“Not a Divine Product”

“Not a Divine Product” May 3, 2015

On his blog David Bokovoy suggest that Latter-day Saints should adopt the views of Marcus Borg on the nature of the Bible in order to “save the Bible.”  (One is reminded of the famous (though largely mythical) incident at at Ben Tre during the Vietnam War where the army “had to destroy a town to save it.”)  He lists four specific claims made by Borg.  (I believe these quotations given below are David’s words summarizing Borg’s position.)  I’ll give a brief response here.

* The Bible is the product of two historical communities, ancient Israel and the early Christian movement.

Agreed.  And … ?

* As such, it is a human product, not a divine product. This claim in no way denies the reality of God. Rather, it sees the Bible as the response of these two ancient communities to God.

Here, of course, things start to immediately get problematic.  What in the world does “not a divine product” mean?  Does this mean that nothing at all in the Bible comes from God?  The Bible, of course, claims just the opposite.  Parts of it claim to be precisely the “word of Yahweh.”  The teachings of Jesus, if he relly is the Son of God as the New Testament claims, are certainly a “divine product.”

Bokovy’s statement “this claim in no way denies the reality of God,” while technically true, is an obfuscation.  First, it also doesn’t affirm the reality of God.  In fact, it is an agnostic position that an atheist can agree with–all atheists, in fact, believe the Bible is “human product, not a divine product.”  Second, it does deny the “reality of a God” who can inspire humans and reveal his words and mind.  If God can in fact reveal his words and mind to humans, and the Bible contains none if it–that is, it is “not a divine product”–he is a feeble God indeed.  God, apparently can’t talk to humans in any coherent way that they can quote or summarize.  Ordinary humans can do that!

Finally, Bokovoy insists that the “Bible [is] the response of these two ancient communities to God.”  I don’t disagree with this statement.  Of course the Bible describes the response of Israel and early Christians to what they believed about God.  But this is again an obfuscation.  The question is: “Is that ALL the Bible is?”  Any ancient religious text reveals “the response of [the authors/community] to God.”  This could be just as legitimately said of Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and Muslim scripture.  Indeed, non-scriptural religious texts, like Dante’s Divine Comedy, likewise reveal Dante’s “response to God.” Why should we prioritize the Bible over these other texts?  The answer is, of course, there is no compelling reason to do so.  If the Bible only contains description of what ancient Israelites, Jews, and Christians believed and thought about God–as opposed to some ontologically significant description of God’s reality, nature, will, revelation, deeds, and words–then there is no reason to “believe” in the Bible any more (or less) than the Qur’an, the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Dao de Jing.

This is not “saving the Bible.” It rather reduces the Bible to a text “having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof”  (2 Tim. 3:5).  Paul advises us that “from such [you should] turn away.”

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