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

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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 #11

Post by Diogenes »

Mithrae wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 6:47 pm
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; ....
....
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?
I agree with the first sentence. But the idea of allowing the "Spirit" to guide disturbs me. Even supposing there exists a Holy Spirit who gives proper guidance, both history and psychology are replete with too many examples of the dangers of listening to what people claim are spirits.
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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #12

Post by Mithrae »

Diogenes wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 7:42 pm
Mithrae wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 6:47 pm How? Out of perceived necessity. It's obviously not inerrant, as anyone who's read it without prior indoctrination can see; ....
....
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?
I agree with the first sentence. But the idea of allowing the "Spirit" to guide disturbs me. Even supposing there exists a Holy Spirit who gives proper guidance, both history and psychology are replete with too many examples of the dangers of listening to what people claim are spirits.
Even assuming that there is no Holy Spirit, how would Christians seeking His guidance in their hearts and minds (as promised by Jeremiah/Paul/Hebrews etc.) be any different from atheists following their own conscience and reason? People who are inclined towards violence, cruelty, domination and the like might use "the Holy Spirit told me..." as a justification for those inclinations, but in other circumstances they're at least as likely to find as good if not better justification from the bible or from pseudo-darwinism or from amoral nihilism. Flawed though humanity may still be, I'd sooner trust the conscience and reason of modern Christians than the morals and theologies of 'Moses' or Daniel or John of Patmos.

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

Post #13

Post by Diogenes »

Mithrae wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 9:41 pm
Diogenes wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 7:42 pm
Mithrae wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 6:47 pm How? Out of perceived necessity. It's obviously not inerrant, as anyone who's read it without prior indoctrination can see; ....
....
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?
I agree with the first sentence. But the idea of allowing the "Spirit" to guide disturbs me. Even supposing there exists a Holy Spirit who gives proper guidance, both history and psychology are replete with too many examples of the dangers of listening to what people claim are spirits.
Even assuming that there is no Holy Spirit, how would Christians seeking His guidance in their hearts and minds (as promised by Jeremiah/Paul/Hebrews etc.) be any different from atheists following their own conscience and reason? People who are inclined towards violence, cruelty, domination and the like might use "the Holy Spirit told me..." as a justification for those inclinations, but in other circumstances they're at least as likely to find as good if not better justification from the bible or from pseudo-darwinism or from amoral nihilism. Flawed though humanity may still be, I'd sooner trust the conscience and reason of modern Christians than the morals and theologies of 'Moses' or Daniel or John of Patmos.
I'd greatly prefer the morals of Jesus of Nazareth or Gandhi. The key point is that 'relying on "the Spirit"' provides no guidance at all. Religious instruction, such as Paul's infamous Romans 13 admonition to trust authorities because they were appointed by God is used to justify whomever one wants.
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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #14

Post by otseng »

Diogenes wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 9:48 pm 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?
No, it does not need to be "perfect". For one thing, what does it mean to be "perfect"? Every single statement has to be 100% precise? Everything has to be literally true? There should be absolutely no mistakes?

In Christian theology, God has revealed himself to man through general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is primarily the revelation of God through nature. And special revelation is primarily through the Bible. There is no need for either of these to be "perfect" in order to point to God.

One major barrier I believe is the temptation to idolize the Bible. The Bible is not God. It's not something to be worshiped or idolized. The purpose of the Bible is to lead us to God, it is not God itself. In a sense, I believe we have mythologized the Bible to be beyond what it actually is. Protestants critique Catholics for mythologizing Mary. I think in a similar way, Protestants have mythologized the Bible. And it's revealed by people having an expectation that it must be perfect, just as Mary must've been sinless. But, can Mary still be the mother of Jesus even though she was sinful? I think so. Can the Bible still reveal God, even if it's not perfect? I also think so.

As for alleged contradictions, there could be a number of responses to them. But, the more important question is do the contradictions impact major Christian doctrines? Very few do. So, even if there are contradictions, they are of little relevance to doctrinal beliefs.

