Any time I am looking for something to blog about, I know the HuffPo religion section will serve up something delicious. In this essay, Peter Enns of the BioLogos Foundation exposes the naivete some people bring to reading the Bible:

I’ve read enough of the New Atheists to see a pattern in their thinking about the Bible, and it is disturbingly similar to what you see in the Southern Baptist Convention or Bob Jones University. Conservative Christians and New Atheists share naïve views of what the Bible “ought” to be, namely the notion that if the Bible is really the “Word of God,” it will provide accurate historical and scientific information.

Well, yes, actually I do think something called the “Word of God” ought to provide true information about history and science. I thought that was pretty strongly implied by the phrase “Word of God.”

In our defense, it is not the New Atheists (or modern Conservative Christians for that matter) who invented the idea of Biblical inerrancy. If we are naive in our interpretation then at least we can claim as company many of the greatest minds in Christian history

New Atheists point out that Genesis is wholly out of sync with scientific reality. This is true, but they assume that this sort of thing is sufficient grounds to declare the Bible a stupid book, Christianity a stupid religion, and Christians stupid people. “See how sloppy the Bible is with basic facts known to every middle schooler? And you call this the ‘Word of God!’ Get over it.”.

How annoying that the same people who most pretentiously declare that atheists fail to take theology seriously seem utterly unable to characterize accurately the views of their opponents. The absurdities of Genesis are the beginning, not the end, of the case against the Bible’s status as “Word of God.” We note also the ludicrous strictures of Leviticus and Deuteronomy and God’s murderous rampages in Numbers, and that’s just to stick with a few obvious bits from the Torah. Virtually every page of the Bible shouts its purely human origin. Genesis is the least of its problems.

To state the obvious, no ancient writer was aware of what we take for granted today about the creation of the world and the evolution of life. You’d think that wouldn’t need to be said, but it does. You cannot expect the Bible — written in ancient times for ancient eyes — to enter a modern scientific discussion, and you cannot fault the Bible when it fails to answer our questions.

If the Bible is in some way coauthored by a perfect, all-knowing God, and if it presumes to address questions of scientific interest, then absolutely we can expect it to provide accurate answers to those questions. What else could we expect? The point is not that God should have communicated in the language of twenty-first century science. It is simply that there was no need for Him to communicate through stories that are fallacious in every particular.

If I may speak in Bayesian terms for a moment, between the hypotheses “This ancient text is a purely human production,” and “This ancient text is the Word of God,” surely the former assumption gets assigned a far higher prior probability. When we update our probabilities in the light of the new evidence that the Bible contains nothing that human beings of the time could not have produced, I do not think we should revise upward the probability that we are reading the Word of God.

But wait! Enns has anticipated this line of attack:

New Atheists reading this might say, “Thanks for making my point, Enns. The Bible tells stories and so it can be ignored.” Not so fast. What if God likes telling stories? Why assume that fiction is a problem? Why assume that for God to be God he needs to speak in modern ways of knowing?

I grow vexed. As already noted, that the Bible is an infallible repository of wisdom on any subject it addresses is an idea foisted on us by Christian scholars and authorities. It was the dominant view of the Bible through most of Christian history and remains of paramount importance in Christianity today. That notion must be discarded in the wake of modern science, as Enns agrees.

If Enns wants to turn around and say this is all no big deal because God might communicate through fiction then he is welcome to that view. It is just that another, more likely, explanation for why the Bible contains so much that is false is that God had no part in its authorship. And if Enns want to hurl insults at people who find his view implausible then the really ought to make an argument in defense of his view. It is possible that God communicated through fictional stories so confusing that countless people, both believers and nonbelievers, have been led astray as to their proper meaning, but what is the reason for thinking that is true?

I don’t have the stomach right now to address Enns’ silly invocation of that most vacuous of phrases, “modern ways of knowing,” so I will call it a day. There is a bit more to his essay than I have addressed here, so go have a look for yourself.

Comments

  1. #1 Aaron
    July 15, 2010

    So basically Enns is saying the Bible is fiction, which is what atheists have been saying, so the atheists are wrong?
    God likes alternative history stories and is just a bad imitation of Harry Turtledove?

  2. #2 6EQUJ5
    July 15, 2010

    Somebody should ask Enns which bible he is defending. There are so many of them out there, and they all give different stories. Which one is best?

  3. #3 crf
    July 15, 2010

    New Atheists point out that Genesis is wholly out of sync with scientific reality. This is true, but they assume that this sort of thing is sufficient grounds to declare the Bible a stupid book, Christianity a stupid religion, and Christians stupid people.

    Atheists routinely go around calling people stupid because they are Christians? No, I don’t think so. And even though it might be moderately insulting to use the word stupid, there is a difference between calling stupid any particular idea widely held by Christians (particularly after arguing why this might be so), and calling the whole religion stupid, or the person holding that idea stupid.

    Enns conflates criticism (rude or not) of an idea and criticism of a person who may hold those ideas. Many religious people (not just Christians) hold certain dogma in such high esteem, that as a tenet they see no difference between ANY criticism of those ideas and a personal attack.

  4. #4 Umlud
    July 15, 2010

    I wonder if Enns would say the same thing if confronted by a person of a non-Abrahamic faith, who would defend with as much fervor the writings of his/her religion as Enns does with his.

    I’d like to see Enns try to argue to a Hindu why the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Rig Veda and the are less correct than the Bible. Or to argue to a Buddhist as to why the Tripitika, Vinayas, and Sutras are not as valid as his Bible.

    So, he has an argument against people who don’t believe (atheists) and people who believe the same thing in the wrong way (Southern Baptist Convention). So what? The world is made of more religions than Christianity and comprised of more theists than atheists.

    In other words, Enns is small-minded in his “outrage”.

  5. #5 tharding
    July 15, 2010

    If god intended these stories to be instructive fictions, he kinda sucks as an author.

    Shouldn’t there be clear indications that is his intent? Maybe a “once upon a time” or “it is said” type is phrasing to let the reader in on the plan. But no, everything is presented as fact. No reader in the 8th century BCE would have had any idea that this wasn’t the real history and that the facts weren’t really as presented.

    Modern readers can clearly see evidence that the Deuteronomic history was written under King Josiah by one or more people affiliated with the Jerusalem temple. It was intended as propaganda for that temple exclusively and for Josiah’s program of reconquest. He planned to grab the territory held during the mythical, or at best semi-mythical, united monarchy and he wanted the word of Jehovah to back him up. Was that part written in co-authorship with god? If it was, why was Josiah killed while losing his first major battle.

    Like any other argument regarding god, I am ready to look at the evidence that the Bible was written under divine guidance and that god intended us to realize that these were instructive fictions. Just as soon as these people produce some.

  6. #6 nuspirit
    July 15, 2010

    If there ever was a “heads I win, tails you lose” argument, Enns’ must be at least the runner up to the theistic/anthropic principle.

  7. #7 feralboy12
    July 15, 2010

    Well, we start out picking on Genesis because it’s the first book in the Bible. Duh.
    Personally, I would not expect the word of God to contain scientific terms, mathematical symbols or anything requiring a lot of abstract thinking. I would expect it not to get all the basics wrong, and not map one-to-one with the generally held human misconceptions of the time. I would also expect some sense of priority; pages of instructions for animal sacrifices and only one verse telling me how to take a dump. And even then, he forgets the bit about washing my hands.

  8. #8 Sastra
    July 15, 2010

    I think the validity of Enn’s point can easily be illustrated by a simple thought experiment:

    Imagine that the Bible had been astonishingly historically accurate, with specific predictions which come to pass; that it had provided factual scientific information which could not have been known at the time; that it had been a repository of the best wisdom of humanity, advocated human rights, and set forth a workable set of rules for living wisely and harmoniously — all explained so clearly and reasonably that it was easily understood and accepted by virtually everyone. Would anyone have thought “Gee, perhaps this is the Word of God? Could this be a revelation to humanity from an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful Being?”

    OF COURSE NOT! NOBODY would have inferred something so silly. They would have tossed such a book aside as unremarkable, and still would. It only stands to reason that a God that decided to communicate His existence and will to all people would have done so by picking out a primitive tribe in the ancient Mideast and inspiring them to write a confused jumble of stories, superstitions, and petty regulations which have the clear mark of being invented by the people of the time. C’mon. Naturally.

    This way, it takes work, and skill, and a desperate sort of cunning, to figure out that this is how God reveals itself. The faithful need something to work with — or what’s the value of faith, and how can God know His own?

  9. #9 Zach Voch
    July 15, 2010

    Interesting. New Atheists are saying the Bible contains plain fiction, criticizing forms of Christianity that claim otherwise. Perturbed, X does not adhere to one of those forms says that we’re right, but nevertheless, X says that they are wrong because X subscribes to a different form of Christianity.

    Reverse straw man fallacy?

    Hey X, maybe New Atheists were not addressing you, who is not a literalist, personally when they criticized literalism?

    Unless somebody claims that all who identify with Christianity are literalists, this is complete garbage. The straw man here is in claiming that New Atheists do this.

    Ok, we can let X=”Enns,” but this is a (absurdly) common theme.

    One last bit for Enns:

    Why assume that for God to be God he needs to speak in modern ways of knowing?

    Ok, suppose that there is a Heaven, and that in order to get there, we must accept that Jesus sacrificed himself, redeeming our sins. In other words, the path of salvation is belief. Now, suppose that God wants us to be saved. So, in the Bible, the historical source of knowledge about the resurrection and Man’s state of Sin, he inspires the authors to write a number of foundational fictions. Now, being a rather knowing chap about the future, God includes several fictions which will one day baldly conflict with the future, trusted, reliable sciences of the human species.

    Here’s the problem with God liking fiction, Enns. It conflicts with God liking salvation.

    Enns could reply that God likes testing our faith, but this is the broader example of the same problem. And just like tests of faith of this variety, which include, mind you, among their illustrious number the creationist “the fossils were put there to test our faith” canard, the same theological problems with a deceptive designer arise.

    One cannot defend God using fiction for the same reasons one cannot defend Omphalism.

    With salvation at stake, it becomes a very severe theodicy problem.

  10. #10 Pierce R. Butler
    July 15, 2010

    … I know the HuffPo religion section will serve up something delicious.

    In order to serve up a nibble of hot-fried Enns, our esteemed host had to exercise the willpower to pass up such tantalizing tidbits as “Religion, Science and the Ultimate Nature of Reality” (“I don’t claim to know what it means to say that we are made in the image of God, but I profoundly and instinctively believe it and all that it implies.”); “Praying for Christopher Hitchens” (“I doubt we’ll ever hear Hitchens apologize for blaming almost every evil in human history on those with whom he disagrees: Christians, Jews, and other assorted faithful. But we will pray for him nonetheless.”); and “Is There a God or Is There Nothingness? New Scientific Paradigm” (“If biocentrism is right, nature has much bigger plans for us than just this or that life — plans far beyond anything religion has ever projected to any god.”).

    And how could he resist “Jesus and the Evolution of the Species” (“Could the fossil record be a message from God?”)?

    Personally, I’d still be lurking ‘n’ giggling.

    (To be fair, there are a couple of decent-looking articles about the crimes of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church amongst the “Soul of Spiderman” verbal junkfood.)

    You want some real rootin’ tootin’ two-fisted All-American religion, try Covenant News: what other news service offers a section on “Abominations”?

  11. #11 Owlmirror
    July 15, 2010

    With salvation at stake, it becomes a very severe theodicy problem.

    Not so fast! What if “salvation”, and everything associated with it in the NT, is itself also fiction? Problemo solved!

    (/not serious)

    New Atheists reading this might say, “Thanks for making my point, Enns. The Bible tells stories and so it can be ignored.” Not so fast. What if God likes telling stories? Why assume that fiction is a problem? Why assume that for God to be God he needs to speak in modern ways of knowing?

    As Zach implies @#9, this is an insipid handwave — as insipid as the Omphalos argument. If the excuse of “God likes telling stories” is argued, this gives no way of figuring out what story, or what part of a story, is “true” (in the sense of being what a purported God really wants to convey), or even relevant.

    Why should the Bible be the only “word of God”? There are lots of stories and fictions out there. The Cthulhu mythos, and the Oz stories, and the myths, legends, and folktales of thousands of peoples over thousands of years, are just as good candidates for being potentially the “word of God” as the Bible. Or just something made up on the spot, as a whim or a joke. The Flying Spaghetti Monster could be the “inspired word of God”.

