CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth


Photobucket

Atheists on the internet are always talking about contradictions in the Bible. These alleged contradictions fall into many categories. Most can be extinguished simply by remembering that all language had connotative meanings and all good writing uses literary devices, but many are based upon an inadequate understanding of the nature of divine revelation. The problem is that most of these atheist notions of "contradiction" are only contradictions becuase they are judged according to the fundamentalist model, veral plenary inspiration, (aka "inerrancy") by which the Bible is understood as literal and perfect. Actually the model used for this concept is similar to the notion of the boss of company writing a memo to the employees. Dictated to a secretary but every word in the memo is exactly what the boss wants to say, the whole is literally the word the of the boss.

The problem with the notions of revelation in the Christian tradition is that they are based upon the human understanding of what God would do. The human notion can be seen with the Book of Mormon—handed down from angels on high on Gold tablets—or the Koran—dictated by an Angel who grabbed Mohammed by the throat and forced him to write. The human notion tells us that there should be no mistakes, no problems, and the revelation should be ushered in with fanfare and pomp, clear and indisputable. But that is not the way of many religious traditions, and certainly not Christianity. There are problems, and even though most of them are conceived by ignorant people (most of the Internet atheists claims to "contradictions in the Bible" are based largely on not understanding metaphor or literary devices), there are some real problems and they are thorny. There are even more problems when it comes to the historicity of the text. But the important thing to note is that the revelations of the Christian faith are passed through human vessels. They contain human problems, and they are passed on safeguarded through human testimony. Even if the eye-witness nature of the individual authors of the NT cannot be established, the testimony of the community as a whole can be. The NT and its canon is a community event. It was a community at large that produced the Gospels, that passed on the Testimony and that created the canon. This communal nature of the revelation guarantees, if not individual authenticity, at least a sort of group validation, that a whole bunch of people as a community attest to these books and this witness.


What is needed is a new model. We need a model that allows for the mistakes of culture and the presence of the kinds of texts we find in ancient lore, mythological and symbolic in places, becuase this is what we find in the Biblical text. The memo from the boss doesn't work as a model for the Bible becasue it's not faithful to the real way the word is handed down. A better model  would be a personal reminiscence with someone who interviewed the boss. That would allow for the personality of the author to get between the reader and the original subject matter, becuase that is what we find in the Bible. 




The Traditional view of "Inerrancy."

Most people tend to think in terms of all or nothing, black and white, true and false. So when they think about the Bible, they think it's either all literally true in every word or it can't be "inspired." This is not only a fallacy, but it is not even the "traditional" view. Even in the inherency camp there exists three differing views of exactly what is inerrant and to what extent. Oddly enough, the notion of verbal inspiration was invented in the Renaissance by Humanists! Yes, the dreaded enemy of humanism actually came up with the doctrine of inerrancy which didn't exist before the 19th century, in its current form, but which actually began in the Renaissance with humanists. The documentation on this point comes mainly from Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, New York: Double Day, 1985. The humanist argument is documented on p. 36. He also demonstrates that the current Evangelical view basically dates form the 19th century, the Princeton movement, and people such as Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921). Proponents of this view include Carl C.F. Henry, Clark Pinnock, James I Packer, Francis Shaffer, Charles Warwick Montgomery, and others.


Not all of those guys stayed in the camp of the evangelicals. The late Clark Pinnock for example, who started out as a read hot fundie who taught Paige Patterson, wound up being identified with "open theology" Regarded as a defector. Yet these are all models of revelation that were found in the evangelical camp. These are conservative views, at least according to Avery Dulles, in his ground breaking book Models of Revelation.





Dulles Lists Five Versions of Inerrancy.

*Inerrency of original autographs and divine protection of manuscripts.
Proponents of this view include Harold Lindsell.

*
Inspiration of autographs with minor mistakes in transmission of an unessential kind.
Carl C.F. Henry.

*Inerrency of Textual intention without textual specifics.
Clark Pinnock.

*Inerrancy in Soteric (salvation) knowledge but not in historical or scientific matters.
Bernard Ramm

*Inerrent in major theological assertions but not in religion or morality.
Donald Blosche and Paul K. Jewett







  
I would isolate three major concerns in discussing why I reject inerrency (verbal plenary) model. I'm not putting these over as "contradictions in the Bible," but they problems with the model:

(1) Doesn't account for different types of text

(2) Idealized history

(3) no room for mythology
Knowing the kind of text is important because not all texts are meant to do the same things. Gensis is not intended to be a scientific text book or a literal history of creation. It's a borrowing of pagan myth (Sumerian, Babylonian) that was probably re-worked when Israelites were in the exile. It doesn't matter if it's not scientific, the author of Genesis had no concept of modern science it wasn't written to convey to us anything scientific. The spiritual truths that it communicates are communicated mythological, Mythology is a powerful psychological means of communicating certain kinds of truth. The History offered of Israel's sojurn in the wildernes and the establishment o the kingdom in the promised land is all idealized history. Modern archeology basically rules out most of the events in the conquest of Canaan. The point is they were making idealized history, recounting the glory of the past because they were slaves in exile.  There are better models of revelation that more accurately reflect these concerns. 



