Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Inerrancy? Why?

It is not only de rigeur in Laestadian circles but in many others (Christian and Moslem alike) to claim the inerrancy of the Word. Tragically, along with this a priori comes the justified vilification of "unbelievers," heretics, women, homosexuals, science, and intellectuals, to name a few. A prescientific supposition that should have died with blood-letting and phrenology, inerrancy is kept alive by fear and ignorance, fueled by despots who need their minions (sometimes cannon fodder) unified beneath them.

If your hackles are rising, let me add: if errancy challenges your faith, your faith is misdirected.

I read recently that among American laypeople, the belief in scriptural inerrancy is declining but still much higher than it is among seminarians. I guess studying Greek and Hebrew and the origins and history of the Bible does something to one's credulity.

There are real world consequences to credulity, major and minor. Terrorists behead infidels while quoting the Koran. Korans are flushed down prison toilets by Bible-quoting grunts. Scripture-quoting idiots kill doctors and torch abortion clinics. Evangelical lawmakers cut off funds to AIDS organizations that distribute (horrors!) condoms. Creationist teachers tell their students that evolution is "just a theory."

Near Seattle recently, a school board restricted teachers from showing Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" because an evangelical parent believes global warming is (1) not America's fault and (2) a sign of Jesus' imminent return.

Yah, sure. Let's speed it along, then. Make us some big bonfires. Throw on the science books.

In yesterday's paper there was an article about a newly discovered fossil in Kenya. Cool. Except that it is causing controversy among evangelicals, who claim that evolution is destroying their faith.

Well, then, let's throw that fossil on the fire, too. And Leakey while we're at it. Dagnab Darwinite.

The brilliant professor who introduced me to Darwin and evolution once remarked "most people if given a choice between security and truth will choose security." But that's a false dilemma. Our security must be in Truth, or it is false security.

Am I done ranting? Yes. Your turn.

Thanks to Theo (aka Thorough) for the Orthodox perspective on biblical inerrancy. For a lot of other perspectives, go here. Read all the way to the end . . . it's worth it. Then go ahead and flame / rejoinder / huzzah me.

49 comments:

  1. I guess I did say something about the inerrancy in my previous post although it was mostly about the development of the biblical canon. I came home and opened a book about the position of the Bible in the Orthodox church, some quotes below (my translation from Finnish):

    "The holy scripture has come into being by the will of God, but not without the assistance of the man. The initiative always comes from God."

    "As the Bible is considered the revelation of the omniscient God, it has the character of inerrancy. The Bible is true, it is right. It must be trusted in, it is not appropriate to doubt its word."

    "The church does not by any means require that the Bible should be read blindly and without any criticism. Especially one must keep in mind that the Bible is whole, and its books and phrases should not be interpreted separately. It is essential to try to grasp the spirit that is behind each of its individual parts."

    "The Bible contains a lot of historical material. --- When using the Bible as a historical source one has to take into account that it is not primarily meant to be a historical book that narrates the fates of a particular nation in a detailed way."

    "The truth of the Bible and the so-called scientific truth do not meet at the same level. Therefore it is not meaningful to juxtapose them or to prove their contradictions"

    "The Bible is true only for a person for whom God exists and is more important than anything in the world. The Bible is true and inerrant in the world of faith, i.e. in the world the church hopes its members still consider theirs."

    "The Bible should always be regarded in connection with the church because the Bible has come to being in the church, it has evolved in its protection. The church has defined the contents and the extent of the Bible, and the church has always used and still uses its according to its own needs. Hence, the Bible belongs 100% to the church."

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  2. So, as an Orthodox, I believe the Bible has come into being by the inspiration of God but through the cooperation of man. It is inerrant in matters of faith, but should not be read as a text book for a science or history class because it was never meant to be one. As an Orthodox Christian my faith in the Bible is closely linked to my faith in the church and the guiding presence of God on earth.

