Why I Don’t Believe the Bible is God’s Word.

According to Calvinists I don’t believe because God has determined from the beginning of time that I should not believe. It’s God’s secret will for me. I cannot believe unless God wants me to believe. It doesn’t bring him as much glory if I believe, so this is what he wants. He does not want me to believe the Bible is his word. For the Calvinist this is the end of the discussion. For me, it presents an additional reason why I don’t believe, for not only do I not see the evidence to believe, I also reject the supposition that God would both call on me to believe and at the same time secretly desire that I should not believe. What does God really desire here?...that I don’t believe…that’s the bottom line. My unbelief is exactly what God desires. It brings him the most glory. Calvinists should praise God that I don't believe. But what kind of God is this? See here.

Analogies seem to break down somewhere, but here’s one: If I was a boss and told an employee to do a particular task, but I secretly threw obstacles in his way that kept him from doing this task and then fired him for not doing the task, I would need to see a shrink. Or, I hated that employee or the company itself. But no one who knew what I did would think I was a good employer and that I worked in the best interests of the company. Even if the employee was a very poor worker and deserved to be fired in the first place, I would still be duplicitous in my dealings with him, and hence not trustworthy to deal straightforwardly and honestly with any of the other employees.

Now to just a few of the reasons why I don’t believe the Bible is God’s word.

1) I cannot stomach the whole notion of hell by conservative Christians today. Such a punishment, however conceived, does not fit the crimes (“sins”) I have done. I am not consciously rebelling against God because I sincerely do not believe he even exists. I’m following what I have come to believe to the best of my abilities as a thinking and educated person. Christians who proclaim that “the doors of hell are locked from the inside” along with C.S. Lewis, are making a ridiculous claim to me. If hell is painful to any degree, then I would want out. If hell is what I want and/or enjoyable to me in any sense, then it’s not punishment.

2) The Bible contains too many beliefs which we reject today. Christians must scramble to reinterpret these things along the lines of modern science, psychology, and biology. I call these things the Achilles Heel of Christianity, including the the Hebrew view of the Universe. Take for instance the modern Christian view of hell, mentioned above. The standard view of hell was of everlasting punishment in a lake of fire, but with such a repugnant view in light of the knowledge of a global world of sincere people, Christians are arguing for annihilation, or a metaphorical view of hell, like C.S. Lewis. Another recent change in Christian theology is Preterism, as a way to explain why Jesus hasn’t returned to earth as it was believed in the earliest centuries of the church. Now it’s said that Jesus already returned to earth in the year 70 A.D., so that there is no longer any serious problem with a the purportedly failed promise of Jesus to return, “within this generation.”

3) The God of the Bible is a barbaric God . Such a view is much more indicative of ancient conceptions of a king in a cruel world than in what Christians today would expect from such a God.

4) There are so many unanswered questions in the Bible about God, his nature and his work. How is it possible for God to foreknow the future? How is it possible for a being to never learn anything, and to always and forever exist as three-in-one without ever growing incrementally into something more and more complex? How is it possible for there to exist a being who is 100% man and 100% God with every essential attribute necessary for both? Why was his death on the cross necessary before God could forgive sins? What does it mean for Jesus, as part of the Godhead, to intercede on our behalf with God the Father, another part of the Godhead?

5) There are problems I have with the claims of miracles in the Bible. How can we judge that they ever happened when we must believe the writings of ancient superstitious people to do so?...and when there were numerous claims of miracles in that same ancient world, claims that Christians themselves will deny , including those of other faiths and cults today. This is especially true when we consider the whole nature of historical study. Anything can be doubted in history especially miraculous claims, and yet God wants us to believe based upon history? If, however, God grants us all personal experience of the Holy Spirit , then why is it so many people who were born in different times and places do not sense it, or if they do, they don’t understand it’s coming from the Christian God?

6) Then too, the way that NT writers and persons argued leave a whole lot to be desired. Paul and Jesus argued in an ignorant fashion. Matthew claims Jesus fulfilled prophecy but his exegesis of the OT texts is flawed.

