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Old 10-04-2001, 09:36 AM   #21
Metacrock
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Quote:
Originally posted by SingleDad:
<STRONG>

Not at all. I'm not a biblical scholar; my atheism rests comfortably on the fact that there is no evidence for the existence of ontological conceptions of gods, and no remotely interesting value to accepting metaphysical conceptions of gods.[/b]
Meta =&gt;And that's just your opinion and it's wrong!


Quote:
The arguments for the errancy of the bible are interesting however, because errancy destroys the a priori truth of the bible; it destroys its epistemological value. The bible then clearly becomes secondary to personal revelation. Consequently your personal revelation of god used to interpret the bible is no more relevant or persuasive than my own; our beliefs become just a matter of taste.
MEta=&gt;That is total rubbish. It is you are trying to impose throgh ipsie dixet what can and cannot be construed as "epistiemic." The purpose of the Bible is not epistemic! IT is not an epistemology. The purpose is to bestow Grace upon the reader and it does that,if of course you read it with an open heart and not a closed mind. Tell me why it has to be an empistemology? Who ever said it was? Other than the fundies of course.


Quote:
I am certainly willing to grant you your personal taste; if you choose to believe in a god, and choose to believe that the best way such a god reveals itself to you is through the primitive superstitions of a bloodthirsty tribe of barely-literate nomadic goat herders, well good for you. I cannot say I have any particular respect or admiration for such a decision, but I suspect that my respect and admiration means as little to you as yours does to me.

[ September 30, 2001: Message edited by: SingleDad ]</STRONG>
Meta-&gt;O that's soooooooo supiroior sounding. Too bad you lack the educational background to pull it off.
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Old 10-04-2001, 05:35 PM   #22
Wahrheit
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Hi Emperor Of The Universe,

These next two quotes must be taken hand-in-hand:

Quote:
Originally posted by Emperor 0f The Universe:
if the Bible has errors in it, how do you know the whole thing isn't wrong? If you can't trust one part, why trust any of it? Please detail the specific criterion you use to weed out the flawed verses from those that are not flawed.
and

Quote:
if you were reading a modern history book, and it had some definately true claims of certain events... what if it made some other, weird claims?... As well as contradicting itself in certain places... Then, you would consider it questionable, would you not? Of course. And so it is with the Bible
Sorry for cutting chunks out of the last quote, but it was too long to quote the entirety of it. What you've done above is equate one history book written in one short timeframe with 66 different books written over hundreds and hundreds of years by authors of vastly differing backgrounds in different places. To find contradictions or errors in a book of the Bible, therefore, does not have nearly as much effect on the other books contained therein than to find a contradiction or error in a history book that was all written by one person over a very limited timeframe.

If you go down to the library and borrow 66 books (never mind the logistical problems!) about religion, finding contradictions between a few of the books would hardly render the entire collection worthless! The only way it would render the entire collection worthless is if you were a fundamentalist who decided it's either all or nothing, but such an assumption is not warranted at all.

Obviously, the 66 books of the Bible were canonised, so it's not like just going down to the library and borrowing whichever books you choose -- but the very fact that the books of the Bible were written over a lengthy time period by different authors at different places with different experiences should be enough to tell you that you are likely to find contradictions or errors within the collection. And I fail to see how finding an error in a book written in 300 B.C. or thereabouts has any effect on the historicity or trustworthiness of a book written in 70 A.D. by a different author in a different place!

You ask how we are to determine truth from error, but how do we determine truth from error in any collection of books? Surely historical investigation, internal criticism of the books themselves, etc., would give us a clearer picture of what is most likely truth and what is most likely error. If there is no good reason to believe that something is erroneous, I think we should believe it is truthful. Furthermore, if certain books of the Bible seem to disagree on characteristics of God, I generally take the characteristics that are most prevalent throughout.

Quote:
tell me why God's message to all literate humans in existence (the Bible) would even have errors in it in the first place. He can create the entire universe, but can't write a coherent book?
Well, that rests on the assumption that the Bible is God's word dictated to the authors. I believe that the Bible is 'inspired' by God, as the writers of the Bible were inspired by their relationship with God or their experiences with God to write down what they did -- that doesn't mean the Bible needs to be literally inerrant, it just means that Bible isn't the dictated Word of God the fundamentalists think it is.

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Old 10-08-2001, 10:16 AM   #23
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Tercel:

Forgive the delay in replying and the extreme length of this post. But the issues that you raise go far beyond the simple question of whether the Bible contains errors or contradicts itself. They are of the utmost importance (at least to a Christian) and worthy of extended consideration, since they bear directly on the reasonableness of the beliefs of the vast majority of Christians rather than just the minority of inerrantists.

1. What is the Bible? In what sense is it the Word of God?

You seem to have entirely missed the point of several of the questions I asked in my last post. Essentially I was asking what, in your opinion, is the status of the Bible; what distinguishes it from other books; what makes it sacred; in what sense it has special authority. For those who consider the Bible inerrant, the answers to these questions are obvious. In your case it’s completely obscure. You say:

Quote:
... its authors rang[ed] from the most highly educated to the all but uneducated. It's authors made mistakes, yes they were human, but they did the best they could.

Humans are always making mistakes. When flawed man is trying to discern Ultimate Truth, even with a degree of divine help, plenty of mistakes [are] hardly surprising.
In other words, the books of the Bible are pretty much like any number of other religious books. Except that they aren’t, because you say:

Quote:
I am a Christian... It seems to me logical then to accord the Bible with a reasonable degree of authority.
But what does “a reasonable degree of authority” mean? For example, many people accord the Encyclopedia Britannica a reasonable degree of authority. In calling the Bible the Word of God are you saying merely that you accord the Bible a degree of authority roughly comparable to that which many people accord to the Britannica?

Elsewhere you describe your view of the Bible as follows:

Quote:
The Church recognizes [the Bible] as something special... a pointer to the living God and a testament to His actions in the world. But it is more than that: What we know about God must come from His revelation of himself. Science and philosophy can tell us little, the truth about God must be revealed by God Himself. Thus behind these writings which reveal the truth about God, must lie spirit of God who works to reveal the truth about God.
And later:

Quote:
The Holy Spirit ... according to Jesus in the Gospel of John, "reveals the truth about God". One of the tasks of the Spirit is said to be teaching, to bring us into the knowledge of God. Such teaching of the Spirit is where the Bible gets it's inspiration from.
That is, the Bible represents a revelation from God. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit, which brings us the knowledge of God and reveals the truth about God.

Yet you say elsewhere that the Bible is:

Quote:
...a group of pieces of what various people have been able to observe about God. Unsurprisingly some of them were mistaken in some places...
So the Bible consists of pieces of what the authors were able to observe about God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who brings us the knowledge of God and reveals the truth about God. Yet it is unsurprising that they were often mistaken! It would seem that the “revelation” or “inspiration” involved was of a very low quality. Indeed, given that the Biblical authors made “plenty of mistakes”, isn’t it possible that others, such as Augustine, Kempis, or Merton perhaps, observed more about God, and more clearly and accurately, than people who thought it reasonable that God might kill 70,000 Israelites because David took a census?

