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November 27, 2007

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Actually, Dr. Moreland has posted the paper at kingdomtriangle.com. ( http://tinyurl.com/2t3rjl )

While I heartily applaud the overriding theme of the paper, I fear its effect will be to unduly diminish the value or Dr. Moreland's work in the eyes of those who most need to learn from it.

Incidentally, I thought Greg did a great job with making a similar point in his paper "Is Biblical Counseling Biblical?" ( http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/counsel.pdf?docID=165 )

"Truth can be discovered apart from the Bible using the faculties God has given us, though all truth is tested against the Bible."

"It is the final and ultimate authority of true knowledge."

Wow... you guys really believe this. I've attacked the Bible and posted this link so many times on this site, I'm starting to worry my words are falling on deaf ears. What are you afraid of? If the Bible is true shouldn't any information contrary to it be easily falsifiable? Please, go to godvsthebible.com, pick any part of any chapter and argue against it. How could a perfect God be the author of a book with so much suffering, atrocities, mistakes, contradictions and outright lies?

Steve, if the Bible has mistakes, contradictions, and lies in it, I could understand why you would doubt that God authored it, but I don't understand why suffering and atrocities in the Bible would cause you to doubt God authored it.

Steve,

I have visited godvsthebible.com and after reading through it posted the following question to Mr. Armstrong:

"If the Bible is completely unreliable why quote from it at all, why not ignore it?"

to which he replied:

"Why not ignore it? Let me be frank here. Because of Christo-fascists running amok in this country trying to cram their beliefs down my throat."

Why attack the Bible or attempt to turn into ham salad if it is so flawed, authored by a flawed God?

I hate to guess since Mr. Armstrong did not specify, but if I had to guess, I would say Mr. Armstrong has problems with our sitting President.

Because suffering and atrocities are... bad? What makes the genocide committed in the bible justified and genocide like Darfur or the Holocaust bad? The Israelites don't get a special exemption from our modern judgement because "things were different back then" or because "God was on their side."

I can already hear how some of you might respond, "the wicked have to suffer for their crimes" or "we have to know the good to know the bad" or "everything happens for a reason, God has everything under control." It's not just the "wicked" who suffer and are victims of the atrocities of the bible, there are plenty of innocent people who are punished for the crime of being born in the wrong place or to the wrong parents or for the made up crime of "blasphemy." If you believe "we have to know the good to know the bad" why should you try to prevent the bad? If you believe suffering happens for some greater purpose then why should you try to relieve it? Wouldn't that be thwarting God's purposes? If God really did have everything under control why can't he get his own story straight?

"Why not ignore it? Let me be frank here. Because of Christo-fascists running amok in this country trying to cram their beliefs down my throat."

Absolutely, the prime example being the ID movement, and yes, our current imbecile president. We don't ignore it because we believe that people, especially children, deserve better than to be brainwashed to believe this ancient drivel is actually timeless wisdom.

Steve, I misunderstood you. I got the impression you didn't think the Bible could be authored by God if it reported suffering and atrocities, but now it sounds like what you mean is that God couldn't have authored it if it condones suffering and atrocities. Is that right?

Yep, that's about right, you claim that your God is loving and merciful yet he commands genocide, and condones punishing children, grandchildren and great grandchildren for the crimes of their fathers, Exodus 20:5. If I were to pick the most disgusting, inexcusable scripture out of the whole book that would have to be it. PLEASE, someone tell me how you justify that?

On a somewhat lighter note, here's a video that makes the same point I'm making here in a more humorous way. :) youtube.com/watch?v=-2bpc7LSRZc

Hey Steve,

A blog like this is really a poor place to engage in significant debate, but after skimming godvsbible.com, I will say this: this website shows a very poor grasp of understanding of what the Bible is and it posits arguments that a lot of our top minds would never admit to or hold. There is very little solid argument here, and a lot of strawmen that if you want to hold, go ahead but really it resembles little reality in my humble opinion. I notice too that this is yet another site that fall into the "if God were God he would be like X". It seems to me to be a most presumptous statement honestly. If God is God He will be what He is and He will communicate however He feels like in His soveriegnty. We can look at the world and make conclusions of God's attributes (power, majesty etc.) but when our criteria of God is that he should think and act just like me and fall under my ideals, then the argument becomes fallacious.

If you want to argue you have to understand our best reasons, and not the ones held by people who have not studied much.

Steve,

I'm impressed that your confidence in yourself is so strong that you react with incredulity when someone disagrees with your conclusions. (Or perhaps "impressed" is the wrong word for my reaction, since such overweening confidence is typically called "arrogant".)

I'm curious, have you tried calling in to the show? If you were to pick a particular example of an argument you find compelling and then discuss that on the air with Greg, it would probably be a more productive form of dialog.

"A blog like this is really a poor place to engage in significant debate"

Why not? If people here truly believe in reason then I'm interested in cutting through all the nonsense and opening people's eyes to what Christianity really is, a soul crushing dogma based on faith, not a soul saving truth based on reason. And if I'm wrong I want a to hear a reasonable argument, preferably backed up by some real evidence.

"If God is God He will be what He is and He will communicate however He feels like in His sovereignty."

Statements like these are so heart breaking, seriously, I feel sorry for anyone who feels this way. This is your justification of all the horrible things God has said and done in the Bible, isn't it? God is God, a celestial dictator with all the power of the universe and there's nothing we can do about it. This is a perfect example of the "soul crushing dogma" I referred to earlier.

