Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes


#116 Biblical inerrancy

posted by Stephanie Drury

inerrancy1.jpg
Christian culture is adamant about Biblical inerrancy. Sometimes it’s better to not get them started.



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Rex

posted January 4, 2010 at 2:17 pm


I cant wait to read the comments you get on this one!!



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toujoursdan

posted January 4, 2010 at 2:19 pm


Affirming Biblical inerrancy is the most meaningless doctrine in all Christendom. What it really means is: “My interpretation of Scripture is inerrant”.



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Tikidoll

posted January 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm


Don’t get ME started!
My favourite quote ever on this is from my mother after questioning her on Bible conflicts,
“…Maybe…there just hasn’t been anyone smart enough yet to understand it.”
End of conversation.



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Still Breathing

posted January 4, 2010 at 3:41 pm


Which Bible? The Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Slavonic all have different books in the Old Testament so if you say the Bible is literally true you need to say which Bible you mean. Besides what we have are only translations and even then we don’t have a single original text.
I blogged about this here as part of a series on the Bible:
http://brainatthedoor.blogspot.com/2009/09/bible-literally-true.html



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Rocky Presley

posted January 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm


A long, long time ago, ancient Cappuccini Monks were copying the sacred scriptures. One day, a young monk realized that he was copying from another copy. This concerned him since he knew that the printing press had not yet been invented. So he asked the oldest, most senior monk in the room why this was. The monk replied, “Well, that’s the way we have done it for centuries.” The young monk replied, “Where are they copied from?” “From the original manuscripts stored in the catacombs. No one has touched them in a hundred years.” Then the young monk inquired if it were possible that making copies of copies could have caused some transcription errors. The old monk scratched his head and said, “Yeah, it could have done just that.” So he went down into the catacombs, since he being the most senior was the only monk allowed access. A few hours later, they heard a faint cry. As they drew closer, it became louder and more desperate. “There’s an “R!” THERE’S AN “R!” The monks rushed in to find the old monk crumpled on the floor clutching the original manuscript. He looked up with tears in his eyes and said, “It says celebrate. CELEBRATE!



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Karen

posted January 4, 2010 at 4:02 pm


Aw c’mon, the fun really begins once you get them started! My favorite aspect of this doctrine is the way it requires its proponents to dance (!) around inconvenient passages and evidence. I grew up attending a Christian (Baptist) school, and I recall entire chapel services devoted to explaining how Jesus turned the water into grape juice and how dinosaurs didn’t exist (although I hear now the line is that they co-existed with humans).
Karen in Paris



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Ben Mordecai

posted January 4, 2010 at 5:08 pm


Only if by “Christian Culture” you mean, “the historic and true Christian faith from every generation.”
Perhaps you’re talking about the Christian culture of 500 years ago? John Calvin on inerrancy: http://www.galaxie.com/article.php?article_id=5788
Here is someone else’s take on inerrancy:
“The Scripture cannot be broken.” – Jesus



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Peter T Chattaway

posted January 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm


What on earth does “celebate” mean? Perhaps the young monks were just as bad at spelling as they were at copying.
One of my favorite bits in modern Bibles is the footnotes which tell us about some of the disagreements between the manuscripts. And those footnotes usually just scratch the surface; there simply isn’t room enough in the margins of most Bibles to list all the various discrepancies.
What’s really remarkable about the modern evangelical insistence on “inerrancy” is that the people who actually *wrote* the Bible clearly didn’t think that way. Not all of them, at any rate. Just look at the geneaology in Matthew 1, and how Matthew states that there were fourteen generations of Judean kings (i.e. the “fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon”). Anyone with a passing knowledge of ancient Israelite history should know that this simply isn’t what the Old Testament tells us. Consider, e.g., the list of kings in I Chronicles 3, and count the names. Notice any that Matthew skipped?
This is not necessarily to say that Matthew is “wrong”. It is, however, to say that Matthew, on this occasion at least, is more interested in symbolism (14 is the numerical value of the name “David” in Hebrew) than he is in getting all his “facts” right — and when evangelicals of a certain stripe talk about “inerrancy”, they generally mean that the Bible has all of its “facts” right.
As for those evangelicals who define the word “inerrancy” a lot more broadly… well, after a while you begin to wonder why the word “inerrancy” is even needed any more. It seems to bring more confusion than clarity to the discussion, really.