2. Where does the Bible’s authority come from?

In several places you seem to be confusing this question with the previous one. To be sure, they’re related, but they’re hardly the same question. In the previous section I was asking what the nature of the Bible is. In what sense is it “inspired”; in what sense does it constitute a “revelation” from God? Here I want to address the question of how the Bible comes to have this special status (whatever it is), or what grounds you have for believing that it has it. The statements that you made to the effect that the Bible was written by ordinary men who did not have a clear conception of God (and often had notions about Him that were radically false), and that as a result the Bible naturally contains plenty of errors, are highly relevant to this question as well. But you also made some statements that were clearly intended to justify treating the Bible as “special” in some (as yet undefined) way. For example:

Quote:
I am a Christian... It seems to me logical then to accord the Bible with a reasonable degree of authority.
Now of course if you are committed to a belief system which entails that the Bible has a reasonable degree of authority you will naturally believe that the Bible has a reasonable degree of authority. But do you take this as an a priori, self-evident truth, or is it based on beliefs that are themselves derived from the Bible, do you have evidence independent of the Bible that it’s so? Or in other words, how do you justify your adherence to this belief system in the first place?

You say:

Quote:
"The Bible is the group of the most complete and authoritative writings of what mankind has observed about God" ...But I hope you know what I mean.
No. In all honesty, I have no idea what you mean. In what sense is Joshua, for example, one of the “most complete and authoritative writings of what mankind has observed about God”?

But even if I understood what you meant, this doesn’t answer the question. To see this let’s suppose that some organization decided to compile an anthology of “the most complete and authoritative writings of what mankind has observed about God”. Would the fact that Book X was selected for inclusion confer on it some special authority that it would not have had otherwise? Of course not. Presumably it was included because it was thought to have special authority. But that’s a very different thing. And the compilers, being human, might well have been wrong to think so.

Again, you say:

Quote:
That's up to the Church to decide the canon.
But this is only to say that the Church decided to include certain books in a collection that has come to be known as the Bible. It tells us nothing either about the status of the books they chose to include or why they should be regarded as having some special authority.

You say:

Quote:
The Church choose what they choose because they believed the books to be authoritative.
Actually this is false. The Church chose the books it did because they were already in widespread use. But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that it’s true. Why should this fact carry any weight with you? Why shouldn’t you look at the evidence (including a great deal of evidence that was not available to them) with fresh eyes and decide for yourself what books you consider to be authoritative? Why this reverence for the opinions of some people – most of whom we know nothing about – who lived over 1500 years ago - especially when the decisions were far from unanimous: they were made by majority vote, and many of the votes were close.

Quote:
The OT is the same as what the Jews at the time accepted as authoritative and the NT is the writings which the Church at the time believed to have been written by the apostles or on apostolic authority (i.e. by companions of apostles).
That’s it? What gives the Bible special authority is that some people – most anonymous, all superstitious - who lived a very long time ago believed the books it contains to be authoritative? That the Church at the time believed the NT books to have been written by the apostles or people who had heard the stories from them firsthand? (By the way, the latter type of evidence is commonly known as “hearsay” and is not generally considered to have much “authority” because it is notoriously unreliable.)

As for the Old Testament, you point out that the Jews regarded it as authoritative. But the Jews have never regarded the books of the New Testament as authoritative. It seems that the judgment of the Jews as to what books are “authoritative” is according to Christianity itself severely defective. Why should we give any weight to their opinion?

To muddy the waters further, you add:

Quote:
Of course my trust in the accuracy changes depending upon what book of the Bible I am reading. E.g. I trust the writer of Luke/Acts (he appears to be a competent writer and a thorough researcher) to a degree which I would not do to Matthew.
But what is it about Matthew that makes you question its accuracy more than Luke’s? Is it that Matthew relates a number of implausible occurrences not found in Luke? But by this criterion you should doubt all of the Gospels, since all of them relate totally implausible events. Is it that many events described in Matthew are not corroborated in the other Gospels? But Luke, simply by virtue of being longer than the others, must record a number of things uncorroborated in the other Gospels. And it is notorious that John differs from the other Gospels so radically that it sometimes seems to be about another character entirely, whose only connection with the one in the synoptics is that he also happens to be called Jesus. Surely by this criterion it is John that should be regarded as the least trustworthy.

In any case, in judging Luke to be more reliable or authoritative than Matthew because the former “appears to be a competent writer and a thorough researcher” you are judging the books of the Bible by the standards of professional historians. But this involves a fundamental contradiction. One of the most elementary standards applied to all historical works (with the possible exception of the Bible) is that any accounts of highly improbable events are automatically discounted, and accounts of clearly miraculous events are dismissed out of hand. This is not a minor points: works from this period are full of such accounts. You won’t find any such miraculous events depicted as fact in history books; you won’t even find debates in scholarly journals as to whether any such events ever occurred. It is simply taken for granted that they didn’t happen. Moreover, the presence of such accounts (especially in large number, and most especially when they form an essential element of the narrative) is considered to undermine the credibility of a work. Thus if we are going to evaluate the Bible by the standards used by professional historians, we must question seriously all accounts of improbable events and reject outright all accounts of miraculous ones, and must consider that the presence of the latter, and the fact that the “plot turns” on many of them, casts serious doubt on the reliability of the Bible as a whole, or at least of those books of the Bible that contain them. If you are not willing to do this, you must explain why the Bible should be exempted from this otherwise universal criterion. And after you do, you must explain what remaining reasons you have for considering Luke more reliable than Matthew. It seems to me that you are applying the first - questioning improbable events - while rejecting its obvious corollary of dismissing accounts of clearly miraculous events. I can’t imagine how this can be defended.

3. On the value of fallible revelation

The admission that the Bible is fallible is a devastating blow to any claim that knowledge of God (or anything else) can be obtained from it. If, as you say, “What we have is a group of pieces of what various people have been able to observe about God. Unsurprisingly some of them were mistaken in some places...” we have no anchor of Truth in which to ground our beliefs. If the Bible itself consists entirely of the opinion of fallible men like ourselves, we have no objective way to determine which are the false opinions and which the true.

Let’s look at your attempts to resolve this impossible dilemma. You say:

Quote:
Anyone can read the Bible and get the general gist of it.
But in reality there is no “general gist” of it. The Old Testament and the New depict God in such radically different ways that it is hard even to find a point of contact between them. And the differences within both the OT and the NT are cavernous.

You say:

Quote:
We can be sure the general trends are accurate, and when all writers are agreed we can be sure we are on solid ground.
But even supposing that there are any such “general trends”, what grounds do we have for supposing them to be accurate? Isn’t it possible that a majority of these fallible humans were wrong on certain points? After all, all of the writers were immersed in the same culture. If this culture had certain misconceptions about God wouldn’t it be natural for all of the writers to share them?

This problem is illuminated by a simple example. Imagine that you are a Jew of the first century B.C., and that someone suggests to you that God consists of three “Persons”, one of which is “fully human”, and that your hope of eternal life will depend on your accepting this Person as a “savior”. Wouldn’t you be justified in replying that this is nonsense, that this does not agree in the least with the nature of God as depicted in Scripture? And you might well argue further that, since all of the writers of Scripture agree in their general depiction of God as a unity, Who cannot be imagined or represented as a creature of any kind, and that His favor depends entirely on one’s faithful adherence to the laws that He has laid down, we can be sure we are on solid ground in rejecting this ridiculous notion of a triune, partially human God. Would this argument be sound? How would this differ from yours?

In reality there are a great many questions about God’s nature for which a great number of Biblical passages can be found to support each of two diametrically opposed points of view. For example, does God consider vicarious punishment just? It would be child’s play to find dozens of passages in the Bible that clearly imply that He does. Others – perhaps a comparable number – imply the opposite. Which set represents the “general trend” and which the aberrations?

