« Can Homosexuals Change Their Orientation? | Main | Links Mentioned on the Show »

March 30, 2012

Comments

May I ask a couple of questions, for clarity's sake?

Melinda stated...

The practice of slavery in Biblical times - the practice it is addressing - is quite different from slavery in the U.S.

As I see it, there are at least two/three "types" of slavery dealt with in the Bible.

1. There is something in the Bible that might be called "bond servant" or "indentured servant." This is in the case of someone getting so deeply in debt or running so out of resources that they have to sell themselves (or their children) into slavery.

1a. If this "debt servant" was Hebrew, then in Hebrew law he/she had to be released after seven years. I don't believe this was true for non-Hebrew servants, although I'd have to look that up.

1b. Although not the same as slavery in the US south, it is still a profound moral evil against the poor - can you imagine being SO starving, SO destitute and desperate that you'd sell your own children this way?

2. There are also the "captured servants" of defeated foreign nations. I would posit that this form of slavery was not that different than US slavery. These people/families had no choice about the slavery. Israel swept in, killed off the men and enslaved the remainder of people, at least sometimes.

2a. Included in this group were the young women/virgins of conquered nations who were brought back to Israel after their families had been killed and, after giving them a month to mourn and shaving their heads and clipping their fingernails, were made to be wives. That certainly sounds like a sort of (especially ugly) slavery to me - possession (and forced marriage!) against their will.

3. While it may be debatable to call it slavery, women and children were generally, in ancient cultures, more like chattel or possessions under the authority of the father or older brothers of a household in ancient cultures, including Israel. Women were literally given (or sold) into marriage in the Bible in ancient Israel (and other cultures).

Those are the two/three types of slavery that I see existing in the Bible. Would we agree on that? (Would you like biblical references for my points, or are you familiar with what I'm speaking of?)

Also, I'm curious: Are at least some of the commenters here part of the "STR" team or are they just passersby, like me?

I'm not sure if I've ever noticed any responses from the actual authors of the posts...

Like I’ve said before, the following may not technically constitute acquiring slaves by kidnapping, but it is clearly a close moral cousin to it:

When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. (Deut 20:10-12)

And then there’s the following passage, which indicates that Israelite law was far more permissive of the severe treatment of foreigners as slaves than of fellow Israelites:

‘If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers. For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God. As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another. (Leviticus 25:39-46)

Instead of conjuring up ever more creative ways to defend the moral failures of the ancient Israelites, why not just drop inerrancy and embrace a view according to which God is genuinely and recognizably good?

To even ask the question, "Why doesn't the Bible speak on slavery?" is to display a gross level of ignorance as to the very purpose and substance of the Bible itself: God's plan for the recovery of men from the worst and most cruel form of slavery of all - sin. From cover to cover the Bible is about the end of slavery. Jesus died to end slavery.

Even where the Bible is uniformly acknowledged to speak against a great moral evil,that evil has not ended just because the Bible spoke. Take murder for instance. That does not point to a deficiency in the Bible but the extreme bondage of men to the slavery we call sin.

Any discussion on the issue of slavery that doesn't first set the overall context of "recovery from the greatest form of slavery, sin" has already missed the mark and allowed the discussion to become focused on the minor rather than the major and will go down a road that totally misses the point.

Dan,

Sometimes Amy writes and responds to posts, the rest of us pretty much just hang out. I half-suspect at least one of our regular "atheist" commenters is a ringer, too, but not from STR.

Mal,

Competing goods. It's the economy. You may posit the Bible to be in error, but your interlocutors may as easily say it is you who err. Come down to it, asked to choose between church (with whatever cultural, intellectual, and spiritual load that holds for them) and Malebranche, most people aren't going to choose Malebranche.

It is a red herring to describe this as an issue of loyalty to the Church vs. loyalty to Malebranche. Mal pointed out that one of the costs of an inerrantist view of inspiration is the need to read passages like those he quoted and explain why they are not as morally horrendous as they appear to be. Inevitably, doing so will take you away from a 'plain reading of the text', which is at cross-purposes to the very theory of inspiration you are attempting to defend, but that is another issue.

Mal's point is that the cost is heavy enough to warrant an honest exploration of alternative theories of inspiration. In this he is surely correct.

Here's an easy article on slavery citing Rodney Stark and Copan.

It won't affect Malebranche, of course. He's read this blog long enough, read the responses to his comments long enough, and seen all the answers often enough to know that he's not really asking questions or raising issues, but promoting himself.
http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/breakpoint-columns/entry/2/17244

Michael Glatze's experience of not being forced to reorientate.

Sorry, wrong thread for Glatz.
Note to self: close windows.

Arnauld,

My apologies, I should have been more clear. I was pointing out a difficulty people would have, not one that they should have. Plenty of beliefs which are good, bad, or indifferent are going to be intractable to Malebranche's style of reasoning, on the simple basis of tradition and authority.

As to defending a "plain reading of the text" as necessary to Scriptural inspiration? That I do not do. Martin Luther thought any barely-literate peasant was equal to the task of exegesis, but he saw within his own lifetime what happens when you hand uncritical, uneducated, and often unthoughtful people a book full of poetry, heroic biography, first-person allegories, cursing Psalms, etc., and tell them "This is the Word of God."

Erasmus, in my assessment, had the right of it.

"We are dealing with this: Would a stable mind depart from the opinion handed down by so many men famous for holiness and miracles, depart from the decisions of the Church, and commit our souls to the faith of someone like you who has sprung up just now with a few followers, although the leading men of your flock do not agree either with you or among themselves – indeed though you do not even agree with yourself, since in this same Assertion you say one thing in the beginning and something else later on, recanting what you said before."

He adds later:

"You stipulate that we should not ask for or accept anything but Holy Scripture, but you do it in such a way as to require that we permit you to be its sole interpreter, renouncing all others. Thus the victory will be yours if we allow you to be not the steward but the lord of Holy Scripture."

We don't jettison the doctrine of inspiration, oh no indeedy not (heck, as Erasmus points out elsewhere, some Christians accept a great deal more than just Scripture to be divinely inspired--not just Catholics, but Charismatics in many instances). But it does become an intractable monster if it is interpreted badly. One must ask, however, whose fault is that? God's? The writers? Why should I think Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc. to be less reliable than some objector, when all those men were saints and prophets, and the objector may simply be mistaken in his reading and preconceptions?

As Mortimer Adler makes pretty clear in "How to Read A Book", the gap between what the author knows and what the reader knows will create a chasm which the latter must struggle to overcome. But in doing so, he gains understanding--if he's willing to meet the text on its terms, rather than bending it to his.

""he's willing to meet the text on its terms, rather than bending it to his.""

:)

Or jettisoning it at the first sign of concern. "So much the worse for Scripture", says Malebranche.

First question has to be, how much does the audience know of ancient middle eastern culture and warfare?

Daron,

I don't mean any of this to be taking personal shots at Mal, mind you. But yes, if we jettison Scripture at the first sign of concern, then what are we left with? No church authority, no Scriptural authority... then what? It reduces us to a position of either Deism or "Me"ism, at the two possible poles, once you kick out the means of transmitting revelation.

Let's not forget why Paul said the Bereans were more noble. Not because they "thought it out for themselves" or "figured it made sense based on what they knew." They checked his words against the Torah, Tanakh, Talmud, and rabbinical commentaries thereof, not some alternate abstract source of knowledge, and certainly not their intuition.

Let's not forget why Paul said the Bereans were more noble. Not because they "thought it out for themselves" or "figured it made sense based on what they knew." They checked his words against the Torah, Tanakh, Talmud, and rabbinical commentaries thereof, not some alternate abstract source of knowledge, and certainly not their intuition.

I have no eyes with which to see but my own, and no mind with which to think but my own. The same is true of Paul, of course. John Locke said it well in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding:

I think it may not be amiss to take notice that, however faith be opposed to reason, faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind: which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason; and so cannot be opposite to it. He that believes without having any reason for believing, may be in love with his own fancies; but neither seeks truth as he ought, nor pays the obedience due to his Maker, who would have him use those discerning faculties he has given him, to keep him out of mistake and error. He that does not this to the best of his power, however he sometimes lights on truth, is in the right but by chance; and I know not whether the luckiness of the accident will excuse the irregularity of his proceeding. This at least is certain, that he must be accountable for whatever mistakes he runs into: whereas he that makes use of the light and faculties God has given him, and seeks sincerely to discover truth by those helps and abilities he has, may have this satisfaction in doing his duty as a rational creature, that, though he should miss truth, he will not miss the reward of it. For he governs his assent right, and places it as he should, who, in any case or matter whatsoever, believes or disbelieves according as reason directs him. He that doth otherwise, transgresses against his own light, and misuses those faculties which were given him to no other end, but to search and follow the clearer evidence and greater probability. (4.17.24)

But yes, if we jettison Scripture at the first sign of concern, then what are we left with? No church authority, no Scriptural authority... then what? It reduces us to a position of either Deism or "Me"ism, at the two possible poles, once you kick out the means of transmitting revelation.

Not knowing what to replace inerrancy with once you reject it is hardly a reason to continue affirming inerrancy in the face of mounting difficulties. A Mormon, presented with reason to think that the Book of Mormon is errant, may not know what to put in its place, but that is no good reason for him to continue affirming the inerrancy of the Book of Mormon. It just means that he might have to relinquish some of the confidence he has in some dogma, and permit himself to be uncertain about something he’d rather not be uncertain about.

