Bibliolatry

John R.W. Stott once wrote "to be genuinely and authentically Christian, one must simply believe the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation."

As a minister, I once heard a woman give testimony that she was in a nursing home when it caught on fire. Her exit, along with several others, was blocked by fire. She tried to break the window, but could not find the strength to do it. She noticed her Bible on the nightstand, so she grabbed it, prayed and hit the window with it. The window - she says - exploded outward, and she and several of her co-residents were able to escape the inferno.

I know that - on this blogsite and many others - the issue of biblical authority and inerrancy (or infallibility) have been discussed many times. However, it is important to revisit time and time again that the whole of Christian relevance, authority and claims for regard are based on the legitimacy of biblical revelation. There is no other argument that the Christian faith can make, because historical evidence simply is not there for much of the development of Christian doctrine - including the existence of Jesus, the validity of miracles, and the ongoing "proof" of God among believers. It all hinges on the Bible.

In the last church I served, every person who became a member had to answer this question: "do you believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible?" If they answered no, they could not become a part of that church. I was amazed at how many people had to ask - "what is inerrancy", and even more asked "what is infallibility?"

The greatest deception taking place on this planet - IMHO - is the failure of the church (especially the evangelical church) to tell the truth to its constituency about the findings of modern biblical criticism and historic research. Most evangelical Christians (most Christians) have no idea of what the majority of biblical scholarship is concluding about the Bible...even in conservative and evangelical circles.

Instead, the church appeals to what I call "bibliolatry" - which is idolatry of the Bible and a crude, almost tribal belief in its magic powers. Note that this bibliolatry is as focused (if not more focused) on the bible itself than the information it contains. The Bible is viewed as a sacred book - a book with powers. Stories abound like the one I shared above about the woman in the nursing home - people who discern God's will by opening the pages and finding an answer (like the guy who proposed to a woman named Grace, because he prayed about a wife, opened the bible, and read "Grace be unto you"), or words from the bible delivered people from demonic vexation, or bibles being in placed in places where sin was prevalent (a pornographic bookstore) and the place closing business down within a week.

So, millions of people are encouraged to believe in a book, with no understanding of its origins, its cultural relevance, its historicity, and the research taking place in it currently...instead, they are only shown that it is like golden tablets come down from heaven, having the very power of God upon it.

The greatest testimony against Christian religion is the Bible itself.

17 comments:

David M. said...

It is amazing to me that this blog continues to claim, or at least elude to the stupidity, or idiocy, or lack of common sense of Christians. First of all, the blanket statement, or elusion to the statement shows prejudice (which is generally not acceptable in culture) and a lack of a care for the rest of humanity. Second of all, isn't it interesting that you all spend so much time trying to "debunk" something that you claim is so wrong, or false. Modern and ancient philosophy (not christian) would argue that the need to prove something doesn't exist is basically impossible, and is sometimes insanity. You can't prove the inexistence of something with the scope of what is argued here. You can't prove that something isn't. Now I'm sure that there will be retorts to follow in these comments and I can probably even guess what will be written, but in a large way, you can't refute all of what you are trying to refute.

I used to read this blog because I thought it was interesting, but the more I read, the more uninteresting it is. If you really think all of this is true . . . why can't you move on? Who cares? My biblical worldview leads me to want to tell the good news of a God who loved his creation so much that he sent his son. Good news needs to be shared. I know that you all think you are "saving" people from being christians, but I wonder if you really still trying to convince yourselves of the words that you type. Normally, and I could be wrong here, non-biblical worlviews don't see the need to share and multiply, unless they are satanic, which realize the existence of God, and shudder, trying to stop God.

Knowledge is not the end of man. Knowledge is limited. If you put your hope in your ability to understand the world, you will be greatly dissapointed. You don't have to believe me now, but someday you will.

Dave

Shygetz said...

David, we allude to ignorance, not stupidity or idiocy, of most Christians. We are not the only ones; many Christian theologians have publically bemoaned the average believers' training in common apologetics. And we do not prejudge; every person here have experience Christian ignorance of their faith and tradition firsthand, so it's actually post-judice.

Second, I spend an inordinate amount of time debunking young earth creationism, disbelief in evolution, and various other ignorant beliefs that are unfortunately still prevelant in the Deep South.

