Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fundamentalists, Repent! Hmmmm...

I just found something that made me smile at FundamentalistsRepent.com. They begin:
Fundamentalism is a style of Christian belief that begins with the position that the Bible is inerrant and literally true. This is not only an erroneous approach to scripture, it also leads to numerous difficulties of doctrine.

I guess that classifies me as a Fundamentalist, though I have some issue being called that because the group who is typically labeled "Fundamentalist" does some un-Biblical things themselves, but anyway... the important part that made me smile was next:
In the essays herein, Fundamentalists are called to reconsider their approach to the Bible, and the nature of doctrines shaped by what is demonstrably an un-Christlike view of life, of God, and of human nature.

The problem is this: How do you know if one's doctrines are truly Christ-like if they are not precisely as Christ spoke them? If they are someone else's ideas of what Christlikeness should be, then they should be called "Boblike" or "Cindylike" or "Johnlike," but to call their doctrines "Christlike" is simply not true, and it actually made me laugh out loud.

Now I think I know what they're actually trying to say; I think they're trying to say that to take the Bible literally means you have to come to some conclusions that seem unloving. But the point of reference is their own opinions -- they, not God, have to become the judge of what is actually loving or unloving.

This cannot be. Let the Bible interpret the Bible, as I did in my last post.

11 comments:

Chris said...

What's more, taking their approach doesn't solve "numerous difficulties of doctrine," it only creates more difficulties.

Anonymous said...

I was invited to respond to this post. First of all, I should note that I am not the creator of fundamentalistsrepent.com, but I do host the site because I believe it is a perspective that should be out there for discussion/reaction.

I do think one of the lines of argument of the site is that trying to take the Bible literally can lead people to act in a way that is not consistent with what Paul called the "fruits of the Spirit" - an important one of which is love. We are not called to become judge instead of God, but Jesus does call us to practice discernment based upon the fruit of our own and others' practices.

However, I think there is a second important line of argument as well, which is that starting from a literalist point of view leads into a self-negation of the validity of such a point of view because Jesus and Paul were not themselves literalists.

Whether you agree or disagree with either of these lines of argument, the question you pose: "How do you know if one's doctrines are truly Christ-like if they are not precisely as Christ spoke them?" is not answered by a literalist point of view. Instead, it merely begs the question. If the words are not precisely as Christ spoke them, believing they are does not make the doctrines any more truly Christ-like. It merely makes them more Bible-like.

Chris said...

"I do think one of the lines of argument of the site is that trying to take the Bible literally can lead people to act in a way that is not consistent with what Paul called the 'fruits of the Spirit' - an important one of which is love."

Yes but my point was, and maybe you can help me out, you have to now be the one who determines how love is defined, not the Bible. Not God's very Word. It is now love as defined by Joe Smith, not Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, does taking the Bible literally lead people to be unloving? Or does what the Bible describe as the sin condition lead them to this? In my experience, taking the Bible literally has led me to be more gentle, patient, kind and respectful. Not judging. This has been the case with most people I know.

Again, it is ultra-critical to let the Bible interpret the Bible.


"Jesus and Paul were not themselves literalists."

I read some of the arguments for this and they were not convincing. However, blog readers may want to visit the site for themselves and determine this. I don't have much time right now to devote explanations why I was not convinced.


"Believing they are does not make the doctrines any more truly Christ-like. It merely makes them more Bible-like."

Brother, the only Christ I know is found in the Bible. You know of another Jesus? Is He speaking more truth to you that is not found in the Word?

To be Christ-like and Bible-like has to be synonymous, for the only Christ I know is found in the Bible.

Chris said...

You say that it is because Christians take the Bible literally, they are led to being unloving. By pointing to literal interpretive rules as your ultimate cause for unloving Christians, I believe you have drifted from what God describes as the true cause for unloving Christians: indwelling wickedness, which can only be paid for by either the sinner, or the sacrifice of the life of an innocent one. You have shifted the blame from internal wickedness to a mental hermeneutic, and are threatening to take away the very medicine that Christians truly need in order to be made loving again -- the gospel.

Anonymous said...

"Yes but my point was, and maybe you can help me out, you have to now be the one who determines how love is defined, not the Bible. Not God's very Word. It is now love as defined by Joe Smith, not Jesus Christ."

In a sense, each person is always ultimately responsible for how they determine love or any other concept to be defined - your interpretation/traditional understanding of the words on the page or the teaching your receive, your beliefs about the process by which those words came to be on the page, etc. However, saying that we should not take the Bible literally does not mean we should not take it seriously and that we can now make love mean anything we want.

Also, while the Bible is sometimes referred to as the "word of God," the Word of God in the Christian tradition is the Christ. I disagree with your conflation of the two.

"Furthermore, does taking the Bible literally lead people to be unloving? Or does what the Bible describe as the sin condition lead them to this?"

This is a false dichotomy - both can be true and in fact could be interconnected. That said, I think that it is the sin condition which leads people to use the Bible in a way that is unloving - whether they approach it literally or otherwise.

"In my experience, taking the Bible literally has led me to be more gentle, patient, kind and respectful. Not judging. This has been the case with most people I know."

I'm not sure that the argument is that Bible literalism automatically leads all people to a place where the overarching themes of their life are being unloving, unjust, or judgmental, although it may be that Bible literalism inevitably leads some people to such a place (and/or perhaps all people to such a place in some instances). The Bible contains a record of the spiritual wisdom and experience of many generations, including a record of the spiritual wisdom and experience of Christ, and therefore we would expect attempts to follow it to bear some good fruit. However, since the people who wrote it and are following it are imperfect creatures, we might also expect that not all outcomes would be good.

