Argument # 2: The Bible is inerrant and contains no contradictions. Its 66 books are harmonious and its 40+ writers agree on what they wrote.
This doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is the central claim of Christian fundamentalist apologists. Though extreme, it is necessary to support their extreme doctrines and preachings, giving them unquestionable authority. Without it, their doctrines would not have the foundation required to keep the faith going. However, despite the Fundamentalists’ obsession regarding Biblical inerrancy, the fact is that the books of the Bible are nowhere near as adamant about it. In fact, most books of the Bible don’t even claim to be God’s word. Davis D. Danizier made some excellent bottom line points about this in Putting the Bible in Perspective:
“But the real question is: What does the Bible itself say about its own "infallibility"? Actually, it says nothing. The Bible in its current compilation didn't even exist until several centuries after the last book was written. Why are religious zealots so quick to claim divine authorship of a book that doesn't even claim it for itself (with the exception of specific portions of law and prophecy such as "Thus sayeth the Lord...," but not to the modern Bible as a whole)? The Bible was a collection of separate writings (laws, plays, poems, songs, histories and letters) by individual religious commentators who never imagined their writings would ever be considered divine. They are just like modern writers, making commentary and analysis, who just happened to have their works assembled and voted on by later believers who then canonized their words. They refer to the sanctity of sacred scripture (the body already canonized before their time -- such as the Law of Moses and the writings of the Old Testament prophets) never imagining that someday THEIR writings, letters, or whatever will be added to the canon. Paul the Apostle, who clearly believed that the established scripture of his day was inspired (see 2Tim ), also clearly acknowledged that some of his own writings were NOT, as when he wrote in 1 Cor "But to the rest speak I, NOT THE LORD..." (emphasis added); and 2 Cor "That which I speak, I speak [it] NOT AFTER THE LORD..." (emphasis added).
It is not necessary for good Christians to accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God in order to understand and believe in Jesus' teachings of universal compassion. After all, the early Christians themselves did not have an "infallible Bible" to carry around with them -- it wasn't even compiled until centuries later. Just as we gain insights and understanding from modern writers and commentators of today, without claiming that they are divine and infallible, we can gain insight and understanding from ancient writers, as long as we consider their works for what they are, with critical thinking and common sense -- not just blind faith.
We should accept the Bible for what it is: often wise and inspirational, but many times filled with error and cruelty. It is an important historical relic, and the original seed from which much of ethical theory in the Western world has developed, but its words must be discussed, analyzed and evaluated on their merits -- as the writing of men, not of God. It does not claim to be anything more.”
Christians are also fond of adding that “The word of God cannot have contradictions because God cannot contradict himself.” Again, it’s done with the a priori belief that it must be so since it was divinely inspired by God. Despite all logic and reason, fundamentalists will hold steadfast to this doctrine. The book Fundamentalism: Hazards and Heartbreaks explains well why this doctrine is so appealing to the believers and their faith: (page 26-27)
“Fundamentalists normally do not treat the doctrine of inerrancy as simply one explanation among others for the nature of the Bible. Rather, to them, the doctrine of inerrancy is more like an unquestionable law than an explanatory theory. So treated, the doctrine leads most fundamentalists to feel confident that each Biblical verse can be easily understood and applied to life’s problems. Fundamentalists view the Bible as the final authority on all matters of important in their life, and many believe that it is reliable only if it is entirely inerrant… It is, then, the apparent simplicity of Biblical inerrancy that is appealing to many fundamentalists, and that simplicity is basic to their approach not only to the Bible but also to the world around them. To many people, the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy and the fundamentalist system of thought in which it is embedded are enormously attractive... Systems of thought that generalize about the world, then, can simplify, or at least seem to simplify, an otherwise chaotic world... A system of thought that denounces all alternative ways of thinking is often enormously attractive, especially in times of widespread moral and religious uncertainty. It offers an anchor in the whirlpool of cultural change. By requiring uncritical acceptance of black-and-white definitions, such systems of thought can appeal to millions of people, who find ambiguity and ambivalence disturbing.”
