When I was in college, I was one thesis away from being a religion major. I took the thesis class, did the research and even wrote the paper. I just didn’t turn it in.
I graduated with an English Literature major. I didn’t need the double major. I wasn’t satisfied with the product, so I didn’t turn the paper in.
I’ve recalled these things before, but I haven’t really addressed the subject of that thesis paper. It was biblical inerrancy.
I recall the religion major that fell short now, and the topic that derailed it, following some comments that NT (Tom) Wright made to Justin Brierley on the podcast, Ask NT Wright Anything (episode #8, I believe). I chose the topic, of course, but I felt I bit off more than I could chew.
It turns out that there may be another reason the topic was so difficult for me, a new believer at the time. NT Wright sheds some light on the subject.
Whether the Bible should be read and interpreted literally seems to be an open question in the 21st Century. Some Christians, and many people who criticize Christians, seem to think the Bible must be read in a literal, wooden fashion, and it must stand or fall based on what people say is “the literal interpretation” – the Bible is either literally true or literally false, and there is no third position.
So, let me put this out there – do we approach other literature that way?
As Christians, we need to be honest about the weaknesses of our claims so that we can deal with them effectively. We sometimes allow ourselves to be painted into corners that we should be able to avoid if we are honest about those weaknesses. I am reminded of the biblical idea that God is strong in our weakness.
So, what am I talking about? I am talking about the “fundamentalist” positions that we allow skeptics to pin on us. I say that these positions have been pinned on us because fundamentalism is a product of a word war, in my assessment, and one which we have lost to the definition of the word that comes largely from those who seek to discredit us.
Liberal progressive types are masters at word wars and reinventing words. They know how important words and meanings of words are in manipulating culture. While a fundamentalist was once someone who subscribed to the fundamentals of faith, a fundamentalist is now a dogmatic, backwards, literalist who denies obvious evidence against a strained and rigid view of the Bible – according the naysayers.
To be fair, however, some Christians prove the point. Some Christians have swallowed the hook, believing that we fight an all or nothing battle. That the battle lines have been drawn on the “literal” interpretation of the Bible, rather than something else (like Christ and him crucified) is extremely unfortunate.
Interestingly, the “new atheists” and modern skeptics exhibit the same fundamentalism that they have tried to pin on all Christians who take the Bible seriously, and that has decidedly turned the battleground in our favor. If we would only seize the opportunity and get ourselves out of the corners into which we have retreated. Continue reading “The Bible: All or Nothing?”→