Agnosticism, Atheism, Bible Study, Christianity, Faith, God, Morality, Religion

Is It Fair to Expect Inerrancy from the Bible When We Don’t Expect It from Other Sources?

In the comment thread of my last post, some of us mentioned that it’s hard for us to understand the point of view of Christians who believe the Bible can be inspired by God, without holding to the doctrine of inerrancy. unkleE left the following comment:

How is it that in everything else in life – whether it be ethics, or politics, relationships, science, history, law, even disbelief – we are willing to make decisions based on non-inerrant evidence and reasoning, but when it is belief in God we require inerrant evidence? I reckon your first thought might be that the stakes are so much higher. But that logic applies to disbelief as well. If we applied that logic, no-one would be an atheist because they didn’t have inerrant knowledge for that conclusion. You would not have any belief either way until you gained inerrant knowledge.

He then suggested that I might want to do a post on this topic (you’re reading it!), but there were also a couple of other comments that I think are worth including here. nonsupernaturalist said this:

My answer would be that ethics, politics, relationships, science, history, and law do not involve supernatural claims. When someone makes a supernatural claim, the standard of evidence required by most educated people in the western world to believe that claim is much, much higher than a claim involving natural evidence.

Let’s look at “history”. If someone tells me that most historians believe that Caesar crossed the Rubicon or that Alexander the Great sacked the city of Tyre, I accept those claims without demanding a great deal of evidence. However, if someone claims that the Buddha caused a water buffalo to speak in a human language for over one half hour or that Mohammad rode on a winged horse to heaven, I am going to demand MASSIVE quantities of evidence to believe these claims.

I think that most Christians would agree with my thinking, here, until I make the same assertion regarding the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Then Christians will shake their heads in disgust and accuse me of being biased and unreasonable.

No. I am not being biased and unreasonable. I am being consistent. It is the Christian who is being inconsistent: demanding more evidence to believe the supernatural claims of other religions than he or she demands of his own.

And it isn’t just supernatural claims. Most educated people in the western world would demand much more evidence for very rare natural claims than we would for non-rare natural claims.

Imagine if someone at work tells you that his sister just gave birth to twins. How much evidence would you demand to believe this claim? Probably not much. You would probably take the guy’s word for it. Now imagine if the same coworker tells you that, yesterday, in the local hospital, his sister gave birth to twelve babies! Would you take the guy’s word for it? I doubt it.

So it isn’t that we skeptics are biased against Christianity or even that we are biased against the supernatural. We are simply applying the same reason, logic, and skepticism to YOUR very extra-ordinary religious claim that we apply to ALL very rare, extra-ordinary claims, including very rare, extraordinary natural claims.

And Arkenaten said this:

I cannot fathom how you can disregard something like Noah’s Ark as nonsense and yet accept that a narrative construct called Jesus of Nazareth could come back from the dead.


Personally, I feel very much the same way that nonsupernaturalist does. The first part of unkleE’s question that I’d like to address is his statement about nonbelief:

If we applied that logic, no-one would be an atheist because they didn’t have inerrant knowledge for that conclusion.

I think this depends on what one means by “atheism.” I’m not really interested in trying to determine what the official definition of the term is; rather, I’d like to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing within the confines of this discussion. When I refer to myself as an atheist, I simply mean that I don’t believe any of the proposed god claims that I’ve encountered. I’m not necessarily saying that I think no gods exist, period. And if I were to say that, I’d give the caveat that I could easily be wrong about such a belief. This notion of atheism, the position that one hasn’t been convinced of any god claims, is often referred to as “weak atheism” or “soft atheism.” Personally, I think that should be everyone’s default position. No one should be a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Christian until he or she has been convinced that the god(s) of that particular religion exist(s). If we didn’t operate in this way, then we’d all immediately accept the proposition of every religion we encountered, until its claims could be disproven. This would make most of us Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, pagans, and atheists all at the same time. Obviously, that’s ridiculous. So on those grounds, I don’t agree with unkleE’s assertion that we would need inerrant information to not believe something.

Furthermore, when it comes to the claims of Christianity, I can accept or reject them completely independently of what I think about the existence of god(s). Many times, discussions about the evidence for and against Christianity slide into discussions about whether or not a god exists. People bring up the cosmological and teleological arguments. While those discussions can be important, I think they are really just distractions when we’re talking about a specific religion. I’m okay conceding that a god might exist, so I’d rather focus on the pros and cons of Christianity to see if it could possibly be true. After all, it could be the case that God is real, but Christianity is false.

unkleE’s comment started like this:

How is it that in everything else in life – whether it be ethics, or politics, relationships, science, history, law, even disbelief – we are willing to make decisions based on non-inerrant evidence and reasoning, but when it is belief in God we require inerrant evidence?

To piggy-back off the comments I just made, I don’t necessarily require inerrant evidence to believe in God. I think the necessity for inerrancy comes from the kind of god being argued for. The Abrahamic religions teach that there is one God who is supreme. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, completely just, etc. I know there are sometimes caveats placed on those labels. For instance, can God create a rock so large that he can’t lift it? Arguments like that illustrate that being all-powerful doesn’t mean he’s outside the laws of logic. And the same goes for all-knowing. It’s sometimes argued that he knows all that can be known… perhaps there are some things that can’t be known? The waters can get muddy pretty quickly, so I think it’s best to refer back to the religion’s source material (the Bible, in this case) to learn more about the characteristics of this god.

In the Bible, God seems to be big on proofs. When God wanted Noah to build an ark, he spoke to him directly. Noah didn’t have to decide between a handful of prophets each telling him different things — God made sure that Noah knew exactly what was required of him. The same was done for Abraham when God wanted him to move into the land of Canaan, and when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. When God called Moses to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, he also spoke directly to Moses. And on top of that, he even offered additional proofs by performing signs for Moses. And when Moses appeared before Pharaoh, God again used signs to show Pharaoh that Moses did indeed speak on God’s behalf. Miraculous signs were used throughout the period of time that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. And we can fast forward to the time of Gideon and see that God used signs as evidence then as well. Throughout the Old Testament, signs were given to people to show God’s involvement and desires. There are even examples where God punished those who listened to false prophets who hadn’t shown such signs, such as the man of God who listened to the instruction of an old prophet who was actually lying to him. God sent a lion to kill the man (I Kings 13:11-32).

The New Testament is no different. Jesus and his apostles perform all kinds of miracles as evidence of Jesus’s power. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan, he pointed out how nonsensical that would be, showing that such miracles were intended as a display of God’s approval (Matt 12:24-28). And the Gospel of John also argues that these miracles were intended as evidence:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
— John 20:30-31

Not only did Jesus and his disciples use miracles to make their case, they also appealed to Scripture. Throughout the New Testament, you find references to the Old: “as it is written,” “as spoken by the prophet,” etc. That in itself doesn’t necessarily make the case for inerrancy, but it at least shows that they expected the scriptures to be accurate.

If God cared so much during the time periods talked about in the Bible, why wouldn’t he care just as much today? How can Jesus say that “not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away” if God’s not really all that concerned about how accurate the “jots” and “tittles” are? And yes, like unkleE said in his comment, I do think the fact that the stakes are tremendously high on this question makes it that much more necessary to have good evidence. While the Bible gives us countless examples of those who received direct communication from God or one of his representatives, we find ourselves living in a time when we’re surrounded by competing claims about which god is true, and which doctrines are the right ones. I used to believe that the one tool we had to cut through all that noise was the Bible. It was the one source we could go to to find what God wanted from us. And we could trust that it was his word because of the amazing prophecy fulfillments that it contained and that despite its length and antiquity, it was completely without error. In other words, I thought it was a final miracle to last throughout the ages. And because of its existence and availability, we no longer needed individuals who went around performing miracles and spreading the gospel.