God did not give the Mormon a brain even partly in order that he should find clever ways of defending the inerrancy of the Book of Mormon. Neither did he give us our brains even partly in order that we should find clever ways of defending the immoral behavior of the ancient Israelites in an effort to protect our own variety of inerrancy.

On a lighter (or rather, far more serious note), Go Big Blue!

Mal,

So, we get John Locke's opinion--Deism--and your opinion--Meism.

At the very least, my brain seems to be doing pretty well at predicting outcomes.

If it makes you feel any better, I did think it over and decide for myself that the Church and Scripture are inspired and have authority.

As to "Not knowing what to replace inerrancy with once you reject it is hardly a reason to continue affirming inerrancy in the face of mounting difficulties."

That's fine, but I don't see any "mounting difficulies" here. I'm unruffled by the Bible's teaching inasfar as what pre-Israelite Hebrew tribes should have done or not done with regard to their bondsmen.

I'm also unruffled that my car's license plate was probably printed by a felon in a pentitentiary, or that trash on the roadside is gathered up by chain gangs. Or even that my wealthier neighbors might bring over an au pair to tutor their kids in return for room and board. One of my acquaintances in college moonlighted as a dominatrix. I'd cite an issue with the sexual depravity involved, but men paid highly for the privelege of being "slaves".

You're taking an axiomatic, conservative stance--the assertion of a moral absolute, specifically against slavery. Then you try to use that stance to justify a liberal position--demolishing the authority of Scripture.

It doesn't seem too likely that anyone's going to use the Bible as justification to go out and engage in human trafficking, unless we get rid of that pesky inerrancy clause.

The only thing that really "mounts" any difficulty with inerrancy is left-leaning Christians and/or those outside the Church framing it as inflexible duncery. But that's more of an embarassment than a logical problem, and I can handle embarassment.

As to the least (most) serious issue, of course...

GOOOOOOOOO! C-A-T-S! CATS! CATS! CATS!

(Actually, as a clarification, I realize Locke professed heterodox beliefs, but not deism per se--he just ended up sprouting a bunch of deists in his wake. Ideas have consequnces, and all. Also, tabula rasa my foot. That guy must not have hung around many kids, because two year olds are living proof of original sin.)

I don't know much about Locke's religious beliefs, other than he seems to have been serious about the Bible, was not a Trinitarian, and endorsed in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding an invalid argument for the existence of God that Leibniz refuted in his New Essays on Human Understanding.

Mal,

Sounds about right. Thomas Jefferson also was pretty serious about the Bible and wasn't Trinitarian. That's why he sliced out all the parts that he didn't find rational, and wound up with a pretty small Bible.

CNN doing a fair story on something biblical? I'd probably faint from shock if it were so.

Besides, it's nearly Easter. Time for the media's annual Christianity bashing/debunking/trashing festival.

I wonder when they're going to do the same with Islam? Oh, yeah, never.

What Copan emphasizes:

One could voluntarilyenter into a contractual agreement (“sell” himself) to work in the household of another: “one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself” (Leviticus 25:47).

What Copan failed to emphasize:

That Israel was apparently permitted to acquire slaves against their will if the slaves were foreigners. For example,

When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her." (Dt. 21)

What Copan emphasizes:

Masters could hire servants “from year to year” and were not to “rule over … [them] ruthlessly” (Leviticus 25:46,53).

What Copan fails to emphasize:

That the law against ruling harshly over slaves was explicitly formulated as applying to fellow countrymen, and was not formulated to apply to foreign slaves.

What Copan emphasizes:

The Old Testament prohibited unavoidable lifelong servanthood — unless someone loved his master and wanted to attach himself to him (Exodus 21:5). Masters were to grant their servants release every seventh year with all debts forgiven (Leviticus 25:35–43).

What Copan fails to emphasize:

That yet again, the ban on lifelong slavery did not apply to foreign slaves. On the contrary, the Israelites were permitted to make foreigners slaves for life:

“‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly. (Lev 25:44-46)

What Copan emphasizes:

An Israelite servant’s guaranteed eventual release within 7 years was a control or regulation to prevent the abuse and institutionalizing of such positions.

What Copan fails to emphasize:

Again, this ignores the fact that the Israelites were not required to release foreign slaves every 7 years. Foreign slaves could be made slaves for life.

What Copan emphasizes:

On the other hand, servanthood existed in Israel precisely because poverty existed: no poverty, no servants in Israel. And if servants lived in Israel, this was voluntary (typically poverty-induced) — not forced.