I could go on, but that’s enough for now.

[First posted 7/12/06]

26 comments:

Paul Manata said...

"According to Calvinists I don’t believe because God has determined from the beginning of time that I should not believe."


John, you confuse causes and reasons for unbelief. At least get our position correct.

The cause of your unbelief is God's determining that you'd be blinded. The *reasons* for your unbelief are, well, nill.

John W. Loftus said...

Paul, according to you then, the cause of your belief is God's determining that you'd believe. And according to me, the *reasons* for your unbelief are, well, nill.

If God causes us to believe something, then God is also causing us to accept the reasons for that belief. If God causes us to accept our respective reasons for a belief, then what else can we do but believe? And if God can make us think our respective beliefs are reasonable, then why should we trust our reasoning abilities in the first place? As far as you can tell, God secretly is causing you to believe even though the reasons are on my side.

Matthew said...

John,

The chief reason I do no believe that the Bible is god's "Word" is because of biblical errancy. I believe that there are numerous contradictions, errors, and failed prophecies in the Bible. I plan to make posts documenting these in some detail. To give an example of discrepancies, I believe that the resurrection narratives conflict with each other as does the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke.

This is my chief reason for rejecting biblical inspiration. It's pathetic to see many Christians today, especially of the neo-Evangelical stripe who disregard inerrancy or treat it as a minor and peripheral doctrine. This is a horrible mistake. After reading parts of Norman Geisler's tome on Systematic Theology, I am convinced that biblical inerrancy is axiomatic for the Christian faith. It's not a secondary, consequential belief of Christians nor should it be. Rather, biblical inerrancy is of prime importance, and should be considered the doctrine of all doctrines. The attempts of neo-Evangelicals like Robert Gundry to act like it's no big deal if biblical inerrancy is refuted is sad.

Biblical inerrancy as well as recent-creationism are doctrines that Christians cannot compromise on and shouldn't try. Christians cannot abandon a literal reading of Genesis, which supports special creation as well as a universal deluge. There is simply no way to reconcile Genesis with the Big Bang theory, an extensive geological timeframe of millions and billions of years, or of Darwinian evolution.

I never thought I'd hear myself say this but it has been Christian organizations like Answers in Genesis which have upheld crucial Christian doctrines such as biblical inerrancy and biblical creationism. Christians just cannot dispense with inerrancy or creationism without doing tragic damage to the biblical text itself.

Now, I'd like to ask a question for our buddies at Triablouge, particularly Jason Engwer. Do you uphold biblical inerrancy as a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith? Do you uphold biblical creationism (recent-earth, special creationism and a global flood with all of death and suffering after the fall of Adam?) Do you have enough intellectual integrity as Christians to uphold these doctrines?

Matthew

John W. Loftus said...

I'm looking forward to what you have to say about inerrancy, Matthew.

Bahnsen Burner said...

John, very nice Slam Dunk!

Regards,
Dawson

John W. Loftus said...

I used Paul's words against him but failed to change his last "unbelief" to "belief."

Here's how it should read:

Paul, according to you then, the cause of your belief is God's determining that you'd believe. And according to me, the *reasons* for your belief are, well, nill.

Paul Manata said...

John,

The point was to correct your ignorance of basic doctrines.

We've already went over trusting our cognitive faculties within a theistic framework, now haven't we. You can pretend we've not addressed this as that delusion allows you to make your comments.

You need to present the entire story correctly. It's not as if we didn't have revelation telling us that God desires we know truth, the world, Him, our relationship to him, the cultural mandate, etc.

But, as loong as we're in table turning mode: If the *cause* of your beliefs are the laws of physics, then the laws *cause* you to think your resons are good. But, why trust the operation of the laws of physics to guide you to truth?

So, I avoided my dilemma, now it's your turn. ;-)

lovelygirl said...

Interesting points of topic.

Matthew said...

