CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The uncredible Hallq has issued a challenge to the CADRE to respond to one of his arguments. Ordinarily, I don’t respond to challenges for a couple of reasons. First, the people who throw out such challenges are ordinarily not particularly interested in considering the validity of the response. They throw out the challenge expecting that it cannot be answered, and then proceed to find any response inadequate if it is anything other than indisputable (which usually isn’t the case) -- in most cases the reply to the response consists of a derisive attack on the responder.

Second, my own feeling is that this is not a debate blog. We are largely an opinion and information blog. We allow comments to what we write and will respond if we think it necessary to clarify or defend a particular point of view, but generally we don’t carry on with endless discussion about what’s said. We do this in part because we think that the answers that we provide are either good or bad on their own merits, and we leave it to the readers to use their own minds to be able to discern the truth for themselves. But since we are generally not interested in making this a debate blog, we are ordinarily not inclined to respond to challenges because it will turn this into a debate blog. Also, it allows others to dictate what we write about based on their challenges.

Having said that, I am inclined to respond to Hallq’s challenge because it does reflect a flawed approach to Christianity that I want to expose here -- which is part of what I enjoy writing about. It is the "can’t see the forest for the trees" syndrome. It arises when someone focuses on one or two trees in a forest of thousands of trees and tries to make a generalization about the forest from the one or two trees.

Here’s Hallq’s challenge:

Last month I did a post on Hitler's religious beliefs. It attracted some attention of the folks at Christian CADRE. I issued a bit of a challenge to them, but they apparently left before seeing it. I expected this debate to die out for awhile, but now I see Christian CADRE has post up tying Hitler's actions to the fact that he "rejected every form of Judeo-Christian morality."

So now I repeat what I said last month: Anyone who thinks the Bible is inerrant and then uses the Holocaust to attack those who don't should be ready to explain why the Holocaust was a bad thing but the cited passages in the Bible aren't bad things. I had cited three passages: Deuteronomy 13, where the Israelites are told to kill worshipers of other gods; Leviticus 20:13, where they are told to kill homosexuals; and I Samuel 15:2-3, where they are told to exterminate the Amalekites to the last child.

I am not interested in complaints that I have taken these verses out of context. I am not interested in Clintonesque discourses over the exact definition of words like "genocide." I want to know by what moral principles evangelicals condemn Hitler but hold up the Bible as the gold standard of morality. Can a coherent rationale be given that is in any way better than simple Divine Command Theory?

Okay, here's a rule to always remember when reviewing challenges to Christianity: context is crucial. What is the context in which he raises this challenge? He raises the challenge in response to Nomad's post showing that Nietzsche's philosophy more than anything else was directly related to the rise of Hitler's destructive Third Reich. In all sincerity, this is so apparent that it seems almost not worthy of the time that Nomad put into the post. Consider the following excerpt from William L. Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (which is quoted on the Internet here) concerning his take on the Relationship Between Friedrich Nietzsche and the Nazis:

There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung. Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman--and in the most telling aphorisms? A Nazi could proudly quote him on almost every conceivable subject, and did. On Christianity: "the one great curse, the one enormous and innermost perversion... I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.... This Christianity is no more than the typical teaching of the Socialists."

* * *

Such rantings from one of Germany's most original minds must have struck a responsive chord in Hitler's littered mind. At any rate he appropriated them for his own--not only the thoughts but the philosopher's penchant for grotesque exaggeration, and often his very words. "Lords of the Earth" is a familiar expression in Mein Kampf. That in the end Hitler considered himself the superman of Nietzsche's prophecy cannot be doubted....

Obviously, most experts can see the connection between Hitler and Nietzche, so what exactly is Hallq's problem? He objects that Christians cannot claim that the Holocaust was bad without first condemning certain passages in their own Bible as bad. Is Hallq somehow saying that the Holocaust wasn't bad? I doubt it. I am sure that unless he's insane he's quite in agreement that the Holocaust was horrendous and ought not to be repeated. But he's claiming that the Bible has God ordering holocausts (of a sort) in various parts of the OT and he wants us Christians to condemn the actions of God in the OT.

Fousing on the context of Hallq's comment, I have a question: which Christian churches are advocating for the complete annihilation of a people, the killing of homosexuals and/or the killing of people who worship other gods? Let’s review the main denominations:

Roman Catholic Church? No, they aren’t advocating these positions.
Eastern Orthodox Church? No, they aren’t either.
Lutheran Church and its associated churches? No.
Episcopal Church and its associated churches? No.
Methodist Church and its associated churches? No.
Baptist Church and its associated churches? No.
Foursquare Gospel Church and its associated churches? No.
Presbyterian Church and its associated churches? No.
Worldwide Church of God and its associated churches? No.
Anglican Church and its associated churches? No.
Charismatic churches? Friends churches? Quakers? No.

You see, here’s the forest: no one advocates these things in any church in the world today (not even Fred Phelps and his apparently easily fooled congregation advocate these things -- they just pray for God to hurt other people). In fact, you would have to go to the far fringes of Christianity to find people who believe these things, and I am not even certain they exist there because I know of no group that is accepted as Christian that believes that any of these are the types of policy that are taught in the Bible.

Are churches simply ignoring these verses that Hallq seems to believe makes the Christian claims about the Holocaust hypocritical? No, the vast majority of these churches developed their theology by taking the entire word of God under counsel and coming to a conclusion as to how they work into the entire revelation of God through the Bible. They read where Jesus clearly said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and love our enemies. The overriding Christian message is that of love -- not killing. Thus, these verses are not a concern because of a thing that Hallq doesn’t want to hear about: context. Remember, he said "I am not interested in complaints that I have taken these verses out of context." Well, Hallq, if you’re not interested in the facts, then there is no answer for you because context is the key to a correct understanding of anything. I challenge you to find any other field of study where context is irrelevant.

The Bible doesn't teach that these things are the rule, and certainly Christians today understand that the rules about killing homosexuals, killing worshippers of other gods or the slaying of the Amalekites were put in place for a time and circumstances that are no longer in play due to the coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. For example, I have previously published a long explanation of how the Amalekite annihilation can be understood rationally when looking in context. As I said in my on-line article "A Reasonable Understanding of the Destruction of the Amalekites”:

The sources are consistent in their view of the Amalekites as an exceptionally wicked people. The verses from Deuteronomy point to their treachery (accord, Exod 17:8-16). They are seen as the embodiment of evil and hatred towards the Jews which were God's chosen people. While Israel was to make justice and brotherly love—-even to strangers-—its guiding rule (see, e.g., Leviticus 19:34), the Israelites were commanded to not forget that Amalek had perpetrated a cowardly and unprovoked attack on the feeble and hindmost, when the Israelites were marching from Egypt.

Amalek's enmity against Israel stems not only from its legacy as Esau’s grandson (Jewish Encyclopedia, supra), but from what it represents. Amalek was the first among nations (Num 24:20), i.e., the leading force of evil. Consequently, the struggle between Israel and Amalek can be seen as a heavenly metaphor played out in real life for the eternal struggle of good versus evil.

The Israelites were God's chosen people. It was through them that Christ was to enter into the world. The Amalekites, the forces of Mordor (so to speak), were seeking to eliminate the Israelites and God’s plan of salvation. The manner in which they acted was very much as a terrorist might approach the task-—picking on the poor and weak with cowardly attacks. They needed to be eliminated so that God’s plan of salvation could proceed. God chose His people which were His agent for the ultimate "good" of the Christ to act as His hand of judgment upon the Amalekites, and ordered their absolute annihilation.

Don't like the fact that the order of the Amalekites needs to be looked at in the context of pre-Jesus’s coming context, and the Amalekite identification with evil? Fine, but then simply acknowledge that you aren’t really interested in the truth. The Amalekites were like a weed growing in the garden that needed to be pulled so that the garden could flourish in accordance with God's plan. But to understand that requires reading the entire Bible and understanding the verses in the context of the time and circumstances that were occurring. But then, you don't want to hear about context. You’d rather spend your time staring at a couple of the less attractive individual trees while ignoring the rich, verdant forest filled with life blooming around you of which those trees are only a miniscule part. In doing so, you only fool yourself.

