Violence and the Canonical Bible: A Response to Reasonable Doubts

Posted on 06/14/13 73 Comments

Back in February 2013 Reasonable Doubts (henceforth RD) responded to a critique I’d written of one of their episodes. (You can read my critique here.) Their response was titled “Response to Randal Rauser’s critique of episode 110.” I promised to reply shortly to their rebuttal but alas I failed to keep my word. (Middle of a busy semester, my short attention span, and other factors were operative.) The topic came up again just this morning at “Debunking Christianity“. Apparently RD is now wondering out loud whether I am unable to respond.

So let me give a quick response here. Let’s begin with the summary RD provides of my position. I offer this summary not as a reliable and adequately nuanced description of my position (it would need several tweaks to be that) but rather as the rough and ready summary provided by the RD crew:

Rauser defends what he calls a “qualified embrace” the scriptures. He maintains that God inspired the authors and that God had a purpose for including all the senseless violence and hateful curses contained in the text. But just because all scripture is inspired by God does not mean all scriptures are morally inerrant. The command to violence and the cursing psalms are examples of moral errors in the text. They represent what the human author intended (sensus litteralis) but God had a different purpose (sensus plenior) for including them. But is there any criteria to guide us in distinguishing between the authors voice and God’s intended message? Rauser says we must look to the overall tone of the Bible. Through the life of Jesus we see God to be a merciful and compassionate God that desires us to love and not curse our enemies. Clearly then, the genocides and imprecatory psalms are the human voice. But what was God’s purpose in including them? Its hard to say, but one possible reason was to carry the story forward. At least in the case of the imprecatory psalms they might also be examples of irony. We gleefully share the hateful sentiment of the psalmist towards the enemies of God but then stand condemned when (centuries later, I’d like to point out) we discover God really wanted us to love them all along .

With that as background, RD then provides two objections:

1. The genocidal passages play a pivotal role in the overall narrative of the Old Testament. They cannot be removed as merely the human authors [sic] prejudice without significant damage being done to our understanding of the OT.

2. it is not at all obvious that the vengeful passages are inconsistent with the overall tone of the Bible. If “overall tone” is our criteria for separating out the sensus litteralis from the sensus pleniur [sic] of the text, the merciful statements of Jesus are the ones that should be contextualized.

Let’s begin with 2. Imagine that you’re reading a novel of WW2 and you’re attempting to discern the novelist’s attitude toward the violence depicted therein. One approach to finding the proper reading is by seeing how much violence is depicted in the novel. If there is a lot of violence, you might conclude that the attitude conveyed by the author is pro-violence. But this would be a terribly simplistic way to read the book. Instead, you look for special events and characters as hermeneutical keys, ways to interpret the violence contained therein. Indeed, one scene in a book can provide the key to unlocking the book’s overall message. So imagine, for example, that the book begins with a soldier going off to war in search of valor. The next time you see him at the end of the book he returns to the idyllic village of his youth, now reduced to a smoking ruin. “I sold my soul for naught” he says, and the book ends. That single scene can provide the key to unlock all the violence and carnage in the previous pages. And with that final scene the entire work, which might otherwise have remained ambiguous, is shown to adopt a particular perspective on all the violence contained therein.

For Christians, the key to unlock the Bible is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. This idea goes straight back to the New Testament itself wherein those impacted by Jesus immediately turn to the Hebrew scriptures and begin to revision them in light of his life and ministry. Thus, for example, Jesus is now seen to be the suffering servant of Deutero-Isaiah, the coming king after David, and the one who will bruise the head of the serpent.

There is no more central question in the Bible than “Who is God?” or “What is God like?” Philip poses the question to Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8) The understated way that this audacious question is presented is comical. It’s tantamount to interviewing a candidate for secretary general of the United Nations with the request: “Just show us how to establish and maintain world peace and that will be enough for us.”

And yet, incredibly, Jesus replies: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) In other words, if you want to know who God is, look to Jesus. Look to the one who declared “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16) Look to the one who healed the leper through touch (Matt. 8:3), the one who proclaimed good news to the poor and captives (Luke 4:16-19), the one who embraced the disenfranchised (Luke 4:1-26), the one who while being crucified prayed for his enemies: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) and who taught us to do likewise (Matt. 5:44). And the one who rose again to bring healing and restoration to all creation (Col. 1:20) for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

For the Christian, the person of Jesus — his life, death, and resurrection — provide the key for the interpretation of all scripture. Some parts of scripture immediately are illumined in a new light. For example, we look back with new understanding on the promise given to Abraham: “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3) Now we can see in Jesus this promise finding fulfillment that could never have been anticipated.

So to summarize, Christians have always read the Bible in light of the pivotal event of Jesus. Whatever else one says about the violence depicted elsewhere in the scriptures, if you want to know who God is you should look to Jesus, the crucified God.

This brings us back to 1. We start with the commitment that whatever else we say about God, Jesus is the norming norm for all acceptable readings of God. From there we have two basic options. (This is grossly simplistic but at least it gives us the lay of the land.) Option 1 is a continuity thesis whereby one seeks to maintain continuity between passages that seem to conflict with the presentation of God in Jesus. For example, Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan build on the work of scholars like Kenneth Kitchen who have identified the presence of hyperbole in ANE war rhetoric, combined with proposals from Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff about the unity of the Deuteronomic history (scholars typically believe that Deuteronomy-2 Kings presents a unified history). From here they argue that a careful reading of the texts supports the conclusion that God never in fact commanded genocide. This is a way of maximizing the continuity between God as portrayed ultimately in Jesus and penultimately in these other passages.

This brings us to a crucial, Rubicon moment. Those who lack either the attention span or the commitment to a hermeneutic of charity to consider proposals of this type will quickly confirm their own prejudices. But those who are committed to understanding Deteronomy-2 Kings as a unified history, and who are committed to understanding ANE modes of hyperbolic expression, will be repaid with what may be at least a partial answer to removing the prima facie contradiction between God as revealed in Jesus and God as revealed in Joshua.

The second option is a discontinuity thesis. This is best captured, I think, in the provocative title of Gregory Boyd’s forthcoming book The Crucifixion of the Warrior God. On Boyd’s view, the presentation of God as Jesus offers a more radical critique of assumptions about God as militaristic and violent and retributive, assumptions that you find elsewhere in scripture.

Now you might be wondering, “Why would God include different, even conflicting views of important issues in the Bible?” The question itself presumes a particular understanding of what the Bible is which at the very least needs to be defended. After all, nobody would consider why a novelist would write a story that includes conflicting understandings of violence or courage or chastity or some other important topic.

By the same token, it would seem grossly presumptuous to assume a priori that any revelation of God would only include voices which are in complete unanimous agreement. I see no reason why God couldn’t include disparate voices, particularly if the text provided a hermeneutical key as a sort of golden thread through those disparate voices. Consequently, even if one is not predisposed to the discontinuity thesis, one cannot exclude it from consideration a priori.

Finally, let me note that these two views are not exclusive of one another. Obviously the Christian may work to maintain continuity between certain passages of scripture and God as revealed in Jesus while accepting discontinuity in other instances. And in those instances where discontinuity is identified it then behooves the reader to explore why that discontinuity exists. Is it there as an accommodation to a particular time and place but superseded by subsequent progressive revelation? (This is one way to read the OT law, for example.) Is it there as an ironic foil for certain sinful human impulses? (This is one way to read the imprecatory psalms.) Is it there to occasion humor and self-reflection. (This is one way to interpret the irony of violence in Esther.)

In this article I have only skimmed the surface of the complex and rich discussions that are ongoing about the formation and proper interpretation of scripture. I recognize, however, that not everybody will have the patience or interest for those discussions. Imagine, for example, a father attempting to get his fifteen year old son interested in opera. He might take the boy to a performance and begin to explain the intricacies of the music, the brilliant plotting of the storyline, the complexities of the staging and performance. But if the son is not interested, he’ll walk away thinking the whole thing was a waste of time. Likewise, those who are persuaded that the canonical reading of the Bible is a waste of time (e.g. a mere collection of ancient human writings with no divine superintendence) will likely confirm their opinions. But their incredulity has no probative force to those who are committed to the inspiration of scripture and the development of canonical readings of scripture in light of God revealed in Christ.

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  • David

    “who have identified the presence of hyperbole in ANE war rhetoric,”

    ——————–
    Would you be able to provide an example of this? For instance, does this mean that when God said “kill all the infants and children,” it may have been hyperbole?

  • Jeff

    Randal, this is yet another example of the possible vs. probable issue that has been discussed here recently in other contexts. Your position is that it’s possible that God has sufficient reasons for having included in his authoritative Word writings which commend genocide, human sacrifice, polytheism, slavery, and so on, and so forth. I’ll grant that this is possible, but should we expect this type of content in God’s authoritative Word? Call this the evidential problem of biblical inspiration. This content is deeply problematic for your position even if it doesn’t logically eliminate your position, and I think it’s a bit ungracious to compare those of us who remain unconvinced to petulant fifteen year olds :)

    • Daniel Stenning

      I think the possible vs probable stances we see so often from apologists – not only in high faulting theology from the likes of Randal, but also from woo merchants of all hues.

      “Prove it cannot be so. ” oh where have we heard that before ?

      And this is of course backed up with the old chestnut gambits of presuppositional talk and biases – “of course you see things like that because you’ve already decided that that is the only way to see things”

      yawn.

      Only those espousing propositions for which there is clearly no discernible way empirically – or even logically – once and for all – play this game.

      We don’t see this in science, we dont see this in law , we dont even see this in personal relationships that involve “the mind” and emotions.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Jeff, as I pointed out, everything hinges on whether one begins with the belief that this set of texts is superintended by God in its formation. If one does, and one accepts Christ as the hermeneutical key (as the church always has) then we have these two options I outlined.
      So what you need to argue is that either that one cannot begin with this conviction (i.e. as a properly basic belief) or that there is an insurmountable defeater to all such readings which renders any such belief unjustified. Suggesting, without argument, that one shouldn’t expect the text to be as it is does not substitute for argument!

      • Jeff

        So why begin with the belief that this set of texts is superintended by God in its formation?

        • David

          Randal, it may be beyond the scope of a plot post, but I would also be curious as to how you approach the argument for the inspiration of Scripture. I know you have mentioned in other posts that you differ from the typical approaches that involve fulfilled prophecy and embedded scientific knowledge. I read an article by WLC where he basically started with the resurrection and then moved to what Jesus said about the Scriptures.

          • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

            Perhaps this article can provide some illumination on my position.

            http://randalrauser.com/2013/02/errant-statements-in-an-inerrant-book/

            • David

              Thanks. I remember reading that article, but I missed the part where you talked about how the inspiration of the bible can be a properly basic belief. Have you written anywhere on how you might persuade a third party to believe in the inspiration of the bible (without the typical arguments of prophecy and unified theme)?

              • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                I would tend to reason from the historicity of the resurrection.

                • Daniel Stenning

                  Reasoning from a historicity of something that has zero evidence hardly seems sensible. You really think that every human should find the resurrection to be compelling ? . Really.

                  By your ( and other apologists reasonings ) we ought to just as well accept the historicity of Mormon assertions.

                  Or Muslim ones.

                  Even better still – the orthodox Jews can rightly argue that they have the truly warranted belief. And that includes rejecting jesus as the messiah.

                  There simply is no way when one uses the kind of tactics you and other use – of refuting a Jewish apologist, a Muslim apologist- or indeed a Scientologist apologist – if one is encountering the kind of sophist philosophical trickery you employ.

                  There really is NO yardstick – no common principle that all sellers of belief would aggree to – that would settle which one is true. Which one is “warranted”.

                  You end up in a situation where sceptics are supposed to just give up and accept that all of them are rational.

              • Jeff

                Randal, you would say that belief in biblical inspiration is properly basic for you, grounded as it is by a long chain of trusted Christian testimony. Granting your position on testimony for a moment, I still wonder how relevant this particular testimony is for your particular view of inspiration.

                The overwhelming historical consensus of the orthodox Christian church is for something closely akin (minimally) to the moral inerrancy standard that you’ve written about and distanced yourself from elsewhere. Of course, there are a few notable breath of fresh air exceptions (I’m thinking of a passage from Gregory of Nyssa in which he expresses moral shock and dismay at the plague on the Egyptian firstborn).

                But if the historic orthodox Christian consensus about biblical inspiration is so very seriously in error, then how can you rely on it to provide the grounding testimony you need for your position on biblical inspiration? As I alluded to in another comment in this thread, any Christian can say “the Bible is divinely inspired.” The important thing is what you actually mean by that.

                • Jeff

                  Because to connect the dots of what I’m getting at here a little more, surely “Paul’s writings are to be considered innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t at all follow obviously from “God raised Jesus from the dead.” You’d have to trace your position through the historic orthodox Christian church, but you’ve rejected (rightfully) the position of the historic orthodox Christian church.

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  Have you ever read “Warranted Christian Belief”? It would be enormously helpful in getting a comprehensive outline of these issues.

                  • Jeff

                    Perhaps I’ll take you up on that at some point. But for now, I take it that you understand the gist of my question here and can offer at least a quick response?

                    Consider the resurrection. Rudolf Bultmann and John Shelby Spong, to take two examples, have both affirmed Jesus’ resurrection, but they’ve redefined it in ways that differ radically from the mainstream historic definition.

                    So with biblical inspiration. At what point does a definition of inspiration differ severely enough from the historic definition that the link between the two becomes thoroughly blurred and obscured, and the testimonial support for the historic position no longer transfers cleanly, if at all, to the revisionist position?

                    With Bultmann and Spong, they’ve been consistent in their willingness to redefine and demythologize everything. In your case, you want to be able to hang onto every non-”defeated” bit of the biblical texts, but it seems that you’re biting off the hand that feeds you.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      I see nothing inconsistent in interpreting the Bible in accord with God as revealed in Jesus. After all, that’s what Christians have done from the beginning. There is no unanimity among Christians on the continuity/discontinuity continuum but there is unanimity in the plenary inspiration of scripture and the status of Jesus as the hermeneutical key.

                    • Jeff

                      I see nothing inconsistent in interpreting the Bible in accord with God as revealed in Jesus.

                      There is unanimity in…the status of Jesus as the hermeneutical key.

                      For sure, but Spong and Bultmann would heartily agree with that! In your case, you want to somehow affirm a very robust version of biblical inspiration so as to be able to harvest theology uncritically from Paul, etc. But the problem is that you’ve proposed (with very good reason, I’ll add) a radically revisionist paradigm of inspiration which retains some of the verbiage of the historic paradigm but which redefines the core of its content.

                    • Jeff

                      Incidentally, I think this is what Robert Price was getting at in his review of God or Godless when he said that you’re an old time theological liberal who hasn’t realized it yet. The only thing I would add is that there’s nothing wrong with being an old time theological liberal! (Price would agree)

                    • Daniel Stenning

                      At the end of the day – in the hypothetical situation of being faced with a government populated either entirely with christian fundies or “theological liberals”
                      such as Randal – i’d of course breathe a sigh of relief it they were all “Rausers”.

                      But both sides are trying to defend the indefensible here.

                      Randal may be ok at putting together those theistic arguments that are scripture agnostic- those that only imply deism and no more. But when he is pressured to then defend his beloved scriptures he is no better than anyone else. He has to resort to cherry picking.

                      His BIble is but a bunch of cherries. But he acknowledges some of then are rank. Inedible. Cherries that any kind humane cherry-eater would vomit up. But rather than pick thse cherries out of the bowl – Randal wants us to leave them in there – as ironic warnings.

                      Nice try.

                    • Daniel Stenning

                      His reasons for his more “liberal” and almost honest reading of the scriptures might be deemed good – were it not for this desperately weak idea of certain nasty passages being ironic.

                      See – it is here that your human errancy is coming through. You have put your faith in your own ability to come up with a really really good excuse for the smelly bits in the biblical parsons egg.

                      Sorry but I cannot give you the benefit of doubt here.

                  • Daniel Stenning

                    Plantinga also admits I believe that a Muslim could use exactly this same tactic to defend his Islam as Properly Basic.

                    As long as one can by hook or by crook ( “Ironic” cough cough ) pretend to one’s own peer group that one’s scriptures and doctrines are internally logically consistent we’re up and away.

            • Daniel Stenning

              I just read all those – up until you finally bite the bullet concerning those nasty imprecatory passages that you ask why they should be kept in the canon.

              As we know – it apparently comes down to God being “ironic”.

              How ironic. How clever. How very “deep”.

              As Dennett would put it – what we have here is a “deepity”.

              What a joke. And You Randal think we ought to take your apologetics seriously ?

              That would be ironic.

              http://randalrauser.com/2010/10/how-to-hate-your-enemies-lessons-from-the-psalms-part-4/

  • Jeff

    And I think again about how this illustrates the deep problems with a non-evidential epistemology of testimony. You insist that you don’t need any evidential support for your belief that the Bible is God’s authoritative word, and so it doesn’t matter at all what content we actually find in the Bible. Your position is consistent with any content we might find in the Bible (if that’s an incorrect assessment, please let me know), and so the only type of defeater for your position that you would allow would be a demonstration of the impossibility or incoherence of biblical inspiration. You’ll say that difficulty of this task (ie, demonstrating that biblical inspiration is impossible or incoherent) isn’t your fault–it’s simply that your position is a very strong position that’s resistant to defeaters. No, it’s simply that your epistemology of testimony is bullshit. :)

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      “You insist that you don’t need any evidential support for your belief that the Bible is God’s authoritative word, and so it doesn’t matter at all what content we actually find in the Bible.”

      That’s false. Moreover, I pointed out amply why your understanding of the epistemology of testimony is self-defeating and inconsistent. We accept testimony as properly basic absent defeaters. Just read the chapter on testimony in Audi’s book like I recommended.

      • Jeff

        Which part is false? That evidential support is unnecessary, or that there is some conceivable (if not actual) content that might render biblical authority falsified?

        You have certainly not demonstrated that my epistemology of testimony is self-defeating and inconsistent. Do you object to my descriptivist (ie, non-stipulative) assessment of testimony as somehow being self-defeating and inconsistent?

      • Daniel Stenning

        I just watched a TV programme here in the UK – Channel 4 – on people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

        Unlike the supposed “testimonies” of “witnesses”oyu and other apologists love to claim as evidence for your beliefs – from people that none of us have met, nor are there any historical records from anyone NOT inside the christian movement in the first century – not a single letter or document – nothing – from any ruler, Roman, official – nothing to suggest that no-one outside the christian sect was aware of any single NAMED witness – in the UFO case – we have “witnesses” alive and on camera – one witness actually a town councillor.

        I guess I should accept these UFO abductees world views and testimonies as being properly basic ?

        Every apologist like you Randal -should go around town for a day – wearing a placard stating that people claiming to be abducted by aliens are being perfectly reasonable and their truth claims should be given respect and treated as being true

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxjYOOkAjgw

        • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

          We have numerous readily available defeaters to accepting the claims of most individuals who assert UFO abductions.

          • Daniel Stenning

            all of which could be just as well applied to christian “Witnesses” in the resurrection.

            I presume somewhere in those defeaters the devil will be wheeled out. Convenient.

            • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

              Whether defeaters to the claims of UFO abductees can be equally applied to testimony surrounding the resurrection is an excellent question.
              The devil? What’s that? Have you been reading too much Frank Peretti?

              • Daniel Stenning

                no idea who peretti is, but its been a popular evangelical urban myth, tactic , policy call it what you like – to claim that all UFO reports and experiences are the deceptive work of satan. Books have been written on the subject.

                I kid you not.

          • Andy_Schueler

            We have numerous readily available defeaters to accepting the claims of most individuals who assert UFO abductions.

            Which defeaters would that be?

  • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

    Good work on this.

  • Daniel Stenning

    Why dont you just face the obvious truth- something very clear to me – even as an early born-again – reading the Bible for the very first time form beginning to end.

    Namely that Christianity – was basically bolted on to – shoehorned on to a set of scriptures that were of an entirely different kind of religion, mindset and even philosophy.

    This idea of applying “Christs centrality” back on to the eralier OT scriptures is just another form of revisionism.

    I repeate what i said before. Marcion had it right ! They are two very different kinds of gods !

    • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

      The question which must be answered is whether it is more plausible that Christianity evolved naturally by successive revision according to the known sociocultural pathways used by religion, or that Christianity as a complete metanarrative fits together broadly and consistently in a fashion which could be reasonably expected from the deity it describes.

      • Daniel Stenning

        Christianity and religions evolve naturally because it all comes from nature. Namely humans.

        As to “the deity which it describes” – well even among christians one gets a different deity. It depends both on the personality of the christian and also what the theology that same xtian espouses. I saw this all the time when a believer.

        Xtians make Jesus and Jehovah in their own idealised image and then in discourse flesh that out in conversation as their own theology.

        To do as Randal does – and reinterpret everything in the OT in terms of his personal Jeusus – he basically has to cherry pick.

        • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

          Christianity and religions evolve naturally because it all comes from nature. Namely humans.

          Hmm, what’s that? Sorry, I couldn’t hear you because I was too busy begging the question. You’d be familiar with that, wouldn’t you?

          • cyngus

            You said that “Christianity evolved naturally”, what’s wrong with you?

            Christianity “evolves supernaturally”. Natural evolution works against “supernatural evolution”. People get more and more knowledge and reject “supernatural”.

            • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

              That’s called a block quote.

            • Daniel Stenning

              Of course the christian apologists would like you to believe that had it not been for christianity – scientifically speaking we would all still be living in the dark ages.

              Now THERE is an irony !

              Pots and kettles indeed.

          • Daniel Stenning

            A Polemical reply if you like. Not every posting or comment here has to be finely nuanced anlalytic argument. But thank you for cherry picking that bit of polemic out.

            It avoids you having to address the more thorny issue of apologetic cherry picking and – cough cough – Gods use of “irony” in scripture. As Randal will have it.

            ( nice try – no banana )

    • Joseph O Polanco

      That’s only accurate if by “The Bible” you actually mean “The Satanic Bible”: http://bit.ly/11FdJKT

  • R0c1

    Matthew 7:9-12: “… So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

    – Women make up half the population. Did the Law and the Prophets tell people to “do to [women] as you would have them do unto you”. No, not even close.

    – Slaves were a large part of the population. Did the Law and the Prophets encourage people to treat slaves as any person would want to be treated? No.

    – Other religious groups vastly outnumbered the Jews. Did the Law and the Prophets apply the golden rule to worshippers of any other god? No.

    Randal, you would like Jesus to be the standard for Old Testament interpertations. The problem is, Jesus thought the Law and the Prophets were wonderful.

    • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

      The problem is, Jesus thought the Law and the Prophets were wonderful.

      Not really.
      “It was because of the hardness of your hearts that Moses wrote you these commandments.”

      • R0c1

        My point stands. Well over half the population of the world would not be treated according to the golden rule because of stuff written in law and the prophets. Jesus of Nazareth seems to think otherwise; if he did, he was wrong.

        I’ve read enough of your comments to know you are a smart guy. You don’t need me to explain how “hardness of hearts” is a poor excuse for most of the garbage in the Torah.

        • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

          Truth is found in the difference between lies.

          • R0c1

            Huh?

            • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

              Suppose there is a primitive tribe who worships a plethora of deities, particularly the Rain God, the River God, and the Sea God.

              Along comes an explorer. When he hears of this, he explains that the water that falls from the sky collects in the river and runs into the sea, then returns to the sky to repeat the process.

              The village leader turns to his people and says, “The Paleface has given us a revelation! There is but one Water God who falls as Rain, flows as River, and collects as Sea before ascending again!”

              • cyngus

                … and the villagers explained the Trinity, how wonderful! Three lies become one!

                • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

                  Your analogy finder is a little broken, I’m afraid.

                  • cyngus

                    I just concluded your analogy. I bet some Christians may find my conclusion right, if I didn’t mention that trinity is a lie.

                    • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

                      That wasn’t the conclusion of my analogy.

              • R0c1
                • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

                  And this admittedly excellent article is relevant how?

                  • R0c1

                    I have no idea, but I like the article. :-D

                    Likewise, I have no idea how the village story fits in this thread.

                    • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

                      Neither myth was correct, but the difference between the myths was true.

          • cyngus

            So, the truth is the middle lie?

            • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

              No, the truth is what you get when you subtract the first lie from the second lie.

              • cyngus

                Ohhh! Now I understand how Christian “truth” works. They even subtract the second lie from the first lie to get a better “truth”

                • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

                  No, the first from the second. You’re mixing it up.

                  • cyngus

                    Doesn’t matter, you’ll never get to any truth by operating with lies even if they are bigger, smallest, first, second, old or new.

            • Daniel Stenning

              Does god have middle knowledge about this lie ?

              • cyngus

                I guess god is still stuck in the the “middle knowledge”, between The Old Lie and the New Lie.
                P&W is extracting one lie from the other, and maybe he’ll find a puzzled naked god.

    • David Marshall

      R1: You misunderstand that verse. Jesus explains what he means by “fulfilling the Law and the Prophets” in the sermon as a whole. The Law says, don’t murder: Jesus says, don’t hate your neighbor or even call him names. The word ?????? or fulfill here has many meanings and is one of the richest and deepest concepts in Matthew: but it does not simply mean, “affirm in the exact shape in which it comes to you.” The metaphors in Matthew are rather about growth, dialectic, teleology, and transformation — a seed in the ground, a wedding feast, yeast in a loaf of bread.

      And in fact, the Gospel did radically change the world for the better, for slave, women, and humanity in general. Jesus’ words were like a seed that grew into a great tree, in which the birds of the air came and nested.

      • cyngus

        David, the bible says whatever you want it to say, depending on the mood or Christian denomination you are in.

        If you want to say that the bible “radically” changed the world, especially after Enlightenment or Age of Reason of 17th and 18th century, go ahead use the “original” Greek words that couldn’t be translated correctly for thousands of years when women were treated as crap and slavery was flourishing.

        Jesus seed “words” needed thousands of years to grow some weed, for Christians to smoke and believe that “Gospel did radically change the world for the better”

    • Joseph O Polanco

      i. It appears you are conflating the system of labor employed in ancient Israel with the tyrannical system of slavery that defined Colonial American history. If so, this would be a gross misapprehension: http://bit.ly/14IY81i

      ii. Given your counterfactual view of how women are regarded in the Bible, I’m forced to ask, have you ever read the Bible in its entirety? http://bit.ly/15TdZYi

      • R0c1

        Yeah, I’ve read the whole thing. While I agree there are differences in American slavery and ANE slavery, I don’t think they are very morally significant. The Bible describes how slaves were to be treated and also how they actually were treated in practice. Both descriptions are far from the golden rule, and so my point stands.

        The linked article by maxximiliann is cherry-picking stuff to make the text seem not-so-bad. One example:

        Jehovah provided guidelines to protect slaves. For example, a slave who was maimed by his master would be set free.

        This is a distortion because, while the law did provide protections, it protected the life of a slave less than the life of a non-slave.

        And anyway, who cares? Does slavery somehow become morally okay if we set boundaries like, “you can own slaves (and their children) as long as you let them go when you hurt them in certain ways”?

        • Joseph O Polanco

          i. You say, “while the law did provide protections, it protected the life of a slave less than the life of a non-slave.” On what evidence do you draw such a conclusion?

          ii. What system of slavery has provisions that allows slaves to go free?

          • R0c1

            i. Exodus 21, IIRC.

            ii. The slavery endorsed in the Torah.

            • Joseph O Polanco

              ““And in case a man strikes his slave man or his slave girl with a stick and that one actually dies under his hand, that one is to be avenged without fail.” – Exodus 21:20. Where do you see “the life of a slave [being protected] less than the life of a non-slave”?

          • R0c1

            28 “If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. 29 If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. 30 However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. 31 This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. 32 If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels [f] of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.

  • Jeff

    Likewise, those who are persuaded that the canonical reading of the Bible is a waste of time (e.g. a mere collection of ancient human writings with no divine superintendence) will likely confirm their opinions. But their incredulity has no probative force to those who are committed to the inspiration of scripture and the development of canonical readings of scripture in light of God revealed in Christ.

    What about those who don’t fall into either side of this dichotomy–those who are somewhere in between, as I once was? To dismiss all concerns about biblical inspiration that arise from the content of the Bible as “incredulity” with “no probative force” strikes me as very strange and very dismissive of those who are genuinely unsure about biblical inspiration. Why are evidential concerns about biblical inspiration worthy of such scorn?

    Think about it this way. If it’s really so important for the Christian to say, “The Bible is divinely inspired,” then fine, the Christian can say, “The Bible is divinely inspired.” But why should the Christian hang on every (non-”defeated”) word of Paul’s as being The Truth?

  • Ghylly

    I am an atheist but I must admit to quite liking the thought of a god with a sense of humour and irony. He must be laughing his socks off at all those men who seriously thought he wanted to collect their foreskins!