How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

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otseng
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How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #1

Post by otseng »

From the On the Bible being inerrant thread:
nobspeople wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 9:42 amHow can you trust something that's written about god that contradictory, contains errors and just plain wrong at times? Is there a logical way to do so, or do you just want it to be god's word so much that you overlook these things like happens so often through the history of christianity?
otseng wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 7:08 am The Bible can still be God's word, inspired, authoritative, and trustworthy without the need to believe in inerrancy.
For debate:
How can the Bible be considered authoritative and inspired without the need to believe in the doctrine of inerrancy?

While debating, do not simply state verses to say the Bible is inspired or trustworthy.

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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #2

Post by nobspeople »

otseng wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 7:35 am From the On the Bible being inerrant thread:
nobspeople wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 9:42 amHow can you trust something that's written about god that contradictory, contains errors and just plain wrong at times? Is there a logical way to do so, or do you just want it to be god's word so much that you overlook these things like happens so often through the history of christianity?
otseng wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 7:08 am The Bible can still be God's word, inspired, authoritative, and trustworthy without the need to believe in inerrancy.
For debate:
How can the Bible be considered authoritative and inspired without the need to believe in the doctrine of inerrancy?

While debating, do not simply state verses to say the Bible is inspired or trustworthy.
By choosing to believe it is.
People can believe anything they want, no matter of the facts or lack of.
What to believe a seven headed, purple platypus lives at the core of the flat earth, and pays for baby teeth given to him by angels with gold pressed latinum on the seventeenth Thursday of every week, but only during Leap Years that end with an odd digit?
Good news:
You can!
Just ignore all the ignorant things stated above that you know are wrong, find a couple random verses of some text somewhere that you convince yourself applies, then have at it!
It's really very simple.

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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #3

Post by benchwarmer »

[Replying to otseng in post #1]

I can easily grant the Bible is 'inspired', but the real question to me is: Inspired by what/who?

If one says "inspired by God" and the "God" in question is the one described by the very documents we are debating about then it all becomes very circular.

Even the most error ridden, contradictory work can be considered 'inspired'. That doesn't grant it any special status in my view though.

As for 'authoritative', if I see ANY contradictions in the documents in question, that goes right out the window. If the documents are not even internally consistent, it's impossible to claim they are authoritative because they are at odds with themselves. Which side of any contradiction is correct?

The only way out for 'authoritative' that I can see is claim the contradictions are 'out' and only the consistent stuff is the 'correct and authoritative' stuff. This is highly suspect though because once contradictions are found, the trust factor for me goes to 0.

Now, if a subset of the documents were consistent and not part of the errors/contradictions then maybe a case could be made, but then we wouldn't be talking about the Bible as a whole anymore. I think one might be hard pressed to find a consistent, error free subset anyways, but I'm open to learning here.

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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #4

Post by 2ndpillar2 »

otseng wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 7:35 am From the On the Bible being inerrant thread:
nobspeople wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 9:42 amHow can you trust something that's written about god that contradictory, contains errors and just plain wrong at times? Is there a logical way to do so, or do you just want it to be god's word so much that you overlook these things like happens so often through the history of christianity?
otseng wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 7:08 am The Bible can still be God's word, inspired, authoritative, and trustworthy without the need to believe in inerrancy.
For debate:
How can the Bible be considered authoritative and inspired without the need to believe in the doctrine of inerrancy?

While debating, do not simply state verses to say the Bible is inspired or trustworthy.
The last 3 sentences of the NT indicates that people can add to "the book of this prophecy", or subtract. That kind of indicates that one has to be careful as to what someone says is "inspired" by means of the Spirit of God, or not. The historical record also indicates additions or subtractions, or simple changes with large results. Looking at the principle editor in chief of the NT, which would be the Roman Catholic church, one has to wonder why anyone would give overall credence to the work of such an entity. Nothing is holy about that church or its present or past leaders. The basic foundation is based on two squirrely guys, Peter and Paul. The churches basically nail the testimony of Yeshua and the prophets to some pagan cross. I am thinking this won't work out well for the followers of such a movement who seem to call something holy before proper investigation. (Proverbs 20:25)

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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #5

Post by Diagoras »

otseng wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 7:35 am The Bible can still be God's word, inspired, authoritative, and trustworthy without the need to believe in inerrancy.

For debate:
How can the Bible be considered authoritative and inspired without the need to believe in the doctrine of inerrancy?
For any arbitrary subset of humanity that chooses to consider it so, very easily - as already pointed out by nobspeople.

I'm actually curious why the debate question didn't include the other two qualities of the bible: God's word and trustworthy? In my opinion, they would be harder to reconcile with the doctrine of inerrancy, and so make for a more stimulating discussion. I'm not wanting to hijack the thread so early on though.

