Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Mind of the Bible Believer

The following article on the psychology of biblicism is by Robert M. Price. I (Michael) have added some personal observations bracketed in blue. These are not the opinions of Mr. Price.
The Psychology of Biblicism
by Robert M. Price


For many years I have studied the theology underlying biblicism, the fundamentalist belief in the absolute authority of the Bible in every aspect of life, only to conclude that it is not theological in nature at all, but rather entirely psychological. That is, biblicism is not, as its adherents claim and think, an implication of a set of beliefs about the Bible but rather the outgrowth of a particular frame of mind. I am not impatient with theological claims; I just do not think they are the real source or motivation of biblicism, and this becomes evident once we discover certain inconsistencies in biblicism which make nonsense of its theological claims, but are quite consistent with the psychological function of biblicism. If it were a matter of theology, surely biblicists would notice the problems. But since biblicism does the job biblicists want it to do, they simply never notice the problems.

Biblicism, again, is the term for that stance toward the Bible whereby a believer intends to obey whatever the text tells him to do, and to believe whatever the text asserts. If occasionally the commands of the Bible seem just too outrageous (for example, to give away all one’s possessions), biblicists may rationalize them away, but even this does not mean they are not taking them seriously; a non-biblicist would say he rejects the command of the Bible and leave it at that. There are more liberal Christian theologies which do not entail biblicism, managing, as Reinhold Niebuhr said, to take the text seriously even if not literally.

[This is my approach and it puzzles the hell out of my biblicist friends and acquaintances. They are conditioned to divide the world up into those who are for the Bible and those who are against the Bible. Emotionally, they are incapable of holding any kind of tension, whether theologically, morally or politically. They see the world like immature children, as black and white: boys are good, girls are bad, my dad is stronger, my mom is prettier, etc. Most biblicists are emotionally frozen in childhood or adolescence, and sadly, their biblicism gives them divine justification for never growing up emotionally.

They don't know what to do with those of us who take the Bible very seriously but don't see it as God's absolute and final thoughts inscribed on a page. Their emotional security is so wrapped up in having a non-ambiguous text right from the mouth of God that they can't afford to allow the Bible to be a great and inspired book. They can't afford to view the Bible as a means to spiritual maturity rather than a how to manual for children. They do not want to move out of the spiritual nursery and to find truth. Psychologically, they can allow the Bible to be God's only perfect word or a book of without errors. It causes them panic and confusion to even consider for one moment that the various works collected in the Bible are works written by men and women just like me and you, each in his or her process of spiritual awareness. They are incapable yet of seeing that the Bible contains some truth and some error, and that meeting God in the struggle is the purpose of biblical study.]

So what is it that attracts many people to biblicism?

Faith as Skepticism

First I think we may identify the fundamentalist’s, the biblicist’s, desperate felt need for “a sure word from God.” Why do we need God to break the silence of the ages with a revealed word, an inspired book of infallible information? Perhaps paradoxically, this need stems from a kind of [unconscious] skepticism, a lack of confidence in the ability of the human mind to discover necessary truth by reason alone. This is a very different stance from that of the old Deists who believed in a divine Creator but who did not believe in the inspiration of the Bible. Not only did the Bible appear to them a poor candidate for an inspired book, but they believed the Creator had written the only revelation book human beings needed in the world itself, nature, not scripture. And he had given us reason as the only spectacles needful to read and understand it.

The biblicist, however, is flustered by over-choice, the condition of being faced with too many options, each with plausible arguments and spokespersons. How is he to decide between them? Suddenly, a religious claim that God has tossed confused humanity a life-preserver called the Bible sounds pretty good. The problem, of course, is that there are just as many competing revelation claims [from other religions] vying for our faith, and one is left without a clue as to deciding between them!

But whence the urgency of arriving at true and sure beliefs about all ethical and theological questions? Why not emulate the ancient Skeptics? Like fundamentalist Fideists today, the Skeptics viewed the conflict of dogmas from the sidelines and despaired of joining any particular team with confidence. But their conclusion was that such answers, such knowledge, must not be either available or necessary, and that one can live perfectly well in this life on the basis of common sense and mere probabilities. Why does our biblicist not adopt the same attitude?
I think it is because he holds an unexamined assumption, perhaps a vestige of childhood catechism, a picture of God as some sort of punitive theology professor who stands ready to flunk you if you write the wrong answers on your theology exam.

