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Old 08-21-2001, 11:34 AM   #81
Apikorus
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Nomad, it seems rather petulant of you to complain, especially when you had promised to let me have the last word.

I have no doubt that it would require some very "complex" reasoning indeed to turn around those verses in Romans. I'm not interested in defending Calvinism. As an apikorus, I approach these theological issues from a purely clinical point of view. I.e. they tell us what Paul (or Ezekiel, or the E author in Exodus) thought about theodicy. The verses I adduced from Romans support my interpretation of Ezek 20:25 (and other related texts). And since "OT Theodicy" does hold relevance for Christians, I'd think it is not straying too far from the thread. Besides, I thought you'd stick around long enough for me to dig up some rabbinic material.

I've not really begun to seriously investigate this, but last night in bed I did find one interesting passage cited in Bialik's Sefer HaAggadah. It is from Exodus Rabbah, in fact (the rabbinic literature is so expansive and interlocking that you never really can tell what you'll find in a given volume). The midrashic author adduces Ezek 20:25 as proof that YHWH gave the nations (hagoyim) those "no-good statutes". I presume he identified hem in 20:25 (i.e. natati lahem) with the goyim of 20:23. This really stretches the plain sense of the text (though it can't quite be classified as either derash, remez, or sod)! The author contrasts this statement with one from the Torah which says that YHWH gave Israel life-giving statutes. I'm hesitant to comment further at this stage, although it does seem that this midrash clearly assumes that YHWH has intentionally given bad statutes to someone. The conclusion that that someone was Israel was perhaps too painful to acknowledge.

[ August 22, 2001: Message edited by: Apikorus ]
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Old 08-21-2001, 02:46 PM   #82
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I'll try to confine my remarks just to Nomad's main points. He writes:

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First ... some things in the Bible are, indeed, subject to historical critical methodology [but] ... at the same time, other questions are not subject to such neat categorization, and falls exclusively within the realm of metaphysics and theology.
I agree. Such things as attestation, dates, redactions (whether a later hand intrudes on the text), analysis, and all such factual matters are the hallmark of historical-critical methodology and incidentally the purpose of this forum. The "other questions" fall into the realm of faith and cannot be analyzed.

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It is in these areas [matters of faith] that I do not see any significant advantage for moderns over the ancients, and therefore reject any notion that post modernism can help us to better understand the nature of truth as it relates to God.
Again I totally agree; however, I was not making the argument that postmodernity was a tool that can be used for critical analysis. What I said was that our postmodern condition (our present reality) is such that we view the texts as subjective interpretations of ancient authors rather than objective codifications of God's commands and laws.

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Quite frankly, post modernism, taken to its logical conclusion literally saws off the branch it is sitting on, since the argument that something was only true for a certain time and place can just as easily be turned on its head, and we can say that this statement is also only potentially true in this time and place. Very quickly we end up in utter nonsense.
I think you may have a misconception about postmodernism, which is understandable since most of what has been said about it is dead wrong. Postmodern critique (like Bultmann's demythologizing method) points out that these texts are not objective truths. That does not mean that the statement "these texts are not objective truths" is itself a normative statement -- postmodernism is not an attempt to replace one falsity with another. It is a critique that seeks to describe texts from the point-of-view of the subject rather than to prescribe norms from some mysterious objective position. So when I read a statement like "Ezekiel 20 means X for all times and all places" I want to know "according to whom?" The utterer wants us to take this as a universal norm, which is an illicit attempt to control the narrative. It would be much more honest to say "according to my religious community Ezekiel 20 means X" or "according to the ancients Ezekiel 20 means X" which points out the subjective nature of the utterance. It does no good to answer my question "according to whom?" with "God" because everyone uses God to justify their own control of the narrative. It is this realization that led me to say that there is no going back from our postmodernity.

