~ A parody about the modern, untenable notion of a flawless scripture. ~
My dear Wormword,
I acknowledge your concerns about your client’s growing interest in what he calls the “inerrant and literal word of God.” But I assure you that you need not fear, as your patient’s fondness for inerrancy is idolatrous at best; nonsensical at least. We encourage our clients to elevate the Bible (with its contradictions and lingual inadequacies) above the “Word made flesh” (as they call him, our greatest enemy), who was the lens through which the written word was to be interpreted. While more discerning Christians subordinate the subjective written word to the living example of the “Word made flesh,” the pious underlings have no such understanding of this distinction.
Idolatry of precepts and rituals has been one of our most successful strategies since the days of the Pharisees. To achieve your objectives, Wormword, keep your patient mired in religious dogma and doctrine, rather than the ethos of (I can hardly say the word) “love” as espoused by the enemy. Your patient can do great damage to the Divine by worshiping the text “precept upon precept, line upon line.” Entangle him in prideful competition to outperform others in reading and memorizing the pious passages. You might suggest idolatrous rituals such as these to your patient: Never place another book on top of the Bible. Remove all head coverings whenever a sacred verse is uttered. Always genuflect or utter redundant refrains in the presence of that word. When transcribing the text, capitalize all pronouns that refer to the Deity. Outliers who oppose a literal interpretation must be publicly shamed, scorned and banished from fellowship.
Perhaps the topic of authority, taken literally from the biblical text, may be the strongest tool in your arsenal. Thankfully, you will be hard pressed to find an account of one good father or husband among the Bible’s delightful catalog of misogynistic men. Use shame and guilt to coerce women to submit to men whose pride and self-worth are shackled to their authority. Compel clerics to preach of a patriarchal God who tolerates no affront to his domination. Assure them that their “Heavenly Father” is a monster; the god of Job and Abraham and Moses who does not hesitate to strike down the disobedient. With any luck, we will see a return to Bible-based slavery and a Christian-led state. Don’t think it too big a prospect! We have used the literal text to foment wars and bloodshed in the past and we can do it again.
These simpletons cannot conceive of any other means of interpretation besides the literal, and therefore have no means of dealing with textual errors. For millennia, more discerning theologians were not troubled by these errors. Even that loathsome monastic, Martin Luther, considered the errors in scripture to be of no consequence. The beauty of our clientele today is how readily they revile and ostracize each other over untenable claims of inerrancy, establishing it as a premier litmus test of faith. Nothing could be better for achieving disunity! The text makes no claim of inerrancy — only inspiration — but thankfully the dullards can barely tell the difference between inerrant, inspired and infallible. Start the word with “in” and they’ll defend it to the death. They cannot imagine a text being both inspired and flawed at the same time.
Look no further than the life and death of the God-man to muddle minds with a raft of inconsistencies in the biblical narrative … errors such as these:
– Was Jesus born during the Roman census of 6 AD or during the reign of Herod the Great, who died 10 years earlier? Both couldn’t possibly be true.
– Did Jesus send the 12 out with a staff or without a staff?
– Why quote Zechariah and say it was Jeremiah in Matthew 27:9?
– Was the transfiguration six or eight days after Jesus called himself the messiah?
– Did Jesus say “not a word” to Pilate or did he answer the man?
– Did the chief priests or Judas buy the field of blood?
– Was Jesus crucified at 9 AM or noon?
– Who went to the tomb of Jesus: two Marys, Mary alone, or a group of women including Mary?
– Did they come to the tomb after sunrise or while it was still dark?
– Did the women report the resurrection to the disciples or say “nothing to anyone?” Or did Mary go alone to make her report to the disciples?
– Were two demon-possessed men healed or one?
– Were two blind men healed or one?
– Turning to the Old Testament, did Nebuzaradan come to Jerusalem on the “fifth month and seventh day” or “fifth month and tenth day”?
– Was Michal, daughter of Saul, barren or did she have five sons?
– Did Jehoiachin’s reign begin at age 18 or eight”?
– Did Ahaziah’s reign begin at age 22 or 42?
– Why did God tell the Israelites to spy out the land of Canaan, then blame it on them and punish them so severely?
– Did God or Satan tell David to take a census? And why would God respond by killing 70,000 men and probably even more women and children?
I speak nothing of the dozens of passages that were added throughout the centuries by editors who sought to bend “God’s word” to their biases. We might say that all these errors combined are but a drop in the ocean compared to the one glaring contradiction — the coup de grâce — concerning their so-called “God of love.” We might ask how this agape-infused deity who “never changes” could at one moment in time, wholeheartedly endorse genocide and rape and disembowelment of innocent people, and the next moment claim he is love through and through, from beginning to end.
Thankfully, our fictional narrative about the Enemy’s obsession with damnation and hell fires has driven many fearful congregants into our camp. Never speak of the Enemy’s so-called “heart of love,” but instead amplify passages about gnashing of teeth and cries of the damned. Our Enemy must be seen as a vengeful despot who will not tolerate any affront to his rule and who expects human authority to mimic his cruel design. Continually hang the threat of not hearing the words “well done” from the Enemy over your patient’s head.
Instill the inerrant Bible as a commandment that trumps all other commandments. Your client must not see the writers as base mortals! Neither should he see how they wove cultural myths and taboos about angry gods and demon curses into the narrative. Say not a word, Nephew, about how many of their core beliefs were oral traditions passed down for centuries, told around campfires by doddering old sages to wide-eyed halfwits before they were finally inscribed on parchment. Infect them with fantasies of psychographic writing and the impossibility of these words being infused with human superstitions.
Yes, Wormword, a belief in the inerrancy of scripture is essential if we are to strengthen practices like misogyny, homophobia, genocide and slavery. Use the literal word to cultivate doubts and misconceptions about the Enemy’s “grace” and “love.” Do everything demonly possible to keep your patient away from those who accept errors in the text and adhere to the “God-is-love” standard — a powerful position with the capacity to devastate our Master’s work! Be assured that our blessed Father Beelzebub is uplifted and honored by the literal, inerrant view of scripture.
Your affectionate uncle, Shrewtape
Image: Pope Sylvester II and the Devil, Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum, 1460, Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.
 With thanks to: C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (London: Centenary Press, 1942).