No debate about it.
The Bible contains no errors and is completely factual– to be taken literally and is the chief authority over Christian doctrine. The Bible is God's Word handed down by Him through inspired men who would never dare alter His message. God protected His Word miraculously as people copied and translated it throughout the ages.
That's the heart of Christian fundamentalism. And if you don't agree with my description, then you're not a fundamentalist.
What would disqualify the Bible from living up to the expectations of fundamentalists? A mistake? An unclear passage or interpretation? Contradictions found within the text?
A fundamentalist won't consider the possibility of a mistake or contradiction within the Biblical text. This is an impossibility to the fundamentalist. Even if you presented hard proof, the mind of the fundamentalist will reject it. For in their world, such proof cannot exist in the first place.
But, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Or, in the modern shortened version, the proof is in the pudding.
A contradiction is at best a conflict of ideas. Two concepts that cannot happen at the same time and both remain true simultaneously. At the worst, a contradiction means that one or more sources are totally wrong. Maybe even one source has embellished or lied about it's information altogether. Maybe all sources involved are wrong. People contradict themselves and each other all the time. Can God be afforded this characteristic of human behavior?
How many times does the Bible need to contradict itself before it becomes fallible?
Twice? Three times? Four or more?
If the Bible has contradictory material, then at least one of the two passages involved must be uninspired and totally man made. Otherwise, God inspired flesh and blood to write contradictory material to be added into his prefect Word. For a fundamentalist, this cannot be so. The only other option is that the scriptures have been tampered with.
For the Christian who is liberal, or non-fundamentalist, the Bible does not need to achieve infallibility in order to remain “reliable”. The Christian liberal will acknowledge the contradictory elements in the Bible and accept them – even embrace them.
Yet, liberals feel the Bible still has enough weight to validate Christianity as God's way. So to the liberal, it is left up to us to review tradition, history, culture, and our own conscience to decide what parts of the Bible are reliable for doctrine – as opposed to what parts are ancient myth and legend, cultural leftovers, and just plain hogwash.
I have a problem with both fundamentalism and liberalism.
With liberalism, one ultimately determines for himself what is right or wrong within the Bible.
Christianity gets just like Burger King – have it your way.
What criteria do you use to decide the reliable aspects of scripture from the less reliable parts? And why bother at all if the tenets of your religion are left up to you?
In that case, it's now against my religion to get up early on Sundays for church services. Oh, and I'm keeping that ten percent of my income for myself now. I've found that my rent is more important than the mega-church building fund project we pledged ourselves to. Oh – and I'll start keeping my freewill offerings, too. I've grown tired of contributing to the pastor's new mega-house mortgage equipped with an elevator and a closet full of custom made suits.
And that new luxury car he now drives.
Wish I could have a Jaguar.
Ah, the fun of growing up fundamentalist! See what happens when you believe the Bible is inerrant? You tend to believe your clergy is inerrant, too. Then, you mindlessly do everything they tell you to do and make them rich in the name of God.
So now, you can see that I no longer accept fundamentalism. For me, some major contradictions have finally come to light concerning the Bible.
One contradiction is enough to soil the Bible's infallible image. Oh, but don't worry – the Bible seems to have a few really good ones.
But for now, I'll share only one with you.
I was hoping to bolster my faith in my search for Biblical infallibility.
One contradiction hang in the back of my mind for years -- long before I could have ever thought my faith would be in danger. I dealt with this contradiction by just telling myself, “I don't understand enough about God's word to figure out why this looks like a contradiction. One day . . . God will show me.”
Boy, were my eyes opened, alright.
In most Bibles, the word “lord” is rendered in mainly two ways: Lord and LORD.
Every time we see LORD in all small caps – we are seeing the divine name of God rendered in English. God's divine name was represented in Hebrew with the letters: YHWH. Of course, here, I'm still using the English equivalents for these letters. But to protect themselves from defaming the name of God, the Hebrews printed the name of God without the vowels. His name was actually spelled and pronounced: Yahweh. But, that's not how your Bible does it. Your Bible uses LORD, instead of YHWH.
Also, keep this point in mind – most translators transliterated Yahweh into Jehovah. So, those two spellings are interchangeable. So, when you see “Jehovah” – substitute “Yahweh”. When you see LORD, substitute YHWH.
Don't believe me? Read the preface and translation notes in your Bible's introduction (before Genesis). If your Bible doesn't have one, find a Bible that does. You'll see that most Bibles use this translation convention.
And? So, what?
Well, all throughout Genesis, you see LORD – or better stated, you see YHWH. So, substitute LORD with YHWH and count how many times you see it.
Ok, don't really try to count how many times. You'll be counting for days.
Think about how Abraham, the friend of God, names a place Jehovah-jireh (Yahweh-yireh), which means YHWH will provide (Gen. 22:14). Think about how the Bible says men called on the name of the LORD (not Lord). They called on the name of YHWH. Abraham's son even evoked the name of YHWH (Gen.26:22).
Then . . . look at Exodus 6:2 and 3.
Ok, ok, I'll quote it:
And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH (YAHWEH) was I not known to them.
How can generations from the beginning of time evoke the name YHWH but not know it?
Exodus just claims that Moses was the first to know the name Yahweh / YHWH. But Abraham knew it according to Genesis. Many other people seemed to know that name all through the days of the patriarchs.
That contradiction alone was enough for me. People had a hand in writing scripture. People have political agendas. People lie. People can be misinformed. People just repeat what they hear without finding out for themselves. People make up folk tales.
Want some more proof for a few other contradictions?
I'll give you a resource – Darrel G. Henschell's book The Perfect Mirror: The Question of Bible Perfection.
I admit that I don't agree with each and every single contradiction he cites. But, again – how many contradictions does it take? Because, for any single “false” contradiction one could discover, two other undeniable contradictions can be found -- contradictions that carry serious implications.
To me, this problem with infallibility and inerrancy proves the Bible's origin is from mankind alone.
A fascinating book to follow up with after checking out Henschell's The Perfect Mirror, would be Richard Elliott Friedman's The Hidden Book in the Bible. If you want even more after that, you can also read his title The Bible with Sources Revealed.
With no Bible to stand on and a faith system that I have to determine for myself, I simply decided to do away with my Christian practices altogether.