The Authoritative Bible (Part 1)
Every few months I meet with a pastor friend who still leads a Christian campus ministry group at my old university. After reading Bart Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, I gave him some of the research from the book that cast overwhelming doubts on the infallibility of the bible. In response, he gave me this pdf – a lecture given by an Anglican pastor regarding how the bible can be authoritative.
When I first got it a few months ago, I read a few pages and then couldn’t get any farther without responding back with a long email that I’ll post later. I’ve just gone back now and re-read the first half of it, and am sorely disappointed. I’ll read the rest of it tomorrow but wanted to jot down my immediate impressions.
I was expecting some kind of evidence or assurance from outside of the bible itself, that would make it apparent that indeed, the bible’s authority is rock solid. Instead, the second sentence in this drivel reads:
I should perhaps say that my reflections here arise not so much from reading lots of books about the authority of the Bible – though I have read some of the recent ones – but from the multiple experience I find myself having, of studying and teaching the New Testament at an academic level, of regular liturgical worship in which the Bible plays a central part, and of evangelistic and pastoral work, in which, again, though not always so obviously, the Bible is at or at least near the heart of what one is doing. (emphasis added)
What an utter disappointment. The reluctance to go on was nearly overwhelming. From this statement alone I anticipated the rest of the article. It would be the same old circular reasoning.
- The bible is true because it is God’s word, and we know it is God’s word because the bible says it is. This makes it authoritative.
But I forced myself to read ahead. I hoped to be proven wrong, I wanted there to be some new evidence or something within this document that would say, “well now, that’s a good point. I don’t think any atheist has ever considered that.” Part of me would like to see at least some semblance of a challenge, but this author gave up in the very first paragraph!
The article goes on to discuss what it means to be authoritative. He discredits earlier attempts at exactly how the bible is authoritative through the ages, and how everyone except for this particular author seem to be getting it wrong still. Time after time the author goes back to the bible itself as proof that it is authoritative itself. The logic is dizzingly circular. Not unlike many sermons I’ve seen in my day. From the looks of it, it seems this article was given as a sermon, or lecture as well.
On page 3 is the following:
Most heirs of the Reformation, not least evangelicals, take it for granted that we are to give scripture the primary place and that everything else has to be lined up in relation to scripture.
By his comment on how such a thing could be taken for granted, it seems that it is known to all that everything has to be lined up in relation to scripture. What a mess such dogma has inflicted upon humanity and progress! I recently read a biography of Galileo which went into great detail regarding the treatment given him and other “heretics” by the Catholic church. Unimaginable tortures were used and threatened against such heretics whose ideas were contrary to that of the church. Look at the case of Bruno, an outspoken scientist of Galileo’s time with heretical ideas of our place in the universe. It seems that the author of this document foster the same idea – that “everything in the bible is true until proven… actually, everything in the bible is of course true and cannot be disproved”.
Where do the religious get such silly notions, and why can’t they see the flaw in reasoning? I am in no way saying that my reasoning is unflawed, I’m just wondering why all common sense seems to be suspended when it comes to religion. This is not unique to Christianity, but seems to be associated with all superstitions and defies explanation.
But I digress. Later in the article the author makes assumptive statements about the authority of the bible being such, since it is “Witness to primary events.” Such misconception seems all too common and is especially disconcerting coming from someone in an *ahem* educational position. No, it is widely accepted that the four gospels in the beginning of the new testament were not written by Jesus’ immediate disciples, and that the pentateuch was not penned entirely by Moses.
Back to my favorite aspect, the circular reasoning that somehow proves the bible has authority. Taken from page 8:
And the notion of God’s authority, which we have to understand before we understand what we mean by the authority of the scripture, is based on the fact that this God is the loving, wise, creator, redeemer God.
And where, pray tell, do we learn of this loving/wise/creator/redeemer god? The bible of course, which in order to do so, must be taken authoritatively. Dizzy yet? I might add to that short list of the traits of the biblical god: vain, masochistic, egotistical, genocidal, infanticidal, bullying, among others. And don’t try to tell me that somehow the old testament doesn’t count. The author of this article does just that, albeit for different reasons that to protect his god-image.
I am intrigued by one argument he brought up on page twelve, which he gleemed from Warfield, who seemed to believe that Christianity would be totally true and would totally work even if there weren’t a bible to tell us all about it. Now that’s an interesting thought. If there were no bible, what would Christianity look like today?
Would there be any Christianity? Or would we be left with some other superstition in the way (perhaps Mithraism)?
If I were to think about how I would answer such a question back in my Christian days, I probably would have said something about the question being irrelevant because god planned it this way and you can’t change the past. But just, what if? What if a god had expected us to believe in flying zombies if there were no written “proof.” It would all be word of mouth. Christians would be in the same place as billions of people throughout history who haven’t had the *chuckle* benefit of a bible, so the thought experiment falls on deaf ears. Would their god’s power be diminished in the absence of the book?