Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Problems with the BASF: Foundation Clause

The BASF is the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith, and is the statement of faith of the Christadelphians in what is known as the Central Fellowship (which I believe is the current majority).

You can find the full statement of faith here.

This post examines issues with the Foundation Clause...

The BASF Foundation Clause is listed below:
THE FOUNDATION--That the book currently known as the Bible, consisting of the Scriptures of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, is the only source of knowledge concerning God and His purposes at present extant or available in the earth, and that the same were wholly given by inspiration of God in the writers, and are consequently without error in all parts of them, except such as may be due to errors of transcription or translation. 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 2:13; Heb. 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Cor. 14:37; Neh. 9:30; John 10:35.

The Scriptures of Moses?
See my previous post where I outline some of the evidence against Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.

The Bible...the only source of knowledge concerning God?
So why do Christadelphians attempt to use evidence from nature or from other writers to prove the existence of God?

This phrase is especially used to rule out scientific evidence for evolution, since evolution is not found in the Bible, and thus one cannot use external evidence from nature to determine facts about God.

Wholly given by inspiration of God
Emphasis here appears to be on the word "wholly" in order to rule out what is known as the doctrine of "partial inspiration". This term is used as a wide umbrella to cover anything other than the 100% inspiration of the Bible.

The problem begins when you try to define what "inspiration" actually means in this context. 2 Tim 3:16 is often cited, but it does not define what "inspiration" means either, and it is only referring to the OT.

I have known Christadelphians to offer varying interpretations of what "inspiration" means, though it seems that the most common definition is that of "verbal, plenary inspiration", which simply means that every word was dictated by God. We are not told exactly by what means the words were dictated, and any further details are left to one's imagination (and best remain there).

in the writers
This tiny phrase adds some further clarification to what is meant by "inspiration". It sounds like an adaptation of 2 Pet 1:21:
"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
Note the word "spake". It does not say "wrote". Perhaps it implies that the words these "holy men of God" spoke were all written down, but even then it specifically only mentions 'prophecy'.

What about everything else?

While we're talking about prophecy, did this Holy Ghost (Spirit) also inspire Ezekiel's prophecy on the desolation of Egypt?

Biblical Inerrancy
The last part of the Foundation Clause reads:
"and are consequently without error in all parts of them, except such as may be due to errors of transcription or translation "

This piece is otherwise known as biblical inerrancy. The most curious part of this is that the Bible never actually states this anywhere.

The exception of errors of transcription (copying) or translation is obviously needed because the plain fact that there are different translations and different manuscripts demonstrates that they cannot all be correct.

But there are much deeper problems with this part of the Foundation Clause.

It presupposes that there was some original copy which was free of errors. The problem is that no such original copy is available. Nor is it known whether there was one original, or whether there were several revisions, each legitimately an "original" it its own right.

Take the NT gospels for example. These were supposedly written in the late 1st century CE, but the earliest extant manuscript copies are from the late 2nd to the early 3rd centuries CE. Further, it is well known that various manuscript copies were altered by christian scribes during the 2nd century and later.

The only point I'm making here is that the claim of biblical inerrancy is completely dishonest, since such a claim cannot be proven. Christadelphians wanting to join Central Fellowship must declare that they believe all of the points of the BASF, and here we have clear evidence that they are asked to believe something for which there is no evidence. It seems that even the BASF must be accepted on faith.

Using the gospels as examples yet again, there are many contradictions. Many people think these are not really discrepancies but rather that they can be reconciled or explained away. If this is the case, it should be possible, for example, to compile a list of events in correct chronological order showing exactly what happened starting with Jesus' crucifixion and continuing to the end of each gospel. I have not yet seen this done, but you are more than welcome to try.

A more complete list of NT contradictions can be found here.

One wonders how it is even possible to compile such a list of errors if the Bible is indeed the inerrant word of God!