how do the fundamentalists interpret the bible? Peter Enns recently attended a talk by some fundamentalist luminaries and came away with the following definition of biblical innerrancy: “The Bible is true in all that it affirms or teaches according to the author’s intended meaning.”
But if the Bible is “true in all that if affirms,” then why are we not living on a flat earth? Why did the world not come to an end within a generation after Jesus? If the Bible is true in all that it teaches, then why do so many Christians live like Dives rather than Lazarus? Why do so many Christian men not follow Paul’s advice that “it is good for a man not to touch a woman?”
There’s no single method for resolving these problems. Sometimes fundamentalists deny the evidence of the world around them, as with creationism. Sometimes they deny that the author says what they appear to say, as with the flat earth. Sometimes they argue that the Bible does not really “affirm or teach” something that the Biblical authors clearly believed to be true, such as the morality of slavery.
Regardless, the result is that fundamentalists do not practice what they preach. They are inconsistent in their approach to the Bible. So, in actual practice, atheists do not read the Bible in the same way as fundamentalists. And of course both side are distinct from the liberal Christians, who start with a faith-based preconception that God is loving and let that alter their interpretations.
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