Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Heart of it All...

At the heart of fundamentalism is the notion that there is absolute truth and that fundamentalists can know it absolutely. Where will they get this truth? The Bible, of course! Or so they say. However, I wonder if that's really right. Two observations seem to be called for in examining the notion that fundamentalists use the Bible to get at absolute truth.

First, I question the notion because fundamentalists really don't want to know what research into ancient history and archeology has to offer in the quest to understand the Bible. Even though the Bible is an ancient document, composed largely in the Middle East, any research into the time and the place of composition that contradicts preconceived beliefs is rejected out of hand. If the facts, as near as they can be determined, called the literalness of the stories in the Bible into question, fundamentalist want nothing to do with such research. That seems disrespectful of such an important Book.

This is circular thinking. Once, when I was in seminary, a fellow student told me that all he needed was the Bible. It was absolutely true. How could that be known, I wondered. He replied it was true because it said it was true, and you could trust what it said because it was true. Damn the evidence! It is a self contained truth system. So, although archeology might produce evidence contrary to the Book, it doesn't count because the Bible says it's true and you know that's right because whatever it says is true. (And so on... and on, round and round in circles)

The second point is that the Bible might well contain much useful truth. But it is truth found in story and myth. This isn't to say there is no literal truth in the Book. It is to say that, by failing to recognize the truth of myth, a truth that, in many ways, transcends conventional truth in eternal value, they miss the point. As my Old Testament professor used to say, The Bible is a book about how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. In making (or demanding) scientific accuracy of the Book, our fundamentalists friends miss its true richness and value. Sad :-(.

1 comment:

  1. James - I can say 'absolutely' that you are a man of honor, integrity, and faith. You've always been an example of a loving servant to your family, church and friends.

    Great start on a blog - I hope lots of energetic and thoughtful conversation are generated by this blog and your book!