Liberals love to say “The Bible talks more about poverty than anything else,” and from this they claim support for their increasingly socialist agenda.
The problem is, nearly every one of them reject inerrancy—that is, the belief that the Bible in its original autographs does not contain any errors. So the argument fails.
You can ask one question and expose the fundamental error in how liberals misread the Bible.
I did this last week in a lively exchange on my show with Bob Edgar, who’s recently stepped down as the general secretary of the National Council of Churches (ncccusa.org) in order to head up another liberal group called Common Cause (commoncause.org).
I had asked him to lay out his main thesis from his latest book “Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right.” [Read Al Mohler’s excellent review here.] Seeing as how I’m a proud member of the religious right, I was curious as to how he planned to reclaim those moral values and, in particular, which moral values he was referring to.
To no one’s surprise, least of all to me, Edgar laid out exactly what I expected him to. I’ve heard the same thing dozens of times from other leaders of the religious left I’ve had on.
Essentially, they want religious people to care less about abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage and more about poverty, war and the environment. That is, they want people to support pacifism, environmentalism and socialism—or in terms of specific policies, they want higher taxes to grow a larger welfare state, immediate withdrawal from Iraq and everybody to pay a pollution tax in the form of carbon offsets.
Or, to be even more clear, they just want voters to put Hillary in the White House.
Edgar’s primary argument comes down to this. He said, “The Bible mentions abortion not once, homosexuality only twice, and poverty or peace more than two thousand times. Yet somehow abortion and homosexuality have become the litmus test of faith in public life today.”
Set aside the obvious point that though the words “abortion” and “homosexuality” aren’t in the text, the concepts certainly are at Exodus 21:22-25; Gen 19:5-8; Jude 7; Leviticus 18:22-23, 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:9-10 and Romans 1:16-17, respectively. Far more than “not once or twice.” Killing an unborn child is murder and homosexuality is a sin. No way around it.
But here’s how to really expose how liberals misread the Bible. Ask them this question:
If the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, then why should we assume that God cares more about one group of merely human words over another group of merely human words simply because they occur more frequently in the text?
You see, it all comes down to one’s view of inerrancy.
The religious left rejects inerrancy. It is a sine qua non of religious liberalism, and it always has been. Liberals believe the Bible merely “contains” the Word of God—it is not itself the very Word of God. And, obviously, they will tell you what parts are and are not “the Word of God”—and it’s no surprise that God ends up affirming whatever liberal political and social agenda they need to advance.
Indeed, while Edgar was president of the United Methodist’s Claremont School of Theology from 1990-2000 that institution became infamous for being a hub of the fringe Jesus Seminar wherein participants would literally vote with colored beads which verses of the New Testament they believed were probably said or not said by Jesus. As you could imagine, precious few of the “red letters” ended up being “authentic.”
Bottom line, when a liberal puts an emphasis on the frequency of the words in the Bible it’s not because they believe them to be inspired or divine, it’s because they’ve found some verses that allegedly support their political and social agenda.
And you should never miss an opportunity to call them on it.
Word counts—how frequently words appear in the text—are only as important as the author of the text. If God is not the author of the Bible, then it’s impossible to say God cares more or less about an issue based merely on word counts.
Since liberals decide which words “count,” the Bible will always affirm whatever it is they want to affirm. Only someone who believes in inerrancy can properly use word counts as a methodology to determine the important themes of a paragraph, chapter or book.
However, you’ve still got to be careful drawing conclusions from mere word counts. If you assume God cares more about things that occur more frequently in the text, and that He doesn’t care at all about things that don’t appear in the text, you end up with all kinds of strange results after just a few minutes with Bible search software.
For example, “war” appears three times as often as “peace,” “destroy” ten times as often as “create,” “slave” forty times as often as “free man,” and “drunk” six times as often as “sober.” Does this mean God is a war-loving god who loves destruction, slavery and drunkenness more than He loves peace, freedom and sobriety? Of course not.
Themes surrounding poverty do appear frequently in the Bible, and it’s been an ongoing theme of Western Civilization to bring social justice to the poor through political and economic reforms for over 2,000 years. Thank God for the advances we’ve made in representative government, human rights, democracy and capitalism—as best expressed by the United States—that have allowed us to improve the lot of so many of the world’s poor. The success of the West in doing so is due to the Judeo-Christian worldview at the foundation of Western culture—a foundation that rests upon the authority of the Bible, which is grounded on the doctrine of inerrancy.
For Bob Edgar and those on the religious left, they believe higher taxes, more pervasive socialism and centralized government are the most direct paths to social justice. They want the U.S. to look more like Canada and Europe in our education, our health care and our foreign policy—and they try to use the Bible to make their case.
It’s time to call them on it.