Friday, June 21, 2013

Perfection of the Bible, and apologetics

While it's not a universally held belief among all Christian denominations, it's nevertheless a good majority of them that claim the perfection and infallibility of the Bible. In other words, the Bible is the perfect word of God, without flaw and error.

The concept of the Bible being perfect is in drastic contradiction with the very concept of apologetics.

When talking about Christianity, "apologetics" means, basically, three things:
  1. Forming a coherent and consistent doctrine of the Christian religion from the different parts scattered all over the Bible.
  2. Interpreting and explaining passages that are unclear, metaphoric, poetic, prophetic, or otherwise not trivially understandable.
  3. Reconciling apparent contradictions and differences between different parts of the Bible, especially those describing the same event, or the same tenet of the Christian doctrine.
One cannot help but point out how the very need for such apologetics is in drastic contradiction with the alleged perfection of the Bible.

If you need fallible humans to gather bits and pieces scattered all over the place into a coherent and clear whole, from a book that's allegedly inspired by a perfect God, a book that is itself allegedly perfect, then that sounds to me like anything but perfect. If the Bible were perfect, it would already be easily understandable without the help of thousands of scholars and apologists (who can't even agree among themselves.)

Likewise if some message in the Bible is in such a metaphorical or poetic form that understanding it requires heavy interpretation, that also speaks of it being far from perfect. A perfect doctrine ought to be written in such a clear and unambiguous way as to minimize all possible mistaken interpretations. Writing things in vague metaphors is deliberately asking for it to be misinterpreted. Either God is incompetent or deliberately trying to cause confusion.

More blatantly, the very need for apologetics to explain away contradictory descriptions speaks loudly against the Bible being perfect. It doesn't even matter whether these contradictions can be rationally reconciled or not; the very need for such reconciliation is enough to show the imperfection of the text.

Many Christians will claim that there are no such contradictions. This is a lie (and quite hypocritically Christians seem to have no problems in lying when defending their faith.) What they really mean by "there are no contradictions or errors" is "all contradictions can be explained away in a manner that satisfies me." Reconciling contradictions does nothing to remove the fact that the text contains them.

Let's take an example: There are two stories about what Judas did after he betrayed Jesus. One says that he was repentant an hung himself, the other does not say he repented and he instead was eviscerated. One says that he threw the money he got into a temple, while the other says he bought a field with the money. Apologists try to reconcile these two completely different narratives by trying to merge them somehow. Regardless of what they try to do, the very need to do this is a clear indication that the text is not perfect. A perfect text would not have such contradictions and would not need such apologetics.

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