    If God exists and wants to communicate by inspiring fictions and stories, then he must deal with humans treating those fictions and stories like any other human-created work. We judge them as fiction; read them or don’t read them based on personal taste; and interpret them as being well done or not based on our criteria, not the writers’.

    The only thing an honest person could take away from this sort of universal potentially “word-of-God-ness” is that all of them must be rejected as being “the word of God”. If we want any sort of consistent understanding of the universe, we must acknowledge all stories and fictions as being human-made, and strive for a consistent, coherent, logical, empirical epistemology, and a consistent set of ethics based on that consistent epistemology.

    Anything else would be the logical fallacy of special pleading. Which is, of course, what Enns’ argument reduces down to.

  12. #12 HP
    July 16, 2010

    The thing is, there are any number of Bronze Age and Iron Age spiritual and religious texts from around the globe. And some are objectively better than others. Yes, I’ve read the Bible, but I’ve also read, e.g., the Iliad and Odyssey, Aeschylus’s Atreides trilogy, the Bhagavad Gita (never quite made it through the entire Ramayama), several major Sutras (an incredible lesson in non-Western inductive reasoning, BTW), and a good chunk of Gilgamesh.

    As pretty as Ecclesiastes, Psalms, and the Song of Solomon are, Homer’s Shield of Hephaestus scroll from the Iliad is so grand as to make them fade into oblivion. Likewise, nothing in Joshua or Judges can match the power of Homer in depicting Bronze Age warfare. Aeschelus’s powerful denouement of Agamemmnon, Clytemenestra, Cassandra, and the house of Atreides puts anything ever written about the house of David to shame. Jezebel and Sheba were pikers compared to Cassandra!

    The problem with the Bible as literature is that, while highly influential, it’s not very good.

    Homer FTW!

  13. #13 Todd
    July 16, 2010

    A great post, and so many great comments. One thing I have noticed several times recently is that there appears to be a growing trend among apologists of attempting to equate atheistic thought with religious belief. I’m sure we’ve all seen this tactic employed by creationists, who, apparently all too aware that their arguments cannot be supported empirically, resort to absurd claims that science (or “Darwinism”) is also based upon assumptions and/or faith. Personally, while elements of it are simply rhetorical, I think much of this stems from a wholesale commitment to religious faith and an intellectual or psychological inability to conceive of a system of thought predicated on evidence and falsifiability. Since the evidentiary requirements of scientific thinking are so foreign to them, an argument that science is also somehow “faith-based” is almost a reflexive response.
    Beyond the logical fallacy that disbelief in the absence of evidence is equivalent to belief in the absence of evidence, this kind of argument is so grating to me for a host of reasons, not least because it reduces the years spent by me and my fellow scientists training, studying, and working to the same kind of intellectually hollow, “unearned” suppositions of religion. Like many of you, I’m sure, I spent countless hours in lecture halls, reading textbooks and academic papers, sweating in the field to collect samples, and orders of magnitude more hours hunched over a lab bench, purifying DNA, pouring gels, calculating molarities, and so on to produce a tiny smidgen of data sufficient to compile, write, and defend a thesis and collect my hard-earned graduate degree. All my hard work produced what amounts to an almost infinitesimally small dot in the vast mosaic of scientific knowledge, but it was hard work, and I did it. To equate my admittedly small scientific contribution, along with the multitudes of contributions, large and small, similarly earned with an ad-hoc amalgamation of Sunday school-level nonsense is insulting and infuriating. People who lack the desire, drive, curiosity, etc. to learn even the most basic science (let alone commit themselves to the discipline and rigorous standards of the scientific process) do NOT get to tell me that science requires – or even allows – the same “faith” that religion does.
    I would be curious to hear whether others of you have seen this kind of argument before, or if it is indeed a relatively new “trend.” In either case, Enns (and others like him) are free to believe whatever they like, but to equate my rejection of the supernatural for lack of evidence with the strident and absurd claims made in the name of religious faith – and despite an utter lack of evidence – is, in purely scientific terms, a load of crap.

  14. #14 Wowbagger
    July 16, 2010

    How about we do a side by comparison of the parts of the bible that fundamentalists and atheists ‘agree’ should be read the same way, and the parts of the bible cherry-picking cafeteria Christians ‘agree’ should be read the same way and see which list is longer?

    Not to mention the fact that it ignores the very reason fundamentalists believe what they believe, which is faith despite a lack of evidence – exactly the same reason that liberal Christians believe what they believe.

  15. #15 AL
    July 16, 2010

    Conservative Christians and New Atheists share naïve views of what the Bible “ought” to be, namely the notion that if the Bible is really the “Word of God,” it will provide accurate historical and scientific information.

    OK, so then the story of Jesus’s life is not intended to be interpreted as having actually happened (since the bible is not historically accurate), and the Resurrection was not a literal event (since it would be unscientific, and a proper understanding of the Bible respects science).

  16. #16 Dunc
    July 16, 2010

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the so-called “New Atheists” expound on what they think The Bible ought to be – I’ve only ever seen them critique what (some) Christians think The Bible is. In fact, I’m quite certain that I recall the most uncompromising of the “New Atheists” say (on more than one occasion) that, when treated as stories rather than the literal truth, The Bible does contain some material of merit.

  17. #17 Sam C
    July 16, 2010

    As already noted, that the Bible is an infallible repository of wisdom on any subject it addresses is an idea foisted on us by Christian scholars and authorities. It was the dominant view of the Bible through most of Christian history and remains of paramount importance in Christianity today.

    Er, no, the infallibility of the Bible and over-literal interpretation are NOT the view of most of the world’s Christians, neither the believers nor the “authorities”. You are mistaking modern America for wold history; the world is bigger than America, history is longer than the last century.

    Of course the Bible is nonsensical, of course it’s an arbitrary collection of badly linked semi-independent writings, a mish-mash. It starts with a nonsense story and ends with a mad hallucination, with a few nice stories towards the end where a guy said “look folk, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all nice to each other, eh?”.

    But you are setting up a straw man argument based on invalid assertions. Shame.

  18. #18 anonymous
    July 16, 2010

    You know, the Bible is the word of god yadda yadda etc. Its probably only the word of god in hebrew though, and given that every letter is also a number, there could be all kinds of things in there that us english speaking noobs wouldnt get. Just a thought.

  19. #19 Richard Wein
    July 16, 2010

    Jason, you say that the truth of the Bible is pretty strongly implied by the phrase “the word of God”. But only if you take God to be truthful. The Old Testamant shows God to be someone who doesn’t follow the moral code he lays down for us, so why should we expect him to be truthful? What we’re criticising here is the inconsistency of Christian beliefs, so the relevant fact is that most Christians themselves believe God to be an honest deity who wouldn’t mislead to them.

    The main issue here is the reliability of the Bible. Literalists take the reliability of the whole Bible on faith, which at least has the virtue of simplicity. Atheists say that nothing about the Bible should be taken on faith; the whole document should be subjected to rational scrutiny and individual parts accepted or rejected on a rational, evidentiary basis. Enns, on the other hand, doesn’t tell us how he decides which parts of the Bible are reliably communicating literal facts. How, for example, does he decide that the virgin birth is literally true (assuming he believes that)?

    The usual position of liberal apologists seems to be that they have valid criteria (based on clues in the text) for deciding which parts are to be taken as literal truth. But I haven’t yet seen an elaboration of these criteria. True, I haven’t read much theology, and I dare say there are theologians who have addressed this subject in some detail. I doubt I would be impressed by their efforts. I suspect I would find that the criteria have been chosen with the benefit of hindsight, to exclude from literal truth those claims which a given theologian takes to be incompatible with modern science, while including as literal truth those claims which the theologian himself believes. But the more obvious problem here is that the Bible doesn’t seem to have been directed to theologians. It appears to have been directed towards ordinary people. How did God expect those ordinary people to separate the literal truth from the rest? It’s clear that a great many believers (both ordinary and religious leaders) have been misled by Biblical passages which we now know not to be the literal truth, such as those of Genesis. Didn’t God care that his word was going to mislead people?

    The obvious problem for someone who takes Enns’ position is to reconcile the belief that God is honest with the fact that “God’s word” was bound to mislead many sincere believers.

    Instead of addressing this issue frankly, Enns equivocates. He implies both that the Genesis stories are “assumptions” of ancient peoples and that they are “fictions” told by God. If he takes the first position, then Genesis is not the word of God after all. If he takes the second position, then God has misled countless people. Both positions are uncongenial to him, so he equivocates.

  20. #20 Raging Bee
    July 16, 2010

    Well, yes, actually I do think something called the “Word of God” ought to provide true information about history and science. I thought that was pretty strongly implied by the phrase “Word of God.”

    It WOULD be implied, if the phrase was “Word of God on All Matters Scientific.” But it isn’t. The literalists are wrong to think the Bible was meant to be a science textbook; and at least some atheists are wrong to judge the reliability of the Bible based on what it allegedly says about something entirely outside its main subject area.

    The primary, and most important, subject of the Bible is Man’s relationship to (whatever is out-there/in-here that we arbitrarily label) God. If you want to debunk the Bible, you’ll find plenty of grounds for debunking in what it says about that subject alone. Quibbling about Genesis is just a waste of time.

  21. #21 Tacroy
    July 16, 2010

    All I got from Enns’ article is that he agrees with my position: the New Testament is a God/Mary slashfic based on the Old Testament with a Marty Stu main character. I mean yeah they tried to give him some flaws (cursing the fig tree, anyone?) but it seems like most people just ignore all that and only remember him as the best person ever. And then the author starts giving him new powers as the plot demands – I mean, how the hell does multiplying loaves and fishes go thematically with levitation? Serious WTF moment there.

    God likes telling stories right? Those seem to be the most common sorts of stories that get told. Or does Enns only mean the right kind of stories?

  22. #22 386sx
    July 16, 2010

    with a few nice stories towards the end where a guy said “look folk, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all nice to each other, eh?”.

    Errr I think there was something in there about pining for establishing a kingdom and the utter destruction and revenge upon the people who didn’t pay attention to mister “a guy” who fancied himself as the only link between mankind and the punisher creator love god in the heavens. Didn’t think very much of himself, did he?

  23. #23 Owlmirror
    July 16, 2010

    It WOULD be implied, if the phrase was “Word of God on All Matters Scientific.” But it isn’t. The literalists are wrong to think the Bible was meant to be a science textbook; and at least some atheists are wrong to judge the reliability of the Bible based on what it allegedly says about something entirely outside its main subject area.

    The primary, and most important, subject of the Bible is Man’s relationship to (whatever is out-there/in-here that we arbitrarily label) God.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this argument, and it probably won’t be the last… but I think you’re missing an important point.

    How is the Bible supposed to be trustworthy on the subject of a putative relationship with a putative entity when it isn’t trustworthy on verifiable matters of empirical fact?

    If you want to debunk the Bible, you’ll find plenty of grounds for debunking in what it says about that subject alone. Quibbling about Genesis is just a waste of time.

    I think this is utterly wrong. Pointing out that Genesis is not trustworthy on matters of empirical fact is the beginning of pointing out the ethical flaws later on. And some of those ethical flaws are in Genesis anyway.

  24. #24 Jud
    July 16, 2010

    Owlmirror writes:

    Pointing out that Genesis is not trustworthy on matters of empirical fact is the beginning of pointing out the ethical flaws later on.

    Exactly. God’s moral authority proceeds from his status as omnipotent, omniscient Creator. Otherwise he’s just someone who likes to do cool party trick with bushes, and all of the faith tests, like having to show you’re ready to kill your own son, start looking damned mean-spirited, if not full-on megalomaniac batshit insane.

  25. #25 Zach Voch
    July 16, 2010

    Todd,

    I suspect that the rhetorical tactic of drawing moral equivalences between “others” is as old as argument itself.

    Sam,

    Er, no, the infallibility of the Bible and over-literal interpretation are NOT the view of most of the world’s Christians, neither the believers nor the “authorities”. You are mistaking modern America for wold history; the world is bigger than America, history is longer than the last century.

    Notice that the passage you quoted is not arguing that most of today’s Christians are literalists, only that historically, the Bible has been taken more literally than it is today. Not by everybody, not all of the time, but metaphorical Christianities as majority religions are a fairly recent phenomenon.

    Notice that you repeat Enn’s fallacy, attributing this “they think we’re all literalists” nonsense to New Atheists. It’s not what was said. At all.