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But why must we bracket God out of the equation? We are talking about God’s word to us. To remove Him from the equation (working on the assumption that He exists) makes the entire exercise meaningless, regardless of what we come up with. Asking questions about God is to ask the central questions about our existence, and IF He exists, then as His creatures we have a responsibility to understand what He wants from us. But how can we do this if God is, as James believes, unfathomable? After all, how can the finite know the infinite?
Naturally if you want to contemplate the meaning of life you will inevitably contemplate the concept of God. But that is a red herring. I said that to examine critically these texts it is not necessary to determine whether or not God exists. That's a very different thing. If, as we both agree, these texts are expressions of faith written by humans who are struggling with theological problems, then we can understand them perfectly well without digressing into the ontological question of God. To see my point suppose we were studying sources on the Arthurian legends and the sword Excalibur. It would be strange if you suddenly stopped and said "yes, but first we must determine whether Excalibur existed before we can discuss the legends about it." That line of reasoning will get us nowhere it seems to me.

But I agree that theology steps in where historical criticism leaves off. And even though it's not for me I begrudge no one in exploring that dimension of his life; if it is meaningful to him then I support him fully. However, I do take issue with the practice of uncritically mixing biblical criticism with issues of faith. Christian scholars should be able to bracket out their personal faith when studying these texts rather than thinking that the texts need to be defended on every little point.

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Now, James asks if I believe that the text is a priori inspired. The answer is, of course I do. But only in matters that relate to knowledge of God, His nature, and what He wants from us.
This remark reveals our differences best I think. For me the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament texts reveal more about what other people think God wants from us rather than what God actually wants from us. The leap of faith is believing that these texts contain actual revelations from God. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, so long as we're all clear that it is a matter of faith and not objective (universal) truth.
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Old 08-22-2001, 07:17 AM   #83
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My spin on this would be rather different to Nomad's as I don't hold to inerrantism in any shape or form.

I think I'd have to say that the author of Ezekial did think God would hand down bad laws or did think he had done it. I wouldn't worry about this too much as Eze is entitled to his opinion. While he was inspired that didn't mean he could not make mistakes or slip in his own comments and views. Not only can the Bible be interpreted in different ways, it contains many different interpretations.

I do not think Paul was predestinarian although some of his work can be interpreted that way. He often tended to sound off from one extreme to tackle a problem from the other which makes his letters difficult as general theology.

As for the relationship between the OT and NT, I firmly subscribe to progressive revelation. Even today we continue to change and refine our understanding through critical scholarship and new methodologies in theology. I know that this idea will be very unpopular with the atheists who fear nothing more than progressive Christianity, but I think it is the best way to proceed.

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Old 08-22-2001, 08:07 AM   #84
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I suppose certain atheists (but not this one) and many conservative Christians have a fear and distrust of progressive Christianity.

[ August 22, 2001: Message edited by: Apikorus ]
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Old 08-22-2001, 11:14 AM   #85
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I don't know where Bede gets the idea that atheists are in any way afraid of progressive or liberal Christians. Organized and unorganized religion seems to fill a need that some people have, and as long as we have to have religion, I would be happy if all Christians started following Bishop Spong - it would solve a lot of political problems in the US.

I just think that if liberal Christians follow the logic and rationality that they claim to, they will end up being secular humanists, with more in common with the American Humanist Association than with any sect of Christianity that existed before 1800.
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Old 08-22-2001, 12:05 PM   #86
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Originally posted by Toto:
I don't know where Bede gets the idea that atheists are in any way afraid of progressive or liberal Christians.
Have a look at the Eternal punishment and Hell threads in the Feedback Forum. There are some people there who are seriously having trouble coming to terms with Christians who think.

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I just think that if liberal Christians follow the logic and rationality that they claim to, they will end up being secular humanists, with more in common with the American Humanist Association than with any sect of Christianity that existed before 1800.
Of course you think that. I am a humanist in most senses of the word (par the anti-religious one) and the same applies to many other Christians, I expect.