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  3. I read the text behind the religioustolerance.org link above. I find the equation of homosexuality and slavery rather illogical, but I wasn't surprised, I had heard it dozens of times before. I guess there are not so many arguments that can be used for their point of view...

    Anyway, the Bible, nor any other part of the Tradition, never considered slavery mandatory. Slavery was just tolerated as it was practiced in the society and the mission of christianity was not to revoke the order of the society but to bring God to people. If slavery was practiced in the same way in our time, it would still not be the primary mission of the church to try to change that. In fact, slavery has not disappeared, it's just been transformed and is well alive among us in many different forms, there are millions of people in our societies without any real freedom.

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  4. By the way, I think the new visitor map is cool! :)

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  5. The visitor map is very cool unless you are from a locality where it\'s going to be obvious who you are :( Those people are now gonna be scared away...

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  6. To me the Bible is a God inspired guide for our lives, teaching us many things about who we are, what we should strive to be, and how we should live our lives -- in the forms of parable, story, or example. I love the Bible and do not read it enough. On the other hand a scientific text or body of knowledge is those facts that are proven, or theories that seem to have significant and compelling evidence indicating some degree or probability of truth. I love science and do not read it enough.

    Methinks a person who cannot accept them both for what they are and instead dwell only on the contradictory elements of lousy science in the Bible and lousy -- call it faith for lack of a better word -- in pure science is probably not secure in either their Christianity or their science!

    I wonder if Adam had to listen to Eve going "Listen, if you HAVE to go hunting AGAIN with the boys, there better be some brontosaurus steak on the barbie tonight."

    Oh I am in a puckish mood tonight...

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  7. cvow,

    I also have an equal fascination with both faith and science, and find more reasons for them to support each other, rather than contradict. Maybe its what Im looking for? But the more I learn, the more I feel we are indeed in a wonderfully complex world beyond anything we can fathom an explaination for, from every angle. And its beautiful.

    It is too bad when people wish to keep a narrow view of life, regardless of 'new evidence' I guess I am just fine to 'modify' as long as I dont contradict the bible, and Ive prayed a LOT about it. But we never have known everything, and never will. There is SO MUCH to learn about, around us, from our past and EVERYWHERE. How on earth can a person NOT be fascinated by it all and try to encompass as much as we can in our (ok my) little brain, in the short amount of time we are given. I wish I could live 1000 years, and I probably still wouldnt feel like it was enough time to learn everything... that and Id have to wait that long to get to heaven, so never mind :p

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  8. If according to the Bible life on earth started around 7,000 years ago, why are they finding human remains that are over 120,000 years old.

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  9. Unfortunately, even with all our "modern technology" we are still only putting forth our "best guess." And does that detail really matter? In terms of Christ's story and Gods love. The important, soul saving stuff.

    (on a completely less serious note: have you ever read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy? I believe its in the third or fourth book he talks about that :) We're really the decendants of the leftover insurance salesmen and hairdressers from some faraway galaxy... the original "experiment people" never even made it, but no one was around to know)

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  10. Anonymous, the following three alternatives come to my mind as a solution to your dilemma:

    -Science is not inerrant and the modern science doesn't provide the last answer to everything, it's developing all the time. Let's wait a couple of decades and we'll probably be laughing at many "scientific truths" they believed in 2007. Maybe we'll also be laughing at the people who believed the methods used in 2007 to determine the age of different objects etc. were reliable?

    OR

    -The conclusion that the Bible says that the world was created about 6000 years ago is wrong, i.e. the Bible doesn't explicitly say that the world was created 6000 years ago. I actually never checked it myself, but I've heard other people say that there are some time gaps in the Bible also after the creation of Adam and Eve, i.e. periods of time about which the Bible doesn't say anything.

    OR

    -The Bible is wrong in claiming that the world was created 6000 years ago. Bible is not meant to be a text book in history after all, but a revelation of God. In the context of that revelation, I can't see why it would be so important how many years ago the world was created.

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  11. I am reading Angels and Demons right now by Dan Brown. Its about the science/religion concept. Its interesting! If you haven't read it, its a good book. Same with the Davinci Code. Yah, they are fiction, but good books.

