This week I glanced through a column critiquing the Bible and Christianity, mostly silly, but the comments at the bottom revealed the unfortunate consequence of Evangelical Christianity's exaggeration of biblical inerrancy. Minor quibbles with certain passages had led several people to abandon their faith. The abuse of what should be a matter for faith has set up Christianity in a continual battle with scientists and secular historians. To prove biblical inerrancy is an extraordinary task, and cracks in this sweeping assumption lead thousands to shattered faiths.
Is the Bible inerrant? That is, are there errors? I have no idea because I'm not a biblical historian or theologian. My faith is that the message that God intended for us to receive has not been mangled. The key word being faith. I believe in a benevolent God who communicates with mankind first and foremost. My faith in the scriptures flows from that initial assumption secondly. Any minor discrepancy with historic records is no threat to my faith in the intent of scripture.
The problem with many evangelicals is flipping this equation around. Their faith in a benevolent God flows from their belief in inerrant scriptures. They live their lives as if the Bible were scientifically provable, and only out of that proof can they then believe in God. The Bible is true, therefore God exists. This proof relies on scientists, theologians, historians, interpreters, anthropologists, and literary analysis. It's a complex web of assumptions that exposes the faith of a biblical "primacist" to attack on thousands of points. It's unstable.
My view can be represented as such:
1. Assume God
2. If God, then A, B, C,....
The view of the biblical premacist can be represented as such:
1. Assume A, B, C, D, E,...Z...
2. If A through Z are all true, then God.
If doubt is cast on any of the assumptions by the biblical premacist, their belief in God would logically fail. To maintain their faith in God, the biblical premacist is placed in the untenable position of being anti-science or anti-historian. I believe this is why so many Christians consider evolution as an existential threat to Christianity. Because if page 1 is proved false, then pages 2-1000 are false as well and God himself is a fraud.
Placing God at the beginning of the equation makes attacks on historical accuracy or the literal interpretation of the Genesis account, meaningless. The simple beginning "God is" is infallible. What about science? Poppycock. Prove to me that the universe can be objectively ascertained. Prove to me a materialist universe. More simply, prove to me that what I see is all there is. These are workable assumptions for living, but they are silent on the existence of God.
Go one step further and believe that God is loving and communicates with us. What better way than to send the very essence of himself to live and die an insuperably heroic, passionate, and compassionate life to let us know that we can indeed warm ourselves in the glow of his perfect love.
"But the geneology on pg. 213 doesn't really work out if you assume..." blah, blah, blah, yawn.