That’s how I saw the world. Of course, since then, I’ve discovered that the Bible doesn’t live up to that high standard. I have many other posts that deal with its various problems, so I won’t try to detail them now. But I simply don’t see how the God portrayed in the Bible, a god who is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, etc, would inspire individuals to write down his incredibly important message to all of mankind, yet not make sure they relay it completely accurately. It doesn’t always agree with itself, it contains historical and scientific mistakes, and sometimes it advocates things that are outright immoral. It’s understandable why a number of people would fail to be convinced by such a book; therefore, it would be impossible for an all-loving and completely just God to punish people when they’re merely trying to avoid the same fate as the man of God who trusted the old (false) prophet.

328 thoughts on “Is It Fair to Expect Inerrancy from the Bible When We Don’t Expect It from Other Sources?”

  1. Yes, because the assumption and direct teaching is that God wrote it and superintended it’s transmission and protection.

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  2. No matter how thoroughly the case is laid out – and you do it better than most – the main protagonist of this post will, if he shows, likely ”beat you down”.

    Which is not the same as prove your case wrong. Quite the contrary, in fact

    I have never seen William Lane Craig win a debate and he hasn’t changed his methodology or delivery style since he began.

    Yet science and archaeology have moved on in leaps and bounds, trashing every one of the foundational tenets of Christianity. . And WLC is still in ”business”.
    And so is unkleE.

    All the same, if honesty prevails this post should be interesting.

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  3. My apologies. I misunderstood the blog meister’s posting. I should have read the entire article. Thx for posting this

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  4. I find the mark to have been missed. The “inerrancy of the bible” is a relatively modern term. In the first 1500 years of Christianity, scripture was scripture and your opinion of it did not matter one bit. Not until the Protestant Rebellion did the idea of “I don’ need no stinking priest to tell me what the Bible says” come around. Of course, it took several centuries to make bibles available in languages people could read (they kept burning translators at the stake, you see). But then, when people had a bible they could read, then the discussions began. Not all of the Protestant sects, though, went the route of inerrant scripture.

    The problem of scripture didn’t exist until there was a population who could read and bibles made available in those languages. So, around 1850 or so was the first time such a claim could have been put forth (or needed to).

    Until the Enlightenment, nobody was willing to challenge the authority of the Church (the Church, not scripture because only a few knew it). There was no upside and you could end up rapidly dead condemned as a heretic.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. To me, the doctrine of inerrancy is clear evidence that American fundamentalist Christianity is a cult.

    We use “inspired” for other things than scripture. When we say that something or someone was inspired, we are usually talking about the main idea. We are not talking about the specific words, or even about the expanded details. We are only talking about the main idea. So is is quite possible to think of scripture as inspired, without expecting it to be inerrant.

    One of the core principles of evangelical Christianity is supposed to be “Sola Scriptura”. According to this principle, the scripture alone is your source and guide. If the Pope says something, then check it out. If your pastor says something, then check it out.

    Inerrancy does not come from scripture. That believing the leadership of your group has become a core component of fundamentalism, is what makes it look like a cult.

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  6. Reblogged this on A Tale Unfolds and commented:
    After comments on a previous post questioning the integrity of many christians about how they can disregard the supernatural claims of the Old Testament – Adam and Eve, Noah, Exodus etc, – yet accept without blinking the resurrection claims concerning the character, Jesus of Nazareth, Nate Owens has laid out another excellent post. Definitely worth a read if only to watch the inevitable fur fly!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the comment. I see the issue slightly differently.

    First, I of course agree with you that we use the term “inspiration” in the other ways that you mentioned, and in those cases we don’t expect anything like perfection or inerrancy. Now, I see scripture the same way. I think the writers were inspired by the idea of God, which says nothing about how accurate their ideas were. However, the Bible seems to indicate that these writers were inspired in a different way — as 2 Pet 1:21 says:

    For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    This is speaking solely about prophecy and may not apply to the rest of the Bible. Even so, we know that the Bible isn’t always accurate when it comes to prophecy, so what are we to make of this? Perhaps the writer of 2 Peter is just off the mark, and other Christians of his time wouldn’t have agreed with his view of inspiration. But then why include 2 Peter in the canon? And what good are prophecies if divine knowledge isn’t somehow involved?