You bring up another excellent example of this problem in you comments abut salvation by works vs. salvation by faith:

Quote:
Final Judgement will be based on our deeds in this life, that is a crystal clear testament of Biblical revelation. (Which is what makes Fundies, with their "everyone who doesn't believe will go to hell" crap, so funny)
But this is far from “crystal clear”. Here are just a few passages from the NT that appear to flatly contradict it:

Quote:
Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law

Romans 4:14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless...

Romans 9: 30-32 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone."

Romans 11: 5-6 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Galatians 2:15-16 We who are Jews by birth and not `Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.

Titus 3:4-5 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit...
And from the Catholic Catechism (one of many passages bearing on this point):

Quote:
161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"
It’s transparently clear that you consider your opinion on this question to be “crystal clear”, not because it represents the “general trend” or the “general gist” of the Bible as a whole, but because it agrees with your preconceptions of how things ought to be.

In practice questions of this kind are almost always decided this way (especially by those who reject Biblical inerrancy): not by counting the number of passages that support each point of view, but by appealing to our own preconceptions. Thus, since we “know” independently of the Bible that punishing the innocent for the sins of the guilty is wrong, we assume that the Biblical passages that imply otherwise, no matter how numerous, are “aberrant”, while those that we agree with represent the “general trend”. Since you “know” that it is unjust to base eternal rewards and punishments solely on “faith” in a God who insists on remaining largely hidden rather than on whether one has led a virtuous life, you assume that Biblical passages that imply otherwise are “aberrant” while those that you agree with represent the “general trend”.

Thus, when you say, “If a specific passage agrees with and complements the general trend we can accept that passage without reservation.” what you mean as a practical matter is that, if a specific passage agrees with what you want to believe, you accept that passage without reservation.

On the other hand, you say rather mysteriously that:

Quote:
If a specific passage disagrees in meaning with a general trend ... we could outrightly reject the passage as wrong... I only recommend this in very extreme instances...
But why do you recommend this only in very extreme instances? Look. Imagine that you are examining a book (not necessarily the Bible) written by a great many authors, all of them fallible humans like yourself, many of them all but uneducated, and which you know (unsurprisingly) contains plenty of errors. Now suppose you come upon a passage that seems on its fact to conflict with many other passages and with the general trend of the book. Isn’t it more reasonable to simply conclude that this particular writer is wrong on this particular point than to find some strained, implausible interpretation that was consistent with the remainder? Isn’t the point of reading a book to understand the intention of the author? Isn’t it far more likely that an ignorant writer from a tribe of primitive, bloodthirsty, barbaric desert warriors living in a remote corner of the world made a mistake rather than that he was right, but expressed himself in such a subtle manner that advanced scholarship is required to tease out his intended meaning?

In short: ambiguous, errant revelation is in practice the same as no revelation at all.

4. Why does the “Word of God” contain errors?

It’s easy to point out the “to err is human”, so that in the absence of Divine intervention mistakes are to be expected in anything produced by human hands. But this doesn’t address the main problem, which is why God did not intervene to ensure that the text was inerrant (and for that matter, why He chose to allow all of the original manuscripts to disappear, additions and deletions to be made by unknown hands, and innumerable translation errors to occur). If He went to the trouble of inspiring and in some sense supervising the production of a particular text at all, why didn’t He make it perfect?

You say:

Quote:
As I mentioned earlier, if God really wanted to tell everybody about himself directly he has far better methods at His disposal than to write a sacred book.
Quite so. But He did choose to produce a sacred book, and we have a right to ask why He preferred to make this particular book the one with special authority, preeminent over all others.

You say:

Quote:
He doesn't want to make it too easy.
But what possible reason could He have for making it so difficult for those who honestly and devoutly seek after Him to discern His true nature? Why did He choose instead to lay so many traps for true believers?

You say:

Quote:
One prominent theme in Christian revelation is that God hides himself.
Naturally, if you want to claim that God exists, given the obvious fact that He does not manifest Himself in this world in any demonstrable way at the present epoch, you must take the position that He “hides Himself”. But this is not much of an “explanation”: it merely “explains” one mystery by invoking another.

At any rate, this is a very difficult position for Christians to maintain, since the essence of Christianity is the belief that God has not chosen to hide Himself, but instead revealed Himself in the most explicit way imaginable by appearing on Earth for an extended time explaining and revealing His nature to a great number of people, and then revealing unambiguously that He was God by appearing to His disciples (and at least five hundred other people) after His death in physical form.

You say:

Quote:
One obvious reason for this is the boring old "to give us free will"...
That won’t do. It might be possible to argue that God does not want to provide us with overwhelming, undeniable proof that He exists, or that only by believing in Him can we obtain everlasting life. But it is absurd to claim that “free will” explains why God would produce a book that gives conflicting or even ambiguous answers to important issues of morality, or questions about essential aspects of His nature. In other words, He might want to leave open the possibility of rational doubt as to whether the Bible is the “Word of God”, but I cannot imagine any rational reason for Him to want the Word itself to be so radically unsatisfactory in so many ways.

Quote:
... but I have no doubt its more than that.
Could you give us a hint?

You say:

Quote:
... I see this life as somewhat of a test. God is testing how good His servants are... To reveal himself too much in a universal way would rather defeat the purpose of the exercise as I see it.
This is ridiculous. God already knows how good His servants are; He’s omniscient and He created them, remember?

Besides, if He did need to test us to find out how “good” we are, it would be completely irrational to refuse to let us know what “good” is. In other words, for the purpose of such a test He would have to provide us with clear moral guidance. Why would He throw us curve balls like “slaves, obey your masters”?

In summary, you have not even begun to suggest a plausible reason for believing that a book as sloppy, ambiguous, self-contradictory, and error-filled as the Bible could possibly be the “Word of God” in any recognizable sense.

[ October 08, 2001: Message edited by: bd-from-kg ]
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Old 10-09-2001, 08:41 AM   #24
brighid
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Wahrheit
“Obviously, the 66 books of the Bible were canonized, so it's not like just going down to the library and borrowing whichever books you choose -- but the very fact that the books of the Bible were written over a lengthy time period by different authors at different places with different experiences should be enough to tell you that you are likely to find contradictions or errors within the collection. And I fail to see how finding an error in a book written in 300 B.C. or thereabouts has any effect on the historicity or trustworthiness of a book written in 70 A.D. by a different author in a different place!”

You are making improper equivocations with these statements. First of all, the average man or woman writing a book on a religion is not usually claiming divine revelation and therefore authority from a god to disseminate divine information about this god. Errors are expected with the average human and uninspired author, even those writing authoritatively they have spent years researching. Whereas, the entire basis of the bible and it’s myriad of books and authors is that god and/or the Holy Spirit gave them special authority to provide the world with the TRUTH about god and what the WILL of god is. So, the burden of proof is far greater for the truth about and FROM a deity than it from a professor at a university writing about Christianity. Yet, Christianity scrutinizes these authors who have no special/supernatural authority much more stringently than these same Christians scrutinize the authenticity and truth of the bible. This is not only irrational, but it is irresponsible.

Secondly, although – as your claim supports, that some books were written in 300 B.C. and some in 70 A.D. and thereafter, they do have a commonality that other authors do not – god speaking directly to them – directing them to write down his word, albeit by errant human hands. God, as Christians claim – in unchanging, incapable of error, all knowing, every present, absolute truth and love and the muse to these authors. So, if Christianity abdicates that there are indeed mistakes, then the authenticity of the divine revelation and the voracity of the truth of the author’s claims must be questioned. Otherwise, one must claim as fundamentalists do that the bible is without error and hold onto such none sense with blind faith. Either way the Christian is left in a serious intellectual and moral quandary – at least as far as I am concerned.

