It’s been several months since I’ve heard from Scraps Grofsky. As the reader may remember, Scraps is the older, much more intelligent brother of my friend, Skids Grofsky. He has been known to send me long, angry e-mails that are somehow just annoying enough for me to sit down and write him back.
I got an e-mail from Scraps yesterday (not reproduced here for reasons of privacy) raving about the errancy of Scripture. I am printing my response in case there are others out there who agree with him (and in case he simply deletes my e-mail).
Your statement that there are no absolutes in the Bible based on all the different interpretations of ignorant heathen schmucks won’t wash. That’s like saying that the Constitution has no definite provisions because of the variety of opinions about it from people who spend their days watching Survivor, playing video games and taking bong hits. The fact is that there are definitive points in it, but our society has fallen back into the Dark Ages intellectually. The same thing has happened to our collective understanding of the Bible. Few people take the time to really study it, analyze its underpinnings, look at the ancient texts (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic) to find out what the original writers were trying to say, what the text meant in historical context, the meaning of certain passages in relation to other parts of the Bible, etc. There is more, but you get the idea. Of course you’re not going to find absolutes if you’re reading it like you would a James Patterson novel. There’s a lot to it, and most of the people who run their mouths about the Bible haven’t done their homework (like people do with so many other topics these days). Then there are people who deliberately teach false interpretations of Scripture for political reasons. You mentioned that you thought God should incinerate people like this, and I can’t muster a very convincing argument against that sentiment. The same kind of systematic distortion is being used to alter the Constitution, but that doesn’t change the meaning of the document, does it?
As to there being no verification of any one person’s interpretation of Scripture, what’s your point? Mark Twain said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me. It’s the parts I do understand.” There is more than enough clarity there for anyone who is sincerely trying to understand what God is saying. But not everybody wants to hear from God. “Truth is like a blanket that leaves your feet cold.” Remember that quote? We don’t have to have all the information to proceed. Am I going to throw my blanket away because it’s not a deluxe down comforter? That would be pretty stupid, wouldn’t it, especially when the house starts to get cold at night.
Uncertainty is frustrating, no doubt about it. So is seeing human wickedness continue decade after decade. So is watching sociopaths get away with hideous crimes. It’s easy to find fault with God for not cleaning this mess up. But if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I’m a much greater contributor to the mess than I care to know. Should God incinerate me too? Should he get rid of us all?
As to the other main assertion in your e-mail, men having free will doesn’t mean they have unlimited options. They are free to make moral choices within the parameters they find themselves in. Do you know everything about the space-time continuum? Quantum physics? The universe? On what comprehensive understanding do you base your assertion that there is no reconciliation between free will and predestination? Do you know that every being in the universe is constrained by space and time like we are? For all you know, God is outside of time and can see the beginning and the end of the train. If he is, and he can see me making choices ten years from now, does that mean my freedom to choose has been usurped from me? In the words of C.S. Lewis: “To stand there and watch a man do something is not to make him do it.”
I am sure just about every agnostic would acknowledge that he doesn’t understand everything, that his knowledge is limited. But so many then promptly turn around and draw conclusions about these colossal mysteries without having all the facts. Could it be that for most of them, it is their frustration, bitterness, anger and pride talking? It certainly isn’t their expansive knowledge of the cosmos, is it? You said it is impossible for free will and God’s omniscience to be reconciled. By the same token, it is impossible for a man with limited knowledge to draw an accurate conclusion about the moral character of God.