Why Do Fundamentalists Lie about the Bible?

Brian Bolton

Fundamentalism emerged from respectable traditions of revivalism and evangelicalism in the closing decades of the nineteenth century and quickly acquired a thoroughly independent identity. Specifically, fundamentalism was a reaction to liberal Protestant theology, which was attempting to accommodate Christianity to scientific, intellectual, and theological developments occurring at the time.

The doctrinal foundation of fundamentalism was expounded in a dozen pamphlets published in the second decade of the twentieth century. Under the series titled The Fundamentals, the tracts covered a range of topics, including a defense of inerrancy, an attack on biblical scholarship, and polemics against Mormonism, Catholicism, and Christian Science.

The central dogma of fundamentalist theology is the absolute inerrancy of scripture. Subsidiary postulates include the deity of Jesus, the virgin conception, the substitutional atonement for sin, the authenticity of miracles, the reality of bodily resurrection, and the imminent Second Coming.

Contemporary Fundamentalism

During the last half of the twentieth century, fundamentalists became increasingly aggressive in translating their supposedly Bible-based views into theopolitical* action. In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, fundamentalist political commitment accelerated further, with elected officials becoming spokespersons for various unwarranted scriptural claims.

For example, two conservative members of Congress, Mike Pence and Rick Santorum, became cheerleaders for the then-ascendant and now-defunct fraud known as intelligent design (ID) creationism. ID creationism was vigorously promoted as the biblical rescue strategy after earlier versions of “creation science” were rejected by the scientific community, the federal courts, and mainline Christianity. ID creationism subsequently suffered the same fate.

Two prominent Midwestern state governors endorsed the false claim that America was founded on biblical principles. Former Iowa Chief Executive Terry Branstad wrongly proclaimed that “the Bible is recognized as the one true revelation from God.” Ohio Governor John Kasich advocated the establishment of a federal government office to promote biblical values around the world. It is noteworthy that these men never enumerated the highly touted biblical principles and values.

A Texas Republican manifesto places the Bible at the center of American democracy, asserting that the U.S. Constitution is based on the Bible, as are other founding documents, and more generally that Judeo-Christian scripture established the foundation for America’s legal, political, and economic systems. These claims have been thoroughly refuted by historians, legal scholars, and authorities in politics and government. Yet, the fundamentalists repeat the false assertions endlessly on the assumption that naive Americans will eventually accept them.

Fundamentalist Bibliolatry

An increasing number of state legislatures have attempted to mandate Bible study classes in public schools, while in other states local school boards have tried to do the same. Also, several legislatures have proposed a “Year of the Bible” or attempted to designate the Bible the “state book.” Of course, it was conservative idol Ronald Reagan who first proclaimed a national “Year of the Bible” more than three decades ago, declaring: “Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.” (For a contemporary comment on this incident, see Paul Kurtz, “1983 – The Year of the Bible,” Free Inquiry, Winter 1982–83.)

These assorted claims and proposed actions are symptomatic of a debilitating condition called “bibliolatry,” which refers to an emotional attachment to a text that is alleged to have sacred value by virtue of being divinely inspired. While the term typically refers to the Holy Bible, bibliolatry may also apply to any of the world’s two dozen other venerated books, such as the Bhagavad-Gita, Book of Mormon, or Qur’an.

The terminology of bibliolatry includes three concepts that assist scholars in understanding fundamentalists’ reverential attitude toward scripture. First, a biblist believes the Bible represents the only true religious faith. Second, a bibliolatrist believes devoutly in the literal truth of the Bible. Third, a biblicist strictly adheres to Bible teachings.

It can be concluded from their pronouncements and behavior that fundamentalists are biblists and bibliolatrists of the highest order, but they fail completely as biblicists. The last contention will be thoroughly documented in this article. Before proceeding to a review of the relevant evidence, I will elucidate the postulate of biblical inerrancy.

Biblical Inerrancy

The foundational premise of fundamentalism is the claimed absolute accuracy of the Holy Bible. All other theological propositions that derive from scripture depend wholly on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. This means that every statement, action, and event is authorized and caused by the omnipotent god. In other words, the Bible is literally true in every verse, passage, and narrative statement. There are no errors, no ambiguous assertions, and no disguised metaphors. Scripture is the God-breathed, verbally inspired, perfect word of the Judeo-Christian deity (Deuteronomy 8:13; Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16).