Hey Steve,

What is at stake to me is that God be allowed to be sovereign and not my puppet. I follow the evidence Steve, not what I want, not what I hope is true. But again, if that website is the best you can do, I really have nothing more to say. A lot of the arguments are not all that new and certainly are not that worrisome to me honestly. I will give you that the slaughter by the Israelites of the Canaanites is troubling sometimes, but there are good answers out there. For one, look at Reasonablefaith.org and check out one of Criag's responses to this question.

But if you would like to have a direct problem I have with your proof site, one of my examples would be one of his examples that Christians use to explain God's mysteries. He says that we sometimes posit "God works in strange ways". Well some may do that but the authors understanding by what I or a lot of Christians mean by faith (faith in evidence not wishful thinking or having faith in faith) is not at all correct and again shows a strawman fallacy. Many more points could be made but that is just one. So if a website that blithely ignores our real arguments and simply puts up weak ones that do not even get their definitions correct, it seems to me this debate is a waste of time.

Steve, I relooked at your site that "destroys" God, Christianity, etc. and if this site is what you re hanging your hat on, I can only recommend that you start a study of what orthodox christianity teaches and not what was found on this website.

Steve, I understand that you probably are upset that your LDS upbringing turned out to be false, but please dont fall into the trap of believing that all "religion" is bad.

I looked over the site in more detail and the arguments for the things like Jesus's sacrifice being absurd and God "hates" sex is just completely ridiculous. This site is something that the uninformed person goes to to seek justification for their unbelief.

Let me make a wager, if I were to systematically go through the site and offer coherent arguments, would that make you become a believer in Christ? I say this hypothetically (so you can breath easy) because I have done things like this in the past and the person just goes to another site o makes some other silly statement about it being "my" interpretation.

My request to you is to (and I know it is hard) deprogram what you were taught by the Mormons and get some good books. Actually, since the web is your thing, go to www.bible.org and view their online video theology course. This will teach you some of the core Christian beliefs (and some of the differences).

I'll let you have the last word, but please consider visiting the site.

Hey Steve,

I made a couple of errors in my last post. The section in the website I am referring to is the "You Can Only Come to God Through Faith.” section. That is where he makes his comments about faith. He makes faith and reason exclusive and says that "Faith is an artificial mechanism, invented by organized religion not as a path to greater spiritual awareness but as a tool of control" which is not the reality for quite a few Christians these days. Again, he makes us something we are not and has Christianity saying something that it does not.

The only shrine in my house that is bigger than the one devoted to Koukl is the one devoted to J.P. But I have to question his tact on this particular subject. As I scan the present church my first thought wouldn't be "They're using too much Bible." I suppose this is why J.P. addressed the lecture to the believers present at the convention. Maybe next year he lecture on Sola Purpose Driven or Sola Personal Preference.

Steve,
why shouldn't God be seen as a tyrant to our culture and to your personal feelings? The Bible makes a claim that it is the word of God and that God defines good and evil that is contrary to your definition. On what grounds do you have a more authoritative description of the nature of good and evil? Is this just another burning in your bosom? Has it been wrong before?

Melinda,

First, I will say that I (mostly) agree with you that the part of the situation that you emphasized should not be controversial. That is, Moreland was absolutely correct to point out that the historic doctrine of "sola Scriptura" does not mean that the Bible is our sole authority or source of knowledge, but that it is the sole *infallible* authority, under which all other sources are subjected. That distinction is welcome, and needed in evangelical America. (For the last year, I've been hearing Reformed teachers discuss this distinction as, "Sola Scriptura does not mean Solo Scriptura.")


Perhaps some of the controversy is be coming from knee-jerk reactions. But not all of it. Some of the controversy comes from his expectation of extra-Scriptural revelation from God, which deserves more attention then you gave it. (You approvingly mentioned "words of knowledge" at the end of your post.) With that topic in mind, I'm surprised that you "didn't hear anything surprising or controversial". This is a major point of difference between continuationists and cessationists--i.e. it's part of the question of whether the NT revelatory spiritual gifts and gifts of attestational miracles are to be expected today.

Even if you yourself happen to agree with him entirely on that point, it is certainly controversial.


The relevant portion begins:
"The third and final area where over-commitment to the Bible is harming the church is in the rejection of guidance, revelation, and so forth from God through impressions, dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom."

The question of whether there is on-going extra-Scriptural revelation is not small. (Saying that you do not believe it is on authoritative par with Scripture, as Dr. Moreland's did, does not end the discussion. I am still unable to wrap my mind around the idea of guiding revelation that is not wholly authoritative, or is so subjectively recognized.) And I would expect you in particular to disagree with Dr. Moreland when he says we should expect guidance from "impressions"--something that Greg's material on decision-making discusses at length.

Oh dear. I need to proof-read more. I said, "Perhaps some of the controversy __is be__ coming from knee-jerk reactions." That should just be "is".

Not that I want to push Steve out of the way, but the original posting I think is being neglected.

Steve, maybe just one question: What parts of the Bible can you agree with? Take it book by book and see if you can accept any of it as holding to or representing an acceptable idea of God.

Now, back to Dr. Moreland's latest work.

What kind of examples might any of you have fitting of two suggestions in section for of the paper?

What is the relationship between scripture and tradition? Is there anywhere that Evangelicals are getting scripture and tradition confused?

"Steve, I understand that you probably are upset that your LDS upbringing turned out to be false, but please don't fall into the trap of believing that all "religion" is bad."