Paul,

While we're here commenting and leaving feedback, I wanted your feedback on what I wrote. I wanted to know if you uphold both biblical inerrancy and biblical creationism as vital doctrines and one that any educated Christian should believe.

Matthew

Steven Carr said...

Why does Paul Manata trust the laws of physics to give a true copy of his posting on my screen?

Perhaps , because we can empirically verifiy that the laws of physics work consistently?

Can we empirically verify that his God will not change whatever he wishes at his own pleasure?

If there is a God, then all things are possible, and Manata cannot even trust his own beliefs. After all, God can easily change Manata's thoughts.

Mark Plus said...

Now to just a few of the reasons why I don’t believe the Bible is God’s word.

1) I cannot stomach the whole notion of hell by conservative Christians today. Such a punishment, however conceived, does not fit the crimes (“sins”) I have done.


For example, consider the weird way Jesus defines "adultery," namely, looking upon a woman and just thinking about her reproductive fitness. (Her what? Start to read up on evolutionary psychology. I predict that this field will transform humanists' world view and language in a generation.)

Hey, if a god will hold that against me as "adultery," I'd feel cheated. I'd much rather have a god judge me for having done the real thing.

Bullfrog said...

It seems like your reasons for not believing the Bible to be God's inerrant word can be summed up in, "It says stuff that I don't like, or doesn't make sense."

Either the Bible is true in the objective sense, or untrue, either way, your opinion means little. In order to disprove the Bible, you must attack it's historicity.

Bruce said...

In order to disprove the Bible, you must attack it's historicity.

Read "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart Ehrman. His whole book is on how the various scribes changed the texts of the bible over the years. Anyone who really thinks they are reading the "word of God" when they open their bible is deluding themselves. You are reading what hundreds or thousands of different scribes over the past few thousand years thought you should read, and nothing more.

Steven Carr said...

You have to remember that these scribes had free will, so God could not interfere to stop them changing the words of the Binble, just as he could not interfere with the free will of the original authors to make mistakes.

Shining and Burning Light said...

Hi Guys,

I just wanted to comment on something that was said earlier about the sin of adultery when it is committed in the heart only, not in the act. The Bible recognizes that one sin is worse than another with regard to degree (i.e. the physical committing of adultery is worse than lustful desire), but that the two are both components of the same sin. Sin begins in the heart before it is ever committed with the body. Christ is not condemning the recognition of a woman's beauty, but the lustful desire that most often is connected with it in the inately sinful human heart (particularly male human heart). That's what is in view. If the desire to commit adultery is there, then the will to do it is there as well. Just because you are physically unable to commit the act of adultery due to some outward restraint or the situation was not available to you, doesn't mean you haven't sinned. This is an example of the spiritual nature of God's law. God is after the inner man, the heart. He doesn't merely want your outward obedience. He isn't interested in a bunch of religious hypocrites who are nice on the outside and full of trash on the inside, but still show up every Sunday to take up their space in the pew. God hates that, and that kind of hypocrisy is condemned in Scripture in no uncertain terms. In regard to any violation of God's law in the heart or in the act, both will put you under God's wrath without repentance and faith in the atoning sacrifice for sin (Jesus Christ). The spiritual nature of the law condemns the atheist and religious hypocrite alike. I'm not trying to offend anyone here, I'm just making the point and communicating the Scriptural teaching on the subject....thanks

SuperSkeptic said...

Regarding inerrancy: After reading Misquoting Jesus (among other things), I don't think the Bible is inerrant. The Bible was written down by humans, and copied by other humans hundreds, if not thousands, of times. We have lost the original manuscripts in all cases, and there are more differences in the surviving manuscript than there are words in the NT. It is reasonable to conclude that versions of the Bible that exist today are not inerrant.

However, it has been pointed out by Marcus Borg and others that the audience for both the OT and the NT did not necessarily take things at face value. It has been postulated that the intent of the authors was not historical record but rather teaching through analogy, just like Jesus did with the parables.

