The Canon Within the Canon

Which parts of the Biblical canon are to be emphasized while others are minimized? If Christians really believed the Bible they wouldn’t let women speak in their churches (I Cor, 14:34), for the man would be the domineering patriarchal head of the house in which a wife is to “obey” her husband just like Sarah obeyed Abraham (I Peter 3: 6), even to the point of lying to save his life by having sex with another man (Genesis 12: 10-16), and by letting him sleep with another woman so he could have a child (Genesis 16). And yet in order to blunt the force of these passages, today’s Christians focus on Paul’s principle that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.” (Galatians 3:28). Which is it? What Christians stress becomes “the canon within the canon,” and this is cherry-picking plain and simple.

This problem forces Christians to specify exactly where they get their morals from. If they can stress one part of the Bible to the neglect of another part, then how do they actually decide which parts to stress and which parts to neglect? I maintain Christians get their morals from the same place I do…from the advancement of a better understanding of who we are and what makes us happy as human beings in society. Christians do not get their morals exclusively from the Bible. Christians have just learned to interpret the Bible differently down through the ages in keeping with our common sense of morality, that’s all, as our moral values change with the times.

Christians will object, without good reason, that I cannot provide an ultimate moral standard for my values. However, I just don’t think we need an “ultimate” justification for our morals, and I don’t think any of us has such thing, either. Let me just offer one analogy here. Take for instance, the scientific method. Can anyone tell me exactly what it is, and can someone also provide a complete and full justification of it? As far as I know no one has done so. Some thinkers, like Paul Feyerabend, have even argued there is no scientific method. And yet we have a general idea of what it is. In a like manner it falls on deaf ears to ask me to provide some kind of fully complete or ultimate justification for my morals before I can behave morally, in the same sense as it does to ask a scientist to provide a complete and full justification for the scientific method before he does science.

56 comments:

AG said...

dmmttOnce again you can do nothing but attack a concervative, fundamentalist, verbally inerrant view of the scripture.
No one can argue against your position here. Of course there will eb a canon within a canon if you only focus on people of this affilliation.
Itappears to me that you do not have alot to say to those who are christian and do not see scripture in the way you are portraying 'christianity' to view it. If all you want to do is attack 'words on a page' (the bible) and the section of the faith that subscribe to my earlier comments, than you will always come out looking like you job has been done. and in that case you and i have no ability to dialouge and argue on even playing ground.
These are the lines of thought i am reading on this blog.
1. Deepr study of the bible makes you a non-believer because deeper study leads you to doubt and question and 'debunk' the christian faith.
2. All christians are fundamentalist, concervative, vebally inerrant believing north americans.
3. The science and the 'christian faith' are enemies and cannot function holistically together.
4. Evolution and science are the only way to percieve the 'morals' of society.
I could go on but i wont.
I realise these are generalised sweeping statments so take them for what they are.
But, the problem i have is that you are not attacking 'christianity' you are attacking 'Concervative, fundamentalist, verbally inerrant, Nrth American, pro war christianity'.
I am not from the states, but the attacks on this blog are as clear as day aimed at that group, and in my view are the easiest group to attack and win against.
Anyway
all the best
:o)

Bryan Riley said...

We all pick and choose. What is more interesting is whether there is a God who speaks and whether we can hear His voice. If so, then that makes the bible interesting. It makes the Holy Spirit interesting. It really can bring one's faith alive. You don't have to pick on whether Paul's words were addressing a specific situation or were meant to be universal in application; I still can't figure out why there aren't fundies who pluck out their eyes! Because they pick and choose.

But, that is an attack on humanity, not on God, and that shouldn't be a basis for believing there is no God; it is only a basis for believing that humans have a problem!

Grace said...

I am not even what you would call an expert and i find this blog disturbing for assuming that all Christians are doing this type of pick and choose, and that we are actually denying some practices that the Bible is asking as to do. A simple knowledge of the book genre (command vs. a narrative), and a simple book on exegesis would actually warn Christians for doing this type of pick and choose interpretation...nope my interpretation is not perfect but to have a small light of understanding of God's Word is better than being left alone without it all...

JEM

Brother Crow said...

OK - here's a challenge to all the commenters on this post. Ag, bryan riley, and grace...just what the hell is your interpretive standard? What is your "hermeneutic" principle (or portal, as we called it in seminary)? You challenge and refute John on the basis that he is lumping all Christians into the category of "inerrant" or "infallible." So...what do you do to parse the doctrine, the passages, the verses that are relevant? I think that is the bigger issue - and at least one challenge to you in all of this...what is the standard, if it is not a subjective opinion? What is your canon, and more important - WHY? Why do you "reject" or parse as irrelevant certain passages? And does your identity as a "liberal" christian, or "postmodern" or "literalist" or "fundamental" give you a particular "canon within the canon?"

I think the bigger issue here is - you are christian, regardless of your stripe. You must believe something, and must have come from the bible. Why? And what made you decide to determine that part is legitimate, if the other parts are not.

You deceive yourselves (IMHO) with this type of circular logic and self-justification.

So answer please - what the hell exactly is your biblical interpretive standard?

AG said...

