Biblical Literalism

The other day, someone posted a comment on Facebook, claiming:

More and more scientists are switching over to Intelligent Design. It only makes sense , they say, as they study the complexity of life on this planet and in the universe.

I personally believe Intelligent Design is so controversial to people is that Intelligent implies Someone and Design implies Purpose.

Someone implies God and Purpose implies You and Me and the purpose God would have for us.

Eventually it takes you right to the cross of Calvary where historians the world over recognize Jesus died and historical records of the time, other than the Bible, confirm He rose again….hence Easter!

This is actually patently false on a few points, but the one that interested me the most was the base claim that scientists are switching to Intelligent Design. As if it were a computer, and before, they were PCs and now they are Macs. The exchange was a little interesting- not really too much- but a little. However, for me, it gave me an opportunity to articulate some of my thoughts about how Biblical Literalism is harming people. The exchange ended with this guy posting a URL, that I am guessing is to a creationism web site. I didn’t follow it.

Reading back over the exchange, I am really comfortable with what I wrote, and quite pleased to have found a voice for some things that have been in my head, but not as well put together. So, I decided to post it here. My replies are posted in Bold.

Aside from the exact exchange there are four things I want to add:

  1. I often get labeled an atheist. I am not really an atheist. If anything, I may be an agnostic, but I do not hold that I know that there is no God. The truth is I have no idea if there is a God, but I don’t really care one way or the other. I think Religion, in the most general sense, isn’t about the answering this, but rather, it is the process by which human being grapple with the questions about our orientation to the whole of the cosmos. God is one answer to those questions, but not the only answer, nor even the most logical answer.
  2. Faith (of whatever sort) is our way of engaging in this process of exploring our place within the whole. With or without God, I think this is a crucial thing. The word, itself, is charged. For Buddhists, the word may have no meaning, but the same notion is accomplished by having a practice. I do not mean to use the term as if it implies faith in any one thing or another. Just the act of engaging in the process.
  3. I need to also say something about the historical fact of Jesus’s death and resurrection. It is not true to say that there is historical evidence of the resurrection outside of the New Testatment scriptures. It is true that the belief that this happened is discussed by Josephus, but he wasn’t writing about the validity of the claim. He was only writing that the early Christians believed this to be true. The fact is there is absolutely no historical evidence of the the birth, death or the resurrection outside of the New Testament. Additionally, Josephus is far from a good historian. He is known for having written exactly what he was expected to write, whether it had happened that way or not.
  4. As with many crazy Christians, Kent seems either utterly unwilling or unable to just talk about one thing at a time. So, he makes claims and then, rather than talk about that, he introduces more claims and stuff. Maybe, he has no real interest in having a dialogue. his goal is on;y to say what he wants to say. Maybe he thinks he is talking in a dialogue and doesn’t think he is continually jumping to new subjects or new claims.

Here was the exchange (his initial comment is at the start of this blog entry above):

@Kent This is such a preposterous claim- “scientists are switching over to intelligent design…” Please cite resources to support it if you really want it to have any merit.

Scientists are doing just what scientists do. They put forth theories and make experiments to prove those theories. There is absolutely nothing scientific about intelligent design. Nothing what so ever. It may be a way for some folks to try and comprehend the enormity o f the subject, but even that is more f a philosophical venture, and not a scientific one.

The reality of the science however, is that all of the facts that science can prove continue to point out that the use of a biblical model for understanding creation can not be supported by the facts. If Religion is going to have any value in the lives of people, it is either going to have to let go of any literal interpretation of the Bible, and return to being about theological issues. Science and Religion are utterly compatible, unless one requires a literal interpretation of the Bible. Science isn’t killing God. The people who demand a literal interpretation of the Bible, or those who need intelligent design- they are the ones killing God.

Thomas

you just set a trap for yourself and then stepped in it. Science is about theories and than experiments to prove those theories correct or wrong. Name an experiment that any scientist has ever done that has proven for sure how earth was created, how life was created or how anything was created.

There is no experiment as of yet that proves evolution. There is lots of hypothosis avout evolution but so many of them don’t support each other even.

i am a Biblical literalst and an unashamed one at that. If you want to start picking and choosing the parts you like/don’t like, what do you have?

