Posted: Sep 25, 2013 10:39 pm
by willhud9
My opponent has tackled an issue I was expecting to see addressed: Biblical authority. But Byron has, in my opinion, failed to distinguish Orthodoxy from Protestantism. Out of the 3 major branches of Christianity, Protestantism is the one who appeals to the notion of Sola Scriptura as a major source of authority. The Catholics and the Orthodox while they do hold notions of Biblical authority tend to treat it less sacred and dogmatic than those of the Protestant denominations tend to do.

So onto the issue that Byron has laid before me: Is Biblical authority a fallacy? I will argue that yes, if taken out of proportion it does indeed become a fallacy, but when taken in appropriate strides is a pinnacle for Christian thought, philosophy, and theological expansion.

The first premise of my argument will be that just because the Bible is taken to be 100% authority by some does not mean that the Bible is not authoritative in other regards. As my post addressed, the Old Testament is largely a recollection, even if exaggerated like most ancient histories, of Israel's history.

The second premise of my argument will be that God-inspired is not a irrational notion and that if there is a God then God has given humans tools to better understand him, including inspired agencies. I will also agree with my opponent in that something like Sola Scriptura and a strict adherence to dogma has led to nasty events in Church history.

The final premise of my argument will be that Biblical authority is far from a fallacy, but rather is a unique quality of the Christian theology which gives it some background and textual support.

So onto the first!

The Christian at Church on Sunday is listening to a sermon on the teachings of Jesus. The pastor makes the claim that because the Bible says so, it must be so. Welcome to the fallacy of Biblical authority which as my opponent pointed out is indeed commonplace among many laypersons of Christianity. Where there is blind acceptance or adherence to set of rules, documents, etc. irrationality is usually close behind.

But just because it is commonplace for Christians to be irrational in regards to their religion, does not mean the religion cannot be rationally defended. Liberal theology started expanding rapidly in the 19th century under the understanding of critical thinking in regards to the Biblical text. It was long held a dogmatic standard for years that the Bible was written in a certain way and that questioning it was a heresy.

But was this the fault of Biblical authority? Or was this a matter of having the wrong kinds of people leading the church? As the liberal theologians started expanding on their understanding of Biblical authorship many notions such as the Deuteronomist, the Yahwist, the Elohist, and the Priestly source as authors/editors of the Biblical text in the Old Testament. But did these liberal theologians puzzle away at the authorship to do away with the Bible as a document for the Christian faith? No! Friedrich Schleiermacher, considered the father of liberal theology, stressed the importance of hermeneutics for this very reason. While he stressed the ideas of the individual's faith over the collective body of the church, he also stressed the individual critically accessing the Bible.

So what does that mean? Well much like the acceptance of miracles, a person should always question the source, the history, and the context of the written material they are reading. Some material is indeed useful as the author of Second Timothy notes for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness, but others are in a cultural context and would be foreign if applied to a 21st century setting. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians about a woman staying silent for the honor of her man seems incredibly sexist and priggish in today's culture, but his words in relation to living a non-judgmental life and living by the Spirit and not the Flesh are words of wisdom that carry its meaning loud and clear in this time period.

As well, the Bible is useful for understanding how the Christian church fits into the grand scheme of God's "plan." By presenting a history, however rough, the Christian can understand where their roll in the church is and how even one part of the body is essential for the entirety. Liberal theologians brought the emphasis simply back to the individuals making up the church.

So understanding the Bible is a key component to understanding the rationality of Biblical authority. Blindly accepting Biblical authority or the text is fallacious as is the blind acceptance of anything in any field. But applying critical scholarship to the text and then applying that critical scholarship to one's life is far from fallacious, it is logical and rational.

That brings me to point number two!

Byron started off his post with the quote from 2 Timothy. It is a good quote and as Byron said, it is often used by Christians to refer to the Bible and not Jewish Scriptures as its context implies. But what is God inspired? What does that mean? Some people bog down the debate with concepts such as inerrancy and infallibility, and NT Wright, in his book Simply Christian has rejected the use of those words as distracting for the true purpose of the Bible which he writes, "The Bible is there to enable God's people to be equipped to do God's work in God's world, not to give them an excuse to sit back smugly, knowing they possess all God's truth."

So inspiration. What does it mean? It simply means that the authors, editors, poets, people involved with the Bible were caught up in God's plan. It means that God wanted the story told and chose those individuals to write the story in their own words. The Bible is a human creation, but it is also a tool for the Christian, given by God to as previously said to further the Christian's understanding of God and live a Christian life.

Now it is argued that the adherence to the Bible has caused heretics to be burned at the stake. Witch hunts to be conducted, homophobia to be brought to physical violence. But is this a critical adherence to the Bible or a dogmatic one? In all of the cases it is a dogmatic, political one. The Salem Witch Trials were more for political power and land grubbing than it was for actual fear of witches. The Bible was simply a tool used for wickedness by wicked people and they had power to enforce its blind fear on the masses. The Spanish Inquisition was a political attempt at maintaining Catholic dominance in the area from the Jewish and Turkish immigrants who were residing in EspaƱa. As we see many of the attempts at using the Bible for ill were not for righteous reasons at all, but were for the reasons of the corrupt and power hungry or money loving. Sure the authority of the Bible was abused, but does not mean Biblical authority is fallacious. It means the sheepishness of the people in regards to the authorities of the Church or community has a larger effect than that of righteousness. Perhaps if those individuals would apply critical thought and test all things as Paul instructs things could have been different.

So onto my third and final point!

Biblical authority is not a fallacy when applied with critical thinking and understanding. If the study of the Bible yields of a philosophy that works such as not worrying about the future, but carrying for the present, or living a life of love, joy, peacefulness, etc. than that authority is applicable. If the study of the Bible reveals a place in the grand scheme of life as a teacher, a student, a servant, etc. than that authority is used.

NT Wright, again in Simply Christian, writes that, "Living with 'the authority of scripture,' then, means living in the world of the story which scripture tells. It means soaking ourselves in that story, as a community and as individuals. Indeed, it means that Christian leaders and teachers must themselves become a part of the process, part of the way in which God is at work not only in the Bible-reading community but through that community in and for the wider world."

NT Wright's point stands true. Having the authority of Scripture is not a think to sit back and gloat about, but rather is a means the Christian has at being a living application of the Scriptures. The epitome of the Christian is to love God, and to love their neighbour and by living with the authority of scripture that is how the Christian accomplishes this. It is not as my opponent accuses a means for "because I told you so" theology, but rather a chance for the Christian to demonstrate the validity of the claim through his or her life. While it is true, Christians can abuse Biblical authority and turn it into legalism, the Bible is far from legalistic, but rather is a living tool, much like the church, in God's plan.

So in conclusion. A thorough understanding of historical context and hermeneutics is a necessary function of a rational approach to scripture. Instead of blindly accepting a text or an interpretation of the text, a Christian should be challenged to think critically about the text. In doing this, the Christian gains an understanding of the text and can better yield the lesson from the text. By following the lessons of the text, the Christian affirms the authority of Scripture, an inspired tool used for God's plan, and likewise the Christian grows in righteousness and it carries over into the non-Christian world. Living with the authority of Scripture allows the Christian to be firm on their beliefs, but at the same time gives them textual support for their beliefs in which a spiritual belief alone does not have. Therefore Biblical authority, in its proper application is quite rational.

I await my opponents rebuttal! We are nearing the end of this debate as my last two posts will be in regards to salvation.