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If part of the Bible is wrong, none of it can be trusted (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (If part of the Bible is wrong, none of it can be trusted (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CH101.1:

If the Bible can't be trusted on scientific and historical matters, then it can't be trusted on matters of salvation and spirituality.

Source: Morris, Henry M., 2000. The vital importance of believing in recent creation. Back to Genesis 138 (June).


CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. The Bible was not intended to teach matters of science and history. Therefore, those areas should not be held to standards of literal accuracy.

To assert that the Bible was not intended to teach matters of history and science is a matter of pure unfounded opinion. It is also baseless, because much of this opinion is based on the false idea that the Bible is contradicted by science or history, both of which match up with it very nicely.

A large part of the Bible is written as history, so it is erroneous to say that the Bible is not at least in part intended to teach history. Over and over again where historians have said the Bible was wrong here or there, archaeologists again and again have embarrassed the false historians and shown its historicity. Atheists and agnostics setting out to disprove the historicity have become believers based on it. You would think that such a group would learn from experience.

By almost any measure, the Bible is the most reliable document from ancient history we have today.

Furthermore if the Bible is the Word of God then one would expect it to be accurate in matters of science and history. Besides, if we can not trust the Bible in science and history, which can be checked, how can we trust it in those areas where it can not be checked. Nevertheless, the accurate depiction of history has proven correct, and the science that relates to actual factual data and observations also has matched that in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

2. The general ideas in the Bible, such as salvation and God's majesty, do not rely on literalism for their communication. An error or contradiction in detail does not affect the overall message.

God's plan of salvation is based on the historical accuracy the Christ's birth, life, death, burial and resurrection. If these are not literal then neither is God's plan of salvation. Much of what we know of God's majesty is based on Creation and his other historical acts. Besides, if we can not trust the Bible in science and history, which can be checked, how can we trust it in those areas where it can not be checked.

Besides which the historical facts of the birth, life, death, burial and resurrection are among the most demonstrably documented events of ancient history.

3. The claim is a non sequitur. That something is wrong in one area doesn't prevent it from being perfectly accurate in another.

The statement was about trust. It is not saying that if the Bible is wrong in some areas it must be wrong in other areas. It is saying that if it is wrong (and therefore cannot be trusted) in some areas (which are verifiable), why should it be trusted in other areas (which are not verifiable).

4. Theologians through the ages have considered parts of the Bible suspect but accepted the rest as canon. In fact, it was exactly such a process by which canon was determined. Even Martin Luther considered some Old Testament passages suspect. [Armstrong 1996; Shea 1997; Engwer n.d.]

Most of the disagreement over New Testament books was early in Church History, there were a lot of writings floating around and being human it is natural that there would be disagreements. That said, throughout the first centuries up until the formalization of the canon, Christians generally knew which documents were reliable, and only formalized the canon because of attempts to discredit the respected manuscripts and introduce other confusing ideas into the mix. As one scholar has said, the canon is more a list of authoritative books rather than an authoritative list of books. There was in fact very little disagreement at the meeting on almost all of what we now know as the New Testament.

The so called Old Testament passages considered suspect by Martin Luther are known as the Apocrypha and these books are not consider part of the Bible even by the Jews. The Jewish Old Testament is identical to that accepted by Christians. The Apocrypha was added by Catholicism because some of those books give support to some of their claims. And even in some Catholic versions, that set of books is not given the same veneration as the original Old Testament.

The fact that some individuals or groups have expressed disagreement with or skepticism of some books does not change the legitimacy of the Bible as we have it. This is particularly the case since some groups have tried to add other writing to it. This issue is actually irrelevant to the main claim.

5. A logical consequence of this claim is that the Bible cannot, in fact, be trusted, because parts of it (not only Genesis) are known to be wrong if interpreted literally.

This is an erroneous claim, it is based on theories developed by scoffers trying to discredit the Bible. The alleged problems are based on assuming such thing as Evolution, failing to check facts, taking verses out of context, failing to see how parallel passages complement each other, and failing to consider that the Bible quotes people accurately even if what they say is wrong.

6. Creationists themselves sometimes make claims that contradict the Bible. For example, Henry Morris claimed, contrary to Gen. 7:21-23, that some land animals not aboard Noah's Ark survived. [Whitcomb and Morris 1961, 69]

This is a reference to the suggestion that insects survived the Flood outside the Ark. What Talk.Origins is not saying is that Gen. 7:22 puts the qualifier "in whose nostrils was the breath of life." Insects do not breath through nostrils but through their skin, so the claim does not contradict the Bible, but rather it is based on questioning whether or not insects meet the qualification of having in their nostrils the breath of life.

In any case, quoting examples of creationists contradicting the Bible, if that's really what they do, in no way invalidates the claim, which says that the Bible—not fallible human creationists—can be trusted.

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