Happy Thor’s Day
I want to state up front, this is a long post. I want to be complete as possible in stating this objection and the ones in the months to follow. Mostly as I will state later that I for a long time wanted answers; I still do. It was hard leaving my faith because I wanted so desperately to believe. Reason for me eventually prevailed and I will stand by that decision. The reason I am putting a lot of words into this is that I still would accept answers: if they could be proven rationally that Christianity is the true religion.
I have written on my crisis of faith a couple of times. Despite some people’s assertion that this is recent phenomena due to personal events, it actually started about two years ago with my second objection. I will talk about that in a couple of weeks, but it is basically I think ‘sin’ is a man-made up concept. It started when I preached a message about sin and I had heard a quote that week from a critic of Christianity that basically said sin was made up and that because of it Christianity solves a problem of its own making.
I will get into this moment in more detail in a couple of weeks but it got me rethinking every thing in the light of skepticism and I began to form four theological objections for which I still have no satisfactory answers. While the sin question got my original thinking going, it is this first question involving the Bible and divine inspiration that forms the foundation of the other three.
Now, I want to state for the record that I am no amateur when it comes to the Bible or Theology. 1) I have degrees in both Biblical Studies (BA) and Theological Studies (MA). 2) I am a professional theologian and have been since 1996. 3) I was a Christian from the time I was eight and as I approach my 50th birthday that would have been close it forty-two years. 4) I was a pastor (now retired) for twenty years and have spent many years since school studying the Bible and engaging theological questions. 5) I have had several crisis moments in my theology and up until two to three years ago I could answer them all or found ways to explain them. Not anymore.
I will also say I am not hostile to Christianity, I get it. It took me a long time to face the facts of the objections I will present in this series. I still am open to anything that answers them. My largest problem when I discuss this is people sometimes get offended because I seem to be very aggressive, but I am not really doing that, just being as honest as I can. People don’t always like it when you ask questions that are hard about what they believe. Cognitive dissonance is a real thing, so I get. Understand I am not being hostile to your faith if you have it. I am just being hostile to mine or what mine used to be. That’s because I take as a central core idea that if the God of the Bible is the real god and the Bible is inspired by him, then it should make sense and have rational proof this is so.
Bottom Line, faith is trusting in something that you have no evidence for and that is the problem. You hope it is true and you believe it is true, but you don’t know it is true. This is particularly true for many church doctrines and one of the most notable is the divine inspiration of scripture. The reason I can say this is no matter what school of thought you follow in looking at inspiration, there is no evidence that God came down and inspired the Bible. You simply have to believe the simple statement “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” There is no attempt to prove this, just a statement of fact that the reader must simply accept.
An example is probably in order: “The Rabyd Skald’s writings are inspired by the God Odin. Everything he writes comes straight from the mouth of the god Odin.” You say ridiculous. I ask why? You say because I simply have made an assertion and have offered no proof that what I say is true. I want to tell you the Bible does the exact same thing with the exact same level of proof that God came down and directly inspired the writers of the Bible – none. It’s pure faith, no evidence even from the Bible itself. The Bible writers simply assert this; they never prove it.
Looking at the doctrine of inspiration historically, once again we have no proof of the inspiration of Scripture by God, just the creation of the doctrine of inspiration and various councils of men deciding which books are inspired. There is no record of God coming down and saying – “these books are my inspired word.” Just groups of men doing that. That is what you actually see.
It stands to reason that religions do this. In the end, you need a common core of beliefs and authority and it is far easier to make a group of writings do that because it has a greater chance of standing the test of time. Especially if you inject a tradition of copying and transcribing these books from one generation to the next. Even in this though, two problems develop. 1) People abuse the authority of said books and can twist their meaning and 2) the transcription of said books can be flawed.
The second brings up an additional inspiration question which is: ‘Is the Bible still inspired even though people have put mistakes into it and changed it from one language to the next where meaning is going to get changed? The human factors are definitely present in the Bible. Does that undermine inspiration or simply point to the fact that the Bible is a wholly human book and because we don’t really have proof God is involved, are we just making up the whole divine inspiration thing in order make this human book have more significance?
I spent a great deal of time and digital ink pouring over this question of inspiration. On my blog All Things Rabyd (which is still there although no longer active) I spent nine posts looking at the various theories of divine inspiration. You can find the link to all of them here. I eventually settled on Dynamic Inspiration as the best possible explanation to handle the human element being in the bible. That much like the doctrines of Christ state Jesus was 100% God and 100% Man, so was the bible the same way. It satisfied me for a while but there was a fatal flaw in the whole thing.
The flaw? I still had no proof positive that the 100% divine inspiration part was real. There is no photograph of God reaching into the head of Paul or Moses inspiring them to write things. I mean you could say God is the inspiration for the Bible like a person might be inspired to write about nature from being outside. There is however no proof that God took an active hand in telling the authors what to write or how to write it. That is purely a matter of whether you believe that or not. It really is blind faith on that particular question.
I will probably handle other objections involving scripture at a later date. My purpose today is to get the main parts of my first objection to Christianity out there. The question always comes – do I still read the Bible and what value do I place on it? Well, yes I do. I value it in that it contains a lot of ‘truth’ small t. I just don’t think it’s the Truth. Rather a lot of men wrote about their sincere belief in God. God inspired them in that way and they wrote but in the end, it was human inspiration ABOUT the divine. It was not God coming down and whispering in their ear what to write, no matter what their claims.
For me, I still draw a lot of inspiration from the Bible. Some of its stories are great. It has men wrestling with the question about God. The teachings of Christ are some of the best on human relationships you will ever see. That said, it is only one avenue of being inspired, not the only one and it is a very human book. In short, it has its flaws, and I think some of the morality it promotes could be questioned as to whether it actually does good or not.
When the doctrine of inspiration goes, then you can look at the bible objectively. This caused me to really realize the god of the Bible has a few problems. 1) Sin seems to be made up as a concept and used to control the behavior of people 2) The plan of salvation God comes up with does not speak well of supreme being because it makes God both sadistic and masochistic. 3) God’s justice seems a little suspect especially when you consider final judgment.
Every other week I will be writing on one of these. In between, I will be writing on my state of faith currently and what I am pursuing to kind of balance out things. Because like it or not, losing your faith and going through the reasons for it is depressing. Need counterbalance that with a little more positive. Next Week I will talk about why I am a deist.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.