Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Slavery and the Bible

In a thread down lower, totally unrelated to this subject, slavery and the Bible came up and David Heddle made a comment that I want to reply to in full here. I want to move this up because I think this is a really important issue and, for me, it was hugely important. It was one of the key reasons why, as a young man, I ultimately decided that the Bible was not the word of God and left Christianity. I don’t intend this as a slam on David; it is entirely incidental that he happens to be the one making this argument, which could have been made by millions of others. When the subject was brought up, this is what he wrote:

What Paul is teaching is quite clear. Slavery existed and was legal at that time. Paul told slaves to obey the law which meant to obey their masters. End of story. There is no debate or controversy.

We can guess that neither Jesus nor Paul endorsed the Roman government, yet they both taught that Roman law was to be obeyed. So “slaves obey your master” is not teaching that slavery is morally acceptable any more than “pay your taxes to Rome” implies that the Roman government was moral.

The problem with this reasoning is that it requires that we condemn those who fought against slavery in America, where it was also legal at the time. We must bear in mind that Paul’s advice to Philemon was not one of mere practicality (don’t revolt because they may kill you if you do); for Paul, a Christian must obey the law because the lawmakers were endowed by God. Look at Romans 13:

1. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5. Wherefore [ye] must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

For Paul, clearly, human governments are ordained by God and if you do not obey them the punishment is damnation. This is a moral position for Paul, not merely a practical one. Just as clearly, then, this condemns the people who, for example, ran the underground railroad (a good many of them Christians, of course) and hid and helped runaway slaves. They were helping break the law.

Now, a Christian might reply that Paul’s admonition only applies when the government’s law does not violate God’s law, but bear in mind that there is not a single verse in the Bible that condemns slavery and dozens of verses that support it. At no point in the 1400 years or so that God was allegedly speaking to various authors and inspiring them to put his commandments into writing did he ever inspire one of them to write that owning another human being was a sin; all of them assumed, like all other cultures of their time, that slavery was normal and acceptable.

This is one of the primary reasons why I can no longer accept the Bible as the word of God, as I once did. It makes no sense that God could have found the time or interest to inspire men to pass on his commandments regarding the most mundane of things – whether to cut one’s hair, whether to wear mixed fabrics, how to dress, and so forth – yet never does he bother to say “don’t own slaves”. And this even when he had the perfect opportunity to do so when the events regarding Philemon present themselves to Paul. If God was indeed inspring Paul to write, why on earth would he not have Paul condemn slavery as contrary to the teachings of Christ? It simply makes no sense, nor do any of the apologetic rationalizations for it.

Comments

  1. #1 J-Dog
    March 23, 2006

    Excellent analysis, and similiar to my realization that the bible is bunkam. Of course, you can’t ever go wrong taking a position of belief opposite that of David “Oily Mr. Smarmy-Pants” Heddle.

  2. #2 Osteo
    March 23, 2006

    Posts like this are the reason Dispatches is the first blog I read every day.
    A well-intentioned soul at work seems intent on saving me, and has invited me (on multiple occasions) to come to his church or just have lunch and discuss the bible. His church is evangelical, and at least quasi-fundamentalist: the bible is not necessarily the direct Word, but it is Inspired and Sufficient.
    I have informed him that I would certainly enjoy an academic/intellectual biblical discussion, but I would likely approach it from a highly critical perspective. Interestingly, when I asked him about evolution (my foremost issue with fundamentalism) he was honestly at a loss to explain his Church’s position, it had never come up! Perhaps if he doesn’t have much to go with a evo discussion, we can talk slavery. You have given me a whole new set of issues….Heck, I’ll just print out your entire archive and bring it with me.

  3. #3 Jeff Hebert
    March 23, 2006

    Ed wrote:

    If God was indeed inspring Paul to write, why on earth would he not have Paul condemn slavery as contrary to the teachings of Christ? It simply makes no sense, nor do any of the apologetic rationalizations for it.

    The rejoinder here, of course, is that the God of the Bible does not in fact find slavery morally objectionable. That is your human moral judgement, not God’s. The Bible clearly has no problem with slavery and so, in the orthodox view, neither should we.

  4. #4 windy
    March 23, 2006

    David said something to the effect that Paul thought that harsh circumstances (such as being a slave) should not be that much of a problem for Christians and indeed could make their witness more powerful. OK, then: If a Roman official whose job was to hunt down Christians converted, should he not keep on persecuting other Christians, to give them even more chances to test their faith? Can’t disobey the government, after all.

    Or you could say that Paul did condemn slavery, but in a really roundabout and flowery way. OK, but why then did he condemn much more harshly less harmful acts like homosexuality? That wasn’t even illegal in Rome as far as I know.

  5. #5 Ginger Yellow
    March 23, 2006

    Not only that, but people like Heddle always bang on about how atheism leads to moral relativism, while Biblical morality is absolute. Quite clearly, in this case the oposite is the case. If the morality of slavery is dependent on the present government’s laws, then it will change over time. Which is precisely what biblical literalists and other hardline Christian moralists claim isn’t supposed to happen. And finally, if the Bible is the only source of moral guidance, and you have a choice of voting for two identical parties but one supports slavery and the other doesn’t, how do you know who to vote for? The Bible would seem to suggest either the one that supports slavery, or the one that wouldn’t upset the status quo. Either way, it’s hardly moral absolutism.

  6. #6 Soldats
    March 23, 2006


    The Bible would seem to suggest either the one that supports slavery, or the one that wouldn’t upset the status quo. Either way, it’s hardly moral absolutism.

    I’d venture at that point they vote for whichever party has their preacher in their pocket.

  7. #7 Chance
    March 23, 2006

    With all this bible talk on this site lately is it even possible to understand the harm the belief that this book is infallible has caused millions and millions of people?

    No one can ever seem to understand it, no one ever has, or ever will it seems. Perhaps because it simply isn’t what people are raised to see it as. It is a strange mental phenomena, and I agree with Daniel Dennett it should be studied. What’s curious is smart people who buy into it create elaborate schemes of rationalization to rescue an irrational belief in the first place and never seem to realize they are doing it. Isn’t that the definition of delusional?

    It is unfathomable.

  8. #8 Mark Paris
    March 23, 2006

    Even some enlightened christians admit that the OT bible is a product of a particular culture at a particular time. They have a harder time admitting that the NT is also a product of a culture and time. Paul apparently was proud of being a Roman citizen. I wonder if he could have been protecting his ass in his writings by assuring the government that he was not a subversive.

    Early christianity appealed to the under classes, including slaves, because it promised pie in the sky bye and bye. In other words, don’t worry about this world because in the next world, the one that really counts, the great will be brought low and the low will be exalted. That particular part of christianity, which is not part of the words attributed to Jesus, is particularly harmful today. Think about former Intererior Secty James Watt, who didn’t see any reason not to consume all natural resources because the end of the world was coming soon anyway.

  9. #9 Bill Snedden
    March 23, 2006

    By and large, I agree with Ed’s posting, but let me play advocatus diaboli for just a moment:

    There is some level of research into slavery in the Ancient Near East that seems to suggest that the slavery practiced by Jews (and possibly Hellenized Jews like Paul) was not the chattel slavery with which most modern people are familiar, but rather something more akin to indentured servitude. Leaving aside for a moment the questions one might raise as to the dubious morality of such a practice in and of itself, would the truth of such a finding influence our reading of Paul and of other, similar, passages in the Bible? Wouldn’t there be a different light shed on statements like, “slaves, obey your masters” if it were understood that “slaves” meant something more akin to “bond servant”?

    I’m not saying I necessarily agree with such a construction, but it certainly seems rather anachronistic to simply assume that “slavery” as we define the word meant the same thing to people who lived thousands of years ago in an utterly foreign culture (much the same way biblical literalists anachronistically assume the translation of arsenekoi and its variants meant exactly the same thing to the Greeks as it would to us). At the very least, it’s food for thought…

  10. #10 Mark Paris
    March 23, 2006

    Even if slavery as practiced by the jews were different from slavery as practiced by the Romans, it doesn’t matter, since the entire area was part of the Roman empire. Paul and the early christians were expanding their religious beliefs outside the jewish population and into the the rest of the population. The early questions about whether one had to become a jew before one could become a christian had been settled in the negative.

  11. #11 David Heddle
    March 23, 2006

    Ed,

    You have zeroed in on where the critical tension that arises: when one must choose between God’s law and the law of the state.

    There is moral absolutism: obey God. The problem is that at times it is impossible to decide which choice constitutes obeying God. God says do A, the state says to do B, and God says to obey the state’s laws. How is this resolved? By the fact that we are under grace, not the law. God judges the heart, not the action. So, in the question of slavery, how would those Christians who broke the law (by harboring runaways) be judged? Well of course I don’t know. But my guess is that in their heart they believed that what they did was in obedience to God’s law and therefore they were compelled to break the state’s law, so my guess they will be judged to have acted rightly. That is one of the beauties of the new covenant; our motivations speak louder than our deeds.

    One could rightly argue that, on the surface, those who kill abortion providers could escape through the same loophole, and I think it would be a valid criticism. If someone wants to take the conversation in that direction, I’m willing.

    It is possible, when one looks at the possibilities that one might have been faced with: (1) turning a slave over to authorities, (2) encouraging the slave to return or (3) harboring the slave –that each of them might be sinful or not depending on one’s heart.

    Paul chose option (2) with Onesimus (there is no indication that he turned Onesimus over to authorities for his forced return). Many in America chose (3). I don’t think Paul’s actions in choosing (2) amount to an endorsement of slavery nor do I believe those who chose (3) were in willful disobedience to God.

    What would Paul have done with a runaway American slave? I don’t know. As I said in the other thread, Paul seems to have sent Onesimus back to be a Christian witness, and he in almost “demanding” language, suggests to Philemon that Onesimus be treated as a brother. Nevertheless, to Paul, Onesimus’s testimony and witness would have been much more important than his personal liberty or possessions. The eternal was important to Paul, not this blink of the eye. He may have taken the same approach with Christian runaways in America. I don’t know. It’s also possible that he discussed the matter with Onesimus –we have no idea what Paul would have done if Onesimus refused to go back.

    What everyone wants is a biblical lesson that goes like this: slavery is very bad; all Christians are authorized to fight a holy war against it. But the lesson from the bible is much more nuanced. It’s more like: the world has all sorts of bad things in it, including slavery. Our primary mission as Christians is not to rid the world of those bad things but to preach the gospel. At times, this may mean enduring those social ills while proclaiming Christ. The gospel is not a gospel of social justice, but a gospel of eternal life.

    Ginger Yellow,

    “Not only that, but people like Heddle always bang on about how atheism leads to moral relativism, while Biblical morality is absolute.”

    And you can show me where I have banged on about how “atheism leads to moral relativism?” It would be interesting, because I don’t believe that. What I actually believe is perhaps just as reprehensible to you, namely that even if you are an atheist your moral compass comes from God, whether you like it or not. That is far different from what you have attributed to me.

  12. #12 windy
    March 23, 2006

    God judges the heart, not the action.

    “A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant ship. He knew that she was old, and not overwell built at the first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often had needed repairs. Doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy. These doubts preyed upon his mind, and made him unhappy; he thought that perhaps he ought to have her thoroughly overhauled and refitted, even though this should put him to great expense. Before the ship sailed, however, he succeeded in overcoming these melancholy reflections. He said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms, that it was idle to suppose that she would not come safely home from this trip also. He would put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all these unhappy families that were leaving their fatherland to seek for better times elsewhere. He would dismiss from his mind all ungenerous suggestions about the honesty of builders and contractors. In such ways he acquired a sincere and comfortable conviction that his vessel was thoroughly safe and seaworthy; he watched her departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and he got his insurance money when she went down in mid ocean and told no tales.

    “What shall we say of him? Surely this, that he was verily guilty of the death of those men. It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in nowise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts…”

    William K. Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief” (1874), quoted in Sagan’s “Demon-Haunted World”

  13. #13 Ed Brayton
    March 23, 2006

    David Heddle wrote:

    What everyone wants is a biblical lesson that goes like this: slavery is very bad; all Christians are authorized to fight a holy war against it. But the lesson from the bible is much more nuanced. It’s more like: the world has all sorts of bad things in it, including slavery.

