Dalmatian Theology

dalmatian-puppy.jpgThey don’t refer to it as such, but many Christians teach a message of Dalmatian theology, whereby the Bible is only inspired in spots and they are inspired to spot the spots.   (Hat tip to the Baptist pastor who coined this phrase. )

Saying the Bible isn’t fully inspired by God may seem like a humble premise, but it actually makes several strong (and unfounded) claims. 

It implies that God couldn’t, or wouldn’t deliver His word to us in a reliable way, and that despite God’s alleged failings, flawed humans are able to discern which parts were inspired and which parts were not.  Are we to believe that humans are to correct for God’s alleged errors?   

Why is this a serious problem?  It is hard enough to follow the teachings of the Bible without having “Christians” pick and choose what they want to believe in.  Worse yet, they ignore some parts of scripture so they can teach that the opposite is not only acceptable but desirable. 

If someone claims the Bible is only partially inspired, ask a few questions:

  • How did they come to this conclusion?
  • Do they think their favorite verses are inspired?  If so,  how do they know?  How about John 3:16?  How about “love your neighbor?”  Whenever “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is quoted, I never hear the liberal theologians insist that Jesus didn’t really say that.
  • If the Bible is only partly inspired, how can they be sure that their preferred verses aren’t the ones that are uninspired and the ones they don’t like are the “real” verses?

Here’s one I made up: Advanced Dalmatian Theology.  It is just like Dalmatian theology, except God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives .   They use phrases such as “God is still speaking,” but they don’t mean He still speaks through his Word (that would be a true statement).  They think He is still revealing new truths to the church and changing doctrines taught in the Bible.  They may also say foolish things like, “The Holy Spirit is moving in a new direction.”  Indeed.

But the orthodox can fall prey to this in a more subtle way by claiming full inspiration but conveniently ignoring passages we don’t like.  Consider this passage on church leadership, where some exaggerate “not given to drunkenness” to mean no alcohol whatsoever but ignore the “must manage his own family well . . .” part.

1 Timothy 3:2-4 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

Another example is correctly teaching about the sin of homosexual behavior while neglecting to give proper emphasis to Biblical admonitions against divorce and adultery.  We need to teach all of scripture with balance.  Grandstanding on sins that aren’t temptations to us and soft-pedaling those that are is not an attractive or Christian thing to do.   

There are plenty of reasons and resources to defend the accuracy and integrity of all of the original scriptures.  We don’t need to get sloppy and just follow the parts we like. 

I’ll close with some friendly advice: Don’t mess with God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Revelation 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

67 thoughts on “Dalmatian Theology”

  1. H.O.

    Okay, let’s try it. If you tell me something that is 99% true and 1% false, then (not to be funny) I would say that you were telling me mostly what is true (at least 99% of it) and something that is not true.

    Omkar

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  2. Okay, I’ll go with the most likely answer and say “yes.” You are, at least, (intentionally, I assume) making her believe you’ve cleaned your room when you haven’t.

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  3. Ah, but I have also told her some of the truth. [I have done my homework.] But it is still a lie. It is not the truth. The evil contains ‘good’, but the deed is corrupted by the lie, and made bad. For is not telling the truth [in this case, don’t get picky] a good thing?

    Something is right, or it is wrong. Period.

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  4. A few points.

    1. You never asked if I thought what you did (telling a lie/truth) was right or wrong.

    2. You said yourself, “the ‘evil’ contains good,” which is the whole point here. Again, the point being that we can’t find anything that is absolutely good or absolutely bad. Apparently it’s all relative. Something might be good from one perspective but bad from another. You still have not come up with a thing or action that we can conclude is absolutely good or absolutely bad.

    3. “Something is right, or it is wrong. Period.”
    That’s right, the glass is either half full or half empty. So which is it?

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  5. “1. You never asked if I thought what you did (telling a lie/truth) was right or wrong.”

    Maybe I should have made clear that what you or I believe about reality has absolutely nothing to do with what reality actual is. In consequence, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ is reason enough to say that lying is a sin. [And therefore wrong/evil.]

    “2. You said yourself, “the ‘evil’ contains good,” which is the whole point here. Again, the point being that we can’t find anything that is absolutely good or absolutely bad. Apparently it’s all relative. Something might be good from one perspective but bad from another. You still have not come up with a thing or action that we can conclude is absolutely good or absolutely bad.”

    I also said it myself that the evil corrupts the good and makes it bad. [In the same way that salt, having lost its saltiness, is no longer of any use.] And, yes, I have. Serving God is always good, and disobeying Him is always bad.

    “3. “Something is right, or it is wrong. Period.”
    That’s right, the glass is either half full or half empty. So which is it?”

    Where do you get the ‘glass’ thing from? It seems an entirely inappropriate analogy to me… could you explain?

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Hidden One

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  6. Re #1 and #2 above:
    So are you saying it’s never right or moral to bear false witness?

    Re #3:
    The point here is that you’re saying there are absolutes, where I’m saying we haven’t found any absolutes. Further, I’m saying that right and wrong is a matter of perspective, just like seeing a glass of water as half full, or half empty, is just a matter of perspective. The analogy might not regard ethics, but it does make the point re absolutes.