    And there’s the passage everyone always comes back to in discussions about inspiration:

    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
    — 2 Tim 3:16-17

    What does this mean? I know there’s disagreement about what constitutes “scripture” in this passage, but what does it mean for the scriptures in question to be “breathed out by God”?

    If the writers of the Bible were only “inspired” in the normal sense, and we’re not to assume that this meant God was literally directing their thoughts, then what reason do we have for accepting any of the wild claims they make? I know you’re not arguing that Christianity is true, btw. But since the concept of inerrancy seems to be missing the mark in your view, can you explain why Christians find the Bible convincing when it talks about the miraculous, or anything of a spiritual nature that normal humans couldn’t know?

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  8. Hi, Nate. Thanks for replying.

    On prophecy: The bible also talks of false prophets. So perhaps we can take it as saying that prophecy is true except when it is false. And that doesn’t say anything at all.

    On the 2 Tim reference: It’s my impression that too much is read into that. I’m assuming (or guessing) that “breathed out by God” was just a commonplace saying at the time, but not intended to imply inerrancy.

    On miracles: I can’t really read people’s minds. As a child, I accepted my pastor’s word about those. But it was a tentative acceptance, and I retained doubt. As I grew older, my doubt increased. People have a way of saying that common place events are miracles, and of then exaggerating them. In the case of casting out demons, it looked like a description if schizophrenia, but it’s not surprising that people would think of that as demon possession. I do wonder about people who accept the miracles — do they really accept them, or are they just not admitting to having some doubt?

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  9. Perhaps one more comment.

    Growing up, I took it that if the Bible was to be a guide, then it could not be absurd. It had to be mostly consistent with experience. And I guess I used that as a guide to interpretation. For example, the Adam and Eve story was absurd, unless it was taken to be something like a fable. And similarly for the Noah’s ark story and the story of Jonah.

    Perhaps I was not supposed to take it that way. Yet, if Sola Scriptura was to be the principle, then I was entitled to come to my own conclusions about that.

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  10. How many times have we skeptics heard conservative/moderate Christians complain that we skeptics are being unfair to the Bible; that the Bible should be evaluated/judged in the same manner as any other book from Antiquity; that that Bible should not be held to a higher standard.

    Ok. Let’s do that. Let’s stop demanding the Bible be perfect (inerrant). Let’s accept that many good books written by human beings down through the ages contain some errors. Let’s treat the Bible no differently than the works of Homer, for example.

    But if we are going to do that, Christians, to be consistent, should agree to the following: The supernatural claims of the Bible should be taken no more/no less seriously than the supernatural claims of Homer. And, Christians must commit that from now on, no one will be threatened with some form of eternal punishment for refusing to worship and obey the gods of Homer…or the god of the Christians.

    How many Christians will agree to this?

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the reply. I think that a lot of this must just come down to how each of us was raised. To me, the miraculous stories in the Bible (Adam and Eve, Noah, 6 day creation, talking donkey, etc) weren’t hard to believe, because God could do anything. I knew they were fantastical, but the fulfilled prophecies of the Bible (among other things) made me think we could trust it. Once the Bible didn’t pan out, I just didn’t have any other reason to believe. I had never really had any kind of personal experience, and I was already troubled by certain doctrines (Hell, genocide, etc). So that was it for me.

    I still feel like it makes sense to assume that a perfect God would want his message relayed perfectly… but I can see where some people wouldn’t leap to that conclusion if they don’t think inspiration involved anything supernatural.

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  12. Nate,

    I think you have pointed out a very important issue.

    I have noticed in my discussions with Christians on the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, that underneath their belief in the strength of the Resurrection evidence itself is another belief: the Resurrection is the most probable explanation for the early Christian Resurrection belief due to the “fact” that Jesus fulfilled so many prophecies.

