“Thy Word is Truth”…and “word” is defined in the Greek as the Logos of God or literally Jesus and Truth, not necessarily what we call the entire bible…(an appeal to part of the bible, I know). We must filter what we call the bible through our Conscience and measure it against the true heart of the true Jesus.
It’s one of the Big Questions that has haunted Intelligent Man for centuries and millennia. What is Truth?
Presuppositionalists (which includes the large majority of “bible believing” Christians including Calvary Chapel, the Sola Scriptura Reformed, the Pat Robertson Evangelicals and the Young Earth Creation crowd, or broadly Selective Fundamentalists / Conservatives / Literalists / Traditionalists / Dogmatists) tend to get the lion’s share of the pub and press in Christianity*…they tend to be the loudest, the most self-assured, the most politically active and the least intellectually honest (though I’m open it’s mostly ignorance and not willful dishonesty). Most importantly, and the thesis of this article, they tend to create their own truth* through a hermeneutic that picks-and-chooses its own “context”, its own emphasis and seeks to force their truth* into a Box made in their Image of god*…as opposed to seeking Truth wherever it may lead.
I grew up a Christian* Selective Fundamentalist, I still have many friends and family members (those who haven’t abandoned me for Ministry*) who are theological conservatives and literalists who claim the bible is “inerrant, infallible, the perfect Word of God that contains no errors, no contradictions, no mistakes” etc etc. As such, these fine folks (of which are many of you) claim the bible is “truth”…as in Absolute Truth. It is the backbone of the Presuppositionalist Theory of Everything.
Basically, the Presuppositionalist Position is that the bible contains “all” truth and that we can find everything in the bible…be it origins, science, history, archeology, metaphysical truth, philosophical truth, ethics, morality, epistemology…heck, it even serves as a sort of horoscope and guide to the future for those who lean heavy on the End Times like many of my Pre-Trib Rapture Dispensationalist friends and family.
“All truth can be found inside the bible!” blasts a Fundamentalist friend on the increasingly irrelevant PhoenixPreacher.com blog site.
Hmmm. “All”. It doesn’t take much effort to quickly realize that this oft-assumed Presuppositionalist assertion is completely untrue and so intellectually dishonest (or to be gracious, so intellectually incorrect) that it begs a careful examination of the whole Philosophical Construct of the Presuppositionalist Theory.
It is quite easy to disprove the commonly-made statement above: “All truth can be found in the bible”. All it takes is to point out one “truth” that is not found in the bible and/or to point out one truth the bible claims as truth, to be verifiable error…which disprove the thesis. This has been done many times over, yet Presuppositionalists who hold an “All truth is contained in the bible” position don’t repent of the lie they propagate even in the face of evidence as fact. This is dishonest and cuts against the Presuppositionalist mantra that “the devil is the father of lies!”…well, if so, then when you ignore fact and truth, who is your father according to your position?
The fact is, the bible contains errors, mistakes, contradictions, contradictory narratives and it does not contain “all truth”…it contains some truth, but does not address a huge amount of issues that we know to be factual and true today through the verifiable, testable, repeatable apparatus of Science and Empiricism. Other disciplines have regularly pointed out error and corrected the biblical record found in tangible evidence from Archeology and other disciplines like Textual and Historical Criticism.
The major Problem with appealing to a printed book as the Standard for All Truth…in essence making the bible an Absolute…is that we have the book in evidence and we have the words on the pages to test the Standard. It becomes rather black and white….or does it? The reality is, the bible can state something rather explicitly and a simple reading in one area (by Selective Fundamentalists) can be dismissed in another portion of the bible as “well it doesn’t really mean that!” and “that was then, this is now!” etc.
I call it the Selective Fundamentalist Loophole. It’s quite effective in creating a bible that says whatever it is you want it to say…which in that context, the bible does contain all truth…depending on what you, the individual, Guru or Group make it say.
The bible’s words are not Absolute, unless we redefine the term to include truth that changes depending on culture, period and context and/or truth that can be two different things at the same time. The bible’s words necessarily demand all manner of interpretation and emphasis or de-emphasis with appeals to “context” and appeals to “this is what this passage really means” and appeals to “correct” Hermeneutic (interpretive model) and “correct” understanding etc. The very nature of Hermeneutic suggests the very non-Absolute nature of the text and demands relativism of its readers, forcing the reader to interpret the text through their particular interpretive model and their particular set of presuppositions, biases and emphases. It is an irreconcilable dynamic. The bible, by definition, cannot be Absolute in nearly all areas.
