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Author Topic:   Catholics & Inerrancy
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2406 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008

Message 10 of 89 (613922)
04-29-2011 4:38 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by KellyWilson
04-28-2011 2:34 PM

I appreciate the succinctness and focus of your opening post, and your frankness in acknowledging that the notion of biblical inerrancy, as understood and asserted by many, is bunk. But I'm not sure I understand your position regarding the quotation you cited ("Paragraph 11 of Dei Verbum"):
The books of Scripture teach firmly, faithfully and without error that truth which God willed to be put down in the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation.
This appears to be a statement of policy -- an instruction or command -- about what you are supposed to "know" while reading and trying to understand scripture. It obviously cannot be determined objectively on the basis of evidence. Any claim that the statement is "meaningful" (let alone "correct" or "true") must rely entirely on the authority wielded by the clergymen who assert it, and the compliance given by the people who accept it.
Given that you acknowledge the presence of errors in scripture, do you agree with Paragraph 11, or not? Implicit in its statement is the requirement that the scriptures must be kept and accepted as-is, and in order to overcome the errors and arrive at a "correct understanding" of some "underlying inerrancy", you must also accept some range of exegetic gymnastics, however difficult they may be.
If you're doing the "necessary reinterpretations" of scripture entirely on your own (as I suspect many self-proclaiming Christians do), you are simply taking up the clergy's hubris for yourself, without actually being free from their influence: you might disagree in various details with many or all religious "authorities", but you're still stuck in the mire of appealing to an authority that lacks any objective foundation.
On the other hand, if you accept the exegesis given you by whichever apologist you like best, you're just accepting and echoing what is ultimately a hollow assertion of "knowledge", with a bare minimum of learning, and effectively no (critical) thinking.
Either way, it's a fool's errand. Better to simply be very explicit about rejecting outright those portions that are clearly wrong, making it clear how they are wrong, and moving on to determine what is right, replacing articles of faith wherever possible with hypotheses that can be supported by evidence.
KellyWilson writes:
(I do not mean to suggest that only geographical errors exist...)
Indeed. For more on that, I highly recommend the youtube channel of "ProfMTH": his series on "Brief Bible Blunders" is entertaining and instructive, but perhaps not as substantive as the multi-part sequences on "Jesus was not the Messiah" and "DID the disciples die for a lie?"
To be frank, I have to take strong issue with your presupposition that "salvation" and "God's Revelation" have any meaning whatsoever, let alone any truth value that can stand up to reasonable scrutiny. I'm sorry if this is taking the discussion in a direction you don't want to go, but we're in one of those EvC forums where objectivity and evidence really matter.

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by KellyWilson, posted 04-28-2011 2:34 PM KellyWilson has not replied

Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2406 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008

Message 15 of 89 (614027)
04-30-2011 8:05 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by GDR
04-29-2011 3:17 PM

