Reply to James McGrath

I guess I wasn’t clear enough in my previous post. I don’t merely think that the claim “fundamentalists really assert that they’re infallible” fails as an absolutely universal generalization. I don’t merely think you can find a few exceptions. I think it’s utter nonsense through and through, with no basis in reality whatsoever.

What fundamentalists typically believe is that the Bible, properly interpreted, is infallible. They also generally believe that their interpretations are correct, but that does not entail they believe themselves to be infallible, anymore than the fact that I generally believe my views are correct means I think I’m infallible. As Matt Yglesias once said (paraphrasing, because I can’t find the post right now): of course I think my views are correct, if I didn’t I would change my mind. (See: Moore’s Paradox, but also Preface Paradox for caveats.)

I have to say all this because of James McGrath’s post in which he calls my post “bizarre.” The feeling is mutual. McGrath stresses that, “Exceptions do not mean that generalizations are not essentially accurate,” hence the previous to paragraphs.

As for the contributions liberal Christians have made to Biblical criticism, yes I’m perfectly aware of it. But when I talk about admitting the Bible is deeply flawed, I’m not talking discussion of historical inaccuracies, I’m talking about being willing to say, “the fundamentalists are wrong because much of the Bible’s content is morally odious.”

There are liberal Christians willing to admit that, but as McGrath says, exceptions do not mean that generalizations are not essentially accurate. And it wouldn’t surprise me if McGrath actually agrees that much of the Bible’s content is morally odious. The problem is that when it comes time to deal with fundamentalists, liberal Christians all too often avoid such unpleasant truths in favor of spouting nonsense.

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