40 comments:

BK spectacularly fails to deal with the difference between Hitler killing Jews because he thought they were evil, and God ordering the killing of Amalekite babies (and cattle!), because he thought they were evil.

And BK fails to deal with the difference between the temporary nature of killing homosexuals until Jesus came, and Hitler killing homosexuals until the 1000 year Third Reich was established.

I leave with BK's chilling quote 'They needed to be eliminated so that God’s plan of salvation could proceed.'

Reminds me of a line from Vietnam about villages having to be destroyed so it could be saved.

One of Dosteevsky's characters asked if the Kingdom of Heaven was worth the torture of one child.

Christians will wipe out whole tribes of children to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven, and do so on no more evidence than having read a book where the killers claim that the killed were evil.

Here is another quote from BK ' Why not stop throwing barbs at strawmen and talk about real Christian teachings as understood in the larger Biblical context?'

Real Christian teachings as understood in the larger context means obeying orders to kill homosexuals and other people , until you are told not to kill them any more.

BK quotes the following '"Lords of the Earth" is a familiar expression in Mein Kampf.'

And here is one of the expressions from Mein Kampf, so we can get more familiar with what Hitler meant by 'Lords of the Earth'.

''And this action is the only one which, before God and our German posterity, would make any sacrifice of blood seem justified: before God, since we have been put on this earth with the mission of eternal struggle for our daily bread, beings who receive nothing as a gift, and who owe their position as lords of the earth only to the genius and the courage with which they can conquer and defend it.'

It appears that Hitler thought God has put man on Earth.

Steven,

You are a perfect example of why I don't debate everything posted. You say, "BK spectacularly fails to deal with the difference between Hitler killing Jews because he thought they were evil, and God ordering the killing of Amalekite babies (and cattle!), because he thought they were evil." I didn't deal with it, but then I thought it was obvious that there is a difference between man's knowledge and God's knowledge.

You say: "BK fails to deal with the difference between the temporary nature of killing homosexuals until Jesus came, and Hitler killing homosexuals until the 1000 year Third Reich was established." I thought I made it pretty clear that no Christian church teaches such a ridiculous thing.

You say: "Christians will wipe out whole tribes of children to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven, and do so on no more evidence than having read a book where the killers claim that the killed were evil." Funny, I don't recall saying that, and the Amalekite account wasn't based on a book but based upon God's righteous judgment.

You say: "Real Christian teachings as understood in the larger context means obeying orders to kill homosexuals and other people , until you are told not to kill them any more." I say, that's so patently absurd I'm glad you closed with it.

'You say, "BK spectacularly fails to deal with the difference between Hitler killing Jews because he thought they were evil, and God ordering the killing of Amalekite babies (and cattle!), because he thought they were evil." I didn't deal with it, but then I thought it was obvious that there is a difference between man's knowledge and God's knowledge.'

So there was no difference in morality between Hitler killing people he thought evil, and God killing people he thought evil.

The only difference was that Hitler was mistaken as to his facts, not his morals?

And what exactly is your position , other than that believers in God were ordered to kill homosexuals, until they received orders not to do that nay more?

Just as Hitler's killings were supposedly only temporary until the 1000 year Reich had been established?

Steven,

Your questions make assumptions that are simply ludicrous.

Hallq's analogies are all screwed up. He compares God to Hitler for destroying the Amalekites and other ancient nations, when it was these nations who were basically the Hitlers of the ancient world. Saying that God is evil for attacking the Amalekites is like saying Europe and America were evil for attacking Nazi Germany.

So there was no difference in morality between Hitler killing people he thought evil, and God killing people he thought evil.

Yes, there was a difference: Hitler thought the Jews were evil. (And actually, I don't think Hitler killed the Jews because he thought they were evil; he killed them because he thought they were biologically inferior, though correct me if I'm wrong). God, on the other hand, knew the Amalekites were evil.

I'm confused about the challenge... "uses the Holocaust to attack those who don't [believe in inerrancy]"? How can someone attack someone else with the Holocaust? What does inerrancy have to do with the Holocaust or attacking people? This is all very bizarre.

Is this a way of asking how a bible believer could condemn a massacre outside the bible but not one inside it? If so, I don't see what that has to do with attacking a person who doesn't believe the bible. And it still doesn't explain what inerrancy has to do with anything. I'm a bible believer, but I don't believe in inerrancy.

Perhaps someone can clarify the situation and the challenge.

Hallq's comparison is very apt.

As is shown by the comparison of the Amalekites ot Nazis. When Germany was attacked, the Americans did not kill every man , woman and child in Germany. That would have been wrong.

Christians have no evidence for the Amalekite babies being 'evil' , other than they have read it in a book which said that the Amalekite children of one generation should be killed for something their ancestors did. (1 Samuel 15:2 This is what the LORD of hosts has to say: 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel when he barred his way as he was coming up from Egypt.)

And it is amazing that people can make no distinction between God and Hitler, except that Hitler killed people he mistakenly thought were evil, while God killed people he 'knew' were evil. (Killing people spares you all that tiresome effort of having to save them)

Hallq asked by what moral standards Christians think Hitler was evil and God was good.

And the answer seems to be that God is God and Hitler was not God.

Where are the moral standards in that?

Hi BK,

Well, I think it comes down to whether one thinks the Bible is inerrant or not. If one thinks it inerrant and believes it is a perfect guide for life, then certainly disturbing passages like these would cast prima facie doubt on the divine authorship of the Bible.

To me, my problem with apologetics is that it doesn't ask what is the most likely explanation, it merely defends, at least imo, what is already believed. It seems a lot more likely that the Bible was primarily a human document than a divine one. After all, wouldn't one expect a clearer and less bloody book from a divine being? I don't doubt that one can come up with a defense of each of the bloody parts, but again, what is more likely?

To me, it seems more likely that, if the passages in question are historically accurate, they reflect an ancient tribe's ideological/theological justification for the seizure of land from another group. Most genocides are justified by an overarching ideology, after all.

Again also, if God is supposed omnipotent why didn't he just make the Amalakites vanish out of thin air? Why would he sully the hands of his chosen people with blood if he, being omnipotent, had far less violent means at his disposal.

It also need be borne in mind that at one time Christians did feel justified, even obligated, to kill not only non-Christians but other Christians, heretics. Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin were agreed on this. Thus, it seems most likely that it was the stalemate of the religious wars and the suceeding Enlightenment which took the violence out of Christianity, rather than a principled interpretation of the Bible. It's hard to imagine that all of Luther, Calvin, and Aquinas were sloppy and incompetent interpreters of the Bible. Rather, it points at the very least to imperfections and ambiguities in the text, which then call into question the reliability of said text as a basis for living.

One would hope that a good God would not make His text only clearly understandable to the erudite and not litter it with easily misconstrued passages.

The question I always ask apologists is, "What would it take for you to reject the Bible as being the word of God?" Is there any passage, no matter how horrific, which would cast doubt on your judgment? If you allow violent passages in the Koran to count as evidence against the Koran, why not the same for the Bible? Shouldn't the passages make you a little concerned that maybe the text is not as flawless as one had initially suspected?

Finally, as I mentioned over at Hallq's, calls for context seem a little misguided in the context ;) We don't usually consider that Hitler's psychology and the economy of Germany post-WWI mitigate the evil done, nor for any other genocide. It's at least prima facie deeply worrying that a good and just God would ever employ mass slaughter as a means to His end.

We would frown on a parent who said, "Do as I say, not as I do," to his children. One would have hoped that God would have set a better example for his all-too-fallible creations.

Steve,

I may be on "the same side" as you, but I think a little toning done of the rhetoric would help your cause. You've got to try to establish some rapport. Obviously, they assume that God wrote the Bible and is all-good and if they can establish those premises, than it makes sense to say that God is different than Hitler because it can be truly said the He knew what was best and what needed to be done. Of course, I dispute those premises. I'm not comfortable with a God who would ever employ genocide as a means to an end. In any case, while it may be frustrating, you have to recognize that Christians are just as bright as non-believers but that, from our perspective have gotten ensnarled in some erroneous starting beliefs. If I'm going to turn on the heat, I usually try to wait a little. But what do I know.

