Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It could actually be a sin to believe in an Inerrant Bible

The Third Commandment reads like this:

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." (Exodus 20:7)

What does it mean to take the Lord's name in vain?Most theologians believe that this commandment forbids the use of the name of God in a manner that would dishonor God.For example, the web site http://studywell.org/articles/whatsinaname.htm explains it like this:

"God's name is to be blessed, praised, magnified, exalted, glorified, rejoiced in, proclaimed, loved, feared, and hallowed. To call on God's name is to call on God Himself. Our respect for the name of God IS our respect for God Himself. When we take the name of our Lord to ourselves, we also take the responsibility of glorifying Him and abstaining from evil. 'Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness' (2 Tim 2:19). To take God's name, then live so as to dishonor God, is to profane His holy name."

In this context, let's look at a passage in the Bible. Specifically the passage that I wish to focus on is found in Judges 21:10-24:

[10] So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. [11] "This is what you are to do," they said. "Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin." [12] They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.

[13] Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon. [14] So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared.

In summary, twelve thousand warriors killed everyone – children included – in a town and took 400 female virgins captive. Those women were then given as wives, certainly unwillingly, to some men that they did.

This is nothing less than murder and rape.

Most Biblical readers would call this a "difficult passage" meaning that it is one that it takes a great deal of thought and study in order to properly understand. At first reading of the passage most everyone would agree that, regardless of any other circumstances, killing a large number of people (presumably thousands) including small children and then taking those that were female virgins and forcing them to marry strangers is quite cruel indeed.

Moreover, because of the context of the story most Biblical literalists would say that God not only approved of this, God commanded it!

But let us say, just hypothetically of course, that somehow or in some way, this particular passage was slipped into our version of the Bible surreptitiously. It either didn't really happen or God never approved of the actions.

Now in that hypothetical instance, regardless of whether or not anyone thinks it to be likely, wouldn't people who insisted that God approved of these things be using the Lord's name invain? Wouldn't they be using God's name in a way that would bring dishonor on God?

In that case, wouldn't they be breaking one of the commandments and, therefore, committing a sin?

Of course there are other, similar "difficult passages" in the Bible. In those cases as well, attributing evil to God is also sinning for the same reason.

The bottom line: there is a real chance that insisting that the Bible is the inerrant word of God is actually a sin!!!

Many creationists are fond of Pascal's Wager. They feel that they may be wrong about evolution (or even more likely wrong about a global flood) but they feel that don't have anything to lose by insisting that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

But in fact they have a great deal to lose - just as much or possibly more than any atheist has to lose. They may very well be sinning through their insistence that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

So the wager is not win-win. Biblical literalist had better be right.

It’s up for each Biblical literalist to weigh the risks for themselves.

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