The Instigator
dj21
Con (against)
Winning
11 Points
The Contender
leonardlewis4
Pro (for)
Losing
7 Points

The Bible is the inerrant Word of God

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
dj21
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/30/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,099 times Debate No: 36142
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (19)
Votes (5)

 

dj21

Con

At issue will be whether the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.

Five rounds. 1st round is acceptance, 2nd round is opening arguments (no rebuttal), third and fourth rounds will be rebuttals and cross-examination, fifth round is closing arguments.

The Bible is defined as the 66 books that make up the standard current canon. We will use the English Standard Version, though I am open to an alternate version if preferred by my opponent.

"inerrant" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "free from error." For our purposes, that means that there are no factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts within the Bible.

For our purposes, you needn't prove affirmatively that God was the author. You need only make a compelling case that the Bible is without error or irreconcilable conflict.

I thank my opponent in advance for taking this debate. I am hopeful that it will be an interesting and enjoyable experience for both of us, as well as the audience.

leonardlewis4

Pro

Accepted (with slight modifications requested):

- Format is acceptable
- "Bible" definition is acceptable (see modifications below)
- "Inerrant" definition is acceptable
- Pro's burden is acceptable

Requested Modifications:
- We will use the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for primary references
- Other versions/translations may be used for clarification

Thanks to my opponent for this opportunity and for his patience... My motivation and intentions follow:

1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)
...but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
Debate Round No. 1
dj21

Con

I would like to thank leonardlewis4 for accepting this debate and I look forward to it. Hopefully it is interesting and enjoyable for both of us.

I am happy to use the NASB as a starting point for Bible references, and alternate translations or languages as needed.

Just to further establish how you view inerrancy: Do you believe God directly authored the Bible (as with Muhammad & the Koran)? Or do you believe men wrote using their own words under God’s inspiration/approval?

The follow-up question: Do you believe we can expect God to communicate in a clear and coherent fashion?

Moving on to the Bible itself, I think there are three fronts where the inerrancy of the Bible is most questionable:

1) Origination: Original authorship of many canonical books is highly disputed among scholars, but there is little dispute that as oral traditions were written down and as written traditions were manually transcribed into fresh versions or different languages, some alterations occurred [1]. An optimistic assessment would be that New Testament transcriptions were about 95% accurate. I would assert that this in itself is evidence enough that the Bible is not inerrant, after all, inerrant does not mean “very minor errors” or “very few errors”, it means “error free”. Completely. Even the most conservative scholars acknowledge that there have been alterations over time. To rebut this, I believe you need to show scholarship that asserts that there has never been an error in transcription, or else show that “very minor errors” / “few errors” is somehow equal to “error free.”

2) Dubious science: This is an area that draws much attention, and rightfully so. There is no shortage of highly implausible scenarios in the Bible. The sun and moon “standing still” for a day in Joshua 10 [2]. The flood of Noah in Genesis 7-8 [3], and all of the many practical problems with that scenario [4]. So forth. These complaints are oft-recited, and this section could get quite long, but this isn’t where I want to put my stake in the ground. Don’t bother rebutting the Joshua or Noah stories for now. But I would be interested in seeing your rebuttal to Genesis 1:3-5 and 14-19 [5]. After creating “Earth” in Genesis 1:1, it states that God created light, separated it from darkness in Genesis 1:3-5, and “there was evening and there was morning”. In 1:14-19, God creates the sun, moon and stars on the 4th day. It begs two questions:

b) What was meant by “light” and how would this relate to the physical universe? What was the source of light (i.e. photons [19]) for the first three days?

c) For argument’s sake, let’s say God did create light without a separate source, what does it mean for there to be “evening” and “morning” for the first three “days” if there are no light sources in the sky?


3) Irreconcilable discrepancies: This area seems to be often overlooked, yet is the most potent source of cognitive dissonance in my view. Even Christians who know the Bible quite well often overlook these issues without noticing them. As with the two sections above, this could be quite long, but I’ll try to keep it to a few of the more obvious ones. I would, however, like each of the things I’m about the mention individually rebutted.

a) What did God say when Jesus was baptized. According to Mark and Luke (most scholars think Mark was the primary source for Luke) [7], “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” According to Matthew [8], “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” The book of John is more nebulous. John the Baptist “gives an account” where “he who sent me” said “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” No words are spoken from heaven after the baptism. These are each historical accounts, complete with quotations; yet three of the four are different. How can each be inerrant?

b) Following the same story, Jesus goes into the wilderness according to Mark, “immediately” [9]. Both Luke [10] and Matthew’s [11] provide similar accounts. But not John. Jesus never goes into the wilderness according to John. One could say he simply skipped the story, except that he accounts for the time following the baptism with different stories in John 1:35-45 [12]. “The next day” (after his baptism), Jesus sees John again and picks up two of his disciples. Jesus talks to them, and then, “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.” The story is very much in a time and place. It doesn’t appear to leave room for the wilderness temptation to just be left out. How do you account for this discrepancy between John and the other three gospels?

c) Moving to the big finale of Jesus’s ministry: which resurrection story is correct? In Matthew, there is an earthquake witnessed by the two Mary’s who watch one angel descend and roll the stone away with guards fainting [13] (oddly Jesus has already risen and is not in the tomb anymore). Jesus meets them as they are running away and tells them to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee. In Mark, the two Mary’s find the tombstone already rolled aside and find a “young man” (angel?) sitting there. The angel tells them that Jesus will meet the disciples in Galilee [14]. Not surprisingly, Luke is similar to Mark except that in Luke’s account there are “two men.” Two? As in Mark, it is they who tell the women that Jesus will meet the disciples in Galilee. As is often the case, John’s account is quite different. The women find the tombstone rolled away and no one there. They say, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid him,” suggesting they believe the body was stolen, not resurrected. The women return to the tomb with Peter and “the other disciple”. They inspect the area (and believe he was risen), then the disciples “return to their homes.” Mary stays behind and sees “two angels” in the tomb. In John’s account, there is no mention of Galilee and the story never leaves Jerusalem. There are a slew of dissimilarities to sort through in these accounts, but how would you account for them in a way that supports the inerrancy of each version?

That concludes my initial volley of apparent errors. As an aside, none of these things are necessarily proof that the Bible is not inspired. It could very well be. But they are, in my mind, some of the more concise and easily debatable instances of Biblical irrationality. They may not be the most egregious errors, but I find them the most difficult to refute.

Thanks for your time, leonard, and I look forward to your response.

References:

[1]: http://www.godandscience.org...

[2]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[3]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[4]: http://biologos.org...

[5]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[6]: http://www.biblegateway.com...

[7]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[8]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[9]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[10]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[11]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[12]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[13]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[14]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[15]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[16]: http://www.biblegateway.com...=NASB

[17]: https://en.wikipedia.org...

[18]: http://www.nytimes.com...

leonardlewis4

Pro

Thanks again for your patience dj21...

First I'll answer your questions of my beliefs regarding the Bible's inerrancy:

| RE: "Do you believe God directly authored the Bible (as with Muhammad & the Koran)?
| Or do you believe men wrote using their own words under God"s inspiration/approval?"

First, a self-authenticating proclamation about Scripture from Scripture:

2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB)
[16] All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
[a] Literally, "God breathed"

Some will ask whether Paul believed he was writing Scripture when he sent epistles to the churches and to individuals. He probably didn't have a concept of a complete canon, but he was certainly aware that his letters were circulated among the early churches, and other apostles/church fathers certainly regarded his writings among "the rest of the Scriptures". For instance, the apostle Peter made this statement in one of his own epistles:

2 Peter 3:15-16 (NASB)
[15] ...and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, [16] as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Notice the reference to "Paul" and how the "untaught and unstable" distort the meaning of certain things in his letters as they distort similar teachings in the "rest of the Scriptures".

I believe that the Bible is Divine, not merely human in Origin:
- Every book was physically composed and written by men
- The Bible was compiled and delivered to the world by men
- The marks of human origin are firmly established on every page of every book

The Divine part includes (but is not limited to):
- Involvement in and throughout the whole preparation of the material to be written and of the men to write it (including the earliest oral tradition)
- Involvement in and throughout the whole process of the gathering, classification and use of the material by the writers
- Influential in and throughout the whole process of the actual writing, from divine orchestration to spiritual illumination to direct revelation and various other forms of inspiration

| RE: "Do you believe we can expect God to communicate in a clear and coherent fashion?"

Yes.

Now, this is not a rebuttal (at least, it's not intended to be), but I must point out that one of your assertions has the potential to subtly redefine our previously agreed definition of "inerrant", currently: "no factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts".

The assertion: "An optimistic assessment would be that New Testament transcriptions were about 95% accurate. I would assert that this in itself is evidence enough that the Bible is not inerrant, after all, inerrant does not mean "very minor errors" or "very few errors", it means "error free". Completely."

First, transcription errors that occurred within any given manuscript were not replicated to every other early manuscript copy. There are literally several thousands of manuscripts from different regions, etc... While there are no surviving original autographs, the Bible actually has stronger ancient manuscript/copy support than any other work of classical history, including Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, and Tacitus.

When the earliest extant manuscripts are compared with later manuscripts, the resulting corrected text is demonstrably unaltered. Yes, different alterations/insertions and transcription errors (effectively, typos) in virtuously any passage can be found in almost any manuscript, but the majority texts will agree and expose the minority alterations/transcription errors such that they have either been corrected in the modern versions/translations or highlighted as appearing only in certain manuscripts (generally specified as later manuscripts, etc...). In no case does any potentially preserved alteration constitute a "factual error" or "irreconcilable conflict". That is the great benefit of comparison using the broad source of early and late manuscripts. In other words, errors are almost always in a unique place such that the can be identified by comparing to almost any other critical/received manuscript/partial or to the majority text. In the few instances where an alteration was copied, it can still be identified by comparing to the majority text.

Finally, you seem to be introducing a new burden for me, saying, "I believe you need to show scholarship that asserts that there has never been an error in transcription, or else show that 'very minor errors' / 'few errors' is somehow equal to 'error free.'"

I would agree to that if we hadn't already established my burden, "You need only make a compelling case that the Bible is without error or irreconcilable conflict", and I would add, according to the specified definition of inerrant: "no factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts". We should not now expand that definition to include "error(s) in transcription".

Note: My burden did not originally include "scholarship that asserts that there has never been an error in transcription".

If you had pointed to specific transcription errors and asserted factual error or irreconcilable conflict, then I would have been forced to deal with the assertion(s). As it stands, I do have several assertions to address under points #2 ("Dubious Science") and #3 ("Irreconcilable Discrepancies").