Can I interest any of the atheist here to come on The Narrow Mind audio program to discuss some of these things. The program airs live M-F, 9-10am PST. If that does not fit your schedule, we can come up with another time frame? If you are willing to come on, shoot me and jeff@rctr.org. Thanks!

That was a well-thought response by eusto. Though I might disagree with some of his conclusions or details, I think that he and I are on many of the same pages. Unfortunately, neither he nor Carr answered my questions. Someone may draw the conclusion that Hitler was not justified for his actions but God was—for whatever reason, however good or not—but what does that have to do with attacking people because they agree or disagree with those beliefs? Eusto mentioned that some Christians in the past (like Calvin) believed it was not only good, but sometimes necessary to use violence against nonbelievers and heretics. But I sincerely doubt that anyone who authored the challenge or represents it anywhere on-line has ever in their lifetime been attacked in a way that could in any sense be considered similar to those violent attacks by Christians like Calvin. So the question remains—how is anyone being attacked and what does inerrancy or lack of inerrancy have to do with that attack? The only conclusion I have been able to come up with so far is that nonbelievers feel threatened because believers disagree with them. Are nonbelievers so emotionally unstable that they can’t deal with someone disagreeing with them and therefore believe themselves attacked by someone simply because that person holds an alternate viewpoint? Perhaps the language of the challenge was just poorly and inaccurately worded...

To me, my problem with apologetics is that it doesn't ask what is the most likely explanation, it merely defends, at least imo, what is already believed.

I think this is true for those on both sides of the fence.

Those who reject the existence of God, and/or sin, and/or the general reliability of the Bible, are going to automatically find it more likely that these passages are not reliable, either historically (the events didn't happen) or at least theologically (these events did not occur in response to God's instructions).

Those who believe in the existence of an all-knowing and holy God, sin and the consequences it brings, and the general reliability of the Bible, don't find these events unlikely.

In other words, those on both sides of the fence merely interpret the Biblical accounts in light of what they already believe, not just apologists, as is asserted. And those who are sitting on the fence and attempt to evaluate these things from an agnostic/objective perspective are going to have a hard time as well, let alone those who have already come to conclusions about God and the Bible. After all, these are emotionally charged subjects. It's difficult to analyze them without our emotions interfering. More than that, we're dealing with the Bible/Christianity. If Christianity is true, atheists and agnostics are screwed. If it's false, Christians have wasted their lives believing in a fairy tale. There's a lot at stake for both groups, and this also is going to interfere with how we handle the data, usually unconsciously.

Again, my point being: It may seem more likely to you that these events didn't happen the way the Bible reports, but that's because you're filtering them through your particular worldview. Likewise, Christians filter these things through a different lens -- one through which these things are at least plausible.

Now I don't want to understate the difficulty of some of the Biblical accounts. Although my worldview doesn't render these accounts unlikely, I still feel some difficulties. My approach, however, is to start with the most firm data in the Bible -- which to me is the resurrection -- and then move to the more difficult data. Since the foundations of Christianity, in my opinion, have strong support, and being that there are at least plausible explanations for the harder portions of the Bible, I feel that it's reasonable, while acknowledging that the difficult portions are difficult, to give them the benefit of the doubt.


It also need be borne in mind that at one time Christians did feel justified, even obligated, to kill not only non-Christians but other Christians, heretics. Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin were agreed on this. ... It's hard to imagine that all of Luther, Calvin, and Aquinas were sloppy and incompetent interpreters of the Bible.

Can you provide details on which passages they interpreted, and how they interpreted them, to support this view? I'd like to understand this before jumping to any conclusions -- whether it be that they misinterpreted the passages, though the text is reliable; misinterpreted the passages because the text is ambiguous and unreliable; correctly interpreted the passages, etc. Also, what cultural factors influenced their interpretation, and if this was the case, does it automatically mean the text is unreliable, and so on.


The question I always ask apologists is, "What would it take for you to reject the Bible as being the word of God?" Is there any passage, no matter how horrific, which would cast doubt on your judgment? If you allow violent passages in the Koran to count as evidence against the Koran, why not the same for the Bible? Shouldn't the passages make you a little concerned that maybe the text is not as flawless as one had initially suspected?

I'm not too familiar with the Qur'an, but I think the violence in it is of a different nature than that of the Bible. I believe (though I could be wrong) that the violence in the Qur'an is for the purpose of spreading Islam. This is different than violence in the Bible. Take the Amalekites, for example -- the people this post focused on. As soon as the Israelites left Egypt the Amalekites began attacking the population of the Israelites that were weak. Then they attack the Israelites head on. They continued attacking Israel for 200-400 years destroying cattle, crops, kidnapping people for slave-trade, etc (as they did to other nations as well). Despite this, they were welcomed into Israel as immigrants (which some did). It's only after this time -- more than enough time to give them to change their ways, or for the innocent citizens to leave the country (which some did and were spared) -- that God decided to destroy them. This is obviously different than the type of violence in the Qur'an; so it would be improper to compare the two.


We would frown on a parent who said, "Do as I say, not as I do," to his children.

We would, and have, but only out of our ignorance. Parents commonly tell their children they cannot do something that they themselves do. This is because the child doesn't have the knowledge, wisdom, experience, responsibility, or what have you to do something the parent does; so it's best that the child not do it. Of course the child doesn't see it this way. The child simply sees the parent as being hypocritical and unfair; but that's based on their ignorance. In the same way, if God tells us not to do something that he does, we can frown, call him hypocritical, unfair, unworthy of worship, etc, but we must allow for the possibility that these reactions are -- just maybe -- the result of our ignorance.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

I removed Steven Carr's latest post because I'm tired of his attitude. If he wants to rewrite it with a bit more conversation and less condenscension, I will let him. But as it is, I see no reason to have him bring his bile to this site.

This is an interesting thread, and I appreciate the chance to jump in here.

eusto's post is the one that rings truest for me. I think we all come to the Bible with our own experiences, concepts, childhood and adult teachings, and of course our own temperments, so that hoping to attain an "objective" understanding of the Bible is not realistic. If your premise is "The Bible is divinely inspired and therefore inerrant," then you will jump through any hoops necessary to justify even the most gruesome passages in it.

As eusto said, "What would it take for you to reject the Bible as being the word of God? Is there any passage, no matter how horrific, which would cast doubt on your judgment?" For the Biblical inerrantists (of whom I assume BK is one), the answer is "No." Therefore, there is no point in debating the matter with an inerrantist; it just gets both sides all upset.

Apologetics is extremely convincing to those who are already convinced. That is its use and value -- to feed the faith of the faithful. That is a perfectly good thing to do. The only problem comes when someone who believes the Bible is inerrant also believes his apologetics have the logic to convince those who are outside the circle of Biblical inerrancy.

I know whereof I speak. Though I'm now a born-again Christian, during my atheist years people kept encouraging me to read C. S. Lewis, because his apologetic arguments were such irrefutable logic. No, not exactly.

This is getting off-topic, but what the heck:

Apologetics is extremely convincing to those who are already convinced.

Definitely, but I do think they can also be helpful to unbelievers who are open to Christianity but face obstacles which prevent them from believing.

The only problem comes when someone who believes the Bible is inerrant also believes his apologetics have the logic to convince those who are outside the circle of Biblical inerrancy.

Like slaveofone, I'm also starting to get a bit confused over why the topic of inerrancy keeps cropping up. Why is the acceptance of the account of the Amalekites equated with inerrancy? One can certainly accept this account but still believe that the Bible is not inerrant.

But I hear what you're saying about the difficulty in using apologetics against those who have firmly made up their mind that Christianity isn't true. I typically don't debate skeptics/atheists but from time to time I do, and I've asked myself why. I well know that I'm not going to change their mind; so what's the point? I think one of the reasons I do it is to encourage Christians who may be asking these very questions and happen to be reading the debate. I think another reason I do it is for fence-sitters who also happen to be reading the debate. Yet another reason is simply for the challenge and to dialouge with those of different beliefs. Finally, another reason is that I just get ticked off when atheists arrogantly assume that Christians have no good reasons for their beliefs and are simply closing their eyes tightly and believing against all of the evidence to the contrary! I want to attempt to demonstrate that this isn't the case, yet even this seems just as difficult as trying to convert them!

