Subjectivity of theism based on the Bible
As an old and somewhat historical book, each of the variants of the Christian Bible is definitely an element of the objective reality. The same, however, cannot be said for its contents. For example the simple description of the creation of heaven and earth in Genesis does not allow objective verification. There is no element of the objective reality that corroborates the act of God creating these things. The description in Genesis, therefore, lies firmly in the subjective world of theists. Indeed none of the tenets of theism associated with the Bible can be corroborated in the objective reality and so they are components of the subjective world.
The general approach of the Christian religion appears to purposely blur the distinction between a subjective world and the objective reality. One example is the belief in everlasting life. A blissful everlasting life (beyond death) may or may not exist. If a person does not believe it exists then, by certain rules, that person cannot have a blissful everlasting life. The only possible way a person can attain such a condition is by believing in it (and satisfying other conditions). But believing that blissful everlasting life exists does not make it exist. Blissful everlasting life remains firmly in the subjective world, despite the intensity of the belief. However, the more intense the belief, the greater the potential for a person to mistake the subjective belief as an element of the objective reality.
Despite claims of its absolute and unquestionable nature, assumptions abound in religious belief. In the view of Bible theists, the legitimacy of the Bible is assured by the divine inspiration that guided the writers of the Bible. However, the assertion that the writers did receive divine inspiration is an assumption. This assumption is a fundamental one and lies at the core of their belief. For some theists it justifies a literal interpretation of the Bible. The beliefs in heaven and life after death are based on texts in the Bible, and so stem from this assumption. But the most basic assumption for theists is the assumption that God exists.
- The assumption that God exists presumably precedes the assumption of the divine inspiration of the Bible, although ironically, it is the Bible which defines who God is (God is the one who "created the heaven and the earth" and so on.)
There are also wide differences of opinion of what many (perhaps all) passages of the Christian Bible mean. While groups (or sects) of Bible theists might agree amongst themselves on a general interpretation, nevertheless there is a wide range of groups with quite dissimilar interpretations. There are Christians who claim that Jesus is not God but rather he was a man (as in the "son of man"), whereas others claim Jesus is God (as in 3 persons in the one God). If the Christian Bible is taken as containing the definition of God, then the wide range of sects means that there are many definitions of God.
And then there is the selective way in which parts of the Bible are regarded. God is presumed to be a being of which there is no greater (or more perfect etc.). Indeed the "proof" of the existence of God by Saint Anselm (1033-1109), says that God is defined to be a being of which there is no greater, and that existing is greater than non-existing, and so God must exist. But in Exodus 32:14 God repents of the evil he thought to do. Surely a God which repents is a lessor being than one that doesn't need to repent. So according to Saint Anselm's argument, there exists an even greater God than the God of the Bible.
The mass murder ordered by Moses in Exodus 32:27 as punishment for worshiping false gods is on par with the mass murdering that occurred with the recent genocide (ethnic cleansing) in various African countries and the Balkans. If such an event happened today one would hope Moses would be tried by an international court and dealt with accordingly. The Bible contains many such instances of cruelty and violence yet Bible theists hold the view of a God of goodness. But as God never condemned the slaughter, he presumably condoned it. To maintain the goodness of God in view of this is to regard the slaughter of these unfortunate people as "good". Yet there are a multitude of other possible scenarios that could have happened. One is that Moses could have allowed the unfortunate people to live and perhaps punish them in some other way. Had this happened, presumably God would have condoned this scenario because earlier (Exodus 32:14) God had himself decided to allow the unfortunate people to live. So as God surely would have condoned it, the goodness of God dictates that this scenario is also "good". The absurdity is that it is both good to slaughter and also good to not slaughter. Perhaps anything is "good".
Also while God looked on, Lot offered his maiden daughters up for rape to prevent sodomy (Genesis 19:8), Lot's maiden daughters later rape their drunken father (Genesis 19:32-38) to carry his children and build "great" nations, Abram's wife Sarai "gives" Abram her maid to bare Abram's child (Genesis 16:2) that God promised Sarai would herself bare. None of this is condemned by God. Surely the lack of condemnation shows God condones what it took to build nations that adore him. A Bible theist would need to be highly selective to see only a good and perfect God.
The Bible portrays God as the God of his chosen people which are the 12 tribes of Israel. Indeed it repeatedly refers to the "God of Israel".
- The phrase "God of Israel" occurs more than 180 times in the King James version of the Bible.
There is at least one place where the Bible makes a statement that can be readily assessed in terms of present day knowledge of the objective reality. This is the ascension of Jesus into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). 2000 years ago, the prevailing view of the physical universe was due to Aristotle (384BC-322BC). He maintained that the universe consisted of 5 elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water and Aether. The "heavenly spheres" and the stars and planets in them were composed of the aether, which he held to be a "divine" substance in perpetual circular motion. It is easy to see why he attributed such grandeur to the sky. Droughts, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and so on regularly perturb the earth, but the sky, at least above the clouds, appears immutably pristine. During the day the cloudless sky appears as a smooth pale blue sphere. It is featureless except for the paler colour near the horizon which enhances the spherical appearance. The night sky is equally pristine with innumerably many stars set into a perpetually rotating sphere. The seemingly perfect nature of the sky beckons a construction from a special element of its own, hence Aristotle's aether. It is also easy to see how the sky could be associated with "heavenly" things. It is no surprise then to see that the Bible uses the sky as the site of heaven to where Jesus goes in Acts 1:9-11 and from where he is said to return. It would have been inconceivable 2000 years ago for any human to travel to the "heaven of the sky" without divine intervention.
But the sky and beyond is really nothing like Aristotle imagined. The pale blue sphere is an illusion brought about by preferential Rayleigh scattering of blue light from small particles and gas molecules in the atmosphere. And beyond the Earth's atmosphere is the outer space. This is an almost total vacuum which is cold, dark, devoid of any life, and traversed by high speed particles. Outer space is not a kind place to be for eternity. Perhaps heaven exists but God allowed people to believe it was in the unreachable sky for millennium when no better was known. But what happens now, when the falsehood of this belief is discovered? Is it to be regarded as a "challenge of faith" for Bible theists to continue their belief in the "heaven of the sky" in the face of modern knowledge of the sky and beyond. Surely this is absurd. So perhaps heaven just doesn't exist. Certainly the portrayal of heaven in Acts 1:9-11 has no basis in the objective reality.
It should be mentioned that there is no intention in science to conflict with religion. Religion is primarily about subjective qualities like purpose of the individual, meaning of personal life and so on. Science does not address these issues at all nor does it challenge them. In contrast it is the business of science to study, understand and extend the objective reality. But there are instances where religion makes claims beyond the subjective world. For example, the religious meaning in the Old Testament is apparently strengthened by having a direct lineage from the point of creation. However the 6 thousand year Biblical history of the universe just doesn't tally with the objective reality. And as mentioned above, the Bible's "heaven of the sky" is subject to doubt because of what is now known about the sky and beyond. Such conflicts are not the intention of science. Rather they are byproducts of the Biblical writers' adoption of the viewpoints of their day.
The Bible is clearly not an absolute, exact and literal work. Perhaps this is one of the merits of the Bible, in that whatever one's circumstances are, one can find meaning in the Bible that not only supports one's position but also gives hope, fulfillment and personal satisfaction for continuing in that position. All this points to the subjective role the Bible plays in the life of Bible theists.