"Again, it is ultra-critical to let the Bible interpret the Bible."

This sounds like Bible deism.

"I read some of the arguments for this and they were not convincing."

Obviously everyone suffers from confirmation bias, particularly around faith issues, and so for anyone the popular caveat YMMV is going to apply for any argued position regarding the Bible - that's why disagreements remain.

"Brother, the only Christ I know is found in the Bible. You know of another Jesus? Is He speaking more truth to you that is not found in the Word? To be Christ-like and Bible-like has to be synonymous, for the only Christ I know is found in the Bible."

Again, this sounds like Bible deism. So you have not accepted Christ into your heart? You have no personal relationship with Christ? The Spirit does not live within you? You've never felt the inspiration or movement of the Spirit? You know Christ only from reading words on a piece of paper? Truly?

Anonymous said...

"You have shifted the blame from internal wickedness to a mental hermeneutic, and are threatening to take away the very medicine that Christians truly need in order to be made loving again -- the gospel."

No, I don't think the blame is being shifted, this is just being pointed out as a particular way that internal wickedness is being externally manifested - often under the guise of righteousness. Also, while there are certainly other ways to err in treatment of the Bible, on the contrary to your claim I think that a non-literal but serious approach to the Bible has made the gospel accessible to some to whom it was not before.

Chris said...

No, I don't think the blame is being shifted, this is just being pointed out as a particular way that internal wickedness is being externally manifested - often under the guise of righteousness.

OK, maybe I was assuming too much. Just be careful not to point to the wrong cause for human being's lack of love, it's very dangerous to do that!

Chris said...

Also, while the Bible is sometimes referred to as the "word of God," the Word of God in the Christian tradition is the Christ. I disagree with your conflation of the two.

I think I wasn't clear. I meant that Christ's words in the Bible are the only words we have and thus they must be the same.


I'm not sure that the argument is that Bible literalism automatically leads all people to a place where the overarching themes of their life are being unloving, unjust, or judgmental, although it may be that Bible literalism inevitably leads some people to such a place (and/or perhaps all people to such a place in some instances).

Both of our assertions are really difficult to prove, but for example memorizing Scripture and meditating on God's mind when he wrote them have been the primary engine driving me forward in love, not judgment.


"Again, it is ultra-critical to let the Bible interpret the Bible." This sounds like Bible deism.

You can give it any title you want, I take my lead on that from the Bible itself, in places where literalism is used by Jesus and the apostles. So if the comment was meant to be derogatory, from my perspective you just disrespected those guys, not me.

Again, the examples on your friend's website where Paul and Jesus were not taking the Bible literally were uncompelling, but I'll let other blog readers decide this. Consider it good that I'm driving traffic to your friend's site :-)


Some smart-aleck quotes from Team Pyro on this (I don't recommend the sarcasm but they're pretty witty nonetheless):
------------------------
Challenge: I don't take the Bible literally.

Response: ...and you mean that figuratively, of course?
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Challenge: I think you can make the Bible mean anything you want.

Response: So, you're saying that the meaning of the Bible is objectively fixed and crystal-clear?
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Challenge: That isn't what that verse says to me.

Response: Oh. What did it say to God?

Anonymous said...

"Both of our assertions are really difficult to prove"

Well, your assertion that a literalist approach will have the opposite tendency from the case being made at fundamenstlistsrepent.com is also difficult to prove. Your evidence so far has been from personal experience: that it hasn't worked that way for you or with "most people" you know. My evidence is also from personal experience: that biblical literalism hasn't had that effect in my life or in the lives of most people I know.

"memorizing Scripture and meditating on God's mind"

Although we disagree about who "wrote" the Scriptures (personally I believe the idea God wrote them sounds more Muslim than Christian, and no, that is not intended as an insult), I agree memorizing Scripture and meditating on God's mind in relationship to Scripture is a good spiritual practice.

"You can give it any title you want, I take my lead on that from the Bible itself, in places where literalism is used by Jesus and the apostles. So if the comment was meant to be derogatory, from my perspective you just disrespected those guys, not me."

No, it is not meant to be derogatory, but rather a descriptive query. Bible deists believe that Christ cannot speak or be known apart from the Bible. This sounds like your position. Is that right?

I do think Jesus and the apostles took the Bible (or, more accurately for the time, the law and the prophets) very seriously. But we'll have to agree to disagree about whether they were literalists.

"Again, the examples on your friend's website where Paul and Jesus were not taking the Bible literally were uncompelling, but I'll let other blog readers decide this. Consider it good that I'm driving traffic to your friend's site :-)"

I do appreciate that people are engaging the material - even if ultimately they disagree with the arguments made. I do think some of the arguments made are stronger than others, but overall I think the case is compelling. So, again, we'll have to agree to disagree about how compelling the arguments are.

Chris said...

No, it is not meant to be derogatory, but rather a descriptive query. Bible deists believe that Christ cannot speak or be known apart from the Bible. This sounds like your position. Is that right?

OK, the way it read seemed derogatory.

To answer the question: Yes and no. I believe that Jesus speaks today and can be known through that medium. I love and enjoy the gifts of the spirit (called 'charismatic') and believe Jesus speaks through people to people today. However, this is always subordinate to revealed, authoritative Scripture, and also it usually comes from meditating long and wide on the Scriptures. Often it is in the form of a Scripture verse.

What's more, it ought not contradict the revealed Word. If it does, it cannot be the Lord, since He never changes.

Does Jesus speak today? Absolutely. Does He speak through people in an authoritative way? No. Prophetic words always build up but are not intended to replace the written Word.

That's where I'm at, and if that's called Bible deism, sure.

susan said...

Well written,I really enjoyed reading your post.