“Chillax, Bro” and Nitpicky Bible Criticism

This article covers a Christian apologetic rebuff to certain arguments against Biblical Validity which I like to call Nitpicky Arguments.

The first thing to do in a situation like this might be to tell the critic, “Chillax, Bro.” Or it might not.

Examples of Nitpicky Arguments

  1. The Bible refers to bats as birds.
  2. The Bible says the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference is 3.
  3. The Bible says man’s years will number 120.

These arguments are supposedly problematic because:

  1. Bats are mammals, birds aren’t.
  2. The ratio is pi, not 3.
  3. Jeanne Calment, the oldest verified and recorded person in history, lived to be 122. Also, the Bible says Abraham lived to be 175.

However they are not really problematic because:

  1. a. It doesn’t matter. b. The jews weren’t using a scientific classification system which we use. For them, “bird” basically meant a flying animal.
  2. a. It doesn’t matter. b. Pi is an irrational infinitely long number. There is no way the Bible could have precisely recorded it. Even our supercomputers haven’t terminally defined pi. Nothing wrong with rounding to the nearest whole number. In fact, being so close demonstrates mathematical intelligence.
  3. a. It doesn’t matter. b. “The exception proves the rule.” Similar to complaining about rounding pi, if I told you that the moon was .19 light years away, I did this using the tools of the ancient middle east which are not at all impressive, and it turned out to be .192 light years away would you really complain about me being wrong or would you be impressed by the closeness of my measurement? The Bible recorded even modern life expectancy thousands of years ago. Furthermore, there is only one person in recorded history who outlived the “age of man,” and she was a women. Now, it may be problematic that Abraham lived to be 175, but it’s not clear if he was born after the age of man was divinely ordained and recorded. So it may not apply to him. Even if it does apply to him, however, that would make him a wild exception to a rule which has held remarkably well. This should lend credibility to the Bible, not nearly undermine it. c. Lastly, someone may point out that in the near future the age of man will be surpassed. 1) This could simply mean we are misinterpreting the age of man, something I have discussed before. 2) This could be a sign of the return of Christ who might divinely intervene before the age of man is surpassed, another thing I have written about before, in the same article.

The Point

Nitpicky Arguments often depend on a narrow or incorrect set of presuppositions or interpretations. Additionally, even if these arguments hold they do nothing to undermine the important points of the Bible and Christianity. In short, if Nitpicky Arguments are the only things you can find wrong with scripture than there is a strong reason to believe you should support all of the actually important parts of the Gospel.

“Perhaps my interpretation is wrong” can squelch nearly every nitpicky argument. If these arguments did hold they would call for a reinvestigation of the presuppositions, not a rejection of the whole Bible or Christian worldview. My suspicion is that a poor interpretation is more likely the problem than an error in the Bible itself because an error in the Bible itself would be demonstrated if all possible interpretations were shown to fail, while an error of interpretation only exists if one possible interpretation is shown to fail.

In many cases Nitpicky Arguments may demonstrate the failure of a particular interpretation of a particular passage, but another interpretation is ready to go which overcomes the criticism, and the employment of which does nothing to change the overall message of the Bible. For example, if the “age of man” means “upper limit on the age of men and women,” “upper limit on the age of men,” or even “upper limit on the average life expectancy of men,” etc.


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