I look forward to rebuttals dealing with points #2 and #3.
Debate Round No. 2
dj21

Con

Thank you for your thoughtful response, leonard.

My rebuttal will be fairly brief since I am far more interested in your response to questions #2 and #3 from Round 2. The introductory material you responded to is primarily incidental in my mind, as I think the problems in #2 and #3 (particularly #3) render the issues in #1 relatively moot.


With that said, I would like to briefly rebut your Round 2 assertions. I agree that transcription errors do not necessarily call into question the general truthfulness of the Bible, but I do believe they rule out “inerrancy” as defined [4]. Here is the reason why. As you pointed out, every text has some small error or another but when averaged out, a “most” average version can be determined. A version that aligns most closely with the average. Unfortunately, since we do not have any original autographs, we cannot compare our averages with the authentic. So what we have is the most common, which is not necessarily the same as the original. In the end, I think this difference is not a big deal, and like I said in the last round, this is not where I want to put my stake in the ground.

In supporting the idea of Biblical inerrancy, I should point out that you quoted from two texts that are considered likely to have been pseudonymously authored, making their assertions more questionable.

The belief that 2 Peter is pseudonymously authored “is nearly universal” [1] according to Bible.org and Wiki [3].

“Most” modern scholars also believe that 2 Timothy was written by an pseudonymous author [2].

Bart Ehrmann provides some of the reasoning behind why scholars doubt Paul’s authorship of Timothy: “The book of 2 Timothy is different in many ways... That this author was not Paul is clear to some scholars on the basis of the letters’ vocabulary and writing style. There are 848 different Greek words used in these letters, of which 306 do not occur anywhere else in the letters allegedly written by Paul in the New Testament (even including 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, and Colossians). This means that over a third of the words are not Pauline. Something like two thirds of these non-Pauline words are words used by Christian writers of the second century. That is to say, the vocabulary of these letters appears to be more developed, more characteristic of Christianity as it developed in later times.”

Ultimately, I don’t expect any of that to matter though. I am very interested in seeing how you address #3. Please spend your characters addressing that rather than this. We can come back to this later if need be.

Thanks for your time, leonard, and I look forward to what I am sure will be a thoughtful and intelligent response.


[1]: https://bible.org...

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org...

[3]: http://en.wikipedia.org...

[4]: http://www.thefreedictionary.com...





leonardlewis4

Pro

At issue in this debate is whether there are "factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts within the Bible" (Con's words)... And I think Con was initially rightly concerned with issues in the text that might rise to that level of consideration. Initially, the debate was framed such that we wouldn't be wasting time over a scribe misspelling someone's name or committing some other effective "typo" in a particular manuscript copy of the text. When we discuss the topic of inerrancy, factual integrity and consistency are really the only worthwhile aspects of interest.

To this point, it now seems I'm being called to refute claims of questionable authorship and transcription errors. However, no examples of "factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts" resulting from either potential issue were presented by Con in the opening arguments. I certainly have no intention of comparing original Greek manuscripts in search of a potential transcription error so I can then attempt to correct or reconcile it by pointing to the majority text or some modern translation.

While I hate to spend my time and space on issues that should not even be in scope--and though Con says I don't have to respond--I think Con altered the course of the debate and there is only one way to resolve that problem.

Though I've already touched on this, I would like to emphasize that Con assigns extremely exaggerated significance to transcription errors/alterations found in the ancient texts by claiming that they constitute factual error. I think it is telling that no supposed factual error resulting from a transcription error/alteration was presented. I will use one of Con's own sources [1] with highlights posted here (in-line) in support of my refutation:

-------------------------------------------
"Old Testament: How do we know the Bible has been kept in tact for over 2,000 years of copying? Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, our earliest Hebrew copy of the Old Testament was the Masoretic text, dating around 800 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls date to the time of Jesus and were copied by the Qumran community, a Jewish sect living around the Dead Sea. We also have the Septuagint which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament dating in the second century B.C. When we compare these texts which have an 800-1000 years gap between them we are amazed that 95% of the texts are identical with only minor variations and a few discrepancies."

"New Testament: There are tens of thousands of manuscripts from the New Testament, in part or in whole, dating from the second century A.D. to the late fifteenth century, when the printing press was invented. These manuscripts have been found in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, making collusion unlikely. The oldest manuscript, the John Rylands manuscript, has been dated to 125 A.D. and was found in Egypt, some distance from where the New Testament was originally composed in Asia Minor. Many early Christian papyri, discovered in 1935, have been dated to 150 A.D., and include the four gospels. The Papyrus Bodmer II, discovered in 1956, has been dated to 200 A.D., and contains 14 chapters and portions of the last seven chapters of the gospel of John. The Chester Beatty biblical papyri, discovered in 1931, has been dated to 200-250 A.D. and contains the Gospels, Acts, Paul's Epistles, and Revelation. The number of manuscripts is extensive compared to other ancient historical writings, such as Caesar's "Gallic Wars" (10 Greek manuscripts, the earliest 950 years after the original), the "Annals" of Tacitus (2 manuscripts, the earliest 950 years after the original), Livy (20 manuscripts, the earliest 350 years after the original), and Plato (7 manuscripts)."

"Conclusion: With all of the massive manuscript evidence you would think there would be massive discrepancies - just the opposite is true. New Testament manuscripts agree in 99.5% [2] of the text (compared to only 95% for the Iliad)."