It's not because it turned out to be false (though it certainly is), it's because it turned out to be unprovable because of a lack of evidence. We demand evidence in every aspect of our lives; work, school, relationships, law, science. But religion is somehow exempt from this requirement.

"What parts of the Bible can you agree with?"

Mostly what Jesus himself said. It's a shame his words make up such a small portion of the book.

"why shouldn't God be seen as a tyrant to our culture and to your personal feelings? The Bible makes a claim that it is the word of God and that God defines good and evil that is contrary to your definition. On what grounds do you have a more authoritative description of the nature of good and evil?"

Again, this is a good example of how religion is soul crushing, it is downright depressing for me to hear this sincerely held belief uttered by another human being. All I can do is urge you to listen to yourself and seriously consider what you are saying. So, God is a tyrant? He has no regard for our culture or personal feelings? He is the ultimate authority, you don't have a say? If so, what makes him any different from Hitler or Stalin? Do you listen to him because you love him or because you fear his magical powers that can send you to hell? Does might make right?

""Faith is an artificial mechanism, invented by organized religion not as a path to greater spiritual awareness but as a tool of control" which is not the reality for quite a few Christians these days. Again, he makes us something we are not and has Christianity saying something that it does not."

This is why I keep bringing up the distinction between faith and reason. The only thing that's different about Christians "these days" is that they no longer use the word "faith" with the same enthusiasm they once did because of the importance our culture places on evidence. You still rely on faith just as much as you always have, you're just in denial or too embarrassed to admit it.

Moreland's work kind of parallels my master's work right now. I think there is something to be said for it, though I would like to read a more thorough work that is a bit heftier than just this small essay. Just like almost anything in life, drifting towards the extreme is dangerous!

Brad

My question regarding this issue is how we can know whether things that we learn from outside of scripture are reliable if scripture doesn't teach them. For example, Dr. Moreland spoke of two men who have worked for years in the area of exorcisms and have learned things about the demonic realm not mentioned in scripture. How can we know whether that is true without just taking their words for it? I should add that I think this example (the demonic) is slightly different from a scientific, historical, or philosophical example (which should be more easily verifiable) because so few people can verify if these two men are correct, since so few Christians have as extensive experience in this area. I don't mean to pick on these two men exclusively because many other examples could be given.

Thanks.

What side of the spectrum is JP on, the conservative or more liberal side of philosophy?

Steve
I think many people will disengage from you because your inquiry does not look like an attempt at honestly trying to find answers. Rather, your attack and manner indicate a person entirely disinterested in learning, only voicing your opinion. Its hard to tell from a blog (the inherent weakness of blogs) but you do not strike me as a careful thinker on this subject.

The blogging community needs to discern between genuine search for answers and dialog, and the self indulgence of monologue attended with a level of brutality. The latter should be spurned, and none should yield the floor nor give legitimacy to the latter's complaint.

"The blogging community needs to discern between genuine search for answers and dialog, and the self indulgence of monologue attended with a level of brutality."

What I'm doing is a genuine search for answers, strait answers, no nonsense. I want to encourage a degree of intellectual honesty. You demand evidence in every other aspect of your life, evidence is essential in a court of law, evidence is essential in a science lab, but all that is required of religious claims is faith. I'm simply asking you to concede that point or tell me why I'm wrong.

By the way, I'm also still waiting for a strait answer to Exodus 20:5.

Are you the same steve that made this comment?:

Most of the founding fathers were Deist, not Christian. They relied on their reason, not the "wisdom" of the Bible, thank God.

godvsthebible.com/chapter11.htm


Though you later did admit after being given evidence to the contrary, no nonsense, you began with a false statement that the God vs the bible or some other "anti" religious site told you. I, and others have a hard time taking you at face value in light of the facts being on the front page of str's site in various documents, AND TWO podcasts.

As I said before (and I apologize for breaking my last word promise), dont throw all of religion out the window just because the one that you were brought up on was wrong.

Personally, I am an adult convert to Christianity. My conversion was based on the FACTS and evidences of the resurrection of Christ.

I have read the arguments against the resurrection and they dont satisfactorily discount the evidence for the resurrection. that is the CORE of Christianity, the FACT of the resurrection. Christianity lives and dies by this fact. Paul said if it didnt happen, we, the believers, should be pitied. I guess that I have to believe that the 11 of the 12 apostles that died painful deaths didnt do it with the knowledge that it was a lie. I guess that I have to believe that the evidence in the NT and extra biblical sources are accurate. I believe these things based on some, in my mind, very good evidence.

I've read the dawkins, hitchens, Jesus Seminar stuff and they either distort the position completely, or find some little nuance and try to exploit it.

Like I said before, please go to www.bible.org and watch/listen to the FREE online stuff that walks through Orthodox Christian beliefs. These guys will give you a solid foundation, warts and all, of the Christian position. Granted, there will be some disagreements on things, however, all in all, it will be on par.

Here is the link that drops you right into the action. Pick the into to theology and enjoy.

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=3119

I must say that the site offered by Steve has got to be one of the worst attempts at attacking the Bible I have ever seen. I understand the inclination to be a skeptic, but that site has got to be an insult to most skeptics.

Steve, I don’t mean to gang up on you, but you are not being fair to your skills of reason by subjecting them to such elementary attacks on the Bible, which all have quite reasonable explanations.