[It may also be partly due to our modern educational system which indoctrinates children into seeing a particular text with the right answers to be written on tests; being "true to the text" the basis of thirteen years of training. Passing the text-based tests determines his graduation or humiliation of being held back.]

You die and appear at the Pearly Gates, and God hands you the blue book. You do your best on the Theology and Metaphysics final exam, but if you make enough mistakes, the floor is going to open beneath your feet, as it did beneath old Korah’s, and you are going to slide down the shaft to Hell. This is a God who does not excuse honest mistakes. Again, I can understand this obnoxious God-concept only as a matter of psychology, not as the implication of any orthodox theology. What element of theology implies that God should be unfair, even peevish? To think him so is to project a childish fear of retribution which can only stifle intellectual growth. Surely it is a legacy of retrograde education, whether religious or secular.


A prime example of this fearful skepticism that needs God’s word to settle issues too important for mere human minds to decide would be abortion. It is a difficult matter precisely because of the ambiguities of the issue. Strong cases may be made on various sides of the issue. That fact alone inclines many of us toward a pro-choice position. But some fundamentalists feel the stakes are high enough that those on the wrong side of the issue, especially abortion doctors, may be justifiably murdered. How can they be so sure they are right? Because God has told them so in the Bible. And this despite the fact that the question of abortion never even comes up in the Bible. The need for the Bible to adjudicate the subject produces the optical illusion that it does.

[In other words, rather than wrestle with God as Jacob did, the fundamentalist wants a quick and easy solution to all of life's hard problems. True spiritual growth which produces depth of character and solid convictions is replaced by lazy religious authoritarianism. I personally view abortion as more immoral than moral, but not because the Bible says so. Honestly, I could just as easily defend abortion from the Bible. My position is from struggling with the issue, researching, examining my conscience, personal experiences and coming before my God with an open mind which has earned my conviction. Biblical study played a small role in my decision, but I do not hold it because I think God wants me to as He speaks through the Bible.]


The need for a sure word from God may simply stem from the kind of intellectual laziness posited by Ludwig Feuerbach. We feel we need to know certain things but are too lazy or impatient to try to figure them out, and the belief in a divine revelation is all too convenient. Convenient both for the lazy one who wants to be spoon-fed, and for the authorities who view themselves as far more capable of finding truth than the laity. But in any case, whether it is a matter of fear or of laziness, I think we may chalk up the desire for “a sure word from God” to a low tolerance for ambiguity.

[This is graphically apparent in the modern resurgence and renaissance of Islamic fundamentalism across the world. The encroachment of modern, western ideas, moral confusion and terrifying technologies is more easily dealt with by declaring that "The Book of God" has all of the answers. Lazy, childish and fear-filled people prefer this approach rather than practicing the rigorous endeavors of thinking, prayer, fasting, reason and discussion with others.
I think the biblicist uses his pat answer book in order to avoid prayer, meditation and deep connection to the Higher Source in us all. Who needs to get on his knees and pray, introspect and reflect when he assumes that God has given him a simple moral recipe book to be followed? There is no deeply earned conviction, just mindless repetition of heartless laws and formulaic morality. Jesus lauded the Prodigal son and other sinners for discovering through failure and moral degradation that they didn't want a life of adultery, alcoholism, gossip, gluttony and the like. William Blake said, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." If Blake had been a biblicist, he might have said, "The road of legal obedience leads to the palace of lazy certainties."]
This is clearly seen in the advice given to pastors and students for studying the Bible. Suppose one is reading the text, seeking divine guidance for one’s own life or scriptural grounding for one’s beliefs (predestination or free will? Pre- or Post-Tribulation Rapture?). One will shortly discover ambiguity, individual passages that seem to point in one direction or another, or where things are just not so clear. One must then make one’s best exegetical judgment call, and then go forward confident that one has achieved the truth. The biblicist awards himself a license for dogmatism, heedless of the necessary tentativeness of one’s results. One intends to be dogmatic about whatever conclusions one will wind up embracing. It is just a question of which dogma one will promote.

FEAR OF AMBIGUITY: Limit the Options to Calm the Mind

A fear of ambiguity is the chief reason any definitive biblical canon was ever stipulated in the first place: to limit the options for textual divination. God’s word and will must be sought only within certain limits. Similarly, this is why the Roman Catholic authorities sought to limit access to the Bible to properly catechized priests who could be trusted to read the text through the spectacles of church tradition. Protestants believed all Christians should be welcomed to read the Bible, over-optimistic that the central gospel truth would be clear to all readers. It wasn’t immediately clear at all, and Protestant groups had to frame their own creeds to regulate how the Bible might be read and understood. The trend continues today as various Evangelical seminaries and denominations draft statements of how the Bible may and may not legitimately be interpreted. The goal is to get everyone to agree with the traditional interpretation of the sponsoring group. “Heresy,” after all, simply means “choice,” the idea being that it is effrontery to choose one’s own beliefs rather than submit meekly to spoon-feeding.