Because fundamentalists assert that every word in the Bible comes straight from the mouth of God, it is essential that rational critics tentatively accept this claim as true and work within the framework of biblical inerrancy. By doing so, they can expose the contradictions and hypocrisy in the fundamentalist political and cultural worldview without attacking the underlying theological premise of fundamentalism.

The puzzling question that naturally arises is why fundamentalist bibliolatrists adopt and tenaciously defend theopolitical positions that are not supported by or are even flatly contradicted by God’s perfect word. Before considering the question of why fundamentalists lie about what the Bible says, I will document the assertion that they do, in fact, lie about what Holy Writ actually says and doesn’t say.

Ten Theopolitical Issues

Fundamentalists have promulgated uncompromising political positions on major sociocultural subjects in which they disregard or contradict God’s perfect word. The ten I will outline here are: abortion rights, animal welfare, capital punishment, Decalogue displays, family values, Jesus’s teachings, public prayer, same-sex marriage, slavery endorsement, and sworn oaths.

Abortion Rights

For the past half century, Christian fundamentalists have fought against women’s reproductive rights, specifically by claiming that God opposes abortion. Their standard propaganda includes admonitions such as “God loves the unborn,” “Abortion kills children,” “Pray to end abortion,” “Lord forgive us,” and “Abortion is a stench in the nostrils of God.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, God does not oppose abortion. Rather, he is history’s greatest abortionist. God is the most prolific “baby killer” and “murderer of unborn children” of all time. How do we know? The Bible says so. Here is a summary of the scriptural evidence:

  1. The biblical language for abortion—miscarriage or miscarry—occurs in four passages (Exodus 21:22; Exodus 23:26; Numbers 5:21–27; Hosea 9:14). None prohibit or condemn abortion, and in three God himself causes the abortions as punishment for disobedience.
  2. Four passages in scripture describe ripping open pregnant women with swords (2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 15:16; Hosea 13:16; Amos 1:13). These gruesome murders of pregnant mothers-to-be and their unborn fetuses are reported as routine events in God’s personal diary.
  3. Four massacres of all living people in various populations—including pregnant women and their unborn fetuses, who did not receive exemptions—were carried out by God as punishment for sinfulness or as systematic ethnic cleansing (Noachian flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Conquest of Canaan, twenty major slaughters) in which all inhabitants were killed.
  4. Of the more than one dozen passages that refer to the developing fetus in the womb, none prohibit or condemn abortion, nor do they affirm the nonexistent fundamentalist constructs of “right to life,” “sanctity of life,” or “fetal personhood.” God’s word also tells us that life begins with the first breath and that those never born are the truly fortunate ones.
  5. Notable for its absence from scripture is the eleventh commandment, “Thou shall not abort a fetus.” Furthermore, although the Bible specifies a total of sixty crimes that require the death penalty, abortion is not among them. Former Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn once declared that physicians who perform abortions should be executed (he is a doctor). As explained below, anti-abortion terrorists have acted in accord with Coburn’s belief.
  6. Two basic facts from reproductive medicine extend the allegation that God is history’s greatest abortionist. At least one-third of all fertilized eggs (“persons”) do not implant in the uterine wall and are immediately destroyed. Two million fetuses (“persons”) are spontaneously aborted in the United States annually. Both categories of occurrences are the handiwork of the fundamentalists’ “pro-life” god.

Fundamentalist Christians’ highest theological priority is banning abortion in the United States and severely punishing women who have abortions, in conjunction with their patriarchal program of controlling every aspect of women’s lives. Not only does the Bible not support their anti-abortion zealotry, their god is a pro-abortion deity who hates women and their unborn fetuses. Why don’t the fundamentalists simply acknowledge the biblical truth about abortion?

Finally, the penultimate expression of blatant fundamentalist hypocrisy is that the extremists have anointed themselves “pro-life,” while simultaneously murdering twelve and maiming seventeen innocent people they labeled killers and murderers. Anti-abortion terrorism, which has been the subject of at least eight books, also includes assault, arson, kidnapping, firebombing, harassment, and endless threats of violence, all carried out at women’s health clinics in the exalted name of the Prince of Peace.