    Raging Bee,

    If you want to debunk the Bible, you’ll find plenty of grounds for debunking in what it says about that subject alone. Quibbling about Genesis is just a waste of time.

    If you want to debunk the Bible, you can take a variety of approaches, but if you expect literalists in your audience, Genesis is certainly the place to start. Even if not, the implications of a false Genesis ripple through the Bible in a significant way. If you start with even a small amount of factual fallibility in the Bible, you can build the case against almost all of Christian doctrine.

  26. #26 386sx
    July 16, 2010

    Otherwise he’s just someone who likes to do cool party trick with bushes, and all of the faith tests, like having to show you’re ready to kill your own son, start looking damned mean-spirited, if not full-on megalomaniac batshit insane.

    Don’t forget about the megalomaniac bat-looney “son” who basked in the revenge that would be exacted on the people who didn’t pay attention to his maniacal ravings. He was going to be king! Kingdom of God!! Cuckoo!!

    “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    “But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.”

  27. #27 Blake Stacey
    July 16, 2010

    “You cannot expect the Bible — written in ancient times for ancient eyes — to enter a modern scientific discussion, and you cannot fault the Bible when it fails to answer our questions.”

    At the time when what we now call the Old Testament was being codified — Babylonian captivity, mid-500s BCE — the Ionians were digging tunnels from opposite sides of a mountain and meeting in the middle.

    The ancients were not stupid.

    Apparently, God is a worse mathematics teacher than Euclid.

  28. #28 L.Long
    July 16, 2010

    Campbell said it along time ago and better than this guy. All religions are true in the sense of their metaphor about god and it relation to the people of that religion.
    And if used as metaphor there is no great problem, But as some have observed once you say ‘ this is how the world works’ then you are outside metaphor and hitting everyone around you in the face. We aren’t going to like it.
    So basically he has a point but all fundamentalist (insert religion) DO NOT AGREE with him at all.

  29. #29 Collin Brendemuehl
    July 16, 2010

    Well, yes, actually I do think something called the “Word of God” ought to provide true information about history and science. I thought that was pretty strongly implied by the phrase “Word of God.”

    Once again Jason shows his need to take requisite courses in Bible introduction and hermeneutics. I do wish he would read more. I can provide a good bibliography if necessary.

  30. #30 Zach Voch
    July 16, 2010

    Collin@30:

    Once again Jason shows his need to take requisite courses in Bible introduction and hermeneutics. I do wish he would read more. I can provide a good bibliography if necessary.

    Jason’s remark that you are responding to is a statement of opinion and expectation from a secular perspective, not a claim that all Biblical hermeneutics assumes this.

  31. #31 Wowbagger
    July 17, 2010

    Colin Brendemuehl wrote:

    Once again Jason shows his need to take requisite courses in Bible introduction and hermeneutics

    So the bible can only be ‘explained’ with the help of numerous other works? That sounds suspiciously like special pleading – and casts serious doubt on any claims one might make about it containing anything of value, particularly when it’s purported to have been inspired by a perfect god.

  32. #32 Richard Wein
    July 17, 2010

    Once again Jason shows his need to take requisite courses in Bible introduction and hermeneutics. I do wish he would read more. I can provide a good bibliography if necessary.

    Ah, ye olde Courtier’s Response. You’d be able to see the Emperor’s clothes if only you’d read these treatises on Imperial fashion.

  33. #33 386sx
    July 17, 2010

    How come everybody always has to take a course in Bible introduction and hermeneutics, but nobody ever has to take a course in mythology and shamanism, fleece flocking, and downright bat-looney kookery? I don’t get it…

  34. #34 heddle
    July 17, 2010

    386sx,

    How come everybody always has to take a course in Bible introduction

    Of course neither you nor anyone else has to, but your comparison makes no sense, because of critical mass. There are O(10^9) Christians and orders of magnitude fewer, say Zeus-ites. From a practical standpoint, if you wish to critically engage what you see as superstition, it makes more sense to learn about what you would view as the world’s largest superstition rather than those that are in the noise.

  35. #35 Wowbagger
    July 17, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    Of course neither you nor anyone else has to, but your comparison makes no sense, because of critical mass.

    Don’t you mean argumentum ad populum?

    From a practical standpoint, if you wish to critically engage what you see as superstition, it makes more sense to learn about what you would view as the world’s largest superstition rather than those that are in the noise.

    This is the very reason the courtier’s reply is so appropriate for this situation. If you can plainly see the Emperor is naked becaue his imperial wang is swinging from side to side as it is wafted by the gentle afternoon breeze, why do you need to understand the specifics of garment-making before you can point that out?

  36. #36 heddle
    July 17, 2010

    Wowbagger,

    You need to read more carefully. If you don’t care to engage in any meaningful discussion, then of course you don’t have to make any attempt to know the bible. However if you are someone who is like our host, someone who cares to engage in meaningful discussion, then it makes sense, as our host has demonstrated over the years, to do some homework.

    why do you need to understand the specifics of garment-making before you can point that out?

    Because you sound like an idiot if you don’t.

  37. #37 Blake Stacey
    July 17, 2010

    How come everybody always has to take a course in Bible introduction and hermeneutics, but nobody ever has to take a course in mythology and shamanism, fleece flocking, and downright bat-looney kookery? I don’t get it…

    For that matter, why not take a course in the Klingon translation original of Hamlet? I mean, as long as you’re diving to obsessive depth into stuff which people just made up, why not have a good time?

  38. #38 James Sweet
    July 17, 2010

    This is true, but they assume that this sort of thing is sufficient grounds to declare the Bible a stupid book, Christianity a stupid religion, and Christians stupid people.

    Wow, that statement is an insult to strawmen.

    Starting in reverse: Most NAs do not claim that Christians are stupid people. Some Christians are stupid, just like some atheists are stupid. And all Christians have at least one silly belief. But many of them are not stupid, and very few NAs claim that all of them are.

    Proceeding backwards from there: NAs think that religion in general is a flawed epistemological concept. One could probably call that “stupid” and it would be a fair characterization. On the other hand, many NAs — including myself — recognize that not all sects are created equal, and that while all religions are at least a little silly (it’s that whole broken epistemology thing), some of them are rather nice. The UUs for example. I’ve been to a couple of UU services and they are… tolerable.

    And finally arriving at the beginning: Yes, the Bible is a very, very stupid book when taken as a whole. There are a few pearls of wisdom scattered about (I myself am quite fond of 1 Corinthians 13:11, but unfortunately it would distract from my overall point if I went into detail about why I like that verse so much) but those few rays of sunshine are nothing to write home about, really. Taken as a whole, it’s dreary, misogynistic, genocidal, homophobic, violent, sexually perverted, and — drum roll please — very very stupid.

    Notice that I kept saying “as a whole”. The creation portion of Genesis is nowhere near the stupidest part of the Bible. It just happens to be an issue where FORTY FUCKING PERCENT of Americans have decided to draw the battle lines and say, “This part of the Bible is more awesome than anything science has ever done, so STFU you eggheads!” So we are forced to talk about it a lot.

    Personally, I’d rather talk about that scene where Jesus curses the fig tree. That’s stupid AND hilarious. “Fuck you, fig tree! Ain’t no fig tree gonna get away with being out of season when the muthafuckin’ son of GOD is hungry!”

  39. #39 James Sweet
    July 17, 2010

    Personally, I would not expect the word of God to contain scientific terms, mathematical symbols or anything requiring a lot of abstract thinking. I would expect it not to get all the basics wrong, and not map one-to-one with the generally held human misconceptions of the time

    In fact, if the creation story in Genesis had gotten the order of events just close enough to correct to make the Day-Age Hypothesis nontrivial to dismiss, then that would be a bit of a conundrum for us atheists. I don’t think it would necessarily convince me of the truth of the Bible (and even if I were convinced of Yahweh’s existence, I would never worship such a genocidal fucktwist), but it would require us to either a) explain how these Bronze Age goatherders managed to come up with a rough metaphor-laden-yet-chronologically-reasonable account of cosmology, or b) write it off as an astounding coincidence.

    The fact that we have no such ‘splaining to do is resounding evidence that Genesis was not revealed truth.

  40. #40 Jason Rosenhouse
    July 17, 2010

    heddle -

    As I recall, you are a pretty staunch defender of biblical inerrancy yourself. What do you think of Enns’ casual description of the Bible as “fiction”?

    Also, the notion of “inerrancy” seems to monopolize all of the conversation, but within Protestantism “perspciuity” is also an important principle. Isn’t it undone by the implication of Enns’ view, that so many people have been led astray as to the meaning of he text? If we really do need courses in hermeneutics just to understand basic, foundational texts of scripture, doesn’t that mean perspicuity has to be abandoned?

  41. #41 Owlmirror
    July 17, 2010

    If you don’t care to engage in any meaningful discussion,

    heddle, I am always interested in meaningful discussion, and you are almost always are the one to break off any discussion that we are having. Sometimes I get busy and come back to a thread a few days later, but when you leave a thread, you never come back at all. I am willing to be charitable and admit that since I don’t know what’s going on in your life, it might be for any reason at all, or multiple combinations of reasons, but could you satisfy my curiosity and explain why it is that you have done that every single time we get into one of these discussions?

    why do you need to understand the specifics of garment-making before you can point that out?

    Because you sound like an idiot if you don’t.

    No, heddle. If the topic is the Emperor’s clothes, and if he is not wearing any clothes, discussing garment-making is actually completely irrelevant.

    Do you know anything about the various pre-modern ideas about the composition of matter, such as everything being water, or earth, or fire, or air, or æther, or all or some of those in various combinations? Assuming that you don’t, would you “sound like an idiot” if someone brought them up in one of your physics class, and demanded that they be discussed with equal time and weight with the modern physics that you teach, and you wanted to simply dismiss them and get on with actual current science?

  42. #42 Owlmirror
    July 17, 2010

    My previous comment was brought to you by: Teach the controversy:
    http://controversy.wearscience.com/img190/periodic.gif

  43. #43 Zach Voch
    July 17, 2010

    Ok, on knowing the details of theology:

    Here’s Dawkins’s response to this from the Preface to the paperback edition of The God Delusion:

    Surprise bestseller? If I’d gone to town, as one self-consciously intellectual critic wished, on the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus; if I’d done justice to Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope (as he vainly hoped I would), my book would have been more than a surprise bestseller: it would have been a miraculous one. But that is not the point. Unlike Stephen Hawking (who accepted advice that every formula he published would halve his sales), I would have happily forgone bestsellerdom if there had been the slightest hope of Duns Scotus illuminating my central question of whether God exists. The vast majority of theological writings simply assume that he does, and go on from there. For my purposes, I need consider only those theologians who take seriously the possibility that God does not exist and argue that he does.

    Knowledge of a theology to the extent that it is relevant to the truth of a theological claim is all that is necessary. The arguments and claims are the matters of focus, and most theological writings, in my experience at least, are not apologetics. For those that are, of course understanding is relevant. Does The God Delusion discuss every argument ever offered for the existence of God? Of course not. One can write entire books about the various forms of the ontological argument alone. That’s hardly a point against New Atheist authors, as it is a point that would weight against any author, theistic or not. So, one treats what one considers to be the most popular or most persuasive arguments. As these are individual value judgments, no author can hope to capture the entire set of arguments.

    This is really such a silly criticism.

  44. #44 Wowbagger
    July 17, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    You need to read more carefully. If you don’t care to engage in any meaningful discussion, then of course you don’t have to make any attempt to know the bible. However if you are someone who is like our host, someone who cares to engage in meaningful discussion, then it makes sense, as our host has demonstrated over the years, to do some homework.

    Perhaps you need to write more carefully – or think more clearly before writing at all – because that isn’t what you wrote.

    You implied that the reason we should indulge you and familiarise ourselves with the sophistry is because lots more people believe it’s true than Zeus or Wicca – i.e. argumentum ad populum – which was your way of handwaving away the issue 386x brought up, which was that there are numerous other beliefs out there that Christians also don’t adhere to but which they are not required to go to such lengths to justify dismissing.

    Which, of course, gives me a nice segue into the point I’m always reminding you of, which is that Christians aren’t required to – and the overwhelming majority don’t – know or understand the higher philosophical aspects of Christianity in order to call themselves a Christian; they just have to answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘are you a Christian?’.

