It occurred to me a while back (after I’d read about this as well!) that Fundamentalism really starts with two big ideas.
Idea 1: The Bible is inspired by God using writers with varying personalities, education levels in different cultures to write exactly what He wanted us all to have. The actual verbiage I was taught was this; ‘The Bible was God-breathed.” So while the Holy Spirit, (one part of the Trinity) ‘breathed’ into the minds of each unique writer what He wanted them to say, it wasn’t dictated to them word for word. The content of each book, therefore was filtered, as it were, through their individual personalities, culture, audience as I noted before.
Idea 2: God has preserved His Word accurately down through the ages so that what we hold in our hands today is His very Word to us.
So the root premises that fundamentalists build on are the Bible was both inspired and inerrant. I quote from the website of the last Baptist church I attended, Calvary Community Baptist Church in Northglenn, Colorado to demonstrate what they believe. . .
We believe in the verbal and plenary inspiration of the Bible which means God the Holy Spirit so moved upon the writers of Scripture that what they wrote was the Word of God without error. Therefore, the sixty-six books of the Bible are the final authority for our faith and practice. We believe God’s Word is sufficient for all things that pertain to life and godliness.
2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Peter 1:3
I was taught this growing up, and up until fairly recently believed it in the same way as I believed in gravity. But, with a little thinking this becomes unraveled quite quickly. Let’s compare this statement in light of logic and historical facts and see where that leads us.
First, here are the actual verses for you, since a mere reference is not very helpful.
2 Timothy 3: 16, 17 “16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” NIV
2 Peter 1:20, 21 “20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” NIV
2 Peter 1:3 “3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” KJV (NOTE – I used the KJV for this verse because this version can be so twisted and mis-used and has been, especially by Biblical counselors, noteably the so-called ‘Nouthetic counselors’ who seem to love this verse. In the NIV, it has a completely different meaning as you can see here)
3″His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” NIV
Logically, when one is writing a definition, the terms used must be defined prior to using them or they are pointless. We have a glaring difficulties here as I note from the bullet points below.
- When we read ‘God the Holy Spirit’ – What really does that mean? Are we to assume without any prior knowledge that God equals the Holy Spirit? And on what basis is this assumption predicated? It doesn’t say.
- We read that ‘…God the Holy Spirit so moved upon the writers of the Scripture’ – this strikes me as circular reasoning. This presumes that the books in the Bible are inspired because, well after all they claim that they are. That would be like me positing the claim that I was inspired to write this article and this article is inspired because I claimed I was moved by God to write it. GAA!!! 2 Timothy 3:16 presumes that what was written is God-breathed, and therefore inspired, but it is extremely unclear about what passages should qualify as ‘real Scripture.’ More on this down the road. . .
A secondary problem rears its head in this phrase as well. It is extremely vague to claim that the ‘the Holy Spirit so moved upon the writers of Scripture’ without any specific explanation of how this machination happened. I have read this same phrase many times, and I personally think this is glossing over an idea they don’t have a clue about, but it sounds good to phrase it this way, so they use the phrase, ‘so moved upon the writers.’
So, what passages in the Bible qualify as ‘real God-breathed Scripture’ and which do not? Historically it took over 400 years for church councils to decide on which books were ‘real’ and which were pseudo-books. To this day, the Catholic Bible has more books than the Protestant Bible. Why is this?
Couldn’t God have been quite clear in this? After all, He is a Sovereign God who supposedly directed each writer by inspiration to write. How hard could it have been for God to have illuminated His believers following as to the authenticity of what He actually inspired?
And what about this?
Do you ever park your car, do your shopping, then forget where you parked it? Or what if you forget where your glasses are only to touch your head and realize you are wearing them?
Quick Quiz – Do you remember what you were doing 1 month ago at this time? I’ll make it easier for us both. How about just two weeks ago at this time? No?
Well then, I have a historical fact and a question that is very pertinent with this article.
Quick Fact: The first Gospel written was Mark. The Gospel of Mark was written approximately 40 years after the death of Jesus. How much do you think he actually remembered that was accurate?
So this kind of (at least to my feverish brain) begs the question if we also have to believe that God somehow gave perfect recall to these writers of the New Testament? Dating of the Gospel – Boston College This link lays out a New Testament book chronology fairly concisely.
Do you realize that NOBODY has the original manuscripts? So what does it mean to say that the Bible is verbally inspired, and the 66 books we have are exactly the books God wanted us to have?
I was also taught in college that ‘the Bible is God’s love letter to us.’ Don’t you think that God could have made sure that we knew exactly what He wanted to say to us without hundreds of years of disagreements, or without the loss of the original manuscripts?
What do we really have in the Bible then? A mixture of some religious men’s best guesses as to what was ‘inspired’ (an undefined term) and what they think is not?