Of all of the differences between denominations in the Christian faith, one of the biggest and most important to many is whether or not the Bible should be treated as the infallible Word of God, or whether the Bible should be treated as partly historical, and partly allegorical.
In this article from Religious Tolerance, interpretation of the Bible falls into three categories: the complete Word of God, completely infallible and always relevant to the user; contains the Word of God, but also contains items that we should reject because they go against the Word of God; and a wide-ranging human document, written by humans with agendas, containing folklore and myths, and was compiled and edited by other humans.
Different denominations in Christianity have different ways of interpreting the Scripture. Fundamentalist Christians, like Baptists, tend to view the Bible in the first interpretation, being the infallible Word of God. They believe that the Holy Spirit intervened in the minds of the authors and editors of the Bible, making it divinely inspired. This sort of believe means that the creation stories and the stories of Noah, Jonah, and the rest of the cast of characters is undeniably true.
Meanwhile, the “religiously liberal” believe that the Bible, being written, compiled and edited by humans, is bound to have some errors. I believe that Wartburg College can be part of this “religiously liberal” sect, as I remember learning in my religion class that several stories in the Bible–including the stories of Job, Noah, Jonah, the Tower of Babel, the Battle of Jericho, the Creation, and several others–are merely folktales, and did not actually happen.
Personally, I’m of the camp that says that while the Bible may contain the Word of God, it was also handled by humans, so there will be human biases in some of the writings. Some of the Bible is not relevant in today’s world, such as the directions on how to treat your slaves, and not allowing midgets or cripples to take communion. Of course, I also believe that this sort of thing also permeates into the New Testament as well, because although the Apostle Paul wrote most of the Epistles, a lot of the Epistles don’t follow the same voice and ideals as the others. The same guy who wrote that we should not conform to this world cannot be the same person who wrote that women are inferior to men.
But the question also arises: how do we determine where the biases lie? If we believe in a Loving and Caring God, obviously, the biases lie in anything that does against that narrative; any sort of Scripture that goes against loving other people unconditionally is obviously against the will of God, and must be rejected. However, because God is also a Jealous God, maybe some of those biases really don’t exist.
It’s an interesting thing to consider, because many times the issue of Scriptural interpretation makes or breaks relationships between denominations. This is one of those topics where I’m curious as to what you believe: is the Bible infallible, or can it be up for interpretation?