    I don’t expect a demand that all Christians fight holy war against slavery; I’d settle just for a single statement that says it is morally wrong to own another human being. Instead, the Bible is full of verses that imply the opposite, that treat slavery as perfectly normal and acceptable and appropriate. Indeed, God specifically tells the Israelites that they are to take slaves from among the surrounding people and among those they conquered.

    Yet the Bible contains hundreds of verses condemning the most trivial of actions as sinful and, in many cases, worthy of death. A woman who was not a virgin on her wedding day was considered so utterly immoral that the only solution was to stone her to death; yet, not a single word even hinting at the immorality of slavery, by any sane measure a far worse evil than premarital sex could ever be. I simply can’t take seriously a moral system that treats the most trivial of actions as worthy of death but, when it comes to something as monumentally immoral as slavery, retreats to rationalizations like “oh well, the world is full of bad things and it’s not our mission to rid it of bad things.” It simply doesn’t add up or make sense to me, nor to anyone else including, I suspect, you. I can’t imagine you really find the sort of rationalization that you offered above to be satisfactory and compelling.

  14. #14 ruidh
    March 23, 2006

    But, in Philemon, Paul also exhorted Philemon to treat his returned slave *as he would treat Paul*. Slavery was an established part of the economy in the Roman Empire. Paul implored Christians to treat their slaves like family and not like property. Slaves held positions of authority in the early church. That Scripture was later twisted to support the Southern American idea of slaves as less than human dosn’t do justice to Paul.

    Now that we have an appreciation for individual rights, chattel slavery is unthinkable. Morally speaking, there’s no going back.

  15. #15 Mark Paris
    March 23, 2006

    “That is one of the beauties of the new covenant; our motivations speak louder than our deeds.” That is one of the problems with christianity as it is practiced today: the only thing that matters is “what is in your heart.” Thus any action can be justified.

    “The eternal was important to Paul, not this blink of the eye.” As I said earlier, this is another one of the serious problems with christianity as it is practiced today: what happens in this world does not matter; only heaven is important. Thus many of the problems that plague the world and its people today can be ignored.

    My view of any belief system is that if it results in an objective benefit, then it is good. If it results in an objective harm, then it is bad. If it results in neither, then it is irrelevant. David, you’re arguing the twisted theology of modern christianity to a bunch of people who find it irrelevant at best.

  16. #16 Dave L
    March 23, 2006

    David, you’re arguing the twisted theology of modern christianity to a bunch of people who find it irrelevant at best.

    In a way I wish it was irrelevant, but David is hardly alone in his beliefs and to his credit is obviously knowledgable, so I do have some interest in at least trying to understand where he and other Christians who share his views are coming from. I agree with roughly zero of what he apparently believes though. To paraphrase what he said above in a reply, ‘What I actually believe is perhaps just as reprehensible to David, namely that even if David is a Christian his moral compass comes from the superstitions of ancient ignoramuses struggling to comprehend their world, whether he likes it or not.’

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    March 23, 2006

    I give David credit for coming into the lion’s den, so to speak, and answering tough questions. Even while I don’t agree with him, I have to respect that he’s willing to do that in a hostile environment and remain civil and engaging.

  18. #18 Mark Paris
    March 23, 2006

    I called David’s theology “twisted,” but I think maybe “tortuous” is more appropriate. I meant to refer to the twists and turns that the argument has to follow to reach the desired end.

  19. #19 Jeff Hebert
    March 23, 2006

    Dave L wrote:

    I do have some interest in at least trying to understand where he and other Christians who share his views are coming from.

    Seconded.

  20. #20 Ginger Yellow
    March 23, 2006

    It’s more like: the world has all sorts of bad things in it, including slavery. Our primary mission as Christians is not to rid the world of those bad things but to preach the gospel. At times, this may mean enduring those social ills while proclaiming Christ. The gospel is not a gospel of social justice, but a gospel of eternal life.

    How very convenient for you. Not to mention the rather obvious contradiction with any number of parables and other of Christ’s teachings.

    What I actually believe is perhaps just as reprehensible to you, namely that even if you are an atheist your moral compass comes from God, whether you like it or not.

    Again, how very convenient. I know you subscribe to a frankly bizarre, almost Calvinistic conception of Grace, but that doesn’t get around the fact that either someone subscribes to a concept of God’s law or they follow something else. Whether or not it’s God causing them to follow it is irrelevant.

  21. #21 windy
    March 23, 2006

    It is possible, when one looks at the possibilities that one might have been faced with: (1) turning a slave over to authorities, (2) encouraging the slave to return or (3) harboring the slave –that each of them might be sinful or not depending on one’s heart.

    Are these really the only possibilities? This is like the argument that the current Pope had “no choice” but to join the Wehrmacht. Both choices are completely understandable considering the cultures they lived in at the time. But saying there was no other way is IMO demeaning to people who risked their lives helping slaves escape, opposing the Nazis, or in some other way trying to make things better.

    And if Paul was so sure that slavery was just peachy for a Christian, let him go and be Philemon’s slave instead.

  22. #22 tacitus
    March 23, 2006

    What everyone wants is a biblical lesson that goes like this: slavery is very bad; all Christians are authorized to fight a holy war against it.

    Way to distort the issue, David. As Ed points out, all that’s needed is a single, simple Bible verse that would condemn slavery and this particular issue would have never existed.

    But what do you expect from a God that commanded genocidal acts and mass rape from his followers?

  23. #23 tacitus
    March 23, 2006

    Ugh – must preview. First paragraph above should be quoted (from David Heddle’s comment).

  24. #24 Chance
    March 23, 2006

    Paul implored Christians to treat their slaves like family and not like property.

    How can one not see how obviously ridiculous this statement is? It is the equivalent of ‘treat you dog as if he were family and not like property’.

    The mere fact that you view another human as property is the definition of slavery. It makes no statement of how you treat them. There simply is no rationalization for this and people shouldn’t try. It is demeaning to attempt to make it somehow less ‘evil’ to rescue an irrational belief. Why is it so hard for people to simply say the bible is incorrect? How will your life change?

    I also give David credit for coming here. I actually agree with him on some things but find him guilty of far to many rationalizations to be taken very seriously. But all apologists are that way to some extent.

    Which, much like the gay marriage debate, I think will ultimately lead to a reduced number of fundie Christians as the glaring rationalizations of the apologists illustrate the vacous nature of the arguments better than any opponent ever could. Eventually poor arguments are smelled out. If it wasn’t for childhood indoctrination it would be far less of a problem.

    one of my favorite quotes:
    ‘One of He who begins by loving Christianity more than Truth, will proceed by loving his sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.’

  25. #25 jennifer
    March 23, 2006

    Hello, a friend directed me to your post here. Iíd like to add a few unsolicited comments, if you donít mind.

    I am descended from a long line of Quakers who assisted on the underground railroad. From what I have read, it seems they justified their law breaking by consistently pointing to the Constitution, which stated all men are created equal, as well as Paulís later epistles asserting that ďthere is no more slave or free, for we are all oneĒ (Galations 3:28). They appealed to what many here have already said: the moral absolutism that the conscience of our spirit is above the law of man. The experts of the law in Jesusí day were constantly trying to trip him up with these same sort of questions. Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? What does Moses say about divorce? When they asked him what the greatest law was, he answered ďto love the Lord your GodÖand love your neighbor as yourself.Ē He also called them blind guides and hypocrites who would not see the kingdom of God. Why? Because they didnít follow the greatest law of all. Those who stood against the evils of slavery, who broke manís law and risked their own lives for their neighbors, followed the example and the teaching of Jesus.

    Personally, I have trouble with many of Paulís teachings. I do believe that all of scripture is given to us for education and spiritual growth. But the bottom line is that Paul, while being an incredible spokesman for the gospel, was a mere human. So I tend to weigh his words against the words and actions of Jesus himself. It is Jesus I want to emulate, not Paul.

  26. #26 tacitus
    March 23, 2006

    I also give David credit for coming here. I actually agree with him on some things but find him guilty of far to many rationalizations to be taken very seriously. But all apologists are that way to some extent.

    I agree, and it’s these rationalisations that makes a mockery of Biblical inerrancy. In truth, the only evidence by which one can condemn slavery as an institution is extra-Biblical. The more honest position for people like David to take is simply to admit that God sees nothing wrong with slavery. After all, we’re talking about someone who is quite willing to wipe out whole cities at a time.

    And slavery’s not something, like, say, gene therapy, where the Bible is etirely silent on the issue. There were ample opportunities to make the point that slavery is evil.

  27. #27 mhojo
    March 23, 2006

    God is Lord. Heaven is a Kingdom. Democratic notions of liberty probably don’t fit comfortably into that scheme.

  28. #28 David Heddle
    March 23, 2006

    Ed,

    Yes it is very compelling to me. If one believes that Christ came to earth with the primary goal that all men should live free and have a good life, then it is perplexing that slavery was not condemned in unambiguous terms. But he came to proclaim the way to eternal life. Far from promising freedom or possessions or success to his disciples, he promised suffering and he commanded us to proclaim the gospel. Paul’s sending Onesimus back to Philemon, as he did, is consistent with that message. He didn’t send Onesimus back in chains, as a worthless sub-human, but like a “son,” and appears to have promised to pay back Philemon what was stolen from him. In returning back, Onesimus provided a powerful testimony of faith in God and a powerful example of a Christian walk.

    To me, the disconnect is fairly obvious. You (not just Ed) want God and Jesus to have a morality and priorities you would demonstrate if you were God. It doesn’t work that way. If I were God, I’d like to think I’d proclaim universal salvation. And I’d probably decree that anything not harmful to someone else is acceptable. Instead God will clearly condemn some to eternal damnation and condemns hedonism. But I’m not free to say: I don’t like that God I’m going to pick another.

    Windy,

    “Are these really the only possibilities? This is like the argument that the current Pope had “no choice” but to join the Wehrmacht.”

    How is my argument anything like that?

    “And if Paul was so sure that slavery was just peachy for a Christian, let him go and be Philemon’s slave instead.?”

    It would have been difficult, since he was in prison.

    Ginger Yellow,

    “How very convenient for you. Not to mention the rather obvious contradiction with any number of parables and other of Christ’s teachings.”

    What is convenient, and what precisely is in contradiction with what precise parable? And I’m still waiting for you to point out where I argued about the connection between atheism and moral relativism.

    “I know you subscribe to a frankly bizarre, almost Calvinistic conception of Grace”

    Almost Calvinistic!–now I am really insulted.

    Tactus,

    “Way to distort the issue, David. As Ed points out, all that’s needed is a single, simple Bible verse that would condemn slavery and this particular issue would have never existed.”

    How did I distort the issue?

    All that’s needed? All that’s needed? Sorry, I don’t get to tell God what He needs to put in the bible. All I can do is study what He did put in. And Paul’s teaching “slaves, obey your master” is entirely consistent with Christ’s message, while at the same time in no way an endorsement of slavery.

    Y’all are much like the Zealots of Jesus’ time, who wanted him to do something, anything about their miserable social conditions –even trying to make him king (he ran away). Not only did he not do anything to improve their lot politically or economically, he may have precipitated the worsening of conditions for Palestine.

  29. #29 tacitus
    March 23, 2006

    How did I distort the issue?

    Obviously: What everyone wants is a biblical lesson that goes like this: slavery is very bad; all Christians are authorized to fight a holy war against it.

    Hardly what “everyone” wants – just a plain, simple verse that condemns slavery in the same many as any of the dozens which condemn homosexuality, adultery, theft, coveting, etc. etc. etc.

    All that’s needed? All that’s needed? Sorry, I don’t get to tell God what He needs to put in the bible. All I can do is study what He did put in. And Paul’s teaching “slaves, obey your master” is entirely consistent with Christ’s message, while at the same time in no way an endorsement of slavery.

    So the New Testament is silent on the morality of slavery, I’m not going to argue with you on that. That just leaves all the passages in the Old Testament where God either condones slavery or commands His chosen people to take slaves. As far as I know, Jesus said nothing to contradict or invalidate those writings.

  30. #30 Jeff Hebert
    March 23, 2006

    David Heddle said:

    But I’m not free to say: I don’t like that God I’m going to pick another.

    Why not? I did.

  31. #31 tacitus
    March 23, 2006

    Y’all are much like the Zealots of Jesus’ time, who wanted him to do something, anything about their miserable social conditions –even trying to make him king (he ran away). Not only did he not do anything to improve their lot politically or economically, he may have precipitated the worsening of conditions for Palestine.

    Actually, I’d be happy if you’d just admit that slavery, given ample evidence from the Old Testament, is an acceptable social institution according to God, since he appears to have encouraged the Jews to practice it. What Jesus did and didn’t do is not really the issue.

  32. #32 Gretchen
    March 23, 2006

    Instead God will clearly condemn some to eternal damnation and condemns hedonism. But I’m not free to say: I don’t like that God I’m going to pick another.

    I’d consider it far more insulting to God to assume that he exists as depicted in the Bible, than to worship the greatest being I can imagine.

  33. #33 David Heddle
    March 23, 2006

    tacitus,

    What we can say about the Old Testament is that the instructions for the Jews, not just for slavery but also for the slaughter of entire nations during the acquisition of the Promised Land, was for good, not evil.

    In the New Testament, it is true we find no instruction from God to the Roman government to end slavery. We find no instruction from God to the Roman government to close brothels, either, yet we do not glean from that omission that Roman prostitution was acceptable. The point is, God saw no reason to go after the institution of slavery at that time. There is plenty of moral teaching to suggest that slave owners would be held accountable. That is why I cannot do what you ask: state that slavery is an acceptable institution, because it is not. I could not own a slave without violating God’s commandment regarding how I treat my fellow man.

    Let me try another approach, since the one I’ve been stating has fallen on deaf ears. Since slavery has ended (not really, but in the west, at least) and God is sovereign (everything that happens has been ordained) then God did, in fact, end slavery. He did so not by decreeing in AD 33 that it should be terminated, but, in an important part, I would argue, through the rise of Christianity in Europe and America.

    Jeff,

    “Why not? I did.”

    No doubt. Did you make him nicer than the God of the bible or meaner? How did you know which parts to keep and which parts to discard? Did you simply imagine how you would be if you were God, and made him like that, only in a grandfatherly way? Just curious.

    Gretchen,

    Same question for you.

  34. #34 windy
    March 23, 2006

    To me, the disconnect is fairly obvious. You (not just Ed) want God and Jesus to have a morality and priorities you would demonstrate if you were God.

    No, but if the Christian God existed, I would expect him to show at least some kind of consistent morality and priorities.

    In returning back, Onesimus provided a powerful testimony of faith in God and a powerful example of a Christian walk.

    Well, the story doesn’t tell what actually happened afterwards. Maybe Onesimus took his chances elsewhere, once he found out that this new religion didn’t follow through on all its promises in practice (“there is no longer slave or free…”)

    Instead God will clearly condemn some to eternal damnation and condemns hedonism. But I’m not free to say: I don’t like that God I’m going to pick another.

    I respect that, but personally I don’t think we should worship such a nihilistic god even if he existed.

    “Are these really the only possibilities? This is like the argument that the current Pope had “no choice” but to join the Wehrmacht.”
    How is my argument anything like that?

    In that the imperfect moral choices of both Paul and Ratzinger are explained for the best, when plenty of ordinary people in similar situations have done a lot better.

  35. #35 Gretchen
    March 23, 2006

    David,

    What makes you think that God is more like the guy in the Bible than any other depiction of God? Why should God be a jealous being who tells his subjects to enslave and murder, who creates vast populations of humans he knows will be consigned to hell (which he created) by his ruling, rather than a nice being who saves everyone? Or, for that matter, why should God not be the ground of being? The universe itself? It’s not like there is a shortage of more respectable and more realistic god concepts from which to choose.

    I don’t believe in a god. No concept of god is convincing to me, and the god of the Bible is especially unconvincing. “God” is not just a proper name, but a title for the being who is supposed to be most perfect. The God of the Bible, on the other hand, is far less perfect than a lot of mortal humans. I just find it insulting to the idea of God to think that that Jehovah fits the title.

  36. #36 tacitus
    March 23, 2006

    What we can say about the Old Testament is that the instructions for the Jews, not just for slavery but also for the slaughter of entire nations during the acquisition of the Promised Land, was for good, not evil.

    And there we have it, folks. David’s God is sovereign, and it doesn’t matter what evils were/are prepetrated at his express command, it was all in the name of good.

    Thank you, David, that was all that I was asking for. I’ll leave it up to others to decide if this is a God they can worship.

  37. #37 John Cercone
    March 23, 2006

    This discusion is fascinating, and I appreciate David stepping in. He has helped me to understand a lot of things I was uncleaer about. He also reinforced my own position.

    That is that I believe in God, but I can’t worship. God doesn’t meet my moral standards.

  38. #38 David Heddle
    March 23, 2006

    Windy,

    I don’t know about Ratzinger, but I dispute that Paul could have “done a lot better”. I think he did exactly what was right in furtherance of the kingdom.

    Gretchen,

    “What makes you think that God is more like the guy in the Bible than any other depiction of God? Why should God be a jealous being who tells his subjects to enslave and murder, who creates vast populations of humans he knows will be consigned to hell (which he created) by his ruling, rather than a nice being who saves everyone?”

    Well, it’s a fair question with a simple answer that you already provided: the bible says so. In other words, I have a basis for the attributes I ascribe to God. (Why I believe the bible is an entirely different question.) If the bible is fiction, then of course I’m wrong about God and am the most foolish of men. I just want to know how you form an image of God without the use of the bible. It’s a serious question. My theory is already on the table: You’d make him/her just like you imagine you’d be, if you were God. Am I wrong?

  39. #39 Jeff Hebert
    March 23, 2006

    David said:

    No doubt. Did you make him nicer than the God of the bible or meaner? How did you know which parts to keep and which parts to discard? Did you simply imagine how you would be if you were God, and made him like that, only in a grandfatherly way? Just curious.

    My answer to your question would be that you are presenting a false dichotomy, implying that there are only two choices — either the God of the Bible is the one true god or people just make up whatever strikes their fancy. The solution set, however, is not binary.

    The most obvious alternative is that there is no God at all and the Bible is completely false from beginning to end. Another would be that there is in fact a God out there but that the Bible is an untrustworthy guide for knowing Him (the view of countless other religions in the world).

    There are many other possibilities, of course, and ultimately we’re all just guessing, even the ones of us who think we have a cheat sheet in the form of a holy book :-)

    To bring this somewhat back on topic, this is why I think using the Bible as the basis of a legal or moral code is problematic. It is so ambiguous about so many fundamental things that it is next to useless as a guide. Just look at the bewildering array of Christian sects that have come to diametrically opposed conclusions based upon the exact same set of data.

  40. #40 David Heddle
    March 23, 2006

    tacitus,

    Is this a revelation to you? Do you not realize that every bible believing Christian would give the same answer, that God’s instructions for genocide to Joshua were good, not evil? Or do you know some who say the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God screwed up on that occasion? To accept that it was good and not evil is not to say I fully understand it–I find it appalling in fact. However, I know that God is incapable of evil. This is basic stuff, I’m surprised your attitude is that you have elicited a confession–I would have admitted to this from the onset.

    “I’ll leave it up to others to decide if this is a God they can worship.”

    Actually, neither they nor you have a choice. You are not refusing to worship God because you have rationally weighed the options and decided that, no, he’s not for you. You are not worshipping God because, at least at the moment, you cannot.

  41. #41 Gretchen
    March 23, 2006

    David,

    Of course the Bible says so. The fact that I provided it shows that obviously it’s not the answer to my question. It then splits into two further questions: 1) Why do you take the Bible to be true? and 2) Even if the Bible is true, why do you think the God in it is worthy of worship?

    But we’ve discussed this before. You didn’t provide a real answer then and I don’t expect you to provide one now.

    I just want to know how you form an image of God without the use of the bible. It’s a serious question. My theory is already on the table: You’d make him/her just like you imagine you’d be, if you were God. Am I wrong?

    I don’t form images of God. There are already plenty of images of God out there, and I don’t believe in any of the ones I’ve heard (studying religion for enough time tends to do that to people). Either the evidence for their existence is unconvincing, or they do not strike me as being worthy of worship.

    My point was that if you’re going to believe in and worship a being for whom there is no real evidence, it might as well be a nice being.

  42. #42 David Heddle
    March 23, 2006

    Gretchen,

    “But we’ve discussed this before. You didn’t provide a real answer then and I don’t expect you to provide one now.”

    Discussed what? Why I believe in the bible? What do you mean I haven’t answered that? I’ve posted on it several times, for example:

    http://helives.blogspot.com/2005_11_01_helives_archive.html#113335643451616135

    “My point was that if you’re going to believe in and worship a being for whom there is no real evidence, it might as well be a nice being.”

    That is an honest answer. Thank you.

  43. #43 tacitus
    March 23, 2006

    David, most Bible-believing Christians ignore those passages and would prefer not to engage in debate when they are confronted by them.

    You are an erudite, well-read person who has obviously thought long and hard about all these issues. Most Bible-believing Christians have what could be called a simple faith (not meant in a demeaning way) and would not know how to respond in a debate like this. You see it all the time on message boards, they simply shut up and disappear when people start asking the difficult questions.

    Actually, neither they nor you have a choice. You are not refusing to worship God because you have rationally weighed the options and decided that, no, he’s not for you. You are not worshipping God because, at least at the moment, you cannot.

    Ah, there speaks a true Calvinist. Is this particular brand of salvation theology also part of the orthodox Christianity you mentioned a couple of days ago? Actually, on second thoughts, it might be better if you ignore that question. It’s a little off topic.

  44. #44 Matthew
    March 23, 2006

    I don’t see this as much of a problem for christians. I think it’s relatively easy to keep one’s faith while still knowing that the bible is a series of texts written by humans which, while containing wisdom, wasn’t written by the hand of god. From there it’s as simple as keeping the good and throwing out the bad, as you do with everthing else.

    Even though I believe a lot of denominations claim inerrancy, its not a crucial part of belief as it is with the types of protestantism that we are exposed to in the U.S. I’m pretty sure Roman Catholic doctorine claims inerrancy while at the same time acknowledging the human authors. Same is true for the overlooked Eastern Orthodox church.

  45. #45 windy
    March 23, 2006

    Do you not realize that every bible believing Christian would give the same answer, that God’s instructions for genocide to Joshua were good, not evil?

    That’s pretty Panglossian.

    I don’t have any Bible believing Christians at hand (whatever those are), but I’m sure there are some who would say
    -Joshua could have lied or misinterpreted his revelation, or
    -The story is a propaganda tale that was created later.

    The latter would seem to be supported by the fact that the tribes that have supposedly been wiped from face of the earth, keep popping up time and again in the OT (like the Amalekites).

  46. #46 ImagoArt
    March 24, 2006

    Ed,

    You wrote,

    This is one of the primary reasons why I can no longer accept the Bible as the word of God, as I once did. It makes no sense that God could have found the time or interest to inspire men to pass on his commandments regarding the most mundane of things – whether to cut one’s hair, whether to wear mixed fabrics, how to dress, and so forth – yet never does he bother to say “don’t own slaves”. And this even when he had the perfect opportunity to do so when the events regarding Philemon present themselves to Paul. If God was indeed inspring Paul to write, why on earth would he not have Paul condemn slavery as contrary to the teachings of Christ? It simply makes no sense, nor do any of the apologetic rationalizations for it.

    Are you saying, then, that your reasons for rejecting Christianity are not based on error (e.g., logical / factual contradictions, incorrect data, lies, conspiracy, etc.), but on the fact that you simply don’t like what you see?

    Rusty Lopez

  47. #47 Jeff Hebert
    March 24, 2006

    Rusty said:

    Are you saying, then, that your reasons for rejecting Christianity are not based on error (e.g., logical / factual contradictions, incorrect data, lies, conspiracy, etc.), but on the fact that you simply don’t like what you see?

    No, he’s saying he stopped believing in God because Duke lost tonight. How could there be a loving God in that kind of world?

    On a more serious note, I see Rusty’s reaction from a lot of Christians. I don’t understand it. What else do we have but our senses, our feelings, our hearts, our intellect, our humanity, to use as tools for judging what is right and wrong, good and evil, real or unreal?

    We’re given a book and told we are to worship all sorts of behaviors in it that we find morally repulsive. We are told that these feelings of revulsion are false, and that the only good is following what is in this book. We are told that even though both reason and emotion cry out at the horror we find there, reason and emotion are useless tools to bring to bear in this matter. Somehow, in this one area of human endeavor, our normal faculties are deemed irrelevant and traitorous. We are expected to abandon everything that makes us human and to accept what in any other circumstance would be considered the vilest evil.

