Science and Other Drugs

….maybe a little less wrong….

Fundamentalism and biblical inerrancy

Note: this is the properly edited release of an earlier attempt at reblogging….something that WordPress really doesn’t do all that well.

Came across this post by John Zande over at the superstitious naked ape and had to reblog it.

Thank gawd for the fine folk over at The Reason Project, and the ever brilliant, devilishly witty Arbourist at Dead Wild Roses for this gem. Behold, the complete list of bible contradictions. Click on it for the full picture.

The bars that run along the bottom represent the 1189 chapters of the bible with the length of each bar corresponding to the number of verses in each chapter. White bars represent the Old Testament and grey bars represent the New Testament. Each arc indicates a contradiction.

Of course, I’ve seen this before, but it’s still amusing. And naturally, I can’t help but wonder if this is really the complete list. I mean, don’t they have a few more they can come up with?

As any sort of rigorous criticism of Christianity simpliciter, this of course falls flat. These hundreds of “contradictions” have been examined and found wanting time and time again on numerous occasions. You can find gems like:

  • “Is anyone justified? Matthew 12 says that your own words will be used to either justify or condemn you, but Psalm 143 says no one lives in complete righteousness. NO POSSIBLE HARMONIZATION!”
  • “Did Jesus do miracles? John 2 says Jesus did a lot of miracles, but Matthew 12 has him telling the Pharisees he won’t perform on command. CONTRADICTION!”
  • “What was Hezekiah’s sundial miracle a sign of? 2 Kings 20 says it was a promise God would heal Hezekiah, but Isaiah 38 says it was a promise God would heal Hezekiah AND save the city from Assyria. AHAH!”
  • “Was Jonah swallowed by a fish or a whale? Jonah 1 uses the common Hebrew word ‘dag’, meaning ‘sea creature’, and Matthew 12 uses the obscure Greek word ‘kētos’, meaning ‘sea monster’. NO WAY THESE CAN MEAN THE SAME THING.”

But this is still absolutely a helpful graphic. Why? It’s a clear reminder that the fundamentalist, literal-interpretation prooftexting so typical of hyperconservative churches is just plain wrong. Very wrong.

And this is proof. By applying the same literal-prooftext process used to argue for KJV-onlyism and a thousand other extrabiblical doctrines, The Reason Project came up with no less than 439 silly contradictions.

So this is what you can think of every time someone uses hyper-literalism to argue that the KJV translators were inspired, or that spanking is guaranteed to “save your child’s soul from hell”, or that we should actually “pluck out our eyes” due to lust, or that homosexuality is an abomination, or that women need to wear head coverings in church, or any other inanity.


5 responses to “Fundamentalism and biblical inerrancy

  1. johnny b 2013/03/28 at 00:39

    hahaha yes. I totally agree.

  2. antimule 2013/03/28 at 03:10

    While I think that most of those contradictions can be somehow accounted for, others are quite real. If you come with preconceived notion that Bible is infallible, then you certainly won’t see any discrepancies. Absolutely anything can be believed if you are willing to accept elaborate enough rationalizations. If one witness says that he saw apples and another oranges, it is pretty clear that one is mistaken. But if you want to believe that there are no differences you can always claim that both saw the same top secret genetically spliced apple-orange hybrid. Trying to reconcile two different account of how Judas died is pretty much at the same level. So yeah, you can “reconcile” all Biblical discrepancies quite easy, only it doesn’t mean anything. While I don’t think Bible is as inconsistent as the graph shows I think it is pretty obvious that it is not inerrant.

    Furthermore, I think that pretending that Bible is inerrant is the cancer that is killing Protestantism the same way that pretending that Pope is infallible is killing Catholicism. Both dogmas exists for effectively the same reason – to make claims of their respective denominations appear more authoritative than they deserve. And both are very destructive long term.

    Dogma of Papal infallibility made Catholic church impossible to adapt to changing realities such as the subject of contraception, and it made it too slow to move on child abuse atrocity because if you are infallible there is no way your approach to handling crimes could be wrong. Similarly, pretending the bible is inerrant makes you accept increasingly elaborate justifications that no one else is going to buy. Worse it makes you ignore or twist certain passages that don’t seem to fit overall narrative. Can you name me ONE conservative denomination that reads Matthew 25:31-46 literally?

    I don’t have anything against infallible sources, provided that you actually have one. Otherwise, pretending that your fallible source is infallible is a VERY dangerous game.

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/03/28 at 10:28

      The problem is definitely the beginning approach of literalist infallibility. If you come in with the view that every chapter and verse is literally and unqualifiedly the Word of God to You, you get crazy results. It’s not even a self-consistent approach.

      On the other hand, if you don’t start out with the belief that it MUST be infallible and inerrant and literal (and so forth), you can have a good deal more confidence in your result. To the example you gave: I don’t have any a priori commitment to Matthew and Acts harmonizing, particularly not within one translation. That being said, neither Matthew nor Acts actually claim to say how Judas died.

      The notion that each particular portion of Scripture has to be “complete” is part of the fundamental literalist inerrancy trope. There’s nothing odd about assuming that the author of Matthew reported the portion of the account he heard and that the author of Acts reported the portion of the account he heard.

      Biblical literalism seems to forget that these were real people who were writing based on what they heard. The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven.

      To your question….define “literally”.

  3. antimule 2013/03/28 at 11:19

    “To your question….define “literally”.”

    I mean they actually say that you have to help other people and be an unselfish person or no Heaven for you, as the verses in question at least appear to say.

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/03/28 at 11:40

      Ah, I see. That’s not the “literal” interpretation; “literal” would mean actual sheep and actual goats. =P

      But yeah, that’s just the correct interpretation. And you may be surprised to learn that there are plenty of Christian denominations which teach you have to help other people and be unselfish, or you won’t go to Heaven. The distinction they assert is that helping other people and being unselfish isn’t WHY you go to Heaven.

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