Brother Crow,
Maybe your frustration comes from not being able to 'pin down' every christian belief and find a way to 'debunk' it.
I work primarily within this framework that was taught to me from at my seminary which i found helpful, i have paraphrased some of it, and some of it is verbatim.

Bible: as the authoritative depository of God’s own words and words about him, and that
it presents the authoritative interpretation of human life and history
The basic part of the reference to the Bible is its ideational content—who or what is really ultimate?
• it is not ultimate as a written document though it is the ultimate written document
• it is not ultimate truth itself but it is the vehicle of ultimate Truth
• it is authoritative for faith and practice because it is the sole reliable source (the Church
knows this by experience) of information and instruction concerning the one true God and
what it means to believe in him—but its reliability is not in mere words—the Spirit must
enliven them and witness to their truth—otherwise the Bible is just another religious book
• Divine revelation is fundamentally personal, living and dynamic;
• Theology is reflection, and thus not revelation; it is always reformable
• The witness of the Spirit testifying to the truth of a passage and applying it to the believer’s life is
absolutely necessary if the Bible is to be illuminated and illuminating;
• The revelation is strictly speaking Christ—not ideas, ideals or Scripture; Scripture is attuned to the
true revelation—Christ; from Christ Scripture takes its authority; there can be Christ without
Scripture, but no authoritative Scripture without Christ
• The Bible is not a system of dogma encompassing formalised statements concerning the whole
scope of Christian truth that simple needs to be memorised
• God comes to us as a redeeming presence in history, and the Bible is the primary source that
mediates knowledge of this activity.
This is in no way exhaustive, but it gives oyu the framework of my thoughts on the bible. And yes these are not my original thoughts they came from my old lecturers years ago.
So....nit pick away.
All the best
:o)

John W. Loftus said...

Bro Crow can be harsh at times since we go over these type of arguments here a lot.

Grace, Bryan, I see you're new here.

Glad to have you here.

Enjoy the discussion.

GordonBlood said...

The only thing I have to say on this, mainly because AG has said more less what I would say and just because its beginning to get on my nerves, brother crow is certainly more than "harsh". He is frequently flat out vulgar and arrogant and I wish youd be alittle more honest about that John. Christian or atheist, I think we can all agree persons deserve respect. And Brother Crow... saying what the hell alot does not make you cooler or more popular anymore; that was grade 5.

Jason said...

• it is not ultimate as a written document though it is the ultimate written document
• it is not ultimate truth itself but it is the vehicle of ultimate Truth


In layman's terms, what does this mean?

AG said...

Jason,
• it is not ultimate as a written document though it is the ultimate written document - By this i mean that scripture is not an ultimate infallible written document in itself, however, it is the ultimate document in describing the Christian God (which christians would call the only God) and in that sense it is ultimate.
• it is not ultimate truth itself but it is the vehicle of ultimate Truth - by this it is meant that the bible itself (the words written) are not an ulitmate truth as 'words' but it is a vehicle by which the ultimate truth (God) is communicated to us.
Does this help at all?
all the best
:o)

Joseph said...

ag, I'm with Jason on this one. Please provide us a practical example of how this hermeneutic works. I think you have more interpretive problems than the fundamentalist does. For me it was a conservative theological interpretation or nothing. Anything in the middle just seems arbitrary and wishy-washy. A perfect example is one of your stated principles:

"Theology is reflection, and thus not revelation; it is always reformable."

What dictates whether ones theology should be reformed? Perhaps it is the moral progress of society, as John's article contends (in which case, the Bible is superfluous).

By the way, ag, thank you for sharing. This is a lot more than we've gotten out of other liberal Christians.

AG said...

ok,
I realise that for many on this site who come from a reformed fundamentalist background this may appear to have as many problems as fundy position. Realise where i came from relationship and love play a huge part of the structure i work with and to be fair to me i cannot exhaustable explain all there is to my position. but i will do my best to contribute wher i can.
One of thensions that always occurs is trying to 'reclaim' the bible from fundamentalist often reformed theologians and the like.

One must look at the bible in a few key areas: Inspisration, Innerrancey, Authority.
The problem often occurs when the gate is shut to interpret at how the bible was inspired section.
If it was inspired by God 'verbally' as most reformed evangelicals (fundamnetalist concervatives inlcuded) than it was spoken word for word to the 'writer' such as Paul or Peter. This then means that no human 'contribution' or 'flavour' can be apart of the divine revelation of God because man in sinful and therefore would 'corrupt' the words. This line fo thinking then places the very words of scripture as exactly the words of God and therfore is without error, which moves onto the next issue.
Inerrency.
If we hold to the previous view that god 'dictated' the words to the writers, than we must believ that all of the bible is 100% without erro in any way, eg when its says there were 15000 soldiers, there were exactly 15000 soldiers not one less or one more. This creates tensions in trying to reconcile conflictintg passages such as the gospel of John in comparision to the other gospels. What then occurs is christians attempting to 'justify' why this is so...in my opinion in ridiculous ways that are neither logical or valid.
still with me? lol

I believe, and others (whom i wont name) also believe that the scriptures do inerrantly show all that is necessary to salvation and can be fully trusted in that sense. I believe that its very words do not hold power but the spirit (God) behind the words is where the authority lays.
let me once again point out this from my notes from lectures i have attended, it may articulate it in a different light.

