Dear Bible (Pt. 3/5)– A Treatise on Inspiration, Infallibility, & Inerrancy

Well howdy, dear Internet fam!

 

I’m not gonna lie– this is a very long and detailed post that has taken me months to craft, and (like some other posts I’ve written) it might be best read bit-by-bit and chunk-by-chunk over a longer period of time than is needed for my shorter posts.

 

For context, this post has been preceded by this one, this one, and this one.

 

As I’ve articulated at the end, after writing up until that point: my aim has not been to get you to agree with my opinions about the Bible (instead of viewing them as ends and destinations in and of themselves, I view them as mile markers on my life-long backpack trek with the Bible); but my aim has been to invite you to consider that it’s important to engage with the Bible, to spend time with it, to ask questions about it, to read it, and to study it– and maybe, just maybe, I will joyfully turn out to be successful in that cause!

 

In this post, I have wanted to try and avoid fallacious thinking as much as possible and I have wanted to exercise my critical thinking abilities with regard to claims about the Bible– specifically concerning whether it is inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

 

And ultimately, I have written this out of a drive to deepen in my respect for and relationship with the Bible– to satisfy my longing for growing in my love for the Bible.

 

If anyone chances to read this, I hope you’ll be edified by what follows & your feedback is very much welcome!

 


 

Doctrine 2/4:

You (Dear Bible) Are…The Word Of God

[Aka: You’re Ultimately Authored By God; Inspired, Infallible, & Inerrant]

 

So then, shall we address the first bit– in essence, that “You (Dear Bible) Are…The Word Of God”?

 

Right off the bat, I’ve gotta ask: what precisely is meant by the ‘word of God’ phrase?

 

Firstly,

I should probably note that a fair amount of Christians would quite likely find themselves agreeing with the conclusion of Dr. Jason Lisle’s article here at https://answersingenesis.org/the-word-of-god/a-question-of-authorship/ (i.e. that you are the Word of God so that things which are taken for granted can find their granted-ness in you & so that things which are taken for granted as being necessary for genuine knowledge can find their necessity through you):

 

“All reasoning rests upon a type of faith. But faith in any ultimate standard other than the biblical God cannot account for those things we take for granted. So, faith in the Bible is not merely a blind assumption. The Bible must be what it claims to be because any alternative cannot account for those things necessary for genuine knowledge. Knowledge is possible; thus, the Bible really is the true Word of God.”

 

(I don’t know about you, but that rhetoric makes me wanna scratch my head and ask the author to clarify what he means…but I think I probably got the gist of what he said in my previous group of parentheses where I tried to explain his thoughts in my own words.)

 

Or, for another example, let us consider what is said about you–dear Bible–within https://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/how-do-we-know-the-bible-is-true-2/ (i.e. even though God–by the way, how are we supposed to think about God? I’m kinda all over the place rn 😂–didn’t physically write you, you are God’s Word because it’s claimed that God somehow inspired a plethora of humans from very diverse backgrounds to compose a unified library):

 

“It’s not a book that arrived in complete form at one point in history. Instead, the Bible was written over a period of some 1,500 years by a number of authors. Although it is viewed as one book, it’s actually a collection of many books. It is called God’s Word even though God did not physically write it. Instead, God worked through everyday people, inspired by Him, to record what Christians accept as the Bible. The Old Testament is primarily a record of God’s dealings with His chosen people – the Hebrews or Jews. The New Testament continues the record with first century accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus and the struggles faced by new Christians in a hostile culture.”

 

So, this view seems to say that: ok, God didn’t physically write you…but you’re still God’s Word!

 

Secondly,

I should also probably note that a fair amount of Christians would likely be inclined to agree that you (dear Bible) are penultimate to the MessiahChrist or LogosVerb within Jesus of Nazareth– for an instance of the sort of paradigm of thought to which I’m referring, please consider the following selections from Mr. Brian Zahnd’s article at https://brianzahnd.com/2014/01/scripture-witness-word-god/ :

 

The Bible is the word of God that bears witness to the Word of God — Jesus Christ…The Bible is not perfect. (There are parts of it we now regard as obsolete; e.g. Levitical codes.) Christ is the perfection of God as a human being. What the Bible does infallibly is point us to Jesus Christ. There is one mediator between God and man…and it’s not the Bible…Biblicism can be a clever way of avoiding the rule of Christ in order to maintain the status quo…if the Bible becomes an end in itself and does not direct us to Christ…what is the point? The Church must always be in conversation with Scripture, but to the end that we might submit to the rule of the living Christ…Scripture is penultimate! But it is Christ who is supreme.

 

For another example, let us consider what is said about you–dear Bible–especially within 7:45-8:24 of the following video (i.e. you contain the ‘Word’, but you are not the ‘Word’):

 

 

(At this point, however, my wandering psyche would like to also make mention of such counter-responses to this view from those who would claim that you are still the ‘Word’ [with a capital ‘W’] of God even though you are not ontologically equivalent to the MessiahChrist or LogosVerb within Jesus of Nazareth– for instance, consider: https://derekzrishmawy.com/2014/03/11/if-jesus-is-the-word-of-god-can-we-call-the-bible-the-word-of-god/ & https://carm.org/bible-isnt-word-god-it-contains-word-god.

 

BUT THEN, my wandering psyche would like to further make mention of such counter-counter-responses from those who would claim that you are the ‘word’ [with a lower-case ‘w’] of God– even though they are not precisely replying to the 2 recently mentioned articles, I still would recommend considering articles like https://relevantmagazine.com/god/5-things-i-wish-christians-would-admit-about-bible/ & https://mikeraburn.com/2009/07/18/the-bible-is-not-the-word-of-god-part-1/ .

 

“Oi…what should I make of all this? 🤔😂”, my meditative mind muses…😉)  

 

So, if I’m getting the gist of this view, it basically seems to suggest that you–dear Bible–are God’s word (notice the lower-case ‘w’) which does not contain but rather points us to God’s Word (notice the upper-case ‘W’) in the Christ called Jesus.

 

Thirdly,

I should probably mention another major perspective toward you which has been subscribed to by another fair amount of people throughout history (i.e. that you, dear Bible, are neither the ‘Word’ nor the ‘word’ of God at all; instead, you are library of religious writings with a plethora of antiquated concepts, detrimental exhortations, and irreconcilable errors in communication)— for instance, consider the conclusion provided at the end of https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/reasons-humanists-reject-bible/ :

 

“Many compelling and morally sound reasons support the Humanist position that the Bible is not divinely inspired. Instead of being inerrant, the Bible has far more errors and immoral teachings than most other books. By treating this mistake-ridden book as the word of God, humanity has been led down many paths of error and misery throughout history. In too many ways, the Bible continues to produce such results. But in some cases, the errors caused by the Bible have been corrected and the harms have been stopped. This happened when a scientific approach was applied to problems. Science involves relying on reason, observation, experience, and compassion – rather than blindly accepting religious or secular dogma. We should reject the views of those who say the Bible has infallible answers to today’s problems. As Humanists know, science has proved to be a much better source for answers.”

 

This view, then, seems to suggest that you–dear Bible–are a collection of words from humanity which have been believed to be the word of God (but aren’t in reality).

 


 

From Setting-The-Stage-About-Tough-Questions-Which-Can-Be-Asked

To Asking-Such-Tough-Questions

 

So then, dear Bible, what precisely is meant by the ‘word of God’ phrase?

 

There are claims galore!

 

And while I have attempted to draw attention to some of the most popular perspectives, I have a deep-seated feeling that I haven’t even come close to addressing as many as there have been or will be!

 

It’s so fascinating to yours truly that we humans can look at available data pertaining to you and can emerge saying (on one hand) that “God’s revelation to humanity was not finished with the Old Testament. The New Testament also claims to be God’s Word to the human race.” and (on another hand) that “The Bible as a whole makes no claim for divine authorship.”

 

In the same vein: one person will say that “Nothing makes you an atheist faster than reading the Bible” and another will say that “To maintain a healthy and even joyful Christian life, we need daily Bible reading to receive the spiritual nourishment in God’s Word for us.”— oi!

 

At this point/moment in my religious/spiritual/psychological journeying, I’m very much inclined to think that merely pointing at available data pertaining to you and claiming you are in some way ultimately from God does not do much good:

 

what with the complex diversity of perspectives regarding what available data we humans have that we would like to think pertains to you,

 

wouldn’t it be wise for us to keep up penetrating deeper–ever deeper–into the nitty-gritty of our manner of epistemologically approaching you?

 

On our manner of epistemologically approaching you (thought about on a general level, as distinct from the nitty-gritty details), I’m recalling that I once read the following relevant passage from Dr. Marcus Borg’s book Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally (I think I had read the whole book during the summer of 2016)

 

“Thus much is at stake in whether we see the Bible as a human or divine product. When we are not completely clear and candid about the Bible being a human and not a divine product, we create the possibility of enormous confusion.