For instance, no one believes that The Good Samaritan was supposed to historically represent a real person, but that doesn't mean that the story isn't "true"--on the contrary, I think it's one of the fundamental points of the "New Covenant." It just isn't historical fact.

Therefore, although I'm still a skeptic, I read Genesis 1 as metaphorical, not literal. Assume for a moment that God set The Big Bang in motion. Would an ancient people understand how The Big Bang Theory works? No. So does it matter how the world came into being, or is what matters the fact that God made it, and wants humans to understand that He made it? (And if you argue that times have changed, and why would God put in an inaccurate version of history, all I have to say is that modern people understand metaphor just as well as ancients.)

I read the account of the Deluge the same way. There are a ton of problems, scientific and chronological, with the Deluge. But it doesn't need to have actually happened for it to be "true." The lesson of the Deluge is that the farther away we get from God, the more destructive our lives will become. Even today, we see how people clean up their lives after finding God. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Paul Menata is one of those people.

Reconciling "Biblical inerrancy" in the light of "metaphorical truth" solves some of the problems I see, but raises many other questions for me, which unfortunately bring me no closer to solidifying my belief or disbelief. I'd be interested to hear others' comments on this.

Shining and Burning Light said...

Just a quick comment,

There is a lot made of the alternate readings in the various Bible manuscripts today, but those small variations do not change a single doctrine of Scripture. Obviously there are going to be mistakes made in the process of copying given that humans are involved in the method of transmission, however God supernaturally preserved and superintended their transmission throughout the ages. Why did He still allow for the various readings? I don't know, possibly to prevent His people from setting up the documents themselves (the manuscripts) as an idol to be worshipped like Roman Catholics do with "holy" relics. However, I obviously can't fully answer that question. The fact remains that everything God intended to communicate about Himself is in the Scriptures in the form we have them, regardless of the various readings and the failures of human Scribes. Metaphorical truth (in most cases) is an attempt for those who still want to give the Bible some credence, to reconcile what they perceive as mistakes or discrepancies in the text with the Bible's own claim to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God. I don't think "metaphorical truth" needs to be appealed to in order to defend the Bible. Such an appeal leads the reader away from the meaning God intended to convey. Metaphor is used in Scripture, but the Bible itself is clear when a historical account is being given, or a metaphorical truth is in view (such as the story of the Good Samaritan). Faithful and consistent exegesis of the text is the way to go to determine the Bible's meaning. If someone is going to make the case that because there are variant readings, then the Bible's claim of inerrancy is not true, they would have to show where even a single doctrine would be changed due to one of the variant readings. The fact is that no one is able to do that, not even Bart Ehrenman. All right, I said I was going to make a quick comment, at this point I will apologize for failing to keep my word....thanks!

Scott said...

Hell will not be "enjoyable" in any sense of the word. What do you think would be enjoyable about Hell?
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The quote “within this generation” meant the generation of those at the end of times.
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God didn't just punish the Israelites for no reason and He certainly gave them a fair chance before He did. God is slow to anger. He allowed hundreds of years for the Israelites to change their ways before He punished them.
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All things are possible with God.
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"I believe early Christian preachers simply went into the Old Testament looking for verses that would support their view of Jesus. They took these Old Testament verses out of context and applied them to Jesus in order to support their views of his life and mission. None of the them proves much of anything significant with regard to Jesus' nature or mission."

That's very speculative and very invalid. Actually, the Jews had been expecting a Messiah based on those prophecies. The prophecies were not pointed out after the fact. The prophecies support Jesus' claim to divinity.
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I would like to debate more, but I need more specific statements about what you think in regards to the Bible and Christianity. I will logically/factually debate with you if you are willing to do the same with me. I will wait for your response.

SuperSkeptic said...

S&BL -- Your comments that the Bible is inerrant is puzzling to me. For example, if you believe the Bible is historically accurate, then you believe things like the Deluge was an actual historical event. Other civilizations have uninterrupted written records kept during the year the Deluge was supposed to have happened; also, the geological evidence does not support a year-long flood that covered the entire earth. This doesn't prove that the flood didn't happen, but it does strongly indicate that there are parts of the Bible that are not historically accurate.