Basic Models of Revelation:

Dulles presents five models of revelation, but the faith model really amounts to little more than "the Bible helps you feel good," so I am presenting only four. This core summery will not come close to doing justice to these views. But time and space limitations do not allow a discourse that would do them justice.

Revelation as History:

The Events themselves are inspired but not the text. John Ballie, David Kelsey, James Barr. This view can include oral events; the inspiration of the prophets, the early kerygma of the church (C.H. Dodd) Creedal formulation, as well as historical events such as the atonement. This view was largely held by a flood of theologians up to the 1960s. According to this view the Bible is the record of revelation not revelation itself.

Revelation as Inner Experience:

This view would include mystical experience and views such as Frederich Schleiermacher's feeling of utter dependence (see argument III on existence of God). Religious doctrines are verbalizations of the feeling; the intuitive sense of the radical contingency of all things upon the higher aegis of their existence; part of the religious a priori.

Revelation as Doctirne:

This is the basic doctrine of inerrancy as stated above. In most cases it is believed that the autographs were inspired but some allow for mistakes in transmission and other inaccuracies of an inconsequential nature. This means that 90% of the criticisms made my atheists and skeptics on the internet don't count, because most of them turn on metaphorical use of language or scribal error. I take this position based upon personal experience on many apologetic boards.

Revelation as Dialectical Presence:

The view that there is a dialectical relation between the reader and the text. The Bible contains the word of God and it becomes the word of God for us when we encounter it in transformative way. Karl Barth is an example of a major theologian who held this view.

No one of these views is really adequate. I urge a view based upon all of them. In some sense, that is, the Bible manifests versions of each of these views. So it is not just governed by one revelatory model, but is made of redacted material which exhibits all of these views. For example, the prophets spoke from their experience of God--their inner experience of God's prompting. Their words are recorded as the books of the prophets in the Bible. The Biblical prophetic books are then the written record of the inner experience of these men. The Gospels exhibit all of these tendencies. Passed on from oral tradition, redacted by members of the communities which passed on the traditions, they represent the written record of the events of Christ's life and ministry. In that sense the events themselves were inspired. But Jesus teachings, which we can assume were transmitted accurately for the most part, represent the word actually spoken by Jesus, and thus by God's perfect revelation to humanity. Jesus is the revelation; the Gospels are merely the written record of that revelation passed on by the Apostles to the communities. Thus we see both the event model and the revelation as doctrine model (traditional view). In the Epistles we see the inner-experience model clearly as Paul, for example, did not know that he was writing the New Testament. He demonstrates confusion at points, as when (in I Corinthians) he didn't recall how many of Stephan’s household he had baptized, but when it came to his answers on doctrinal matters he wrote out of the inner-experience of God. We can also assume that the redactions occurred in relation to some sort of inner-experience, they reflect some divine guidance in the sense that the redactors are reflecting their own experiences of God.

I know these views sound wildly radical to most Christians, but they are based on the works of major theologians, including those of the most conservative schools. The dialectical model is vague and sounds unimpressive. It really seems to be tautological statement: the word of God becomes meaningful when we encounter it in a meaningful way. Therefore, I adopt a model of revelation based upon all four models (granting that we do encounter it in more meaningful ways at some times than at others, but provided we understand that this is not saying that it ceases to be the word of God when we don't so encounter it), and of the doctrinal model accepting the views that say inerrant in intent but not specific transmission. The transmission includes some mistakes but of a minor kind.

My own model is a dialectical encounter model. It sees the Biblical text as the product of an encounter between humans and the divine. The upshot of the counter could take many forms. In some cases its a straight forward reporting of "this is what the Lord says." In some cases a reminiscence, in some cases a redaction of a borrowed myth as in the re-telling of the Sumerian Garden of Eden story. It's political propaganda and idealized history told by slaves in a foreign land to memorialize the glories of their bygone people, to preserve the faith. The purpose of all of that is to form a framework for the mission of Jesus as messiah. It's dialectical in that it works through an encounter between the reader and the text. The reader must have her own "divine-human" encounter in coming to understand the nature of the text and the truths it reflects for her own life.