Animal Welfare

In 2015, a committee of fundamentalist Christian leaders issued a ten-page statement on responsible animal care that declared broad support for widely accepted tenets of modern animal welfare. The statement was touted by the Humane Society of the United States as a major contribution to the animal welfare movement, saying that it “has the potential to create enormous good.”

The authors assert that their carefully crafted precepts of compassionate animal care are “informed by scripture, sourced in our Creator God, and always rooted in his Holy Word.” Their recommended principles are: (a) humans should give animals the respect they deserve, because all animals have inherent God-given value; (b) human cruelty toward animals is sinful and an affront to God; and (c) humans are obligated to work for the protection and preservation of all God’s animals.

Remarkably, and disingenuously, each of these principles of humane treatment of animals invokes God’s name, suggesting that the biblical deity endorses the concepts set forth in the three-part ethical formulation. To the contrary, the simple fact is that compassionate care for animals is thoroughly contradicted by God’s horrific mistreatment of animals, as summarized in the following points:

  1. Animal sacrifice is the central requirement in God’s obscene theology of worship of himself. The specification of inhumane procedures and descriptions of gruesome events is presented in 202 verses or passages in fifty-six chapters of fifteen books of scripture.
  2. The stipulated features are: sacrificial animals must be free of defects, their blood is splashed on the altar or consecrated individuals, and their carcasses are burned producing an aroma that is especially pleasing to the Lord.
  3. While the typical ritual sacrifice entailed killing a few dozen animals, some involved hundreds or thousands or more. Scripture stresses that God derives immense pleasure and enjoyment from these barbaric sacrifices of innocent animals.
  4. Blatant animal cruelty is another indicator of God’s uncaring attitude toward animals. Well-known illustrations are the hamstringing of horses, the stoning and burning of a miscreant’s livestock with him, and the drowning of a herd of pigs.
  5. God often used wild animals as vehicles of execution to punish disobedient Israelites and their enemies. His favorite killing instruments were lions, but he also employed bears and venomous snakes.
  6. Our best friend, the dog, is mentioned forty times in scripture, and none of the references are positive. Dogs are typically portrayed as disgusting scavengers that lick bodily sores and the blood of slaughtered adversaries and eat corpses.
  7. The Passover Lamb occupies a special place in Christian mythology as the slain Lamb of God who was the redemptive blood sacrifice killed to take away the sins of the world and proclaimed by one hundred million angels.

The statement’s authors cited eighty-seven Bible verses as the sources for their principles of compassionate animal care, but not one comes from the voluminous content summarized in the seven preceding points. Why did they omit this scriptural truth? Because they elected to lie about God’s word and promote a socially acceptable view of animal welfare concerns.

Capital Punishment

Fundamentalists’ unwavering support for the death penalty is fully endorsed by the Bible. Their designated capital offenses always include premeditated murder (“a life for a life”) and often subsume kidnapping, armed robbery, or child abuse. Having or performing an abortion is classified as a capital violation by a minority of fundamentalists.

The problem for the advocates of inerrancy is that scripture mandates execution for a total of sixty specified “crimes.” Many of these entail transgressions of rules of religious ritual and dietary practice that are generally not applicable today. However, at least two dozen infractions occur on a regular basis in contemporary America.

Why don’t fundamentalists demand that adulterers, apostates, astrologers, blasphemers, false prophets, fornicators, God-haters, homosexuals, idolaters, mediums, parent cursers, perjurers, rapists, rebellious sons, Sabbath-breakers, sorceresses, unbelievers, and unchaste daughters be summarily executed, just as God’s word requires?

And why don’t these pious bibliolatrists insist that only biblically approved execution methods be employed? These include: stoning (for example, Achan, Naboth), burning alive (for example, Sodom and Gomorah, Nadab and Abihu), stabbing or impaling (for example, King Eglon, Haman), drowning or suffocating (for example, Noachian deluge, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram), wild animals (for example, forty-two disrespectful boys, Daniel’s false accusers), beheading (for example, Sheba, John the Baptist), ripping open bellies (for example, pregnant women of Tiphsah and Gilead), and throwing from heights (for example, Edomite men, Jezebel).

Finally, fundamentalists fail to acknowledge God’s strong preference for collective punishment in implementing the death penalty. This terrible principle of injustice requires innocent associates of transgressors to be killed with them. Three gruesome examples are: Achan’s children stoned to death with him, three disobedient fathers’ children buried alive with them, and Daniel’s false accusers’ children eaten alive by lions with them.