Oh, actually, I do believe that apologetics can be useful even for skeptics, although perhaps seldomly. A couple of examples that immediately come to mind include Gregory Boyd's father (check out the book Letters from a Skeptic); and A.S.A Jones, the author of ex-atheist.net. So it may be rare, but it does happen.

Hello, zok,

I don't oppose debate in general. I would certainly agree that debating those who differ from me can be very helpful, but I generally find it most helpful to me. I may not convince anyone else, but being compelled to state the reasons for my faith strengthens my faith in the process.

Just a note: You asked, "Why is the acceptance of the account of the Amalekites equated with inerrancy? One can certainly accept this account but still believe that the Bible is not inerrant." I think the slaughter of the Amalekites is not the "problem," but rather the statement that God approved, nay, demanded the slaughter. God's direction to slaughter people is the issue that BK is trying to justify, and that others (like me) have very serious doubts about.

To be honest, if I were truly convinced that God required the murder of innocent children, I could not worship Him. It would be worshipping a demon.

Heather,

In my article that I link, I make the point that Inerrancy is not necessary to follow God. If you find this verse troubling and want to put some non-inerrancy explanation for its inclusion, that's fine. Many members of the CADRE don't share my commitment to inerrancy and last I checked, it isn't required to be a Christian.

Having said that, I simply disagree that God ordered the murder of anyone, and those who the Israelites wiped out were part of a horrible society that were the tools of Satan trying to wipe out God's chosen people. They were given 400 years opportunity to change their ways, and God's law said that they were to be given a chance to change their ways before they were finally attacked by the Israelites. I don't find that to be murder of innocent people.

Hallq,

Thanks for the link. Apparently you don't think what I wrote is that interesting. Sorry, I didn't do it with any hope that you would be convinced. After all, you're the one staring at the trees.

Hallq has responded over at his blog. I think it's a quite good response.

To be honest, if I were truly convinced that God required the murder of innocent children, I could not worship Him. It would be worshipping a demon.

Wow, I very much agree. And you're born again, huh? Didn't know there was this much variety. I think we're dealing with a very different sort of Christianity then, one that is more based on experience than on a text. Which I consider a good thing.

***

Much to answer to, and I should confess that I'm a moderate theist. By which I mean, while I do more or less believe in the divine, I don't think there's clear evidence that it's the case. But in general, I side with secularists on these issues, because I find Christianity to be deeply flawed, and I think if one believes one should "admit" that it's more a choice to believe rather than a rational decision based on evidence.

While taking an objective stance is more difficult in matters of religion, I don't think it's as difficult as some make it to be.
In fact, sometimes it's quite odd when Bible believers lean on this heavily because it's really using a very strong form of relativism and postmodernism to justify rather fundamentalist belief.

If you deny that there is an objective standpoint, then, well I'm just as justified in believing in atheism, or Buddhism, or paganism, or just about anything as you are in believing Christianity. Thus, you can believe what you want but you've ceded your ground to criticize me and also any rational justification to evangelize.

So I don't think we want to take that too seriously. One commenter mentioned that he/she began with the resurrection and then went from there. But somehow, I find it shocking that that would be the most reliable part of the Bible. It may be the most theologically central but surely not the most reliable. The most reliable parts would be ones that describe events for which we have independent historical/archeological evidence. IIRC, the resurrection accounts vary significantly and we also have the problem of that such a momentous event would require quite extraordinary evidence. We would hope that it would have been more widely attested throught the ancient world, but we don't have any non-Christian sources until the 2nd century AD I believe -- I don't know about Josephus but there are problems with his text I'm pretty sure. I would think that the resurrection might be the last thing one would establish since it's so incredible. One would examine the rest of the Bible asking oneself whether it's likely that a perfect being had a significant hand in it, all the while checking it against all we know in the social sciences etc (history, culture, etc.). If all of that was accurate and the text was just breathtakingly beautiful and awe-inspiring we would move to the miracles and then to the resurrection.

It's true that I'm moving on the basis of sense data and the sciences, but from what other place can we start? I mean, while we can question whether we are spiritual beings etc., can anyone really deny that there's tables and chairs and the sky and the sun etc. Everyone, except for some philosophers, agrees on these things. These things are common ground. So it only makes to start from there.

****

Now, someone could say that God escapes man's reason and that man's reason is defective. But then we'd be assuming what's at issue, namely God's existence for one.

But even granting that, wouldn't it follow that, at least from our perspective, that Christianity is unreasonable? But is it ever reasonable to be unreasonable? It seems deeply circular.

Now, if one complains that my methods do not allow you to reach the conclusion you would like, well, maybe, um, your conclusion is flawed. Perhaps a heart-felt religious experience would do the trick. But even then, religious experiences happen across many religions (I've had one myself but am not Christian), and most aren't specific enough to warrant the complex set of beliefs that is Christianity.

At the end of the day, having faith is a choice to make, and I just think we'd be much better off as a society admitting that we don't know as much as we think we know on religious topics -- AND we should use on our own built in moral compasses (like Heather did) and not accept religious ideas that flagrantly violate that.
Where else would God place himself, if he exists, than in our most deeply felt beliefs about what's right and what's wrong?
As Kant said, the moral law within us.

And according to my moral compass, and my sense of the divine, the God described by the Bible is not a good God. He judges people on the basis on their religious beliefs and not their actions. He condemns people for eternity for final actions, and somehow he requires sacrifice for forgiveness? I've never understood why Jesus's sacrifice was necessary. Wasn't it in God's power to just forgive us? I don't require sacrifices to forgive someone so it's strikes me as odd that a perfect and magnanimous being would require them -- in the form of Jesus say. Blood sacrifice doesn't go well for my moral compass. Again, if you say my moral compass has been corrupted, what evidence do you have? How can you assert this without assuming what is at issue?

Given our ignorance, that's seems the safest move, to judge religions in the light of our in-built sense of right and wrong.

[Don't try to Pascal's wager here; after all, maybe my Deist god will condemn YOU for being unreasonable ;). That argument doesn't work. It begs the question.]

[Also, if you think that the notion of a moral compass requires a perfect being -- maybe -- but then this perfect being would seemingly not be the God of the Bible since the moral compass has issues with the Bible.]

***

Also, while it is true that maybe God is justified in doing things that we couldn't do (like engaging in genocide) it still sets a bad example for us. After all, it's not as if the Bible has astericks next to these passages which say [kids don't try this at home].

Now all I have to say about the Koran is that violence is violence and that needlessly bloody acts should cast doubt on divine authorships. Perhaps the Koran's were less justified, but still, that doesn't make the Bible's violent acts justified.

As for Calvin and Luther, I think you can invoke cultural differences, but that would prove my point. That the Bible isn't clear enough in itself to overrule cultural myopia and that even the most erudite can go wrong.

eusto,

I’m not sure who you are replying to on all of your points, but I do want to respond with some thoughts. A lot of your response deals with philosophical and theological issues, which I really don't feel qualified to address (even though some were in response to me). I've personally always preferred historical arguments over philosophical and theological ones. Historical arguments just seem more "concrete" to me, while philosophical and theological arguments seem more speculative. But maybe that's just my lack of knowledge in these areas. In any case, maybe someone with more expertise in these areas will want to address those points.


But in general, I side with secularists on these issues, because I find Christianity to be deeply flawed, and I think if one believes one should "admit" that it's more a choice to believe rather than a rational decision based on evidence.

Hmm...I really don’t think you can make such a blanket statement. While I do agree that there are many Christians for whom evidence and arguments do not play much of a role, you will find quite a few in which it plays a significant part, either in leading to belief or retaining belief.


If you deny that there is an objective standpoint, then, well I'm just as justified in believing in atheism, or Buddhism, or paganism, or just about anything as you are in believing Christianity. Thus, you can believe what you want but you've ceded your ground to criticize me and also any rational justification to evangelize.

