Can Fundamentalists Understand the Bible?

Can Fundamentalists Understand the Bible? July 11, 2019

This blog post started out as being about the old canard that non-Christians supposedly cannot understand the Bible. That claim is often justified by appeal to a passage that the Christians who make the claim, rather ironically, have misunderstood. By the end of the process of putting the post together, I found myself thinking that the relevant question is whether fundamentalists can understand the Bible. And it soon became clear that that question applies equally to Christian and anti-Christian fundamentalists.

Christ Is How We Understand Scripture (Not The Other Way Around)

Non-Christians Can’t Understand the Bible but They Should Read it Anyway

When atheists read the Christian BibleRandal Rauser wrote on that topic: “Sadly, when it comes to the way atheists read the Bible, Shermer’s attitude seems to be more the rule than the exception. The Skeptic’s Annotated Study Bible claims to offer a reasonable and skeptical analysis of the biblical text. But in fact, all it demonstrates is that we should be skeptical of the skeptics.”

Does a Person Need the Holy Spirit to Interpret the Bible? Is John’s Gospel Accurate? Readers Mailbag August 7, 2016

Steve Wiggins wrote:

Modern ways of looking at ancient texts require a degree of facility in understanding how God’s scribes of yesteryear went about their work.  While early experiments in binding books may go back close to the time when the latter parts of the Bible were being written, the scroll—without chapter and verse—contained only the words of the text.  Most ancient manuscripts in Greek, anyway, didn’t even bother to put spaces between the words.  That leaves some room for ambiguity in among all those letters.  The Bible is a complex book with a complex history.  We do it a disservice as modern readers treating it as a modern book. 

Also related to biblical interpretation:

Pete Enns asks what it even means to talk about whether the Bible can be trusted

It turns out the Bible is not so clear as all that

No Bible? Know Christ.

Do You Need a PhD to Understand the Bible?

How the Bible Actually Works (4)

What the Bible Actually Teaches (5) — Open Mic Edition

Red Letter vs. Black Letter Bible People: Or?

A Masterful Primer on Bible Translation

The Road to Atheism is Littered with Well-Read Bibles

Andrew Perriman on whether the Bible is better understood as poetry

Monday with Michael Spencer: How We Sound to Those Who Don’t Believe

Ironically, Atheist Rev reposted something about how fundamentalists are right, and illustrated precisely the problem. Fundamentalist Christians and the atheists who used to be them and are now in many instances fundamentalist atheists do agree fundamentally, pun intended. The idea that no interpretation is needed when dealing with an ancient text written in another language in a very different time and place is something that no one but a fundamentalist, whether religious or anti-religious, could contemplate saying and expect it to be taken seriously. Indeed, without some sort of fundamentalist ideological framework, the patent absurdity would likely be readily apparent.

Finally, see the article about the decline of biblical literacy and the role of imagination in reading the Bible in Christian Century.

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