The Irony God

"If God exists and Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true."

Most people would agree with that statement, as a general rule.

But I wouldn't.

For it is entirely possible that God conceived Christianity (and humanity) as nothing more than a practical joke, a hoax, a lengthy absurdity which we have (futilely) worshiped as profound - that God is, as Voltaire said, "a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." It is entirely possible that we will come to Judgment Day and be told that Life was merely a spectacle, a game. (In our postmodern society, many of us wouldn't be that surprised.) It is entirely possible that God is a liar and charlatan Whose "love" for us was actually nothing more than depraved knavery. This metaphysic I cannot disprove.

The point of this hypothetical "Irony God" (whom we almost never acknowledge or consider) is not to mock God or Christianity.

Let us consider the nature of the proposition. I am positing a theistic God who gave us the Bible and then allowed Jesus to be raised from the dead. In other words, I am positing what all Christian apologists try to defend.

Based on evidence alone, the Irony God is just as plausible as the Christian God. In other words, when it comes to rational inquiry, to the empirical Pursuit of Truth, we are left at an unseemly dead end. Reason cannot give us an answer; what can?


Christianity asks us not just to believe in God, but to trust in Him. At some point, it asks us to stop treating God as an interesting hypothesis and to start treating Him as a Father.

What I was positing before isn't Christianity at all. Christianity says that God loves us and cares for us, as a father would. (And how many children have doubted their fathers' love?) This claim cannot be directly verified or proved. It is, in fact, an intensely personal claim.

It comes as no surprise to me that many people who analyze Christianity "objectively" often reject it - not because Christianity is incompatible with objective analysis, but because we cannot even begin to comprehend Christianity's claims without first seeking to understand its heart. Christianity is so bold as to say that rational inquiry is not and cannot be enough; can it then come as a surprise that those who would reduce it to rational terms deny it?

People are Christians, not (mainly) on the basis of philosophy or science, but ultimately on the basis of trust. They trust God, not as a theory, but as a person.

God does not ask us to prove His existence (although, from my own philosophical perspective, I do not see how He can be denied); He asks us only to trust Him.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And do not rely on your own understanding.
Acknowledge Him in all your ways,
And He will make your paths straight."

- Proverbs 3:5-6 (NET)
This, of course, just begs the question: Why should we trust God?

We must answer that question for ourselves.


Biblical Inerrancy?

Pretty much every argument between a non-believer and Christian concerning the Bible could be reduced to this:

[Some Scripture] is a [contradiction or error] in the Bible. The Bible's obviously not the Word of God.


That's not a [contradiction or error], because of [some reason].
And on and on it goes.

The fundamental assumption, left unspoken and unchallenged in this debate, is simple: If there is an error in the Bible, then the Bible is not the Word of God.

(Interesting side note: This line of reasoning itself conflates the Bible and the "Word of God," treating them as synonymous and identical entities. In other words, it assumes that everything within the Bible is the Word of God, and everything without the Bible is not the Word of God. Although most orthodox Christians would probably agree with that, I suspect it might be overly simplistic. After all, John 1 says Jesus is the Word of God! Hopefully, I will be able to discuss thia in further detail later on.)

Given that fundamental assumption, it comes as no surprise that the standard modus operandi of Christian apologists is to demonstrate there are no errors in the Bible. Whether or not they have succeeded is debatable. (I imagine that, in most cases, the committed skeptics will detract from apologists' explanations and the committed believers will rationalize any alleged flaws. However, I should mention that, even if it is not inerrant, the Bible is the most reliable historical and scientific document of antiquity. Most - but not all - of the arguments critics present are laughably easy to refute.)

But let us consider the question: What if there is an error in the Bible? What would the implications of such an error be?

(In my mind, there are two separate issues here. One is whether the authors of the Bible were honest, deceitful, or deluded. The other is whether or not inerrancy is necessary to demonstrate reliability. I am addressing the second issue here, not the first.)

The implications would depend on many things. Which Bibles are the Word of God? Are only the autographs (original manuscripts) inspired? Are the Old and New Testaments inspired in the same manner? In what sense (if any) is the Bible the "Word of God"? Belief that the Bible is the Word of God does not (for example) signify belief that God physically wrote the Bible; to my knowledge, all Christians accept that men physically wrote (or transmitted) the Bible. In what manner did these men transmit the Bible? Were they possessed by the Spirit?

And what is the nature of the error? Is it scientific, historical, or theological? Is it an internal inconsistency? If so, of what kind?

All of these are important questions. But the most important questions, I think, are different:

What was God's purpose for His written Word?

Does the alleged error undermine this purpose?

What does the Bible say about the Word of God? (Note that the Bible says nothing about "the Bible"; it technically does not mention itself. This is important.)

What is (and was) man's role in communicating God's message?

On a fundamental level, God intended to communicate something with His word. But what did He intend to communicate? That much is obvious: the message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18); the message of grace (Acts 14:3); the message of love (1 John 3:11). It is a simple, but powerful, message - a message not directly contingent upon the inerrancy of the Bible.

The Bible, though it may be inspired by God, was written by men for men. I see this as an interesting parallel with the nature of Jesus, who is the Word (John 1); Jesus, just slike the Bible, is both human and divine. (If God entrusted Himself to us, could He not also have entrusted His Word to us?)

From the perspective of apologetics, scientific and historical accuracy in the Bible are important because they reinforce the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life. They demonstrate that the Bible is more than "cleverly concocted fables" (2 Peter 1:16, NET). Internal consistency is important for the same reason, especially theological and moral consistency. (Of course, orthodox Christianity is paradoxical by nature - Jesus is fully man and fully God, God is One and Trinity, etc. - and so I expect conundra to arise in Christian theology.)

Christian apologists have sought to defend that which is most difficult to prove or believe: flawlessness. I am convinced that the Word of God is flawless; I do not know whether or not the Bible, our collection of a certain sixty-six books, is.

I believe it necessary that we examine this topic more closely.