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Ben Mordecai

posted January 4, 2010 at 5:52 pm


While on the subject of adding confusion to the discussion, Peter, the doctrine of inerrancy is NOT that that are not textual varients. The doctrine of innerancy is that the original manuscripts were inerrant. Since the original manuscripts may no longer exist, variations must be solved through careful textual criticism.
On the geneologies, you are just breaking the golden rule of hermaneutics: do unto authors as you would have them do unto you. You said yourself that Matthew is interrested in symbolism. Yes he is conveying the hand of God at work in Jesus’ geneology. You are assuming that all geneologies work the way the 21st century, DNA-concious minds work. How do adoptions fit in? What about generations deemed insignificant? What about the full geneology in Matt 1:1? Jesus the son of David the son of Abraham. Did he skip a couple there?



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Bill

posted January 4, 2010 at 6:47 pm


Bravo Dan and Peter.
If inerrancy is really about the original manuscripts, which we don’t possess, and we’re back to relying on “careful textual criticism” which itself is a devil to define, and authorial intent, and you take into account stuff like culture, language, and time, and wow, seems to me we’re back to tjDan’s “my interpretation is inerrant”. Which I think is what Stephy is getting at. (And I’m betting she’s loving us parsing her blog, ha ha! Evangelical habits are hard to break.)
And this is all besides the way one often sees (often undereducated imho) preachers whip out inerrancy, used in some weird nonsequitor to justify adherence to KJV or a particular interpretation of passages of dubious quality (like most homophobic interpretations, in my opinion).
So, like Dan, it’s tough for me to see the value of inerrancy as a doctrine. There’s a lot better way to spend our time.



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Steve

posted January 5, 2010 at 10:18 am


Inerrancy allows people to stop thinking and submit to a constructed authority. “Biblical authority” or “inerrancy” is a human construct–just as the “Bible” itself is a construct, i.e., a sacred book compiled from dozens of early Jewish and Christian writings composed by many different human beings in many different situations over hundreds of years. The Bible has no authority apart from what we give it. But giving it absolute authority allows us to abdicate our own rational thought for what the Bible “says”–or what we think it says, or as toujoursdan rightly puts it, “My interpretation of Scripture is inerrant.”
For me, the Bible is not an authority; it is a narrative, the first chapter in an ongoing and as yet unfinished story. Questions of inerrancy, accuracy, and authority are therefore irrelevant to me. The Bible is where my faith begins; it is not where it ends.



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toujoursdan

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:54 am


Beyond that, there are numerous obvious contradictions in Scripture. Most of these occur due to different accounts of the same story told at different times in different communities. You find this throughout the Old Testament and even in the Gospels. At some point the Biblical writers chose to put both versions of the oral story in Scripture and let the reader find the Truth in them. (A few friends were discussing the contradictory accounts and historical inaccuracies of Jesus birth in the Gospels this Christmas.) These events are factually contradictory, but inerrantists go through mental gymnastics that would put Nadia Com?neci to shame to reconcile them. They usually supply some kind of metanarrative that they make up in to fill in the gaps to keep this Inerrancy doctrine alive. It’s ridiculous. It subordinates Scripture itself to a doctrine about Scripture.
There are also places where Scripture is simply wrong. Inerrantists go through all kinds of intellectual gymnastics to make them right too. But the ugly truth is that Biblical writers got cosmology, slavery, attitudes toward women and foreigners, polygamy, the belief that Christ was going to return before His generation died, etc., etc., wrong. Why not just call it as it is?
The problem here is applying a modern (Newtonian) sensibility to a premodern set of documents. Most of Scripture is “mythos” which communicates a valid truth through non-literal means. It’s like the story of “The Boy who Cried Wolf”. Focusing on whether there was a real boy, wolf and townspeople misses the point of the story. Even if no boy, wolf or townspeople existed the story remains True. Scripture works the same way.
As a Catholic priest friend of mine often says “Everything in Scripture is true… and some of it actually happened.” The Bible is a sacred book, not an inerrant book.



