Sure it can. Scripture can be straight up wrong.
Scripture can also straight up correct, while your interpretation is straight up wrong.
Presumably the most important book in history with the most essential and important message intended for all mankind. Nobody can make sense of it, it never means what it says, people constantly have to reevaluate their understanding in light of it contradicting the real world.
Yeah the omnipotent God just can’t communicate clearly. Makes sense.
Or maybe you struggle to understand.
That shouldn’t even be possible.
If two people have two different interpretations of Scripture how do you decide which interpretation is correct? Or if maybe both are wrong? Why shouldn’t the physical evidence be the final arbiter?
I’ve been thinking about what you wrote here… what that might look like, and how it would operate. The Bible is 66 separate books or letters, written by forty or so different people, over 1500 years on many continents. The books were written in several different languages, for different purposes.
Looking back at English literature (English being the only language I know) from 500 years back, I struggle to make any sense of it at all. I struggle much more with it than I do with my understanding of the scriptures. So, I don’t expect you to explain to me what it would look like to have a book of scripture, composed in the way that I described, that was equally comprehensible to all, in every language, throughout time. I don’t think, though, that it is reasonable to expect that this would be, or could be so.
In fact, it reminds me of a conversation (many actually) here. In discussing the evolution of an eye from a light-sensitive spot, over time, an ID advocate demanded a book that granularly described the stepwise evolutionary changes from mutation to mutation before he would believe that this could have happened. So, here, a potentially unreasonable expectation is in place wherein that which cannot be is demanded.
There are many instances where we are all so similar. We have our sacred cows and we protect them as such. I think, though, that when we are honest, we can learn from our experiences as we cross the line to converse with the other side.
Many of us believe that the creation and the scriptures should be aligned, so, yes, we can in some cases help to learn what a passage means by comparing it to our observations about the creation. Joel Duff (@Joel_Duff) does this often on his blog (www.thenaturalhistorian.com) to learn more about what the original meanings were.
The question is, why hasn’t God chosen to communicate with us in a way that would be totally comprehensible to us, instead of the notably problematic way in which he is said to have?
Maybe this topic should be split into a new thread. Here’s my 2 cents: it has always seemed a bit odd to me that the “word of god” is apparently so easy to interpret in many ways. I know all writing can be interpreted in different ways to some extent, but think that we could at least say “the bible could be much clearer”. I would think that an omnipotent being who wants to get “the message” across to people would try to make it as clear as possible. The Bible isn’t as unambiguous as I would expect. It also doesn’t really distinguish itself from all of the other holy books, to be honest.
This ambiguousness is readily apparent in the creation/evolution theological debate. While I have a lot of sympathy for the in-depth literary and contextual analyses of dedicated scholars, it seems clear to me that Genesis, for example, can certainly be understood most simply as a literal creation account. If God didn’t want to give that impression, why should a complex analysis of the text be required to dispel it?
That’s a really great question. I wouldn’t say that “totally comprehensible” would be the goal. I would say that “comprehensible enough” would be the goal. To be accessible, across time, cultures, languages, differing intellects, learning styles, modes of processing, would be the goal.
Billions of people have found this to be the case. There is no skywriting, saying “It’s me, God, and I’m here…” But if there were, skeptics would not believe anyhow.
Faith is a step taken in an uncertain direction. The step is rewarded after it is taken. Knock and I shall open, seek and you will find. This is true.
I agree that it would be much simpler if there was less ambiguity. I would completely disagree about distinguishing itself from other holy books, though. That said, I completely agree with you that reconciling Genesis, for example, with earth science is challenging. The literal reading does not line up with expectations, but many are able to see a very close fit, including Hugh Ross and others.
Remember, we think and process differently. For many, Genesis is not a stumbling block at all. The seeming inconsistencies with earth science or earth history are simply non-issues. For others, they are more difficult to process. But Genesis is just one of 66 books. It is scripture and has purpose, but it’s purpose is not to serve as a technical manual in the 21st century… it is, in fact, to point toward the coming redemption of Jesus Christ.
This is why we look to the resurrection. It, for Christians (and we believe for everyone else, as well) is the central event in time. This is why Paul said:
1 Corinthians 15:14 New International Version (NIV)
14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
I can agree that it does seem to be “understandable enough” to a lot of people. It’s hard for me to think that things couldn’t be clearer though, or that clarity would be undesirable.
That’s hard to say! Some might, and some might not. Presented in certain ways, that could be very convincing actually.
Well, I agree with you. I was being somewhat silly. The point I was making (and you echoed) is that some would and some would not. People have differing thresholds when it comes to belief. We see that here all of the time. What is completely clear to one about evolution is confusing or unconvincing to another. This is a real issue.
Could you elaborate on why?
That’s your interpretation of its purpose. Is that the purpose that comes across at face value though? I’ll reiterate that I’m very open to more “advanced” interpretations - some of the scholarly analyses are really interesting and satisfying - but my main point is simply that this obviously requires a lot of effort (and intelligence) to understand “properly”. It’s not clear to me why this should be the case, given the premises I mentioned earlier.
I disagree, I think that obviously miraculous demonstrations would be quite convincing to the vast majority of skeptics.
Why is faith so important to God? I realise this is probably the subject of centuries of scholarship, but I’m unfamiliar with all of it
They do that by hammering a square peg into a round hole, in the process damaging both the peg and the hole.
Note that the people Genesis was written by and for do not agree with this interpretation.
I don’t have time now (because of work) to give this the effort it deserves. You are right, this is my interpretation of the purpose. I have read the entire Bible and have studied it for years. I think that there is general agreement (among Christians) regarding this purpose as well.
I would say that Christianity does not “require a lot of effort … to understand.” The central message is quite simple and is found in John 3:16. To paraphrase, God loved the people so much, that he allowed his son to be sacrificed, so that everyone who accepted this gift could be forgiven and live with him forever.
On the other hand, much as with your area of science, one could plumb the depths forever and still not know everything there is to know. So, there can be much effort spent to understand “properly” but this is not necessary for all, in order to comprehend the message.
This is a gross and short-hand explanation. Hopefully, @AllenWitmerMiller or others more knowledgeable can add more.
I know what you mean here, John. There is a spectrum of agreement or disagreement on this. I believe that the Bible is clear about God being outside of time and there being a creation event similar to the Big Bang. The granular details are not so important to me. What is important is that the framework fits what we know now.
Well, this is somewhat true. The Christians came from the Jews. It was not until the 12th chapter of Acts that the Gentiles were invited to play. So this is an issue of perspective. Many agree, many do not.
It is just highly suspect, and noteworthy, that the presumed most important message of all time, intended for every human who ever lived, whether educated, sophisticated, naive, poor, intellectual or practical, young or old, requires one to spend decades studying language, history, philosophy, and theology, to “get right”.
That means untold billions of people now depend on a handful of extremely well educated “scholars” to interpret God’s work for them, giving them a lot of power, which God knows better than anyone corrupts men’s hearts. How many have gone to their graves not knowing what the hell God meant?
It just doesn’t make sense. Sorry.