Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Inspired, Infallible, or Human Construct?

21 Comments

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it is that I believe.  I’ve given up the notion of an inerrant Bible.  I’m done with pastors holding it up high and declaring that it is God breathed and inerrant from cover to cover.  There are too many problems with that view.  There are too many things to reconcile.  I’ve spent my last days defending genocide, slavery and oppression of women.  No matter how you spin it, slavery as a cultural norm, genocide as a holy war, oppression of women somehow for their own good, it all comes down to God condoning those actions by not instructing against them.  So there, inerrancy gone.

What, then, we are left with are inspiration, infallibility, or human construct, or some combination of the three.  I keep hearing the call of some not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Okay.  Let’s talk about that then.  I’m going to do my best to summarize these views without misinterpretation of them. 

What exactly is meant by inspired but not inerrant?  My understanding of inspiration would be that while the Bible is not textually inerrant is is God’s inspired word in that the writers have relayed God’s message correctly.  It is trustworthy in all that it intends to teach.  It is doctrinally correct.  It still reveals God’s plan, God’s message, and God’s purpose to us.

Infallibility carries a wide range of meanings. It usually means the inability to err in teaching.  Whether that means the Church authority, the scriptures as a whole, or the doctrines and teachings within the scriptures is up for debate depending on the denomination or tradition.  When in relation to the scriptures as a whole this comes dangerously close to inerrancy, which I’ve decided to let go of.

Next we come to human construct.  This would mean that fallen man simply wrote of his limited understanding and experience of God with no inspiration other than his relationship with and to God.  In other words, his love or respect or fear of God inspired him to write about his experiences as he understood them to relate to God.  God did not physically or spiritually tell the writer what to write.

There could possibly be some combination of the three.  The Bible could be divinely inspired to some degree or another, with God actually breathing the words into the writer through the Holy Spirit.  Some portions could be correct in their doctrines while others are not.  It could be that man’s understanding is not correct.  Taken as a big picture book instead of snippets the doctrines and teachings could be infallible though written by fallible man.  So while not completely without error, textually speaking, sufficient and trustworthy for knowing God and learning his doctrines and message. Maybe fallen man didn’t get it all exactly right, but enough for God to get his point and his gospel message across.  The Holy Spirit then equips the believer for all that is necessary for righteousness.  Essentially the Holy Spirit reveals to the believer what was before hidden to the unbeliever.

Regardless of which of these or the combination of them it is understood that the Bible is sufficient to know God, and understand his plan and purpose.  If I have gotten anything wrong, misrepresented in any way,  left anything out or if you have something to add feel free to comment.

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21 thoughts on “Inspired, Infallible, or Human Construct?

  1. Before you can answer these questions you have to ask why do I believe this collected book of writings is in any way divine or truth? How does one determine this? What outside proof would one find as proof that the bible is divine or truth?Believing the Bible is divine or truth requires faith. The bible says it is a divine book, that it is truth. Either a person believes this or they don't. I don't. I simply do not have the requisite faith to believe the Bible in any form is divine or truth. Is it of value? Sure, especially the parts that detail the life of the man Jesus. Outside of this I am of the opinion that the Bible offers very little to us in the 21st century.I hope my words are not seen as unkind. I am a member of the live and let live school of thought. However, millions of Christians want me to be forced to live by the teachings and moral strictures of a book they believe is divine. As long as christians continue to demand everyone play by their rules I have no choice but to push back.

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  2. Bruce,I didn't think your words were unkind at all. You are simply sharing your experience. You are right. Believing the Bible to be divine or truth or divine truth requires faith. I'm not sure I have that faith anymore myself. I'm trying to decide if I believe the Bible is divine in any way. The option of purely human construct does away with that notion. I have been inspired in the past to write things and say things out of love for God. That makes them neither divine nor truth. My understanding of God was my inspiration. I'll be dealing with topic in my next few posts.

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  3. I will try to be concise and non argumentative. Here are a few interesting items, all free on the web, that present the skeptical side concerning Bible provenance:At infidels.org: 1) modern library, Carrier, review of the Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark, 2) historical library, Wheless, Forgery in Christianity, chapter 5, 3) historical library, Ingersoll, About the Holy Bible.At Robert Price's site: New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash.That is a smattering of what is available at no cost should one care to investigate some of what we know about how the Bible came to be rather than merely accepting it as God's word because some authority figure says so.exrelyaman

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  4. By looking at the major themes of the whole bible and then declaring them to be sanctioned and ordained by 'god' can be scary.Themes: patriarchy, elitism, autocratic authority, war and taking over territories, punishment, law above mercy, taking care of those less fortunate, mercy, and respect for all creatures.I cannot take all these themes as divinely inspired. Some of them are blatantly contradictory such as the story in Ruth which inspires us to value women and foreigners while Nehemiah says that foreign women are the cause of sin and justify physical abuse. And what is so wrong with things being simply a human understanding or reach for the 'divine'? Cannot we find beauty in our souls? Why must everything beautiful be beyond us? Have we swallowed the lie that we are scum and must reject everything that comes from us?PS: Have you ever read Gretta Vosper? She is a United Minister and her book _With or Without God_ I found very helpful.