    Do I reject Christianity in part because “I don’t like what I see”? I can think of no charge I am more honored to plead guilty to.

  48. #48 Gretchen
    March 24, 2006

    Rusty,

    I would say that not liking God is actually a very good reason to think that the presentation of God you’ve been given is an error. When the supposed perfect creator arouses moral repugnance in an ordinary human being, there’s something wrong– either with the god depicted or the human examining him. If the problem is with the human, that forces us to conclude that the standards by which we humans morally judge each other are not suitable for judging God– God must be an exception. But why? It is no more rational to think “God must have had his reasons for doing that thing which seems immoral to me” than to think “God is perfect, therefore he could not have done that immoral thing. There is something wrong with this presentation of him.”

  49. #49 386sx
    March 24, 2006

    When the supposed perfect creator arouses moral repugnance in an ordinary human being, there’s something wrong– either with the god depicted or the human examining him.

    Yeah but when you’re scared out of your wits that you and your loved ones are going to be tortured forever in hell for thinking that “there’s something wrong” then that’s the defense mechanisms start kicking in. What would you do if you had a choice between either (a)burning in hell forever, or (b) kissing up to a big old horrible magic monster in total control of the fate of your afterlife?

  50. #50 386sx
    March 24, 2006

    then that’s the defense mechanisms start kicking in.

    That should be: then that’s when the defense mechanisms start kicking in.

    Cheers!

  51. #51 Nebogipfel
    March 24, 2006

    What we can say about the Old Testament is that the instructions for the Jews, not just for slavery but also for the slaughter of entire nations during the acquisition of the Promised Land, was for good, not evil.

    Is God likely to issue more directives of this sort today? What would we make of someone who obeyed such an order?

  52. #52 Gretchen
    March 24, 2006

    What would you do if you had a choice between either (a)burning in hell forever, or (b) kissing up to a big old horrible magic monster in total control of the fate of your afterlife?

    Well, every single one of us are going to burn in hell eternally at the hands of some horrible magic monster, according to somebody’s beliefs (that is, we’re each a blasphemer according to at least one doctrine). So if you’re going to worship a god, I’d think the best thing to do is live with integrity and worship a god bright enough to recognize that. At least that way you don’t risk insulting him, and you get to keep your dignity besides.

  53. #53 Jaime Headden
    March 24, 2006

    My perspective on this is that the Bible had as it’s old testament principle a consideration for the “indentured servitude” one could incur by doing wrong to another, and to last for a year and a day, as well as good ol’ slavery. Not the fiefdom of servitude, but forever and eternal. Indeed, only a Jew could be such a slave. This was not the case for non-Jews, when you could throw the Torah out the window if you had a canaanite (philistine, phenoecian) slave. If we accept Biblical history as accurate, the Jews knew full well what both indentured servitude and full-on slavery was like. Yes, the Egyptians had slaves, as tribes and nations captured in battle were enslaved as a matter of nationbuilding and suppression of the populace, but the monument workers, by and large, were not slaves, and they would not have treated any other semite nation as worse than they and the citizens paying “tax” to build monuments and tombs. Or hell, get paid doing it.

    But during the Roman era, prior to Constantine “converting,” the Christian movement would certainly have had slaves, and would have kept them after as well, again, as a product of nation building. Slaves could earn some notoriety by rising through the gladiatorial ranks of popularity, but they were still slaves, and their lives were subject to whim, just as the Jews would have considered their own slaves (and not “servants”, who even then were still not free to choose their own life, career, or even family).

    If Paul’s “suggestion” that people treat their slaves like family were followed, would they sleep in the same room, be offered the same food? If Paul had slaves would he have been so beneficent? Given the care and keeping of the children as a father or rabbi? I think not. Paul’s “suggestion” of slave-treatment and moral argument for the keeping of slaves was in full keeping with Jewish tradition.

  54. #54 David Heddle
    March 24, 2006

    Mathhew

    “From there it’s as simple as keeping the good and throwing out the bad, as you do with everthing else.”

    How do you decide what is good and what is bad? I’d argue, once again, that all you can do is make God be like you’d be if you were God, except maybe taller and more distinguished looking. You will then throw out of the bible any parts that don’t conform. Many people do that, you’re in good company.

    By the way, Ed and Jeff Herbert’s reason for rejecting God and/or Christianity and/or the bible, because they don’t like what they see, is spot-on (and biblical).

    Nebogipfel,

    Is God likely to issue more directives [to obliterate nations] of this sort today?

    No (although of course I am just speculating). Part One of God’s redemptive plan was to establish the Jews in the Promised Land. Why the Jews? Who knows? He chose Abraham for some reason that we cannot fathom. His instructions to Joshua were to wipe out the evil nations that stood in the way. Were these nations more wicked than the Jews? Not at all. The amazing thing is not that God wiped out those nations, but that he let the Jews survive.

    (Just like today, the question should not be “why do bad things happen to good people?” but “why don’t bad things happen to all of us, all the time?”)

    Part Two of God’s redemptive plan is the finished work of Christ. The emphasis is on finished. There is no unfulfilled promise other than the fact the Christ will return. But that will mark the end of history. There is no unfinished business that would require the type of genocide we see in Joshua’s military conquests.

    Now, back to the question of the missing condemnation of Roman slavery.

    I though about this in the shower, and here is the best way that I can describe why I think Paul didn’t bother (or need) to give an explicit condemnation of Roman slavery.

    Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there are only two types of governments available for nations, A-ism and B-ism. Let’s assume that A-ism is acceptable to God while B-ism is inherently evil.

    Does the bible have to condemn B-ism explicity? Not if it is easily deduced from all fundamental teachings that the principles upon which B-ism rests are evil. We are rational intelligent beings, and God is not our nanny.

    Now suppose Paul, touring country A, which practices Godly A-ism, encounters Bob, a refugee and a pagan from country B, a nation governed through B-ism.

    What is Paul’s reaction? I suspect he would praise God that Bob escaped tyranny. Then he would present the gospel to Bob.

    Suppose Bob is converted to Christianity.

    What is Paul to do with Bob? Have him join an armed militia of fellow expatriates? I don’t think so.

    One suggestion Paul might make to Bob is to return to his country and preach the gospel, even though it will certainly mean prison and possibly death.

    Does that sound implausible? To me it does not. Yet at no time did Paul have to explicitly lecture on the evils of B-ism.

    The story of Onesimus is analogous. Not perfectly so, for there are two additional pressures on Onesimus. One is that he broke the law (I suppose you could say the same about Bob) and the second is that Onesimus, it would seem, also stole from Philemon.

  55. #55 windy
    March 24, 2006

    Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there are only two types of governments available for nations, A-ism and B-ism. Let’s assume that A-ism is acceptable to God while B-ism is inherently evil. Does the bible have to condemn B-ism explicity? Not if it is easily deduced from all fundamental teachings that the principles upon which B-ism rests are evil.

    What if B-ism practices genocide? Or A-ism? How can genocide be ‘inherently evil’ if God himself endorsed it?

    One suggestion Paul might make to Bob is to return to his country and preach the gospel, even though it will certainly mean prison and possibly death.

    Like that dude who is in trouble for converting to Christianity in Afghanistan. I’d assume that it was all right for him to break the law. So breaking the law to preach the Gospel is OK, but breaking the law to stop slavery or genocide is so-so?

    Onesimus, it would seem, also stole from Philemon

    Good for him, I’d say.

  56. #56 Duke York
    March 24, 2006

    David Heddle

    I just wanted to thank you for coming here to beard the lion in his den, as it were. You’ve spent time and efforts on your beliefs, and it shows. You’re one of the most well-reasoned Christians I’ve seen on these boards.

    I’m just having trouble understanding some of your reasoning, though. You say that God commanding genocide in the promised land is “good”, because God can only do good. What about the genocide in Rwanda? Is that good or evil? If you tell me God didn’t command it, how could you possibly know? I assume you believe that your God is still active in the world — perhaps the this is part of a new testament and the Hutu are God’s new choosen people.

    I’m also not quite sure what you mean when you say “God judges the heart, not the action”? Do mean that Torquemada, when he tortured Jews to death on the belief that they would be redeemed in heaven, that was a good act? If so, what possible meaning does this word “good” have?

    How is this any different than moral relativism? By saying “God judges the heart” do you realize you’re right next door to “Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law?”

    I would like to suggest to you that the bible is not God’s inerrant word; it is simply a book passed down by powerful men to further their own power. How do we know this? Because we have an inherent knowledge of what God actually thinks is good: he printed it across our hearts in the form of the innate morality, which tells us that “genocide” = “evil” and “torture” = “evil”. What the bible does is convince us that “genocide” = “good” and “torture” = “good” so that we can torture and kill at the behest of the powerful men who claim to control the bible.

    It seems to me that the only way one could view the bible and the “God” it speaks of as moral is if one considered oneself to be one of the powerful men who use the bible to send out the flock to kill and torture. You may have a different view, I understand.

    Duke York

  57. #57 Nebogipfel
    March 24, 2006


    Part One of God’s redemptive plan was to establish the Jews in the Promised Land. Why the Jews? Who knows? He chose Abraham for some reason that we cannot fathom.

    In other words, God moves in mysterious ways, and we should just accept that He has humanity’s best intentions in mind, even if those ways appear be through the infliction of great pain and atrocities?

  58. #58 countlurkula
    March 24, 2006

    Even though I believe a lot of denominations claim inerrancy, its not a crucial part of belief as it is with the types of protestantism that we are exposed to in the U.S. I’m pretty sure Roman Catholic doctorine claims inerrancy while at the same time acknowledging the human authors. Same is true for the overlooked Eastern Orthodox church.

    If I understand correctly, most Catholic authorities don’t claim total inerrancy for scripture. Their relationship to God depends on their institution, the traditions and sacraments, and not so much on the Biblical text (which was actually repressed for most of the church’s history). Meanwhile, the Orthodox that I’ve seen posting on forums are closer to fundamentalists in their treatment of scripture — they were a very authoritarian institution going way back, which never had to deal with the Enlightment or the counter-Reformation, and it shows in their attitude.

    As for the question implied in some posts as to whether what God does is good because God is *good* (in a way we humans can understand), or whether what God does is good because he’s *God* (and therefore suck it up), I don’t think it has a good answer. If God for instance really sent a bear to kill the children who teased Elisha about his baldness, well, I’m speechless. I’ll gladly join those who say they can’t worship a god whose ethics are worse than mine.

  59. #59 countlurkula
    March 24, 2006

    I’ll gladly join those who say they can’t worship a god whose ethics are worse than mine

    theirs, I meant, not mine. Sorry.

  60. #60 Rick Dakan
    March 24, 2006

    I love how civil and interesting this discussion is. Very refreshing. I do have some questions for Mr. Heddle though, and I hope he’ll be kind enough to address them.

    I followed the link you gave in an earlier commment to a page where you describe your reasoning for believing in the bible (or at least a part of it). You talk about “bootstrapping” and present this simple chain of reasoning:

    http://helives.blogspot.com/2005_11_01_helives_archive.html#113335643451616135

    We will use a similar chain:

    1. Jesus is a real historic figure
    2. The gospels are, at least, reasonable historic accounts
    3. Jesus performed miracles
    4. Miracles are a sign from God that the person performing them is a prophet
    5. As a prophet, Jesus would speak the truth
    6. Jesus affirmed the bible as the word of God
    Conclusion–Therefore, the bible is the word of God

    The first question that springs to mind is, why doesn’t all of this apply to The Koran as well? Certainly it’s a reasonable historic account. Certainly there are miracles and Mohammed is a prophet. Therefore the Koran is the word of God, right?

    Does the same hold true for Buddha?
    The Book of Mormon?
    And why not The Iliad? There was a city where Troy was supposed to stand. There was a war. There are miracles in the story. Homer was inspired by the gods to compose his epic. Therefore these are the Iliad is the word of Zeus.

    On a second point, in another comment you write:

    “Why the Jews? Who knows? He chose Abraham for some reason that we cannot fathom. His instructions to Joshua were to wipe out the evil nations that stood in the way. Were these nations more wicked than the Jews? Not at all. The amazing thing is not that God wiped out those nations, but that he let the Jews survive.”

    Isn’t the much more likely explanation that the God of the Bible favors the jews because the Jews were the ones who wrote the bible? I mean, there’s nothing at all amazing about a people writing a book about themselves where they happen to be the ones chosen by God. Happens all the time.

