‘Inerrancy’ is not a victimless crime

The doctrine of “inerrancy” is often referred to as a “high view of scripture.” It is not.

It’s a low-down dirty trick to play on the Bible and on anyone who tries to read it. Inerrancy is not a victimless crime. It chases some people away from the Bible and prevents others from reading it intelligently.

I respect that this idea comes from a place of respect, but that is not where it leads. It leads to a profound disrespect for the Bible, and for those who seek to read it honestly. And, ultimately, it always shifts from being a claim about the Bible itself to being a claim about the person making that claim. After all, what good is an inerrant, infallible text without an inerrant, infallible reader, exponent and enforcer?

Allow me to sub-contract out the rest of this post to a couple of professors.

J.R. Daniel Kirk: “Creating Space”

When we communicate the either/or of Christianity or a Bible that has mistakes or of Christianity or a world that is 4.5 billion years old, we are setting up Christianity for an increasing number of people heading toward the door.

Here’s the script: if you tell a high school kid that it’s either inerrancy or bust, and this kid goes and takes an introduction to OT or introduction to NT course in seminary, this young adult is going to have to go for bust unless she can reconfigure her Christianity to make room for a Bible that is not, in fact inerrant.

Sometimes it doesn’t even take a class.

What if your student is particularly “diligent” (*ahem*) and decides while working at summer camp that during the time when the kids are off sailing during sailing class he will sit down and outline the last week of Jesus’ life according to the four Gospels? (I have a “friend” who did this once…)

That’s right: if your students actually read the Bible rather than just talking about what the Bible “is,” they will discover that the Bible that you have bundled up with Christianity does not exist. And then they will have to choose to either deny the actual content of the Bible, cling to the system they’ve been given, and stay Christian, OR to leave Christianity because the options before them are clear, OR to reconfigure their faith in light of the Bible we actually have.

This is an unbearable burden to place on Christ followers. It is a false choice to create a choice between inerrancy or atheism. In short, marrying inerrancy to Christianity is pastorally disastrous.

James McGrath: “Sooner or Later, You Have to Choose Between the Bible and Inerrancy”

If one is committed above all else to a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, then you will be forced not just in this particular instance, but time and time again, to sacrifice what the Bible actually says in order to harmonize texts. Those two Gospels can say explicitly and unambiguously that they are giving Joseph’s genealogy. But you will deny that they mean what they say, in order to insist that both are right – even though, ironically, you are in fact saying that one of them, taken at face value, is wrong. And so with the very sword you picked up to try to defend your doctrine of the Bible, you do damage to the Bible, cutting off anything that is a threat to your doctrine.

Inerrancy is not and can never be a doctrine that respects the Bible. It is a framework imposed on the Bible and which is antithetical to giving the Bible respect, to say nothing of authority.

As I shared in a quote by Theodore Vial earlier this month, there are Christians who claim to be committed to inerrancy and the literal truth of the Bible, but the two inevitably conflict, and when they do, it is the latter that is sacrificed at the altar of the former.

See earlier: “Hold on to the good

 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So why call the Bible God’s Word?

    It’s more like “eighteen hours, completely uncensored, except for the parts we’ll cut out”*.

    That is, selectively taken as being necessary to be obeyed, because people pick and choose what they will take as being the real part and what’s the imaginary part**.

    —-

    * If you get this reference, good. :P

    ** Slight math in-joke here, as it could be interpreted differently.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    Well, it is a complex issue after all.

  • AnonymousSam

    The Bible is inerrant, infallible text?

    Which version of it?

    (If anyone invents time travel, I wish to test a theory. I suspect many of the stories in the Bible were first given as oral histories and the original story differs very greatly from how it was first written down in the earliest versions of the Torah. Feel free to contact me when this invention comes about for the first time again.)

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Multiple oral histories smushed together at that. 

  • txredd

    I view the Bible as inerrant, for my personal definition of inerrancy.  I read from the premise that everything in it is truthful and relevant.  So if, say, there is a discrepancy between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, it’s there to help me understand something.  In this case, coming right at the start and all, I believe it’s there to tell me not to look in the Bible for facts, but for stories with meaning.