31 comments:

So, in what sense is the dialectical presence you champion "inerrant"?

Of course humans are fallible, so any transmission of information that is purely done by people will have errors in it.

But here is the thing: Christianity posits an all-knowing, all-powerful God.

If God really exists, we would expect him to be able to communicate his message clearly, we would expect him to be capable and willing to ensuring that message is transmitted and translated accurately.

On the other hand, if God is entirely made up, we would expect, well, the Bible that is full of errors, that has been translated numerous times in numerous ways, that shows a vision of God that has evolved over time. In other words, we would expect what we have to day.

Pixie

Pixie, I agree with your first statement, disagree wholeheartedly with your second. I don't see a Bible "full of errors" or one that "has been translated numerous times" or one that shows an evolving God. What are you reading?

Pretty sure Pixie is referring to the fact hardly anyone reads the Bible in Hebrew (or 1st century Aramaic, or Greek for that matter) anymore; and to the notion of progressive revelation.

I disagree that this is a decisive problem, but then I think an omnipotent God would always, even in the most ideal circumstances, still have limitations of some kind on communicating with not-God creatures. Maybe very severe limitations depending on the situation, but always significant and even substantial ones.

That's nothing against the omnipotence of God (much less His omniscience -- on the contrary His omniscience guarantees He couldn't possibly communicate with perfect fullness to not-God persons); it's just a factor of how creatures necessarily interact with reality.

From my chapter of Sword to the Heart (in the initial section of chapters on how I should be a sceptic) "On Metaphors", originally written in late 1999 and posted to the Cadre many years ago now:

"[If there is such a foundationally ultimate God], and He communicates to derivative beings such as you and I, He will have to communicate in a fashion we can 'relate' to, through the Nature He designed and implemented (and still implements). And this means that what He tells us, however He might choose to do so, will be communicated in metaphor; just like what you tell me and what I tell you must be expressed in metaphors. To require that He could do otherwise would be not only to misunderstand how we already express ideas to ourselves and to others, but would probably require that we be God's equal in actuality and ability and independence. Even God (as I have argued earlier) cannot do what is self-contradictory; and it seems to me that expecting or requiring ultra-literal communications from God to us, requires contradiction.

"Remember, however, that such metaphorical expressions may very well still be adequate (including in a historical sense). Indeed, if God expresses them then they will be fully adequate for whatever purposes He has in mind. But then again, we might ought to be cautious and careful about concluding what purposes He has in mind! If we believe in God, and if we believe we have communications from Him, then we can trust (given we have already established those other notions) that He is giving us true and useful information of some sort, and so we could reasonably attach great authority to the communication. But it will still be up to us to figure out what exactly is being communicated, and why, and to what degree later information may alter our perception of what is being communicated to us by God."

JRP

That isn't meant as a knock against scriptural inerrancy, btw, although I think any inerrancy theory (or sceptical critique of Christianity for that matter) will have fewer problems if the principles are kept in mind. {g}

JRP

BK said...
So, in what sense is the dialectical presence you champion "inerrant"?

why must it be inerrant
?

Anonymous said...
Of course humans are fallible, so any transmission of information that is purely done by people will have errors in it.

sure but they are not all done purely of human inspirationyou have not shown that it isn't communicated clearly, It's clear enough in the things Jesus said and did that get an idea of what God is like and what he wants,the rest is baggage you take to the text from your background,

On the other hand, if God is entirely made up, we would expect, well, the Bible that is full of errors, that has been translated numerous times in numerous ways, that shows a vision of God that has evolved over time. In other words, we would expect what we have to day.


you are saying we should know a priori that there is an inerrant text and that's crazy. what in the nature or logic or human experience would lead us to believe that prior to any sort of religious claims about it?

Pixie

/2017 06:27:00 AM Delete
Blogger Jason Pratt said...
That isn't meant as a knock against scriptural inerrancy, btw, although I think any inerrancy theory (or sceptical critique of Christianity for that matter) will have fewer problems if the principles are kept in mind. {g}

which ones? where do you get the how do you distinguish between a principle and religious baggage?

Pretty sure Pixie is referring to the fact hardly anyone reads the Bible in Hebrew (or 1st century Aramaic, or Greek for that matter) anymore; and to the notion of progressive revelation.

lot's of people do, all over the world in every major university on the planet except maybe china.

the local yocles don't we dom't want them running Christainty

I ask in what nature they are inerrant because I want to know on what basis we can trust the dialectic presence to be an accurate depiction that we can rely upon. You don't have to believe that the Bible is inerrant in the "every jot and tittle is correct" version of inerrancy, but are you saying that even the parts that you believe contain a dialectic relation between the reader and the text are erroneous?

BK

It does not matter how many errors there are; if there are errors, then that argues against God being involved.


Jason Pratt:

I disagree that this is a decisive problem, but then I think an omnipotent God would always, even in the most ideal circumstances, still have limitations of some kind on communicating with not-God creatures. Maybe very severe limitations depending on the situation, but always significant and even substantial ones.

So you envisage an omnipotent God who is less adept at communicating than an international company with access to the internet? I must admit, I was thinking of a somewhat more impressive omnipotent God. Why is he limited to talking in metaphors when you and I, for example, are not? How can you call him omnipotent in one paragraph, then say he is more limited than we are in the next?


Joe:

sure but they are not all done purely of human inspirationyou have not shown that it isn't communicated clearly, It's clear enough in the things Jesus said and did that get an idea of what God is like and what he wants,the rest is baggage you take to the text from your background,

Your post is pretty much an admission that it has not been communicated clearly. If it had been communicated clearly, you would not have made that post.

you are saying we should know a priori that there is an inerrant text and that's crazy. what in the nature or logic or human experience would lead us to believe that prior to any sort of religious claims about it?

Nothing at all from human experience suggests there is an inerrent text. I think the implication from that is that there is no omnipotent God trying to communicate with us.

Pixie

JRP: {{That isn't meant as a knock against scriptural inerrancy, btw, although I think any inerrancy theory (or sceptical critique of Christianity for that matter) will have fewer problems if the principles are kept in mind. {g}}}

Meta: {{which ones? where do you get the how do you distinguish between a principle and religious baggage?}}

If you're asking which principles, I answer "the principles in the comment preceding the one you quoted, which I guess you didn't read? -- and see also the chapter I linked to." Otherwise I don't know what you're asking. Type slower.

Assuming you meant the principles I talked about which you evidently didn't read, I distinguish between a principle and religious baggage by self-critically factoring out religious baggage and neutralizing the discussion as far as I can. See also the chapter I was quoting. Which I suppose will also answer "Where do you get the principles?" (if that's what you meant to ask). Just doing the logical math.

JRP

Pixie: {{Why is he limited to talking in metaphors when you and I, for example, are not?}}

You've been talking in metaphors the whole time; so are international companies with access to the internet. We can make our language drier, but we can't make it less metaphorical. Even when you talk about talking "literally", you're borrowing a metaphor developed from ideas about stone. You just don't realize it.

The limitation is based on how creatures communicate and understand ideas, which are consequently inherent limitations in us that God would have to work around in even the most ideal situations based on us being not-God realities. I.e., if He creates not-God persons those persons will naturally have limitations in communication and the understanding of ideas for various reason. The chapter I quoted from doesn't yet go into the question of less-than-ideal situations, much less about what to expect from God's intentions (if God exists and intends to communicate at all -- something I haven't even approached establishing in that chapter). I'm not trying to explain any-and-all communication problems between God and creatures this way, only that there would necessarily be some problems in any possible case. Consequently the objection that if God is omni-capable there couldn't possibly be any such problems is wrong.

The objection that even allowing for inherent limitations in our understanding and processing of ideas, especially in communication, God should still be capable of at least the competency we find in fellow creatures, is a different objection from an appeal to omni-capabilities negating any possible problems. My quoted paragraphs don't address that objection, and weren't intended to (being part of a very, very long progressing argument).

JRP

You've been talking in metaphors the whole time; so are international companies with access to the internet. We can make our language drier, but we can't make it less metaphorical. Even when you talk about talking "literally", you're borrowing a metaphor developed from ideas about stone. You just don't realize it.

I misunderstood what you said before, and even now, I have no idea what your point was. So what if God speaks in metaphors just like everyone else?

Pixie

K said...
I ask in what nature they are inerrant because I want to know on what basis we can trust the dialectic presence to be an accurate depiction that we can rely upon.

fair enough. I think we can go by what works and by the experiences and the epistemic criterion we normally use. see my God argument list no 8 Thomas Reid argument. What works? Jesus says come unto me ye who are weiry and haven laden aI will give you rest. so start trusting Jessu and you have rest then it works it does what it says it will.