    That people like Jason have taken the time to learn the steps to your tapdance routines is really just the icing on the cake; it means he can not only say ‘your beliefs have no foundation’ but can add ‘and your sophistry is incoherent’ as well.

    why do you need to understand the specifics of garment-making before you can point that out?

    Because you sound like an idiot if you don’t.

    Tell you what, heddle, since you like appeals to popularity so much, I’ve got an idea: we’ll go to a busy street corner, hire a guy to stand around naked and I’ll say to people ‘that guy’s naked’ while you can say to them ‘No! Wrong! You can’t say he’s naked until you’ve read this 28 books on clothing manufacture I’ve brought with me!’ and we’ll see who more people call an idiot.

  45. #45 heddle
    July 17, 2010

    Jason,

    I think you more-or-less spot-on. A bible that is fiction is a useless bible. A bible that is fiction in one place might be fiction when it describes the promises of God and the work of Christ. Only the most liberal wing of Christianity—the wing content with the teachings of Christ, regardless of whether a historic Jesus actually spoke them and performed miracles, could find any common ground with Enns.

    No, the bible has to be accurate when it teaches about history and science (such as it does) or it is useless.

    I also agree with you regarding the perspicuity of scripture. The text of the bible, according to the bible, can be understood by the ordinary man with no special training.

    I would submit it is not that so many are lead astray by the impenetrability of the text, but rather by bad teaching.

  46. #46 heddle
    July 17, 2010

    Wowbagger,

    You implied that the reason we should indulge you and familiarise ourselves with the sophistry is because lots more people believe it’s true than Zeus or Wicca – i.e. argumentum ad populum

    No, it is not argumentum ad populum. That fallacy would be applicable if I claimed Christianity was correct because so many people believed it. You didn’t even come close to applying it correctly–not even in the ballpark. But it must have made you feel good write a Latin phrase in italics.

    No, the reason I stated was for practical purposes. The same reason why most people, given the opportunity to learn a foreign language, will choose English, Spanish, Chinese, etc, not Navajo.

    they just have to answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘are you a Christian?’.

    If our host will oblige me I’ll paraphrase him on that regard. If someone says “I’m a Christian, I believe Elvis is Jesus” then only a fool would say: “Well, if he says so, he is.” Words have meaning. And while Christians differ over just about every doctrine, to any intelligent person the word “Christian” assumes a core set of beliefs. You won’t find universal agreement on the core, but to conclude that there is no core–only claiming the title matters, is incredibly stupid.

    The position “he who says he is a Christian, is” is even more of a cop-out that endless analogies to the emperor’s new clothes, and that’s saying something.

    That people like Jason have taken the time to learn the steps to your tapdance routines is really just the icing on the cake; it means he can not only say ‘your beliefs have no foundation’ but can add ‘and your sophistry is incoherent’ as well

    You are sort-of correct (for once.) Jason is on firm-footing when attacking Christianity. His attacks must be taken seriously. (Owlmirror too.) You have only “poopy head” arguments, like chanting “the emperors new clothes.” And you brag about it, to boot.

  47. #47 Zach Voch
    July 17, 2010

    Wowbagger,

    I don’t see the argumentum ad populum.

    heddle,

    If it helps, Wowbagger is used to some pretty bad trolls, so his jumping the gun might be understandable, at least as force of habit.

    I think that he was taking your overall argument to be a demand for a complete study of theology as opposed to theology relevant to truth-valued claims, including the nature of claims made, e.g. perspicuity as a standard of interpretation. Hence the “emperors clothes” stuff. Based on your remarks about Jason, I think that you understand this point. If I’m correct, then I think Wowbagger is missing that you understand this point.

  48. #48 Wowbagger
    July 17, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    No, it is not argumentum ad populum. That fallacy would be applicable if I claimed Christianity was correct because so many people believed it. You didn’t even come close to applying it correctly–not even in the ballpark. But it must have made you feel good write a Latin phrase in italics.

    Probably less good than you (yet again) dodging the point makes you feel, though, as you still haven’t answered why atheists need to familiarise themselves with your beliefs in order to reject them when those with your beliefs don’t have to familiarise themselves with anyone else’s – or even their own!

    No, the reason I stated was for practical purposes. The same reason why most people, given the opportunity to learn a foreign language, will choose English, Spanish, Chinese, etc, not Navajo.

    You might as well have written that in Navajo for all the relevance that has to the discussion.

    If our host will oblige me I’ll paraphrase him on that regard. If someone says “I’m a Christian, I believe Elvis is Jesus” then only a fool would say: “Well, if he says so, he is.”

    You’re not trying a – no italicised Latin this time – argument from authority, are you? Damn, I should have dug out my apologetics bingo card.

    Jason is, of course, entitled to his opinion, and I agree that this position is correct in certain contexts; such a position makes practical sense – actual practical rather than your earlier rhetorical practical – when conducting certain kinds of arguments, since the alternative would be extremely time-consuming.

    This, however, isn’t one of those. So, once again I’ll point out that only fools agreeing with a statement is not by any standard an objective measure of whether or not that statement is true. You can simply assume that it isn’t, but that’s all you’ve got – and I’m afraid that it’s not enough.

    You won’t find universal agreement on the core, but to conclude that there is no core–only claiming the title matters, is incredibly stupid.

    So now you’re claiming that something is wrong (‘stupid’) because the number of people who disagree with it (‘universal agreement’) makes it so? That sounds a bit like…sounds a bit like…sounds a bit like…I know! argumentum ad populum! [heh heh heh]

    Either way it’s still not an objective measure.

    You are sort-of correct (for once.) Jason is on firm-footing when attacking Christianity. His attacks must be taken seriously. (Owlmirror too.) You have only “poopy head” arguments, like chanting “the emperors new clothes.”

    Maybe if you actually tried refuting the point raised by the courtier’s reply – because, you know, you haven’t managed to – I’d have a reason to stop. That you keep trying to dismiss it out of hand rather than deal with it pretty much guarantees I’m going to keep throwing it at you; as they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    And you brag about it, to boot.

    Yeah, because you’re all about respect and good sportsmanship, heddle. It just oozes from you.

  49. #49 Zach Voch
    July 17, 2010

    Wowbagger,

    Stop. Deep breaths.

    Probably less good than you (yet again) dodging the point makes you feel, though, as you still haven’t answered why atheists need to familiarise themselves with your beliefs in order to reject them when those with your beliefs don’t have to familiarise themselves with anyone else’s – or even their own!

    If I understand heddle, he’s arguing that atheists who criticize the truth value of a given religion should understand the truth-valued claims of the religion in question. Actively arguing against a specific religion is different than rejecting a specific religion.

  50. #50 heddle
    July 17, 2010

    Perhaps Wowbaggwer and I can finally agree on one thing, that dmap should use a hot curling iron as a suppository.

  51. #51 Wowbagger
    July 17, 2010

    Zach, I’ve encountered heddle before. I am most certainly not ‘jumping the gun’. But I suspect what you are implying is that I need to clarify what I mean – so I’ll attempt to do so in my next post.

  52. #52 Zach Voch
    July 17, 2010

    Ok, fair enough, but please keep in mind that your history with heddle would not, for example, justify calling a current comment of heddle’s an argument from popularity.

  53. #53 Wowbagger
    July 17, 2010

    Zach wrote:

    Ok, fair enough, but please keep in mind that your history with heddle would not, for example, justify calling a current comment of heddle’s an argument from popularity.

    Okay, in #34 heddle wrote:

    Of course neither you nor anyone else has to, but your comparison makes no sense, because of critical mass. There are O(10^9) Christians and orders of magnitude fewer, say Zeus-ites.

    He was responding to 386x’s question:

    How come everybody always has to take a course in Bible introduction and hermeneutics, but nobody ever has to take a course in mythology and shamanism, fleece flocking, and downright bat-looney kookery?

    What heddle appears to be doing is justifying the requirement for atheists to ‘understand’ Christianity at a level much greater than that for any other belief (including all those competing beliefs Christians) by referring to the number of people who believe in it. True, he’s not arguing that the number of adherents makes it correct, as such – but he certainly seems to be implying that it is entitled to something the others aren’t.

    If it’s not an appeal to popularity in its purest sense, it is certainly a fallacy of some kind. Special pleading, perhaps? Either way, it’s an attempt to avoid the real issue, which is whether or not a belief is objectively supportable, not whether or not people – few or many – choose to accept that it is.

    Zach wrote:

    Stop. Deep breaths.

    Was that really necessary? And, more to the point, what led you to assume (incorrectly) that my response was ill-considered and/or emotional – or, at least, more so than any of heddle’s (since you didn’t admonish him at any point) comments? Because I used one exclamation point?

    Just focus on what I wrote, okay?

    If I understand heddle, he’s arguing that atheists who criticize the truth value of a given religion should understand the truth-valued claims of the religion in question. Actively arguing against a specific religion is different than rejecting a specific religion.

    Yes, and my point is that this is being used a convenient excuse to dismiss criticism – and also that it’s deeply hypocritical, because such knowledge is most certainly not required of Christians.

    Let’s say you’ve read every book on apologetics and theology ever published, and you consider yourself to be ready to pass informed judgement. But you get to the pub where you’ve agreed to meet with the sophisticated theological types and hash it out – but when you get there you see each of them has a new book, one that came out a couple days ago and that, as such, you’ve never read.

    Back home you go, new book in hand – while the religious laugh it up over a few beers.

    And all the religious need do to play this card for all eternity is have books published often enough to be able to say, ‘Oh, but you haven’t read the latest by so-and-so, have you? Then I’m sorry but you don’t really understand the truth-claims of my religion and therefore can’t criticise it.’

    It’s like Achilles and the tortoise.

    Hence the beauty of the courtier’s reply. It sweeps away all of that and asks those making the claims to stop banging on about what happens after we accept for argument’s sake that their premise has merit and instead takes it back to the beginning – pointing out that, no matter how interesting and thought-provoking garment-making might be, that’s actual kind of irrelevant to whether or not the emperor is naked.

    That heddle has to try and facetiously dismiss it (even when the same argument came from ‘sophisticated, educated’ Owlmirror rather than ‘poopy-head’ me) instead of show how it’s in any way unreasonable is a testament to just how effective it is.

  54. #54 386sx
    July 18, 2010

    From a practical standpoint, if you wish to critically engage what you see as superstition, it makes more sense to learn about what you would view as the world’s largest superstition rather than those that are in the noise.

    Let me put it another way. It quite obviously looks like a superstition. Why not admit that instead of telling people to go look up more stuff. Even after one looks up more stuff, it still looks obviously like baloney. I don’t see Collin, or you, or dmab admitting that. I just see Collin telling people they need lessons in hermeneutics. That isn’t very “criticality engaging” or intellectually credible. Somebody else do some “critically engaging” for once.

  55. #55 386sx
    July 18, 2010

    Once again Jason shows his need to take requisite courses in Bible introduction and hermeneutics. I do wish he would read more. I can provide a good bibliography if necessary.

    What should anybody do that for? Go take some courses on self-delusion or something. Take in introduction to all the other baloney religions. They all look as baloney as yours does. Go read up on Ridiculous Nonsense 101 or something. Somebody else go take some requisite courses for once.

  56. #56 heddle
    July 18, 2010

    386sx,

    Let me put it another way. It quite obviously looks like a superstition. Why not admit that instead of telling people to go look up more stuff. Even after one looks up more stuff, it still looks obviously like baloney. I don’t see Collin, or you, or dmab admitting that. I just see Collin telling people they need lessons in hermeneutics. That isn’t very “criticality engaging” or intellectually credible. Somebody else do some “critically engaging” for once.

    If I read that correctly, you want me to admit that it is superstition–which of course is silly since I’m a believer. If you meant something more nuanced, that I should admit that to unbelievers is looks as much like superstition as any other religion–then I readily admit that–and have made similar comments many times.

    And of course I never said anyone should learn hermeneutics.

    In a nutshell this is as far as I go:

    1) You are not obligated to read anything. You can just argue that “why should I learn anything about Christianity, it’s obviously just as much woo as Thor-ism.”

    2) Given that a few billion people profess it, you could read the bible in preparation for engaging those people–to argue internal inconsistencies, error, etc.

    But one thing is for sure, “emperor’s new clothes” arguments are just a rationalization for taking the first approach.

    Wowbagger,

    If it’s not an appeal to popularity in its purest sense, it is certainly a fallacy of some kind. Special pleading, perhaps?

    It just gots to be a fallacy. It just gots to.