So, presenting and attacking contradictions and imperfections and demanding perfection, I believe, is a strawman. There is no objective definition of perfection and there is no requirement for perfection.

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

Post #15

Post by TRANSPONDER »

No....that's an evasion. The question, problem and apologetic is not whether the contradictions unseat Christian Dogma (though it sometimes seems to, like Jesus seemed to dismiss the 'Sabbath' as unimportant), but whether they undermine the credibility of the Bible as an accurate record of events, forget about supposed dictation by God.

I hate to labour the point, but contradictions/discrepancies with verified information as well as itself, is what does for Bible credibility. And when the claim to trust it without question s out the window, it's Authority goes with it.

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

Post #16

Post by Diagoras »

otseng wrote: Sun Sep 26, 2021 1:04 am In Christian theology, God has revealed himself to man through general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is primarily the revelation of God through nature. And special revelation is primarily through the Bible. There is no need for either of these to be "perfect" in order to point to God.
The point about general revelation isn't really germane to this debate, so I'll let that slide.

One major barrier I believe is the temptation to idolize the Bible. The Bible is not God. It's not something to be worshiped or idolized. The purpose of the Bible is to lead us to God, it is not God itself. <..> Can the Bible still reveal God, even if it's not perfect? I also think so.
Would you accept an analogy of a paper road atlas that's a few years out of date? Shows you the general way forward but might miss out the odd set of traffic lights and occasionally the new overpass?

As for alleged contradictions, there could be a number of responses to them. But, the more important question is do the contradictions impact major Christian doctrines? Very few do. So, even if there are contradictions, they are of little relevance to doctrinal beliefs.
When you say, "Very few do", you're acknowledging that at least there are some contradictions that impact major doctrines - but then immediately declaring them to be 'of little relevance'. To address the question of trustworthiness, it would be important to tackle these openly and honestly, don't you think?

So, presenting and attacking contradictions and imperfections and demanding perfection, I believe, is a strawman.
How did we go from 'inerrant' to 'perfection'? It might seem a trivial point, but the words aren't exactly the same. If the claim is that the Bible is akin to a road sign, 'pointing to God', then the question being asked is more like "Why does this sign say God's found 3 miles South, as well as 2 miles North?"

(Please don't say, 'Because God is everywhere...!") :)

To add to the point made by TRANSPONDER, attacking "the Bible as an accurate record of events", I'd return to the road atlas analogy. Just as there are various versions of the Bible, there are different atlases. Unfortunately, the Bible as an atlas doesn't have a 'map key' at the front to tell you what the different coloured lines mean (highway? railway?), and sometimes seems to use a blue square as a symbol of a hotel, but other times as for a toll booth. It's never stated outright that 'this passage is a metaphor', but 'that one is historical fact'.

If I had a road atlas like that, I wouldn't trust it.

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

Post #17

Post by Diogenes »

otseng wrote: Sun Sep 26, 2021 1:04 am
Diogenes wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 9:48 pm 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?
No, it does not need to be "perfect". For one thing, what does it mean to be "perfect"? Every single statement has to be 100% precise? Everything has to be literally true? There should be absolutely no mistakes?

In Christian theology, God has revealed himself to man through general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is primarily the revelation of God through nature. And special revelation is primarily through the Bible. There is no need for either of these to be "perfect" in order to point to God.

One major barrier I believe is the temptation to idolize the Bible. The Bible is not God. It's not something to be worshiped or idolized. The purpose of the Bible is to lead us to God, it is not God itself. In a sense, I believe we have mythologized the Bible to be beyond what it actually is. Protestants critique Catholics for mythologizing Mary. I think in a similar way, Protestants have mythologized the Bible. And it's revealed by people having an expectation that it must be perfect, just as Mary must've been sinless. But, can Mary still be the mother of Jesus even though she was sinful? I think so. Can the Bible still reveal God, even if it's not perfect? I also think so.

As for alleged contradictions, there could be a number of responses to them. But, the more important question is do the contradictions impact major Christian doctrines? Very few do. So, even if there are contradictions, they are of little relevance to doctrinal beliefs.

