Monday, July 19, 2010

The "Surely God Wouldn't..." Fallacy

Several years ago a Baptist pastor colleague of mine lent me some videos about the superiority of the King James Version. (My pastor friend didn't believe the KJV was God's ONLY Bible in English.) The series started off politely enough but took a turn and went downhill from there.

The ancient handwritten copies of the Bible from the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek have variants; in other words, a word here, a phrase there or a few sentences in the more extreme examples differ depending on what manuscript you are reading. One of the arguments given in the videotape series for the King James Version being God's only Bible in English boiled down to an appeal like this:
Surely God wouldn't have left us with any doubts whatsoever in any portion of the Bible about how it originally read!
That's what I call The Surely God Wouldn't Fallacy. How do we know he wouldn't leave us with less than absolute, 100%, incontrovertible certainty for every iota or yod of his word? He gave us the variants in the manuscripts to draw educated speculations over but who said he gave us the King James Version as perfect in every detail? The retort, "Because I say so!" doesn't cut it.

We can produce variations of this fallacy ad nauseam:

Surely God is so loving that he wouldn't send anyone to hell for his sin!

Well, why does the Bible say he does (Revelation 20.12-15)?

Surely God wouldn't let a missionary get sick while the minister is serving in a foreign land!

Well, he allowed Paul to get sick (Galatians 4.13).

Surely God wouldn't reduce his covenant people to cannibalism during the siege of Jerusalem!

Well, the Bible says he did (Jeremiah 19.9).

Surely God wouldn't let the wife of a prophet die in the midst of the man's very stressful ministry...and not even let him mourn his wife!

Well, tell that to Ezekiel (24.16-18).

Do you see my point? So often we think God wouldn't do something (or, if you prefer, allow something to happen) because it makes no sense to us. We just can't wrap our heads around it.

We're going to have to embrace the notion that God thinks way over our heads most of the time.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)
Actually, it can be insulting to God at times to believe he thinks like us:
These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. (Psalms 50:21 ESV, emphasis mine)
If you think God doesn't do anything we find unusual, consider this hairstyle:
"And you, O son of man, take a sharp sword. Use it as a barber's razor and pass it over your head and your beard. Then take balances for weighing and divide the hair. A third part you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. And a third part you shall take and strike with the sword all around the city. And a third part you shall scatter to the wind, and I will unsheathe the sword after them. And you shall take from these a small number and bind them in the skirts of your robe. And of these again you shall take some and cast them into the midst of the fire and burn them in the fire. From there a fire will come out into all the house of Israel." (Ezekiel 5:1-4 ESV)
Or this one when God makes Ezekiel play the ancient equivalent of toy soldiers:
"And you, son of man, take a brick and lay it before you, and engrave on it a city, even Jerusalem. And put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a mound against it. Set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around. And you, take an iron griddle, and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; and set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel." (Ezekiel 4:1-3 ESV)
Just obey his word. You won't always understand it. But he will.