Placing the Bible on Indefinite Furlough

There was an article yesterday by Michael Coogan on CNN’s belief blog. The title of the article was “Bible has some shocking ‘family values’”. I was rather intrigued by this title and immediately recognized that it was meant to grab one’s attention and suggested that something about the Bible’s “true” family values would be revealed in the article that you wouldn’t hear any Christian professing as biblical family values. This simply wasn’t the case in the article. Yet, it was still a scintillating piece which I would like to address because the author got a few things out-and-out incorrect concerning the Bible and the principles contained therein.

He starts out with the statement: “When talking about so-called family values, pastors, popes, and politicians routinely quote the Bible as if it were an unassailable divine authority—after all, they assume, God wrote the Bible, and therefore it is absolutely and literally true.” There are a number of disturbing remarks contained in this sentence. First, he hints that family values are something that people don’t understand or which don’t truly exist by referring to them as “so-called.” The second major problem is his straw man tactic. He paints everyone that would call his/herself a Christian with one broad stroke. It is true that there are some Christians who would fall into the belief that the Bible is absolutely and literally true, but this does not characterize all or even most.

Let me explain. Most Christians are not complete bumbling idiots as he ever so slightly indicates by writing, “But that [God writing the Bible] is a misconception. As the Bible itself makes clear, its authors were human beings”. We know that the Bible was written by human beings. The doctrine concerning biblical inspiration does not revolve around God himself penning the Bible. We understand that it was penned at the hands of men. When most Christians speak of inspiration it is in terms of God inspiring those human authors. This, we believe, was accomplished by God in a fashion that was not God dictating what to write, nor was it God possessing the authors so as to remove their individuality and humanity from the process, nor was it free reign to write their own thoughts or opinions. Rather, it was a process where God used human authors to convey his message. This is expressed in 2 Peter 1:20-21, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” So Mr. Coogan is completely off base in his statement that the biblical authors’ “writings reflect their own views and the values they shared with their contemporaries.” In fact, the authors’ own views regularly stood in stark contrast to their contemporaries.

The article continued down this road of biblical unfamiliarity by stating that Jews and Christians have traditionally agreed on the Bible’s authority in principle but not in practice. Citing as an example of this agreeing in principle but not practice, Mr. Coogan references slavery stating it is “a divinely sanctioned institution.” I’m not sure how he came to this conclusion. Perhaps it is because of the regulations the Bible places on slavery. Surely he does not take the Bible’s directives on how people should address slavery as its creation and/or stamp of approval upon it. Perhaps he misunderstands slavery allowing our American conception of it to skew his opinion. The most common form of slavery in ages past was indentured servitude. This occurred when someone sold themselves into slavery as a way to pay for a debt they otherwise had no other means of repaying. The other way slaves came about was through the conquering of another nation. These forms of slavery were around long before the Jews became a people or the biblical directives were given. The Jews understood slavery all too well being slaves in Egypt before becoming a sovereign nation. In fact, God reminds them of this fact as a means to understand the regulations placed upon them concerning slavery (Deut 24:22).

Furthermore, he suggests that the Bible addresses women as men’s property and upholding the practice of polygamy. Neither of these are accurate. The Bible does contain clear gender roles, but in no way does it place women in the position of property. Neither does the Bible condone polygamy. One could say that it condemns it (Deut 17:17). Even though this directive is aimed at the king, he was to be an example for the nation.

In short, he is advocating a discarding of the Bible’s “shocking” family values by recognizing “that the values of the biblical writers are no longer necessarily our own.” Instead, Mr. Coogan advocates that we “attempt to determine what its [the Bible] underlying values are.” What does he consider these to be? He pronounces that the Bible’s underlying message is: “Equal, even loving, treatment of all persons, regardless of their age, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”

That sounds really good though. I don’t think any Christian would disagree with that statement on the surface; however, it is couched in an article that is clearly dismissive of the Bible and aimed at bringing Christians into compromising on their convictions. Not too mention this is not in hopes of bringing the two opposing views some honest common ground, but to get Christians to completely abandon their views to embrace those opposite their own using thoroughly deceptive, misinformed points and straw man tactics.
What'd you think?