"How could there be such accuracy over a period of 1,400 years of copying? Two reasons: The scribes that did the copying had meticulous methods for checking their copies for errors. 2) The Holy Spirit made sure we would have an accurate copy of God's word so we would not be deceived. The Mormons, theological liberals as well as other cults and false religions such as Islam that claim the Bible has been tampered with are completely proven false by the extensive, historical manuscript evidence."
-------------------------------------------

I think a couple of things are worth repeating here:
  1. Con's own sources refute his claim that "New Testament transcriptions were about 95% accurate"... As mentioned in the sources, "New Testament manuscripts agree in 99.5% [2] of the text."
  2. Con's sources repeat point-for-point what I stated in my opening arguments... Repeated from the sources: "Most of the discrepancies are in spelling and word order. A few words have been changed or added. There are two passages that are disputed but no discrepancy is of any doctrinal significance (i.e., none would alter basic Christian doctrine). Most Bibles include the options as footnotes when there are discrepancies."
As for claims of pseudonymously authored epistles, it was not uncommon in that day for "secretaries" or fellow-workers to write or co-write a letter on behalf of their fellow-workers (especially between Peter and Jude or Paul and Luke, Paul and Barnabus [for a time], etc...) Many scholars who believe 2 Peter was pseudonymously authored, believe that it may have been co-written with Jude (and there is great internal evidence for this in the text itself). [3] Needless to say, none of the critical claims of liberal scholars questioning authorship amount to a significant consequence with respect to Biblical inerrancy. Moreover, the early church fathers were much closer to the issues of authenticity and it only follows that they would have known better than a modern scholar in this regard. In fact, 2 Peter was one of the most widly debated texts considered for canonization. The fact that it made the cut after such scrutiny and its doctrinal consistency with the whole of scripture attests to its authenticity. [4]

Con is free to extend arguments or deal with this particular rebuttal... However, I fear that I will not have enough time or rounds to address Con's original opening arguments #2 and #3 if we continue down this path.

I hope to have the opportunity to take some time this weekend to address arguments #2 and #3 starting in the next round if we can agree NOT to raise any new arguments and stick to your assertions of "factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts within the Bible".

[1] http://www.godandscience.org...
[2] Metzger, Bruce M. 2005. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

[3] http://www.desiringgod.org...

[4] https://bible.org...



Debate Round No. 3
dj21

Con

Ugh. I would avoid addressing #2 and #3 if I were in your shoes too. Ha. I can deal with translation and transcription in closing, if necessary.

Thanks for your thoughtful response, leonard, and I look forward to reading your views on #2 and #3.
leonardlewis4

Pro

| RE: “Ugh. I would avoid addressing #2 and #3 if I were in your shoes too.”

I assure you, my intention is not to “avoid” anything… To the contrary, we had a lot of ground to cover from the start, and your round 3 rebuttal (intended or not) expanded the scope of the debate, requiring an immediate response. For now, I’ll just consider that comment a subtle jab—but one that really has no place in this debate. Moving on… Thanks again for your patience.

Let’s first remember that the Bible authors are no different than modern authors with respect to their use of figures of speech, metaphors and literary devices. Scripture often speaks in the language of appearance/observation—without special regard to technical accuracy. And we do too.

I’ll begin with the Creation Days (Genesis 1:3-5, 14-19) [1]. There are several ways to answer this depending on the hermeneutic employed… Given the space constraints, I’ll focus on just two:

  1. 1. Six-Literal Day Interpretation: On the first literal day God created space/time, the earth and light. God was the initial source of that light to prototype day and night and to establish the first day. By day four, God implemented His prototype by creating the luminaries, etc… Note: This category includes many nuanced views, from the nature of space/time during creation, to the notion that God is not subject to time though His creative work was realized in time.

  2. 2. Framework Interpretation [2]: Genesis 1 is not a simple chronology of creation… Rather, it is primarily a kairological account depicting the hierarchy of creation, culminating with the creation of man. The days of creation are a memory device—a literary framework for illustrating God’s prowess in the creation of all things (including light). This is a very popular mode of interpretation—especially, considering that the earliest Old Testament texts began as oral tradition and that Moses often made masterful use of mnemonics, often as an introductory aid to what follows in the text [3]. That is why part of the creation account is repeated in Genesis 2 (without the mnemonic). In this way, attaching qualitative descriptions of the creation account to something as engrained in human daily life as the days of the week provided a very effective way of communicating truth and preserving it intact from generation to generation.

Finally, even if you regard the Bible as nothing more than a well-preserved collection of ancient literature, the notion that such a literary masterpiece could (in the span of just a few verses) contain the kind of cognitive dissonance you’re implying would seem to require the highest commitment to intellectual dishonesty or irresponsibility with respect to the handling of the text. Let’s be clear, “dubious science” is not the issue here… Rather, you use that term (quite loosely) to point to what would be a very obvious case of cognitive dissonance on the part of the author. Even the most minimally gracious approach to the text and the author would quickly render an appreciation that there is something more going on (something deeper being communicated) than a simple chronology of events.

Moving on now to include the Great Flood (Genesis 6-9) [4] and Joshua’s Long Day (Joshua 10:6-15) [5]… My intent from this point forward is to show that your assertion of “dubious science” is fundamentally flawed.