What Copan fails to emphasize:

That Israel was permitted to acquire slaves by conquering and enslaving foreign cities.

They are your property.

Could we file away Malebranche's verses under the same category as provision for divorce? If Jesus said Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of the Israelites hearts, could slavery also fall under the same category?

Translation: We want to own them.

You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property

Jesse,

Sure! Let's file them like that.

I'm sure being someone's inherited property is a 'softer' version of something.

What do you propose and why?

RonH

Bennett...

Then you try to use that stance to justify a liberal position--demolishing the authority of Scripture.

This would be a false plea to emotion ("those danged liberals, wanting to demolish the authority of Scripture! What's wrong with them? They must truly hate God!") rather than a rational look at observable facts.

If a student of the Bible looks at the Bible and finds passages therein that are either not internally consistent or that just plain clash with ordinary logic and/or moral reasoning, that is not a sign of "wanting to demolish Scripture," but of intellectual honesty and trying to look at what's there for what it actually says, rather than wishing away inconsistencies.

I notice no one has answered my first questions directly, although Malebranche has acknowledged the same indirectly.

The Bible DOES allow for all sorts of slavery, including a slavery that was not that different than US (ie, slavery against one's will for life, becoming property of another). It also allows for forced marriages of kidnapped foreigners (although, in that case, if after a time, the kidnapped virgin whose family was killed off by Israelis, wishes to leave the marriage, the husband is to let her - which becomes a problem for the anti-divorce crowd...)

The point is, if you want to stand and reason, then stand up and address these sorts of questions, rather than demonizing away the people who raise them in ad hom attacks.

That is not a rational response nor representative of serious study of the Bible.

Oh, and when I say "allows for," I mean, at least in some instances, "God commands it directly," IF you're taking the text literally.

That is, God directly commanded Israel to go in to a nation and destroy everyone, men, women and children, sometimes. Or sometimes, kill all the men, women and children, but sparing the virgin girls to be taken home and made "brides" of Israelis.

Dan,

I never made an ad hominem attack, unless you think being "liberal" is a bad thing. On the other hand, putting words into my mouth...

Are you guys really disregarding the time period. Israel just left 400 years of slavery. They had no military training, they had no real survival skills, they had to even be told not to poop within the camp, because as slaves they were used to living in filth. (Deuteronomy 23:12) They were a small pathetic people and what did they do? They summarily kicked the crap out of everyone they came up against. What was the result of their continuous victories? They made enemies. You can try and apply your current morality to ancient Israel all you want, but if you capture a foreign enemy and then let them go, all that enemy will do is try to build a force against you and be nothing but a thorn in your side.

Also, as people continually like to point out women weren’t treated the best in this time period and had almost zero ability to take care of themselves. So your solution instead of taking them in and allowing them to be wives or concubines or relatively taken care of in some way you think the Israelites should have just left them to die? It baffles my mind at the shear lack of even basic understanding of the world the Israelites had to live in.

BTW when God commands Israel to go in and kill every man woman and child they should have damn well listened. God told Saul to kill all the Amalekites, every man, woman, and child. Did he listen? No he didn’t. What happened to the Israelites and Saul because of his disobedience? The Israelites were continually harassed and raided by the surviving Amalekites and Saul was actually beheaded by an Amalekite. Perhaps it was good teaching moment for the rest of Israel. Do what Daddy says, or might lose your head.

My point here is not that liberal or conservative is better or worse (for what it's worth, I try to be more of a moderate). But I do think there needs to be some consistency in reasoning. If there are indeed moral absolutes, and they are God-derived (somehow or another), then you aren't going to make much using that as ammunition against God's word.

On the other hand, if Harris et al are right, and there are moral absolutes but they don't derive from God, then the exercise of Christianity (or most religions) becomes moot.

If there are moral absolutes and they come from God, but Scripture and/or the Church aren't a reliable or authoritative guide (mark you--a complex and contextualized one in some cases, but authoritative), then we are left with a difficulty. How do we know anything? The only thing that makes Christianity more appealing than, say, Eastern Monistic religions, or no religion at all, is revelation. If you can't rely on that, we're back to throwing darts at a board. It becomes highly subjective.

Now, that may actually be the case. We could indeed live in a world which is theistic, or deistic, or monistic, or atheistic, or even polytheistic. I don't think that's the case, but I allow for the possibility, and have explored them in some depth. I'm not scared to go back to being Buddhist or Deist, if I thought they were true.

My point here is more that if you want to be a Christian *and* engage in some Jesus Seminar action, or the Jefferson Bible, or some "Choose Your Own Adventure" Bible of your own devising, then you may as well dispense with the illusion that you're practicing orthodoxy. You've cut off the branch upon which you sit.