    Jesus taught by telling stories that were not factually true.  I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for people to believe God used (uses) the same strategy.

  • AnonymousSam

    Why does Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 being side-by-side have to teach you anything? Perhaps including both versions of the story was an accident, or two tribes agreeing to disagree on the details as they merged their histories together. Part of the problem with the Bible is that we can’t know the intent behind parts of it, but it would probably be a mistake to assume that ancient peoples had us in mind when they wrote of their interpretation of God. God might have had us in mind, but one would assume that if God had a direct hand in writing the Bible, he’d have included some extra commandments like “Thou shalt not be a misogynist” instead of writing 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

    Thus my “benefit of the doubt” interpretation of the Bible is that the stories, histories, allegories, parables and rules within at one time meant something to someone. Perhaps not us, although there are things in the Bible that we can still connect with, certainly. Rather, a number of parts of the Bible (most of the best parts in my opinion) are written as if to tell a story to people who are oppressed or suffering. Wouldn’t the first half of Exodus be something you’d expect to hear told by slaves? Wouldn’t the story of the Flood and the Ark be comforting to someone praying that a torrential downpour would end?

    Then there’s a depressingly large chunk of the Bible spent telling people what horrible people they are for doing things like needing sticks for a fire on God’s day of rest and how they ought to be stoned to death for daring to pick one up so they can cook their dinner instead of eating cold unleavened bread. The latter half of Exodus is really bad, specifying all sorts of riches to be given to the priesthood, animals to be slaughtered which only they can eat, rich perfumes and incense which only they can smell…

    So I would contest that the Bible was most certainly written by mankind, much of it without any of God’s help at all. After all, why should God care if we trim our beards, or eat an insect with four legs? But I’d be willing to concede that if God is love, then a commandment to love each other as brothers and sisters makes good sense. Without the context to know what was the intent behind each part of the Bible, all we can do is read it with a grain of salt and take home what parts of it mean something to us.

  • lexrob

    “Truthful” and “relevant” seem to be clear and strong enough. Why use a personal definition of a loaded word?

  • ReverendRef

     I obviously have a party line to follow, but thankfully I’m an Episcopalian, so that party line is somewhat like speed limits in Chicago — sort of a mild suggestion at where you might want to think about starting.

    I do believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but never forget that humans were given the task of writing it down.

    Also, as I had to say at my ordination, I do believe the Holy Scriptures to contain all things necessary to salvation.  This does not mean that all things in Scripture are necessary for salvation.

    AnonymousSam asks the right question: Which version of the Bible is inerrant, infallible?  The LXX?  The Vulgate?  Wycliffe?  Gutenberg?  Tyndale?  Coverdale?  Geneva?  Rheims?  Authorized?  Jerusalem?  English?  American Standard?  Revised Standard?  New Revised Standard?  New King James?  NIV?  Good News?  Amplified?  Message?

    I think people might be better off if they thought of God and us as having the same dynamic as that of a host family and their foreign exchange student.  God (the host family) tries to communicate with us (the foreign exchange kid) using words that are “inerrant,” (that is, they know exactly what they want to say without error).  But the exchange kid has to try to understand that in a language not their own.  It would be easy for them to say, “This is exactly what was said to me,” and be totally wrong about it.

    It may be the inerrant word, but we probably didn’t have an inerrant translation of it.

  • Mary

    And of course we all know that insects have 6 legs, not four, so there is a strike against inerrancy also.

  • lovecomesfromlife

    I am a victim of this thinking, I wrote about it here:
    http://beholdconfusion.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/all-or-nuthin/
    The TL;DR : Yeah, that really happens to people.

  • txredd

     Well, “inerrant” is a word that has an etymology and a meaning aside from all the baggage.  I call it a personal definition but I really mean a dictionary definition – “lacking error” – without intending to imply that it is God-breathed or whatever the tword may bring to mind in this context.

    “Christian” is also a pretty loaded word for which I have a personal definition.   My definition is “a person who follows Christ” which, remarkably, includes me even though I don’t believe most of the things Christians are presumed to believe.

