To an evangelical fundamentalist, the Bible is the inspired word of god, god-breathed, inerrant (without mistakes), infallible (without mistakes because from god). It’s as if god himself had used the hand of a human being to write out the sacred words. How many of us recovering fundamentalists have not heard or seen on a license plate, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”
I remember the day long ago when I said to my Dad, “You’re not going to hit me over the head again (figuratively, not literally) with that black Bible.”
To me, the Bible serves the role of the cult founder. The minister could run off with the choice director, and that wouldn’t shake anyone’s faith. The congregants’ faith is in the Book and in the fundamentalist interpretation of it.
Therefore, to gain freedom from fundamentalism, the chains of the Bible must be broken. It must be seen for what it is…the expression of the writers’ attempts to talk about their faith in terms of their times and cultures.
In my experience, there are several ways of breaking the chains of the “black book”:
- Outgrow them. You might look at aspects of the culture from 2000 years ago, and say, “I don’t believe that,” and move on from there.
- Disagree with something in the Bible. If you are more humane than something the Bible teaches, then not everything in the Bible would be infallible.
- Study up on the historical criticism of the Bible.
- Then, there’s always the question I was asking myself: “If this is so good, how come…?”
The historical criticism of the Bible
Let me first quote from Wikipedia, which has a great deal of information and many links on this subject:
The historical-critical method to studying the Bible is taught nearly universally in Western nations, including in most seminaries. According to Ehrman, most lay Christians are unaware of how different the academic view of the Bible is from their own.Conservativeevangelicalschools, however, often reject this approach, teaching instead that the Bible is completely inerrant in all matters (in contrast to the mainline Protestant and Catholic view that it is infallible only in matters relating to personal salvation, a doctrine called biblical infallibility) and that it reflects explicit divine inspiration.
In regards to Protestant historical-criticism, the movement of rationalism as promoted by Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), held that reason is the determiner of truth. Spinoza did not regard the Bible as divinely inspired, instead it was to be evaluated like any other book. Later rationalists also have rejected the authority of Scripture. However the Bible remains a best seller worldwide.
For our purposes, there are two authors (that I know of) who have written helpful books for laypeople on the subject of the historical criticism of the Bible: Bart Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina and Bishop John Spong, retired bishop of the Episcopal church.
Here are some of their titles
- Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them)
- Forged: Writing in the Name of God – – Why the Bible’s Authors Are not Who We Think They Are
Bishop John Shelby Spong
- Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality
- Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Re-thinks the Meaning of Scripture
- The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love
- Living in Sin? A Bishop Re-thinks Human Sexuality
- Born of a Woman: A Bishop Re-thinks the Virgin Birth and the Treatment of Women by a Male-DominatedChurch
If you look down the lists in Amazon, you’ll find various evangelical responses to some of the above books. I try to keep things simple, like, if the resurrection was the greatest thing since apple pie, how come it’s not mentioned in 3 of the 4 gospels? Stuff like that, ya know?