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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #6

Post by Diogenes »

otseng wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 7:35 am
For debate:
How can the Bible be considered authoritative and inspired without the need to believe in the doctrine of inerrancy?
This question poses a dilemma for the "Bible based" Christian. If one believes the Bible is the "Word of God" or at least is inspired by God, does it not have to be perfect? Yet if the Christian admits the Bible is written by men who only thought they were inspired by God, then indeed it loses its authority.

I do not see a way out of this dilemma, for the believer. Unless I am mistaken, the classic Jewish belief is that the Torah is from God, but it must be interpreted by an ongoing oral tradition. This leaves much "wiggle room" and thus the axiom that there is a different, though correct, interpretation of the Torah for every Jew.

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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #7

Post by TRANSPONDER »

To me, that's the whole question of Faith vs ..science, really. As a kid with a fascination with astronomy and later a teen with a fascination with archaeology, I thought the right way to reason was to pick a theory (hypothesis) and then argue for that theory (personal preference-bias) until the Authorities finally decided which answer went in the text books. And teachers didn't help as they just downloaded the textbooks into our heads and hadn't time or inclination to 'teach the controversy'.

It wasn't (shockingly) until I started on apologetics (following a challenge by a work colleague to 'really read the Bible' and the rise of the internet coinciding with Creationism) that I came across critical thinking and the idea of not investing bias into a favoured theory or belief but saying 'I don't know' and being able to assess the evidence as it looks and what it indicates without making the credibility -cut to investing belief in this or that theory/hypothesis/explanation.

So this is a way of looking at history books. And history is a bit dodgy. But what are you going to do? Put the battle of Kadesh in the history books or leave it out because we only have Ramesses IInd's propaganda proclamation about it? We have to use what info we have and indirect clues (the treaty he made with the Hittites throws light on who really won that one) and come to some provisional conclusions and let the debate go on. But what goes into the textbooks isn't the ongoing debate,c but what we can be sure of - neither side conquered the other... and let the debate go on.

This is relevant because the Bible apologetic side can make a case for regarding as history some questionable and even dubious stuff. For a long time, the Saxon invasion was taken as gospel but now the debate is more about cultural change in Europe from Roman style to Germanic. Yes, science is changing its' mind on that one, but that the cultural change happened and you can put it in the text books.

So what about the Bible? The Bible is not a history book. So what? What is in it and what claims it makes and what the internal text analysis tells us and what light history sheds on it counts more than sticking labels on it. Especially those designed to exempt it from critical analysis

At one time 19th c archaeology illustrated (it was thought that confirmation was hardly required :) ) the Bible. Babylon and Assyria was dug up and Jericho was there, collapsed walls and all. And so Biblical archaeology was evolved. But science, yet again, kept throwing up evidence that undermined the Bible. Tyre was rebuilt. Babylon was never really destroyed. Jericho's collapsed walls were not of 'conquest' date. The geological and palaeontological evidence did not support a Creation nor Flood and more recently, the building-work of David and Solomon look more like later work, maybe Omri's time. Pilate wasn't really like the guy in the gospels. There were no new tombs in Jerusalem in Jesus' time, and there are doubts that a Nazareth big enough to merit a synagogue even existed in the 1st c AD.

Biblical archaeology like the evidence of palaeontology has changed from digging up evidence that confirms the Bible to the Christian apologists trying to Interpret the evidence dug up to make it support the Bible when really it doesn't. 'Teach the controversy' doesn't extend to teaching the kids that Paul, not Jesus, is now thought to be the originator of Christianity.

We know how that works. Faith -based support for the Bible tries to explain away doubts. It's not easy to put aside bias on either side, but one can still explain the implications. I well remember :) the Talpiot tomb flurry. A tomb (way south of Jerusalem, I believe) was found with sarcophagi with the name of Jesus and companions on them. The believers went mad with excitement. Final proof of Jesus!
Final proof, we (bibleskeptics) said, that he was dead and his body remained dead. The following silence was deafening.

I won't further try your patience, friends and folks, with parallels from the Babylonian flood and Ark, or Arthur and Troy, but would just observe that the truth will out in the end and even the debatable like whether the lack of a Passover release custom means that the trial story is a crock means that the believer can believe on Faith but also there is good reason for the doubter to doubt on evidence.

It may enable an individual to keep their faith by fiddling or denying the evidence, but it's a loss for Biblefaith if people look in and see that dismissal of evidence as 'mere Opinion' is not going to sway the jury.

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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #8

Post by otseng »

nobspeople wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 9:24 am By choosing to believe it is.
Yes, bottom line, this is the answer. We could pretty much stop here. But, of course, it'd be nice to have at least some justification to take this step. I'll attempt to do that in this thread. But, I think we need to first get some other things out of the way which I'll address in upcoming posts.

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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #9

Post by nobspeople »

otseng wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 9:10 am
nobspeople wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 9:24 am By choosing to believe it is.
Yes, bottom line, this is the answer. We could pretty much stop here. But, of course, it'd be nice to have at least some justification to take this step. I'll attempt to do that in this thread. But, I think we need to first get some other things out of the way which I'll address in upcoming posts.
Understood
However, I don't think there's much justification needed to believe in something past 'just 'cause' - unless said individual wants such justification.
Debating a 'want' seems pointless (though, at the same time, entertaining). I suppose we can learn from most anything, though. Maybe we will see.

