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Argument # 1: The Bible is the infallible word of God.
This is the first and most fundamental claim that Christians make when Evangelizing. It is just taken for granted that it is true, but if you analyze the weight of the evidence for this doctrine, you find that it is in actuality both weak and nearly non-existent. First of all, the first sentence of this argument, that the “Bible is the word of God” implies that the text in the Bible books are God’s words verbatim. However, we all know, including the Christians, that humans wrote those books. The only difference is that Christians believe that the humans (the identity of many of them are unknown) who wrote the Bible were guided by God the Holy Spirit, and therefore, they are God’s words verbatim and without flaw. The question then becomes, were they? Furthermore, they argue that since we would assume that God would protect his own word, that the Bible has remain unchanged.
Now these are huge assumptions for one thing. It would take A LOT to prove or even demonstrate such outlandish claims literally. However, not only do Christian Evangelists make these assumptions, but they just assume it to be true as well without any real basis. In general, the issue is not questioned or analyzed in the church as to whether the Bible is God’s word or not. It is simply ASSUMED to be so. It’s a GIVEN. And it rests on a very shaky foundation, much more so than they could imagine. What most Christians don't realize and never think about is that God himself never actually told them directly that the Bible was his word. Fallible imperfect human beings did!
To demonstrate this, here's an interesting and simple test that you can try. Go to a church, and ask ten people the question "How do you know that the Bible is God's word?" From most of them you'll get a look of confusion or puzzlement, and some of them will just say "Because it says so." offering no other reason. Of course, a few more knowledgeable ones will use some of the arguments in this article that I refute. But what you can learn from this experiment is that most Christians don't know why they should believe that the Bible is God's word. You see, they've been socially and psychologically engineered to assume that it's a given fact that it is. They've been unconsciously taught that it's a simple fact just like the sky is blue and the grass is green. That's why in their normal line of thinking they would never question why they should believe that the Bible is God's word.
You may wonder why Christians never questioned the inspiration of the Bible upon first being introduced to it. Well I think that one of the main reasons they don't question the Bible's divine inspiration upon their initial conversion into Christianity is due to the incredible promise of eternal life that they are promised upon conversion. They are so overjoyed and amazed at the offer of eternal life in heaven, offered to them for free just for believing, that their left brain never stops to analyze what they've been preached. Another reason is that preachers and evangelists often use sentiment, emotion and touching stories to convert people, rather than reason. Or if they were raised by Christian families, then of course as a child they wouldn't initially question their religious theology, since children generally assume that what their parents tell them is true.
Now, here’s the big shocker. What followers of Christian fundamentalists don’t know and never realize is: NOWHERE in the Bible does it claim to be God’s word. And NOWHERE in the Bible does it claim to be infallible. The doctrine of Biblical inspiration and infallibility was made up by Christian fundamentalists to create an artificial foundation for their faith. Fundamentalists love to cite 2 Timothy 3:16; however, the “Scriptures” referred to in that verse refer to the Old Testament, and the term “inspiration” does not mean “word of God” either. (i.e. if a tree inspires me to write a poem about it, is that poem my words or the tree’s words?) In any case, NOWHERE in the Bible does it claim that all 66 books in it are infallible. Nowhere. Period. That’s something Christians say, not the Bible or God. In fact, many of the authors of the Bible had no idea that their books would be canonized into an “infallible word of God” book. Even in Paul’s epistles, he made it clear that he was writing personal letters, not dictating whatever God was telling him to write down. He even says literally in three verses in his epistles that these are his words, and not God’s! (see below examples) Furthermore, even if the Bible did claim to be God’s word or infallible, that wouldn’t make it so either. I could take any of the millions of books in the world, and write in somewhere, “This book is the word of God. It is infallible.” But would that make it so?
There are two vague verses though, that Christians use to attempt to prove that the Bible is God’s word. These two verses though, pose problems and raise more questions that preachers don’t address, cause they can’t. Let’s look at them now. Here’s the first one.
2 Timothy 3:16
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
First of all, the term "All Scripture" could easily and logically refer to the Old Testament or the Ten Commandments because a) Jesus used the word scripture many times to refer to the Old Testament canons, so to be consistent we must assume that here as well, and b) at the time this verse was written, the New Testament as we have it today was not even put together yet! Now, since modern Evangelical Christian theology is based mainly on the teachings of the New Testament of course, that means that this verse doesn’t really support the core Christian theological teachings of today!
Second, just because someone was “inspired” by something to write does not mean that that which caused the inspiration wrote it directly verbatim. That’s not what the word “inspiration” even means. For example, if a beautiful sunset inspired me to write a poem, that doesn't mean that the sunset itself wrote the poem, only that the sunset motivated me to write it. The definition of the word “inspire” obviously is not that the “inspirer” is dictating their words verbatim as if it were their own. Here is the definition of “inspire” from the American Heritage Dictionary:
1. To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.
2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion: hymns that inspire the congregation; an artist who was inspired by Impressionism.
3a. To stimulate to action; motivate: a sales force that was inspired by the prospect of a bonus. b. To affect or touch: The falling leaves inspired her with sadness.