Why Our Perspective Needs To Be Either-Or

To anticipate a possible objection: Why see the question as an either-or choice? Why not see the Bible as both divine and human? In my experience, affirming that it is both only compounds the confusion.

When the Bible is seen as both divine and human, we have two options. One is to say that it is all divine and all human. That may sound good, but it leaves us with the dilemma of treating all of scripture as divine revelation. More typically in my experience, affirming that the Bible is both divine and human leads to the attempt to separate the divine parts from the human parts– as if some of it comes from God and some is a human product. The parts that come from God are then given authority, and the others are not. But the parts that we think come from God are normally the parts we see as important, and thus we simply confer divine authority on what matters to us, whether we be conservatives or liberals.

[…] Thus the lens I am advocating does not see the Bible as a whole as divine in origin, or some parts as divine and some as human. It is all a human product, though generated in response to God. As such, it contains ancient Israel’s perceptions and misperceptions of what life with God involves, just as it contains the early Christian movement’s perceptions and misperceptions.

 

Yet, on the same theme of general remarks about epistemologically approaching you, I’m at a point/moment in my religious/spiritual/psychological journeying where I’m suspecting more and more that it also doesn’t do us much good to be hard-core about trying to prove things pertaining to God–

 

as fun and helpful as it can be to try to constantly improve in communicating what all we mean when we invoke ‘the God card’ (I mean to say this along the lines of Mr. Mike McHargue’s series of questions within https://mikemchargue.com/blog/2014/3/20/god-the-creator : “Is God real? We can’t answer that without asking another question: Which God?”).

 

But, dear Bible, for the sake of illustration– let’s just say that someone came up to me (being one who’s attempting to become an ever better Christian, but also being one with so many questions and doubts and so forth) with some sort of hard-core intent to try to prove something about his/her perception of Judeo-Christian conceptions concerning God…

 

Were that to happen, my guess is that he/she might attempt to try to make his/her point by trying to appeal

 

-to you in some sense (perhaps through comparing you to or contrasting you from other books thought to be sacred),

 

-to church history/tradition (perhaps through comparing it all to or contrasting it all from other histories/traditions thought to be legitimate), or even

 

-to his/her deep-seated feelings about Judeo-Christian conceptions concerning God (perhaps through comparing them with or contrasting them from other conceptions concerning the Numinous)

 

And were such to happen, dear Bible, I think I had better confess that my psyche would join with Mr. C.S. Lewis’ sentiment that “I want God, not my idea of God.”

 

After all: how would one who hungers, thirsts, groans, and increasingly feels like one’s innermost being is wasting away for lack of intimacy with the Greatest Quest…be content (in the deepest possible senses of the word) with one’s perception of someone’s perception of the Numinous or solely with one’s own perception of the Numinous?

 

On this sort of deep longing, I think I ought to share this excerpt (which I recently came across) from within http://www.sdmorrison.org/the-problem-with-apologetics-t-f-torrance/:

 

“We cannot illuminate God with human insights any more than we could brighten the moon with a flashlight…Works of the intellect cannot prove God without falling back into selfjustification…God alone proves Godself if God is proven at all, just as God alone reveals Godself if we have any true knowledge of God’s innermost being.

 

Moreover, I think I ought to share this excerpt (which I came across during the fall of 2018) from pages 295 through 299 within Mr. Thomas Merton’s book on “The Ascent to Truth”

 

Faith tells us of the infinite power of God, which is so great that no word of ours can contain its meaning. But love, which transports the soul into the darkness beyond faith, unites our being to the Being of God. In this union mystics sometimes speak of the soul as being ‘annihilated’. They no longer experience their own separate existence…

Nevertheless, Love is the first to admit that her own experience of God is not, strictly speaking, knowledge. It is here that the real anguish of the mystical night begins…

If love, which seemed to be heaven itself, suddenly turns to hell, how can it be the solution to a problem? Love is no solution. Love is the problem…

If neither the mind nor the will can solve our problem, who can? The answer is to be found in God alone. We cannot see Him with our own intelligence, because no intelligence that is not God can see God. God Himself must become our vision of God…

Love does not heal our ignorance: mystical love is a sickness which vision alone can cure…”

 

For the time being, dear Bible, I think I should continue being vulnerable and relate that I am inclined to agree with Dr. Rick Hanson‘s thought (which I recently discovered from within https://www.rickhanson.net/mind-brain-god-part-ii/ ) that we:

 

“…can’t prove or disprove the existence of God. So the fundamentally scientific attitude is to acknowledge the possibility of God, and then move on to working within the frame of science, which is plenty fertile as is, without resorting to God.”

 

This, for me, is both a supremely scary thought…and a splendidly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious thought.

 

It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious because I love the art, craft, discipline, and the pilgrimage that is philosophical theology– I love asking questions galore & I love becoming in awe of how much I don’t know about everything! And yes, I so very much love:

-to pray to my Greatest Quest (as I confess within my “Selah” music video, prayer has become for me–dear Bible–less and less about voicing concerns that the Numinous would enforce external changes to things about life & increasingly more about silently voicing concern that things can improve in life from my innermost self to my surrounding space-time context; in other words: kind of like what St./Mr. C.S. Lewis is said to have expressed, what St./Mr. Søren Kierkegaard is also said to have communicated, or what St./Ms. Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu [a.k.a. Mother Teresa of Calcutta] is said to have confessed),

-to sing hymns (e.g. consider my cover of the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” ),

-to create/play music contemplatively (e.g. consider my piece “Parode: A Westonized Agnus Dei”),

-to go on long contemplative walks (e.g. with my dog Maddie, often listening to theological and philosophical types of podcasts), &

-to do charity work through community service projects (e.g. here’s a flashback to 2009– I’m the small dude sitting at the right in the 6th picture down from the top)

 

But it’s also scary because…well, lemme put it this way…While I am attracted to the idea that God as “Mystery is endless knowability.”, a part of me keeps on whispering and murmuring ever so stealthily–

 

“What if…Just what if…there was nothing to know? And no, I’m not referring to the idea that ‘God is no thing’…What if the Numinous is a grand Imaginary Friend social construct with no origin beyond or deeper than collective human consciousness? I mean: if it seems fairly acceptable that ‘organized religion was created by humans as a way of connecting to each other’, and if even a quick examination of the word-history of the term ‘religion’ seems to reveal that it has been thought to be a way to ‘bind fast’ very diverse humans together through ‘re-reading’ reality, then what if the Numinous is a colossal placebo concept that we have brainstormed as a way to somewhat effectively cope with life?” 

 

Lol 😂

 

Dear Bible– I’m increasingly thinking that if my corpus callosum was to be severed for medical purposes, we would probably find that I would have at the very least a big ol’ competition between a theist and an atheist within my psyche 😂

 

 

But then again, I think I ought to double-back and share–dear Bible–that there are rationalizations that run counter to what that whispering part of my brain has been positing…for instance: this article I just discovered on WordPress & this article that I’ve known about for a bit longer.

 

BUT THEN there are quite probably counter-arguments to those arguments & counter-arguments to those counter-arguments & counter-counter-arguments to those counter-arguments & so on…

 

And thus I feel compelled to double-back even farther to share my current 2 cents on the proposition that you (dear Bible) are…The Word Of God.

 

Honestly, I’m inclined to say that my response depends on how God and you (dear Bible) are to be defined– I’m sure the easy thing to do would be to give some reply from a “black or white” perspective, but the impression that I increasingly get from contemplating this sort of proposition is that there are a whole lot of “grey areas” afoot within it.

 

BUT THEN AGAIN…am I too quick to want to define you and God?

 

Should I not at least for now be content to say that you “are” and that God “may be”?

 

Even though it would probably make it easier on my psyche to define you and God…am I being fair to y’all if I go on wanting to insist on having definitions for y’all?

 

Anyway, dear Bible, while I’m contemplating those questions & preparing for my responses in the next bit– I figured I’d share with you 2 tunes that touch me deeply: the first is one that I discovered sometime in the summer of 2019 & the second is one I’d discovered a while back (it’s one that I play on guitar every now and then to shut myself down enough to go to sleep)

 

 

 

 

 

And now, for the second bit…

 

[Aka: You’re Ultimately Authored By God; Inspired, Infallible, & Inerrant]

 

Dearest Bible, please forgive me if I have at all been saying things which are (e.g.) offensive or irrelevant to you– such is not my intention whatsoever.

 

Even when I reach the end of this letter, please know that I do not plan on ceasing to contemplate you or to stop questioning (for the rest of my existence) whatever tentative conclusions I may reach about you– I love you, dear Bible, and I want to prove that not only by saying such phrases but moreover by demonstrating my care for you throughout the course of my life.

 

Perhaps it is high time for me, though, to consider that I might be guilty of hastily committing to a wish to delay judgement about you…

 

Oh my goodness, I’m not even sure if that sentence made any sense 😂

 

What I meant, however, is this:

 

short of waiting for the Numinous to vouch for you directly before me, perhaps I should re-visit the 3 claims about you which I had alluded to earlier on within this letter/epistle to you (i.e. that you are inspired, infallible, and inerrant) & see where this re-view takes me?

 

If that sounds reasonable enough, then, how about we do just that?

 

To begin with– thereabouts, I had said the following:

 

For instance, I was surrounded with the rhetoric that you were, are, and always will be inspired, infallible, and inerrant–

 

Shortly following that part of the sentence, I went on to share that

 

{#1/3– WE’RE GONNA BE DISCUSSING THIS FOR MOST OF THIS INSTALLMENT} you (dear Bible) were pitched as “blown/breathed into” (e.g.) because the claims went that you seem to display numerous qualities which have been thought to be unique to you,

 

With that having been shared, how about we take the opportunity to delve a little bit deeper into that example train of thought?

 

  • Among the numerous qualities which have been thought to be unique to you, the Mooresville church of Christ website (to which I had provided reference in the previous post in this series) had proposed 9 example proofs– and further suggested that “The first five are internal proofs and the last four are external proofs.” The proposed 9 example proofs are as follows: the “internal” proofs being ‘INSISTENT CLAIMS’, ‘SCOPE OF CONTENT’, ‘UNITY’, ‘IMPARTIALITY OF ITS CHARACTERS’, & ‘SCIENTIFIC FOREKNOWLEDGE’; and the “external” proofs being ‘CIRCULATION’, ‘TRANSLATIONS’, ‘SURVIVAL’, & ‘INFLUENCE’.

 

Now, just as a thought-experiment…

 

Were you and I to be in court and were either of us to be put on trial for whatever myriad of legitimate or illegitimate reasons, I can’t help but imagine this: if we got to feeling pretty desperate about our situation, might it be a possibility that there would come to be some sort of an inclination within either of us to make an ol’ school Socratic apology— that is, to represent ourselves?

 

I’m no expert on this (although now I’m thinking about it, I’d like to learn more!), but I just recently Googled “court procedures: when does the accused self-represent?” and one of the first websites I came across strongly suggested the following–

 

“…if you are unlucky enough to have to fight your case yourself, or if you’re confident enough in your presentational and analytical abilities, here’s some of what you’ll need to do…Understand the law, Learn the lingo, Don’t accept what officials say without proof, Strike a deal, Remember your audience, Play the system, Tell the truth, {&–if it can be helped–just} Don’t do it”.

 

Although I’m sure all of those tips are very important, the one that struck me the most was that last one– the “Don’t do it” one.

 

Since my intention for now is writing a semi-formal and semi-informal letter/epistle to you, and since I’m not a law expert, I hope it’s ok that I won’t go into as much rigor as would be needed within a legitimate court room– but yet, perhaps it wouldn’t be amiss for us to first briefly re-visit the proposed “external” proofs & only after doing that consider the proposed “internal” proofs (as a last-ditch-effort sort of a thing)?

 

To recapitulate, then:

the example “external” proofs that were used in the aforementioned website were ‘CIRCULATION’, ‘TRANSLATIONS’, ‘SURVIVAL’, & ‘INFLUENCE’.

 

Maybe it’s just me, but the first two sound quite similar…

 

To justify imbedding “Circulation” and “Translations” as proofs, the author(s) of the website wrote the following: 

 

“The British in its foreign Bible society publishes one copy of the Bible every three seconds totaling 32,876 Bibles published each day. That figure does not include the International Bible Society, the American Bible Society and other publishers such as Zondervan, Nelson, and Cambridge. A very conservative estimate is that there is a Bible printed every second of every day. Plus, this does not include the many commentaries, word studies, and Bible dictionaries. The Bible is always on the Best Seller’s list for it is the most circulated book in history!”

“The Bible is the most translated book in history. It has been translated over a thousand times. These translations represent over ninety percent of the world’s population. Just about anyone can pick up a Bible and read it in their own language. Literary works that have been translated into three or more languages and a million copies printed are considered great literary works. That standard makes the Bible the greatest literary work of all ages.”

 

Setting aside the business of fact-checking each of the claims made above and thus giving the benefit of the doubt to the author(s) of the article on that account, it still seems to me that the author(s) might still be committing–for instance–an Ad Populum fallacy.

 

As described by my current Critical Thinking Professor (i.e. Mr. Bruce Thompson), an Ad Populum fallacy is where an

 

“argument supports a position by appealing to the shared opinion of a large group of people, e.g. the majority, the general public, etc. The presumed authority comes solely from the size, not the credentials, of the group cited.”

 

Just below that description, my Professor also saw fit to comment as follows:

 

The phrase “ad populum” is a Latin phrase meaning “(appeal) to the public (or community).” Typical ways to express this fallacy will be familiar to anyone who watches television commercials: “the most widely sold…” or “America’s favorite…”

 

Perhaps now would be a good time for me to raise awareness for what’s been called the “illusory truth / validity / re-iteration effect”— which is a nickname for the idea that “familiarity can overpower rationality” & forthe tendency to believe false information to be correct after repeated exposure.”?

 

Is it necessarily true that you are “the greatest literary work of all ages” just because you might very well be “the most circulated book in history”?

 

Oh dearest Bible!

 

I aim to become ever more among the throng of those who love you, but my dream is that we humans would come to love you in ever better ways– as much as possible, may we labor with our ‘love language’ (a phrase which I had mentioned earlier on within my letter/epistle to you) to do so without approaching you fallaciously!

 

And now, let us consider how the author(s) of the website went about justifying imbedding “Survival” as a proposed “external” proof for you– 

 

The Bible has survived through time. There are over thirteen thousand manuscripts or partial manuscripts of the Bible. Four thousand of which are Greek manuscripts dating from the second to the fourth centuries.

The Bible has survived through persecution. Diocletian, a Roman emperor, commanded that the scriptures be burned (303 AD). Yet, just decades later, Eusebius under the dictates of Constantine found fifty Bible in just twenty-five hours. The skeptic Voltaire said the Bible and Christianity would perish within fifty years but he died and the Bible survives. After his death, the Geneva Bible Society used his printing press and his house to produce Bibles.

The Bible has survived through criticism. Bernard Ramm said, “The death keel has sounded a hundred times for the Bible, but the corpse never stays put.” The Bible’s critics have tried to explain away every aspect of the Bible to destroy its authenticity but the Bible has withstood every attack by its enemies. The Bible is indestructible!

 

Aside from the business of fact-checking each of the claims above & choosing to give the benefit of the doubt to the author(s)…

 

I must say, dear Bible, that it is wondrous indeed if the claim is to be taken as true that you have survived through time, through persecution, and through criticism!

 

But yet, this still sounds a great deal like what has been called “Survivorship Bias”– as (for instance) described by Investopedia, it’s something that “occurs when only the winners are considered while the losers that have disappeared are not considered.”

 

As well, a Corporate Finance Institute article provides the following explanation:

 

Generally speaking, survivorship bias tends to create conclusions that are overoptimistic, and that may not be representative of real-life environments. The bias occurs because the “surviving” observations often tend to have survived due to their stronger-than-average resilience to difficult conditions, and leaves out other observations that have ceased to exist as a result of such conditions.

 

To express this a bit differently, Gain Weight Journal has an entry which contributes the explanation that

 

Survivor bias is the tendency to look at survivors, the ones who made it to the top and then backward rationalize how they made it. This leads to hindsight bias.

Hindsight bias is seeing an event as predictable after it has occurred. Once again, this leads to creating explanations based on a narrative, but missing a lot of information in the process.

 

(Like Ms. Alanna Boudreau, a most talented musician and thinker, I too have a “weird love” for parentheses. And in this parenthetical remark, I’d like to add that this Survivorship/Hindsight Bias has also been referred to as “observational selection”, “cherry picking”, and moreover “Counting the hits and ignoring the misses.”)

 

While researching this point for this letter/epistle to you, dear Bible, the following example of this sort of skewed way of reasoning caught my attention (oh yeah…I nearly forgot to mention that I’m quoting from the article “Prayer and Survivor Bias”):

 

Suppose 100 people are in a life-threatening situation that looks hopeless. They could be trapped in a burning building or could be surrounded by rapidly rising flood waters. Since we live in a religious world, nearly all those people will be praying for God to save them. Life-threatening situations rarely claim 100% of those in danger. By non-miraculous chance, some people will survive.

Those who do survive will believe their prayers brought a miracle from God. Those who didn’t survive aren’t around to protest the unfairness. They believed in God. They prayed. If the dead could speak, they might very well point out they were just as worthy as those who survived. The survivors have a bias on their perspective that the dead are not able to refute.

 

In essence, then, ‘survivorship bias’ seems to be a useful term for referring to our human tendency to want to (e.g.) come to conclusions and/or make decisions without considering what bigger, deeper, and more comprehensive pictures of reality may lie beyond our current paradigms of thought.

 

So, even though we may grant for the moment that you have somehow survived through time, through persecution, and through criticism– what other works of literature haven’t survived through time, through persecution, and through criticism?