Decalogue Displays

Judge Roy Moore became a fundamentalist demigod eighteen years ago when he installed a two-ton granite Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Judicial Building. Two years later, it was removed after a federal judge ruled “Roy’s Rock” unconstitutional, and Moore was thrown out of office.

Every year numerous state legislators and county commissioners across America attempt to place the Decalogue on public property. Why do they persist with this fundamentalist fetish? The stated justification is that the Ten Commandments are “a reflection of our history and of our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.”

However, none of the Decalogue shrines currently located on public property include the full text of Exodus 20:2–17, which runs about 300 words. Instead, all extant displays present an abbreviated seventy-five-word version that omits some highly embarrassing content from the edicts:

  1. The second commandment contains God’s explicit promise to punish the innocent descendants of those who violate the injunction against idolatry.
  2. The fifth commandment to honor one’s parents appeals to the selfish interests of offspring, when this sacred duty should be motivated by family values.
  3. The fourth and tenth commandments both approve of the detestable (and biblically endorsed) institution of slavery.
  4. The tenth commandment classifies a man’s wife as one of his possessions, just like slaves and livestock.

It should be noted that the first commandment acknowledges the existence of multiple competing gods, which is the prerequisite assumption of polytheism. (Furthermore, the U.S. government has no authority to tell citizens which of these gods, if any, to worship.)

Fundamentalists disregard the fact that the Decalogue is not a useful ethical code. Nine of the commandments are stated as prohibitions against extreme behavior and don’t tell us how to act ethically. The absence of anti-social behavior does not constitute good citizenship.

In addition to these difficulties, most fundamentalists don’t know that violators of the first nine commandments must be executed. Are these pious proponents of public posting willing to advocate for the application of the death penalty as God’s ordained punishment?

It is entirely reasonable to expect fundamentalist supporters of Ten Commandments displays to: (a) reproduce the complete text exactly as God dictated it to Moses, (b) list the required penalty for violators with each commandment, and (c) enforce the Commandments in a manner consistent with God’s will. Any deviations from these stipulations constitute blasphemy, which requires and deserves punishment by execution.

Family Values

The foundational conceptual theme in the fundamentalists’ pantheon of theopolitical positions is that of “family values.” The oft-repeated central claim that permeates the ubiquitous family-values mantra is that God loves children. The biblical evidence summarized in this section demonstrates that the claim is thoroughly contradicted by God’s behavior and is utterly false.

  1. There are fourteen unspeakable scriptural slaughters in which all residents were killed, with infants and children specifically identified as targeted victims. Children were murdered as punishment for the disobedience of their parents or other adults in the community.
  2. Most infants, babies, and children killed by God were victims in three biblical massacres: Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Conquest of Canaan, and in eighteen major slaughters in which children were not specifically named. Of course, tens of millions of “unborn children” were also murdered in the above events and several others.
  3. Six Bible verses invoke the abhorrent godly tradition of killing infants and children by dashing them to the ground, dashing them to pieces, or dashing them against the rocks.
  4. Three gory stories in which innocent children were executed with their disobedient parents illustrate the despicable practice of collective punishment and document God’s unfathomable cruelty.
  5. An especially macabre technique that God employed to kill children and adults as punishment for disobedience was the use of wild animals, as mentioned in the section on capital punishment.
  6. Child sacrifice by parents is required by God in cases of false prophecy and thanksgiving for military success; there are five horrific instances of parental cannibalism of their children.
  7. Contrary to fundamentalists’ claim, Jesus doesn’t love the little children. In point of biblical fact, there are good reasons to conclude that Jesus was not particularly fond of children.

For example, he adopted the barbaric language of dashing children to the ground in his horrifying prophecy for the destruction of Jerusalem as punishment for the residents because they did not acknowledge him as God’s emissary.

He coldly confirmed without regret or sorrow that everybody died—including infants, children, and “unborn children”—in Noah’s flood by drowning and in the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah. And he did not express any special concern for children or “unborn children” during the anticipated end times.

Jesus’s anti-family values are expressed in four well-known statements that document his attitude of complete disregard for children: “Anyone who does not hate parents, siblings, spouse, and children cannot be my disciple,” “Anyone who leaves homes, parents, siblings, spouse, or children for my sake will receive eternal life,” “Anyone who loves sons or daughters more than me is not worthy of me,” and “A person’s worst enemies will be the members of his own family.”