You don't have to believe that the Bible is inerrant in the "every jot and tittle is correct" version of inerrancy, but are you saying that even the parts that you believe contain a dialectic relation between the reader and the text are erroneous?

we are on the same page with taht, iu think we can find criteria to establish a sense of what works,

Anonymous said...
You've been talking in metaphors the whole time; so are international companies with access to the internet. We can make our language drier, but we can't make it less metaphorical. Even when you talk about talking "literally", you're borrowing a metaphor developed from ideas about stone. You just don't realize it.

I misunderstood what you said before, and even now, I have no idea what your point was. So what if God speaks in metaphors just like everyone else?

who are you talking to?

Meta: {{who are you talking to?}}

OMG it's like I don't even exist on Joe's comment thread!! {lolol}

Pix is talking to me, and quoting me to reply.

JRP

Pix: {{So what if God speaks in metaphors just like everyone else?}}

It's the other way around: we process ideas, and so communicate, by use of metaphors, which are often entirely adequate but never (or rarely, when talking about math perhaps) entirely accurate. We have built-in communication limits, simply because we aren't God; consequently, even in the most ideal circumstances we would always have at least a little trouble understanding communication even from God. That isn't a limitation God can fix by an exercise of power: we would have to be God ourselves (which we demonstrably aren't, and for various reasons are never going to be, even by an exercise of God's power which can't do contradictive impossibilities like make derivative creatures into one-and-only eternally self-existent grounds of all reality) to be in perfectly full communication with God.

That doesn't answer practical objections like, let's say, "Why doesn't God set up loudspeakers and manipulate radio pulses to talk to everyone?" or "Why doesn't God walk around in 7 billion manifestations interacting and talking with everyone?" or things like that. But it does answer objections based simply on the idea that with God's omni-capabilities He could always make Himself perfectly clear to any creature. That was the only objection I was answering, because it doesn't take much setup (relatively) to answer.

The more practical engineering objections (so to speak) are important, too, but logically they don't functionally matter until and unless several other conclusions are already reached: a supernaturalistic one-and-only foundation of all reality exists which is rationally active compared to an also-real-but-dependently-generated and substantially different natural system of reality (i.e. we aren't only illusions, and there are no God-level competitors to God's actions affecting Nature, and God has at least some actively vested interest in upkeeping our existence instead of, for example, a deistic creation and then leaving us to exist without further action)... and then having also already concluded somehow (but especially as a moral conclusion) that we can and should expect that kind of God to communicate with us. There may be some other important qualifications I'm forgetting offhand, but at least that far. Until then, practical questions of communication, or any reasons for the lack thereof, don't even factor in: it's pointless (and maybe worse than pointless) to jump so far ahead to such a topic.

From a sceptical standpoint this should also simplify matters: first I (speaking sceptically) should be convinced that such-and-such-and-such-and-such a God exists, and then I'll take seriously topics about communication with Him. Until then, at best the whole topic of divine communication from that kind of ultimate God must be, for me anyway, highly (and rather pointlessly) hypothetical. I would be making better use of my time learning French or playing World of Tanks or helping cook food for the homeless.

JRP

Pixie,

Just for the record: I do not agree that there are any errors in the Bible. I have been studying this issue through debates like this and through outside reading since about 1995. In that entire time, I have not see a single "error" in the Bible that cannot be adequately explained. (By the way, I am not speaking about differences between versions - translations of the Bible are subject to error and with the exception of the King James only crowd, to the best of my knowledge no one believes any particular translation is inerrant.)

Joe, I hear what you are saying. I don't think what you are saying is provably wrong. I just reason that God breathed into the people who wrote the Bible in such a way that they wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. As such, the entire Bible is inerrant in the sense that it is (1) exactly what God wanted them to write, and (2) accurate to the extent that it discusses details of what happened, but (3) it is not intended to answer every question (such as the science behind the creation).

Bill I think we are basically on the same page, just on different paragraphs maybe.

Jason

I still do not see how that is relevant. We are not discussing whether the Bible perfectly presents God's message; I think it is understandable that that is not possible, given the limitations of language and human thought.

However, we would expect a text from an all-powerful, all-knowing God to be as near to that ideal as possible, and that would imply no errors. Further we would expect such a God to be perfectly capable of ensuring that message is preserved when the text is translated.

Instead, we see a lot of variation in translations, as various groups have their own ideas about what was meant, what was in the original.

Some examples of what I mean by "errors" here would be:

Additions to the texts, such as the story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery, the ending of Mark and the trinity in 1 John 5:7. Why would God allow these additions to be made? Or conversely, why would God change his mind about what his message would say?