.Christ is the fullest revelation of God—the Word of God; Christianity is not primarily a system of
ideas but a commitment to an historical Person—Jesus of Nazareth
• Like all historical events, those we hold to be revelatory are accessed only by eyewitnesses; those not eyewitnesses are dependent upon them and their reports for knowledge of these events
• These events must be interpreted for their significance to be known; both event and interpretation are necessary
• The Bible is both a record of the ‘events’ and their ‘interpretation’
• The Bible is thus the primary medium through which we have access to revelation and the truths
that accompany it; thus it is an aspect of revelation itself
• This involves an intellectual content; primarily it is the means by which in faith we enter into a lifetransforming relationship to the God who has disclosed himself in the events to which the Bible
bears witness
• God alone is the object of saving faith, not the Bible; there are no references to Scripture in any of the ecumenical creeds; but the faith confessed in the creeds is validated by the authoritative word of Scripture
• The Bible is the primary source in theology, because it brings us to Christ through the ministry of
the Spirit.
• Holy Spirit: the inspiring source of Scripture and at the same time, the illuminating, regenerating and sanctifying presence by whom we are enabled to receive and understand the truth as presented in the written Word.
• Revelation and written Word are not identical; intellectual adherence to received doctrine is not orthodoxy; the church is a spiritual fellowship; the internal witness of the Spirit is not reducible to reason and logic.
• Bible serves as a foundation for Christianity as a religion; it is absolutely authoritative for theology;
but spiritual authority is not its ability to meet human needs, objections and criteria, but its witness
to the essential revelation—Jesus Christ. He and He alone is the direct revelation from God.

Once again some of this is verbatim and some of it paraphrased.
Anyway all the best, i am sure i will need to clarify some more in the future.
:o)

Jennifer said...

I'm nodding with ag and bryan riley.

I'm puzzled as to why it is so unclear to some. Is it the "fundamental personality" that makes this view seem wishy-washy?

John W. Loftus said...

GordonBlood said...Christian or atheist, I think we can all agree persons deserve respect.

I agree.

John W. Loftus said...

AG, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I've addressed issues concerning the inspiration of the Bible here, and argued why I don't believe the Bible is God's word here.

Anyone taking a liberal view of these issues just has to answer me one question: what if the whole community of faithful believers is wrong? We know of cases where a whole community is wrong, so if the community legitimizes the faith in the Bible, how do we know the community is right? I deny that it is.

Bryan Riley said...

My hermeneutic? My portal? (portal is a new term to me). I'm not a seminary graduate. I suppose I have no answer to that other than the Holy Spirit. That's a really poor answer to an intellectual who doesn't believe in God, I understand, but I don't think you can come to any other conclusion for proper hermeneutics if you are to believe the bible.

Bryan Riley said...

John, thanks for the welcome. Because you don't allow anonymous comments my login doesn't link to my current blog. That is why in my first comment I wrote out the link.

You have a great blog. Thanks for the thoughtful discourse. The one thing I would say is that simply linking to things you've already said, as though you have all the answers already, is a bit stifling to discussion.

http://charisshalom.fjministries.com

Jason said...

Ag,

It's probably in your comments somewhere but assuming you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, in what sense do you also mean the Bible isn't an "ultimate infallible written document in itself"? (if it's inspired by God, shouldn't it also be infallibly written...?)

AG said...

John Loftus,
My response is that you look at the community of believers as the histry of believers. The consitency of faith from Apostles, church fathers etc until now is a way of understanding the community as a voice to help guide and minimize error. Yes whole communities can be wrong, but 2000 years of believers is a better voice. Just like science builds on the shoulders of other scientists work in 'progressing' so too the faith is 'worked out' building on those gone before. This is why those who want to ignore the voice of the church historically can be in danger of heresy and be wrong.
It is late here about midnight, so i will leave it at that and say that in all we do, we must have an element of trust in those gone before.
Anyway more later
all the best
:o)

AG said...

Jason,
I believe that the bible is inspired, but i believe it was inspired in what theolgians call
the Dynamic Theory
Dynamic theory: combination of divine and human; the Spirit directs, but the person works within
their own personality in choice of words and expressions.
I believe the bible infallible communicates all that is necessary for salvation and living the life of faith pleasing to God and can be fully trusted in that sense.
I realise it may be a different position to hold if you are a christadelphian but it is not all that uncommon in evangelical circles.

John W. Loftus said...

No, AG, my argument is that they were wrong from the get-go because they were by and large superstitious people. See here for one story of many from the OT, and a link to one story of many in the NT.

Brother Crow said...

Brother Crow says...harshness is in the eyes of the beholder. And it is amusing to me that my "personality" (or personality disorder) is the straw man for some to go after.

My first foray into this blogsite was "attacked" by a so-called christian who chellenged my integrity and made accusations against me - all based on on-line self-commentary. So harshenss flows both ways.

I am vulgar? That is amusing! Anyway...yes, I am frustrated because of the sliminess of certain commenters here who refuse to plainly and simply address the issues they have been challenged with. It speaks to an argumentative disorder on there behalf, not mine. And leads me to suspect they would rather attack the challenger than defend the thought challenged, because they know they can't.

