Is the Bible Imperfect, or Was God Unable to Create it Perfect?
Dave, an atheist on Twitter, was arguing with Man-E, a Christian who blogs here. The subjects were many, but one thread had to do with inspiration. Dave poses this seemingly unanswerable question:
This is what we in the business call a “false dichotomy.” The reason? A serious misunderstanding of divine inspiration.
God is not a suit-and-tie executive and the 40+ authors of Scripture weren’t beleaguered secretaries trying to take dictation. It was, unfortunately, a little less precise.
It was more like God gave an author an idea, and left that author to write his own expression of that idea. So the essence of what the Scripture reports is perfect, but the method of that expression is fallible since it was man who committed it to writing.
To complicate matters, we have copies of copies of copies. While these have proven very reliable as we uncover older and older copies, some variants have creeped in and that hampers us. Further complicating it is the cultural gap that exists between the ancient Israelites of the second millennium BC or the early Christians of 2000 years ago, and the average 21st century citizen.
So what we have is that God is capable of creating a perfect Bible. However, the task of writing the law was given to man and the task of preserving and teaching the Word of the Lord also to man. The textual variants, the cultural gaps, and all of the other barriers to understanding that Word are man-made, but not insurmountable.
To overcome it, you either need to roll up your sleeves and study ancient culture and customs. Or crack open a good Bible commentary. I personally have a concise commentary and a Bible dictionary, both of which help me understand things in the Bible that aren’t immediately clear. There’s even an online Bible, the NET Bible, which helps with translating the ancient languages (in case that question ever pops up; but unless you blog on apologetics it rarely will).
If you’re not the solitary, bookworm type, there are people that have studied ancient culture and customs and own those resources I mentioned. They might even have better ones than I do! The Bible, in fact, mentions that not everyone is called to be a pastor or teacher (see 1 Cor 12, esp vv. 27-31) — and it is only through using all of our spiritual gifts as a body that we can grow and prosper.
To me, Dave is neither making an argument, nor a very good point within the context of a larger argument. All Dave is doing is whining that God expects him to work to understand things. And who wants that?
I think J.P. Holding is on to something here: