False Doctrines: Sola Lexio Torta Mea Scripturae

Rob of UnSpace asks:

There’s a popular doctrine in the churches today, although it is rejected by the leadership of most churches. This doctrine is based on falsehoods, causes non-Christians to reject Christianity, Christians to lose their faith, and causes its followers to lie? Judging by the fruits of this doctrine, would you say this is of God or of something else?

The particular doctrine he’s asking about is Creationism. What are your thoughts?

Comments 17

  1. Jeff wrote:

    Is he saying that believe in a literal 7 day creation is a false doctine?

    If so, I posted some thoughts here: http://jeffderuyter.squarespace.com/worlds-apart/2006/12/14/a-global-flood.html

    Posted 14 Dec 2006 at 5:33 pm
  2. Jeff wrote:

    Sorry, make that here: http://jeffderuyter.squarespace.com/worlds-apart/2006/12/14/creation-and-evolution.html

    Posted 14 Dec 2006 at 5:36 pm
  3. Funky Dung wrote:

    He is, as am I. BTW, I believe in a global flood, but do not believe that Noah’s family was the only one saved. Nor am I even certain that Noah was anything more than a character in a pious myth/legend based on real events.

    Likewise, I don’t think it’s necessary to believe that the prophet Jonah was a real person who was actually swallowed by a whale. Each book of the bible is written in a different literary style that has to be taken into account when interpreting it. Scripture is divinely inspired, but God chose to speak through myths, legends, poems, histories, pastoral letters, etc. For more on interpreting Scripture, I recommend Mark Shea‘s “Making Senses of Scripture” as a starter.

    Posted 14 Dec 2006 at 5:43 pm
  4. Funky Dung wrote:

    As a scientist with engineering degrees, I have no problem appreciating God’s creative genius in evolution, the laws of physics, and other marvels of the universe.

    Posted 14 Dec 2006 at 5:46 pm
  5. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    A false doctrine? False in the same way that God is not trinitarian in nature is a false doctrine? Based on what? Science? Science does not inform doctrine, per se’. Science does not get at truth, but instead simply creates explanatory models. All scientific statements are implicitly tentative, pending future discoveries that might cause us to modify our model, or in some cases scrap them entirely. So tell me, is the Bohr atomic model a “true” doctrine or a “false” one?

    A 6-day creation may explain more or fewer facts, but it plays no part of doctrine.

    Posted 15 Dec 2006 at 10:46 pm
  6. Funky Dung wrote:

    The false doctrine is the notion of scriptural literalism, i.e, the notion that every jot and tittle of scripture is historical fact. The opposite heresy, of course, is the belief that none of scripture is historical fact, or at least that none of the supernatural events are historical. I repeat:

    Each book of the bible is written in a different literary style that has to be taken into account when interpreting it. Scripture is divinely inspired, but God chose to speak through myths, legends, poems, histories, pastoral letters, etc. For more on interpreting Scripture, I recommend Mark Shea’s “Making Senses of Scripture” as a starter.

    Genesis is not a physically accurate cosmogeny, nor was it intended as such.

    Posted 20 Dec 2006 at 9:09 am
  7. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Genesis is not a physically accurate cosmogeny, nor was it intended as such.

    It doesn’t matter matter whether Genesis is a physically accurate cosmogeny, much less whether it was intended as such (as IF we could POSSIBLY know: Textual criticism looks nice hanging off your arm, but she leaves you with a bad case of the clap in the morning)… What DOES matter is that the Church herself is competent to teach what Genesis teaches. Where the church has not spoken clearly, the believer is free to interpret Scripture in such a way as to not contradict the teaching of the Church. Just because the Church has clearly said that modern biological theories are not in conflict with Christian Theology (proper) and Anthropology does NOT mean that such theories have been deemed “true” (as if this were even possible) and therefore any theory that contradicts them “false.” The Church is, as any Christian ought in fact be, fundamentally agnostic on scientific questions.