For instance, to address your concern over Exodus 20:5, please consider first the word “jealous” in the verse. Here is an explanation:

"The principal OT term rendered as jealousy in the English Bible is qina from the verb qanna, root meaning ‘become dark red’ (Nu. 5:14; Pr. 6:34; Ezk. 16:42; etc.). The normal LXX translation of qina and its cognates is zeloo or the cognate parazeloo (Dt. 32:21; cf. Rom. 10:19), and these are the principal terms used in the NT (Acts 7:9; Rom. 11:11; 1 Cor. 10:22; 13:4). Both Heb. and Gk. words refer to an exclusive single-mindedness of emotion which may be morally blameworthy or praiseworthy depending on whether the object of the jealousy is the self or some cause beyond the self. In the former case the result is envy, or hatred of others (Gn. 30:1; Pr. 3:31; Ezk. 31:9), which for the NT is the antithesis of love and hence the enemy of true Christian fellowship (1 Cor. 13:4; 2 Cor. 12:20; Jas. 3:14). The Bible however also represents the other possibility, of a ‘divine jealousy’ (2 Cor. 11:2), a consuming single-minded pursuit of a good end (1 Ki. 19:10; Ex. 20:5; 1 Cor. 12:31). This positive usage is frequently associated with the marriage relationship where a jealousy for the exclusiveness of the relationship is the necessary condition of its permanence (Nu. 5:11ff.; Ezk. 16:38; 2 Cor. 11:2). [New Bible Dictionary, s.v. "Jealousy"]

Source: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/madgod.html

What you have to understand is that many of the words do not carry the exact connotation in our present day understanding. In some cases, they are radically different. I would argue, as indicated by the above, that in using the more accurate definition of jealousy for this passage, you completely change the meaning of the entire verse that you so hate. I am quite certain that it will not change your view, but if you approach this with honesty, you would have to admit that the verse means something truly different once you understand the original meaning.

Croconilly, you must've missed my original comment on exodus 20:5, it's the latter part of the scripture that I have a problem with. It says children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are to be punished for the sins of their father.

Although no one has bothered to explain how punishing Children is justified, I can imagine the kind of twisted logic you might use. The same twisted logic that says that this life nothing but a punishment for Adam disobeying God. To you we are all Children being punished for our ancestor's mistake. How grim.

Steve,

Your objections are not new. Have you ever interacted with the answers given by Christian scholars over the last 2000 years on this topic? Here's one from Calvin:

"“[W]hen God declares that He will cast back the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of the children, He does not mean that He will take vengeance on poor wretches who have never deserved anything of the sort; but that He is at liberty to punish the crimes of the fathers upon their children and descendants, with the proviso that they too may be justly punished, as being imitators of their fathers."

-Harmony of the Law, Vol. 2, “Exposition of the 2nd Commandment”

Another point made by many others before me: "those who hate Me" can apply to the children as well as to the fathers.

This view - that ‘poqed 'avon abot 'al banim’ [visits the iniquities of fathers on sons] applies only to children who continue the sinful ways of their father - seems to be supported by Jeremiah 32:18-19, in which the prophet declares God's principle of individual accountability immediately after citing how God rewards and punishes cross-generationally.

Here's another comment in the off-topic thread of Steve's objections.

My apologies if this has already been raised--I'm not sure if Steve mentioned Ex. 20:5 for the first time in this post, or if he's continuing something he raised in a thread attached to another post.

Steve, we might be more likely to take you to be a serious, honest seeker of answers if you put a *little* more effort into familiarizing yourself with us. You're at the STR blog. You're not at a discussion forum for an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church. You can assume that the people commenting here tend to take the same perspectives taught by Greg and the various STR resources. If you raise an objection, it *might* profit you to see if the issue is addressed in the easy-to-access articles on this site.

So, you might try reading the article Greg devoted discussing to Exodus 20:5.
http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6157

Another area in which you could educate yourself is views of what "faith" means. You're assuming that "faith" mean "blind leap". Many people do think that way, but it is not "the Christian view". Greg has discussed the question in these two articles:
http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5496
http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5244

And I myself posted a couple comments on Slashdot arguing that in Biblical language, faith does *not* mean "blind faith". (That is, I argue that the Bible does not call us to faith without evidence or reasons.) This link will show you both posts.
http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=340087&cid=21124409

"Absolutely, the prime example being the ID movement, and yes, our current imbecile president. We don't ignore it because we believe that people, especially children, deserve better than to be brainwashed to believe this ancient drivel is actually timeless wisdom."

You aren't making much sense here.

You use the phrase "ancient drivel" much like you used the term "ancient dogma" in another thread on this site so I assume that the age of a particular body of work or world view enters into the value that you assign to that work or view. In this particular case you reject 'ancient' for something more recent? So those who hold to the 'ancient' are the fuddy-duddys?

What is this brainwashing and where does it occur? There is no Bible taught in publicly funded schools of which I am aware, but you undoubtedly have specific examples. The Koran is taught in a public school in Brooklyn, NY (opened this past fall), so is that brainwashing or something else?

Finally, what bearing does your opinion of the sitting President have to do with the accuracy/inaccuracy of the Bible? Or do you quote from the Bible because you dislike the President?

Wow, that link you posted Tim doesn't help at all. Apparently God doesn't just punish the innocent children of blasphemous fathers, he also punishes thousands of innocent people for living in an evil nation. This doesn't sound like the benevolent and just God I hear so much about, it sounds much more like we are nothing but sinners in the hands of an very angry, vindictive, unforgiving god.

