There's a Living In It
By Farrell Till
(The Skeptical Review: 1992: Number Two)
A subscriber in Florida recently raised an interesting question: "Why can't these preachers simply admit that the Bible is not the inerrant book it has been proclaimed to be and stop lying to their congregations?" The question was asked in the context of comments the reader was making about the thoroughness of TSR's exposure of flaws in the inerrancy doctrine.
I have to admit that I have often wondered the same thing. Ten issues of The Skeptical Review have now been published containing over 30 major articles and several short ones that focused on discrepancies in the Bible text. In every issue, we have offered inerrancy defenders the opportunity to rebut our lead articles, but twice we had to publish without rebuttals because we could find no one willing to argue the inerrancy view on the subject we were featuring. We have been especially persistent in challenging Wayne Jackson, the editor of Christian Courier, to defend his inerrancy views, because he is especially vocal in his articles about "the uncanny reliability" of the Bible in even "the smallest details" ("The Bible Passes the Test," Biblical Notes, Nov./Dec. 1991, p. 9). Jackson, like many of his inerrancy colleagues, has repeatedly declined our offers of space to defend his claim that the Bible is inerrant. We find it hard to understand why an inerrancy believer who writes as frequently on the subject as Jackson does would refuse an offer of free publishing space to write on the subject if he sincerely believes in what he preaches.
So why do vociferous inerrancy spokesmen like Wayne Jackson and Gleason Archer refuse to defend publicly what they write books and publish papers to teach in one-sided formats? Our reader in Florida probably has the answer. "I think that the Bible is simply their meal ticket," he went on to say.
For years, I have resisted this conclusion. As a former fundamentalist preacher who sincerely believed that the Bible was the verbally inspired, inerrant word of God, I have wanted to believe that those who profess belief in the inerrancy doctrine are just as sincere as I was, but the more I write on the subject and debate it with fundamentalist preachers, the more difficult it is to give them the benefit of doubt. Most will not even debate the issue, and those who will do nothing but evade arguments and parrot worn-out, far-fetched how-it-could-have-been scenarios that only the naively credulous could possibly believe.
So could it just be that our reader in Florida is right? The Bible is simply a meal ticket to many of the fundamentalist preachers who proclaim it from their pulpits but won't defend it in public debate with informed opponents.
If this is so, it would be entirely consistent with Darwinism, which, whether fundamentalists like it or not, offers a far more likely explanation for the various life forms than does the Genesis story of creation. In nature, if there is a living to be made in some way, no matter how unusual it might be, there will always be some creature that will exploit it. This, rather than creation, probably accounts for the millions of cases of special adaptation that we see in nature. There was a living to be made in this way selection have evolved the various species that are "good" at what they do to make a living. Many species are so good at what they do that some people see them as marvelous evidence of creation, but it isn't that at all. There was a living to be made in all these ways, so the creatures that successfully exploited them survived and became specialized. Those that didn't didn't.
My point is not to defend the theory of evolution, but to give our fundamentalist readers something to think about. As long as there is a living to be made at something, there will always be enterprising life forms that will exploit it. Is it possible that this fact of nature is at work in the religious affairs of men? One would have to deny the obvious to say that it isn't. We have seen too many Jim Bakkers and Jimmy Swaggarts exploiting the gullibility of people to deny that some preachers are preaching only because they have found it an easy way to make a good living.
"Oh, but that is Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart," some will say. "My preacher would never do anything that dishonest." Well, don't be too sure of it. If the public suddenly stopped believing in Bible inerrancy, what would that do to the thousands of fundamentalist preachers in the land? It would put them all out of work, so don't tell me that they don't have a vested interest in the outcome of the inerrancy controversy. They have a lot of pressure on them to say that they believe in Bible inerrancy even if they don't.
When I debate the inerrancy doctrine with fundamentalist preachers, I have no economic pressure at all on me. If one of them should prove beyond question, so that no rational person in the world could deny it, that the Bible is the verbally inspired, inerrant word of God, all I would do is acknowledge that I was wrong (which wouldn't be the first time I've admitted I was wrong), return home, go back to my job, and draw my salary as an English teacher. I would have to disband Skepticism, Inc., of course, but that would cause me no economic loss. It is a nonprofit organization with a decided emphasis on the nonprofit.
On the other hand, if I should prove beyond question, so that no rational person in the world could deny it, that the Bible is not the verbally inspired, inerrant word of God, what would that do to my opponents? They couldn't return to their jobs, because there would be no one for them to preach to, no one to put money into the collection baskets to keep their little empires going. Their livelihood would be gone with the public's loss of faith in Bible inerrancy.
If you think that they don't know that, you must be very naive.
From http://www.infi dels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1992/2/2front92.html
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