Complications

Just a quick note.

One of Fundamentalist Christianity’s strengths is that is appears simple. It is, of course, not simple (nothing is simple). But it claims to be, and can appear to be.

Take the doctrine of inerrancy. It’s a very easy thing to say. The fact that it’s incredibly difficult to follow, or in other words, it’s difficult to reconcile the available biblical data with this notion, is entirely beside the point. It’s simple, it’s uncomplicated, and if you’re choosing doctrines with Occam’s razor (and you absolutely should not be) it might seem obvious.

Once you understand, though, that the inerrantist position developed in opposition to scientific propositions like evolution, you can start to see one of the ways it can be attractive, and that’s as a bulwark against complexity.

It’s obviously possible to reconcile science and the Bible: even the Catholic church has managed to do it. So why would you not do that?

The inerrantist pushes back against the scientific proposition of evolution because it is data that complicates their dogma. They go so far as to form an entire pseudoscientific community around attempting to provide inerrantist alternative solutions to scientific challenges to their dogma. The fact that these explanations are (from the outside at least) ludicrous, isn’t the least bit worrying to them, because all they need to do is assert that there are alternative solutions, not prove that these solutions are actually better in terms of actual science. They’re already better because they support the inerrantist approach.

The whole point of developing all this intellectual scaffolding is to support the inerrantist interpretive framework. To keep things simple. But, well, actually, it’s not so simple after all.

Why bother? Why do all this work when you can simply… not do it? Yes, switching dogmas is tough, but people do it all the time. The reality is, this is the big one that fundamentalism simply can’t move on from without becoming non-fundamentalist. The inerrantist approach (or something like it) undergirds the entire Reformation project, which switcherooed the Big Question of Christianity from “is your belief in God sincere” to “are your propositions true”.

And you simply can’t tell if your propositions are in capital-t True in the modernist sense unless you’re basing them off something that is also capital-t True. Ergo inerrancy. This is the fundamental in fundamentalism. The rest is icing.

Of course the fact that Christianity thrived for a good 1500 years without needing these sort of propositional, capital-t Truth claims is probably a good indication that when we’ve finally come back round to Jesus’s refinement of the law and prophets (love God, love others), we’ll probably be just fine.

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