No, Atheists and Skeptics: Christian Faith Is Not a Failed Epistemology

Is faith a failed way of knowing?

I keep hearing from atheists and skeptics that “faith is a failed epistemology.” What they mean is that if religion is something we know by faith, then we don’t know it at all, because there are too many ways to go wrong in knowing “by faith.”

Now, if faith were indeed an epistemology — a way of knowing, in the sense that they’re talking about there — they would be right. It’s a completely unreliable way to “know.” There’s no objective check on what we “know” that way; in fact Th could “know” something “by faith” without any connection to reality at all.

That may be the way some religions work. I think Mormonism is probably an example. It may also be true of some philosophies, or of some religion/philosophy hybrids that operate on some ethereal “spiritual” level.

Christian Knowledge Is Reality-Connected Knowledge

Christianity, on the other hand, is connected to reality. That is, it is either connected to reality (as Christians believe) or if it is not (as atheists and skeptics charge) then it is utterly false. The biblical account of history is just that: an account of things that really happened in space and time; or if not, then there is no truth to Christianity.

In Christianity there is knowledge and then there is faith. I am not speaking of the order of salvation here — the sequence of events in our minds and hearts by which God reveals himself personally to the one who is being saved. God grants faith as a gift (Eph. 2:8-9) which opens the eyes (2 Cor. 4:3-6, 1 Cor 2:14-15) to enable his people to apprehend truths to which we would otherwise be blind.

Faith Rests On Knowledge

That’s one way of looking at the faith-knowledge sequence. It’s a description of God’s initiative in persons’ hearts. But there is another logical sequence that better describes the relation between faith and knowledge. It’s illustrated well in what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:13-14:

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

The quotation is from Psalm 116:10 (actually Psalm 115:1 in the Septuagint version). The logical sequence here is different from the order in which Paul wrote it, so let’s clarify it this way:

  1. Paul knows that God raised Jesus from the dead.
  2. Not written but in the background: Paul knows that Jesus promised resurrection to his followers (John 14:1-8).
  3. Thus he believes that God will raise him and others from the dead.
  4. Because he believes, he speaks.

First there is knowledge. The Tyndale commentary on this passage says, “Paul’s faith is strengthened by the knowledge that the God who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise him along with Jesus.” Paul’s knowledge doesn’t follow his faith, rather his faith follows his knowledge.

Faith Is Trusting In What One Knows

The step Paul takes in #3 is a step of faith. There’s no demonstrable proof that he or his readers will be raised from the dead. His confidence in his future resurrection is based in his trust in Jesus’ promise and in his knowledge that Jesus himself was raised. Thus faith for Paul (and for all biblical Christianity) is a matter of trusting in what one knows. That trust is well placed, given the reality of what Paul knew. It’s a leap, sure, but it’s a sensible one in view of the known facts; a leap from light into light, not a leap into the dark.

It’s a Rational Response

Now it does almost appear that we know certain things by faith. How does Paul know he’ll be resurrected? By connecting the dots between Jesus’ resurrection and his promises, and trusting that the promise will be fulfilled. He might put it this way:

a. I know Jesus was resurrected.
b. I know because of Jesus’ own resurrection that there is power in God to raise me from the dead.
c. I know Jesus promised me resurrection if I follow him.
d. I know Jesus’ character has been shown trustworthy in every observable way.
e. I know enough, therefore, to put high confidence in his promise. My confidence is high enough to call it knowledge.

The jump from (d) to (e) might look like a faith leap — but it isn’t. It’s a rational inference. If (a) through (d) are true, then it’s rational to draw the conclusion (e).

Where then does faith enter in? It’s in (f):

f. Therefore I will choose to trust the One who has been demonstrated trustworthy. 

That’s not a way of knowing; rather, once again, it’s an attitude toward what one knows.

Why So Much Confusion Over This?

More specifically, faith is an attitude of relational trust. I’ve had skeptics tell me that’s not so. They’re simply wrong on that. It’s trust in the Greek, it’s trust in every biblical usage (sometimes with more emphasis on relationship). It’s trust in the lexicons and the dictionaries. It’s trust in every credibly written theology. Biblical, Christian faith has always been relational trust.

Why then do atheists and skeptics say it’s a failed epistemology, or that it’s “believing what we know isn’t true,” or “pretending to know what we can’t know”? I can think of  two possible reasons.

Christian Confusion and “Christian” Confusion

First, some are uninformed or maybe confused. Some Christians are partly to blame for that, since not all believers have thought carefully about the relation between faith and knowledge. That’s to be expected, by the way: not all Christians even care about that relation; they can live out their faith happily enough without thinking about it. (I think they might be stronger in faith if they thought about it more, but I would never say their faith is unreal just because they can’t articulate it this way.)

So they’ll tell people their faith is “how I know God is real,” or some such thing. They just don’t know how to explain it better than that. That doesn’t mean that’s the best or most accurate way to explain it. We don’t derive definitions and explanations from people who haven’t thought much about it.

It’s also the case that some people claiming the “Christian” name, having given it some thought, actually believe faith is “how we know.” This is confusing indeed. My response would be that they’ve got a mistaken view of Christ and the Bible in history. I would place them in the same category as the other religions I mentioned in the third paragraph of this article.

Or, Why So Much Misdirection?

The other reason skeptics and atheists describe faith so wrongly is because they want to make it look bad. It’s a self-serving move on their part. I’m convinced this is the case for the more prominent atheist writers on “faith,” including Dawkins, Coyne, Harris, and Boghossian. They’ve found a way to make faith stupid by definition. They hammer on that definition, hoping to persuade people by mere loud repetition that their view on it carries more authority than Christians’ view — even though Christians are the ones with the intellectual heritage and experience to know.

They try to paint Christianity as stupid and anti-intellectual. They have to ignore all the relevant literature on the subject to do so. Who’s being anti-intellectual?

Eyes That Need Opening

But then there is the blindness of which I spoke earlier. The reality is indisputable: thoughtful informed Christians have never treated faith or thought of it in the way many atheists want to define it. But they treat it as if their definitions were the only correct ones; the only accurate way to describe faith. (Boghossian says so explicitly.)

In other words, their definition of faith is wrong  — obviously wrong. Yet still they press their case, confident as if they had every reason for it. Why won’t they open their eyes?

Faith Is a Reasonable Response to What We Know

Faith is not a way of knowing, but an attitude of confidence regarding what one knows. Often it’s confidence in spite of what one sees; for one can know what one cannot currently see. It’s been described as remaining confident in the dark of what one has seen in the light. Christian faith is not a failed epistemology, it’s a reasonable attitude in response to what we can know to be true.

Image Credit(s): DariuszSankowski.

Comments

  1. BillT

    The question that comes to mind for me in this kind of discussion is this: If atheists believe that “faith is a failed epistemology” how do they deal with all the instances of faith in their own lives? To begin with their atheism is a faith position. And that’s not to mention the dozens of everyday things we take on faith like the reliability of the brakes on our cars. It always seems like special pleading. In other words, faith is a bad thing if you use it to believe in Christianity. Otherwise, it’s all good.

  2. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Boghossian has an easy answer to your question: “Faith” only happens in religion. Everywhere else you use the word “faith” you’re misusing it; you should use another word instead.

    You said something about special pleading. Indeed, indeed, indeed. How special can you get?

  3. Craig P. Hurst

    I totally forgot about Boghossian! I remember when videos of his stuff first came out. I could not believe what he was saying. He tried to take over the language so he could redefine it and then show why religious people are (literally) mentally sick. I couldn’t believe people took him seriously.

  4. barry

    “Now, if faith were indeed an epistemology — a way of knowing, in the sense that they’re talking about there — they would be right. It’s a completely unreliable way to “know.” There’s no objective check on what we “know” that way; in fact Th could “know” something “by faith” without any connection to reality at all.”
    ———-Then you are disagreeing with your own bible. The bible makes it pretty explicit that you don’t just know Christ by faith, but that faith IS evidence. Hebrews 11:1. The degree of hope that achieves your salvation, is the type of hope taht cannot be seen (Romans 8:24). When you say knowing something by faith is “completely unreliable”, you disagree with Jesus who placed a blessing on blind faith, John 20:29).

    “The biblical account of history is just that: an account of things that really happened in space and time; or if not, then there is no truth to Christianity.”
    ———-But some of the most prominent apologists for the resurrection assert that some of the stuff in John’s gospel, despite being presented as no less literal history than the events in their immediate context, are nevertheless something other than literal history. Surely you know about Licona and the zombie resurrection of Matthew 27:52?

    “Often it’s confidence in spite of what one sees; for one can know what one cannot currently see.”
    ——–Mormons maintain confidence in the historicity of the BOM despite their constantly seeing evidence against same. So under your definition, Mormons can be justified to have confidence in spite of what they see.

  5. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Barry, part of taking a thoughtful approach is knowing what one is talking about. I hate to be blunt, but I don’t think you’ve taken the time for that. You’re demonstrating too much confidence considering how little you seem to have considered what the Bible is really saying in those places.

    Hebrews 11:1 is not a definition of faith but rather a short introductory remark heading a long passage describing how faith operates in the lives of those who have it. (Read the context if you want to know what any sentence means in any literature.) Any literate reading of the passage would recognize it’s saying that, in shorthand form of course.

    Romans 8:24 is about hope, not faith. That’s pretty easy to see. (Ironic, considered what you try to say about it.)

    John 20:29 is not a blessing of blind faith. (Context again.)

    I’m not only well aware of the Licona debate, I’ve had several long conversations with Mike about it. Thanks for asking.

    Now, what was your point? Oh, yes, I think I know. You think that since he thinks one single short snatch of one account in the Bible, on which no other doctrine or belief depends in any way, might have a non-literal interpretation, therefore there’s something wrong with the whole entire theory that the Bible’s events happened in literal space and time.

    But then,… then,… then, … oh, shoot, I thought I knew what point you were trying to make, but I can’t find one in there. I mean, if you think that conclusion follows from that premise, the short answer is no, it doesn’t.

    (And I can’t make heads nor tails out of your reference to “some of the stuff in John’s gospel.” Which stuff?)

    Mormons maintain confidence in the historicity of the BOM despite their constantly seeing evidence against same. So under your definition, Mormons can be justified to have confidence in spite of what they see.

    Really? Which definition are you referring to now? I hope you didn’t think the part you quoted just prior to that was a complete definition! My goodness.

  6. Skep

    I keep hearing from atheists and skeptics that “faith is a failed epistemology.”

    Perhaps you should talk to smarter atheists and skeptics instead of professional provocateurs like Boghossian.

  7. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    If the rest of the world weren’t listening to the provocateurs I wouldn’t think it necessary to respond to them.

    I’m not saying this error is typical of thoughtful atheism. I’m just saying it’s out there in the world of atheism — which it is.

  8. barry

    Tom, definitions are usually implied with the word “is”. For example, “a car is an automobile”, “Mary is my aunt”, “Jesus is the Christ”, show that “is” qualifies as introducing a synonym or equal that functions as a definition. You have excellent reason to avoid explaining why you never teach that faith IS the substance, as Hebrews 11:1 clearly says it is.

    I can know that this grammatical argument is true because the context makes it perfectly clear that, despite the fact that faith is other things too and might occur in contexts where some corroborative evidence is present, it is also in certain verses talking about believing in propositions for which there is no external corroborative evidence beyond a mere promise, or the faith itself. Those admissions are as follows:

    3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Heb. 11:3 NAU)
    ——–Back in the first century, Christians did not have any science telling them that the visible universe was made by invisible things, but as the author says, they knew it because the “word of God” said so.

    in v. 4, it is by faith that we still hear Abel speaking, despite the fact that he is dead. That is certainly a case of BLIND faith. You may say that stuff was recorded in Genesis, but most of the Hebrews the author wrote Hebrews to were illiterate…so they did not read the words themselves in Genesis, they only knew what Able did by reason of some other Christian reading it to them, and if you are illiterate, than you are forced to trust that the quote that is read out to you, is accurate.

    in v. 7, Noah is warned by God about things unseen, but acts in faith anyway, the Genesis-context neither indicating how Noah detected God’s purpose, or whether God gave Noah any signs to confirm Noah’s faith during construction of the Ark.
    Feel free to insist it was the still small voice…but recognize that I’ll worry as much about that as you worry about the still small voice that Mormons hear.

    in v. 8, Abraham proceeded to take God’s promise on faith, and trekked out on a journey not knowing where his destination would be.

    in v. 11, Sarah would have had no basis for her faith in her ability to conceive at such old age, except that God made a promise to her. The issue is not whether God’s word is sufficient to put trust in, but rather that putting trust in something that is not corroborative evidence, but is mere talk, qualifies as a faith that more blind and less seeing. And Sarah’s laughing about the promise indicates she did not view the promise of God as perfectly sufficient corroborative evidence, but eventually chose to “just believe it” anyway, which further shows the blindness of it.

    in v. 13, all these died in faith without receiving the promises. If a contractor promises you X, and you don’t receive X, but you still have faith that he will deliver, that is a blind or nearly blind faith. The fact that the Hebrews author has to say these people saw the promises from a distance further supports the blindness interpretation, since how could they have “seen” these promises? Answer: God gave them a mental vision…and we are back at religious mysticism, where only apologists think a mental vision constitutes external corroboration of the thing the believer is having faith in.

    v. 17, exactly how blind do you suppose the faith must be, to obey a voice coming from uncertain spatial dimension, telling you to sacrifice your son to the owner of the voice? Or maybe there’s a textual variant that says Abe actually didn’t believe this was God until he thoroughly reviewed Evidence That Demands A Verdict?

    in v. 19, Abe believed God could resurrect Isaac, but we have no record of Abe even considering the possibility of resurrection before that point, so if Abe believed God could resurrect Isaac, that too was more a situation of blind faith and less a situation of putting confidence in a proposition that came with external corroborating evidence.

    Yes, not all the examples of faith in Hebrews 11 were equally bereft of corroborating external evidence, but that doesn’t put corroborating external evidence into those other verses which I’ve dealt with above. The bible teaches faith can still be legitimate even if it has no evidential foundation. Don’t believe me? Where is the external corroborating evidence for your faith that the John of Revelation really did have a vision of Jesus?

    So it should be obvious why you never find Christian apologists saying “faith IS the substance of things hoped for.” You do not believe faith is the substance, you think faith is trust IN the substance of something that resides outside your brain, such as external evidence corroborating the faith. Well the bible disagrees with you. Faith IS the substance. Faith IS the evidence of things not seen, and the examples given by the Hebrews author show that faith qualifies as blind trust even if it also can qualify as trust in evidence.

    If your distinction between faith and hope be admitted, then apparently faith alone is not sufficient to be justified before God. After all, faith is not hope. Hope is something else, and yet Paul says that something else is what saves you. I think it best for you to just cease the ridiculous trifling distinction and admit that at the end of the day, putting faith in Christ and putting hope in Christ, are no more distinguishable than “drinking water/drinking h20”. Just because the words are different, doesn’t mean the definition is different. That’s the whole point of “synonyms”.

    In John 20:29, there is no evidence in the context that Jesus was blessing other Christians on the basis of evidence other than the concrete type he gave for Thomas. And indeed, in the first century, without assuming Jesus did a miracle for every unbeliever preached to, there would have been plenty of unbelievers who were preached to but given no evidence of the resurrection of Jesus beyond the word of the disciples. Or maybe you think Bill Graham style evangelism, whereby there’s not much more than a guilty conscience to give rise to faith, is unbiblical?

    Concerning Licona, no, I do not think “therefore there’s something wrong with the whole entire theory that the Bible’s events happened in literal space and time.”
    Instead I think that you open a door to other parts of John’s gospel being non-literal despite looking from the context as if they are literal. Licona also thinks other statements in John are not literal even though that theory would never present itself to the average bible reader, such as his reconciling the contradiction between Mark and John on the passion narrative by saying John has “artistically adapted” things. Then Licona provides the secular example of Sallust presenting speeches in contexts they did not originally occur in, or post-dating events to be later than they actually started, as Licona’s example to support his view that John was not alone in his artistic adaption, which makes it perfectly certain that Licona believes some things that John presents as normal history, actually aren’t.

    I do not think a blog is a place to do proper justice to a debate between an atheist and Christian, but the blog was sufficient for me to make some of my views known to you. I am willing to have a formal written debate with you on any biblical subject of your choosing, at any forum of your choosing. Most mature adults would agree that bible subjects are sufficiently complex and involved that you simply cannot bring your full arsenal to bear through a “blog”.

  9. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Barry, come on.

    Tom, definitions are usually implied with the word “is”. For example, “a car is an automobile”, “Mary is my aunt”, “Jesus is the Christ”, show that “is” qualifies as introducing a synonym or equal that functions as a definition.

    “A car is fast.” “Mary is pregnant.” “Jesus is the first name of a former colleague of mine.”

    You must, must, must know that the word “is” doesn’t always function to signal a definition!

    Yes, there are instances in Hebrews 11 where there is no external corroborative information. There are also instances where corroboration is given. The only rational conclusion to draw from this is that writer does not consider faith to be defined as knowledge obtained without corroboration. The word faith might include instances of that sort — and if you think God is unable to communicate knowledge without corroboration, you’re begging another question — but it does not necessarily mean knowledge without corroborating evidence.

    This is not complicated.

    v. 17, exactly how blind do you suppose the faith must be, to obey a voice coming from uncertain spatial dimension, telling you to sacrifice your son to the owner of the voice? Or maybe there’s a textual variant that says Abe actually didn’t believe this was God until he thoroughly reviewed Evidence That Demands A Verdict?

    Exactly what is your conception of God that excludes him from being able to communicate knowledge directly and immediately, on those occasions when he might desire to do so?

    The information (instruction) Abraham had in that case was not evidentially confirmed. Fine. That’s a statement about knowledge, not about faith. By faith Abraham accepted the authority and trustworthiness of the information that he had received from God, that there was a mission for him to undertake out of Ur and again with his son, and therefore by faith he obeyed.

    You see, you’re still conflating knowledge with faith — the attitudinal response to knowledge. If you want to question the source of Abraham’s knowledge, then question it, but don’t get confuse that with questioning his attitudinal response to that knowledge.

    There’s nothing in the text that says these Old Testament characters knew anything by faith. They knew by whatever means they knew, and then by faith they responded. You might question the source of their knowledge. You might doubt the source of their knowledge. But if you do, you’re questioning knowledge, not faith. You might assume that they are the same but that would be begging the question. You can’t use this text to demonstrate that they “knew by faith” without demonstrating where it says that they knew by faith.

    The only possible exception to what I just said is where it says something about them understanding about creation by faith. But there are some fascinating things going on behind the scenes there with respect to the differences between Genesis and all other ancient cosmogonies, so I’m not even sure of that one. (The one about Abel “speaking” is pretty much figurative language.)

    If your distinction between faith and hope be admitted, then apparently faith alone is not sufficient to be justified before God. After all, faith is not hope.

    Faith is not hope. Dass kennt jeder Esel. Faith is faith, an attitude of trust in response to what one knows. (Or — to be completely thorough — toward who one knows, or even to what or whom one thinks one knows.) That trust might include hope, but it is not synonymous with it.

    Paul says we are saved in hope, not by it. So you can’t make the equation you wanted to make there anyway.

    In John 20:29, there is no evidence in the context that Jesus was blessing other Christians on the basis of evidence other than the concrete type he gave for Thomas

    I think you failed to read the link I sent you. Your response certainly doesn’t make any reference to what I said there.

    Instead I think that you open a door to other parts of John’s gospel being non-literal despite looking from the context as if they are literal.

    Funny, Mike’s issue was in the gospel of Matthew. That’s twice you’ve said that now.

    But of course the door is always open to examine whether a passage is intended to be taken as literal. This is not news either. (Ich sage wieder, dass kennt jeder Esel.)

    Your offer of a formal debate might be interesting, but I have no idea who you are. I cannot respond to a debate request from an anonymous commenter. (Nor do I promise to agree to a debate with someone who thinks that “is” “qualifies as introducing a synonym or equal that functions as a definition.”)

  10. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    ……were equally bereft of corroborating external evidence….

    Regarding cosmogonies, your premise seems to turn on the untenable claim that physics *is* ontology, that cosmology *is* ontology, or that either physics or cosmology in fact are – or in fact in principle can be – explanatory.

    The Non-Theist’s entire cosmogony is bereft of corroborating external evidence and, even more painful, he is forced to trade away all hope of an ultimate self-explanatory principle and for that he is forced to embrace nothing less than sheer brute fact – forcing the inexplicable not *only* at reality’s fundamental “layer” but in fact at *all* layers.

    “This is arguably the besetting mistake of all naturalist thinking, as it happens, in practically every sphere. In this context, the assumption at work is that if one could only reduce one’s picture of the original physical conditions of reality to the barest imaginable elements — say, the “quantum foam” and a handful of laws like the law of gravity, which all looks rather nothing-ish (relatively speaking) — then one will have succeeded in getting as near to nothing as makes no difference. In fact, one will be starting no nearer to nonbeing than if one were to begin with an infinitely realized multiverse: the difference from non-being remains infinite in either case. All quantum states are states within an existing quantum system, and all the laws governing that system merely describe its regularities and constraints. Any quantum fluctuation therein that produces, say, a universe is a new state within that system, but not a sudden emergence of reality from nonbeing. Cosmology simply cannot become ontology. The only intellectually consistent course for the metaphysical naturalist is to say that physical reality “just is” and then to leave off there, accepting that this “just is” remains a truth entirely in excess of all physical properties and causes: the single ineradicable “super-natural” fact within which all natural facts are forever contained, but about which we ought not to let ourselves think too much.” End quote. (by D.B. Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss)

    As for brute fact and the inexplicable (on the one hand, given Non-Theism) and an ultimate self-explanatory principle (on the other hand, given the proper understanding of the term *GOD*), it’s painfully obvious that conflating cosmology for ontology – conflating physics for the explanatory – only reveals unawareness. Neither physics nor cosmology suffice for ontology as “Being Itself” presses in such that the ontological history of becoming with respect to the cosmos just is inexplicable brute fact and a painful reductio ad absurdum (if Non-Theism) or else that same ontological history of becoming just is nothing less than the peculiar content given to the world through the ancient Hebrew. It’s uncanny. The physical sciences, while coherent with Scripture’s various explanatory termini, remain fundamentally incoherent with the Non-Theist’s untenable claims upon the explanatory.

    One of the better Non-Theistic attempts has been by Sean Carroll and his “The Big Picture”. Of course, at some ontological seam somewhere his syntax trades away the explanatory for something painfully akin to the absurdity of “useful but not true“.

  11. scbrownlhrm

    Easy, simple, except for agendas:

    Faith is not knowledge acquisition but an attitudinal response to knowledge.

    Knowing my wife, I trust her. Even when she’s leading me (with my eyes closed) to our wedding anniversary celebration surprise.

  12. BillT

    29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    Barry,

    I believe you are missing something in your analysis of this verse. Jesus’ words to Thomas here contrast Thomas to others who, at that time, had believed without seeing him. The others who did so didn’t believe by faith alone. “Seeing” wasn’t the only evidence available to them. They had other evidence of his resurrection. First, they knew him. They knew of his miracles, they knew of his prophecies, they knew who he said he was . Second, they had the testimony of those who did see him. Christ praises those who exhibited faith. Faith as a response to their knowledge of him and of knowledge they had received.

  13. Roger

    Interesting article. I didn’t readily see anyone taking credit for this article, so I’m not sure who is the author. I don’t know who comments get directed to. Obviously, I’m new to the Thinking Christian website. Also the language in these articles are rather philosophical and seem to be above my grade level (and the grade level that the Bible is written in), so bear with this average pew sitter’s common sense approach.

    I can appreciate the idea that faith rests upon knowledge and is a matter of trusting in what one knows. I guess my problem comes with what one knows. You are saying that knowledge is the foundation upon which Christian faith is built. Is this knowledge, then, fact based? I guess so, because you say, “Christian knowledge is reality-connected knowledge. It is objective truth that Christians believe rather than subjective truth. Is that the same as saying that the Christian faith or religion is objective truth? I hope I’m not reading to much into your article, but it would seem that ‘faith’ is that which connects the Christian personally to the objective reality (or realities) of the Christian faith (religion), making a person a Christian believer.

    So far, I think I’m with you, or at least understand you. But like I said before, my problem comes with what one knows or believes, because Christians all believe or know differently. There are literally thousands of different Christian denominations and groupings. And the knowledge base (what each claims to know) for these different groups is different. Whose knowledge base am I to believe? They all claim the Bible as their authority and all have their Phd experts explaining their own correct interpretation of the Bible.

    For instance, Jesus said of the bread and wine at the last supper, “this is my body and blood…” Roman Catholics take this literally believing in transubstantiation. The bread and wine actually become the real body and blood of Jesus. Catholics have no problem with this because they believe in miracles and miracles defy logic. The changing of bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood does not have to make logical sense or even scientific sense because the change in the elements is miraculous. Jesus very simply said, this is my body and blood. That is the knowledge base, the objective reality, that Christ spoke of. Jesus said it, therefore Catholic Christians believe it. Knowledge precedes faith.

    Most Protestants (not all) believe either that Jesus is spiritually present in the Lord’s Supper or that the elements merely represent Christ’s sacrifice. But certainly not an actual literal sense of being in the Lord’s Supper or mass. Logic, reason, science, dictate that there is no physical presence of Jesus at the mass. But yet Jesus did say, this is my body and blood. Don’t Protestants believe in miracles? Don’t they believe what Jesus said? Whose objective reality am I to believe as a Christian?

    Another example (of differences in objective Christian reality) could be how we understand the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the Christian’s life. The Pentecostal understands the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of the Christian in a very literal way. The evidence of that actual indwelling is the speaking in tongues. This heavenly language is not the doing of the individual but the Holy Spirit who indwells the Christian. Such language is not the individual’s language but God’s who actually indwells the Christian. Therefore it makes sense for the Pentecostal to say, God or the Holy Spirit told me such and such. Or tongues when spoken in a worship service can be interpreted as actual instructions coming from God to the congregation. Other Christians (Protestants and Catholics) don’t like such talk, or buy into tongues because they see the Holy Spirit’s influence differently, as rather the influence of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures. Of course the Pentecostal takes a more literal approach to the Scriptures that speak of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer. But now buying into the idea that knowledge is the objective reality for faith to build upon, which objective reality is a Christian to buy into? In this case it could make a very big difference in how a Christian will live his/her life.

    These two examples barely touch on the many, many differences between the objective realities that Christians claim as a foundation for Christian faith. Some of the differences even go to the core teachings of the Christian religion. Are the vast differences between Christians and Christian groupings, are they all objective reality or are they subjective? Certainly to the one believing (whichever reality he/she trusts in) it will be claimed to be objective truth.
    Do you see the problem with your claim for faith being formed upon knowledge, objective-based knowledge?

    Also recognize that Christians claim the tenets of the Christian religion (whatever they may be) are objectively true based on the authority of Scripture, which is God inspired and therefore beyond doubt. But of course, that is the same claim that all religions make for their own religions. The angel, Gabriel, dictated the words of God to Mohammed, making the Koran absolutely true. The angel Moroni gave the twelve golden plates to Joseph Smith that became the substance of the book of Mormon, making it the correct and true interpretation of the Bible. But Christians will claim only Christianity is true and all other religions false, even as all other religions claim their religion to be true and Christianity false.

    Christians claim that these other religions (and there are many) are illogical and make little sense. These other religions say the same about Christianity. Christians claim that God is a three person being, that one of these persons, Christ, came down from heaven to earth, took on a human nature, while at the same time retaining his divine nature, being born as a baby, living a perfect sinless life, was crucified, died, and was buried, (some saying he descended into hell), that he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven where he sits at God’s right hand and reigns over earth, and eventually but certainly will return to earth and destroy all evil and will reign for eternity. Christians who believe all this will reign with Christ. And those not believing this knowledged based objective reality will be sentenced to hell for eternity. Christians claiming the illogicality of other religions makes little sense when Christianity’s own tenets make no more sense to the normal mind, or to anyone outside of the Christian religion.

    So, the problem for me with what you suggest about Christianity not being a failed epistemology, is the knowledge base that you start with. I still don’t see the connection to reality, or even know what that reality is suppose to be. Nice chatting. Thanks for the opportunity.

  14. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Quick response — thanks for the comment, Roger, and I’m sorry if my identity is hard to discern here. I’m the sole author, and your best hint of that is in the web page header where it says “Thinking Christian by Tom Gilson.”

    That’s all I got as far as reading in your comment. I thought I should answer that much right away. Otherwise I’m actually in the middle of something else and won’t be able to get to the rest for a while.

  15. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    You’re well written and (therefore) fun to read.

    Christians claim the tenets of the Christian religion (whatever they may be) are objectively true based on the authority of Scripture….

    That is one of several false claims you made and it is perhaps in large part one of the reasons that the premises and claims you touched on were not recognizable to me as a long time Christian. Perhaps the religion you were addressing was some other religion, or something.

    You have to start with [1] reality and [2] reason and [3] logic and [4] love. It’s not clear what you were driving at with respect to those four arenas, but (perhaps) another large slice of why the premises and claims you were addressing must have been a T.O.E / Religion other than the Christian’s metaphysical landscape is because you didn’t fully embrace and include those four elemental substrata within your analysis.