There's plenty of denominations like that. There's Modalists, and the Word of Faith, and Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians, atheistic Anglicans, all manner of denominations who figure "Well, this part works for me, but let's splice in something else here, or omit that, or just make up something else that we like better."

They could be right or wrong, but what do they offer to make their claims more persuasive than those of Buddha, or Muhammed, or Sam Harris, the neo-pagans, et cetera?

Now, were the Israelites nice people who always did everything right? Pfffffffftttttt. Yeah, no. If I had to take two bullet points from the OT, it might be "The Israelites cannot get their act together if you threaten them with fire and brimstone from heaven" and "Do not cross the Boss."

In the competing economy of freedom and perfection, it's not possible to simply impose the divine will upon Israel and make perfect people out of them. I'd say God's squeezing as much juice as he can without squashing the core.

My parents used to tell me that if I was too drunk to get home, to call them and they'd pick me up. Some might read that as a tacit encouragement to get wasted. I never did, because I knew enough of my parents' character and goals for me that I'd never imagine that of them. They were simply trying to reduce the harm I might inflict on myself, as a realistic assessment of what teenagers will do when they're out of your sight. It wasn't a sanction, and it certainly wasn't an encouragement, unless I wilfully ignored everything I knew about my parents and zeroed in on trying to read something into a single directive they made under atypical circumstances.

Bennett...

try to use that stance to justify a liberal position--demolishing the authority of Scripture.

You just suggested that the "liberal position" is one of "demolishing the authority of Scripture."

That is false, it is attacking the motives of liberals rather than the argument.

Ad hom attack. Bad logic. Also, it is a bearing of false witness, at least in regards to progressive/liberal Christians, since no one wants to "demolish the authority of Scripture."

Ad hom = bad logic.

False witness = broken commandment.

Dan,

Then I'll beg your forgiveness for classifying an attempt to geld scripture as "liberal." I simply made the association that most churches which call themselves "Mainline Liberal" do not hold to a doctrine of scriptural inspiration.

I didn't mean to insult anyone, and I retract the characterization. As a note, I don't really know what the liberal/progressive's intent was with regard to Scriptural authority, only the outcome. I suspect that their motive has more to do with speaking more the language of sympathy for the victim than any other sort of morality.

To borrow from "The Righteous Mind" and Bill Kristoff's summary thereof:

"for liberals, morality is largely a matter of three values: caring for the weak, fairness and liberty. Conservatives share those concerns (although they think of fairness and liberty differently) and add three others: loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity."

In the same book, the author notes that:

"Moderates and conservatives were adept at guessing how liberals would answer questions. Liberals, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal,” were least able to put themselves in the minds of their adversaries and guess how conservatives would answer."

We may be speaking different languages here. The type of morality on display in certain Levitical passages (especially when you consider that Moses was essentially trying to civilize a bunch of desert-raiding heathens and would have been lynched if he'd pushed too hard and too fast) simply doesn't speak to the progressive mind. The progressive and conservative ideas about "freedom" differ, there's a difference of prioritization, et cetera.

So I do think that characterizing motives as liberal or conservative may help to understand why there's a paradigm chasm. But I would say that if one, from a liberal/progressive stance, finds difficulty with Ancient Hebrew attempts to ameliorate what a bunch of bloodthirsty savages they were, perhaps the issue is one of limited vocabulary, rather than anyone at all--the modern liberal, the ancient Hebrew, or the Christian conservative, having a malicious intent.

By the by, accusing me of Commandment violation, while dismissing the authority of Moses to pass on the Law? Kinda precious.

Bennett...

I simply made the association that most churches which call themselves "Mainline Liberal" do not hold to a doctrine of scriptural inspiration.

I'd have to see some evidence of this. I think what you MEAN to say is that "liberal" churches don't think of the Bible's inspiration in the way you think they ought to, NOT that they don't find the Bible to be inspired.

I have yet to meet a liberal Christian who would say that they don't believe the Bible is "as Scripture" and that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness..."

No, you didn't say that "liberals" don't agree with you on biblical inspiration, what you SAID was, and I quote, the "liberal position" is one of "demolishing the authority of Scripture."

THAT is an ad hom attack. Not calling some folk "liberals," (even when that may or may not apply), but for the FALSE accusation that they seek to demolish the authority of Scripture.

Can we agree that bearing false witness is not a good behavior? I'm sure we can. Then I'd ask you, as a brother in Christ, to stop bearing false witness and stop with your ad hom attacks on people's motives. As I'm sure you'd agree, Bennett, you're not "god enough" to know others' motives.

Jeffery,

I'd say you've pretty much got a grasp on the issue. In another thread, Dan felt I was being "too martial" in my language. Well, for one thing, I am fairly martial, so point granted.

