Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Inroad of Doubt

Commenting on my previous post, Laura says:

But if you say "The Bible condemns homosexuality, so if their creed is based on the Bible, then I see no reason for them to pretend gay unions are morally fine," then conversely, based on that logic, could the sentence read, "The Bible condones slavery, concubines, stonings, so if their creed is based on the Bible, then I see no reason for them to pretend slavery, concubines, stonings are morally wrong."?

I say, let inroads pave the way for more open mindedness, even if it happens in a religious milieu.
First, the blunt answer: yes, to the extent that someone declares the Bible to be the basis of right and wrong, the onus is on him to explain why slavery, concubines, and stoning are wrong, since those are condoned in the Bible.

But Laura is right to speak of inroads here: the inroad I want takes the form of asking people who self-label as Christians to consider the basis and implications of their doubts about the Bible.

The Bible seems to many Christians to be wrong on points X, Y, and Z. The stance that allows doubts of the Bible on points X, Y, and Z implies the book is something short of perfect, and therefore should allow doubts about every page and every verse.

These doubts take shape as nothing more than even-handed assessments of each verse on its merits (historical, literary, moral, etc.). As with our assessment of any other book, they can end in rejection, acceptance, uncertainty, neutrality, indifference, or the like.

To entertain such doubts seems to me the height of good sense. But note that they take us far afield from the idea that a perfect, all-knowing god wrote the book.

I would want people to take seriously whether a perfect being seems to have written that book, or if it seems more like mere humans wrote it. If the latter, then we can fit the Bible into the canon of world literature, set aside the phony certainties and superstitious hokum, and begin a reality-based conversation about human affairs.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I believe the more people read the Bible and see the discrepancies, contradictions, and errors, the sooner they'll start to question the whole "inspired word of god" stance taken by religious leaders.

The more priests, pastors, and Bishops like Gene Robinson challenge the Bible's teaching on homosexuality, putting it on par with its teachings on slavery, concubines, and stoning, the sooner the falling dominoes can lead to the obvious conclusion that the Bible is simply a collection of interesting Middle Eastern and Mediterranean books.

And so, yes, one would have to concede that the Bible is not the inspired word of god, and doubts should abound. By taking this step, I think Gene Robinson is demonstrating just that. I think he's also saying, though, that he doesn't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. There is, for him and others like him, something worth keeping in his religion.