The Five Fundamentals

Definition Perfect Example
Inerrancy Mislabeled
Authority Figures Emergent Church
Bible Contradictions Who Wrote the Gospels?
Are the Gospels Metaphorical? One Way
One Author, One Voice Incest
Miracles Bad Religion


Religious liberalism denies or affirms only in a weak, metaphorical sense central Christian doctrines like the incarnation and resurrection. A reaction arose, at first broadly based but progressively narrowing its definition. Five 'fundamentals' were proclaimed:

  • “The twentieth century began with a tumultuous conservative uproar over the infiltration of numerous denominations by liberalism. The severity of the situation demanded immediate action. Heretical teachings were captivating and corrupting entire churches, schools and related organizations within multiplied denominations. Therefore, a coalition of interdenominational brethren, following a number of conferences, united around the five 'fundamentals' of the faith. They were:
    1. The inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture
    2. The deity of Jesus Christ
    3. The virgin birth of Christ
    4. The substitutionary, atoning work of Christ on the cross
    5. The physical resurrection and the personal bodily return of Christ to the earth.
  • “The adherents to these five 'fundamental' truths were naturally labeled 'fundamentalists.' Those opposing them were called 'liberals.'
  • “The men joining together around these five points (commonly called 'the doctrine of Christ') were from varied and diversified religious backgrounds. Thus, this amalgamation of 'first generation fundamentalists' included Presbyterians, Baptists, Reformers, Reformed Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, Congregationalists, and Wesleyan Holiness brothers. The astounding thing about the members of this interdenominational movement was their love for one another.”
  • (Dr. Jack Van Impe, Heart Disease in Christ's Body, pp. 127-128).

From its foundation to the present 'fundamentalism,' like a snowball rolling downhill, has picked up doctrinal distinctives as well as political leanings, but the movement originally was not limited to dispensationalists: "Many of our founding fathers were a-millenialists!" (Dr. Jack Van Impe, Heart Disease in Christ's Body, p. 120).

Eugene Delacroix, Christ Asleep During the Tempest

What is perhaps most astonishing about this historical episode is that adherents of a religion felt the need to stand up and assert that they actually believe what the religion teaches. Wouldn't those who do not simply leave the fold? Oddly enough, not all do.

People who do not know just how debased 'liberal' religion can become need to learn:
"Theism is a a false notion, a human idol that must die, and when it does, God — seen as the sacred dimension in all of life — must replace it." (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture. p. 66).

Bishop Spong is willing to talk about 'god,' though evidently not 'theos,' (what a Greek speaker is supposed to say if he wants to talk about 'god' is left unstated); however what he is prepared to say about him/her/it is no more than any atheist would happily avow: "Another minority voice in the Bible defines God simply as the power of love. . .Love is the power that somehow expands our sense of freedom and thus enables us to enter life deeply by giving ourselves away." (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, p. 64). Isn't that nice. According to this Episcopal leader, the greater part of the Bible: the "terrible texts,"— need to be pared away and thrown on the fire. What is allowed to remain will not over-tax the printing presses; probably it could fit on a one-page hand-out:

What is left after the liberals reform religion according to their own lights? A very wan, nebulous remnant being, not a God of might and power, still called 'God' by courtesy and nostalgia, who can't do much and never says anything. As even some of the 'freethinkers' themselves realize, the 'God' of the liberals is very weak tea:

"Their God is not the vigorous and powerful being, the brutally positive God of theology. It is a nebulous, diaphanous, illusory being that vanishes into nothing at the first attempt to grasp it; it is a mirage, an ignis fatuus; that neither warms nor illuminates. And yet they hold fast to it, and believe that, were it to diappear, all would disappear with it. They are uncertain, sickly souls, who have lost their reckoning in the present civilization, belonging to neither the present nor the future, pale phantoms eternally suspended between heaven and earth. . ." (God and the State, Mikhail Bakunin, Kindle location 151).

The only God conserved by Bishop Spong's religion is as close to a non-entity as can be visualized, no more than a human state of mind called 'God' by category error. Why bother?

Perfect Example

"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:" (1 Peter 2:21-22).

If we follow Jesus Christ as our example, what will we believe and say about scripture? That it "cannot be broken:"

"...and the scripture cannot be broken..." (John 10:35).

