This is a brief post on the ongoing battle between those who want to make the Bible God and those of us who declare that God is God, and that the Bible is, in fact, just a book. It is an important book; yes, for it holds the revelation of God to man. But it is a book in this sense: that its meaning and truth are contextual to man. It is first and foremost a true story about man. And its efficacious meaning is revealed in how man applies the truths of the story to his own unique context, under the guidance of the only infallible thing: God, as His Spirit.
This afternoon I spent some time thinking about how you reconcile “infallible” with “truth”. After a while, it dawned on me that the two ideas are mutually exclusive to one another. That is, they are completely separate concepts, and putting them together is like mixing sardines and cinnamon cereal. There is no point, and forcing a point makes only a strange, incongruent, and ultimately confusing and ridiculous spectacle. The cynic in me says that men do this to consolidate their selfish and wicked power over the barbarian masses. This is not true in all cases, of course, but the bloody history of the Christian church indicates that it is true A LOT.
Truth and infallibility are incompatible ideas; it is senseless to put them together. There is no such thing as infallible truth, there is just truth. Truth doesn’t need to be infallible, it just needs to be true. So then what we are really proclaiming when we appeal to biblical infallibility is a “special” sort of truth; an infallible truth, which isn’t really truth at all; it is God.
Infallibility is God. And God just is (the I AM). He is what He is. Our appeal then to biblical infallibility means that we want to declare this of the Bible as well. But that makes a created thing on par with God; meaning God has a created equal, which is metaphysically and physically impossible. The Bible is either true, or it is not. Infallibility can have nothing to do with it because infallibility can only be ascribed to God. And again, if the Bible is indeed infallible, then it is the fourth member of the “Trinity” and as such, is useless to man, because man cannot apply God to his context because God is what He is apart from man; God creates man, man does not APPLY God to his own existence, then, he applies his knowledge about God, and that knowledge comes from a revealed truth ABOUT God; God HIMSELF is NOT the revelation; the revelation is the revelation.
When we say the Bible is infallible we declare falsely that the Bible also becomes an I AM. Which means that it cannot be revealed or inspired by the Spirit, because it IS the Spirit, which makes it redundant, because the Spirit has no need to reveal Himself by recreating Himself. The concept of biblical infallibility is therefore as ridiculous as it is impossible.
The Bible is how man can know how to live and who he is in light of his existence and God’s. It is nothing more than that. It is not divine in and of itself. It has no special powers. It IS just a BOOK. It is a book put together and written by MAN, canonized and organized in its present protestant form (speaking of the protestant churches) based on the actions and will of man, based upon what God has told him; a recreation in written language of God’s revelation.
It is not supernatural, it is not to be worshiped, adored, followed AS God, idolized, or served. It is not God. It is a revelation of the truth of God. And its meaning and relevance rests entirely upon the existence of, and application by man to man’s unique, individual context, guided by the Holy Spirit, who is the reason why the Bible does not need to be infallible, and furthermore, CANNOT be infallible.
Infallibility is a red herring issue, really, and that is my primary problem with it. It can only confuse the faith, never clarify it. The idea of inerrancy or infallibility is, ultimately, completely irrelevant to our faith. That is, in an attempt to say something about what we believe, we create a doctrine that is false because, among other things, it is simply not relevant to what we believe.
12 thoughts on “The Bible IS just a book: God is the I AM”
What do you mean by “infallible”? It seems like you’re not getting the standard way it’s used by Christians, but just looked it up in Websters, see:
No point knocking down straw men…I think you’re worked up over nothing. I mean there is such thing as bibliolatry, but most Christians don’t worship the Bible.
Thanks so much for visiting my site;and thanks for your contribution! Nice to hear from you!
I was a committed Calvinist for fifteen years in SGM, a church that “rightly” applies these reformed ideas almost impeccably, with the inevitable abusive fallout abounding in spades.
