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Monday, 14 February 2011

Can You Trust the Bible?

So asks Jehovah's Witnesses in Special edition of their ‘Awake’ magazine which a friend and Witness lent me and is also available to view online.

Even though it is a JW publication the arguments they use seem standard for Christian groups. So even though most Christian sects see other ones as the wrong ones and their own as the one and only true version of the Christian faith and I might expect that most Christians will see Jehovah's Witnesses as some sort of fringe cult and be happy that people are criticising them specifically I believe that the position taken by Jehovah's Witnesses in this edition of Awake is fairly mainstream and that almost all Christians would agree with the contents.

So can you trust the Bible? The intention here is not to mock but look at this publication with a more critical and less faith biased opinion. This is a review from a non-religious thinker of just the first third of the magazine where an initial 5 reasons to trust the Bible are given.

I found it to be a very typical Watchtower publication – totally one sided and very heavy on spin and conclusions reached on weak reasoning. I really dislike the way it looks like it contains proper researched articles but the references are completely unsatisfactory – more on that later.

To Trust or Not to Trust” – It starts of quite well with “only a fool would go through life blindly accepting everything he hears”, early on but in the end this turns out to be spin as there is very little in the way of alternative views to think of blindly accepting other than those put forward.

After the introduction it gives 5 reasons to trust the bible, followed by other articles on related subjects. As it says “it is intended simply to present the compelling evidence that convinced millions that the Bible is worthy of their trust.” Of course it doesn’t mention any ‘compelling evidence that convinced millions that it is worthy of their trust’. The examples it gives as evidence for many of these 5 reasons are generally uncontroversial leading to the feeling that controversy does not exist.

A Unique Book” – lists facts about the Bible and its history to show its uniqueness.

Reason 1 – “Historical Soundness” 
I have a big problem here as the opening paragraph reads “NO ONE has ever successfully challenged the historical accuracy of the Bible”. Come on, this is at least arguable and not the certainty it claims to be. Adam & Eve, the flood, Living in a fish, the slaughter of the innocent by Herod etc, etc?

Reason 2 – “Candour and Honesty” 
This is a list of bible characters who related their Mistakes and shortcomings in the Bible to prove “the Bible gives ample evidence that it is the product of honest writers”. Where is the logic and reasoning here? EVERY story worth reading, truth and fiction, highlights the infallibility of the characters. Even Superman is a big softie who hates green rocks.

Reason 3 – “Internal Harmony” 
This section states that the “Bible was written over a span of some 1,600 years”, but has “A harmonious message”. I hate to be picky but it started with ‘an eye for an eye’ and ended with ‘turn the other cheek’. Where is the harmony in that? This section does however admit that some accounts in the gospels have “Reasonable differences” Which it puts down to different witnesses seeing the same thing but their evidence differing slightly. The very non controversial example it gives is Mark and John say Jesus was wearing purple and Matthew says scarlet on the day of his death. Why not explain something more controversial like Jesus’ linage back to Abraham or which son of David he was descended from, must we obey the OT, how did Judas die etc, etc.?

Reason 4 – “Scientific Accuracy”  
This lists a couple of examples that could be interpreted as meaning the world is round to prove the Bible is scientifically accurate. What about the Sun standing still, hares chewing the cud etc, etc, not forgetting the biggie the order of creation?

It is at this point we see my two biggest hates about Watchtower publications. The article states “One professor noted:” then continues with a quote to support the theme of the article. Who? A professor of what? What are their qualifications? In what context was it said? The really irks me. Why not state who said what? When it suits the person being quoted is referenced so why not all the time so details can be verified?

This leads me to the second thing I dislike – the foot notes providing other information. In this case it says “For more examples of the Bibles scientific accuracy, see…” and it is always another Watchtower publication. Never an independent book dealing with the same topic.

Reason 5 – “Fulfilled Prophecy” 
In the first paragraph it states matter of factly “Bible prophecy is always right”. How could it not be – if it isn’t you can just wait around until it is. The example given as proof of this is the fall of Babylon. With Isaiah saying “She will never be inhabited”. Be even the writer has to acknowledge “Although Babylon lingered on for a while after its conquest, Isaiah’s words eventually came true”.

The next article is “Who Authored the Bible?” – asks is it “simply a product of human wisdom, like any other book”? This section has the very absurd statement’ to me anyway, “God used an invisible force to influence the minds of human writers”. I can really see sceptics saying, ‘Of course, how obvious’.

It also oddly claims that God Jehovah didn’t need men to write the Bible but was divinely wise to do so because “one of the reasons for the Bible’s universal appeal is that its writers convincingly express the full range of human emotions”. Isn’t god capable of expressing the full range of human emotions only more so?

The article also ‘proves’ the Bible is the inspired word of God because the Bible says “All Scripture is inspired of God”. I wonder how much scrutiny that reasoning will stand?

That only gets us to page 11 of a 30 page mag so there is plenty more to go at – (I haven’t even fully considered what it says about the archaeological evidence yet!), but I think that is more than enough to be going on with.

Can you trust the Bible? I’d have to conclude - Only by faith and not reason.

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