A simple problem with biblical innerancy

Oxford philosopher Peter Millican, in this free series on philosophy (you should download it and listen to it – it’s free!), raises a very simple challenge to biblical innerancy. I’ve adapted it slightly below:


1. Commanding genocide is not morally praiseworthy.

2. Every act of God is morally praiseworthy.

3. God commands genocide in the Bible.

4. Therefore, not everything in the Bible can be true.


This is just a more formal representation of the type of argument you hear all the time. You may have heard something like, “How can the word of God contain all these atrocities?” I think this syllogism is actually quite powerful (even if we may have to adapt it slightly to meet a few objections).


I can see a few ways out of the problem – say that genocide can be morally praiseworthy when God commands it (huh?), say the bible is not inerrant, or say that not every act of God is morally praiseworthy. I don’t think any theist wants to take the third route, so let’s just consider the first two.


The first is to say that, if God commands it, then genocide is morally permissable and I would assume even praiseworthy. As far as I can tell, that is what Divine Command Theory – the moral theory of William Lane Craig – would entail. I would say we have some real problems with this view, but I’ll save criticism for it unless someone wants to comment and defend DCT.


So, we’re left with the idea that the Bible is not inerrant. And that, whether you’re a theist or not, is a very sensible conclusion.


You can read more and join the discussion on my blog here: http://foxholeatheism.com/is-everything-in-the-bible-true/


There are Christians actually defending that god is justified to kill babies.

Views: 20

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on May 17, 2011 at 3:02pm
Oh my, Yahweh likes to kill babies and Atheist like to eat them - sounds like a lovely discussion, but I think I'll pass. For me, the problems with the bible start when it describes space as being full of water as the oceans and the sky being a big firm bowl-like think placed between the waters above and waters below. Apparently that bowl has a bunch of 'windows' in it too - perhaps for the sun and moon to pass through at various parts of their cycles - which can be opened up to kill everyone because Yahweh fucked up the first time around, although he doesn't make mistakes. It only gets better from there though.
Comment by Michael Gage on May 17, 2011 at 3:50pm
I just don't get why they will tie themselves in exegetical knots to justify the killing when they can just as well say, "Ok, maybe some of the things in here aren't entirely accurate. Maybe this type of God wouldn't really ask a father to murder his son." It actually strikes me as dangerous. The people who defend that God can justly tell people to kill have some problems when they follow that belief to its logical conclusion. Say God comes to them, or so they think, and tells them to kill me. What should they do?
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on May 17, 2011 at 3:58pm
Comment by Michael Gage on May 17, 2011 at 4:23pm


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