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Flah

posted January 5, 2010 at 11:58 am


Bible inerrancy doctrine more than anything else pushes me away from the faith. Most of the time it’s an excuse for the pastor to shove his own interpretation down the throats of the congregation, and then say, “Well, the Bible says it!” Or it’s used an an excuse for excluding or condemning, never for including or showing mercy or compassion.
What I encountered during my (thankfully brief) sojourn among the Freewill Baptists were people who said: I am in the Spirit. If you interpret a passage differently from me, then you are not in the Spirit, because the Spirit provides the correct interpretation. (Well, how peachy for you!!)
It certainly provides many an opportunity to avoid some scripture entirely, though, doesn’t it? The inconvenient passages, of course.



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Sarah

posted January 5, 2010 at 12:20 pm


toujoursdan, Peter, Bill and Steve:
Bravo. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
It seems the doctrine of biblical inerrancy’s real purpose, far from allowing people really to know God and truth, is to distract its adherents from the Bible’s central focus on love: God’s love for humanity, humanity’s love/nonlove of God, and the cruciality of loving your neighbor as yourself.
But loving your neighbor (and yourself) without condition is hard to do, it’s unscripted and uncomfortably open-ended, and Christian culture seems bent, therefore, on replacing love with correctness – if I believe all the ‘right’ things, God can’t nail me for anything else. (Of course, in the biblical inerrancy camp, love gets redefined to throw in the coercion and guilt: If you love God you’ll believe doctrines x, y and z. And if you love your neighbor, you’ll tell him how wrong he is about a, b and c, so that he doesn’t go to hell. Goodbye, true meaning of love.)
So a full, free life rich in what it really means to love, with all of its attendant risks and dangers, can get buried under a life of frequently mindless obligation to law, deviance from which is supposed to jeopardize your soul. I grew up in this kind of mindset. The funny thing is, it’s not actually easier than really loving your neighbor. It’s exhausting, and terrifying, and inherently self-centered. Am I believing this correctly? If I disagree, will God be upset? If I want to love other people in no small part by letting them be, am I going to hell?
Sounds a lot like the system the Jesus of the Bible taught against, and died to free people from.



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toujoursdan

posted January 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm


I think part of the problem is Christian Culture’s attempt to treat the Bible like an encyclopaedia, rather than a series of unfolding stories, canticles, tribal legal codes and other genres produced by a culture which itself was going through a spiritual and cultural evolution as the Hebrews did. The Bible really isn’t meant to be used this way.
In my experience, preachers often picked a few proof texts to build sermons around. Evangelical church services never had long, drawn-out recitations of Scripture where someone would read an entire Book or story, even. Most of the Bible studies I went to focused on a theme (discipleship, Christian sexuality, evangelism, etc.) where they often jumped from text to text for support. Christian Culture tends to look up and quote verses rather than read the Bible in long drawn out passages like you’d find in the Lectionary.
Using the Bible this way seems to be the natural result of dividing the manuscripts of the Bible into Chapters and verses. And I don’t believe it is a coincidence that this approach developed soon after the Bible was first mass-printed with chapters and verses in the mid 16th Century.
The Bible was never meant to be used this way and doing so misses the overarching themes and context. It also misses many of the contradictions and textual problems. I think it also sustains the inerrancy doctrine. Once the Bible becomes an encyclopaedia where you looked up answers to life’s questions, it had to be inerrant in the most literal sense possible.



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Steve

posted January 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm


Dan: Excellent comment. Absolutely correct.



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Still Breathing

posted January 5, 2010 at 5:22 pm


Of course if you really want to wind them up point out that the Bible is not the Word of God! The Word is God – not a book. I agree that it can become the Word when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it points us to Jesus, God Incarnate, but by itself it’s just a book written by fallen humans.



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Aaran

posted January 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm


The logic ‘the bible is inerrant therefore believe it and do what it says’ does not work in practice due to the sinful nature of man, we naturally want to rebel against God. God engages us through the gospel to call us to repentance and faith, I think preachers should too.
If we elevate reason above scripture as supreme authority we are on a slippery slope. I think it is important to maintain the inerrancy of scripture, minus the intellectual laziness. Perhaps authority and trustworthiness are better terms to use.



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Steve

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:42 am


Aaran, see my comments above, as well as those of others, on “authority.” This is where all the problems come from: Seeing the Bible as authority rather than as story, as something that settles arguments and tells people not to think. I walked away from that notion about thirty years ago.



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Sarah

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:11 am


Dan: Perfectly put. Thank you – suddenly I find myself inspired to read the Bible for its own sake, cover to cover, as narrative, as Story, which I’ve never actually done before.
It seems the people who want to force inerrancy upon the Bible and so deny its contradictions, and the people who want to discredit the Bible altogether because of its contradictions, have a similar modern/Newtonian mindset – that everything must be linear to be true. When in fact few things are truly linear at all. Setting up logic as understanding’s preeminent faculty (and one of God’s preeminent attributes) carries the implicit danger that when aspects of theology, written record or faith fail to line up, the whole thing is null and void. Which is a misapprehension of, or at least a fragile grasp of, truth.
For all the commentary that has been made upon the Bible over the millennia, the Bible offers comparatively very little commentary upon itself. It just Is. The obsession with codifying it, with turning it into an encyclopedia, indicates more fear, I think, than faith.
I like the concept of the Bible being a sacred, as opposed to inerrant, book. It encompasses a lot more.



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Steve

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:45 am


Sarah: Excellent comments. ^ Those people who concentrate on the “contradictions” of the Bible–ignorant atheists, etc.–fail to recognize that the Bible was not written as “The Bible.” (That’s something that fundies fail to recognize, too.) The component parts were written without any thought of being compiled and anthologized into a unified, “authoritative” whole–unity and authority are human constructs, as I’ve argued above. So of course there are “contradictions” and “errors.” They represent ancient, pre-scientific, and as you point out, pre-linear ways of thinking (ways which atheists consider to be inferior to their oh-so-superior “rational” ways of thinking). I just take them in stride as part of the narrative, part of the evolution of thought one sees in “The Bible,” and they in no way bother me.



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Robby Payne

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:38 pm


You picked a tough one this time around! There are arguments on both sides of this subject that are provocative and probably correct. Who’s to know, exactly? I have to believe the Bible as absolutely foundational to faith and a life that follows after Jesus. Inerrant after touching so many fallen humans and broken systems? I suppose there’s no way to guarantee that. I have to agree completely with the above comment, thought, that the Bible is multiple narratives and commands that involve broken people and still manages to communicate the basic idea that we are separated from God and needed a savior. Hopefully, my own story can communicate that, even if some of the details get foggy as I get older! =)



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Sarah

posted January 6, 2010 at 12:59 pm


Steve: Exactly. The various books of what we now recognize as “The Bible” were written by errant human beings and canonized by other errant human beings. Errors of fact, contradictions of culture (slavery, homophobia, sexism, racism, etc.) and mistakes of translation and transcription don’t render the message of love or the stories themselves untrue.
Deifying logic, whether done by biblical inerrancists or atheists, seems, very generally, to be a way of denying confrontation with aspects of life that often defy logic – physical and emotional trauma, love or its lack, forgiveness, ideals in conflict with reality. In inerrancists the heavy reliance on logic/rationality mostly seems silly, when faith itself by definition requires a leap that has little to do with reason. It makes more sense with the atheists I’ve known. A good number of my dearest and most respected friends claim no faith, which given their experiences is totally comprehensible to me. Focusing on the contradictions or non/sense of faith usually strikes me, from what I’ve encountered among my friends, as a bolster, generally, and not a foundation, for the rejection of faith.
And Robby: Nicely said.



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Your Name

posted January 6, 2010 at 3:24 pm


i TAKE THE BIBLE AS MY GUIDE,OR BASIC INSTRUCTION BEFORE LEAVING EARTH,THATS WHAT IT MEANS,WHEN COMES THE TIME THAT I NEED TO LEAVE,THE BIBLE THAT I DONT WANT TO DISREGARD ON MY JOURNEY RIGHT NOW WILL HIGHLY BE REGARDED ONE DAY,MEN ARE SPIRITUAL BEING TOO….
THANKS.



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Aaran

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:00 pm


Steve – that comment is what I was getting at. I don’t think either side has hit the nail on the head in this discussion. “My interpretation of Scripture is inerrant.” – That’s exactly what the authority of the bible is supposed to avoid, scripture interprets scripture, it shapes our philosophical presuppositions so we don’t come at it from a modern, post modern or whatever else is intellectually popular at the time point of view and expect it to be inerrant.
http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/briefing/library/1265/



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Chrissy

posted January 6, 2010 at 6:31 pm


Aaran, Can you please give an example of scripture interpreting scripture? I’m not clear on what you mean.