As crow says..."caw, caw."

And respect? Absolutely, to all God's critters. Not a bit, to sloppy or dishonest thinking.

Jason said...

Ag,

It's not a different position at all. I was just asking because I didn't quite understand your original comment. Makes perfect sense to me. Thanks!

Shygetz said...

The consitency of faith from Apostles, church fathers etc until now is a way of understanding the community as a voice to help guide and minimize error. Yes whole communities can be wrong, but 2000 years of believers is a better voice.

From the standpoint of history, the "Apostles, church fathers etc" have agreed on very little. God exists in some sense of the term, and Jesus had a relationship with God. They have differed WILDLY on just about everything more detailed than that, from the triune nature of God to the importance of the sacrements to the forgiveness of sins to the fate of the unforgiven to the authority of the church to the role of the laity etc., etc. There is not a single voice of 2000 years of believers, but rather a cacophony of disagreement, contention, and often violence among Christians.

Do you expect to gain singular clarity from this contentious history?

I believe the bible infallible communicates all that is necessary for salvation and living the life of faith pleasing to God and can be fully trusted in that sense.

Then why can presumably honest and earnest Christians not agree on what is necessary for salvation and pleasing God? Is it an infallible communication if it constantly fails to communicate?

Jennifer said...

Anyone taking a liberal view of these issues just has to answer me one question: what if the whole community of faithful believers is wrong? We know of cases where a whole community is wrong, so if the community legitimizes the faith in the Bible, how do we know the community is right? I deny that it is.

John,
Does it always come down to liberal and conservative? I think there is another option.
It's this option that is getting lost in translation.

I think what you said about a community putting their faith in the Bible is what starts so many cults. Even in the O.T., God never tells the Israelites to put their faith in the written law, but in Him and His Word. The Law was not the Word. I think the ideal is for a community to study the Bible openly as they seek God together. I didn't find God by reading the Bible. I didn't even think about reading the Bible. But...when I did pick it up, I found the same things C.S. Lewis found and the light came on.

This third option I am speaking of is what ag and bryan riley seem to be getting at too. God is spirit and it is by His Spirit that we are led. The Bible apart from God's Spririt foolishness.

I'm sorry if this frustrates you, I just wish you could see it this way....as much as you probably wish you could convince me/us to see the problem your way.

Take care, John. A friend said they got your book for me so I'll read it soon. The libraries don't have it yet.

Jennifer said...

that should be Spirit, is foolishness. :)

Stargazer said...

Jennifer,

I believe I understand where you are coming from—I’ve spent nearly 20 years of my adult life believing what you so often state about the Spirit, being led by the spirit of God, etc. I grew up in a conservative evangelical setting, where even C.S. Lewis was considered ‘iffy,’ (he smoke, drank, and enjoyed bawdy jokes, you know!), but he was allowed. In my late teen years, I expanded my reading to other writers, and found my way eventually to where I felt most at home, with the mystics of the church. My intro to this world was through Evelyn Underhill, Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton—from there I found my way to the Theresas, John of the Cross, Julian, Hildegard, many others and eventually committed myself to a lay contemplative group connected to a Cistercian monastery. Over those same years my church experience and theological outlooks, at least to my mind at the time, broadened and deepened. Like you, the experiential became more foundational than the intellectual, and everything I read in scripture or in the writings of Christian authors and teachers was seen through the lense of my experience. After all, I had opened myself to the spirit of love, the spirit of God, and had come to trust that I would be led into the truth, since that was my deepest desire.

I became the standard by which all things were measured—my perceptions and understanding of the truth were a very subjective measure, and when my perceptions came into conflict with those of my fellow contemplatives, it began to raise more questions. We were all committed to God, we all supposedly desired truth, how did we come up with so many opposing ideas?

I was with that group for about 15 years, and then went into formal spiritual formation training with the goal of becoming a spiritual director (I blush now to think I even allowed myself to think I should do this!). While the experience was very positive in the relational aspect, I found myself beginning to wonder how on earth we could end up in such different places, using the same basic source for our beliefs.

The problem was that, essentially, we become our own ‘popes.’ Even when I would say that my relationship with God was born out by the evidence of experience, it still resulted in belief system—there were things I believed about God and things that I did not. You mentioned offering another option other than liberal and conservative views of scripture and belief—but I think what it comes down to is that it is just another system. And it again results in the cherry-picking that has been mentioned in various posts on this blog. It offers no more of an evidential support for belief in God than any other system of belief. We believe that God is love, we believe that the spirit guides us, we have felt this love and the spirit in our innermost being. Problem is…when I came to the point where I had to honestly admit I no longer believed in a personal god, I would still have that experience—but it was connected to things I would read about the cosmos, or when I would lay outside under the trees and just look at the world around me. I get the same sense of awe, the deep, heart-thrilling, take-your-breath-away sense of being overwhelmed just be the sheer beauty of life and the amazing fact that I am alive in all of this. Part of this comes, I am sure, from no longer having to feel like I have to get it “right” about god. That is done. Now, I just live and learn

I’ve been reading a recent book, Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopalian priest who resigned from parish work and is now teaching. She talks about how, for the first several years of her life, she remembers having tremendous joy in the natural world, experiencing a deep oneness with that world, and then says when she finally went to church for the first time at the age of seven, she “got the impression that the people who were there that morning had figured out a way of talking about their feeling (equating that with her experience). They seemed to know where it came from , who was responsible for it, what it meant, and how to respond to it.” When I read that and what followed, I felt very sad. Though for her it remained a positive experience, because it made her hungry for God, it also led her to a way of thinking and being from which she found later she needed to extricate herself. She now is at a place where God is much bigger to her than the church will normally allow, and my guess is if she continues on the path she is on, she may well find herself letting go of all the definitions.