    I feel your passion about things being either right or wrong (period). But I just haven’t seen any situation where we can’t find some good or some bad.
    If salt goes bad, then maybe it’s no longer good as a spice, but couldn’t it serve another purpose?. Or, what if someone learned from the experience of the salt going bad, and now they won’t allow it to spoil anymore. The possibilities could be endless.

    “Serving god is always good.” Please give an example of service to god.

    “Disobeying god is always bad.” Please give an example of disobeying god.

    Tt 1.15 says, “to those who are pure all things are pure, but to those whose minds are corrupt, nothing is pure…” (I paraphrase).
    As I intepret this verse, we’ll never be able to realize this if we can’t see that good and bad are a matter of perspective.

    Omkar

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  7. Omkar, you seem absolutely sure that there are no absolutes, so there is an absolute for you.

    Seriously, what is the end result of your concerns about absolutes versus grey areas? Is there a practical implication in your life, or is this just a theoretical thing you wonder about?

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  8. Yes, good point Neil. But I’ve tried not to sound absolute about it (though I may have). But I tried to state my position in not so absolute terms. For example, I didn’t mean to say that there are no absolutes re right and wrong (maybe I did say that by mistake), but rather that I have not found any absolutes re right and wrong.

    The practical application for me is that this kind of intellectual exercise opens us to the possibility of seeing all things as ‘good,’ the way god created/creates them. It also allows us to see all things as pure (again, Tt. 1.15). It gives us the ability to remove negativity from our hearts and minds, to be less judgmental, and to be more accepting of others and others’ ideas. I believe it opens us more to the unlimited intelligence that is offered through god. It makes us more creative and flexible in our thinking, because we are able to see things not just as good, or bad, but as useful. If I were abused as a child and I only saw that as a bad thing, then I would be stuck with something bad. But if I can see it as something that I had to go through so that I could learn from it, become stronger and learn to rely more on god and his will, and maybe even help others who may suffer through their own challenges, then I am no longer with that burden, but more blessed. In short, it allows us to think more positively.

    I hope this offers some clarity.
    Omkar

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  9. Thanks, Omkar. I am all for making good out of bad. That is one of the fabulous things God does in redeeming us. I just don’t see how the “there are no absolutes” thinking plays into it. It is absolutely true that God can and does make good come out of bad. It is absolutely true that we should not judge hypocritically, that we should be forgiving, etc.

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  10. Omkar, I have very little time at the moment, but I would like to respond, so I’d like to pint out soemthign that’s been bugging me for awhile.

    When an act is listed as good or evil, in order to alter that, you add in details. Stuff that wasn’t there before. I’m sure that if you asked about whether such details were intended to exist in all of our examples, [at least mine], you would find that they did not.

    Go ahead – ask away. Given only the information I have supplied, you can add details such that my examples are not what they are intended to be. But they are my examples, so that’s my privilege. Feel free to ask if certain details of your own devising are or are not true in my examples. Then do what you will.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Hidden One

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  11. Sounds like a plan, H.O.

    Are you going to provide an example of an act or thing that is absolutely good or absolutely bad? (I wasn’t clear on that part of your plan).

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  12. Here’s my original example:

    “A child walks into a church with his parents, and sits with them.”

    I’ll pre-answer a couple questions: neither the child nor his parents are or ever were terrorists or criminals. The child is allowed to sit with his parents, and by doing this he does not deny anyone else a seat. He will go on and participate in the service as best he can, and will not be unruly or be a distraction. O, and just to make it clearer – his parents had told him to go to church with them and sit with them, and he immediately complied.

    For the record, this is a GOOD act.

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  13. Okay.

    But honestly, it sounds like what your doing/saying is this:
    This is a good act. Why? Because I just labeled it as good.
    My question is this: Could this possibly be considered or perceived as a negative act? The details that you describe might be the details according to one person’s perspective, but not necessarily everyone’s perspective. This is typically the case…people see things differently. You can say that peoples’ perspectives don’t change what REALLY is or what REALLY happened, but tell me how we determine what really is or what really happened outside of people’s perspectives or analyses. And the thing is, if this action (just as you described it, without added details or any details taken away) can be considered negative from anyone else’s perspective, then it can be said not to be absolutely good. For example, many folks think that religion is responsible for alot of the problems we have faced historically and even these days. Certainly they would view that specific act you describe as ‘not good.’ Regardless of my opinion about the value of church, the act you described above could be (and most likely is) seen as both good and bad relative to one’s perspective and values.
    If you’re response might be “Things are good or bad regardless of perspectives or values or anything else” then please tell me how we determine their value as good or bad. If your response to this is “Things are either good or bad because god or the bible says they are,” then this sounds to me like your saying, again, “This is good because I say so.”

    Omkar

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  14. “If you’re response might be “Things are good or bad regardless of perspectives or values or anything else” then please tell me how we determine their value as good or bad. If your response to this is “Things are either good or bad because god or the bible says they are,” then this sounds to me like your saying, again, “This is good because I say so.””

    Things are good or bad because the Church says they are bad becuase the Bible and Sacred Tradition both say they are bad.

    😀

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