There are arguably about as many ways to interpret the Bible as there are words in it. However, each typically falls into one of a few main ideological stances. As a quick primer for my upcoming multi-part blog post series, I’d like to take a quick look at these three basic schools of thought. I will do my best to describe each without bias, but as an atheist, I suspect my biases will percolate to the surface, regardless. At any rate, let’s take a look at how I’ll be viewing the Bible in the upcoming months.
Many Christians subscribe to the idea that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant word of God. They take the Bible at face value, with little or no interpretation of deeper meanings other than what’s written on the page. Fundamentalists are usually referred to as the “Christian Right” because, as the name implies, their views are generally very conservative.
Those who hold the Bible in high regard, but consider it to be more of a moral compass or guide to ethical behavior. They generally apply their own interpretations to scriptures and consider the Bible to be a historical record of ancient oral traditions, written by (fallible) humans, and thus prone to errors or embellishment. Evangelicals are usually referred to as the “Christian Left”, as their stance on matters is typically more liberal than their fundamentalist counterparts.
Lastly, we’re left with the skeptics… Most skeptics agree that certain parts of the Bible hold some historical accuracy, but not in any relevant or meaningful way. To the skeptic, the Bible is little more than folklore or myth; stories made up to explain the world around ancient peoples who were struggling to understand it. Skeptics are generally outside of the bubble of religion, as agnostics, atheists, humanists, etc.
While I don’t claim to be a theologian, I sincerely hope that my explanation of each of these schools of thought was adequate. In any case, if you’re still unsure about the differences between these ideologies, feel free to take a moment to Googlecate yourself further. Meanwhile, I’ll be here…anxiously awaiting your return.
Back already? Let’s move on and discuss the basic premise on which the Bible is founded.
Introducing: The Omni-God
Most theologians agree that each of the Abrahamic religions worship the same deity. While the religions themselves differ in many ways, they all seem to agree that God possesses a group of “omni-traits”. In fact, these traits are the defining characteristics of their God, which separate him from all other gods. Therefore, if any argument is to be made for or against the existence of this God, one must understand these traits and their significance, not only in relation to the text of the Bible, but also in the context of how it applies to human civilization.
|Omnipotence||almighty or infinite in power and ability|
|Omnipresence||present everywhere at the same time|
|Omniscience||having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding|
|Omnibenevolence||all-loving; infinitely good|
I can tell you that these traits were, in fact, what first started me on the long path towards atheism. I could not reconcile the hatred, pain, suffering, and injustice which runs rampant in the world today with a God who is all knowing, all powerful, all loving, and always there. I still count this as Christianity’s greatest pitfall, and if I am to be wooed by this belief system, then that gap between the reality of today’s world and a truly loving and benevolent God needs to be bridged somehow. That is not to say, however, that I am not open to the possibility of some spiritual clarity coming over me so that I might better understand what is commonly referred to as “God’s plan”.
I’m just not holding my breath…