  • txredd

     It doesn’t have to teach me anything.  You may be right that it’s an accident that the two versions don’t agree.   You’re certainly right that there’s a lot of weird, gross, and troubling stuff in there.  But I don’t choose to worship a God who punishes people for needing sticks for a fire, so if  that’s what I read, I’m going to look for some other way to understand it.  Sometimes the best I can do is, “boy – people are really f-ed up sometimes.”  Or sometimes, “I don’t get this at all.”  Which doesn’t mean I’ll never get it. 

    I choose to read it the way I do because I didn’t find any truth or relevance in it when I tried to read it “literally” or when I tried to read it cynically or dispassionately or logically.  It works for me, both from a literary standpoint and from the standpoint of someone looking for wisdom and maybe the divine so this is the way I do it.

  • lexrob

    Fair enough, but there’s a big difference between “truthful” and “lacking error.”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I do believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but never forget that humans were given the task of writing it down.

    And each time this comes up I have to wonder why in all time and space, if the Bible is supposed to be the only way to God for people of the modern era, did it get communicated to us in about the most error-laden, inefficient way possible? Communicated at first orally, then written down in a language nobody speaks today (modern Hebrew is not ancient Hebrew; Aramaic as far as I know is a dead language, and modern Greek is not ancient Greek) using concepts and social referents that have in some cases so utterly changed meaning as to be totally irrelevant now.

    It’s like Mistborn, for Pete’s sake.

    Bayl fghss gung trgf jevggra qbja ba fgrry vf fnsr, orpnhfr Ehva pna’g ernq fghss jevggra ba zrgny naq nalguvat ryfr vf cbgragvnyyl fhfprcgvoyr gb punatr.

    Joseph Smith’s idea about gold plates was actually a decent idea, if it wasn’t for the fact that he was a total flimflam artist to begin with and made the whole thing up.

    http://www.rot13.com/index.php

  • txredd

    Ok?  In my mind the word “inerrant” fits the way I choose to approach the Bible.  Obviously it’s imperfect or people wouldn’t be able to use it to support ugly and wrongheaded things such as slavery and misogyny. 

    But it’s sort of like my belief that God created the world good, and that people were made in God’s image.  If I approach people as if they are good, I find good.   I don’t see any point in looking for the bad – they’ll most likely show it to me eventually anyway.

    I suspend disbelief and look for truth, assuming that everything in there matters one way or another, even if it appears to be erroneous.

  • AnonymousSam

    It helps to mention that the cyphered text is a spoiler. Otherwise, the curious might decipher it to know what you’re saying anyway. :p

    I’d like to give Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt and ask why it’s impossible that we could have modern prophets, but with Smith’s alleged history as a swindler, I’m not sure I can do that. There’s only so much good faith I’m willing to extend. For example, no one will ever convince me that Scientology has even a minute chance of being genuine…

  • pinksponge

    Aramaic, like the little old man in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, is Not (Quite) Dead Yet. :)  It is still spoken by a few groups such as Chaldean Christians, Iraqi Jews, and so on, as well as being used as a liturgical language.

    That being said, I’m on board with the rest of your post, but then, as an atheist, I believe that the Biblical writings (both canonical and non-canonical) — like all religious writings — are entirely of human creation and thus, represent the languages, ideas, and mores of the cultures and time periods from whence they came, rather than any kind of Divine Universal Message That Must Be Obeyed and/or Imposed on Others.

  • Pamela Merritt

    Unfortunately, people drawn to fundamentalism want the binary thinking; it’s either the inerrant word of God and worthy of their unthinking devotion, or it’s not, and they can ignore it.

    These are folks who cannot do nuance. My charitable view is that their brain has not advanced into shades of thinking. Of course, the onus is on them to work on that.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    So why call the Bible God’s Word?

    I don’t. I call it God-breathed – but the Word of God is Jesus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    Having been the host parent for five foreign exchange students, I would never have handed a written account from Student 1 of all my wise advice to Student 2 and said, “Here you go, this is sufficient for you to make it through the year”. Furthermore, I was always on site to see how they were applying my words and decide if any corrections were needed. If what they wrote down on Day One was wrong, they weren’t stuck with it.