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Bill

posted January 6, 2010 at 9:09 pm


I’m really enjoying this discussion. A lot. I’m always impressed with what smart people this blog attracts.
I also love the observations of how approaching scripture as encyclopedia is the same “deification of logic” either in its explication (inerrancy) or disproof (atheism) and is an incorrect way of interacting with sacred text. (Thanks Dan and Sarah, I love having you high-churchers around. A lot.)
I find this sentence of Sarah’s especially interesting:
“Deifying logic, whether done by biblical inerrancists or atheists, seems, very generally, to be a way of denying confrontation with aspects of life that often defy logic – physical and emotional trauma, love or its lack, forgiveness, ideals in conflict with reality.”
I find this interesting because I don’t think “denying confrontation…” is the *source* of the deification of logic and its attendant manifestation on each side of the argument–personally I blame that on the cultural phenomenon of the European Enlightenment and Protestantism’s love/hate relationship with it. Closeting “…trauma, love or its lack, forgiveness”, however, was a natural result of the deification of logic (for both sides). But after they were closeted, an ability to deny confrontation with them was necessary, and it seems reasonable to think that a sort of codependency with the “deification of logic” was developed. This closeting and denial also explains the militant and somewhat irrational adherence to those extremes by both sides.
I could be completely full of crap, but it’s fun to take it out for a ride. Regardless, thanks, Sarah, for giving me the means to feel myself smarter than I actually am. A lot. :)
(But, Sarah, having never read the Bible as Story? You?? I find that difficult to believe. Maybe you read parts of it that way but just didn’t make the connection intellectually. Personally, I am finding Paul (a lot) more palatable and empathetic reading the epistles as narrative.)



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Sarah

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:30 pm


Hahaha, I meant more the cover-to-cover part; I can’t help reading the actual stories as Story. I’m extremely encouraged by your remark that Paul’s epistles as narrative are a lot better in digestion…that’s what I’m hoping this developing narrativist perspective will give me…relief from the inerrancy of Paul.
And I’m glad to see you back, Bill. So great to continue to hear stories of journey an discovery from another former slave fleeing bright-eyed from Egypt.
Also, I’m totally with you as regards the source and effect of the deification of logic.



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Em

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:39 pm


Something inerrancists miss is that the Bible is a document, not something magical–and academically, to take any document literally and without any historical context is dangerous and considered intellectually insane. Something that people who completely disdainfully discredit the Bible miss is that a document that is errant isn’t necessarily unreliable–in fact, it might indicate that it contains truth. A document containing perfect, synced up account would be totally suspicious in either a criminal witness situation or a historical document situation…it could mean that people synced up their accounts and cut out inconvenient parts to cover something up.
The slippery slope argument a lot of fundamentalists use is ridiculous. Whenever my Catholic and Protestant friends would argue about different tenants of their faith (transubstantiation, Mary and original sin, etc.) I had one particularly insightful Catholic friend who would say, “Does it really matter?” When everyone looked at her scandalized, she’d ask them again, if purgatory did or didn’t exist, or if Communion was reality or a symbol, does it really change the idea of faith, love and belief that is reflected in the Bible as a whole? Everyone’s answer was always, well, not really. But it doesn’t mean they’re going to act like it. For most people, that can’t sink in. A lot of churches are so absorbed in syncing up all of their congregation’s doctrine perfectly that they push people out–it’s happened to me on the topic of OSAS (Once-saved Always-saved, for the thankfully unindoctrinated). I was attacked in a Bible study and told “This is what we believe, and you belong to this church so you need to fall in line.” What my question still unanswered to this day is, is why do you care so much?



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Aaran

posted January 6, 2010 at 10:50 pm


Chrissy – I meant that hermeneutics is iterative. To understand a passage you need to understand the chapter, to understand the chapter the book, the book the bible as a whole, but the bible is made up of books, chapters and passages. So when we read the bible we understand the message as something like ‘Gods gracious actions to reverse the effect of human sin and establish a new creation’.
With specific regards to the authority of the bible passages like the ones below build an understanding that the bible is the word of God, a God who reveals himself by speaking to us.
“Scripture cannot be broken” – John 10:35.
“For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” – 2 Peter 1:21.
“…Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him…” – 2 Peter 3:15.
Unfortunately I think this process is often done poorly (as this post makes fun of) and the bible is interpreted with our own set of presuppositions, judging or explaining the bible by conform it to our world view rather than wrestling with scripture and conforming to it.