The nativity stories. Okay, they can be meshed together, but realistically, it is pretty clear that they are actually two different stories, one set before Herod died, the other set after his death. The post-resurrection stories are similar; again, they can be meshed together with enough wrangling of the narratives, but they are actually different stories. If the Bible came from God we would expect a single, coherent narrative.

Differences in theology, such as the OT saying it is fine to beat your slave as hard as you like, as long as he does not die, and the NT saying love your neighbour. Or the changing role of satan, originally as an angel working for God, and later as his evil opponent. Or how god was originally one of many gods (eg first commandment), and now is considered the only one. These all point to multiple authors with multiple opinions, not a single author with a single message.

Copy errors, such as the age of Ahaziah when he started his reign. People make mistakes, so this sort of thing is inevitable - unless there is an all-powerful being orchestrating the process.

Pixie

Pix those are contradictions in the text, They don't demarcate dosm falsehood in believing in God or even in Christianity, Christianity is not a out just worshiping the Bible.It's a human record of divine-human encounter.

The truth is in the encounter and the reality of what is encountered. The human making the record could make a mistake. The truth of God's reality comes through in spite of it. That's largely because Grace is bestowed when one takes it the reality of the encounter seriously.

(Note: deleted the previous version because formatting was unexpectedly broken. I've tried to fix it, but there may still be some carriage-return oddities.)

Pixie: {{I still do not see how that is relevant.}}

Because you started out presenting the issue as though it was a deductive dichotomy, based on expecting only one situation if "an all-knowing, all-powerful God" exists and only another situation if God "is entirely made up". But the options aren't that binary. Deists, to pull an example I mentioned previously, would snort at the very idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful God doing much or any communicating at all in Nature (even if they acknowledged He could. Some deists shade into a God/Nature cosmological dualism where Nature is impervious to God's effects.) Truly classical theists (of the Greco-Romanor Confuscian sort) would go even farther and snort at the idea of the all-knowing, all-powerful Reason doing much of anything at all, in-or-about Nature or otherwise.

Pixie: {{However, we would expect a text from an all-powerful, all-knowing God to be as near to that ideal as possible}}

That's one possibility, but not exclusively the only one. A lot would depend on how much God chose to influence the process, how far, under what conditions (and why), etc.

Pixie: {{Further we would expect such a God to be perfectly capable of ensuring that message is preserved when the text is translated.}}

Capable, sure. But an all-powerful, all-knowing God wouldn't necessarily choose to do that.

Also, almost all your examples of what you mean by "errors" are lame. {g} And I say that as someone who _isn't_ defending inerrancy!

1.) Jesus and the woman taken by adultery: even a lot of sceptics regard this as genuinely, and even pretty much entirely, historical. (They sure don't mind quoting it when they think it suits their purposes!) Even on the bluntest verbal inspiration theory (which I'm certainly not defending), a choice to put other things in at one time, and then to get this in later, wouldn't be an error. Nor does it mess up the story in any way, whether to add it or to subtract it.

2.) GosMark's extended ending synopsizes and summarizes a bunch of things found elsewhere, so its material fits. Aside from the question of miracle claims it isn't historically fallacious. Scholars routinely ignore it to be conservatively safe, but if I had to acknowledge it's genuine I wouldn't be bothered.

3.) The (somewhat pauce) trinity forumula in 1 John 5:7 doesn't add anything not multiply attested elsewhere. People make a big deal about it, but its inclusion or removal is actually trivial.

Pixie: {{Why would God allow these additions to be made? Or conversely, why would God change his mind about what his message would say?}}

Why wouldn't He allow them? They don't change the message in the slightest, one is probably directly historical (and of great value even among non-Christians who know about it), and one is a summary of historical and principle claims made elsewhere.

Pixie: {{If the Bible came from God we would expect a single, coherent narrative [for the nativity and resurrection stories for example].}}

You must not read much sceptical literature if you think a single coherent narrative would be counted as even weighing toward being historical! (On the contrary, material that's clearly single-source even if multiply attested in different works, is routinely weighed down by sceptics for only being single-source.) But again you're making a theological claim of the form 'If God existed then we could expect...' as a sheer assertion, not as an argument, and then arguing from there. Why would we necessarily expect a single, coherent narrative? I write multi-hundred page books of systematic trinitarian theology, and I can't think of a reason why that would necessarily be true.


