One of the most common arguments used by “fundamentalists” (or whatever one may wish to call those who claim to accept the Bible as inerrant and that it is all to be accepted and believed) is that rejecting their view of the Bible puts one on a “slippery slope
” down which one will inevitably slide to liberalism, unbelief, or whatever horrific things are said to lie at the slope’s bottom.
The biggest problem with this argument is that, when it comes to Biblical literalism, Biblical inerrancy (understood in any straightforward sense), and related viewpoints, there simply is no place one can actually stand at the top of the slope.
The Bible is a diverse and varied collection of writings. One can say that suffering comes upon those that deserve it, or that there is no direct connection between sin and suffering, and find support in the Bible. One can blame suffering only on the individuals who suffer or on the groups and communities to which they belong and find Biblical support.
And so the irony is that the only truly biblical viewpoint is one that recognizes the Bible’s diversity. If one claims the Bible is inerrant (which seems to assume that it has a unified teaching on the subjects it addresses) then one is already being unbiblical, and thus presumably already sliding down the slope.
And so when someone talks of the “slippery slope” it is perhaps best to remind them that the only place that is unsafe is in fact the “top” which is inhabited by self-proclaimed Biblical literalists and inerrantists who are doing dangerous exegetical and hermeneutical acrobatics to try to maintain a stable high ground that isn’t really there. That’s presumably why those who hold such views (as I once did) live in fear of the slippery slope. Unlike those who hike and ski safely upon the slopes, knowing the dangers and proceeding with knowledge and caution, the fundamentalist occupies an illusory peak while doing interpretative summersaults that are liable to cause landslides.
So there is indeed a danger – but for those who think they stand safely on the peak. The rest of us can go skiing and hiking and explore the mountain, and find places all over its slopes that one can remain if one chooses. That isn’t to say that the slopes can’t be slippery, just that there is no obligation to slide to or stay at the bottom, and no stable pinnacle that one can dwell on for any length of time.
I realize some may be offended by what I’ve written. But I hope that most readers will understand that what I’m mainly offering is an affirmation that (metaphorical) skiing is fun, and I hope you’ll find the courage to join in and explore the slopes of our human existence!