If upon investigation of these truths a reader can determine that these claims are inconsistent, contradictory and sometimes utterly false and implausible and yet some are plausible or truthful – then how can this person be expected to adhere to such untrustworthy material and compromise his/her dedication to truth and integrity? And how could one expect another to place the future of ones soul with the tales of men whose claims are built on flimsy and refutable foundations sprinkled with moments of truth and plausability?

If you are saying that man is to take parts of the bible as true and disregard others as false or inaccurate you are contradicting the very nature of your deity. Christianity claims that It’s god (and not some Other False God) came to Earth without error and sin through the miraculous virgin birth by a woman absent of sin. Therefore their deity became flesh to spread the truth of his father/himself. Christianity also claims that Jesus was perfect in his Earthly form and never sinned while on Earth, even resisting the temptations of Satan himself. They build Jesus/god up to be the ultimate authority of morality and the absolute model of perfection. Christianity says that his apostles were lead by this Jesus and the Holy Spirit and were extra super special and carry the utmost authority. Christianity claims that the Holy Spirit worked THROUGH these men and although human hands penned the words, these words are DIVINE REVELATION, not just fact BUT a supernatural truth that all men must follow – even if at times these truths are confusing and ambiguous.

Therefore, these divine and godly inspired truths should remain firm and consistent under even the most arduous of human and limited scrutiny. The truth of an inerrant, perfect deity should not crumble under mere mortal inspection – by definition it cannot.

So, it seems that the atheist is a purist. IF we are to believe in a god, this god must be what he/she/it claims to be. If we are to believe in god, our god could not possibly be contradictory, sanguinary, vengeful, dishonest, deceitful or cruel. If we are to believe in a god this god cannot be what the Holy Bible, the Koran, or any other allegedly holy text claim this deity is. There may be some truth in the claims (and we admit to this), there may be pieces of a god revealed in this literature – but certainly not the truth, the whole truth and nothing BUT the truth - so help us GOD!

I would not convict a man of a crime punishable by death with evidence presented that is partially true, based on allegory, here say (provided by those who did not witness the events in question – but rather heard about it from someone else), circumstantial or any other flimsy evidence. Would you??? And according to Christian belief, tradition and dogma – if I don’t do exactly that and BELIEVE and have FAITH in these claims I am punished with death and not just a physical death, but and unending, torturous and eternal death.

So, pardon me and all others who have trouble placing our stake with eternity (if this is so) upon partial truths, allegory, here say, in accurate claims and miraculous happenings such as seven headed dragons, unicorns, a man walking on water, the Earth standing still and all the other “allegorical” but not literal evidence provided to support Christianity.

IMHO, any less stringent burden of proof is dishonorable to an omnipotent, omni benevolent, omniscient, divine being worthy of the unwavering and adoring worship of humanity and it lowers the divine to level of lowly mortal dominion. I for one cannot stand for such things and any such god is not worthy of my worship.

It seems that the Christians here are not arguing that we are wrong to assert that the bible is with error, or that there are inconsistencies, etc., but rather you and they argue that our criteria for truth is TOO stringent and somehow flawed because we are unwilling to BELIEVE based upon the same evidence you admit is copious at best. We want proof beyond a shadow of a doubt to indebt our souls to a creator deity. You want and accept a lesser standard of proof – one that doesn’t even hold to the standard of beyond a REASONABLE doubt. Now tell me, why is that you are willing to adhere to such low evidentiary standards when it comes to your belief in a supreme and all powerful god and the potential eternal security of your soul and yet (I am of course assuming here) not be willing to send a man to his death with the same standards? Doesn’t that just strike you as strange?


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Old 10-10-2001, 12:01 AM   #25
Scrutinizer
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Quote:
Originally posted by brighid:
You are making improper equivocations with these statements. First of all, the average man or woman writing a book on a religion is not usually claiming divine revelation and therefore authority from a god to disseminate divine information about this god.
Yeah, but the entire premise of liberal interpretations of the Bible is that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God dictated from God's mouth. The Bible is a useful collection of books written from those who felt inspired by God to write an account of events they had seen, experiences they had, etc. Where in the Bible does a writer of one of the books claim to be writing the "Word of God"?

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So, if Christianity abdicates that there are indeed mistakes, then the authenticity of the divine revelation and the voracity of the truth of the author’s claims must be questioned.
Well, I don't know where the authors themselves claim to be writing down God's word (unless they directly "quote" him). But yes, that's exactly what liberal theology says -- the extent to which the words written down by the Biblical authors is authoritative, is questionable.

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And how could one expect another to place the future of ones soul with the tales of men whose claims are built on flimsy and refutable foundations sprinkled with moments of truth and plausability?
Well, I disagree there. I don't think the contents of the Bible is "sprinkled" with occasional moments of truth and plausibility. I think the Bible is sprinkled with occasional moments of falsity, but is on the whole, a very trustworthy and reliable collection of books.

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If you are saying that man is to take parts of the bible as true and disregard others as false or inaccurate you are contradicting the very nature of your deity.
Only if you take for granted the assumption that my deity wrote the Bible from cover to cover.

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Christianity claims that It’s god (and not some Other False God) came to Earth without error and sin through the miraculous virgin birth by a woman absent of sin. Therefore their deity became flesh to spread the truth of his father/himself. Christianity also claims that Jesus was perfect in his Earthly form and never sinned while on Earth, even resisting the temptations of Satan himself. They build Jesus/god up to be the ultimate authority of morality and the absolute model of perfection.
I agree with all of that.

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Christianity says that his apostles were lead by this Jesus and the Holy Spirit and were extra super special and carry the utmost authority. Christianity claims that the Holy Spirit worked THROUGH these men and although human hands penned the words, these words are DIVINE REVELATION, not just fact BUT a supernatural truth that all men must follow – even if at times these truths are confusing and ambiguous.
That's not what "Christianity" claims at all. Some versions of it does, but I don't see it written in stone anywhere.

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I would not convict a man of a crime punishable by death with evidence presented that is partially true, based on allegory, here say (provided by those who did not witness the events in question – but rather heard about it from someone else), circumstantial or any other flimsy evidence. Would you???
No, but I don't think the fundamentals of the faith are based on flimsiness and other vague pointers to truth.

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It seems that the Christians here are not arguing that we are wrong to assert that the bible is with error, or that there are inconsistencies, etc., but rather you and they argue that our criteria for truth is TOO stringent and somehow flawed because we are unwilling to BELIEVE based upon the same evidence you admit is copious at best.
I assume you don't really mean "copious" -- it doesn't seem to fit in with the tenor of your post.

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We want proof beyond a shadow of a doubt to indebt our souls to a creator deity. You want and accept a lesser standard of proof – one that doesn’t even hold to the standard of beyond a REASONABLE doubt.
Well, I disagree. I'm currently at a point of confusion over whether I should become a presuppositionalist or remain an evidentialist. If I decide to become a presuppositionalist, "standards of proof" have nothing to do with it, as everything is a proof of God, and you cannot even argue without reference to God.

However, even if I remain an evidentialist, I don't think the evidence is too flimsy to induce belief. But furthermore, Christianity is not based purely upon an evidential basis. Even if Christianity weren't "beyond a reasonable doubt" (which it is likely not to be under an evidentialist approach), there are other factors that can induce belief in God, even if the evidence is only "on the balance of probabilities" or thereabouts -- there are more inward, spiritual movings, rather than outward, evidence-based movings to become a Christian.

