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Thought provoking questions that
we have received, with our responses

Part 16:
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This topic continues from the previous essay

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Interesting Emails discussed in this essay:

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The Bible is errant:

Incoming E-mail: Re: "Inerrancy. The Bible is errant, but there is no way of determining where the errors occur.

To prove the Bible is not inerrant one needs only to prove one error.

Pick up a copy of the New International Version, there are within, footnotes highlighting variations between various source manuscripts (i.e. the verse ‘for God so loved the earth that he gave his only begotten son’ does not occur in all manuscripts). Since where this happens both versions of the manuscript cannot be correct one has to be in error…..

This shows that God has failed to prevent 'inerrant copying/propagation' of the the Bible's text, and therefore some ancient manuscripts are in error.

Further we have no way of telling which version is correct. Even worse they might all be incorrect, with the original 'correct' version lost. Hence every verse of the bible must be treated as suspect and so the whole thing is the next best thing to 'completely bloody useless.'

Also given the above even if the original was inerrant, we have no way of knowing what it said……….. "

Our response: I disagree.

The term "inerrancy," as defined by essentially all Christians, refers only to the original, autograph copies of each book in the Bible being without error. Of course, none of them exist today. "Inerrancy" says nothing about subsequent copies which probably do contain errors. Some errors are simple copyist mistakes. Others involve the incorporation of margin notes written by someone other than the author into the next copy of the text. Some are intentional forgeries. And so on.

However, I agree with you that a case can be made that the Bible is errant. Some might argue that the term "inerrancy" is meaningless when there is no consensus on what the Bible actually means,

The Bible is clearly ambiguous. Jewish, Muslim and Christian theologians approach the Hebrew Scriptures with different foundational beliefs and thus interpret passages in the Bible very differently. Even among fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians, there are often major disagreements about what the Bible means. InterVarsity Press, Zondervan,  and other publishers have all published books that illustrate this. One is the book by Robert & Bonnidell Clouse titled: "Women in ministry: Four Views." 1 In this type of book, a number of leading evangelical Christian theologians explain their diverse personal views on a specific topic, and critique each others beliefs, while believing that theirs, and theirs alone, is the only correct interpretation of the Bible.

It is worth noting that each of the authors is intelligent, sincere, serious, devout, thoughtful and supremely confident that their own belief is the only one that is biblically based. Yet, their conclusions conflict with each other. This series of books illustrates very clearly some of the ambiguities which are found in the Bible. It is difficult -- impossible for some -- to harmonize a Bible that is both ambiguous and inerrant.

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Overcoming fear-based childhood religious training:

Incoming E-mail: How can I free myself from my childhood religious training? My parents are evangelical Christians. Like many teens, I started to drift away from my childhood beliefs. As an adult, I became attracted to Neopagan and some Eastern religions. My problem is that I am afraid to depart from my early religious training; I fear God may take revenge on me and my family. I realize this is based on fear and not because I really believe in it. But, how do I let go fully? How do I not be afraid?

Our response: That is a terrible predicament to be caught in.

Professor Richard Dawkins is often referred to as one of the "new Atheists." Actually, he is an Agnostic. He wrote in his book "The God Delusion" 2 that for a parent to teach a child about a vengeful God, Hell, Purgatory, revenge, eternal punishment, etc. is a form of child abuse. Your present situation lends support for that belief.

Some suggestions:

  • You might consider reading America's Four Gods: What We Say about God--and What That Says about Us 1 by Paul Froese and Christopher Bader. The authors show that Americans believe in four very different concepts of God -- actually five if you include non-believers. Some view God as rigidly authoritarian; others as forgiving, In addition, some view God as heavily involved in human affairs; others see God as being remote -- sort of like the God of the Deists'. The viewed God as a creator who formed the universe, gave it a set of physical laws, left and hasn't been seen since. All are supported by the Bible because the Bible is so ambiguous. Its interpretation is very sensitive to the seeker's world view and past personal experiences.

    Reading this book might dilute the fears that you have been taught. You will realize that intelligent, devout, sincere Christians have derived four very different deities from the Bible. Your parent taught you that God is rigid, critical, demanding, and heavily involved in everyone's affairs. But there are three other Christian belief systems about God out there.

  • You might also investigate the full range of world religions and note that many teach a type of heaven and hell after one dies. But each religion uses different criteria to determine one's eternal destination. You will realize that it is quite impossible to lead a life that would result in you attaining heaven after death and avoiding hell in all of these religions. Since different religions teach different criteria for salvation, and since we cannot tell which religion is the true one or whether none of the world religions are true, it would seem to be quite hopeless to chart a course to Heaven. There are hundreds of main religious groups out there, and probably many tens of thousands of individual faith groups in existence. They teach a wide variety of beliefs about the afterlife.

  • Many cats seem to enjoy torturing an animal they have caught. Humans are hopefully higher on the evolutionary scale; lots of them consider torturing people to be abhorrent. If we assume that God is on an even higher moral plane, then we can expect that he/she/it/they would consider torturing people even more repulsive. This would argue that the biblical teachings about Hell are invalid.

  • In many predominately Muslim countries, people can receive the death sentence for a thought crime: namely abandoning Islam for another religion. In the developed world, we don't punish people for their thoughts. Since God is supposed to have a higher level of morality that humans, we can expect God to not be troubled by people who follow other than his/her/its/their faith tradition.

  • You might read Matthew 25. This is a description of the final judgment. Note that it implies that persons of all eras, religions, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, gender identities, etc. will be individually judged and sent to either heaven or hell. It describes precisely that the sole criteria deciding one's future location is based on one's good works, not one's religious beliefs.

But I realize that my response is probably not particularly helpful. I was cursed with a very logical and rational mind which continually looks for solutions to problems that are based on reasoning and not feelings. It may be that as you fully adopt a new religion, you will become loyal to it. Your childhood attachments to an angry, punishing God may fade away.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Image of book cover Paul Froese & Christopher Bader, "America's Four Gods: What We Say about God--and What That Says about Us," Oxford University Press, 2010-OCT. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Available in Kindle, hardcover and audible versions.

  2. book cover Richard Dawkins, "The God Delusion," Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (2006-SEP). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Available in Kindle, hardcover, paperback and audible versions.

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Copyright © 2010 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-OCT-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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