Better yet, what if we agree that we can pick and choose and you pick and choose some things while I pick at others and Andy picks at others. Soon the Bible is a ribbon and not a well constructed book that has survived as the oldest manuscript in the world.

People hate the Bible because why? I have no idea! I believe God created the heavens, the earth and man (me) . In my opinion, the Bible is like an owners manual. The creator of the world and man has put instructions down that tell us how to live our lives best.

For example, name a 10 Commandment you find offensive? Maybe you want to cheat on your wife, I don’t know, but other than that one I don’t see anything that most of us want to do anyway.

Or, go to the New Testamet. The NT tells us to keep our penis in our pants for everyone but our wives but other than that what does the Bible really tell you not to do that most men want to do?

I don’t get why people are so anxious to prove God out of creation when the Bible says He created.

Try cutting off your finger and seeing how incrediblty difficult it is for modern medicine to reattach it and get it back to 100%. They don’t have to create a thing yet only the very best Dr’s can do it and only the most fortunate patients get 100%.

Yet, we are to believe that even though men can barely do something as simple as attaching a finger, some great explosion (from what please explain) started everything.

In my opinion it takes much greater faith, or something closer to stupidity, to believe it all happened by chance than it takes to believe God created it.

@Kent I set no trap nor walked into one. LOL. Hey, be a Biblical literalist, more power to you. You are a dying breed, and it is a shame what damage folks like you are doing to Faith and the value of Religion. I think people need Religion (in the most general sense) and one reason our world is a disaster, is because people hold too tight to things as facts that are not, and rob the Divine (in whatever way, one understands that Divine).

I don’t hate the Bible, I love it. It is an awesome accomplishment and full of amazing stuff. I just don’t try to hold it all up as literal. I also don’t treat it as a weapon to be used against other people. It is an (incomplete) history of some of the people of this planet’s relationship to their understanding of the Divine.

It is a shame to suggest that the only options are “by chance” or Intelligent Design. For me, here is the root problem, suggesting that these are the only choices.

FWIW, I don’t talk about penises and the Bible, and most definitely not on FB in a discussion that was about Science and Intelligent Design. Sorry, that is too crazy, even for me! Enjoy!

The penis comment was meant to be a little funny but also to make it clear that the Bible only supports sexual relations between men and women who are married. I apologize if the penis comment affected anyone negatively but it is a body part, like arm, leg, eye, nose so I don’t see why it can’t be taken literally LOL

I don’t see how I , or any other literalist, harms people. I am probably as much fun to be around as anyone else. I laugh, make people laugh and make fun of myself. I don’t think you would know I was a literalist except that I pled guilty to it. Of course, if we were at a bar hanging out and you brought up religion you would eventually get it out of me but I don’t walk around with a Bible beating people over the head with it.

I do think logic demands that there be a God so my world view is based on “there is a God and He is in control.”

You know Tom, I lost a brother to cancer at the ripe old age of 30. Had I not believed in God and in His soverignty, I would have been one train wreck. As it was, I was only a tricycle wreck but I am so thankful that is all it was.

God is not our enemy, we are God’s enemy. To many people want to wage war rather than surrender and let Him have the power to change our lives. Why anyone wouldn’t let the God of the Universe have their life is beyond me.

@Kent Dude, I’m sorry but I think you are crazy.

At one time, Bible literalists said that the world was flat and that the sun rotated around the Earth. Now, we know that isn’t the case.

Today, we know much about the history of our planet, that conflicts with a biblical literalist view of things. Literalists harm people, generally speaking, because more and more people are fleeing Religion of many sorts because the forced adherence to outdated ideas can’t fit with modern, intelligent thoughts. Literalists who refuse to allow a changing view of things are at least in part the reason for this exodus from faith. Literalism is destroying Faith, as it is by nature, counter to Faith.

Kristor Stendhal (SP??) the great theologian and church leader commented when evidence of water was found on Mars that this discovery simply proved that God was bigger than anyone ever imagined. A really awesome notion.