Furthermore, from an evidentialist basis, divine hiddenness is necessary to protect moral significance in a choice to follow God -- take a look at the old thread "Why doesn't he reveal himself?" on the Existence of God(s) board.

Regards,

- Scrutinizer
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Old 10-10-2001, 06:38 AM   #26
brighid
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As I am unfamiliar with all the thousands of sects of Christianity and the nuances that go with them, I am attempting to generalize the majority of Christian faiths that I am familiar with. In GENERAL, I feel most Christians believe in a concept identical or similar to the things I have mentioned. If you would like to discuss your particular flavor of Christianity, you will first need to identify that sect and then detail the differences it has from other major Christian faiths – ie: Catholicism or Lutheranism, are you reformed, orthodox, born again, and yadda, yadda, yadda. And how do you justify your Christian faith with the thousands of others who are seemingly contradictory?

It’s funny that you fail to address my comments in regards to the authority of the bible. In your own definition of liberal theology and interpretation of the bible you have agreed that these men wrote what they BELIEVED to be inspiration from a god, but for all intents and purposes – this in unverifiable either by the author or by outside investigation. Many, many authors throughout history and in present time can, do and have made similar claims only to be thwarted or discredited by Christendom as being false or heretical. And a few have lost their lives, liberty and or freedom because of this claim.

Again, for the atheist it comes down to authority. There is also an enormous difference between believing someone is guilty of a crime and knowing and conclusively proving that a person is guilty of a crime. Too many men have been falsely accused, convicted and imprisoned (some even lost their lives) based upon those who “believed” these men were guilty but had nothing more than circumstantial evidence, or eye witness testimony – and we know how reliable eye witness testimony is! The same goes for rules apply when judging the authenticity of the bible – belief is not enough.

Yet, we are suppose to believe the things these authors quote about Jesus are not only true but also ACCURATE – sometime so strong as to be the inspired word of god, or the actual testimony of those who were with him! Not to mention prophecies and other hallucinogenic happenings. Let me present you with a hypothetical situation – Let’s say 20 years ago you attended a lecture by a man who presented you with information that was very profound and moving, even life altering– could you today sit down and write not only an accurate, but a verbatim recollection of everything this person said? I doubt you, or anyone for that matter could do that from a conversation a week ago. The problem for the atheist is our need for purity. We can’t tolerate the word of a god being obfuscated by human political agendas, lapses of memory, embellishments, artistic endeavor or notions based upon dreams subject to interpretation, power trips, censorship and translation from one language, to another to another. For the atheist, if any revelation of a god is or can be revealed in this bible it has been polluted by all of the aforementioned circumstances to such an extent that any pertinent information cannot be relied upon in any fashion suitable to the worship of any deity. And it defies our logic how anyone could do otherwise. How can someone believe in something like a god when there can be no contention that the bible is convoluted, pieced together only after a Roman Emperor insisted upon and presided over such efforts (surely THIS was divinely inspired), has been censored, changed, and almost every interpretation of the bible is different from another ……..

Although plausible stories and truthful statements can be found in the bible – there is nothing in there that does not exist in many other uninspired texts all over the world. There is nothing new or even revealing in the bible. And frankly I had read many things that are far more revealing about the human contingent than the bible.

Christianity DOES claim – and I am not aware of a sect that doesn’t require exclusive membership to the Christian cult to obtain salvation. I certainly understand the Catholic faith to tout this claim and the list is far more extensive for those requiring man to pay exclusive homage to the Christ god then those who might not or don’t require it.

The Bible treats it’s god more like a mortal king – with flings of fancy, vengeance, hate, favoritism, and other things so human in nature. The god of the bible is created in the image of man – not god. The god of the bible displays no supernatural abilities, compassion, love or any of the other claims these allegedly inspired men tell us some god told them.

Here say is not adequate evidence and should be disregarded with prejudice.

Also – there are 107 instances of the use of “word of god” in the Bible and 48 exact phrases – so it seems, even as a Christian you are unaware that your bible speaks often about the word of god coming through men.
Pro 30:5 Every word of God [is] pure: he [is] a shield unto them that put their trust in him
Luk 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
Act 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness
2Cr 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Now please show me where the bible is not the word of this god – when it is proliferated with “and this is the word of the Lord, this is the word of thy god, etc. etc.?” And if, as you claim this is not truly the word of god – what is it? Obviously you don’t put divine AUTHORITY in these words – yet you believe in something you do not put authenticity in.
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Old 10-11-2001, 11:02 AM   #27
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Wahrheit:

Like other liberal Christians, you seem to have little interest in defending the authority of the Bible, being content to point out the absurdity of supposing it to be inerrant and otherwise free of flaws. But this seems to lead to grave consequences in terms of being able to make any kind of serious case for Christianity. Let’s look at your comments.

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To find contradictions or errors in a book of the Bible, therefore, does not have nearly as much effect on the other books contained therein than to find a contradiction or error in a history book that was all written by one person... finding contradictions between a few of the books would hardly render the entire collection worthless!
OK, so your position is that if we find a clear error in a book of the Bible this justifies us in regarding that particular book as worthless, but does not render the [i]entire collection worthless, since there might still be some value in the remaining books? Am I understanding you correctly? If not, what’s your point?

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The only way it would render the entire collection worthless is if you were a fundamentalist who decided it's either all or nothing, but such an assumption is not warranted at all.
Actually this assumption is totally warranted. As you point out, the books of the Bible were canonized. If some of them are worthless, this demolishes any claim that the fact of canonization gives a book any special authority.

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Obviously, the 66 books of the Bible were canonized...
Interestingly, this is the only mention you make of the fact that these books were selected for inclusion in the canon, and you mention it only to dismiss it. Do you think that the fact that a book was included in the canon has any bearing on how we should regard it? Should a book that was canonized be considered more reliable, more accurate, more trustworthy than one that was not? If so, how much more reliable, accurate, or trustworthy, and why? Did God play any role in the selection of books for canonization? If so, what?

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...the very fact that the books of the Bible were written over a lengthy time period by different authors at different places with different experiences should be enough to tell you that you are likely to find contradictions or errors within the collection.
It only tells you that if you don’t believe that the books in question were written under God’s inspiration, or guidance, or providence. He could, for example, have simply arranged that a few books written over this vast period be free of errors, absurdities, and contradictions. And He could have further arranged that these be the very books to be canonized.

Do you believe that God played any role at all in the creation of these books different in kind from the role He played in the production of lots of other books? If so, what was His role?

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And I fail to see how finding an error in a book written in 300 B.C. or thereabouts has any effect on the historicity or trustworthiness of a book written in 70 A.D. by a different author in a different place!
It doesn’t, unless you are under the delusion that the Bible is special in some sense – that the fact that something appears in the Bible gives it more credibility that it would have if it appeared elsewhere. If you are abandoning this claim there is nothing more to discuss: we are in total agreement.

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You ask how we are to determine truth from error, but how do we determine truth from error in any collection of books? Surely historical investigation, internal criticism of the books themselves, etc., would give us a clearer picture of what is most likely truth and what is most likely error.
This is saying that we should apply the same methodology in evaluating the books of the Bible that we would apply to any other ancient books. Fine. One of the most elementary, bedrock elements of this standard methodology is to dismiss all accounts of miraculous events, which are quite common in such works. (See below for more comments that bear directly on this point.)