    Furthermore, I wasn’t the only guide they had to life in the US. Once school started, I wasn’t even the primary one. I was available to help sort out problems with teachers, help with homework and make suggestions about interactions with peers, but my word wasn’t more authoritive than that of teachers or even peers, depending on context.

    And if you think host parents always know what we want to say without error, you’ve never met my husband.

  • http://twitter.com/JosefGustafsson Josef Gustafsson

    [...] In many of these churches you will hear the pastors confess themselves to be ‘just ordinary people’ and not different to the avarage churchgoer in any particular way, and for some reason people seems to accept this idea, but there is at the same time a strong emphasis on not questioning these ordinary people that ‘God has placed in authority’. Hence, the self-proclamation of being ‘ordinary’ serves as a legitimation to rule the church in an authoritative manner (while also earning a quite substantial paycheck). The picture I’m painting here is a general one, but I don’t think that it would be very hard to find a whole lot of people that can recognize churches that fits this description. The big problem I see is that the ideology at work in these churches divides people as ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ which amounts to that everyone who criticize how things functions per definition becomes ‘outsiders’, hence the ‘insiders’ will not contemplate the critique but rather see it as ‘a spiritual attack’ of some sort. There will of course be those who recognize the ‘fishiness’ of it all, but then they’re faced with the risk of loosing family and friends if they speak up so many will keep it to themselves, and if that’s not enough, maybe the psychological fear of ‘the burning lake’ will shut them up. My thesis is that these churches are the same ones that proclaims that there is one specific reading of the Bible, or to put it in another way, that the Bible speaks with one single voice. This voice, I claim, is the voice of an oppressive ideology that defines people according gender, ethnicity, social status, and so on. This is also the voice that keeps the ‘outsiders’ on the outside by preaching a clear and definitive message of ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘saved’ and ‘damned’, ‘virtues’ and ‘monstrous’ [...]Keep reading at http://freestylechristianity.com/2012/04/23/exposing-ideology/

  • Tonio

    Is there a correlation between belief in the type of inerrancy that Fred is talking about and belief that the Bible is authoritative? Are the two related

  • ReverendRef

     And each time this comes up I have to wonder why in all time and space,
    if the Bible is supposed to be the only way to God for people of the
    modern era, did it get communicated to us in about the most error-laden,
    inefficient way possible?

    Exactly.  It reminds me of Jesus Christ Superstar:

    Now why’d you choose such a backward time
    And such a strange land . . .
    If you’d come today
    You could have reached the whole nation
    Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication

    But it’s what we’ve got to work with . . . Sorry I don’t have a better answer than that.

  • http://audioarchives.blogspot.com/ spinetingler

    Truthiness?

  • AnonymousSam

    One of these days, I’ll work up enough gumption to write my argument that even if it becomes possible to prove that nothing in the Bible was meant to be taken factually, Christianity would still be a valid idea. As long as you’re not worshiping at the ground of a flesh and blood avatar of God, there’s a non-literal component that you’re revering instead, such as the teachings of Christ. More than the reality of a flesh and blood component of God, it’s the idea of the God so described that transcends reality to become worthy of reverence regardless.

    (This isn’t my argument. This is a grumble. The actual argument involves references to Superman.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Eng/100000651362623 Peter Eng

    Either that, or there’s some reason not to eat damaged insects.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kschwab Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    I wrote about my experience with the Bible here: http://graceomalley.hubpages.com/hub/The-Bibles-Place-In-My-Spiritual-Life

    I think because I grew up on Bible stories, I don’t mind the violence the way some do. It is a window into the very ancient world, and in my opinion will teach yu alot more about history than going to a museum and looking at pot shards. It will put you really inside the minset of a very different, primitive world. These were our ancestors, and to enter their world is to understand ourselves.