And the Israelites not only were martial by necessity, they were an undisciplined fighting force, surrounded by more powerful enemies. Enemies whose idea of "mercy" involved heads on pikes and infant sacrifice.

We may have to forgive them if they weren't all Kwai Chang Caine about it. At least I bet they gave all their wounded free health care.

Bennett...

I didn't mean to insult anyone, and I retract the characterization.

A retraction and apology is in order, thank you.

Bennett...
As a note, I don't really know what the liberal/progressive's intent was with regard to Scriptural authority, only the outcome.

Well, then you'd have to do something to make your case. I would suggest that treating the Old Testament like a literal history written in the modern style when there is no evidence to support that does more to undermine biblical authority than trying to read it aright and committing the "sin" of merely disagreeing with the tradition of some on an interpretation.

I'm glad to hear you're not guessing about people's motives, I'd suggest you be more clear about that in the future, if you're going to use such divisive and scandalous language.

Bennett...

I suspect that their motive has more to do with speaking more the language of sympathy for the victim than any other sort of morality.

Well, you were right on at least one point. Not here, of course, but when you said, " I don't really know what the liberal/progressive's intent was with regard to Scriptural authority."

That much, you got right.

Before continuing, let me point out (if it's not clear) that I do not consider myself a "liberal Christian." That term has meaning that does not apply to me. I am a Christian in the anabaptist tradition (and we are often called pretty danged conservative for how literally we take Jesus' teachings) with SOME progressive elements (primarily my/our understanding on marriage equity as it relates to gay folk).

Nonetheless, I know of no more progressive/liberal Christians who read the Bible as they do merely as a way of expressing sympathy for the victim. I/we read Scripture for the same reason that we pray and that we seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit and that we seek to understand God's Word writ upon our hearts and that we embrace using our God-given reasoning: To follow Christ, to walk in God's Ways. Period.

If seeking God's will then leads us to take Jesus pretty literally when he teaches us to identify with, side with, look out for the poor, the victimized, the oppressed, etc, well, that sympathy is an consequence of striving to follow in Jesus' steps, not the other way around.

Bennett...

To borrow from "The Righteous Mind" and Bill Kristoff's summary thereof

I don't know who Kristoff is and haven't read the book, but if the author thinks that "liberals" don't also believe in "loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity," then he is operating under a piss-poor understanding of liberals.

Is the suggestion that liberals are OPPOSED to or don't value Loyalty? What a crazy opinion.

Same for sanctity.

The closest thing he got to right was the "respect for authority," but even there, it's not that liberals are opposed to respect for authority, they just don't believe in blind allegiance to the powers that be simply because they are the powers to be.

They're sort of like Jesus, in that regard.

Bennett...

We may be speaking different languages here.

There may be some truth, there. Keep in mind, though, that I was raised and lived for 30 years as a pretty traditional/conservative guy (raised Southern Baptist in Kentucky - don't get much more conservative than that...). I DO know the language of conservatives, I was raised and steeped in it and spoke it myself for many years.

(And to be sure, I'm generally quite thankful - the conservatives taught me to take the Bible and seeking Truth and following in Jesus' ways seriously - that's what led me to where I am now, interestingly...)

So much to respond to, so little time.

Bennett...

accusing me of Commandment violation, while dismissing the authority of Moses to pass on the Law? Kinda precious.

I have not dismissed the authority of Moses. It didn't happen. The way you can tell that I didn't do this is by reading my words and seeing that IT NEVER HAPPENED.

And so, while not precious, what IS curious is that I point to your false witness and you respond NOT with an apology, but with insults and more false witness.

Brother Bennett, surely you believe in repentance and having the integrity to admit an error when you're wrong, don't you? I'm sure you do.

There's no harm in admitting errors. I do it all the time. The harm is in holding on to a sin and digging in, even when your mistake has been pointed out to you.

Man up, brother Bennett. Confession and repentance is good for the soul...

As to this line of reasoning...

I would say that if one, from a liberal/progressive stance, finds difficulty with Ancient Hebrew attempts to ameliorate what a bunch of bloodthirsty savages they were, perhaps the issue is one of limited vocabulary

I can't speak for Malebranche, but for my part, I was not sitting in judgment of an ancient people for their practices. I was looking at the logic and internal consistency (or lack thereof) in approaching these passages in a literal manner, as if these ancient stories represent a modern style of history telling (when such did not exist in this time period).

That was a different time, a different world and a different culture. There were different standards in place (which, interestingly, seems to be your point). Polygamy was not condemned. Concubinism was not condemned. Kidnapping foreign women and making them your wife was not condemned. It was a different time and culture and I, for one, don't believe in holding ancient peoples up to modern ethical standards. It's an exercise in pointlessness.