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If there is no good reason to believe that something is erroneous, I think we should believe it is truthful.
Here we come to the crux of the matter: when and why should we believe an account of something that supposedly happened? In the real world we do not automatically believe such an account unless we have “good reason to believe that it is erroneous”. The credence that we give to such a story depends on a number of factors. For example:

1. Does the person who related the event have a reputation for being honest and reliable?

Unfortunately, the books of the Bible are anonymous, and even in cases where we thing we know who they are we know nothing about them apart from what the books themselves say. A prudent man will treat accounts from such a source with extreme caution.

2. Is there independent corroboration?

In the case of many historical events we believe that they occurred because there are several independent accounts. In other cases (like Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon) we believe it because the entire subsequent course of history makes it clear that it must have happened. In other cases, such as large-scale movements or destruction of populations, there is archeological evidence that they happened. But in the case of the events related in the Bible there is generally no independent corroboration at all.

3. Is it inherently plausible?

If Smith tells me that the storm last night destroyed a tree in the woods behind his house, I’ll probably believe him without demanding proof, since this sort of thing is well within the range of my everyday experience. But if he tells me that his entire neighborhood was flattened by a tornado, I might want to see for myself, or at least hear reports from a few more people, before believing it. And if he tells me that his house was attacked by an army of zombies, I won’t even bother to enquire further, but will immediately conclude that he belongs in the loony bin.

Similarly, when the Bible says that the Israelites attacked a town and murdered everyone in it, I am inclined to believe it, since this is the sort of thing such barbaric, warlike tribes did. But it also says that when a certain man died:

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At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and ... they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. [Matthew 27:51-53]
On this point a reasonable person will be inclined to be skeptical.

4. How important is it?

If Dr. Jones tells me that I have a cold and recommends taking a few pills for a few days, I’ll probably take his word for it. If he tells me that I have diabetes and must take insulin shots for the rest of my life and make a number of changes in my lifestyle, I’ll probably want a second opinion or independent proof, especially since taking all that insulin will be very unhealthy and dangerous if I don’t have diabetes.

Christianity claims that I have a fatal illness which it calls “original sin” which can only be cured by “grace”, which in turn can only be obtained through “faith”, which means “dying in Christ” and being “reborn”. This is a pretty radical diagnosis. Also, if there is a God but He turns out not to be the Christian one, He might be very displeased that I chose to worship a man and call him God. I’m going to need pretty strong proof before accepting such claims, changing my life completely and running such risks.

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I believe that the Bible is 'inspired' by God, as the writers of the Bible were inspired by their relationship with God or their experiences with God...
That’s nice. I can go to the local Christian bookstore and pick up several hundred books of which this is true. Do they all have the same authority as the Bible? If not, why not?

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That doesn't mean the Bible needs to be literally inerrant, it just means that Bible isn't the dictated Word of God the fundamentalists think it is.
Quite so. So why should I pay any attention to this ancient book, written by primitive, superstitious people from an obscure nomadic desert tribe, which has lots of demonstrable errors, absurdities, and contradictions, and is admittedly not the Word of God? In particular, why should I pay any attention to it when it says that a dead man walked out of his own tomb?
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Old 10-11-2001, 01:04 PM   #28
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Scrutinizer:

Like the other liberal Christians here, you appear to be willfully blind to the obvious implications of your position.

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... the Bible is that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God dictated from God's mouth. The Bible is a useful collection of books written from those who felt inspired by God to write an account of events they had seen, experiences they had, etc.
All of which can be said of thousands of other books. Shall we place the Bible, then, in the same category as Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, J. B. Phillips’s Your God is too Small, or C.S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy?

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Where in the Bible does a writer of one of the books claim to be writing the "Word of God"?
Please. What evidentiary value would such a statement have? Only an idiot would try to convince others that he’s honest by saying “I’m honest”, and only fools would believe someone on the basis of such a statement.

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...that's exactly what liberal theology says -- the extent to which the words written down by the Biblical authors is authoritative, is questionable.
And on the basis of a book whose authority is questionable we are supposed to believe that a man walked out of his tomb after being dead for two days? Don’t any of you liberal Christians see the problem here?

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I think the Bible is sprinkled with occasional moments of falsity, but is on the whole, a very trustworthy and reliable collection of books.
And you believe this because...?

And how do you detect the “occasional moments of falsity”? What assurance do you have that they don’t come at critical moments – for example, in the accounts of the Resurrection, or the statements about what is necessary for salvation?

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brighid:
They build Jesus/god up to be the ultimate authority of morality ...

Scrutinizer:
I agree with all of that.
But doesn’t it strike you as odd that God would go to all this trouble to provide us with perfect moral guidance and then be so sloppy as to fail to see that it is recorded accurately? It seems incomprehensible that God would go to such lengths to enlighten a few, only to leave the rest of us in uncertainty and doubt.

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That's not what "Christianity" claims at all. Some versions of it do, but I don't see it written in stone anywhere.
But that’s just the problem. On your showing nothing is written in stone anywhere. There is no rock of truth on which you can rely. Your house is built on sand.

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No, but I don't think the fundamentals of the faith are based on flimsiness and other vague pointers to truth.
So what are they built on? Take the question of salvation by faith vs. salvation by works. In my last reply to Tercel I pointed out that there are Biblical passages that point clearly in one direction on this point; of course there are others that point the other way. For another example, Nomad and Bede point out in the Hell thread that it cannot even be determined from the Bible whether the wicked are punished in Hell – or are punished at all, for that matter.

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If I decide to become a presuppositionalist, "standards of proof" have nothing to do with it...
And you might want to think seriously about the implications of this. Do you really want to close your mind completely to all evidence – to trap yourself in a self-contained circle of thought from which there is no path leading out? This way lies fanaticism and insanity.

Besides, this whole idea is totally antithetical to the whole spirit of Christianity. This is one of the few religions that claims to be based on evidence – on the Resurrection in particular. To say that God went to all that trouble for nothing – that His nature and purposes can be discerned from pure reason – seems, in Christian terms, downright blasphemous.

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However, even if I remain an evidentialist, I don't think the evidence is too flimsy to induce belief.
Surely it’s obvious that rejecting the authority of the Bible, treating it as just a book to be evaluated like any other book written by fallible humans of unknown veracity, leaves you with precious little evidence – certainly not enough to induce rational belief.

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But furthermore, Christianity is not based purely upon an evidential basis...there are other factors that can induce belief in God... there are more inward, spiritual movings, rather than outward, evidence-based movings to become a Christian.
Certainly. You can choose to believe what you want to believe, or what seems intuitively plausible. But if you take this path, you might want to ask whether it is likely to be a path to truth. Has believing what you want to believe, or what seems intuitively plausible, proved to be a good strategy for discerning the difference between truth and falsehood in other areas? As for “spiritual movings” these seem to have the remarkable effect of “moving” one in the direction of the beliefs that were inculcated in childhood, or that were absorbed from the society in which one lives. Strange, isn’t it, how few Hindus discover “inward, spiritual movings” that lead them to Christianity in the absence of more tangible “outward” factors? Curious that almost no Buddhists ever have such an experience? And isn’t it odd that not a single person, in the thousands of years before Jesus, ever had an “inward, spiritual moving” leading him toward a conception of the triune God of Christianity?

Anyway, if your faith is based on inward spiritual movings, why do you trouble us about it? Your “inward spiritual movings” are of no more interest to me than your headaches. Your taste in spiritual experience concerns me about as much as your taste in music. If you have conversations with God, you might want to discuss them with a good psychiatrist, but don’t tell me about them.