You also seem to suggest that Christian doctrine has not changed as a result of variant readings. I would argue that Christian doctrine has changed significantly throughout the years, including the introduction of a Triune God in the 400s, women's role in the church throughout the last 2,000 years (depending on whether one how interprets the seemingly conflicting passages in Galatians [there is no man and no woman, all are one in Christ] and 2 Timothy [women are to be silent in church]), slavery, interracial marriage, divorce, and more. There's a lot of disagreement in doctrine as well: do good works get you into Heaven, as Matthew suggests, or is it solely the acceptance of Jesus as your personal Savior, as the author of John writes?

In fact, if the United Church of Christ, United Church of Canada, and a significant number of the U.S. Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists get their way, the doctrine on homosexuality will also change based on varient readings.

To those Christians who attempt to convince me that the Bible is the inspired, inerrent Word of God, and/or historically accurate, I say this: there is a mountain of evidence that strongly indicates that the Bible is neither inerrant nor historically accurate. While it doesn't disprove the inerrancy/accuracy, and while anything is possible in a worldview with an omnipotent God, I have come to the conclusion that it is highly, highly, highly unlikely that the Bible is inerrant and historically accurate. In fact, that's how I lost my faith when I was 17; my youth group leader told me that if I questioned certain things, I'd have to throw out my entire faith. S&BL: while you don't come out and say that, it sure sounds like you are implying the same thing. I don't think one must believe that the Bible is historically accurate nor the inerrant Word of God to believe in God and to believe in some of the things the Bible says, particularly in the way we treat each other while on this planet (minus all the stuff about stoning people and selling your daughter into slavery in the Pentetauch).

If you say that no one can show where "even a single doctrine would be changed due to one of the variant readings," I just don't think that's true. Now perhaps it's technically possible that the historical evidence has been fancifully made up by scientists and athiests to back up their beliefs, but again, the indications just don't support that notion.

Jim said...

>1 - Such a punishment, however conceived, does not fit the crimes (“sins”) I have done.

Maybe to you it doesn't but to God it does and His judgment is the only one that matters.

>2 - The Bible contains too many beliefs which we reject today.

Truth is not a democratic process or a popularity contest John. Just because Christians disagree on a point of doctrine does not invalidate the Bible. Annhilationisn and Preterims are not orthodox Christian doctrines by the way.

>3 - Such a view is much more indicative of ancient conceptions of a king in a cruel world than in what Christians today would expect from such a God.

No man can redefine God - that is idolatry and making up your own divinity. Your definition of God as barbaric is from your point of view which is tainted and corrupted by sin - hardly anyone thinks they deserve the punishment they get. If you don't believe me, visit some guys in prison and ask.

>4 - There are so many unanswered questions in the Bible about God, his nature and his work.

Because God chose not to tell you everything you make this an excuse not to believe? "The secret things belong to the Lord our God but the things He has revealed belong to us and to our children forever." - Deuteronomy 29:29

>5 - There are problems I have with the claims of miracles in the Bible

You probably believe alot of historical events based on eye witness testimony, why not miracles? Who says the people who witnessed them were superstitious? You have no ability to prove they DIDN'T witness the miracles so your argument is a wash.

>6 - Then too, the way that NT writers and persons argued leave a whole lot to be desired.

The way in one argues, based on a middle eastern mindset rather than western btw, does not invalidate the truth they claim. I think your arguing style and logic has a lot to be desired also but I focus on the content of what you say rather than how you say it.

Sternwallow said...

In my lexicon, "inerrant" means without error. When the term is applied to the Bible, it is not (usually) intended to mean the original, perfect, written version, but the tangible book that one buys in the bookshop and has "Holy Bible" emblazoned on the cover in gold. No one alive today believes the original Bible, only the modern faint shadow of it. As I see it, all appeals to copyist error, bad translation and creative interpretation (needed to massage the text into some reasonableness) are all admissions of errors.

