Leadme.org recently offered some comments on inspiration and inerrancy in “Is God a Moral Monster? A Review (Part 4)”. Among them was the following:
“And if it really was God’s intention to supply us with obviously contradictory texts so that we can recognize the chaff as such and turn from the barbarities of genocide, slavery, etc., clearly an awful lot of folks throughout church history have missed that memo. It seems to me that God’s clever editorial plan must be judged to have been a resounding failure in this regard.”
This reminds me of a great essay written about twenty years ago by philosopher George Mavrodes titled, as I recall, “On the Very Strongest Arguments”. In the essay Mavrodes unpacks the notion of a “strong argument”. Along the way he shows that the term “strong argument” is in fact a relative one which depends critically on what we hope to achieve with a putative argument. Are we looking for true or plausibly true premises? Natch. What about a conclusion that follows from the premises? That’d be nice. But what about an argument which meet both of those criteria but which has premises that fly over the head of the target audience? Huh. That gets more complicated, doesn’t it? I mean, what good is an argument if nobody understands it? Like, what good is a Ferrari consigned to a museum so that nobody can drive it? Ferraris were made to be driven and arguments were made to be understood (at the very least).
And yet we wouldn’t want to submit to an egalitarian tyranny where the only decent argument is one that can be grasped by an eight year old. So then what, beyond validity and soundness, is our criterion for a strong argument? And the very strongest arguments?
I have a BA in English. I read William Faulkner’s novels As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury. Brilliant stuff. But I couldn’t understand what was going on until the prof came along and provided the magic key to unlock this tortured genius’s labyrinth world. So do you need a PhD (or somebody with a PhD) to appreciate a Faulkner novel? And is it still a good novel even with an audience so reified and rarified?
The Bible is supposed to be for a wide audience, as wide as Dr. Seuss, or at least Tom Clancy. So I guess it is a problem when some theologians, in their bravado to redeem the text, end up producing a master work that is so subtle it could have stumped a class of Faulker scholars.
Is it still a great work? (Or is it thereby an even greater work?) Is this a plausible redemption of the text? Is God a literary genius? Or is that title to be reserved for his best apologists?