I have had conversations with many 18-30 year olds who reject religion in general and Christianity in particular. Their rejection of Christianity is based upon a literal reading of Scripture that is inerrant, and I find that interesting. They have been exposed to a literalism that is devoid of the human element in the origin of the Bible. For example, the Bible says God told the Hebrews to kill all the men, women, and children they had conquered, right? The Bible says it, so God must have wanted it to happen that way. Who wants to worship a bloodthirsty God like that? These young adults are not asking dumb questions, but too often they receive some pretty dumb answers.
I have a friend who was preparing a sermon one day when a fly kept buzzing around his head – very annoying indeed. Finally, the fly landed on his desk. Without thinking, he picks up his Bible and smashed the fly. That set him to thinking: we use the Bible to swat one another.
This is what I call the tyranny of an inerrant Bible because we use it as a controlling authority. That tyranny is compounded when pastors and/or other church officials use the same Bible in ways that result in the spiritual abuse of congregants. I doubt if many of these folk really intend to be abusive, but that is the end result. I have seen careers destroyed and churches split because a pastor or other church leader did not accept the politically correct inerrancy of Scripture.
Young thinking adults who have been reared on an inerrant Bible begin to raise questions as they go to college or get out in the work world. They come in contact with ideas and people that challenge the beliefs of their childhood. If the Bible is without error, why are there two creation stories in Genesis? Why do the four gospels have different accounts of the same event?
The two biggest questions I get are about God’s ordering innocent people to be killed and about science/Christian conflicts. How can they accept evolution and still believe in a literal inerrant Bible? They have been taught that if Genesis is in error, that calls into question the validity of biblical truth claims. Genesis cannot be wrong and the rest of the Bible true. This is neither logical nor rational (more about this later). Unless these young adults can come to a different understanding of the Bible they will continue to reject their Christian heritage.
The people who wrote the Bible were real people, writing in real places, and at real times. They had an agenda. They had a story to tell about where we come from as humans, why we are here, and where we are going. The theme of their stories is the mighty acts of a God who was above all other gods and who wanted a people of his own. These are stories of how people interact with this God. The stories have heroes and heroines. The stories tell when and how things came to be and when and how things will cease to be.
This is the first of several blogs in which I will be exploring questions about a literal inerrant Bible. Many of you will be alarmed and be ready to tar and feather me, because to question the literalness and inerrancy of the Bible is heresy. Others of you will breathe a sigh of relief that some of the questions you have about the Bible are not as off the wall as you once thought.
It is a fascinating study and I hope it will give my readers a different picture of what the Bible is and what it isn’t. Stay with me until the end and then make a judgment call!