I don’t know if you’re replying to my statement that both Christians and non-Christians interpret the Bible in light of what they already believe, or Heather’s statement that it’s impossible to approach the Bible objectively. Either way, I do think you have a valid point. I still believe, though, that we all approach the Bible with our own presuppositions and biases, which affect how we evaluate it. However, I do also believe that if we consciously take these presuppositions and biases into account (which, unfortunately, most don’t do), we can evaluate it much more honestly.


One commenter mentioned that he/she began with the resurrection and then went from there. But somehow, I find it shocking that that would be the most reliable part of the Bible. It may be the most theologically central but surely not the most reliable. The most reliable parts would be ones that describe events for which we have independent historical/archeological evidence.

(This is definitely in response to me). Ok, I’ll grant that the most reliable part of the Bible -- the "almost indisputable facts" (Sanders) -- isn’t the resurrection, but is that Jesus was a man from Galilee, who was baptized by John the Baptist, had disciples, preached and healed, ministered almost entirely in Israel, had a controversy with the religious leaders, was crucified, and continued to have followers after his death, some of which were persecuted.

I suppose what I was referring to in my post was the most firm data in terms of religious implications. This would be the resurrection accounts -- Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, the empty tomb, the disciples’ experience of the resurrected Jesus, the skeptic James’ conversion after experiencing the risen Jesus, Paul the opponent’s radical conversion after experiencing the risen Jesus, and the birth of the church. The majority of the New Testament scholars, regardless of religious beliefs, accept these things. Elements in the burial and resurrection accounts are supported by multiple attestation, early sources; the criteria of dissimilarity, embarrassment, effect, etc.

Now it’s inevitable that we’re going to have skeptics here that want to argue the details, but that’s an entirely different and lengthy debate -- one which I’ll leave to others if they want. I’m really not interested in another long, drawn out debate.


IIRC, the resurrection accounts vary significantly

(Not sure what IIRC means). True, but the discrepancies are all in secondary details. As is often pointed out, other ancient histories vary just as much, if not more so, yet historians are confident that the central event is historical. Besides, the discrepancies are nothing that form criticism and the ancient standards of history reporting don’t account for. These discrepancies really aren’t a problem, as historians will admit.


and we also have the problem of that such a momentous event would require quite extraordinary evidence.

Why does it require any more evidence than any other accepted ancient historical event? If we believe that certain criteria are sufficient to establish confidence in other ancient events, why are the same criteria not sufficient in the case of the resurrection? If it’s because the resurrection is a miraculous event which has no contemporary analogs, we’re back to presuppositions and biases.


We would hope that it would have been more widely attested throught the ancient world, but we don't have any non-Christian sources until the 2nd century AD I believe

Now this is strange. Why in the world would someone report Jesus' resurrection if they didn’t believe in it? All reports are naturally going to come from Christian sources. There's also the question of who would report it. There weren't very many historians in the ancient world, nevermind the fact that the Romans saw the Jews as foreign and superstitious, and they wanted to have nothing to do with them, let alone a crucified Jew.

But I would say that the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire is a form of attestation.


One would examine the rest of the Bible asking oneself whether it's likely that a perfect being had a significant hand in it, all the while checking it against all we know in the social sciences etc (history, culture, etc.).

Hmm, this is a very general comment, so it’s kind of hard to address. I’ll just respond by saying that I don't believe the Gospels have a problem in this regard (but it's kind of hard to anything concrete without more specifics). They are a unique genre, but they most resemble ancient history, and Luke shows in his prologue that his purpose was to report the facts as passed on to him by eyewitnesses; they are consistent with first century Jewish culture; Luke’s writings are corroborated in numerous places by archaeology and other ancient historians, and so on.


If all of that was accurate and the text was just breathtakingly beautiful and awe-inspiring we would move to the miracles and then to the resurrection.

Our approaches differ here. It seems that you’re questioning the Bible in terms of the word of God. I’m simply questioning whether the Biblical books are historically reliable documents. I think this is the more appropriate starting place.


Perhaps a heart-felt religious experience would do the trick. But even then, religious experiences happen across many religions (I've had one myself but am not Christian), and most aren't specific enough to warrant the complex set of beliefs that is Christianity.

I simply want to remark that I agree that religious experiences in general don’t support Christianity, since many people have conflicting religious experiences. I do, however, think that they support the general notion that there is something "beyond," which we were programmed to experience. Andrew Newberg at the University of Pennsylvania is doing interesting work in demonstrating that we are biologically designed to be spiritual beings.


Where else would God place himself, if he exists, than in our most deeply felt beliefs about what's right and what's wrong?
As Kant said, the moral law within us.


Are you saying that you believe morality points to God? If so, I’m surprised. I would expect that you would attribute it to the evolutionary process which aids in survival.

eusto,

I'm curous, what do you think is good about Hallq's response. When I read it, I get the impression that he only skimmed over what I wrote then returned to his same statements that he originally made.

slaveofone:

I was initially responding to "rejecting Judeo-Christian morals leads to Nazism" type arguments, which can be found to an extent in a recent CADRE post and more strongly other places, such as Ravi Zacharias' books on atheism.

BK: My response was not in depth because you gave me very little to respond to. You gave no justification for Biblical commands to kill homosexuals and those who worship other gods, only complained that most Christians don't think these laws should be in effect today. I explained why that bolsters my case and moved on.

On the Amalekites, it seemed your most substantial point was that they were evil. I noted that this would provide justification for slaughering Axis civilians after WWII, and is therefore absurd. I realize now that one could also argue that Jews are evil because they killed Jesus, therefore the Holocaust was justified. Presumably, you would not approve of punishment for the sins of the fathers in the case of Axis civilians and Jews, so why do you approve in the case of the Amalekites?

Hallq,

Apparently, I have not made myself as clear as I thought. Let me try again.

Your challenge fails because you assume that a Christian cannot find the holocaust objectionable because it was done by a fallible man for reasons of hatred while finding the actions of God as recorded in the Bible to be acceptable because it occurred in a time and place that was different than today. That was in the time prior to the coming of Jesus where Satan was using the Amalakites as his primary tool to wipe out God's chosen people, the Israelites, through whom the hope of salvation was to come to the whole world. God responded by eliminating the devil's tool for evil.

The reason that I point out that no Christian denomination advocate following such laws today (with the possible exception of the Dominionists -- a group of people who I have never met a single member of), is because there has been a change in circumstances following the arrival of Jesus. With His arrival, the law became love your enemy. Prior to that, the goal was different.

This is not the same as if the Allies had wiped out the Axis after WWII. There is a great difference between an omniscient God prior to the Age of Grace exterminating a group of people who were committed to the destruction of God's work on earth, and the decision of people (with their very limited knowledge) taking this action in an age when we are instructed to love our neighbor.

Will God order such a thing now? No. God wouldn't because we are in the Age of Grace. If someone tells you otherwise, they don't understand Christian belief.

If you want to get a grasp on what I think about the Amalekites, take the time to read my essay that I linked to the blog post. The nutshell answer as to why do I approve the destruction of Amalekites but not the Holocaust would be as follows: God, in his perfect omniscience, absolutely knew that the Amalakites were an evil people bent on the destruction of the Israelites. This includes his knowledge not only of the adults, but of the children -- they were irredeemable. Thus, acting as a surgeon he removed the cancer from the body before it could kill. The greatest good resulted from this action, but it was the greatest good that can only be determined from God's point of view.

Now, I know you won't like this answer. You will claim that it is monstrous, etc. But it really isn't. In fact, most people (and I bet you're among them) complain that a reason to doubt the existence of God is that he doesn't wipe out evil. God just can't win because if He acts, He's wrong, and if He doesn't act, He's wrong.

With His arrival, the law became love your enemy.

Here we are getting somewhere. Now, on what moral theory can a single historical event radically alter what is right and wrong?

...an age when we are instructed to love our neighbor.

You seem to forget here that this command appears in Leviticus 19:18 as well as the New Testament. Did the coming of Jesus also change the meaning of the word "neighbor"?