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  5. Thanks for the links, exrelayman. I will indeed check those out. It may take me a bit to get around to those. Right now, at the advice of a fellow blogger, I've downloaded a class to my iPod. The class is Critical Thinking-Intermediate. As strange as it may sound I've been reluctant to read any of the skeptic's books ,yet, for the same reason I'm not really reading scripture. I haven't always utilized critical thinking skills. I'm finding it hard to have a balanced approach because when I'm reading Christian literature, if the idea sounds plausible I'm easily swayed in that direction. Then if I'm reading skeptical literature and an equally plausible idea I get confused, thus the name of my blog.:-) I find debates easier to watch or listen to because both sides are presented simultaneously. As strange as it may sound I want to approach skeptical literature with the same amount of skepticism I approach religious literature with. So I feel I need to develop better critical thinking skills.Prairie, Some of those themes are quite contradictory. Yes, I did swallow the lie. The Good Book says I'm scum and I believed it.No, I haven't read Gretta Vosper. Maybe when I'm done with my class I'll start there. Thanks for the tip.

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  6. @prairienymph – I don't suppose you would endorse the behaviour of Ruth towards Boaz as a model for young ladies today :-)@D'ma – Of course you are skeptical of what the skeptic says as well as what anyone else says. That is the essential difference between science and religion. Science doubts, and therefore seeks ways to test and possibly debunk one's own pet theory. Religion – well, I'm sure you know the hymn 'Trust and Obey'.Your course sounds like a good one. You know all of this religion or not is pretty heavy stuff. I am going to give you a link to a very fun little read pertaining to logic and life. It is good to lighten up a bit sometimes:http://studentweb.hunter.cuny.edu/~murrayj/humor/loveisfallacy.htmlexrelayman

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  7. exrelayman,Thanks for the link. I really enjoyed the story. It definitely helps to lighten up a little every now and then. :-)And the bit about Ruth and Boaz…it depends on whether they're looking for a husband or not. Dressing seductively and climbing into bed with a man evidently works sometimes, just look at all the shotgun weddings. ROTFLOL!

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  8. Anon: True, I doubt getting a man drunk and then sleeping in his bed, at his feet, is a smart idea. I'm not sure I'd give up my kid to be raised by my mother-in-law either.D'Ma: How is the course? Sounds like a good idea.

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  9. prairie,So far so good. When I'm done with it I'll post a brief review.

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  10. I'm not clear if your options about the bible included the option that the bible is "man's attempt to explain his experience, which had nothing to do with a god who doesn't exist"?It seems that when we lose inerrancy we struggle to retain god. "The bible is man's faltering attempts to encapsulate their experience with the one true god." My issues with that are 1) there is so much fanciful stuff in the bible, how do we ever attempt to sort out what might be actually true or not? It seems that we construct what we think the nature of god and reality must be like and then select scriptures that affirm it and discount scriptures that don't. 2) I have certainly toyed with the idea that the "big picture" of the bible is true, but some of the details may be messed up. But the longer I consider it the more preposterous it becomes. If the god of the bible is who the bible says he is it would be no big deal for him to make sure that the book that billions of people turn to for knowledge about him (special revelation) would be accurate… that we would not have to wonder and guess and hypothesize whether it was true, and what it meant. You could say that Jesus was the perfect revelation of God… but if the books we have about that Jesus are unreliable we are back to square one. Every christian group says they follow jesus, but all their jesuses look different.Oh, and there is one more option for your stance toward the bible… It may be true, it just describes a god that you really really don't like. (Not many people ever claim that for some reason!)

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  11. misotheism, people who hate god, is a hot topic. Here is the Wiki on the subject. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MisotheismEvangelically incorrect raises a good point. Even if I had held on to my faith after losing an inerrant Bible, the truth is the god of the Bible is a god I want nothing to do with. He is hateful, mean-spirited, capricious, and quite frankly reminds of a nasty son-of-a-*****.Even the god of the New Testament, is a god who chooses some and leaves others to face his wrath and the lake of fire. He commands people to repent and then says they have no power of their own to do so.Maybe, I could hold on to the Thomas Jefferson version. Jesus who was a pretty good guy. :)Bruce