It also describes the drawbacks that such thinking can have on people as well:
“The intellectual difficulties associated with the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy lie not in its adherents’ generalizations per se but rather in the unwillingness of its adherents to abandon certain generalizations in the face of contrary evidence. (page 28)
The major hazards in Christian fundamentalism, and thus the major causes of the doubts and frustration that many fundamentalists feel, are woven into the fundamentalists’ approach to the Bible. People who hold the presumption that all the Bible must be ‘perfect’ may sacrifice the ability to recognize Biblical implausibilities and inconsistencies, and that is a fundamental hazard. For when they are unable to detect a biased statement, a fantastic story, an unjust act, an implausible feat, or a contradictory law, they place their faith in God in a precarious position. (page 149)”
While such ways of thinking can be emotionally comforting to the believer, there are big obvious drawbacks as well. For one thing, it closes one’s mind drastically, making them see the world in black and white, ignoring the real complexity and diversity of the world. It gives the believer a mentality that puts everyone in the world into two categories – believers and non-believers, or the light vs. the dark. And it also stunts any intellectual growth or learning, because anything that doesn’t fit within the belief system is rejected as unwholesome or evil. In addition, this also leads to the inability to relate to those who don’t share your belief system, thus alienating them from you. Here’s an example of what this kind of thinking could lead to in the worst case scenario: (Fundamentalism: Hazards and Heartbreaks, page 28)
“Indeed, by overgeneralizing and not questioning assumptions and definitions, entire systems of thought can inadequately describe the world and fail to do justice to its complexity. Perhaps the most tragic example of oversimplified thought is Naziism, which relied on uncritical definitions of Jews and the uncritical acceptance of the idea of the Germans’ being a chosen people.”
In addition, here are some examples using foolish historical quotes, of what religious fundamentalist closed system thinking can do to people’s minds. It’s kind of scary, but it’s real.
"The good Christian should beware of mathematicians and all those who
make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that mathematicians
have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and confine man
in the bonds of Hell."
"The Roman Church has never erred, nor will it err to all eternity. No
one may be considered a Catholic Christian who does not agree with the
Catholic Church. No book is authoritative unless it has received the
- From the Dictatus of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085)
"We should always be disposed to believe that that which appears white
is really black, if the hierarchy of the Church so decides."
-St. Ignition of Loyola, Exercitia Spiritualia
"If the Bible had said that Jonah swallowed the whale, I would believe it."
"To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to
claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin."
- Cardinal Bellarmine, during the trial of Galileo in 1615.
"When the non-Christian scientist or philosopher begins to reason in the
field of philosophy or theology, the very nature of the subject matter,
dealing as it does with the ultimate causes of the universe, makes it
impossible for him to reason correctly. The distortion brought about by
the fall of man into sin completely blocks the intellectual channels of
the non-Christian thinker and prevents him from reasoning correctly."
(Now the one above clearly shows a tenaciously circular, closed-loop system of thinking!)
Now let’s begin and look at the facts here.
1) No one who looks at the Bible objectively without any bias or beliefs to defend would think that it is totally harmonious and without errors or contradictions. The book Fundamentalism: Hazards and Heartbreaks put it well on page 86:
“Any person who reads the whole Bible, without being told I advance that it is a work that is supposed to be entirely true, entirely in agreement, and nowhere contradictory, would have to conclude that it is a collection of strands of thought that sometimes conflict. The books of the Bible were written over more than a thousand years, and reflect the views of various cultures and numerous writers.”
However, that is to be expected, since the Bible is not really one book, but 66 books written by over 40 authors. If you picked out 40 different books at a library or bookstore, would you expect their claims and ideas to all be harmonious and without contradictions? Of course not. And you should expect no less from the Bible, though it may contain words of wisdom.