  61. #61 David Heddle
    March 24, 2006

    Nebogipfel

    “In other words, God moves in mysterious ways, and we should just accept that He has humanity’s best intentions in mind, even if those ways appear be through the infliction of great pain and atrocities?”

    If by humanity you mean everyone in the world, then the answer is no. Otherwise God would save everyone in the world, but the bible is unambiguous that some will be lost. For those who are saved it would be reasonable to conclude that God has their best intentions in mind, although even that is not quite right. What He has in mind is his own glory.

    countlurkula

    “If I understand correctly, most Catholic authorities don’t claim total inerrancy for scripture.”

    You don’t understand correctly. First of all, there is only one Roman Catholic authority, her official dogma, declared ex cathedra by her Magisterium. Said official Catholic dogma infallibly teaches that the bible is inerrant. In fact, it goes beyond the Protestant declaration by also declaring that the table of contents of the bible is inerrant. In reality we Protestants, although most will not admit it, must accept the possibility that the sixty six books we claim as our canon might contain some that don’t belong and might have omitted some that do belong–but that is another topic. Perhaps you are thinking this: Rome (unlike Protestants) does not teach that the bible is the only source of special revelation–there is also sacred tradition, but it does teach that scripture is inerrant.

    Duke York
    It’s a good point about “judging the heart.” It is a conceptually small step from there to moral relativism. However, they are not the same.

    Judging the heart means that our actions are not important, at least not compared with our motivations. This is usually expressed in the sense that good works, such as feeding the poor, are not necessary pleasing in God’s eyes. In Isaiah 64:6, the righteous deeds of unrighteous men are described as “filthy rags.”

    But also there is the possibility of moral ambiguity. That doesn’t imply that absolute right and wrong doesn’t exist, but rather (a) we can’t discern it for a given situation or (b) we are in the broad domain of Christian liberty were actions are not forbidden but nor are they necessarily profitable. I think the case of Onesimus is such an example. Send him back? Bid him stay? I think one can have the sincere motivation of obeying and pleasing God at reach different conclusions. In that case, I would say that “judging the heart” comes into play.

    Extending this ad absurdum does of course lead, in principle, to a form of relativism. But can I really murder if I sincerely believe it would please God? No, because murder is neither ambiguous nor a liberty issue.

    As for the genocide in Rwanda (or any other human tragedy you can bring up) was it good? Well this is different than Joshua’s campaign because God decreed Joshua’s actions. However, I’m going to walk to that loophole entirely.

    The truth is that God has a sovereign plan, which is good, and God also ordained all that comes to pass. That includes the Rwanda genocide (and natural disasters too.) But we must be careful with the word ordained. It is not a synonym for decreed. God not only has decretive will but a permissive one, in which he allows evil to happen, without condoning it, as he tells us in this example (speaking through the prophet Jeremiah):

    Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind (Jer. 19:4-5)

    This does not mean that Israel’s apostasy or Rwanda’s genocide or Katrina or tsunamis catch God by surprise, and it does not mean that he decreed them; it means that He chose not to prevent them, which is certainly within His power. That decision of God, though I don’t understand it, I accept as good because God is incapable of evil.

    Interestingly, even if God did decree the genocide in Rwanda, which He didn’t, it would not excuse the perpetrators, who committed unfathomable evil. Joseph gives the consummate explanation for this phenomenon when, talking to his brothers, who sold him into slavery, he tells them “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for God.” (Gen. 50:20-21)

  62. #62 Chance
    March 24, 2006

    However, I know that God is incapable of evil.

    You don’t know it, you believe it. It’s simply an opinion. And it’s a circular argument.

    Do you not realize that every bible believing Christian would give the same answer, that God’s instructions for genocide to Joshua were good, not evil?

    This is a blanket statement and not true. God explicitly states that he can cause evil, so it is possible to view this action differently than you do and still be a Christian.

    Well, it’s a fair question with a simple answer that you already provided: the bible says so

    circular

    I just want to know how you form an image of God without the use of the bible. It’s a serious question. My theory is already on the table: You’d make him/her just like you imagine you’d be, if you were God. Am I wrong?

    why forma n image at all? Why do you find that a serious question? It is to some degree silly and meaningless.

    And you have made God as you imagine him to be. You have imagined the bible to be perfect and innerrant. You imagine your takes on scripture are correct. So essentially your entire construct is exactly the same as you imagine it to be.

    Most people hope God illustrates the best of what his creation has to offer. Why wouldn’t you wish for that? Why try to rationalize such obviosly hideous atrocities to salvage an irrational belief.

  63. #63 David Heddle
    March 24, 2006

    Rick Daken,

    The answer is “no” to all your questions regarding other holy books, but I am not going to give details, for this is a truly fruitless exercise. (I will say that the only nontrivial example you gave is the Koran.)

    You read a post in which I stated explained why I believe the bible, not why you should. Of course, that’s not quite right, it’s more subtle, something like “I believe the bible, and in addition to accepting because I was given the faith to accept it, here is a rational argument for believing the bible, that gives me great comfort.”

    You will also note that I acknowledged on that post that this is meant to give other believers the same comfort, and to give them a lesson in how to answer the question “why do you believe the bible is the word of God?” beyond the simple “by faith.”

    This can ever serve as proof for a non-believer, who will always find the bible to be foolish (which, in a lovely example of circularity, the bible even tells us in 1 Cor 1:18) so that is why it would be a fruitless exercise.

    “Isn’t the much more likely explanation that the God of the Bible favors the jews because the Jews were the ones who wrote the bible?”

    If the bible is fiction, then I am sure you are correct, that it favors the Jews because Jews wrote it. But I don’t really see your point, I’m afraid.

  64. #64 Rick Dakan
    March 24, 2006

    Mr. Heddle,

    I take your point that your post, although in fairness when you linked to the bost in your earlier comment you did so in response to a request that you explain why you believe in the bible, so I hope you’ll understand why I confused your attempt to give believers comfort with an attempt to logically justify your belief in the Bible.

    I guess my point is this: why should I believe that the bible is the word of God and not a work of fiction. I don’t mean this in a snide way. I really would like to know how you would try and convert someone like me to your view of the bible. What are the arguments to differentiate it from the Koran (or the Book of Mormon, which I don’t see as a trivial example, despite your characterization – I’ll grant that the Iliad thing was a rhetorical stretch)?

    Again, I’m not trying to be provocative. You’ve been very kind to put up with all of our questions and I think it’s very educational, so I’d like to read your thoughts on this. How would you, presented with a person who has read the Koran and The Bible and has no predisposition towards one or the other, make the case that The Bible’s right and the Koran isn’t?

  65. #65 David Heddle
    March 24, 2006

    Rick Daken,

    “why should I believe that the bible is the word of God and not a work of fiction. I don’t mean this in a snide way. I really would like to know how you would try and convert someone like me to your view of the bible.”

    I cannot convert anybody, nor can I convince anyone by sound rational arguments to believe in God, or Jesus, or the bible, or my view of the bible. (Caveat: I might be able to persuade a believer about some biblical doctrinal point, or be persuaded, or persuade a non-believer that in an academic sense my view is self-consistent, or not.)

    The only thing I can do is give the gospel, namely that Christ died to redeem sinners and if you have faith in the power of His blood you will have eternal life. That’s all I can do. All the apologetics I engage in is to, as commanded, (1 Pet. 3:15) defend my faith, not to convince someone to accept it.

    So I can tell you why I believe the bible (which I did) and I can tell you why I believe I have inherited eternal life, but I have no hope that my arguments will persuade you unless you have been regenerated and God is now using my arguments and my presentation of the gospel as instruments to reach you (which of course, is what I hope).

    The sign that you have been regenerated and are ready to accept the gospel is whether or not you have a sense of your sinfulness and despair over your inability to combat it. Jesus, we are told, comes for the sick, not the healthy, and for the unrighteous, not the righteous. There is no good news for those who do not need it.

  66. #66 countlurkula
    March 24, 2006

    “If I understand correctly, most Catholic authorities don’t claim total inerrancy for scripture.”

    You don’t understand correctly. First of all, there is only one Roman Catholic authority, her official dogma, declared ex cathedra by her Magisterium. Said official Catholic dogma infallibly teaches that the bible is inerrant. (snip) Perhaps you are thinking this: Rome (unlike Protestants) does not teach that the bible is the only source of special revelation–there is also sacred tradition, but it does teach that scripture is inerrant.

    No, David, I stand by my first statement. The Catholic view that I’ve seen expressed and practiced is more nuanced than literal inerrancy. If you look, for example, at Father Brown’s commentary on the Gospel of John in the Anchor Bible series, he was not a inerrantist — he says that the gospel chronologies of Holy Week can’t be satisfactorily resolved, for one thing — and his work is absolutely respected in scholarly circles — and completely orthodox by Church standards.

    The Bible is, of course, the authority on matters of faith and morals, just as are the ex cathedra pronouncements of the Pope. But Catholic authorities have generally accepted biblical textual criticism along with evolution and a round earth.

    (I forget now whether the Pope’s statements re: Copernicus & Galileo were fallible because they were not ex cathedra or not about faith and morals. But it doesn’t matter.)

  67. #67 David Heddle
    March 24, 2006

    Countlurkula

    “No, David, I stand by my first statement. The Catholic view that I’ve seen expressed and practiced is more nuanced than literal inerrancy”

    No doubt–but what is expressed and practiced by Catholics is not always aligned with their dogma, as we all know. I was speaking only of official Catholic dogma, which does affirm inerrancy.

    Even if the pope declared the bible to contain errors, it wouldn’t be official Catholic teaching unless it was done so infallibly. Furthermore, inerrancy does not imply that we can resolve all the perceived discrepancies.

    For Rome’s infallible view of the inerrancy of scripture, see the infallible pronouncements of either the Council of Trent or the First Vatican Council.

    For example, speaking ex cathedra, Pope Leo XIII asserted:

    “all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican.”

    That is an unambiguous statement of inerrancy that you can find.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dei_Verbum

    You are, as I stated, incorrect. Of course, you can find any number of Catholics that deny inerrancy. But in doing so, they deny the official teaching of Rome.

  68. #68 386sx
    March 24, 2006

    So if you’re going to worship a god, I’d think the best thing to do is live with integrity and worship a god bright enough to recognize that. At least that way you don’t risk insulting him, and you get to keep your dignity besides.

    Nice answer but it wasn’t one of the choices. The options were: (a) worship stupid evil monster out of fear but pretend like it’s really nice, or (b) burn in hell. That’s the predicament that people like Mr. Lopez and Mr. Heddle are faced with every day.

  69. #69 David Heddle
    March 24, 2006

    386x,

    “That’s the predicament that people like Mr. Lopez and Mr. Heddle are faced with every day.”

    I’m not faced with that predicament at all, even if you modify your wording to (a) worship a holy God or (b) burn in hell. And neither are you.

    A “predicament” implies a situation that is difficult for one to extricate oneself.

    What we are both faced with is far worse, a situation that is impossible for one to extricate oneself.

  70. #70 386sx
    March 24, 2006

    A “predicament” implies a situation that is difficult for one to extricate oneself.

    What we are both faced with is far worse, a situation that is impossible for one to extricate oneself.

    If you think it’s impossible, then that would make it about as difficult as it could get, no? Cheers Mr. Heddle!

  71. #71 countlurkula
    March 24, 2006

    You are, as I stated, incorrect. Of course, you can find any number of Catholics that deny inerrancy. But in doing so, they deny the official teaching of Rome.

    If so (if this is not just an argument about the definition of inerrancy), some of these are quite in the mainstream and see themselves as within the bounds of (Catholic) orthodoxy.

    Looks like the definition of orthodoxy may be tightening, though…

  72. #72 Duke York
    March 24, 2006

    David Heddle

    Thank you for your response! I appreciate the time and effort you put into it. I think we have a miscommunication, though. Either I haven’t explained my idea well enough, or I’ve failed to understand your answer. I just can’t see how you’re not advocating a deeply troubling form of moral relativism. Your quote from Isaiah somes it up nicely: the righteous deed of the unrighteous are “filth rags” to God, yes. What does he think of the unrighteous deeds of the righteous? That’s the real question I’m asking.