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  12. Slightly related to the topic of how humans just don't know and wonderous happenings. I hope this link works. It is about a child prodigy.
    http://tinyurl.com/yxewot
    If it doesn't work and you care to post your E-mail,I will be happy to forward the link that way.

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  13. cvow, imagine us agreeing on something, Amazing! Here's two gender jokes for your one:

    1.
    Why was there only bread and wine at The Last Supper?
    It was a potluck and only men were invited.

    2.
    Eve was lonely in the garden and asked God to give her a mate. God said yes, but warned her that man, in addition to being wonderful, might be proud, jealous, and violent, and it would be best to let him think he was created first.

    "I won't tell," said Eve.

    "Good. It'll be our secret, then" said God. "Woman to woman."

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  14. Oh Free, I agree with you on the only thing that makes any difference. The rest of the issues are just details, no matter how we sojourners want to elevate their importance and blather on, taking this position and that.

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  15. Very interesting link Free. My opinion would be that since the books in the bible were written by humans, there have got to be some words that are mans words, not Gods. I look at the bible as a guide. I do enjoy reading it.

    Another perspective concerning sermons. In the LLC, we were taught that other churches preached mans word because the pastors prepared their speeches. And the preachers at the LLC did not prepare, they relied on God for words. So every word that comes out of the preachers mouth in the pulpit (because he has relied on God for words) are ALL words of God? Ha, I don't believe it. We are humans too.

    Same as saying that the church relies on the Holy Spirit for guidance. Yes, I agree. However, then people could say just about anything and claim it came from the Holy Spirit. Such as the "guidances of the Holy Spirit" I was taught (no makeup, movies, dancing, etc.). I do not believe those to be teachings of the Holy Spirit.

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  16. I think what it boils down to, as MTH has said before is this: Do we love and trust God with all our heart? And do we love our neighbors as ourselves? God is love.

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  17. Oh, one more thing. I wonder why there aren't any writings from Jesus when he was here?

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  18. Seems that Elmer was getting all the painting jobs in town. His secret was that he slightly watered down the paint, giving him an edge on all of this competitors.
    He finally hit the mother load when he won the bid to paint the outside of a huge church. Realizing that he had made a serious error in his calculations, he decided that he would have to water down the paint more than he had ever watered it down before. Up on the ladder, he was just finishing up the painting job. As he was admiring his work with a smug look of pride, the skies turned dark and an unexpected rain storm moved in. On the ladder, Elmer watched with horror as the paint, far too thinned with water, started washing off of the church! Out of the sky came a lightning bolt, knocking Elmer off the ladder to the ground! When he came too he quickly checked his parts to make sure he was in one piece. He then fell to his knees, begging God for forgiveness for his wrongs. He tearfully asked God what he could do to make up for the error of his ways. Out of the heavens came a booming voice "REPAINT! REPAINT!" As Elmer was about to promise to start on the task he again heard the booming voice..."AND THIN NO MORE!"

    There's my church giggle of the day. Actually told by my pastor at the beginning of his sermon on stewardship!

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  19. Funny joke ijumped! In response to the previous thread about rebuke. They are each others keepers and they use the church law of Christ for everything. In the LLC we would have been taken in front of the church too if we refused to believe we have wronged. I believe the bible states that if your BROTHER SINS AGAINST YOU, go and show him his faults, then bring two more, then bring it to the church. Since when is a place you choose to go, or what you look like or what kind of music you like a sin against your brother? Just because HE/SHE doesn't like it.
    BS!

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  20. Faith,
    I chuckled when I read your post about how the preachers (OALC in my case) would say they simply opened the Bible at random and spoke on what God gave them that day. I always found it puzzling that the Good Lord always seemed to think we needed yet another diatribe on the Beatitudes. I love the beatitudes, but thought there might have been some other important stuff in the Bible besides them.

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  21. cvow I love your post from 1/08 at 741pm.

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  22. Re; Science and Bible

    The above experiences are great
    if you stick to the spiritual side
    Any scientific mention in the
    Bible is pure nonsense viz. 6000
    year old universe , iron floats
    on water, sun stops in sky which
    of course means earth stops
    rotating etc.


    Your utmost faith in science is
    demonstrated every day as soon
    as the alarm goes off.

    You turn on the lights ,flip on
    the hot and cold water ,flush your
    daily deposit down the toilet {gee
    I wonder where that goes }, and
    microwave your break fast .When
    ready for work , jump into your
    Hummer, drive down a 4-lane free-
    way ,take an elevator up, sit at
    desk ,turn my computer on ,check
    Free2b. Computer freezes on
    Free2b ! O here comes the boss !
    [damn science not always perfect!}

    The next morning upon leaving you
    look up and spot the Andromeda
    Galaxy with the naked eye {if you
    know where to look}.It is 2.3
    million light years away . In
    other words light left that galaxy
    2.3 million years ago and might be
    long gone by now.That is one of
    the closest galaxies . Others are
    up to 13 billion light years
    away.

    With such an enormous discrepancy
    why was the 6000 year figure even
    mentioned in the Bible to throw
    doubts right at the start to the
    validity of the rest ?

    P.S. Free , I got another of your
    "buts" after my brilliant all
    encompassing analysis of and
    solution to all the problems
    with belief. {LOL}

    Your "wings theory" does not
    fly.

    Some atheists could and do
    exhibit the same character-
    estics as your true believer
    as far as "love thy neighbor"
    is involved .

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  23. Agreed, Troll, and I don't see how that refutes my theory that we all have wings and are capable of (metaphorical) flight.
    PS: Do you really have a Hummer?! And is this site a PC crasher?

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  24. Free: No {Just a story}

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  25. Good post and good comments.

    Inerrancy? No.
    Why? You said it.

    A personal nightmare for me is to find myself stuck in a conformist town dominated by a religion of the close-minded variety. And my children begin being indoctrinated in the school with that form of religion, their education being short-changed by the bullies' refusal to properly teach important basics like science or history. And when I'd defend my kids' right to a good education, I'd start getting hate and threats sent my way until my family would be driven from the community. Think that wouldn't happen in the US? Think again.

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  26. Many Trails Home2/10/2007 05:24:00 PM

    Theo, I hate to contradict you because I do have great respect for you. BUT this issue of "inerrancy" makes my skin crawl. "Inerrant in matters of faith," you say. Whatever does that mean? Which parts are you referring to? Which are the ones that refer only to faith? Who decides? And when the Bible is confusing or contradictory, who interprets? I already know the answer to that one. If the Bible is "inerrant with qualifications," I think that pretty much scrubs the inerrant contention.

    I still say, use the Bible as a guide and inspiration, yes. But when we get confused or something doesn't "feel right" to our truth-seeking self, then why don't we just ASK? Ask directly. Go to the Father. Why is that so hard? I swear most of us would walk a thousand miles looking for answers when all we have to do is ask.
    Many blessings to all you "light-minded truth-seekers." MTH

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  27. So what does the bible specifically say about innerancy? Anyone have any scripture quotes? Just curious...

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  28. Hp3 - Revelation 22:18-19.

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  29. MTH, by non-faith matters I was referring to things like in what order certain events happened, who were present when something happened, how long something took. The Bible contradicts itself in that kind of things, which is totally naturall because the people who wrote down the books of the Bible didn't pay attention to unimportant things but rather to the things that really mattered.

    It is certainly good to pray to God and ask for guidance, but I don't think individualism belongs to Christianity. The humankind is one, and we are supposed to be saved together, as a church, not separately as individuals. Trying to figure out things all alone is tiresome - been there, done that, won't do it again. So, we are supposed to be saved together and to figure out things together. Much easier that way. :)

    Who interprets when the Bible is confusing? Well, I guess I answered it already, but I'll repeat the same quote I put above:

    "The Bible should always be regarded in connection with the church because the Bible has come to being in the church, it has evolved in its protection. The church has defined the contents and the extent of the Bible, and the church has always used and still uses its according to its own needs. Hence, the Bible belongs 100% to the church."

    So, my answer is the church. The church wrote, the church is the one to interpret it.

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  30. Rev. 22:18-19: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

    Aacording to the author of Revelation, everything in "the book of this prophecy" is accurate.

    Note that the New Testament did not exist at the time that Revelation was written.

    Josh McDowell said, "The mere fact that the Bible claims to be the word of God does not prove that it is such, for there are other books that make similar claims."

    Is it possible to make false idols of the bible and the church?

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  31. Anonymous 9:25.. I notice that your info comes from www.religioustolerance.org website.

    I would like to see Josh McDowell's quote in the context in which it was written.

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  32. Theo, thanks for the information you provided here. I agree with it.

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  33. theoforos: I hate to disagree with you because you seem so well versed, and I am not, and I thoroughly enjoy your posts, but I have to disagree that "the church" (any church) should be the final authoritive interpretation of the bible. If thats the case, than which one??? Maybe its a defense that immedietly pops up because of the churches I have seen misuse this "authority" However, I also remember reading in the bible that Christ preaches about people being saved and believing; he seems to have spoken more to individuals than to organizations.

    anon 9:25 I think its possible to make false idols out of most anything, including religion and the church, and I believe the bible itself warns accordingly. Im not sure how one could make a false idol out of the bible though. Myabe putting the words above faith, or worshiping the words written instead of practing and applying the meanings.

    One of the things I find interesting about reading the bible, is keeping things "in context" Is it that particular verse, chapter, book, the ENTIRE bible? However I think I can safely (and with some illiteracy) agree wtih theoforos here: the bible discrepencies I have found do seem more about "non-faith" issues (like timing and such examples he listed) But the important concepts of faith I think are consistant.

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  34. Hp3,

    I do think it's possible to make a false idol out of the Bible.. by once again forgetting that it's a relationship with Jesus that matters, and not how many hours we spend studying and how devoted we appear by toting around a Bible.

    and the church as false idol - yes, as well as the cross. The story of the brazen serpent is a good example of this. It was erected as a means of healing, (look up and live).. but over time it became an idol which the people worshipped, not even knowing why.

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  35. So, what is wrong with "Creationist teachers tell[ing] their students that evolution is 'just a theory.'"?
    It is. There is no conclusive evidence that it's the absolute truth.

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  36. Is animal husbandry a theory? Animal husbandry is evolution (natural selection) with human intervention. As concrete as truth gets, evolution is.

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  37. The Theory of Evolution is ahhhhh
    a theory!

    No matter how much you agree with a theory, is it not still a theory until proven a fact? :)

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  38. hp3, I realize things maybe look a bit different from your point of view, or from any other person's point of view, depending on if you believe that the church that wrote the Bible still exists. I do believe it still exists in the church I belong to, and that's why to me it seems more natural than anything to rely on the author's own interpretation. But of course, if you don't believe that the same church that wrote the Bible is alive any more it will be difficult if not impossible to use this approach. In that case, feel free to invent your own. :)

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  39. Why do you think there aren't any writings from Jesus?