You say, "Apparently God doesn't just punish the innocent children of blasphemous fathers".

Shall I take this as a demonstration of your lack of interest in honestly dealing with people? Or shall I be charitable, and assume you only skimmed the article, missing the part where Greg denies that?

"The way the chapter starts is, “You have a saying, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Do you see the play on words here? The fathers do it, but the children get the result. God says to quit saying that thing because I’m not going to punish the kids for what the parents do wrong."

Now, if you think that what follows that portion of Greg's article contradicts this, you're free to try to argue that it's inconsistent, but you're not free to ignore and mischaracterize what the article says.


You say, "he also punishes thousands of innocent people for living in an evil nation."

No, God does not punish children for what their fathers did, and He does not decide to punish an innocent individual for living in an evil nation. Yes, innocent individuals *may* (see below) sometimes suffer with their evil nation when that nation faces the consequences of its actions. A good man living in Germany may have suffered from some measure of economic hardship after WWII, even if he had tried to save Jews from the Holocaust. Living in that country meant that things that happened to that country happened to him. Yes, he may have suffered in some ways; that does *not* mean the Allies were seeking to punish that man when they required reparations. In that way, it is not true that God decides to punish innocent people for living in an evil nation.


Now, what was left out of Greg's article was a discussion of how God *would* deal with the faithful remnant in Israel. There was always a faithful remnant of people whom God preserved. Take Ezek. 11:16-20, during the Babylonian exile.
http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=ezek%2011%3A16-20

They were sent into exile, but God was a sanctuary to them in those lands. What the "national judgment" passages don't discuss is how God does deal with individuals who were *not* guilty of the national crime--what He might do to preserve or bless them individually, and what provision He makes for their future.

Steve said: "he also punishes thousands of innocent people for living in an evil nation".

It depends on what you mean by innocent. I think its appropriate to say that Christians believe there are no innocent people before God, except one. Do you agree or know of someone else? Do you know that one?

Who makes the rules in this universe?

Steve said: "we are nothing but sinners in the hands of an very angry, vindictive, unforgiving god."

Then it seems you have never heard of Jesus Christ!

Steve,

I understood completely your objection to Exodus 20:5. My point is the same nonetheless. You are isolating that portion of the verse to suit the outcome you want – the outcome that makes it easier for you to hold so begrudgingly to your preconceived ideals. As with everything in life, words are meaningless if we do not study them in context. So with respect, I urge you to consider the whole message in light of a better understanding of the word “jealousy” that I provided.

If you read it in conjunction with the meaning of “a consuming single-minded pursuit of a good end,” which is “associated with the marriage relationship where a jealousy for the exclusiveness of the relationship is the necessary condition of its permanence,” then the part of the verse that you find so troubling is something completely different than you are holding onto. It would mean that God is referring to a relationship with us and our generations to come. One in which we are either a willing participant or in opposition to God himself.

In the end Steve, the knowledge is at your finger tips if you are willing to look at it honestly and study the passages in the context of the surrounding material, the overall message of redemption, and the cultural of the time. Can you say you are doing that? Or, are you using a modern mindset and understanding of the terms to judge the scripture? The irony here is that while we are supposedly off topic for this thread, we are actually on topic. Sola Scriptura has to go beyond just a modern reading of the Bible.

>>it sounds much more like we are nothing but sinners in the hands of an very angry, vindictive, unforgiving god.

A just, good God punishes the guilty. A just, good God is angry at the guilty. That is to be expected and even desired. Nobody would want an unjust God to be in charge of the universe. What is unexpected is that a just God would be merciful to those who don't deserve it and forgive--and yet, that's what God has done for us. A "vindictive" God would never do this:

"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."

Steve,

I find Exodus 12 to be even more revolting for my taste.

That is where Yahweh (the thing these people here at STR call "God" but don't even think of the possibility that these two words denote different entities...both literary fictions)...kills...eh hem...targets...innocent children.

And he doesn't use the Israelite army as his arm, but does it himself...well...the angel of the lord does it...but aren't we splitting hairs here donny?

Anyway...just thought I would augment your point.

These people here cannot give you a history of the concept of "God" and how that term evolved. They just think they know.

They have not even inspected the logic of their own epistemology. They mention the "fact" of the resurrection...which is nothing more than a "disputed fact"...which when I last checked is not yet a "fact". Their epistemology is inductive. These people here can't even tell you what that means.

As usual...the christians are second rate scholars. Dogmaticians.

They are to be pitied. They are devoted to a fact...a "disputed fact". They are committed to a "BIG IF". They say "What IF it really did happen"?

That's a pretty big IF, and that's all it is.

They think IF it happened then that explains all the tinglings they feel when they closer their eyes and talk to themselves.

They think IF it happened then they know what happens when they die. They think ONLY if it happened is everything going to be OK when they die...that everything is going to be allright.

They need the myth of the fact to assuage their fear of the future.

It is our job as good tolerant americans to simply tolerate them.

Nobody enters or exits Christianity by argument. That renders STR useless for evangelism. It is a political enterprise for people already in the party.

Anyway...I'll be watching...Give em' heck Steve!

Dr. Moreland thinks he has a winner with his "epistemology".

He's willing to bet his whole way of life on his big word.

He's willing to bet his whole religion on a reasonable doubt standard and some old extant "testimonies" that couldn't even pass the bar as eyewitness testimony in a court of law.

They base their whole "fact of the resurection" on these "eyewittness testimonies".