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Sarah

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:18 pm


Em: Fabulous.



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Em

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:19 pm


Aaran, what about historical context and personal bias by the writers? Do you believe that those points factor in to the discussion?
For example, there are some really misogynist verses that a lot of Christians like to skim over or justify–excuse me, it’s kind of one of the sore spots for me since I’ve never really been the “weaker vessel” type–what is your stance on these verses? Do they reflect a historical bias of a patriarchal society, or God’s will?



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Rocky Presley

posted January 6, 2010 at 11:48 pm


Em, loved that comment. My wife is currently in the hospital. She had surgery to remove two masses from her pelvic region. The possibility existed that this might be cancer. It was a stressful couple of weeks, but thankfully everything was benign and she is fixed up. The outpouring of love and support that we experienced during this time is what makes this whole Christian culture thing worth the hassle.
During the last two weeks, as I was praying, questioning my faith, wondering if God would heal my wife, and realizing that this is no faith at all, I pondered what I would do if I invented a time machine, went back in time, and proved that Jesus was a total fraud. When I think about it, I don’t think that I would change a thing.
Regardless of the scriptures being true or not, I am part of a beautiful body of believers that makes life worth living, gives hope, and sustains through difficult times. I ask myself that question all the time. What does it matter? It really doesn’t. What does is that we believe that Christ died for our sins and was risen so that we can be restored in relationship with a loving Father. If we only believe that because a book says so, then that is no belief at all. That’s just an idea that we add to our ideals. If we believe that because we have experienced Christ on earth, and have experienced being reconciled to the Father, though we were sinners, then we have a core that cannot be undone by errors.
On another point, I do believe that many believers deify the word of God as though it is God, which seems to be to be the idolization of scripture. The entirety of their relationship with God is what they have read. What a crappy way to live, but they are the same people that Jesus mentions often in the Gospels. Those experts in the law who love nothing or no one more than their wisdom.



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Aaran

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:59 am


EM – I suspect that it is more of a sore point living in a post feminist revolution culture and it would probably be worse were we still in a chauvinistic society. I think it is Gods will for us to wrestle with the difficult texts rather than skip over them or reject them. I don’t have all the answers but for what it is worth I don’t think it would be fair if women were competing against men at the Olympics in weight lifting.



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Sarah

posted January 7, 2010 at 9:24 am


Oh, Aaran. Sigh. Male chauvinism (as in, a system designed to favor, or make life easier for men…which by no means whatsoever indicates that individual men must therefore be sexist; that is hardly the truth) is alive and well in many areas, including the church, I’m afraid. It seems from your remark that wrestling with misogynist passages is the duty of women, and that we should wrestle with them in order to accept them. But if misogyny is against the spirit of love as defined in Scripture, it isn’t skipping over or rejecting them to call those passages into serious question. Christian culture seems broadly content to accept that the passages in the letters to the Corinthians requiring women to cover their hair and keep it long were cultural mandates and therefore no longer necessary; but yet concepts of blind female submission and inferiority, and a denial of female leadership in co-ed contexts, are supposed to be even now the will of God. It seems that Christian culture easily accepts and rejects passages of the Bible as it pleases, and is free to do so with sovereign immunity, but the same privilege is denied to everyone else.



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Flah

posted January 7, 2010 at 10:47 am


Em, your post was lovely, thank you. I came head on to a spiritual brick wall around Halloween, and my (mostly agnostic) husband said, “Don’t lose the message.” He was right; all the rest is vanity. I would like to tell the atheist community that the best way to solidify the separation of church and state is to let the “This is a Christian Nation” crowd have it. Here’s the country, it’s yours. Within no time at all they would be tangled up in so many theological fine points that separation of church and state would occur naturally. (The FWBs split due to disagreement over wine ‘vs’ grape juice, for pete’s sake. Just think what would happen if they tried to legislate prayer in schools.)
Aaran, I don’t think you gave the question much thought; your answer shows the lazy luxury of male dismissiveness. Of course I couldn’t compete at Olympic level with men in weight lifting. But does that mean I can’t lift more than every man on the planet? Hardly. My daily life doesn’t call for much weight lifting, however I’m a career woman in engineering, a typically male field. Have I angered god by taking a position rightfully belonging to a man? (Don’t think some folks, including some of my old professors, didn’t think that way.) We don’t live in a post-chauvinistic world, and Christian Culture is rife with overt sexism, often “validated” by the bible.