Jesus’s Teachings

The basic premise of Christianity is that the sacrificial execution of the Son of God guarantees eternal life for those who acknowledge him as their Lord and Savior. In other words, Jesus’s adherents are assured of immortality in the blissful world to come following this temporary earthly sojourn.

Believers are expected to conform their current lives to what fundamentalists refer to as “Christian values” and the “Christian worldview.” While some of Jesus’s teachings are commendable—love neighbors, reject violence, help the poor, and forgive sinners—many other declarations are not so easily obeyed and therefore are simply disregarded by fundamentalist biblists:

  1. Most of humankind face an irrevocable eternity of horrific torture for failure to obey inviolable biblical commandments.
  2. To achieve the highest calling in life, acolytes must permanently separate themselves from home and family.
  3. Atonement for sinful thoughts and actions requires the physical mutilation of limbs and eyes, including emasculation to preserve godly purity.
  4. Acceptable human relationships include communal ownership of property, subordinate status of women, involuntary servitude, and collective punishment.
  5. Those who renounce worldly success, desert family and home, eschew personal needs, and devote one’s mortal life to Jesus will be rewarded with everlasting existence.

These Gospel principles are never proclaimed by fundamentalists as integral to the highly vaunted “Christ-centered life.” And there are many other teachings attributed to Jesus that are studiously disregarded. For example, “To those who have much, more will be given. From those who have little, even that will be taken away.” This dictum, which is repeated four times, would appear to contradict Jesus’s portrayal as a dedicated advocate for the poor.

Another unsavory feature of Jesus’s personality that is carefully avoided by fundamentalists is his obsession with hell. The Gospel is dominated by Jesus’s detailed, highly repetitive descriptions of this horrific realm of unending torture. According to Jesus, hell is:

  1. A real place of terrible suffering, unbearable pain, unimaginable misery, excruciating agony, endless torment, and utter hopelessness.
  2. A furnace of fire that is never extinguished, where the damned suffer from unquenchable thirst and are infested with intestinal parasitic worms that never die, causing weeping and grinding of teeth, in the terror of absolute darkness.
  3. An everlasting, eternal, unending expression of God’s infinite wrath, revenge, and cruelty. The condemned never experience the relief of death.
  4. An irrevocable judgement that can never be nullified or reversed. No reprieves are ever issued, and nobody is ever pardoned.

Even though fundamentalists take great satisfaction in relating the terrible fate that unbelievers face, they are reluctant to acknowledge their savior’s unique role in formulating the frightful features of hell. Four additional elements of Jesus’s teachings are discussed in other sections. These are his thorough rejection of family values, his unquestioning acceptance of slavery, and his unequivocal condemnation of public prayer and sworn oaths.

Public Prayer

Fundamentalists not only consider prayer an essential component of the “Christ-centered life,” they also want to be recognized by others as profoundly pious disciples of Jesus. The National Day of Prayer events and the ubiquitous Mayor’s Prayer Breakfasts are the most grandiose examples of fundamentalists’ public displays of holiness.

There is just one problem with their ostentatious behavior: Jesus said don’t do it! In his unambiguous instruction in the Sermon on the Mount, he cautioned: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

In plain language, prayer is a personal matter that should be carried out in private. Jesus was absolutely clear: Do not make a public spectacle of prayer. The baffling question is why fundamentalists reject Jesus’s teaching about prayer.

Same-Sex Marriage

Fundamentalists define God-ordained marriage exclusively as a biblically approved relationship between one natural man and one natural woman. In fact, Hebrew scripture provides many illustrations of another acceptable form of family alliance: polygyny, wherein one man has multiple wives or concubines—for example, Lamech, Jacob, Gideon, David, and Solomon. Three additional forms of Bible-sanctioned unions are slave, captive, and levirate marriages.

Moreover, scripture does not prohibit or condemn same-sex nuptials, because the topic is never mentioned. The reason for this omission is simple: marriage is irrelevant for dead sinners, and the Bible mandates execution for homosexuals, including lesbians. Almighty God (Genesis 19:4–5, 24–25) and his chief spokesmen, Moses (Leviticus 20:13), Jesus (Matthew 5:17–18), and Paul (Romans 1:26, 27, 30) are absolutely clear about the death penalty for homosexuals.