They think they are scientists...scientists of histories. But they are lawyers...that is why they can be so subjective (passionate) about their objectivity.

They are lawyers...not scientists...and don't forget it.

Given time...they will see their own epistemology defense is a loser and they will have to come up with some other way of justifying their spiritual (psychological) phenomena.

Tom,

Do you understand the term ad hominem?

I agree 110% on Tim's thoughts on the section about "impressions", "visions", and "words of knowledge" from JP's paper. My first thought upon reading that section was an image of Greg rolling his eyes (especially after having heard his talks on decision-making).

In having read some of the other blogs that are taken aback by Moreland's speech, it seems the big bone of contention (among the non knee-jerk ones) boils down to this: JP is essentially saying "Scripture is the final authority, but not the only authority on matters of God. So let's forget the Bible for a bit and focus on other areas." In other words, the "General Revelation" of creation can give you the exact same depth and level of knowledge about God as the "Special Revelation". The danger of this, is it leads to people contemplating their navel and thinking they're getting "in-tune" with God. Or (to demonstrate absurdity by being absurd) is the same as saying that one can learn about the Trinity or Substitutionary Atonement by staring at a petunia.

A few things I've read also seem to think that all of this is a move on Moreland's part to make Frank Beckwith's jump to Catholicism easier to swallow. I mean, if we can get just as good revelation from other sources, why isn't what the Pope says ex cathedra authoritative? Especially if what he's saying isn't mentioned DIRECTLY in the Bible. Even if it IS, as long as it's not in "total" contradiction, then the Pope would be an authoritative source. The section in the paper about exoricsts would just be the icing on that cake.

Just some thoughts. :)

"He's willing to bet his whole way of life on his big word.

He's willing to bet his whole religion on a reasonable doubt standard and some old extant "testimonies" that couldn't even pass the bar as eyewitness testimony in a court of law."

First question, if he is wrong, what does he lose - do Guido and Bruno show up and break his legs?

Second question, what bearing does the age of the testimony have?

Andy,

Careful, I think you took your analysis places that JP's paper won't allow.

You said,
"So let's forget the Bible for a bit and focus on other areas."

I don't see where he implied that in the least. He's advocating *including* areas he believes are valid but are being currently ignored--i.e., increase something that's being neglected. That doesn't mean *focusing* on those areas, particularly not to the neglect of Scripture.

In other words, while we must exercise great discernment in whether to include JP's suggested tools in our epistemological toolkit, that doesn't mean he's suggesting we set Scripture to the side in any measure. He said, "One could never be too committed to loving, obeying and promoting Holy Scripture." (Even if we conclude that his view of the need for extra-Scriptural revelation denies the sufficiency of Scripture, that doesn't mean he wants to forget about Scripture.)

You also said,
"In other words, the "General Revelation" of creation can give you the exact same depth and level of knowledge about God as the "Special Revelation"."

But when JP said that God is constantly communicating new information to his people, he specified, "Not revelation of theology and ethics..." So he doesn't say we can get the same depth and level of knowledge about God from as from Special Revelation. He says we can get *some* information that may be useful, but not theology and ethics.


I don't want to defend his conclusions, but I do want to be sure that we're accurately identifying his claims.

William...

Believe it or not there are arguments buried in those pithy statements I made that your untrained eye unwittingly skimmed right over.

Of course I understand ad hominem...do you think I'm stupid or something?

ZZX375...

What does Moreland lose if he's wrong? His authority.

And the "age" of the testimony doesn't matter. What matters is that you think it counts as "eyewitness testimony" when there is no court in the land that would accept such a document as "eyewitness testimony".

What standard do you apply for deciding whether your faith is justified? Here at STR...it is the same standard as a court of law...the "reasonable doubt" standard...which means if reasonable doubt can be reached then you must find against the claim that your "faith" is "true".

So if we're going to follow the rules of evidence in a court of law then how can you claim that these documents are eyewittness testimonies? You cannot.

Go ahead...find the oldest scrap of the NT and try to introduce the "evidence" as "eyewittness testimony". You can imagine the first question on cross-examination. "How do I know that this document is eyewittness testimony?" You see the problem.

That in itself should be reasonable doubt...but I know you won't be so easily persuaded to give up your whole paradigm.

Think of the social consequences if you give up your paradigm. Think of the cognitive dissonance. Think of the anxiety of being left without a religion...without a smartypants explanation for everything? What would you be?

You would have to do good for goodness sake. Your only reward would be your sense of satisfaction, not a promise of a continued existence. You couldn't go on any more campaigns and show off your knowledge. Nobody would look up to you as a "spiritual leader". Could you live without knowing where we came from and where we are going? I bet you could. I bet you would still discover your talents and pursue your dreams.

You would be...in a word...
authentic.

Tom,

>>there is no court in the land that would accept such a document as "eyewitness testimony"...

I think you misunderstand what we mean by the legal/historical validity of, say, Matthew and John as eyewitness testimonies. Read this to find out.

http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6187

>>without a smartypants explanation for everything?

What are you talking about? We could just adopt yours :)

So you admit they would not count as "evidence" in a court of law.

My explanations won't tell you how to live your life. You would see the many different worlds around you as the work of a prime mover that manifests itself in the individuals, roles, and institutions of each and every culture promulgating them through the activities of individuals who innovate, and who discover their identities by discovering what energizes them...the prime mover having run its course.

St. Acquinas called that prime mover "God".

