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Sunday, April 11, 2010


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Well first off you have granted me a wish I've had for a while, and that is to find out what exactly you believe about Christianity, revelation, etc. I guess you wouldn't be the Maverick Philosopher if it were easy to find out.

Could you expand on small part of what you have said?

"Once we admit that the Bible is a human product, though not merely a human product, we will give up preposterous claims to inerrancy."

It would appear that's pointing back to what you say in option C in Four Slants on Scripture: "It contains errors and defects that reflect the fact that it is a product of divine-human interaction. "

I do not see why you would think that is so.

I'm glad to have found your blog many months ago. Keep up the good work.

To clarify, I do think that the record that the Bible represents does include God's revelation of who He is. The people of Israel encountered God, experienced God and recorded that encounter. I think that the early Christians ecountered God "In Christ" and that was written down as well. But the record is a human record, fallible and filtered. I read the Bible as a human response to an experience; something raw, unrefined. The events surrounding Jesus or the parting of Yum Suph were like a whirlwind, they blew through like a hurricane, a direct encounter with the divine. The prophets and later the disciples had to look around and ask 'what the heck was that?' There is the direct encounter with the Divine, and then there is the human attempt to deal with that encounter. When I think of revelation, I don't primarily think in terms of God sitting there and dictating something. I think more like the way I reveal who I am by my actions. Actions really do speak louder than words. My actions show or reveal something important about who I am. And I can act in such a way that I try to show people who I am, I can intentionally reveal myself through my actions. The Bible is a human record, but a human record of Divine acts. The Eternal touched human history, the Bible is the story of that 'reaching in'.

Dear Philosopher,

I think my sticking point is "preposterous claims to inerrancy," which can be read two ways--one is to read preposterous as related to inerrancy, which I think is incorrect. The other is to read preposterous (as the sentence structure dictates) as modifying claims--with which I have no problem.

The Bible does contain real factual errors. To deny this is to deny what one reads for oneself. The Bible makes no claims regarding being a natural history text, and many of the scientific discussions and explanations therein are of their time and have been superseded with subsequent understandings. However, what one can say has been preserved without error is the central teaching of the Bible--the record of God's unremitting and unconditional love for all peoples. So, while I find it easy to believe that the people of Israel believe that God told them to slaughter all of the Jebusites, Amalakites, Perrizites, and whatever other -ites might have been around, I find it difficult to believe that a God of loving kindness would indeed have done so.

So, if that is what you mean by "perposterous claims to inerrancy," I would agree. But if by this we are to mean that the Bible is, in fact, not inerrant in its central teaching, then we have no real guide to what that teaching should be other than other even more errant human beings. I find that thought dismaying and improbable. So, my claims for inerrancy, like the claims of the Roman Catholic Church for papal inerrancy are confined to matters of spiritual import--not to the literal facts of narrative.

Perhaps this is a naive view, and if so I stand ready to remain naive because the Bible, for all of its contradictions and difficulties has always spoken to me of a God who above all else cares intensely for His people AND we are all his people--every one of us.



I very much like this article. You say "distinguishing between God's revelation of certain truths to mankind and God's revelation of himself" This inspires me greatly. I am tempted to offer the example of a mathematician or musician who reveals something of great beauty. The atheist says what does that have to do with God. I, a Catholic, feel forced to agree with him. Maybe the revelation of God himself is what is much more important to me.

Is inerrancy a preposterous claim in itself or as applied to Scripture?

I have a problem with the idea that there is one central idea in the Bible. The Bible is not a book, its a collection of books, written over a long time. Some do indeed tell of God's love for all people, others talk of God's love for one particular people, alone. But are there parts of the Bible that are inerrant? I don't think the Bible is 'inerrant' on most any subject. I think there are some parts of the Bible that are right about some things. "God is Love" for instance. That is true, absolutely true. But I think the Bible contains ideas and beliefs about the spiritual, for example, which are false alongside the parts that are true.

Your last paragraph is moving. I agree with it. There are 'layers' to Biblical interpretation. There is the question of what it meant to the original writer, what it meant to later interpreters and what it means to you. Dietrich Bonhoeffer instructed his students to read the Bible thinking "now, and here, God is speaking to me". That experiential, devotional approach to scripture has a lot of merit. But there is as much of you NOW and God NOW as what was written THEN in that process. Being aware of that, and of the other layers of interpretation, is important for intellectual honesty.

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