Feuerbach on Biblical Inerrancy

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Feuerbach on Biblical Inerrancy

Post by Irish1975 » Fri Dec 14, 2018 10:55 am

Ludwig Feuerbach's famous book the Essence of Christianity (1841) has many wonderful passages, but the one below, taken from chapter 21, is a profound insight into the psychological basis of fundamentalism. Specifically, the revival and exaggeration of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy towards the late 19th century. You can almost read this as a prediction of where modern Christian faith has to go, by psychological necessity.
The revelation of God is a determinate revelation, given at a particular epoch: God revealed himself once for all in the year so and so, and that, not to the universal man, to the man of all times and places, to the reason, to the species, but to certain limited individuals. A revelation in a given time and place must be fixed in writing, that its blessings may be transmitted uninjured. Hence the belief in revelation is, at least for those of a subsequent age, belief in a written revelation; but the necessary consequence of a faith in which an historical book, necessarily subject to all the conditions of a temporal, finite production, is regarded as an eternal, absolute, universally authoritative word, is—superstition and sophistry.

Faith in a written revelation is a real, unfeigned, and so far respectable faith, only where it is believed that all in the sacred writings is significant, true, holy, divine. Where, on the contrary, the distinction is made between the human and divine, the relatively true and the absolutely true, the historical and the permanent,—where it is not held that all without distinction is unconditionally true; there the verdict of unbelief, that the Bible is no divine book, is already introduced into the interpretation of the Bible,—there, at least indirectly, that is, in a crafty, dishonest way, its title to the character of a divine revelation is denied. Unity, unconditionality, freedom from exceptions, immediate certitude, is alone the character of divinity. A book that imposes on me the necessity of discrimination, the necessity of criticism, in order to separate the divine from the human, the permanent from the temporary, is no longer a divine, certain, infallible book,—it is degraded to the rank of profane books; for every profane book has the same quality, that together with or in the human it contains the divine, that is, together with or in the individual it contains the universal and eternal. But that only is a truly divine book in which there is not merely something good and something bad, something permanent and something temporary, but in which all comes as it were from one crucible, all is eternal, true and good. What sort of a revelation is that in which I must first listen to the apostle Paul, then to Peter, then to James, then to John, then to Matthew, then to Mark, then to Luke, until at last I come to a passage where my soul, athirst for God, can cry out: Eureka! here speaks the Holy Spirit himself! here is something for me, something for all times and all men. How true, on the contrary, was the conception of the old faith, when it extended inspiration to the very words, to the very letters of Scripture! The word is not a matter of indifference in relation to the thought; a definite thought can only be rendered by a definite word. Another word, another letter—another sense. It is true that such faith is superstition; but this superstition is alone the true, undisguised, open faith, which is not ashamed of its consequences. If God numbers the hairs on the head of a man, if no sparrow falls to the ground without his will, how could he leave to the stupidity and caprice of scribes his Word—that word on which depends the everlasting salvation of man? Why should he not dictate his thoughts to their pen in order to guard them from the possibility of disfiguration?—“But if man were a mere organ of the Holy Spirit, human freedom would be abolished!”[4] Oh what a pitiable argument! Is human freedom, then, of more value than divine truth? Or does human freedom consist only in the distortion of divine truth?

And just as necessarily as the belief in a determinate historical revelation is associated with superstition, so necessarily is it associated with sophistry. The Bible contradicts morality, contradicts reason, contradicts itself, innumerable times; and yet it is the word of God, eternal truth, and “truth cannot contradict itself.”[5] How does the believer in revelation elude this contradiction between the idea in his own mind, of revelation as divine, harmonious truth, and this supposed actual revelation? Only by self-deception, only by the silliest subterfuges, only by the most miserable, transparent sophisms. Christian sophistry is the necessary product of Christian faith, especially of faith in the Bible as a divine revelation.

Truth, absolute truth, is given objectively in the Bible, subjectively in faith; for towards that which God himself speaks I can only be believing, resigned, receptive. Nothing is left to the understanding, the reason, but a formal, subordinate office; it has a false position, a position essentially contradictory to its nature. The understanding in itself is here indifferent to truth, indifferent to the distinction between the true and the false; it has no criterion in itself; whatever is found in revelation is true, even when it is in direct contradiction with reason. The understanding is helplessly given over to the haphazard of the most ignoble empiricism;—whatever I find in divine revelation I must believe, and if necessary, my understanding must defend it; the understanding is the watch-dog of revelation; it must let everything without distinction be imposed on it as truth,—discrimination would be doubt, would be a crime: consequently, nothing remains to it but an adventitious, indifferent, i.e., disingenuous, sophistical, tortuous mode of thought, which is occupied only with groundless distinctions and subterfuges, with ignominious tricks and evasions. But the more man, by the progress of time, becomes estranged from revelation, the more the understanding ripens into independence,—the more glaring, necessarily, appears the contradiction between the understanding and belief in revelation. The believer can then prove revelation only by incurring contradiction with himself, with truth, with the understanding, only by the most impudent assumptions, only by shameless falsehoods, only by the sin against the Holy Ghost.
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Esse ... hapter_XXI

In another place, Feuerbach says that faith (in the pure logic of faith, unmixed with modern sophistication) must read the scriptures as eternal, not historical at all.

So, for those of us who spend time over at the Christian/OT textual forums debating the ins and outs of text and history, it is somewhat bracing to come back around to the thought that believers, by and large, simply do not treat the Bible as a historical document at all. It's almost as if, as Christianity ages, it must drift more and more towards the Koran model of complete heavenly inspiration.

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