2) Second, if the Bible were truly God’s word verbatim, then why would there be stylistic differences among the different authors? (in addition to differences in content and ideas) Even Christians acknowledge the individualistic differences in writing styles of the authors of the Bible. But in doing so, they face a contradiction that they don’t even realize. While they acknowledge that the 40+ writers of the Bible were using their own style of writing in their books, they are at the same time saying that every word in the Bible comes directly from God! But if every word of the Bible were from God, there wouldn't be different styles and points of view. How can God have different styles of writing?
Now even if the Bible writers were “inspired” by something such as some higher wisdom, higher consciousness, or even a part of their own spirit, they still are interpreting the "inspiration" that they're getting with their own minds, which makes them fallible still. They would be using their own human minds to interpret their feelings and inspirations (no matter what the source of them) in the same way that artists, sculptors, writers, poets, etc. are doing as well. What this means is that since their own minds are doing the interpreting of their "inspirations" we can only view most if not all of the Bible as symbolic or allegorical rather than literal. They become like the stories contained in Aesop's Fables and other parable stories, which are symbolic allegorical tales with lessons and morals to learn from.
3) Third, if the Bible was God’s word and an accurate historical account, then it would not use literary techniques such as the following used by fictional writers.
Use of foreshadowing
The Bible often uses a technique called foreshadowing, which is used by literary fiction writers, not by writers of historical documents. Here are some examples.
a) They say that Moses' deliverance of the Israelites is a symbolic foreshadowing representation of Christ's deliverance of the believer's from the world of sin.
b) They say (Jesus says it in the New Testament too) that the story of Jonah being in the belly of the whale (or fish) for three days is a symbolic foreshadowing of Christ's descent into hell after his crucifixion for three days and nights before he rose again.
c) They say that Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac to God as a test of his faith is a symbolic representation of Christ's sacrifice thousands of years later.
These are just some of the examples of foreshadowing used in the Bible. Now, just why would God need to foreshadow Christ's sacrifice in the New Testament with events in the Old Testament? What practical value would that serve? We've all been taught in English class that foreshadowing is a technique used by writers of fiction and literature. It's not a technique used to write historical or actual accounts though.
Furthermore, we have no reason at all to believe that the writers of the Old Testament originally intended to make their stories foreshadow Christ's crucifixion. The New Testament writers seemed to just use those Old Testament stories to suit their purpose obviously.
The dialogues in the Bible are all structured and in complete sentences, which is the way people talk in dramatizations, but not the way people talk in real life. If you read the dialogues in the Bible, you'll find that people in it talk in complete sentences, without interruptions or phrases. Each line spoken is in response to someone or something. Now that's obviously how plays and dramatizations are written. People in real life don't talk like that. In real life, people talk in phrases and get interrupted. They use informal language, and don't have such a logical and clear purpose behind everything they say. Also, the dialogues and the plots in the Bible just seem kind of wooden and contrived, it doesn't flow the way real dialogue does.
Contradictions and discrepancies
4) Fourth, the Bible may contain good and bad parts, true things and false things, etc. but it is definitely not inerrant. In fact, the Bible is not only full of contradictions too numerous to list, but also contains differences in theology between the Old and New Testaments, a series of unfulfilled prophecies, prophecies in the New Testament which don’t exist in the Old Testament, false scientific facts, deliberate manipulation by the New Testament writers, etc. (We will go into these more later.)
The list of Bible contradictions is too vast, tedious, and beyond the scope and purpose of this book to get into, but if you wish, there are many websites which get into them. Here are some examples:
Biblical Errancy - The most comprehensive list of Bible contradictions, by Dennis McKinsey
A List of Biblical Contradictions by Jim Merritt
Biblical Errancy by Jim Merritt
The Argument from the Bible by Theodore Drange
New Testament Contradictions by Paul Carlson
A list of Biblical Errancy links can be found at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theism/christianity/errancy.shtml
To see how tedious debating Bible contradictions can become, see these transcripts of public debates on the issue.
Paul Tobin, a former Christian, has put up an excellent site debunking Christian fundamentalism that exposes critical errors and contradictions in the Bible: The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager: A Skeptic’s Guide to Christianity.