I submit that this isn’t a straw man issue at all. The idea of infallibility can have only one real purpose in Christianity, and that is to declare a subjective interpretation of scripture as being “God”, in order to quell dissenting views and to destroy the will and opinions of the laity. In other words, “inerrancy” is simply another instrument in the reformed tool shed designed to separate man from himself in order that he may be subjugated by the ecclesiastical “authority”.
However, before I go into more detail as to just why this is an abusive and false doctrine, can I ask: How would you define the doctrine of biblical infallibility? What does it mean to you, if not according to my understanding?
Your question demonstrates my point…it doesn’t matter how *I* (or you) define infallibility, it has a specific meaning among Christians just like, say, the trinity. You can make up your own definition of the trinity and then tear it down but it’s meaningless if you ignore the common definition. Infallibility isn’t a specifically “reformed” doctrine and has nothing to do with anyone’s particular interpretation of scripture. Two people could believe in Biblical infallibility but use different interpretive methods and thus come up with different understandings of the Bible. Maybe you’re thinking more along the lines of infallibility of the Church or papal infallibility but those aren’t believed by the reformed crowd anyway.
What led you to believe the tenets of Calvinism because it sounds like you even reject a lot of the tenets of orthodox Christianity (but are attributing them to Calvinism)?
With respect, and not to be snarky, but you have proven my point. EVERY doctrine we claim as “orthodox” is merely subjective; precisely how you define the idea of “infallibility”.
You admit that Christians have different ideas of what that doctrinal term means. Well, why stop there? Christians also, then, have different ideas on what depravity, atonement, penal substitution, trinity, original sin, and on and on mean. So what I am arguing is that if we are going to have these “subjective” doctrines, by your own definition, then why have them at all? For they can do nothing then, except confuse the truth. Why invent doctrines that everyone has to go and figure out what they mean to them? That doesn’t make any sense. What I am submitting is that these doctrines are redundant, and their redundancy is manifest in their contradiction, which makes them false and, by extension, destructive.
For example, what exactly is an “infallible truth”? That is typical Christian contradiction accepted as orthodoxy. And we wonder why people run from us screaming and covering their ears. We think they are like us; that society at large functions outside its own common sense. They don’t, and demanding suspension of disbelief is a terrible place to start evangelizing.
Anyway…a truth is true, is true, is true. What does infallible have to do with anything? A thing is either true, or it is not. And the Bible’s truth is revealed in MAN’S application of it to his (or her, of course) individual context. And man applies the Bible how? By his reason and the Holy Spirit. That to me is the sum of orthodoxy. Anything of the faith beyond reason and the Spirit is a redundant doctrine; false, and can only confuse at best, and destroy lives and God at worst. The Bible never mentions “trinity”, “original sin”, “inerrancy”, “infallibility”. These are then, by definition, inventions of man; redundant at their root. As you so rightly point out, ultimately categorically SUBJECTIVE…and yet, we are taught time after time after time to function as though they are not. When a pastor makes a plea to biblical infallibility–Wikipedia definitions, or Oxford, or Websters, or whatever–his point is this: Obey ME, because my interpretations of the bible are objective TRUTH. This is how a subjective, harmless little doctrine becomes a club of terror. This can only result in despotism.
The reason is that, despite what committed reformed people SAY or even what they think they think (the most heavy handed and consistently bullish of them being the neo-Cals) they do not, in fact, hold that these doctrines are subjective at all. When they speak of biblical infallibility they are appealing to their divine, gnostic right to declare TRUTH for everyone else, regardless of what a person’s individual context is, their reason tells them, or the Holy Spirit convicts them of. That can be the only useful application for a redundant doctrine like Biblical infallibility, regardless of how you might define it. Because how YOU define it is irrelevant. The reason these “orthodox” doctrines are in place is so that your ecclesiastical authority can compel you to right thinking and action, regardless of YOURSELF, by claiming to have the monopoly on TRUTH. And they bulwark their authority with false doctrines like TD, original sin, and biblical infallibility.