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Bill

posted January 7, 2010 at 11:53 am


“If we only believe that because a book says so, then that is no belief at all. That’s just an idea that we add to our ideals. If we believe that because we have experienced Christ on earth, and have experienced being reconciled to the Father, though we were sinners, then we have a core that cannot be undone by errors.”
Thank you, Rocky.
“Something that people who completely disdainfully discredit the Bible miss is that a document that is errant isn’t necessarily unreliable–in fact, it might indicate that it contains truth. A document containing perfect, synced up account would be totally suspicious in either a criminal witness situation or a historical document situation…it could mean that people synced up their accounts and cut out inconvenient parts to cover something up.”
Thank you, Em. This is also true for the inerrancist side.
Christians make a lot out of being illuminated by the Holy Spirit. But it’s sad we trust it so little we have to run to intellectual gymnastics. I feel like I’ve done it, like I know how to do it, and I don’t want that kind of faith, not anymore. If I have to wrestle the angel, bring him on. But I’ll be wrestling the angel, not a rhetorician.
Christ said that scripture could not be broken. He also summarized it in a few sentences with love as the verb. John said that the Word was God. And John said that God was Love. Hm. I could take my hermeneutics and iterate a few more times, but I’m not sure how much more there is to gain.
It’s no scandal to me to find other witnesses were as human as I am. It’s not a lot different to me than finding King David, that man after God’s own heart, was a man of profound sin. As Em points out, it has its reassuring side. Suddenly I’m part of a conversation. Suddenly the change wrought in me (hopefully) by my own salvation is back at the front of my mind, where it belongs.
Incarnation is not simply the miracle of God becoming the Son of Man. It is the miracle of a God so loving he is willing to penetrate the cell wall of my own subjective inner voice and draw me out. And to do that, he has to speak to me in my own broken language, because I know no other. Trying to hear a Grace that cannot be held wholly within my own frame of reference–that is the wrestling, friend.



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Bill

posted January 7, 2010 at 11:57 am


(Sarah: it’s good to be back, thanks! And to be fair, my little thought experiment with Paul probably presupposed his errancy. But by humanizing him–and de-encyclopeadizing his letters–I can see a striving, crabby man of faith, still living down his legalistic past, given to outbursts of mysticism. That’s someone I can try to identify with, on a miniscule scale ;).



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Aaran

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:46 pm


Sarah and Fliah – Please don’t hear me defending Christian cultures treatment of women or claiming that chauvinism is dead. My point simply is don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
It also cuts both ways; “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” – since everyone is such a fan of ‘the passion of the Christ’ they will know what it means.



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Sarah

posted January 7, 2010 at 10:00 pm


Bill: Ooooo Paul as a recovering legalist! I love it. I can understand it. And I like the idea of him as crabby — I’m kind of crabby myself, so another point of commonality. Looking at Paul in this way (and I believe that he himself would never have called himself inerrant, even being so careful as to say, “Hey, look, this next bit here, I’m the one saying this, not God”), it’s a lot easier to identify with him, and to see his points, and enjoy the segments of his letters where he’s just plain fed up with general human stupidity (“GUYS. You don’t use JESUS as an excuse to screw your STEPMOTHER. WTF is wrong with you?”). I can also kind of dialogue with him in my head — like you said, become a part of the conversation — and grin a little bit and say, “Paul, you just needed a good headstrong woman to tell you what the score was from time to time.” It’s…nice. Thank you.
Rocky: I will add mine to the prayers being offered on behalf of you and your wife. You’re absolutely right: It always boils down to love, and love, as a wise person has written, covers over a multitude of sins. Funny how something so simple is so difficult to retain.
Aaran: Thanks for the clarification. Haha about the Passion (which I haven’t seen beyond the previews). I wish I’d heard self-giving love thundered from the pulpit as often as I heard sermons about submission and dressing modestly (every single spring in college a new wave of posters and talks in every campus ministry washed over the student body decrying tanktops and shorts and sunbathing…yrgh). I’d love to see more examinations of healthy relationships according to how Jesus interacted with people, and a lot more emphasis on real mutuality. But then, that’s why I opted to go high church. I haven’t heard a single sexist homily since, and it’s been freeing and beautiful.