GDR writes:
... As a Christian I find that interpretation contrary to what I believe that we are to learn from reading the Bible.
First off I contend that there have been many people inspired by God to feed the poor... etc. I don’t see anyone suggesting however that they did it perfectly.
Do I understand this correctly to mean something like the following?
You believe that some parts of the bible are, at the very least, inconsistent with what you believe to be God's truth (i.e. the bible is not inerrant); the people who wrote these unsuitable parts presumably thought that they were inspired by God, but they were wrong about that as well. {AbE: At least, they were wrong to think that they were correctly conveying God's intent -- they may have been "inspired by God", but they were getting it wrong nonetheless.}
Thereafter, the various groups of religious scholars who took on the task of deciding what writings should constitute the "official canon" for their own and future generations -- i.e. what should be retained, what should be set aside, and what should be added, e.g. for purposes of translating scripture to a new language -- likewise may have thought they were inspired by God when they chose to keep these erroneous parts in the canon. But they actually were as mistaken in making this choice as they were in attributing it to God's inspiration. {AbE: Again, maybe they had a palpable sense of being God-inspired, but still they erred.}
And that's all okay because according to your interpretation of that one passage you quoted from 2nd Timothy, even the parts that are wrong are useful for "training in righteousness", etc. As you say:
We have been given Jesus Christ as the filter to determine what in the OT is of God and what is from the culture.
The problem here should be obvious. The only means by which we are "given Jesus Christ" -- that is, the only basis we have for knowing what he supposedly said, what he intended his words to mean, what he actually stood for -- is through these very same scriptures.
The problem of errors and inconsistencies is not just in the OT. The NT is the product of the very same fallible methods of authorship and review. It suffers from the same propensity toward a mistaken sense of being inspired by God, and is known to be internally inconsistent, with an indeterminate quantity of errors. Recall that none of it was written down during Jesus' own life time.
To be sure, the timing of NT writings is a curious thing. There might have been, to some extent, a limited degree of literacy among his immediate followers, but I wonder if a more compelling reason might be that Jesus himself was promising that the "end of times" ("the rapture", "the second coming") was going to happen within the lifetimes of the people who listened to him. So long as they accepted that promise at face value, what point would there be in writing anything down?
It was only after decades had passed, and many of those first-hand listeners had died of natural causes with Jesus' promise unfulfilled, that the writings began. Of course at that point, it was quite difficult to get a consistent story about what had happened and what had been said decades before, and there was, I'm sure, already some degree of conceptual divergence among those who started writing -- that is, their various instructions to readers were not mutually consistent.
As for your conclusion:
I believe that what is in the Bible is inspired by God and that it is the book that God wants us to have.
... That is, even regarding the parts that are wrong, God wants us to have an erroneous and inconsistent set of assertions attributed to his inspiration? A strange notion.
... I believe that we can be inspired by the book has been God breathed into our life, but that it is far more powerful when it is viewed in the way that I believe that God intended.
Well, now we either have to get a better idea of what YOU believe, so we can all get this Christianity thing down the way it's supposed to be (are you ready to handle all the questions and disputes?), or else what you meant to say was something like "...when it is viewed in the way that any sensible person would believe that God intended", which is just another way of saying "it can mean whatever you think it should mean, within reason."
That's a very humanistic approach. It's what we atheists tend to rely on as a first recourse. The difference between humanistic and theistic approaches is simply that the humanists acknowledge the inherent imperfections, the incomplete knowledge, and the constant need for critical review and reassessment, in trying to establish what is "reasonable". We can definitely point to many human behaviors that are certainly wrong, and many others that are certainly right -- these certainties are based on consistent observations over many generations, and are backed by ample evidence showing how good behaviors (such as mutual respect, collaboration and altruism) tend to result in better overall survival than bad ones (such as isolationism, parasitism and violent pursuit of selfish interest).
The theists will try to argue that these certainties are imposed on us ("given to us") by a deity, but since their only "evidence" for this is an imperfect text that turns out to be inconsistent on these points, their argument is not sustainable.
Edited by Otto Tellick, : No reason given.
Edited by Otto Tellick, : No reason given.
Edited by Otto Tellick, : typo repair in last paragraph

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by GDR, posted 04-29-2011 3:17 PM GDR has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by GDR, posted 05-01-2011 7:02 PM Otto Tellick has replied

Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2406 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008

Message 17 of 89 (614106)
05-01-2011 10:48 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by GDR
05-01-2011 7:02 PM

Thanks for the extensive clarification, GDR -- I do appreciate it. Just a couple things by way of response:
GDR writes:
I believe that there has to be mystery and uncertainty in the Christian faith... It is necessary for the Bible to present something of a mystery.
... However I believe that everything that we need to understand about God and His desires for our lives is right in that book which makes it perfect enough for me.
At first glance (when juxtaposed this way), these two beliefs seem mutually inconsistent, and it seems impossible that you can assert belief in both assertions. Indeed, the first will be seen as false or simply incomprehensible to many Christian "true believers", while the second is nonsensical to any rationalist.
But I gather from the rest of your post that your approach to theology is a curious combination of a rational assessment of real world evidence together with a (somewhat tentative? malleable?) faith in a particular story (as yet not fully understood?) of the supernatural.
You acknowledge that there has been cultural evolution of moral standards in human society over time (as does every rationalist), but you attribute it to God's intervention through Jesus and scripture, rather than to simple natural processes, including other cultural developments introduced into human society, such as improvements in transportation, shelter, communication, hygiene, etc.
I'll just point out that Christianity (and Christian society) is far from being the sole source of such progressive and enabling innovations. Other (non-Christian) cultures have contributed significantly to them, and as you also acknowledged, Christian authoritarianism has often been antagonistic toward them. So at best there's very limited motivation for attributing this progress to the will of God, and lots of reasons for doubting such an idea.
On the other hand, I think it does make a lot of sense to say that Jesus Christ can be regarded as one of the very early and very strong turning points in cultural development that served to carry culture forward along that evolutionary path toward what Peter Singer refers to as "The Expanding Circle" and Robert Wright describes in "Non-Zero". If you haven't seen Steven Pinker's TED lecture on "A brief history of violence", you should look it up on youtube -- he gives a nice synopsis of these two books, and how they capture the evolutionary trend of culture:
As I see it, Christ's teachings of empathy and forgiveness suffered serious detriment and impediment as a result of the mysterious (and frankly misleading) conflation with messianic prophecies and dependence on biblical authority. Even the resurrection is a superfluous detail that only serves to overshadow and obscure the really important parts of his message.
Of course, the most severe damage was done by the political usurpation of religious power in the subsequent centuries, dragging Christianity into the most abysmal violations of Christ's original instructions.

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 16 by GDR, posted 05-01-2011 7:02 PM GDR has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 18 by GDR, posted 05-02-2011 2:31 AM Otto Tellick has not replied
 Message 19 by GDR, posted 05-02-2011 10:13 AM Otto Tellick has not replied

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