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Furthermore, from an evidentialist basis, divine hiddenness is necessary to protect moral significance in a choice to follow God ...
I replied to this point in my reply to Tercel. Hiddenness is one thing; ambiguous or contradictory moral guidance is another. Entire books of the Bible that depict God as a moral monster cannot be reasonably explained by “divine hiddenness”. And how can you reasonably invoke “hiddenness” on behalf of a God who took the trouble to become Incarnate to reveal His nature and purpose?
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Old 10-11-2001, 03:25 PM   #29
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Metacrock:

Your attempt to defend liberal Christianity seems to me to fare no better than the others. Let’s see what you have to say:

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You are indulging in the all or nothing fallacy, either every single bit of it is literally true, it can't have one mistake or the whole thing is off,
Nope. Either every bit of it is true or it’s not the Word of God in the sense in which most people understand this phrase. But certainly you can hold that it’s errant, but still significant in some sense.

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Like you never heard of the concept of literature? There can't be different senses in which things are true?
If parts of it are literature, it should at any rate be interesting, inspiring, uplifting literature. The catalog of horrors in Joshua don’t seem to meet any of these criteria.

The story of the massacre of the Amelekites at God’s command illustrates another problem. The story is embedded firmly in the main narrative: it is the account of how and why Saul was deposed (by God) in favor of David. If this is “myth” or “literature”, so is practically the entire OT. And in any case it should have some point. what moral or spiritual guidance does this story provide? How does it illuminate us spiritually? With what deep aspects of our souls is it supposed to resonate?

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The verbal plenary view ... didn’t even exist until the 19th century.
True, the Church never taught that the Bible was written or dictated by God. But as you know very well, it was taken for granted throughout most of the history of Christianity that the Bible is literally true word for word, from beginning to end.

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All the books were written before they were in the canon.
Ooh, that’s deep. Never thought of that.

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So they don’t have the same purposes, they have different senses in which they communicate truth and they communicate their truths on different levels.
Non sequitur (though perfectly true). It’s easier to follow your arguments if they have some logical structure.

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You don't know brown mucky stuff about it.

O that's soooooooo superior sounding. Too bad you lack the educational background to pull it off.
Glad to see that you’ve overcome your habit of hurling personal abuse at your opponents.

Also, I’ve looked at the linked article. Interesting, but it hardly resolves the problems with an errantist “mode”. First, some quick comments about Dulles’s Models of Revelation:

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Revelation as History: The Events themselves are inspired but not the text.
Fine. But without an inspired (and therefore inerrant) text, where’s the evidence that the events in question occurred?

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Revelation as Inner Experience: Religious doctrines are verbalizations of ...feeling...
Fine. My theory exactly.

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Revelation as Doctrine: In most cases it is believed that the autographs were inspired but some allow for mistakes in transmission...
OK, but why would god go to the trouble of seeing that the originals were inerrant but allow them to be lost and the copies corrupted?

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Revelation as Dialectical Presence: The Bible contains the word of God and it becomes the word of God for us when we encounter it in a transformative way.
It contains the word of God and it becomes the word of God? But only if we “encounter” it in a “transformative” way? This one’s beyond me.

Now some comments about the theory presented in the article.

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But Jesus teachings, which we can assume were transmitted accurately for the most part...
We can assume this because?

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So the Genesis account is a literary rendering of pagan myth...
Very reasonable, but it renders the doctrine of Original Sin incoherent. A real, flesh-and-blood Jesus underwent a real, excruciating crucifixion to save us from the consequences of a mythical Adam and Eve eating a mythical fruit?

This isn’t a trivial problem. If one is going to speak of a “fallen world” one needs to explain how it came to be “fallen”. How did an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God come to create such an imperfect world? It’s not good enough just to say that we’re sinful. The point of the Atonement is that we are so inherently wicked that we cannot achieve salvation without this stupendous sacrifice to obtain God’s grace. And even then we can never merit it: what we all deserve is eternal damnation. Without the Fall as a literal historical event it seems difficult to account for this situation.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter: How do we know the Bible is the Word of God?
The article’s answer is:

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Because it does what religious literature should do, it is transformative.
So, it would seem, any religious literature that is transformative is the Word of God, just like the Bible. But wait:

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But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others.
So the Bible, unlike the Koran, say, is the real word of God because... it mediates the UTE better! OK, you’ve convinced me. How could any reasonable person dispute that?

The article goes on to explain:

How Does the Bible fulfill this criteria? ...The Bible, the Canon, the NT in particular is A means of bestowing Grace. What does that mean? ... It is a means of coming into contact with the UTE mentioned above. This means that the primary thing it has to do to demonstrate it's veracity is not be accurate historically... but rather, its task is to connect one to the depository of truth in the teachings of Jesus such that one is made open to the ultimate transformative experience. ... This can only be judged phenomenologically. It is not a matter of proving that the events are true...

In other words, if one feels “transformed” by reading the Bible, then it must be true! It doesn’t matter whether there’s any proof that the events narrated in it really happened, because it doesn’t matter whether they did happen.

But wait. The last sentence concludes:

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... although there are ensconces where that becomes important.
Well, yes. There are a few little “ensconces” where it becomes important, aren’t there?

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Thus the main problem is ... the extent to which the world and life stack up to the picture presented as a fallen world, engaged in the human problematic and transformed by the light of Christ... This is something that cannot be decided by the historical aspects nor by any objective account. It is merely the individual's problem to understand and to experience.
That is, if your way of looking at the world is reasonably close to the Christian way: a fallen world, separation from God, the saving power of God's grace, etc., then you should believe Christianity. But of course, if your way of looking at the world is more or less consonant with this Christian outlook, it’s almost certainly because you grew up in a Christian culture. And if you grew up in such a culture, most likely you tend to interpret the world in these terms. Convenient, no?

Yet eventually the article returns to reality to some extent as it admits:

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Resurrection of course, doctrinally is also crucial, but since that cannot be established in an empirical sense, ...we must use historical probability.
Quite so. And the historical probability of a dead man walking out of his own tomb, is, shall, we say, rather small.

Ah, but we have evidence that it really happened: the Gospels. But this is where the admission that the Bible is fallible – that it can reasonably be doubted – compromises the case for Christianity fatally, because extraordinarily strong evidence would be needed even to make it plausible - much less prove - that a dead man walked. And an admittedly fallible document is not likely to fill the bill.

So how does the article try to get over this hurdle? Well, it says:

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We can expect that the Gospels will be polemical. We do not need to assume, however, that they will be fabricated from whole cloth. They are the product of the communities that redacted them.
OK, so we don’t have to assume that they’re fabricated from whole cloth. (And indeed, they probably were not consciously fabricated.) And they were produced by communities, not by eyewitnesses. This is apparently supposed to give us more confidence in their factual accuracy. Why?

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In reality there is no particular reason why the community cannot be a witness.
Leaving aside that the “community” can at best be a witness to what someone claimed to have witnessed, this establishes at best that it is possible that the result of this community effort was a historically accurate document.

And that’s it. That’s basically the whole argument. A “community” produced each book, and we can trust each book to be an accurate reflection of that community’s beliefs, which can in turn be trusted to be a reasonably accurate reflection of the truth. Why? Because the result is a work the reading of which can be a transformative experience.

Forgive me if I’m not entirely convinced. Conjectures about how these anonymous works were produced are not evidence. Documents produced by some primitive, superstitious, gullible people describing events that purportedly occurred decades earlier are not terrible convincing. The fact that these stories resonate with something deep in our psyches is exactly what one would expect of such things. The fact that these particular writings were selected from a great many such precisely because a lot of people found them “transformative” (not because they had any reason to think they were historically accurate) might arouse a certain degree of skepticism in anyone who has any understanding of human nature and the social dynamics involved.