    You introduce concepts of directive versus permissive, and while this is a neat rhetorical trick for getting God of the hook for some evils, I don’t see how it’s of any use in this discussion, unless you can tell me which evils God demands and which evils God simply allows. I’m not blaming God for not stopping those evils he allows — that’s another discussion entirely. I’m also not contending that those two distinctions are invalid. I’ll let you have them, for the sake of your argument. I’m just ask which things belong in “Commanded” and which in “Permitted”. Until we know this, we can’t decide which is which, any moral system the bible offers us is worse than relativistic morality, because it’s so much more confusing.

    This whole thing comes to a point in your last paragraph, which just about made my head explode. You start out with a bold assertion that God didn’t command the genocide in Rwanda. Please, please tell me why you think this. And please be as simple as you can, like I’m a slow child. Is there some difference between the Hutu genocide and the Joshua one? I’m missing it if there is. Joshua was more thorough, I guess. Joshua claimed to talk with God, sure, but not everyone who claims to talk to God is actually a prophet. I’m sure there were some crazy Hutus who’d talk to just about anything you care to name.

    Then you say the thing that really confuses me. Even if God did decree (which I think you mean as “command”) the Rwandan genocide, then the perpertrators are still guilty. Does this mean Joshua is in Hell now? Did God punish Joshua?

    Do you see what I mean about it blowing my mind? You’re saying that God could command an action, an “unfathomable evil”, as you call it, and when someone takes it on himself to obey the command, God punishes them. This takes us past “relativist” morality, past sociopathy, into the realms of psychopathy. “I am the Lord thy God, and command that man to be killed.” “I hear and obey, my God.” Bang! “And now you burn forever, mortal, for obeying me!”

    Seriously, what are you trying to say here? If we had Joshua here, charged with crimes against humanity, should we punish him? If you say yes, you’re calling “evil” what God has decided is “good”, which according to you is moral relativism. If you say no, you’re a moral relativist, because you’re not punishing crimes which should be punished.

    I’m also a bit put off by your choice of words in one bit. You ask, “can I really murder if I sincerely believe it would please God?” You answer this correctly, because “murder” is unambiguous, being (in the context of this discussion) “killing without the will of God”. Now, you sincerely believe that killing an innocent is the will of God, would you do it? Even if the law of the country you lived in forbade it? If you say you wouldn’t kill, you are again, a moral relativist, saying you can pick and choose when to obey the absolute morality (God’s will).

    Duke York

  73. #73 ImagoArt
    March 25, 2006

    Jeff,

    What else do we have but our senses, our feelings, our hearts, our intellect, our humanity, to use as tools for judging what is right and wrong, good and evil, real or unreal?

    Says who, and on what basis? IOW, how do I know that what you judge to be right or wrong truly is right and wrong? By majority rule? By what makes sense? By whatever provides us with an evolutionary advantage? If there is no authority greater than ourselves, then my conclusion of what is right and wrong is just as valid as your conclusion.

    We’re given a book and told we are to worship all sorts of behaviors in it that we find morally repulsive. We are told that these feelings of revulsion are false, and that the only good is following what is in this book. We are told that even though both reason and emotion cry out at the horror we find there, reason and emotion are useless tools to bring to bear in this matter. Somehow, in this one area of human endeavor, our normal faculties are deemed irrelevant and traitorous. We are expected to abandon everything that makes us human and to accept what in any other circumstance would be considered the vilest evil.

    Of course, I didn’t say any of that. I’m simply attempting to find out if Ed, and others here, rejected Christianity due to matters of preference.

    Gretchen,

    I would say that not liking God is actually a very good reason to think that the presentation of God you’ve been given is an error.

    And I would say it isn’t. If Yahweh is truly the creator of the universe, then what you, I, or anyone else thinks about him does not change who he is. Opinions are fine when discussing whether one likes Lost over 24. Preferences are fine when comparing the merits of Rocky Road vs. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. But if the truth is that Yahweh is the creator, then opinions and preferences are irrelevant. Truth, you see, trumps everything.

    386sx,

    The options were: (a) worship stupid evil monster out of fear but pretend like it’s really nice, or (b) burn in hell. That’s the predicament that people like Mr. Lopez and Mr. Heddle are faced with every day.

    No, it’s not a predicament I face.

  74. #74 Nebogipfel
    March 25, 2006

    From the (clearly sincere and serious) comments from Mr. Heddle and ImagoArt, I think we’ve come again to the unbridgable chasm. Faith – you either got it, or you haven’t. Or, as the New Testament puts it “None can come to me unless the Father draws him.” Intellectual endeavour can only bring so close towards God, or at least the Judeo-Christian version.
    For me, this really implies that I must turn off my intellect completely, in order to rely on faith. Not an easy thing to do.
    Ed, sorry to go so off topic on your blog, but this discussion has really crystallized the way I feel about this subject like no other.

  75. #75 386sx
    March 25, 2006

    If there is no authority greater than ourselves, then my conclusion of what is right and wrong is just as valid as your conclusion.

    I think Jeff was asking the question, “What else do we have but our senses, our feelings, our hearts, our intellect, our humanity, to use as tools for judging what is right and wrong, good and evil, real or unreal?” You do understand, Mr. Lopez, that your answer is not an argument for the existence of “authority greater than ourselves”, but it is at best an argument for why it would be nice if there were an “authority greater than ourselves.” Anyways, we make authorities greater than ourselves all the time: police, judges, Pat Robertson, God, etc…

    No, it’s not a predicament I face.

    So then why would you pretend that things like drowning the whole planet is a bunch of niceness. Actually I do agree that it’s not a predicament you face, but that’s only because I think it’s all a bunch of hogwash. Cheers!

  76. #76 David Heddle
    March 25, 2006

    Duke York

    “You start out with a bold assertion that God didn’t command the genocide in Rwanda.”

    It’s an assumption based on the fact that the genocide in Rwanda does not fit into God’s plan of redemption as it has been revealed. There is no unfulfilled prophecy other than the return of Christ. Joshua’s conquests, although even the Jews at the time may have been appalled by the methods, could be seen to “fit” into a prophetic schema. God promised the land and, like it or not, this is how He is going to deliver it.

    Of course, God can do whatever he wants, so this is only an assumption based on what I know of God’s character and his special revelation.

    “Even if God did decree (which I think you mean as “command”) the Rwandan genocide, then the perpertrators are still guilty. Does this mean Joshua is in Hell now? Did God punish Joshua?”

    Good question. To be precise, here are my premises:

    1) God instructed Joshua to annihilate entire nations.

    2) God did not instruct the perpetrators of the Rwandan massacres.

    Then your question, as I understand it, is in the following two parts:

    (1) Is it possible that God decreed both events?

    Yes. He certainly decreed Joshua’s action. And you can at least entertain the notion, for purposes of illustration, that He decreed (rather than just permitted) the entire nightmare in Rwanda.

    (2) Under the assumption that he decreed it, are the perpetrators still held accountable?

    No and Yes. Joshua (under my premises) was given direct, even verbal commands by God himself. Of course such commands, though evil in your eyes, are good in God’s eyes, and Joshua cannot be punished for doing good. In fact, he would have been punished for refusing to carry out the commands.

    As for Rwanda, God might have (again, I think not, but for the sake of argument) decreed the events and still the murderers are held accountable. That is because God decreed the events but permitted man’s free will to make evil choices. This is a kind of what we might call entrapment that occurs throughout biblical history. God refers to Nebuchadnezzar as his servant, for example. But the best illustration is that of Judas.

    God absolutely decreed that Christ should be betrayed. He wasn’t counting on it–there was no chance his plan could go awry. God also knew that the betrayal would come from Judas. He knew the wickedness in Judas’ heart. He didn’t have to command Judas to betray Christ (in which case Judas would not be responsible). He knew that Judas would choose to betray Christ. It was Judas’ choice, and the bible is clear that Judas was held responsible. Here is the best known of many examples of how God decrees an event and still holds the guilty responsible.

  77. #77 Michael LoPrete
    March 25, 2006

    David,

    I caught myself about to start this post with “But what about…” but I realized that sounds too much like the “Gotcha!” tactics in common use on internet forums and comment threads, and such a tactic wasn’t my intent in the question.

    In the decreed/command distinction, how are we to place God hardening Pharaoh’s heart? I’ve always felt uncomfortable, but the passage seems to say that Pharoh was good and ready to let the Jews go, and after he was ready (more than once) God “hardened his heart” and immediately after Pharaoh changed his mind. Do we take this to mean that God commanded Pharaoh to keep the Jews in servitude, or did God simply steel the Pharaoh’s resolve, making the choice to free the Jews more difficult?

  78. #78 David Heddle
    March 25, 2006

    Michael LoPrete,

    Hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is the same process as the “giving them up to their own desires” in Romans 1 and the “the sun shines on the wicked and it rains on the unjust” notion. It is the idea, sometimes called common grace, that God has a benevolence that he displays to all people. Part of that benevolence is restraint that prevents people from being as wicked as they can be. God can remove that restraint, as He did with Pharaoh. This is how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened without making God the author of Pharaoh’s sin. God did not create evil in Pharaoh, he just permitted him to display it.

  79. #79 Michael LoPrete
    March 25, 2006

    David,

    We’re all a product of our influences, whether genetic or environmental. The sum of Pharoah’s experience up to the point where he was ready to let the Jews go led him to that conclusion. He was capable of denying it, sure, but God hardening Pharaoh’s heart seems to make a fundamental change (and interference!) in Pharaoh’s decisionmaking abilities and processes. As a technicality, God didn’t mind control Pharaoh and tell him to deny the Jews’ freedom, but as Master Tinker of the Universe, He would know exactly how much to harden Pharaoh’s heart to get the desired result.

    The best I could ever do with it was say that no sin occurred: Pharaoh’s free will was temporarily severed or that his actions were aligned with God’s designs and therefore not sinful. I can’t help but think that the Jews of the time, given the knowledge that God actually prevented and earlier and less dangerous path to freedom, would not have been as charitable as we are now being.

  80. #80 ImagoArt
    March 26, 2006

    Nebogipfel,

    Intellectual endeavour can only bring so close towards God, or at least the Judeo-Christian version.
    For me, this really implies that I must turn off my intellect completely, in order to rely on faith.

    How do you come to the conclusion that you must turn off your intellect? This thread has been about Slavery and the Bible – and about the apparent repulsiveness of the acts of the God of the Bible. What amount of intellect is required to render one repulsed by the horrors of this life? Did a primitive and uneducated family from history experience any less grief and sorrow at the loss of child than a present day couple would? Either couple could conclude that a vile God was to blame for the events in their lives, but I hardly think that intellect would be the basis for such conclusions. This is the point I’ve been attempting to make: the issue isn’t about our preference or our intellect… it’s about whether or not we admit that if something is true, then we are under obligation to accept it.

    386sx,

    You do understand, Mr. Lopez, that your answer is not an argument for the existence of “authority greater than ourselves”…

    Of course I do. I have not presented any argument for the existence of God nor whether such a God is the God of the Bible.

    …we make authorities greater than ourselves all the time…

    No, we don’t (and… we are incapable of doing so). Let me clarify what I meant by the statement, “If there is no authority greater than ourselves”: If morality is a matter of preference, or that of majority rule, then there is no objective standard with which everyone must be subject to. Hence, my preference towards “evil” may differ from yours – with neither of us being able to declare that his standard is objectively the correct one. However, if there is some standard to which you, I, and the rest of humanity is subject to, then we’d better take notice. What do the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident” mean to you?

    So then why would you pretend that things like drowning the whole planet is a bunch of niceness.

    I believe in the “local flood” interpretation. I do not believe it was an act of “niceness” but, rather, one of judgment, executed by the only being with the authority to do so.

    Cheers to you as well.

    Rusty Lopez

  81. #81 386sx
    March 26, 2006

    If morality is a matter of preference, or that of majority rule, then there is no objective standard with which everyone must be subject to. Hence, my preference towards “evil” may differ from yours – with neither of us being able to declare that his standard is objectively the correct one.

    I don’t like that any more than you do, Mr. Lopez. But I’m not going to lie to myself. Heck, I probably don’t even like evolution any more than you do.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident” mean to you?

    It means that they’re saying that they hold those truths to be self-evident. Maybe they’re supposed to be authorities greater than ourselves when it comes to self-evident truths or something? I’m not sure what you’re saying, Mr. Lopez. Have a nice day!

  82. #82 Duke York
    March 26, 2006

    David Heddle

    Thank you again for your response, but I think we’re still having the same problem of communication, and I don’t think we’re going to resolve it. You’re just layering assertion on top of assertion, and assuming I’ll give in to it. I admire your commitment to this set of arbritrary assertions, but it’s not convincing to someone who hasn’t been brought up in them.