First, the Biblical accounts do not provide technical details describing how God accomplished these events. The authors’ focus (the point) is not scientific accuracy. It is therefore ludicrous to impose that burden upon a text that aims, primarily, to communicate the truth of God’s creative prowess: “Let there be light”; or His righteous acts of judgment: “I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh…”; or His omnipotence: “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped…”

We could speculate (RE: Joshua’s Long Day)… Some suggest God caused a minor pole shift sufficient to give the appearance that the sun and moon “stood still/stopped” in the sky while the Earth continued to rotate. Others believe that God simply caused the Earth to stop rotating… The first sounds more plausible (pole shifts happen naturally), while the second would seem to have globally devastating effects. Omnipotent God could have accomplished it any number of ways; from (supernaturally) manipulating the laws of physics, to (psychologically) manipulating the perceptions of the people involved. But speculating this way, whatever the case, we’d be ignoring something very important…

The events were miraculous! God did it all!

In general, if you want to make the claim that a Biblical account is “dubious science” because it records miraculous events as fact, you’re taking on a huge additional burden of proof:

First, you’ll have to prove that either the God of the Bible does not exist. You are a self-described agnostic (from our other posts)… If you are a consistent agnostic, you will admit that you can’t meet this burden and withdraw your argument.

For the sake of argument, I would contend that the God of the Bible—the One Who spoke the Universe into existence (Genesis 1) [6], (Psalm 33:6-9) [7], (John 1:1-5) [8]—if He does exist, then surely He has the knowledge and the power to do whatever He wants with His creation from beginning to end according to His purposes. Who are we (mere men) to say that the God of the Universe couldn’t possibly cause a global flood or stop the Earth and Moon and still hold everything else together in perfect harmony (Colossians 1:16-17) [9]?

You said yourself, “There is no shortage of highly implausible scenarios in the Bible”… That’s what miracles are. They often defy the laws of nature. They are not normative events.

How then is God subject to the charge of “dubious science”?

If you say, “I charge the Bible.” Well, that option is not open to you. You can’t arbitrarily separate the two… If God is Who the Bible says He is (including its inspiration), then the Bible is the Word of God. If the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then God is Who the Bible says He is. Therefore, you also assume the burden of proving that the Bible is merely human in origin (not inspired of God)—that the Bible is not a miracle in and of itself.

Conclusion: Unless you can meet these self-imposed burdens, your assertion of “dubious science” is baseless and absurd. You might just as well simplify your argument and say, “Well, the Bible contains accounts of miracles, therefore, it is obviously not inerrant”—which begs the question. That is, in fact, what you are doing.

Moreover, as a consistent agnostic (“I know nothing for certain”), you must grant the possibility that the God of the Bible is Who it says He is, and if that is true, neither God nor the Biblical accounts of His miracles are subject to the charge of “dubious science”.

You must concede this point.

Even after extensive editing, I have no more space. I will assert a general refutation to your argument #3 (Irreconcilable discrepancies) here and clarify (if required) in the final round before my closing arguments:

The Gospel accounts to which you refer provide a description of the same (or similar events) from varying perspectives and even (in some cases) slightly different timeframes around those events. None are irreconcilable. Moreover, the so-called “synoptic” Gospels are much more chronological in structure where John is more kairological and structured thematically. If all four accounts provided the same perspective and structure, with exactly the same details, the cry would be “collusion”!

[1] http://www.biblegateway.com...

[2] http://www.equip.org...

[3] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org...

[4] http://www.biblegateway.com...

[5] http://www.biblegateway.com...

Debate Round No. 4
dj21

Con

Thank you for your thoughtful answer, leonard.

I apologize for my frustration last round. I should have used my 8000 characters to spell out #3 in explicit detail. But alas, I will have to spell it out here along with a variety of other closing material that we never got to along the way.

I will start a brief rebuttal to Pro’s position on issues #1 and #2.

Pro has confirmed he believes that God communicates with clear and coherent inerrancy in the Bible. I believe both my assertions and even Pro’s rebuttals have shown that the case for Biblical inerrancy requires lowering the standard of “inerrancy” to “quite accurate.”

Pro’s defense for both #1 and #2 was to backpedal from his position. His response to #3 may be more of same. This is the essence of the debate: do you as the voter buy Pro’s backpedal as legitimate or not.

For #1, Pro cited the voluminous assortment of texts that have been found over time, and cited Bruce Metzer saying “New Testament manuscripts agree in 99.5% [1] of the text (compared to only 95% for the Iliad)." Less optimistic (but still Christian) scholars put the number around 80-85% [5]. But the point is that 85% or even 99.5%, is not 100%. Some make the case, as Pro did, that 99% is great! But the New Testament being a more reliable transcript than the Iliad is irrelevant. No one has claimed the Iliad is the Word of God. It seems within reason to expect an omnipotent God to guarantee 100% accuracy. It is not beyond the power of an omnipotent God to ensure 100% accuracy, is it?

In addressing #2, Pro starts by reminding us that “Bible authors are no different than modern authors...” Wait. What?? This is the Word of God we are talking about. I think it’s reasonable to expect an omnipotent God to help his human vessels use figures of speech, metaphors and literary devices in ways that are incontrovertibly understood. Pro agreed with that contention. And yet Pro’s defense for #2 includes a variety of options. The specifics of the options are irrelevant. Some are more plausible than others, but the very fact that there are options is what is noteworthy. It means that meaning was not clearly communicated.

