Bob Carnot of Warner Robins wrote a letter to the editors last Wednesday. He cautioned readers Stooksberry Wade and D.T. Wallace and anyone else who believes in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible to avoid me. He quoted Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians where Paul is demanding that his new converts stay away from unbelievers. “What does a believer have in common with a non-believer?” Paul screams (2 Cor. 14:15). Bob says to Telegraph readers, “You’re wasting your time in engaging a fellow who is not constrained by your belief system.”
In other words, to engage in any kind of meaningful discussion, we must all be “constrained by the same belief system.” Catholics must talk only to Catholics, Baptists to Baptists and Jews to Jews. Of course, we’re doing that today in politics, aren’t we? How many Republicans or Democrats talk “across the aisle?” And if Paul is correct, this is a good thing because we really don’t have anything in common.
But I disagree. Does a Jew have nothing in common with a Christian? Does a Hindu have nothing in common with a Jew? Do I have nothing in common with the Wades and Wallaces and Carnots of Middle Georgia?
Now I agree that Paul was totally prejudiced against the Roman and Greek religions of his converts, and we know he couldn’t stand St. Peter’s allegiance to Judaism. He maintained that we should have nothing in common with any of them.
But Paul was wrong. There, I said it. I think Paul felt threatened just as Martin Luther and Calvin and Zwingli felt threatened. When you break away from your established religion and try to start a new one (like Paul did), you have to stay focused. This is not the time for diversity. It is not the time for openness and dialogue. Paul had a tough enough time instructing them into his new brand of Christianity. He didn’t want them to get confused with other aspects of theology. He didn’t want them reading the Opinion page and letters to the editors.
But Paul was wrong. I think Paul’s isolationism and exclusivity go against everything I hold to be good about today’s religious environment. We’re dealing with faith, not facts. Maybe it was fine for the 1st century but not the 21st century. Does that mean that I think the Bible has errors? Oh yes, plenty of them. Does that mean I reject the famous quote in 2 Tim. 3:16 that all scripture (the New Testament was not written yet) is inspired by God and is profitable “for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness?” Yes and no.
If “inspired by God” means it’s a holy book, to be revered and studied and examined and used for the above purposes, I say yes. If “inspired by God” means there is absolutely no contradictions and errors, I say no. I think God inspired many men and women to do and say great and wonderful things (including the many authors of the biblical stories), but I don’t think he kept any of them away from error, including the thousands of Catholic popes.
But this is my faith, my opinion and I respect and welcome the faith and opinions of all others. I encourage honest debate and sincere objections. Unlike Paul and Carnot, I think engaging with others of opposite views is healthy and stimulating. It makes us do a lot more research. And if we can just overlook the personal jabs, we grow significantly in our faith and in our knowledge and in our wisdom.
It’s really not wasting your time.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corp. and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.