On the Inspiration of the Bible and other Books
Fundamentalists and more generally Evangelicals believe that if God exists and is interested in human affairs, He will give us an inerrant Bible where His nature is revealed in a consistent and trustworthy manner.
We are living in a very uncertain time and I am well aware that such a faith can bring a great comfort to quite a few people who have the feeling to have found an unshakable anchor.
But when clever and intellectually honest persons are confronted with undeniable Biblical contradictions, and above else with places where God is portrayed as being an ugly monster, they will most often throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater and become resentful opponents of Christianity.
Such deconversion experiences often stem from the binary way their brain has been programmed to consider the Biblical Canon: as a young pastor told me recently, if one begins to doubt the truth of details in the Old Testament, everything is called into question and it becomes impossible to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
They fail to consider the possibility there are many other ways to read, understand and consider the Bible.
I personally read the books accepted within the Biblical Canon in the same way I read books from all Christian authors between 300 A.C. and our the 21cst century, that is as the description of human experiences with and thoughts about God.
When I read the testimonies of other Christians, I will certainly consider what they write as faillible humans words about God, but I am quite open they might have received profound insights about God and how to lead one’s life. I would be also quite open to the possibility that God acted in miraculous ways and that they encountered hostile spiritual entities.
And as I explain with the example of the life of Martin Luther even if people do egregious things and teach mistaken (and even blasphemous) things about God, I have no problem believing they had genuine experiences with Him.
To take a concrete example, I read the books of the apostle Paul in the same way I read books from C.S. Lewis: I believe that both were examplary Christians, great defenders of the faith and extraordinary men, and the presence of logical, empirical and theological errors in their writings does not prevent me at all to appreciate all the right things they figured out.
But if we don’t believe that the books within the Biblical Canon are more inspired than books outside it, how can we make the difference between right and wrong beliefs about God?
While I cannot speak for all progressive Christians, I believe that we should base our theology on the fact that God has to be perfect in order for Him to be God. Even tough human beings are faillible creatures they are quite able to recognize perfection and to find out what is morally right and wrong as Saint Paul explains in the first chapters of the letter to the Romans.
Actually, as I am going to argue in a future post, Paul (or at the very least the author of the Acts of the Apostles) believed and taught that Pagan authors thinking about Zeus can get quite a few things about God right.