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Biblical inerrancy and infallibility

What is the impact of biblical inerrancy,
authority, etc. on North American culture?

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Overview:

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of Jews' and Christians' view of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. Old and New Testaments) on the culture in the U.S. and Canada. It is of paramount importance in determining their religious beliefs and in motivating their personal activities. Ultimately, because about 75% of North Americans identify themselves as either Christians or Jews, it strongly influences the type of society in which we live.

Two radically opposing viewpoints are:

bulletTraditional/historical viewpoint: The Bible is the "Word of God:"
bulletThe Holy Spirit inspired the biblical authors

bulletThe Bible is inerrant -- it is without error in its original autograph form.

bulletThe Bible is authoritative -- it defines what we are to believe and how we are to act.

bulletThe Bible is infallible -- it is trustworthy and does not deceive the reader.

bulletThe Bible is internally consistent -- it tells the same message from cover to cover.

bulletToday's moral and ethical decisions should be primarily based on Scriptures and religious tradition.
 
bullet Historical/skeptical viewpoint: The Bible is the product of individual human efforts to promote their own faith tradition and explain their concepts of the supernatural:
bulletThe Bible is a human document and thus limited by the pre-scientific and often tribal culture in which its authors lived.

bulletThe Bible was profoundly influenced by ideas adsorbed from ancient Canaanite, Persian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek and other Pagan religions.

bulletThe Bible is internally inconsistent and displays the gradual evolution of religious beliefs within ancient Hebrew and Christian cultures.

bullet It is partly unreliable. Many of its statements on origins and the cosmos have been proven to be wrong by modern science. Many of its instructions for living are regarded as profoundly immoral today by theologians and scientists.

bulletMoral and ethical decisions should be largely based on reason, observation, and experience.

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Some examples of the impact of different views of the Bible:

The most-frequently visited sections of this web site dealing with controversial topics with a religious or ethical foundation are described below:

Topic A traditional/historical view
(perhaps one of many)
Historical/skeptical view
(perhaps one of many)
Abortion access:

The Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament) and its interpretation by early Christian theologians have led to the concept of the human soul, which defines the difference between human life (in the form of an ovum and spermatozoa) and a human person. From this logically follows the belief that a human person is present from the time of conception. Thus abortion involves murder -- the killing of a human person -- and should be severely restricted or prohibited totally.


The concept of a human soul is a religious hypothesis that is not supported by research on the human brain and its functions.

An embryo at an early stage of gestation is a potential human being, not an actual human being. A woman should be free to decide whether to continue her pregnancy to childbirth or to terminate it through abortion.

Religious tolerance The Old Testament consistently teaches that there only one God qho should be worshipped and that there is only one valid religion. Several passages in the New Testament say that other religions worship Satan and his demons. The Bible contains many instances of intolerance towards those of other religions, up to and including mass murder and genocide.

The oldest books in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) teach that Yahweh is the God of the Hebrews but is one of many gods worldwide. This belief later evolved into monotheism: the belief that there is only one deity.

According to the "World Christian Encyclopedia there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones. The greatest threat to peace at this time is religious intolerance founded in an intolerant and exclusivist view of other religions.


Homosexuality There are six passages in the Bible that condemn homosexual behavior as profoundly sinful. 1 Corinthians 6:11 implies that, if a lesbian or gay person becomes saved, they will leave this abnormal, unnatural and chosen lifestyle and become heterosexual. These six passages in the Bible do condemn homosexual rape, same-sex sexual activity in Pagan temples, sexual abuse of children, homosexual orgies by heterosexuals, and bestiality. But it does not comment at all about loving, committed same-sex relationships. Homosexuality is a normal, natural, fixed, unchosen, and relatively rare sexual orientation among adults.

Same-sex marriage God's plan, as confirmed by Jesus, is that marriage is to be a permanent covenant between a man and a woman. Same sex "marriage" is a major threat to the future of marriage. When the federal government gives over 1,100 benefits to loving opposite-sex, committed couples at marriage, while denying the same rights to same-sex, committed couples who wish to marry is unethical. Same-sex marriage can only strengthen the institution of marriage.

Death penalty The Hebrew Scriptures commanded the death penalty for a wide range of criminal activities. The death penalty today acts as a deterrent and lowers the homicide rate. A person who kills another has forfeited its right to life. Human life is precious. Killing another person -- particularly premeditated killing by the state -- is immoral. It cheapens life. It distresses the family and friends of the prisoner. It sometimes murders an innocent person. It may actually increase the homicide rate.

Stem cell research Adult stem cell research has few ethical concerns, but embryonic stem cell research kills a human baby. Embryonic stem cell research removes undifferentiated cells from a surplus pre-embryo that would never have had the opportunity to develop into a human person.

Assisted suicide Only God can give a life; only God can take a life. Physician assisted suicide is murder. Suicide is often a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But some terminally ill people suffer greatly, physically and/or emotionally. Helping them, upon request, to  commit suicide can be a humane gift.

Ten Commandments as stated in Exodus 20 This is the core message of the Bible. Since the U.S. and Canada are Christian nations, they should be posted in schools, courthouses and government offices. Commandments 1 to 4 are religious instructions for Jews and have no place in a religiously diverse society. The tenth commandment condones human slavery and treats women as property. They are not suitable for posting in government facilities.

Spanking Children God's word commands, mainly in Proverbs, that parents have a duty to discipline their children through the use of loving corporal punishment. Studies show that children who are spanked and whipped are more violent towards their peers. As adults they have a greater incidence of alcoholism, depression, anxiety and drug abuse. Spanking is less effective than other methods of discipline.

The environment 1

A continuing theme in the Bible is God's love and protection of his followers. God will not allow a worldwide catastrophe brought on by climate change. Daniel and Revelation describe Armageddon, and don't mention global warming.


Atmospheric scientists have reached an almost complete consensus that climate change is a reality. It has already altered climate patterns and will cause great suffering and loss of life if we do not take stringent actions quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Related essay in this web site:

bulletGod's inspiration of the biblical authors

Footnote:

Actually, our section dealing with global warming and other environmental concerns is not among our most visited topics. But we feel that it should be. The tenth most visited section is end of the world scenarios.

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Copyright © 2007 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Original posting: 2007-APR-29
Latest update: 2012-JAN-29
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