This teaching on scripture, that it cannot be broken or dissolved, is part of the Lord's doctrine. Those who are relying on Him for salvation can certainly lean on it with confidence.

Christ's detractors are very well aware whom they are targeting when they deny that Moses authored the Pentateuch or that David penned the psalms attributed to him. It is not Moses and David they care about, but Him who quoted David's psalms and Moses' law:

"David did not write the Psalms. Scholars locate the writings of most of the Psalms during the period of Jewish history called the Babylonian Exile. . .Yet, once again in the gospels, the Davidic authorship of the Psalms is asserted by Jesus (see Mark 12:36-37 ; Matt. 22:43-45 and Luke 20:42-44). Such a claim made today on a final exam, even at the seminary where I was trained, would result in a failing grade. Jesus, or those who thought they were quoting Jesus, was simply wrong about that." (John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, p. 20).

Jesus thought that Moses wrote the Pentateuch and Jonah was swallowed in the belly of the whale. Is He Lord, or is He ignorant? The infidel accusation is that Moses did not write the books ascribed to his authorship:

  • “In the first place, there is no affirmative evidence that Moses is the author of those books; and that he is the author, is altogether an unfounded opinion, got abroad nobody knows how.”
  • (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part II, Chapter I).

Let's see, where on earth would people have gotten the impression that Moses wrote any books? May it be, they read:

"For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote (εγραψεν) about Me." (John 5:46).

"But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book (βιβλω μωσεως) of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?" (Mark 12:26).

Jesus is the living Word of God, and it cannot be supposed that, if He was under the impression that Moses wrote something, then it is very likely that Moses wrote nothing. Or that there was a flood in the days of Noah:

"There is hardly any portion of the Old Testament Scripture that the Son of God didn't set His seal on when He was here in the world. Some say, 'I don't believe in the story of the flood.' Christ connected His own return to this world with that flood. 'But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. . .' I believe the account of the flood just as much as I do the third chapter of John. . .The moment we give up any one of these things, we give up a piece of the deity of the Son of God." (The Overcoming Life, D. L. Moody, Kindle location 811).

In John Dominic Crossan's view, not only was Jesus wrong about the past, He is very likely also wrong about the future: "Paul was wrong, just as every other hope, expectation, proclamation, or prophecy of imminent apocalyptic consummation has been consistently wrong throughout all of human history. . .Whatever Jesus and Paul said about the length of that process was flatly wrong, and anything they said about the details of its conclusion may also be flatly wrong." (John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, In Search of Paul, Kindle location 3260). If you believe that Jesus was wrong about the conclusion of human history, then why follow Him? And if, as it may be, He is right about the conclusion, they why assume He was wrong about matters of prior human history, such as the authorship of the Old Testament books?

Like most of the participants in the contemporary 'Jesus' publishing industry, John Dominic Crossan is an enthusiast for his own, newly-minted 'Jesus.' But, as with the others, his 'Jesus' has been eviscerated down to a mere sliver of the original, reduced to no more than a symbol of anti-imperialism: "I do not accept the divine conception of either Jesus or Augustus as factual history, but I believe that God is incarnate in the Jewish peasant poverty of Jesus and not in the Roman imperial power of Augustus." (John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, p. 29). And in case you were wondering, America is the Rome of the present day. Alas, 'poverty' isn't much of a god, as gods go.


The only aspect of the five points as stated by this author which is not directly taught by scripture is 'inerrancy,' which is not a Bible word. The Bible says that God's words are "pure:"

"The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." (Psalm 12:6).
"Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him." (Proverbs 30:5).

'Pure' means "Free from all heterogeneous or extraneous matter, especially from anything that impairs or pollutes. . ." (Webster's International). It is a reasonable inference from the Bible's stated 'purity' that it teaches no error, because the function of scripture is to teach sinners the truth:

"Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. . .Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies." (Psalm 25:5-10).

Any doctrinal error, such as the polytheism liberal Bible commentators impose upon the Psalms, is 'heterogeneous matter' 'impair[ing]' scripture's ability to achieve its stated goal:

"The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7).

The intended goal of scripture is to provide adequate grounds for belief:

"And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." (John 20:30-31).