    BTW, in regard to you position that a Christian is someone who claims to be a Christian, on the “Does Theology Progress” Tulse nailed it. Responding to a comment that stated: there are very theologically liberal forms of Christianity that have little use for notions of doctrine and miracles and inerrant scriptures

    Tulse (who is of course not on the Christian side in these debates) wrote:

    I’d argue that if it doesn’t involve Jesus rising from the dead, it’s not really “Christianity”, and so any form of that religion involves believing in at least one miracle.

    (emphasis added)

    See? Some do not feel compelled to argument-stopping blanket statements like “A Christian is someone who claims to be a Christian.”

  57. #57 Collin Brendemuehl
    July 18, 2010

    Wowbagger, Wein, 386sx, heddle …

    Let’s get more critically engaged, then.

    If you read the language of another culture, which uses constructs in its rhetoric which are different from our granular approach to language, then absolutely YES, you need some sort of background to understanding that text through its culture and linguistic traits. No text can be approached from the perspective of stupidity.

    The most basic use of context even happens in mathematics. How do you interpret “1+1=2″? Whether it means “adding one plus one produces two” or “one plus one is equivalent to two” depends entirely on context. Read it wrong and you might come to a wrong conclusion about the author’s intent. Read the Bible wrong and the same happens.

    Why would anybody go for that? Well, a PhD in mathematics does not as a substitute or equivalent in Biblical studies. Jason’s expertise in mathematics does not give him expertise in other fields.

    There are certain tenets which define orthodox Christianity. These include the resurrection and the Trinity, among others.

  58. #58 Wowbagger
    July 18, 2010

    Collin Brendemuehl wrote:

    Read the Bible wrong and the same happens.

    Except that there’s never been a consensus on what the ‘right’ reading of the bible is; hence schisms, sects and denominations. If there are similar schisms in mathematics regarding what 1+1 (in base 10 at least) equals then this is the first I’m hearing about it.

    There are certain tenets which define orthodox Christianity. These include the resurrection and the Trinity, among others.

    But these were just decisions – assumptions – on what were the most important parts, and all of these were made by people. Why do you assume they were the correct ones?

    This is the point I’ve also been arguing with heddle – though he is choosing to pretend it’s about something else entirely in order to avoid the question – yes, you can say ‘this is what is considered orthodox’, or ‘this is what the majority of Christians believe’, or ‘it’s basically useless to refer to certain beliefs as Christian if they don’t include certain things (i.e. the resurrection)’ – but at the end of the day any time you do that you’re simply following an arbitrary ruling made by people who had no objective means to verify their decisions.

    Basically, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to challenge the certainty with which you make pronouncements on what is or isn’t Christianity. I can see that not having some kind of minimum standard would lead to it being very complicated and messy – but complicated and messy ≠ wrong.

  59. #59 Richard Wein
    July 18, 2010

    @Collin

    The subject of discussion was Enns’ article and the arguments made there. That article was clearly aimed at a broad audience (HuffPo) who couldn’t all be expected to have detailed knowledge of Christian theology, and there’s no indication in the article that such knowledge was expected.

    If you have specific objections to Jason’s (or my) response to Enns, please state them. This attitude that we’re not entitled to address his arguments until we have specialist knowledge just won’t wash.

  60. #60 SLC
    July 18, 2010

    Re Heddle @ #56

    I’d argue that if it doesn’t involve Jesus rising from the dead, it’s not really “Christianity”, and so any form of that religion involves believing in at least one miracle.

    Assuming that Prof. Heddle agrees with this statement, would he consider theologian John Haught a Christian. Prof. Haught testified at the Dover Trial that, if a camcorder had been present at the appearance of Yeshua of Nazareth after his execution, it would have recorded nothing indicating that, in his opinion, the Resurrection was not a physical occurrence. Incidentally, Prof. Haught also considers the issue of the virgin birth to be an allegory.

  61. #61 Richard Wein
    July 18, 2010

    The meaning of “Christian” is sufficiently vague that people can have reasonable disagreements over where to draw the boundary. There is no fact of the matter about whether Haught is a Christian until you’ve stipulated what you’re going to use the word “Christian” to mean.

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.”

  62. #62 CanadianChick
    July 18, 2010

    So, Collin, in your eyes a Unitarian (not a modern UU, but an original non-trinitarian) wouldn’t be a Christian, even if she accepts the virgin birth, the resurrection and the teachings of Christ? What about someone who rejects virgin birth, but accepts the rest?

    As far as I’m concerned, if someone tells me that they are a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, or a Sikh then I take that at face value. It’s not my call to determine their orthodoxy.

    Heck, I considered myself a Christian for many years in spite of not believing in the virgin birth, not really buying the whole trinity thing and thinking that the whole notion of god was a bit weird. But I believed in Jesus’ teachings etc, so I said I was a Christian.

  63. #63 386sx
    July 18, 2010

    But one thing is for sure, “emperor’s new clothes” arguments are just a rationalization for taking the first approach.

    The first approach being thus, as quoted from Mr. Heddle: “1) You are not obligated to read anything. You can just argue that ‘why should I learn anything about Christianity, it’s obviously just as much woo as Thor-ism.’”

    Why do you pretend like people don’t read anything. Why do you pretend like people don’t know anything about Christianity. Why do you pretend like Christianity is the only religion people are talking about.

    Take some requisite courses in “pretend” and then get back to me. Go find a good bibliography on “self-delusion” or something.

  64. #64 SLC
    July 18, 2010

    Re Richard Wein @ #61

    The question was directed to Prof. Heddle as to whether he considers Prof. Haught a Christian. Based on his comments here, it would appear that Mr. Brendemuehl would not consider Prof. Haught a Christian (I don’t know what Prof. Haughts’ view of the concept of the Trinity is).

  65. #65 heddle
    July 18, 2010

    SLC,

    The name of the person is irrelevant. If someone does not affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus, I don’t regard him as a Christian.

  66. #66 Wowbagger
    July 18, 2010

    heddle, I fear this has moved away from the point I was actually trying to make – and I’ll take the blame for at least some of that.

    Anyway, my point is less to do the endlessly debatable and arbitary delineation of Christian vs. non-Christian and more to do with the fact that what seems to be being demanded of atheists is that they become more knowledgeable about Christianity than what the vast majority of Christians are, since the ‘nuanced’ philosophical aspects of the religion are mostly unrelated to their beliefs or practices.

    Yes, you’ve stated that atheists can simply reject religion at a very basic level (so to speak) – but you’ve heaped scorn on those who do, i.e. calling them (in this thread alone) idiots, rationalisers and so forth.

    Do you also treat Christians who accept at an equivalent basic level – with the same amount of derision? If not, why not?

  67. #67 heddle
    July 18, 2010

    Wowbagger,

    Your argument, then, is not with me. I don’t demand that atheists do anything. I don’t demand that they respect my religion, I don’t demand that they refrain from mocking my religion, and I don’t demand that they become more knowledgeable. That is entirely up to the atheist. My point is that I won’t respect an atheist who argues with me, but only at the level of “why should I take you any more seriously than I take a Thor-ist?”

    Just to be clear–heap all the scorn you like, mock me all you like–but if your only argument is of emperor’s new clothes variety, then I’m going to mock you right back.

    If you interpret that as my demanding you learn theology–then you are simply wrong.

    By the way, I don’t think I called anyone an idiot. I said sound like an idiot (if you argue without doing homework.) Someone who is quite smart can, on occasion, sound like an idiot.

  68. #68 Wowbagger
    July 18, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    Just to be clear–heap all the scorn you like, mock me all you like–but if your only argument is of emperor’s new clothes variety, then I’m going to mock you right back.

    That was only half of my question (so to speak), though; what about Christians who don’t know any more about their Christianity than to say (sticking with the current analogy) that they believe the emperor is wearing clothes – who care nothing more for the garment-making process than the atheists you’re mocking?

  69. #69 heddle
    July 18, 2010

    Wowbagger,

    what about Christians who don’t know any more about their Christianity than to say (sticking with the current analogy) that they believe the emperor is wearing clothes – who care nothing more for the garment-making process than the atheists you’re mocking?

    Ahh—they are a disgrace. Not every Christian has to be a theologian. But every Christian has been commanded to defend his faith (e.g., Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Pet 3:15) Christians who say: I have Jesus and that’s good enough for me are ignoring that command and are behaving as if the purpose of the bible is to serve as a bookend.

  70. #70 Wowbagger
    July 18, 2010

    heddle,

    Thanks for your honest answer. While I’ve never been a Christian, I’ve always found it odd that there are Christians who don’t seem to think understanding what it is they profess to be adhering to is very important.

    When it seems that people require atheists to know even more than Christians in order for the former to reject what the latter accept, well, that’s an unreasonable double-standard.

  71. #71 Owlmirror
    July 18, 2010

    Comparing religion and languages is an interesting analogy. Languages are fundamentally intersubjective; there’s no objective reason for phonemes, vocabulary, and grammar to have the meanings that they have. They’re simply agreed-upon common conventions taught from parent to child, and from teacher to student, or from one individual to another. And of course, the degree of commonality changes with time and place.

    Is religion something with no objective meaning; just agreed-upon conventions within a particular population? Just as a language is a dialect with an army and a navy, a religion is a cult with an army and a navy?

    And just as language can be broken down into phonemes, vocabulary, and grammar, religions can be broken down to various theological concepts.

    And just as people can become tribalistic and defensive over language, they can become tribalistic and defensive over religion.

    Hm.

    Of course, the analogy breaks down when examined more closely. Language is about sounds and symbols and communication; religion and theology is about beliefs; statements and assertions that are claimed to be true, in some sense.

    Saying to study the religious claims of the majority so as to understand them, as one would study the language of a majority so as to communicate with them, may not be an explicit ad populum, but it is an implicit one — it implies that only the religions of the majority are worth studying; that only they might be true, and all the other minority cults and superstitions can be easily dismissed as unworthy of consideration for serious discussion.

    Two thousand years ago, Christianity was in the minority. Paul of Tarsus records his anger that his preachings were similarly dismissed by the contemporary philosophers of the day. Were they correct to reject them, given Christianity being a novel minority religion to them?

    Also two thousand years ago, and up until just recently, heliocentrism was in the minority. Did its being in the minority mean that it was false?

    Just some thoughts.

    Speaking of theology, I just read this:

    http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/funding357924.shtml

    It’s interesting to note that his story is basically that when he tried to understand penal substitutionary atonement, the more he read about the subject, the more convinced he became that nobody writing on the topic actually understood penal substitutionary atonement.

    I also note that he was originally convinced by van Til to be a presuppositionalist. For whatever that might be worth.

  72. #72 Jud
    July 19, 2010

    heddle writes:

    I would submit it is not that so many are led astray by the impenetrability of the [Biblical] text, but rather by bad teaching.

    Then I hope you can do better. If you’re still reading this thread, I would very much like to read a reconciliation of Genesis with scientific explanations of the origins of the universe, Earth, and life. If there are books or other documents you feel have already done a good job of that and to which you’d like to refer me in addition to or instead of an explanation in your own words, that would be fine.

  73. #73 heddle
    July 19, 2010

    owlmirror,

    Saying to study the religious claims of the majority so as to understand them, as one would study the language of a majority so as to communicate with them, may not be an explicit ad populum, but it is an implicit one — it implies that only the religions of the majority are worth studying; that only they might be true, and all the other minority cults and superstitions can be easily dismissed as unworthy of consideration for serious discussion.

    (Emphasis added)

    It does no such thing. In fact, the underlying assumption is that all religions are equally worthless. It is only a question of whom you are likely to encounter. As an atheist, you don’t study the basics of Christianity instead of Thor-ism because the former is better, but because your chances of encountering someone who actually believes and practices Thor-ism is negligible. Smaller yet would be your concern about countering a huge block of Thor-ist voters.

    You might study Thor-ism because you find it interesting. But that’s an academic reason. For practical purposes, at least if you live in roughly 2/3 of the world, Christianity and Islam are the religions about which you should know something.

  74. #74 heddle
    July 19, 2010

    Jud,

    Then I hope you can do better. If you’re still reading this thread, I would very much like to read a reconciliation of Genesis with scientific explanations of the origins of the universe, Earth, and life.

    I’ve done that a hundred times. We don’t have to do it again, this is how it goes, to first order:

    1) I say that I don’t believe in Genesis as a literal description of creation. That is is not making any scientific claim and therefore is trivially reconcilable with any scientific discovery with one exception: You cannot get away from Genesis claiming that out universe had a beginning. I say that I am more inclined to a variant of the Framework View.