Pixie: {{Or the changing role of satan, originally as an angel working for God, and later as his evil opponent.}}

Satan is quite consistently portrayed throughout Judeo-Christian canon as a rebel servant of God. "Working for God" and "evil opponent", amazing as that may seem to a sheltered 4th grader perhaps who hasn't even read comic books, isn't actually a mutually exclusive characterization. For that matter, the Judeo-Christian scriptures are pretty stiff with denunciations of major servants of God (also denouncing major servants of human authorities analogically representing God) going badly off the rails, often while still in positions of authority representing God (and even doing miracles empowered by God). Heck, the vast majority of the harsh warnings and punitive denunciations hammered out by Jesus are aimed at people who would otherwise be expected to be His chief servants and supporters, and not just the Jewish leaders (though that should be kept in mind, too), but up to and including His own chief apostles. (And not just Iscariot either!) At worst it's dramatic realism. It ought to be regarded as admirable self-criticism at least. Any Jew, no matter how talented or high ranking, any Christian, no matter how talented or high ranking, could be just as much a rebel as the worst of God's rebel servants.


Pixie: {{Or how god was originally one of many gods (eg first commandment), and now is considered the only one.}}

Your convenient decap of a name-title there suggests you know very well that at no point in either the Judeo or Christian canon is the existence of other supernatural beings (called gods in Hebrew, usually not gods in Greek but sometimes there, too) simply denied outright. What is denied (including in the first commandment you referenced) is that wood and stone art are gods at all, and that there are no other gods like Jehovah Adonai Elohim (in regard to various reasons we'd call ontological nowadays: they all depend on Him for existence like everything else does, and He has nothing equally or more foundationally existent than Himself.)

Pixie: {{[T]his sort of thing [i.e. trivial copy errors such as the age of Ahaziah when he started to reign] is inevitable - unless there is an all-powerful being orchestrating the process.}}

Based on what theological argument that an all-powerful being must necessarily orchestrate the process that way if that being exists?

To restate my previous comment (because I didn't put it very well): sure, if an all-powerful being was orchestrating the process with the intention to produce a textual transmission without trivial copy errors, that being would succeed, and such a process would be very improbable to succeed without an all-powerful being. (Although again, if you think cosmically improbable success in transmitting useful information would be routinely accepted by sceptics as heavy or decisive evidence in favor of the process being orchestrated by an all-powerful being, you must not know many sceptics well.)

But so what? The existence of copy errors doesn't count against the existence of an all-powerful being, or even against an all-powerful being orchestrating the process, unless it is somehow intrinsically necessary for copy errors not to exist if an all-powerful being exists (which is complete nonsense amounting to non sequitur); or unless it is somehow intrinsically necessary for an all-powerful being to orchestrate only a textual transmission without trivial copy errors. But at best there's some kind of unstated argument you're assuming in the middle of that contention. What's the theological argument that an all-powerful being must necessarily orchestrate the process that way and to that degree, if that being exists and intends to orchestrate the process?

Pixie: {{Differences in theology, such as the OT saying it is fine to beat your slave as hard as you like, as long as he does not die, and the NT saying love your neighbour.}}

That's the only non-lame example in your list, because it's an actual difference which isn't also a trivial one. (Although strictly speaking it's a difference in practical morality and maybe also, but not certainly, a difference in principle morality -- not a difference in theology. But I'm still willing to count it even though it isn't a difference in theology.)

But you've given no reasons why an all-powerful, all-knowing God would necessarily not train multiple generations of people who each have to learn things themselves as children with varying capabilities, temperaments, and socio-cultural conditions, to first learn that they aren't allowed to kill their slaves and only to beat them in certain situations (which the pagan world hadn't even gotten so far with by Jesus' day and afterward), and then work up from there as they grow more capable (both individually and culturally) of loving their neighbor enough not to enslave them at all (for example). After all, "love your neighbor" is actually a quote from the same set of legal texts setting out limits to how far someone can beat a slave they own: the people who own and beat slaves are already having radically difficult problems in loving their neighbor properly!

Also, you've given no reasons why an all-powerful, all-knowing God wouldn't allow even His chief servants to do and to propagate injustices as coming from God, on the theory (which I personally wouldn't have any problem with accepting) that the slave beating things (per example) are just convenient human attempts at justifying oppression of their neighbors by attaching divine sanction to the oppression. Certainly that would be consistent with the standard on-going complaints across all Judeo-Christian scripture (especially in the Jewish canon, where a lot more of the ethical problems crop up), not only against rebel chief servants of God abusing their position to mis-represent God and oppress their neighbors, but even complaints against God for letting evildoers, even among His chief servants, do that!


In short, you're going to have to argue that ethically complex situations shouldn't exist at all if an all-powerful, all-knowing God exists. And that's rather a different, and more broad, argument. One would hardly need to appeal to ethical problems in the scriptures for that either: I'm pretty sure ethically complex situations occur widely outside the scriptures, too -- calling them in doesn't add anything more to the situation in principle.