Certainly what God set out to do He has accomplished: "God is an author in whose works you will find no myth or fiction, but truth's inexorable rules all observed as though graven on stone." (Philo Judaeus, The Worse Attacks the Better, Chapter XXXIII, Loeb edition p. 285). Through the nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church itself held that scripture is without error:

"But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which He had in mind in saying it — this system cannot be tolerated. For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true." (Pope Leo XIII, November 18, 1893, Encyclical Providentissimus Deus – On the Study of Holy Scripture.)

They should have stuck to their original position because it is better than the confusion where they have now arrived.


Pure Words Sufficient
Blind Eyes The Logos
Unbroken Doctrine of the Trinity
To What Purpose? Tradition


The secular media today has untethered the tag 'fundamentalist' from the Five Fundamentals, describing Muslim radicals, for instance, as 'fundamentalists.' In their mind there is no real difference between Christians and the nineteen highjackers who flew aircraft into the twin towers: "The dominant spiritual trend of our time is militant fundamentalism. Suicide bombers die as martyrs in Palestine and Iraq. In this country, fundamentalists fight to change textbooks and ban books." (Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, p. 8). While both these movements seek to make a course change in a modern religion which may have drifted in its moorings in ancient texts, it should go without saying that the content of these ancient texts has something to say about the resulting end product. The only one of the five points Muslims accept is '3. The virgin birth of Christ.' They believe the Bible as Christians hold it in their hands to be corrupt and unreliable, and not only do they deny the deity of Jesus Christ, they consider all who confess it to be idolaters. As they do not believe Jesus really died upon a cross, neither do they understand He really rose; nor do they believe His shed blood heals and cleanses sinners. Plenty of liberals concur with one of the five points! In lending the term 'fundamentalist' to those who deny four points out of five, the media have blurred the term's meaning to something closer to 'purist' versus 'compromiser.' Many carelessly call groups likes the Jehovah's Witnesses 'fundamentalists' because they quote the Bible, though the Jehovah's Witnesses share in the liberals' denial of the deity of Jesus Christ!

It is normal for Christian doctrine to erode once a church has committed itself to liberalism and untethered itself from the constraint of scripture. Sometimes the first generation will not even notice a shift, because the force of habit is so strong, inertia is so compelling, and prior generations impelled a momentum toward a certain belief, such as the Trinity:

  • “As a Christian, I’m a follower of Jesus.

  • "Jesus was a Jew. (Please tell me no one is surprised to hear that.)

  • "As a Jew, Jesus was a strong monotheist.

  • (Mark Sandlin, 'No Trinity for Me, Please,' blog article August 20, 2014, 'This Collar is Too Tight' blog.)

But once they give up believing in the authority of scripture, it all comes apart. Notice that this author evidently perceives a conflict between monotheism and belief in the Trinity. He does not offer his own viewpoint, but he does perceive that these are "different entities:" "There are a few places where the Spirit and God are mentioned somewhat closely together but they are few and far between – and even then, the text is far from clear if it is talking about a Trinity. If anything, it seems to be talking about three distinctly different entities." (Blog article, Mark Sandlin, 'No Trinity for Me, Please.') Since presumably he is a not a tritheist,— he wishes after all to criticize the Trinity from the standpoint of monotheism,— this author most likely disbelieves in the deity of Jesus Christ. But the deity of Jesus Christ is every bit as solidly Biblical as it monotheism itself. The Unitarians, when this was brought to their attention, moved away from Christianity. Presumably these liberals, camped out in the ruins of once 'mainline' churches, will ultimately do the same.


Authority Figures

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest denomination which has, in recent years, adopted the liberals' way of reading the Bible, against the authority of those they once claimed to follow:

"Hence Augustine says (Epist. ad Hieron.): 'Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learnt to hold in such honour as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem anything in their works to be true merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning.'" (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part Question 1, Article 8).
"I answer that, The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves....Hence it is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part Question 1, Article 10).

It remains to be seen how far they will follow this siren song which has desolated the mainline Protestant churches, who have abandoned following its promptings even the most basic of Christian affirmations. Christians believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead:

"The tenant of the grave becomes its conqueror, and, laying by its cerements as night-clothes left in bed, he walks forth on the dewy grass at the break of day; the prisoner has bound his jailer and carried off the keys." (Thomas Guthrie, The Gospel in Ezekiel, Kindle location 1634).

