Concluding Summary...

For theists the belief in the existence of the supernatural intelligence of the Bible should not be based upon questionable ancient written materials in the Bible that may only be teaching stories, like Jesus’ parables, rather than literal history.  Why these materials are included in the Bible is a separate issue and question that needs to be addressed for a viable faith.  The Bible is a composite of assembled materials from many different individuals, groups and from many different time periods that have been edited and re-edited many times.  Faith that the whole of the currently assembled Bible is the “perfect the word of God” is a cultural construct that does not hold up to historic scrutiny, nor was it verified by Jesus in the New Testament.  He said God’s word is true.  He did not say, or even imply, that all the Jewish scriptures were “God’s word” and infallibly true, even though He carefully sought to fulfill all that was predicted and written about Him.  This religious construct of fundamentalism must be critically questioned in the light of the material that has been presented.  Don’t blame God for things men have done and we have mistakenly believed.  Correct error with truth whenever truth comes to light.

One may not fully understand the reason for the lack of literalness in the statements of the early chapters of Genesis.  However, truth is the arbitrator.  Do we expect Jesus’ parables to be literal history?  No.  They are effective teaching stories, but not literal history.  No matter how effective the stories of early Genesis may have been for introducing the Bible in the past, the physical evidence is very clear that they are not literal history and should not be taken as such.

They may have been written elegantly and effectively by very talented people.  Commands given by God in later times may have been written back into their fabric.  These words and commands may reflect God’s will and in that sense be “words of God.”  This, however, still does not make the history and stories “fully inspired by God and wholly His word.”  They may only be effective stories written by skillful people putting forward an understanding of the past history based on what their culture thought was true within their understanding of history at the time.

True faith must be based on the best truth possible.  Untrue written material must be accepted as what it is. 

A fundamentalistic approach to the Bible does not allow it to be evaluated by truth from other sources.  Fundamentalism originates from a social construct that is not verifiable.  From the author’s evaluation and understanding, the fundamentalistic belief in the Bible as literally “God’s Word” originated first with ancient Jewish leaders and was applied basically to the Old Testament scriptures, especially the Masoretic text.  This seems to be true as reported by historian Josephus.  As was earlier quoted from his writings… “We have given practical proof of our reverence for our Scriptures.  For although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as decrees of God, to abide by them, and if need be, cheerfully to die for them.”  (Cross 1998:205)

This seemed to have been true in Jesus’ day with the Pharisees.  Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, I said, “You are gods” ’?  If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),  do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (John 10:34-36)

Note that He said “written in your law,”  not, “the word of God.”  Jesus used the Pharisees’ own conclusion that “the Scripture cannot be broken.”  He turned their own logic back against them in the argument.   Jesus changed the meaning of many “scriptures” in His Sermon on the Mount teachings.  “You have heard it said, but I say unto you...”  The Pharisees were the fundamentalists, Jesus was not. 

By force of tradition the concept of infallibility and fundamentalism has come to be applied to the New Testament as well as the Old Testament.  In light of modern scholarship and scientific reality, past tradition needs to be critically examined to correctly understand the Bible.  Reevaluating the Bible and how it was written is critical to developing a true faith that will stand up in light of modern scientific understanding and reality.  This is the main point of this presentation.

Finding true faith in a creator God is based on the Bible.  It is also based on truth from geology, biology, paleontology, and archaeology.  True faith must be based on truth wherever it is found.   We must not develop and perpetrate a faith and an understanding of the Bible that contradicts truth from these other sources.

Belief in the supernatural God of the Bible is based on faith.  Belief in the materialistic philosophy of most scientists is also based on faith.  The point has been made in the previous pages that the primary argument is not between faith and science.  Rather the argument is between faith and faith.  The faith of the atheist and/or materialist is that there is no guiding intelligence in the universe.  This can nether be proven nor disproven by scientific methodology.  The faith of the theist is that there is a directing and guiding intelligence in the universe.  For the Christian and Jew that guiding intelligence is the God of the Bible.  This also can nether be proven nor disproven by scientific methodology.  Rational judgment must be the basis of both faiths.  Such judgment varies by individual.

However,  faith in a creating intelligence is not without scientific support any more than a scientist’s belief in dark energy or dark matter is without scientific support.  These non-detectable forces are believed to exist by their effect upon what can be seen and measured.  In like manner, the unseen creating intelligence is supported by  its effect on what does exist… The complex life forms and living systems that do exist and the illogic of their coming into being by  mindless, directionless, random, natural chemical processes.

Scientists generally believe in dark matter and dark energy, not because they can directly detect them, but because of their effect on the matter that they can see.  However, when it comes to the history of life on earth quite a different approach is taken by most scientists.   In spite of the impossible odds against complex life forms and human intelligence coming into existence and developing without intelligent guidance, they seem remarkably ready to conclude that only time, chance, and necessity, not intelligence, has produced all these fantastic chemical “miracles” we find in living organisms.

Being human requires a reliance on faith.  There is no other option.  This is true for the scientist and the non-scientist alike.  It would be foolish, of course, to adopt faith in something that can be disproven by science.  This has unfortunately been done by many fundamentalists.  It is not a rational judgment.  Faith must be based on the best truth one can obtain and the most rational judgment one can make.

 A question for believers…

This takes a significant adjustment to the faith and understanding for many believers!  ...Especially for fundamentalist believers.  However, the truth is out there, all we have to do is look.  To merely ignore looking does not solve the problem.  The best faith is based on the best truth we can obtain.

Do we, as believers, bite the bullet and figure our how to resolve the conflict between the facts and our faith?  ...Or do we ignore the facts and pass on to our children and grandchildren the problem with the conflict that these facts create for the faith we are giving them?

A Parable of God’s answer...

I want to end with a parable type story inspired by a question from a good friend.  How would God answer resurrected fundamentalist saints with the question: Why did He let false stories and errors  exist in the Bible?  This is how I think God would answer that question in light of what I have written.

“Why did you conclude that everything in the Bible that humans put together was “My Word?”  I never told you that.  Why were you so quick to take as factual history such stories and concepts that you found contradicted what was really true?

Certainly, my calling of Abraham, my working with Moses and then with the Israelites are generally true stories.  Yes, my son did come in human flesh.  But the Bible contains embellishments and additional material that I did not speak or write.  It was, afterall, assembled by men and subject to error.  There were true prophets and false prophets.  Did I not tell you to test what was true and what was questionable?  When you found things that were in error and not true, why did you automatically ascribe them to my inspiration?  ...Making Me out to be a liar?  Why would you do that?  Didn’t you test whether things were true with new knowledge as it came along, and then believe what was true?  Didn’t you believe I was a God of truth?

I gave you enough clear instruction for you to know how to live and how to treat one another.  This is what I really wanted you to learn and practice.  I wanted thinking people directed by my spirit of love and truth.  I was not looking for automatons who would simply repeat words and actions on command and dutifully perform rituals.  I allowed the Bible to stand as it was compiled and written to help sort out those whose behavior and character I wanted to develop.

The Bible has fulfilled my purpose, but it was not written with the physical perfection you concluded.  You should have known better.  You should have been more questioning of fundamentalist dogma and allowed truth to guide you.”

Richard R Burky
Altadena, CA
December, 2021