Francis Schaeffer said that he became convinced of the truth of the Bible upon reading the Bible all the way through. He could tell that the Bible was inspired by God. It had the ring of truth. This astounds me.
I, too, have read the Bible all the way through--more than once--and this has convinced me that the Bible is most definitely not inspired by God. I say this for four reasons. I will discuss three of these reasons in this post, and the fourth reason in my next post. If Francis Schaeffer were alive today, I would love to hear his response to what I have to say.
CULTURAL ASSUMPTIONS. First, I'll need to explain something about culture. All of us grow up within a culture and absorb our culture's values and assumptions. We absorb these values and assumptions at such a deep level that we believe them to be Reality--The Way Things Are.
For example, our culture places such a high value on individualism and competition that it is obvious to us that species and individuals within species are competing to survive. Nature operates on the principle of survival of the fittest--that's Reality, The Way Things Are--it's plain to anyone who looks at the world around us.
It might shock us, therefore, to learn that survival of the fittest is not plain at all to a Native Australian, whose culture emphasizes cooperation. Looking at nature, a Native Australian sees a vast web of cooperation, where some animals volunteer to be food for other animals so that life on earth may continue. To Native Australians, it is obvious that nature cooperates and that some creatures sacrifice themselves for the sake of life--that's Reality, The Way Things Are--it's plain as day to anyone who looks.
My point here is that cultures have different values and make different assumptions about Reality. God, though, dwells within what is truly Real. The Creator of the entire universe is not enmeshed in any earthly culture, as we are. God, the Creator of all, stands outside culture and would speak to any culture with clear moral discernment based on true Reality, What Really Is.
Yet God as depicted in the Bible does not do this. The Biblical God makes the same cultural assumptions as the Hebrews! I find it nonsense to believe that the Creator of the universe cannot get past seeing the world through a Hebrew cultural lens.
Hebrew culture was based on relationships of dominance and subordination: men over women, parents over children, masters over slaves, Hebrews over foreigners. Slavery was a given. War was the accepted means of settling disputes as well as simply expanding one's territory.
The Biblical God accepts all this as Reality. It's The Way Things Are. But if we're talking about the real God of all, wouldn't we find God dismantling the dominance/subordination system, the institution of slavery, and violence as a means of settling conflict?
Instead, we find the Biblical God commanding the Hebrews to invade the land of the non-aggressive Canaanites. And when nations beyond Canaan were conquered, we find that God tells the Hebrews to take for themselves all the young unmarried women. This is SEXUAL SLAVERY! Of course, these young unmarried women belonged to three subordinate classes: woman, foreigner, conquered. In a dominance/subordination world, they were doomed.
The Biblical God is so imbued with the Hebrew cultural worldview--the dominance/subordination system is such an intricate part of Reality for this God--that this God can authorize sexual slavery without batting an eye. God doesn't even SEE the horror.
This does not have the ring of truth. It has the ring of despair. What chance would I have in a world where God blithely offers young conquered unmarried women to their conquering males?
So we have a Biblical God who can't see past Hebrew cultural assumptions. How did Francis Schaeffer answer this, I wonder.
FEAR-BASED OBEDIENCE. The Biblical God uses fear to command obedience. God scared the Hebrews to death with all that thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the commandments. The least disobedience received incredibly harsh punishment: God ordered that a man be stoned to death for the crime of gathering sticks on the Sabbath. And one didn't even necessarily have to do anything wrong to incur God's wrath--one could be punished simply for being related to a person who disobeyed God. When Achan stole some of the spoils of war that God wanted destroyed, not only was Achan stoned but also his whole household, including Achan's children and--get this--all Achan's oxen, asses, and sheep! This is rule by terror.
There is no ring of truth here. Again, we have the ring of despair. What chance would I have in a world where God kills a man's child and animals for that man's disobedience?
How can I believe in a God who would have me tiptoe through life with a knot of fear in the pit of my stomach lest I misstep and be crushed by God. What did Francis Schaeffer say to this?
DON'T QUESTION. The Biblical God does not seem to want us to use our minds. Whenever a Biblical prophet brings God's word to the people, it is clear that the people are to obey--or else. They are not to question.
This is far different from those present-day prophets whom I respect, such as Gary Zukav. When Gary has a message from God to impart, he always says something like this: I have something to say that I believe is from God. But it's very important that you not swallow what I say automatically as absolute truth. Instead, use your own discernment. Listen to what I have to say and see whether or not it rings true for you. Always remember that this word is coming to you through a human filter.
None of the Biblical prophets ever says anything like this. And considering the huge filter of Hebrew cultural assumptions through which we hear God's word in the Bible, it seems that discernment in reading the Bible is highly in order. Without that discernment, what do we have? We have people who believe that God approves of slavery, that God assigns women a place subordinate to men, that God condemns any homosexual act even between two people in a life-long committed relationship.
This does not have the ring of truth. Truth is not afraid of questions. Truth welcomes discernment. I actually do have some idea of what Francis Schaeffer would say to this because he believed in absolute truth. But I would still like to hash out the ideas of discernment and human filters with him.
This post gives three reasons why I believe that the Bible is not inspired by God. My next post will give a fourth reason, a reason that deserves a post of its own.