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Rationalizing the Irrational

I often break religious believers down into two categories fundamentalists or mainstream. There is however at least one other category that is important to talk about. That is the theologian or scholarly believer.

I was reminded of believers in this category after writing my latest Examiner article dealing with Dispensational Theology. In any case, when we think about the stereotypical fundamentalist, we generally visualize a person who tries to take the Bible more or less at face value. The mainstream believer generally focuses of the parables and the warm and fuzzy parts without much concern for the little details like God’s wrathful, vengeful, angry, arrogant, and tyrannical disposition toward almost everyone.

The scholarly believer is sort of a mix of the two. He or she takes the Bible as seriously as the fundamentalist perhaps even more so but still manages to focus on the warm fuzzy parts. The scholarly believer has mainstream moral values and through lots of mental gymnastics attempts to rationalize the bronze-age stories to fit with modern sensibilities and morality.

These scholarly believers seem to think that if they spend years doing intense and intellectual study of the Bible that some how it will end up meaning the exact opposite of what it obviously says and means. The obvious fact that they tend to overlook is that the Bible was written by men for men (not mankind, men! No women allowed).

The men who wrote the Bible wrote it thousands of years ago for men thousands of years ago. People have learned a lot since those days. We know more about science, history, morality, and just about everything else. Don’t get me wrong, modern readers can learn a lot from old books. Ancient thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, and others have a lot of wise things to say. But when a modern reader finds some aspect of their philosophies that don’t fit our current understanding of the world, we ignore those parts acknowledging that those thinkers didn’t know what we know now about the world.

With the Bible, scholarly believers can’t seem to make that acknowledgment. God some how inspired the Bible authors’ writing and so there must be some reason to rationalize the irrational way so that the aspects of the Bible which don’t fit our modern conception of the world really do fit if one studies it long and hard enough.

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