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  40. As a former child in the Heidemannian sect, the FALC of Detroit, I have been following the discussion for a little while. I can't quite figure out who's doing most of the talking and what each general viewpoint is, but it seems that there are few Heidemannians commenting on this site at present. I am the author of the book on doubt that free2be kindly links to on the front page of this blog, and so have studied the matter of inerrancy in some depth. I have searched my memory and can recall no instance in which the subject of inerrancy was ever mentioned or discussed in the FALC in my youth. I do recall a comment from then Pastor Raymond Tulki at confirmation that the Bible is the SOLE word of God, but no more. It was mostly just assumed, as a matter of practice, that the Bible was the word of God and without error. In that day, the 60s for me, the inerrancy debates that were raging in other areas of American Christendom seemed not to have touched the FALC. I was not aware of such debates until decades later. I was not even aware that there was any matter to debate until I met a GARB Baptist girl and fell in love and soon left the church. As usual, the Heidemannian practice was to keep all such controversies hidden from a child. That's not so unusual among churches and even other relgiions. But I started getting suspicious when I started learning that there other sorts of Christians (my parents were liberal enough at least to allow that some other churches had some purchase on truth) who interpreted this Bible without error in different ways. That, naturally, in time, raised the issue of just who is in charge of what's an error and what isn't. As we all know, inerrancy in practice is a matter of interpretation, as discussed in various in several comments. Anyway, I just wanted to say something about what I remember about the topic from my days in the FALC. I will have to ask a cousin who still attends the Calumet, MI, FALC church for information on inerrancy in the FALC today.

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  41. Comment on Theos comment: It is certainly good to pray to God and ask for guidance, but I don't think individualism belongs to Christianity. The humankind is one, and we are supposed to be saved together, as a church, not separately as individuals.

    -----------------------------------
    Just my two cents about that. I have to disagree. While I do agree we work together as Christians (unity), I don't believe God is going to judge us by which church we belonged to. I believe he judges each one of our hearts individually. I don't think that anyones involvement in a particular church guarantees salvation. I think perhaps there are saved and unsaved people in every church??

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  42. Ben: Welcome aboard.

    As a fellow exFALC I suspected
    you might be in the shadows.

    WOW! Saying you studied it in
    depth is the understatement of
    the year !

    P.S. Where did you find time for
    such extensive research ?
    I hope it was not while you
    piloting your boat across
    Lake Superior with all that
    freighter traffic ! (LOL)

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  43. oalc-doubter, there is a difference between the common meaning of theory and the scientific meaning of theory. TalkOrigins can help to explain this difference.

    If we want to teach school children that evolution is "only a theory," we are doing them a disservice, because the children should already be learning that ANY scientific idea is at best a theory. There is no reason to single out evolution, as opposed to gravitation or heat conduction, as being "only a theory."

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  44. Faith, God is certainly not going to judge anyone by what church he/she belonged to, but salvation might not be possible to achieve in all churches.

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  45. Many Trails Home2/12/2007 05:11:00 PM

    Theoforos, of course I do not agree with you at all. I do not believe the Bible is infallible (read "inerrant") any more than the pope is. The "church" does not "own" the Bible; it belongs to humanity. Remember: just because someone says it is so does not make it so. (Any more than the theologically-mandated flat earth belief). Organizations have a huge vested interest in making such claims and as far as I am concerned, they are all suspect. You can believe this if you want to, of course, but I certainly do not have to and it does not make me wrong (any more than refusing to believe Laestadian claims).

    And another thing, while I am holding forth on my soap box: Sisu, in her mention of "Living Faith" reminded me of this sudden realization: What that is truly "living" does not change and grow? Nothing at all. So fossilizing the Bible in a rigid form as taken down "by committee" (council) two millenia ago and proclaiming by fiat that "God's Word" must never ever change seems like . . . lacking in simple common sense, it would seem to me. So believe what you wish but "my" God is not frozen in an unchanging form to suit some "fossilized" theologians who cannot abide the concept of change.
    These claims, like the Laestadian, are driven by fear, fear, fear. And what did Jesus say? "Perfect love casteth out fear" (or something similar). Many blessings. MTH

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  46. MTH, you have the right not to believe in the Bible or the fact that the church that wrote the Bible owns the Bible, but I have also the right to believe that you are wrong in not adhering to those beliefs. :)

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  47. Theo, yes I agree with you. I wouldn't accept Jehovah Witness or some others that have deviated away from essential Christian doctrine. Good thing I'm not the judge and don't have to worry about that!

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  48. Even though I do believe that the bible is probably not inerrant, I would have a hard time being a part of a church that does not use the bible as its main source for teaching.

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  49. hey anon no name calling here please

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