Literalism forces God to be small and finite, and arrogantly suggests that humans have all the answers. Even when that answer is “God.”

The notion that God and humans are the enemy of the other, is just ludicrous, no matter how one phrases it.

Logic does not demand there be a God. The forced expectation that everything is part of a plan demands that there is a God. If we let go of that crazy idea, and allow things to be, because they are, and look to see how everything is interconnected, then, there does need to be Creation- the process by which everything comes into being- but no requirement to believe we have all the answers as to why that is (i.e. God). I do not need God to be in control, nor do I need to believe everything is by chance. I think there are other ways of understanding things. In fact, if God is in control, I think he needs to be fired, and we need to put a woman in charge instead.

All of dialogue started because you claimed that scientists were switching to intelligent design, which is a patently false statement, and nothing in this discussion has touched upon.

Are the Religious Obsessed with Sex?

The Year of Living Biblically

I’m reading a new book, and it seems that within the Judeo-Christian traditions, people have always been obsessed with sex. I began reading, “The Year of Living Biblically” by AJ Jacobs, and thought I would blog about it as I move through the book.  So, far it is pretty good, but I’m barely half-way through the first chapter, and I’m a slow reader. So bear with me.

Got Religion?

So, Jacobs decided to begin a journey of living as biblically litterally as he could for a year.  Jewish, but raised fairly secular, his life hadn’t had much of a place for religion.  But following his previous book, which involved reading the entire Britannica  encyclopedia from cover to cover, he was looking for a new book idea, and thus embarked on this project. Jacobs, like myself, sees how influential the Bible is in today’s culture, and that played a role in his decision.  He starts with a premise that many religious people today, even those who claim to take the Bible literally, pick and choose which passages they want to observe and which they don’t. So he isn’t going to do that, or so is his plan.  He is going to jump in with both feet, and be as 100% literal as he can be. He writes:

If I had a God-shaped hole in my heart, this quest would allow me to fill it.

That’s a very cool notion, but there lies a problem.  For a number of biblical admonitions are now illegal, and/or require other people (like his wife’s) full acceptance and participation. but I’m a big fan of spiritual quests, and setting out upon a journey to find something that you are not sure is there or isn’t!  I was hooked a few pages into the introduction. I think Religion would “work” for more people, and play a role in making the world a better place, if more people took that approach- that of choosing to go on a journey open-minded enough to see what one might find along the way. Too often, a person embarks upon, or holds fast to their beliefs out of fear.  They don’t want to see what they find- they want to know and confirm that they are right so that they do not have to explore and come to new understandings.

Be fruitful and Multiply!

Jacobs writes:

Conception was a huge preoccupation of the ancients. … Bible’s most famous stories center on the quest to get pregnant.

He doesn’t say much (yet?) about why that might be, but I think it is is a really significant note.  It explains much about why homosexuality and abortion are probably the two hottest controversial issues that seem to divide us today.  I’ll write more about my thoughts on that later. Interestingly, the few stories he decides to consider at first (Sarah and Abraham, and Rachel/Leah and Jacob, don’t seem to be a positive image for the notion of “true marriage” as a marriage between 1 man and 1 woman for procreation!  In both cases (my interpretation) the focus is not upon the family unit of man, woman and child.  But rather, the focus is on women, who can not bear children who try anything to create a baby (let’s get real- they wanted a son and not a daughter), and who in the end could only get what they wanted though God’s action.  Human procreation meant nothing/ was not possible in these stories. This is worth thinking more about.

Prayer

I’ve just passed page 20, and Jabobs is talking about beginning a prayer practice.  These few pages have been wonderful reading, and I think I am really going to love this book. His honesty and openness about what he is doing is refreshng and touching.  He writes roughly a page about what he is doing and then says:

I glance at the clock. I’ve been praying for only a minute.  I’ve promised myself I’d try to pray for at least ten minutes three times a day. 

Reminds me of when I started to meditate! How much can happen/ go through your mind and your body in a minute!

Off to work now, looking forward to reading more and will post again!  Have you read the book?  Anyone interested in getting it and reading along?  We can have a dialogue as we go?