So, presenting and attacking contradictions and imperfections and demanding perfection, I believe, is a strawman. There is no objective definition of perfection and there is no requirement for perfection.
I agree that many who call themselves 'Christian' have made an idol of the Bible. I agree it is not perfect. I agree it is not God, nor the 'Word of God.' It is a collection of writings by men attempting to portray God, or to lead man to God. I agree with all of this. One can be an atheist and believe this.
The fact of the imperfections and contradictions only proves the writings are not the work of a perfect or omniscient god. We are in complete agreement. So, upon what are these doctrines or "doctrinal beliefs" based?
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Re: How can we trust the Bible if it's not inerrant?

Post #18

Post by Mithrae »

Diogenes wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 10:19 pm
Mithrae wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 9:41 pm Even assuming that there is no Holy Spirit, how would Christians seeking His guidance in their hearts and minds (as promised by Jeremiah/Paul/Hebrews etc.) be any different from atheists following their own conscience and reason? People who are inclined towards violence, cruelty, domination and the like might use "the Holy Spirit told me..." as a justification for those inclinations, but in other circumstances they're at least as likely to find as good if not better justification from the bible or from pseudo-darwinism or from amoral nihilism. Flawed though humanity may still be, I'd sooner trust the conscience and reason of modern Christians than the morals and theologies of 'Moses' or Daniel or John of Patmos.
I'd greatly prefer the morals of Jesus of Nazareth...
Another preacher of eternal torment - literally the most evil notion we can imagine! A fellow who said if you're not with him you're against him and treated those with differing religious views to vicious verbal assaults as 'whitewashed tombs' and so on. A hypocrite who initially taught not to resist evil even to the point of turning the other cheek but then made a whip to violently drive innocent businessmen from a public place and told his followers to carry a sword with them. A chap so arrogant that he told folk to love him more than their own families and lives, and supposedly 'predicted' and actively provoked his own death by his temple outburst as some kind of self-righteous suicide. For people who are xenophobic, violent, egomaniacal, cult leaders, haters of their own families or abusers of their own bodies the stories of Jesus provide plenty of justification for those tendencies, sometimes framed as explicit commands.

Obviously there's good or well-intentioned stuff in there too (some of it probably inspired by Diogenes and his followers), but even most of that is so lofty that virtually no-one follows it seriously - sell all you have and give to the poor, stop working for money and live like the birds of the field, turn the other cheek to those who abuse you - and moreover unless there actually were a deity making sure the 'kingdom of God' ran smoothly it could be quite catastrophic to the point of societal collapse if any more than a small fraction of folk actually did!
Diogenes wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 10:19 pmThe key point is that 'relying on "the Spirit"' provides no guidance at all. Religious instruction, such as Paul's infamous Romans 13 admonition to trust authorities because they were appointed by God is used to justify whomever one wants.
Atheism and secularism also provide no guidance at all, and leave the door open to philosophies justifying whatever horrendous things one wants. However worrying it may be to imagine atheists and Christians alike looking primarily to their own conscience and reason to understand what's good and right - in the latter case, looking for God's law written on their hearts and minds as promised by Jeremiah, Paul etc. - it's got to be an improvement, on average, over looking primarily to the morals and theology of iron age preachers!

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

Post #19

Post by otseng »

TRANSPONDER wrote: Sun Sep 26, 2021 8:40 am ... but whether they undermine the credibility of the Bible as an accurate record of events, forget about supposed dictation by God.

I hate to labour the point, but contradictions/discrepancies with verified information as well as itself, is what does for Bible credibility. And when the claim to trust it without question s out the window, it's Authority goes with it.
That's why we need to get this out of the way before even getting to justifications and reasons for accepting the Bible is authoritative. And I expect it's going to take awhile to discuss because this belief is so deep-seated in our culture.

The way I believe the Bible should be approached is like listening to witnesses in a courtroom. Each witness has their own perspective, style, personality, etc. When they give their account of an event, it is entirely possible it will contradict another testimony. It is up to the jury to piece together what is the truth. Just because there are discrepancies between the witnesses doesn't mean everything is false.