    A few of my thoughts: the (in)famous psalm which says of enemies : ‘Blessed are the ones who dash their (the enemy’s) infants heads on a rock!’ I have heard many modern people express disgust that such a violent thing is in scripture. It’s shocking for sure. What’s it doing in a sacred book? My personal opinion is that this is a poem, or perhaps a song, composed by a person who witnessed just such a violent death of their own child. Why didn’t they write something peaceable like ‘Oh God, help me in my grief of my dead son’ ? Because they are human, and anger is one of the stages of grief. I once saw some footage of a woman standing beside her house, which had just been blown to pieces. A reporter was interveiwing her while she vacillated between shock, rage and grief. Between answering questions about her family, she ejaculated things like, “God is great!” and “God will revenge!” I think the infant killing line is something akin to that woman’s ‘God Will revenge!’ It is a mind trying to cope with the enormity of tragedy, a mind which beleives in God. The psalm (In my opinion) includes that line because nothing could so capture the experience of the shellshocked victim of ancient warfare.

    I should leave it there.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I think Protestant Christianity took a wrong turn when it decided that it would stick with the Bible as all there was to work with, rather than as a foundation. There have been lots of seers and activists who root their activism in Christian ideas since Jesus, but most Protestants are stuck only with something cobbled together a couple thousand years ago by a bunch of powerful men. I don’t see why the work of Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen and Lucretia Mott shouldn’t be considered at least as sacred as Paul’s stuff.

  • Tonio

    It may be telling that I’ve only ever heard of Mott. I’ve never understood why Paul got so high of a page count in the NT, since he wasn’t one of the Apostles. Are there any scholars who see him as somewhat of a usurper?

  • LouisDoench

     

    These were our ancestors, and to enter their world is to understand ourselves.

    Speak for yourself, my ancestors were Irish and German and had better sense than to live in the desert. ;)

  • LouisDoench

    Remember, the oldest of Paul’s work predate the earliest Gospel accounts by decades.  It is quite possible that its the Evangalists who are the interlopers on Pauls creation.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Julian of Norwich was an incredibly popular and influential mystic in England in the 14th-15th centuries. She’s one of hundreds of women who were disappeared by masculist historians. Her importance, and that of other female mystics, is only recently beginning to be acknowledged in history, which means it will likely take about 40 years before it trickles down to high school-level history classes. She suffered a severe illness, and had visions in which she learned that everyone goes to heaven — everyone.

    Hildegard of Bingen was an important German abbess, scientist, doctor, poet, artist, and musical composer with political-religious power. 

    Also Christine de Pizan, who wrote about how women should conduct themselves, using practicality, justice, and Christianity as a basis. And who wrote about how men must stop conducting themselves like women existed for men’s amusement and reproduction, and any man who did not stop doing that could not be called a Christian, as women were full human beings with at least equal worth to men. That was in the 15th century. She was the bestselling author of her time, but again, buried by masculist historians and literature critics.

  • Robyrt

    Julian and Hildegard were left off the canon for patriarchal reasons, yes, but also because personal revelation to a layperson was totally incompatible with the religious orthodoxy, and because they were surrounded by a cloud of local myths, charlatans, and the mentally ill. (I highly doubt that Margery Kempe was an unrecognized saint, for instance.) Much like the modern Christian-Bookstore press, I think.

  • swbarnes2

    One of these days, I’ll work up enough gumption to write my argument that even if it becomes possible to prove that nothing in the Bible was meant to be taken factually, Christianity would still be a valid idea…there’s a non-literal component that you’re revering instead, such as the teachings of Christ.

    How do you know what the teachings of Christ are if you believe that the texts which purport to record those teachings are inaccurate?

    I think many Christians would define the central teaching of Christianity as being that Jesus’ death and resurrection reconciled a fallen humanity to God.  How can a person believe that while believing that the texts which say all that are inaccurate? 

    it’s the idea of the God so described that transcends reality to become worthy of reverence regardless.

    One of the ways God is described is in Exodus 12:29.  So if you decide that that description is not supposed to be taken factually, and neither is any other description, how is the Bible helping you understand what God is like?

    What’s so transcendent and reverence-worthy about a God who does nothing as men, women and children suffer?