But that is where I now find myself—I’m back in the world again, knowing that I’m a part of life. I want to know and understand as much as I can. I want to know about novas and supernovas, I want to learn some languages, I want to get back to my music, I want a telescope for Christmas, I want to know more about fractals—you name it, I want to know it. I feel like I have been in a cocoon far too long—it was often comfortable, familiar, warm, but dark. And the real me is finally allowed to be. All those spiritual experiences—they were wonderful at the time, but they kept me from asking my deeper questions.

I have a feeling this may be rather muddled—it’s late and I will have to get up early for a long day at work. But I just felt I needed to respond in some way to your last post.

Peace, Stargazer

Joseph said...

Stargazer, you shared your story with me when I was going through the tough period of my deconversion and I'm glad you've shared parts of it with us here.

Stargazer said...

Thanks, Joseph--this 'writing your story' harder than I thought it would be. What I wrote here is really only one thread of many that affected my journey through those years, and was the part that seemed to connect most directly with the appeals to experience that have been shared lately. It is also rather muddled, now that I re-read it, but I hope the salient points are clear.

It's harder than I thought to sort it all out, but it's becoming a very worthwhile exercise. :)

John W. Loftus said...

Jennifer, I assume you mean that the Holy Spirit has a job of helping true Christians understand God's word in their community of faith?

Which community? What faith? And why isn't the Holy Spirit doing his job? You do realize that people have been killed because the Holy Spirit didn't properly do his job over trivial issues like communion and baptism, right, as well as more important issue like what to do with witches heretics and people of different color?

As far as "true Christians" go (you never mentioned this but I think it's implied) we only see professing Christians. We never see a true Christian. Describe one and there will be other professing Christians who will disagree.

Bryan Riley said...

John, what I hear you accusing the Holy Spirit of sounds like the work of people to me. But you are correct that all of those things happened.

Why does that change Who God Is? How do you explain these issues? What is the cause in your mind? Are you blaming God?

John W. Loftus said...

Bryan said...Why does that change Who God Is? How do you explain these issues? What is the cause in your mind? Are you blaming God?

I'm merely wondering if such a God exists based on what I see here. And my conclusion is that these are the sorts of things one would expect if there is no God, and no Holy Spirit. I can no more blame God as you can blame Allah or Zeus for something.

Shygetz said...

John, what I hear you accusing the Holy Spirit of sounds like the work of people to me. But you are correct that all of those things happened.

Why does that change Who God Is? How do you explain these issues? What is the cause in your mind? Are you blaming God?


Tell me how you differentiate between acts of the Holy Spirit and acts of people. From my vantage, all I ever see is post hoc justification based on actions that currently conform to the social norm. Civil rights=Holy Spirit (except for certain troglodytes whom most Christians distance themselves from), Spanish Inquisition=work of man (again, except for some troglodytes). For currently contentious issues such as equal treatment for women and GLBTs, the Christian community is split.

I will make a hypothesis. I hypothesize that the emphases of the Bible that are called "Holy Spirit-inspired" by most Christians are the ones that most Christians are predisposed to agree with due to societal pressure, and the emphases of the Bible that they call "works of man" are the ones that they are predisposed to disagree with due to societal pressure. Therefore, I predict that in the future, the majority of Christians will emphasize the portions of the Bible that agree with the treatment of GLBT and women by secular society, and de-emphasize those that disagree; moreover, I predict that they will consider this pattern of emphasis "Holy Spirit-inspired".

If I am wrong, then the pattern of majority Christian thought should not neccesarily track with secular societal thought, and majority Christian opinion will move independently of secular societal opinion. Now I admit that this is not an air-tight hypothesis, but it does begin to test this idea of a Holy Spirit guiding the thoughts of the Church.

Care to make a testable prediction about what we will see if the Holy Spirit is real?

Bryan Riley said...

Shygetz, you are correct that I will see things that are evil as the works of the devil and/or man. I will see things that are good as the works of God. That is because I believe in an infinitely good God. I believe that is God's character. And, I do not believe God ever deviates from His character. However, as another post on this site notes, humans do. We are hypocrites, whether some are more than others was the only debate.

Now, havng said that, you and I are both making moral judgments. You are judging the morality of the Inquisition. On what basis?

John W. Loftus said...

Bryan said...Now, havng said that, you and I are both making moral judgments. You are judging the morality of the Inquisition. On what basis?

Let's say I love killing and torturing people who disagree with me, okay. This is far from the truth, but assume I think that. Then I could still torture people who disagreed with me and at the very same time ask you about YOUR consistency. I could still ask why your loving God did not make it crystal clear in the Bible that doing so was immoral, or why upon your supposition the Holy Spirit didn't properly do his job. I could also ask you why it's okay for your God to allow something like this when the Biblical ethic you adhere to calls upon you to defend the defenseless. Why is it your God does not have to live by the moral code he demands of you? Why is it he does not have to love and defend the defenseless but demands that you do.

I could ask all of these internal questions of what YOU believe while dismembering and torturing another person. There would be no inconsistency on my part at all.

As far as your off-toic question goes, though, I have responded here. Maybe you will now attempt to answer our questions on their own terms.

Cheers.

John W. Loftus said...

The killing and torturing I refer to in my previous comment has to do with the Inquisition as a context. Why didn't your God tell believers in no uncertain terms doing so was wrong? The fact is the OT does sanction witch, heretic, gay and honor killings.

Bryan Riley said...

John, I don't follow. Sorry. And I am not sure how I go off-topic when we are having a wide-open discussion, or are we?

Let's talk beliefs that support what I am attempting to articulate.

1. God loves.
2. Love doesn't demand. Love simply loves.
3. Because love doesn't demand, God allows God's creation to choose to love or not.
4. As a result, although God is all powerful, He limits His power to enable us to choose His way or not. In other words, God didn't create robots who obey Him; instead, He created humans in His image (as the bible states).
5. Evil in the world isn't inconsistent with God's character, nor does it disprove His existence. It simply proves the existence of evil.
6. When you describe something as evil, you make a moral judgment about the existence of good and evil.

Now, if I'm completely off topic, I'm sorry. I definitely am not a perfect intellectual.

John W. Loftus said...

Bryan, your 6th point is irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is the defense of your loving God in the face of so much suffering in the world; that's all. It's a separate topic unrelated to the former topic. And I addressed it in the link above.

Bryan Riley said...

John, I will try to read what you've written some time soon, but it really is hard to follow links and even harder when it is just a link to seven more links.

I definitely hope to continue the discourse and hope you are open to having a newbie wade through your waters, maybe not exactly in the way you are accustomed. It's good for discussion, I hope.

I have to do some preparation for a home showing and need some more coffee. Thanks for responding.

Bryan Riley said...

John, what makes you think God didn't tell those people that it was wrong? They didn't obey is all.

Shygetz said...

Bryan Riley said...
John, what makes you think God didn't tell those people that it was wrong? They didn't obey is all.


The same thing that makes me think that God isn't telling you that you are wrong...I assume that someone who devotes their life to God is likely to follow any clear commands of God.

Bryan Riley said...

But Shygetz, you must admit that that is a circular argument to conclude there is no God. And, it leaves out a very real and present intervening factor: my own fallibility. It doesn't lessen the odds that God is Who He says He Is, it just further substantiates that I likely am not all that I hope to be.

Shygetz said...

But Shygetz, you must admit that that is a circular argument to conclude there is no God.

I do not argue that gods don't exist; I argue that you haven't shown me any evidence that one does, much less your god.

Also, how is the argument circular? An omnipotent God can make his will clearly known if He wants. A person who devotes his life to following the will of God is likely to follow what he believes to be the will of God. Therefore, the fact that different people follow different "wills of God" indicates that God has not made His will clearly known, which is antithetical to the idea of an omnipotent God who sends His Holy Spirit to fulfill His desire to direct believers.

And, it leaves out a very real and present intervening factor: my own fallibility.

How does your infallibility affect the ability of an infallible God to communicate His will to His subjects effectively? The only option (and the one that you mentioned) is that the believer knows the will of God but chooses to disregard it, which would be contrary to the evidences of many people leading self-sacrificing lives to fulfill the opposing wills of each's God.

It doesn't lessen the odds that God is Who He says He Is, it just further substantiates that I likely am not all that I hope to be.

Nope, for the reasons above. Either God cannot make His will clearly known (and therefore is not omnipotent) or does not want His believers to truly know His will (and therefore the Holy Spirit is not a reliable guide).

Bryan Riley said...

False dichotomy. There are other "ors" to be found, Shygetz. we all wish it were so simple. Just one example would be "or he allows us the ability to choose not to see/hear His revealed will."

I believe we are pretty ingenious, just fallen. He's not force feeding us.

Jennifer said...

Jennifer, I assume you mean that the Holy Spirit has a job of helping true Christians understand God's word in their community of faith?

I believe the Holy Spirit will show anyone, not only "true Christians", who God is if they are seeking with pure motives. I don't think people need to be in community for this to happen, but that birds of a feather will congregate. I don't even think people need a Bible to begin with.

Which community?
Any and every community.

What faith?
Well, personally, I believe that a person of any proclaimed faith can come to faith in Jesus as the savior of all mankind, and that when they do, they let the false aspects of religion fall away. Even Christians. There is a little bit of truth in every tradition. I know many Christians would dispute this, but I have to wonder if they have actually read from other faiths to understand the underlying premises and what is being practiced. So, to answer your question, faith in the sacrifice of Jesus as the only true "sin eater".

And why isn't the Holy Spirit doing his job? You do realize that people have been killed because the Holy Spirit didn't properly do his job over trivial issues like communion and baptism, right, as well as more important issue like what to do with witches heretics and people of different color?