The Bible was not written to be an encyclopedia of factual information that is authoritative on facts, dates, measurements, genealogies, etc. It is the underlying message under these facts that the author is trying to convey. I'm not saying facts presented are all false, but contradictions can occur, just like they can occur in a courtroom.
Diagoras wrote: Sun Sep 26, 2021 4:32 pm The point about general revelation isn't really germane to this debate, so I'll let that slide.
One reason I bring it up is Christians do not idolize nature. Likewise, nobody should idolize the Bible. On the flip side, Christians should appreciate nature just like they appreciate the Bible. Jesus spent an inordinate amount of time in nature (and not just in the temple).
Would you accept an analogy of a paper road atlas that's a few years out of date? Shows you the general way forward but might miss out the odd set of traffic lights and occasionally the new overpass?
Well, not even a paper atlas. I was using Apple Maps to get to a destination and it was just plain wrong. It wanted me to drive in the wrong direction in a one-way road. And this was not the only time it has had a mistake. But, I still use the app.
When you say, "Very few do", you're acknowledging that at least there are some contradictions that impact major doctrines - but then immediately declaring them to be 'of little relevance'. To address the question of trustworthiness, it would be important to tackle these openly and honestly, don't you think?
Sure, what would be some of these?
How did we go from 'inerrant' to 'perfection'? It might seem a trivial point, but the words aren't exactly the same. If the claim is that the Bible is akin to a road sign, 'pointing to God', then the question being asked is more like "Why does this sign say God's found 3 miles South, as well as 2 miles North?"
Actually, I believe the term inerrant is meaningless, but don't want to get into that debate here. It's been covered several times in other threads.

The Bible is actually quite consistent in the basic message that God created us sinless, mankind has sinned, sin is a barrier to God, God has removed that barrier through Jesus Christ, and we can have a relationship with God through faith in Him.

Is there anything in the Bible that contradicts this core message?
Unfortunately, the Bible as an atlas doesn't have a 'map key' at the front to tell you what the different coloured lines mean (highway? railway?), and sometimes seems to use a blue square as a symbol of a hotel, but other times as for a toll booth. It's never stated outright that 'this passage is a metaphor', but 'that one is historical fact'.
Actually, I believe it's quite easy to understand the basic message of the Bible as described above. No PhD degree needed. But, as we move out of the core, it requires deeper study. Very intelligent people have been studying it for thousands of years and we're still learning more and more.
Diogenes wrote: Sun Sep 26, 2021 8:04 pm The fact of the imperfections and contradictions only proves the writings are not the work of a perfect or omniscient god.
I also agree the Bible is not the work of a perfect God.

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

Post #20

Post by Mithrae »

Diagoras wrote: Sun Sep 26, 2021 4:32 pm To add to the point made by TRANSPONDER, attacking "the Bible as an accurate record of events", I'd return to the road atlas analogy. Just as there are various versions of the Bible, there are different atlases. Unfortunately, the Bible as an atlas doesn't have a 'map key' at the front to tell you what the different coloured lines mean (highway? railway?), and sometimes seems to use a blue square as a symbol of a hotel, but other times as for a toll booth. It's never stated outright that 'this passage is a metaphor', but 'that one is historical fact'.

If I had a road atlas like that, I wouldn't trust it.
Even if all your maps were crude hand-drawn ones? I think it made sense, of a sort, for believers to treat the bible as somehow 'inspired' or authoritative even though obviously errant, when it was the best available (or at least not laughably far out of contention for it). "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"; not just a vaguely reasonable attitude, but one which may have contributed greatly to the culture of academic excellence among Jews and to conversionary Protestants' propagation of literacy, civic associations and ultimately the spread of democracy around the world.

But in the 21st century, there just doesn't seem to be any obvious area in which the bible is even a remotely plausible contender for "the best we've got" any more; factually, predictively, morally, socially, psychologically... :?

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