Finally, the only orthodoxy I recognize is the conviction of the Holy Spirit and man’s reason. Beyond that, I accept no such thing. All orthodoxy is particular to someONE’s subjective interpretive premise. However, when I refer to reformed, yes, I admit sometimes I do mix that with Calvinism. To me, Calvinism is the face and hammer of the Protestant reformation in Western Europe. The culmination of the worst sorts of redundancies and contradictions the faith has ever seen.
In the future, I’ll try to clarify the delineation a bit better. Thanks.
By the way, I wrote a post today that addresses your concern and question in more depth. If I can keep your interest long enough, maybe you’ll stick around to read it. It should be up by tomorrow. LOL!
Oh, I forgot to ask: How can an infallible bible lead two people to different interpretive conclusions? I submit the answer to that lies with the Holy Spirit and with reason. Efficacious outcomes are proof of truth; and thus, it is the thing which guides proper application of truth that is infallible, not the truth itself, which, without application exists in a vaccum. The things that guide truth then, are the Holy Spirit and reason. Both are infallible; that is, both led men inexorably to a conclusion that will always be “true” in accordance with themselves (the Holy Spirit and man’s reason, working together).
“However, when I refer to reformed, yes, I admit sometimes I do mix that with Calvinism. To me, Calvinism is the face and hammer of the Protestant reformation in Western Europe. The culmination of the worst sorts of redundancies and contradictions the faith has ever seen. ”
Huh? Being “reformed” and being a “calvinist” *are* typically used interchangeably. However in thinking about the Protestant reformation, all the “reformers” were clearly not “reformed”, like most obviously in the case of Jacob Arminius.
Also I think you missed my point, which was that doctrinal terms like total depravity, atonement, penal substitution, trinity, original sin actually *do* mean something fairly standard. You may agree with those doctrines or not…you might have a different understanding of man’s state and not believe in original sin, that’s fine.
It’s helpful to have a name for a concept such a the trinity, so that we can just talk about the trinity instead of saying “well you know how the Holy Spirit is fully God but there are also two other persons that are fully God, namely Jesus Christ and the Father, well about that…”, we can just say “the trinity”, it’s a label for a concept. And it’s well defined. It’s the same way with Biblical infallibility, and that’s all I was trying to point out.
And I think the RC church are the ones who overtly teach that they have a monopoly on truth, hence the need for the Protestant reformation…Luther wanted the common man to be able to read the Bible in his own language, thus his work in translating the New Testament from Greek into German at the Wartburg castle. And I think that even just 50 years ago, a lot of RC churches still held their mass in Latin instead of the common language of the people (I could be wrong on this…general recollection from talking to older folks).
Moving away from the Calvinist/Reformed component for a moment (my point is this: TULIP is Calvinism; Reformed doctrine is TULIP, plus other ideas that I find have seen top-billing in current American protestantism since the resurgence of reformed theology, primarily via the hammer of the neo-Calvinist movement. You can disagree…I’ve been a Christian since I was 10, and was a neo-Cal reformed guy for fifteen years…I know the trends; I’m not that young.) I’d prefer to focus on the doctrine, or the “idea” of biblical infallibility.
Margo, I believe you have come full circle to the point of this blog…in a way. My point IS to dismantle the “usual” understandings of those ideas…by showing that they are indeed subjective, and that that subjectivity is rooted in their contradictions, redundancy, etc. I DO know the standard definitions; I DON’T agree with the standard definitions of those terms because they are metaphysically, logically, and morally impossible. They are, in fact, once you get beyond the facade of re-defined terms, concepts, and heavily nuanced “logic”, false and un-biblical at their very core. I further submit that they were and are devised and implemented by some with the full awareness that the only possible reason for them in the Christian church is to subdue the masses in order to exploit them.
For your posts, you have yet to define why you believe the bible is infallible. That is, you’ve merely argued that I’ve set up a straw man, but you’ve not explained why. You need to define your understanding of infallibility and then defend it, with all due respect, rather than point out that my definition is not the “standard”. If it isn’t, explain why it isn’t and then explain why its wrong.