    And just calling “biblical literalism” a heresy doesn’t mean it’s a shoe that fits anyone. It’s not like 6-day creationists really believe that the trees of the field really clapped their hands, or that it is absolutely necessary that there was a man known to Jesus going up from Jerico in the Good Samaritan story. Interpreting the bible literally where the Church has chosen in her wisdom to clearly teach a different interpretation (persistently and teaching others to do so), is heretical by definition. But making a literal interpretation (however often you want) where the church has not mandated any particular one is just that. It may be dull, thick-headed, tobacco-spitting, ignorant, unsystematic, and otherwise very icky, but it is not heretical. And in terms of damage to the faith of the faithful, the Church has far more to fear from the self-loathing modernism that leads us to hate this sort of thing, than it does from the thing itself.

    Posted 20 Dec 2006 at 2:23 pm
  8. John wrote:

    Someone who says that the Bible is completely false is an apostate, and does harm in proportion to how strong his specious arguments are.

    Someone who insists that the Bible negates clearly observable facts makes a mockery of Scripture and is far more insideous and destructive. People will see his idiocy and mistake it for Gospel.

    Posted 20 Dec 2006 at 10:54 pm
  9. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Someone who insists that the Bible negates clearly observable facts makes a mockery of Scripture and is far more insideous and destructive. People will see his idiocy and mistake it for Gospel.

    Umm… need I remind us that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones? We believe that unless we eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood we’ll have no life within us. And we (Catholics) don’t believe this figuratively as we do the Genesis account. We accomplish this through faith and in full violation of the “facts” at hand. The reason we do so is because we see it as necessary–we are constrained to believe it because of Scripture and authoritative Church teaching. I know many highly educated people who are 6-day creationists (PhDs/MSs in hard sciences). They believe what they believe because they believe it is necessary to believe it. And oddly enough, as Protestants, they would see the Catholic view of communion as being “unreasonable” and at odds with the “facts”.

    It is obviously possible that God could create the world in 6 literal days and yet give the appearance that the cosmos was very ancient. Why he would do that I cannot say. That is a big part of the reason that I don’t accept that view. I don’t believe it is necessary. But for those who do believe it necessary, just as with Catholics and communion, they find ways to believe it. And there is little danger in being faithful. But rather, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

    Skeptics who reject Christianity do not (really) do so because of supposedly outlandish cosmological claims. They do so because they reject Christ and his claim (total) on their lives. The path in is not primarily an intellectual one, nor are any of the roadblocks. These lie, instead, in the necessity of bending, or an unwillingness to bend, one’s will to that of another.

    Posted 21 Dec 2006 at 11:07 am
  10. Tom Smith wrote:

    “The false doctrine is the notion of scriptural literalism, i.e, the notion that every jot and tittle of scripture is historical fact.”

    I’d like to rip apart this quote, if you don’t mind. The notion of “scriptural literalism” you argue over doesn’t seem to be particularly traditional, or even Christian. The traditional Christian view of the proper scriptural exegetical method is not dichotomous. The problem of talking about “scriptural literalism” versus an “allegorical interpretive” method is that each type excludes the other. The traditional way of intrepreting scripture is fourfold: historical, tropological, anagogical, and allegorical. There are two types of knowledge we may attain by studying scripture: historical and spiritual. Spiritual knowledge is attained through the anagogical, tropological, and allegorical methods.

    Also, it seems silly to me to understand “scriptual literalism” as a “false doctrine,” of for no other reason than that it’s not a doctrine! A doctrine is an article of belief, not a hermeneutical principle. Also, we cannot rightly call heretics those who read the Holy Scriptures with an overly literal approach to its historical aspect; they may be wrong, but it’s not as though they’re heretics along the lines of those who deny the doctrine of, say, the Trinity. Also, simply because one is wrong does not mean that they are heretics; to be a heretic, one must deny the traditionally accepted truths of the faith. Finally, I’d say that it’s silly to condemn those who have too “high” a view of the scriptures; after all, they are inerrant.

