a broken bible
If all the underpinning assumptions of the gospel (man’s sinfulness, holiness of God, his demand for justice or death, resurrection, sanctification) depend on accepting the bible as truthful and authoritative, doesn’t it make sense to examine it critically? Why would you say, “these facts/ideas/tenets are so real to me that I could never examine the texts they are derived from?” Or are these ancient documents so clearly true that it would be the height of foolishness to question their factualness. Are they really that clearly true?
I see the choice to follow a text as something completely different from believing it is an authentic document. You can believe that Obama’s inaguaral address is authentic, that he really spoke those words, but you can choose to believe that they are not entirely authoritative. Or you can obviously make the opposite choice, to grant Obama such a degree of authority (due to his intellect or rightness, or whatever) that you trust that the words are true and are willing to follow them even when they don’t make sense. In other words, trusting his wisdom even when you don’t see it. Couldn’t the same be said of Hitler’s followers? No doubt many of his faithful followers doubted him at times, but that for all the good he had done it was worth giving him the benefit of the doubt in those areas. The same can certainly be said of ascribing authority to the bible. Maybe people see so much good come out of it that they give it the benefit of the doubt, even when it doesn’t seem right at times. And then seeing that trust seem to be rewarded with good fruits, blessings in life, family, reformed character, etc. So that validates the trust, provides confirmation that the trust was well placed.
But I would still contend that it is unexamined trust if we have not looked closely at the texts. Maybe that is acceptable, but if so it should be equally acceptable to examine the texts critically. And the problem is that once the documents are critically examined, they don’t hold up at all well. I have been asked the question, “why do you not believe the bible?” But I think the relevent question is actually, “why did you choose to initially examine the documents critically?” Because that would point to something that changed, whereas critical examination is something I had really engaged in previously, at least not in the same way. So “Why do you not believe the bible?” is really an over simplification of the question “why did you conclude the texts were not reliable?” It is easier for a believer to look at it that way because it provides a way to avoid asking the question themselves or considering that there could be cracks in their own foundation of belief.
I don’t know exactly why I did start examining the texts critically, other than to suppose there must have been a cognitive dissonance somewhere that was too great to ignore, or a collection of smaller dissonances that added up to something greater. And what does it ultimately matter why one comes to examine the texts of the bible critically? If they are elevated to the point where they cannot be examined they are being elevated to the position of God himself. And if the foundations on which they stand are too shakey to withhold scrutiny, they are not firm enough to base one’s life on. And what does faith look like then, if you strip away the factual data and conclude you no longer find it authoritative?