Dissecting the Word of God

by Don Hartness

I have discovered that Dante left out a layer of hell in Inferno: working at a freight company during the holidays. My readers will have to forgive me for the lack of posts.

However, I didn’t want to leave out this quote.  As a few already know, I am adamantly opposed to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy (I will write much more about this from a perspective of faith in the weeks and months to come). Not only is it easily dismissed, but I think the damage done by this terrible doctrine is immeasurable.  When speaking to de-converting Christians, two themes resurface over and over.  The first is a church that does not live what it preaches.  The second is the startling discovery that Scripture does, indeed, contain errors and contradictions.  Although this should not come as a shock (inspiration does not mean perfect translation), this doctrine is so engrained within the psyche of many believers that the revelation is often too much to overcome.

As cited in my previous post, I am reading “The Sins of Scripture” by Shelby Spong. A former Episcopalian minister, Spong continues to claim having faith while addressing many of the misuses of Scripture, the fallacy of various church doctrines, and the misuse of church teaching, both presently and throughout history. There are many critics of this book (see the Amazon reviews) who contend that Spong’s treatise destroys the foundational beliefs of Christianity.  I’ll form my own opinion before affirming or denying the critics.

I’m not very far into the book yet, but I found the following quote to be an excellent summary of where the church now finds itself heading into the next century:

“When all these things are put together, it becomes clear that the traditional claim that the Bible is in any literal way the “Word of God” is problematic at best and absurd at worst.  To the degree that the historical liturgies of the church are themselves dependent on these same biblical claims, it becomes obvious that they too will collapse as soon as these things become consciously evident.  The future of the Christian enterprise, therefore, does not look secure, at least to the extent that it is based on the promise of the authority and literal historicity of scripture.  The hysterical denial of these obvious biblical truths that mark the life and rhetoric of right-wing churches, both evangelical Protestant and conservative Catholic, is not a sign of hope.  It matters not that these churches attract thousands of worshipers who come craving both authority and certainty.  This is rather just one more sign of an internal sickness that has not yet been adequately faced by Christian leaders.  The constant attack of these right-wing voices on Christian scholarship is a clear tip-off that they cannot face reality. When people cannot deal with the message, the ancient and still regularly practiced tactic is to shoot the messenger.” – Sins of Scripture, p.24