Definition of Absolute Truth: Something that is true in all contexts, all cultures for all of time. Something that is universally true.
Example of a possible Absolute: God “is”. A Creator God created all things (in some manner). Unprovable, but a possible Absolute Truth…we just don’t have the ability to prove or disprove the thesis. Whether we believe or disbelieve that God “is” it is either true or it isn’t. We may know one day for sure (I’m betting God exists in some fashion).
Example of a non-Absolute: The bible commands parents to execute “gluttonous” and rebellious children with stones as a just and righteous punishment for those offenses. This command in the Old Testament (which is part of the Fundamentalist/Presuppositionalist bible) is either an Absolute Truth, or it isn’t. This presents a conundrum. If it is an Absolute Truth, then one has to accept that the bible…at one time (which renders it a Relative Truth) endorsed and commanded as righteous the execution with stones as right and righteous and “good” for the offenses listed in that verse (by parents to their own children none-the-less). The command cannot be an Absolute, as most Christians* today would claim the Taliban practice today of executing women and children with stones for perceived or real moral offenses is “wrong” and “evil” and “unrighteous” and itself should be punished and stopped.
Deuteronomy 21:18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
Personally, I would take the issue of commands to execute women and children for perceived or real moral offenses in the Old and New Testament (or bible) a step further.
If we are to assume there are Absolute Truths…and I think there are…ask yourself this question:
Is it ever, or has it ever been…right and righteous and good…to command and to practice execution with stones as a righteous punishment for women and children for things like “gluttony” and a “rebellious spirit” or more severe moral crimes like fornication or drunkenness or being a victim of rape, but not crying out? All of these “offenses” are clearly articulated in the bible and all of them are commanded to be dealt with in the “righteous” manner of execution with stones. At one time, this was the “truth”…yet today, most Christians* run from it and explain it away as “well, the explicit commands and examples in the bible in those areas don’t really mean what it explicitly states, there’s context and nuance!” Yes, always appeals to context and nuance and “well, it doesn’t really mean that!” when presented with a major problem for Presuppositionalism…yet the bible is presented as 100% literal and authoritative when it comes to talking snakes in the metaphorical Garden of Eden and God taking a rib from Adam and making Eve, etc.
I would assert that it has always been wrong, unrighteous and evil to kill your children with stones, for any offense. That is an Absolute Truth I am convinced of through my Conscience and through an appeal to the part of the bible that contradicts other passages and narratives and Jesus’s in the bible: The Law of Love.
I personally believe that the Israelites were a barbaric people, like many of their contemporaries, in the days of the OT and even NT and I believe as such, they taught and exampled many things that were evil and unrighteous and wrong….many things that the bible presents as “right and good” at one time in man’s history.
Slavery is another of these specific examples. Slavery was commanded, permitted, endorsed in the bible. It is factually supported with even the “let the bible interpret the bible” filter:
Leviticus 25:44 Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
(A brief aside that is the peak of irony: I chose the NIV version of the bible to share this passage, though there are quite a few differing translations, all with some significant changes in meanings of passages depending on whose Translation you believe is most accurate…yet the bible is without any errors or mistakes etc.)
The bible explicitly, no spin, no twisting….states above that Slavery and owning other human beings as “property” is okey dokey. The common apologetic refrain is “well, that’s not how God intended things, He just permitted it!” OK, then if you hold to that principle as an Absolute, then you must apply it to the rest of the bible as well…and there are rather serious philosophical implications to treating other texts in the bible with the same approach…so much so, you are in even deeper water.
Of course, today, we believe that owning another human being as property is wrong and unrighteous and evil etc.
Was it ever right and righteous to own another human being as a Slave? Is “Slavery is wrong!” an Absolute Truth? If you are a Presuppositionalist who claims the bible is perfect, without error and Absolute Truth…you would have to say “no, Slavery is not wrong”. To take a position that claims otherwise is to assert that some truth in the bible is Relative, depending on the context of the particular culture and that truth changes from people to people, from culture to culture, from era to era.