There is no shortage of contentions regarding the many ways that the Bible has changed over the years [6],[7],[8]. The assertion of Pro is that the Bible is the Word of God. This is the same God who created the entire universe, devised quantum mechanics, made a cosmos with small-to-large scaling that defies human conception... and this God has failed to communicate the story of human origins in a way that a roomful of scholars can agree upon? Pro is effectively trying to strip the meaning of error, so that essentially nothing can be deemed wrong. It is up to you, the voters, to call him on it.

I was raised as a Christian, and believed in Biblical inerrancy well into my thirties. Issue #3 was the most compelling reason for my change of mind. Broad questions like #1 and #2 could be more easily massaged away by backtracking into the vagary that Pro has employed. But #3 involves very specific accounts that are unmistakingly at odds with one another:

When Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist, Mark reports that God spoke from heaven, saying “You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased.” [9]. The next words are “Immediately the Spirit impelled him to go out into the wilderness.”

Matthew is much like Mark, except in Matthew’s version God addresses the crowd, not Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And the very next verse sends him into the wilderness, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness.”

Luke uses the same quote as Mark and also send Jesus into the wilderness immediately after baptism.

John offers a different take altogether, and never mentions any audible declaration from Heaven. Even more striking is that immediately after the baptism, “The next day” Jesus sees John again and rounds up a couple disciples. Then, “the next day” he decides to leave for Galilee. John never mentions a 40 day period of temptation and leaves no room for it to have happened after the baptism. Either John or the synoptics are incorrect. I have not found any decent explanations from the apologetic sites I’ve visited. The most common effort is to say John just left out the temptation (or even that Jesus was baptised twice), but that approach is intellectually dishonest as reading the account makes very clear all of the accounts are speaking in chronological time, as they all use “immediately”, “then”, or “the next day”. I am very curious to see how Pro resolves the discrepancy.

The resurrection accounts are also at odds with each other on almost every detail except that there was an empty grave. There cannot have been both 1 angel and 2 angels present. The cannot have both witnessed an earthquake and the stone rolled away like an Matthew, and arrived at a quiet empty tomb like in Mark.

The point is, no Christian scholars defend actual inerrancy. They defend rough inerrancy, the idea that the important parts are true. I’m sorry, but that is not inerrancy.

In Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ", a book set on establishing the Biblical narrative as authentic and believable, the case for inerrancy is closed without a fight [3]:

"[Craig] Blomberg acknowledged that there are numerous points at which the gospels appear to disagree. “These range all the way from very minor variations in wording to the most famous apparent contradictions,” he said. “My own conviction is, once you allow for the elements I’ve talked about earlier—of paraphrase, of abridgment, of explanatory additions, of selection, of omission—the gospels are extremely consistent with each other by ancient standards...”


Also in “The Case for Christ”, the same Bruce Metzger cited by Pro in Round 2 also dismisses actual Biblical inerrancy:

“‘Your Bible is wrong in the King James Version of 1 John 5:7–8, where it talks about ‘the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.’ They’ll say, ‘That’s not in the earliest manuscripts.’ “And that’s true enough. I think that these words are found in only about seven or eight copies, all from the fifteenth or sixteenth century. I acknowledge that is not part of what the author of 1 John was inspired to write.” [3]

Then why is it in the Bible??

Dr. Lane Craig is one of Christianity most well-known apologists. Here is how defends the possibility of inerrancy [4]:

To begin with, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, as I learned it and, I think, as most of its adherents today would defend it, is not arrived at inductively, but deductively. Inerrantists freely admit that no one reading through the Bible and keeping list of difficulties encountered along the way, whether inconsistencies or mistakes, would come to the conclusion at the end of his reading that the Bible is inerrant. He would likely conclude that the Bible, like almost every other book, has some errors in it. “


These are Christian scholars admitting that the Bible is not inerrant in fact, just inerrant in principle.
Or more accurately for Christians, ‘the Bible says God is real and did XYZ, and God says the Bible is inerrant.’ It is circular, self-referencing logic at its most glorious. Literally.


[1]: http://www.godandscience.org...

[2]: http://www.rationalchristianity.net...

[3]: Strobel, Lee. 1998. “The Case for Christ” Zondervan

[4]: http://www.reasonablefaith.org...

[5]: http://irr.org...

[6]: http://en.wikipedia.org...

[7]: http://en.wikipedia.org...

[8]: http://en.wikipedia.org...

[9]: http://www.biblegateway.com...

[10]: http://www.biblegateway.com...


leonardlewis4

Pro

First, I want to sincerely thank dj21 for a cordial debate. It has been a pleasure and an honor standing in defense of Biblical inerrancy, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so.

I will also mix rebuttal with closing arguments (as Con did).

| RE: “I believe both my assertions and even Pro’s rebuttals have shown
| that the case for Biblical inerrancy requires lowering the standard of
| 'inerrancy' to 'quite accurate'.”

Did you notice the subconscious concession in that statement? Con is still hoping beyond hope that he will be allowed to change the definition of “inerrancy”—and that no one will notice or care.

I’d like to remind Con and the audience that we agreed in the beginning to Con’s definition for “inerrancy”:

| "Inerrant" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "free from error".
| For our purposes, that means that there are no factual errors or
| irreconcilable conflicts within the Bible.

So according to Con (before the start of the debate), “inerrant” means “free from error”; and if the Bible is NOT “free from error”, it can be show to contain “factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts”.