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Old 08-22-2001, 12:28 PM   #87
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Originally posted by Nomad:
I have offered what we both agree is the proper Christian understanding of the passages in question. You object to these Christian interpretations, which is fine in my view. You are not a Christian, so you may interpret them as you wish. What I would like to know is what do these passages say in YOUR view? If Christians are wrong, then what is the right understanding of the words given? I am going to go into this in greater depth in my response to Apikorus, but I would like to know what you think the passages say, and why. This would help me understand your point of view much better.
Since this thread is threatening to go somewhat awry, supernatural presuppositionalism-wise, and is in many respects validating the premise of the original post, I figure, what the sheol: I'll jump in here again.

Somewhere along the line you asked me to offer my "exegesis" of a particular passage from Ezekiel, to which your attachment of Christian "repentance" elicited my outburst. I am glad you used the word "exegesis," because this term refers to a very particular species of hermeneutics, to wit, the attempt to divine (no pun intended) meaning as it would have been intended for contemporary readers.

I will give you my thoughts concerning not only Ezekiel, but the entire body of Hebrew scripture, which some people today refer to as the Old Testament (arguably something of a patronizing designation in itself).

Unless one is a heretic of the Arian variety, it is assumed that the Christian version of exegesis, with respect to Hebrew scripture, is applied from the perspective of adherence to Trinitarianism. That is, whenever YHWH, (or El, or the Lord as the case may be) is invoked, the Christian reader, it is reasonable to infer, is simultaneously interpreting the invocation as necessarily including Jesus Christ as one of the components.

Thus the concept of "repentance," in Christian exegesis of O.T. passages is by definition something completely different, and something wholly foreign and unnecessary to the proper exegesis, which of course refers to what the readers of Ezekiel, for example, could be expected to adduce from its prophecies, admonitions, etc.

I hardly think it's a stretch to note that many Jews, reformed, orthodox, or atheist, might take umbrage at this particular assumption, and rightfully so, I say. This is essentially the basis for my allegation of being patronizing, and bordering on anti-Semitism. Incidentally, I have since learned that many Biblical scholars take extraordinary pains in differentiating between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism. I took no such pains. However I admit the distinction. While anti-Judaism generally refers to theological quibbles, anti-Semitism implies action. Unfortunately, as even the apologists acknowledge, the former has often been used to justify the latter.

In fact there appears to be an entire school of apologetics dedicated to dispelling the notion that the two concepts necessarily go hand in hand. I have a book here called, Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity, edited by Craig Evans and Donald Hagner, published by Fortress Press. The editors' conclusion proposes that the link between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism is based on anachronistic interpretations of the New Testament and the writings of the so-called Church Fathers. It's a valiant effort, and the expression "anachronistic" certainly rings true in my atheist "heart."

Unfortunately, Christian luminaries such as Martin Luther apparently would have disagreed.

Several months ago, CNN's Larry King Live hosted a program devoted to the Southern Baptist Convention, and its moderately publicized efforts to "save" the Jews (i.e., assist the Jews in "repenting.") In SBC tracts, ceremoniously published for this grand conversion effort, references were made to both "incomplete" and "completed" Jews. Needless to say, the "completed" Jews were the ones who had "by faith and faith alone accepted Jesus on to their hearts," or however that anatomically incorrect and essentially meaningless cliché goes.

Among Larry's guests were the estimable Rabbis Harold Kushner, Shmuley Boteach, and another gentleman whose name escapes me at the moment. In the hot seat, so to speak, was the redoubtable R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Something-or-Other. Download Photos of President Mohler Here. Mohler, as you may have guessed, was one of the ringleaders in the effort to "complete" the Jews, by means of training them up to, inter alia, more properly interpret their own Holy Scriptures, a wholly fatuous and patronizing exercise, I continue to insist.

Let me tell you, Rabbi Schmuley et al were not terribly impressed with Rev. Mohler's insulting characterization of "incomplete Jews." Granted, Schmuley is something of an excitable character; however the other two gentlemen were far more gracious in their dismissal of Mohler's outrageous and insensitive assertions. And I couldn't help but agree with the Rabbis completely. Mohler's performance was disgraceful. And he is one of the leading representatives of Christianity in America today, according to his website, and, evidently, many other "authorities." Scary.