And you, sir, have no idea what you are talking about with "proof". You can't "prove" anything about the world. All you can do is alter the reasonableness of belief. And you can make it highly unreasonable to believe that something exists. For example, I can't "prove" Flying Spaghetti Monsters exist, but I can show you how unreasonable it would be to believe in it.

If you really think all of this is true . . . why can't you move on? Who cares?

I care. Faith has been granted the status of a virtue, which has led to many practical problems even if we ignore the theological ones. I think that I have "good news" that people don't need to live in fear of an angry sky man and his often grumpy earthly representatives. So, this good news needs to be shared, right?

I know that you all think you are "saving" people from being christians, but I wonder if you really still trying to convince yourselves of the words that you type.

Ah, online mind reading. You really should charge for that.

Normally, and I could be wrong here, non-biblical worlviews don't see the need to share and multiply...

That's how I felt until the assholes in your movement decided that this was a Christian nation, Constitution be damned. I'm a live-and-let-live person by nature, but if pushed I push back. If you don't like it, tough.

...unless they are satanic, which realize the existence of God, and shudder, trying to stop God.

So let's see, you are making a backhanded accusation that I really believe in an omnipotent, omniscient God, but I think I can put one over on him? I think that fact that I'm smart enough to type should convince anyone that I'm not that dumb. Did you ever consider the fact that our motivations are exactly what we say they are?

Knowledge is not the end of man. Knowledge is limited. If you put your hope in your ability to understand the world, you will be greatly dissapointed. You don't have to believe me now, but someday you will.

You err; you are the one claiming to have simple answers to difficult problems. You are the one claiming unlimited knowledge through revelation. I have no problem saying I don't know, but I'll try to find out. And I fully expect to fail sometimes (but I'll succeed some, as well). What I won't do is throw up my hands and say "God did it!"

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

First, David M: Shygetz answered most of your points, but let me add a little. If your message, or the message of most Christians, was just about "a God who loved his creation so much that he sent his son" I might disagree with you, but Christianity teaches much more than that.
It teaches a warped, sad, and dangerous view of sexual morality, condemning such natural things as masturbation, fornication and homosexuality, and ignoring the true sexual 'sins' of dishonesty, disrespect, ireesponsibility when having sex. (And while it condemns rape, I defy you to tell me of any pastor you know who has preached against it, or against any form of sexual coercion or dishonesty that lessens consent one tenth as often as he has preached against homosexuality.)
Christianity preaches the danger of hell, sometimes for just lack of faith -- which might nopt be so bad if you weren't supposed to also figure out which of the 7347 versions of Christian doctrine was the 'right' one.
And it does, as Shygetz states, in one of its more popular variations, preach the nonsense of a "Christian nation,' and its worst variant of this preaches the reconstructing of the laws of the nation along biblical precedents. (See Rushdoony and North for prime examples of this.)
And it preaches and demands -- in some of its fundamentalist/literalist versions -- a willful ignorance and blindness to any scientific discovery that contradicts the woven together narratives that make up the Pentateuch.

That's why I am here, and why debunking Christianity is so important to me. Above all, above my skepticism, my atheism, and my freethinking 'quarrelsomeness' I am a humanist. And my heart breaks at the pastor-led self-torture many Christian's subject themselves to. And I want to show at least a few of them how unnecessary these tortures are.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Brother Crow:
Thank you for this post. I have always ben fascinated by the history of the Bible and the discoveries that have been made about it. (And remember, the 'compound nature' of the Pentateuch is not a new discovery. That it was woven together from various sources has been known for nearly 300 years, and the breakdown of the sources into the "Yahwist," "Elohist," "Priestly," and "Deuteronomist" sources has been accepted since the middle of the 19th Century.

But how many Pastors -- forget Christians in general -- even know enough to talk about the languages the Bible was written in. How many Christians 'know' that the King James Version is the right one, and know nothing of the improvements in translation that have given us even the RSV and NIV. How many Christians might seriously say, in the words of the old joke, "If the King James Version was good enough for St. Paul, it's good enough for me"?
(And if you really want to have fun with a Christian, ask them what they know about King James. Then tell them he favored burning witches, banning tobacco, and was homosexual.)

I could go on about the canonization, about Luther considering Revelations uncanonical, about how Revelations was not a unique book but one of many works in a standard style -- and with standard imagery -- that were common at the time etc. But you expressed the important things in your post. Thanx again.