Con has now twice attempted (in the middle and at the end of the debate) to change that definition. First, Con wanted to expand the definition to include “transcription errors”:

It must be noted that both of our sources agreed that of the approximately 24,000 manuscripts and partials, [1]"Most of the discrepancies are in spelling and word order. A few words have been changed or added. There are two passages that are disputed but no discrepancy is of any doctrinal significance (i.e., none would alter basic Christian doctrine). Most Bibles include the options as footnotes when there are discrepancies."

If a transcription error could have been found that constituted a “factual error or irreconcilable conflict”, then Con might have a case. But of course, Con could not provide any such example. Moreover, inerrancy has NEVER meant letter-for-letter agreement across all manuscripts. Although, remarkably, of the 24,000 manuscripts from various regions and centuries of preservation, there is still 99.5% letter-for-letter agreement.

Con later conceded his point: “I agree that transcription errors do not necessarily call into question the general truthfulness of the Bible…”

…but then he picked-up the tactic to redefine “inerrant” again (in his closing rebuttal).

Ultimately, this is not a case for ‘quite accurate’ as Con would have you (the audience) believe. This is a case of “no factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts”—the same definition I embraced from the start. Con is the one that has to “backpedal from his position”.

Con has claimed that the Bible is NOT inerrant… Therefore, his initial assumed burden of proof is to identify “factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts”.

Con has not met his burden of proof. First, he has not identified any “factual error”. Second, his claims of conflicting passages are presumptuous and, in some cases, bifurcations. In any case, they are easily reconciled… One doesn’t even need to be intimately familiar with the text to identify the problems with Con’s examples:

| RE: “It seems within reason to expect an omnipotent God to guarantee 100% accuracy.
| It is not beyond the power of an omnipotent God to ensure 100% accuracy, is it?”

Con now wants to argue that because humans are involved and because words take on different connotations and spelling (for instance), over time, that the factual truth and internal consistency of the text is somehow called into question. He is making the claim in hopes it will plant a seed to question the Bible’s general accuracy, but he still provides no example of factual error or irreconcilable conflict. Why? Simple… There is no example to be found.

As for the synoptic accounts vs John’s account, the simple explanation (as I stated before) is that they provide descriptions of the same (or similar events) from varying perspectives and even (in some cases) slightly different timeframes around those events. John’s gospel is structured thematically (similar to the way Moses recorded the creation account). John organizes the accounts with much less attention to detail (until the Passion week), and a greater focus on the deity of Jesus and the fulfillment of the old types and shadows in Jesus (as the substance). Again, if all four gospel accounts had provided the same perspective and structure, with exactly the same details, the cry would be “collusion”!

There are simply no irreconcilable differences here… Con wants to present the different perspectives and different timeframes as if there were not multiple visitations to Jesus’ tomb (for instance). In one account the two Mary’s visited, in another account, Peter and John show up and see what they see. Again, we have different perspectives and different aspects of what is being communicated.

Con goes on to quotes one scholar, saying, “…there are numerous points at which the gospels appear to disagree”. The key word here is “appear”… They “appear” to disagree on the surface, but after closer inspection, in fact, they do NOT disagree at all.

Ultimately, Con has provided no examples of factual errors or irreconcilable conflicts. He knows this and therefore attempted to redefine “inerrancy” to include things like “typos” in the manuscripts—even though they can be corrected by comparing to other manuscripts. He also tried to use circular reasoning to convince the voters of “dubious science”—though he ultimately had to abandon that line of reasoning.

Vote Pro.

[1] http://www.godandscience.org...

Debate Round No. 5
19 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by snamor 3 years ago
snamor
When I voted I wanted to give a 2-1 advantage to Pro for more arguments but since I couldn't, I just voted a tie. However by giving Pro 2 points for "sources" I could basically do the same thing as far as points. Blessings
Posted by leonardlewis4 3 years ago
leonardlewis4
Continuing to address dj21's "strongest argument"...

http://www.debate.org...
Posted by dj21 3 years ago
dj21
Thanks for providing some additional material in the forum, leonard. I will provide a brief rebuttal there.

Just for the record, in my view, the strongest argument in #3 is what followed the baptism: the accounts of the wilderness temption (or not, in the case of John). All four accounts are very clearly chronological accounts that cover a series of weeks. While John may bounce around in time a bit (that is the generally used justification for why John has the temple incident at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, while it is a cause of Jesus' arrest in Mark), the author of John is clearly not doing so for the material in question here.

I expect the defense for the resurrection accounts would follow similar rationale to the rebuttal of this baptism portion. Generally, it is a convenient mixing and matching of what is to be interpeted literally and what is artistic liscense on the part of the author. That is the defense used very broadly when trying to defense Biblical statement that seem senseless. While I the accept rationale as entirely valid (even enlightened) for personal interpretation, I also view that rationale as necessarily conceding inerrancy. If some part of the baptism account is artistic liscense, why not view the whole account as such? Same for the resurrection. They are distinctions that are being drawn to suit a purpose, and not necessarily related to the author's purpose in any way.