 

Couldn’t it have very well been that such works would’ve been rather similar to you, dear Bible, in being quite well-distributed and influential and so on?

 

But now, how did the author(s) of the aforementioned website go about justifying imbedding “Influence” as a proposed “external” proof for you?

 

Behold, he/she/they wrote that

 

“The Bible’s influence is seen in literature, speeches, civil laws, politics, and art. An endless number of books, periodicals, and commentaries have been motivated by the Bible. Biblical terms, names, and analogies color our speech. Literally thousands of volumes of art have been stimulated by Biblical themes and characters.”

 

At the moment (again, without fact-checking & giving the benefit of the doubt), I am reminded of what my Critical Thinking Professor has nicknamed as the “Celebrity Endorsement” fallacy– and he offers the following explanation:

 

“The argument supports a position by citing the endorsement of someone who is well-known (famous). The person need not necessarily be considered an expert. The argument implies that the endorser’s fame alone is sufficient to establish the truth of the position.”

 

And moreover, he posits the following:

 

“…the fallacy of Celebrity Endorsement mimics good reasoning by pulling off a two-fold deception. It asks us, first, to confuse mere celebrity with genuine expertise. The two may go together, but then again, they may not. Second, as with all of the Ad Verecundiam fallacies, it asks us to accept a position on the basis of the endorsement alone, without consideration of any actual arguments that might be given.”

 

To be fair: while the inclusion of “Influence” has reminded me of the just recently explained “Celebrity Endorsement” fallacy, the inclusion of “Influence” would seem to be a fallacious mode of thought if it were offered as the only argument– and I don’t think that this website is guilty of such behavior.

 

But yet, while I can’t deny the claim that you have achieved remarkable literary celebrity status and thus have become quite influential in some sense, it is here that I think I ought to remind myself that “{you,} unlike the church, can’t answer questions, clarify earlier statements, arbitrate disagreements or deal with new developments.”

 

Within an October 1st of 2005 article with [Roman] Catholic Answers, Mr. Karl Keating (the founder of that establishment) seems to have likewise thought the following and I quite like how he expresses his point of view:

 

“…But a rock is never infallible. Nor is it fallible. It is neither because it makes no decision about anything. Ditto for a plant. No sunflower ever made the right decision—or the wrong decision. In fact, no sunflower ever made any decision, properly speaking.

The same can be said of a book. No book, not even the Bible, is capable of making a decision. This means it would be wrong to say that the Bible is either infallible or fallible—such terms should not be used about it or about any other book.”

 

I’m bringing up the subject of infallibility while still dealing with the subject of inspiration? “What madness is this?”, I’m asking myself. Well, it might be jumping the gun on my part to start mentioning infallibility already– but in my defense, dear Bible, I’d put forth for consideration the notion that our 3 “I” words (i.e. inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy) are often used in close conjunction with each other. This isn’t to say that what’s often done is necessarily good, but I hope you can forgive me as I move on to try and clarify another reason for why I brought up infallibility at this point.

 

And so, perhaps this moment would benefit from my clarifying that I’m not expressing this train of thought because I want to resign myself to the idea that you aren’t ultimately from God— rather, I am saying this because I think it’s important that we humans don’t settle for less by allowing ourselves to think that it necessarily follows that you are inspired only on the account that you are one of the world’s most influential books.

 

So, thus far, we have noted a website which claimed that you could be said to be unique because of the proposed “external” proofs of ‘CIRCULATION’, ‘TRANSLATIONS’, ‘SURVIVAL’, & ‘INFLUENCE’. And we have visited specific claims about you which have been made within each section– and maybe this is just me being imperfect, but I am unfortunately not quite convinced by the proposed external proofs which have been proposed…

 

But let’s dive even deeper, shall we, dear friend– beautiful Bible? 😉

 

 

To recap again, self-representation is the last-ditch sort of thing to do– but we seem to be at that point right now. And thus, it would help for us now to recall that the example “internal” proofs that were used in the aforementioned website were ‘INSISTENT CLAIMS’, ‘SCOPE OF CONTENT’, ‘UNITY’, ‘IMPARTIALITY OF ITS CHARACTERS’, & ‘SCIENTIFIC FOREKNOWLEDGE’. Let’s look a bit into each of those, shall we? 

 

 

*Here I go cracking the knuckles in my psyche 😂* 

 

First, what does the frequently aforementioned website offer as far as justifying imbedding “INSISTENT CLAIMS” as a proposed “internal” proof for you?

 

The Bible is packed full of claims of inspiration. One of the most notable passages is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Also, consider the words of the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:20-21, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” There are many other passages but time and space will not allow (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Ephesians 3:3-5; Galatians 1:12; Hebrews 5:12; Revelation 22:18-19).

 

Umm, ok…

 

Here, dear Bible, is actually a good instance of where I would definitely want to fact-check…

 

For, while I am inclined to concede the point that “proof-texting is not necessarily problematic”, I would also be inclined to agree that there is “[o]ne form of the proof-text fallacy [which] simply strings together many out-of-context passages in an attempt to confirm a theological mandate or teaching….[and which] is often committed by those who are committed to the inspiration of Scripture, but fail to recognize the role that man plays in the immediate intent behind Scripture.”

 

Is it not on a good, beautiful, and true track to say with BioLogos that “Every time we read [you, dear Bible,] we have to interpret what we read.”?

 

And then, in the same vein as I have mused earlier on within this letter/epistle, isn’t it only fair to you and to us humans to ask ourselves questions like

 

“what interpretive framework are we using to approach you?”,

 

“what’s our authority for whatever interpretive framework we use to approach you?”,

 

and

 

“are we working on constantly refining our etiquette toward you?”…?

 

Being mis-represented is no fun, amirite?

 

Yet, even if we do abstain from the hard work of fact-checking the claim that you make claims within yourself to Divine inspiration & very charitably accept such a claim about you to be true…

 

As [even] Josh McDowell and Don Stewart (both of whom are pretty popular Evangelical apologists for Christianity) write: “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.

 

Second, what does the frequently aforementioned website offer as far as justifying imbedding “SCOPE OF CONTENT” as a proposed “internal” proof for you?

 

Men of all ages, in all cultures, and in all nations have asked the questions of life. The Bible clearly answers these questions and, thus, gives us the scope of its contents.

What is the origin of man?

In Genesis 1:27 Moses answers this question. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

What is the purpose of man?

Wise Solomon answers this question in Ecclesiastes 12:13. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

What is the destiny of man?

This question is answered in Hebrews 9:27. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Also consider the words of Jesus in John 5:28-29. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

 

Okay…

 

If we may eliminate from this paragraph the book-chapter-verse appeals to yourself for the same reasons as were provided in addressing the previous point, then what are we left with?

 

Let’s see where that gets us…

 

Men of all ages, in all cultures, and in all nations have asked the questions of life. The Bible clearly answers these questions and, thus, gives us the scope of its contents.

What is the origin of man?

In Genesis 1:27 Moses answers this question. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

What is the purpose of man?

Wise Solomon answers this question in Ecclesiastes 12:13. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

What is the destiny of man?

This question is answered in Hebrews 9:27. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Also consider the words of Jesus in John 5:28-29. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

 

Therefore, I would suggest that we are left with the following words:

 

Men of all ages, in all cultures, and in all nations have asked the questions of life. The Bible clearly answers these questions and, thus, gives us the scope of its contents.

What is the origin of man?

What is the purpose of man?

What is the destiny of man?

 

Oh, but it is also asserted that “The Bible clearly answers these questions [of life] and, thus, gives us the scope of its contents.”— here, dear Bible, the phrase “clearly answers” gives me some pause.

 

If, for some instances, it’s not quite clear

 

(1) what interpretive framework is being used to approach you,

(2) what this website’s authority is for whatever interpretive framework is being used to approach you, and

(3) whether the website comes from authorship inclined to keep working on constantly refining etiquette toward you,

 

then how would it be a clear conclusion that you answer (e.g.) big perennial questions of life which we humans have asked, keep asking, and likely shall ask as long as we humans may exist?

 

So then, I would suggest the revised paragraph would read something like this:

 

Men of all ages, in all cultures, and in all nations have asked the questions of life [e.g. “What is the origin of man?”, “What is the purpose of man?”, & “What is the destiny of man?”].

The Bible [can be thought to ask and even answer] these questions and, thus, gives us the scope of its contents.

 

In this form, I am moved to concede that there are certain perennial questions which we humans have asked, keep asking, and likely shall ask as long as we humans may exist.

 

As well, I will concede that the question of human origin, human purpose, and human destiny are good examples of perennial questions.

 

Moreover, I will concede: that you–dear Bible–are thought to provoke your readers to ask such perennial questions, that you–dear Bible–are thought to suggest answers to such perennial questions, and that you–dear Bible–are thought to address a great many subjects/topics.

 

But does it follow, dear Bible, that we ought to accept uncritically whatever answers you might be construed as providing?