By the way, a teeny problem with this whole approach is that it seems to reduce the entire OT to an inconvenient, embarrassing preface to the Main Event. It would be so much nicer if it just... disappeared. What a bummer! But, it’s there; it’s part of the Bible, and Jesus, Paul, and the other disciples took it very seriously indeed: to them it was sacred Scripture. If you want to defend the notion of the Bible as UTE, you need to explain what the function of the OT is in producing this UTE. The only sense in which the Old Testament provides a “transformative experience” for me is that reading any substantial part of it transforms me from feeling perfectly well to feeling nauseous. The account of what Moses had the Israelites do to the Midianites is especially revolting. Calling it “literature” doesn’t help; if it’s literature, it’s of the sort that no respectable bookstore would stock if it weren’t in the Bible. Did Jesus, Paul, the disciples, and the early church err grievously in including the OT in the canon?

[ October 11, 2001: Message edited by: bd-from-kg ]
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Old 10-12-2001, 12:49 AM   #30
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I realise I still have bd-from-kg's post to respond to, but considering time restraints, I can only respond to brighid's post now. I'll try to respond to bd-from-kg's post when I get the chance.

Quote:
Originally posted by brighid:
As I am unfamiliar with all the thousands of sects of Christianity and the nuances that go with them, I am attempting to generalize the majority of Christian faiths that I am familiar with. In GENERAL, I feel most Christians believe in a concept identical or similar to the things I have mentioned. If you would like to discuss your particular flavor of Christianity, you will first need to identify that sect and then detail the differences it has from other major Christian faiths – ie: Catholicism or Lutheranism, are you reformed, orthodox, born again, and yadda, yadda, yadda. And how do you justify your Christian faith with the thousands of others who are seemingly contradictory?
Believing that the Bible is or isn't the inerrant Word of God is not, and never has been, a doctrine that must be accepted in order to be a Christian. The Nicene Creed has no mention of the inerrancy of the Bible, so I don't think this "so many contradictory sects" argument really has any relevance. I couldn't care less if people continue believing that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I have no problem with that, so I don't think I'm an advocate of some weird, cultish "alternative" Christianity -- I simply have a liberal view of the Bible as a whole, like most Christians on these forums.

Quote:
Let’s say 20 years ago you attended a lecture by a man who presented you with information that was very profound and moving, even life altering– could you today sit down and write not only an accurate, but a verbatim recollection of everything this person said?
Well, I'm not an expert or a Biblical scholar, but as far as I know, you are making a ridiculous parallel by comparing modern-day standards of memory to the reliable oral tradition of Jesus' time.

As Witherington writes in The Jesus Quest:

Quote:
In view of the fact that the earliest conveyors of the Jesus tradition were all, without exception, Jews, we would naturally expect them to treat the teachings of their master with as much respect as did the disciples of other Jewish teachers such as Hillel and Shammai. This is all the more likely if, as happened with Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher suffered an untimely and unexpected end and was highly criticized by some Jews. The need to remember, preserve and defend him against false charges would be acute...

Disciples in early Jewish settings were learners, and, yes, also reciters and memorizers. This was the way Jewish educational processes worked. In fact it was the staple of all ancient education, including Greco-Roman education....those who handed on the tradition would not have seen themselves primarily as creators but as preservers and editors.
And as J.P. Holding writes:

Quote:
Rabbis were encouraged to memorize entire books of the OT, indeed the whole OT, and all of Jewish education consisted of rote memory. Students were expected to remember the major events of narratives - although incidentals could be varied, if the main point was not affected.
And the following two quotes from Gregory Boyd:

Quote:
Studies by anthropologists such as Albert B. Lord and Jan Vansina have demonstrated that the transmission of traditions in oral societies follow a generally fixed, if flexible pattern - similar to the type witnessed to in the Gospels themselves. Related to this, comtemporary psycholinguistic studies have served to confirm that the techniques that charactrerized Jesus' oral teaching methods would have made for 'very accurate communication between Jesus and his followers' and would have 'ensured excellent semantic recall.'
Quote:
Here, it is important to recognize the place that ancient Jewish educational practice gave to the memorization of both oral and written tradition...

...Reisner has done a thorough study both of educational practices within the first-century Judaism, as well as the evidence within the Gospels' tradition related to Jesus and his teaching methods. He has concluded - quite apart from a dependency on Rabbinic parallels - that memory of sacred teachings and traditions was a vital part of both Jewish life in general and Jesus' teaching program in particular.
So, not only was mental retention done with accuracy and care in Jesus' time, but the way Jesus taught was also by its very nature, mnemonic. As Stein writes in The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings:

Quote:
He also used mnemonic devices, such as parables, exaggerations, puns, metaphors and similes, proverbs, riddles, and parabolic actions, to aid his disciples and audience in retaining his teachings.
His teachings weren't just boring, regular speech -- they were contained in stories to aid memory, and Jesus' deliberate use of exaggeration such as the "planks in your eye" would have made his teachings far more easy to remember.

There is also a possibility that there was "note-taking" during Jesus' ministry. As Glenn Miller writes:

Quote:
We shall not be able to arrive at definite numbers, but we may assume that there were some thousands of scribes in Jewish Palestine in our period: legal advisors in each locality, people who could draft documents, and legal experts and copyists in the employ of the temple. At the time of Herod, according to Josephus, there were about 6,000 Pharisees. We have seen that there were 18,000 to 20,000 priests and Levites [with scribal skills]
and again:

Quote:
There was an ABUNDANCE of people with scribal skills in 1st century Palestine, many of whom would have heard Jesus speak and some/many of whom became followers of His after such encounters. It is not improbable that these skilled people 'took notes', some of which were probably included in Luke's comment that "MANY had undertaken to put together an account of Jesus life" (Lk 1).
and again:

Quote:
Since Christianity began as a sect WITHIN Judaism, and began experiencing serious exclusion from 'mainstream' Judaism in the early-30's (with the stoning of Stephen and persecution of Saul--Acts 7,8), it is entirely likely that the new community of faith had to do what others before them did--WRITE down the material for use by new converts and by new churches (a la Qumran). And, over time, as the worship services and gatherings were driven 'underground', and the leaders martyred, the need for written materials became increasingly necessary for the preservation of the core of the faith.
So, despite the length and number of the quotes I provided, I think I've made the point I was trying to make (even though it is from a layman's perspective). From the information I have received, the 20-years-ago lecture analogy doesn't seem to be an accurate parallel.

Quote:
Also – there are 107 instances of the use of “word of god” in the Bible and 48 exact phrases – so it seems, even as a Christian you are unaware that your bible speaks often about the word of god coming through men.
Pro 30:5 Every word of God [is] pure: he [is] a shield unto them that put their trust in him
How exactly does that verse show that the Bible is the Word of God?

Quote:
Luk 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
Act 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness
Similarly, this says nothing about the Bible.

Quote:
2Cr 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
What is the "word of God" he refers to in this verse? It can't be the whole Bible, as it was yet to be fully canonised.

But even if the writers of the Bible did refer to the whole Bible as the "Word of God" somehow, I don't see a problem. I said that I believe the Bible was inspired by God, and in that sense, God was "speaking through them". If they make errors, quite clearly, God wasn't speaking through them at that point.

If we look at the words "Word of God", what does that mean? If you're going to criticize my rejection of the insistence that "Word of God" = inerrant dictated transcript from God's mouth, what do you say about John 1:1, referring to Jesus as the "Word"? Surely Jesus wasn't some document -- some special "word" in the regular sense of the term.

Regards,

- Scrutinizer
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