    The writers of the Gospels, especially, “Matthew”, were extremely clever: “How can we get skeptical non-believers to buy the Resurrection story? We’ve got it! We can find (invent) prophecies in the OT that point to Jesus!”

    If Christians would study these prophecies, reading the works of Jewish scholars, they would see that these OT prophecies allegedly about Jesus are definitely NOT about Jesus.

    It is one big House of Cards.

    Pull out one card, and it all comes crashing down.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Hi Nate, thanks for having a go at this question. You won’t be shocked to hear that I don’t think you have answered it satisfactorily, so I won’t even apologise. 🙂 Here’s four reasons why I think this.

    1. Most of the examples you give, from OT and NT, don’t require inerrancy at all. You use words like “proofs”, “signs”, “display”, etc, which are all words about evidence, not inerrant evidence. And I agree with you that we need evidence to believe things!

    The only place I could see where anything you said required inerrant information was when you said: ”I used to believe that the one tool we had to cut through all that noise was the Bible.” You go onto describe how you used to believe it was without error, but I didn’t see anything there to justify WHY you felt you needed that, and ordinary levels of information would be insufficient – which is the point we are discussing.

    2. At the start you discuss disbelief and unbelief, and make the point that not believing in God is not the same as believing there is no God. You say you say ”I don’t believe any of the proposed god claims that I’ve encountered.” I agree with you that getting lost in definitions is pointless, but I think there is an easy way to resolve this.

    Consider two related propositions:

    P1: “God exists.” (Or if you like, consider “The christian God exists.”)
    P2: “No gods exist.” (Or “The christian God doesn’t exist.”)

    Now, would you assign approximately the same probabilities to each proposition? Or would you give a greater level of assent to P2 than P1?

    Unless you assign approximately 50% probability to each proposition, then you do indeed have a belief in the proposition you assign that larger probability to. I’d be interested in your answer here.

    3. You say: ”I do think the fact that the stakes are tremendously high on this question makes it that much more necessary to have good evidence.” I agree with you here. It’s risk assessment. If the risk is greater, then the need to ameliorate the risk is greater. My problem is (again) that “good evidence” does not = “inerrant evidence”.

    Your statement here is somewhat like the old adage: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” There are two problems with this. (i) How can we define extraordinary claims in a way that is fair and doesn’t pre-judge the question? (ii) What actually is extraordinary evidence? Consider a few examples.

    If I tell my wife I’ve just won a lottery in which a billion tickets have been sold, this was a 1 in a billion chance, quite extraordinary odds, but I don’t need extraordinary evidence to demonstrate – just a very ordinary ticket. So low probability events don’t necessarily require extraordinary evidence. (Of course I know someone must win, but the probability of it being me is very low.)

    If someone who is dying of cancer is prayed for and healed, we don’t need any more extraordinary evidence than simply seeing them alive and well.

    Sherlock Holmes once said: ””Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” The point is that when investigating something, we don’t need extraordinary evidence, only enough evidence to make one option more probable than any of the others.

    So I suggest that all we need for any of these claims is sufficient appropriate evidence.So again, I feel you have only shown why we need evidence, not why in the case of theism (or atheism) we need extraordinary, inerrant evidence.

    4. Finally, in a comment you ask: ”what does it mean for the scriptures in question to be “breathed out by God”?” As you would be aware, this is much argued over. The Greek word isn’t used elsewhere in the NT, but there are several places in the Bible when God is said to have “breathed” (e.g. Ezekiel 37:1-4, John 20:21-23), and in each case he breathed into something that already existed and gave it new life. On this interpretation, God enlivens the human writings and uses them to reveal truth, thus saying more about our reading than the original writing. This is probably not the dominant view in Christianity, but it is definitely more than a fringe view.

    So I don’t think you have justified at all your need for “inerrant” information about God, but not about anything else, even your disbelief. And on a practical level, it wouldn’t help anyway. None of us has inerrant hearing, recall, reasoning, etc, so even if we were given inerrant information our processing of it would be flawed. Add to that the problem that inerrantists generally don’t believe the transmission and translation is inerrant, and we are actually talking about something that is close to meaningless, I think.