[The ancient Rabbinic scholars called it 'placing a law around the Law.' In an effort to reduce ambiguity, worry, fear and discomfort in people, the Jewish teachers set up an assumed set of pre-conditions for interpreting the text. These assumptions became so much a part of the system, that soon the students were hardly aware that these assumptions were psychological rather than theological. These conditions made reading and interpreting the text easier. That is what all doctrinal statements are - psychological guard rails to keep the mind from tumbling down the metaphysical stairs into a terrifyingly dark cellar of theological abstractions. This is what Soren Kierkegaard attacked, declaring that the religious mind which seeks to domesticate God will never be sufficiently terrified and humbled to experience Him directly. The Evangelical movement is filled with many sincere God-seekers who are incapable of having an experience with the Infinite Source because their systems have made Him a concept rather than a Living Presence. Most humans, like the Hebrews at the foot of Mount Sinai, prefer to have another tell them what God is like, or read from written tablets, rather than stand before the quaking, rumbling Voice itself:

"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." Exodus 20:18-19

That is the same reason most people go to the zoo to see the caged lion rather than travel to the African Veldt where they might get devoured. Rather than making the student struggle with hard metaphysical issues, Evangelicals are told they must believe in the Trinity, the established canon, original sin, penal substitutionary atonement, eternal conscious punishment for unbelievers, etc. With these commandments, or 'law around the Law,' they have enough metaphysical certainty and mental security to study their Bibles without having to meet God in His terrifying and exciting ambiguity.

This terror of ambiguity gradually gave rise to certain biblical sayings meant to make people think that any teacher or teaching other than that of the right teacher or group of teachers was to be shunned:

1. "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Colossians 2:8

2. "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm." I Timothy 1:3-7

3. "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.' Revelation 22:18-19

4. "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church." III John 9-10
5. "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe." Jude 1:4-5

[These textual warnings are common in all cults which attempt to alleviate the confusions their adherents are doubtless going through as they process their elitist teachings in a world with many confusing ideas about morality, God and such problematic issues. This is doubly troubling when one's internal personal moral desires and mental doubts are raging against the teachings which they are receiving from the true believers.]

What a Tangled Web We Weave When We Practice to Believe

I mentioned above that there are liberal theologies of biblical authority that do not entail biblicism. Such theologies often accommodate the possibility that the Bible writers may have contradicted each other. A more liberal theologian might observe that Paul and James disagree over whether faith is sufficient to save one’s soul, or whether faith must be realized through works. Such a theologian would consider neither Paul nor James mouthpieces of revelation, yet both as possible sources of religious wisdom. The theologian’s task would be not to submit to either Paul’s or James’ teaching, but to draw upon both in the process of forming his own (tentative) beliefs [as he wrestles with God for his personal blessing].

The fundamentalist theologian, by contrast, dismisses the liberal’s form of faith as mere [subjective] speculation, worthless in the face of the ultimate question of salvation. With one’s eternal destiny at stake, one must know. And thus one needs revelation, not mere [subjective] speculations, whether ancient (James’ and Paul’s) or modern (one’s own). Since he wants revelation, that is what he is determined to find in the ancient text.

[To admit for one moment that Paul and James may be ordinary men
struggling for spiritual understanding creates a psychological tension that causes terror and uncertainty of cosmic proportions. Thus, the evangelical's frantic adherence to biblical inspiration are not theologically based, but psychologically based. They are usually so unconscious of this distinction, that they will laugh and jump to find textual defenses, proving that it's a theological issue rather than an emotional certainty issue.]

The fundamentalist cannot even recognize that Paul and James contradict one another, since if he did, this would disqualify either or both as mouthpieces of revelation. One might be accepted as a true prophet, the other rejected as a counterfeit, but then who is to decide, and how? Martin Luther had no hesitation in relegating James to the status of a mere appendix to scripture, but most are not so bold. A statement is authoritative for the fundamentalist simply because it appears somewhere in the canon of scripture, all canonical texts being equally authoritative. This is what the slogan “plenary inspiration” means. Unlike in liberal theology, no parts of the Bible are deemed superior or inferior to others. The biblicist, remember, wants to be able just to open the Bible and find his answer. If it is up to him and his meager human abilities to weigh and choose, he is back to square one. He does not want to have to make decisions like this! That’s the whole point!

