There is more than one way to finding a sense of right and wrong. Questioning scripture doesn’t turn the world into a Mad Max Thunderdome of relativity.
If you’ve ever tried discussing your doubts about the authority of scripture with a biblical literalist, I’m sure you’ve run into an argument that goes something like this:
“If you don’t believe that the bible is the word of God, then there is no absolute basis for determining right and wrong. Under these circumstances, everybody just does what they feel like doing.”
Before you know it, you’re in the realm of nihilism or complete moral relatively. This is the line of thinking often used to oppose gay marriage and is often spotted in religious debates. But as Edmund Blackadder would have said. “there’s just one tiny flaw in the argument. It’s complete bollocks.”
It is intellectually dishonest and lazy to pull the moral relativism response on a believer who questions the authority of scripture. They are merely correctly pointing out a weakness in such a presentation of the argument for the authority of scripture. Sola Scriptura is circular: the scriptures are divinely inspired and must be believed because they tell us so.
Questioning scripture doesn’t mean that we have to descend to complete relativity. Just ask any agnostic or atheistic – that’s why we have philosophy. There are centuries of tradition and thought trying find an independent path for how to live and how to act. Pretending that there isn’t is plain wrong.
The discussion of absolute laws misses a key question – what if God’s laws are arbitrary? Do we only give them authority because of the higher principles like love and compassion contained in them? Or do we give these laws authority simply because they come from God? What if God were a tyrant – should we disobey them?
Religious thinkers often dismiss independent thought based on straw-man misrepresentations generated from within the church. But if you’re dismissing centuries of thought based on secondary source literature, you haven’t really walked the path of intellectual integrity you’re claiming to have walked. Make a little room on your bookshelf for the arguments of individuals in their own words, not in the words of those who claim to keep the truth safe by paraphrasing, dismantling and pre packaging your personal philosophy as though they were selling sandwiches.
This is why many honest seekers end up leaving christendom… Embrace the question, embrace the doubt. It leads you closer to the truth. Have a little faith.
[Note – this post was inspired by an exchange on Twitter. It’s always great to hear thoughts and comments from people who read this site. Please keep up the feedback].