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  12. Point taken about the Bible describing a God I really really don't like. That is one of my options, just not discussed here. I will say that if God is the God of the Bible I really don't like him very much. But if the Bible is true it doesn't matter if I like him. He's still God.Now to your first question:I'm not clear if your options about the bible included the option that the bible is "man's attempt to explain his experience, which had nothing to do with a god who doesn't exist"?That is what I mean when I say purely human construct. Either there is no God and man is just trying to make sense of the world around him or there is a God and man doesn't know a darned thing about him. They're just writing what they understand Him to be. The more I read and the more I think about the Old Testament the more I think that Israel was a nation trying to perpetuate itself and establish national pride. Enter God. Moses needed authority over the Israelites to enforce laws without anarchy. How better to accomplish that than through fear? God said I could have you stoned. God said no interracial marriage. With the backing of a God Moses was untouchable. Otherwise I think there would have been anarchy. It's hard to believe the people had just witnessed all of the plagues, the passover, the parting of the red sea and the minute Moses turns his back they start to whisper behind his back about his presumed authority. Suddenly Moses comes down off of Mount Sinai with "rules from God". But I could be wrong. Just one of many ideas rolling around in this head of mine.

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  13. I said anarchy twice. I like the word. 🙂

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  14. Bruce said:Even if I had held on to my faith after losing an inerrant Bible, the truth is the god of the Bible is a god I want nothing to do with. He is hateful, mean-spirited, capricious, and quite frankly reminds of a nasty son-of-a-*****.My dad had similar sentiments. I recall one time he said something along the lines of:"If there is a God, he screws with people's minds. We're all just pawns in a twisted game. I think he's pretty much an SOB".

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  15. You bring up the Israelites and Moses. The history outside the Bible is slim to none. Of course, if a person believes the Bible is historically correct then they believe there is plenty of historical proof for the Israelites and Moses.When it is all said and done, faith is what is required. For me, that is what I lack, faith. I can not, will not believe unless I can see.Your Dad and I have similar sentiments. 🙂 Which means_____________. 🙂 Bruce

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  16. Bruce,You're absolutely right. Bringing up the Israelites and Moses does assume there was a Moses. Even if there wasn't a Moses somewhere along the way there became a nation of people called Israelites. I think the larger point still applies. Some leader needed authority to instill fear into them so he could make them do what he wanted them to.

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  17. "I will say that if God is the God of the Bible I really don't like him very much. But if the Bible is true it doesn't matter if I like him. He's still God."Well, it doesn't matter if all you're concerned about is the sterile question, "Is it true?" However, if your journey is ultimately leading you to determine who or what you are going to follow, you could come to believe that the God of the bible exists, and is who it says he is, yet still choose to not follow him because of a lack of respect for him, even if that means doing a gig in hell. So, it does matter, in that sense.

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  18. human construct is where i've arrived…at least for now although it's certainly a work in progress. it's so crazy how we continue to be in sync somehow in regards to the themes we are addressing as it relates to our faith crisis.

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  19. Point taken about the Bible describing a God I really really don't like. That is one of my options, just not discussed here. I will say that if God is the God of the Bible I really don't like him very much. But if the Bible is true it doesn't matter if I like him. He's still God.Now to your first question:I'm not clear if your options about the bible included the option that the bible is "man's attempt to explain his experience, which had nothing to do with a god who doesn't exist"?That is what I mean when I say purely human construct. Either there is no God and man is just trying to make sense of the world around him or there is a God and man doesn't know a darned thing about him. They're just writing what they understand Him to be. The more I read and the more I think about the Old Testament the more I think that Israel was a nation trying to perpetuate itself and establish national pride. Enter God. Moses needed authority over the Israelites to enforce laws without anarchy. How better to accomplish that than through fear? God said I could have you stoned. God said no interracial marriage. With the backing of a God Moses was untouchable. Otherwise I think there would have been anarchy. It's hard to believe the people had just witnessed all of the plagues, the passover, the parting of the red sea and the minute Moses turns his back they start to whisper behind his back about his presumed authority. Suddenly Moses comes down off of Mount Sinai with "rules from God". But I could be wrong. Just one of many ideas rolling around in this head of mine.

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  20. Thanks for the links, exrelayman. I will indeed check those out. It may take me a bit to get around to those. Right now, at the advice of a fellow blogger, I've downloaded a class to my iPod. The class is Critical Thinking-Intermediate. As strange as it may sound I've been reluctant to read any of the skeptic's books ,yet, for the same reason I'm not really reading scripture. I haven't always utilized critical thinking skills. I'm finding it hard to have a balanced approach because when I'm reading Christian literature, if the idea sounds plausible I'm easily swayed in that direction. Then if I'm reading skeptical literature and an equally plausible idea I get confused, thus the name of my blog.:-) I find debates easier to watch or listen to because both sides are presented simultaneously. As strange as it may sound I want to approach skeptical literature with the same amount of skepticism I approach religious literature with. So I feel I need to develop better critical thinking skills.Prairie, Some of those themes are quite contradictory. Yes, I did swallow the lie. The Good Book says I'm scum and I believed it.No, I haven't read Gretta Vosper. Maybe when I'm done with my class I'll start there. Thanks for the tip.

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