Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bill Maher on Bible Interpretation

For more than a decade popular TV personality Bill Maher, who makes regular appearances on Larry King Live, has made a cottage industry out of ridiculing religion. To him it’s just plain Religulous, as in ridiculous. He has previously said, “I believed all this stuff when I was young. I believed there was a virgin birth, I believed a man lived inside of a whale, and I believed that the Earth was 5,000 years old. But then something very important happened to me – I graduated the sixth grade.” He’s also dogmatically pontificated that the Bible is written in parables and “it’s the idiots today who take it literally.”[1]

Maher’s problem is elementary he misconstrues the literal principle of biblical interpretation. That’s why he comes up with a 5,000 year old world. To interpret the Bible literally is of course to interpret it as literature. Simply put that means we’re to interpret the Word of God as we would other forms of communication in it’s most obvious and natural sense. Even a cursory reading reveals that Scripture is a treasury that is replete with a wide variety of literary styles. It has poetry, proverbs, psalms, historical narratives, didactic epistles, apocalyptic revelations and so forth. Therefore to dogmatically assert, as Maher does that the Bible was written in parables and that those who read it literally are idiots, is at best an idiosyncratic form of fundamentalism from the left. At worst it is a serious misunderstanding of the literal principle of Biblical interpretation.

The Bible of course does contain parables and that should be obvious to anyone who has graduated the sixth grade, but it is not entirely parabolic. If Maher had read the Bible with an open mind and had paid attention to genre, grammar, and context he would have recognized that his faith was placed in his own dogmatic assertions, rather in reasonable and defensible arguments.

Unlike Maher we should have those reasonable and defensible arguments so that we can give an answer to everyone who asks. We should be able to do this with gentleness, firmness, as well as with respect. We need to be able to firmly answer those who are making a mockery of the Christian faith, particularly fundamentalists on the left like Bill Maher. They are so fond of making dogmatic assertions and getting away with it on Larry King Live on a regular basis and in the process they are ship wrecking the faith of many as a result. It is because many just don’t have the answers to the questions because they assume there are no answers.


[1] Bill Maher Preaches Anti-Religion (http://www.foxnews.com.pssht.com/bill_maher_anti-religion.html). Accessed 9/16/08.

3 comments:

Faith said...

Hank,

Why oh why couldn't you be part of a debate with Bill Maher, or part of an informed panel (i.e.- On the ‘Larry King Show’)? Every show I see him on he continues to spew anti-Christian sentiments, WITHOUT an educated rebuttal. Who’s going to challenge him? Larry King? The women of ‘The View’? (Roll eyes). This scares me, as his hateful (and incorrect) viewpoints typically go unchallenged.

Faith

Anonymous said...

Hank,

It is kind of interesting that there are TWO groups who insist on a hyper-literal interpretation of the Bible - the hyper-orthodox of Christianity (e.g., Ken Ham, Henry Morris, and the like) and the hyper-orthodox of the militant atheists (e.g., Richard Dawkins). Right there, that thought makes you question the validity of young earth creationism. (I got this idea from a great new book - Beyond Creationism, by Timothy Martin and Jeff Vaughn.)

Tim H
A CRI supporter

Rolly DeVore said...

Having worked with Mr. Hanegraaff for five years, it is my opinion that he probably doesn't write these blogs, and I'd certainly be surprised if he'd ever debate anybody face to face. Bill Maher would make him look like a fool. I, like Bill Maher, am also a former Christian turned agnostic. I just couldn't defend the gospel anymore, and found myself being able to argue against it more efficiently. Interestingly, I've recently worked with Larry Charles (the director of "Religulous") on another show he directs.

I wonder if CRI, and/or Hank can refute the material at www.godisimaginary.com ?

Good luck!

– Rolly DeVore