  • AnonymousSam

    Because it doesn’t matter whether or not the texts are accurate as long as they plant the idea in your mind. Inception said it best, ideas are pervasive, persistent, and they can define or destroy a person. If someone reads the Bible even with the firm belief that even the aspects of it which might have existed in history are woefully inaccurate and they conceive of the mental concept of a savior willing to sacrifice himself to redeem mankind, they can continue on their way without ever considering themselves a Christian, but they’ll carry that mental association of the self-sacrificing savior with them — possibly for the rest of their lives. Some things don’t matter whether or not they were ever real as long as the idea is persistent and contagious enough to sway the thoughts and behavior of others.
    As for me, I grew up with a loose Protestant-leaning form of Christianity because it was the social norm and I assumed there had to be something to it because why else would nearly everyone I knew so casually and frequently acknowledge it? Then fertilizer hit the fan, I had a number of ordeals, and the end result was that I said “This whole thing is crap. If God exists, then he’s an asshole.” I spent the better part of fifteen years with severe antipathy for Christianity. I was still in the midst of it when I came to Patheos and you can still find broadly anti-theistic posts in my history here.
    But I can mark a clear point when my beliefs and behavior started to change, and that’s when Fred posted 1 John 4:7-21. I read that with no belief at all in the legitimacy of the Bible and yet the idea was powerful enough that I had arguments with myself about which version in my head was right and which was wrong. I got pretty vicious with myself too; I recently tore out pages of my journal because of how much hatred I was expulsing during those months. It was like lancing a really, really nasty huge boil — all the filth had to come out before it could start healing.
    I still think the Bible isn’t a genuine account of real encounters with a supreme being and a man who sacrificed himself to save mankind, but frankly, I don’t think it matters. I’ll never be Christian, but why should that stop me from having a belief of what Christianity could be, which might even be powerful enough to impact my life regardless? I don’t need to be baptized and pray in front of a cross to believe Mark 12:31, whether it quoted a real person or not, is giving good advice. Or Matthew 5:43-48. Or Romans 13:8.

  • Joshua

    So why call the Bible God’s Word?

    This bugs me a lot. The Bible doesn’t, much. The New Testament uses the phrase “the Word of God” predominately to refer to Jesus – examples in John’s gospel and revelation, I think there’s a counter example somewhere in Paul. Word, or λόγος (logos) is a loaded term in the Greek philosophy of the time, as well as resonating with First Testament usage. As far as I know, it was a distinctive innovation to use the phrase for a person. Most of Christian history continues to use the phrase in this way.

    The First Testament uses similar phrases to refer to God’s means of action in the world, such as creating the universe in Gen 1, or more obviously in speaking to prophets.

    Of all these, only that last usage really legitimates calling the Bible the Word of God, containing as it does a collection of the writings of those prophets.

    When the Bible refers to itself (or at least when the New Testament refers to the First Testament, because obviously the New Testament wasn’t seen as scripture during the time it was being written) it does not use the phrase. See 2 Tim 3:16, or Jesus’ or Paul’s comments about the Law.

    Bonhoeffer, when he wasn’t dodging Nazis, wrote extensively about the phrase. He gave it a triple meaning: first and foremost, the Word of God is Jesus Christ, and secondarily, it refers to the written scriptures and the teaching of the church, insofar as they accurately reflect Jesus Christ.

    I like that, myself, but it’s not in fashion in many churches these days.

    what they will take as being the real part and what’s the imaginary part

     

    Yes, the Bible is definitely complex.

  • swbarnes2

    Because it doesn’t matter whether or not the texts are accurate as long as they plant the idea in your mind. Inception said it best, ideas are pervasive, persistent, and they can define or destroy a person.

    It doesn’t matter?  Kara Neumann’s parents had a pervasive, persistent idea that God would heal her without help of modern medicine, and that idea was…not accurate, and because of that inaccurate belief, Kara Neumann died.  So how can you say that accuracy doesn’t matter? 

    If someone reads the Bible even with the firm belief that even the aspects of it which might have existed in history are woefully inaccurate and they conceive of the mental concept of a savior willing to sacrifice himself to redeem mankind, they can continue on their way without ever considering themselves a Christian, but they’ll carry that mental association of the self-sacrificing savior with them — possibly for the rest of their lives.