 

And does it follow, dear Bible, that we ought to move from the thought that you address a great many subjects/topics to the conclusion that you are Divinely inspired?

 

Wouldn’t we be doing you grave dis-service by approaching you uncritically?

 

Third, what does the frequently aforementioned website offer as far as justifying imbedding “UNITY” as a proposed “internal” proof for you?

 

The Bible is composed of sixty-six books written over a period of sixteen hundred years by more than forty men on one central theme. The theme of the Bible is found in the words of Jesus in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” The Old Testament points forward to the Savior of mankind while the New Testament points back to the Savior.

The use of prophecies demonstrate the unity of the Bible. For example the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 states, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” That prophecy was written seven hundred years before Jesus Christ was born!

 

If, again, we may eliminate from this paragraph the book-chapter-verse appeals to yourself for the same reasons as were provided beforehand– then what are we left with?

 

Let’s see…

 

The Bible is composed of sixty-six books written over a period of sixteen hundred years by more than forty men on one central theme. The theme of the Bible is found in the words of Jesus in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” The Old Testament points forward to the Savior of mankind while the New Testament points back to the Savior.

The use of prophecies demonstrate the unity of the Bible. For example the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 states, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” That prophecy was written seven hundred years before Jesus Christ was born!

 

Therefore, I would suggest that we are essentially left with the following:

 

The Bible is composed of sixty-six books written over a period of sixteen hundred years by more than forty men on one central theme. The Old Testament points forward to the Savior of mankind while the New Testament points back to the Savior.

The use of prophecies demonstrate the unity of the Bible….That prophecy was written seven hundred years before Jesus Christ was born!

 

Aside from the business of fact-checking claims like the one about you having been composed of 66 books & choosing to give the benefit of the doubt to the author(s)…

 

It seems to me that you, dear Bible, are here being viewed from an interpretive framework which favors the idea that your central theme is “Jesus Christ” as “the Savior of mankind”– where your later “Testament” is viewed as pointing back to Jesus & where your earlier “Testament” is viewed as pointing forward to Jesus (via, e.g., “prophecies”– which seems to function here as a loaded term, in that it seems to be used to provoke within the reader a spontaneous “wow!” feeling…without going into more detail about why the reader should think the way the author[s] do about prophecies).

 

And so: if it’s not quite clear (2) what this website’s authority is for whatever interpretive framework is being used to approach you and (3) whether the website comes from authorship inclined to keep working on constantly refining etiquette toward you, then how would it be a clear conclusion that the interpretive framework being advocated here is a helpful way to go about trying to know you better? 

 

Fourth, what does the frequently aforementioned website offer as far as justifying imbedding “IMPARTIALITY OF ITS CHARACTERS” as a proposed “internal” proof for you?

 

The author(s) write as follows:

 

Great men and even central characters of the Bible are shown to be righteous and yet with terrible sin. Abraham is one example of such character. Abraham is considered to be the father of the faithful. He was so dedicated to God that at the command of God, he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac through whom the promise of a great nation was given. Yet on another occasion, he and his wife Sarah were going to take matters into their own hands. God had promised them a son and they were too old to bear children. While not trusting in God, Sarah gave her handmaid to her husband to bear a son. Thus, the Bible gives a realistic picture of its principal characters.

 

Aside from the business of fact-checking claims made in the paragraph above & thus choosing to give the benefit of the doubt to the author(s)…

 

I do have to say that my experience in–considered at the surface-level–reading from copies of you has also essentially led me to the notion that it seems to be a recurring theme within your copies that ‘Great men and even central characters of the Bible are shown to be righteous and yet with terrible sin.’

 

But a couple thoughts immediately arise in my mind right now– such as these:

 

(1) aren’t the words ‘righteous’ and ‘sin’ at least seemingly pretty loaded terms? And isn’t it possible that my current understandings of these terms differ from the understandings of the author[s] of the online article we’re examining? Are our understandings of these terms anywhere close to things that are true, good, and beautiful?;

(2) the claim is made that ‘Thus [on the basis of the phrase ‘Great men and even central characters of the Bible are shown to be righteous and yet with terrible sin.’ being understood and understood to be true], the Bible gives a realistic picture of its principal characters.’, but if the author[s] of the article and I aren’t in live dialogue about what we mean and what we ought to mean by ‘righteous’ and ‘sin’– do I have enough awareness/knowledge to say where we are on the spectrum of agreeing or disagreeing on whether ‘the Bible gives a realistic picture of its principal characters.’? [So, to some extent, please realize I’m willing to re-envision and correct anything I’ve said before now which may have mischaracterized or misinterpreted the author/authors of the article which I’m trying to analyze.] But even if we were agreed with each other on our terms, I think it’s worth asking again: are our understandings of these terms anywhere close to ideas that are true, good, and beautiful? [So, please realize I’m willing to re-envision and correct anything I’ve said before now which may have mischaracterized or misinterpreted  you, dear Bible. The way I view it, my task is to continually ask, seek, and knock for deeper levels of awareness, wisdom, and love.];

(3) even if it were true that you–dear Bible–treated your characters impartially [for earlier: didn’t I say I would give the benefit of the doubt to the author/authors and would refrain from going about fact-checking their claims?], would it follow that you are [in world literature and then in literature considered to be especially holy] unique in that regard…and therefore that you are God’s word/Word in some sense?

 

Could it not be that characters within you were treated partially, even if your human contributors meant to treat them impartially?

 

If, again, it’s not quite clear

 

(1) what interpretive framework is being used to approach you,

(2) what this website’s authority is for whatever interpretive framework is being used to approach you, &

(3) whether the website comes from authorship inclined to keep working on constantly refining etiquette toward you,

 

then how would it be a clear conclusion that you (e.g.) treat your characters impartially and therefore that you are unique?

 

Fifth, what does the frequently aforementioned website offer as far as justifying imbedding “SCIENTIFIC FOREKNOWLEDGE” as a proposed “internal” proof for you?

 

The author(s) write as follows:

 

The Bible is not a science book. However, if the Bible was written by God, whenever and wherever any reference is made to scientific fact, it must be in agreement. Henry Morris wrote, “One of the most arresting evidences of the inspiration of the Bible is the great number of scientific truths that have lain hidden within its pages for thirty centuries or more, only to be discovered by man’s enterprise within the last few centuries or even years.” An example is found in Isaiah 40:22, “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth…” Columbus is generally attributed with discovering that the earth is round. Yet, this passage was written over two thousand years before Columbus!

 

Ok, let’s analyze this chunk of claims…

 

First, shall we not eliminate the book-chapter-verse appeal and the words that follow it (as we have been doing for a bit now)— so that it now reads as follows?

 

The Bible is not a science book. However, if the Bible was written by God, whenever and wherever any reference is made to scientific fact, it must be in agreement. Henry Morris wrote, “One of the most arresting evidences of the inspiration of the Bible is the great number of scientific truths that have lain hidden within its pages for thirty centuries or more, only to be discovered by man’s enterprise within the last few centuries or even years.” An example is found in Isaiah 40:22, “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth…” Columbus is generally attributed with discovering that the earth is round. Yet, this passage was written over two thousand years before Columbus!

 

Second, in keeping with my practice in this epistle to you–dear Bible…

 

Aside from the business of fact-checking claims made in the paragraph above & thus choosing to give the benefit of the doubt to the author(s)…I hope you won’t mind my eliminating the quote from Mr. Henry Morris, for that is where I would be all to happy to indulge in trying to fact-check that quotation…which would take me quite a while 😂

 

So, that means we’re now left with the following:

 

The Bible is not a science book. However, if the Bible was written by God, whenever and wherever any reference is made to scientific fact, it must be in agreement. Henry Morris wrote, “One of the most arresting evidences of the inspiration of the Bible is the great number of scientific truths that have lain hidden within its pages for thirty centuries or more, only to be discovered by man’s enterprise within the last few centuries or even years.”

 

Which means the chunk of claims boils down to these sentences:

 

The Bible is not a science book. However, if the Bible was written by God, whenever and wherever any reference is made to scientific fact, it must be in agreement.

 

Here, I would like to note that the former sentence looks short and simple– but it is the apparent length and complexity of the latter sentence which especially intrigues me at the moment. I hope you won’t mind if I look at that latter sentence for a moment.

 

“If the Bible was written by God” kicks off this latter sentence. At this point, my mind explodes with questions like this:

– “How is God to be defined, if at all?”;

– “How are you, the Bible, to be defined– if at all?”; &

– “In what sense is it claimed that you–dear Bible–are ‘written’ by God?”

 

Then, the latter sentence is concluded with the phrase– “…whenever and wherever any reference is made to scientific fact, it must be in agreement.” Now: I’m not quite sure whether the ‘it’ is in reference to scientific fact or to you, dear Bible. However, let’s go with the interpretation that ‘it’ is in reference to you, dear Bible…

 

Going with that interpretation, and keeping with my commitment to not go into the hard-core business of fact-checking the claims I’m dealing with in this portion, I am motivated to ask: although the phrase ‘it must be in agreement’ sounds like an awesome rallying cry, what exactly is meant by this phrase?