  16. BillT

    Roger,

    You ask some good questions. You’ve covered a lot of ground here so let me try to get this down to a manageable discussion. One of things that strike me is that you seem to be confusing the objective realities upon which we base our faith and theological differences we have in understanding the details of that faith. First, the objective realities that form the basis of our faith are the deity of Christ, his life, death and resurrection. This is at least a starting point.

    In these facts, Christianity is different than other faiths because we rely on the truth of those facts to form the basis of our faith. In contrast to, let’s say, Islam where the reality of even Mohammed himself isn’t absolutely critical to the faith. Islam is about the wisdom written in the Koran. It really doesn’t matter who wrote it as long as it accurately describes God’s will and wisdom. So, when we speak about objective realities in Christianity we do that in contrast to faiths whose basis is different than that. As Paul stated in the NT, ‘if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” It’s a unique claim to a faith based on a specific objective reality.

    Perhaps I should stop here and let you respond if you so choose.

  17. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Thanks for the good comment, Roger. I agree with scrownlhrm’s word to you on your writing. And I probably ought to just stay out of his and BillT’s way, but I think I should chime in anyway.

    There is a core set of historical events all Christians have agreed on for millennia, and a core set of beliefs that flow out of them. We agree on the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed (both versions, although see further here; a question few of us consider important enough to divide fellowship today).

    Tongues and Transubstantiation are important in many ways but neither one of them defines Christianity. The same could be said for many things. Some questions are easier than others and have more well-defined answers. I don’t think you should expect it to be otherwise. God did not reveal himself in the form of a systematic theology, but rather relationally.

    Are tongues an objective reality? You literally don’t need to know in order to decide whether to follow the living Jesus Christ. That’s not because it’s unimportant but because it’s far from the core, the center, of the knowledge base for Christians.

    If you want to know the core, my best version of it is in the series linked at the top of the page, “Turning Points.”

    All book-based religions claim their holy books are authoritative, sure. We all agree with you on that. Only one of them, though, is closely tied to history in such a way that its reporting can be checked on. That’s one reason I choose the Bible; there are others.

    You say, and to a great degree I agree:

    Christians claiming the illogicality of other religions makes little sense when Christianity’s own tenets make no more sense to the normal mind, or to anyone outside of the Christian religion.

    I am quite sure there’s a lot about Christianity that strikes the 21st century scientific secularist (whom I take you would describe as “the normal mind”) as making little sense. Unfortunately there’s even more about 21st secularism that makes no sense to my mind, which I would hope is not too abnormal.

  18. Roger

    Thanks for the responses. To scbrown, I’m surprised you didn’t recognize the religion I was describing as being that of Christianity. I pretty much described Christianity according to the tenets of the Apostles’ Creed, in regard to Christ. That should have been pretty identifiable. I’m pretty sure we are talking about the same Christianity. At any rate I am talking about Christianity as summarized by the Apostles Creed. If I’m off track there, you can let me know. You claim that I made a false claim when I said, Christians claim the tenets of the Christian religion are objectively true based on the authority of Scripture. For the Christian, the Scriptures, are considered the word of God, so I would imagine that the tenets of the Christian religion could be said to be based on God’s authoritative word (or even his self-revelation). I’m not sure where it is you are trying to fault me here, or why you think I’m talking about some other religion. The Heidelberg Catechism, a sixteenth century confession of the church, describes faith this way, “true faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his word is true, it is also a deep rooted assurance created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel that out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ…” So is it a false claim (as you suggest) for Christians to claim the tenets of Christianity are objectively true based on the authority of Scripture? You’ll have to help me here.

    Next, you tell me, I have to start with (1) reality and (2) reason and (3) logic and (4) love. I have no idea what you are driving at here. Are you saying I have to start with these four things to arrive at faith? Is this part of your gospel presentation? I was only questioning or doubting Tom’s assertion that faith is preceded by an objective knowledge. I was questioning what knowledge that might be because in the many branches of Christianity the fundamentals of Christianity change from group to group.

    Thanks Bill for your comments. I hear the distinction you are making between the objective realities of the Christian religion and the theological differences. I don’t know that I agree with you though. You describe the objective reality for the Christian faith as being the deity of Christ, his life, death and resurrection. That might be the core of the gospel but the Christian faith or religion is so much more. If Christianity was no more than that it wouldn’t take 66 books to explain it. Just picking up on Tom’s latest comment, he seems to be making the same point as you.

    Maybe I should have picked something other than the nature of Christ’s presence at the Lord’s Supper or the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life to show that there is little uniformity among Christian groups and denominstions. Maybe I should have dealt with the subject of sacraments and how they contribute to salvation. Certainly the sacraments pertain more particularly to one’s relationship to God. Does baptism (water baptism) remove original sin (Adam’s sin) from a person’s life? Whether you believe it or not this is believed by Catholic Christians and is believed to be true because of a Catholic interpretation of Scripture’s teaching on baptism. Or how many sacraments are there and how do they contribute to the Christian’s forgiveness of sin and acceptance by God? This seems to be more than simply theological differences. Or how do Christians understand the creation/origin of our world? Is God’s creation a miraculous six day creation or a millions, even billions of years process that involves the evolution of life? Is the creation account of Genesis merely a primitive explanation of what earlier civilizations of humanity didn’t understand about their world and the existence of life on earth? Or is the creation account of Genesis, including the creation of humanity, an allegorical story that is merely a figurative treatment of early history? Or is Genesis a factual objective accounting of origins? Are Adam and Eve historical characters or allegorical? And what does that say about Christ’s sacrifice? Or we could talk about the fall of Adam and how that impacted the rest of the human race. I think this has more to do with the objective realities of the Christian faith. What is the nature and extent of the fall? Is this simply a theological difference between Christians? There are differences of opinion/interpretation in regard to the fall among those claiming to be Christians. What about salvation in Christ? Karl Barth, the Swiss theologian, interpreted Scripture to teach a universal salvation in Christ. Many Christians have preceded and followed this teaching. Others have interpreted Scripture to teach a limited atonement and salvation, limited to only those sovereignly chosen by God. Other Christians believe an individual can contribute to salvation by freely choosing God’s general offer of salvation. But then is salvation by grace alone? Or if as Paul teaches, God credits all people with Adam’s sin isn’t it to God’s credit/fault that all people come into the world as sinners and therefore are condemned eternally? And if God credits, not only Adam’s sin but Adam’s sinful nature to all people even before birth, then how can people not help but to sin? Isn’t that sinful nature and tendency to sin God’s doing, rather than humanity’s? How can God hold people accountable for sin when in effect he makes them sinners? Of course this has to do with the idea of double predestination (supralapsarianism), another Christian teaching depending on one’s interpretation of portions of the book of Romans and other Bible passages. This double predestination is held to by some Christian groups. Of course this does speak to the character of God, making him much more sinister than other Christians might paint him. And is the teaching of hell just a theological difference between Christians which has nothing to do with the core teachings of Scripture and Christianity? Also the nature of the Trinity has been understood differently among Christians down through the course of history and still is to this day by groups looking to the Bible for what it means that God is triune. Of course the Bible doesn’t teach the Trinity explicitly but is inferred and therefor subject to differing interpretations.

    I apologize for going on and on. Of course we could go on further. The point I’m making is that Christians can make the Bible say whatever they want it to say and in fact do that. And this includes the so called core teachings of Christianity. If as the Heidelberg Catechism says, “true faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his word is true…,” then certainly the Christian faith takes in much more than what Bill suggests (his four core teachings). The problem is the huge variety and contradictory nature of what Christians believe the Bible teaches. Are all these teachings really objective really? Of course they can’t be, which seems to me to put a big hole in Tom’s initial premise about Christian faith being preceded by objective realities. I apologize for this lengthy response.

  19. Bob in Maryland

    It is not the place for persons who have no ear for music, who neither produce nor enjoy any melody, to imperiously declare to those who do just what it is they are listening to. In like manner, unless you are yourself a lawyer (or at the least, professionally trained in the law), you have no business whatsoever insisting that your personal idiosyncratic understanding of a legal term is the one and only correct definition. Also, I cannot go to my doctor and tell him that what he calls diabetes is really hypothermia, just because I say so.

    Yet we all too often see people (such as Boghossian), who shamelessly admit their own lack of faith, nevertheless claiming that it is they, and not (in fact, especially not) the faithful, who have the sole right to define what the term means. So we get nonsensical definitions along the lines of “Faith is belief without evidence, or even in the face of evidence.” Others will insist that we must all abide by the third-listed definition as taken from one or another dictionary.

    So if we are serious about understanding what faith truly means, we ought to turn to those who claim to possess it in order to discover how the term is actually used in the Real World. Let’s start with Saint Paul. In his magnum opus on the subject, the Letter to the Romans, Paul defines faith as “believing with one’s heart” (Romans 10:10). Note that he does not say that faith is the means by which one arrives at his beliefs, but rather how one believes once he has arrived. In the same way, the author of Hebrews lists numerous examples from sacred history of people of faith. But how does he do this? Significantly, like Paul he is not concerned with the manner of their learning something, but rather with their actions after they learn. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called.” “By faith Moses chose to share ill treatment with the people of God.” “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land.” Etc., etc., etc.

    Christ Himself on the night before His crucifixion said to Peter, “I have prayed that your faith not fail.” (Luke 22:32) Do you think that He meant Peter was about to stop believing something? Of course not! He was referring to Peter’s actions on the next day – how he would sadly deny knowing Jesus no less than three times. And so Christ continues, “When you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” In other words, He was telling Peter how to act (by faith) upon what he already believed.

    When the New Testament authors do speak of arriving at knowledge, they do not even mention faith, but rather speak loudly and clearly in favor of “going by the evidence”:

    “We did not follow cleverly devised myths … but we were eyewitnesses.” (2 Peter 1:16)

    “That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands … we saw it and testify to it.” (1 John 1:1-2)

    (And many other places.)

    I might close with three final quotations – the first from George MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons. Here the author describes what faith is: “Faith is that which, knowing the Lord’s will, goes and does it.” Note that faith is subsequent to knowing, and not the means by which one knows.

    The other two are from John Henry Newman’s wonderful Fifteen Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford between A.D. 1826-1843. In one passage, Newman is describing not what faith is, but what it isn’t: “It is our wisdom to take things as we find them … [and] not to attempt a theory where we must reason without data … much less, to mistake it for a fact.” Hmm… Does not sound at all like ignoring the evidence, does it?

    In our last quotation, Newman defines what faith is: “The distinguishing virtue of Abraham, Moses, and David was their faith; by which I mean an implicit reliance in God’s command and promise, and a zeal for His honour; a surrender and devotion of themselves, and all they had, to Him.” Once again, what does this have to do with how one learns or knows anything?

    So now, whom should we trust when it comes to defining faith? Those who possess it, and therefore have firsthand knowledge as to what it is and what it isn’t? Or those (like Loftus and company) who admit up front that they haven’t a clue as to what they are talking about?

    BOTTOM LINE: Despite attempts by atheists to re-define the term to suit their purposes, faith is most emphatically NOT a means of obtaining knowledge, but rather a manner in acting upon what you do know by other means (which is precisely why it is listed amongst the Virtues). This how the Apostles understood the term, how the New Testament describes it, how the Early Church Fathers preached it, how the great theologians down through the generations defined it, and how believers to this day use it.

    Faith. It’s our word and our definition. It belongs to us, and we need to debunk (oh, what a useful word!) any and all attempts to hijack it for whatever purposes.

    Now it’s probably inevitable that someone will counter to this with the oft-quoted verse from Hebrews: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Is that not, they insist, a contradiction of all that I presented above? The clearest answer I can give to this protest is a firm “No, it is all of a piece.”

    Let us examine exactly what the author of Hebrews is saying here. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for”, he writes. And what exactly do Christians hope for? The kingdom of Heaven! And what precisely would be the substance of that Kingdom? Nothing less than the lives of the faithful. So by acting (in faith) in accordance with the Gospel (knowledge of which we will have come to by other means), we realize (i.e., make real) the Kingdom – we bring about its substance.

    As for the second half of the quotation (“evidence of things not seen”), the meaning is clear. We do not see the Kingdom as a living reality at present. But by acting as citizens of the same, we provide evidence to the world of its existence. This is the exact same principle as in the physical sciences. No one has seen an atom. Yet libraries could be filled with the evidence for the existence of such, i.e., “evidence of things not seen”. In like manner, the lives of the saints, the works of the faithful, the hospitals, charities, universities, works of mercy, the unrecorded witness of innumerable Christians in their daily existence, are all evidence of the Kingdom.

  20. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    ….. At any rate I am talking about Christianity as summarized by the Apostles Creed….

    Since you employed such wide and undiscerning brushstrokes you managed to make the obvious mistake of asserting that Scripture void of reason and evidence is the final authority. In fact, I don’t know of anyone who believes X “…because it’s in the bible….”. There’s a reason for starting with reality, reason, logic, and love and then following them to their bitter ends while [1] avoiding reductions to absurdity and [2] satisfying reason’s demands for lucidity. In a sense natural theology is one form of many there.

    Faith is the attitudinal response to truth. As per Tom etc. Discovering truth entails the entirety of reality and if you mean to assert that God reveals Himself *only* through chapter/verse then you are not interfacing with the Christian paradigm.

    ….. I’m not sure where it is you are trying to fault me here….

    See the above reply.

    …. Is it a false claim (as you suggest) for Christians to claim the tenets of Christianity are objectively true based on the authority of Scripture? You’ll have to help me here….

    How did I suggest that? Scripture is valid/true. But so is all of reality. See? It’s a problem you replay yet *again* right there in how you read what I wrote. The tenant you list (“-Cause-da-bible”) is divorced from the rest of reality and so it is not a tenant. You forgot about employing reality, reason, logic, and love. It’s your divorcing of “X” and leaving said X as a box floating in midair that is getting you into all sorts of trouble. A large part of what you stated boils down to “Different people claim different things! Therefore all claims are false!” That’s divorced from reality, reason, logic, and love. Conflating [A] peoples actions and truth claims for [b] the coherence of their worldview or exegeses or truth claims is an intellectual habit that is divorced from reality, reason, logic, and love. Scripture tells us to value truth. Truth includes reality, reason, logic, and love. As such, I do not recognize most of what you’ve been saying.

    ….Next, you tell me, I have to start with (1) reality and (2) reason and (3) logic and (4) love. I have no idea what you are driving at here. Are you saying I have to start with these four things to arrive at faith?

    No. You have to start there to arrive at truth. At knowledge. Faith is what you do with what you discover.

    ….many branches of Christianity the fundamentals of Christianity change from group to group….

    See the earlier comment about “Different people claim different things! Therefore all claims are false!” That’s divorced from reality, reason, logic, and love. Conflating [A] peoples actions and truth claims for [b] the coherence of their worldview or exegeses or truth claims is an intellectual habit that is divorced from reality, reason, logic, and love. Scripture tells us to value truth. Scripture tells us to value truth. Truth includes reality, reason, logic, and love. As such, I do not recognize most of what you’ve been saying.

    …. sacraments…baptism…

    What saves is Christ – as in All-Sufficiency Himself (God). Insufficiency just won’t do. You’re pointing to discussions about pipes and aqueducts – not to the Living Water. See? You take things and divorce them from reason, logic, reality, and love and you make these boxes which just float out there in midair – unattached from everything. Your own biases and presuppositions and uninformed premises may (perhaps) need to be examined.

    … Adam…. Eve….

    Christians are not materialists. They are dualists. The story of the “ontological history of becoming” with respect to [A]Dirt To Man” (the material) cannot – even in principle – fully account for the story of the ontological history of becoming wrt [B]Dirt To The Adamic” (the immaterial). Covalent bonds do not and cannot constitute immaterial architecture. Whether the story of the former traverses five seconds or five millennia or five whatever is irrelevant to the ontological history of becoming relative to the latter.

    Your definitions seem to turn on the claim that [A] is convertible with [B] which is a rather unfortunate category error. Your concept of what it means to do science is (perhaps) then (it seems) either uninformed or else contaminated by some flavor of scientism or by a physicalist’s positivism.

    Perhaps some basic context:

    Given dualism neither is convertible with the other. If Man is entirely material then such can be expunged from one’s analysis. Of course, either way the Non-Theist’s untenable claim that physics *is* ontology remains catastrophic to his own definitions. The options for the Christian are many as he merely needs to follow the evidence whether wrt ancient near eastern literary techniques or wrt genetics (and etc.) and that is why it is always amazing how confused the Non-Theist’s terms often are on this front. Regarding the question of *sin*, the trio of [1] mankind being made outside of Eden followed by [2] Adam being brought into Eden followed by the fact that [3] Eden is not Heaven dissolves the Non-Theist’s hope for some sort of impenetrable wall which the Christian’s metaphysic cannot traverse. Conflating Eden for Heaven is a non-convertible duo impacting the Non-Theist’s terms just as are the two ontological histories of becoming mentioned earlier (the material vs the immaterial vis-à-vis dualism).

    …. factual objective accounting of origins….

    When it comes to the “ontological history of becoming” constituting the narrative of both Man and Cosmos, that which comes to us through the unavoidable definitions which the ancient Hebrew’s metanarrative forces is the only scientific and rational option.

    What are the reasons for saying that? Have you taken the time to look into these topics? Using reason and logic we examine Naturalism’s proposed “ontological history” with respect to Man and Cosmos, and also, the ancient near eastern Hebrew and what his metanarrative affirmed, and also, whether or not the following statement is true: “Physics *is* ontology, cosmology *is* ontology, and physics/cosmology in fact can be explanatory.”

    When it comes to brute fact and the inexplicable (on the one hand, given Non-Theism) and an ultimate self-explanatory principle (on the other hand, given the proper understanding of the term *GOD*), it’s painfully obvious that conflating cosmology for ontology – conflating physics for the explanatory – only reveals unawareness.

    Other Christians believe an individual can contribute to salvation by freely choosing God’s general offer of salvation. But then is salvation by grace alone? Or if as Paul teaches…

    What saves is Christ – as in All-Sufficiency Himself (God). Insufficiency just won’t do. You’re pointing to discussions about pipes and aqueducts – not to the Living Water. See? You take things and divorce them from reason, logic, reality, and love and you make these boxes which just float out there in midair – unattached from everything. Your own biases and presuppositions and uninformed premises may (perhaps) need to be examined.

    …. another Christian teaching depending on one’s interpretation… …. Christians can make the Bible say whatever they want it to say……

    Conflating [A] peoples actions and truth claims for [b] the coherence of their worldview or exegeses or truth claims is an intellectual habit that is …. …..wait for it….. divorced from reality, reason, logic, and love – but Scripture tells us to value truth. That is why all of this is a very different process than your un-discerning brushstrokes. Islam or Hinduism or Space Aliens or Naturalism’s baggage, or Christianity or Creeds – It’s all the same. It’s not about the reality of disagreement but rather it’s about the reality of reason and evidence in conjuncture with said claims pro/con.

    Because that is how you get to Truth. And of course God is Truth (hence metaphysical naturalism’s unavoidable reduction to absurdity in layer after layer after….layer… of reality).

    We know lots of people claim lots of different things, and we thank you for pointing out such an obvious observation. Though, making such a trivial observation and building huge swaths of your worldview upon that observation is a bit bizarre. Indeed, as unimpressive as that observation is, we can end by simply asking: Do you have anything else? Or was that your only point?

    Why reason and logic? Because:

    Overall you argue “as-if” the miracle or the Bible or the prophecy is the only reason behind the Christian’s paradigmatic defense. That is, you fail to take it from the other direction: simply following reason, logic, love, and observational reality as far as they will take you and, from there, pulling in that which makes the most sense of all the information and that which avoids the many pains of this or that reductio ad absurdum. Atheists of all strips do the Christian’s work for him here, saving the Christian all sorts of time, as they (Atheists of all strips) typically follow reason and logic and end up within various cousins of solipsism, both hard and soft, which of course is again what the Christian’s metaphysic predicts as that proverbial “Y” in the road between the Divine Mind (on the one hand) and Absurdity (on the other hand) approach ever more rapidly.

    Any claim is fine to make. Each claim simply has to be unpacked and if, say, Billy-Bob-Joe tells us that philosophical naturalism is, or ever can be, ontology, that physics/cosmology is, or ever can be, explanatory, or if, say, Islam claims God did X, or if, say, Bob-Joe-Bo-Ray tells us that he was abducted by aliens or if, say, Bo-Ray-Joe-Bob tells us that bacteria on Mars is “problematic” for the Christian, and so on, then the process of evaluating those claims is straightforward: gather the facts and follow the evidence. What about Miracle-X in Theism-X? Just repeat the pattern: gather the facts and follow the evidence, which spans the spectrum from the lens zoomed in near historicity, genre, context, reason, and logic, to yet farther and wider sightlines with the lens zoomed out into whatever successes or failures said body of claims has within its own respective T.O.E. Why? Because everything about every T.O.E. just is a matter of [1] truth as correspondence and [2] cumulative cases constructed atop cumulative layers of coherence and [3] convergence of truth claims and [4] avoiding those ever-painful reductions to absurdity. That’s just a demonstration of the obvious: facts don’t exist in vacuums.

    Why? Because reality doesn’t work that way. And reality matters.

    It’s worth addressing the fact that in some real way the fuel here for the critic is that his thinking supposes that the only evidence for Christianity in, say, the four Gospels is something like: “Eyewitnesses Full Stop!” But that’s false. That is why, even though legend and myth are not serious players, the Christian’s case does not begin and end “there”.

    Or, some seem to suppose that the only evidence for Christianity is, “-Cause da-bible -tells me-so.” But that’s false. It always comes back to Islam and Hinduism and Naturalism and Christ (and so on, and so on) as each comes as a body of statements which do *not* (contrary to your methods here) exist in a vacuum but are in fact immersed in the whole of reality.

    That is why when you say this:

    ….many branches of Christianity the fundamentals of Christianity change from group to group….

    This comes to mind: “But some people claim X and not Y! Therefore we cannot know!” No one takes that approach with the age of the Earth nor with gravity nor with….. and for good reason and yet you rant about area X in ancient near eastern linguists and conceptual frames and mindsets when it comes to, say, the ancient Hebrew. “But some people think X! That group thinks Y!

    Okay. And? Is there more? Or are you done? Claims are easy. Reasoning through to justification is far more difficult, and you’ve not done so here. In fact, the moment such a process of discovery confronts you, your thinking is stopped dead in its tracks. “Oh no! An area in need of clarification! Discovery! We may NOT know everything!

    We know lots of people claim lots of different things, and we thank you for pointing out such an obvious observation. Though, making such a trivial observation and building huge swaths of your worldview upon that observation is a bit bizarre. Indeed, as unimpressive as that observation is, we can end by simply asking: Do you have anything else? Or was that your only point?

  21. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    It occurred to me that so often those who are so troubled by the fact that we actually have to reason our way to through swaths of reality are often the same folks who state something akin to this:

    Well God should have just made it obvious.”

    That came up elsewhere, and my reply was as follows:

    You can’t miss choosing what to love. We’ve all interfaced with not-loving / loving others, with loving / not-loving X, we all awake immersed in Mankind’s perpetual striving towards reciprocity across the eons – always just out of reach. We find Man’s unending striving towards love’s reciprocity amalgamated with its whole being forever just out of Man’s reach. Nobody denies this because no one can and we all trade on it every day, either trading bits of it away for some lesser X or else trading away some other X for more of it.

    Quote:

    “….Of course, what counts as regarding God as one’s ultimate end requires careful analysis. Someone might have a deficient conception of God and yet still essentially regard God as his ultimate good or end. One way to understand how this might go is, in my view, to think of the situation in terms of the doctrine of the transcendentals. God is Being Itself. But according to the doctrine of the transcendentals, being – which is one of the transcendentals – is convertible with all the others, such as goodness and truth. They are really all the same thing looked at from different points of view. Being Itself is thus Goodness Itself and Truth Itself. It seems conceivable, then, that someone might take goodness or truth (say) as his ultimate end, and thereby – depending, naturally, on exactly how he conceives of goodness and truth – be taking God as his ultimate end or good, even if he has some erroneous ideas about God and does not realize that what he is devoted to is essentially what classical theists like Aquinas call “God.” And of course, an uneducated person might wrongly think of God as an old man with a white beard, etc. but still know that God is cause of all things, that he is all good, that he offers salvation to those who sincerely repent, etc. By contrast, it seems quite ridiculous to suppose that someone obsessed with money or sex or political power (for example) is really somehow taking God as his ultimate end without realizing it.” End quote. (E. Feser)

    Intellectual assent to a set of truth claims is only half the story – the other half being that it is impossible to *not* interface with reality’s irreducible (Divine) vectors. But you reject immutable love and trade it away for what you know can only be a cosmically illusory version of love (see *disclaimer to that last sentence).

    The boy in Tibet who can’t read will not come upon “that” choice or option – because he can’t understand it. For him the immutable love of God will pour in through some other window and God will saturate that with both grace and truth as only He can.

    But you’re not that boy.

    Your window is different. And we find – here – that logic and love seem distasteful to you, while something else tastes better (you imply) for where love is concerned you choose a bobble named Reductio Ad Absurdum and – in order to gain her – you trade away logic’s relentless lucidity amid love’s timeless reciprocity as such relates to those uncanny Trinitarian processions within *GOD*.

    *Disclaimer: Now, if your paradigm (whichever it is) does *not* reduce love to the ultimately / cosmically illusory as such referents those volitional motions amid personal interfaces (…as are found timeless in Trinity, hence “timeless reciprocity” and so on in the thoroughly Trinitarian metaphysic…), well then we look forward to your arguments affirming such.

  22. BillT

    Roger,

    I can see that you’re not really interested in having a discussion. Though you say “I apologize for going on and on.” it’s pretty clear you’re not only not sorry but that your using the sheer volume of issues you raise as a way not to really discuss any of them. We’re pretty familiar with this tactic. From the discussion policy:

    It includes fragenblitzen techniques (bursts of simultaneous multiple questions, with the implication that if they’re not all simultaneously answered then the questioner has won the round.) It may also apply to discussions in which a commenter persistently and/or selectively ignores discussion directed toward him or her.

    You actually violate both these policies in your post as you didn’t really address the issues I raised in my reply to you. If you would like to directly address the issue I raised or have a question about a single issue that might form the basis of a reasonable discussion, I’d be glad to reply.

  23. Roger

    Tom

    Interesting that one of the reasons you choose Christianity over other religions is that Christianity is closely tied to history in such a way that its reporting can be checked on. Not sure what you mean by saying its “reporting” can be checked on. Most historians no doubt can determine the close approximate time that Jesus lived, similar to that of giving dates for Mohamed’s or Buddha’s life. But as to the recording of God’s entrance onto earth in the second person of the Trinity, or the time of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, or the return of Christ to earth from heaven, these are not seen as historical events by historians. Historians might report that Christians claim the entrance of God onto earth in the person of Jesus, or that Christians claim the resurrection of Jesus on Easter. Historians will report this as “faith events” rather than as actual factual and objective events. From what I can tell, much of the Bible is seen by historians as embellished history or myth, much in the same way historians would judge many of the events recorded in the Koran or the book of Mormon to be embellished history or simply myth. Of course some things recorded in the Bible can be dated, but that is also true for other religious writings. The essential events that contribute to the meaning and significance of Christianity are not considered as historical events other than by Christians. The fact that Christians claim a number of witnesses of the apparently resurrected Jesus means no more than what the Mormon’s claim as for the twelve witnesses of the angel Moroni who visited Joseph Smith. Jesus was a historical character (perhaps even a good person) much in the same way that Santa Claus is based on the historical character, the good Saint Nicholas but whose character has been greatly embellished. And now the only ones who believe in Santa (the objective reality) are children who have been sold a bill of goods by the authority figures in their lives (parents). The objective reality of the so called essential core realities of Christianity are only believed to be objective reality by Christians. I suppose you could claim that the Holy Spirit has empowered and enabled the Christian to see and believe these events as true, but that would work against the objective reality of these events by any standard of human measurement. That would be saying that the Christian has the inward and miraculous working of the Holy Spirit (the work of conviction) who does not work in all people in such a way, but only Christians (the elect). So naturally people can’t and won’t believe the so called truths of Christianity, but supernaturally, Christians can and do. This is sometimes referred to in Reformed and Presbyterian circles as the general call to salvation and the effectual call to salvation by the Holy Spirit. But of course that is getting into one of the many differences within Christian understandings of the Bible.

    The thing is, there are so many versions (demoninations) of Christianity that differ even when speaking of the so called core realities of the religion. As to these other “theological differences,” between Christian groups, these differences impinge upon the so called core teachings, so as to cast doubt upon the whole system. I’ve heard it said that there is no more divided institution than the Christian church. Such division doesn’t speak well for a convincing package. Even Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

    You said, one of the reasons you chose Christianity is that it is closely tied to history. One of the reason I have rejected the Christian religion is that it is so divided in its teachings, contradicting itself at so many points, so as to cast doubt upon the whole of Christianity.

  24. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Roger, there are numerous, numerous facts in the NT whose veracity can be corroborated. That’s the first part of what I meant. The rest of it is this: Christianity’s truth depends on its historicity, unlike other religions. It’s a reality-based religion, not a mere philosophy. Mormonism claims the same but fails the test of history and archaeology. Christianity passes.

    The fact that Christians claim a number of witnesses of the apparently resurrected Jesus means no more than what the Mormon’s claim as for the twelve witnesses of the angel Moroni who visited Joseph Smith.

    False. These witnesses have historical veracity. Historians agree that these witnesses saw (or thought they saw) Jesus resurrected. Historians laugh at the claims surrounding Joseph Smith.

    I can document that, except I have a meeting coming up in a couple minutes. You can search it under “minimal facts habermas.”

    And since it’s false, Roger, what will you do to re-draw your opinions on it?

    Christianity is not divided against itself on these points.

    Have you read my Turning Points articles (linked at the top of the page)?

  25. Roger

    Sorry BillT for not getting back to you. You may have noticed (maybe you didn’t) that there have been several responses to my few comments. I do have a life apart from blogging, so I don’t spend all my free time on the net. I’m guessing that some of these responders on this website see this blogging as a full time job. So I won’t necessarily jump immediately to respond to every comment, even yours, Bill.

    You apparently didn’t notice that I did respond to you comment (not directly in a separate comment to you) in which you claim the objective realities that form the basis of our Christian faith are the deity of Christ, his life, death and resurrection. You’ll have to weed through some of the other comments by me to pick this out. I’m surprised you didn’t include the Trinity as part of the basis of the faith. Your basis of Chrisrtianity seems pretty simplistic. The Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed all define Christian belief in terms of the Trinity. I guess you can define the objective realities as you please.

    You said in your comment, it doesn’t really matter who wrote the Koran as long as it accurately describes God’s will and wisdom. It certainly matters to the Muslim because he/she believes it does accurately describes God’s will and wisdom. You may not care about the authorship of the Koran, just as he/she doesn’t care about the so called authorship of the Bible. Do you care about the authorship of the Bible? But obviously not the Koran.

    Quite frankly, Bill, I didn’t read the discussion policy. I was simply responding to Tom’s article. Obviously I’m new here and could use some slack. Thanks for the fuzzy warm welcome.

  26. barry

    Tom,

    First, your examples still show that “is” anticipates something that is true about an object or concept. “Mary is pregnant” DEFINES Mary as a pregnant woman. “A car is fast” DEFINES one particular trait of that car. I did not say the word “is” has no other function than to precede a synonym. I simply said that “is” does this. And your attempt to save face did not work. Your alternative examples of using “is” are distinguishable from the biblical issue. In Hebrews 11:1, the problematic phrase would be “faith is the substance of things hoped for…” A listing of grammatically similar phrases would show that employing “is” as a definition-anticipator is exactly what the Hebrews-author is doing:

    “gas is the energy of the car”
    “Work is an income-generator”
    “the bible is our sole source of faith and practice”

    Indeed, the question “what is faith” begs for an answer that provides a definition of faith, for the same reason that asking “what is” for any matter is begging for the matter to be defined, and it anticipates an answer that begins with “faith is…”, in which case Hebrews 11:1 would be perfectly suited to this request to define faith. I have therefore defeated your fallacious attempt to liken the “is” in that verse to other grammatical situations where “is” does something other than anticipate a literal synonym.

    You admit that Hebrews 11 admits of situations where no external corroborative information is given, which means the proper conclusion to draw is that the Hebrews-author believed faith could be warranted in those situations too and did not believe faith was simply the trust one puts in the evidence.

    In my provocative question about how God’s mechanism for communicating the “kill Isaac” command not being specified, I wasn’t trying to imply some god couldn’t do this in some esoteric telepathic way. I was only pointing out that this particular story is justifiably suspicious since Christians are predictably horrified whenever they hear about any modern parent killing their child in sacrifice to some god, all because of a “voice” in their head. Yet you’ve admitted “The information (instruction) Abraham had in that case was not evidentially confirmed. Fine.” So we have to wonder how you plan to distinguish biblical characters obeying disembodied voices commanding child-sacrifice, from every other idiot in the world who did the same act for the same alleged reason.

    My basis for saying the bible teaches that faith = knowledge (even if it elsewhere teaches faith can be something else too) is not only already proven from my “is” comments, but from your own admission that the Hebrews 11 author in verse 3 says it is by faith that people can know God created the world.

    Your own belief about creation equates knowledge with faith. It is by faith that you believe in creation ex nihilo, despite the logical impossibility of zero ever producing something. Adding god to the problem of creating something out of nothing will not resolve the problem anymore than adding god to the square-circle problem will create the real possibility of drawing a square circle. BOTH are totally illogical, and yet you still think, for reasons only blind faith can explain, that the illogical problem of creation from zero is solved by adding god to it. In other words, you have NO evidentiary basis upon which to put your faith, therefore, your “knowledge” that God created the universe ex nihilo, really is authentically blind.

    I said your logic would require denial of bible verses that say we are saved by hope, you try to get away by saying there’s a difference between “saved by hope” and “saved IN hope”. I’m sorry, but a standard thesaurus says faith and hope are synonyms, therefore, the problematic logic that follows from your comments about faith, which is supposed to save us, do indeed apply to hope, which indeed is supposed to also save us.

    You say “in hope” is better than “by hope”, but “by hope” is the KJV rendering, so I hope you are willing to concede that for nearly 400 years, God was telling the average pew-warmer, who at that time hardly had any serious access to scholarly discussions of grammatically possible renderings, that we are saved “by” hope.

    And your point is a mere trifle regardless…one could just as correctly say “I was saved by faith” as to say “I was saved IN faith”. So any difference between “by” and “in” really doesn’t operate to justify saying my dependency on “by hope” lead me to the wrong conclusion.

    You say you think I failed to read your link. I did not so fail. At that link you argued “He’s not blessing Christians who have believed on the basis of zero evidence”, which makes me fail to see your point since all you are doing is pontificating there, you aren’t making an exegetical argument. Please do not confuse providing links to your prior comments, with providing absolute truth. I could supply you links to websites dedicated to proving macro-evolution, but you’d hardly be persuaded. So the fact that I disagree with you doesn’t mean I didn’t read a link any more than your disagreement with macro evolution means you didn’t read science websites where that theory is defended.

    You are also wrong about Mike Licona’s issue. It wasn’t just with Matthew. Mike also says (or said) that John’s difference from Mark concerning the passover time was a case of John conveying to the reader something other than literal historical truth. see http://www.thebestschools.org/special/ehrman-licona-dialogue-reliability-new-testament/licona-detailed-response/

    When you say the “the door is always open to examine whether a passage is intended to be taken as literal”, your failure to qualify that sentiment means you are open to examine whether a passage about Jesus rising from the dead is intended to be taken as literal. That would seem to conflict with your other presupposition that the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus in space-time history is the only reasonable interpretation of the gospel resurrection narratives. Did you forget to qualify? Or are you seriously open to the prospect that Jesus’ resurrection was intended as something other than literal?

    I don’t see your point in needing to know who I am before you engage in a formal written debate with me. But your comments after saying that indicate that you are trying to manufacture a bit of “objective reason” to decline the debate invitation…should you find out that my disagreement with you on Hebrews 11 doesn’t mean I’m less educated on biblical matters than you are.

    It’s also funny that you say you cannot respond to a debate request from any anonymous commentator. You’ve been doing exactly that for the last few days in my case.

    You end by saying you cannot promise to debate a person who thinks “is” qualifies as introducing a synonym, when in fact in common parlance, we are usually begging for a ‘definition’ or ‘synonym’ when we ask what something “is”, so that even if your examples were valid, they do not show that “is” NEVER begs for a synonym or definition. All you did, at best, was show that “is” can beg for something different. But “Mary is pregnant” still DEFINES her in some way, whether it constitutes exhaustive definition or not. So I was not wrong to argue that “is” functions to introduce that which would be synonymous or definitional for the object or concept in question.

    By the way, if your hasty induction (i.e., you are pretty sure I wouldn’t be a worthy debate opponent, upon no other basis than my alleged error about “is” and other alleged errors, which constitutes drawing a broad conclusion from a small sample, i.e., induction) was justified…then why do you have a problem with skeptics who similarly draw broad conclusions on the basis of a trifling sample of evidence (i.e., I’ve never seen anybody walk on water, therefore, nobody ever did this in the past either)?

    Your logic was faulty anyway, we haven’t discussed anything about the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, the proposition I wish to debate you on. My errors about “is” and “hope” and “faith” would have no bearing on ancient testimony and how well it stands up when tested by standard canons of historiography.

    IMO, you’ve found me to be a bit more informed than you are prepared to handle in a skeptic. If you don’t believe that, then accept my challenge to debate the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Email me at barryjoneswhat@yahoo.com if you insist on knowing more about me, and ask me any scholarly questions you please.

    If you are afraid I’ll just take my sweet time Googling the answers to your questions, to give the false appearance that I know what I’m talking about, then lets meet up at a real-time chat site of your choice, so you can ask me scholarly questions any informed debater would know the answer to, and when I answer within less than 5 seconds of your posting, you’ll know perfectly well I didn’t have sufficient time to first Google the answer and thus hide my ignorance, and therefore, I’m answering that quickly because I actually already know the subject matter. Then you will have no excuse for trying to convince yourself that I probably don’t know enough about the subject for you to justify taking the time to debate me.

    Do I strike you as somebody who is cleverly trying to find ways to cover up their own ignorance, or are you starting to become afraid that you are going to have to cite something other than my “ignorance” as your motive to decline the debate challenge?

  27. Roger

    scbrown

    Thanks for all the work that you have put into responding to me. Maybe you didn’t notice in my first response my mentioning that I don’t have a background in philosophy, and that many of these responses seem above my grade level, especially yours, scbrown. I’m more of the average person in the pew. I have a hard time even knowing what you are talking about in your responses. I hope you don’t talk to people in general with the same level of conversation as you write with in these comments. If so, I imagine you have a hard time communicating with people. At any rate, I’m sorry, although I grasp very little of what you are trying to say to me, most of your response is unintelligible to me. So I’ll have a difficult time in even knowing how to respond. Thanks, though, for your effort.

    I was going to stop, but want to say something in regard to your last comment. You say in a quote of yourself, “You can’t miss choosing what to love. We’ve all interfaced with not-loving / loving others, with loving / not-loving X, we all awake immersed in Mankind’s perpetual striving towards reciprocity across the eons – always just out of reach.” I wouldn’t say that this love is just out of reach. It may be that love to perfection is out of reach, but only God is perfect. For us, we reach a measure of love daily. I look at people around me and see the demonstrations of love daily. I see expressions of love within families, on the street, between employers and employees, in national and international policies. I see people willing to give of themselves for the welfare of others. When Jesus talked about eternal reward and punishment, it was those who did good who would inherit eternal life, saying, as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me. It’s in doing good that we sense God’s love and acceptance. He created us as humans, not gods, so doesn’t expect perfection. The goal may be perfection but the expectation is not. We are human, after all.

  28. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    you have completely misunderstood my motives and my context. I was talking about something Tom has now partially agreed to, that the context of Hebrews 11:1 includes examples where the “faith” at issue was not given any external corroborating evidence. So you will have an exceptionally difficult time trying to excise “blind faith” from the things verse 1 is talking about, even if it could also be talking about trust in corroborated evidence.

    Do not lump me in with other atheists and skeptics. I deny the big bang, I assert a more or less “steady state” theory, I agree with creationists that some secular scientists have observed there’s a ridiculous amount of “hocus-pocus” nonsense which legitimately credentialed ph.d’s are foisting on the public, and I agree with William Lane Craig that atheists who say “something from nothing is possible” are either stupid or intentionally deceptive.

    I also believe that cosmology is nearly entirely theoretical (I think dark matter and dark energy are nothing but fictions invented for no other reason than to prevent the big bang theory from collapsing, which would be a deserved death).

    It is hard for me to determine much of what you mean, but yet, I believe in the legitimacy of “brute-fact” for the same reason you believe in the legitimacy of axioms. I agree all epistemologies require faith as a starting point (i.e., empiricism seems best, but no, I cannot prove that my senses aren’t deceiving me, since these 5 senses are all I have to know what’s true or false). But everybody starting from faith does not suddenly mean my sensing the tree in my front yard takes just as much faith as it does to believe that Jesus walked on the water.

    I dismiss your quotes about quantum foam, multiverses and the like, since I can make naturalism reasonably justifiable without resorting to intensely theoretical means. There is no reason to believe the universe ever “started”, which would be a fatal blow to Genesis 1:1.

    “God” cannot be an explanatory principle, since if it be properly defined as traditional Christians wish, it violates Occam’s Razor, for the same reason alleging that a book got onto a table solely by work of an invisible elephant, would violate Occam’s Razor. Unless you have an exceptional amount of high-quality evidence for your theory, positing god or invisible elephants as the cause of something certainly violates the Razor. Feel free to bite back with standard stuff like “where did the universe come from” or “how do you naturalistically explain the complexity of DNA”, etc.

    I also dismiss that nonsense called “being itself”. I’ve debated liberal Christian theologians in the past, and I have about as much patience for neo-Anslemism as I have for my toilet erupting, in a way greater than which no toilet failure can be imagined.

    I cheerfully admit that not everything can be fully explained. That would naturally be the case if axioms are real and are the logical starting point for all epistemology. And since we have zero evidence that matter itself ever came into existence, we are forced to conclude that the universe of matter was never created but has simply always been here, and being an expanse of infinite duration, well, the energy within an infinite field can never logically be depleted. That’s my answer to the second law of thermodynamics. When you say “the whole universe…” you are wrong…you cannot describe an infinite field accurately with terms that require a limitation, like “all”, “whole”, “total”. Infinites are tricky because our language evolved solely for the purpose of describing limited things. But that hardly requires that the universe is actually limited in duration.

    Finally, I deny arguments about the beginning of time, because time is not a fundamental component of the universe, it only exists when intelligent beings decide to record the fluctuating differences inthe relations of planetary and star bodies, and then to take note of those changes and assign numbers to them. That’s why 3 p.m in California isn’t 3 p.m. in Paris or on Saturn. Therefore Time is an entirely relative thing having no bearing whatsoever on proving any “origin” of the infinite universe.

  29. barry

    BillT,

    But when you remember what most scholars say, that John was written to make unbeleivers believe, and if you accept traditional dating of John somewhere around 70 a.d., then it is clear that John is quoting Jesus’ words to Thomas for the benefit of people living 40 years after the events allegedly occured, most of which would not have been there from the beginning to see all the alleged miracles.

    in other words, “blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed” was intended to be viewed as significant by unbelievers in the late first century who may in fact not have had any experience with miracles.

    This rebuttal is strengthened by the evidence that the author himself felt faith could be valid wholly apart from any evidence or corroboration…such as his last two verses where he makes clear that he thinks the reader trusting his statements about Jesus to be true (a reader in the late 1st century who more than likely did not have prior experience of Christian miracles) is a valid enterprise.

    Basically, your average Jane and Joe unbeliever in the late first century did not have any prior evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, which is probably why John’s last two verses necessarily imply that the expected readership would include plenty of people whose only evidence for Jesus was the words of the gospel of John.

    You say “Faith as a response to their knowledge of him and of knowledge they had received.”

    I say faith is the substance of things hoped for. And you will have difficulty trying to show that the “is” in “faith is substance” was intended to do something other than signify a definition or synonym. And Tom has already conceded that faith in the absence of corroborating evidence is found in the immediate context, which seems to indicate that the author of Hebrews would have approve of a totally blind faith, even if he also felt faith could also accurately describe trust in corroborated evidence.

  30. barry

    Tom,

    First, I forgot to mention that if you wish to debate, we’d do the audience a lot more good if we agreed to debate a very narrowly defined proposition, since multiple books could be written on all the sub-topics involved in the resurrection of Jesus. I have already written book-length treatment of the subject of whether Matthew the apostle was the author of our chronologically first NT gospel. If he wasn’t, then that’s one resurrection witness stricken from the list.

    For example, instead of debating “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”, it would be better to have several debates on more narrow topics that always find their way into such discussion, such as “Is it reasonable to hold that Matthew should be excluded from the list of resurrection-eyewitnesses?”, or maybe “Does apostle Paul have enough credibility to deserve a place in the list of alleged resurrection eyewitnesses?”, or maybe “Is it reasonable to assert that most of the apostles most likely died as martyrs?”

    You say “Are tongues an objective reality? You literally don’t need to know in order to decide whether to follow the living Jesus Christ. That’s not because it’s unimportant but because it’s far from the core, the center, of the knowledge base for Christians.”

    I reply that our answer to the tongues-question indicates your conclusion is faulty. If we answer that question “no, tongues are not an objective reality” and take the conservative Protestant position that Christians who speak in tongues today do nothing more than babble nonsense, Pandora’s Box opens….for example…do you see how intensely deceived a religious person can be? Exactly how far away is the tongues, shaking around uncontrollably, handling rattle snakes and other assorted pentecostal nonsense, from the person who mistakes a vision in their mind with a real space-time event?

    If Christians today can be so deceived, nothing prevents that ridiculous fanaticism from penetrating the first century. I’m not talking about whether the speaking in tongues of Acts 2 was really from God or not. I’m talking about this type of modern pentecostal fanaticism, once allowed into the first century church, thereafter expressing itself in other areas, in which case the extreme confidence of the testimony does not bolster its veracity.

  31. Roger

    Tom

    Tom, you suggest that Christianity depends on its historicity. It’s a reality based religion. You sound convinced that historians are concerned with the historical claims of Christianity. I think you flatter yourself. Historians are no more concerned with the historicity of Christian claims than they are with the claims of the Mormon Church. Historians are not concerned with the witnesses who saw Jesus after his so called resurrection, they don’t even believe in a resurrection as a recordable fact. The so called objective realities of Christianity are faith claims, as far as historians are concerned. They have to do with the supernatural, which is out of the purview of historians. The same goes for the claims of the Mormon religion. That’s why it is only Christians who take stock in Christianity’s claims, like it is only Mormons who take stock in the Mormon claims. Do you take stock in the supernatural claims of Mormonism? Probably not. In the same way, people outside of Christianity don’t take stock in Christianity’s supernatural claims either.

    By the way, Christianity is divided against itself on a number of issues. Take Martin Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” and you will see how divided Christians are in regard to freedom/bondage of the human will. One of many issues.

  32. BillT

    Thanks for the fuzzy warm welcome.

    Roger,

    It wasn’t about quoting the rules to you it was about you engaging in a reasonable discussion. You included a dozen or more topics in your post which just isn’t conducive to an intelligible or productive discussion. Further, your response to what I wrote to you failed to address the point I was making. I invited you to make a point we could discuss but your the one who doesn’t seem interested in a productive conversation.

  33. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Roger,

    I think you flatter yourself. Historians are no more concerned with the historicity of Christian claims than they are with the claims of the Mormon Church.

    I’m sorry, but I think you flatter yourself.

    There are journals of biblical archaeology but not of Mormon. There is historicity in the NT but not in the book of Mormon. Consider this, for example.

    I don’t think you know as much at this as you think you do.

  34. BillT

    John is quoting Jesus’ words to Thomas for the benefit of people living 40 years after the events allegedly occured, most of which would not have been there from the beginning to see all the alleged miracles.

    barry,

    What you say above is true but the example John uses is that of Thomas and the other disciples who did know Jesus and were informed of his resurrection by others that they knew. There is nothing in the example of Thomas that would speak of a “blind faith” without substance. The faith Thomas failed to exhibit, that the others did, was faith based on knowledge. And the faith that John is asking later 1st century believers to have is still based on those that knew and witnessed Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Those witnesses form the basis in fact that Paul’s subsequent audiences rely on for the basis of their faith. Thomas, in light of his knowledge, exhibits an extreme stubbornness that, through his example, Paul is warning later believers not to emulate. And that “faith is the substance of things hoped for” doesn’t in any way mitigate that. It is faith that takes us from what we know to what we hope for. It is an extrapolation but it isn’t an extrapolation without a foundation.

  35. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Barry, I decline the debate. Here’s why. You think you have answered my objection on the definitional use of “is.”

    You end by saying you cannot promise to debate a person who thinks “is” qualifies as introducing a synonym, when in fact in common parlance, we are usually begging for a ‘definition’ or ‘synonym’ when we ask what something “is”, so that even if your examples were valid, they do not show that “is” NEVER begs for a synonym or definition.

    They do show that “is” sometimes does not do that, which is the painfully obvious point you’ve been missing all along. You insist that because “is” can be found in Heb. 11:1, therefore it must be a definitional statement. I have shown that it is not necessarily so. This is not hard.

    I do not want to waste time repeatedly trying to explain painfully obvious points.

  36. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    Since you believe an eternal universe is a problem for Genesis then you don’t understand Christian metaphysics. That’s probably why you thought the quote about the quantum foam was about the quantum foam and not about an entirely different end point.

    It’s not surprising.

    That you think Hebrews 11 is about faith void of evidence and reason is also not surprising. One-verse theologies are like that. Which is why I employ all of Scripture when defining terms.

    You should try it. You might learn something.

  37. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    Regarding Being Itself and an ultimate self-explanatory principle:

    Where does that violate simplicity’s demands / O’s razor?

    What part of reality does that offend?

    Explain how that term equates to invisible elephants.

    Did you really mean it when you said that an eternal universe was supposed to be a “problem” for Christian metaphysics?

  38. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    Since it was to complex, let’s take two parts:

    [1] …. sacraments…baptism…

    My reply: What saves is Christ – as in All-Sufficiency Himself (God). Insufficiency just won’t do. You’re pointing to discussions about pipes and aqueducts – not to the Living Water. See? You take things and divorce them from reason, logic, reality, and love and you make these boxes which just float out there in midair – unattached from everything. Your own biases and presuppositions and uninformed premises may (perhaps) need to be examined.

    What about the reply tripped you up?

    [2] You said: “….Next, you tell me, I have to start with (1) reality and (2) reason and (3) logic and (4) love. I have no idea what you are driving at here. Are you saying I have to start with these four things to arrive at faith?”

    I replied: No. You have to start there to arrive at truth. At knowledge. Faith is what you do with what you discover.

    What part of the reply tripped you up?

    You asked a lot of questions and it took a lot of time. There were many answers which I’m sure you want to know. So I’m sure you don’t mind working a little bit to unpack the the things you asked about — because you care about it. Which is why you asked. We will start with these two. And then go from there.

  39. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    You speak far too confidently as if your view of Christianity is the only proper one. When I assert the universe has existed eternally, I get plenty of flack from plenty of creationist Christians. Your view of Christian metaphysics is hardly representative of that conflicting splintered group. You can start by googling “old earth creationism” and discover how deeply divided Christianity’s finest scholars are on pretty much all the evidence that would have some bearing on creation.

    I refuted Tom’s alternative example sentences and proved that sentence where “is” begs for a definition or synonym are closer to Hebrews 11:1, than things like “Mary is pregnant”. Hebrews 11:1 teaches that faith is the substance, and faith IS the evidence. And you’d clearly rather die than admit what Tom already did, that biblical faith does allow for believing in things that have not been externally corroborated.

    And your sneer about how I employ one-verse theologies is clearly representative of your desire to bite back instead of correctly examine. As much as could be reasonably expected in this limited forum-format, I gave exposition to several verses in Hebrews 11, I did not limit myself to just one verse. I also gave Romans 8, so clearly, your accusation that I employed one-verse theology, is false.

    You are also being more difficult than necessary given that I never expressed or implied we would ever be done with anything here. I will continue to defend my position here unless I am banned. Feel free to hit me with your best shot. Maybe it just takes some people a bit longer to appreciate the degree of trouble that came their way. I interpret your dogmatism the same way I interpret the dogmatism of the Appalachian snake-handlers. In other words, when I read your exuberant confident words, I look for rocks and trees to cover me and hide me from the face of him who sits on the throne, and basically just shiver with fright until I evaporate. Disagreeing with you is clearly not different than disagreeing with god, despite your admissions to being a sinner.

    Finally, I decline your invitation to “try” using all of scripture, since that presupposes the truth of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, which is about as stupid as saying you cannot really know what an editorial comment in a newspaper means, unless you reconcile it with everything else that editor had to say in the past.

    You should try asking yourself why you believe the doctrine of inerrancy that says “only the originals”, when in fact the bible nowhere expresses or implies any such limitation to that doctrine.

  40. barry

    Tom,

    your attempt to pretend that my disagreement with you shows too much ignorance on my part for you to think I’d be a worthy debate opponent, is most unconvincing.

    under your logic, all debate in Christianity would be stifled, since everybody could take your one-sided view that “to disagree with me, is to manifest a shocking level of ignorance unworthy of my time”. Unfortunately, most Christian scholars do not find disagreement with them to constitute a proof that the other guy is just a dim-witted idiot unprepared to do a serious debate.

    Our debate about “is” clearly doesn’t tell you ANYTHING about whether I’d be able to trounce you in a debate about the resurrection of Jesus. So your attempt to milk our present disagreement in Hebrews 11:1 to that extreme degree evinces absolute fear on your part that this barry jones guy is a far worse threat that you can afford to admit.

    I have every confidence in the world that when you say “I do not want to waste time repeatedly trying to explain painfully obvious points”, what you really mean is

    “I have a goal to be seen by Christians as a teacher of others, and I cannot very well succeed in this if I allow myself to debate non-Christians who know the issues just as well as I do.”

    Thanks for the memories.

  41. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Barry, I don’t need to convince anyone I don’t want to debate you except myself.

    “I have a goal to be seen by Christians as a teacher of others, and I cannot very well succeed in this if I allow myself to debate non-Christians who know the issues just as well as I do.”

    Thanks for the laughs.

  42. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    …..When I assert the universe has existed eternally, I get plenty of flack….

    That did not answer the question, which was where I asked you how an eternal universe is a “problem” for Christian metaphysics.

    ….. faith does allow for believing in things that have not been externally corroborated….

    Of course there is knowledge which does not stream from the physical sciences. But the absurdity of scientism wasn’t the point. The point was that faith is not knowledge, it is what one does with that knowledge. I know, say, my dad, my father. If he covers my eyes an says follow me, I trust him without seeing or knowing where he is taking me. But that attitudinal response to knowledge of him and of reality vis-à-vis him (which is what faith is) is based on reason and evidence. He tells me it’s a good place, and I believe in that good place. That attitudinal response to knowledge of him and of reality vis-à-vis him (which is what faith is) is based on reason and evidence.

    ….I also gave Romans 8, so clearly, your accusation that I employed one-verse theology, is false…..

    Yes but your conclusion was just as misinformed. Perhaps some more verses will help.

    I look for rocks and trees to cover me and hide me….

    Was that in reply to the following?

    Regarding Being Itself and an ultimate self-explanatory principle:

    Where does that violate simplicity’s demands / O’s razor?

    What part of reality does that offend?

    Explain how that term equates to invisible elephants.

    Did you really mean it when you said that an eternal universe was supposed to be a “problem” for Christian metaphysics?

    I decline your invitation to “try” using all of scripture….

    Well if you want to insist on Hebrews 11 and void out reason and evidence, that’s a good way to go – just cherry pick the verses that don’t employ those vectors and whad-a-ya-know! If you don’t want to talk about the Christian body of truth claims upon reality, ignoring Scripture’s metanarrative is a good way to go.

    You should try asking yourself why you believe the doctrine of inerrancy that says “only the originals”, when in fact the bible nowhere expresses or implies any such limitation to that doctrine.

    I don’t recall mentioning that doctrine. Or defining it. But, since you brought it up, as far as I know it’s not a first-copy that matters, but what matters is that the content is accurate. For example, the ontological history of becoming which the ancient near eastern Hebrew affirms is supported by the best science. Genre is okay.

  43. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    My first problem with “being itself” is that it is incoherent. Coherent talk about “being” puts them it in different categories, such as human beings and animal beings. “Being itself” blindly presupposes there is some sort of common “life force” that is responsible for the life of all living things, which I find to be perfectly absurd, since it would require that God is just as contradictory as all the people who are supposedly actuated by this “being”. And many Christians deny the worth of Anselem’s thought expermiments, so be a bit slower before you say it is only my spiritual deadness that causes me to discount this uninspired nothing.

    Furthermore, “a being greater than which no other can be conceived” is a perfectly worthless thought experiment given that what constitutes “greater” gets impossibly complicated when it is remembered this extends to morality and not just size. What’s greater? Responding to resistance by chopping babies and adults into bits (1st Samuel 15:2-3, 33), or imitating Jesus and refusing to return violence for violence (1st Peter 2:21-25)? What’s greater? A god who toys with human beings refusing to supply that amount of evidence he knows will convince them, or a god who actually does all that is necessary to convince free creatures to freely choose him? What’s greater? A god who bellows from heaven how mad he is, not telling us for centuries that this is really just an anthropomorphism, or a god who walks and talks with us individually in no less a direct physical way than we walk and talk with our next-door neighbor?

    Have fun trying to prove that the god who later regretted his own decision to create man (Genesis 6:6) is “greater” than a perfect god, all of whose decisions he is guaranteed to always be happy to have made.

    “Explain how that term equates to invisible elephants.”
    ——–easy, “being itself” is a ridiculous presupposition that anything that all living things are actuated by some invisible “being” in some way or other, and I don’t see much difference between invisible elephants, and an invisible “being itself” that incoherently pervades all physical life.

    “Did you really mean it when you said that an eternal universe was supposed to be a “problem” for Christian metaphysics?”

    Yes. Being more objective than you, I don’t ask whether Genesis 1 can be reconciled with modern science. I ask what images it would have put in the minds of the mostly illiterate farm-hands that wouldn’t know what Moses had written except somebody read it aloud to them. Only after that do I decide whether I even need to ask whether the author’s intended meaning should be reconciled with anything else.

    It should be clear what “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” would have conveyed to an illiterate farm-hand in the days of Moses…and it wouldn’t have been quantum foam.

    And since the text is also beseiged with such asinine tomfoolery such as god breathing into the nostrils of a dirt model of man and causing that model to transform into living flesh and blood, I have no difficulties envisioning what this entertaining story would have put into the mind of illiterate Israelites who could not study the context and worry about context, but who could only hear the story read to them.

    I’ll stick with what these words meant in their own cultural historical context, I have yet to see a convincing “reconciling” of the Genesis story with modern science. And given the deep divide already splitting Christian creationists down the middle (i.e., one group of authentically born again Christians no less sincere in their request for divine guidance than you, is consistently failing to “get the message”, a theological problem for you), I eagerly await your startling revelations.

    Oh sure, I’m too ignorant of biblical stuff to be a worthy opponent of Tom. Yeah right. Jesus thought the Pharisees were unforgivably stupid and decietful, probably the way you view me, so if Jesus is the example you people follow, you cannot decline a debate over your opponent’s perceived stupidity or deceitfulness.

  44. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    It seems Tom’s decision in declining your invitation was astute.

    “Being itself” blindly presupposes there is some sort of common “life force” that is responsible for the life of all living things

    False. For one thing, there’s no blind presupposition, rather there is merely [1] the avoidance of any reduction to absurdity and [2] allowing the satisfaction of reason’s demands for lucidity. For another thing, “life force” doesn’t express anything recognizable with respect to the necessary content that is the metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility, or what we term *GOD* / “Being Itself”.

    And many Christians deny the worth…

    Conflating [1] peoples acts and beliefs for [B] the coherence of their worldview or exegeses or truth claims upon reality is irrational. It states that differences exist. While that explains that differences exist, it does not explain any pro/con within truth claims.

    by chopping babies and adults into bits….

    It’s not surprising you’ve not taken the time to read up on ancient near eastern linguistics, conceptual frameworks, and reference frames. Granted, it’s an evolving body of knowledge. Your reply is seen in the arena of Noah too as the Non-Theist asserts that God destroyed the whole earth. Typically the reply is “yes” but when asked when God created a new planet, he hedges. But God *must* have created a new planet because God destroyed the whole earth, because that’s what the text “says” (according to Non-Theistic straw men). Joshua destroyed “all life” in verse “A” and then in verse “B” city upon city remains intact. And yet the Non-Theistic straw man there is, “All life! God killed all life!

    Such is just uninformed. I won’t bother with the military hyperbole there as you’re not up to speed on more basic items.

    …the god who later regretted his own decision….

    See the previous comment. It’ll give you hint at a place to start.

    being itself” is a ridiculous presupposition that anything that all living things are actuated by some invisible “being” in some way or other, and I don’t see much difference between invisible elephants, and an invisible “being itself” that incoherently pervades all physical life.

    I was surprised at this because you claim to have debated folks about it. Yet your reply does not reference anything even remotely convertible with the necessary content of the metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility, or what we term *GOD* / “Being Itself”.

    Tom made the right choice given your style of “debate”.

    … I ask what images it would have put in the minds of the mostly illiterate farm-hands…

    See the reply above about “It’ll give you hint at a place to start”. You may want to inform those folks who collect data on ancient near eastern linguistics, conceptual frameworks, and reference frames that theirs is not an evolving body of knowledge, but rather a waste of time as there’s nothing to learn. We already know it all.

    … tomfoolery such as god breathing into the nostrils…

    You seem to think the God which Scripture’s metanarrative affirms has lungs and breathes air. Given your performance here so far that’s not surprising. Perhaps you should employ the rest of scripture before defining terms? You know, lots and lots of verses. Not just a few.

    … I’ll stick with what these words meant in their own cultural historical context…

    Does that include the entirety of scripture with respect to God’s lungs and his breathing? Or just a few verses?

    ….divide already splitting Christian creationists down the middle…

    Conflating [1] peoples acts and beliefs for [B] the coherence of their worldview or exegeses or truth claims upon reality is irrational. It states that differences exist. While that explains that differences exist, it does not explain any pro/con within truth claims.

    Oh sure, I’m too ignorant of biblical stuff to be a worthy opponent of Tom. Yeah. Right.

    Given your debating style so far, yes, Tom would be wasting his time.

    BTW, you still have not explained how an eternal universe is a “problem” for the Christian’s metaphysics.

    BTW, you still have not addressed the questions asked of you regarding the necessary content of the metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility, or what we term *GOD* / “Being Itself”. So there’s an elephant, and it’s invisible. Okay, but then what? Please explain that and O’s razor with respect to said wellspring.

  45. scbrownlhrm

    Faith and Substance:

    ….. faith does allow for believing in things that have not been externally corroborated….

    Of course there is knowledge which does not stream from the physical sciences. But the absurdity of scientism wasn’t the point. The point was that faith is not knowledge but is what one does with that knowledge.

    I know, say, my dad, my father. All sorts of vectors have converged over the years such that my confidence in my dad is rational and time tested. If he covers my eyes and says follow me, I trust him without seeing or knowing where he is taking me. But that attitudinal response to the knowledge of him and of reality vis-à-vis him (which is what faith is) is based on reason and evidence.

    He tells me it’s a good place, and I believe in that good place. I do not see that place. That attitudinal response to the knowledge of him and of reality vis-à-vis him (which is what faith is) is based on reason and evidence. We believe, even know, by evidence, by reason, not by sight, for we do not now see. Or, to put it another way, we know by faith that the place both is and is good. That attitudinal response to the knowledge of him and of reality vis-à-vis him (which is what faith is) is based on reason and evidence.

    Now, that is the substance of faith, which is the substance of that hoped for good place, which is the substance of the (seen) evidence of that good place (which is not seen).

    Now, there’s another element in play here which is not mentioned in Hebrews 11:1. And that is the element of love which I and my dad relationally share. My dad’s knowledge of things has been demonstrably proven, as has been the fact that he is for me. My dad’s demonstrations that he is for me adds yet another dimension of evidence, which therefore adds yet another layer of substance. Now, that is the substance of faith, which is the substance of………

    Lastly, the fact that Hebrews 11:1 does not specifically incorporate the element of love within its descriptive of faith is – in the hands of the Non-Theist – taken as a proof that that element does not exist in the arena of faith, and that is because Non-Theists have a difficult time reading more than a few verses at any one time. But as Christians we know that the Non-Theist’s method there is a good way to get things wrong as one must employ all of scripture’s metanarrative when defining one’s terms. When one’s great love pulls on one’s hand and calls one’s name, one knows that what lay up ahead, though unseen, both is and is good. Hebrews 11:1 does not paint that canvas, but Scripture’s metanarrative demonstrates the very substance of that canvas, which is the substance of that (seen) evidence, which is the substance of that which is not seen.

  46. Roger

    Tom, in response #24 and #33 you argue for the historicity of the Christian religion, which you suggest is one of the reasons you are a Christian believer. The historicity of the Christian objective realities substantiate your faith. I suggested that historians can’t and do not really care about substantiating the miraculous tenets (objective realities) of Christianity any more than they care about substantiating the tenets of Mormonism. You pointed me to archeology and archeological findings to refute my claim and ended buy saying, “I don’t think you know as much as you think you do.”

    Thank you, but realize that statement can also be turned on you. “Archeology and the Bible” make this comment, “Archaeology in Palestine and Israel has undergone a major change since World War II. Prior to that time, many, if not most, archaeologists working there were Christians or Jews with at least some theological training. Many were motivated by a desire to find evidence that confirmed the accuracy of the Bible. In recent decades, many archaeologists have taken a secular stance and have approached the evidence without prior religious assumptions. As a result, skilled, intelligent, devoted and thoughtful archaeologists have adopted mutually exclusive, opposing beliefs about the accuracy of the Bible.”

    In this journal Philip Davies, an archeologists say, “The gap between the Biblical Israel and the historical Israel as we derive it from archaeology is huge. We have almost two entirely different societies. Beyond the name ‘Israel’ and the same geographical location, they have almost nothing in common.” And David Ord and Robert Coote said, “Many biblical stories are like Animal Farm. They are true, though not historically accurate or factual. They are concerned with proclaiming a message, not with providing us with a chronology of events from the history of Israel or the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We must learn to read them not as history but as message.”

    I guess I’m not alone in my assumptions. So much for historical veracity.

  47. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    What are some examples of where archeology has demonstrated this or that “Biblical X” with respect to this or that bit of history to be false? I mean besides an argument from silence?

    Or is an argument from silence all that you’re referencing?

    For decades the existence of Pilate was claimed to be false by Non-Theists — -Cause da-bible.

    But that was an argument from silence (and bias). Now of course there are other discoveries which affirm the fact of Pilate (etc.).

    What are your examples?

  48. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    There is a revisionist school, yes, Roger. But there remain numerous, continuing, confirmatory findings to demonstrate without question that the Bible is rooted in factual history.

    And that’s just archaeology. The documentary evidence has convinced both Christian and skeptical scholars that Jesus Christ lived, died, was seen as risen again by his disciples (though scholars differ on what that means), leaving behind an empty tomb; that Saul was converted to belief in Christ; that Jesus’ followers were convinced enough of the evidence they’d seen with their own eyes to be willing to die affirming it; that the Christian movement started small in Jerusalem but spread through the Palestine area, into Asia Minor and across the Mediterranean; that the accounts in the book of Luke are tied minutely to detailed local knowledge consistent with historical reference information down to the very year; that the disciples began teaching the resurrection of Jesus within months or at most 2 to 6 years (that’s the skeptical outlier view) of the events; and much, much more.

    The claim I’m making is not that everything in the Bible has external corroboration, but that compared to other religions, Christianity stands head and shoulder higher in its evidential basis. You say that “The fact that Christians claim a number of witnesses of the apparently resurrected Jesus means no more than what the Mormon’s claim as for the twelve witnesses of the angel Moroni who visited Joseph Smith.” This is factually in error. Both Christian and skeptical historians acknowledge there were a number of witnesses of the apparently resurrected Jesus. You won’t find that in Mormonism!

    Do we all agree on what it means? No. One side thinks it’s incredibly meaningful, the other side disagrees. One side is wrong. That’s not news.

    But let’s start on a foundation of real fact before we launch into dismissing the meaning of false facts, okay?

  49. Roger

    Tom and BillT,

    I’d like to follow up on my original response to your article, as well as BillT’s response to me (#16 and #17). You both felt that I was not differentiating between the essential objective realities (tenets) of Christianity and the theological differences. In effect if we can reduce Christianity to the lowest common denominator, then I would see the great harmony of not only the Christian faith but of Christian groups and denominations (harmony in the essentials). I suggested the many differences between denominations and groups that call themselves Christian cast doubt upon the whole of Christianity, in other words a failed epistemology. My feeling (as I stated earlier) is that many of the theological differences within Christianity so impinge upon what you call the objective realities that it cast suspicion up the whole of Christianity. It’s the fact of there be so many important (most Christians would say essential) differences, based on differing interpretations of the Bible, that make Christianity suspicious and illogical. You can’t all be right. The logical conclusion is, in light of almost total disagreement, is that no one is right. I used two examples to make my point, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and the way in which the Holy Spirit involves himself in the Christian’s life. This would be just two of the differences among Christians. After all, there are thousands of denominations and groupings that call themselves Christian, all having their differences based on differing interpretations of the Bible.

    I’d like to return to the example of sacraments, more specifically, the Lord’s Supper or the Mass. You suggested this might be merely a theological difference, but not essential to the faith. Transubstantiation, consubstantiation, Spiritual presence, or do the elements merely represent Christ’s body and blood. Roman Catholics, based on Christ’s words literally, believe the bread and wine become the actual body and blood, as the Christian participates in the Mass. This doesn’t have to be explained logically because the change in the elements is miraculous or supernatural. In fact, logic and reason, would dictate against this change in the elements. But consider the miracle of transubstantiation and that’s the only explanation that is necessary. Miracles aren’t explained but they are true. For the Catholic, in the fact that the Christian is literally or actually participatinng in Christ’s sacrifice, his/her sins are actually forgiven by participating. In fact Catholics have a sacramental theology in which the saving benefits of Christ’s sacrifice are applied through the sacraments. Water baptism (even infant baptism) removes the original sin of the participant in water. For the Catholic church, it is important for one of their children, if their life is in jeopardy, to be baptized before dying so as to remove the original sin that he/she was born with. Participation in the Mass removes the ongoing sin of the Catholic. Last rites remove the last acts of sin before the Catholic dies. Sacraments have a saving benefit.

    This has to do with the appropriation of Christ’s death or benefits to the believer. When the Catholic church confesses the Apostles Creed and says, we believe a Holy Catholic church, the only church they have in mind is the Roman Catholic church, because only they understand God’s miraculous working through the sacraments, including the Lord’s Supper. You may say that sacraments are only theological differences, but the early Reformers called Roman Catholics heretics and called their pope the anti-christ. And Catholics happily killed Protestant Christians because of these so called theological differences. And, of course, there are Protestant groups who also claim the necessity of water baptism for salvation (“believe and be baptized and you will be saved”). The essential objective reality of Christ’s death and resurrection means little if it isn’t appropriated to the individual. But as to the appropriation of Christ’s saving benefits there are vast and many differences. And you are suggesting that this is just a theological difference and doesn’t count toward the essentials of salvation?

    There are so many of these so called theological differences that impinge centrally on what you call the essential realities of Christianity that in reality there is no one definition of Christianity. If we were to visit another theological difference, the Fall of the human race, we would see that this is anything but a peripheral issue for Christianity. And yet do you realize how many differences there are concerning the Fall and its implications for all of humanity, all based on differing interpretations of Scripture?

    You see, Christianity, is much bigger than what you would have me believe. And this very website is based on the fact that you believe that these so called theological differences makes a big difference to the very notion of Christianity. I’m quite sure many of your articles argue that many theological differences that others believe put them outside the scope of authentic Christianity. You see, the fact that Christianity is so divided, which you contribute to, makes Christianity not only suspicious, but doubtful. That was the point of my response to you, Tom.

  50. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    The logical conclusion is, in light of almost total disagreement, is that no one is right.

    This is not so logical after all, Roger.

    Here’s the problem. You’re looking to the wrong sources. The way one knows whether Jesus Christ rose from the dead is not by examining whether people who think he rose from the dead all draw the same conclusions concerning everything that revolved around the event. The way to know whether he rose from the dead is by examining the evidences for (and against) the resurrection.

    You say you can’t believe Christianity is true because you can’t trust our epistemology. Ironically, however, you’ve adopted a rabbit trail as your epistemology.

    Did Jesus rise from the dead? That’s the key question now. How would you know? Not through the methods you’re using. There are better ones.

  51. BillT

    Roger,

    Perhaps this will help. Those differences you believe are so irreconcilable are from our perspective not only not irreconcilable but very possibly are all true. There are different traditions of spirituality within Christianity that you yourself have mentioned. Pentecostal, Evangelical, Sacramental, etc. Each of those offers a different perspective on God and our relationship with him. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Each describes different aspects of God in different ways.

    The God we worship and are in relationship with is, in the main, unknowable. Now, he has revealed to us enough of himself for us to be in relationship with him. More than that we just don’t know and even what he does reveal to us much is shrouded in mystery. That different spiritual perspectives will lead to different spiritual traditions and understandings is not only not a surprise but what we would expect. Each tradition can and does offer a perspective the others can learn from and appreciate.

    This is especially true of the example you chose, the Lord’s Supper. When we receive it where I worship we do so uttering these words. “Therefor we proclaim the mystery of the faith, Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” We openly acknowledge and celebrate that there exist mysteries we don’t understand within our beliefs. Thus, your repeatedly pointing our those different traditions and understandings tells us nothing we don’t already know.

    If nothing but complete certainty about what you believe is all you can handle Roger, then it is. There’s nothing I can do about that. I could point out that whatever you do believe instead of Christianity probably has as many, if not more, uncertainties in it than Christianity does but I doubt that your be very convincing to you. We, however, embrace those uncertainties as being exactly what we would expect to be true when one worships the omnipotent, omniscient, creator of the universe.

    I hope you have a very happy and very blessed Christmas, Roger.

  52. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    You’re conflating X’s for Y’s and then claiming a problem exists, and you’re doing so with several X’s.

    Two examples:

    Conflating [1] peoples acts and beliefs for [B] the coherence of their worldview or exegeses or truth claims upon reality is irrational. It only states that differences exist. It does not reveal insight. But explaining that differences exist is putting something that is trivially true on the table. It does not explain any pro/con within truth claims.

    Secondly, conflating [1] various modes and aqueducts through which Living Water arrives (on the one hand) for [2] the Living Water Itself is irrational (Sacraments and Baptism etc.).

    Observation: You point to uncertainty as a mark of being on the wrong path, while Barry proudly proclaimes he is happy to claim uncertainty and foists it as a mark of being on the right path.

    Worse: It’s not uncertainty that forces your irrational baggage — but rather it is a wide array of forced reductions to absurdity which you must embrace which does so.

  53. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    That did not answer the question, which was where I asked you how an eternal universe is a “problem” for Christian metaphysics.
    ——–I cited the fact of most of the creationists I’ve dealt with insisting that an infinite star field violates Genesis 1:1, which they all agree constitutes a metaphysical beginning of both space and time, which they thus deduce means an eternal universe is unbiblical and therefore so problematic for “Christian” metaphysics that they dismiss it as an inaccurate theory. I’ve never met a Christian who thought Genesis 1:1 is describing the creation of an infinite…probably because creating an infinite is about as illogical as zero producing something.

    ….. faith does allow for believing in things that have not been externally corroborated….
    Of course there is knowledge which does not stream from the physical sciences. But the absurdity of scientism wasn’t the point.
    —–I neither brought up nor attempted to defend scientism with that statement, I was rather limited to the matter of what Hebrews 11:1 means and implies as it is expounded by the biblical author within his own context.

    The point was that faith is not knowledge, it is what one does with that knowledge.
    ——Well excuse me, but Hebrews 11:1 does not deal with what somebody DOES with their faith-based knowledge, it is instead putting an “is” between “faith” and “substance”, and putting an “is” between “faith” and “evidence”. You wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. You lose.

    : I know, say, my dad, my father. If he covers my eyes an says follow me, I trust him without seeing or knowing where he is taking me.
    ———-I agree that a proper analogy to the faith described in Hebrews 11 would be the covering of one’s eyes.

    : But that attitudinal response to knowledge of him and of reality vis-à-vis him (which is what faith is) is based on reason and evidence.
    ——Tom already agreed that I correctly pointed out places in Hebrews 11 where the response by faith was made by the human BEFORE any corroboration of the promise was given. So unelss you fallaciously equate the uncorroborated promise, or voice in the head, or whatever, to reason and evidence, then Hebrews 11 faith justifies the blind faith of Benny Hinn as much as it does the “seeing” faith of Gleason Archer. I’m talking generally, I’m not saying Hebrews 11 will justify anybody’s particular theology, only that it will justify Christian faith whether it comes from a dumb Christian or a smart Christian.

    : He tells me it’s a good place, and I believe in that good place. That attitudinal response to knowledge of him and of reality vis-à-vis him (which is what faith is) is based on reason and evidence.
    ———what reason/evidence caused Abel to just happen to have offered a better sacrifice than Cain? Seems to me that story is admitting this was a blind crap shoot, they offered different sacrifices, and they’d just have to wait and see which one God felt was better. Cain would hardly have created an “offering” had he good reason to believe it would be rejected. So this little snippet from the context of Hebrews 11 is, without a doubt, providing an example of truly BLIND faith as a description of what the author was saying in verse 1.

    ….I also gave Romans 8, so clearly, your accusation that I employed one-verse theology, is false…..
    :Yes but your conclusion was just as misinformed. Perhaps some more verses will help.
    ———Excuse me. You accused me of “one-verse theology”, and that was a false accusation. Your opinion that my other interpretation of other bible verses was equally as misinformed, does not operate to prove that I had engaged in “one-verse theology”. Stop moving the goalposts.

    I decline your invitation to “try” using all of scripture….
    :Well if you want to insist on Hebrews 11 and void out reason and evidence,
    ———I never said I wished to void out reason and evidence. I simply attacked the presupposition of biblical inerrancy upon which you told me to use more biblical data, and I also pointed out the sheer stupidity of saying we cannot be confident out interpretation of one verse is correct unless we make sure it reconciles with the whole counsel of the bible.

    :that’s a good way to go – just cherry pick the verses that don’t employ those vectors and whad-a-ya-know!
    ———This is a limited forum. My choice to exegete Hebrews 11:1 and throw in Romans 8:24 was reasonable given the limitations of this forum. If you wish to go head-to-head with me on a specific matter, name it, and I’ll deal with it. But for right now, we are all speaking to multiple issues in a limited forum, so, as usual, I’ll be the one to initiate the better procedure: I will answer you point by point for the rest of your following screed, but after that, I will choose to limit my posts here to very specific matters. If you think that means I’m just trying to save face and avoid showing my ignorance, ask yourself why guilty criminal defendants never like to be grilled in careful baby steps by the prosecutor. If we go slow and devote quality time and attention to specificly defined subjects, we’ll be far more likely to resolve our differences, than in the spread-out “anything goes” manner we are currently doing.

    :If you don’t want to talk about the Christian body of truth claims upon reality, ignoring Scripture’s metanarrative is a good way to go.
    ——I never said I would be avoiding anything in scripture. I simply denied your ridiculous assumption that I cannot really be sure I’ve interpreted bible verse A correctly unless I’ve made sure it harmonizes with what’s asserted in bible verses B, C, D, and the rest of the bible. Sorry buddy, but you and I will have to first debate the merits of your biblical inerrancy presupposition. Before that time, I insist that I can know what you are currently talking about, without ever having any access to all materials you ever wrote on the subject.

    –You should try asking yourself why you believe the doctrine of inerrancy that says “only the originals”, when in fact the bible nowhere expresses or implies any such limitation to that doctrine.
    :I don’t recall mentioning that doctrine.
    —-just assume I can read your mind.

    :Or defining it. But, since you brought it up, as far as I know it’s not a first-copy that matters, but what matters is that the content is accurate.
    ——-Then you are woefully uninformed about biblical inerrancy. Bible inerrancy does NOT just state the bible is accurate in everything it says. Inerrancy also requires that bible inerrancy is only true “in the originals”. Perhaps I was wrong to assume that is the specific form of inerrancy you believe in.

    For example, the ontological history of becoming which the ancient near eastern Hebrew affirms is supported by the best science.
    ——–A rash and stupid thing to say given that modern science disagree with itself on cosmology about as much as sincere authentically “walking in the light” theologically orthodox Christians disagree about the Holy Spirit’s interpretation of myriad bible verses.

    :Genre is okay.
    You are betting for a bloody defeat her with that one: Fable is a genre, and the archetype of fable is the presence of animals that either talk with each other, or converse with humans. Stripping away the “later light” of the NT and putting yourself in the true position of history and knowledge that owuld have been possessed by the average illiterate Israelite living in the days of Moses, they would have had no reason to believe the serpent talking to Eve constituted anything other than a true serpent literally talking to a human being. Having objectively excluded your “it was just the devil using a snake as a puppet!” nonsense, you cannot infuse that narrative with more modern presuppositions that help reconcile this fanciful story with modern common sense. In which case, Moses really wanted his readers to believe that Eve expresses no surprise at all upon being addressed by the serpent, because talking animals really were normative in this magic garden.

    It doesn’t matter if you can offer an equally reasonable interpretation…you are not ever going to provide so much compelling evidence as to rationally justify the extreme rebuttal position that the fable-interpretation is either false or more likely false than your theory. That dashes toxic sludge on your faith, since you know perfectly well how much Christianity needs Genesis 3 to be literally true history.

    I appreciate Tom allowing me to toot my horn here, and I promise in the future (after I’ve answered the other existing responses to me) that I will limit my future posts to very specific questions about extremely nuanced matters, and will thus proceed in baby steps so that the reading jury may detect exactly where you and I begin to disagree, so we can then devote quality time to hammering on such Achilles Heel. That’s the more objective and smart way to proceed where the debate opponents are as utterly polarized against each other as we are. That’s an invitation to all the Christians here to do likewise and limit their future responses to me, to specific individual points, one at a time. Does that make me sound more like a clever sophist trying to bow out of a guaranteed beating? Or a prosecutor who wishes to thoroughly cross-examine a witness?

  54. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    More later, but for now:

    You seem to believe that time itself is an eternal reality. I’m not speaking of space or particle, but time. But is it accurate to say you hold that time itself is an eternal reality?

  55. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    (More later) but this:

    I mentioned the ontological history of becoming (of Man and Cosmos etc.) which the Hebrew affirmed is supported by the best science. On the Cosmos half you replied by referencing cosmology. Why? Is cosmology convertible with ontology? Is physics convertible with ontology?

    Also, Hebrews 11 does not describe love as an element within the substance that is faith, which is the substance of things unseen (and hoped for). Is it your contention then that faith/substance is void of love’s vectors?

  56. barry

    scbrownlhrm.

    :It seems Tom’s decision in declining your invitation was astute.
    ——-Which means I lose the debate, because, as everybody knows, atheists on atheist forums are incapable of engaging in the same exact type of group think against the intruder on THEIR forums.

    –“Being itself” blindly presupposes there is some sort of common “life force” that is responsible for the life of all living things
    :False. For one thing, there’s no blind presupposition, rather there is merely [1] the avoidance of any reduction to absurdity and [2] allowing the satisfaction of reason’s demands for lucidity.
    ——This is pure sophistry run amok. You wouldn’t specify that God’s being is “being itself” unless you intended to dance dangerously near pantheism. Why is God “being itself” and a lizard cannot be “being itself”? Because “god” is, according to you, that which is the basis for all of life.

    :For another thing, “life force” doesn’t express anything recognizable with respect to the necessary content that is the metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility, or what we term *GOD* / “Being Itself”.
    ——Then blame the Christians who call God a life force. Don’t expect atheists who have lives to keep up with every tiny little trifling bit of disagreement you people have amongst yourselves.

    –And many Christians deny the worth…
    :Conflating [1] peoples acts and beliefs for [B] the coherence of their worldview or exegeses or truth claims upon reality is irrational. It states that differences exist. While that explains that differences exist, it does not explain any pro/con within truth claims.
    ——–But under biblical presuppositions, there are unmitigated promises that God WILL guide your understanding if you are authentically born-again, sincerely prayerful and “walking in the light”. So when two such Christians disagree so violently over theology and biblical metaphysics (Calvinism, creationism, baptism, predestination), this rationally justifies thinking you Christians have been forced into a corner: either the bible is wrong to offer such guaranteed spiritually guidance into truth, or only one denomination among the myriad splintered Christian groups can rightfully claim to be the truly born again spiritually minded ones. Choose you this day how you will swerve.

    :by chopping babies and adults into bits….
    It’s not surprising you’ve not taken the time to read up on ancient near eastern linguistics, conceptual frameworks, and reference frames.
    —–it’s not surprising that you fallacious attempt to skirt the issue by drowning the horrific admissions of many conservative Christian scholars and apologists, in a sea of academia without actually addressing the real problem: Did the god that you profess to serve now, ever command anybody between 2000 b.c. and the first century, to slaughter women and children, yes or no?

    : Granted, it’s an evolving body of knowledge.
    ——Yeah, like cosmology.

    :Your reply is seen in the arena of Noah too as the Non-Theist asserts that God destroyed the whole earth.
    ———-Speak for yourself. I’m keenly aware that allegedly equally authentically born again prayerful “walking in the light” sincerely seeking conservative Protestant evangelical and reformed Christians disagree with each other about whether the flood of Noah covered the whole earth. If God’s likeminded ones cannot get their act together on that one, spiritually dead people like me are rational to step out of the ring and let you people duke it out in the name of the clarity of scripture which you all profess.

    :Typically the reply is “yes” but when asked when God created a new planet, he hedges.
    ——-I don’t see the problem. The flood was not to destroy the planet, but to destroy the sinfulness that existed upon the planet. According to the story, the new earth was nothing more than the same old dirt reappearing after the flood waters abated, and now populated by “righteous” Noah who immediately proceeded to get drunk and commit incest. God was rather stupid for being able to kill every cancer cell, but deliberately choosing to leave 8 of them alive. Perhaps that explains why he didn’t merely regret that man “sinned”, but regretted his own prior decision to create man on the earth (Genesis 6:6). No, you cannot scream “anthropomorphism”, because you’d have to justify that under the universally agreed hermeneutical axioms of grammar and immediate context. There’s nothing in the grammar or context of Genesis 6 that indicates v. 6 was intended to be taken any less literally than God’s awareness of the sin (v. 5), or God’s promise to blot out man (v. 7), nor any less literal than the flood itself.

    :But God *must* have created a new planet because God destroyed the whole earth, because that’s what the text “says” (according to Non-Theistic straw men).
    ——–Strawman. you talk as if all non-theists interpret this Genesis story the same way. They obviously do not.

    : Joshua destroyed “all life” in verse “A” and then in verse “B” city upon city remains intact. And yet the Non-Theistic straw man there is, “All life! God killed all life!”
    ———Once again, I do not share your presupposition of biblical inerrancy, and the reason Amalakites are allegedly still found running around even after the allegedly “total” slaughter of them could just as easily be due to contradictory traditions being imperfectly woven together, as it could be that the “totality” of the slaughter was mere typical Semitic exaggeration.

    :Such is just uninformed. I won’t bother with the military hyperbole there as you’re not up to speed on more basic items.
    ——–I have decided that you don’t believe half of the insulting rhetoric you throw at me, you just naturally talk that way because its part of your genetically predetermined personality. Carry on.

    …the god who later regretted his own decision….
    :See the previous comment. It’ll give you hint at a place to start.
    —–I didn’t need your previous comment. Christianity offers atheists a rich diversity of views running the gamut from KJV onlyists who think the English should correct the Hebrew and Greek, to open theism/process theology who insist that God’s admissions of imperfection are just as literally true as statements about how much he loves his followers. Don’t blame me if, while choosing to rebut Christians, I don’t have the time in light of my having a life outside the internet, to say everything that needs to be said, to forever close the door on any possibility that a sophist like you could manufacture some type of cocksure response.

    –being itself” is a ridiculous presupposition that anything that all living things are actuated by some invisible “being” in some way or other, and I don’t see much difference between invisible elephants, and an invisible “being itself” that incoherently pervades all physical life.
    : I was surprised at this because you claim to have debated folks about it. Yet your reply does not reference anything even remotely convertible with the necessary content of the metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility, or what we term *GOD* / “Being Itself”.
    ———Let’s see, how should I phrase this? Should I do what I’d normally do, and say “then go read Cherbonnier and recognize “being itself” is not even considered rational by many Christian theologians who comment on it”……or should I follow your example, and remark “Your having missed the forest for the trees on Cherbonnier is understandable.” ? perhaps I’ll just argue that because not even many of Chrisitanity’s allegedly spiritually-alive people think very highly of this metaphysical nonsense “being itself”, you are rather stupid to remark, as if it was some great thing, that atheists and spiritually dead people don’t put much stock in it either. Scripture could not be clearer that God is a personal being whose disposition can and does change depending on whether his subjects obey him or disobey him.

    … I ask what images it would have put in the minds of the mostly illiterate farm-hands…
    :See the reply above about “It’ll give you hint at a place to start”. You may want to inform those folks who collect data on ancient near eastern linguistics, conceptual frameworks, and reference frames that theirs is not an evolving body of knowledge, but rather a waste of time as there’s nothing to learn. We already know it all.
    —–But since Moses’ followers were mostly illiterate farm-hands, it is rather easy to figure out how the Mosaic assertions would have been viewed by them.

    … tomfoolery such as god breathing into the nostrils…
    :You seem to think the God which Scripture’s metanarrative affirms has lungs and breathes air.
    ——-But we all have to establish our interpretations on the basis of immediate context and other concerns. I accept the text in the way it was most likely accepted by Moses’ illiterate Israelites, so this is far more objective than anything you’ve offered.

    : Given your performance here so far that’s not surprising. Perhaps you should employ the rest of scripture before defining terms? You know, lots and lots of verses. Not just a few.
    ——Perhaps you should get God’s like-minded ones to get their act together on what bible inerrancy is and is not, before you demand that an atheist get in the ring and take up sides in that debate? perhaps you should remember that in any other area of life, nobody says we cannot know what is meant in a few short words in their immediate context unless we can be sure we can reconcile our interpretation what everything else the source had to say?

    … I’ll stick with what these words meant in their own cultural historical context…
    :Does that include the entirety of scripture with respect to God’s lungs and his breathing? Or just a few verses?
    ———-It includes only consultation of Genesis 1-3. To enlarge the relevant context beyond that starts to presume the answers to the question about what exactly in the Pentateuch came from Moses, or was later edited by him, or was inserted by a scribe so early that we’ve forever lost the ability to know what anonymous scribes contributed. Therefore, I’m already making generous concessions when I expand the larger context to Genesis 1-3, for purposes of deciding whether God’s breathing into the nostrils of a dirt model of Adam, was intended to be literal or figurative. Surely your concern to have an inerrant bible had NOTHING to do with your concern to “reconcile” this story with other biblical descriptions of God? Nah, the only people motivated by their presuppositions are atheists, correct?

    ….divide already splitting Christian creationists down the middle…
    :Conflating [1] peoples acts and beliefs for [B] the coherence of their worldview or exegeses or truth claims upon reality is irrational.
    ——–Then under your logic, the fact that evolution is represented by the contradictory theories of Gould’s hopeful monster and Dawkins’ gradualism, is insufficient to argue that macroevolution is a false theory. So how do you explain so many creationists insisting that this contradiction in evolutionary theory shows the entire system is bankrupt? Maybe most of the creationists aren’t truly born again, and that’s why they cannot see the infallibility of your logic?

    : It states that differences exist. While that explains that differences exist, it does not explain any pro/con within truth claims.
    ——-Ok, then how do you determine which group of authentically born-again sincerely seeking “walking in the light” Christians are wrong in their mutually opposed interpretations of the NT? Will you argue that all sincere 5-point Calvinists aren’t truly born again?

    Oh sure, I’m too ignorant of biblical stuff to be a worthy opponent of Tom. Yeah. Right.
    :Given your debating style so far, yes, Tom would be wasting his time.
    ——–YOU have been debating me back and forth these last few days, far more than Tom has. Is Tom more spiritually mature than you? If I’m not a “worthy” debate opponent, and you think my allegedly abysmally ignorant understanding of even the basics wouldn’t pose the least threat to any serious Christian, then for what reason have you chosen so consistently to debate me? You don’t fear I might mislead anybody because I’m too stupid on the basics to get that far, so what’s yer excuse? Nothing good on cable?

    or maybe some authentically born again Christians can be presumed so stupid that an alleged ignoramous like me really is, unfortunately, a legitimate danger?

    yeah, you aren’t feeding your sinful lust to argue solely for the sake of argument, it’s only with crocodile tears that you force yourself to participate solely so others may benefit, right?

    :BTW, you still have not explained how an eternal universe is a “problem” for the Christian’s metaphysics.
    ——–because Christianity is too contradictory for me to have covered every possible thing parading itself as “Christian metaphysics”, so my choice to state the obvious (an infinite universe is, in the opinion of most young earth and old earth creationists, who represent a fairly large majority of Christians, contrary to Genesis 1:1) was reasonable and rational, especially given that blog forums aren’t particularly suited to the level of comprehensive dialogue necessary to shove any hope for one’s opponent all the way out the door of possibility.

    :BTW, you still have not addressed the questions asked of you regarding the necessary content of the metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility, or what we term *GOD* / “Being Itself”.
    ——And your obvious prioritizing modern philosophical concepts above the biblical wording infallibly reveals what really fills your heart. And it ain’t the biblical wording.

  57. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    More later, but how is A-T metaphysics an affirming of anything remotely related to pantheism?

    Please explain.

    Why is it that a past eternal universe fails to escape the conclusion of *GOD* which that (Christian) metaphysic affirms? What is the argument and where does it go wrong?

  58. barry

    scbrownlhrm,
    More later, but how is A-T metaphysics an affirming of anything remotely related to pantheism? Please explain.
    ——–Should I say “it’s not surprising that you don’t even get the basics down correctly….” or should I answer without imitating other people’s self-congratulatory accolades? I equate the “being itself” nonsense with pantheism, because, like pantheism, “being itself” theology says all living things are only living because they have a share in “being itself”, and while this doesn’t necessarily mean doors and dirt are also infused by God, it’s sufficiently close to make it reasonable to make the connection.You don’t have any biblical basis to disagree, as allegedly, Christ or God is what holds the atoms of physical matter together, and that makes God no less responsible for dirt being stable, than he is responsible for your soul continuing to animate your body.

    ————————–
    :Why is it that a past eternal universe fails to escape the conclusion of *GOD* which that (Christian) metaphysic affirms? What is the argument and where does it go wrong?
    ———–Well if you put yourself in the historical shoes of the mostly illiterate Israelites who lived under Moses and therefore wouldn’t have known what he wrote in Genesis except by having some literate person read it to them, then “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” would have been understood much more simplistically than it is viewed today by post-modern apologists whose understanding of true science far surpasses what this original audience would ever have known.

    Unless you are prepared to argue that “how the originally intended target audience would have understood it” is a weak hermeneutic having little or no bearing on what the author himself most likely intended to convey, then you are never going to be able to demonstrate that said simplistic pre-scientific child-like understanding of Genesis 1 and 2 is any less reasonable than whatever some modern-day apologist thinks it means.

    The last I checked, nobody has to get it right. They only have to show their interpretation is at least AS reasonable as the other one which they disagree with.

    The last I checked, exactly what Genesis 1 and 2 mean, exactly what philosophical presuppositions are acceptable to bring to the table, exactly what traits must manifest themselves in your life before you can have a biblically justified claim to being enlightened by the Holy Spirit, are subjects about which Christians violently disagree with each other. These matters bear directly on the objectivity of one’s interpretation, at least in the Christian view, and their highly subjective/tentative nature ensures that you’ll likely never show that the particular Christian understanding YOU bring to the table is the “right” one.

  59. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    A-T metaphysics affirms Genesis 1:1

    Do you want to try again?

    What of time? Is it an eternal reality?

    Is cosmology convertible with ontology?

    What are the radical points of irreconcilable divergences between [1] *GOD* / “Being Itself” and [2] Pantheism?

  60. barry

    Is creation ex nihilo a problem of ability, or a problem of logic?

    Does zero fail to produce something, because there’s nobody there to squeeze it tightly enough to get something from nothing?

    Or does zero fail to produce something for reasons wholly independent of the level of power a god might have?

    If adding God to the problem of creating married bachelors, is not going to “make it happen”, then why do you think adding God to the problem of creation from nothing, could possibly “make it happen”?

    Are there several different schools of quantum theory? Yes.

    Are some of them deterministic?

    Do they all agree that something from nothing is possible? No.

    So can we just blurt out “the Copenhagen School says virtual particles often emerge from nothing” and think that thereby, we have succeeded in our effort to keep creation from nothing within the realm of the logically possible? No.

    The way I see it, your options are:

    a – you can show that creation from nothing is logically possible.
    b – you deny that the bible teaches creation ex nihilo.
    c – you argue that the Copenhagen School happened to get it right.
    d – you show that the bible-god can “do” the logically impossible, or
    e – you admit the bible’s theory of cosmological origins is no less illogical than asserting God lied to himself.

  61. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    What is the A-T metaphysics argument with respect to Genesis 1:1? Where does it go wrong?

  62. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    I simply denied your ridiculous assumption that I cannot really be sure I’ve interpreted bible verse A correctly unless I’ve made sure it harmonizes with what’s asserted in bible verses B, C, D, and the rest of the bible. Sorry buddy, but you and I will have to first debate the merits of your biblical inerrancy presupposition…

    This was not in reference to many books, but chapters in the same book. It’s where “killed all life” and “killed all that breathes, man, woman, child…” etc. is claimed as fulfilled and, then, in the same book, the same book talks about all the men, women, children, babies, and city after city which were uninvolved.

    There’s a reason the linguistics reads that way btw.

    If one chapter does not need to harmonize with the its own book, you’ve not done a good exegesis.

    It’s the same pattern with your belief that God has lungs and breathes into a man’s body. It’s like Genesis 6. It’s like the flood. It’s like the whole show. You’re not even handed in your method but pick and choose if it’s going to be a verse, a chapter, a book, or more.

    BTW, the phrase “one-verse theology” is “saying” and refers not to one literal verse, but to this uneven method which you demonstrate.

    Is your belief that God has lungs and breathes into a man’s body from a verse? A book? Ten books? 60-ish books?

  63. G. Rodrigues

    @Roger:

    I suggested the many differences between denominations and groups that call themselves Christian cast doubt upon the whole of Christianity, in other words a failed epistemology. My feeling (as I stated earlier) is that many of the theological differences within Christianity so impinge upon what you call the objective realities that it cast suspicion up the whole of Christianity. It’s the fact of there be so many important (most Christians would say essential) differences, based on differing interpretations of the Bible, that make Christianity suspicious and illogical. You can’t all be right. The logical conclusion is, in light of almost total disagreement, is that no one is right.

    So the argument here is that since Christians disagree among themselves on points of Christian doctrine it follows that Christianity is false. Let us apply the same logic to other fields. Since there is no agreement on the interpretation of quantum mechanics, the “logical conclusion is, in light of almost total disagreement, is that no one is right” and quantum mechanics is false. Roger, since you have just proved by your impeccable logic that QM is false, I suggest you write a paper and submit it asap, as this is Nobel prize worthy material. According to an atheist site, there are 17 varieties of atheism. Since atheists do not even agree on what atheism consists of, the “logical conclusion is, in light of almost total disagreement, is that no one is right” and it must then be that atheism is false.

    I will leave to the reader the multiplying of examples — they can be multiplied ad infinitum, no miracle is needed.

  64. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    I’ve consolidated my last few question from my recent comments here so as to avoid your tendency towards the proverbial fragenblitzen technique. There are several questions that I’ve asked several times and you touch on them with indirect hedges so far only to follow with a burst of new topics.

    That is another reason Tom was right to turn down your offer.

    Before going on, you did ask me one yes/no question about God commanding killing babies and the answer is that the ancient near eastern Hebrew linguistics describe a trio: [1] God commands Joshua to kill all that breathes in Canaan – if it breathes kill it – and [2] Joshua does so and scripture affirms he did so and [3] city after city after city of men, women, children, babies, animals, and so on are affirmed as having been uninvolved. Sure, [1] and [2] seem to contradict [3] but that is only an appearance, and only the uninformed see a contradiction. There is more on that front: given that Sinai is defined (by both OT and NT scripture) as that which is *not* God’s Ideal for mankind, it seems there are all sorts of OT vectors which – according to both OT and NT scripture – fall short of “The Good(….btw there’s a reason that both the OT and NT defines its terms that way….). “Less than God’s Ideal for us in Moses/Sinai” is a game-changer affirmed by the OT, the NT, and by Christ and so, though it’s anything but new, our Non-Theist friends seem unable to define their terms accordingly.

    Before going to the other (recent) questions, the following is important, and it explains why it is now obvious that you’ve not given an honest effort here to engage content. I had stated this:

    “I know, say, my dad, my father. If he covers my eyes and says follow me, I trust him without seeing or knowing where he is taking me. But that attitudinal response to knowledge of him and of reality vis-à-vis him (which is what faith is) is based on reason and evidence. He tells me it’s a good place, and I believe in that good place. That attitudinal response to knowledge of him and of reality vis-à-vis him (which is what faith is) is based on reason and evidence.”

    I recall when my wife covered my eyes for a celebration and, in the same sense, my faith – though unable to see ahead – was rational and built on evidence which was corroborated by facts. Whether that sort of reality takes place with one’s wife or one’s parent does not change the fact that the following comment by you fails to pass for honest engagement of content:

    I agree that a proper analogy to the faith described in Hebrews 11 would be the covering of one’s eyes.

    To give you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you’ve never really known love in any full-bodied sense such that one could in fact cover your eyes and lead you to you know not what but – on countless vectors of evidence – you trust the hand leading you. If that is the case then your complete inability to engage the factual content of that experience might be understandable.

    But I don’t see that such is the case. It simply looks like an evasion followed by more fragenblitzen techniques.

    External corroboration by evidence and fact provide the rational response to trust in the unseen up ahead (etc.) there, and for those who have been fortunate enough to have a spouse or parent (or etc.) to know such a blind-journey and what its factual content actually is, the truth of Hebrews 11:1 is palpable. Tom did not make a contradiction to that, rather, he mentioned cosmogony and then qualified that with the fact that we do not know everything about ancient near eastern Hebrew linguistics / conceptual frameworks and there’s much coming on scene of late which seems to be changing even that. The “ontological history of becoming” with respect to the cosmos affirmed by the ancient Hebrew is the topic over in that corner. Making cosmogony the unseen does not change the content of that hand-led journey. Again, to give you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you’ve never really known love and person and evidence within the reality of that content.

    Moving on:

    Bill.T.’s #34 and his #51 and G.R.’s #64 are helpful in the straw man of “Denominations! Plural! Therefore false!” Heady stuff in that straw man btw.

    I put the following here with the awareness of having seen (now) your handling of content when it comes to that blind-journey which our spouses or parents or loved ones have provided us with (how fortunate to be so blessed, I hope you’ve tasted it) and which you seemed to have chosen to trample under foot for the sake of a sound-bite.

    [1] You seem to believe that time itself is an eternal reality. I’m not speaking of space or particle, but time. Does the Absolute have a reference frame?

    [2] I mentioned the ontological history of becoming which the Hebrew affirmed as being supported by the best science. You replied by referencing cosmology. Why? Is cosmology convertible with ontology? Is physics convertible with ontology?

    [3] Hebrews 11:1 does not describe love as an element within the substance that is faith, which is the substance of things unseen, and the substance of things hoped for, and is itself the evidence of the reality of those unseen things. Is it your contention then that faith/substance is void of love?

    [4] What are the radical points of irreconcilable divergences between [1] *GOD* / “Being Itself” and [2] Pantheism?

    [5] Christian A-T metaphysics affirms Genesis 1:1 Christian A-T metaphysics discusses why a past-eternal universe is not a problem for Genesis 1:1. What is the argument and where does it go wrong? What about its treatment of creating ex nihilo, non-being, and being? What are the arguments and where do they go wrong?

    [6] Eternal nor not, does time (as properly defined) transcend *GOD* / “Being Itself” (as properly defined)? Or is it some lesser reality?

    [7] When it comes to your belief that God has lungs, and that God breathes into a man’s body, and that God changes in Gen 6, and that Joshua fulfilled God’s command, and that that command was to kill all life, every man, woman, child, and baby, and that such happened, are those beliefs built by the same even-handed technique of, say, using one verse? Or is it a few verses? Or is it a few chapters? A book? 5 books? Ten books? 60-ish books? Tom alluded to something about cosmogony – is there something in that arena that could help us know how to traverse these beliefs of yours here?

  65. Roger

    Hold on Rodrigues. Only 17 varieties of atheism? And I bet they have something in common. There’s well over 1,000 varieties (denominations and groupings) of Christianity. And many, if not most, contradict each other on central and important issues. That’s like saying there are over a thousand varieties of chocolate ice cream, but in this case they all taste entirely different. Which is the authentic chocolate ice cream? All 1,000 say, I am. Sounds much more reasonable to pick one of the 17 brands of atheism, especially if your looking for a coherent world and life view to stake your life on.

    Ya tellin me Christianity is true? Which one? What da!!

  66. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    Do you understand your own premises?

    First, Bill T.’s #51 helpful. Secondly, whether it is QM or Atheism or Christianity or X or Y or Z, the issue is not certainty unless you want to claim what can only be a radical, opaque skepticism. Good luck arguing for the truth of that claim.

    Rather, the issue is when and if one is forced to embrace this or that reductio ad absurdum.

    The goal of reason as truth-finder is [1] avoiding reductions to absurdity and [2] satisfying reason’s demands for lucidity. Barry claims those goals are nonsense (sophistry, he said). Perhaps you agree? Disagree? The peripheral topics you’ve mentioned so far are irrelevant to what defines Christianity’s epicenter. That’s a point you’ve not managed to negate – all you’ve done in each attempt to negate that point is point to things outside of Christianity’s epicenter – which begs the question.

    What everyone is left with is uncertainty in several layers, and certainty in several layers, and, so, that is all a proverbial “wash”.

    Therefore certainty/uncertainty cannot help us decide – but then everybody knows that with respect to the nature of knowledge of reality (on the one hand) and the fundamental nature of reality (on the other hand).

    All that is left then is that painful “Y” in the road between the forced reductio ad absurdum (on the one hand) and reason’s lucidity (on the other hand). Uncertainty never has disqualified a premise, but what everyone agrees on is that when this or that premise forces a reduction to absurdity, the premise itself is (then) rationally rejected.

    The fundamental nature of reason, logic, knowledge, and perception will always force our hands, whatever paradigm we may be working within. Regarding this or that “metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility”, no rational person intentionally embraces absurdity (the proverbial reductio ad absurdum and so on). The reach of the physical sciences (on the one hand) and of reason herself (on the other hand) are universally and fundamentally distinct, and distinction here does not mean wholly disconnected from one another, but simply means that they – and their respective reaches – are, well, different, scientism being fallacious (etc.).

    Knowledge just isn’t “physics-full-stop” (methodological naturalism) and the moment the Non-Theist attempts to claim that such *is* the definition of Knowledge is the moment reality’s universal and fundamental transcendentals come roaring in to dismantle his “.…cluster of tautological statements giving an appearance of a meaningful structure or system when stacked and leaned up against each other at various angles …. the resultant spaces providing the necessary illusion for pattern projecting subjects to go on to…..” (DNW) The Non-Theist and physicist Sean Carroll makes the attempt in his “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself” and, bit by bit, the absurdity of “useful but not true” subsumes all of his syntax.

    He chooses absurdity over God.

    Atheists are compelled into the hard stop of Mind. That is to say that atheistic philosophers get there all by themselves as we’re just forced into it by logic regardless of our presuppositions. The hard stop of Mind is peculiar. One has to squint really hard to deny it – to eliminate it – but even then……… The choice between ultimate or cosmic or final absurdity (on the one hand) or God / the Divine Mind (on the other hand) is, if we are patient, and we are, where these conversations always end up.

    I think solipsism is always an interesting topic because if we start “mid-stream” in our epistemology by rejecting solipsism (as I think most of us probably do), it is then interesting to try to infer what “upstream” structure of our thoughts must have led to this rejection. There is some hope that by swimming upstream in this manner we will discover certain “first principles” that lie unrecognized at the wellspring of our beliefs. (J.H.)

    It is simply a matter of [1] following reason, logic, and observational reality as far as they will take you and, from there, [2] pulling in that which makes the most sense of all the information and [3] that which avoids the many pains of this or that reductio ad absurdum. Atheists of all strips do the Christian’s work for him here, saving the Christian all sorts of time, as they (Atheists of all strips) typically follow reason and logic and end up within various cousins of solipsism, both hard and soft, which of course is again what the Christian’s metaphysic predicts as that proverbial “Y” in the road between the Divine Mind (on the one hand) and Absurdity (on the other hand) approach ever more rapidly.

    Bill.T. alluded to this in his reply to you but you’ve not addressed it. Which is not surprising given what appears to be your chosen method of fragenblitzen techniques.

  67. G. Rodrigues

    @Roger:

    Only 17 varieties of atheism? And I bet they have something in common. There’s well over 1,000 varieties (denominations and groupings) of Christianity. And many, if not most, contradict each other on central and important issues. That’s like saying there are over a thousand varieties of chocolate ice cream, but in this case they all taste entirely different. Which is the authentic chocolate ice cream? All 1,000 say, I am. Sounds much more reasonable to pick one of the 17 brands of atheism, especially if your looking for a coherent world and life view to stake your life on.

    I have very little patience for idiocy; I have just proved that, according to your principle, a principle you repeat in the quoted portion (“many, if not most, contradict each other on central and important issues”), both Atheism and Quantum Mechanics are false. If you have anything remotely relevant to say, say it. Cluttering the combox with irrelevant waffle about “authentic” varieties of chocolate, whatever that means, is a waste of time and internet ink.

  68. Roger

    scbrown and GR

    The “peripheral topics” I’ve mentioned? You mean, like the fall of all humanity into a helpless state of sinfulness? OK, maybe we’re not talking about the same religion. Maybe I should just drop the effort. After all you have said (which isn’t a lot), I still don’t see the reasonableness of Christianity, whichever variation you should choose.

    Some of your responses, scbrown, are rather lengthy. I thought I was windy until I’ve tried to read many of comments. So bear with me while I tell a little story. I’ll try to abbreviate it as much as possible. Some say this is actually a true story. It speaks to the issue of the reasonableness of Christianity.

    Once upon a time, the sky God created a great big universe and world. He was very proud, proclaiming his creation very good. He especially drew attention to the crown of his creative work, Adam and Eve, or human kind. He even created Adam and Eve so as to resemble himself. But then the demi-god, Satan, wasn’t too impressed, or maybe he was jealous. Anyway this demi-god set out to foil God’s plan for his creation, so he disguised himself as a snake and set out to tempt and deceive Adam and Eve. His deception was so effective that Adam and Eve believed the demi-god over the warnings of the creator God. God was very upset, not only with Adam and Eve, but also with the demi-god, Satan. He sentenced Adam and Eve and all their posterity to a life of hardship and trials. And expressing his frustration with the demi-god (who thought he was as powerful as God) he kicked him in the heel and said let that be warning to you that I’m coming back to destroy you. In the meantime this demi-god and his band of hooligans roamed the earth sewing discord amongst all the inhabitants on the earth. Eventually the creator God decided it was time to come back to earth. This time, thinking he was pretty clever, he decided to disguise himself as a human being. This way most people (and maybe the demi-god) would not or could not recognize him. To make his disguise even more believable, he came as a baby human. But Satan wasn’t fooled, and once again sought the sky God’s destruction. And the demi-god once again foiled the sky God’s plan causing the cruel death of the disguised sky God. From the grave the sky God promised, once again, to return to earth to destroy the demi-god. This would be the sky God’s third attempt. But Satan didn’t quiver in his boots but merely said, “you’ve already got two strikes against you. “Remember, three strikes and you’re out. “You haven’t been successful yet. “Do you really think you can pull it off? “Give it your best shot, but the jury’s still out as to the outcome.” Claiming to go back to heaven, the sky God claimed that in the meantime he would rule from heaven. Of course there is no evidence of such a rule, making the so-called resurrection from the grave also suspicious. Why, we don’t even know if he really did make it back to heaven. None the less, the demi-god, Satan, roamed the earth and continued to sew hatred and discord upon the earth, apparently another victory for the demi-god.

    Sound familiar, scbrown? Yes, I realize it sounds like a typical Marvel comic book fiction story of super heroes and anti heroes. It also sounds like the primitive Mesopotamian stories of the good gods and bad gods living in a pseudo reality from which they influence the inhabitants on earth. In reality it is obviously a story of fiction, like the fabricated stories of other religions. Christians claim this story to be real (objective reality) and thus believe in and stake their lives on it. Where’s the logic in believing such a story? It sounds as believable as the Santa Claus story in which Santa makes toys at the North Pole for all good boys and girls. Oh ya. Children do believe that story. You’ll have a long way to go if you’re going to convince me that such fiction is true and reasonable.

  69. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    Your Non-Christian narrative aside, you said you had archeological evidence that disproved some sort of historical claim in scripture.

    Is it evidence from silence?

    Your brought it up. And so I’ve followed up with you twice now about it.

    You have a habit of not following through. Fragenblitzen etc. It’s now demonstrable.

  70. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    Is there death in your story before whatever fall you’re discussing? And you left out dualism’s ontological history of becoming. Did I miss it? If you want to borrow it’s fine, but you ought to actually get it right. Otherwise it’s Non-Christian noise. Fragenblitzen again.

  71. G. Rodrigues

    @Roger:

    scbrown and GR

    I suppose the “GR” means that you are addressing me. But that cannot possibly be true since what you wrote, quite apart from whether it is sensible or even true, is completely irrelevant to the argument I made and is just changing the subject.

    Since you have not deigned to point any flaw with my argument, neither have you retracted the principle which based your conclusions, you are therefore logically committed to say both Quantum Mechanics and Atheism are false. I will not comment about the first implication, but as far as the second, congratulations, you are closer to the truth.

  72. Roger

    scbrown

    I was just recounting the historical narrative in a close approximation of the Bible’s accounting. If I’m off on a couple details, according to your recollection, you can change that part of the story. It’s still relatively close and however you want to summarize the Bible’s narrative, it accords very closely with a Marvel comic book drama or many of the Mesopotamian primitive pseudo reality stories which attempt to explain the harsh realities of human life on earth. Those stories are filled with fear and superstition, as is the Bible’s story. So, I ask again, does this historical accounting (the Bible’s accounting) really make sense to you? Again, for me, it makes as much sense as a children’s story such as the story of Santa Claus.

    I think you are misrepresenting what I said. I didn’t say I had archeological evidence of any kind. I merely quoted from a journal (Archeology and the Bible) in which a couple of the contributors suggested that the historic difference (as derived from archeology) between Biblical Israel and historic Israel is huge. They suggested that the Bible and archeology describe almost two entirely different societies. Beyond those quotes, I didn’t claim to have any archeological evidence.

  73. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    [1] Was there death…..

    [2] Where’s dualism’s ontological history of becoming…

    Materialism isn’t “close” to dualism. That you think so is revealing.

    If you want to discuss Christianity, then do so.

    You said, “They suggested that the Bible and archeology describe almost two entirely different societies…”

    [3] …. examples where X is proved false etc…

    [4] Are they from silence…. they seem to be…

  74. scbrownlhrm

    Regarding Barry and Roger’s peculiar methodology:

    Does scripture affirm that God has lungs and breathes into the body of man with those lungs? Does scripture affirm (in both the OT and the NT) that Moses/Sinai is less than God’s Ideal for mankind? How are laws written on hearts and why does God make a covenant with Himself in that arena? If one’s analysis forces one chapter to fail to harmonize with the next chapter, or with its own book, or verse A with verse B, and so on, then you’ve not done a good analysis. You’re not even-handed in your method but pick and choose if it’s going to be a verse, a chapter, a book, five books, ten, or more. The phrase “one-verse theology” comes to mind, and, just to be clear, that is a “saying” and it refers not to one literal verse, but to this uneven method which our Non-Theist friends demonstrate.