    2) You say that’s a cop-out–that the only reasonable interpretation of Genesis is the literal six-day view, and that’s clearly irreconcilable with science, and that new views arise only because of this irreconcilability.

    3) I say a) that’s not true and provide list of church fathers and pre-scientific era theologians who affirmed innerancy but denied the literality of Genesis. And b) Even if it were true (or when it is true) it’s fine–science is man’s effort to understand God’s general revelation (creation), like theology is man’s effort to understand god’s special revelation (the bible). They cannot be at odds, but in times of apparent disagreement it is not off limits to ask if we made an error in our theology.

    4) You say: in that case anything can be reconciled with science, because I can change any conflicting biblical text from a literal to an allegorical interpretation.

    5) I say–only when the writing genre warrants. That is, if the bible made a plain text scientific statement about the universe, such as “Not just god but also our universe existed eternally and our universe will continue to exist forever” then there would be no way to reconcile that with science. So the bible could make clear scientific statements that are irreconcilable. But it doesn’t.

    6) You say–bullocks, whatever you came up with I’d explain away–and start asking me about bats being birds and rabbits chewing their cud and pi = 3.

    Etc., etc., etc.

    I’m not saying our dialog would go exactly along those lines–but it would be something like that. I’m not all that interested in going through it yet again.

  75. #75 Wowbagger
    July 19, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    5) I say–only when the writing genre warrants.

    Except that it looks like you’re applying this kind of analysis with the benefit of hindsight – i.e. you go through and identify that which current science does and doesn’t support and that’s the means by which you allocate genre. Mating in front of striped sticks to produce striped offspring – well, that’s metaphor; the universe had an origin – oh, that’s definitely literal.

    Not entirely unreasonable, but it still seems more indicative of early Christians thinkers being a) perceptive enough to spot things in the OT that conflicted with even the science of the day, and b) clever and far-sighted enough come up with a future-proofing loophole than it does any kind of inerrancy than it does an honest analysis of the text.

    It’s especially dubious when you consider the relative scientific illiteracy of the people who wrote it in the first place; i.e. it seems more likely they’d have written down what they thought was true – since this was a somewhat important document to them, after all – than what they knew was false but included for the sake of metaphor.

    Why was all the non-scientific metaphor included?

  76. #76 Jud
    July 19, 2010

    heddle writes:

    I’m not saying our dialog would go exactly along those lines–but it would be something like that. I’m not all that interested in going through it yet again.

    Thanks, that’s fine – no need to go through what you’ve described.

    My request to you @ #72 ought to be read in the context of your statement, which I quoted, that the Biblical text isn’t impenetrable, but there’s been a lot of bad teaching. I’m assuming (please tell me if I’m wrong) that you mean this generally to say that much Bible teaching uses textual interpretations that conflict with current science, whereas you feel the Bible and science must be in harmony.

    I would argue that you are perhaps being unfair to Bible interpreters and teachers through history. Without dragging in baggage from fundamentalists arguing for “literal meaning” (whatever that is supposed to be), I think we could say that a very natural way – perhaps the most natural way – to interpret, for example, Joshua 10:13, is that the sun is the moving body and the Earth is stationary.

    It is possible to harmonize this passage with heliocentrism. It is not as easy to harmonize it with other aspects of physics – see Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World” for various ways in which a heliocentric interpretation of the Joshua story conflicts with physics. Harmonization with science can be accomplished, though at a price of a decreasingly specific, increasingly metaphorical/allegorical exegesis. Historically, however, the weight of interpretation of Joshua, Genesis, and other Bible stories by a lot of good, smart people was in conflict with current science in a number of ways.

    I think it shows the historical interpreters too little respect to dismiss as “bad teaching” the fact that the weight of their interpretations conflicts with current science. It seems to me on the basis of the weight of interpretation through history, if one maintains the “true meaning” of the Biblical text is in harmony with science, then that meaning has historically proved very difficult for most scholars and laypeople to find.

  77. #77 heddle
    July 19, 2010

    Wowbagger,

    Except that it looks like you’re applying this kind of analysis with the benefit of hindsight – i.e. you go through and identify that which current science does and doesn’t support and that’s the means by which you allocate genre.

    I am sympathetic to that viewpoint. But to answer one way or the other requires a bit of scholarship. Is there, for example, contemporary eastern writing that uses the parallelism that the Framework View claims for Genesis One? If not, the credibility of that view is in serious doubt.

    It is possible that the explanation was invented to answer scientific development. But it is also possible that the scientific development simply spurred further study in an area that previously received little attention. I agree that new views that pop out of the blue always have a stigma of convenience–but that doesn’t mean they are wrong.

    You bring up a point I missed in my previous summarizing comment. It’s a point that I admit a) surprises me that it is contentious and b) I have never figured out how to word my statement satisfactorily.

    That has to do with miracles. I exclude miracles from the requirement of being reconcilable with science–because that’s why we describe them as miracles. So if someone says to me that: the bible cannot be reconciled with science because, say, walking on water is impossible–then I would say it’s supposed to be irreconcilable on that occasion, it’s a miracle.

    Which of course leads to the argument that we have a giant loop-hole–anything can be described as a miracle. But there I’d disagree–biblical miracles are not willy-nilly, they are always used to further god’s redemptive plan. As for striped breeding, if you are interested in my view on that incident, it is found here.

    I would speculate that God inspired little or no scientific statements for a number of reasons–but the main one is that the writers did not know science. Inspiration does not mean that god dictated the text. Inspiration means that the writers wrote, of a topic of their choice, of what they knew, saw or heard, perhaps unaware that they were writing under inspiration, and god prevented them from writing error.

  78. #78 heddle
    July 19, 2010

    Jud,

    I would argue that you are perhaps being unfair to Bible interpreters and teachers through history.

    I don’t blame them for pre-scientific interpretations of the text. That is, if I had no knowledge that the earth is old there would be little reason to assume otherwise. (All the more remarkable that some did not interpret Genesis literally before the advent of science.) I do fault modern theologians for failing to consider the possibility that, in light of science, that their interpretation may be wrong. And for making it a line in the sand issue. And for making science the enemy.

    I think we could say that a very natural way – perhaps the most natural way – to interpret, for example, Joshua 10:13, is that the sun is the moving body and the Earth is stationary.

    I disagree. If we were to experience what Joshua describes, then I suspect that much of our modern descriptions, apart from those attempting to explain the phenomenon scientifically, would use exactly the same language. Newspapers and blogs would write: The sun has stopped in the sky.

    Again, when I am talking about bad teaching wrt science, I am mostly talking about modern theologians.

  79. #79 Tulse
    July 19, 2010

    I would speculate that God inspired little or no scientific statements for a number of reasons–but the main one is that the writers did not know science.

    That might cover why some scientific concepts don’t get mentioned, but it doesn’t really address the issue of flat-out errors of science in the bible (order of creation of organisms, four-legged insects, the “striped stick” breeding, etc. etc. etc.). The writers of the bible didn’t have to understand evolution in order for their god to “inspire” them to get the basic order of appearance correct. They didn’t have to be entomologists in order to be “inspired” to frickin’ count the number of legs on beetles. They didn’t have to understand genetics and epigenetics in order to be “inspired” to realize that breeding in front of striped sticks doesn’t produce striped offspring.

    If the bible contained no scientific claims, I’d buy your argument. But the fact that it contains wrong scientific claims makes the notion of “they didn’t understand science” irrelevant, since their god presumably understood science, and could give them the correct information, however veiled or couched for their Iron Age capabilities.

  80. #80 Jud
    July 19, 2010

    heddle writes:

    I exclude miracles from the requirement of being reconcilable with science–because that’s why we describe them as miracles. So if someone says to me that: the bible cannot be reconciled with science because, say, walking on water is impossible–then I would say it’s supposed to be irreconcilable on that occasion, it’s a miracle.

    I wondered whether I should include something about this in a prior post but did not. Now, since you’ve conveniently raised the issue, I’d like to comment. :-)

    First, with regard to the matter of Bible interpretation: It seems to me that in having to decide between what ought to be interpreted more literally and what as allegory, then what literally in light of current scientific understanding and what literally as miraculous, possible interpretations multiply. It might then be described without much hyperbole as a miracle if two people shared a single interpretation of any given story, let alone the Bible or Christian doctrine entire.

    Second, with regard to the implications for science and the search for understanding in terms of natural causes, effects, and laws: A universe that fundamentally operates in accordance with rules of cause and effect is susceptible to description in terms of natural laws that can be expressed mathematically. (I am including probabilistic rules of quantum mechanics – though quantum effects are often described as ‘weird,’ I haven’t read of anyone cogently contending that causation is violated.) This has had favorable implications for research into How Stuff Works. To the extent the possibility of the miraculous is admitted, to that extent causation and its benefits are out the window. One then has the sort of universe where 5+2=7, except in special circumstances where 5+2=5000 (referring to the miracle of the 5 loaves and 2 fish).

    Once one opens that door, I can see no principled way to argue, for example, that God didn’t create the universe in 6 24-hour days and make it appear old for His own inscrutable reasons. This would seem to make the attempt at an agreed interpretation of the Bible in accordance with science-as-currently-understood far more difficult, if not altogether impossible.

  81. #81 heddle
    July 19, 2010

    It might then be described without much hyperbole as a miracle if two people shared a single interpretation of any given story, let alone the Bible or Christian doctrine entire.

    Miracle is too strong of a word. There only a handful of Genesis exegeses: Literal (YEC), Day-Age, Framework, Gap, and pure allegory. And that is one of the more debated stories.

    One then has the sort of universe where 5+2=7, except in special circumstances where 5+2=5000 (referring to the miracle of the 5 loaves and 2 fish).

    That is exactly what one has. Of course the 5+2=5000 cases (miracles) are not random, but closely tied to God’s redemptive plan–a plan that is now finished.

    Also, I always like to point out what I see is a strange approach to miracles. Generally unbelievers, while not believing it of course, “grant” us the mother-of-all miracles–that god created the universe. By that I mean they do not dwell on it. But then they often zero in on, relatively speaking, in-the-noise miracles, like feeding the 5000. Feeding the 5000 is a parlor trick compared to creating a universe.

    Once one opens that door, I can see no principled way to argue, for example, that God didn’t create the universe in 6 24-hour days and make it appear old for His own inscrutable reasons. This would seem to make the attempt at an agreed interpretation of the Bible in accordance with science-as-currently-understood far more difficult, if not altogether impossible.

    True, you can’t argue it didn’t happen, because it is not falsifiable.

    But you can argue that it is triply deceitful–because not only did God, in that scenario, 1) create the universe with an appearance of age, he 2) infused it with false memories, such as light arriving in our telescopes depicting supernovae that never actually happened [as if he created Adam as a 30 year old man, but Adam could "remember" his childhood.] and 3) he gave us laws of physics that explain the life cycle of stars consistent with what we observe, even though no star has actually transitioned from one stage of life to another. And even though it would not be necessary that the laws explained life cycles that never actually happened.

    So from a theological standpoint you can argue that such deceptiveness is contrary to character of god.

  82. #82 Divalent
    July 19, 2010

    Heddle said: “Which of course leads to the argument that we have a giant loop-hole–anything can be described as a miracle. But there I’d disagree–biblical miracles are not willy-nilly, they are always used to further god’s redemptive plan. As for striped breeding, if you are interested in my view on that incident, it is found here.”

    Hmmm. You know, I followed your link about the striped breeding story, and I must say that, IMO, it totally negates the point you just made. You invoke a miracle in this instance to explain it an apparent scientific error, and I can’t see how anyone *wouldn’t* consider this conveniently invoking the giant “miracle loop-hole”. What are the limits? You say that it’s 1) “not willy-nilly”, and 2) only when used to “further god’s redemptive plan”, but your use of a miracle in this case seems to show that those limitations have no actual substance.

    I mean, you claim a miracle for events that were not used to illustrate gods power elsewhere in the bible (indeed, it requires 20th century knowledge to see it) to achieve an outcome that could have been more parsimoniously achieved without a (heretofore) hidden miracle. This miracle is actually many many miracles stretching out over many years: every mating/birth event until he had large flocks of both sufficient to make him “exceedingly prosperous”. And what event in the Bible cannot be considered as “further[ing] god’s redemptive plan”? AFAICT, the good, the bad, and the ugly are all claimed to be a part of gods plan.