    Sorry this has been so long, but I think the ideas are worth discussing. Thanks again.

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  14. As one can see, unkleE has offered a hand wave response that answers pretty much nothing.

    Nonsupernaturalist made an excellent point re: innerancy and the lack of integrity of Christians.
    As he refuses to reply to me I wonder if someone on this thread, Nate, Nonsupenarturalist would ask unkleE why he gladly accepts that Genesis is myth/fiction, yet considers the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth ( and one can presume Lazarus as well) to be the best explanation based on the ”evidence”.

    Thanks.

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  15. P1: “God exists.” (Or if you like, consider “The christian God exists.”)
    P2: “No gods exist.” (Or “The christian God doesn’t exist.”)

    unkleE, you left out Nate’s P3, “I don’t believe any of the proposed god claims that I’ve encountered. I’m not necessarily saying that I think no gods exist, period.”

    ” but I don’t need extraordinary evidence to demonstrate – just a very ordinary ticket. So low probability events don’t necessarily require extraordinary evidence.”

    No it is not just a very ordinary ticket. It is THE ONLY ticket which has the winning numbers out of 1 billion tickets sold.

    “If someone who is dying of cancer is prayed for and healed, we don’t need any more extraordinary evidence than simply seeing them alive and well.”

    Wrong again unkleE. We have NO evidence that Prayer had anything to do with recovering from cancer.

    It’s all about how one frames their arguments.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. nonsupernaturalist,

    Christians, to be consistent, should agree to the following: The supernatural claims of the Bible should be taken no more/no less seriously than the supernatural claims of Homer. And, Christians must commit that from now on, no one will be threatened with some form of eternal punishment for refusing to worship and obey the gods of Homer…or the god of the Christians.

    How many Christians will agree to this?

    If Christians lose their Christianity, how can they be made Christian again?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Inerrancy wouldn’t prove that a perfect god wrote it, but it would be more convincing than the suggestion that a book, littered with errors (imperfect), was authored by a perfect god.

    Comets, Typhoons, lighting and earthquakes were all, once upon a time, thought to be caused by the gods or by God, but have been shown to be very natural, as opposed to supernatural, phenomena.

    Also, we know that many so called miracle workers have been shown to be charlatans and frauds. We know that people have been tricked all though history into believing they saw or witnessed something that ended up being shown to be an illusion or a lie.

    We know all of that, and I cannot think of one instance where the opposite happened, where anything had been proven to actually be supernatural…

    So with the bible, it’s not just that it has errors, it’s that when many of the errors are with things that would have been easy fixes, things that we can easily check out today, when those things are shown to be wrong, how can we have much faith in the larger than life supernatural claims, when time and again supernatural claims have been shown to be mistakes or lies and shown to be either non-existent or misidentified natural occurrences?

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  18. Hey unkleE,

    Thanks for the comment. And you’re right — no need to apologize at all! 😉 I’ve decided to respond to your points a little out of order:

    2) You said:

    P1: “God exists.” (Or if you like, consider “The christian God exists.”)
    P2: “No gods exist.” (Or “The christian God doesn’t exist.”)

    Now, would you assign approximately the same probabilities to each proposition? Or would you give a greater level of assent to P2 than P1?

    P2 makes two very different statements, in my opinion. “No gods exist” is something I’d be very agnostic about simply because there’s so much information we don’t have. But “the Christian God doesn’t exist” is a very different premise. There have been many specific claims made about this god, which makes me quite confident is agreeing with the premise and presumably makes you quite confident in denying it.

    But again, let me stress that I think the more important question is not whether a god exists, but whether Christianity is truly a divinely revealed religion.

