The Age of Smug


“Millions of evangelicals and other Christian fundamentalists believe that the Bible was dictated by God to men who acted essentially as human transcriptionists.”  Well guess what, you millions of simpletons: “If that were the case one would have to conclude that God is a terrible writer.” Psychologist and author Valerie Tarico is here to share some important insights on why this is so.  For instance, did you know

  • That an undetermined number of writers over approximately 900 years wrote the pastiche we now call the Bible?
  • That they drew on propaganda and myths that was floating around various oral cultures, like the many versions of the flood story?
  • That the result is not a “unified book of divine guidance,” but a mix of genres, including myths, laws, poetry, court records, and mysticism?
  • That the content represents the concerns of iron-age primitives, rather than “timeless and perfect” messaging direct to us from God?
  • That there are 2 conflicting creation stories, 3 conflicting Ten Commandments, and four conflicting Easter stories?

Did you know that, evvies and fundies?  Obviously not, or you wouldn’t keep on taking the whole outmoded book literally.  And you would understand that the Bible isn’t even a good example of sacred literature because it’s so badly written:*

Mixed messages, repetition, bad fact-checking, awkward constructions, inconsistent voice, weak character development, boring tangents, contradictions, passages where nobody can tell what the heck the writer meant to convey.  This doesn’t sound like a book that was dictated by a deity.

Dang!  Why didn’t I think of that before??

In his introduction to The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis longed for an earlier day when atheists argued like men.  Excuse the sexism; he meant rationally and substantively.  Ms. Tarico, who claims some understanding of evangelicals as she used to be one (or something) argues like a teenager: You say that because paternalism.  Your conclusions are stupid and so is your book.  The Bible contains no accurate scientific information or health tips and therefore it’s worthless.  Like other critics from the high-school debate club, she

  • mischaracterizes the other side, presenting the most simplistic view of people of faith imaginable;
  • pretends, or fails to acknowledge, a world of biblical scholarship that has addressed every one of her objections over and over;
  • litters the field with straw men, such as believers who insist on taking every verse literally (when she’s actually the one who insists on taking every verse literally);
  • assumes herself to be at the pinnacle of human understanding in which every new intellectual trend invalidates every old one;
  • wraps herself in a cocoon of smugness.

Am I being smug?  It’s a temptation.  It’s also a cliche: the rolled eyeballs, the sigh, the headshake.  I’m tempted, but a serious issue lurks under the shallow reasoning of the Spirit of this Age.  We’re in danger of kicking away the ladder that got us to this enlightened age of tolerance and sanitation.  The Bible is, primarily, a book about God, starting with two major premises:

1. He made this universe and it belongs to him.  2. Humans are special to him and every one of them without distinction is made in his image.  Every moral principle that could ever be flows from those two enduring principles.  That’s what the Bible makes clear, over the centuries of its composition and the variety of its genres, and no other sacred writing come close.  Kick that away, and all things are permitted.

*”Why is the Bible so badly written?” was published on the Salon website last week, but Salon received so many complaints about the poorly-written article they took it down.


  1. // Reply

    There is a tension, is there not, of exposing the false v. revealing the Truth. Thank you for addressing this. Thank you for also presenting the real deal.

    I read two other powerful refutations of the false way just today. Crowds are streaming into the broad way. But some do find the narrow road that leads to eternal life.

    1. // Reply

      A few will always find the narrow road–it’s no different now than when Jesus originally said that. That’s why we need to keep offering the truth!

  2. // Reply

    I agree with Ruth. I think that this woman knows what sells. She’s telling everyone what they want to hear.

    I teach a Bible study to children and our main objective is to get the kids so grounded in Scripture that they will instantly recognize false teaching.

    1. // Reply

      Sharon: that’s a project I heartily approve of! It’s the main reason for my Bible Reading Challenge series. As for knowing what one is selling, I’m not totally sure about that. I mean, I think Ms. Tarico is deceived and self-justifying. She’s telling herself what SHE wants to hear, in order to be noticed and approved by the right people.

  3. // Reply

    That’s an interesting point, Janie. We were just discussing that today in Sunday School. Namely that God has arranged it so that his truth will be unpalatable, foolishness and unpopular to the world. (My husband and I lead a college class). We discussed the risks involved in taking a stand for truth and how do we witness to a world that is hostile and contemptuous of that truth.

    If Ms. Tarico wrote her book to be approved by the world, then she probably succeeded. As Christians we are privileged to swim upstream against the popular current of modern culture.

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