Or do they? There are liberal Protestants who believe no such thing, although this is what the Bible teaches on this point. Having discarded the source and guarantee of these historic beliefs, will the Catholics continue to uphold them, merely on grounds that people who used to believe the Bible used to believe them? Will they affirm that these people, not the Bible, are authoritative, those who came after having somehow happily fallen under some divine influence that clean missed the Bible authors?:

William Holman Hunt, Risen Lord appearing to Mary Magdalene

Spirit Person The First and the Last
Elijah Dispose of the Body
Raise the Temple The Old Testament
Almost Persuaded Intermediate State
The Competition

Though some find it incomprehensible, nevertheless it happened:

"The proposition: a dead man has returned to life, is composed of two such contradictory elements, that whenever it is attempted to maintain the one, the other threatens to disappear. If he has really returned to life, it is natural to conclude that he was not wholly dead; if he was really dead, it is difficult to believe that he has really become living.

"When we form a correct opinion of the relation between soul and body, not abstractly separating the two, but conceiving them at once in their identity, the soul as the interior of the body, the body as the exterior of the soul, we know not how to imagine, to say nothing of comprehending, the revivification of a dead person. . .thus the soul, although remanded into the body, must suffer it to decay, from inability to exercise any influence over it; or there must be added to the miracle of its reconveyance into the body, the second miracle of a restoration of the lifeless bodily organs: an immediate interposition of God in the regular course of nature, irreconcileable with enlightened ideas of the relation of God to the world.

"Hence the cultivated intellect of the present day has very decidedly stated the following dilemma : either Jesus was not really dead, or he did not really rise again."
(Strauss, David Friedrich; Eliot, George. The life of Jesus critically examined (Kindle Locations 21418-21446).)

These critics, the reader should realize, accomplish their discoveries by proclaiming in advance that occurrences beyond the familiar course of nature are impossible, and that therefore any accounts of such events must be rejected as baseless legends. Do not be flim-flammed by their propensity to argue in a circle: if denial of the supernatural is the starting point of their investigations, and it is, and if they deny the historicity of the resurrection on grounds that this is a supernatural occurrence, and they do, then we cannot accept as new information that, 'scholars have concluded the resurrection never happened,' because they only assumed at the start that such a thing as resurrection cannot happen. You cannot adopt your conclusion as a premise and then, after introducing suitable intermediate steps, pronounce it to be proven.


Emergent Church

The emergent church has a fondness for allusive speech lacking in precision. But as this popular new movement defines itself, it is starting to look more and more like old-fashioned liberalism. Hell-fire has never been popular with the world, so those who want to be loved by the world must discard it, but in favor of what? Of vague generalities. It was Jesus who preached Hell, and believers should take notice:

"Look your danger in the face. Anticipate the day when you shall behold a God in judgment and a world in flames; and now flee to Jesus from the wrath to come. To come! In a sense wrath has already come. The fire has caught, it has seized your garments; you are in flames. Oh! Away then, and cast yourselves into that fountain which has power to quench these fires, and cleanse you from all your sins." (Thomas Guthrie, The Gospel in Ezekiel, Kindle location 919).

When someone raised in a liberal church and educated at a liberal seminary embraces fundamentalism, no one takes notice, and this happens all the time. When someone from an evangelical background, like Rob Bell, embraces liberalism, then the NPR crowd picks him up and shouts his name from the hill-tops. The amount of free publicity an author can get for making the transition in this direction is astounding. You would think he was another Galileo, 'brave' enough to defy the church, even though the legion making the trek out of liberalism into fundamentalism receive no more and no less disapproval and social pressure from their former associates. But if American Christians did not embrace universalism when Hosea Ballou was flogging it, they are unlikely to do so when someone substantially less gifted at Biblical argumentation picks it up. It's not like it's what the Bible teaches:

Lake of Fire Worm Dieth Not
Lazarus I'm Not Going
The Face of God Dark Fire
Wheat and Chaff Vengeance is Mine
Wheat and Tares Old Testament
God's Will Gandhi in Hell
Hell in the Koran Infinite Loss
Do Unto Others Atheists in Hell

Liberals yawn when the topic of hell comes up: "I want to share only what I can in honest conviction state that I believe. I do not want simply to parrot the traditions and pretend that they still have power for me if they do not. . .In this process I believe that I must not hesitate boldly to set aside words and images that no longer have meaningful content for me or my day. Most of the landuage that purports to speak of life after death for me falls in this category. Hell, for example, carries no content whatever for our generation." (John Shelby Spong, The Easter Moment, Kindle location 2686). Hell yawns to receive them.

