Rev. David Robertson, Free Church minister in Dundee, and Moderator of the Free Church Assembly, is a man who has often aroused my admiration. His witty rebuttal of Richard Dawkins, for example, was good at exposing the naive and unsupported assumptions made by that crusader against religion, while his frequent sorties into the public prints to defend traditional Christian ethics are often admirable and always vigorous.
So at first sight I found lots I could agree with in his attack on the mass media, and especially the BBC for badgering the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, about his acknowledged Christian faith. I too found John Humphries’ tone overbearing, designed more to bully the interviewee than inform the listener. He kept asking him whether God would tell him what policies to support, while Farron insisted that he was praying for wisdom not answers. David Robertson comments that it is unlikely an atheist leader would be similarly badgered about his lack of faith. He also notes that while faith is routinely treated with scepticism by the BBC, all forms of sexual orientation are treated as holy.
Now this last point is true enough- a little more scepticism about say, trans-lesbo-bi-ness might be in order- but it reminds me that David Robertson is one of those opposed to same-sex marriage, not out of prejudice (perish the thought!) but ultimately because the Bible tells him so. He along with many Christians, thinks that the Bible is inerrant, that is, it can’t be wrong. Unlike other books written by human beings it is so directly inspired by God, that once you’ve worked out what it says, you can’t argue with it. I italicised those words because of course, all language, even the language of God, requires interpretation, but that’s another argument. The point I’m making here is that if the Bible duly interpreted says homosexual acts are sinful, well, there’s no room for argument; God is right and you are wrong.
Now that seems to me dangerously near idolatry, in that the Bible has taken on the characteristics of God Himself. Perhaps the great British media are not too bothered about idolatry, but if some politician has a magic book that tells him infallibly what is right and wrong, that might be a legitimate area for scepticism. I don’t know that Tim Farron holds this view of the Bible, but if he does, I would no more vote for him than for a Muslim who believes the Noble Qur’an was dictated by Allah.
I don’t believe in books you can’t argue with, any more than did Jesus, who argued with the inerrant Book of his people. I love the Bible, write a Bible blog (emmock.com) every day in life, and try to allow the living God to speak to me through its pages, but this only happens if I treat it, in all its magnificence, as human, and therefore, fallible.
In his defence of Tim Farron, David Robertson does not deal with this issue, but it is germane: would you trust a man who has a magic book? I’ll try to let David Robertson know about this blog, and invite his comments.
I love your statement about believing a book you can’t argue with! That is the best, most succinct and holiest rejection of inerrancy I have ever encountered. I must remember this sentence – and the man who wrote it. Outstanding commentary, including your loving jab at “trans-lesbo-bi-ness.” I think it’s okay for us to be a little skeptical once in a while of the newest political correctness… as long as we don’t resort to quoting a book we can’t argue with 😉
As always, Kostas is kind and I thank him. This debate rumbles on, and although I left a link on the Free Church website, I do not know whether David Robertson has seen this blog or not. I would welcome his response.