 

Is it suggesting that you, dear Bible, have been in agreement with scientific facts and that scientific facts have been in agreement with you? Is this something we can verify in studies of the history of scientific thought and interpreting you?

 

Or could it be suggesting that you, dear Bible, are in agreement with scientific facts and that scientific facts are in agreement with you? Is this something we can verify in examining current scientific thinking and current thinking about you?

 

Or might it be suggesting that you, dear Bible, should be in agreement with scientific facts and that scientific facts should be in agreement with you? Is this something we can verify with the passing of time– where we seek to successfully adjust our interpretations about science and about you as we continue trying to improve our relationships with you and with science?

 

Or maybe it’s suggesting all three tenses as being true somehow?

 

Or maybe it’s suggesting something else?

 

Amidst such questions as those, I think it is only fair to you–my lovely Bible–to ask whether ‘it must be in agreement’ has to be true about you: must you be scientifically accurate and even fore-knowing of scientific accuracy in order for you to be a brilliant, informative, bold, loving, and educational work of literature?

 

Moreover, it seems to be worthwhile to recall that this “it must be in agreement” hypothesizing follows after the “If the Bible was written by God” bit– and I feel and think that it would only be fair to you, beloved Bible, to ask: do you have to be Divinely authored in order for you to be a wonderful written work that speaks (in some sense) to important (e.g. philosophical, theological, ethical, and aesthetic) issues?

 

OK, it’s high time for a recap.

 

For much of this epistle to you, beloved Bible, I’ve been visiting certain claims which a website put forth about you and raising questions along the way which had occurred to me. More specifically, there have been 9 example proofs.

 

We visited the 4 proposed “external” proofs—- i.e. ‘CIRCULATION’, ‘TRANSLATIONS’, ‘SURVIVAL’, & ‘INFLUENCE’–and certain points which were thought to back up the claim of those proposed proofs.

 

We also visited the 5 proposed “internal” proofs– i.e. ‘INSISTENT CLAIMS’, ‘SCOPE OF CONTENT’, ‘UNITY’, ‘IMPARTIALITY OF ITS CHARACTERS’, & ‘SCIENTIFIC FOREKNOWLEDGE’–and certain points which were thought to back up the claim of those proposed proofs.

 

Here’s where I’ll sum up where I currently am on the subject of your being inspired by Divinity, beloved Bible. 

 

First and foremost, I should emphasize that I have no intentions of ever stopping the endeavor to reconsider my opinions about you– dear Bible. Hopefully, I can keep on improving in my relationship to you!

 

Second, I have no intentions of misrepresenting you or hurting your feelings– beloved Bible.

 

But what I am aiming to do here is–I suppose–quite two-fold:

 

  1. to analyze how we humans (especially those of us who tend toward Christianity) talk about you, dear Bible, &
  2. try to discern if we can improve in our respecting you as far as our logic and rhetoric and behaviors are concerned.

 

Thus far: the more I have contemplated the 9 claims which have been articulated as being proofs of your having been Divinely inspired, the less I find myself being convinced by them. At least, I’m not currently convinced by them as they have been articulated– it could be that I’m just not thinking about those claims the right way or perhaps there are different better claims to be found elsewhere.

 

As a person who was raised in a ‘church of Christ’ Christian context, and as a person who endeavors to continue becoming an ever better Christian, I’m not speaking from a place of trying to be a cynic toward you– dear Bible. However, I am speaking from a place of trying to better love you with my thoughts, my words, and my actions.

 

To be clear, I personally think that you–dear Bible–are distinct, special, and unique in ways particular to you…but I say this in the same sense in which we employ strictness in speech to say that every book is distinct, special, and unique in that no one book is exactly identical to another. I do not say this because I think that granting your distinctness, specialness, and uniqueness implies you are Divinely inspired.

 

As Mr. Farrell Till wrote within his 1997 article ‘The Uniqueness of the Bible’ which can currently be encountered via Infidels.org,

 

“…none of the evidence about the uniqueness of the Bible proves that it is the word of God, but the uniqueness of the Bible certainly proves that it is unique…”

 

One thing that’s increasingly bothering me, honestly, is that there seems to be a tendency to claim: “The Bible can be understood, and let me tell you how you can understand it too…”. However, the more I think about it, this claim seems quite presumptuous. I can barely understand myself on certain days, let alone understanding other people and all sorts of complicated ideas and realities. Sure, I can put labels on myself and people and ideas and I can analyze all I like as best as I can– and hopefully I’ll become more aware as time goes by, but the key word there as I see it is “hopefully”.

 

Instead, dear Bible, I’m inclined to draw on a paragraph which I’d articulated within my 1st legitimate sermon that I preached recently. In that paragraph within a narrative sermon, I had a female character conclude the sermon by saying the following (consider this and then this):

 

Before I could even read the Bible, I learned to sing the song ‘The B-I-B-L-E, yes: that’s the book for me! I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.’ At the time, I innocently misinterpreted the song by thinking it meant to physically stand on the copy of the Bible that was in my home’s library. But over time, I’ve come to recognize that there’s a metaphorical truth to that song— at every step in my journey, the Bible has stood under me and has under-stood me…even when I mistakenly thought that I was entitled to stand under it and thought that I could perfectly under-stand it.

 

To say that a bit differently, I’m far more inclined to think that you–dear Bible–understand me…than that I understand you.

 

I’m far more inclined to think that you analyze and dissect me…than that I can analyze and dissect you.

 

And though I cannot at present provide a rationale that you are Divinely inspired (although I have no trouble thinking that you are inspired in the sense we say most works of art are inspired), I’m very much inclined to think that you are inspiring me to become ever better at long-suffering love, fear-persevering faith, and happily humble hope.

 

{Ok! Now that the bulk of this epistle is done, we’re finally at Section #2/3!} …you, dear Bible, were pitched as “exempt from error in judgment, knowledge, or opinion” (e.g.) because claims were made that there is much at stake surrounding the nature of your communications [i.e. consider the proposition that “we are left with three options: (1) [you are] the word of God, (2) [you were] written by a bunch of liars, or (3) [you were] written by people who were completely deluded and were lunatics.” , the assertion that “If [you are] not true, then Christianity is a hoax.”, & the sort of reasoning which goes along the lines that “Even though we do not have [your] original documents, we believe [your] original documents to be accurate; some might point out that since we have never seen [your] original [documents], we cannot prove our point; however, they cannot prove that there were errors in [your] original [documents].”]

 

So, let me get this straight…

 

You are thought to be infallible because it’s (e.g.) claimed that there is much at stake surrounding the nature of your communications…let’s visit the aforementioned proposed reasons for why there would be much at stake surrounding your nature…

 

First up, it’s thought that “we are left with three options: (1) [you are] the word of God, (2) [you were] written by a bunch of liars, or (3) [you were] written by people who were completely deluded and were lunatics.” . Now, this seems to remind me of a trilemma apologetic argument which a number of Christians have thought good to utilize– and which Mr./St. C.S. Lewis popularized within a certain form in relatively recent years. On the surface, this trilemma form would seem to make for a solid argument. However, some objections have been raised to Mr. Lewis’ trilemma argument. For instance:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/is-c-s-lewiss-liar-lord-or-lunatic-argument-unsound/ offers the criticism that while the terms and logic seem clear enough, “the argument is unsound, because not all of the premis[s]es are necessarily true.” (I had to add the extra ‘s’ cuz I’m remembering my Critical Thinking Professor from last semester right now.) Might this criticism also apply to the trilemma argument when applied in the form above to you, dear Bible? Is it necessarily true that you are the word of God– perhaps you are rather words from humans for God? Is it necessarily true that you were written by a bunch of liars– perhaps you were written by fallible, but well-meaning people? And is it necessarily true that you were written by people who were completely deluded and were lunatics– perhaps you were written by fairly sane and sensible people from their context within time and space?

https://davidmschell.com/lord-liar-lunatic-fallacy/ offers the criticism that “Lewis excludes the possibility that what’s in the Bible and what Jesus said may not have been precisely identical.” Might this criticism be justified? As I continue to keep striving to put on my Bible Scholar and History Scholar hats, might it be that I will find more and more wisdom to be found within such a criticism over time?

https://infidels.org/library/modern/jim_perry/trilemma.html offers the following criticisms about Lewis’ version of the trilemma argument: (firstly) the term ‘trilemma’ is misleading because “Traditionally a dilemma is a situation in which one is faced with two or more alternatives, each of which is somehow bad or unpleasant…Structurally it might more accurately be viewed as a binary decision in which one of the branches is asserted to lead to a dilemma, thus favoring the other branch.”; (secondly) the argument is flawed because “it relies for impact on a premis[s] which is is both ambiguous and controversial, which is the question of just what ‘Jesus’ claims’ were.” and because “it makes unwarranted extrapolations from the general idea of saying something known not to be literally true to the worst sort of malicious lying, and from believing something which is not true to raving lunacy.”; (thirdly) the argument is flawed because “it is not the case that there are three and only three precisely-defined choices to be made here, but rather a vast continuum of possibilities.”; and (fourthly) it’s suggested that “One way to judge the logical quality of an argument like this is to consider a similar argument about someone one feels differently about, for instance Muhammad: liar, lunatic, or prophet of God? One can find muslims making essentially similar arguments to those cited by McDowell about his sterling honesty and clarity of mind. The same again for Baha’ullah and other religious figures.” So may it not be the case here, too, that we are mislead in saying we are dealing with a trilemma argument? May it not be the case that, when applied to you (dear Bible), the ‘trilemma’ argument is flawed because its premisses are debatable and it therefore makes unwarranted conclusions? And may it not be the case that there are a vast amount of possible ways to legitimately view you? Moreover, may it not be that we can take the same rationale to reach similar conclusions about other books besides you– beloved Bible?