JRP

{{To restate my previous comment (because I didn't put it very well): sure, if an all-powerful being was orchestrating the process with the intention to produce a textual transmission without trivial copy errors, that being would succeed, and such a process would be very improbable to succeed without an all-powerful being. ...
But so what? The existence of copy errors doesn't count against the existence of an all-powerful being, or even against an all-powerful being orchestrating the process, unless it is somehow intrinsically necessary for copy errors not to exist if an all-powerful being exists (which is complete nonsense amounting to non sequitur); or unless it is somehow intrinsically necessary for an all-powerful being to orchestrate only a textual transmission without trivial copy errors. But at best there's some kind of unstated argument you're assuming in the middle of that contention. What's the theological argument that an all-powerful being must necessarily orchestrate the process that way and to that degree, if that being exists and intends to orchestrate the process? }}

I am starting from the premise:

God wants his message to be known
There is a potential text that is better than any other at conveying that message (within a specific language)
An all-knowing being would know what that text is
An all-powerful being would be capable of ensuring that that text is the one that is promoted by his own worshippers

What am I missing here?

Pixie

{{Because you started out presenting the issue as though it was a deductive dichotomy, based on expecting only one situation if "an all-knowing, all-powerful God" exists and only another situation if God "is entirely made up". But the options aren't that binary. ...}}

By God, I meant specifically the Christian God; I guess I should have made that clear, but I hoped it was implied by the context of a Christian forum. Either the Christian God is real or not is the dichotomy.

{{That's one possibility, but not exclusively the only one. A lot would depend on how much God chose to influence the process, how far, under what conditions (and why), etc.}}

Sure, he might want to give us a message that gets garbled at each re-telling, because... No, you got me. I have no idea why the Christian God would choose to have his message mutate.

{{You must not read much sceptical literature if you think a single coherent narrative would be counted as even weighing toward being historical! ...}}

You are talking about different accounts of the same event by different witnesses. Are you saying God caused the authors of the gospels to write varying accounts so it would appear they were all written separately (if so, he failed there too, given the "synoptic problem")?

{{Satan is quite consistently portrayed throughout Judeo-Christian canon as a rebel servant of God. ...}}

The canon is consistently interpreted that way, but in much of the OT he is just doing what God wants. His testing of Job is entirely sanctioned by God, for example.

{{... What is denied (including in the first commandment you referenced) is that wood and stone art are gods at all, and that there are no other gods like Jehovah Adonai Elohim (in regard to various reasons we'd call ontological nowadays: they all depend on Him for existence like everything else does, and He has nothing equally or more foundationally existent than Himself.)}}

Again, that is how it is consistently interpreted by Christianity, but not what the text says. See also Deut. 6:14, Deut. 28:14–15, Deut. 32:8–9 and 2 Kings 3:27, all of which are indicative of the polytheistic roots of Judaism. The earliest texts date from when the priests were trying to convince the people to only worship their god (and not always successfully!). This is why they invented the first command; an instruction to the people to follow their god, rather than one of many others.

{{But you've given no reasons why an all-powerful, all-knowing God would necessarily not train multiple generations of people who each have to learn things themselves as children with varying capabilities, temperaments, and socio-cultural conditions, to first learn that they aren't allowed to kill their slaves and only to beat them in certain situations ...}}

I think you have this in reverse. Why does mankind have to learn to treat slaves properly; why did God allow the institution of slavery to debelop in the first place?

According to Christianity God was with mankind right from the start (even if you reject Adam and Eve). Why wait until mankind has developed all these sinful behaviors, and then step in to correct it? Why wait until most of humanity is worshipping these fake gods, and then make a command about not worshipping them? That makes sense if God was originally just one of many gods invented by mankind, but not for a single all-powerful, all-loving God, who specifically wants everyone to worship him so they can go to heaven.

Pixie

Intriguing post Joe. Honestly I'm not sure in which camp I actually belong at this point. I do appreciate this: "Jesus is the revelation; the Gospels are merely the written record of that revelation passed on by the Apostles to the communities." Although as a Christian I would hesitate to describe the Gospels as "merely" a written record of Christ, your remark does remind me of an important principle of Jesus regarding spiritual priority (revealed in the Gospels as it happens):

"You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).

Use of Content

The contents of this blog may be reproduced or forwarded via e-mail without change and in its entirety for non-commercial purposes without prior permission from the Christian CADRE provided that the copyright information is included. We would appreciate notification of the use of our content. Please e-mail us at christiancadre@yahoo.com.