Why don’t the anti-LGBTQ fundamentalists who oppose same-sex marriage so vehemently and claim that homosexuality is an abhorrent sin just obey God’s unequivocal command? Why don’t they advocate execution of homosexuals just as scripture requires? They could encourage state legislatures to enact laws that would expand application of the death penalty to homosexuals, and they could ask the federal courts to include the provision in the U.S. criminal code.

It is apparent that fundamentalists do not have the courage to pursue a political program designed to implement biblical law in America, but they are perfectly willing to promote an agenda of hateful harassment directed at the LGBTQ community. Their standard demands include:

  1. Reverse the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.
  2. Rescind public accommodation laws that require businesses to violate their Christian beliefs about homosexuality.
  3. Do not allow placement of adoptive children with same-sex couples.
  4. Require that bathroom use correspond to biological sex.
  5. Ban educational curricula that teach that homosexual and transgender “lifestyles” are normal.

The foundational postulate that motivates fundamentalists’ hysteria about same-sex marriage encompasses the false belief that homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. Rational critics of these bigots should ask them to explain the unconventional lifestyles of the two principal founders of Christianity—Jesus and Paul. In particular, what were their sexual proclivities?

Slavery Endorsement

The largest fundamentalist denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention, formed in 1845 because Baptists in nine southern states justified slavery by pointing out that scripture sanctions the institution upon which the plantation economy depended completely. The issue has contemporary implications for the Confederate memorial controversies and the resurgence of white supremacy politics.

It is a fact that both the Hebrew and Christian Testaments are sympathetic to and supportive of slavery. For this reason, some southern slave owners argued that Christian abolitionists were defying God’s will by opposing slavery. Of special relevance for bibliolatrists is the strong authorization of slavery in the statements of the Bible’s three leading Christian figures: Jesus, Paul, and Peter.

Jesus’s approval of slavery is readily apparent in his inclusion of servants and their masters in eight of his parables. Because he never criticized or condemned slavery and did not forbid people from owning slaves, he tacitly endorsed the practice. In one of these parables, he explicitly authorized the cruel master-slave relationship when he recommended whipping disobedient slaves.

Five of the eight slave parables are noted for their extreme violence through murder, killing, or maiming. The central figure of the master or the son is Jesus himself, and the consistent theme in these violent stories is that those who disobey Jesus or reject him as Messiah will be punished with unending torture in hell.

Jesus granted authority to slave owners to discipline their slaves, establishing the divine Christian mandate used to justify the beatings of black slaves in southern states. Jesus also approved of the rules for slave owners in chapter 21 of Exodus. Further, two of his miracles involved slaves: the healing of the centurion’s servant and the restoration of the slave boy Malchus’s ear.

In the Epistles, Paul decreed that slaves should obey their masters with respect and fear in everything, just as they would obey Jesus. And for their obedience they will be rewarded in the next life. The apostle Peter emphasized that slaves are obligated by Christian faith and fear of God to submit to their owners, no matter how brutal. He said that it is commendable when slaves endure unjust suffering that is willed by God.

Sworn Oaths

Prescribed oaths are promises by those giving testimony in courts of law or preparing to serve in government office, in which they provide assurance they will speak the truth or obligate themselves to perform specified duties. For fundamentalists, oaths are regarded as holy rituals in which God’s name is invoked, while holding the Bible, as the guarantor of truth and ethical behavior.

As with public prayer, there is just one problem with swearing oaths: Jesus said don’t do it! In clear language in the Sermon on the Mount, he warned: “But I tell you, do not swear an oath. … All you need to say is simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Again, why do fundamentalists reject Jesus’s clear teaching about sworn oaths? An episode from Williamson County, Texas (where I live), illustrates just how utterly meaningless sworn oaths are to fundamentalists. Three county commissioners swore on the Bible to uphold the U.S. Constitution. They were subsequently convicted in federal court of violating the constitutional rights of a resident. Did they acknowledge their illegal behavior? No. Did they apologize to their constituents? No. Did they resign from office? No. Were they removed from office? No. Their oaths sworn on the Holy Bible not only violated Jesus’s edict, they were obviously worthless as guarantors of anything.

Why Do Fundamentalists Lie?

