The second good post comes from Frank Schaeffer, making an argument that usually gets you dismissed as a village atheist. Here’s the set-up:
There is a verse in Timothy that says that all Scripture is for our edification. This verse, not the many Bible stories of the many killings “ordained by God,” is the scariest verse in the Bible.
In Timothy (3:16) we read; “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
The “all Scripture” being spoken of is the Old Testament. The New Testament was just being written at the time. And these days, of course, for conservative Christians, the word “Scripture” covers “their” part of the Bible too.
How scary is this verse? Well, take every vile verse reeking of barbarity in the Bible and append the “All scripture is…” ending to it.
In this unsettling thought experiment for instance take St. Paul’s New Testament “advice” to women: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Timothy 2:12) Then add, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” End of discussion! Be Silent!
Well said! Schaeffer goes on to give several other examples along these lines.
The usual reply to this sort of thing is to exhort people to a more “sophisticated” reading of the Bible. We can acknowledge that the Bible contains much that is nasty, or scientifically inaccurate, or things that are holdovers from the times in which its various pieces were composed, but that does not detract from its status as the Word of God. Peter Enns expresses the basic idea:
For the Bible to be the “actual Word of God,” that means that “not everything is to be taken literally” and that it is “written by men.” These are not separate options. All three belong in one positive statement of what the Bible is. Coming to grips with this historic Christian conviction about the Bible will not end the debate, but it will surely help insure that the discussion won’t be hijacked by extreme voices on either side.
I have no idea what this means. I would have thought that describing something as the Word of God flatly implies that it was not written by men, except in the trivial sense that men wrote down the actual words. And while I recognize God’s right to communicate through symbolism and metaphor, I would expect it to be clear from the text which parts are to be taken literally and which parts are poetic. That is manifestly not the case with the Biblical texts.
Once we abandon the delusions of inerrancy and acknowledge that the Bible contains much that is best ignored by anyone interested in morality or science, what is the reason for describing it as “the Word of God?” Why discard the obvious conclusion that the Bible is an anthology of ancient documents, written entirely by non-divinely-inspired people, largely reflecting the political concerns of the time?