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Christopher

posted January 8, 2010 at 9:39 am


“While on the subject of adding confusion to the discussion, Peter, the doctrine of inerrancy is NOT that that are not textual varients. The doctrine of innerancy is that the original manuscripts were inerrant. Since the original manuscripts may no longer exist, variations must be solved through careful textual criticism.”
How convenient that we can make a dogma that bolsters our confidence in the face of rife ignorance. If the originals do not exist, then we have no reason to think that the copies we do have are not only partially errant, but perhaps they’re entirely errant. There’s nothing to prove otherwise, so any conclusion on this topic is simply blind faith in the most awkward sense.



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Bill

posted January 8, 2010 at 11:25 am


“Paul, you just needed a good headstrong woman to tell you what the score was from time to time” is probably more generous than I would be :).



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Sarah

posted January 8, 2010 at 11:45 am


Hahaha, well, I self-censored just a wee little bit… :)



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Your Name

posted January 8, 2010 at 3:52 pm


Rocky, I’m praying for your wife as well. I’m glad you found yourself in a position of support and love–I knew I was in the wrong church when crisis hit and I didn’t recieve that outpouring. You’re obviously in the right kind of church! I’m still looking for a new church home that will hopefully be more heart than legalese.
Aaran, it’s common to assume that we’re post-feminist as a culture, but we’re really not–ESPECIALLY in the church. I had a hard time explaining to a friend from a secular family in San Diego why this was not so, and just how sexist Christian culture, particularly in the South, can be. In my youth group we were split into gender-exclusive Bible studies and while the men were studying theology and Greek, the young women did dating study, after dating study, after dating study. Here’s the climate it produced: during a debate about theology, one girl told me: “I don’t need to know what the Bible says, because one day I’ll have a husband and he’ll do that for me.” Whaaaaat?
It’s a nasty climate for a woman who want to be more than a giant walking womb. I, for example, am not a truly vehement feminist (if these people met one, I think their faces would melt off). Yet, I found myself labeled as the youth group “feminist” for extolling the opinion that it would not be sinful and against God’s will for a woman to be president of the US.



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Em

posted January 8, 2010 at 3:54 pm


BTW, Stephanie, I’m not sure if you’ve done a post of dating studies yet, but boy, Christian culture sure is fond of them! It keeps us womenfolk thinking about our future mate and not getting uppity ideas about education and a career.



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Rocky Presley

posted January 8, 2010 at 11:15 pm


“If the originals do not exist, then we have no reason to think that the copies we do have are not only partially errant, but perhaps they’re entirely errant.”
Or perhaps they are entirely true. It takes a leap of blind faith to completely dismiss it as well. You can extrapolate that argument both ways, but see, no one should know that we are believers because of our bible. They know because of the way that we love. They knew Jesus was the Son of God because of the way He loved, and Bill touched on the tip of that gigantic ice burgh. Love is the monkey wrench this is thrown into this who equation. It has no definition, knows no bounds, cannot be quantified, but is the most sought after item in the lives of every human being. God is love. If God equals love, then love equals God, and that love story is what the scriptures are about. It is not a collection of ideas to be proven right or wrong. It is a story about a divine being who loves His creation, and our struggle as human beings to love Him back.
Thanks for the prayers folks. I feel loved!



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brambonius

posted January 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm


funny, we use the proverb different here in Belgium:
rule #1: the woman is always right
rule #2: when the woman is wrong, refer to rule #1



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Max

posted February 8, 2010 at 1:49 pm


great tips on christian dating thanks!



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Christian

posted March 20, 2010 at 9:55 pm


My actual name is Christian. I am not one.
I love when women say that the bible should be law in America.
You know the book of Leviticus? That’s part of the Bible, too.
Leviticus pretty much says anytime a woman does anything but not do what she’s told and speak in turn and do the dishes and make me a sandwich, she should be stoned to death. Or some other horrible manner of dealing with things.



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