Fundamentalism’s Fundamental Fallacy

Fundamentalism’s Fundamental Fallacy June 16, 2015

Chuck Queen Subjective Belief in Biblical Inerrancy

I often tell my conservative friends that their belief in an inerrant Bible is just as subjective as my subjective belief in an errant Bible. But they just can’t see it. They continue to shout the same refrain that their position rests on objective truth and mine subjective. These conservatives genuinely believe that they are the only truly rational ones and that we progressives pick and choose what is true without any rational basis. This is one of the great fundamental fallacies of fundamentalism.

The quote comes from Chuck Queen’s post “Christian Fundamentalism’s Grand Illusion.” It makes a crucially important point. Fundamentalists turn to an inerrant Bible in an attempt to forestall discussion and avoid ambiguity. What they fail to acknowledge, and often do not even consciously realize, is that their belief in the Bible’s inerrancy is a subjective belief that they hold. And in this case, it is a belief that is at odds with the evidence and so in no way superior to the attempt to study evidence carefully and draw reasoned conclusions from it probabilistically.

They seek to avoid uncertainty, and end up with a worldview that is far more unlikely to be correct than the one they would have if they acknowledge the inevitability of uncertainty and used well-established means to try to account for it.

Of related interest, see Derek Penwell’s post on the Bible and same-sex marriage, in which he writes:

The act of reading the Bible in a modern context is an attempt to read over the shoulders of people who lived in a different world with a completely different set of expectations about what is possible, or what God could conceivably bless. In much the same way that it is possible to read the U.S. Constitution as addressing a completely different world from the one we inhabit (incapable of imagining the problems associated with living in the 21st century) but which embodies profoundly important principles, progressive Christians understand the Bible to contain profoundly important principles about justice and regard for others that can now be realized in ways that up until recently would have been culturally impossible.



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  • Sue Bonner

    Even when I accepted the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, I had this saying: the Bible is inerrant, I am not.” I knew that I’m a fallible human being and am capable of making mistakes. I’m also capable of misinterpreting the Bible. Regardless of your position on Biblical inerrancy, anyone who tries to understand the Bible needs to remember four simple words: “I could be wrong.” That applies to both fundamentalists and non fundamentalists.

  • OZ_in_TX

    We’ve seen this highly selective ‘scriptural inerrancy’ over and over again in discussions concerning LGBT issues. The scripture is *only* ‘inerrant’ when anti-LGBT scripture is quoted. Confront a ‘scriptural literalist’ on verses that make them uncomfortable and suddenly it’s ‘all about the context’ – which pretty much demolishes their own ‘the bible is inerrant!’ argument.

    • ccws


  • ccws

    I ran across this recently:

    “The problem is that we’re reading the Bible with 16th-century eyes and 19th-century hearts/minds. We should be reading it with first-century eyes and 21st-century hearts/minds.”

    Not the exact wording, I’m sure, and I wish I could remember who said it, but it’s soooooooooo true!

    • Sounds like something N. T. Wright said.

      • ccws

        Possibly. I’m not familiar with Wright, but I’ve seen a few quotes of his in the last couple of months via people talking about his new book on Paul. Maybe this is one that soaked in.