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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

"I Believe The Bible" Isn't Good Enough

No, this is not another Sola Scriptura post, although frankly, I never tire of writing those. Sorry. No, this is about what the Bible is. If you start from the beginning, it becomes obvious very quickly that something interesting is going on. If we understand the context of the people who wrote this, we can see that the driving purpose of the creation story and of the whole Pentateuch in general, is a liturgical polemic against the other gods of the ancient near East. We need not even take a position as to whether it was written by God, and that he demands our allegiance as a result. That could be a separate question. But someone human wrote these books in a particular time in a particular place for a particular reason. It behooves us to understand that in all its complexity as best we can, especially if we believe it is breathed out by God. That may seem counterintuitive, but if we think about it, it makes sense in this way: if God ultimately composed these stories, then the human elements of their construction are but modes or tools of His communication, and therefore, take on a much greater significance in themselves, since they become an inextricable part of the theological purpose.
It is altogether fashionable for atheists of a certain stripe to portray Christians and others as deluded fools, who believe this story "just because". Not only is this incorrect and naïve, but it reveals a sort of rigid thinking which is the counterpart to various fundamentalisms of a Christian sort.
I think the best reason to believe the Bible is true is because it is the product of a community that has been formed and sustained by the divine initiative. As I reflect upon it, it seems an altogether Catholic way of thinking about it, and that is all to the good, because I'm Catholic. Indeed, we would be hard-pressed to find a more majestic story in all of literature, and that in itself should cause even the most hardened cynic to wonder if in fact it might be true. The conscious self-awareness of the children of Abraham who composed this story and remain its main subject is evidence, albeit circumstantial, of divine purpose and preservation.
The people who recorded this story had no conception of "reasonable atheism." In fact, they would have seen this as a contradiction. Therefore, why should we accost Moses and company, to "prove" a theism they would have assumed? It seems a fool's errand to try to use the Scriptures in this manner. In fact, the Bible simply says, "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." (Psalm 14:1)
Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas would seem better suited for those discussions, and I admit, I am not equipped to reproduce their thinking. But it seems to me that a certain flavor of atheism which regards theism as indefensible, and beneath the dignity of human intellectuals, is simply arrogance in other garb.

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