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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.

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