The following is my latest response to commenter mikespeir at DaylightAtheism regarding a post titled On Inerrancy. I was unable to post it because the host, Ebonmuse, decided the thread was "going nowhere" and closed comments. I disagree, and the discussion need not be limited to myself and mikespeir. As always on my blog, anyone with anything to say is more than welcomed to get in there and speak up. I've no fear of dissenting opinion and feel the way to reach common ground is often to allow both sides to exhaust themselves.
Let's clarify a bit, for it seems we're discussing several things and going over one another's heads. At a minimum, we're discussing the original dispensations, and the Bible as it stands today, it seems.
…there's no evidence to substantiate the claim that the Masorectics were inspired in the original. Why, then, should I believe they were? Far from undermining our position, this solidifies it. If you're going to pull these kinds of shenanigans, I'm going to lose interest in this discussion in a hurry.
I'm not saying you should believe they were. You say we have no evidence as to the errancy or inerrancy of the original dispensations, correct? I agree. Since we don't, in this respect, neither of us has any evidence to lean on when making a claim that the Bible is or is not inspired. It's not a shenanigan, it's that there's simply no evidence, and when I see zero evidence, my brain returns a NULL value – not true, not false – but NULL. I suppose in that sense I split from traditional rationalism, which typically presupposes a value of false to all claims without evidence. But I say, no evidence? No reason for presupposition.
As to the Bible as it stands today, you claim it is not reliable, and you offer Luke 21:36:
"Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." (NIV)
To me, the discrepancy between the words isn't even that severe. If one is to escape all that is about to happen, has not one accounted for as worthy? In the context of the rapture, are not all who escape considered worthy by God? I realize you think I should be really worried about this, but I don't know what else to say. All I'm saying is that if Luke 21:36 is your strongest argument, I'm not that worried. For example, as Ebonmuse took a stab at and I've addressed here, if you could show that the Bible says (x) = (-x) in the matter of salvation, I would be worried.
I still don't see you making an attempt to convince me I shouldn't take the exemplary problem of Luke 21:36 as evidence that the Bible is unreliable. Why not? Don't you have an argument?
Correct, I refuse to convince because I'm wise enough to know I can't, and it's not my place to tell you how you should view the Bible, for the same reasons I wouldn't try to convince you that chocolate is the best flavor of ice cream. Incidentally, of course I have an argument. I said textual evolution is horrible evidence against theopneustos, and you asked me to explain. Again, if I tell you a perfectly true story, and you botch it, does such entail that the original story I told you is errant? Or would you be the errant one? Copyist error does not entail lack of theopneustos.
Of course it's not. You have no evidence!
Yet as regards the original dispensation, neither do you, correct? So how does your subjective opinion outweigh mine here? Actually, the difference has already been identified. You side with traditional rationalism by rejecting that for which there is no evidence. I take a more objective approach, and assign a value of NULL to claims that lack evidence. I think this is a big part of our disagreement here.
But in light of the obvious reality that you can't show a scrap of evidence for theopneustos, it's pretty much what I'm left with.
That's your opinion. There are things in the Bible that convince me of theopneustos. I do not expect them to convince everyone, just as I do not expect everyone to think chocolate is the best flavor of ice cream.
That tinkering with the texts over the ages such that their meanings are left in doubt is easily good enough to show that they're not reliable now.
But, can't you see that such is your opinion? I can't refute subjective opinions, but if you can show me true errancy, that's different. Do you have any stronger examples of the Bible's errancy than Luke 21:36? As another example, if the Bible said both that heaven exists and heaven does not exist, I'd be worried. If, as Ebonmuse tried to say, the Bible says both that God will and will not tempt us with evil, I'd be worried. And as I admitted before, the whole thing about the census actually does leave me scratching my head. You seem to think I am impervious to doubt, when in reality such couldn't be further from the truth. Believe me, I tire of hearing myself talk as much if not more than anyone else, and if I didn't have any doubts or if I believed that my position regarding biblical errancy could not be falsified, I wouldn't be wasting anyone's time.
Clearly, God, if he was the source, hasn't bothered to keep them pristine. Was he only interested in presenting perfection to the first writers and their original readers but not to subsequent generations?
See? I hate to say it, but I told you so! As correctly predicted, after all that, your argument reverts to the subjective, "The Bible is not inspired because copyist errors exist, an 0^3 God would not allow that."
And my response is that copyist error does not entail lack of theopneustos, especially when the God in question directly implied that such errors had the capacity to occur. I realize you think I'm dodging and evading and all that, but it is you who has left my response unaddressed.
Again, if someone tells you a true story, and you mistell it, who is errant? You? Or the storyteller?