I asked you how you understood “infallibility” and you stated that it didn’t matter. I don’t understand that answer, nor your explanation regarding the typical definition. What is the typical definition that I’m not seeing? I have read your links, and I’m pretty sure my grasp of the concept is standard. Again, it would be helpful for you to define how you see it, and then defend it.
Argo: “Infallibility is God. And God just is (the I AM). He is what He is. Our appeal then to biblical infallibility means that we want to declare this of the Bible as well.”….”When we say the Bible is infallible we declare falsely that the Bible also becomes an I AM. Which means that it cannot be revealed or inspired by the Spirit, because it IS the Spirit, which makes it redundant, because the Spirit has no need to reveal Himself by recreating Himself. The concept of biblical infallibility is therefore as ridiculous as it is impossible.”
Wikipedia: “Biblical infallibility is the belief that what the Bible says regarding matters of faith and Christian practice is wholly useful and true”
That standard definition doesn’t give any hint of putting the Bible on par with God as something to be worshiped. It also doesn’t sound much like your definition. And why is this standard meaning of Biblical infallibility “not relevant to what we believe”?
I don’t disagree that calvinism=reformed, I simply was pointing out that the Protestant Reformation wasn’t only about calvinism. Some reformers followed John Calvin and his thinking and others did not. There is a lot more to the Reformation than calvinism/arminianism and it is not all bad. What does the age you were saved at or how long you were a Calvinist (“You can disagree…I’ve been a Christian since I was 10, and was a neo-Cal reformed guy for fifteen years…I know the trends; I’m not that young.”) have to do with how well you understand theology or church history? Maybe I can see the trends and understand theology/church history better since I don’t have the unfortunate distinction of having been a calvinist for 15 years 🙂 Just kidding…but really why were you a calvinist for so long when you really seem to find the core beliefs repulsive?
Other than not being specifically Christian, how is that definition of “infallibility” not applicable to a dictionary? Or an Encyclopedia of Baseball? Or a biography of William Howard Taft?
“Lexicon infallibility is the belief that what the dictionary says regarding the meanings and pronunciations of words in literary practice is wholly useful and true.”
If you take the definition at face value, what you say is the standard meaning is redundant and, frankly, silly. It is an overwrought and pretentious way of saying: “Christians think the bible is true.”
I have been around long enough and a Calvinist long enough, (is my point) to know that this nonsense isn’t at all the functional meaning of infallibility. You are mistaken. My description you quoted in your reply is the proper understanding. People simply don’t think about it long enough to arrive at the right conclusions. This is intentional. Christians are not encouraged by their reformed divines to think.
Margo (is that a play on Argo?), you may know church history better, but I submit that you do not understand “sound doctrine” as we’ll as I.
But your comments have helped me to think even more about this.
What is true, as it relates to how we see the bible? The ultimate answer to that really is found in the application of it. And the application of it must be guided by the Holy Spirit and reason. Which makes biblical infallibility false, for only an intention seen true via an outcome can be infallible, and an intention is limited to a self aware consciousness. Which the bible is not.
Thus, any appeal to the bible as being anything more than a book can only be an appeal for a individual’s subjective interpretation of its truths as, in fact, binding and objective to EVERYONE ELSE, regardless of another individual’s context, or interpretation.
We put our faith in God alone, and trust our wisdom to the Spirit to be the proof to us and the world that God’s revelation is true and efficacious. Add to that, and we sell ourselves to the ecclesiastical overlords.
Hi Argo –
Was wondering if you checked out the book that Lydia linked to at Paul’s site? I also found an article by Dan Gracely that you might find interesting. He seems to be addressing some of the same issues that you are covering here.
I would have emailed this comment to you but didn’t see an email address anywhere on your site.
No, I did not. I will go and have a look. Do you know what post it is under?
Also, please email me if you would like, that link at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! I would love to read the article. I’m not familiar with Dan Gracely. Who is he?