June 3, 2009 at 9:51 am 10 comments

convo2My last post discusses how some Christians find faith in God through a bible they consider errant yet divinely inspired, communicating God’s word, but written by fallible men. This post looks briefly at the skeptical side of that view.

Kenton Sparks sees inspiration and inerrancy in the bible, it being God’s Word, but is also honest about the errors and inconsistencies it contains. While I appreciate his perspective, it still leaves me a far cry from faith in the God of the bible. The errors seem to point to the bible being a child of man rather than an inspired book. Like I am.

Once you take away the magical inspiration of the bible and try to view it through the lens of being an inspired book but written by fallible men, how is it distinguishable from any other book written by fallible men? Unique, yes, more valuable and commendable than some other books, yes. But like theistic evolution, if the processes observed can be largely explained by naturalistic processes, they become indistinguishable from what we would expect to see if there were no God involved. The observations themselves are no longer evidences of God’s existence. One can have faith that God is somehow involved, but if he is so divinely hidden, what sense of interaction and relationship is there?

That’s pretty much where I am. If God is so hidden, I don’t have to worry too much about it. But what I appreciate about the form of Christianity espoused by Sparks is that it provides a way for committed Christians to look at the bible and the world around them honestly. They might not draw the same conclusions I ultimately draw, but it opens up relationships for honest debate, discussion, and mutual respect of opinions. And ultimately that is the most important thing for me in studying the bible, being able to relate to those around me.

I enjoy the conversations, and enjoy looking at the bible to understand it, to understand it’s history, to understand what it really is, to satisfy my own curiosity. Some might see that as disingenuous on my part, but I don’t think so. I honestly try to consider what Christians have to say, and seek to encourage them to think for themselves, not to deconvert. For me conversations like these are part of the joy of having left the faith, being able to consider and conclude whatever I want.


Entry filed under: bible, faith, friendships.

God’s Word… it takes courage…

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joshua  |  June 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    “But like theistic evolution, if the processes observed can be largely explained by naturalistic processes, they become indistinguishable from what we would expect to see if there were no God involved.”

    An incredible point, for sure. I remember slowly coming to this realization and it was at that point that I realized that God was simply an explanation of the data – nothing more. But if God was what people claimed he was, then he should be a piece of the data himself – not just an explanation of 100% natural data. If God is always “behind” the natural data, then what is to say he is not there at all? And this is just it… God is always “behind” things – never clearly showing himself. So he might as well not exist and we might as well explain the data using naturalistic processes. At least that’s how I see things now!

    Good post!

  • 2. Janus Grayden  |  June 3, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I really like this point of view.

    I don’t care what people believe, but if they’re going to have a conversation with me about it, then it needs to be on some equal footing.

    I understand that there are a lot of people who believe that there are myriad justifications to all of the inconsistencies in the Bible, but they are so disjointed and, oftentimes, plain wrong that it’s simply moot.

    If I can’t talk to someone openly about what it is they believe and why without them simply reverting back to “because the Bible says so,” then I don’t understand the point. What is there to take away from a conversation, for them or for me, when there is absolutely no way that they could be wrong and, incidentally, that I am inherently wrong.

    That’s not a conversation, at that point, that’s me being told why I should believe something because God says I have to.

    I really do enjoy talking with Christians, I enjoy talking to them about their faith and why they have their point of view. But I only like talking to them about it if it’s actually their point of view that they discovered for themselves and not simply because they are told they need to believe it. If it doesn’t make sense to them outside of the Bible, then why even bother?

    This is really the root of my problems with the people I used to associate with when I was a Christian. You’ve read my bit on that in my blog, ATTR, so you know where I’m coming from on this.

  • 3. Sabio Lantz  |  June 3, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Well written.
    Indeed, if a god that is suppose to be soooooo powerful is soooooo hidden, then something fishy is going on. Especially since you are suppose to believe that at one time he was not so hidden. — yeah, right.

    Living is Asia for 12 years I escaped the eyes of this American Christian Culture and grew very independent of the pull of my old mind — my old addictions. In fact, in Asia, I had new religions to debate — Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, Shintoists and the ever present “Anything-Goes” crowd. Such debates made me realize even deeper the common silliness of human beliefs. Ironically, it also brought out a compassion in me for the common struggles we all have. I wish you guys could get away from Christianity into a world where everyone expects you to be Muslim, or Buddhist — it is a fun eye-opener. It makes some of these debates seem, so, so silly ! But I know they are important to those still confused or with many friends left behind.

  • 4. zealofheretic  |  June 4, 2009 at 11:16 am

    But do tell me , what is rationally wrong with a hidden God. We seem to be making quite an argument about the “show yourself to me” thing. If he did show himself – there would be no quest, what’s the fun then?

  • 5. atimetorend  |  June 4, 2009 at 11:35 am

    ZOH, I have no problem whatsoever with a hidden God, someone who created the universe has every right to stay hidden if he/she so desires. My problem would be with the bible then, which does not teach too much about this hidden God. And with people who insist that since God is not hidden, we need to believe the bible authoritatively. Poor interpretations of what the bible really is. The quest for truth is fun, the quest for faith, not so much.

  • 6. Sabio Lantz  |  June 4, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    @ATTR: excellent ! superb ! Thanks

  • 7. atimetorend  |  June 4, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks Sabio, you made me go back to see what the heck I wrote!

    ZOH, I didn’t mean to bash you with my last comment, hope you didn’t read it that way. I appreciate the point you were making.

  • 8. zealofheretic  |  June 5, 2009 at 1:56 am

    It wasn’t a point i was making , but rather an inquiry . And I didn’t read it that way in the first place :D . Just that with hinduism, a hidden god is central to the epistemology which has a lot of meta physics in it.

    I get the point you’re making :) btw it took just a second longer than it should’ve to get get the ZOH thing

  • 9. wowy  |  June 5, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Thanks for that post, ATTR!

    I like the expression “magical inspiration”.
    In itself, I think it is not that strange of an idea to have divine inspiration run through fallible human words rather than having divine inspiration run only through magically created inerrant human words. It surely is a big step for many of us (including me), to go from the latter magical pure inspiration to the former kind of mixed-with-humanness-inspiration. But in itself, I don’t think the former is that incoherent of an idea.
    I think the inspiration which springs forth from fallible human words could just as well be evidence of God. Errant human books could just as well convey revelation. Maybe not “just as well” but at least, they could do so.

    I think the problem lies much more at the other point you mention:
    If the bible is so errant and human, how is the bible then distinguished from other books which are fallible and weird and through which God might reach us? I personally don’t (yet) come to terms with the idea that the bible might be an inspired book but at the same time not have a certain uniqueness in being inspired to it.

    Other topic: If the bible is errant but still inspired is God then hidden? Not necessarily, I think. He could be very present in the reading of the bible, even of an errant bible. But: we would only get a very very VAGUE picture of him.
    And interaction with a God whose character you don’t know, i.e. whose nature is very vague, might rather be DIFFICULT than NOT WORTHWHILE.

  • 10. wowy  |  June 5, 2009 at 10:01 am

    btw, I’d love to read “Revelation” by Richard Swinburne. That’s a book of how the bible can reveal while making false statements. But in contrast to so many other books, the author is a neither wishy washy liberal theologian, nor semi-evangelical but is rather a tough-minded, clear thinking philosopher (of anglican and later orthodox confession). But it’s hard reading…

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