For books in print about this subject and that counter fundamentalism, you can find a list of them at Books about Biblical Errancy
A review of the above articles will show you that the debate over Bible contradictions is a never-ending tedious battle over semantics and translations that never really gets anywhere, with each side seeing what it wants to see. That is why I do not need to get into it here. They usually devolve into a tedious debate over the correct translation of the meaning of Hebrew or Greek verses of Bible transcripts. Without a background in Hebrew, Greek, or a study of ancient Bible manuscripts, one cannot even engage in such debate. But even amongst themselves, Christians will debate differences in theology or doctrine in the same way, arguing their different interpretations of various verses, and over correct translations of Hebrew or Greek manuscripts.
One way Christians attempt to resolve alleged Bible contradictions is by stating a common guideline that you have to look at each verse in its context, meaning that any interpretation or conclusions you draw from the verses must be consistent with the verses in the rest of the Bible. However, the problem is that one can easily choose their own interpretation of a verse, and reinterpret all the other conflicting verses to agree with it, or vice versa. For example, one dispute among Christian denominations is the issue of whether water baptism is required for salvation. Those who believe that water baptism is required for salvation will quote John 3:5 which says:
answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of
water and of
the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
They take the word “water” literally to mean H2O water. On the other hand, those who believe in a salvation purely by faith and not of works (they consider the act of water baptism to be of “works”) will cite Ephesians 2: 8-9
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
The proponents of the grace through faith salvation will claim that the “water” in John 3:5 must be interpreted as referring to the word of God, because elsewhere in the Bible, the term “water” has been used to refer to the word of God. And furthermore, since the verse in Ephesians said that salvation was purely through grace and faith, then that’s the definition of “water” that must be used in John 3:5. In addition, the “grace through faith” believers will cite the example of the salvation of the thief on the cross (Gospel of John), who was given immediate salvation by Jesus while they were both crucified, without being water baptized. However, believers in water baptism as a requirement will claim that since the thief did not have the chance of being baptized by water, that God made an exception in his case but that in normal cases it is still a requirement. Another verses dealing with this same issue is:
Mark “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
The water baptism people say the word “baptized” above refers to water baptism while the grace through faith proponents claim that it refers to the spiritual baptism of the Holy Spirit when one becomes saved.
There are thousands of other verses like this which are disputed within the Christian community between believers and denominations. And it can often get a lot more elaborate than in my example above. You see how tedious and pointless this kind of debate over Bible interpretation gets?
Another way Christians attempt to resolve a contradiction is by looking for any loophole they can find to harmonize contradictory verses. In the New Testament, for instance, we have two accounts of Judas’ death. In one account, he kills himself by hanging himself. In another, he dies of a fall.
"And he cast down the pieces of silver into the temple and departed, and went out and hanged himself." (Matt. 27:5)
“Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” (Acts )
Christians attempt to resolve this contradiction by claiming that Judas hung himself at the top of a hill first, and then somehow the rope broke and he fell down a slope. They will go to any extreme to resolve a contradiction, as you might expect.
In any case, the fact is that there are countless of contradictions in the Bible. Of that there can be no doubt. Even Christians themselves admit that if you take the Bible literally, then of course there will be contradictions in it. Therefore, they maintain that some of it is literal and some symbolic or figurative. But of course, which verses are literal and which are symbolic is a source of constant doctrinal debate among Christians, and has always been. The thing they do is try to rationalize away any contradictions or discrepancies to maintain the belief that it is divinely inspired and harmonious. They have many ways of doing this, one of which is to label any verse that contradicts a doctrine you hold as symbolic and therefore not literal enough to cause a contradiction. Another is to reinterpret the meaning of any contradictory verses which doesn’t support the doctrines you believe in. As you might have guessed, the variety of ways they can do this is countless and never-ending. (It is not in the scope of this book to address every single doctrinal issue and verse being debated in the Christian community though.)