Hegel added the insight that it works through cultures and institutions to produce individuals.

But I don't expect you to know any of this as long as you think Christian apologetics is the best form of thinking.

According to my smartypants explanation of everything you already have adopted view...you just don't know it.

Your christian world is fine as long as it does not lead to violence. By your track record...we cannot trust christians (or monotheists in general) to keep the peace in global affairs. All we can do is hope for an end to monotheism and its fictional, genocidal god.

But as far as an interpretation of psychological phenomena Christianity does allright as a kind of folk-psychology. The story of Jesus explains something very deep about us. We do not like to admit we are wrong. It teaches that sin is essentially betrayal and selfishness...personified by the deity satan...and we will do anything other than admit we are wrong and humble ourselves in the face of our own guilt...that we would rather go to the grave than admit our guilt and take anyone else with us...just like Satan still tries to take everyone down with him even though he knows he's goin down. The last thing we want to do is admit we are wrong. And there are times when people do "own up" to their wrongdoings and experience a catharsis and epiphany, and possibly find a new determination to live a new way.

These are the psychological forces of sin and guilt...Christianity is a very profound myth...you guys just think that it has to be historical to be true...and that it is part of a "plan of salvation" that explains the afterlife...two things you get wrong.

The afterlife is ultimately and necessarily mysterious. Does that scare you? Does that change anything for you? Don't you still have to go to work, earn a paycheck, support a family, be good to your neighbors? I do. I can wait to find out what happens after that.

There is the idea that this world has ramifications for the next world. Who knows? But that just means that "what you do in this world matters". I could have told you that. On this we agree

>>So you admit they would not count as "evidence" in a court of law.

No, I'm saying you're missing and/or misapplying our point. Go read that article.

>>According to my smartypants explanation of everything you already have adopted view...you just don't know it.

???

>>By your track record...we cannot trust christians (or monotheists in general) to keep the peace in global affairs.

Yes...the atheistic track record of the 20th century is so much better.

Oh Tom, I'd say that it is good to have you back, but we both agree lying is wrong. Thing is, I know how I would ground that, but I'm not sure how you would.

>>But that just means that "what you do in this world matters".

For what? You'll be gone soon, and the cold, indifferent universe will move on as if nothing happened.

I like the atheist track record of Pol Pot, Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Krushchev, and Brezhnev.

Yes Aaron, great, I'm glad we've got this far…

I'm glad we finally made the legal evidence analogy.

Now the most important point, the point the article fails to address, which is stunning since you Historicist Christians can ignore it, or don't see it…is…the printed material claiming to be from Matthew and John cannot be used as their testimonies.

The whole purpose of a courtroom is to make them present…actually put them on the stand…and hear their testimonies "first hand".

Now maybe we could obtain a sworn deposition, but that would have to be obtained by an officer of the court, and include their signature.

It would be like saying I gave my diary to a publisher, and a couple hundred years later the rights were picked up by another publisher, and then another and another, hundreds of years go by, its translated into a different language, while only the publishers are allowed to read it, then they finally get around to mass producing it, then suddenly a pristine copy shows up in our courtroom and I'm supposed to think that this comes directly from Matthew?

I think you see the point. By the rules of evidence it cannot be allowed to be used in the trial.

You might then ask…"Well then who produced this book?" "Why is it to be trusted?" And the answer to that is a long story involving the quest for supremecy of the Roman Catholic Church. (They would be "the publishers" in our analogy).

So we have to take a look at the other "evidence" we have for the historical period c.30 AD - c.400 AD. It might be useful to start earlier than that, but let's just focus on the period after Jesus "departed" from earth.

Unfortunately the Catholics tried to destroy it all...which should raise suspicion.

What we find using your own rules of evidence (where our only evidence is in the form of written source documents) is that the dying god-man narrative is common to many religious groups or sects. In fact it was prevalent around the whole Meditteranean, Egypt, Palestine, Greece, Rome.

Without the writings of Paul, the narrative of Jesus could not be understood, it takes Paul's theology of Christ to make sense of the story of the death of Jesus and how it is that Jesus is "passed on" as a "spirit" to others and to the next generation of followers. But we also find that there were many different followers of Paul.

Paul's theology of Christ was not necessarily Historicist. There were other ways of understanding it.

We find that Gnostic followers of Paul, such as Valentinius and Marcion, manage to make sense of "Christ" without requiring the historical biography of a palestinian Jew. These groups were systematically destroyed by the Roman Catholics.

There is still a sense that Gnosticism has survived. You get it in the fundamentalist Christian churches, protestants mostly, who emphasize a "born again experience". This would be equivalent to a "gnosis". The "born again experience" is a moment where we are "transformed"…just as Paul described. It is the moment where a "spirit" enters into you. Paul says the "secret of the mysteries" (as in the other gnostic mystery groups) is "Christ in you" (Col 1:26).

In that moment a certain kind of spirit enters into you. Now what is that spirit? C'mon, a good Christian, someone who "knows", ought to be able to answer that.

That the Catholics killed for it is enough to raise reasonable doubt, a motive, a political motive, for the creation and transmission of the Bible. As Constantine said..."By this conquer".

That they systematically destroyed all competing documents is enough to raise "reasonable doubt". So then what happens to your "reasonable faith", your "historicist faith" that all depends on "eyewittness testimony". Do you "trust" this "record" anyway? Do you insist it is "true"? You can see how your insistence can be seen as bothersome (at best).