Bible Contradictions

Some people claim that the 'contradictions' in the Bible prove that God cannot have inspired its authors:

  • “...if the findings of historical criticism are right, then some kinds of theological claims are certainly to be judged as inadequate and wrong-headed. It would be impossible, I should think, to argue that the Bible is a unified whole, inerrant in all its parts, inspired by God in every way. It can't be that. There are too many divergences, discrepancies, contradictions...God did not write the Bible, people did...But they were not inspired in the sense that God somehow guided them to write what they wrote.”
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'Jesus, Interrupted,' p. 279).

This is not so much a discovery made by reading the text. The text does contain narratives whose authors have made a different selection of incident, as does the daily newspaper, but this is not what we commonly mean by contradictions. That there must be contradictions in the Bible is fundamental to the mind-set of some folks; here is how sociologists conceptualize the phenomenon of religious conversion:

"What is necessary, then, is a radical reinterpretation of the meaning of these past events or persons in one's biography. Since it is relatively easier to invent things that never happened than to forget those that actually did, the individual may fabricate and insert events wherever they are needed to harmonize the rememberd with the reinterpreted past. .  . .This point, incidentally, is very important if one wishes to understand adequately the motives behind the historically recurrent falsifications and forgeries of religious documents." (The Social Construction of Reality, Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, pp. 159-160).

Is it possible a religious conversion might leave the person experiencing it with deeper insight into his past, rather than with a need to forge and fabricate? No, of course not; religion is a fairy tale. These people are not starting from an unbiased position. Ergo, Bible contradictions.

Has the kind of Bible scholarship done at publicly funded institutions like the University of North Carolina indeed proven that the Bible is not inspired? Or does the fact, plainly and accurately stated above, that either the Bible is wrong or these people are wrong, prove, with sufficient clarity to satisfy any thinking person, that they are wrong?:

An example of a 'Bible contradiction' is the query: how many cock crows?:

“And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.”
(Mark 14:30).

“Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.”
(Matthew 26:34).

At first glance, the Christian reader might classify this doublet with other 'two-for-one' 'Bible contradictions,' a suspect class. If I come home and say, 'I went over to the mall and ran into Susy and Joan,' and then later tell someone, 'You'll never guess who I ran into today,— Susy!' have I contradicted myself? Not really: to produce a contradiction, the listener must add an unstated condition: 'I ran into Susy [and did not run into Joan].' It may be that the second interlocutor knows Susy but does not know Joan; this is more an instance of 'editor's choice' than a contradiction. But something different is going on here, as the reader realizes who discovers that the Romans, alone amongst mankind so far as I know, counted dawn, not as 'cock-crow,' but as 'second cock-crow.' The plot thickens:

Bible criticism presents a difficult history: religious fanatics, Unitarians and others, and nut-cases of one sort or another have advanced theories no one today can take seriously. Yet Bart Ehrman smooths this rough and disreputable history into a triumphal tale of a scholarly field advancing from victory unto victory. In his imaginative historical reconstruction, it is not Reimarus and his ilk who are irrational, though they certainly are that, rather it is the Bible which cannot be seriously defended. Thus, in addition to 'Bible contradictions,' they offer a set of Bible difficulties, such as, who was Cain's wife?:

Who Wrote the Gospels?

The earliest evidence is that the gospel authors were men within the apostolic circle:

  • Irenaeus
  • Tertullian
  • Eusebius
  • Jerome
  • Internal Evidence
  • Forgery

Thus report those who lived in the early church era. But modern secular Bible scholarship discards those reports; why? Based on scintillating reasoning like this:

"We have another trait belonging to the mysterious in the narratives of the cure of the deaf man, where Mark says, And looking up to heaven he sighed (vii. 34). What cause was there for sighing at that particular moment? Was it the misery of the human race, which must have been long known to Jesus from many melancholy examples? Or shall we evade the difficulty by explaining the expression as implying nothing further than silent prayer or audible speech? Whoever knows Mark will rather recognize the exaggerating narrator in the circumstance that he ascribes to Jesus a deep emotion, on an occasion which could not indeed have excited it, but which, being accompanied by it, had a more mysterious appearance." (David Friedrich Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, p. 448).