A class of features in the Bible that I cite as errors are statements that overspecify and create error where none is necessary. One example is the Genesis account of each day's creation. If it had said merely and simply that "God created the xxxxx", that would have been enough and would have been acceptable under modern understanding (Big Bang, geologic time etc.), but the author of the Bible had to overstep by saying that it was done in a single day and, to make it worse yet, he specified a 24 hour day by specifically including the "morning and evening" phrase. In effect, God had to go out of His mighty way to get it wrong.

Another member of this class of error is the famous Pi=3 passage. The "lake" was specified as round and 10 cubits across (diameter) and 30 cubits around (circumference). Pi is not and never was 3. All it would take to make the statement correct is to not have included any one of the three specs. You can certainly have a round thing with a 10 cubit diameter, a thing with 10 cubit diameter can have a 30 cubit circumference if it is not round and a round thing can have a 30 cubit circumference, but not all three.

eaduff said...

"God is after the inner man, the heart. He doesn't merely want your outward obedience. He isn't interested in a bunch of religious hypocrites who are nice on the outside and full of trash on the inside, but still show up every Sunday to take up their space in the pew. God hates that, and that kind of hypocrisy is condemned in Scripture in no uncertain terms."
First- I'll say that I grew up beside a church and had many opportunities to see the hypocrites that showed up every Sun morn. Hung over from being in the bar Sat night, drinking and chasing the ladies or men until early morning. I guess showing up at church means that you can do what ever you want during the week as long as you show up Sun and pray for forgiveness. What a load of crock.
Second- "God hates that" How can this be if he is the "loving god" that he supposed to be. I guess that means that if you don't conform to what is written in the Bible that god must hate you. Sounds vengeful to me. I'm glad I'm a none believer.

Michael said...

I don't see why your blog is called "free-thinking." There is no such thing in this world. You argue against standing positions and practices, trying to "debunk" Christianity. That's not "free-thinking" that's just a lack of faith. And don't try to argue faith is the opposite of "free-thinking."

seanallen1997 said...

I don't know that I believe it either. I mean really, a book written by a bunch of men claiming that it was the word of god. I'm thinking there is another term for some of it, mental instability.

Another thing, why is it that god only spoke through man way back then? Why don't we have a constant continuation of the bible throughout time? If someone claimed god was speaking through them I think they'd be called crazy today. And what about religious type beliefs that were held before the bible? There are so many beliefs that we no longer hold, but that our ancestors held firm to in the same manner Christians hold to theirs.

I'm told to believe the bible simply because someone told me I was supposed to? Because if I read it then I would have no other option but to believe or be a sinner? Why should I believe? I mean a real solid answer, not just because a bunch of men wrote a book, who said it was the word of god and that I'm just supposed to. No one has ever given me a real answer to this, not one that didn't somehow start or at very least contain the word 'faith'. I'm sorry, but in general I don't have much faith in men, let alone a bible written by them.

Anonymous said...

The simple fact of the matter is that even the original writings were just the writings of human beings. They were no more God's Word originally than the most updated versions are now. If someone came up to you with a book today and told you that they had just written it but God was the real author would you take it for the Gospel and say thus should be included in the Bible. Or would you say this person is nuts? So what's the difference? Zero. That's the difference. Religion is man made folks. Period. Believing there is a higher power is a whole other story.

Anonymous said...

Here is the cold hard truth. If u don't believe there is a God, u cannot make someone that is a true believer stop believing. No matter what u say their belief will cause them to believe it is the will of God that you are even having the conversation in the first place. It is gods will to do anything, say anything, and be anywhere at any place in time. My wife is a cold hard believer and it hinders our relationship a lot. She says we have problems because " the devil has ahold of me". no we have problems bc she is lazy and doesn't do anything. The war for the belief of God or gods has been going on for thousands of years. So suck it up, you're not changing their mind.