Inerrancy - Part 3 (Why fundamentalists disagree)
|Why can't we all just get along? Why is it that many times different groups each teaching that "the Bible is perfect and infallible" often agree on almost nothing with respect to what the Bible says? Common sense would suggest that if everyone at the table believes the Bible is true, it would then follow that everyone at the table would agree on most or all of what it says.|
|Not so! As I mentioned a couple articles back, it was a conversation with a protestant minister friend of mine that helped me make some sense of this. The reason "Bible-based" cult members from different groups have a difficult time coming to agreement is that their "biblical models" are different. Same Bible, different models.|
|To quickly review this, for a cult member, the groups "biblical model" is made up of anywhere from 3-4 dozen to 3-4 hundred verses all the members know by heart. These verses become the group's signature teachings. They are taught over and over again in great detail to the point that knowing them, and often knowing exactly where they are located in the Bible, becomes second nature. When cult leaders say that the Bible is infallible, inerrant, and perfect what they really mean is that their groups "biblical model" is infallible, inerrant, and perfect.|
|The Bible verses that compose the model, together with the group teachings
about those verses, are what makes "Bible-based" groups different
from one another. Each model has a different emphasis but consistently the
groups model verses are the ones that emphasize and underline for the group
members how different and unique they are among all other religious groups.
A few examples of "model" teachings are listed below.
1. End Times are near
2. Physical health/healing for all believers
3. Material prosperity for all believers
4. Water baptism for salvation
5. Speaking in tongues for salvation
6. Women must marry for full salvation
7. Miracles still happen today
8. Miracles don't still happen today
9. Certain diet necessary for righteousness
10. Group membership necessary for salvation (they all have this one)
11. You MUST believe in a literal "trinity"
12. You MUST NOT believe in a literal "trinity"
13. You MUST believe Jesus is fully God himself
14. You MUST NOT believe that Jesus is fully God himself
15. Children must be raised by group leaders
16. Children must be raised using specific types of discipline
17. You must quit your job, school, and move in with group members
18. You must keep your job and donate heavily to the group
19. If you ever leave this group you are in deep do-do (they all have this one too)
|The above list is by no means exhaustive but it does lead me to the point
of this article.
How is it possible that honest well intentioned people all reading from the same Bible can come up with vastly different ideas about what the book teaches?
|Furthermore, how is it possible that fundamentalists from different groups, all embracing the teachings of biblical inerrancy and infalliblity, can in many cases come to diametrically opposing views on the exact same biblical concepts?|
|Well, many years ago as a practicing fundamentalist, I was pretty sure I knew the answer to those questions. There were a few possibilities.|
|1. There are false teachers out there, intentionally distorting scripture for personal gain.|
|2. People are basically selfish, and therefore tend to pick and choose cafeteria style until the Bible says what they want it to say.|
|3. To the untrained eye, there are areas of apparent contradiction in the Bible. They are simply misinterpreting what they are reading.|
|In a nutshell, those were my answers then. It was either greed, selfishness, unspirituality, or some combination of the above. The problem was, I never really bought these answers deep down inside. What always stopped me was that I personally knew people in a number of different fundamentalist groups. They were all (well, almost all) well meaning, sincere, honest, and truly trying to make a positive difference in the world. Perfect? No, but they were and are some of the finest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.|
|I now firmly believe there is another reason (in fact the main reason) well meaning people from differing fundamentalist groups find it so hard to agree. It did not have to come down to one person being right and the other wrong. Often, they are both right, both being true to what the verses in their particular biblical model teach.|
|The reason, while obvious to me now is one I did not, maybe even could not consider for many years. Peoples biblical models differ so widely because, (take a deep breath), because the Bible itself does not speak with one voice on many of these issues.|
|Now I want to pause here for a second to acknowledge that what I am saying is a radical thought for many of you who come from fundamentalist backgrounds. If you are reading this and are feeling angry, and/or have dozens of bible verses at the ready to refute what I just said, no problem. All I am asking is that you simply consider the possibility. No way would I suggest that you take my word for it on this, anymore than I would have taken anyone elses word for something like this 15 years ago.|
|In the next several articles, I will make a case for what I now believe about this issue in as thoughtful a way as I know how. I will highlight some of the major areas where the biblical writers appear to bump heads with what we now know about science, what we as a society now largely believe about morality, and mostly where the biblical writers seem to bump heads with each other.|