    The second point I’d like to make is that it seems that our interpretation of what exactly constitutes “history” is overly stiff and wooden. What is history? Is it the concrete facticity of events past? Is it the interpretation which we project upon those events? Perhaps my brain has turned to mush after reading too much Heidegger this semester, but it seems to me that history is something real, something that determines events in the present and even the future. Looking at history as something we read about in a book is silly, since history is active in the world today. If we look upon the Genesis account as either simply “literal” or only “allegorical,” we have stripped it of any meaning for the influences it might have on the world today.

    Posted 22 Dec 2006 at 2:12 pm
  11. Tom Smith wrote:

    Looking back at that last comment. . . yeah, a semester of phenomenology really has turned my brain into a jar of pulp. Disregard that last paragraph…

    Posted 22 Dec 2006 at 2:16 pm
  12. Funky Dung wrote:

    I think you’ve misunderstood me. Perhaps it’s because different people mean different things by the word “literal”.

    The notion of “scriptural literalism” you argue over doesn’t seem to be particularly traditional, or even Christian.

    Duh. I wholly agree with you. However, it’s a dominant principle for many Protestants, particularly Evangelicals.

    The traditional Christian view of the proper scriptural exegetical method is not dichotomous. The problem of talking about “scriptural literalism” versus an “allegorical interpretive” method is that each type excludes the other. The traditional way of intrepreting scripture is fourfold: historical, tropological, anagogical, and allegorical.

    Again, I agree. The Shea book I’ve plugged presents this very 4-fold scheme of interpretation.

    Also, it seems silly to me to understand “scriptual literalism” as a “false doctrine,” of for no other reason than that it’s not a doctrine! A doctrine is an article of belief, not a hermeneutical principle.

    Amonst Evangelicals it IS a doctrine. Trust me.

    Also, we cannot rightly call heretics those who read the Holy Scriptures with an overly literal approach to its historical aspect; they may be wrong, but it’s not as though they’re heretics along the lines of those who deny the doctrine of, say, the Trinity.

    Heresy means error and not all error is of equal severity. Lesser error is still error, though. Besides, a small error can lead to larger ones.

    Also, simply because one is wrong does not mean that they are heretics; to be a heretic, one must deny the traditionally accepted truths of the faith.

    I would argue that what you’ve defined is a heretic whose beliefs are sufficiently wrong to merit excommunication. I will grant you, though, that what I’m describing may not be heresy, per se, but it certainly does undergird many heretical Protestant teachings.

    Finally, I’d say that it’s silly to condemn those who have too “high” a view of the scriptures

    I don’t think it’s silly to condemn a view of scripture that make Christians look like rubes. The Gospel provides enough crosses for us to bear without some of us piling on more.

    after all, they are inerrant.

    But what do we mean by “inerrant”? What do others mean? How is a poem inerrant? How is pious fiction inerrant?

    Posted 22 Dec 2006 at 2:31 pm
  13. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Amongst Evangelicals [scriptural literalism] IS a doctrine. Trust me.”

    Sheerly by definition, that’s an impossibility. Calling something a “doctrine” doesn’t denote the level of importance attached to it, it only marks it as a truth claim. “Scriptural literalism” isn’t a truth claim. This is the main point I’m making here; that Evangelicals can’t be called heretics on account of their scriptural intrepretive methods, despite the fact that literalism may, indeed undergird heresies. The brand of literalism they use might properly be called an error proximate to the faith, but not a heresy.

    “Heresy means error…”

    Again, heresy is opposition to a received truth of the faith, not simply an erro . I could say that the body and blood of Mary is present in the Eucharist alongside that of Christ without being a heretic. I’d be in error, but not a heretic.