Steven Carr said...

David M wants to spread
the message of Christianity.

Which is 'turn or burn'

Or perhaps the longer version.

'The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.'

Or the more modern version,

'The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree, WHICH NEVER EXISTED.'

Steven Bently said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stargazer said...

There was a sense of irony when I read this first paragraph--John Stott was one of the theologians that actually opened the door to thinking outside the box for me. Don't know what he is thinking/writing/expounding at this time, but I remember it was his idea, at least at one time, that death for an unbeliever would result in annihilation rather than eternal torment. And the fact that Stott was able to question this mostly unquestioned concept (at least unquestioned in my world), allowed me to give myself permission to begin asking a lot more questions about a good many more troubling things.

Thanks, Brother Crow...

Brother Crow said...

Stott was also a huge influence on me in my seminary days. He was one of the most credible Christian apologists and brought an intellectual component that was lacking in evangelicalism at the time.

How far I have traveled!

I want to address the opening comment from David...at least I am not addressing the stupidity or idiocy or lack of common sense of Christians. Instead, I am addressing a dangerous group think that is prevalent not just in Christianity but in all religions and most cultures.

Christians have fine tuned it, however...and ought to be ashamed, considering one of their touchstones is "The truth shall set you free."

A basic question: if the Bible is so important, which Christianity says it is, then why not expend the energy, and time, and effort to educate people about the totality of its creation, its history and the modern, conclusive research that reveals its true nature (which is a flawed book, not a unique, inspired and infallible revelation of God)?

Christians do not tell the truth about the bible to one another...and that ought to say something to Christians! It does to the rest of us.

I don't speak as an ignorant outsider, but as one who spent almost three decades studying, preaching, teaching and trying to live the Bible. Christians claim it is the cornerstone of their faith...everything essential to salvation is "in there." They have no objective supporting evidence, so they have to place total belief in the bible. But they also pick it apart, discard some of its teachings, justify their flawed reasoning, or turn the bible into a magic book whose very covers possess sacred worth. They don't know its history, its authorship, its cultural genesis, or what it may really mean about a certain passage.

Of all religions, evangelical Christians (especially in America) show the greatest disrespect for their source document. What they believe is what they have been told to believe.

OK - I guess now I am "eluding" to the stupidity, idiocy, lack of common sense, and laziness of Christians.

richdurrant said...

"What they believe is what they have been told to believe."

I would have to agree, and since I have visited here, I would say that it is very clear that many Evangelicals that come here don't really think about what they say, but mostly it seems they repeat what they have been told. I wouldn't just want to single out evangelicals though because I think it happens across the board and it does get tiresome. Now this comes from a believer who may have been guilty of this himself. ;)

B H said...

However, it is important to revisit time and time again that the whole of Christian relevance, authority and claims for regard are based on the legitimacy of biblical revelation. There is no other argument that the Christian faith can make, because historical evidence simply is not there for much of the development of Christian doctrine - including the existence of Jesus, the validity of miracles, and the ongoing "proof" of God among believers. It all hinges on the Bible.

Quoting that for truth. If the Bible is inaccurate in its description of the physical heavens and the existence of the patriarchs, how can we trust it to be accurate about the spiritual heavens and the covenant?

David M. said...

It seems I hit a nerve!

I can admit to you, and everyone else that the church has made some very stupid decisions over the years. In fact, what organization hasn't. No one is exempt. And if christians have acted in hate, that is wrong. If that has been your experience, we should apologize.

I think it a bad argument to use that not all christians understand theology and apologetics. If it is a good argument, then it should be noted that not all atheists or agnostics, or any other group are well schooled in all things either. We are not called to be knowledgeable, just faithful.

Obviously, I disagree with your presuppositions, but intellect and knowledge does not mean common sense. In fact, I know several very intelligent people who know nothing of the world, but I would never push that typology on every intellectual.

But, it still appears that I have hit a nerve, and I did it without using perverse words. Let's not be unimaginative.

David M. said...

By the way, the whole purpose of this is to tell people what to believe and what not to believe, is it not?

zilch said...

David says: "We are not called to be knowledgeable, just faithful."

And that's the crux of the problem. Faith without knowledge is a lighted match in the hands of a child. Whether the child lights a candle or burns down the house depends upon knowledge, not faith.

Shygetz said...

By the way, the whole purpose of this is to tell people what to believe and what not to believe, is it not?

No, the whole purpose is to convince people to be knowledgeable, and not just faithful. It is notoriously difficult to tell and atheist or agnostic what to believe, thus the moniker "free-thinker."

But, it still appears that I have hit a nerve, and I did it without using perverse words.

You seem to think that any time someone disagrees with you, you must have hit a nerve. No, we disagree with you.

Obviously, I disagree with your presuppositions, but intellect and knowledge does not mean common sense.

"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. -- Albert Einstein"

It was common sense that the world was flat and stationary, with the sun rising and setting (Just look at it!) It was common sense among the European and Euro-American population that Africans were a lesser sub-species of humans incapable of civilization.

It should be common sense that common sense is often dead wrong, especially when dealing with things outside our normal scope of living (like, say, omnipotent beings or infinite timelines).

Let's not be unimaginative.

And let's not be so open minded that our brains fall out.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

David M: You say "I think it a bad argument to use that not all christians understand theology and apologetics."
Agreed, which is why none of us were making this argument. (Straw men might be good at scaring away crows, but I don't think they'll work on Brother Crow.)
What we ARE saying is that Christians, and more particularly their pastors, the teachers who teach the pastors (except for those who 'hear the call' and rent a local storefront without bothering to study anything), and the magazines that are aimed towards evangelicals should be aware, not of 'theology and apologetics' but of the history and background of the Bible they are using.

It's not like we are asking for them to be able to read it in the Greek and Hebrew versions that are the earliest manuscripts, or that they be au courant with the research of the last few years.

But it is wrong for them to teach that the Pentateuch was written by Moses when it has been the universal opinion of scholars for almost 200 years that it is not the product of one writer, that it is the 'redacted' combining of four separate sources dating from different times and with different ideas and images of God.

Yes, there are disputes on details. Were the sources compilations of oral traditions or actual documents? What is the exact order of the four or the dating? But there is no dispute over the basic fact among scholars -- even believing scholars -- who start from the evidence and reach a conclusion.
(Of course, some evangelicals start from the conclusion and then work backwards to find the evidence. It's fascinating to compare them to the response of non-believers to the recent 'Tomb of Jesus' flap. We're often being accused of being 'blinded by our own preconceptions' as we often accuse some believers of being. Here was a 'discovery' that played into these preconceptions, yet, almost without exception, as soon as the 'evidence' was revealed -- sometimes just from the shoddiness of the web site -- nonbelievers labeled this as the crap it was, and 'debunked' it as thouroughly as Christians did.)

Similarly, no one would prevent believers from arguing that the book is 'inerrant.' But, on areas such as the size of the Davidic Kingdom, the Wealth of Solomon, the existence of Sodom, or the 'period of Egyptian slavery,' Christians and their teachers should at least be informed that there is -- as yet -- no evidence to support them, or the Biblical version of them.

Brother Crow said...

Prup...right on, right on! You made a very effective response to david m.

My other real concern is how Christians, in the vacuum created by the lack of historical understanding of their Primary Source (the Bible), have created a "magic book" that is used like diviners use chicken gut runes. This is a terrifying thing to me, because otherwise intelligent and influential people turn off their critical faculties and give tremendous power to a "sacred book" that they don't properly understand. I am not making this claim...but it is like George Bush going to war with Iraq because he read something in the bible that justified it. Certainly in history huge and societally transformative events have occurred because some Christian used the Bible as a magic formula for something. Do I need to make a list?

To me, that is the danger in all religious systems that treat their Primary Source book like a magic book...they end up flying planes into buildings and killing people because the Bible (or whatever their sacred book) told them so. It happens...and it is wrong.

Shygetz said...

Great post, Bro Crow. I remember some charismatic evangelical churches I visited during my theist days preaching that the Bible (the physical book itself) had the power to ward off evil. I wondered at the time if that would be considered by God to be a form of graven image worship. I still wonder how Bibliolatry fits with the Second Commandment to this day.

Is the physical Bible truly considered to the the actual Word of God by Evangelicals, much as Catholics believe in transubstantiation during Communion? If not, Bibliolatry certainly seems to be idol worship. I'd like to know what some people more versed in theology think about this.