Some of the most significant discrepancies and theological differences in the Bible are:
a) The Old Testament writers tell of a coming messiah (the Jews like to use the term “Moshiach” though, see http://www.jewfaq.org/moshiach.htm) who will establish a political national kingdom in Israel and bring it to become the center of world government and power (Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5; Isaiah 11:11-12; 2:2-4; 42:1) whereas the New Testament writers claimed that their messiah, Jesus Christ, is a messiah of a spiritual kingdom (spoken of often in Matthew 9-13) rather than an earthly one, consisting of the body of believers and their churches. Therefore, the central figure of the Bible, the messiah, is portrayed as having a completely different mission in the Old and New Testaments. And this difference is a huge one. So much for harmony. (See the section Why Jesus could not be the Messiah of the Old Testament)
b) During most of the Old
Testament era, followers of
God did not believe in a literal heaven and hell. You can
check this out easily
by simply looking at the books of the Old Testament itself, as the
not mentioned until about the book of Daniel. And that book
in the era when
c) The writers of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke clearly teach and believe in a salvation by works, while the writer of the Gospel of John, written much later, preaches that salvation is by faith and belief on the cross and in the atonement. For example, in Matt. 19:16-18, Jesus is asked how one can go to heaven and have eternal life.
"And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master,
what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said
unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is,
God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith
unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not
commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false
witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things
have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If
thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor,
and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."
Now that was a simple rule to follow for going to heaven, loving your neighbor and God, and keeping the commandments. However, it evolved into much more later when we get into the book of John, which was written much later. In fact, both Christian and non-Christian scholars agree that John is very different from the other three Gospels, known as the Synoptic Gospels, in its emphasis of the doctrine of Atonement, which is that one must be saved through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Rather than just loving your neighbor and God, the doctrine now was that you had to believe that Jesus died for your sins in order to be saved. Our modern Evangelical Christianity is based on the Gospel of John, and that’s why if you look at a Christian Gospel tract or literature, you will see it always quoting verses from the Gospel of John. For example:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
John “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”
John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
And then of course, the Apostle Paul reinforced this doctrine of Atonement in his letters (some theorize that Paul created the version of him in organized Christianity).
Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
(See the section entitled Evolution of the Salvation Doctrine in the Four Gospels)
And with regard to the four Gospels describing Jesus’ ministry, there are key contradictions and discrepancies as well. For instance:
1) Mark is regarded by Biblical Scholarship to be the oldest of the Gospels, followed by Matthew and Luke, and finally John. It is agreed that Matthew and Luke took Mark's narrative and expanded on them, and using another source which scholars believe to have existed and label the “Q Gospel”. Then John then took the first three Gospels and added even more to them to create his comprehensive Gospel. Now, if these Gospels are the word of God, why does God have to expand on his own words over and over again? Why can't an all knowing omniscient God write the perfect final draft the first time, instead of making so many rough drafts first? Also, if the gospels are eyewitness testimony, then why is 91 percent of Mark contained in Matthew? Why would anyone need to copy their own eyewitness testimony from someone else?
John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about being
"born again" in order to enter the
3) Nothing in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke describe of any kind of salvation by faith. And nothing in them warns about the consequences of not believing in Jesus. The last chapter of Mark which states: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16) has been shown to be an interpolation since many of the earliest manuscripts of Mark don't contain that verse in the last chapter, so Mark probably didn’t say anything about salvation by faith as well.
4) In Mark Jesus goes around everywhere and casts out demons. In John he never does this once.
5) Matthew says there were forty-one generations from Abraham to Jesus. Luke says there were fifty-six. The names in their genealogies are also completely different.
6) Matthew says Jesus was born when Herod was King of Judea. However, Luke says he was born when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria. Both can’t be true though. Herod died in the year 4 BC, and Cyrenius, who in Roman history is known as Quirinius, did not become Governor of Syria until ten years later. Therefore, Herod and Quirinius are separated by the whole reign of Archelaus, Herod's son. Between Matthew and Luke, there is, therefore, a contradiction of at least ten years as to the time of Christ's birth.
