Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Incompetence of the Bible

I’m rewriting this post - “The Incompetence of the Bible” - because I was never happy with what it said, or how I said it. I can only remember withdrawing or rewriting a post once in my life, but it’s time to do it again.

While re-reading the New Testament, my focus this time around was 1) matches and gaps between the Gospels and 2) what Paul has to tell us about Jesus. The Gospels aren’t bad - this was (probably) my fifth time through them chapter-by-chapter. I took some time comparing them via the Gospel Parallels - good stuff. Then I get to Acts - ehh. I don’t know why, but I’ve already forgotten it after just a few months. Its just not that impressive to me. Now I’m into the Epistles, and for some reason I’m irritated. Paul just doesn’t know Jack about Jesus. And I let that irritation consume the original post. But my general idea still holds - that the Bible is full of incompetence.

When you read Genesis, its easy to see something’s wrong. The universe that we observe today has features that lead us to believe to a high degree of certainty that it was smaller, denser and hotter in the past. Projecting backward in time, approximately 13.8 billion years ago this model reaches maximum density and temperature, and minimum size. And that’s all we know for sure. What came “before” is a mystery, so much so that some physicists think using the word “before” is incoherent. But Genesis tells us a different story, and that’s where my claim of incompetence first finds an example. If God inspired or directed the authors of Genesis to write the account of the first appearance of the universe, it doesn’t appear that it made it to the twenty-first century correctly. And if God is the omni-bestest at everything - and our conceptions of God generally do assume this - then something is amiss. And without unpeeling what exactly is amiss, we must assume that if God is the inspiration or direction behind this account, then she failed to insure the story remained accurate down through the ages. And this is this first indication to us that God - again, if she exists - is not the omni-bestest that we might have thought. Other thinkers have suggested that God is a trickster, or God has a reason to allow this incongruity to persist, but I have (intemperately) decided to describe it as incompetence because Genesis was the ideal place to establish God’s bona fides. She could have even directed the author to end it with a caveat that admits that subsequent books are not inspired or directed by the great one, and we could still be confident that, in spite of what others subsequently said, that God does indeed exist in the form that was described in Genesis. But we don’t have that.

What we have us people trying to kill each other over supposedly God-inspired differences on how to worship and behave. And that tends to make one think that the concept of God as malicious, or a trickster, or negligent, or disinterested, or incompetent, applies.

I tend to think that the Bible was a combination of good-faith guessing about the universe, along with much borrowing from other traditions and some inventions to reach the concept of salvation as described in the New Testament. This is an oversimplification, of course, but it looks like they made a hash of it. Thus, every time I read it nowadays, I tend to see how hashed up it is, and think about how a supreme being could have prevented it, but didn’t. And it just looks like they did a bad job.

Or maybe God was never there.

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