How could arguing over history transmit the spirit of transformation in the first place? Could it be that this mode of rational reflection we enter in order to hypothesize over written histories is the wrong mode to be in to "catch the spirit"? What does all this thinking have to do with it in the first place? Shouldn't it be possible that the dumbest of christians can understand Jesus, perhaps better than we thinkers, because they have actually experienced Jesus for themselves, in a moment of transformation in their lives, that is, in their "existence", in a web of passions and concerns called "real life" or "the real world"?

How do we understand these tranformations? Certainly not through rational reflection and "thinking about them".

Rational reflection posits the concept of transformation in our minds, but it cannot actually cause a transformation. Another way to put this is "reason cannot produce a transformation" or "reason cannot motivate us". As Hume said..."Reason is a slave of the passions." Something else motivates us.

Rationality has its own motivation, and its own specific purpose, but it is a turn inward and takes us out of the "real world" leaving us in an ideal realm of mental constructs. You can see how this form of Christianity is amenable to Platonism and how St. Augustine was able to Platonize the whole thing.

It is impossible to understand transformations this way. They only way to understand it is to experience it.

Corintians 1:22. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23. but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,

It is not the "wisdom of the greeks" who were rationalists like Plato who "reasoned" their way to an understanding of things. The only way to know it is to have experienced it yourself.


The emphasis on the experience in the "real world" makes this kind of christianity "existentialists" because it "corresponds" to the "reality" of the individual's life.

It also shows the "thinking man's religion" that is, your brand of Historicist Christianity, is a different animal.

It also means that many Christians who think they are Christians are not Christians. You have to have a certain kind of spirit in you that determines your actions. If you have that you have "faith". Now what is that spirit?

Certainly you "know", certainly you can say something about the content of christian transformation? What did they tell you in Sunday school it was? What is supposed to happen when you are "born again"?

I'll let you answer that and demonstrate your understanding of this basic phenomena.

What if the document shows internal signs, inconsistencies, that show it is not the work of a divine, loving father, but a compiled, edited, book used to take over the world. What is the one thing you would ask this divine, loving father? What is the one thing left unexplained by the editors of the book?

Ans. Why did Jesus leave?

Matthew's Jesus never says! What is going on here? John's Jesus says why he has to leave but its not a very good answer, that is it does not actually require Jesus' departure. Only later, once compiled and edited, do we get an explanation for Jesus' departure that Jesus never utters himself!

What's this? God left without actually explaining why he was leaving, and what he had to do that was so important that it necessitated his departure. We could use the help down here. Are these the action of a loving god? It's the biggest daddy-went-to-the-drugstore-and-never-came-back ever!

But you guys keep insisting that this Jesus is coming back. Well…keep waiting. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to try to live good productive lives.

You might ask…"when did Christianity get so historicist anyway?"

Well the obsessively record keeping Latins were already moving in that direction, but I would say in 19th century europe. (American historicism at that time appeared in the form of prophecy-predicting.)

But in Europe, the authority of "the church" had already been challenged by an educated elite who were "scientistic". Now two things vied for your allegiances…"Science", with its mode of clear rational thinking and project of an unbiased search for truth, and "Religion".

If you can't beat em join em. So "religion" just became a "science"…it adopted its methodology, its "epistemology" (to use Moreland's terms).

Religion could be treated like a science by treating all the source documents as bits of data, just like the untainted, empirical data of natural science.

The educated elites who were most familiar with the source texts, having studied them all their lives, where all looked to for answers, for reassurances. These educated elites were known as "Liberal Christians".

You have one of them here. His name is Greg Koukhl, or Moreland, or whoever you happen to follow.

They are also a product of the enlightenment and that rationalist thinking program that insisted rational reflection is necessary for, and the best possible method for obtaining, "knowledge" of anything.

America is a little behind the times…but catching up.

Science and religion are just in two different businesses, therefore they do not conflict.

Science only registers material components. It operates in a theoretical world, a mental ideal world of thinking, necessary for its hypothesis formation, then it turns to the natural world or the physical world to test its hypotheses.

Religion has to do with our passions and concerns in the "real world", in the lives of the individuals who must interact with each other. It is concerned with pscyhological forces.

Science would describe an emotion as a "chemical reaction". But in the "real world" we just call it "anger" or "fear" or whatever…a totally different vocabulary that "corresponds" to a different "reality".

I wouldn't listen to a Scientist tell me anything about how I should live my life any more than I would listen to an rock star tell me who I should vote for.

It is only when you take Science too far, and become what we call "scientistic", that you think Science has anything to say about how you should live your life. That is making Science into a religion. (like philosophical naturalism) and you might think that the universe rolls on and that makes your life meaningless and therefore your actions "inconsequential".

Death is mysterious. But that does not mean that your actions are inconsequential or that you don't know where to find any meaning in this life.

>>Oh Tom, I'd say that it is good to have you back, but we both agree lying is wrong. Thing is, I know how I would ground that, but I'm not sure how you would.


Aah…now Aaron…keep it winsome or else I might start to think you have not been transformed into a loving person and don't have "Christ in You" and do now know Jesus or understand Chritianity…and have just memorized the arguments for political purposes. You might still be a good Embassador, an effective campaign advisor, for STR…but. See the difference? So have you been transformed? Do you have "Christ in you". How might I tell?

By the way you act of course.

That's one thing about STR's famous definition of faith as knowledge resulting in action. It does not specify what the action is.

See...you Historicist Christians are bad scholars AND bad lawyers.

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