The Bible is ambiguous and most Christians, I believe, can accept that. Given almost any passage, different people give different interpretations of the passage. Even a person who interprets a passage one way may interpret it another way years later. The Bible is an ambiguous text.
My argument is that the Bible, at least all the parts that are ambiguous, does not have informative value. If the authors wanted to convey information, to provide a text with informative value, they would have written clearly, and not in metaphors and parables. Like poetry, most of the Bible is of no informative value. Like poetry, I would argue that religious texts don’t serve to convey information as much as they serve to tease out our own feelings and beliefs. That is how different people interpret the Bible and poetry differently and how a person might interpret a passage one way and then interpret it differently a year later.
One argument that I’ve had to defend against is that the writers of the Bible didn’t intend for their text to be ambiguous. That’s just how they wrote things back then and if we find it ambiguous it’s a failure on our part. I disagree. We can point to any number of earlier writers, Aristotle for instance, who wrote unambiguous text that clearly conveys what the writer meant.
All religious texts that I have encountered are ambiguous, and they must be so to survive. An unambiguous text has informative value that can be compared with reality and tested. A religion based on an unambiguous text that made specific predictions (including dates and times) would either become a part of the body of scientific knowledge or it would be discredited.
There is definitely an allure to ambiguous texts. We don’t completely understand them and so we tend to assume that what they’re trying to say must be wise indeed. Ambiguity is not so much a technique for accurately conveying information as it is a technique for teasing out what you already believe. For that reason, there is some kind of value there–just not informative value.
don key said:
I agree, but the problem for me is less that the Bible is amibiguous (which it is) and more that the God presented in it is reprehensible. Thomas Paine called the God of the Old Testament a “devil” and I tend to agree. Whenever someone cites the Bible as a source of morality, I ask them “Have you acually read the damned thing?” As a behavioral guide, it’s worhtless unless you value genocide, slavery, etc.
Even Jesus has his moments. Look at Matthew 15:21-28. A Canaanite begs Jesus to heal her daughter and Jesus ignores her. When she persists, he tells her he came for the Jews and not for Gentile “dogs”. To be blunt, he sort of behaves like a dick and he does that a lot in the New Testament. Look at Matthew 21:18-21. Jesus curses a fig tree because he’s hungry and the tree’s not bearing fruit out of season. The lesson from this is that you’ll receive whatever you ask for in prayer. Really? That’s the message from that story?
Amish Outster said:
I literally lol’d at your comment, it was right on the money!! I love when you have some Christian on their sopa box and you quote a passage from the Old Testament and they tell you that it “doesn’t count because that is more for historical purposes.” What? I want to laugh in their uneducated faces! There are just too many inconsistencies in there for me to take it all as “gospel” (haha) and follow blindly. We are not an Atheist household and I do find there are a few good lessons in there (Do good, love all, treat others as you would want to be treated,etc.) but I also feel that those should be taught to children and people should live that way just to be decent human beings not just because some book told us to. I don’t feel that religion defines someone as a good person and atheism defines someone as bad. I have friends and met people from all backgrounds and religions and I have come to this conclusion: D-bags come in all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds, nationalities, sexual orientations and religions. If you are a good person, want to help others and don’t intentionally harm anyone I couldn’t care less if you look at religion the same way I do. Keep on posting your views/beliefs!!
The Bible is a true historic document, that is studied in every University around the world. I am not a person of any denomination, but feel that maybe you need to expand your thinking, become educated about all religious books. Compare them. The problem is that Christians are judgemental. The Bible is used against people instead of, for oneself. It is not the Bible that is ambiguious, it is actually very clear, if you understand how it is written.
Individualism is defined by our experiences, our beliefs are defined by how open our minds are, to the infinite possibilities of thought. The problem with opinion, is that often based on negative experience, instead of research and fact.
I appreciate your blog, You are creating diologue and that is always positive!
I am ex amish myself although not an atheist,the things u state about the bible if u try to figure it out logically it will never work,when u are reading the bible i feel u are supposed to let the holy spirit guide u and truth will be revealed,if u read it any other way and with the intent to prove it wrong u will not get anything out of it,but if u are an unbeliever noe of this will make any sense to u,i do not wish to argue about the bible,i dont need to prove that God exists,i know he does fromthe things i hav seen firsthand in my life,but again dont wanna argue,if u believe in the spirit world it all makes sense,but also jus cuz u dont believe in it,doesnt make it any less real,God bless