  83. #83 heddle
    July 19, 2010

    Divalent ,

    Fair enough–in some sense the bible has two chapters on creation, one chapter on the fall, and 1186 chapters on redemption. However there is a lot of text that is only tangentially connected. The book of Esther, famously, does not make any reference to God.

    If you look at the miracles they are associated with nitty gritty stories of creation, the patriarchs, the Exodus, the conquering of Canaan, the prophets, and Jesus’ public ministry. The main redemptive thread. We do not, in the bible, have side accounts of “people in some town up north saw God at the 7-11.” The miracles are on the main thread of God’s plan. They further God’s plan. And now that the plan is over we don’t (at least I don’t) expect ever to see one.

    On the other hand, if I were an unbeliever I would almost surely agree that miracles are an unacceptable loop-hole.

  84. #84 Tulse
    July 19, 2010

    from a theological standpoint you can argue that such deceptiveness is contrary to character of god

    Your god is never deceptive? There is no other record in the Christian texts of your god lying (like saying that he wanted Abraham to kill Isaac)?

    In any case, I’m sure that one could argue that Omphalos is a special case, since it involves the singular creation of the world, and not some later deception. As for why your god would do that, I understand that Christians think his motives are often opaque and not to be questioned (e.g., don’t Calvinists believe that salvation is meted out in a way not comprehensible to humans?).

    My point is that it seems any theological position has arguments for it, which again goes to the point that there are no answers to what the bible “actually” says, any more than there are in doing literary criticism of Finnegan’s Wake.

  85. #85 Owlmirror
    July 19, 2010

    laws of physics that explain the life cycle of stars consistent with what we observe, even though no star has actually transitioned from one stage of life to another.

    Um. There are no novas?

  86. #86 Jud
    July 19, 2010

    heddle writes:

    But then they often zero in on, relatively speaking, in-the-noise miracles, like feeding the 5000. Feeding the 5000 is a parlor trick compared to creating a universe.

    Agree completely. I used feeding the 5000 because it lent itself to a nice simple mathematical illustration.

    So from a theological standpoint you can argue that such deceptiveness is contrary to [the] character of god.

    ISTR you arguing that God is not infinitely merciful and that eternal damnation awaits the unredeemed (which would by definition include all unbelievers, yes?). Do I recall that incorrectly? If I do remember that correctly, then ISTM a bit of deception is, to borrow your wording, “a parlor trick” in the nastiness department compared to eternal torment for billions. Regarding deception specifically, God deceived Abraham that he would have to kill Isaac, and allowed Jesus on the cross to believe God had forsaken him. Doesn’t seem like it would be out of character to deceive scientists who think they can attain knowledge of a universe without a role for God in its creation or operation.

    I really cannot see a good reason for going to all this trouble (determining whether a Bible story is a scientific truth statement; if so, determining whether it is consistent with current science; if not, determining whether it is an essential part of God’s redemptive plan and thus should be considered a miracle; if not, determining its allegorical meaning; in all of the above, taking into consideration ‘knowledge’ of such ultimate unknowables as God’s character and redemptive plan) unless one believes.

    Given that, it doesn’t seem to me to be at all objectionable for non-believers to feel it’s far more trouble than they wish to go through to do close analysis of Bible claims (in what to them is a useless pursuit, since non-believers have already assessed the most fundamental of these claims as mere superstition) in accordance with a set of exegetic principles. It is thus hardly surprising that non-believers consider it an irritation when believers won’t accept a simple statement of non-belief as adequate, but insist on a response that engages some favored exegesis in detail.

  87. #87 Owlmirror
    July 19, 2010

    Um. There are no novas?

    I think I get it now — you mean that in an Omphalos universe, there are indeed no novas, just events that look like novas?

    Or in other words, the deception is continuous and ongoing.

    But you can argue that it is triply deceitful–because not only did God, in that scenario, 1) create the universe with an appearance of age, he 2) infused it with false memories, such as light arriving in our telescopes depicting supernovae that never actually happened [as if he created Adam as a 30 year old man, but Adam could "remember" his childhood.] and 3) he gave us laws of physics that explain the life cycle of stars consistent with what we observe, even though no star has actually transitioned from one stage of life to another. And even though it would not be necessary that the laws explained life cycles that never actually happened.

    So from a theological standpoint you can argue that such deceptiveness is contrary to character of god.

    Hm.

    Thinking about it, though, I think the above can be generalized to all miracles.

    For example, with the Joshua story, the Earth exists now with a “false memory” of a specific rotational speed, and laws of physics that explain that rotation “consistent with what we observe”, even though that rotation purportedly changed.

    Or even more generally, very concept of miracles as suspensions or violations of natural law, and which suspensions and violations are completely hidden from our ability to investigate them, or even know that they happened by any empirical means, necessarily imply a God that is deceptive.

  88. #88 Owlmirror
    July 19, 2010

    So from a theological standpoint you can argue that such deceptiveness is contrary to character of god.

    This reminds me….

    The ongoing open thread on Pharyngula got started with a long-running argument with a very, very stubborn YEC, who did invoke the Omphalos with regard to the appearance of the cosmos (citing Jer 10:12), but insisted that science was simply misinterpreting the physical evidence of the Earth itself with regard to its age and the existence of a global flood.

    One of the many silly things he wrote was:

    I’ve learned to discern supposed “scientific” theories that have their roots in “God-denial”

    My response was:

     ”No scientific theories have their roots in “God-denial”. Scientific theories have their roots in examining the physical universe (and in assuming only that the physical universe is not a lie).

     ”Evolution does not deny the Creator.

    Of course, it denies a Creator that does not permit evolution — but then, physics denies a Creator that does not permit gravity, or electricity, or magnetism, or light or radioactivity. Yet the same physical forces that are used to demonstrate the age of the earth and of the universe are also used to drive the technology that you are using right this very instant. And as Kel notes, that means that God either does permit all those things, or God provides an enormous set of perfectly inter-consistent observations that are nevertheless all lies. And if you pick the latter, then you have no basis on which to claim that we are denying God. If physical reality is a lie of God, then God denies himself. Who are you to challenge God?”

    I was a bit exercized at the time — but I don’t think I was wrong.

  89. #89 heddle
    July 19, 2010

    Tulse,

    I don’t see the Abraham Isaac story as a deception. Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, and then he was told not to. (Nor do I see it as a test of faith—God knew Abraham’s heart.) You might call it cruel, but I don’t see anything deceptive about it in the sense that a lie was presented.

    Jud,

    How did God deceive Jesus on the cross? God did forsake him.

    It is thus hardly surprising that non-believers consider it an irritation when believers won’t accept a simple statement of non-belief as adequate, but insist on a response that engages some favored exegesis in detail.

    Really they do that? They shouldn’t. The bible says to present the gospel, and if people don’t respond then dust of your feet and move on. The Great Commission is to make disciples, not converts. I don’t get irritated that people say nothing more than—no, I don’t believe, please go away. And I don’t get irritated when people mock. I get irritated only when people pretend they have made a substantive argument when they haven’t.

    Owlmirror,

    I think I get it now — you mean that in an Omphalos universe, there are indeed no novas, just events that look like novas?

    Yes, that is what I meant by false memories.

  90. #90 Tulse
    July 19, 2010

    I don’t see the Abraham Isaac story as a deception. Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, and then he was told not to. (Nor do I see it as a test of faith—God knew Abraham’s heart.)

    This may be getting deep into the theological weeds, but then why the heck did his god tell him to do it?

  91. #91 heddle
    July 19, 2010

    Tulse,

    I don’t know. Of course it is a “type” that foreshadows when God does sacrifice his own son. But mostly I think is was to make Abraham’s righteousness evident to us. To quote one of my own blog posts:

    Abraham was [according to James' epistle] considered righteous for offering Isaac. Considered by whom? God does not consider, God knows a man’s state. God knew Abraham was righteous because He made him (credited him) righteous earlier in his life, simply when he believed (Gen. 15) and long before he offered Isaac (Gen 22). Abraham’s obedience did not justify him but rather made his justification manifest to himself, to Isaac, and most importantly to us.

    But the bottom line is I don’t know.

  92. #92 Tulse
    July 19, 2010

    the bottom line is I don’t know.

    David, although I disagree with you strongly on your religious views, I have always been deeply impressed with how intellectually consistent and honest you are regarding them.

  93. #93 Zach Voch
    July 19, 2010

    First, I’m glad the conversation is going in a more careful direction, and sorry if I came across as a thread nanny earlier, because I was being a thread nanny.

    Now, on to the stuff:

    heddle@83

    On the other hand, if I were an unbeliever I would almost surely agree that miracles are an unacceptable loop-hole.

    If I might ask, which of the following items would you maintain:

    1) The (as currently given) theological explanations for apparent scientific errors in scripture can not be reasonably expected to be persuasive to a nonbeliever.
    2) The (as currently given) theological explanations for apparent scientific errors in scripture are tenable to a believer.

    Next, I agree that the Abraham story does not count so much as a deception. How about these verses?

    2 Thessalonians 2:

    1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

    2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

    3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

    4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

    5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

    6And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

    7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

    8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

    9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

    10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

    11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

    12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

    13But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

    14Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    15Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

    16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

    17Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

    In these passages, Paul claims that God will send a delusion to those who are not saved so as to prevent their being saved.

    This is one of the examples of God actively employing deceit, usually as a way to ensure damnation. The examples given from Jeremiah are not convincing, but the others are fairly consistent in the previous vein. In Ezekiel 14, God claims to deceive prophets, destroying them whenever they utter the deception. In 1 Kings 22, Micaiah, the prophet, claims that he saw a spirit before the Lord that was commanded to put lies in the mouths of the prophets in order to entice the King into a battle in which he would fall:

    21 – And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.

    Throughout scripture, God is in the habit of deceiving nonbelievers and the enemies of Israel, usually to their destruction. Omphalism, or devil/God burying dinosaur bones, or whatever, each of these is consistent with these scriptures. For those that do not believe, God lays traps. Now, there are other passages that say very explicitly that God does not lie. So here, we have a problem, but it starts in scripture, not at Omphalism, if we take the theological course.

    Tulse@90

    This may be getting deep into the theological weeds, but then why the heck did his god tell him to do it?

    This appears to be a moral story: do what God says no matter how bad it seems. This is consistent with other scriptures. Here, the key objection is again ethical. It is also another case where the command of God violates our moral intuition, which, if it is supposed to be divinely given, could in this manner be considered a deception.

  94. #94 Jud
    July 19, 2010

    heddle writes:

    I get irritated only when people pretend they have made a substantive argument when they haven’t.

    Heh, but can you see that is exactly what non-believers think believers are doing when they engage in exegesis?

    How did God deceive Jesus on the cross? God did forsake him.

    I don’t believe I have ever seen the adjective “god-forsaken” used to describe Jesus. So if one believes in the Trinity, did God forsake himself? Can God really be considered to have forsaken Jesus if dying on the cross was part of a plan culminating in the resurrection? By the way, are there mainline Christian books or articles expressing this view (that God did forsake Jesus)?

  95. #95 heddle
    July 19, 2010

    Zach Voch,

    1)The (as currently given) theological explanations for apparent scientific errors in scripture can not be reasonably expected to be persuasive to a nonbeliever.
    2) The (as currently given) theological explanations for apparent scientific errors in scripture are tenable to a believer.

    I would say both, but not in an absolute sense. That is, I think that I can persuade a reasonable person that the bible does not teach pi = 3 and it does not teach that bats are birds in our taxonomy. Others are harder—many, for example, will never agree that a non-literal translation of Genesis is anything but a cop-out. As for believers, there is again variation. Some are dedicated to the belief that science is the enemy and do not really want to be persuaded that science and the bible are reconcilable.

    But to first order I agree with both.

    As for Th. 2, you have honed in on a particular debate—whether God is active in creating sin or disbelief. Sometimes active language is used: God hardened pharaoh’s heart, God turned them over to their lusts, and here God sends a delusion—but as I understand it and have been persuaded these examples are mostly metaphorical. What God has done, actually, is to withhold something that he is not obligated to provide—be it his grace or his Holy Spirit—leaving people to their own devices. In 2Th 2 there is another interpretation—that the deceiver is sent by god in the sense that he cannot act out of god’s sovereign command, so God, while not the deceiver, permits him to come and deceive, much like god permitted Satan to attack Job. He doesn’t endorse it but he doesn’t stop it. So without getting into who the antichrist is, it is safe to say that god sent him (sent a delusion) but it is man’s wickedness that believed the delusion.