    1) “which are all words about evidence, not inerrant evidence. “

    That’s a good point. However, all those signs worked, right? I can’t think of any examples where one of God’s messengers tried to perform a miracle that God wanted them to do, but it didn’t work. Even when Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it (and seemingly took on some of the credit for himself too), God still caused water to come out of it. If any of those signs hadn’t worked, isn’t it possible that it would have caused the people to doubt?

    In the same way, if the Bible is from God, and God is perfect, shouldn’t we expect his message to be perfect? If it’s not, doesn’t that make it easier to question?

    3) You said:

    Your statement here is somewhat like the old adage: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” There are two problems with this. (i) How can we define extraordinary claims in a way that is fair and doesn’t pre-judge the question? (ii) What actually is extraordinary evidence?

    Let’s talk about your lottery ticket example. Yes, the odds of winning are 1 in a billion, so it’s hard to believe that you won. However, someone is going to win, and that’s why showing the winning ticket is enough to prove your case.

    In the praying for a person dying of cancer example, kc is right — there’s likely not enough evidence to conclude that prayer is what saved the person. Why Won’t God Heal Amputees? illustrates how questionable a “prayer did it” conclusion would have to be.

    You mentioned the Sherlock Holmes quote, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” But the problem we run into is in determining what’s possible and what’s not. Isn’t it impossible for a person to be completely dead, but come back to life? Isn’t it impossible for a person to walk on liquid water? This is why if someone wants to posit that the impossible actually happened (a miracle, in other words), then yes, it would definitely take extraordinary evidence. I’m not completely sure what would constitute “extraordinary evidence,” but I guess God would know and could provide it.

    After your 4th point, you said:

    And on a practical level, [“inerrant” information] wouldn’t help anyway. None of us has inerrant hearing, recall, reasoning, etc, so even if we were given inerrant information our processing of it would be flawed. Add to that the problem that inerrantists generally don’t believe the transmission and translation is inerrant, and we are actually talking about something that is close to meaningless, I think.

    I actually agree with you here. This is another reason why I find Christianity unbelievable. To me, it makes no sense that a God with the Christian god’s power set, who really wants us to do some specific things, would decide to relay his wishes to us in such a poor fashion. Most people throughout human history have been illiterate. And most of those who could read couldn’t read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Furthermore, most of them never had access to the books in the Bible, anyway. On top of that, as you said, we know there have been problems in the transmission and translation of the books. And people are notoriously bad about misunderstanding the things they read. It’s hard to think of a worse strategy for communicating, other than maybe smoke signals.

    Thanks again for weighing in. I hope this comment helps clarify my position a bit more…

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  19. When I hear something, I’m not sure that I usually place it within a formula to see if I choose to believe it or not, rather I feel like I’m simply convinced or not convinced based on prior experiences, knowledge, event/claim and source. and those factors tend to change and evolve over time.

    Similar to the example of birthing twins or 12 babies by nonsupernaturalist earlier, I’ve said before that if a close and trusted friend told me that he saw a deer in the woods with 10 horns on one side of its antlers and only 6 on the other, I’d think that was interesting, but I’d probably believe him.

    I’d believe him because I know and trust him and because such a deer wouldn’t be supernatural even if it were out of the norm.

    If a person I knew, with a reputation for “big fish” stories, told the same thing, I most likely wouldn’t belief the claim from him, at least not at his word. I’d have to see some photos or the body, etc.

    If a stranger told the story, I’d likely be skeptical, although I may not dismiss it out right.

    But, if my close a trusted friend told me that he’d seen bigfoot in the woods, I wouldn’t believe him. I may not think he was lying. I’d probably think that he saw something, but that he just misidentified what he saw – an honest mistake, but still a mistake.

    If a stranger or a known liar told me that they saw bigfoot, I wouldn’t believe it. Photos, hair samples, foot molds, video – wouldn’t convince me. Those can and have been faked. It would take an actual body. It would take an actual first hand encounter to buy it – and a bigfoot wouldn’t even be supernatural.