To address this critical question, it is necessary to explain what is meant by the allegation that fundamentalists lie about the Bible. In general usage, a lie is a statement that is known by the speaker or writer to be untrue. In this analysis, a lie refers to the intentional misrepresentation or distortion of what scripture says about a major theopolitical issue.

In plain language, I am accusing Christian fundamentalists of biblical dishonesty. They assert that their positions on the ten issues summarized in the sidebar are supported by God’s perfect word. It is abundantly evident that their claims are unequivocally false. In every case, they have disregarded the voluminous scriptural content that contradicts their political opinions.

 


Summary of Fundamentalists’ Biblical Lies

Abortion Rights: They never cite the dozens of verses, passages, and episodes in which God murdered tens of millions of mothers-to-be and their unborn fetuses, while advancing an allegedly Bible-based agenda designed to end women’s reproductive rights.

Animal Welfare: They never mention the extensive Bible content describing barbaric animal sacrifice, which is required in godly worship, as well as wanton animal cruelty, while disingenuously endorsing the humane perspective on animal care.

Capital Punishment: They identify one crime, premeditated murder, and possibly a few others, for which they advocate the death penalty, while knowingly disregarding twenty other violations for which God mandates execution.

Decalogue Displays: They fanatically pursue placement of Ten Commandments monuments, which display a severely edited and blasphemous version of the highly offensive and practically useless edicts, on public property.

Family Values: They maintain the scriptural fiction called “family values,” including the claim that God loves children, which is thoroughly contradicted by scores of gruesome Bible stories, by simply omitting from consideration all this disgusting material.

Jesus’s Teachings: They focus their obsessive attachment to Jesus on the belief that he was sacrificed so that they can live forever, while rejecting his many horrific commandments, especially his anti-family values.

Public Prayer: They reject Jesus’s unequivocal declaration that prayer is a personal activity that should be conducted in private, while continuing to make a public spectacle of their supposed piety.

Same-Sex Marriage: They disregard the unambiguous Bible teachings that mandate execution of homosexuals and permit marriage arrangements other than monogamous heterosexual unions, while passively tolerating homosexuality and condemning same-sex marriage.

Slavery Endorsement: They ignore the scriptural truth that slavery is a Christian-approved human institution, with full support from Jesus, Paul, and Peter.

Sworn Oaths: They disregard Jesus’s prohibition against sworn oaths, typically swearing obedience to secular authorities while ostentatiously invoking God’s approval.

 


It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that fundamentalists have willfully ignored those verses, passages, and episodes that disaffirm their positions. They talk endlessly about inerrancy of scripture as the foundation of their “Christian worldview,” and they constantly quote the Bible in defending their incomparable “Christian values.” Hence, it is entirely reasonable to assume that they are fully knowledgeable about scripture.

With this premise, we can address an important question: How do inerrantists delude themselves into believing that their theopolitical positions enjoy biblical support? How do they reconcile the monumental disparities between scripture and their sociocultural views? By what mental contortions do they resolve the obvious contradictions? Based on their writings, we see that they invoke three primary strategies of scriptural interpretation that enable them to decide what God really means in his allegedly perfectly accurate decrees that are without error.

The first strategy, known as textual selectivity, entails identifying those verses and passages that support their previously adopted views while simultaneously omitting unsupportive or contradictory material. Every one of the ten issues reviewed is illustrative of this all-purpose technique, with opposition to abortion providing a concise example. Fundamentalists’ favorite verse is the barely relevant assertion: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). But the anti-abortion zealots never mention the dozens of verses and events that completely negate their position.

The second strategy depends on the vague interpretive criterion of “proper exegesis” or “proper understanding,” which means simply that believers can decide whether or not scripture is applicable to a given issue and, if so, how it applies. This broad-based concept provides what is essentially a universal screening tactic, an interpretive panacea. Of course, the operative term is proper, with the fundamentalists deciding for themselves exactly what constitutes proper interpretation.

The third strategy maintains that principles and commandments from the Old Testament are only binding if New Testament teachings concur. This transparent rationalization for setting aside the brutal norms and standards of Mosaic law fails because Jesus endorsed every word of the Hebrew Testament. Furthermore, his unsympathetic attitude toward women, children, and slaves and his rejection of “family values” are untouched by this disingenuous interpretive filter.