    Here’s what I mean. You say:

    Good question. To be precise, here are my premises:
    1) God instructed Joshua to annihilate entire nations.
    2) God did not instruct the perpetrators of the Rwandan massacres.

    I’ll grant you #1; sure, I’ll let you assert that the bible is the word of God. This discussion isn’t really about the bible itself, but how we are to judge our actions in the present-day world, and whether your adherence to the bible is the equivalent of moral relativism.

    What I’m worried about is #2. How could you possibly know this? Are you really so arrogant that you expect God to inform you of his plans? Are you so sure of his favor? I’m sure the Pharasees thought that they were in Jehovah’s favor before he kicked them aside for you Christians. Why do you think he couldn’t kick you aside for the Hutu?

    I just don’t see the difference between what you say and moral relativism. You can claim that God gives you an absolute moral compass, but sometimes that compass points to “feed the poor”, and sometimes that compass points to “build a multi-billion-dollar, tax-free entertainment business”, and sometimes that compass points to “kill a mother and father and their three-year-old son and rape their twelve-year-old daughter”. The only reason you claim all of these actions are “moral” is you assert it is part of God’s plan for salvation. How do you know that God has a plan for salvation? It says so in the bible. How do you know that the bible is true? Because it describes God’s plan for salvation.

    I invite you, as an intelligent, rational man, a man committed to the truth and to not being a moral relativist, to look at this without those assumptions. You have two men, both of whom have just killed a family and are currently raping a young girl. Does the fact that one of them claims to talk to your God excuse his actions? Could that ever excuse his actions?

    Not to be too confrontational, but I don’t appreciate you bringing Judas into this; we don’t need an example of an unrighteous man being wicked. Sure. You win that point, blah blah blah. We’re talking about righteous men being wicked. If you think that it’s possible for someone to do wicked things and still be righteous, you’re a moral relativist. Period.

    I will add to this my contention that the only reason the bible has survived all these years is it allows the priest and kings who use it to switch their populace from “righteous” to “wicked” as their morally-relative needs demand. Are you going to tell me that the Spanish Inquisition was part of God’s plan for redemption? Can Martin Luther be both a man of God and call for the oppression of Jews? Can you say Caligula killing Christians is bad, while saying Christians killing heretics is good? If you can, then you’re a moral relativist.

    I don’t want you to think I’m accusing you of anything. There’s nothing wrong with having a relativistic moral code, except it’s unpopular today and takes a little more work. What I’m contesting is you saying that you are actually a moral absolutist when you condone actions that a absolutely wrong.

    As far as I’m concerned, though, you have admitted that you are a moral relativist. You’ve already answered that question I’ve posed to you. You would see a man, the blood of a whole family dripping from his sword, dragging naked, catatonic girl behind him, and you would have to wait to find out if his name was “Joshua” before you would condemn him.

    Duke York

  83. #83 David Heddle
    March 26, 2006

    Duke York,

    “What I’m worried about is #2. How could you possibly know this? Are you really so arrogant that you expect God to inform you of his plans? Are you so sure of his favor? I’m sure the Pharasees thought that they were in Jehovah’s favor before he kicked them aside for you Christians. Why do you think he couldn’t kick you aside for the Hutu?”

    Did you even read my previous response? Did I write that I knew this? I clearly stated why I made such an assumption:

    “It’s an assumption based on the fact that the genocide in Rwanda does not fit into God’s plan of redemption as it has been revealed. There is no unfulfilled prophecy other than the return of Christ.”

    Furthermore, it was an assumption that permitted me to answer your previous question as to how the Rwandan genocide could have been both decreed and yet the perpetrators held accountable.

    You do understand what I meant by assumption?

  84. #84 Duke York
    March 26, 2006

    David Heddle

    Hey, I’m sorry if I frustrated you. I made an assumption myself that what I was saying was obvious. I sometimes have trouble getting my thoughts across.

    My basic point is that if you have to make assumptions with regard to your moral system, that moral system can’t be an absolute one.

    No, that’s not quite right. God can have a moral system that is absolute. You can even try to follow it. The fact you don’t know what’s going on in God’s head — the very fact you have to make assumptions — means that you yourself don’t have an absolute moral code. You claim one exists, yes. The trouble is you don’t know what it is, so you can’t be following it.

    Now, do you understand what I mean?

    Duke York

  85. #85 Nebogipfel
    March 27, 2006

    David Heddle:

    How do you come to the conclusion that you must turn off your intellect? This thread has been about Slavery and the Bible – and about the apparent repulsiveness of the acts of the God of the Bible. What amount of intellect is required to render one repulsed by the horrors of this life? Did a primitive and uneducated family from history experience any less grief and sorrow at the loss of child than a present day couple would? Either couple could conclude that a vile God was to blame for the events in their lives, but I hardly think that intellect would be the basis for such conclusions. This is the point I’ve been attempting to make: the issue isn’t about our preference or our intellect… it’s about whether or not we admit that if something is true, then we are under obligation to accept it.

    Well, my intellect, such as it is, tells me that the balance of probablity is that the Bible, being a library of books originally written by different people from different cultures across a few thousand years, and then translated and retranslated over another 2000 years, is not the pure and unadulterated word of God. My intellect also tells me that history is soaked in blood spilled by those who claimed that they were carrying out the will of God, so that someone who claims to be carrying out a horrific act in the name of God is most likely to be either insane or lying.

    If I am to join your beleif, I have to disregard that. I have to put aside what intellect and logical thought tell me, and say, OK, I just believe. But that’s too great a leap for me to make.

    Basically, my instinctive response to someone who says “I know the will of God” is to say “Prove it”. But, of course, that’s asking impossible.

    You are right, if we know that something is true, that we have an obligation to accept it. But once you leave the realm of scientific, testable facts, how do you “know” what is true and what is false? The world is full of people who claim to know the will of God. They can’t all be right.

  86. #86 Nebogipfel
    March 27, 2006

    Whoops – I misattributed my last quote; it came from ImagoArt, not David Heddle; apologies to all concerned :-(

  87. #87 ImagoArt
    March 28, 2006

    386sx,

    I don’t like that any more than you do, Mr. Lopez. But I’m not going to lie to myself.

    Well my point is that if our standards are nothing more than our own mere opinions and preferences, then debates about right and wrong become no different than debates about Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Rocky Road.

    It means that they’re saying that they hold those truths to be self-evident. Maybe they’re supposed to be authorities greater than ourselves when it comes to self-evident truths or something? I’m not sure what you’re saying, Mr. Lopez.

    I just wanted to know how you interpret a portion of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The key phrase I’m looking at is “self-evident”; how is it that a truth could be self-evident, unless there is an authority greater than ourselves?

    Nebogipfel,

    A lot of tangential ideas here…
    Well, my intellect, such as it is, tells me that the balance of probablity is that the Bible, being a library of books originally written by different people from different cultures across a few thousand years, and then translated and retranslated over another 2000 years, is not the pure and unadulterated word of God.

    A couple of points: the fact that the Bible was written by multiple authors over a long time span, translated and retranslated, doesn’t mandate that it is not the word of God. Have you studied the evidence for the textual and historical accuracy of the Bible? Also, the term “pure and unadulterated” should be clarified. Are you claiming that only an English version which is identical to the original autograph is acceptable?

    My intellect also tells me that history is soaked in blood spilled by those who claimed that they were carrying out the will of God, so that someone who claims to be carrying out a horrific act in the name of God is most likely to be either insane or lying.

    Yes, free will allows for anyone to perform any act and claim it was done as the will of God. Free will also allows for someone to feed the hungry and tend to the sick, all in the name of God. The former tends to make the headlines (and the history books), while the latter does not.

    It’s interesting that in your first paragraph you presented an empirical argument and then an emotional one. “Due to errors in copying and translating, the chance of the Bible being the word of God is too remote; besides, history is filled with people who committed atrocities in the name of God.” (did I get that right?) Well, what if one could make an empirical argument for the validity of the text found in the Bible? How would that impact the second half of your claim?

    You are right, if we know that something is true, that we have an obligation to accept it.

    Thank you. If nothing else, then I see that my point about the obligation of truth is understood.

    But once you leave the realm of scientific, testable facts, how do you “know” what is true and what is false? The world is full of people who claim to know the will of God. They can’t all be right.

    And how do you “know” that using scientific, testable facts provides you with truth? IOW, what scientific, testable facts are there that demonstrate that using scientific, testable facts is valid? The methodology is self-referential and can be trusted only after one accepts, on faith, that it works. For that matter, you must first accept that your senses are providing you with reliable information about the physical world. You must first accept that the laws of logic are correct (e.g., the law of non-contradiction you reference in “they can’t all be right”). You must first accept that numbers exist, even though you can’t test for them. You say that exercising faith is too great a leap for you to make, but I think you’ve already done it many times.

    Wasn’t it Augustine who said, “Before you can know anything, you must first believe something”?

    Rusty Lopez

  88. #88 386sx
    March 28, 2006

    I just wanted to know how you interpret a portion of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The key phrase I’m looking at is “self-evident”; how is it that a truth could be self-evident, unless there is an authority greater than ourselves?

    They might say it’s self-evident, but that doesn’t mean it’s self-evident. The thing about declaring something to be self-evident is that you’re declaring that you don’t need to bother with evidence. How would you interpret the phrase “three-fifths of a white person?” If you’re expecting me to grant them some kind of authority on self-evident truths, forget it. Otherwise I don’t understand why you’re asking the question. Cheers!

  89. #89 Nebogipfel
    March 28, 2006

    Rudy Lopez:

    A couple of points: the fact that the Bible was written by multiple authors over a long time span, translated and retranslated, doesn’t mandate that it is not the word of God.

    Indeed. But it suggests that what we read in a modern, English version may not be what the original author meant 3,000 years ago. Who’s to say what has been lost or added along the way? The thing about a camel through the eye of a needle is one example.


    Have you studied the evidence for the textual and historical accuracy of the Bible? Also, the term “pure and unadulterated” should be clarified. Are you claiming that only an English version which is identical to the original autograph is acceptable?

    No, I am not a scholar of either Greek or Hebrew; if a Biblical scholar says that a particular book was written by a historical figure, I have no problem with that.

    But that isn’t the point; rather, it is that the authors of the Bible, whoever they were, were human beings, living in a particular time and culture, and the God that they write about appears to reflect that. The God of the Old Testament has no trouble with slavery or ordering His chosen people to commit genocide; both practices we find morally repugnant today. Could it be that the authors of the Bible just saw their relationship with God through the prism of their own times and culture? In that case, how are we, 3000 years later, to determine which parts of the Bible contain eternal truths, and which is just cultural baggage which can be ignored? Is it reasonable that the ancient Israelites had divine knowledge of God that was denied to the ancient Egyptians, or the Babylonians, or the North American Indians? Or to the Buddha, or Mohammed, come to that.

    Note, the Bible (Old and New Testament) certainly contains deep insights into the nature of humanity, and how we relate to each other as people, and how we relate to the world around us. The authors of the Bible may not have been wrong about God, but I don’t believe they were entirely right either.

    I said:
    My intellect also tells me that history is soaked in blood spilled by those who claimed that they were carrying out the will of God, so that someone who claims to be carrying out a horrific act in the name of God is most likely to be either insane or lying.

    You said:
    Yes, free will allows for anyone to perform any act and claim it was done as the will of God.

    I reply:
    So who is *really* doing the will of God, and who is merely insane or deluded? That’s the point I was trying to make. Given that George Bush apparently listened to the advice of “a higher father” when deciding to inavde Iraq, I think it’s quite an important question.


    Free will also allows for someone to feed the hungry and tend to the sick, all in the name of God. The former tends to make the headlines (and the history books), while the latter does not.

    I’m afraid Christians and Jews don’t have a monopoly on good and philanthropic behaviour, any more than Muslims, Buddhists and atheists have a monopoly on evil.


    It’s interesting that in your first paragraph you presented an empirical argument and then an emotional one. “Due to errors in copying and translating, the chance of the Bible being the word of God is too remote; besides, history is filled with people who committed atrocities in the name of God.” (did I get that right?)

    AFAICS, these are both empirical arguments. A text that has been translated through multiple languages *is* likely to contain errors. History *is* filled with atrocities that have been justified by the excuse “God wanted us to do it”.