Does that make at least that much clear?

On the other hand, you all appear to be saying that morals change with different cultures and peoples. Is that what you're saying? Because, if so, that is fairly progressive of you all!

Dan,

That's cool and all. I merely meant to point out that we may have a difference in how we evaluate certain passages on the basis of their apparent morality, because hold certain values more or less strenuously (or at all).

I didn't say that they read the Bible as an expression of sympathy. I implied that it may be that their sympathy for the victims (the Amalekites, etc.) causes them to see a moral scandal, whereas they lack any sense for the other dimensions of what's at play. Consequently they would see a scandal where there may no be one, and question inerrancy when they are in error.

Please note that I am not a Scriptural infallibilist by any means--the Bible isn't the Koran, by any means and I don't conflate the two doctrines as some may.

Now, at no point here have I suggested reading everything in the OT as literal history written in the modern style. That is, what'd you call it? Misrepresenting an intention? False witness?

You're awfully quick to demand apologies and question my motives, for someone who is so concerned about not being divisive. Perhaps ask me to clarify, rather than leap upon my back?

If you're going to tilt at every windmill on the horizon during your stay here at STR, you'll spend quite a lot of time expending energy only to figure out that you've alienated another party who didn't mean quite what you think they did.

Bennett...

at no point here have I suggested reading everything in the OT as literal history written in the modern style. That is, what'd you call it? Misrepresenting an intention? False witness?

I didn't say you did. I was speaking of conservative Christians in general and, in my experience, they do. If you thought I was speaking specifically of you, then I apologize.

In general, though, conservative Christians believe that, IF Genesis speaks of the world being created in six days, well then, the world was created in six days. IF there is a line where God commands people to kill off a foreign girl's family, capture her, bring her home and make her your wife, then that must have literally happened, because there it is in the Bible and the Bible wouldn't lie. Or so many (most, in my experience - and nearly all in these internets) conservative type of Christians would argue.

If you're saying you're not of that tribe, good for you.

As to correcting false claims and asking for clarifications and expecting respectful dialog, if you think that is tilting at windmills, so be it. I am just doing my part to stand to reason and trying to encourage doing so in a respectful Christian manner.

Bennett...

I implied that it may be that their sympathy for the victims (the Amalekites, etc.) causes them to see a moral scandal, whereas they lack any sense for the other dimensions of what's at play.

As to this, what at least many of us are seeing is not the scandal of how ancient people's behaved, but the problem of poor exegesis. It seems to many of us that pushing for a more literalist manner of interpreting the Bible (one in which we are taught BOTH "don't shed innocent blood," and "sometimes, God commands people to shed innocent blood"), that there is a problem with internal consistency and a lack of rationality in that approach.

Thus, the scandal is not against ancient peoples, but against modern interpretation approaches.

Dan,

Funny thing, I actually knew you'd bring up YEC, and almost mentioned it. I'm not sure that was at all a widely-held view until the very early 20th century when the founding "prophetess" of what is not 7th Day Adventism had a vision regarding it. It's not exactly a Scripturally-based view, from my understanding of its origin. People also didn't read Revelation in any sort of literal way until some guy in the 19th century. Protestants are weird, I dunno what to tell you. I still love 'em ;)

And when I said "tilting at windmills" I mean assuming someone believes, say, YEC, and then rebuking them for that belief, when they never stated it. Or say, assuming that someone's use of the term "liberal" was meant slanderously. I also said he had a conservative position, too. It was the disjoint between the two (moral absolutism vs. scriptural authority) that I saw as undesirable.

It's seeing enemies where they aren't, at least not until you charge at them.

Besides that, I've learned the hard way that sometimes you just have to realize that someone else's reading isn't immoral, or illogical, or unfounded. They just have a different feeling than you do.

In that case, you can remonstrate with them until the proverbial cows come home, and all you'll do is upset the cows. Sometimes someone on the internet is wrong. When it gets away from "Let's consider the merits of this or that position" and into attempts at mindreading, it's better to wash one's hands of it.

I've gone horrrrrrrribly awry on this sort of thing. In recent memory, even. But the experience remains consistent. When I pit my head against a brick wall, my brainpower is irrelevant.

I don't think we've solved much here, and I still have oodles to say on the matter. But at this point, there's simply no profit in it. We've been at it past the point of interest or progress. It is not an argument, it is a quarrel.

So, let's just call it a day.

Bennett...

You're awfully quick to demand apologies and question my motives

1. I did not demand an apology. I said, "Confession and repentance is good for the soul..."

I don't know you and it doesn't matter to ME whether or not you admit your mistakes or apologize for them. I DO think, though, that it is good for the cause of public intercourse and for Christian witness that we ought to be quick to admit our errors when we're wrong.