    “I don’t think it’s silly to condemn a view of scripture that make Christians look like rubes. The Gospel provides enough crosses for us to bear without some of us piling on more.”

    I think your second sentence shoots your first sentence in the foot. If we’re going to start condemning things because they make Christians look stupid. . . you’ll have a very different religion by the end of the day.

    “But what do we mean by ‘inerrant’?”

    That’s an important question, and one that necessitates further discussion, but it’s important to keep in mind, however, that we cannot ever deny the fact that Scripture is, indeed, inerrant.

    Posted 22 Dec 2006 at 8:47 pm
  14. Funky Dung wrote:

    I think you’re using a narrower definition of doctrine than I. There’s a similar problem with “heresy” because I think you’re thinking of it in terms of Catholicism, rather than the broader category of credal Christianity.

    Evangelicals teach that Scripture is historically and scientficially inerrant. Furthermore, in some groups, rejecting that teaching is almost as bad as rejecting sola scriptura, from which that teaching is derived. Thus, scriptural literalism is a doctrine. Failure to accept that doctrine is tantamount to heresy for some.

    Anyhow, I’ll concede one of my points. Perhaps belief in scriptural literalism isn’t heretical (my gut still thinks it is), but for many who hold that belief, failure to do so is heretical. That fact alone should qualify it as a doctrine (for some).

    Posted 22 Dec 2006 at 9:05 pm
  15. Tom Smith wrote:

    “I think you’re using a narrower definition of doctrine than I.”

    Yes, definitely. However, I think the definition I use is correct.

    “There’s a similar problem with ‘heresy’ because I think you’re thinking of it in terms of Catholicism, rather than the broader category of credal Christianity.”

    I don’t think so; if we define “creedal Christianity” as those who deny private judgment on certain points of doctrine, we are left with:

    Continuing Anglicans
    Confessional Lutherans
    Miscellaneous conservative Protestants
    Oriental Orthodox
    Eastern Orthodox
    Catholics.

    Those groups would generally agree that heresy is opposition to those notions contained in their respective creeds (this is why they’re called “creedal”) and dictates.

    “Evangelicals teach that Scripture is historically and scientficially inerrant.”

    You seem to be painting with kind of a broad brush, there…

    “Furthermore, in some groups, rejecting that teaching is almost as bad as rejecting sola scriptura, from which that teaching is derived. Thus, scriptural literalism is a doctrine.”

    That doesn’t follow at all, and is highly fallacious. Simply because one thing implies another does not mean that it belongs to the same category as the first.

    Posted 23 Dec 2006 at 11:07 am
  16. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Funky, I spent most of my life as an either an Evangelical or a Fundamentalist. Trust me, they don’t take scripture any more literally than Catholics. They just take different parts of it literally. What they are lacking is a proper (i.e., historical, Biblical, rational) view of the Church, in which which she, of right, defines, where necessary, an authoritative interpretation of Scripture to be binding on the consciences of the faithful… THAT is the only heresy here. But a faithful Catholic could hold to a 6-day literal creation… and not be a heretic… Loopy? maybe. Heretical? No. And no one goes to hell for being loopy.

    Posted 23 Dec 2006 at 11:14 am
  17. Steven wrote:

    One thing bothers me about this post and it is the narrowing of focus onto Protestants especially, as stated in the post, “Evangelicals”. Why do you think that Evangelicals are the only ones who believe in Creationism? Jews and Muslims also believe in this and some information can be found at:

    http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/v12n03_orthodox_judaism_and_evolution.html

    http://www.understanding-islam.com/related/text.asp?type=question&qid=255

    http://www.hyahya.org/c_refutation_darwinism.php

    This focus on “wacky” false doctrine stemming from Evangelicals is not only incorrect but also is naive. If you speak of Creationism, you speak about believers in Judaism, Islam, and Chrisitanity.

    God Bless,
    Steven

    Posted 05 Jan 2007 at 5:16 pm

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