If your answer is “God merely permitted Slavery, Concubines etc for his Chosen People” then you are asserting that God specifically as documented permitted unrighteousness and evil of Slavery, Sex Slaves (Concubines) and Stoning women and children to death…but he didn’t permit the unrighteous acts they were executed for? Seems a very intellectually dishonest position to take…but a position that is commonplace in Presuppositionalist Land. Clearly, God’s supposed command, permitting and endorsement of the heinous acts are in stark contrast to other narratives and other commands and endorsements in the same bible. We are forced to navigate the competing narratives appealing to our Conscience and increasing knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil, etc. according to the Zeitgeist of the Age (which post-Enlightenment has been increasingly keen on discerning right from wrong, truth from error filtered through Conscience and increases in understanding of how the Universe and our world works, including our own physical biology and chemistry, our brain function, human psychology, neuroscience, etc.).
Again, personally, I think Slavery has always been wrong and unrighteous and evil. I think that “Slavery is wrong” is an Absolute Truth and I think the Israelite commands in the bible with regards to Slavery in the above bible verses is wrong. I believe it was wrong then and I believe it is wrong now. Again, I appeal to Conscience and a competing narrative in another part of the bible: The Law of Love.
“The bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!”
Just a few of the many biblical contradictions which disproves the thesis there are no errors or mistakes or contradictions in the bible:
What were the last words of Jesus?
Matthew 27:46-50: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?” that is to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” …Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
Luke 23:46: And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:” and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
John 19:30: When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished:” and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Jesus either said a whole lot of words right before he died and each of the different Gospel accounts remembered a different portion…or the memories were a little foggy of the three witnesses and we don’t really know exactly what Jesus’s last words were. Clearly, the passages are talking about the same Jesus and the same event. Clearly, the passages describe much different words attributed to Jesus. I have reviewed the various apologetics to spin out of this one, and they are all highly slippery and intellectually dishonest.
Who caused David to number Israel, God or Satan?
2 Samuel 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
1 Chronicles 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
Some of the apologists spin this: “Well God caused Satan to cause David to number Israel”. Well, that’s not what the text says, that is an extra-biblical assumption to make the pieces fit your box, rather than reading the two passages that clearly state that God was responsible and the other passage that blames it on Satan.
Did Michal have kids or not?
2 Samuel 6:23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.
2 Samuel 21:8 But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.
The literal Hebrew is “Michal had no child” and even the NLT translates the verse this way, “So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.”
Other bible translations claim Merab and not Michal had the five sons, which presents another problem of error and mistake.
The literal translation of the Hebrew words is found here and clearly says “Michal” and “had borne” meaning she bore children:
Any which way you spin it, slice it and dice it, there’s an error and a contradiction. Michal had kids or she didn’t. Merab had the kids in about half the bible translations and Michal had them in the other half of the translations. Michal “had borne” the kids according to a literal translation of the Hebrew text according to Strong’s.
The following two narratives describe much different time periods of Asa’s reign and present a clear error in the historical recounting of the time-line of events about the same players, same situation:
1 Kings 16: 1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu son of Hanani concerning Baasha: 2 “I lifted you up from the dust and appointed you ruler over my people Israel, but you followed the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to arouse my anger by their sins. 3 So I am about to wipe out Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat. 4 Dogs will eat those belonging to Baasha who die in the city, and birds will feed on those who die in the country.”
5 As for the other events of Baasha’s reign, what he did and his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 6 Baasha rested with his ancestors and was buried in Tirzah. And Elah his son succeeded him as king.
7 Moreover, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Jehu son of Hanani to Baasha and his house, because of all the evil he had done in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger by the things he did, becoming like the house of Jeroboam—and also because he destroyed it.
8 In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha became king of Israel, and he reigned in Tirzah two years.
9 Zimri, one of his officials, who had command of half his chariots, plotted against him. Elah was in Tirzah at the time, getting drunk in the home of Arza, the palace administrator at Tirzah. 10 Zimri came in, struck him down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah. Then he succeeded him as king.
11 As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha’s whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend. 12 So Zimri destroyed the whole family of Baasha, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu— 13 because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.