[This quick and easy solution to the tough metaphysical problems is akin to the psychological immaturity and emotional instability found in those addicted to chemicals like alcohol and cocaine. Their minds are incapable of facing tough problems and growing up. They are frozen in a psychological adolescence, believing that just one more drink, one more line of coke or one more Bible verse will give them that sense of ease and comfort they think they must have or die. This is a mentality that wants instant gratification. Ambiguity, patient struggling and periods of despairing uncertainty must be avoided at all costs. This is one reason it is so common for addicts to readily embrace the doctrines of fundamentalist cults and religions. They often exchange their immediate chemical fix for an immediate metaphysical fix. Sadly, these people have often had a genuine spiritual experience with God, and then end up being told by their Fundamentalist religious teachers that the various cult doctrines must be accepted as part of the genuine spiritual experience. The end result is almost always a diminishing spiritual experience accompanied by a rise in theological indoctrination. Pure spiritual power is gradually and ingeniously replaced by peer approval. After a year or two, the new believer is perturbed that his close connection with Spirit has all but disappeared, but takes comfort in the support of the cult's fellowship. He knows that the deep spiritual experience has vanished, but accolades for Bible study and recruiting others through 'witnessing for Christ' provides a kind of spirituality generated by group acceptance. This is the real meaning of 'antichrist,' or the replacement of the Living God with human recognition and religious training. Such situations almost always end with the indoctrinated believer secretly or publicly returning to his old addictions or adopting new addictions while living a lie. That is why sex scandals, alcoholism, drug abuse and such behaviors are rife amongst evangelical and cultic clergy and laity. They have lost their conscious contact with God, substituting orthodox religious beliefs in an approving community.]
But he cannot escape the horns of dilemmas like this. Fundamentalists follow Martin Luther in wanting to interpret the text of scripture literally, or according to the “plain sense,” what it apparently means by straightforward exegesis, such as one would apply to any ancient text.
The Bible is inspired, but this only means that its message, once determined by exegesis, must be heeded. Inspiration does not entitle us to read the Bible in some esoteric way, as medieval Catholics did, discerning all manner of secret meanings between the lines. If the Bible may be taken to mean just about anything, then the Bible becomes a Rorschach blot. Again, as a literalist, the biblicist wants to banish ambiguity. Reading the text in a careful and “literal” way, however, sooner or later discloses “apparent contradictions” like those between Paul and James. And at this point the biblicist abandons literalism, falling back to a less-than-literal reading. Suddenly one may and must read between the lines after all. An exception to the straightforward reading is allowed when otherwise the two texts would negate each other’s authority and inspiration, a collapse that would take the whole canon with it!
But the cure is worse than the disease! Whatever a “real contradiction” might be, “apparent contradictions” are quite sufficient to vitiate a doctrine of biblical authority that is based on the supposedly “apparent” reading of the text. And it is not just a technicality. For the poor biblicist finds himself situated like the proverbial donkey between the two haystacks: he must decide whether it is Paul or James who is to be taken literally, and which is to be read in a looser way as if he agreed with the other. Though the phrase used is that one must “interpret the less clear texts by the more clear texts,” the biblicist is really interpreting the text he doesn’t like as if it said the same thing as the one he does like. In short, he is in precisely the same position as the liberal theologian, choosing between biblical voices; he just doesn’t realize it.
[Or more accurately, the mind which requires metaphysical certainty will not see it.]


How can he continue in such self-deception? Simply because his choice is an automatic one, determined in advance by his particular church’s tradition of interpretation. If he were a Catholic, he would read Paul as agreeing with James. As a Protestant, he reads James as echoing Paul, once you “really understand” him. The biblicist is submitting to authority, all right, but it is not as he imagines the authority of the text but rather that of his church. And this, too, is fatal, since the first principle of the biblicist is Sola Scriptura: “Scripture alone!”

