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.
Inerrancy is the view that God is the author of every single word of the original autographs of both the Old and New Testaments, and that He superintended the human authors to compose and record without error exactly what He wanted, even down to the specific words that were used.
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.