14 As for the other events of Elah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?
Here we find the same players, same situation, but different time-line, different years of Asa’s reign. In the King’s version, Baasha is killed off well before the “thirty-sixth year” of Asa’s reign, not so in the Chronicles version where Baasha is still king and still doing king things:
2 Chronicles 16: 1 In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah.
2 Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. 3 “Let there be a treaty between me and you,” he said, “as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.”
4 Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. They conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim[a] and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 When Baasha heard this, he stopped building Ramah and abandoned his work. 6 Then King Asa brought all the men of Judah, and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using. With them he built up Geba and Mizpah.
7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. 8 Were not the Cushites[b] and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen[c]? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”
10 Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people.
11 The events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.
No way to spin this recounting of the same situation, same players…but different time-lines. It’s an error and contradiction in the bible…unless you choose a rather intellectually dishonest approach to apologize for the fact that both of these passages cannot be true at the same time.
One of the New Testament accounts that has always been apologized for in an inadequate manner is the contradictory presentation of the facts surrounding Paul the Apostle’s Road to Damascus experience. We find the two differing accounts in the same book of Acts:
Acts 9:7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
Acts 22:9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
It is almost as if there were two people with differing memories of the same event documenting their take. There is clearly a contradiction presented, no matter how you spin it. The witnesses either heard a voice or they didn’t.
There are many more. Henry Burr’s “Self-Contradictions of the Bible” lets the “bible interpret the bible” and documents a large variety of legitimate self-contradictions. You can review the passages for yourself here (not all of his examples are without reasonable explanation, but there are many that are rock solid and I can’t squirm out of them, not from an intellectually honest position that is):
While Burr’s book documents a variety of contradictory narratives, the Historical Facts section is the cleanest in terms of stating as fact in one passage a particular quantifiable metric and then the metric is self-contradicted in the same bible in another passage.
My thesis is not that the bible is a total and complete lie, my position is that the bible is not necessarily “inerrant, infallible, perfect and Absolute” on every jot and tittle as shown in spades above. My position is that the bible contains some mistakes and contradictions, both factual and moral/ethical…and as such we need to read what we call “the bible” (which is really an amalgamation of separate texts cobbled together by Church Councils over centuries as “official canon”) through our Conscience and what our heart/spirit tells us today. If there is one Law, one thing that rings true…it is the Loving, Forgiving and Merciful Jesus and the Law of Love.
The reality is, the bible is not the Truth as expressed in some passages in the bible. The bible is not “God’s Word”…according to the same bible. The bible, in many passages, claims that Jesus Christ is “the Logos of God” or “God’s utterance” and “the Word” and the Truth…not necessarily the jot and tittle on the pages we squished together and called the bible (after rejecting other texts and after translating copies of copies that make up the current bibles in various translations that we have today). Many Christians* have knocked Jesus off his Throne in place of their interpretation of the paper bible.
When a person states, “I believe what the bible says!” they are essentially stating that they believe what they believe the bible says depending on what interpretive model they loosely apply to the text and which passages they embrace, while rejecting others that contradict their particular position on an issue that is self-contradicted in the same bible.
No one takes a straightforward “the bible says it, I believe it!” literal approach. Every Group, every Guru, every flavor of Christian* imposes their particular bias on the text and arrives at a particular position via the consensus of their Gurus and their Group. Each takes some passages as literal and straightforward and explicit, while relativizing and explaining away other explicit passages as “that’s not what it really means”. Every Christian* Group’s Box has holes, every Group’s take has flaws and nearly every Group claims the bible is “inerrant and infallible and without mistake or contradiction”. It’s the reason there are 9,000 to 30,000 Christian* flavors, all disagreeing on a wide variety of issues. This is the heart and soul of Selective Fundamentalism…and it is inconsistent and intellectually dishonest.
The bible not only “can” contain errors and contradictions…it does. God can be real and Jesus can be Savior, Redeemer, the sacrifice for all…without every jot and tittle adding up.
“Thy Word is Truth”…not necessarily every jot and tittle that we call collectively “the bible”. God’s “Logos” is Truth, God’s “divine utterance” which manifested as Jesus and is manifest today in His Spirit working with your Conscience, your spirit. Fear not. Perfect love casts out all fear. Let Truth be your Authority…wherever it leads.