Scripture is a unit, a whole made up of parts that are inseparably related to one another. And this is precisely where the unbeliever attempts to undermine the Scriptures. Whereas the Bible is a unity, the unbeliever tries to divide the Scriptures into competing pericopes, books, theologies, and so on. If the Scriptures can be shown to be incoherent, he thinks, then they can thus be shown to be of purely human origin. These dividers of the Bible separate it into supposedly irreconcilably different texts this through a variety of means.
For instance, an unbeliever may claim that the modern Bible has changed over time to reflect the opinions of various interpretive communities. This supposes that the Bible was at some point in time a unity that history and socio-politics deconstructed and reconstructed the text we have today. The division is, then, between the original and the present day corruption.
Another method of dividing the Scriptures consists in finding allusions or references to non-biblical sources in nearly every existing fragment of Scripture. Whereas the first kind of division was supposedly based on historical criticism, this style of attack is supposedly based on source criticism. Historical and source critical methods of dividing the Scriptures, with the intention to conquer them, are not mutually exclusive. There are, in other words, methods of attack that combine the two methods in an attempt to really really prove that the Bible is not the Word of God.
Finally, another method of attack is executed when dividers claim that the Bible writers, assuming that they were single individuals and not droves of ideologically driven scholars and priests and text-corrupters of every stripe editing the text for their own socio-political agendas, nevertheless did not have the same theology. Thus, some have argued that Matthew and Luke, even if they wrote their books and did not see textual corruption (by some miracle!), did not have the same notion of Jesus as Savior, Messiah, Lord, and King. Their theologies are so different, in fact, that “the Christ of history” is said to be trapped in the prisonhouse of Matthean, Lukan, Markan, or Johannine theology (which, of course, developed a century or two after Jesus died). This attack style is also not mutually exclusive when in relation to the others. In fact, if the scholar wants to really really really really stick it to the man, he can use this as the capstone of his argumentative edifice.
Many Christian scholars have done an excellent job of responding to the ridiculousness of these attacks on the Scriptures. In particular, the works of Andreas J. Köstenberger and Michael J. Kruger in The Heresy of Orthodoxy and The Question of Canon have more than sufficiently demonstrated that the attacks mentioned above have no evidentiary basis whatsoever but are the products of the putridly fertile minds of antiChristian scholarship. What I believe is lacking, however, is a logical investigation of the attacks, if only for the sake of further demonstrating the foolishness of those who profess to be wise in their own eyes. What are the presuppositions upon which divide and [try really hard to] conquer the Bible are based? Are they logically coherent? This is what I will answer in this article.
A Preliminary Refutation
- Petitio Principii/Begging the Question: The first thing to note about the attempts to divide the Scriptures wrongly is that they all suppose that the text is not a unity. More specifically: The unbelieving Bible critics first presuppose that the Bible is merely human in origin, the artefact of an ancient people group (or groups), rather than supposing it to be the Word of God revealed through a particular people and their language at particular times.
Either the Bible is the Word of God written or it is not. There is no middle ground here. Consequently, if one doubts the veracity of the proposition “The Bible is the Word of God written,” then one assumes that it is not true. One’s research cannot lead one to such a conclusion, for in order to embark upon “finding out” if the Bible is the Word of God one must first assume that it is not. Every attack mentioned above on the Scriptures, therefore, begs the question. Put another way: Either one begins with the Bible as one’s infallible source of information about God, man, the world, sin, death, etc, or one begins with some other starting point.
- Ignoratio Elenchi/Irrelevant Conclusion: Additionally, however, how in the world can one know whether or not the Bible is the Word of God without first assuming to know what the Word of God is like? If a scholar claims that he wants to be sure that the Bible is the Word before he accepts its propositions on faith, how can he test the Bible without already knowing what to look for? He may work with an assumption made by Christians, namely that the books are a complex unity of singular (i.e. Divine) origin, but this would not be something he knew to be true, it would simply be a heuristic principle, a guiding assumption for his research. And even if he did demonstrate that the Christian’s belief is contradicted by the evidence, he would not have thereby demonstrated that the Bible is not the Word of God. Instead, he would have only demonstrated that the Christian’s report does not align with the evidence he gathered.
It is not the case that one has disproved the Bible status as the Word of God because one has shown that a Christian’s report of what makes it Divine and one’s evidence are apparently not in harmony/do not seem to support the Christian’s proposition. To conclude that the Bible is not the Word of God, therefore, from the incongruity of one’s evidence and the claims of Christians is to draw an irrelevant conclusion.
3.Fallacy of Induction: Worse yet, however, is the fact that the method of investigation used by the antagonist of God and his Christ is inductive and, therefore, fallacious. Let us grant that the Christian accurately explains why the Bible is the Word of God (i.e. he quotes Scripture verbatim ;) ). Can he be refuted by an appeal to evidence? No. For the inductive research done by the antiChristian scholar is inductive and, therefore, unable to produce validly inferrable universal propositions such as “The Bible is the Word of God” or “The Bible is not the Word of God.” Universals cannot be validly inferred from particulars; ergo, the unbeliever cannot ever say “The Bible is not the Word of God” with any degree of epistemic justification.
4.Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent: Nevertheless, assuming that induction is not a fallacy, it still remains the case that affirming the consequent is a fallacy. And in order for one to test the veracity of the proposition “The Bible is the Word of God written” by making recourse to empirical data (i.e. manuscripts and other historical artifacts) is to argue:
- If the Bible is not the Word of God, then it will exhibit attributes x, y, and z.
- The Bible [seemingly] exhibits attributes x, y, and z.
- Therefore, the Bible is not the Word of God.
This is a fallacy and, therefore, does nothing to mar the proposition “The Bible is the Word of God written,” let alone refute it.
- The Fallacy of Division: The fallacy of division is committed when something is inferred about a member of a class on the basis of a generalization about the whole class. Secular historiography, sadly, cannot dispense of this fallacy. Neither, therefore, can those who attack the Bible on the basis of history steeped in this fallacious form of reasoning about the past. Putting aside, for the sake of argument, the previous four demonstrations of the unbeliever’s complete lack of justification for his knowledge claims about the Scriptures, and granting that the unbeliever may validly infer that a particular stretch of time is generally marked by a practice of borrowing the works of other religious writers and not citing their sources, how could one prove that the writers of the Bible share these attributes?
The long and short of it is that they cannot, but they attempt to do so anyway. Their writing serves as a good textbook example of the fallacy of division, for they begin with the assumption that a particular stretch of time is marked by attributes x, y, and z, and then argue in this way:
- Most members of historical era Q have attributes x, y, and z.
- The writers of the Bible were members of historical era Q.
- Therefore, the writers of the Bible have attributes x, y, and z.
At the very least, we should be pleased that the critics of the Bible are doing some deductive thinking. Sadly, however, their first premise is inferred from an inductive investigation, making their second premise dubious at best, and the argument itself is fallacious.