Monday, September 28, 2009
A Problem with Biblical Inerrancy
A recent series of conversations with one of my more conservative brothers resulted in someone making this conclusion, and I quote...
"Without reliable words from God, we are free to make what we want of our religion. I have come to the conclusion that I believe so much in authority and reliability of Scripture, that if I were to learn that it was false, I would cease to be a Christian, and even further, cease to be a moral person because there would be no reason for morality except to get what I would want from others and not have others treat me the way I don't want to be treated."
IF they learned that there were lines in the Bible that they thought were true and factual and it turned out to be false, not only would they lose their faith in God, but they would cease to be a moral person!
Is that not a horribly incredible statement to make? Does that not suggest a deification of the Bible? Oh, to be certain, I don't think this person at all intends to make a god of the Bible, but if he "were to learn that it were false, [he] would cease to be a Christian...," that rather sounds like his faith is in the Bible and not God.
I would suggest that perhaps we could give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he probably means that if he were to learn that ALL of it were false (God created the world = not true, Jesus was NOT a real person, we are NOT to love our enemies, we are NOT to love our families and communities, etc, etc), surely this must be what he means.
And I hope so, for that might be a reasonable position.
But I fear that it may not be so. I fear this because I've met others who've said similar things. I have a dear friend from my childhood who is a devoted and wonderful conservative Christian, and he once told me that if he learned that the Creation story is not fairly literal, he would probably lose his faith. "How could I believe ANY of it is true if the creation story is not literally and factually true?" is a common sentiment I have heard.
I fear that this concrete, black/white, absolutist sort of thinking probably DOES lead people to lose their faith, when it becomes clear at some point for some of them that some of the stories and facts in the Bible probably aren't intended to be literally true.
This would be a shame, I think. We have no real biblical, moral or logical reason to presume inerrancy of the Bible. The Bible does not TELL us to take each story as literally factually true and we can learn from metaphorical stories just as well as we can from factual stories about the nature of God.