In my first post on this subject, I commented on this pdf given to me by a friend who is a pastor in order to help persuade me as to how the bible can be authoritative. I’ve now gotten around to reading the second half of this lecture, though it has had no impact on me other than the further conviction that the only way the religious can convince themselves to a certainty is to invoke a recursive circular argument, out of which there is no escape.
Having outlined the basic idea of the circular reasoning in the first post, I’ll see if I can adjust my focus to other points made in the document. In several points during the second half, the author alludes to the fact that Christians merely need to “let the Bible be the Bible.”
I believe I first heard a rebuttal to such an argument from Richard Dawkins. The bible is going to be interpreted by the reader. There is no getting around that fact. What the author fails to realize is that for millenia, people have been attempting to let the bible be the bible, and have come up with different interpretations. They somehow think that if they just take the bible at face value, that everything will be made clear (now or eventually), when in reality, they’re just adding to the miles-high stack of interpretations that already exist.
I would argue that the closest anyone has come to reading the bible without any prejudice is going to lie more in the scientific realm than that of science. At least science attempts to tackle problems without prejudice or presupposed interpretations. That’s one of the reasons I find Ehrman’s book so fascinating. It introduced me to the world of textual criticism, and its ability to do away with any religious agenda while studying the history and creation of biblical texts.
And wow, once the history of the bible is looked at without the lens of religious doctrine, it is incredible that it exists in the mind of so many people as authoritative. The Christians seem to just accept, by faith of course, that the bible is somehow true without actually taking the time to find out its history. What is even more ironic is on the bottom of page 18, he bashes the “quite miserable” traditions that “account for the very low level of biblical knowledge” among the church leaders.
Thus, if we let the Bible just be the Bible, as this author is so ready to repeat, its authority diminishes to the point of nonexistence. It is as useful today as the mythological gods of ancient Greece – as in fictional stories that can be used as example for daily life.
The author did manage to make a few decent points about how traditions need to constantly be analyzed and not held onto too strongly, lest they butt up against scripture. The problem with this view is self evident, and seems to be a recurring theme. I just wish that the author would realize the tradition of interpreting scripture as authoritative is as useless as any of the traditions of the catholic church, to which the author seems so indisposed.
No longer do we need to hold onto the traditional myth that there is anything holy about holy scripture, be it a bible, koran, book of mormon, or fortune cookie. The author, like so many, assumes that the bible must be a natural stopping point and root from which all good things come from.
To beleaguer that point, he seems to keep comparing his, and the church’s way, as squared up against that of the way of the world. Why does it always boil down to the “us versus them” dilemma? The church or judaism is in no way the root of all morality and it is foolishness to think so. To assume that any non-Christian, that is, the rest of the world, is inherently evil is just too much of a statement of pure rubbish that I’ll delve into some time in the future.
And so on, goes the article. Of interest is another quote on the 18th page which warns of lapsing into the world’s way of thinking, “as is done in the evangelical dualism, for example, that perpetuates the split between religion and politics inventoed by the fairly godless eighteenth century”.
Now I don’t know about you, but I now cherish the term “godless”. Regardless, it was used in the negative sense here. And wow, is it me or is this guy relishing the days when theocracy ruled the world? I mean, he’s constantly bashing tradition and loving the post-Lutheran world, and yet he sees separation of church and state as a bad thing? Seriously? Take a look at any theocracy out there and tell me that any religion inspired government will not come to suppress free thought and individuality.
In the end of the article, it comes down to the fact that in order to take the bible as authoritative, one must abandon all reason. To read the bible as suggested by the author seems to be an exercise in futility, as you must disregard the god-given circuitry in your brain that relegates fact from fiction, and reason from myth.