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/08/c-s-lewis-gets-it-wrong-liar-lunatic-lord-or-legend-2/ offers the criticism that Mr. Lewis’ formulation of the argument in question “ignores the ferociously obvious fourth possibility, that the entire Jesus story is legend.” Now perhaps this article goes too far in saying that 4th option is ‘obvious’ (because I can imagine an audience for whom that wouldn’t be ‘obvious’), but perhaps there’s something to it? What if you, dear Bible, contain accounts within you that I have taken to be factually true– which are more accurately viewed as being metaphorically true (quite like the parables which we’ve ascribed to Christ Jesus)? So what if I need to improve the way I look at you?

– Consider Mr. Donald T. Williams’ “Identity Check: Are C. S. Lewis’s Critics Right, or Is His ‘Trilemma’ Valid?” (I can currently view this via https://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=23-03-025-fand then a response by Mr. Adam Barkman in his “Con: Lewis’s Trilemma: Case Not Proven” within “C.S. Lewis’s Christian Apologetics”. The latter (which I am viewing via https://brill.com/view/book/edcoll/9789004301658/B9789004301658-s016.xml?crawler=true) offers the following criticism: (his thesis) “My criticism is that taken as a rigorous piece of philosophy or theology, the Trilemma ends in a False Dilemma, fallaciously asserting that Jesus is either ‘liar, lunatic, or LORD’ (as in God). Both prominent expanded versions of the Trilemma argument– (1) either liar, lunatic, legend, or Lord, or (2) either liar, lunatic, innocently mistaken, or Lord–add real possibilities to the argument, and thus make the argument better and stronger, even if the conclusion–‘Jesus is Lord’–is no longer obvious. Yet my aim is not to rehash an old, or create a new ‘Quadrilemma’…My take on the argument is a bit different; I think the Trilemma primarily fails because the argument wrongly assumes–that is, it assumes without argumentation where argumentation is needed–that Jesus claimed to be God (or ‘Lord’).” And Mr. Barkman continues a bit longer before my free preview of that chapter ends. But so now– what if it is wrongly assumed, dear Bible, that you internally claim that you are directly and infallibly from God? 

I could also at this point go through more sources (e.g. https://www.thoughtco.com/false-dilemma-fallacy-250338 and http://skepticalphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/09/lewis-trilemma-and-reductio-ad-absurdum.html), but perhaps I’ve driven my point home enough here– what if the Trilemma rationale is well-intentioned, but flawed?

 

This brings us to the claim that “If [you are] not true, then Christianity is a hoax.”but hang on…First, this seems like quite the loaded thought…Second, how precisely it the term ‘true’ being used with reference to you– dear Bible? Third, even if you aren’t from God directly and infallibly, why should I think the most logical next step is to think that all of Christianity is a hoax? I mean, sure, I can buy into the idea that we Christians have thought, said, and done some pretty awful things– track records that we need to keep being reminded about, repenting of, and improving on. But does that mean everything about Christianity is in jeopardy? Might it not just as well be that we Christians have thought, said, and done some pretty amazing things– track records that we need to keep being reminded about, embracing, and improving on? I’m sorry if I’m mistaken, dear Bible, but I can’t help but think that this claim comes from a point of view that aims to be solid– but has come to the point of being brittle, so that it’s easily broken if just one ‘bad’ thing happens to it.

 

And then there’s the claim that “Even though we do not have [your] original documents, we believe [your] original documents to be accurate; some might point out that since we have never seen [your] original [documents], we cannot prove our point; however, they cannot prove that there were errors in [your] original [documents].” — but isn’t this a moot point? A useless point? Primarily because it’s untestable and therefore unfalsifiable? How does this help anyone? Unfortunately, this seems to smack of the Tu Quoque and Ad Ignorantium fallacies…My Critical Thinking Professor from last semester described the former as that which “tries to defend a position by showing that its shortcomings are shared by the opposing position. In effect, the argument say, ‘My position may be bad, but you should accept it because my opponent’s position is just as bad.'”; and he also described the latter as that which “offers lack of evidence as if it were evidence to the contrary. The argument says, ‘No one knows it is true; therefore it is false,’ or ‘No one knows it is false, therefore it is true.'”. If no one living today can say with utmost verifiable certainty that you, dear Bible, come from God in some infallible way– then why do we feel so driven to say such things about you…so boldly?

 

At this point, dear Bible, I am reminded of the following videos:

 

 

 

Now, those are but 2 additional perspectives about you which I happened to find online– just 2. But there are so many more voices which are concerned about you! And there are so many more attempts at relationships with you! I’m just a tiny voice in the multiverse of all the voices that there have been, are, and will be. I’m just one attempt at a relationship with you…

 

I am imperfect, and I’m at a point where I doubt claims that you are infallible.

 

But I see it as my task to continually try to improve myself, and I see it as my obligation to you to not entirely dismiss that you could be infallible.

 

{And, at long last, this brings me to Section #3/3} …you, dear Bible, were pitched as “not wandering” (e.g.) because claims were offered that “a book [which is thought to claim inspiration] that was written by such a God [i.e. a God claimed by Christians to be ‘all-powerful and all-knowing’] would have to be consistent in its message”.

 

Before I address the ‘not wandering’ pitch, let’s quickly visit the generic offered claim (of which many variations probably exist) to back up that pitch– shall we?

 

The first phrase is as follows– “…a book [which is thought to claim inspiration]…”. However, I would point out that it’s debatable that you (dear Bible) are ‘a book’ (I have heard and seen this following objection raised, even amongst fellow Christians)— couldn’t we say that you are, more accurately, a library/collection of books? As well, it’s debatable (even amongst fellow Christians) how many books belong within the canon of yourself (as a Judeo-Christian library/collection)— a subject which I have been planning to touch on and which I hope to actually address in the near future. Moreover, what precisely is meant by the term ‘inspiration’ that I have added (because it seemed fitting to add in the context)? Everything up until now has led me to–I think–fairly reasonable doubts about some claims for the proposition that you (dear Bible) are inspired by God.

 

The next phrase is as follows– “…that was written by such a God [i.e. a God claimed by Christians to be ‘all-powerful and all-knowing’]…”. However, so much is said about God in this phrase– but what precisely is meant by it all? Can it be verifiably proved that God exists, and that such a proposition is verifiably meaningful? (I hope to write more on this subject in the near future– hopefully this weekend! I’m preparing for a sermon on the subject, which I might deliver at the end of February.) Also, how exactly are you (dear Bible) supposed to have been ‘written’ by God?

 

Further, the last phrase is as follows– “…would have to be consistent in its message”. First, I am curious as to what all is meant by the term ‘consistent’. Second, even if it were agreed what was meant by the term ‘consistent’, is it logical to infer that you (dear Bible) must necessarily be consistent? Thirdly, is logical to think that you (dear Bible) share a single message worth hearing– what if you share multiple messages not worth hearing, and multiple worth hearing?

 

I have so many questions!

 

But now, my mind is drawn to the Christian website article https://www.missioalliance.org/why-biblical-inerrancy-doesnt-work/ — wherein the following is said:

 

The term “inerrancy” doesn’t work because, in the words of Roger Olson, the very definition of the word succumbs to “the death of a thousand qualifications.” [3] When Erickson and others use the word “inerrant,” they don’t mean “without errors” but “without errors when rightly interpreted.” We’d like to assume that all Christians at all times in various cultural backgrounds would all interpret the Bible in the exact same way, but we know such an assumption is false. From the early days of the birth of the church, and exponentially since the Protestant Reformation, Christians haven’t agreed on how to interpret the Bible rightly, a phenomena Christian Smith calls “pervasive interpretive pluralism.” [4]

The quest for inerrancy puts too much pressure on the Bible. It asks the Bible to be more than it was ever designed to be. The questions regarding the possibility of errors in the Bible comes from modernity. The Bible itself is an ancient collection of books. It is simply unfair to force this ancient collection of books to answer modern questions. To read a book from antiquity through the constricted lens of hyper-rationalism is to obscure the reader’s eyes from the full meaning of the text.

