FRIDAY" FUN this past weekend and provide a list of OUR FAVORITE BOOKS from our guests on the podcast and one from the beautiful Rachel Held Evans who was instrumental in both of our evolving faith journeys. We've done the "research" and "vetted" these and trust that they will be exactly what you need to put on your personal list or get as a "something to read" for your kids!
As authors ourselves, we value the importance of words and how they can heal our souls, mostly because when we hear each other's hearts and listen to each other's stories, something mystical takes place inside of our shared humanity and divinity.
Also, exciting news - Esther even has two books included that are brand-spanking new! Happy Perusing!!
Support Us PLEASE and Join Our Private Facebook Community Don't forget to sign up for our private and exclusive Deconstructing Mamas community on Facebook for those of you who want to move to the next level with us via our PATREON platform.
At this level, for as little as $3, you can ask questions, experience a safe and welcoming community with others who are deconstructing and receive special surprises along the way from Lizz and Esther.
We've been doing this for several months now and it's been more than we could have imagined. We love it there and think you will too! Head to this LINK to sign up!!
Godbreathed: What It Really Means for the Bible to be Divinely Inspired What if the imperfections and contradictions in Scripture aren't an accident? What if they were allowed to be there by the Holy Spirit in order to draw us beyond the literal words on the page and deeper into the spiritual truth God is trying to teach us? As provocative or unorthodox as that might sound, it is in fact a very ancient way of understanding what it means for the Bible to be divinely inspired. In this thorough and disarming book, author Zack Hunt explains how we got here and offers a practical and easily accessible approach for reading and understanding the Bible that doesn't require a PhD in biblical languages.
As the disillusioned leave the Church in droves and the deconstructing search for better answers to eternal questions, this book repositions Scripture in the life of the Church to allow it to be what it was meant to be all along: a source of life, hope, and freedom for all. Godbreathed will reclaim the idea of biblical truth and reveal it to be not a list of beliefs to affirm or laws to be followed, but an invitation into a new way of living and loving on earth as it is in heaven.
Can't wait until Tuesday and need just a little snippet from our podcast episode that's coming up on Tuesday, November 14.
One last thing. We want to remind you that we are so glad you are here. We wouldn't be the same without you. You will always find GRACE for where you've been and who you are now, and SPACE for who you are becoming and will be.
Carry on, our new-found friends. Welcome to the twisty-windy, full -of-adventure faith path that's laid out before us all. Love,
Lizz & Esther
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