Fundamentalism and the Truth of the Bible

Here’s the link to this article by Bart Ehrman. It covers something I’d never really thought about. Interesting. Makes sense that it’s non-sense to believe that a Bible with errors precludes someone remaining/becoming a Christian.

May 15, 2017

I have recently received a number of inquiries about why realizing there may be mistakes in the Bible might lead someone to become an agnostic.  Here is one that came a few days ago:


I want to thank you for your extensive work in explaining … your journey from believing that the bible contained no errors to proving the bible is not inerrant and simply the work of human writers. What I would like to be explained is the necessary logic to go from believing that the bible is not inerrant or the “word of God” to believing there is no God.


My view of the matter may seem odd to a lot of people, but it is nonetheless held by most critical scholars of the Bible and trained theologians.  What is the “necessary logic to go from believing that the bible is not inerrant … to believing there is no God?  There is no necessary logic at all.

I have never thought that …

To See The Rest of this Post you need to Belong to the Blog.  If you’re not a member, JOIN!  It won’t cost much, you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck, and every buck goes to fight poverty.  So no one loses and everyone wins — including you.  So JOIN!I have never thought that recognizing the historical and literary problems of the Bible would or should lead someone to believe there is no God.   The only people who could think such a thing are either Christian fundamentalists or people who have been convinced by fundamentalists (without knowing it, in many instances) that fundamentalist Christianity is the only kind of religion that is valid, and that if the assumptions of fundamentalism is flawed, then there could be no God.  What is the logic of that?  So far as I can see, there is no logic at all.

Christian fundamentalism insists that every word in the Bible has been given directly by God, and that only these words can be trusted as authorities for the existence of God, for the saving doctrines of Christianity, for guidance about what to believe and how to live, and for, in short, everything having to do with religious truth and practice.   For fundamentalists, in theory, if one could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that any word in the original manuscripts of the Bible was an error, than the entire edifice of their religious system collapses, and there is nothing left between that and raw atheism.

Virtually everyone who is trained in the critical study of the Bible or in serious theology thinks this is utter nonsense.  And why is it that people at large – not just fundamentalists but even people who are not themselves believers – don’t realize it’s nonsense, that it literally is “non-sense”?  Because fundamentalists have convinced so much of the world that their view is the only right view.  It’s an amazing cultural reality.  But it still makes no sense.

Look at it this way.  Suppose you could show beyond any doubt that the story of Jesus walking on the water was a later legend.  It didn’t really happen.  Either the disciples thought they saw something that really occur, or later story tellers came up with the idea themselves as they were trying to show just how amazing Jesus was, or … or that there is some other explanation?  What relevance would that have to the question of whether there was a divine power who created the universe?  There is *no* necessary relevance.  No necessary connection whatsoever.  Who says that God could not have created the universe unless Jesus walked on water?  It’s a complete non sequitur.

The vast majority of Christians throughout history – the massively vast majority of Christians – have not been fundamentalists.  Most Christians in the world today are not fundamentalists.  So why do we allow fundamentalists to determine what “real” Christianity is?  Or what “true” Christianity is?  Why do we say that if you are not a fundamentalist who maintains that every word in the Bible is literally true and historically accurate that you cannot really be a Christian?

Suppose Jesus did not walk on water.  Does that lead to the conclusion that he must not have died for the sins of the world?  Why would it lead to that?  The only connection you can make between the two assertions – Jesus walked on water; Jesus died for the sins of the world – is extremely torturous.   Sure, there are people on the blog right now who are probably concocting some kind of logical connection between these two statements.  But think about it for a second.  What is the necessary connection?  There is none.

If Mark made a mistake when he said that Abiathar was the high priest when David and his men ate the showbread in the Temple, that has absolutely no bearing on the question of whether God exists as a Trinity.  No connection.

You should not think: yes, but the only reason we believe that God is a Trinity (if “we” believe that) is because it’s what the Bible says, and if the Bible contains errors, then it must be erroneous in *that* as well.  Here are several key points:

First, of all, there is no necessary reason why if the Bible makes mistake about one thing it is mistaken in everything.  Even if there are mistakes in the Bible (there are) that doesn’t mean that everything in it is wrong (it is not).

Second, the doctrine of the Trinity is not actually taught in the Bible in the form that theologians came to develop it later and that is believed on by people today.

Third, in fact there are non-trinitarian ways to read the entire Bible, including *all* of the Old Testament and *most* of the New Testament.  What we think of the doctrine of the Trinity was developed on the basis of logical, philosophical argumentation that used scattered verses of the Bible as proof texts for views that developed on other grounds.  There were, and are, non-Trinitarians who base their views on proof texts as well.  It is not a necessary teaching of Scripture.

Fourth, there were Christian believers for centuries before we even had a Bible (the 66 book canon we have today).   Were they not believers because they did not believe in the Bible?  They didn’t have a Bible.  In fact there are millions of Christians in the world today who don’t have the Bible.

Fifth, more important, there are all sorts of Christian denominations, Christian theologians, and just regular ole Christians – in fact, the majority who are walking the earth – who do not think that fundamentalist Christianity is right, or anywhere  near right.

So, is there a logical and necessary connection between the idea that there are mistakes in the Bible and the belief in God.  No, no necessary connection at all.

So why did I become an agnostic once I came to think there are mistakes in the Bible.  Short answer: I didn’t.  Realizing that there are problems in the Bible had almost nothing to do with my becoming an agnostic.  I’ll explain all that in later posts.

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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