7) According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus' ministry covered about one year. But according to John, Jesus' ministry covered about three years.
8) John tells us that the event where Jesus drives out the money-changers from the temple occurred at the beginning of his ministry, while Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that it occurred near the end of his evangelization ministry.
9) There are also three types of Christs in the Gospels. According to Mark, Christ was a man. According to Matthew and Luke, he was a demigod, while John insists that he was God himself.
10) Matthew says
that Jesus was born in
Rather than rationalizing them away or ignoring them, perhaps the best way to understand these contradictions and discrepancies is given in Fundamentalism: Hazards and Heartbreaks: (page148)
“There is a satisfactory explanation for many of the inconsistencies and implausibilities found in the Bible; it requires acknowledging that the Biblical authors were influenced by the beliefs prevalent in their culture and the historical setting in which they wrote.”
The "read the Bible in its context" argument
A popular counterargument by Christians against those who point out discrepancies in the Bible is to claim that one has to "read the Bible in its context". They even use this argument against other Christians when doctrinal disagreements arise. This rule states that any interpretation drawn from any Bible passages should take into account the verses and chapters around it, and in the rest of the Bible too.
What this Christian solution falsely and naively assumes is that everyone who honestly reads the whole Bible in its context will come to the same conclusions. Anyone who isn't deluded or deprived of common sense knows that this is the most unrealistic expectation they can have. It also assumes that there exists a single true and exact interpretation of the Bible.
They couldn't be more wrong. Even if one exercises perfect logic in reading the Bible, one can still come up with differing interpretations on many issues and passages. Especially when the verses, chapters, and books of the Bible contradict or don't make sense when taken hyperliterally, one still has to make judgment calls on which verses to emphasize, and which to reinterpret to fit a particular conclusion. As mentioned earlier in the water baptism issue, one can easily choose their own interpretation of a verse, and reinterpret all the other conflicting verses to agree with it, or vice versa.
Sometimes, they try to claim that the Holy Spirit in the true believer will correctly interpret the Bible for him/her. The obvious problem with that is that lots of "true believers" do not agree on their interpretation of the Bible, even within the same denomination. And of course, they can easily claim that the other "true believers" who disagree with them are either not true believers or not being guided properly by the Holy Spirit. But that is just getting insane.
As one reader of mine commented on this issue:
I agree with you completely, as do 4.5 Million Orthodox believers.
First, consider how 10,000 different "literal" interpretations of the same Bible (a minimalist one, since these groups do not accept various books included in the traditional Scriptures) can be! There cannot logically be more than one out of the myriad of disagreeing interpretations which is correct--and there doesn't have to be even one! Each group claims that it has got the right set of (literal) interpretations--however non-literal much of what they interpret is and of course ignoring that the Bible was finally assembled and canonized by the Orthodox Church--and not until in the latter fourth century.
Second, if you reject the interpretations set forth by the disciples of the authors of the Gospels and Epistles and their successors in the first two centuries of Christianity, and if you permit everyone to interpret the Scriptures according to one's individual whims (Luther's "sola scriptura" and the "universal priesthood of believers") instead of being guided by the holy patristic tradition, it follows that "Scripture alone" is for all practical purposes a consummately empty slogan--there being no objective way to select the fittest interpretation from the different individualistic opinions on each point. This leads to moral reletavism and a sense that "God will sort it all out in the end."
The Holy Apostle Paul said, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." 2 Thessalonians 2:15. One must understand and experience the patristic tradition of the Church to experience the fullness of Christ. The epistles alone will never do it.
Modern Fundamentalist lack control--like the holy tradition--which, having tried out every possible answer to every mooted point, sifts them and selects (to hang on) the only one that does no harm to the entire system of belief inherited from the Apostles and their disciples. These traditions, given by word and by epistle, have stood the test of two millenniums. The Orthodox believe that the Church was guided by the all-holy Spirit (John )--that the Spirit was not dormant for a millennium and a half till Luther came along, as a Fundamentalist must assume.