As leonard aptly points out, the inconsistencies in various accounts (especially the resurrection) are exactly what helps provide evidence that the core story is true (a greater number of witness accounts). The flip side of this coin is that those same inconsistencies prove the accounts cannot be entirely inerrant. Yet those who would argue for inerrancy refuse to acknowledge this inevitability. In general they claim the historical validation, but reject the ancillary consequences.
Posted by leonardlewis4 3 years ago
leonardlewis4
BTW: The forum reference below is only part 1 of addressing dj21's "strongest argument"... Even that argument had multiple points to address. :)

I think it is becoming clear how near-impossible it would have been (at least, for me) to do these items justice in the space of a few thousand characters.

http://www.debate.org...
Posted by leonardlewis4 3 years ago
leonardlewis4
More on dj21's concerns and snamor's desire to see dj21's "strongest argument" addressed:

http://www.debate.org...
Posted by Orangatang 3 years ago
Orangatang
Was going to give him the convincing arguments point, and reliable sources point.
Posted by Orangatang 3 years ago
Orangatang
Lmao, oops prematurely voted without changing the points in Cons favor.
Posted by leonardlewis4 3 years ago
leonardlewis4
I wanted to address some of dj21's concerns and the concerns of the voters/comments from this debate in the following forum:

http://www.debate.org...
Posted by dj21 3 years ago
dj21
leonard, like you, editing was a lengthier and more time-consuming process than the original writing. Maybe next go-round we expand to 10,000 words. We'll see if anyone will suffer through reading it. I would very much enjoy debating whether #3 constitutes irreconcilable discrepancy with the understanding that "inerrancy" and not "general truth" in the vague sense is the standard. I don't dispute that the stories hold together to say Jesus was resurrected; just that the details of all four accounts cannot be reconciled in such a way to make all four accounts error-free. Same for baptism/wilderness. But I'd very much enjoy discussing or debating that topic. The informality (and non-competitive nature) of discussion probably makes for a more informative dialogue, whereas a debate would be a little edgier and perhaps force more thorough thinking - plus there's the benefit of having an audience to appeal to when we mutually dissent with one another's views. Ha.
Posted by leonardlewis4 3 years ago
leonardlewis4
@snamor,

Good catch, RE: "Con intentionally truncated a quote from Pro R4 which created a straw man"...

Assuming you were referring to, "Bible authors are no different than modern authors..." I caught that as well, but had to edit it out of my final round post.

I found myself spending way more time editing my responses down to fit in the space provided than I spent forming the initial draft response. In each case, I'd spend about 30-45 minutes on the draft and then at least two or three hours editing--agonizing over the fact that I had to remain silent on certain things. There was so much that could have been said that didn't make the cut. I still have about 4 pages in a Word doc of entire paragraphs that I had to cull out. In other cases, I simply had to find more succinct ways of addressing the issues--which often led to less detail or fewer analogies and examples.

In retrospect, I would have preferred an entire debate on each of the three items. Now having thoroughly addressed items #1 and #2, I do agree item #3 deserves much more attention. Item #1 could even be revisited, but that is definitely a huge topic. I'm not even sure a debate is the proper format for that.

As for item #3, I just didn't have enough space to devote to it in this debate. As I stated earlier, I have already formulated responses on a couple of the sub-items in item #3--but they didn't make the cut... I will discuss with dj21 and maybe we'll hash that out here in the comments or in a future debate.

Thanks for voting!
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by calculatedr1sk 3 years ago
calculatedr1sk
dj21leonardlewis4Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Excellent debate, both sides did well. Con's burden was to meet the BoP that there are errors, and he offered 3, and if any of those 3 hits, he wins. Pro spent a lot of time focusing on topic 1, and delayed discussion of contentions 2 and 3 even after Con had backed away from it in favor of centering on his other points. I have not been compelled by either side into considering #1 to be relevant to the resolution, so... sucessfully refuted there, Pro. Now there are only two nukes left to shoot down. The argument in favor of God's influence tilting the axis of Earth, stopping rotation altogether, or altering the perceptions of observers is not really falsifiable so I don't find it compelling, but the Bible isn't a science book, that doesn't mean it is in error; fair enough. Ok... only 1 left. But that's enough to blow inerrancy. There are conflicting accounts of chronological events, and I do not feel I was given a convincing reason why that is not a definitional error.
Vote Placed by snamor 3 years ago
snamor
dj21leonardlewis4Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: SG - Ironically some slight errors for Con! I counted 2. Normally I would vote this a tie but considering the topic and Con?s position I couldn?t resist. Conduct - Con intentionally truncated a quote from Pro R4 which created a straw man. I also agree that Con expanded the original definition of inerrant. The jab in R4. If there was a way to award partial points for the strongest argument category I would split these 2-1 for Pro. I felt he answered all three fronts and then some additional diversions which were outside of the original scope of the debate. This took words and thereby only allowed him to answer Con?s strongest argument (3) in a general way. On the other hand, Con?s strongest argument is evident to even the casual reader and demanded more attention to put it to rest. Based on Pro?s success on the 1st two fronts, I believe he was definitely up to the task but ran out of space. Good job to both. See comments for reliable sources rationale.
Vote Placed by Orangatang 3 years ago
Orangatang
dj21leonardlewis4Tied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Very good debate but could have been better. Pro did not address #2 or #3 in a compelling manner. Con should have pushed more on the "dubious science" contention as these biblical claims are contrary to all known science and reasoning. Demonstrating that the bible is 100% inerrant is a very hard task to uphold. Pro could not and did not defend the absolute inerrancy of the bible sufficiently. In general, Con's arguments seemed more reasonable and compelling.
Vote Placed by MrJosh 3 years ago
MrJosh
dj21leonardlewis4Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: I too would have liked to see PRO properly address #2 and #3.
Vote Placed by thg 3 years ago
thg
dj21leonardlewis4Tied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I wish PRO had spent more time countering CON's #2 and #3, but, overall, I believe PRO presented the better case (also see my comments in comment section). Congrats to both!