I'm no theologian, but here's my 1/2 cent. Right and wrong have not been redefined, but there are two things that have changed with the coming of Jesus:

(1) Many of the Old Testament laws were specifically for Israel to follow in their covenant (or "contract") with God. With the coming of Jesus the old covenant has been replaced with the new covenant that Christians are now a part of -- a grace based covenant (Heb 8:13; check out the entire book of Hebrews, preferrably with a commentary, for more info on the relationship between the old covenant, Jesus, and the new covenant).

(2) We are now to forgive others as we have been forgiven through Jesus (Matt 18:21-18:35, Eph 4:32). As BK pointed out, we're now in the age of grace.

So right and wrong have not changed; but our reaction wrong is to be different now that we're under the new grace-covenant. That's all I can offer on this. I'm sure someone with a stronger background in theology can explain this more in depth and better.

Zok,

Gotta move quick, but thanks for your response. I'm not sure about your claims about NT scholarship, that wasn't my impression (that they believed all that), but you seem to be well informed. Still, miracle claims were widespread and commonly fabricated through the ancient world.

Richard Carrier has a great piece on this somewhere (He's actually a historian so you'd be more interested in his arguments. Try Bart Ehrman also for history.) I'm a philosophy guy myself.

And yes ,indeed, we need more evidence for a miracle than for a normal event. I'm only biased against miracles in the same way I'm biased against unicorns, never seen one and don't know of any substantiated claims that one has ever existed.

What I meant by my moral compass argument was that, if we assume that God placed the moral compass there, then it would seem odd that the moral compass would reject one view of God if it's the right view. My moral compass doesn't accept the Christian version, so that raises doubts.

Richard Carrier actually has a whole bunch of stuff on this subject. Here's one of his better lines (from Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Stroy:

Can you imagine a movement today claiming that a soldier in World War Two rose physically from the dead, but when you asked for proof all they offered you were a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980's? Would it be even remotely reasonable to believe such a thing on so feeble a proof? Well--no.

Zok: you claim that right and wrong have not changed, but would it be wrong today to respond to an evil society in the way the Israelites did 3000 years ago?

hallq has a good question that I'd like to make an attempt at answering from my viewpoint (Christian, but not a believer in Biblical inerrancy): "would it be wrong today to respond to an evil society in the way the Israelites did 3000 years ago?" As he also asks: "Did the coming of Jesus also change the meaning of the word "neighbor"?

I believe He did redefine the meaning of "neighbor."

In Leviticus, we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves, but then we are shown Israel slaughtering its non-Jewish neighbors right and left. What happened?

I see the Bible as an unfolding understanding of God by human beings. The OT was written by inspired writers, but their understanding of God did not go beyond the concepts of their times. In other words, at the time Leviticus was written, gods were always conceived of as "tribal gods." It would blast the mind of a 2000 B.C. writer, no matter how inspired, to believe that God was the God of *all* people, not just the "tribe" of Israel. And God who inspired the Pentateuch writers does not blast people's minds.

So it would not occur to the writer of Leviticus that "Love your neighbor" could in any way extend to the Edomites or Moabites or, heaven help us, Amalekites. The writer would therefore see no contradiction between the command "Love your neighbor" and the command "Slaughter (your neighbor) the Amalekites" -- because "your neighbor" refers of course only to Jews.

Later, in the prophets (I'll look up the exact chapter and verse if you like), you *do* get a fuller understanding of God's care for all people, and a broader definition of "neighbor."

With the coming of Jesus, we are shown the full definition of "neighbor." For His parable of the Good Samaritan, which illustrates the command from Leviticus, He chose the most despised, unclean, disgusting group -- the Samaritans --to stand for the perfect neighbor. Samaritans were utterly outcast at that time -- think of how a member of Al Quada would seem to most of us today, or a homosexual person would seem to some conservative Christians. That is how shocking His parable was to His audience.

I believe with Jesus we have the full understanding of God. The Old Testament is a wonderful, inspired set of writings, but I do not believe it is equally authoritative with the New Testament. As Our Lord said, "You have heard it said... but *I* say to you..."

So to me, the gruesome slaughters of the OT respresent only the understandings of their human writers, and not the full, authoritative understanding of will of God. For that, I look to Jesus.

My farthing's worth,

Heather

eusto said:
Still, miracle claims were widespread and commonly fabricated through the ancient world.


True, but the evidence for these other miracles is extremely scarce. We typically have only a few sentences or paragraphs in one source for these other miracle claims. We have entire books, on the other hand, attesting to Jesus’ miracles, which utilize a number of earlier, independent sources -- Q, Mark, M, L, John, Paul. The other ancient miracle claims don't come anywhere near having this much support. Plus, the Gospel accounts are also supported by additional criteria, such as dissimilarity and embarrassment. This is what leads even the most skeptical scholars to acknowledge that Jesus was some sort of wonder-worker.


eusto said:
I'm a philosophy guy myself.


Yeah that's what I figured. And I'm not much of a philosophy guy myself, which is why I kind of backed off of the philosophical and theological topics you brought up in your previous post. I guess we're not the best match for a discussion :p


Hallq said:
Richard Carrier actually has a whole bunch of stuff on this subject.


Yeah, I'm aware of his stuff. It's been answered, both directly and indirectly, by a number of people (http://www.tektonics.org/TK-C.html, http://www.christian-thinktank.com/mqx.html, http://www.answeringinfidels.com/content/view/32/48/, etc)


Hallq said:
Here's one of his better lines (from Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Stroy:

Can you imagine a movement today claiming that a soldier in World War Two rose physically from the dead, but when you asked for proof all they offered you were a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980's? Would it be even remotely reasonable to believe such a thing on so feeble a proof? Well--no.


Well, I think Carrier totally misrepresents the evidence for the resurrection and thus draws an extremely deficient analogy. First he says that our sources for the resurrection -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul -- are only a "mere handful." What he doesn’t say is that we have only one source for many ancient histories, yet this doesn’t pose a problem for ancient historians. So if one source isn’t a problem for ancient historians, how does he conclude that a "mere" five sources is? In fact, in reference to the Gospels, R.T. France explains that "the availability of four separate records by different authors of the same person in ancient history is a rare, if not a unique, phenomenon." (France, http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth21.html). So Carrier claims that five sources for the resurrection is a problem, when in fact it’s exemplary.

Second, he says that our sources are anonymous. Well technically the Gospels are (though Hengel has shown that the names may very well have been attached to them from the beginning); but authorship is largely independent of whether a document is reliable. The reliability of the Gospels should, and can, and are, tested apart from who authored them.

Third, he equates the written evidence for the resurrection as religious tracts. This obviously gives the impression that the only evidence we have are short pamphlets that are interested only in converting and contain no historical, or at least reliable historical, information. This is patently false. The Gospels are no doubt filled with theology and were written for the purpose of encouraging faith. (On a side note, they were not written to convert, they were written to those who already believed). This does not mean, however, that the writers were not interested in reporting factual history, as Carrier’s analogy suggests. Despite their purpose and the presence of theology, they most resemble ancient history. And as I pointed out above, Luke begins his Gospel by stating that his purpose was to report the facts as passed on to him by eyewitnesses. Also, his book of Acts is corroborated over and over again by archaeology and secular historians (not to suggest that there are NO problems with his work, though). And critical scholars are ready to grant large portions of the Gospels as historical. So equating the Gospels as religious tracts is extremely misleading.

Fourth, he correctly reports that the Gospels were written forty years after the events took place. Well, actually this is debatable. A number of scholars date them earlier, but I’ll grant him these dates. So the earliest Gospel was written 40 years after Jesus’ death. And what’s the problem? Many, if not most, ancient histories were written generations, or even centuries after the events they report, yet historians don’t dismiss them on these grounds. In fact, many histories, written much further away in time from the events than the Gospels, are accepted as reliable. Forty years by comparison is actually very good! So he’s creating a problem where there is none. He also fails to mention that the Gospels rely on earlier source material. Mark relies on earlier sources, which no one disputes; Q -- the material shared by Matthew and Luke, dates at least to the 50s; M -- the material unique to Matthew, and L -- the material unique to Luke, though perhaps not written sources, are still just as early as Q, of not earlier. Many of Paul’s letters were written only 20-30 years after Jesus death, and they contain creeds were predate them, including 1 Cor 15:3-8:

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles."

This can be dated to 2-5 years after the crucifixion. So again, Carrier is misleading his readers by implying that a 40 year span is problematic, and failing to mention the earlier source material. He also omits the fact that the sources which the Gospels use are independent. Historian Paul Maier writes that "two or three sources in agreement generally render the fact unimpeachable." And as I pointed out to eusto, a number of the Gospel accounts, including the burial and resurrection accounts, are reported in two or three independent sources.

Fifth, there were large numbers of believers in Palestine immediately after the crucifixion who were willing to turn their lives upside down, face rejection, persecution and even death for their beliefs. This doesn’t mean what they believed is true, but it does mean they had bloody good reasons for their beliefs.

Well, I wrote more than was necessary to respond to a copy-pasted quote. But the bottom line is that Carrier’s comparison of the evidence for the resurrection to "a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980's" is extremely flawed.


Hallq said:
Zok: you claim that right and wrong have not changed, but would it be wrong today to respond to an evil society in the way the Israelites did 3000 years ago?


Well that's a good question., one I was thinking about when I was writing my last post. If today God told us -- in an undeniable way -- that we should respond to an evil society in that way, then no, I wouldn't think it was wrong. I wouldn't understand it, but we would be dealing with a God who has absolute foreknowledge -- he knows if more good would result from this action, perhaps 10 years, 100 years or 1000 years down the road, than otherwise; absolute authority -- he created the universe and morality itself; and is totally holy. It would be at the height of foolishness for me to question his actions or commands.

If God did not instruct us one way or the other how to respond to an evil nation, then I think it would be wrong for humans to respond in this way.

I believe inerrancy not because it is some sort of presupposition, but rather, because I think it is philosophical plausible given certain things. For example, I think it's plausible because it corresponds with God's nature. If God does exist, I think it's likely that he would preserve a perfect revelation that we could believe in. The reliability of the Biblical text, and especially the New Testament, shows that it can be trusted to be correct.
This is what Christians have always believed by the way. The errors that are present seem to be present only in the copies of the Bible, not the original text.
Thus, I think an argument could be given that God has given sufficient evidence (evidence of the resurrection including circumstantial evidence, Biblical reliability, chanced lives (skeptics won't accept this last part, but if Jesus did rise from the did in vindication to his personal claims about himself, this can be true), etc...) for a rational person to believe in the resurrection. It is true that he could have given more evidence though, but the skeptic needs to answer this before his objection has any thrust: how do you know that this isn't the best of all possible world's in which the most people could be saved by hearing this amount of evidence (for Jesus' resurrection)? There's no possible way the skeptic could know that more evidence would be better in the long run. It may be the case that more evidence would be disastrous for a real conversion of the heart. But to that point, I'm not counting on many true skeptics knowing what I'm talking about. Thus, I think apologetics is a very useful thing. It can help us see things (particulars) without having to see the whole thing (universals). This is true of my belief in inerrancy. I don't believe it because it works as some postulate. I believe it because it makes sense from what we do know about the data.

--Richard Carrier actually has a whole bunch of stuff on this subject. Here's one of his better lines (from Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Stroy:

Can you imagine a movement today claiming that a soldier in World War Two rose physically from the dead, but when you asked for proof all they offered you were a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980's? Would it be even remotely reasonable to believe such a thing on so feeble a proof? Well--no.--

Hmm, well, personally, I find this line to be extremely weak to the point of embarrassment. First, it is anachronistic in that it asks what evidence might be available in recent history and then applies that to ancient history. Second, it is ignorant of the limitations of historical investigation. Third it asks for more evidence to authenticate something than historical investigation requires. Fourth, on its own, it doesn't deal with the actual evidence at hand and seek to come to the best understanding of that evidence. If I were to make a jugment based on this line alone, I would be inclined to think Carrier either knew nothing about historical investigation or was one of those fundamentalist skeptics who denies most historical events (like the holocaust) because their imagination or want of evidence trumps science and real evidence.

zok said:

Hallq's analogies are all screwed up. He compares God to Hitler for destroying the Amalekites and other ancient nations, when it was these nations who were basically the Hitlers of the ancient world. Saying that God is evil for attacking the Amalekites is like saying Europe and America were evil for attacking Nazi Germany.

And how do we know that the Amalekites were the Hitlers of the ancient world? I am not aware that they are mentioned outside of the Bible, and in the Bible they are described as pretty similar to everybody else, including the Israelites.

The whole problem with the Bible is the concept of evil, the "we chosen, we good, you not chosen, you bad" line of thinking.

Biblical inerrancy is almost of no relevance, because we don't live in the past. It's the present and the future we need to worry about.

Some Christians in the USA consider their nation to be God's currently chosen nation, therefore they might get som inspiration - completely independently of the errancy/inerrancy of the Bible - from such stories as the massacre on the Amalekites.

Concerning Hitler, he wasn't a standard Christian certainly as has already been pointed out. He was inspired by Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who was the guy with the idea that Jesus really was an Arian, and that the Jew Paul infected Christianity with Judaism. Judea was a Roman province back then, and the Christians (= Jews, that is) conquered Rome, which brought about the fall of Rome, and when the Teutons conquered Rome, they then got the Christians (= the Jews) as parasites. According to Chamberlain, that is.

Therefore Hitler wanted to return the Germans - considered the people that had kept most of the original Teutonic traits - to the time before the Jews became too influential. That is, back to the Age of Migration and the early First Reich, the time from which the heroic stories date; Hitler believed these stories to be inerrant history.

Chamberlain mixed Darwin's theory of evolution with Arthur de Gobineau's racial theories to a master brew that intoxicated Hitler.

However, "the struggle for survival" already existed before Charles Darwin, even among devout creationists, such as Edward Blyth.

The Darwin-Hitler link is therefore partially true, but a kind of partial true that hides more than it reveals.

The point is that the Old Testament tells why the Amalekites were bad. To stop them, necessary things, such as attacking them, had to be done. The Bible depicts them as being totally corrupt, totally evil. Thus, there was a justification to attack them. In fact, BK already went over this.

Now, you might question if they were really evil, but according to the Hebrews and the authors of the Old Testament passage in question, there was no doubt the Amalekites were evil. Maybe you again could also question this by denying that absolute good and evil exist, but this approach gives to much hope to your position being true.

Ultimately, I think many of the objections that skeptics are offering here rest on the assumption that truth may be knowable, even moral truths, but that we can't recognize them. This seems to be evident in skeptics' questioning the hearts and minds of a people who had seen evils committed against them (the Hebrew people)by the Amalekites. This is unwarranted and even has a flavor of monday-morning-quarterbacking to it by implying that the Amalekites could have been dealt with differently. Skeptics' faith in empiricism and naturalism also devalues anything that rings of historicity to it. The truthfulness of the Biblical narrative is a key point in this regard.

As for the discussion concerning Friedrich Nietzsche, it is apparent that he did influence Hitler. Since BK has already, in my opinion, shown this beyond contestation, I don't think it needs further discussion.

whatupwhatupi'mtiredbutherearesomethoughts.

FreezBee said:
And how do we know that the Amalekites were the Hitlers of the ancient world?


This is how the historical accounts in the Bible describe them.


I am not aware that they are mentioned outside of the Bible

But of course it's unwarranted to doubt the account because of this. Corroboration of an account boosts a historian's confidence in it, but when there is no corroboration, historians don't automatically view it with skepticism. I believe there are indications, though, that this account is reliable.


and in the Bible they are described as pretty similar to everybody else

This type of stuff was common in the ancient Near East, so it wouldn't surprise me. But while the Bible describes some people this way, I'm not sure it protrays all other people this way. Can you point out the relevant verses showing this to be the case?


The whole problem with the Bible is the concept of evil, the "we chosen, we good, you not chosen, you bad" line of thinking.

Are you reading the right book? The Bible consistently describes Israel's evil and God's repeated judgement against and punishment of them.

Christian Apologist said

The point is that the Old Testament tells why the Amalekites were bad. To stop them, necessary things, such as attacking them, had to be done. The Bible depicts them as being totally corrupt, totally evil. Thus, there was a justification to attack them. In fact, BK already went over this.

We are all totally corrupt, totally evil, aren't we? If you don't think so, that's simply the proof! Total corruption and total evilness implies an inability to recognize one's own total corruption and total evilness.

The sawdust in your brother's eye and plank in your own eye thing, remember?

Now, you might question if they were really evil, but according to the Hebrews and the authors of the Old Testament passage in question, there was no doubt the Amalekites were evil. Maybe you again could also question this by denying that absolute good and evil exist, but this approach gives to much hope to your position being true.

Yes, I question whether absolute good and evil exist. In actual practice evilness is nothing but a bad excuse. Saddam Hussein was the most evil man on earth and therefore the good US Americans were justified in attacking Iraq.

Evilness is self-righteousness, believing that what you do is absolutely good.

Ultimately, I think many of the objections that skeptics are offering here rest on the assumption that truth may be knowable, even moral truths, but that we can't recognize them. This seems to be evident in skeptics' questioning the hearts and minds of a people who had seen evils committed against them (the Hebrew people)by the Amalekites.

Now, if the Amalekites had left behind som text telling their version of the story, I have this idea that good/evil would have been reversed. But, of course, since the Amalekites were evil, what else would we expect?

As for the discussion concerning Friedrich Nietzsche, it is apparent that he did influence Hitler. Since BK has already, in my opinion, shown this beyond contestation, I don't think it needs further discussion.

But dis he? Nietzsche followed the idealistic tradition from Fichte through Schopenhauer; that is, for Bietzsche true/false, good/evil is onæy a matter of interpretations.

Think about it: the Israelite genocide on the Amalekites is good, because it was ordered by God. It is interpreted as good, because of the claim that it was ordered by God. But what if it wasn't ordered by God? Then it would be interpreted as evil. In short: no action in itself is good or evil, it's only a question of, what you can maje people believe. War propaganda is hardly a thing invented by the US Republican Party. The Romans justified the destruction of Carthage by referring to the child sacrifices performed by the Carthaginians. Maybe the Carthaginians sacrificed children, maybe they didn't. Maybe the early Christians were cannibals and sexually deviant, maybe they weren't.

Apologetics is simply Greek for 'bad excuses'.

zok said

This is how the historical accounts in the Bible describe them.

It is? Were they really all totalitarian and all thinking that they were the embodiment of the nation? That wouldn't have worked! You cannot have a nation of dictators.

But of course it's unwarranted to doubt the account because of this. Corroboration of an account boosts a historian's confidence in it, but when there is no corroboration, historians don't automatically view it with skepticism.

Quite true that we cannot reject a story, because it's a solo story. But in return, the story being a solo story doesn't prove it correct either. How would this story be jufged, if it had been an Egyptian or an Assyrian story?

This type of stuff was common in the ancient Near East, so it wouldn't surprise me. But while the Bible describes some people this way, I'm not sure it protrays all other people this way. Can you point out the relevant verses showing this to be the case?

True, for some reason the Amalekites are described as rge worst with not one redeeming word. But the Philistines are described as murderous, the Babylonians are described as murderous, the Assyrians are described as murderous. even the Israelites are described as murderous. The difference being that they were murderous on divine command.

I don't have the exact verses present - after all, it just about the entire OT, so if you started picking verses at random, I am sure that you'll find an appropriate verse in less than three attempts.

If nothing else, read The Book of Daniel.

Are you reading the right book? The Bible consistently describes Israel's evil and God's repeated judgement against and punishment of them.

Yes, and that a point well worth noticing. In the OT, there's the idea of a just war: the war commanded by God as punishment for naughty behavior. The Assyrians were called by God to punish Israel, and God called the Babylonians to punish Judah. Then God called the Persians to punish the Babylonians, because they went a bit too far (read Zechariah, I don't remember the chapter).

That is, the Babylonians appear as both punishers and punished - so, if they had simply ignored God's calling in the first round, they wouldn't have been conquered by the Persians. In short: don't ever listen to God!

Also, the chosen people, the Israelites, happened to both punishers and punished. In short: pray that you aren't chosen!

Does God protect the chosen? Only if they haven't been naughty, and since they always have, God doesn't protect the chosen. And since he doesn't protect the non-chosen either, God protects no one.

It is? Were they really all totalitarian and all thinking that they were the embodiment of the nation? That wouldn't have worked! You cannot have a nation of dictators.

I don't really understand this answer. I echoed BK's point that the extent of the Amalekite's wickedness can be compared to that of Hitler and the Third Reich. This is how the Bible describes them. Are you denying that the Amalekites displayed the level of evil the Bible reports? I'm having trouble seeing how your comment directly responds to my previous comment.


Quite true that we cannot reject a story, because it's a solo story. But in return, the story being a solo story doesn't prove it correct either.

True, it doesn't "prove" that the story is correct, but the general practice of historians is to give a text the benefit of the doubt unless trustworthy contradictory data exists.


How would this story be jufged, if it had been an Egyptian or an Assyrian story?

It seems to me that the core would be accepted, but not the divine aspects, which is the case with a number of other non-Christian histories which contain divine elements. I don't a priori rule out God's intervention in history, though.


That is, the Babylonians appear as both punishers and punished - so, if they had simply ignored God's calling in the first round, they wouldn't have been conquered by the Persians. In short: don't ever listen to God!

Or, don't go "too far" as you explained the Babylonians did.


Also, the chosen people, the Israelites, happened to both punishers and punished. In short: pray that you aren't chosen!

Or, better yet, pray you are chosen and avoid wickedness.


Only if they haven't been naughty, and since they [the Israelites] always have ...

Good, so then you affirm that your previous comment that the Bible portrays the Israelites as "we chosen, we good, you not chosen, you bad" is incorrect.


And since he doesn't protect the non-chosen either, God protects no one.

No, there are many instances of God protecting the Israelites; but he also punished their evil. It's not an either-or situation. Just as parent doesn't either protect his child, or punish his wrongdoing; he protects his/her child, while also punishing their wrongdoing.

zok said:

I don't really understand this answer. I echoed BK's point that the extent of the Amalekite's wickedness can be compared to that of Hitler and the Third Reich. This is how the Bible describes them. Are you denying that the Amalekites displayed the level of evil the Bible reports? I'm having trouble seeing how your comment directly responds to my previous comment.

Your prayers have been answered. Read my proof that the Amalekites were just the friendly neighborhood welcomers of the Israelites: The sad, but true story of the Amalekites.

True, it doesn't "prove" that the story is correct, but the general practice of historians is to give a text the benefit of the doubt unless trustworthy contradictory data exists.

Some stories can be coubted because they are too stereotypical, although no contradictory evidence exists for the concrete story.

It seems to me that the core would be accepted, but not the divine aspects, which is the case with a number of other non-Christian histories which contain divine elements.

I am not so sure about that - remember that the written word isn't what it used to be; the archaeologists are still marching onwards towards final victory!

I don't a priori rule out God's intervention in history, though.

Neither should you - but how do you see the difference between divine intervention and no divine intervention? And don't look in the Bible for the answers! That wouldn't be accepted at an exam.

Or, don't go "too far" as you explained the Babylonians did.

Ahh, but when do you know that you have gone to far? That's the tricky bit, isn't it?

Or, better yet, pray you are chosen and avoid wickedness.

But only the wicked consider themselves to be worthy of being chosen!

Good, so then you affirm that your previous comment that the Bible portrays the Israelites as "we chosen, we good, you not chosen, you bad" is incorrect.

Not quite - it seems a bit random in the Bible, because occasionally a nation is punished because of the actions of an individual, and occasionally some individuals are punished and therefore baddies.

The basic idea is that the chosen are good. But since they aren't, they are punished, which of course only means that the chosen among the chosen are good. But since they aren't, ...

No, there are many instances of God protecting the Israelites; but he also punished their evil. It's not an either-or situation.

But how do you tell between this and complete randomness?

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