    That said, I agree that God, in way, deceives unbelievers—but it is not through active lying on his part but by permitting the lie to exist—as the rope with which unbelievers hang themselves.

    Perhaps the most troubling form of this is Jesus’ teaching in parables so, we are told, that unbelievers will not understand.

    Jud,

    I don’t believe I have ever seen the adjective “god-forsaken” used to describe Jesus. So if one believes in the Trinity, did God forsake himself? Can God really be considered to have forsaken Jesus if dying on the cross was part of a plan culminating in the resurrection? By the way, are there mainline Christian books or articles expressing this view (that God did forsake Jesus)?

    Why would it surprise you? Jesus asks, why have you forsaken me? Is it surprising that many theologians would not take the position that Jesus was mistaken?

    On the cross he was bearing the sins of many. The punishment appears to have included that he was abandoned by God for a season, and that he felt that abandonment acutely. In a Trinitarian sense technically God abandoned himself (and he sent himself, and he prayed to himself, and he was pleased with himself, etc.)—but the trinity are (is?) three distinct personalities—so it is more accurate to say that God the father forsook God the son. Yes, many books describe or speculate on the punishment of Jesus. You could start by looking in online commentaries, such as Matthew Henry.

  96. #96 Zach Voch
    July 19, 2010

    heddle,

    Thanks for clarifying and qualifying. Yes, many of the passages cited by nonbelievers, like pi=3, should be looked at more carefully. It’s also somewhat nit-picky on the part of the skeptic, persuasive to nobody.

    Now, I would disagree on God’s role in the examples of deceit I brought up. First of all, for God, commanding a lie or else permitting it (as in the case of 2 Th 2 to the spirit) was active deceit. Similarly with hardening Pharaoh’s heart and sending a delusion as a prophesied part of God’s plan. This is a little different than leaving rope on the floor, rather, it is tying the noose, hanging it around the neck, and nudging or else having somebody nudge someone off the edge.

    With the case of Pharaoh, the stated purpose of hardening his heart was for God’s glory, so that the plagues could be carried out. I don’t think that scripture impresses a passive role on the part of God in these deceits. Even in the cases were God did not command or carry out a deceit himself, he certainly accounted for them. And, for a being as powerful and knowing as God is supposed to be, I question the usefulness of the “active/passive” distinction in general.

    This general case out of the way, I still think that scripture is inconsistent on the matter of God’s honesty. If he is perfectly honest, he certainly isn’t perfectly honest in the normal sense of “honesty” as is generally used.

  97. #97 386sx
    July 20, 2010

    Wowbagger, Wein, 386sx, heddle …

    Let’s get more critically engaged, then.

    Sorry, but nobody went and looked up “I’ll take baloney for a hundred, Alex.” Nobody went and did research on delusions and “play pretend”. Little kids pretend a lot. So do grownups too. Go and do some research on that. Go look it up instead of pretending like you’re critically engaging people when actually you should be finding out why you’re full of baloney instead of just repeating said baloney over and over.

    Here, here’s a good bibliography to get you guys started…

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/the-periodic-table-of-irrational-nonsense/

  98. #98 Zach Voch
    July 20, 2010

    Collin@57:

    The most basic use of context even happens in mathematics. How do you interpret “1+1=2″? Whether it means “adding one plus one produces two” or “one plus one is equivalent to two” depends entirely on context. Read it wrong and you might come to a wrong conclusion about the author’s intent. Read the Bible wrong and the same happens.

    Terrible example. These are definitional matters. For example, 1+1=2 in the ring of integers expressed in base 10, but 1+1=0 in the ring of integers modulo 2 (which becomes a field with elements equivalence classes modulo 2). It’s not a question of reading the “intent” of the mathematician beyond knowing the defined structures that the mathematician is using.

    I suppose that you have made an ironic point about knowing a particular field if you plan on criticizing a particular result, but for Christianity, it comes down to criticizing a type of Christianity based on the claims it makes. For this, the only necessary knowledge is that required to understand the claim in question as given by a particular individual. That particular individual has a responsibility to explain the claim that he or she is making, particularly given the nature of theology.

    If somebody claims that I screwed up a proof, I can not reasonably demand that they read a list of books in number theory, set theory, topology, and algebra in order to make the criticism. I only expect that they understand enough about that particular piece of mathematics in order to form a coherent criticism. If the criticism is incoherent, I can positively demonstrate this.

    But with mathematics, it is easier and more concrete. With theology, it is far more difficult, given the varieties of religion even within those who self-identify as “orthodox”; and so, if you want people to take you seriously, you have a responsibility to clearly explain any claims that you make and the stances that you hold. If you refuse to do so, responding to criticism with a bibliography, then perhaps you should not be making apologetics outside of your immediate ideological circle, particularly if the case is similar to this one, in which you respond to criticisms that span several types of theology — which many people do hold, by the way — to which you apparently do not personally adhere.

    Sorry that Jason forgot about you.

    If it does not apply to your Christianity, then why are you complaining about Rosenhouse’s perceived ignorance of your form of Christianity? You could have responded with “here’s what I take inerrancy to mean and here is what it implies…”, for example, but instead you assumed that Rosenhouse was talking about each and every Christianity or some other category including your own and patronizingly suggested that he look at your recommended readings.

    This being the case, why would you expect Wowbagger et al. to take you remotely seriously? To them, you might as well have insisted that they memorize War and Peace before criticizing Christianity.

  99. one of the reasons why people misinterpret the bible is because they read it and consider it literally. some events in books like Genesis, for example, the story of adam and eve shouldn’t be interpreted literally but symbolically.

    nice post by the way…

  100. #100 Collin Brendemuehl
    July 20, 2010

    With all these responses it looks like I don’t get around enough.
    CanadianChick,
    The trinity is essential to the definition of “Christian”.

    Wein,
    Jason has committed an “encyclopedic fallacy” by assuming that the Bible can be used as a science book or that it provide detail enough, and in the proper, modern technical language, to suit today’s readers. Though he may not have chosen his words well (we all do that from time to time), that is what sits out there pretty plainly.

  101. #101 Wowbagger
    July 20, 2010

    Collin wrote:

    The trinity is essential to the definition of “Christian”.

    Essential to the agreed-upon definition of Christian. Which is the problem; the people who agreed on it have no idea whether or not they’re right. Yes, I can see the necessity of drawing definitional boundaries, but they should only be used to designate, not repudiate.

    Or, in other words, you don’t know that non-Trinitarians don’t count as Christian where it matters (if it matters at all) – i.e. with Jesus.

    Jason has committed an “encyclopedic fallacy” by assuming that the Bible can be used as a science book or that it provide detail enough, and in the proper, modern technical language, to suit today’s readers.

    Except that, as I’ve been discussing with heddle, we only have argument from your side to back up that it wasn’t written entirely as a science book at the time it was written – nothing concrete.

    Yes, it’s a perfectly reasonable explanation – but also a convenient one for you. That other literature from similar periods is suggestive, but by no means conclusive, that the bible wasn’t written as it was because they fully believed what they were writing was true.

  102. #102 Owlmirror
    July 20, 2010

    Jason has committed an “encyclopedic fallacy” by assuming that the Bible can be used as a science book or that it provide detail enough, and in the proper, modern technical language, to suit today’s readers

    No.

    He’s assuming that if there were actually a God, who is a person, who has knowledge of what the universe actually looks like, and who is interested in communicating honestly with (some) humans, would structure those communications such that the humans on the receiving end would not record things that contradict observations that can be made of empirical reality, and that when discussing empirically verifiable truths, simply worded versions of those truths could be expressed.

    “Proper, modern technical language” is not a requirement to say things like “the stars are like the sun, only very far away, but the planets — the wandering ‘stars’ — are bodies like the moon, reflecting the sun’s light.”

    And so on.

    So given that clarification, can you please explain why Jason’s “assumption” must be wrong?

    I’m going to take up a point that Sastra has raised: When the bible does get things right, do you say, “Oh, that’s not important; the bible isn’t a science book.”? No. You excitedly point out that look, archaeologists found Nineveh!

    If the bible did have reasonably accurate science, would you ignore it? Of course not; you would boast about how accurate it was. Heck, some apologists do in fact cherry-pick verses from here and there, and distort their meanings, and claim that they are accurate “science” that the bible had before anyone else.

  103. #103 Owlmirror
    July 20, 2010

    [The trinity is] Essential to the agreed-upon definition of Christian.

    Or rather, it’s essential to the agreed-upon definition of orthodox Trinitarian Christian.

  104. #104 386sx
    July 21, 2010

    Ancient peoples wouldn’t be able to handle the truth about the universe. They would go into shock if they found out the proper order of events in which the universe has evolved. Burning in hell, that one they can handle. Slaughter of children, no problem. Talking donkeys, no big surprise there. But the moon not made out of cheese? Mass freaking hysteria would ensue.

  105. #105 386sx
    July 21, 2010

    I see that nobody has bothered to go and research how people are superstitious and full of baloney all the time. I can only presume they are in denial. No big surprise there.

  106. #106 Richard Wein
    July 21, 2010

    @Collin #100

    Wein,
    Jason has committed an “encyclopedic fallacy” by assuming that the Bible can be used as a science book or that it provide detail enough, and in the proper, modern technical language, to suit today’s readers. Though he may not have chosen his words well (we all do that from time to time), that is what sits out there pretty plainly.

    You’re forgetting what Jason actually wrote. For example:

    “It is possible that God communicated through fictional stories so confusing that countless people, both believers and nonbelievers, have been led astray as to their proper meaning, but what is the reason for thinking that is true?”

  107. #107 eric
    July 21, 2010

    Colin @100: The trinity is essential to the definition of “Christian”.

    Hold on, the trinity didn’t become part of Christian orthodoxy until 325 AD. Your definition of “Christian” would require us to classify most if not all of the NT authors as non-Christian!

  108. #108 Jud
    July 22, 2010

    eric writes:

    Your definition of “Christian” would require us to classify most if not all of the NT authors as non-Christian!

    Considering that Jesus fellow they were writing about was “non-Christian,” I’m not sure this is a big problem.

  109. #109 Wowbagger
    July 22, 2010

    Considering that Jesus fellow they were writing about was “non-Christian,” I’m not sure this is a big problem.

    I can’t recall where exactly, but I seem to remember someone writing that chronology is not a barrier to Christianity, i.e. certain pre-Jesus biblical figures count as Christian despite living hundreds of years before his birth.

    They would therefore argue that Jesus was most certainly a Christian.

  110. #110 386sx
    July 22, 2010

    I can’t recall where exactly, but I seem to remember someone writing that chronology is not a barrier to Christianity,

    Since when is anything a barrier to Christianity. The fact that their myths evolved from other myths isn’t even a barrier to Christianity. Polytheistic references in the Bible isn’t even a barrier to Christianity. King Josiah inventing history isn’t even a barrier to Christianity. Egregious discrepancies in the Gospel accounts isn’t even a barrier to Christianity. Nonsensical advice like turn the other cheek and worry not for the morrow isn’t even a barrier to Christianity. Just ignore the barriers and they “poof” away. Right there in plain sight, but yet they are “poofed” away.

  111. #111 386sx
    July 22, 2010

    “But those who hand down the myths which the poets have made, adduce no proof to the youths who learn them; and we proceed to demonstrate that they have been uttered by the influence of the wicked demons, to deceive and lead astray the human race. For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come, and that the ungodly among men were to be punished by fire, they put forward many to be called sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets.” Justin Martyr

    Since when is anything a barrier to Christianity. Even the tick tock of time itself…

    Just like at Burger King®, you can “have it your way”, whatever you want, all on the same Whopper with Cheese®. (They don’t charge for holding the pickles, but they do charge for extra cheese though.)

  112. #112 Owlmirror
    July 23, 2010

    King Josiah inventing history isn’t even a barrier to Christianity.

    I understood that the author of that history was most likely Jeremiah — although obviously meant to benefit Josiah.

  113. #113 William Stem
    March 8, 2011

    I beg to differ with the New Atheists.
    If you look correctly at the first chapter of Genesis, you will find there is an amazing similarity with the big bang theory (and remember, that is what it is a theory).
    Furthermore there is a physicist (PhD) who explained how it was mathematically sound to say “creation” took place in 7 days and still say it took trillions of years.

    Whenever there is a problem understanding the Word of GOD it is with our interpretation, not with the Word.

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