I'd hope we could agree on that point.

2. I don't think I questioned your motives. You stated something that was false and/or unsupported. I pointed that out. You responded with a non-apology, repeating the false statement ("I'll beg your forgiveness for classifying an attempt to geld scripture as "liberal.")

That is smarmy and smart aleck-ness, not an apology. And it repeats the initial error: There is no intent to geld Scripture, nor have you offered any support for the notion that it unintentionally gelds Scripture, even though they don't mean to do so.

I pointed out some observable realities and a mistake on your part. It's okay, we all make mistakes. A simple, "My bad, what I meant was..." and explain yourself and move on. That's good for you, it's good for public discourse and it's a good witness for your faith tradition and your own character.

What you do with it is up to you.

Okey dokey. Have a nice day.

Bennet,

I think you mean Nicholas Kristof not Bill Kristoff. No big deal.

On the other hand, you say...

In the same book, the author notes that:

"Moderates and conservatives were adept at guessing how liberals would answer questions. Liberals, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal,” were least able to put themselves in the minds of their adversaries and guess how conservatives would answer."

Actually, that's Kristoff you are quoting, not Jonathan Haidt, the author of The Righteous Mind.

I don't know either of these guys. But they are not entirely interchange able to me. Kristof is a newspaper columnist and Haidt is a professor of social psychology. So it matters whether this is Haidt talking or Kristof describing Haidt.

RonH

Oops: "interchange able" should have been "interchangeable" at the end of my last.

I missed your earlier (11:04) comments, which were moderate in tone, Bennett. There, you said...

My point here is more that if you want to be a Christian *and* engage in some Jesus Seminar action, or the Jefferson Bible, or some "Choose Your Own Adventure" Bible of your own devising, then you may as well dispense with the illusion that you're practicing orthodoxy.

First of all, for myself (and many but not all in my circles) we don't go so far as the Jesus Seminar folk and personally, I find their estimates to be hard to swallow. I mean, they're fine guesses and I get that these are smart folk attempting to make educated guesses at what they do, but sometimes their guesses don't impress me much more than some more conservative guesses at interpretation.

Having said that, if they love God and want to seek God's ways; if they love the bible and believe it to be inspired as long as we approach it aright, I don't see how there is any illusion as to their orthodoxy. I mean, certainly they are outside of the mainstream of orthodox thinking in their approach to Bible study, but are they really outside of what the Bible has to say (and what it doesn't say) about itself?

For instance, no where has God told us and no where has the Bible told us, "These are the books that rightly belong in the Bible." Nowhere has the Bible or God told us, "These are the exact quotes of Jesus."

The Bible DOES contain the line "All Scripture is God-breathed/inspired and useful for teaching, training and correction..." but that does not say that "all Scripture - MEANING THE 66 BOOKS of the modern evangelical bible - is without error - meaning that each line is literally true..."

Do you get what I'm saying? While I disagree with their approach and probably some of their conclusions (I'm not intimately familiar with all they've suggested), I don't see where what they are doing is in any way unbiblical or ungodly. Outside of mainstream tradition? To be sure. But I don't think what they're doing denies God, nor denies inspiration or revelation and certainly doesn't deny God's grace. They're just trying to make educated guesses about how best to interpret the Bible.

Way too much speculation on their part for my tastes, but I don't find their approach, at least, to be problematic. They're not trying to "choose our own Bible," they're seeking God's ways. I disagree with how far they go, but there's nothing inherently unbiblical in what they're doing.

Beyond that, though, that's not me or my tribe. I/we accept the 66 books of the Bible as Scripture (per Christian tradition, not per God telling us so) and we fully believe that all scripture is inspired and good for teaching, etc. It's just with the caveat that it needs to be rightly understood, but there's nothing controversial about that, either. Or shouldn't be.

RonH,

I think you're probably right about both of those, and the impact that it makes. Thanks for the fact check. I had to grab the exact quote from a website via Google, and it made it sound like one was from the column, and the other was directly from the book.

Dan,

I earnestly believe that you have the best of intentions. I'll just leave it at that, and wish you well.

Bennet,

You can take the Moral Foundations Questionnaire here and another view of the book here.

I think the questionnaire is a valuable idea, but that some of the questions seem to be worded very badly if the goal is to understand the differences in how morality is understood by people on the left-right spectrum.

For example, I think 2 persons must often answer very differently for some of these questions (e.g. #28) even though both self-identify as conservative. A lot of the questions need re-work.

My we're off the topic here. Wonder how that happened.

I'm so gloating because nobody responded to all I said above on the Bible and slavery. Don't let me gloat!

RonH

The comments to this entry are closed.