These three interrelated strategies of scriptural interpretation are remarkably ingenious excuses to bypass the sacrosanct postulate of biblical inerrancy. They enable believers to give their idiosyncratic renditions of passages and episodes extracted from scripture precedence over the literal reading of the text. These highly creative techniques should be viewed as additional evidence of the fundamentalist propensity to prevaricate whenever necessary to salvage the claim of absolute truth of scripture.

To answer the difficult question of why fundamentalists lie about the Bible requires extensive speculation, because they will not assist in the task. Despite overwhelming evidence, they won’t even concede that their theopolitical positions are not supported by scripture. Of course, they can’t acknowledge this well-documented truth, because to do so would force them to admit that their strong commitment to biblical inerrancy is untenable.

Another question that can be tentatively addressed concerns the origins of the ten thoroughly unbiblical political positions. When did they emerge in the fundamentalists’ war against modernity? How were they derived and verified? Who pronounced them to be official doctrine? By what process was abortion declared to be murder, same-sex marriage asserted to be contrary to God’s plan for humanity, and so forth? Careful analysis could locate the historical antecedents of these theopolitical opinions.

Because such an investigation would require a separate project, I suggest that a reasonable guess is that fundamentalists’ political viewpoints developed over the past century from a variety of sources and influences, including early revivalist traditions, community tolerance, and popular acceptability. An excellent example of substantial secular determination is provided by the very recent development of the entirely unbiblical statement on animal welfare. One unchallengeable conclusion is that the ten fundamentalist political positions were formulated independently of scripture.

A recent case in Texas illustrates how emotional conflicts and confused allegiances may be engendered by hypocritical Christian dishonesty. A state senator, who is the legislature’s foremost opponent of women’s reproductive rights and also an orthopedic surgeon, was investigated for alleged sexual harassment of a female graduate student. After he refused to cooperate with the university’s inquiry, claiming that a third party he knew but would not identify actually communicated the vulgar image, the anti-abortion zealot thanked God for giving him the strength to persevere. These fundamentalist Christian leaders and activists want to control the reproductive lives of women, but just can’t seem to keep their paws off them! The professional consensus is that the senator is a present-day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that there was no third party.

As a final question, we can ask why fundamentalists don’t acknowledge some degree of disparity between their views and scripture as a basis for adjusting some of their positions to conform to biblical truth. To do so would require them to rehabilitate their “Christian worldview” and adopt some positions that they have condemned as contrary to God’s word for as long as a century or more. This is probably not going to happen across the board, but it is the only reasonable course of action if they want to respect the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy without continuing with their ongoing program of public deceit.

There are at least two easy modifications that fundamentalists could implement. First, they could eschew sworn oaths, because Jesus commanded his followers to simply affirm or disaffirm. Second, they could stop fighting to place Decalogue displays on public property and, instead, initiate a national effort to erect Ten Commandments monuments on the lawns of every Christian church in America.

Is there any possibility that fundamentalists will adjust, revise, modify, or even reverse their positions in the other eight areas of political commitment? Probably not, because they are so heavily invested emotionally in issues such as “family values” and opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. For this reason, it would be difficult for them to embrace the concepts of women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality.

Perhaps the greatest barrier to compromise is that they would have to admit that their allegedly scripture-based views are wrong—and this would be hard to do.

Because fundamentalists are irremediably committed to their predetermined theopolitical views, humanists have the opportunity and responsibility to exploit this tremendous vulnerability in the illogic of scriptural inerrancy. Humanists must relentlessly publicize fundamentalists’ biblical dishonesty and political hypocrisy, pointing out on every appropriate occasion the monumental discrepancy between their beloved “Christian values” and God’s perfect word. Humanists should aggressively report the well-documented fact that the fundamentalist worldview is premised on biblical lies.

 


Note

*The term refers to political positions that fundamentalists claim are fully supported by scripture and thus are endorsed by the god of the Bible.

Brian Bolton

Brian Bolton is a retired research psychologist and university professor living in Georgetown, Texas. His academic contributions have been recognized by universities and psychological societies.


Fundamentalism emerged from respectable traditions of revivalism and evangelicalism in the closing decades of the nineteenth century and quickly acquired a thoroughly independent identity. Specifically, fundamentalism was a reaction to liberal Protestant theology, which was attempting to accommodate Christianity to scientific, intellectual, and theological developments occurring at the time. The doctrinal foundation of fundamentalism was …

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