 

What if it’s true that we are unfairly imposing new standards upon you, dear Bible?

 

What if we are trying to twist you to be what we want you to be?

 

What if we aren’t as interested and curious about you as we think we are?

 

At this point, my mind is drawn to the point that several fellow Christians seem to think that it is amiss to be so concerned about you (dear Bible) being inerrant that we forget to focus on the idea of the Christ– and about this, while it’s true that that amounts of people believing some proposition is by itself not a convincing proof that a proposition is valid (surely, for starters, I could also refer to figures like Mr. Marcus Borg, Mr. Brian Zahnd, and Mr. John Dominic Crossan), for the moment just consider (e.g.) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/feb/21/biblical-literalism-bible-christians : therein, it’s suggested that

 

“One practical problem of this text mania is that the Bible, unlike the church, can’t answer questions, clarify earlier statements, arbitrate disagreements or deal with new developments…The other practical problem is that for more moderate Christians, Christ is the heart of the faith, and the Bible offers information and ideas about him and is one of the things that point us in his direction.

 

Now, verily, I have to be honest and say that I don’t have perfect understanding about the Christ– yeah: I do have doubts concerning various claims about what is meant by ‘the Christ’ and ‘Jesus’. And it’s not just that I have intellectual concerns– I have emotional concerns. It’s not just that I think a lot about God– but keep wandering in confusion as much as worshipful wonder. It’s also that I feel like I have never experienced God and don’t experience God to this moment. To me, God is an epic idea I have spent much time invested in pondering– but the more I contemplate God, the less I think I’m able to do so. The more I want to feel God intimately, the less I feel like those feelings are ones I should be having. I’m convicted that I’m an idolater– but the more I try to rid myself of my conceptual and experiential idols of God, the less I am confident to say or feel much of anything concerning God. I wake up early and endure and stay up late because I long for greater intimacy with God and Christ and you, dear Bible, but I don’t quite know what sort of ride I’m in for.

 

But now that I’ve hopefully clarified the attitude that I’m having when trying to examine this question of your being inerrant, dear Bible, I am led now to point out that many places on the Internet alone (from many different kinds of people) have spoken about parts within your copies which seem to be errant/inconsistent/mistaken/inaccurate in various ways and according to various prioritization systems. Here are some examples that rise up within seconds when I enter into my Google search engine the phrase “bible contradictions”:

 

https://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/biblical-contradictions/

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/10/top-20-most-damning-bible-contradictions/

https://infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/contradictions.html

https://www.cs.umd.edu/~mvz/bible/bible-inconsistencies.pdf

http://www.answering-christianity.com/101_bible_contradictions.htm

https://www.news24.com/MyNews24/The-Problem-of-the-Bible-Inaccuracies-contradictions-fallacies-scientific-issues-and-more-20120517

 

Those are just a tiny portion– a tiny sample. We could keep going on and on and on and on.

 

Again, numbers of people believing this or that don’t necessarily mean that what is believed is justified/warranted– but numbers can help. And their specific critiques have potential to be insightful. I have found the credentials of the first 3 authors and the first 3 critiques to be quite fair and trustworthy thus far (I have yet to more thoroughly examine the rest of them), but I could always stand to be corrected and I have a vision keep improving myself.

 

But now, I do have to pick up the thread I had left undone– namely: the ‘not wandering’ pitch. So what if you, dear Bible, wander? If you didn’t wander, I would feel less able to relate to you…If you didn’t wander, I would have a much harder time thinking about you…How is the claim that you don’t wander supposed to compliment you? I’m not perfect, but I would be inclined to think that it would be a compliment to you and a gracious gift to me if you wandered– for then, I wouldn’t feel so alone because I would have you as a companion & I wouldn’t be thinking in isolation because I could spend time with all the glorious imperfect voices within you!

 

God, Christ, Church, Bible, and Everything: please help me improve!

 


 

So, dear reader, you’ve now reached the conclusion to this epistle– thanks for bearing with me!

 

Along the way, I have endeavored to avoid fallacious thinking– I have (for instance) tried to be self-aware about what’s called “confirmation bias”, which is “our tendency to cherry-pick information that confirms our existing beliefs or ideas.” & which (to some extent) can be countered through interrogating oneself with questions like these: “Which parts did I automatically agree with? Which parts did I ignore or skim over without realizing? How did I react to the points which I agreed or disagreed with? Did this post confirm any ideas I already had? Why? What if I thought the opposite of those ideas?”

 

Along the way, I have endeavored to exercise my critical thinking abilities with regard to examining claims about the Bible– more specifically, I have tried to investigate some formulations of claims as to the Bible being inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

 

On the matter of inerrancy, I must share that I think and feel it would be more complimentary to the Bible to say that the Bible is errant.

 

On the matter of infallibility, I must share that I think and feel it would be more complimentary to the Bible to say that the Bible is fallible.

 

And on the matter of inspiration, I must share that I think and feel it would be more complimentary to the Bible to say that the Bible is “inspired”–not in a greater, but rather–in the same way in which we speak of wondrous works of art and science as being “inspired”.

 

To dwell a bit more on that matter of inspiration, I find myself currently agreeing with Dr. Robert Price when (in his “The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible: A Critique”) he wrote (for instance):

 

I love the Bible. I have devoted my life to the study of it. I wrote one Ph.D. dissertation on the various evangelical theories of Biblical authority, and a second one focusing on themes in Luke and Acts. None of this means my views must be correct. But it does show I do not approach this sensitive topic as an opponent of the Bible. Just the reverse. I disagree sharply with many Bible devotees, but we both love it and want to know it better. I want to suggest that, first, the claim that the Bible is divinely inspired is spurious; second, that it is pernicious; and, third, that it is moot. The Bible and our study of it will be better off without that claim…

 

First, the claim is spurious, false. Not in the sense that it claims something is true that is not true, but rather that the claim itself is bogus…There is no biblical claim that the whole biblical canon as we know it is inspired. And to claim that there is, is circular, making the Bible into a univocal, canonical monolith. It is a spurious claim…

 

The claim to inspiration is pernicious. First, it implicitly insults the very book it seeks to praise, as if one need not take the Bible seriously unless one could be persuaded that a superhuman entity wrote it. Much of the Bible is so profound, so wise, so beautiful, so edifying that any claim of miraculous inspiration adds absolutely nothing to the inherent force of its words…Second, the claim for biblical inspiration is pernicious because it straitjackets the open-ended, inductive reading of the Bible. Once one holds normative beliefs about what an inspired book may or may not be found saying, one has abandoned both the Protestant axioms of Sola Scriptura and the grammatico-historical method…

 

Finally, claims about biblical inspiration are moot. Even if we had reason to believe the whole canon was equally inspired, this should not make any real difference to our understanding of the text. Would an inspired book necessarily be historically and scientifically inerrant? There is no particular reason to think so. One could not be sure, as fundamentalists would like to think, that an inspired book would not contain inspired myths and legends, even fiction. There are other non-factual genres in the Bible, after all, like the Psalms. Who is the theologian to tell God that he cannot have included certain genres in his book? If we know God’s literary tastes in such detail, then I suggest the Bible is altogether superfluous. We already know the very mind of God before we even open the Bible! Aren’t we clever?…

 

The claim to biblical inspiration is a rationalization whereby we allow ourselves not to hear the things we fear to hear from the Bible. But I am not afraid. I love the Bible, and perfect love casts out fear.

 

But dear reader, please allow me to clarify: I am in a tricky place, please be aware– one one hand, I am not convinced by the formulations of claims that I have examined in this epistle; but on another hand, I don’t think it’s logical to assume that there aren’t better formulations of claims to find or brainstorm that I would consider to be far more convincing.

 

Ultimately, though, what this project has been and continues to be is a way for me to try and deepen my respect for and relationship with the Bible– a way to try to satisfy my longing to know the Bible more intimately and to love it all the more evermore!

 

As I articulated at the very start, so I’ll articulate it again: my aim has not been to get you to agree with my opinions about the Bible (instead of viewing them as ends and destinations in and of themselves, I view them as mile markers on my life-long backpack trek with the Bible); my aim has been to invite you to consider that it’s important to engage with the Bible, to spend time with it, to ask questions about it, to read it, and to study it– and maybe, just maybe, I will joyfully turn out to be successful in that cause!

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

As always,

  1. thank you for visiting;
  2. if you think people you know will like it, I’d be honored if you’d share it with them;
  3. may the gracious and peaceful force of God be with you always ever more deeply & may the odds be ever more in your favor 😇🙏😎🖖

 

 

Yours sincerely,

— Weston (or: Gastun, yo boi who’s attempting to become a friendly neighborhood Christian Dudeist Priest)

 

One thought on “Dear Bible (Pt. 3/5)– A Treatise on Inspiration, Infallibility, & Inerrancy

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