    So the bible has known and obvious errors. Some claims, like dead people coming back to life and flying away, or a virgin woman having a son, are too grand, too supernatural, too superstitious to believe on the word of stranger; a stranger who’s written mistakes before; a stranger who’s making grandiose claims that are similar to those of many other, competing religions. And many times, these strangers are writing well after the alleged events took place.

    So the bible has errors, the bible is claimed to be from a perfect god, and it claims unbelievable events that even Christians wouldn’t believe from another religion. I’m no longer thinking, “why should I believe it,” but rather, “how can anyone believe it?”

    Liked by 1 person

  20. UnkleE: Consider two related propositions:

    P1: “God exists.” (Or if you like, consider “The christian God exists.”)
    P2: “No gods exist.” (Or “The christian God doesn’t exist.”)

    Now, would you assign approximately the same probabilities to each proposition? Or would you give a greater level of assent to P2 than P1?

    Unless you assign approximately 50% probability to each proposition, then you do indeed have a belief in the proposition you assign that larger probability to. I’d be interested in your answer here.

    Gary (nonsupernaturalist): This statement presupposes that it is wrong for human beings to give a greater probability to two possible events; that doing so proves that one is biased. This is false.
    Personal experience and collective human experience has given each one of us an internal “probability guide”. For instance, how many of us (who live in the United States) stop before crossing every bridge in the United States, requesting to see the latest safety inspection report for each bridge?

    No one. Based on personal and collective experience, we trust that the bridges in the United States are safe.

    Now, transport us to a third world country; to the hinterland of that country, and set us in front of a rickety, old, wooden bridge that creaks, sways, and pieces of board give way and fall thousands of feet to the bottom of a deep ravine when the car ahead of you crosses it. So what’s the problem? It is a bridge. You have crossed thousands of bridges in your life and not one has collapsed, why worry about this one?

    The problem is that you have never experienced seeing a bride sway, creak, and lose pieces of wood prior to driving over it. This is an “extra-ordinary” bridge. You are justified in being wary of it. You are justified in demanding extraordinary evidence to believe that this bridge is safe for you to cross.

    And so with the claims of the Bible. You have never seen, nor has anyone you know ever seen, a three-day-dead body walk out of his grave. You are very justified in being very skeptical of this claim and demanding extra-ordinary evidence to believe it.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. (continued)

    And the same logic can be applied to the question of the existence of the Christian god, Yahweh. Since neither you nor anyone you know has ever seen or heard Yahweh, you are justified to demand very extra-ordinary evidence to believe that Yahweh exists.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I believe that we skeptics have effectively demonstrated above that our skepticism regarding the extra-ordinary claims of the Bible are not based on a bias against Christianity but based on the same use of intuitive probability assessment that UnkleE and every other Christian uses in every other area of their lives…including crossing bridges. The ball is now in UnkleE’s court to demonstrate why we skeptics should “turn off” our intuitive probability “estimator” for one specific category of extra-ordinary claims: Christianity’s extra-ordinary claims.

    I am defining “extra-ordinary” as any event which most educated people would consider extremely rare in occurrence in the course of collective human history and everyday personal experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. @Nonsupernaturalist

    The ball is now in UnkleE’s court to demonstrate why we skeptics should “turn off” our intuitive probability “estimator” for one specific category of extra-ordinary claims: Christianity’s extra-ordinary claims.

    But UnkleE is a skeptic too, and does not credit (many of the miraculous events in the Pentateuch) as having any degree of veracity. Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark …

    He accepts the scientific findings and considers a Creationist perspective on these two events ( among others) to be myth and he is on record as stating they have no bearing on his faith in Jesus Christ!

    So you see, he has spent the better part of his Christian life feeling quite comfortable ( by the evidence of his own words) to cherry pick his faith until it ”fits”.

    What on earth make you believe he ( and any other indoctrinated believer) is going to:
    ” demonstrate why (we) skeptics should “turn off” our intuitive probability “estimator” for one specific category of extra-ordinary claims: Christianity’s extra-ordinary claims” and tell the truth when he has been basically conning (lying to) himself since the word go?

    Like

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