This is where I go back to the "what would you propose God do?" argument. I'm not sure anyone was listening to the Holy Spirit when it came to baptism and sacraments. According to the N.T., the Holy Spirit didn't step in and audibly correct gnosticism or other sects, it was left up to the apostles. They were pretty revolutionary for their time in proclaiming the abolition of food laws, the equal position befor God of slaves and women, circumcsion and living peacefully instead of rebelling against authorities. The one example of direct intervetion in the early church would be the deaths of Ananias and Saphira who were going to be leading others while lying boldy before God..with full knowledge of what they were doing and showing no repentance.

I think Paul did a good job of dealing with heretics....he argued and explained over and over again. He told the early church to live at peace with all men, as far as it depended on them. That implies that self defense is OK, but not reaching out in violence.

Witches in O.T. Israel were under the Law. I think there are N.T. examples of how magical people were treated. It seems they were helped out of their practice of witchcraft (visible, not perceived) by being released of evil powers over them, whether real or imagined.

As far as "true Christians" go (you never mentioned this but I think it's implied) we only see professing Christians. We never see a true Christian. Describe one and there will be other professing Christians who will disagree.

I agree. There are only professing Christians and that's why I think the Bible is helpful, if not necessary at some level. I don't always live up to 1 Corinthians 13, for example, but it is my aim and I don't mind if I am judged by it and fall short. It is the standard for love, in my opinion. Maybe it's the word "Christian" that is getting in the way. A true follower of Christ would behave like Him more and more as they mature.
I guess I don't see the need for a clear definition, but that's part of my "conceptual" perception.

To wrap it up, I think the Holy Spirit can speak to whomever He chooses in whatever place He chooses to bring about the ultimate plan of God. I was told by a wise man that there will be surprises in heaven...people we never would have guessed and some absent who we would have expected. Christians are sometimes the poorest examples, myself included, and that's where grace comes in.

Bryan Riley said...

Jennifer, thanks for taking the time to write that. I haven't taken the time to write out such a detailed statement here yet, but I love your comment and agree.

Joseph said...

Jennifer, you said it best: "I think..." "I believe..." "I guess..." Your beliefs may be subjectively true to you, but I cannot see how your statements can be objectively verified as truth.

AG said...

there lies the fundamental difference between the bible as a faith book and not a book that is up for scientific or 'objective' truth that can be verified. So in that sense all the atheists 'win' the arguments they present and continue to think that evrything in life can be objectively verified and proved, and thus making it reality because it can be so. I have yet to come across any genuine philosophical arguments that can be objectively verified on this site. You will always win if you are so narrow to look for imperical realities to make something 'true'.
For the sake of an old argument.
Joseph and the like, give me some hard 'evidence' of what love IS and how you can be 100% sure someone 'LOVES' you. Maybe the pycholigist of your posse can answer this one for you, i am sure she will have heaps of hard evidence from all here study.
All the best
:o)

Joseph said...

ag, I see that as a digression from the discussion at hand. I'm not going to get distracted in a debate over the philosophical meaning of objectivity or defining love. Maybe elsewhere, but not here. I'm a business man with a very practical outlook on life. If you tell me that I need to invest money into an idea, I'm going to put that idea through rigorous examination and testing before I approve the flow of cash in that direction. I don't see why every idea shouldn't be approached with the same perspective--especially a religious ideology that demands the surrender of your life. Before I accept your ideas about the Bible and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I need some sort of substantiation for those truth claims. It's no different with UFOs, Mormonism, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Parmesan and Oregano Be Upon Him). I need something which I or any reasonable person could look at and say, "Yes, that's bears out as true. All the facts line up. This works. This is internally consistent, etc."

It seems to me that if eternal life is the "baby," then Christian theology is the "bathwater." In order for Christians to keep their precious hope of a hereafter, they ascribe authority to a book called the Bible. But the Bible has many outmoded ideas, questionable morals, and factual errors. So liberal Christians come along and "solves" the problem by reinterpreting it so that it reflects the current thinking of the culture. We can still keep the baby, but let's swirl around the bathwater some more...or add some more water to the bath. There's nothing even remotely "objective" or consistent about such a stance. It simply reflects the direction of the wind. When slavery was popular, the Bible was used to justify it. When civil rights became an issue, suddenly the Bible had something to say about that, too. Now that homosexuality is mainstream, there are those who would radically reinterpret the Bible's anti-gay passages to more easily fit with the current popular mindset. The current trend of post-modernism is driven and influenced by the culture and the church is merely reacting or conforming to it, all the while giving the Holy Spirit credit.

AG said...

hmmm, i jut posted and it didnt come through...doh!

Shygetz said...

False dichotomy. There are other "ors" to be found, Shygetz. we all wish it were so simple. Just one example would be "or he allows us the ability to choose not to see/hear His revealed will."

I believe we are pretty ingenious, just fallen. He's not force feeding us.


You mean He gives us the conscious ability to choose to not hear what we hear and not see what we see?

That is a logical contradiction. Can you choose not to read the words you just read? Of course not--you read them, now you can only ignore them or not. Similarly, if God is really talking to us, we cannot choose not to hear. We can only choose to ignore. You may argue (albeit poorly) that people who devote their lives to God are willfully ignoring the clear word of God, but you cannot logically argue that they can choose not to hear or see it in the face of an omnipotent God who wants them to hear or see it.