At any rate, in the Epilogue to the above-referenced collection of essays, Joel Marcus likens Christian interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures to Gentiles telling Jewish jokes to other Gentiles:

Quote:
The subject under investigation is no joking matter, but an analogy from the realm of humor may help to illuminate the importance of asking such historical questions. In the telling of "ethnic jokes," it makes a great deal of difference who is telling the joke, and to whom. To take the case most relevant to our subject, a "Jewish joke" takes on a very different valence depending on whether it is told by a Jew to other Jews, by a Gentile to other Gentiles, or in some other combination of teller and audience. The words may be the same, but the impact becomes radically different in each instance. In the first case, that of a Jew telling a Jewish joke to other Jews, the joke remains in the family, and the derision to which the Jewish characters in the story may be subjected is cushioned by the shared participation of both the teller and the audience in the Jewish people. In the second case, that of a Gentile entertaining other Gentiles with a Jewish joke, there is no such cushion, the joker is talking not about "us" but about "them," and the joke may subtly or overtly reflect anti-Semitic prejudice.
I find this analogy most instructive, especially given the overwhelmingly self-deprecatory nature of the relationship with god that is so prevalent in much of the Hebrew scriptures, and, as I see it at least, the preservation of which is reflected in what we celebrate as "Jewish humor" in America today. (Which assumedly includes a 65-year-old Woody Allen casting himself as Julia Roberts' love interest.)

But enough rambling. I consider Christian "exegesis" of Hebrew scripture patronizing because, simply put, it seeks to impose the deity of Jesus Christ, particularly with the specifically Christian concept of "repentance," into the venerable documents of another faith where, it seems to me, it is neither desired, nor required.

[Edited to add, since I am nothing if not an incorrigible scamp, that I see no way in which to extricate the Trinitarian concept from the Christian exegesis of Hebrew scripture without diagnosing god as having a rather formidable dissociative personality disorder.]

[ August 22, 2001: Message edited by: hezekiahjones ]
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Old 08-22-2001, 02:46 PM   #88
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Hello again hezekiah

And thank you for your soapbox performance.

Now, do you have an interpretation of Ezekiel 20 or not? I already knew you did not like the Christian interpretation, but thank you again for the reminder of that fact.

My interest now is exclusively in what you think the passage means. I will wait for your answer.

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Old 08-24-2001, 03:52 PM   #89
hezekiah jones
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nomad:
And thank you for your soapbox performance.
You're quite welcome. I'm pleased to see that it changed your life.

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Now, do you have an interpretation of Ezekiel 20 or not?
As you may or may not have noticed, my interests lie with broader concerns.

Suffice it to say that the author of Ezekiel, in his situation as Priest-in-Exile, was engaged in exactly the type of self-deprecatory theological struggle to which I alluded above, and which permeates the Hebrew scriptures, and indeed, Jewish culture. I like to think of Ezekiel's spiritual contortions as the manifestation of Israelite rationalization for having previously endured some unfortunate circumstances. (I know you appreciate the understatement.)

The point is, the correct "exegesis" most certainly does not contemplate the Triune component known as Jesus Christ referring to Ezekiel as "son of man." (Isn't that ironic, by the way?)

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I already knew you did not like the Christian interpretation,
Whether I like it or not is beside the point. The fact is, it is invalid. "Retrojecting," I believe, was the incisive expression coined elsewhere on these Boards.

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but thank you again for the reminder of that fact.
Once more, any time. I welcome the opportunity to so effortlessly topple the Christian worldview.

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My interest now is exclusively in what you think the passage means. I will wait for your answer.
Surely your entertainment threshold is higher than this. What would be interesting, however, would be to see some agreeable evidence supporting Ezekiel's nascent Trinitarianism.

You would be allowed to cite the New Testament; without it, I have a sneaking suspicion you would be hard pressed to provide corroborative data.
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Old 09-05-2001, 01:27 PM   #90
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I liked this thread and I didn't want to see it sink into obscurity. Nyah.
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