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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #10

Post by Mithrae »

otseng wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 7:35 am
otseng wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 7:08 am The Bible can still be God's word, inspired, authoritative, and trustworthy without the need to believe in inerrancy.
For debate:
How can the Bible be considered authoritative and inspired without the need to believe in the doctrine of inerrancy?
How? Out of perceived necessity. It's obviously not inerrant, as anyone who's read it without prior indoctrination can see; as I understand it that notion was a relatively recent invention in reaction to modernism, liberalism and progress in the sciences and literary criticism. Ancient religious folk who were literate and reasonably intelligent could obviously see various problems with the traditional Writings of their culture, but there's also a bit of a problem with believing in a God who offers no revelation or guidance whatsoever! The rationalization offered in Deuteronomy 18 is that if God spoke to the people directly they would surely die, so therefore his message had to come through human intermediaries. One of the qualifications offered is that if the message was not true it couldn't be from Yahweh, but obviously that little detail got swept under rug sometime before the canonization of (perhaps the most brazen example of obviously false prophecy in the Tanakh) Ezekiel.

In a different but even more problematic vein, the earliest Christians started to insist that now, finally, they were all being filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore God could and would speak to them all directly as promised regarding the 'new covenant' of Jeremiah 34. But evidently and in the end obviously, that hasn't turned out to be the case and Christians soon found that despite Paul's insistence that "we serve in the new way of the Spirit not in the old way of the written code" and "the letter kills but the Spirit gives life," they actually still did need the Writings to make sure that at least some of them were at least vaguely on the same page theologically. The Spirit just wasn't doing the job. And that's okay; if their religion was helping them get through their lives as decent people, and the bible was the best they had to help them out with that, more power to them. If they'd paid a little more attention to it, maybe we never would have got the Roman Catholic Church :?

So basically the attitude would be that "God must be guiding us, and this is the best we've got - contradictions, false prophecies and all - so we've got to treat it as God's guidance and make the most of it." And at times that could directly or indirectly be a very productive attitude: The proverbial tendency within rabbinic Judaism of analyzing, reinterpreting and endlessly debating the Tanakh and Talmud has surely been one of if not the major contributors to a cultural climate which has produced an astonishingly disproportionate number of Nobel laureates. In a slightly different vein the Protestant emphasis on the bible and personal religious accountability may have been a major cause behind about half of the spread of democracy around the world: "A brief version of Woodberry’s theoretical argument goes as follows: conversionary Protestants wanted ordinary people to be i) able to read the Bible and ii) actively involved in their church. Yet in their attempts to spread their faith, conversionary Protestants were in effect facilitating the spread of mass education, mass printing, and civil society. These byproducts of religious activism in turn led to the emergence of actors and conditions favorable to democracy: civic associations, political parties, religious liberties, and mass political participation. Hence, according to Woodberry, democracy was not the autonomous triumph of modern forms of political organization and activity – like political parties, labor movements, and mass education. Rather, these modern political actors were the byproduct of a very traditional activity, namely, religious conversion and competition."

The big issue over the last couple of centuries, to my mind, is that while it may once have been a plausible competitor for the title, the bible is not the best we've got any more, not by any stretch of the imagination. It provides little factual information about our world (the challenges of geological and biological sciences to a bible-based worldview were one of if not the biggest causes for the rise of reactionary fundamentalism and inerrancy doctrines); its social models and general morality of genocides and slavery (in both the 'old' and 'new' testaments) are woefully outdated to the point of being pretty much the most evil things in human history; its existential proposals of an ultimate eternal reward versus eternal punishment are pretty much the most evil thing we can even imagine and the cause of untold psychological suffering for many. One aspect of the morality preached by Jesus - a conception of love requiring that if you can help someone you must, to the point of literally giving everything more or less down to your daily bread and the clothes on your back as long as anyone else remains unclothed or unfed - may well be unsurpassed (and was a major inspiration for the likes of Tolstoy and Gandhi), but is so lofty that virtually no-one actually follows it seriously, least of all Christians!

There's certainly some value in poring over the myths and legends of ancient cultures, their occasional intersections with history, their social theories and radically different notions of morality, and the theologies they found useful for overcoming their existential fears. But while the grounds for considering an obviously-errant collection of Writings to be 'authoritative' and 'inspired' (that "God must be guiding us, and this is the best we've got, so we've got to treat it as God's guidance and make the most of it") may have made some sense a few centuries ago and may even have produced more good in the world than bad, they quite simply and obviously don't stand up to even cursory scrutiny any more.

Maybe now is the time for Christians to have another try at asking the Spirit for guidance instead? To look more into their own hearts and minds for what is right and good, rather than to the written code?
Last edited by Mithrae on Fri Sep 24, 2021 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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