4. To draw forth; elicit or arouse: a teacher who inspired admiration and respect.
5. To be the cause or source of; bring about: an invention that inspired many imitations.
6. To draw in (air) by inhaling.
7. Archaic a. To breathe on. b. To breathe life into.
Third, no matter what this verse referred to, one verse out of over 33,000 Bible verses does not make all the verses divinely inspired, especially the verses of the other books of the Bible which don’t always even agree with each other. So the idea of one verse out of one book proving divinity in all 66 books is completely absurd and non-sensical. And as we know, words are just that - words. They don’t create reality or fact. Therefore, just because a verse like this implies that the Bible is the word of God doesn’t make the whole Bible the word of God. In fact, the majority of the books of the Bible do not even claim to be the word of God. Not even Paul claimed that his letters and epistles were the word of God. But nevertheless, even if hundreds or thousands of verses in the Bible said that they were the word of God, that still wouldn’t make it so either. I could take any book in the world, and pen in them somewhere the words, “All words in this book are given by inspiration of God…..” but would that make them God’s infallible word?!
Although the Bible claims to contain the words of God when it says "The Lord spoke" or "Thus sayeth the Lord", even if God really did say those things, that doesn't mean that when Paul said "I say" this and that, that it is the same thing. Nor does it mean that all the verses where God speaks directly reflect what he actually said either.
Now, here’s the other verse they use to claim divine inspiration of the Bible.
2 Peter 1: 20-21
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Again, it obviously is referring to the prophecies of Old Testament prophets and perhaps scriptures, not to the whole Bible. Therefore, the three problems above apply to this verse as well. And as mentioned, Christian theology and teaching is based primarily on the Church’s interpretation of the New Testament.
Three verses that say the Bible ISN’T God’s word!
Now, here’s the kicker. There are THREE verses in the New Testament that claim that the Bible is NOT the exact word of God! Here let me show you!
1 Corinthians 7:12
"But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away."
The Apostle Paul clearly says here in the first sentence "speak I, NOT the Lord". He is saying that these words he is about to say are from him and not God! It’s in plain language. This alone technically invalidates the fundamentalist doctrine that every word in the Bible is uttered directly by God. It alone shatters this absolute claim of theirs. There is no defense. However, there are two more similar verses like it to shatter the doctrine even further beyond what’s necessary. Later on in the same chapter, Paul says:
1 Corinthians 7:25
"Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful."
You see here how Paul is saying that he is using his best personal judgment, and that what he's saying is not directly from God? He is telling you that he is writing his own opinion. Then, in Paul’s next letter to the Corinthians, he says:
2 Corinthians 11:17
"That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting."
Again, the same claim by Paul.
Christian apologists, when countered with these verses, usually respond by claiming either that 1) Paul was adding to Jesus' commands, or 2) Paul was being inspired without himself knowing it. Now those are very bizarre explanations indeed, which don’t even address this issue. Either way, even if those two explanations are true, they still shatter the doctrine of Biblical infallibility. And furthermore, in regards to the second explanation, why would God "inspire" Paul to say that his words were NOT from God?!
Now add up the score. ONE verse versus THREE! This extreme doctrine is shattered three times over. It’s been disproven by 300 percent! Game over.
In addition, all one has to do is to take a look at the opening line of the epistles in the New Testament by Paul and other writers, and you will easily notice that the author is addressing his “letter” to a specific church or group of people at the time. This means that it is obvious in clear language that they were writing a letter for certain people or congregations, to either instruct them or give them encouragement, and not writing some infallible scriptures to be placed in a Bible to represent God’s word verbatim to all mankind!
What is odd is that while the Evangelists and Apologists emphasize this doctrine of Biblical infallibility so strongly and obsessively as if it were the central issue, the Bible itself doesn’t even do that. In fact, these Apologists only have two vague verses they use to justify this core doctrine of theirs. If this doctrine of Biblical infallibility was so central and core to Christianity as they claim, then why are there only two vague verses about it, out of over 33,000?
As mentioned before, the doctrine of Biblical infallibility was not a central tenet of Christianity until early in the 20th century when the theory of evolution began to be taught as fact in classrooms. It was then that the Christians countered with this doctrine. Not only did it protect Christian tenets from the danger of Darwinist teachings, but it served other purposes as well. You see, without the doctrine that the Bible is infallible and that every word of it is of God, it would put question marks on every verse. Anyone could then pick and choose which parts of it they wanted to be God’s word and which they didn’t, and that would greatly undermine the authority of it. So this doctrine is necessary to keep the religion intact. Otherwise, Christians themselves would not be able to feel secure and confident that every verse in the Bible could be trusted.
For an eloquent rant about the Bible that brings up many good points, read the essay About the Holy Bible (1894) by Robert Ingersoll, a religious critic from the 19th century.
Also from Ingersoll is an extensive article that lists discrepancies and absurdities in the books of Moses. It is a very amusing read as it is both eloquent and humorous at the same time. Some Mistakes Of Moses (1879) By Robert Ingersoll
But even before Ingersoll’s time, Thomas Paine, a great eloquent religious critic, already debunked the Bible and Christian theology in his treatise The Age of Reason
Also check out The Argument from the Bible (1996) by Theodore Drange
For a site similar to this one and nicely packaged, see The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager: A Skeptic’s Guide to Christianity