Presumably this healing was just another day at the office for Jesus, so He cannot have sighed. What is the "difficulty" we seek to "evade"? Is Jesus allowed to sigh, ever? Other people get away with it, with ample justification or without it. If not at this moment, then when? One must marvel at the gullibility of generations of university students, given the relentless illogic of this material.



Some people say that the gospels were not intended as factual report but as metaphor. Indeed, they say, the ancients lacked any mental category that could distinguish between fact and invention. No such mental equipment was made available and placed on the market until the Enlightenment, or so they say. Is this the case, or did the ancient legal system make your life forfeit if you could not distinguish between fact and invention?:

Marcus Borg of the 'Jesus Seminar' is one of those promoting a metaphorical understanding of the Bible, versus "literalism:'

"When the gospels are read through the lens of biblical literalism, whether in harder or softer form, the literal factuality of their language is either taken for granted or emphasized. The gospel stories of Jesus's miraculous birth and his spectacular deeds are understood as reporting events that really happened." (Marcus J. Borg, 'Jesus,' p. 18).

The alternative, of course, is to understand that these events did not happen, but are profoundly meaningful nonetheless.

One Way

Jesus said that He is the only way:

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6).

Looked at from the divine perspective, there is nothing 'difficult' about this saying; why would God be obliged to honor all those self-improvement programs, salvation plans, therapies and religions invented by human ingenuity? These are, and have ever been, legion. The modern perspective sees all religions as of human creation; this was Ludwig Feuerbach's 'insight' that was so fundamental to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. But if all religions are of human creation, then all are equally futile. But if God really did become incarnate at a certain place and time: in Bethlehem in the days of King Herod, then it is in the nature of things that not all people are situated equidistant from the point from whence the ripples spread out, so as to hear the good news all at once. Why God is thereby debarred from acting in human history is not apparent.


One Author, One Voice

The author of a recent opinion piece in the Huffington Post explains why it is a "misconception," which must be laid aside, to think that the Bible is of single authorship:

"The Hebrew Bible is not a book. It was not produced by a single author in one time and place. It is a small library of books composed and edited over nearly a millennium by people responding to a wide range of issues and historical circumstances. Because it is not a book (the name "Bible" derives from the plural Greek form ta biblia, meaning "the books") it does not have a uniform style or message.

"From narrative texts to legal texts, from cultic instruction to erotic love poetry, this library contains works of diverse genres each of which sounds its own distinctive note in the symphony of reflection that we call the Bible. As is true of any collection of books by different authors in different centuries, the books in this collection contradict one another. . .Deuteronomy harps on God's retributive justice, but Job arrives at the bittersweet conclusion that despite the lack of divine justice (in this world or any other), we are not excused from the thankless and perhaps ultimately meaningless task of moral living. . .Just as an attempt to impose harmony and consistency on the short stories collected in the Norton Anthology of English Literature would do great violence to those stories, any attempt to impose harmony and consistency on the diverse books collected in the Bible -- to extract a single message or truth -- does great violence to those books." (Christine Hayes, Huffington Post, 5 Common Misconceptions About the Bible, Posted: 11/26/2012)

Who do we know that fell prey to this 'misconception?' Peter, who said "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21). The Holy Ghost is one, not multiple. Since this work is all of one single authorship, then reading it so as to harmonize is the most natural response in the world.


As an example of how it's done, consider the New York Times piece explaining that, originally, the holiness code in Leviticus did not prohibit homosexuality as it now does, but only homosexual incest: unions between a man and his father, brother, uncle, etc. A later editor changed the prohibition, but we can rest content because that's not the original reading:

"Now, apply this principle to Leviticus 18: A law declaring that homosexual incest is prohibited could reasonably be taken to indicate that non-incestuous homosexual intercourse is permitted. . .It seems that with the later introduction in Leviticus of a law banning all male homosexual intercourse, it became expedient to bring the earlier material up-to-date by doing away with two now-superfluous injunctions against homosexual incest — injunctions that made sense when sex between men was otherwise allowed." (The Secret History of Leviticus, by Idan Dershowitz, July 21, 2018, New York Times).

