by Justin Ferriman
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I am going to go into detail about why fundamentalism has difficulties, especially with contradictions from science (a favorite among atheists). Following which, I will discuss the proper way to approach Bible reading, and I can tell you now that it isn't with strict literalism.
20th century fundamentalism is a disservice to Christianity. It ignores context, logic, and science in a way that is generally harmful. Ignoring these three factors is enough to make anyone close minded and ignorant to the progression of society (a natural part of life).
Fundamentalism, which tends to ignore the three previously listed items, often reinforces the opposite of what Christianity holds near and true - such as acceptance, open-mindedness, equality, and true love. In many cases, fundamentalism can generate an "us versus them" mentality (armaggeddonists, Iīm looking in your direction).
When fundamentalism hits the headlines, it usually does in the form of a dispute that has arose with one of the sciences. I feel that I must interlude here to say that I have an appreciation for the sciences that perhaps the average person does not. Although theology is a passion of mine, I did study psychology extensively in my undergrad. Therefore, I can relate and sympathize with the arguments from the scientific community.
I run into many people who cannot understand how fundamentalist Christians ignore concrete empirical evidence - because I participate as a theist contributor on an atheist website, I often hear this banter. Although conversations of that nature tend to go in circles, the one thing I do not do is defend the fundamentalist viewpoint as it is darn near impossible (without looking foolish).
So why do these contradictions occur with fundamentalism (strict literalism)? I will explain this by using science as an example. [I must note that I first came across this example from theologian Huston Smith].
Within science there are three domains for size. There is the microworld of which we can't see with our naked eye. Distances at a micro level are described in terms of picometers. There is the macroworld (which we inhibit). Distances in the macroworld are measured in inches, feet, miles, and so on. Then there is the megaworld. This world includes distances between stars and size is measured in light-years.
Neither the microworld nor the megaworld can be consistently described in ordinary language. An attempt to do so will result in the contradictions that plague cartographers when they try to show our three dimensional planet on two dimensional pages of a geography book (Greenland always becomes absurdly big).
However, the micro and mega worlds can be described effectively using their technical language, which is mathematics with its equations.
Now I am going to transition here, pay attention
God is at least as different from our human world as are the micro and mega words, because He includes them. Therefore, for description purposes, we need a technical language like that of science. Religion's technical language is not mathematics, but symbolism.
We must go a step higher, up to a place where we can get a wider view for a better understanding/perspective. Using strict literalism does not allow us to elevate our spiritual plane. It is through this widened view that we become capable of seeing that contradictions are actually paradoxes.
If you are having trouble following, let me put it this way. Letīs say you see a train moving down some railroad tracks. Twenty minutes later, you see the same train coming back at you on the same tracks. This would seem illogical since trains always face one way on their tracks. However, if we climb a hill to see that there is a turnstile in the track, the train going the opposite way is not a problem in the least bit. The situation remains the same (the train is going the opposite way on the tracks), but the "higher view" reality allows the paradox to be resolved.
As it was commented in the previous post in this series, Christianity is not supposed to be easy. Recall that when people heard Jesus preach, they talked about how his teachings were hard and turned away from Him. The same holds true today. Grasping the message of the Bible and what God has to say is not impossible, but it sure isn't going to be equivalent to reading Dr. Seuss. If you do continue to read it at face value, you will find yourself at constant odds with reality.
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Loved the article and example of the train, ie paradigm shift. I'd like to see this whole theme expanded and explored in more depth. the only grammatical error i noted - i think you meant to write inhAbit, not inhibit,lol. Also I'm curious about your participation in an atheist group. Particularly, what is your goal there? Is it to change minds and hearts? Also isnt it interesting that even 'atheists' by their very identity and name, believe in God?? Good work - logical, and easy to read and understand!