    Or likewise, they can carry the image that they are a thoroughly bad person who deserves eternal torment.  I don’t get why either of those ideas is so wonderful to carry around if neither is true.  It would absolutely not be a comfort to me to believe that an innocent person was paying a terrible price for my minor transgressions, and I would say shame on any intelligent being that set up the cosmos to work that way. 

    But I can mark a clear point when my beliefs and behavior started to change, and that’s when Fred posted 1 John 4:7-21. I read that with no belief at all in the legitimacy of the Bible and yet the idea was powerful enough that I had arguments with myself about which version in my head was right and which was wrong.

     
    But you know that the author of those verses almost certainly thought that slavery was moral, that gay people should be stoned, and believed all sorts of toxic things about women, so really, you weren’t trying to persuade yourself to believe what the author meant. 

    It sounds like you are trying to say that all Christians should really be secular humanists who try harder to be loving (in a 21st century Western liberal way, not in a 1st century Romanized Jewish way).  Which would be great, but Christianity is a religion.  Read all the claims in the Nicene creed, which is held by a huge number of Christians, and see how much of that is missing from that one passage in John.  People who believe that Jesus came down from heaven for the salvation of humanity, died and was resurrected in accordance with the scriptures, and now sits at the right hand of God, are not going to conclude that John 4 is all they need to be right with God.

    I’ll never be Christian, but why should that stop me from having a belief of what Christianity could be, which might even be powerful enough to impact my life regardless?

    Speculate however you want, but if your idea of what a religion should be is something other than a religion, or that specifically Christianity, which is so deeply entwined with what it claims is a divinely inspired text, should not care about to the truthfulness of that text, you should understand why that’s not going to happen.

  • AnonymousSam

    You seem to be hoping I’m going to say something to justify your lack of belief. Sorry, but if you are, I’m not capable of giving you that kind of reassurance — I don’t base what I believe off of a book and I don’t recommend that you do either, even if what you’re looking for is confirmation that it’s all right to not believe.

    It’s perfectly fine to be an atheist; just don’t be an atheist out of spite for the Bible or Christianity.

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    If you want to know a possible answer to apparent conflict of the 2 genealogies of Jesus question, Matt is has Jesus from Joseph and Luke has Jesus from Mary, the latter is the case as they use the Jewish convention of omitting the article (in English “the”)  in front of Joseph, but this omission does not show up in almost all translations as they do not put the article in front of all the other names, as it is in the Greek text, and many people do not know the Jewish convention of omitting the article to indicate maternal descent.

    P.S. I do not accept inerrancy as a useful idea either, like the author.  But James McGrath is simply showing with his example that he does not know the Jewish ancestor naming convention, which to be fair, many translators do not know either.

  • Jeff Martin

    It is unfortunate that the 2 professor’s quotes included in them creation and Jesus’ geneaology as examples of the Bible not being inerrant.  It would have been better to use the different tellings of Judas’ death or the different accounts of how many angels were there at the tomb.  

    Genesis 1 is a poetic telling of creation and the geneaology is best explained by different emphases that both authors were using (see Grant Osborne’a explanation).  So the two examples were not good

  • EllieMurasaki

    Luke 3:23 says “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,” and it goes on till verse 3:38 where it ends at “Adam, the son of God”.
    What is this ‘Luke traces Jesus’s lineage through Mary’? And how, if Jesus isn’t Joseph’s son, is either Joseph lineage relevant?

  • WOB

     http://bible.org/seriespage/bible-inerrant-word-god

  • http://www.facebook.com/J.WayneFerguson Wayne Ferguson

    What a wonderful article and many wonderful comments!  Here is my take on bible based belief systems and one way in which it may be more intelligently interpreted, here and now!

    http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/skeptics-corner/critical-reflections-on-bible-based-belief-systems/

    http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/additional-essays/reading-the-bible-in-the-21st-century/

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So hey

    Do your Bibles go ‘boom’ a lot? According to you, they’re cannons. ;-)


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