Thus we learn that, before there was a ban in place against homosexual conduct in general, homosexual incest was forbidden. Why, one wonders? Homosexual intercourse never, in nature, results in offspring. Reticence to engage in incest seems to be inborn to an extent, but some societies have managed to tame the gag-reflex: Egypt and Persian permitted brother-sister unions. One can well imagine, even operating from an Enlightenment assumption that no law ever came down from on high, that observant Egyptians and Persians must have noticed the likelihood of birth defects is higher in these unions. Thus popular pressure against heterosexual incest is understandable. Against homosexual incest, with no underlying understanding that homosexuality is wrong, not so much.

Utilitarian moral thinking is denied to man Biblically because man does not know the future; God, who does know the future, is not so limited. But God's legislation in the matter plainly goes beyond concern for the accumulation of genetic errors in small breeding populations. A man is not to have sex with his daughter-in-law, a prohibition the unlettered Arabian prophet, Mohammed ibn Abdallah, ran afoul of. He does not share a genetic lineage with her and so the risk of birth defects is not the sole concern. But one must suspect it is a concern.

Besides, it is not hard to see the rationale behind the expansions if we follow the Bible's own logic. One principle that throws our New York Times author for a loop is the Bible idea of 'one flesh.' Taking the concept literally, when a man has sexual intercourse with a prostitute, he has sex, not only with her, but with her entire sexual history: male, female, and other. It is enough to make the client run to Family Dollar and buy a bottle of bleach! According to Paul, “Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For 'the two,' He says, 'shall become one flesh.'” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16). This concept mystifies our New York Times author, as does so much else in the Bible, but it comes from taking very literally and very seriously the Bible theme of 'one flesh.'


Is it a given that miracles are irrational and impossible, as is a background assumption of modern secular Bible study? Or, if there is a will behind law, is it not an obvious possibility?

An Example Immutable God
Cautionary Note The Enlightenment
Benedict de Spinoza Pinball Machine
David Hume Natural Explanations

What the Bible 'critics' do is to go through the scriptures with a red pencil, striking out anything supernatural, as this conflicts with their expectations. Thus, the miraculous draught of fishes must end on the cutting-room floor:

"Now that Jesus should be able, by the immediate action of his will, to influence men, in the nature of whose minds his spiritual energy might find a fulcrum, may to a certain extent be conceived, without any wide deviation from psychological laws; but that he could thus influence irrational beings, and those not isolated animals immediately present to him, but shoals of fish in the depths of the sea, it is impossible to imagine out of the domain of magic." (David Friedrich Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, Part II, Chapter V, §71, p. 316).

This anti-supernaturalistic world-view will never be disconfirmed by any evidence, because just the moment any disconfirming evidence surfaces, it will be denied: It never happened! A theory which can never be disconfirmed might seem superior to one which can be. . .but suppose it were wrong? How would you ever know?


Bad Religion

The productions of the contemporary 'Jesus' publishing industry are often tendentiously and erroneously classified as 'scholarship' or 'history.' A much more accurate classification is 'bad religion.' These authors quite frankly and openly admit that they prefer to follow the 'Jesus' they have invented for themselves over the real one of the gospels:

  • “No longer chained to the assumption that the stories I read were literally true, I became aware of a more meaningful truth in the text, a truth intentionally detached from the exigencies of history. . .Indeed, the Jewish peasant and revolutionary who challenged the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever known and lost became so much more real to me than the detached, unearthly being I had been introduced to in church.
  • “Today, I can confidently say that two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ.”
  • (Reza Aslan, Zealot, p. 11).

These people want to follow Jesus, but they must reinvent Him in order to do so. Another reductive author hostile to Christianity, popular with the 'Jesus Seminar,' was Burton Mack. Reading these two authors, Reza Aslan and Burton Mack, together, will be very instructive, because they perfectly negate each other. Reza Aslan gives us Jesus the Failed Revolutionary, while Burton Mack gives us Jesus the Cynic Sage:


Sequence Protestant Miracles
Not God Foolish Obsession
Truth in Advertising Layers
Perjury The Least of These
Cynicism John the Baptist
Noble Warrior It's All Good
Gross Out The Nations