Unfalsifiable Inerrancy

Unfalsifiable Inerrancy February 20, 2014

When pastor Peter LaRuffa recently said that he would believe the Bible even if it said 2+2=5, he probably thought he was standing up for Biblical inerrancy.

In fact, he was undermining it, showing it to be meaningless.

It is less obvious for some people to see the problem when fundamentalist Christians dismiss evidence from history or science that contradicts the Bible. But it is much clearer when it is math that is at issue. Assuming we agree on a particular number system, then we can say what the correct answer is to a mathematical equation.

If the Bible is wrong about the answer, then it is wrong – there is simply no way around it.

What pastor LaRuffa was actually saying is that he would prefer to believe nonsense that he does not understand rather than allow evidence to show his doctrine of biblical inerrancy to be false.

And so he is not standing up for the truthfulness of the Bible. He is, on the contrary, showing that his beliefs about the Bible are unfalsifiable, that they cannot be tested and so are (as philosophers say) “not even wrong.”

He is also saying that he doesn not understand math, and that his belief system is so important to him and yet so brittle that it cannot be allowed to be subject to scrutiny and demands for evidence.

No Christian should think that this horrific way of thinking about the Bible, math, science, history, and rationality is anything but a discrace, one that brings shame on Christianity by being associated with it.


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  • Bibliolatry. By despotic “authoritarian followers.”

    Rule 1: The Boss Bible is always right.
    Rule 2: When the Boss Bible is wrong, refer to Rule #1.

  • $41348855

    Satan planted fossils to make us doubt God’s word. He could also be interfering with our brains to prevent us from understanding that 2+2=5.

    • Charles Smith

      Well, I am sure you will beating your slave as long as they don’t die then. Will you also be stoning your neighbor for picking up sticks on the Sabbath?

  • histrogeek

    It was nice of him to pick an example already made famous by Orwell in 1984.
    Does his church have a Room 101? What does he keep there? Do people go in there skeptics and come out believers? Hey do I hear rats somewhere?

  • James, you’ll love this from Tom the Dancing Bug too:


    • It looks like Tom Tomorrow’s work. Good stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jim

    If I saw something in the Bible that said 2 + 2 = 5, I would try understand it so I could accept it and learn from it. That’s no so terribly different from what he wrote.
    But, if he saw somewhere in the Bible that 2 + 2 = 5, would he think that if a renter paid him two months worth of rent twice, he would not collect the fifth month? Would he believe that emptying the contents of two bags containing two apples would yield five apples?
    The problem with literalists is that that they take their interpretations and applications of the Scripture literally.

  • Jonathan Curtis

    He can be tested on this, right? The columns of Solomon’s temple were 1 cubit in diameter and 3 cubits in circumference? Or, 1 x 3 = 3.14…

    • histrogeek

      I think it was the basin of waters and it was 30 cubits around by 10 cubits across.

      • James Walker

        there’s some discussion about whether the writer of the passage about the “sea” of water in Solomon’s Temple failed to take into account inner dimensions vs. outer dimensions. it is entirely possible for the object to have had an internal circumference of 30 cubits while at the same time having an external diameter of 10 cubits.

        that said, I’m not in the inerrancy camp and certainly wouldn’t look to the scripture for scientific or mathematical evidence, nor historical evidence of anything other than the development of the Judeo-Christian faith system.

        • histrogeek

          Since the whole passage was written well after the Babylonians trashed the Temple, I tend to think that it was either an estimate or (more likely in my opinion) it was an expression of the Temple’s perfection not a real description.
          That is, other circles are 31 and change cubits around and 10 cubits across, but our temple back in the day was a perfect 30 cubits around.

          • James Walker

            sort of along the lines of apology for the poor state of the “Second Temple” or of Herod’s reconstruction efforts “but if you could have seen the temple back when Solomon built it.. now THAT was a sea of brass let me tell you.”? ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Tim

            Could be. Lots of scriptural numbers were symbolic rather than literal.

          • arcseconds

            I’m inclined to think it was just rounding to the nearest 10 cubits. Why would we expect anything different? It’s a description of something, not a blueprint.

          • arcseconds

            Although I kind of like your suggestion ๐Ÿ™‚

  • TomS

    What if there was a text which said: The Bible is not inerrant?

    • There is. ^^^^ ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • TomS

        I had in mind 1 Corinthians 7. You have any others?

        • Instead of pointing up toward your sentence, I should have just wrote “yours.” You have author-ity too, since you author-ed it.


          There, you’ve read a text, carrying all the weight of my author-ity. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          What is in 1 cor 7 about inerrancy? I hardly ever read epistles, sticking mostly to The Jefferson Bible.

          • TomS

            I made a mistake by naming a proof text. I should had kept it as “what if the Bible said”. Now I will be asked to defend my interpretation.

    • Paul D.

      In Ezekiel 29:18, Ezekiel admits that his prophecy about Tyre in Ezekiel 26 didn’t come true. That’s pretty close.

  • ncovington89

    This is worse than unfalsifiability: this would be to believe a statement that is self-evidently and unmistakbly false! With a scientific test, the experimenters might have messed up, the equipment used to record the observations could be wrong, and so on and so forth. But if you have a theory that denies the self-evident truths of math, I can offer you no hope.

  • David Evans

    It’s a question of accuracy. 2.4 + 2.4 = 4.8. But rounding to the nearest whole number, 2.4 becomes 2 and 4.8 becomes 5 (and, incidentally, pi becomes 3).

  • Daniel S.

    Just wondering, would Ezra 1:9-11 be an example of a mathematical error that inerrancy must take as accurate?
    Because if 2,499 can be the same as 5,400, Biblical math is a new controversy that inerrantists should push on schools!

  • R Vogel

    How awesome is it that the 4th guy who goes on about us being created in G*d image ends with what he think is such a slam-dunk argument, “So you think G*d is such an animal!” He is so proud of himself. Good for you, bubba!

  • TomS

    What if you read this in your Bible:

    “The Pope is the vicar of Christ”

  • That Dude

    This atheist absolutely agrees with you sir. Well said.

  • Charlie Sommers

    I like the Dalai Lama’s take on this.

    โ€œIf scientific analysis were conclusively to
    demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept
    the findings of science and abandon those claims.โ€