    *IF* one asserts that Scripture claims that God has lungs and breathes life into the body of man in chapter M, but *then* in chapter Q God is described in a sense which precludes lungs, well then will there be an even-handed treatment? And what is that treatment? A verse, a chapter, a book, five books, ten? More? Do we also bring in historicity, ancient linguists, and other such proverbial extra-biblical “Verse/Chapter” (as it were) and allow them to weigh in also? If not, why not?

    That’s God’s lungs. Or whatever.

    What about Chapter-X where [1] God commands Joshua to kill all that breathes in Canaan – if it breathes kill it – and Chapter-Y where [2] Joshua does so and scripture affirms he did so – and Chapter-Z where [3] city after city after city of men, women, children, babies, animals, and so on are affirmed as having been uninvolved? If one asserts that Scripture claims Chapter-X, but *then* Chapter-Z arrives, well then will there be an even-handed treatment? Which, if any, assertion is found resting on one verse? A chapter? A book? Five books, ten? More? Do we also bring in historicity, ancient linguists, and other such “Verse/Chapter” (as it were) and allow them to weigh in? If not, why not?

    Meanwhile: The Christian pulls on the entire narrative and on history as well because his method is to throw as wide of a net as possible as he welcomes all data points, both from within Scripture and from extra-biblical sources.

    Therefore: When it comes to one’s assertion that Scripture states that God has lungs, and that God breathes into a man’s body, and that God changes in Gen 6, and that Joshua fulfilled God’s command, and that that command was to kill all life, every man, woman, child, and baby, and that such is literally what happened, even though city after city after city of man, woman, child, baby, animal, and so on are affirmed by scripture as having been uninvolved, are those beliefs built by the same even-handed technique of, say, using one verse? Or is it a few verses? Or is it a few chapters? A book? 5 books? Ten books? 60-ish books? Do you also bring in historicity, ancient linguists, and other such proverbial extra-biblical “Verse/Chapter” (as it were) and allow them to weigh in? Or is there an uneven-handed method emerging with respect to those “other” verses, chapters, and narratives which pull earlier definitions and terms into different trajectories? If you use only a verse or two, or a chapter, for “ABC” then why not do that with “LMN” as well? What is the methodology?

    Why isn’t your method that of the Christian? Please explain the flaw in the Christian’s method – which is to throw as wide of a net as possible as he welcomes all data points, both from within Scripture and from extra-biblical sources.

  75. Roger

    scbrown

    I’ll go back to my first comment on this website, which I have repeated in a latter comment. I’m commenting as an average pew warmer at church, not one having a philosophical education, perhaps not even the grade level of some of these commentors. I have noticed something though as such. Much of your responses make little sense. And I doubt that they make much of sense to most people.

    Do you think the original audience of the Genesis account wrestled with the creation account or the subject of their faith as you expect me to? Or do you think the Psalmist had a clue about materialism and dualism, metaphysics, ontology, reductio absurdum, fragenblitzen (sounds like one of Santa’s reindeers), solipsism, cosmology, etc. etc. See, you are talking about Christianity in a way that makes very little sense to most people. I’ve read the Bible plenty but have never heard the apostle Paul argue Christianity the way you do. His arguments were clear to all. I read the parables of Jesus and I know exactly what he’s talking about. I believe your arguments would confuse him as much as they do me. I’ve read plenty of commentaries, as well as theological works, going back to John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion) and current works, as well, and their explanations are understandable. I go to a Christian church and listen to a theologically trained minister expound on the Scriptures in a sermon and no one goes away from the service asking, what was he talking about. None of them make the Christian religion as confusing as you do. None of them make the Bible or its message a philosophical debate. Calvin and Arminius debated theology and the substance of religion, not philosophy. If they did, they did so in a way that was understandable to the common person, so their message was clear. If you think arguing the reality of Christianity on your terms is going to convince people of your position, you should think again. You say, “if you want to discuss Christianity, then do so.” As far as I’m concerned you are arguing with your mouth full of marbles. Yes if you want to talk about Christianity, then do so. My feelings too.

    I asked you, if the Bible narrative story made sense to you? Is the Bible’s story allegorical (such as the creation and Fall account) or is it actually a true accounting of actual historical events. I’m all but certain the original audience of the given account, as well as the New Testament audience believed the narrative to be literally true. Do you? No double talk, please.

  76. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    What is the differenced between philosophy and theology? What role does reason and evidence play? None?

    You’ve now arguing that because scientists 200 years ago did not know about QM, QM is either false or fallacious.

    Shall we add this to G.R.’s list with respect to QM?

    You’re on a role. Is there anything else that we know today which was not known X years ago that is false or fallacious because we did not know it X years ago? Or just theology?

    Still waiting for that evidence which proves Bible-History-X false. Or is it from silence?

  77. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    Two things: a few typos, and, a thought from GR worth adding, hence this revised post:

    You ask good questions but you are arguing with premises that need to be clarified before any Q/A can go further. For one thing, when it comes to knowledge, according to you internal contradictions within [Content X] is a proof that all the content is either false or fallacious. For another thing, again when it comes to knowledge, we now have a new premise from you: Because scientists 200 years ago did not know about QM, all the content within QM is either false or fallacious.

    As in:

    What is the difference between philosophy and theology? What role does reason and evidence play? None? Is there any evidence to support philosophical arguments in general? Theological arguments in general? With respect to knowledge, are you endorsing some sort of positivism? Some sort of empiricism?

    You’re now arguing that because scientists 200 years ago did not know about QM, all the content within QM is either false or fallacious.

    You’re on a role. Is there anything else that we know today which was not known X years ago that is false or fallacious because we did not know it X years ago? This is certainly worth adding to G.R.’s list with respect to QM.

    Out of curiosity, is this a make-believe rule you have just for theology? Philosophy? Mathematics? The physical sciences? If you are uneven handed there, why? Isn’t scientism fallacious?

    Since you seem to like adding premises to G.R.’s list, I thought I’d share one of his comments (without his permission, apologies in advance GR if this us unwelcomed) which press in upon your bizarre mode of defining knowledge:

    [You stated], “Feel free to point me in the direction of evidence for a non-materialistic view that is not simply a thought experiment.”

    What everybody has been doing is giving *arguments*. That you do not grasp them, much less refute them is your problem. Calling them “thought experiments” as if somehow it disqualifies them is sheer intellectual dishonesty.

    “Thought experiments” embody *arguments*. Einstein very famously grounded both the special and the general theories of relativity in thought experiments.

    At this point, this is beyond ridiculous…. because you do not even now that you do not know.”

    Where Einstein’s “experiments” successful? Did Einstein’s “experiments” have external corroboration such that it was settled/certain or was it all just some bizarre form of faith-based reasoning spying distal to the available evidence to lay hold of truth claims upon this or that downstream (or upstream) contour of reality? Was he reasoning or was he faith-ing? Was he rationally justified in doing so?

    Which brings us full circle back to where we started: What is the difference between philosophy and theology? What role does reason and evidence play? None? Is there any evidence to support philosophical arguments in general? Theological arguments in general? With respect to knowledge, are you endorsing some sort of positivism? Some sort of empiricism?

    Also, again with respect to knowledge, we are still waiting for that archeological evidence which proves Bible-History-X false. Or is it all from silence?

    If you’re not willing to examine your own premises, then how can you be *certain* that your arguments are coherent?

  78. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    Your method of debate is too childish for any rational person to think that continuing to follow your lead at this point is going to produce beneficial results. You’ve brought up a lot of issues within the last couple days, and I would be a fool to write out a six-page rebuttal and post it here, which is what would be required, at minimum, to answer every point you’ve brought up.

    Therefore, I will choose to answer you on a single point alone, and not move from it until we’ve resolved it. I prefer to devote quality time and attention to very nuanced specific points of disagreement. THAT is where you have the better chance of uncovering exactly why we disagree on something.

    The only issue I will discuss with you until i decide to move on to another subject, is whether I am rationally and reasonably justified to say that it is how a bible author’s originally intended audience would likely have understood the words we now debate, that carries a great degree of importance toward the goal of discovering the author’s originally intended meaning.

    Do you have any problems with that hermeneutic, yes or no? If yes, specify your problems. If not, say so and I’ll move on.

  79. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    I answered one of your yes/no questions. Directly. Specifically.

    It was with this:

    There are several questions that I’ve asked several times and you touch on them with indirect hedges so far only to follow with a burst of new topics.

    That is another reason Tom was right to turn down your offer.

    Before going on, you did ask me one yes/no question about God commanding killing babies and the answer is that the ancient near eastern Hebrew linguistics describe a trio: [1] God commands Joshua to kill all that breathes in Canaan – if it breathes kill it – and [2] Joshua does so and scripture affirms he did so and [3] city after city after city of men, women, children, babies, animals, and so on are affirmed as having been uninvolved. Sure, [1] and [2] seem to contradict [3] but that is only an appearance, and only the uninformed see a contradiction. There is more on that front: given that Sinai is defined (by both OT and NT scripture) as that which is *not* God’s Ideal for mankind, it seems there are all sorts of OT vectors which – according to both OT and NT scripture – fall short of “The Good(….btw there’s a reason that both the OT and NT defines its terms that way….). “Less than God’s Ideal for us in Moses/Sinai” is a game-changer affirmed by the OT, the NT, and by Christ and so, though it’s anything but new, our Non-Theist friends seem unable to define their terms accordingly.

    Besides your inability to follow through on your own points (…..fragenblitzen techniques….), you also trampled underfoot the not uncommon experience of reason as it relates to the evidence based and therefore rationally justified trust which one extends to one’s wife when one’s wife covers one’s eyes and tells you to follow her for she’s arranged an anniversary surprise. (BTW: It’s an ‘analogy’ – the focus of which is reason, evidence, trust, and the unseen, but not “Bob’s wife back in 1964” or some such evasion….)

    It’s time to follow through on SOMETHING. I gave you that return with your yes/no question as quoted above. And now before returning the favor you want more?

    Seriously?

    So, for about the third time (contra-fragenblitzen) I’ll repeat a question and camp out on it until you cover all the bases:

    The intent of Genesis 1:1 is clear: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Cleary there are things which exist only by contingency. Because God made them. Like the cosmos. Like time. YOU claimed that Christian A-T metaphysics is a “problem” for Genesis 1:1. But Christian A-T metaphysics affirms Genesis 1:1. YOU claimed a past eternal universe is [1] supported by the evidence and is [2] a “problem” for Genesis 1:1 (….It’s not clear on [1], you may not actually believe there is evidence for that….). But Christian A-T metaphysics discusses why a past-eternal universe is not a problem for Genesis 1:1.

    So, what are the arguments and where do they go wrong? What about its treatment of creating ex nihilo, about non-being, and about being? What are the arguments and where do they go wrong?

  80. Roger

    scbrown

    A couple of things. Like you, I’ve asked several times for a response from you, but you keep avoiding the question. I asked you, if the Bible’s narrative story made sense to you? Is the Bible’s story allegorical (such as the creation and Fall account) or is it actually a true accounting of actual historical events. I’m all but certain the original audience of the given account, as well as the New Testament audience, as well as most Christians through the course of history, believed the creation narrative to be literally true. Do you? No double talk, please. Otherwise, I’ll make my own assumptions, as you seemed to have of me.

    And it would help me, if you would talk in laymen’s terminology. I can’t imagine that you don’t have numerous relations with a variety of people in which you speak like most normal people. For someone, not versed in the language of philosophy, I find such language like listening to a foreign language that I can’t make heads or tails of. The reason I don’t respond to many of your assertions.

    I’ve responded now several times to your request for evidence, evidence that I never hinted to have, but which you seem to think I’m keeping from you. You have also misquoted me, even attributing somebody else’s quote to me and then arguing why such a statement is false. You have made assumptions about my positions on Quantum mechanics when I never even mentioned the word. I find it very difficult to even follow your reasoning, especially when you will not speak in laymen’s English.

    My initial response, prior to this string of comments, was to Tom’s article, not to your responses. My basic point was that the huge discrepancies, disparity, and differences of opinion among those claiming to be Christian did not bode well for the validity of Christianity. Even in the essentials there are huge differences, even though all claim that their take on Christianity is substantiated by the Bible. What’s one to believe when there are so many conflicting choices?

    I noticed in a string of comments there was a difference of opinion as to the significance of the Bible’s God referring to himself as having lungs, or breathing breath into a clump of dirt. We could also add reference to God walking in the garden of Eden as though he had feet, and looking for Adam and Eve as though he had eyes. Of course elsewhere, Scripture does speak of the eyes of God, or the hands of God, or the heart of God and etc. etc. We could also could speak of God appearing to people in theophanies, perhaps the greatest being the appearance of Jesus on earth. I suppose one could say the reason for such language, which badly misrepresents the God of the Bible, is that this was the language of accommodation, accommodating people at different stages of acquired knowledge. This is God stooping to the level of a humanity which was primitive, and apart from such accommodation would not be able to understand the God of the Bible. It’s the way we talk to young children, trying to help them understand things that normally would be beyond their level of understanding. But in reality, such picture language is a poor representation of God. Maybe that is why Moses (or whoever) commanded the Israelites not to make images of God. Of course there’s the Iconoclastic Controversy. The Reformers condemned any image of God, as a violation of the 2nd commandment. Any image that a person could fathom of God would always fall short of God’s reality. God’s reality is beyond imagination and it’s a sin to try to imagine him.

    But don’t the Bible narrative accounts of God appearing before Adam and Eve or in the garden of Eden misrepresent God in his reality by giving him a physical appearance? Or God appearing to Moses and the Israelites, or speaking to Moses on the mountain, or Elijah and on and on? Doesn’t the Bible put all sorts of limitations on God? To represent God as a three person being, sounds like a huge misrepresentation of God, much like the misrepresentations that we have of God in the creation account. The so called ecumenical creeds are an attempt to explain the one true God, but in reality are limiting explanations that no doubt makes God much smaller than he actually is. Reducing the unfathomable God to a very limited statement such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed does God a terrible disservice.

    I have a feeling, scbrown, this could play into the reason you are hesitant to admit that the narrative account of the creation and fall of Adam and Eve is a true accounting of actual historical events. To admit that the creation story and the presence of the demi god, Satan, to thwart God’s plan, much like other primitive creation accounts of Mesopotamia, is an insult to your intelligence and to the reality of God.

    If I believe in a God, it is enough to believe that the creation or the existing world and universe is the most trustworthy evidence of a God and the only revelation that God gives of himself. It’s his self revelation. All religions, including Christianity, are simply primitive human attempts to explain the unexplainable God of creation. I may not have a complicated theological scheme of God and his relationship to his creation (including, especially, humanity). In fact, I may not be able to say much at all to explain God. It’s enough to realize the existence of a God that is beyond explanation, especially the feeble explanations of limited humans. You may think it is reasonable or logical to put God in your small box, called Christianity, but realize that your small box is no more viable than the countless other small boxes that claim to know the truth about God.

  81. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    My basic point was that the huge discrepancies, disparity, and differences of opinion among those claiming to be Christian did not bode well for the validity of Christianity.

    G. Rodriguez addressed that fallacious premise (if there is disagreement within X then all the content of X is false or fallacious). It’s on par with your other fallacious premise (if X was not defined in Scripture then all the content within X is false or fallacious).

    On both counts all the content with QM fall prey to your premises. And you don’t have to mention QM. We can mention it for you. We can apply your premises to reality for you. All of that has been addressed and you’ve given no rebuttal to any of it. You also ignored the question on the trio of Einstein, certainty, and his reasoning vs. his faith-ing.

    misrepresent God in his reality by giving him a physical appearance

    Thank you for that gift. C.S. Lewis was right. Books written for grownups may not be suitable for your level. Christ says be as doves…. you ask how we can lay eggs. Again, thank you.

    Reducing the unfathomable God to a very limited statement such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed does God a terrible disservice.

    They don’t define God. How could they? They list claims about God.

    you are hesitant to admit that the narrative account of the creation and fall of Adam and Eve is a true accounting of actual historical events

    I’ve addressed it in lots of places here and elsewhere. Not with this thread with you yet because you think cosmology is ontology. That has to be cleared up in order for your analysis to have any hope. And I’m pressing the point because it’s a fundamental problem in your replies. You’re unable to comment on the ontological history of becoming in the ancient Hebrew’s narrative without referencing cosmology.

    That reveals two things. First, that you’re uninformed. Second, that you’re not allowing biblical and extrabiblical sources to inform your analysis. That rejection of extra-biblical resources leads you to ignore science, history, linguistics, and much more. And that, then, leads you to your uneven-handed method – a simple result of not knowing how to inform “A” with all the stuff surrounding it. But that means you study as if “A” exists in a box void of the rest of reality. But nothing about history exists that way nor comes to be that way.

    There’s a few quotes coming up which help us understand why we can’t employ your uneven-handed method (…see #77 which opens with “Regarding Barry and Roger’s peculiar methodology…..”) and why the Christian’s method is far superior ( recall from #77, “The Christian pulls on the entire narrative and on history as well because his method is to throw as wide of a net as possible as he welcomes all data points, both from within Scripture and from extra-biblical sources.)

    There’s not much to say. “Dirt To Man” is true according to science and scripture and, also, it’s got little to do with the Adamic given dualism, science, and scripture. That’s all easy enough. Perhaps then, maybe something more….. perhaps your uneven-handed method may mislead you to believe, oh, say, that scripture’s narrative (actually) claims that swallowing cellulose structures off of a tree and into the gastrointestinal tract is the means to eternal life – both in Genesis and at the Last Supper. But that belief on your part merely demonstrates that you ignore 95% of scripture’s narrative and those “other” verses/etc. (….again see #77 which opens with “Regarding Barry and Roger’s peculiar methodology….”).

    BTW: Your repeated uneven-handed treatment of pretty much every topic was addressed and you gave no rebuttal to the points made.

    I challenge you to show one problem in the first three chapters of Genesis. Whether or not a genre is precise is contingent upon the genre, and that is why the Christian throws a wide net, allowing scripture to be informed by both biblical and extra-biblical sources.

    This isn’t hard: The metaphysical narrative of your (Non-Theism’s) paradigm offends science, reason, and lucidity, whereas the ontological history of becoming which presents itself within the ancient Hebrew’s narrative converges with science, reason, and lucidity.

    Two quotes about some minor points just to expose some of what you’re not thinking about in your uneven-handed methodology:

    First, from Lennox:

    …..others, even in ancient times…interpreted Genesis 1 differently. Among them was Philo (10 BC-AD 50), an influential Jewish writer who lived in Alexandria at the time of Christ. Among many other works, he wrote a book entitled A Treatise on the Account of the Creation of the World as Given by Moses. In section III. he says that “the world was made in six days, not because the Creator stood in need of a length of time (for it is natural that God should do everything at once, not merely by uttering a command, but by even thinking of it); but because the things created required arrangement; and number is akin to arrangement; and, of all numbers, six is, by the laws of nature, the most productive: for of all the numbers, from the unit upwards, it is the first perfect one, being made equal to its parts, and being made complete by them; the number three being half of it, and the number two a third of it, and the unit a sixth of it …” Thus Philo thought creation was the act of a moment, and the Genesis record had more to do with principles of order and arrangement.

    Some of the early church fathers, such as Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho, and Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, suggested that the days might have been long epochs, on the basis of Psalm 90: 4 (“ For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night”) and 2 Peter 3: 8 (“ With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”). Irenaeus applied this reading of Genesis to the warning God gave regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (“In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” [Gen. 2: 17]): “On one and the same day on which they ate, they also died (for it is one day of creation) … He (Adam) did not overstep the thousand years, but died within their limit.”

    Clement of Alexandria (ad 150– 215), writing, like Justin and Irenaeus, in the second century, thought that creation could not take place in time at all, since “time was born along with things which exist.” He therefore understood the days to communicate the priority of created things but not the timing of their creation. A little later, Origen (ad 185– 254), the most prominent theologian of his time, pointed out that in the Genesis account the sun was not made until the fourth day. He made the obvious objection: “Now what man of intelligence will believe that the first, the second and the third day, and the evening and morning existed without the sun, moon and stars?” We shall consider his objection in the next chapter.

    In the fourth century, Augustine, who wrote much about Genesis, openly stated in his book The City of God that he found the days of Genesis 1 difficult: “As for these days, it is difficult, perhaps impossible to think, let alone explain in words, what they mean.” In his famous commentary On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, he added: “But at least we know that it [the Genesis day] is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar.” In fact Augustine (like Philo above) held that God had created everything in a moment, and that the days represented a logical sequence to explain it to us.

    These men were not armchair theorists. Some of them were tortured or martyred for their faith: among them Justin Martyr (as his name implies), Irenaeus, and Origen. *Nor*, obviously, were they influenced by contemporary science, such as geology and evolutionary biology………

    [ ]………..The basic idea here has to do with the distinction between two kinds of order, to which we referred earlier when we noted that Clement and Augustine thought that the sequence of days in Genesis was a logical rather than a chronological sequence.

    An illustration will make the difference clear. If a builder is describing how his company built a hospital, he will probably describe the process chronologically: “We dug a hole, laid foundations, and then put up the superstructure floor by floor: basement, car park; ground floor, administration; first floor, wards; second, operating theatres; third, more wards.” But ask the surgeon to describe the construction of the hospital and he might say, “We put the operating theatre on the second floor and located wards above and below it on the first and third floors.” The surgeon describes the hospital logically from his perspective, not chronologically. We are so used to this kind of thing that we take account of it automatically. We would not insist on understanding the surgeon as implying that the operating theatre suddenly appeared in mid-air and wards were then constructed above and below it. And yet we would know that the surgeon was describing a very real and literal hospital.

    For a biblical example, compare the order given in Genesis 1 with that given in Isaiah 45: 12: “I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.” Would anyone think of deducing from Isaiah that God first created the earth, then humans, and finally the heavens? I think not. Isaiah’s semi-poetic description does not prioritize chronology. Nevertheless, I wish to stress once again that Isaiah is describing something real, events that really happened; but he is not relating them (altogether) in the order in which they happened…..

    [ ]……The Hebrew word yom, “day,” is first mentioned in Genesis 1: 5: “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” What is the natural reading of this statement? Here day is contrasted with night; so a twenty-four-hour day is *not* in view, but rather “day” in the sense of “daytime” — roughly twelve hours. Compare John 11: 9, where Jesus says, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” The words for “day” in New Testament Greek and in English, as well as Hebrew, have several primary meanings, and “daytime” is one of them. The second time the word for “day” occurs, again in Genesis 1: 5, it is in the context of saying that day one involves “evening and morning,” and “day” would naturally then be understood to refer to a twenty-four-hour day. So now we have two primary meanings for the word “day” in the same verse.

    The next occurrence of the word “day” that we need to pay attention to is in the account of the seventh day— the Sabbath, on which God rests from the work of creating. There is no mention here of “evening and morning,” as there has been for each of the first six days. The omission is striking and calls for an explanation. If, for instance, we ask how long God rested from his work of creation, as distinct from his work of upholding the universe, then Augustine’s suggestion, that God sanctified the seventh day by making it an epoch that extends onward into eternity, makes good sense; and this is followed by many commentators. Thus the seventh day is arguably different from the first six, 18 which are days of creative activity. The sequence of days comes to an end, and God rests from creation activity; and he is still resting up to this present day. That is, we are still today in God’s Sabbath rest. God is not, however, resting from all activity. In particular, he does not rest from the work of upholding the universe and the work of salvation and redemption, as implied in Christ’s statement when he was accused of breaking the Sabbath: “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5: 17).

    It is this conviction, that the seventh day in the Genesis account is a long period of time, that leads some people to think that the other days may similarly be long ages. However, caution may be needed here since, as we have just seen, the text itself contains indications that day seven is different from the other six.

    Finally, in some translations of Genesis 2: 4 we meet the expression “When God created …” In fact, the word “when” is used to translate the Hebrew for “in the day.” Clearly the author has no more got a twenty-four-hour day in mind here than an elderly man would if he said, “In my day there were very few aircraft in the sky.” He would be using the word “day” quite correctly to describe a period of time, not a particular day of a particular week. We might compare this use of the word with expressions like “the day of the LORD” and “the last day,” which clearly refer to periods of undefined length, and not twenty-four-hour days. The word “day,” therefore, has several distinct meanings in the short text of Genesis 1: 1– 2: 4 alone. Each of these meanings is familiar from ordinary usage. They are all natural, primary, “literal” meanings, each referring to something real and perfectly comprehensible.

    A further grammatical point should be made. In many English versions of the Bible the days of Genesis are rendered as “the first day, the second day,” and so on, each having the definite article. However, even though the Hebrew language does have a definite article (ha), it is not used in the original to qualify days one to five. Basil, a fourth-century bishop of Caesarea, thought this significant: “If then the beginning of time is called ‘one day’ rather than ‘the first day,’ it is because Scripture wishes to establish its relationship with eternity. It was, in reality, fit and natural to call ‘one’ the day whose character is to be one wholly separated and isolated from all the others.” What is very striking is the additional fact pointed out to me by Old Testament scholar David Gooding: although the Hebrew definite article is not used with the first five days,it is used for days six and seven. A better translation, therefore, would be “day one, day two, …, day five, the sixth day, the seventh day”; or, “a first day, a second day, …, the sixth day, the seventh day.”

    [ ]……….If you say that these seem contrived to fit in with science, I would point out that this is not the first time that such a question has arisen. Indeed, it is for that very reason that I wrote chapter. We saw there that the same kind of issue arose half a millennium ago, not in connection with the age of the earth or the days of Genesis but with the motion of the earth.

    In that chapter we found that understanding the foundations and pillars of the earth as referring to the stability of the earth is not a compromise position, but a perfectly reasonable understanding of the text that does not undermine the authority of Scripture, even though this interpretation relies on (new) scientific knowledge.

    What we need to grasp is that this is a perfectly normal way of approaching such matters. We all use it every day. For instance, earlier we discussed the interpretation of the statement “the car is flying down the road” and Jesus’ statement “I am the door.” What is it that helps us to understand that both statements are to be taken metaphorically and not literalistically? It is our experience of the world. We do this so habitually, of course, that we are usually unaware of it. It involves in essence a simple reality check: does our interpretation make sense in the real world? So, regarding science informally as organized knowledge inferred from experience of the world around us, we see that science helps us to decide what meaning to go for in both of the examples given.

    This helps us to answer the objection that we must interpret the Genesis days as twenty-four-hour days of a single earth week, since that is what most people thought for centuries. If we applied that kind of reasoning to the interpretation of the foundations and pillars of the earth, then we would still be insisting that the earth does not move. Yet I have never met a young-earth creationist who thinks that way. What we learn from this is that it is just not adequate to choose an interpretation simply on the basis of asking how many people held this interpretation, and for how long.

    One has to ask why they understood it that way at that time, and one also has to ask if there are compelling reasons for changing that understanding. In the case of the motion of the earth there were reasons for changing the interpretation that are now clear and settled. The lesson for us is that we need to be prepared to apply the same kind of thinking to the age of the earth. The following comment on the moving-earth controversy by a leading young-earth creationist is noteworthy: Only when such a position became mathematically and observationally ‘hopeless,’ should the church have abandoned it. This is in fact what the church did. Young earth creationism, therefore, need not embrace a dogmatic or static biblical hermeneutic. It must be willing to change and admit error. Presently, we can admit that as recent creationists we are defending a very natural biblical account, at the cost of abandoning a very plausible scientific picture of an ‘old’ cosmos. But over the long term this is not a tenable position. In our opinion, old earth creationism combines a less natural textual reading with a much more plausible scientific vision … At the moment this would seem the more rational position to adopt….

    The major thrust of my argument so far, then, is that there is a way of understanding Genesis 1 that does not compromise the authority and primacy of Scripture and that, at the same time, takes into account our increased knowledge of the universe, as Scripture itself suggests we should (Rom. 1: 19– 20). (Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science)

    It’s interesting that Time is discussed in such nuance.

    Eternal nor not, does time (as properly defined) transcend *GOD* / “Being Itself” (as properly defined)? Or is it some lesser reality?

    Now, sure, Lennox is “too complicated” for you to read, and that is why you can’t understand me when I asked you about the trio of Einstein, certainty, and his reasoning vs. his faith-ing. That’s okay. You said the same earlier in this thread and so I offered to take it one question/reply at a time and break it down with you – but you just ignored that, blew by it, muttered something about too complex, and then continued on with your demonstrable fragenblitzen technique.

    Since we are on the topic of your uneven-handed approach (…see #77 which opens with “Regarding Barry and Roger’s peculiar methodology…..”), and the far superior approach of the Christian who pulls upon the entire narrative and on history as well because his method is to throw as wide of a net as possible as he welcomes all data points, both from within Scripture and from extra-biblical sources, here’s more context regarding genre, precision, time, and the ancient Hebrew’s narrative:

    Here’s the second quote:

    Comparative Exploration:

    Functional Emphasis in Day One: In Genesis 1:3–5, in the discussion of the first day’s light, it becomes clear that also for the Israelites function, not substance, was the focus of creation. In Genesis 1:5a the NIV translates, “God called the light ( ’or ) ‘day’ ( yom ) and the darkness he called ‘night.’” If God called the light yom, why do the authors continue throughout the Old Testament to call light ’or ? It is a question anyone could answer with a little thought: it was not the element of light itself (as physicists would discuss it) that God called yom , but the period of light. There is a term for the semantic phenomenon that is observed here, namely, metonymy. In metonymy the meaning of a word is extended to include things closely related to it. When the White House makes a statement, it is understood that the building is not talking. Consequently, it is not the physicist’s light that is being named yom , it is the period of light — obvious enough because that is what yom is often used to refer to in the rest of Scripture. But if the word ’or refers to a period of light in verse 5, what about in verse 4? There God separates the light from the darkness. Again we find “period of light” much more plausible here. The physicist’s light cannot be separated from darkness, but alternating periods of light and darkness can be set up. Still we cannot stop there. If the text means for us to understand “period of light” in both verses 4 and 5, what about verse 3? Hermeneutical consistency, I think, would lead us to believe that when God said “Let there be ’or ,” we must then understand it as “Let there be a period of light.” We could only conclude, then, that day one does not concern itself with the creation of the physicist’s light, that is, “light” as a physical element with physical properties. Day one concerns something much more significant, something much more elemental to the functioning of the cosmos and to our experience of the cosmos. On day one, God created time.

    (From “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible” by John Walton)

    Again, it’s easy enough to address the first three chapters of Genesis and I often have. Only, because of your uneven-handed analysis (…see #77 which opens with “Regarding Barry and Roger’s peculiar methodology…..”), and because you reject history, linguistics, and actual scriptural content, and because you keep replying to questions about the cosmos and its ontological history of becoming by conflating ontology with cosmology, and because when you hear that we are told to be as doves your tendency is to ask how the proverbial god of the proverbial demi-god (or whatever it was you said) expects us to lay eggs because we are human and humans don’t lay eggs like doves, well – given all that – it’s all clearly too complicated for you. As you yourself have told us.

  82. scbrownlhrm

    Ancient near eastern Hebrew linguistics describe a trio: [1] God commands Joshua to kill all that breathes in Canaan – if it breathes kill it – and [2] Joshua does so and scripture affirms he did so and [3] city after city after city of men, women, children, babies, animals, and so on are affirmed as having been uninvolved. Sure, [1] and [2] seem to contradict [3] but that is only an appearance, and only the uninformed see a contradiction as they employ an uneven-handed method and thereby can’t even get [1] different uses of the same word in one verse to harmonize (….see the Lennox quote above….), or [2] different verses in the same chapter to harmonize, or [3] different chapters in the same book to harmonize, nor [4] other books within the same conceptual mindset to harmonize.

    The Non-Theist (of that sort) is not even-handed in his method but picks and chooses if it’s going to be a verse, a chapter, a book, five books, ten, or more. Or history. Or linguistics. The phrase “one-verse theology” comes to mind, and, just to be clear, that is a “saying” and it refers not to one literal verse, but to this uneven method which our Non-Theist friends demonstrate.

  83. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    Often we use the same word in very different senses, sometimes even on one sentence. Now, I know you believe that scripture was not written using an actual language used by actual people, but, if, just if, there were to be a word used within one or two verses, but in very different senses (the same word), what is the rule for how to figure out what was being said? Is the limit to use only, say, the next five verses and then stop thinking? What about the next chapter and only then stop thinking? Is that allowed? What about the next book – and only *then* stop thinking? What about other books by non-biblical folks in that same time or conceptual mindset (some call it history and/or linguistics)? Is that the rule?

    And how do you determine to use which rule? Is it even numbered days get odd numbered rules?

    Or what?

  84. Roger

    scbrown

    I think I am going give up on this debate. It wears me down. Beside I have other things in my life that need my attention. It’s ashamed that I, so often, had a hard time following your argument. Perhaps if I had felt more comfortable with the vernacular of philosophy or even such line of reasoning, I could have hung in there. Your latest comments were better, but too little, too late. But it hardly seems worth the frustration. Although I appreciated your effort, you really did little to convince me. I felt as though you spent the majority of effort trying to convince me that I was wrong and little on what you believe. Maybe I catch you on another article.

  85. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    We have both brought up a sufficient number of issues that they would keep the experts occupied for millenia in all their disagreements with each other about every little detail that could possibly be relevant to such discussions.

    I was the one to take the initiative and demand that we start over with a single topic. I gave you the topic I was willing to debate.

    That topic was foundational, because it went to the question of hermeneutics. Obviously, if we disagree on hermeneutics, we will surely never resolve our disagreement about what the bible teaches. So my attempt to resolve presuppositional disagreements first, before we head into the biblical data, makes perfect sense and was a reasonably justified attempt toward the goal of resolving our differences.

    So here’s a reminder of how we will proceed; I had said:

    ———-quote:
    The only issue I will discuss with you until i decide to move on to another subject, is whether I am rationally and reasonably justified to say that it is how a bible author’s originally intended audience would likely have understood the words we now debate, that carries a great degree of importance toward the goal of discovering the author’s originally intended meaning.

    Do you have any problems with that hermeneutic, yes or no? If yes, specify your problems. If not, say so and I’ll move on.
    ———-endquote

    I will not further engage you until you answer that very valid presuppositional foundational question. If you won’t answer it, I will draw conclusions as to why, and you can have a nice life.

  86. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    [1] I answered your yes/no question in comment #82.

    [2] I answered your question on the intent of Genesis 1:1 in comment #82.

    [3] I answered your question on hermineutics in comments #77, 84, 85, and 86.

    You’ve not answered my question on your claims about some sort of “problem” in Gen 1:1 with respect to Christian A-T metaphysics.

  87. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    I know you can’t understand me, which is why I gave you the Lennox quote. And the Walton quote. And G.R.’s quote on Einstein. Where did they get it wrong? Please explain.

  88. scbrownlhrm

    Reason-ing vs. Faith-ing:

    What is the difference between philosophy and theology? What role does reason and evidence play? None? Is there any evidence to support philosophical arguments in general? Theological arguments in general? With respect to knowledge, is the Non-Theist endorsing some sort of positivism? Some sort of empiricism?

    The Non-Theist is so often building atop two fallacious premises. Premise [1] is that, when it comes to knowledge, because scientists 200 years ago did not know about QM, all the content within QM is either false or fallacious – such that if God did not reveal a full bodied and robust Dualism (or etc.) to so-and-so 5K years ago, then Dualism (or etc.) is either false or fallacious. Premise [2] is that, again when it comes to knowledge, the fact of internal contradictions within [Content X] is a proof that all the content therein is either false or fallacious.

    We have to wonder: Is there anything else that we know today which was not known X years ago that is false or fallacious because we did not know it X years ago?

    We have to wonder: Are these two rules a collection of make-believe rules which our Non-Theist friends have just for theology? Philosophy? Mathematics? The physical sciences? *IF* they are *un*-even handed in their reply to that question, why? Isn’t scientism fallacious?

    Given these demonstrably false premises, a thought which presses in upon these bizarre modes of defining knowledge:

    [You stated], “Feel free to point me in the direction of evidence for a non-materialistic view that is not simply a thought experiment.”

    What everybody has been doing is giving *arguments*. That you do not grasp them, much less refute them is your problem. Calling them “thought experiments” as if somehow it disqualifies them is sheer intellectual dishonesty.

    “Thought experiments” embody *arguments*. Einstein very famously grounded both the special and the general theories of relativity in thought experiments.

    At this point, this is beyond ridiculous…. because you do not even now that you do not know.” (by G.Rodigues)

    Were Einstein’s “experiments” successful? Where were they successful? When? Did Einstein’s “experiments” have external corroboration such that it was settled/certain – or – was it all just some bizarre form of faith-based reasoning by which he was perceiving X’s distal to the available (physical) evidence and through which he did in fact successfully lay hold of valid truth claims upon this or that downstream (or upstream) contour of reality? Was he reasoning or was he faith-ing? Was he rationally justified in doing so?

    Speaking of “reason-ing” vs. “faith-ing”, what about new discoveries affirming inflation at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/new-evidence-for-inflation and the Higgs boson at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/higgs-boson-discovered or of the (finally) detection of gravitational waves at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/gravitational-waves-detected ?

    Craig observes, “The recent news…..is reminiscent of the news last year concerning the discovery of the Higgs boson: the evidence confirmed what almost everyone already believed. The story is once again a wonderful illustration of the experimentalists’ discovering what the theorists had hypothesized.

    Which brings us full circle back to where we started: What is the difference between philosophy and theology? What role does reason and evidence play? None? Is there any evidence to support philosophical arguments in general? Theological arguments in general? With respect to knowledge, are our Non-Theist friends endorsing some sort of positivism? Some sort of empiricism?

    If so, well such a move is very “Contra-Einstein-ian“, not to mention contra-observational reality, not to mention contra-reason.

  89. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    [1] I answered your yes/no question in comment #82.
    ———–Reply: you did not. My ‘yes/no question was:
    —quote
    The only issue I will discuss with you until i decide to move on to another subject, is whether I am rationally and reasonably justified to say that it is how a bible author’s originally intended audience would likely have understood the words we now debate, that carries a great degree of importance toward the goal of discovering the author’s originally intended meaning.

    Do you have any problems with that hermeneutic, yes or no? If yes, specify your problems. If not, say so and I’ll move on.
    —endquote

    Nothing your post # 82 tells me whether you have a problem with the “original audience understanding” hermeneutic.

    Try again. If you refuse to directly discuss the matter, then let us move on to the subject of exactly how unreasonable you think modern atheists are for thinking your evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is absurdly unpersuasive.

    What a pity that an atheist has to remind you of what the apostles thought was of central importance, and what a pity that, under the biblical truth that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”, your heart is filled more with post-modern sophistry and metaphysics than it is with the simplistic resurrection preaching of the apostles, which you inconsistently claim to be the gold standard, but haven’t gotten anywhere near conforming to ever since I showed up here.

  90. Roger

    I’m not sure why I am responding in a new response to you, scbrown. I said I wouldn’t. I’m not so much looking for a further debate, but mostly just an understanding of what you believe concerning Christianity. I get these flashes in my head that gives me a small piece of what I think you believe. But at the same time, I could be completely wrong because what I think you believe seems so bizarre to me. I think it could have helped me, if from the beginning you simply said, this is what I believe as a Christian. This is what I think in regard to the creation account of Genesis. As it is, I’m thinking that your take on Christianity is the same as most evangelical Christians, typical of most Christians sitting in Christian churches across America and beyond. You may have a sense of what I believe, but I didn’t have the same sense when considering what you believe. And that makes it very difficult to discuss our differences when you haven’t made your convictions clear. After rereading your Lennox quote and your further comment #91, I think I’m getting a small glimpse or idea. Here’s what I think you believe. I’ll give you my take on it, because I’m speaking in laymen’s terms, the language that I best understand.

    I think you believe in some form of dualism, two realities separate from each other and yet touching upon each other at certain times or in certain ways. You seem to believe in the reality of our experienced life and a pseudo or alter reality of the gods (God, or Trinity), or you could say the spiritual world (because you have to include Satan, the demigod, angels and fallen angels). It’s not all together different from a Frank Peretti world (This Present Darkness), except you would claim his take to be fictional. Whereas your take is true because it is based on Scripture. I suppose Peretti’s take is like a fictional novel based on a historic reality. I imagine the primitive religions of earlier history strike an accord with you as well, in which the gods in some distant pseudo reality battle against each other and impact people on earth. To me, that is just primitive uninformed explanations of a world they can’t possibly understand.

    There are some areas or teachings in such a Christian scheme (dual reality) that are problematic for non believers. Those areas are such as miracles or the supernatural (the alter reality) touching upon the human experiential reality. A notable point is that of the creation story along with the confrontation of the creator God with the demi-god Satan, and the resulting fall into sin by the human race. Another point or problematic area is the incarnation of Christ, by which he takes upon himself a complete and separate human nature while retaining his divine nature, and in some sense stands between the dual realities that you believe in (heavenly and earthly realities).

    Historically there have been areas of the Christian religion, especially these dual realities, that have been difficult to reconcile. I think for you, scbrown, there is no need to reconcile these differences. They may just be different ways of looking at the same thing. For instance, the Calvinistic/Arminian debate over free will and election. Those holding to either/or sides have tried painfully to reconcile the idea of free will and God’s sovereign choice together, as though the two could somehow fit together nicely. And to this day, Christians come down on one side or the other. But for you, I imagine, free will and sovereign choice are simply two ways to look at salvation. From the reality of human experience (earthly reality) salvation depends a lot on the choice one makes to acknowledge Christ or to reject him. The many Scripture verses or passages that speak of free will are looking at salvation from the perspective of our human experience and the choices we make. But looking at salvation from God’s vantage point or from the perspective of a heavenly reality, it is God who makes the choices. This is God’s show and he’ll make the decisions, all the decisions (consider the teachings of Paul). In God’s reality, no one would make a freewill choice for Christ, because he has imputed not only Adam’s sin but Adam’s sinful nature to all of humanity, giving all humans a serious inclination toward sin. The apostle Paul speaks of the impossibility to choose what he knows is right and good because of his own sinful nature (given by God). People have not chosen that sinful nature which is given even before birth (by God). So in this reality, Paul teaches a double predestination. First he chooses for the failure of all humanity (giving to all a sinful nature that is impossible to resist) and then out of the world of lost sinners he choose a limited number of people for salvation. Romans 9 speaks of God hardening those he desires but also having mercy on whomever he desires. The means by which he hardens hearts is the sinful nature that he imputes to all before birth. The means by which he overcomes that sinful nature for the elect is through the persuasive empowering, enabling, and convicting power of the Holy Spirit (one of the three persons in the Trinity). Those not chosen, he holds accountable for their sins, even though it is God who has given a sinful nature by which they couldn’t help but to sin. This is the reality of salvation when considered from the pseudo or heanenly reality where God remains hidden (for the most part). Of course this doesn’t paint such a glorious picture of God, but this is apparently how Paul understood him. And his response to objectors was, who are you to question God.

    This whole scheme of salvation and Christianity looks very illogical to me. The Biblical narrative is no more realistic than a Marvel comic book story of super heroes and anti heroes, and makes about as much sense as the latest superman/batman movie in which these two super heroes battle against each other. The only way in which I could believe the Christian message is if the Holy Spirit twisted my arm so strongly that I would give up all logical thinking.

    Perhaps I have misrepresented you in what I think you believe, as to Christianity. I’m sure this isn’t a complete picture. I may be way off track. But I have no way of knowing unless you stop criticizing me and tell me what you believe (in plain English). Thank you.

  91. scbrownlhrm

    Barry & Roger,

    You both asked about modes of interpreting the opening narrative of Genesis. I provided you with three examples, the first being the navigation of Joshua and the trio we find surrounding Joshua, and the second two were with the very generic quotes from Lennox and Walton.

    I did not count these but:

    I specified the original intent of Genesis 1:1 and then segued that into Christian A-T metaphysics. I also specifically mentioned the means to eternal life and asked if swallowing cellulose off of trees and into the gastrointestinal system was the means to such ends as per the metanarrative of Scripture.

    Seeking to understand ancient near eastern linguistics doesn’t seem to be to your liking.

    Why?

    You both seem to prefer to hang on to only two of the three X’s in the Joshua trio.

    Why?

    Also, you both seem to conflate cosmology for ontology.

    Why?

  92. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    You can show us where Lennox and Walton are not seeking to understand the content within the author’s conceptual frameworks.

    But you’ve not done so.

  93. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    You have so far refused to directly answer my question about whether you have any problems with the hermeneutic that says what the originally intended audience likely understood the bible author to be saying, is important to our own attempt to get at the author’s intent.

    It was a yes or no question, so it is not unreasonable for me to request a yes or no answer.

    You are like a guilty defendant on the witness stand: You appear to have no interest whatsoever in proceeding by baby steps in order to more clearly uncover where exactly you and the prosecutor disagree.

    There’s no denying that only a guilty Defendant would object to direct simple questions. I will not entertain your attempt to baffle the reader with the 2+page responses that seem to give you purpose in life.

    You will either answer in a direct way, or we move on to another apologetics topic that you clearly aren’t prepared to defend, but which the bible says is the most important, and it isn’t A-T metaphysics, so that kinda narrows it down.

  94. scbrownlhrm

    Roger,

    You ignored the content of both Lennox and Walton and that is after asking about interpretation and asking for something you can actually understand. Both of those had to do with the reason behind providing the quotes. Instead you provided bursts of simultaneous multiple questions (fragenblitzen, etc.).

  95. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    Okay then. Lennox and Walton are (in fact) *not* trying to understand the author’s original conceptual frameworks (according to you, as far as I can tell).

    Have it your way.

    It’s unclear why you would think that, though.

  96. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    I was the one who had to take the initiative to stop the “war of words” and the 3 page responses and get things narrowed down to the real presuppositional matters where our disagreements actually originate.

    So, yes, I’ve refused to discuss Lennox and Walton. YOU and I are the people in disagreement here, so whether you agree with my hermeneutics or not, is of vital concern to resolve before we start analyzing the biblical data. If you don’t want to reveal your presuppositions about exegetical tools, say so, and I’ll start systematically knocking down ALL resurrection testimony and “eyewitnesses”.

    I think I know why you refuse to answer my hermeneutics question directly. If you admit that how the originally intended audience likely would have understood the bible author, is a valid matter for modern inquirers to consider in the effort to learn the author’s true intent, you can kiss goodbye all hope of reconciling modern cosmological theories with Genesis.

    Answer my hermeneutics question “yes” or “no”, or plainly admit that you don’t think our potential disagreements about bible interpretation rules are relevant to our disagreements about how to interpret the bible.

  97. chapman55k

    @scbrownlhrm The king of fragenblitzen is accusing you of not directly answering a question. That is rich. Lennox and Walton are spot on.

  98. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    Please just answer my question, which incidentally was directed YOU and not toward what anybody might think about Lennox and Walton.

    What is the problem you have with answering simple direct questions in a simple direct way?

  99. barry

    chapman55k,

    Well, given that my question was to my debate opponent and was asked in the effort of trying to figure out whether HE, and not his favorite authors, agree with my presuppositions about hermeneutics, then his continual dodging of the question cannot be rationally justified.

    Unless scbrownlhrm claims to BE Lennox or Walton, I am not debating THEM, and my question was directed to THEM.

    Let me know if you require further clarification.

  100. chapman55k

    @barry — I am not about to engage with you on any of this. Did you read anything he said. What you wrote is just pedantic. Especially in light of of the fact that your claims are mere assertion based on your own authority and a total lack of understanding of the genres about which you are speaking. This is like saying it is wrong to quote Shannon when you are talking about Information Theory. It might do you some good to quote a few people who know that about which they are speaking. I will not respond to anything more you write. This is the worst kind of trolling.

  101. Roger

    scbrown

    I guess I have you pretty well pegged. Somewhere along the line, I hope you learn to give direct answers in plain English. So I guess, what I surmised about your Christian perspective is correct. Thanks.

  102. barry

    chapman55k,

    yeah, me demanding that my loudest critic here first tell me whether we disagree on presuppositional matters like hermeneutics, doesn’t have anything in common with typical peer review and official debate.

    Nah, his plan of just blurting out facts and figures and pretending that hitting each other with increasingly large amounts of point-by-point rebuttals, without ever settling our obvious foundational differences, was surely the more objective way to proceed toward resolution of our differences. Yeah, that’s it.

    Your refusal to talk with me anymore has absolutely nothing to do with anything you said, you are just scared to take on somebody who knows his bible a bit better than you know yours. Good riddance.

  103. scbrownlhrm

    Barry and Roger,

    It’s better to give you a straightforward example as to what interpreting scripture “looks like“. Lennox and Walton are two examples but of course there are many. But it seems that “do you agree with the premise that the author’s / those who heard it / (etc.) meant and heard” can mean lots of things to lots of people.

    I can say yes or no and you’d *STILL* not be clear as to what I was “referencing” and what you were “referencing”.

    But now you can look at those two example and see what I mean by “author’s conceptual frameworks”.

    Now, if you disagree with what I mean by “author’s conceptual framework” then you disagree with Lennox/Walton (etc.).

    I’ve done this to give you now evasive “You’re too complex SCB!!”. You both, from the start here, know my opinion as to “how” to go about unpacking scripture and the author’s original conceptual frameworks and what that “looks like”.

    It’s not me. It’s Lennox/Walton etc.

    Neither of you have showed where they fail to seek the author’s original intentions.

    As for Joshua and the trio which surrounds Joshua, that another example that you’ve not addressed. Did the author’s “mean” and “hear” only two of the three? I disagree (obviously). Feel free to engage.

    So here is ANOTHER “what it looks like” to add still more context:

    “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”

    Are we permitted to employ other parts of scripture to figure out the author’s conceptual framework there?

    If yes: Then why can’t we also do so with the first three chapters of Genesis?

    Why the uneven-handed method?

    If not: Why not?

  104. scbrownlhrm

    Barry and Roger,

    If Lennox and Walton *are* seeking the author’s original conceptual frameworks, then I agree with doing that.

    If they are *not* seeking “that” (the author’s original conceptual frameworks), then I disagree with you that the author’s original conceptual frameworks matter, because I agree with them, and not you.

    If Lennox/Walton *are* seeking “that”, then they must value “that”, and so I value that.

    If they are *not* seeking “that”, then you’ll have to show that they are not seeking that, because it seems clear to me that they *are* seeking that.

    So, it’s up to you to decide if I value seeking the author’s original conceptual frameworks.

    I’d encourage you to seek after the author’s original conceptual frameworks the way Lennox and Walton and many others do. It’s a rich field of study with new and better “lenses” being unearthed as more context and information unfolds.

    Lastly, I’d encourage you to stop equating cosmology with ontology when you are unpacking Genesis and the “ontological history of becoming” which presents itself within the ancient Hebrew’s narrative.

  105. scbrownlhrm

    Is the author’s conceptual framework important?

    The Non-Theist – when presented with the growing (and rich) field of study which the (generic, not uncommon) sorts of quotes seen with Lennox and Walton (among others) exhibit – often opine that those sorts of approaches are (in fact) *not* trying to understand the author’s original conceptual frameworks. It’s unclear why they would think that, though, and of course they never do show us *why* they claim that Lennox and Walton (among others) are not seeking to understand the content within the author’s conceptual frameworks.

    Our Non-Theist friends often ask about modes of interpreting the opening narrative of Genesis. Many examples are available, and the three examples of Lennox, Walton, and the Scriptural “trio” which surrounds Joshua and the Canaanites are valuable because they don’t merely “say” that X is valuable but they in fact *show* what valuing X “looks like”.

    Further, we often (in reply to their request) specify the original intent of Genesis 1:1 and then segue that into Christian A-T metaphysics. Further still, we often (in reply to their request) occasionally specifically question them on what they think the means to eternal life is per Scripture, and that is segued into asking them if they believe that swallowing cellulose off of trees and into the gastrointestinal system was the means to such ends as per the metanarrative of Scripture.

    It’s better to give a straightforward example as to what interpreting scripture “looks like“. Lennox and Walton (among others) are two examples but of course there are many. All too often in these discussions it seems that the question of, “Do you agree with the premise that the author’s intent and what those who heard it in fact meant and heard matters?” can mean lots of things to lots of people. I can say yes or no and (as is often demonstrable) we would each *STILL* not be clear as to what the other was actually “referencing”. But with examples given the Non-Theist can look at those and see what I mean by referencing “the author’s conceptual frameworks….”.

    Now, if the Non-Theist disagrees with what I mean by “the author’s conceptual frameworks….” then they ipso facto disagree with Lennox, with Walton, with many others in that line, and with the need to embrace all three X’s in the Scriptural “trio” surrounding Joshua and the Canaanites. An added benefit of approaching it this way is that it removes the Non-Theist’s predictable, “You made it too complex! Just answer yes or no!” evasion. Such puts the proverbial ball in their court with respect to showing where those examples fail to seek the author’s original intentions.

    Two more examples of exploring the author’s (and the audience’s) conceptual frameworks or mindsets:

    Firstly: Just a little more on Joshua and the Canaanites and that pesky Scriptural trio which surrounds that whole narrative. We see this in all sorts of places, such as with the prophecy about Egypt and its 40 year barrenness and so the Joshua/Canaanite trio is helpful for all the same reasons. Recall that Scripture (…and ancient near eastern military genre, and the linguistics throughout these narratives…) reveal a trio: [1] God commands Joshua to kill all that breathes in Canaan – if it breathes kill it – and [2] Joshua does so and scripture affirms he did so and [3] city after city after city of men, women, children, babies, animals, and so on are affirmed as having been entirely *un*involved. Did the author’s and audience (etc.) “mean” and “hear” only two of the three X’s? Only one of the three? That is a repeating theme throughout so many examples in the Scripture’s metanarrative and it allows us to find out if the Non-Theist is going to be even-handed there with respect to *all* X’s in such situations.

    In that particular example, [1] and [2] seem to contradict [3] but that is only an appearance, and only those who are uninformed believe there is a contradiction – and their own uninformed analysis forces them to employ an uneven-handed method. Therefore we often find that they can’t get [1] different uses of the same word in one verse to harmonize (….see the Lennox quote….), just as we find that they often cannot get [2] different verses in the same chapter to harmonize, and the same goes for [3] getting different chapters in the same book to harmonize, and the same goes for getting [4] other books within the same conceptual mindset to harmonize.

    The Non-Theist (of that sort) is not even-handed in his method but picks and chooses if it’s going to be a verse, a chapter, a book, five books, ten, or more. Or history. Or linguistics. The phrase “one-verse theology” comes to mind, and, just to be clear, that is a “saying” and it refers not to one literal verse, but to this uneven method which our Non-Theist friends demonstrate.

    Secondly: Another example of “what it looks like” to seek after conceptual mindsets:

    “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”

    “So some guy named Jesse is going to grow a tree branch out of his body! And you believe that nonsense!?!?” the Non-Theist rants. Of course we ask: *Are* we permitted to employ other parts of scripture to figure out the author’s conceptual framework there? If yes: Then why can’t we also do so with the first three chapters of Genesis? Why the uneven-handed method? If not: Okay but *why* is that a violation of “seeking the intended concepts”?

    Often we ourselves use the same word in very different senses, sometimes even in one sentence. With respect to that every-day linguistic practice, our Non-Theist friends seem to believe that scripture was not written using an actual language used by actual people, but IF, just *IF*, there were to be a single word used within one or two verses, but in very different senses, what is the rule for how to figure out what was being said? Is the limit (per our Non-Theist’s rants) to use only, say, the next five verses and then just stop thinking? What about the next chapter and only *then* stop thinking? Is that allowed? What about the next book – and only *THEN* stop thinking? What about other books by non-biblical folks in that same time or conceptual mindset (some call it history and/or linguistics)? Is that the rule? And how does our Non-Theist friend determine which rule to use? Is it, say, even numbered days get odd numbered rules? Or what?

    Overall, I’d encourage our Non-Theist friends to seek after the author’s original conceptual frameworks the way Lennox and Walton and many others do. It’s a rich field of study with new and better “lenses” being unearthed as more context and information unfolds. Lastly, I’d also encourage them to stop equating cosmology to ontology when they are unpacking Genesis and the “ontological history of becoming” which presents itself within the ancient Hebrew’s narrative.

  106. barry

    Apparently, you are having trouble answering “yes” or “no” to my rather direct question. It is not my fault if your views and reasons for them are so convoluted that they transcend the ability of normal discourse to unearth and explore.

    Please answer my question yes or no.

    Or admit you are like a genuinely guilty criminal defendant in a trial, since both of you clearly do not desire to give direct answers to direct questions in step by step fashion.

    With the amount of emphasis on, and your hiding behind, “Lennox and Walton”, the more convinced I am that you are possessed of the same type of faulty reasoning that leads Catholics to adore the Pope and hang on his every word.

    You are NOT prepared to go head-to-head with an informed atheist like me. you’ve spent too many engaged in the practice of swamping your opponent in a sea of academia in your effort to make it appear that, whatever the result, you didn’t lose the debate. I’m not biting. You will either proceed in an objective manner as I specified, and take the risk that I’ll convince the readers of exactly where you err, or you can find some other atheist to be your alter-ego soundboard.

    You’ll suffer a heavier blow to your reputation if you choose the latter. I recommend you chose the former.

  107. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    Why would I answer you yes or no when I don’t know anything? How could I? I mean, I don’t know anything. So I’m just going by those two dudes L&W. Perhaps you can help me see the error in L&W’s approach though, and help a fella out ~~~

  108. barry

    If you cannot answer simple direct questions simply and directly, the way courts of law require so that the witness in the hot seat cannot squirm out of a nightmare (and in the context of a court of law, we all know why witnesses would repeatedly refuse to answer direct questions directly, and it isn’t honesty), then you need help of a more professional nature than I am qualified to give.

    So, would you like to answer my question directly, or would you rather I move on to the subject of me learning about your presuppositions concerning other issues in Christian apologetics?

  109. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    There is such a thing as rejecting the premise of a question, Barry. Courts of law do not force witnesses to give one-word answers when a one-word answer is necessarily a distorted answer. Or if they do, then there’s an incompetent attorney or an unjust judge.

    To say, “I cannot answer that in one word as you have requested” may indeed be a totally honest, accurate opening line to the sort of honest, direct answer you claim to be seeking.

    Or, do you really think a hard question like this must be answerable by selecting from a binary pair of one-syllable options? Would you force the whole world to think in such black-and-white terms along with you?

    (It’s been quite a week. Sorry to be busting in so late on the conversation again.)

  110. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    My answer to your question, “Did the god that you profess to serve now, ever command anybody between 2000 b.c. and the first century, to slaughter women and children, yes or no?” begins like this:

    There is a record of commands given by God which have that appearance on the surface, but those commands were given in a cultural and literary context that must be examined carefully to determine what was actually meant. Some of the most easily accessible information (which scbrownlhrm has referenced already) makes it clear that in the time and place those instructions were made, those who received the instructions understood them differently than we in the 21st century West would interpret the same words. This is a strong clue informing us that our surface understanding is incorrect; therefore simply to say “yes,” based on the surface appearance of the instructions, would be a distorted and misleading answer.

    That’s just the beginning, but you get the point, I hope.

  111. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    One more thing, Barry. You wrote,

    If you cannot answer simple direct questions simply and directly, the way courts of law require so that the witness in the hot seat cannot squirm out of a nightmare… then you need help of a more professional nature than I am qualified to give.

    I have a policy against personal insults in conversation here, and your suggestion that scbrownlhrm needs “professional” help counts as one. It doesn’t advance the debate, it degrades the tone of conversation, and I’m calling on you to keep the discussion on a higher level.

    There’s a clearly visible notice above the combox indicating that “By commenting here you acknowledge that you have read and agree to abide by this site’s discussion policies.” I trust you have done so, but if not, then now would be the time.

    Thanks.

    P.S. I have been out of the conversation for several days, and it’s possible I’ve missed other instances of insults being tossed around, one direction or another. I’ve focused on this one simply because this is the one I’ve seen, after being away for a while.

  112. barry

    Tom Gilson,

    I don’t know which question of mine you are referring to. I demanded “yes/no” answers to whether scbrownlhrm agreed that how the originally intended audience for a bible book would have understood a bible verse was of great importance (hermeneutics), and I demanded a yes or no answer to my question about whether your god has ever, within the last 5,000 or so, required his followers to slaughter children (theistic morality).

    You are also incorrect about the procedure in a court of law. I was trying to establish to what extent we agree or disagree on presuppositions, and my questions refer to facts about your methodology, that is, my proposed characterizations are either true or false. You either believe God commanded his people to slaughter children at least once within the last 5,000 years, or deny such premise, unless you claim to be ignorant of such a thing. Judges routinely restrain witnesses from trying to “explain” their answers by demanding the witness answer “yes” or “no” first, only after which the Judge may allow them to “explain”. What cannot be denied is that most honest witnesses will answer yes or no questions with “yes” or “no”. So unless you show that my simple questions were somehow intended to get you going in the wrong direction, there can be no excuse for any apologist to answer them yes or no.

    So I think you are hemming and hawing because you are forced to accept the tragic biblical data while also wishing to appear wise by worldly standards at the same time, and it has proven impossible to you to have your cake and eat it too.

    You say “To say, “I cannot answer that in one word as you have requested” may indeed be a totally honest, accurate opening line to the sort of honest, direct answer you claim to be seeking.”
    ——-Then that would mean you or scbrownlhrm cannot definitively answer yes or no to the simple questions about your beliefs that I proposed. Has your god ever commanded his followers to slaughter children in the last 5,000 years? “I cannot answer that in one word as you have requested.”

    Gee, really? So then what? Are you claiming you don’t know whether your God has in the last 5,000 years commanded his followers to slaughter children? You can’t really tell us what 1st Samuel 15:2-3 means?

    You two are the first “apologists” in my 20 years debating apologists who have been so hesitant or unable to give the “biblical” answer. I don’t blame you. There’s a bit more to the bible than John 3:16.

  113. Tom Gilson

    Here’s my yes or no question for you, Barry. Do you think it’s a reliable sign of intellectual integrity to expect that complex questions be answered in black and white monosyllables?

  114. barry

    Tom Gilson,

    “My answer to your question, “Did the god that you profess to serve now, ever command anybody between 2000 b.c. and the first century, to slaughter women and children, yes or no?” begins like this: There is a record of commands given by God which have that appearance on the surface, but those commands were given in a cultural and literary context that must be examined carefully to determine what was actually meant.
    ———–ALL of the older conservative commentaries admit that these were real commands to slaughter children, that God “has the right to take life”, and they otherwise justify the plain surface-level understanding of those texts. If you conclude most spiritually alive people have gotten these wrong (and you seem to disagree with most apologists who have publicly commented on this issue), you can hardly expect spiritually dead people to have greater accuracy in their understanding of such texts.

    “Some of the most easily accessible information (which scbrownlhrm has referenced already) makes it clear that in the time and place those instructions were made, those who received the instructions understood them differently than we in the 21st century West would interpret the same words.”
    ——–No, if some pagans were alive after a war in which the Israelites were required to “leave alive nothing that breathes”, this need only imply that Moses and Joshua, due to their own imperfections, were unable to ensure the slaughter was as total as god had required. And it doesn’t matter; Moses thought God wanted him to slaughter SOME children, obviously (unless you deny the historicity of Numbers 31:17-18), and that’s quite sufficient for skeptics to make their point against divine morality, even if the “leave alive nothing that breathes” texts were meant in some less-than-absolute way.

    You say: This is a strong clue informing us that our surface understanding is incorrect; therefore simply to say “yes,” based on the surface appearance of the instructions, would be a distorted and misleading answer.
    ———–But whether God has commanded anybody in the last 5,000 years to slay children can still be answered yes or no, even if we assume the “leave alive nothing that breathes” texts aren’t meant in an absolute way.

  115. BillT

    “Did the god that you profess to serve now, ever command anybody between 2000 b.c. and the first century, to slaughter women and children, yes or no?”

    Ok barry, suppose we say yes. There’s your one word answer. Now what? Does this prove your point ” against divine morality.” No. No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t because of what Ton and scbrown have been saying. That the overarching story of the Bible, the context of the command and it’s original intent all show that God acts with a moral context even in these kind of commands. Further, it’s a book length discussion as I’m sure you’re familiar with. So, it’s pointless to demand your “one word answer” when that only leads to the discussion of context and original intent anyway.

  116. scbrownlhrm

    Barry I don’t see where Scripture affirms that God commanded us to kill babies. The author’s conceptual frameworks proves that to be accurate.

    You seem unaware that modernity’s term of “allegory” and modernity’s term of “hyperbole” simply fail to “mean” and “do” in the ancient mindset under review what they mean and do in our mindset.

    Lots of cultures sacrificed kids by burning them alive for centuries. I’m not sure where God was all that time. Perhaps He didn’t care. I mean it was centuries. I think somewhere in that ocean of fire and blood God sent armies to topple such cultures.

    That seems to anger people who think like you.

    But then, being uninformed, you probably can’t help such misguided trajectories.

  117. barry

    Tom Gilson,

    “Here’s my yes or no question for you, Barry. Do you think it’s a reliable sign of intellectual integrity to expect that complex questions be answered in black and white monosyllables?”

    No.

  118. barry

    BillT,

    “Ok barry, suppose we say yes. There’s your one word answer. Now what? Does this prove your point ” against divine morality.” No. No, it doesn’t.”

    Correct. Hitler’s massacre of the Jews, without some type of moral framework around it, also wouldn’t itself be sufficient to show that he was a “bad guy”.

    And I never expressed or implied that I would be so stupid as to automatically conclude that a god is bad merely because he orders his people to perform military tasks. I am quite aware that I must first establish a moral framework within which to judge your god, before I can hope to convince you that said god is “evil”.

    But getting your response to a simple yes or no question does not require a pre-existing moral framework already be in place. I could have been a real jerk and just assumed you agreed with the bible, but I wanted to give you people a chance to reveal how liberal you are in your understanding of bible passages that one doesn’t exactly get in Sunday School.

    “It doesn’t because of what Ton and scbrown have been saying. That the overarching story of the Bible, the context of the command and it’s original intent all show that God acts with a moral context even in these kind of commands.”
    ——–I do not agree with your presupposition that the bible should be read as a harmonious whole, with a concern to automatically reject any interpretation of one verse, that would cause it to conflict with some other verse. Shall we then debate whether the bible teaches the form of the inerrancy doctrine that YOU believe in? If we don’t, then it would appear that you don’t wish to place under examination a cherished tool of interpretation that clearly has potential to get you out of a jam whenever expediency dictates. The fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses can use inerrancy this way too (i.e., “John 1:1 cannot teach that Jesus is God, because John 3:16 says Jesus is the SON of God, and the bible cannot contradict itself”), shows that using bible inerrancy as a hermeneutic (i.e., always ready to reject any interpretation of one bible passage, for no other reason than the interpretation would cause a contradiction with another bible passage) is highly controversial, as if the in-house Christian disagreements about inerrancy didn’t prove that point already.

    “Further, it’s a book length discussion as I’m sure you’re familiar with. So, it’s pointless to demand your “one word answer” when that only leads to the discussion of context and original intent anyway.”
    ———-Then you are errantly presumptuous, since I’ve now made clear I would not just scream “evil god!” as soon as you admit your god ordered his people in the past to slaughter children. I’m perfectly well aware of your standard comebacks such as “god gave life so he has the right to take it”, “God’s ways are mysterious”, “it was more merciful to slaughter them since otherwise they would have died slow cruel deaths in a harsh ANE land with no welfare”, and the ever-popular “who are you to judge god?”, etc, etc,.

    So, BillT, what would you do if I could convince you, from your own bible, that your god doesn’t simply inflict torments on children, but “enjoys” tormenting them as well? Would you give up your faith in said god? Or are you so far beyond reasoning that you’d even defend a God who “enjoys” hurting children?

    I can buy that you are so convinced that you’ll defend a god who orders his followers to kill children. I shudder to think, however, that you are so far beyond reasoning with that you’d continue defending this god even if you found that he “enjoys” inflicting horrors on children. Making tough military decisions is one thing…getting a “thrill” out of watching children suffer horrible miseries created by said military decisions is quite another, wouldn’t you agree?

  119. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    “Barry I don’t see where Scripture affirms that God commanded us to kill babies.”
    ———-I never said the bible God ordered “us” (i.e., modern people) to kill babies. I only averred that the bible god has, within the last 5,000 years, ordered his people to slaughter children. Please stop trying to wiggle out of this nightmare by misrepresenting my position. Your God specified in 1st Samuel 15:2-3 that “infants and children” were to be slaughtered when Saul went to attack the Amalekites:

    2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt.
    3 ‘Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, CHILD AND INFANT, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'” (1 Sam. 15:2-3 NAU)

    “The author’s conceptual frameworks proves that to be accurate.”
    ——You aren’t making any sense here…the author’s conceptual framework would not have had diddly squat to do with modern people or the “us” that was your choice of wording. I’m concerned about whether your god “ever” commanded his followers to slaughter children, not whether he might have commanded “us” or modern people to do so.

    “You seem unaware that modernity’s term of “allegory” and modernity’s term of “hyperbole” simply fail to “mean” and “do” in the ancient mindset under review what they mean and do in our mindset.”
    ——–What is the genre of 1st Samuel 15, if it isn’t the straightforward historical narrative that justifies so many spiritually alive conservative Christians to view it as God literally commanding the literal slaughter of literal children and babies? Can you blame a spiritually dead atheist like me for interpreting this stuff literally, when conservative Catholics, Reformed and Evangelical Protestant commentators and theologians take it literally too?

    “Lots of cultures sacrificed kids by burning them alive for centuries. I’m not sure where God was all that time.”
    ——Now we are getting somewhere! Do you believe God knew about those child-sacrifices while those acts were in progress?

    “Perhaps He didn’t care. I mean it was centuries. I think somewhere in that ocean of fire and blood God sent armies to topple such cultures.”
    ———-Then when parents neglect their kids in criminal ways, this apathy could possibly reflect the image of God in them no less than when they raise them in love.

    “That seems to anger people who think like you.”
    ———I hate anybody who can achieve their allegedly good intended goals without horribly mistreating kids, but who mistreat kids anyway. But the way you talk, you appear to be more of an open-theist, and so our debate really isn’t about whether slaughtering kids can be justified, but whether those OT texts that make sane people sick are talking about literal historical realities, or whether those OT texts are not much more than fables hyped for mere dramatic effect.

    “But then, being uninformed, you probably can’t help such misguided trajectories.”
    ———–Don’t flatter yourself. Your particular liberal take on the bible doesn’t require that everybody who disagrees with it is thus “uninformed”. I was going to quote a bible verse about pride going before a fall, but being a liberal, you’d likely dismiss any biblical thing you didn’t like. But I have bad news for you. You are going to lose the debate with me on the subject of whether your bible-god is “good”. Guaranteed.

    So let’s get the party started: Give all the reasons why you think 1st Samuel 15:2-3 should be interpreted as anything other than the straight forward historical narrative about historical and theological realities, that it’s surface level reading makes it appear to be?

    Is there something about the author or his cultural context that leads you to believe these stories were intended to be taken by their originally intended audiences in some way other than literal?

  120. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    It’s not clear how telling me what I told you in #67 and #85 about the TRIO is progress. It isn’t progress. It’s evasion. Kill all that breathes. That wasn’t clear enough? You’ve left out the only part that matters — how does Scripture’s metanarrative define the TRIO?

  121. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    I disagree with your attempt to employ “scripture’s metanarrative” as a tool of interpretation.

    That method of interpretation is simply presupposing bible inerrancy (i.e., “we can safely import statements from Genesis and Mark about an issue into 1st Samuel 15 in order to help us understand whether v. 2-3 were intended to be taken by the originally intended audience as literal or something else.”)

    I do not believe that what “scripture’s metanarrative” has to say about anything in Genesis or Mark, should be used to help us interpret anything in in 1st Samuel.

    Now that I’ve identified that we disagree on methodology, do you think it makes sense for us to first try to resolve our disagreement about your proposed tool of interpretation (i.e., “scripture’s metanarrative”), before we try to resolve our differences on how to most objectively interpret 1st Samuel 15:2-3?

  122. BillT

    I do not agree with your presupposition that the bible should be read as a harmonious whole, with a concern to automatically reject any interpretation of one verse, that would cause it to conflict with some other verse.

    I don’t either and I never said anything like this.

    using bible inerrancy as a hermeneutic (i.e., always ready to reject any interpretation of one bible passage, for no other reason than the interpretation would cause a contradiction with another bible passage) is highly controversial, as if the in-house Christian disagreements about inerrancy didn’t prove that point already.e.

    I don’t believe this either and I never said anything like this.

    I’m perfectly well aware of your standard comebacks such as “god gave life so he has the right to take it”, “God’s ways are mysterious”, “it was more merciful to slaughter them since otherwise they would have died slow cruel deaths in a harsh ANE land with no welfare”, and the ever-popular “who are you to judge god?”, etc, etc,.

    And I never said anything like this, either.

    So, BillT, what would you do if I could convince you, from your own bible, that your god doesn’t simply inflict torments on children, but “enjoys” tormenting them as well? Would you give up your faith in said god?

    So barry, given the above examples sure seems like you’re going to convince me of this by telling me what I believe about the Bible. Sounds like you’re having a conversation with yourself, not me.

  123. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    “Do you know more about the TRIO than Joshua?”

    The issue is not your “trio”. The issue is what evidence you use to justify interpreting the annihilation-commands as something less than literal, which is usually the default view.

    So far, all you’ve done is blindly presuppose that because the story goes on to say that some of the people originally slated for total destruction, can be found still alive at a later time, then suddenly, this can only mean that the annihilation-commands were understood by Joshua to be something less than absolute.

    And I’ve already answered you on this: The reason some pagans were found alive later can just as easily mean that Joshua made his best effort at absolute annihilation, but was unable, for whatever reason, to complete the job properly.

    So, are you going to answer the questions I asked in my prior post?

    Or are you so much of a liberal that you aren’t sure whether your god is “good”?

  124. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    Since you reject the (*often* repeated) TRIO you reject the Old Testament’s definitions of itself, and also Joshua is rejected. So you’ve managed to have a conversation with yourself and not with scripture.

    Samuel and Joshua and the conceptual frameworks within their narratives are not opaque to ours. Nor are they identical to ours. It’s an error to assume that modernity’s term “allegory” in fact “does” in their narrative what it “does” in modernity’s.

    That shows up in all sorts of interesting ways. If only you could allow new information in such an interesting arena “in”. You error to presume (and argue as if) modernity has nothing to learn from the content laced throughout the author’s conceptual frameworks.

    But since you won’t allow scripture’s own definitions to effervesce to the surface you’ll never grow in understanding there. Instead you’ll converse with yourself.

    You have two Christians telling you that there’s a problem.

    Will you reject that along with all the rest? Better to let new data in.

  125. barry

    BillT,

    What exactly is your problem with the people who say the commands of God in the bible to slaughter children, show that this God is more evil than Christians give him credit for?

  126. barry

    scbrownlhrm,

    Please copy and paste the specific bible passages or scholar’s comments about the moral framework of ancient Hebrews, which convince you that the only reasonable implication to be drawn from the survival of a few pagans after a holy war with the Hebrews, are that the language in the Hebrew god’s order calling for full extermination, was meant to be taken in something less than literal absolute fashion.

    Is that too much to ask?

  127. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    A few?

    That’s not what one-third of the TRIO (so *often* repeated) describes.

    Sources please.

    Including the Canaanite population strong enough to war with Israel AFTER that full and total fulfillment.

    Scripture’s [A] “Kill-em All!” followed by Scripture’s [B] “They Killed-em All” followed by Scripture’s …. [C]

    “….. if we turn in our Bibles just a couple of pages Judges 1 tells of the many battles that were fought by the tribes of Israel after Joshua’s death….In Judges 3, we read:

    “So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and they intermarried with them. Israelite sons married their daughters, and Israelite daughters were given in marriage to their sons. And the Israelites served their gods. – Judges 3:5-6 NLT”

    That TRIO of course replays OFTEN and also it is seen in so many other settings that to deny that contour of the author’s conceptual framework all the room it needs to inform us is intellectually irresponsible.

    Even worse than that (for you) is that you just tried to squeeze in “a few survivors” which (though entirely false) means you gave up on your literal X on both the Command-X and the stated full and total fulfillment of Command-X.

    The more clarifications you seek here the more that *common* TRIO will become more apparent.

  128. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    “….A similar phenomenon occurs with the case of the Amalekites, the Babylonian invasions, and the sacking of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem. In each case a battle is narrated in totalistic terms of complete destruction of all the people, yet later narration goes on to assume matter-of-factly that it did not literally occur. The fact that this happens on multiple occasions in different books rapidly diminishes the probability that these features are coincidental or careless errors. Why is it that almost every time a narration of “genocide” occurs, it is followed by an account that presupposes it did not happen? These facts significantly raise the probability that this is a deliberate literary construction by the authors….” (Matthew Flannagan)

    Both the Command-X and fulfillment of Command-X are shaped here.

    The Christian holds that the author’s conceptual frameworks matter. They also cast a wide net in order to allow both biblical and non-biblical historical insights to weigh in and shape our understanding of these sorts of stark differences between modernity’s X’s and ancient X’s.

    We’re at an odd juncture in history because the New-Non-Theist has been taught misinformation so well for so long that now as all this new data comes on scene (thanks to technology) its of course going to be like pulling teeth as the Non-Theist’s emotive heat rants against the inevitable.

  129. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Tom Gilson,

    “Here’s my yes or no question for you, Barry. Do you think it’s a reliable sign of intellectual integrity to expect that complex questions be answered in black and white monosyllables?”

    No.

    Then stop expecting complex questions be answered in black and white monosyllables.

  130. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Barry, you wrote earlier (and I missed it at the time because of the conference I’m involved in), “Your method of debate is too childish…”

    Please re-read the discussion policies linked above the combox.

  131. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Please copy and paste the specific bible passages or scholar’s comments about the moral framework of ancient Hebrews, which convince you that the only reasonable implication to be drawn from the survival of a few pagans after a holy war with the Hebrews, are that the language in the Hebrew god’s order calling for full extermination, was meant to be taken in something less than literal absolute fashion.

    Is that too much to ask?

    Yes, it’s too much to ask. I can easily copy and paste the link to the best book I know of on the topic, though:

  132. barry

    BillT,

    Why are people wrong to conclude the bible-god is ‘evil’ after they find out he has ordered his followers to slaughter children?

    scbrownlhrm,
    snip—“Even worse than that (for you) is that you just tried to squeeze in “a few survivors” which (though entirely false) means you gave up on your literal X on both the Command-X and the stated full and total fulfillment of Command-X.”
    ———-Let me straighten you out on this: I didn’t give up anything. My theory that the ban was absolute and the Hebrew military men simply didn’t wish to slaughter as completely as the absolute ban required, is amply supported in the cases Numbers 31:13-15 (Moses is angry that his army spared certain enemies) and 1st Samuel 15:13-33 (prophet Samuel’s famous rebuke of Saul for failure to slaughter as completely as the extermination order had required), and/or b) the doomed pagans got early warning from their spies and some were able to flee early enough to escape the war.

    “The Christian holds that the author’s conceptual frameworks matter.”
    ——-The atheist holds that prophet Samuel’s condemnation of Saul for a less than absolute extermination matters.

    ” They also cast a wide net in order to allow both biblical and non-biblical historical insights to weigh in and shape our understanding of these sorts of stark differences between modernity’s X’s and ancient X’s.”
    ——-You’ve been handed fatal problems in the case of Samuel’s rebuke to Saul. Is this the part where you suddenly discover that this prophetic rebuke probably wasn’t in the original of 1st Samuel?

    “We’re at an odd juncture in history because the New-Non-Theist has been taught misinformation so well for so long that now as all this new data comes on scene (thanks to technology) its of course going to be like pulling teeth as the Non-Theist’s emotive heat rants against the inevitable.”
    ——Which means Christians have a leg up on us, since clearly, the only people who get all emotionally stupid about their religion, are non-Christians.

    Samuel was the one through whom God gave an extermination order (1st Samuel 15:2-3), so, was Samuel correct or incorrect in characterizing Saul’s refusal to absolutely exterminate, as sin?

  133. barry

    Tom Gilson,

    “Then stop expecting complex questions be answered in black and white monosyllables.”
    ———-Wow, Tom, didn’t you know that the person who gave the divine extermination order to Saul, was the one who rebuked Saul for failing to perform the extermination in an absolute way? Read 1st Samuel 15…all of it. It starts with the extermination order (2-3) and ends with Samuel vividly illustrating how Saul’s failure to carry out the order in an absolute way, was a sin grievous enough to justify God in deposing Saul from kingship (v. 13 ff)

    You cannot argue that Samuel was only mad about Saul’s greedy taking of gold and other loot, because Samuel supplements his rebuke of Saul by hacking the King Agag in pieces, apparently to illustrate the literal and absolute sense in which he had expected Saul to carry out the extermination order (1st Samuel 15:32-33). The ban was so absolute that Samuel asks Saul to explain how carrying out that ban could have left alive the enemy’s animals (v. 14).

    I’d really love to hear how you sustain your non-absolute interpretation of the extermination order in 15:2-3, in light of God’s deposing Saul as king for his refusal to carry out that order in an absolute way.

  134. barry

    Tom Gilson.

    (Barry said:) Please copy and paste the specific bible passages or scholar’s comments about the moral framework of ancient Hebrews, which convince you that the only reasonable implication to be drawn from the survival of a few pagans after a holy war with the Hebrews, are that the language in the Hebrew god’s order calling for full extermination, was meant to be taken in something less than literal absolute fashion.
    Is that too much to ask?

    Tom now says: “Yes, it’s too much to ask.”
    ——-I asked you there at least for biblical data. Exactly how could you rationally expect the least bit of sensible discussion of a biblical topic, which you claim biblical evidence for, without you supplying the biblical evidence you think supports what you think is a biblically justified theory?

    “I can easily copy and paste the link to the best book I know of on the topic, though:”
    ——–So if I “answer” one of your objections by providing a link to am atheist-authored book available for purchase at Amazon.com, you’ll agree that such link-providing constitutes my proper fulfillment of my obligations in this online debate with you? I guess we’ll just throw links at each other, with both of us adhering to your ethic that it is too much to ask each other to provide the biblical and scholarly material ourselves?

  135. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    It’s not clear how telling me what I told you in #67 and #85 about the TRIO is progress.

    It isn’t progress. It’s evasion.

    Kill all that breathes. That wasn’t clear enough?

    You keep repeating Kill-All-That-Breathes and then you just stop thinking (and reading) given that you clearly left out the only part that matters — how does Scripture define the TRIO?

    “….A similar phenomenon occurs with the case of the Amalekites, the Babylonian invasions, and the sacking of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem. In each case a battle is narrated in totalistic terms of complete destruction of all the people, yet later narration goes on to assume matter-of-factly that it did not literally occur. The fact that this happens on multiple occasions in different books rapidly diminishes the probability that these features are coincidental or careless errors. Why is it that almost every time a narration of “genocide” occurs, it is followed by an account that presupposes it did not happen? These facts significantly raise the probability that this is a deliberate literary construction by the authors….” (Matthew Flannagan)

    That and Scripture’s repetitive pattern are simple enough.

    You’re trying to equate [A] modernity’s conceptual frameworks and modernity’s literary techniques for [B] non-modernity conceptual frameworks and non-modernity literary techniques.

    The result of that is as expected: you just keep repeating one third of a trio while evading the actual trio itself.

    It’s not clear how parroting what I told you in #67 and #85 about the TRIO is progress.

    Probably because it isn’t. It’s evasive.

  136. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    How does Scripture define the law of Moses?

    Don’t bother answering because you’ll only muster up another hedge. Rather, how will you decide the answer? With a verse? A few verses? A chapter? How about a book? Ten books?

    Let me recommend the Christian’s method: include all biblical and non-biblical data points.

  137. scbrownlhrm

    Barry,

    It’s unfortunate that you think you can just blindly equate our conceptual frames to that of another that is shaped by a demonstrably different reference frame, speaking both of writing and of thinking. You have to be careful about the game-changer whereby Sinai/Moses constitutes that which both the OT and the NT define (and we allow Scripture’s narrative to define itself) as an X which is radically different than God’s Ideal for Mankind. The term “radically” is justified there given the fundamental nature of what that Ideal in fact *is*. That the OT reaches beyond Sinai and into the very nature of Man and that the NT carries it all forward is not “spooky” or “magical”, rather, it’s just descriptive of the narratives in question. The reason one has to be careful to allow narratives to speak over your own presuppositions and desires as to what you *want* scripture to be saying is because that is yet another arena in which the Non-Theist is always falling down (Moses/Sinai / definitions) in addition to the OT’s *rich* pattern of the TRIO under review, and those two errors (there are more) exponentially aggravate one another.

    Obviously the research of Flannagan, Copan, Lennox, Walton, and Collins provide a wider (and still increasing) body of insights. However, there is other content which is not directly applicable to the unavoidable pattern of the TRIO here but which others look into along various lines. It all sort of adds up into a collection of insights, neither of which can in isolation transpose the whole of the reality in question, but still each gives what it has. Each takes our sightline a few extra steps beyond the obviously uninformed Non-Theist foist that scripture claims God has lungs or there is no such reality as theTrio “….-cause-da-bible! …-cause-da-genesis!

    A few examples:

    [1] http://www.jhsonline.org/Articles/article_12.pdf (….. “Confused Language As A Deliberate Literary Device In Biblical Hebrew Narrative” …..)

    [2] http://www.jhsonline.org/reviews/reviews_new/review346.htm

    [3] http://www.jhsonline.org/reviews/reviews_new/review478.htm

  138. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    (Barry said:) Please copy and paste the specific bible passages or scholar’s comments about the moral framework of ancient Hebrews, which convince you that the only reasonable implication to be drawn from the survival of a few pagans after a holy war with the Hebrews, are that the language in the Hebrew god’s order calling for full extermination, was meant to be taken in something less than literal absolute fashion.
    Is that too much to ask?

    Tom now says: “Yes, it’s too much to ask.”
    ——-I asked you there at least for biblical data. Exactly how could you rationally expect the least bit of sensible discussion of a biblical topic, which you claim biblical evidence for, without you supplying the biblical evidence you think supports what you think is a biblically justified theory?

    You asked for the data by which I was convinced of certain conclusions concerning the biblical data. Now you’re complaining that I didn’t copy and paste the biblical data. That’s pretty strange on your part.

    So if I “answer” one of your objections by providing a link to am atheist-authored book available for purchase at Amazon.com, you’ll agree that such link-providing constitutes my proper fulfillment of my obligations in this online debate with you?

    You have no obligations in this online debate with me. I only have a hope, which is that you’ll respond with reason.

    I think that if you believe your questions create an obligation upon us, that would be thinking rather highly of yourself. Not that you’ve said so, but I wonder if you think it goes both ways.

    I’ve been trying repeatedly to explain to you that your question cannot be answered in short form without distorting it. You are disappointed still that I am not answering your question in short form. I don’t know why that should come as a surprise to you.

    If you plan to continue being disappointed in that manner, you might do your own psyche a favor by accepting my answer for what it is and not asking again. Then you can deal with your disappointment for what it is and get over it.

  139. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I guess we’ll just throw links at each other, with both of us adhering to your ethic that it is too much to ask each other to provide the biblical and scholarly material ourselves?

    It is indeed too much. For me to re-research all the work that Copan and Flannagan did would be too much. For me to copy and paste even a chapter of that kind of work — much less the entire volume — would be too much.

    I am not taking on that responsibility just because you say I should. You do not own that much control over how I spend my time.

  140. Post
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