The fine folks over at BioLogos are trying to make the Bible believable to modern man. It’s the same project that Rudolf Bultmann and Harry Emerson Fosdick pursued generations ago.
But I must express my frustration at the glacial pace at which they are proceeding. So I’d like to offer them my assistance to jump-start the process..
First of all, we need to lay a firm foundation. Thankfully, the fine folks at BioLogos have already done that. For them, everything is negotiable except evolution. Evolution is the one nonnegotiable. So we can safely build on that granite foundation.
The next thing we need to do is edit the Bible to make it more believable. So what should we edit out of the Bible, and what should we put in its place?
Perhaps we ought to start by briefly listing some of the things that educated people find unbelievable about the Scriptures as currently constituted. That would include miracles, exorcisms, contradictions, the creation account, the fall, hell, holy war, blood atonement, sexism, &c.
Suppose we rewrite Gen 1 to tell the story of the Big Bang. And, of course, we have to present the Big Bang as a natural event. We can’t attribute the Big Bang to God because that would be a “science-stopper” or “cop-out.”
We’d also rewrite Gen 1, as well as Gen 2-3, to tell the story of naturalistic evolution. I say “naturalistic,” since it would be unscientific to cast the story in terms of theistic evolution. For that would invoke the forbidden specter of “Goddidit.” Theistic evolution violates methodological naturalism.
So, would that make Gen 1-3 more believable? Yes and no. For here we bump up against a conundrum. It would make it more credible from the viewpoint of readers who believe in the Big Bang and Darwinism.
But by the same token, it would be incredible to think that Bronze Age writers would could foresee developments in modern cosmology and evolutionary biology. If we classify the OT as Bronze Age literature, then it would be unrealistic, from the viewpoint of the OT writers, to have them anticipate modern scientific theories.
Indeed, it would take nothing short of divine inspiration for Bronze Age writers to anticipate modern science. Yet inspiration is one of those antiquated doctrines which modern man finds quite incredible.
So I’m a bit at a loss to know how to make Gen 1-3 more credible. But let’s bracket that for now and turn to other parts of the story.
Modern man also tells us that he can’t believe the Bible because the Bible is full of “contradictions” and historical “errors.” So perhaps we should edit the Bible to eliminate the “contradictions” and historical “errors.” Would that make it more credible?
But, once again, we’re up against a dilemma. After all, modern man expects an ancient anthology of uninspired writings to contain contradictions and historical errors. It would be quite unrealistic to imagine that fallible Bible writers could produce an inerrant book.
So if we edit out all of the “errors” and “contradictions,” would that make the Bible more believable, or less so?
Then there’s the question of what we do with OT history in general. Obviously we need to edit out blatantly incredible material like the plagues of Egypt. But there’s a deeper problem.
What do we do with all those prophets? These are men who claim that God spoken to them in visions, theophanies and angelophanies. Needless to say, modern man doesn’t find that credible. That would be oh-so supernatural. That would violate the closed system of natural laws.
Perhaps, then, we could replace Moses (and other prophets like Daniel and Isaiah) with a Carl Sagan or Paul Kurtz figure. Instead of the Exodus and the handing down of God’s law from Mt. Sinai, we could have a local, Bronze Age chapter of CSICOP.
Would that be more believable? But that brings us back to a recurring conundrum. It might be more believable from the viewpoint of our enlightened readers. But enlightened readers don’t think the Bronze Age was terribly enlightened. Wasn’t that a superstitious age? Didn’t they believe in signs and wonders, portents and prodigies? So they wouldn’t expect credulous, OT prophets to make visionary pronouncements like Paul Kurtz or Michael Shermer. Rather, we’d expect them to be ignorant and gullible, right?
What about holy war? Civilized people can’t believe that a good God would ever command the Israelites to execute the Canaanites. So should we rewrite those portions of the OT to make Moses and Joshua into Gandhi-like peaceniks and flower children?
Well, at one level, that would make it more believable to modern man. Believable in the sense that this dovetails with their own value system.
But would that make the Bible more believable? After all, modern man has a sense of moral superiority. He thinks that all those primitive savages living in the Bronze Age were backward and brutal. So there’s an obvious sense in which OT warfare is historically realistic. Too realistic.
What about “sexism”? The Bible is so sexist, patriarchal, and homophobic, you know. Full of “hate speech.”
Well, I suppose we could rectify that by replacing St. Paul with a 1C reincarnation of Gloria Steinem. So would that make the Bible more believable? Or would it make the Bible less believable?
After all, if you think the Bible was written by some barbarians, living in ancient Near East or Roman Empire, then would we really expect the Bible to contain a draft of the Green Party platform? I mean, weren’t Bible writers merely children of their times? Culturebound? They just didn’t know any better.
As for Jesus, we’d have to edit out the Virgin Birth and one end, and the Resurrection at the other end–as well as all of the healings, exorcisms, oracles, and nature miracles in-between. That’s just for starters. In its place, we could have Jesus preach inspirational homilies on the civic duties of recycling, or the looming dangers of global warming.
So would that make the Gospels more credible? Or would that be just a tad anachronistic?
At this point I have to confess that editing the Bible to make it more user-friendly to modern man presents a serious quandary. Try as I might, I just don’t know how to update the Bible without making it historically incredible. My apologies to BioLogos. I was just trying to lend them a helping hand. But now I’m at a loss. What’s the next step?