Bibical Literalism and the Road to Atheism

Professor James McGrath makes an excellent point about the dangers of bibical literalism to faith:

Personally, I am fundamentally (if you'll excuse the pun) convinced that there are no genuine Biblical literalists in the world today - not even Ned Flanders on the Simpsons, who on the brillian episode "Hurricane Neddy" famously claimed "I've done everything the Bible says - even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff". No one believes in the dome. No one believes that 14=13, that pi equals precisely 3, and so on. But to acknowledge that interpretation is always a factor does not seem black and white enough to some, and certainly isn't a good advertising strategy, and so claims of being a Biblical literalist continue to be made, in spite of their inaccuracy and (in at least some cases) dishonesty (since I assume some of those using such rhetoric know enough about the Bible that they ought to know better).

My strongest reason for opposing these misleading claims about Biblical literalism and inerrancy is that they are a fast track to atheism. Many preachers say one must choose: "Either the Bible is the perfect, inerrant word of God, or it is a load of garbage and should be thrown out". This sets up anyone who decides to study the Bible seriously and has been told this to either pretend the problems aren't there, and thus compromise on honesty, or to do what they were told and throw out the Bible. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What happens if one tries to take various Biblical stories literally has been demonstrated more than once. Noah's ark and the Exodus are but a couple of examples.So, if you really want to encourage rather than discourage people from believing in God, then I'd drop the rhetoric of inerrancy and literalism. It is not only dishonest, it is spiritually toxic.

Read it all here (including some interesting comments).


Peter Carey said…
This is all very very interesting, and a lot of food for thought...I really appreciate this posting (As well as your other excellent postings, I am a daily reader!)...

Peace to you, need to get rest before preaching tomorrow...

(Rev.) Peter Carey

Popular posts from this blog

Washington Post Forum on Liberation Theology

Bultmann versus Wright on the Resurection

Luke Timothy Johnson on Homosexuality and Scripture