Think of how evangelicals may describe the Bible: unchanging, inerrant, authoritative, truth.

Well, "in the world we are entering, the concept of the Bible will be completely different," said David Parker, theology professor at the University of Birmingham. Speaking recently at the Hay Festival in England, Parker predicted that technology will prompt personalized digital versions of the Scripture, "like an individual copy" of the Bible.

If Parker is right, we evangelicals might have some major questions. How would this editorial control affect our faith? Could it lead to an eventual erosion of sound doctrine? Would the capacity for changing our sacred texts ultimately diminish their authority?

Biblical has become the evangelical "brand." We read the Bible; we quote the Bible; we live by its truths and teachings. For us, much would be lost if biblical authority eroded and eventually disappeared.

However, according to T.M. Luhrmann's recent book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, there may be a difference between how evangelicals perceive their commitment to the Bible and to what extent it actually influences how they articulate and live their faith.

Luhrmann, a psychological anthropologist at Stanford University, did years of research within the Vineyard movement and discovered a Christianity that was more therapeutic than theological. She provocatively suggests that American evangelicalism has scripted a new narrative, reformulating both problem and solution. "The [new] problem is human emotional pain and the human's own self-blaming harshness;" the gospel is that "God loves you, just as you are, with all your pounds and pimples."

The biblical brand may not be as accurate as we imagine.

Before we dismiss her findings, we should first consider that Luhrmann observed evangelicals at close-range, not only interviewing hundreds of them, but embedding herself in the life of a church for Sunday worship and weekly small group meetings. She even had a prayer accountability partner and met regularly with a spiritual director.

Sure, we might argue that her sample, while deep, was unfortunately narrow. The Vineyard is hardly representative of evangelicalism. However, I found her conclusions to accurately describe, at least in part, what has been my experience in evangelical churches. In the Baptist, Presbyterian, charismatic Episcopalian, and non-denominational churches I've attended over the past 20 years, I've often found—as Luhrmann did— that "what people want from faith is to feel better than they did without faith."

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Luhrmann insists that the "deliverables" of faith matter most to evangelicals—not our actual beliefs. We don't come to God because of finely tuned ideas, and we don't stay because of creeds. We aren't demanding explanations for why the world is as it is; instead, we crave the joy and peace that intimacy with God is supposed to guarantee.

This evangelical sensibility was particularly evident to Luhrmann in the small group Bible studies she attended. Most people in that setting favored reading the text for personal application. They didn't seem to share her own curiosities about a passage's context or the intent of its author—"irrepressible scholarliness," as she calls it. "People just did not worry about heresy," she writes. "They worried about making God come alive for them."

Does the evangelical desire for happiness make us heretics? Not necessarily. It was Augustine who said, "If I were to ask you why you have believed in Christ, why you have become Christians, every man will answer truly, 'For the sake of happiness.'" John Piper makes a strong case for the pursuit of happiness in his book, Desiring God. He says, "We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy," only seek the "deepest and most enduring satisfaction." Even the Bible itself commands us to take delight in God (Ps. 37:4).

Studies show people who attend religious services regularly are more likely to be happy, and by some measures, evangelicals are the happiest. "Happiness is kind of a mark for an evangelical. We make it important in our choruses, in our megachurches, and in evangelism," seminary professor Ruth Tucker told CT back in 2006.

What's more, our joy in Jesus is its own apologetic. In her op-ed piece for the New York Times, Lurhmann says the "evangelical view of the world is full of joy. God is good. The world is good. Things will be good, even if they don't seem good now." At the end of her book, Luhrmann admits how she unwittingly found faith as a result of her time spent studying evangelicalism. She wasn't converted to Christianity, but she was compelled by the concept of redemption from sin:

I did not need to lose those 10 pounds I always thought I needed to lose before I would truly be lovable. This is perhaps, not exactly what Paul had in mind, but he would have agreed that unconditional love is hard to understand, and that, once grasped, it changes whatever else you thought you understood. It changed me.

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For God so loved the world. It's a happy thought indeed. But I wish Luhrmann had made it more than halfway.

Here's why Biblical commitment remains essential. If we don't stay true to the story as the Bible tells it, Jesus and the cross easily fade from the foreground of faith. Forgiveness is substituted for self-acceptance, and the doctrine of salvation is effectively amputated at the knees.

Redemption, as the Bible describes it, does not only mean that God loves us. The gospel proclaims that God can love us because he punished Jesus for our misdeeds.

That he gave his only begotten son.

"Do we really need authoritative scripts?" David Parker, the scholar whom I introduced at the beginning of this piece, has asked.

Yes—if the historic gospel continues to matter. Do away with the Bible as an "authoritative script," and you do away with the central historical events of the Christian story ¾ the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If our feelings and experiences become the only arbiter of the knowledge of God, if the Bible merely plays a supporting role to faith, we risk losing out on the powerful truth of the resurrection in favor of a feel-good gospel.

Luhrmann's research gives us pause to ask: Is the good news, as she heard it, a version of, "God loves you, just as you are, with all your pounds and pimples"? Or is it what our ancient creeds, derived from the Scriptures, have long heralded: I believe in Jesus Christ, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.

Because the difference can indeed matter.