It is such gross, vitiating contradictions that reveal the origin of biblicism to be essentially non-theological. If it had been theological in origin, it would have more consistency. To call on a related field of supernaturalist belief, we might compare biblicism to astrology. A survey of horoscope readers in Britain revealed that most of them admitted the newspaper predictions proved accurate less than half the time. Why then did they continue to read the horoscope? If it were a matter of theoretical consistency, the utter failure of astrology would have been quickly evident. But it was not a matter of theory. It was a matter of psychology: the astrology believers really sought, not knowledge of the future, but rather peace of mind for the night, permission to sleep well in the confidence of being forewarned and thus forearmed for the morrow. When the morrow came and the prediction, probably forgotten, turned out not to prepare them for events, it hardly mattered. They were competent to deal with the day’s surprises, but the night before they felt they needed an edge, and reading their horoscope allowed them to imagine they had it. Even so with the biblicist. What he wants from the Bible is not so much a coherent system for divining infallible revelations, but only the permission to dogmatize, whether the goal is to quiet his own fears or to push others around.

[He has found a way to get around Jesus' teaching that we must subject our basic human instincts of prestige, power and emotional security to an encounter with God as God is, not as we make Him to be.]

A Mighty Fortress Is Our Mentality

Once one has adopted the belief that the Bible must function as the final authority in all matters, some strange results follow. Above, I gave abortion as an example of how the desire for a sure word of revelation leads some biblicists to imagine that the Bible speaks to issues of which it is in fact innocent. To do this is what I call hermeneutical ventriloquism. The biblicist may chant “The Bible said it! I believe it! That settles it!” But in practice this often amounts to “I said it! The Bible believes it! That settles it!” One does the scripture the dubious favor of attributing to it one’s own beliefs. The (psycho)logical process goes like this: “My opinion is true. The Bible teaches the truth. Therefore the Bible must teach my opinion.” One suspects that the dogmatist has simply become so accustomed to dogmatizing that appealing to the Bible is just his way of asserting the truth of his opinion, wherever he got it. Saying “The Bible says” is tantamount to saying, “Verily I say unto thee...”

[I always imagine that scene from the Wizard of Oz where the terrified little professor stands behind the curtain, pretending to be the great and terrible Oz, pulling levers and flashing lights to make him right and to keep others at a distance. Once exposed, we feel pity, because he is really just a scared little man looking for a way to protect himself from ambiguity and uncertainty. Ironically, once his ruse is revealed and he admits he is a 'terrible wizard but a very good man,' he is able to help himself and others find what they are really looking for – courage, heart, knowledge and the way home. Most evangelicals I know are very good men and women; they are just filled with fear and uncertainty. Many of them met God at one point in their early Christian experiences, but like Essau, traded their spiritual birthright for a bowl of psychological porridge. Most have given up the quest for the unpredictable Infinite Who is always revealing Himself anew, for a little package of theological certainties which allow them to hide from the True God.]

One’s imaginary possession of the word of God, or the mind of God, allows the biblicist to wield what I call the Prophetic Ramrod, an attitude of invulnerable narrow-mindedness: “Friend, there is your view, and then there is God’s view.”

Such dogmatism may even rub off onto areas where the biblicist feels no especial need to quote the Bible or knows he cannot, areas such as party politics or even selling merchandise. Whether one is “witnessing” to the glories of Christian salvation, Amway products or May Kay Cosmetics, one uses the same methods (as Southern Baptist salesman and evangelist Zig Ziglar freely admits in his book Secrets of Closing the Sale).

[These same people begin to think that their political views and candidates are God's chosen because they agree with their 'biblical' opinions. It becomes God's way versus the godless Libs. I once found such people to be despicable, but I honestly now feel deep sorrow for them. I have been where they are and remember the fear, the confusion, the hatred and the unclean feeling inside. The only thing that would erase the misery and lack of conscious contact with God was a chronic retreat to the Bible or my community of fearful biblicists. There was no fount of living water which Jesus described, no filling with the Holy Spirit that gave me love for my enemies, no power to stop from retaliating against my spouse when he/she offended me. When I was really honest with myself, I had no deep abiding awareness of God's overwhelming Presence bursting out of my chest. I had my book. I had my doctrines. I had my mental security that I was right. I had a heart filled with fear, a mind filled with resentments and a secret desire to have God like I once knew Him.]