I'll assert it again; either God has made His will clearly known to His followers and people are choosing to ignore it, which is against the evidence; or God cannot and/or chooses not to make His will clearly known to His followers, and therefore these people are following an unjustifiable faith.

As I argued elsewhere, since God has not made His will clearly known to all peoples and His followers often claim contradictory revealed knowledge, revealed knowledge must be subjected to evidentiary validation to be considered reliable for justifying beliefs and actions.

Bryan Riley said...

SG, you write:

Can you choose not to read the words you just read? Of course not--you read them, now you can only ignore them or not.

I don't see that you have made your point. You still want only two choices but there are more. I can ignore them, I can misunderstand them, I can read into them, and I can misread them. That's at least four options.

Bryan Riley said...

Joseph, you are confirming that humans can prove what they want to prove and think what they want to think. We can reason through most anything to a reasonable certainty. But that doesn't call into question God's claim to be the great I Am. It just says that nothing proves it objectively and with certainty, just as nothing proves that God's claim isn't true with certainty or objectively.

You have to make a choice. I've chosen to believe and God has, for me, personally and intimately in many ways, confirmed that decision.

Shygetz said...

I don't see that you have made your point. You still want only two choices but there are more. I can ignore them, I can misunderstand them, I can read into them, and I can misread them. That's at least four options.

Let me quote my words:

"I'll assert it again; either God has made His will clearly known to His followers and people are choosing to ignore it, which is against the evidence; or God cannot and/or chooses not to make His will clearly known to His followers, and therefore these people are following an unjustifiable faith."

I purposely said *clearly* known. Certainly, God may have decided to muddle the situation when He tried to communicate so as to prevent some people from understanding. Would such an act be within the character of the Christian God? To what end would he purposely communicate unclearly?

Bryan Riley said...

Did anyone ever say God communicated unclearly? I think the issue is how the hearer hears and the "see-r" sees.

Shygetz said...

I was working under the assumption that your God is omnipotent. If an omnipotent being wished to communicate something with me, I would have no opportunity to mishear or mis-see it. The only way a message from an omnipotent being could be garbled is if the omnipotent being wished it to be garbled. He did not wish it to be garbled when He talked to Adam and Eve regarding the Tree of Knowledge--he told Adam and Eve, and they chose to disobey.

Is God omnipotent or not? You can't have it both ways.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

AG: (going back a bit)
You say:My response is that you look at the community of believers as the histry of believers. The consistency of faith from Apostles, church fathers etc until now is a way of understanding the community as a voice to help guide and minimize error. Yes whole communities can be wrong, but 2000 years of believers is a better voice.

The trouble with this is that, even in the earliest days of Christianity, there was no such consistency. I'd strongly suggest that you -- and the other commenters here on the 'Christian side' go to a library (or join Questia.com) and read Chapter 5 of Bart Ehrman's LOST CHRISTIANITIES. (The whole book is worth it, but start with Chapter 5.)

This shows that, at least as early as 100 AD, there were Christians, the 'ebionites' -- Ehrman argues that Matthew supports this -- arguing the necessity of following the Old Law, of becoming Jewish first, before they could become Christians, and, shortly after, other Christians, followers of Marcion, who so rejected the Jewish foundations of Christianity that Marcion argued "that there must in fact be two Gods: the God of the Jews, as found in the Old Testament, and the God of Jesus, as found in the writings of Paul.

"Once Marcion arrived at this understanding, everything else naturally fell into place. The God of the Old Testament was the God who created this world and everything in it, as described in Genesis. The God of Jesus, therefore, had never been involved with this world but came into it only when Jesus himself appeared from heaven. The God of the Old Testament was the God who called the Jews to be his people and gave them his Law. The God of Jesus did not consider the Jews to be his people (for him; they were the chosen of the other God), and he was not a God who gave laws.

"The God of the Old Testament insisted that people keep his Law and penalized them when they failed. He was not evil, but he was rigorously just. He had laws and inflicted penalties on those who did not keep them. But this necessarily made him a wrathful God, since no one kept all of his laws perfectly. Everyone had to pay the price for their transgressions, and the penalty for transgression was death. The God of the Old Testament was therefore completely justified in exacting his punishments and sentencing all people to death.

"The God of Jesus came into this world in order to save people from the vengeful God of the Jews. He was previously unknown to this world and had never had any previous dealings with it. Hence Marcion sometimes referred to him as God the Stranger. Not even the prophecies of the future Messiah come from this God, for these refer not to Jesus but to a coming Messiah of Israel, to be sent by the God of the Jews, the creator of this world and the God of the Old Testament. Jesus came completely unexpectedly and did what no one could possibly have hoped for: He paid the penalty for other people's sins, to save them from the just wrath of the Old Testament God."

A clear message? One group of universally accepted principles, or universally accepted books. Not hardly. (The Ebionites rejected Paul, the Marcionites -- and Ehrman claims that Marcion may have been the first to compile a 'Bible' -- included only Paul and one -- edited -- Gospel, probably Luke's.)