    Well, what if one could make an empirical argument for the validity of the text found in the Bible? How would that impact the second half of your claim?

    Sure, if you could prove empirically that the Bible is the word of God, I’d have no choice but to believe that we are all the creation of a being who orders the wholesale destruction of nations. Not an attractive thought, I admit, and I would be inclined to test your proof most thoroughly. If you want to call that bias, fine. If you have such empirical proof, I, along with most of the human race, would be very interested to see it.


    Thank you. If nothing else, then I see that my point about the obligation of truth is understood.

    I understood that already, thanks.

  90. #90 Nebogipfel
    March 28, 2006

    Sorry : *Rusty* Lopez. Apologies.


    And how do you “know” that using scientific, testable facts provides you with truth?

    Because they are scientific and testable.


    IOW, what scientific, testable facts are there that demonstrate that using scientific, testable facts is valid? The methodology is self-referential and can be trusted only after one accepts, on faith, that it works.

    If I do an experiment 10 times, and get 10 identical results. I believe I am safe in concluding that the 11th time will also give the same result, and that the result of the experiment is “true”.

    For instance, if I apply a given force to an object of a given mass, it accelerates at certain rate. If apply twice the force, it accelerates at twice the rate.
    This is true. (OK, within certain limits, it’s true). Every experiment test of this hypothesis has shown the same conlusion.
    It’s true in my house, it’s true at the South Pole, it’s true on the Moon and in the outer reaches of the solar system. If it were not true, aeroplanes would not fly and satellites would not stay up.
    I have no reason to believe that it isn’t true.

    There are some questions, though, that simply cannot be answered by the scientific method.


    For that matter, you must first accept that your senses are providing you with reliable information about the physical world.

    Well, yes. Mine do. Don’t yours?


    You must first accept that the laws of logic are correct (e.g., the law of non-contradiction you reference in “they can’t all be right”). You must first accept that numbers exist, even though you can’t test for them. You say that exercising faith is too great a leap for you to make, but I think you’ve already done it many times.

    Good golly, yes, it is possible that I am actually now sitting in my Matrix pod, and that everything I am experiencing is a simulation or an illusion. This could be true. There is no experiement I could perform that could conclusively rule it out. But it is not *likely* to be true, and if I’m going to sit around worrying about that, I am not going to make any progress in life. Come on, how much faith does it take to believe in your own existence?


    Wasn’t it Augustine who said, “Before you can know anything, you must first believe something”?

    Sure. I beieve I have five senses, plus a brain, gut instinct and a conscience, and that by using these tools in combination, usually (but not always) I can discover things about the world. And, if God gave me these things, I can only assume that He intended me to use them.

  91. #91 ImagoArt
    March 29, 2006

    386sx,

    They might say it’s self-evident, but that doesn’t mean it’s self-evident.

    Fine, but do you believe they are self-evident? If so, then there is an authority (whatever it is) greater than you and I. If not, then my morality is just as valid as yours… so why bother debating with me?

    Nebogipfel,

    Lots to cover, but very little time…

    But it suggests that what we read in a modern, English version may not be what the original author meant 3,000 years ago. Who’s to say what has been lost or added along the way?

    There are methods of interpretation and understanding that address your concerns. Certainly any interpretation of the text must involve study, and there will certainly be passages in which the original intent will be inherently difficult to ascertain. I would argue, however, that such passages are rare.

    The God of the Old Testament has no trouble with slavery or ordering His chosen people to commit genocide; both practices we find morally repugnant today.

    Yes, that is the original issue of this post. I think we find ourselves in a roundabout, though, for I come back to my point that if the God of the Old Testament is truly who the OT says he is, then what I may find morally repugnant is irrelevant.

    So who is *really* doing the will of God, and who is merely insane or deluded?

    Well I suppose I’d have to take it on a case by case basis. David Koresh and Jim Jones, imo, were not doing the will of God, while Mother Teresa was. None of those cases, though, get me very far in determining whether or not to reject Christianity. I realize that the Christian does not have a monopoly on charitable acts, but you used the spilled blood in the name of God argument as a reason for why you reject the Bible/Christianity.

    A text that has been translated through multiple languages *is* likely to contain errors.

    No doubt. I’m concerned with whether or not the errors are significant. As far as the Bible is concerned, that hasn’t been shown to be the case.

    Sure, if you could prove empirically that the Bible is the word of God,…

    No, I wasn’t saying that… I meant empirically demonstrate the validity (historical and textual) of the text itself.

    Because they are scientific and testable.

    If I do an experiment 10 times, and get 10 identical results. I believe I am safe in concluding that the 11th time will also give the same result, and that the result of the experiment is “true”.

    I have no issue with the scientific method and I agree with your approach. The thing with your example is, you’re applying the method from within a closed system. If you stand outside the system and ask the same question, you have no means to verify its validity. For instance, the statement: “Only what can be quantified and empirically tested is rational and true” is self-refuting. How can such a statement be tested without relying on the very methods that are being questioned? It is in that sense that the presuppositions of science cannot be validated by science.

    Well, yes. Mine do. Don’t yours?

    I suppose. But how would I know for sure (without relying on the very senses I am attempting to validate)?

    Come on, how much faith does it take to believe in your own existence?

    Well I didn’t claim you exercised a lot of faith… just that you exercised faith. Do you believe that other minds exist? How do you test for that? How about if the world really exists when you aren’t conscious? What about the love you have for your children (assuming you do)? Is it real? Is it true? Could science provide you with testable results?

    My point here is that reality extends beyond the mere empirical, into areas that science cannot touch (let alone, explain).

    Rudy Lopez

    The last time I was called “Rudy Lopez” was by a friend of mine in High School (teasing me after another team’s coach misread my name at a track meet).

    Rusty Lopez

  92. #92 386sx
    March 29, 2006

    Fine, but do you believe they are self-evident? If so, then there is an authority (whatever it is) greater than you and I. If not, then my morality is just as valid as yours… so why bother debating with me?

    Sorry Mr. Lopez but I still don’t get what you’re saying. Rocks might be self-evident but that doesn’t mean there is a “Creator.” (I’m guessing that what you mean by “an authority greater than you and I” you mean a “Creator.”) “Points” and “lines” were self-evident for Euclid, but that doesn’t mean they’re the “truth.” Euclid established some axioms that he figured didn’t need proof, and proceeded from there. And they work pretty good. Jefferson and company established their axioms that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And it worked pretty well, but that doesn’t mean there was a “Creator.” I don’t think they’re “self-evident”, but they’re nice things to have around and they make for some pretty good axioms.

    One difference between I and you is that I don’t think sending in flaming serpents to kill off most of the “chosen people” and send them straight down to a horrible justifiable torture forever is a good thing, but you do. And yet allegedly you have a higher moral standard than I. Oh what an upside down world! Cheers!

  93. #93 Nebogipfel
    March 29, 2006

    Rusty Lopez:

    Lots to cover, but very little time…

    I know the feeling… :-)

    you used the spilled blood in the name of God argument as a reason for why you reject the Bible/Christianity.

    Perhaps that was too specific; I apply the same arguments to other religions too; I regard those who murder in the name of Allah the compassionate and merciful, or in the name of Jehova, or in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as equally deluded.
    Christians and Jews, of course, do not have a monopoly on evil either, and Christian belief has certainly inspired many people to greats acts of good, as well as great acts evil.

    Regarding the authenticity of the text of the Bible; that wasn’t really the point I was trying to make. Even if the content and meaning of the text is prefectly preserved, the original author of the text was still a human being, with human biases and faults (and good points as well, undoubtedly). The God that the Old Testament authors write about seems to resemble themselves in many ways; they obviously had no problems with owning slaves or smiting their ungodly neighbours; and their God doesn’t seem to have a problem with it either. David Heddle made an analagous point that other contributors to the thread created their Gods in their own image. (although I suspect his intentions were somewhat different ;-)

    *If* the God of the Old Testament is indeed who it is said that He is, then, yes, I agree, what you and I find morally repugnant is irrelevant. That’s a big “if”, though; and, indeed, we’re coming back to the topic of the original post. How does one reconcile faith in a God of ultimate love and goodness, but who apparently condones practices which one’s rational mind finds utterly repugnant?

    One choice is to say, I don’t understand it but I will accept by faith that this apparent contradiction is not a contradiction at all from God’s point of view, it is merely that I, as a fallen, imperfect being, cannot understand His divine purpose in condoning and encouraging slavery and genocide.
    Another choice is to say, I cannot reconcile it, and I cannot disregard what my rational mind is telling me, and there must be something wrong, either with God (and yes, I am concious of how arrogant that sounds) or with the way God is presented in the Old Testament (or both).
    Ed Brayton (and myself) seem to have gone for the second option. David Heddle and yourself have gone for the first.
    I don’t imagine for a second that the first option is in any way an easy one; speaking only for myself, it just requires more faith than I have.
    There is a third way, which is simply not to think about the contradictions. But I tried thatf for a while, and sooner or later, the effort needed maintain such compartmentailsed thinking just becomes too great.

    On second part, regarding things that cannot be proven scientifically; yes I accept that I do believe in things, such as you mention, that cannot be proven scientifically. The crucial difference is they don’t raise much in the way of intellectual problems for me. If my children do start to condone or practice genocide and slavery, I may put me to more of a test…

    I would like to say more about the exitential issues raised by the Matrix Hypothesis, but that’ll have to wait for later!

  94. #94 ImagoArt
    March 31, 2006

    386sx,

    Jefferson and company established their axioms that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And it worked pretty well, but that doesn’t mean there was a “Creator.” I don’t think they’re “self-evident”, but they’re nice things to have around and they make for some pretty good axioms.

    Okay, so you don’t think that the truths delineated by the Declaration of Independence are, indeed, self-evident.* Yet you think that they’re “nice things to have around.” You think that way, presumably, because the axioms make sense… for you. Note that the basis of your decision is what is subjectively preferred rather than what is objectively true. If that is the “objective” standard you wish to live by, then my (or anyone else’s) “higher moral standard” is just as valid as yours. Yet if everyone’s standard is valid, then what right does anyone have for declaring another to be in the wrong? (so… what does one do with such a thing as the Nuremberg trials?) In effect, you’re either left with utter chaos (everyone doing whatever they feel like), or a totalitarian state (“might makes right,” enforced by whomever carries the biggest stick).

    *Note that when I speak of truths being self-evident I am declaring that an abstract concept actually exists – exists apart from empirical reality. Rocks can be touched and scientifically analyzed. Truths cannot, and yet they still exist.

    Nebogipfel,

    *If* the God of the Old Testament is indeed who it is said that He is, then, yes, I agree, what you and I find morally repugnant is irrelevant. That’s a big “if”, though; and, indeed, we’re coming back to the topic of the original post. How does one reconcile faith in a God of ultimate love and goodness, but who apparently condones practices which one’s rational mind finds utterly repugnant?

    Thanks for your clarifications. It appears, though, that you have eliminated the reliability of the Bible as indicative of its truthfulness. If, for instance, the testimony for the resurrection of Christ is shown to be accurate, what conclusions are to be made from the claims? Does one simply negate any reference to supernatural action (a la Thomas Jefferson)? On what basis? The actions in question are proposed as historical in nature and not repeatable and, hence, scientifically testable. (sidenote: a wonderful resource in the reliability arguments for the Bible is Mark D. Roberts’ site)

    Hence, it appears that you’ve conveniently eliminated the testimony of the text of the Bible. In doing so you reduce your decision on the veracity of the claims of the Bible to one of mere preference.

    Thanks for the civil discussion, gentlemen. I think this thread has reached its end, though, so this will be my last posting.

    See you on future posts!

    Rusty Lopez

  95. #95 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 3, 2007

    they don’t use evolutionary biology because it doesn’t aid in actual therapy.

    Well, they could, or possibly should. Mark Chu-Carroll on “Good Math, Bad Math” has a post (on the Egnor-rant, IIRC) where he describes his children’s physician who rotates the ubiquitous antibiotics regularly so not building up resistant populations of bacterias. (And possibly avoid horizontal transfer of it later.)

    Seems reasonable, though I don’t know if it is an evidence based medicinal practice. (You know, we don’t assume that predictions are necessarily correct in the real world. In spite of what creationists thinks.)

    doctorgoo:

    Thank you, most illuminating. And scary.

  96. #96 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 3, 2007

    Sorry, posted in the wrong tab.

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