Eric Reitan: Inerrancy is Only a Theory, and Inerrantists aren’t Evil

Eric Reitan has a post on “That Chick-fil-A Business” and it is insightful and relevant to a much broader range of issues. Here is my favorite part:

[T]here’s a deep disconnect between the motives of many conservative Christians and the character of their actions–a disconnect created, more often than not, by an allegiance to an untenable theory about the Bible, a theory about how the Bible’s words are connected to divine self-disclosure, a theory that, as I see it, cannot stand up to any serious engagement with the Bible’s actual content and history.

But these people aren’t biblical scholars. They often don’t realize they are endorsing a controversial theory about the Bible when they equate every passage with the Word of God. They’ve never seriously considered any alternative view. Their failure to recognize that they could be wrong in their theory about the Bible isn’t the result of a pride so great they don’t think they are capable of making mistakes on matters as profound as the nature of divine revelation. It’s more a result of simply failing to see that there is a controversy here.

It’s like when you look through a pair of sunglasses at the world, and after awhile you forget that the glasses are there coloring what you see. It’s not overweaning pride at work. It’s simply the fact that no one has pointed the glasses out to them and invited them to look at the glasses themselves.

And so, unaware of the controversial character of their theory, they cannot take seriously the idea that the Bible might contain the prejudices of its human authors. Ancient Jewish culture was homophobic. And–big surprise–homophobic ideas come out in a few scattered passages. Is this God’s eternal Word, or is it the filter of human fallibility and small-mindedness manifesting in the Bible’s pages? Can we view this collection of texts as sacred, can we lend it deep authority, let it provide the organizing narrative of our lives, without treating it as so infallible that we have to follow it even when the neighbors we are called upon to love cry out in despair, crushed by the oppressive application of a few isolated lines of text? Can we judge prophesy by its fruits, as the Bible recommends, even in relation to the Bible itself?

The ending of the post is every bit as good:

The enemy here isn’t these people. It’s the system of belief that has trapped them behind walls, walls that block the ability to really hear and appreciate the lived experience of our gay and lesbian neighbors. The biblical invitation to love, to open ourselves up to what lies beyond ourselves, is thwarted by a theory about the Bible that puts so much of what is other beyond the walls.

What they see within the walls leads them to unwittingly support injustice, to magnify human suffering and alienation without ever seeing that this is the consequence of what they do. From behind the walls, given what they see, it looks like goodness.

My job, then–and the job of those who see what I see–is not to call the owners of Chick-fil-A and those who support them evil or hateful or bad. Our job is to help them see the walls, and then to help hoist them up to look beyond.

And if I’m wrong abou[t] this–if somehow I’m trapped behind walls that I don’t realize are there–then what I ask is that those who think this is true to return the favor.

I wonder whether we can get some part of that turned into a poster.

Click through to read the whole thing.

  • Scott F

    I wish it were true that education were the answer but so many are willing to willfully oppose what “secular” scholarship has to say that I just don’t expect to see the walls come a tumblin’ down any time soon.

  • robert r. cargill

    there’s an old argument i hear mostly from islamic fundamentalists, but i’ve also heard it from some xn ones (and even one or two bibliobloggers): you must be a (muslim/christian) inorder to truly understand it, and we shall not let infidels/outsiders/atheists/secularists/scholars critique the truth of our religion.

    it’s the old adage that you must be one in order to understand the faith. that is, once you embrace the truth of a particular faith and become completely indoctrinated, then you’ll truly understand the truth of what to outsiders looks like complete irrational, non-factual nonsense.

    i believe that’s what lies beneath the fundamentalist rejection of critical biblical studies: you don’t already think like we do, so we reject your criticism a ‘unlearned’. unfortunately, they do this for science as well, as well as political ideology.


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