The Sliding Scale of Biblical Inerrancy

Another anomaly resulting from the psychological, not theological, basis of biblicism is the shifting opinion of biblicists over the years as to what is the allegedly infallible teaching of the Bible is when it comes to the world of nature. There was a time when readers of the Bible could see quite well that it “taught” (or presupposed) a flat earth that floated on water, covered by a solid firmament (dome) that kept out another ocean above. The earth was orbited by the sun and supported by pillars. And every Bible reader understood this. In the name of the infallible Bible, religious authorities opposed the progress of science. Today, most fundamentalists reject evolution because it contradicts the Bible. But only a tiny minority still believe the earth is flat. A slightly larger minority believe that the sun orbits the earth. Most fundamentalists believe that the earth is round and that it orbits the sun. And they do not even realize that the biblical picture of the earth contradicts these notions. Their religious upbringing has told them that the Bible contradicts science only at the point of evolution. As for the rest, they have even been told that the ancient writers of the Bible miraculously foreknew what it took modern science centuries to learn, that the earth is round, that it orbits the sun, etc. These assertions are read into the Bible by forced and implausible readings of various passages out of context, akin to attempts to show that the Bible writers knew about flying saucers. The true teaching of the Bible on these matters, they say, could not be understood until modern science allowed us to understand the relevant texts correctly! This is very close to (but also very far from) a frank admission of the game of catch-up being played here.

But what makes the difference between whether one recognizes contradictions between the Bible and science or one pretends the Bible anticipated modern science? It is simply peer pressure, massive and permeating public opinion. Ancient biblicists lived in a peer group (a “plausibility structure,” as Peter Berger would call it) that believed in a flat earth orbited by the sun, created in a week. It would have been hard to believe anything radically different. As the plausibility structure shifted, so that most people in the culture no longer took the ancient world-picture seriously, it ceased to be an option for biblicists to retain the biblical cosmology. They couldn’t withstand the cognitive peer pressure. And today the great majority, including biblicists, believe in a round, sun-orbiting earth, but it is not so obvious to the great majority that all life forms gradually evolved from a common ancestor. One still has breathing room on that point; one can still afford to recognize what the Bible says. One can still, for the time being, reject evolution and not seem a freak. The fundamentalist dreads the time when universal belief might turn to accept evolution, and so they seek to defer that day by means of public debates, censoring biology textbooks, etc. Their effort is not to persuade the intelligentsia (scientists) of the truth of anti-evolutionism, but rather to appeal to the gallery in the manner of a political campaign,. They are looking for votes in order to retain an amenable plausibility structure. It is all psychological, not theological, since what the Bible says or does not say about the natural world is utterly beside the point. The day will eventually come when biblicists will reinterpret Genesis to teach evolution and will claim that God had revealed it to the ancient scriptural writers ages before scientists supposedly discovered it. And these new scriptural “insights” will have come not from exegesis but solely from social peer pressure.

[Again, this is psychology at work, not theology. People approach the Bible because they want personal certainty and acceptance by their peers. When the majority opinion amongst evangelicals shifts, as it did with slavery and women's equality, they will feel comfortable going to the Bible to prove that this was God's all along. They will ignore or deny that their spiritual ancestors taught just the opposite. So you see, their exegesis is not driven by a rigorous honesty and pursuit of truth, but by fear and acceptance.]

If one wishes to get anywhere reasoning with fundamentalists and biblicists, I suggest one try to determine the emotional issues that attach believers to their beliefs. The beliefs themselves are, I think, a function of certain psychological needs that would be better met in other ways. But until those psychological needs are identified and met in other ways, we will have no way of getting believers to budge from their beliefs, and we might not even have the right to do so.

[There is something almost cruel about threatening to take away a child's security blanket. The only good motive would be to see the child walk, thereby improving his chances of having a rich, full human life. I now see that Jesus was more interested in people meeting God than in being comfortable. The only genuine motive for pointing these things out to evangelicals and other cultists is a sincere desire to see them know God in a way that gives them and others a richer, fuller more human and humane life. If our hearts are not filled with the clean, overwhelming joy and presence of the Holy Spirit which Jesus talked about, I question our motives in 'attacking' or trying to take away the evangelical's psychological props. We may be doing nothing more than what they are doing, namely, assuaging our own fears and uncertainties by causing them to face their own. I have done that, and may do it again. Many an atheist put his acerbic pen to paper, not to help the theist, but to undermine his faith that he might be as miserable as the unbelieving skeptic. When Jesus cleared the temple and called the Jewish religionists a pit of snakes and spiritually dead hypocrites, he desired to point out their actual psycho-spiritual condition in order that they might have a chance of being connected to the Infinite Source of Life, Love and Power. We hear a lot about 'tough love' these days; genuine tough love is causing someone pain that they may experience healing, clarity and a deeper experience of being fully and truly human.]

Michael Bogar

No comments: