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June 07, 2012

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Tim Keller's book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism is a really good source for answering some of the objections we might hear in everyday life. Most people (at least where I live) don't really use the academic terminology that is common in apologetic debates. He has a way of making it easier to relate to.

I agree that cherry- picking or using the Bible as a "convenience store" is really just robbing us of the message we should be getting from the Bible.

If I am to be conformed to the image of Christ that implies change. I don't think that we ever reach a point that we have learned enough about God or the Bible.

This is brilliant! Thank you!

Great post, Melinda! There's a lot here to chew on!

Does the Old Testament really conflict with Jewish culture? Does the New Testament really conflict with Christian culture?

I guess it depends on who you ask.

Carolyn, if the Old and New Testaments didn't conflict in various ways with the cultures of their original audiences, they wouldn't have needed to include any teachings ("believe this, not something contradictory") or commands ("do this, not something contradictory.") The command to repent demonstrates a conflict between God's revelation and man's condition.

Ogre, just read the prophets where they're calling the Israelites back to the Law. There are whole books in there against their culture.

Ogre

They killed their prophets who spoke for God, if the message from God was not in conflict with the Jewish culture, why would they do that?

I find it very interesting that Tim Keller is concerned about "cherry picking" in the Bible since he does the very same thing. The Bible clearly states that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 literal days. However, the influence of secular "science" has influenced Tim to reject the straightforward reading of the Biblical text and to embrace the false belief that the earth is very old. He not only embraces the belief of an old universe, but is also aggressively promoting the belief of theistic evolution, a concept that is totally inconsistent with Scripture.

It is very interesting that so many religions incorporate the Bible as part of their belief system as long as it is in addition to (or less than) some other authority. Muslims believe in the Quran AND parts of the Bible, Judaism adheres to the Talmud AND the Old Testament, Mormonism has the Book of Mormon AND the Bible, etc. Now professing Christians like Tim Keller and Hugh Ross teach that secular science AND the Bible are authoritative.

I agree with Tim Keller that a Christian has no business "cherry-picking" from the Bible. It's a shame that he does just that, yet would deny that he does so.

(note: attached link is to an interesting discussion between Hugh Ross [old earth], Ken Ham [young earth], and others that was held on TBN. I'm no fan of TBN, but this really was an interesting discussion about Biblical authority.

http://www.itbn.org/index/detail/lib/Praise%20the%20Lord/ec/RjNW53NDodbPdWZMesby0hMNzxHCg2Kk

"He said if the Bible is from God and not from culture, wouldn't we expect that it would conflict with every culture at every time?"

What a fantastic point! Tim Keller has some excellent preaching/teaching. I love listening to him.

I appreciate the caution against cherry-picking. C. S. Lewis points out that progress is only made against resisting material. It is the parts of the Bible that we struggle with that contains the truths we most need to know to correct the assumptions of our own time.

Melinda wrote:

He said if the Bible is from God and not from culture, wouldn't we expect that it would conflict with every culture at every time?

The Bible is not said to be "from culture," as if the ancient near east population cooperated to produce a book which reflected their shared values. Rather, the Bible is a hodgepodge of texts produced over hundreds of years by individuals working in different cultures and not caring a whole lot if the values expressed in their productions match up with the values shared by the rest of their cultures, which of course vary by Biblical authors.

In other words, the condition "if the Bible is from God" is really misleading. In fact, regardless of whether the Bible is from God or not, we should expect to see it conflict with each culture. And this is an unhelpful observation for trying to show that the Bible really is from God.

Ben,
Perfect.
RonH

Ben

"not caring a whole lot if the values expressed in their productions match up with the values shared by the rest of their cultures, which of course vary by Biblical authors."

Are you sure you did not miss the point that even the culture from which the individual author came from was so counter to the message given, that they killed him for it? That is why the prophets who spoke on behalf of God were killed. The culture didn't like the message so, they killed the messenger. It isn't just a matter of cultures outside of the one the author was from not liking it. So, the message was not an expression of that culture as one would expect from purely human authorship.

Dave,

I don't think I understand your comment to me above. I merely stated that the post was interesting...!

Louis,

I don't follow you. Are you aware that people write offensive counter-cultural things all the time, which are not inspired by God? Why would we think it more likely for God to inspire the Biblical authors to write down such offensive material?

Ben

I don't know that counter-cultural things were all that common back then, for starters. I would not like to impose our present methods on folks at that time and simply assume it was so. But I should say that what you propose is possible and I don't think that the evidence of this kind is, by itself, completely persuasive when taken in isolation with other evidence. But evidence is not meant to be taken that way in an honest investigation. Each piece is but a part of the whole puzzle and to make a decision on one piece as to what the whole puzzle will look like is, I think, a bit too much of a leap. The thing that makes me lean in the direction of my original post is that there was more than one individual, as there were many prophets, who seems to have charted a solitary course that didn't sit well with the culture and did so to the point of their ultimate murders. So, it seems to me that there is a kind of historical pattern that was developed in the old testament that points to God being behind it all. But then, there are other things that must also be considered as part of that puzzle that I did not touch on.

OP:
"So rather than cultural objections working against the Bible, it's actually an indication that it stands outside of culture And that's a line of argument that the Bible is from God, not man."

In indication is a point of evidence.
It never ceases to amaze me how people who have learned what the word "evidence" means still try to demand that it really means "singular rock-solid proof" whenever it is used with regard to Christianity.

Said Ben:

In fact, regardless of whether the Bible is from God or not, we should expect to see it conflict with each culture.
Really? Why should we expect that?

Are you aware that people write offensive counter-cultural things all the time, which are not inspired by God?
Does this mean that we actually expect anything written, and surviving alongside a culture, to be counter-cultural?
Why would we think it more likely for God to inspire the Biblical authors to write down such offensive material?
Because God is exhorting them to be Holy when they are not. He is not congratulating them when they are not.
He said if the Bible is from God and not from culture, wouldn't we expect that it would conflict with every culture at every time?

I say if the Bible is from one culture, wouldn't we expect it would conflict with every other culture at every time?

RonH

The problem is that it conflicted with the culture of origin, not just other cultures. The reason it did that is because it dealt with something that is expressed in all cultures...the fallen human nature, which transcends culture.

Since being a Christian means you are a new creature apart from contrary cultures and Christians accept the Bible as being from God then doesn't the Bible conflict with all cultures but a Christian one? If the Bible contains eternal content aside from temporality then it wouldn't conflict with any culture because it contains a prescribed outcome for all cultural perspectives.

Louis,

But I don't see how it's even "part of the whole puzzle." I'm not objecting that the offensive elements of the Bible do not constitute strong enough evidence to show the Bible is from God. Rather, I'm objecting to the very idea that it is evidence at all. Or to put it another way, I don't think it gives us any information whatsoever about the likelihood that the Bible is from God.

Lots of people throughout history have charted solitary courses which caused their respective cultures to vilify them, even kill them. Certainly though not all these people have been inspired by God in their deviant behavior. This gives us a highly plausible naturalistic explanation for the writings of some of the Biblical authors, where they conflict with their respective cultures.

But the most serious problem here is that even if we assume God exists and inspired the Biblical authors, how does that constitute a reason to expect their writings to conflict with their respective cultures? Maybe God liked their respective cultures. Or maybe he was just indifferent to the uniquely cultural elements. How would we decide what sort of things God is most likely to inspire people to write? I don't think we can answer that question, but we need an answer if we are to treat the writings of the Biblical authors as evidence for their inspiration.

Ben,

Without an initial belief in God I can see how someone would not be persuaded by an evidential approach to proving anything. Especially something like a belief in God or the Bible being inspired by God. People base very big life decisions on their beliefs about reality, morality and what is actually truth. I don' think the argument should be so much about the Bible and culture conflicting, but the nature of mankind conflicting with the nature of God. I realize this probably does nothing to further the current "debate", but it's just how I see it.

Ben

"But the most serious problem here is that even if we assume God exists and inspired the Biblical authors, how does that constitute a reason to expect their writings to conflict with their respective cultures? Maybe God liked their respective cultures."

Human culture is an expression of human nature, which in its present form is corrupted by sin. Thus, the nature of the culture is similarly flawed. If we entertain the notion that god is perfect and thus a perfect being has a perfect standard that he, by his nature, demands, then human nature and the construct of culture that arises from that can be nothing more than filth in his eyes.Why would such a being like stinking filth? Even we, whose standards are far from perfection, don't like that. How much more repulsive would it be to someone who was perfect?

Ben

Some reading on the usage of evidence:


http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2009/03/18/evidential-apologetics

But the most serious problem here is that even if we assume God exists and inspired the Biblical authors, how does that constitute a reason to expect their writings to conflict with their respective cultures?
Because man is at enmity with God, worships the Creation over God, and can not please God, apart from God's grace. Since man is naturally so-inclined his culture is always going to conflict with God's desires except where he is following God's commands. If God is inspiring writers to exhort a culture it is to teach that culture and exhort them from their wrong-doing.
How would we decide what sort of things God is most likely to inspire people to write?
We could decide by studying what He did inspire man to write. We can learn who He is and what He is like through those writings.

We can also reason carefully, even from first principles, to know a great deal about this God and ascertain some of this information.
Knowing He exists and has certain attributes we can reason to His desire to communicate with man and and to the propriety of our worshiping Him, and His displeasure at our failure to do so.

We can' do this, of course, when we presuppose that He doesn't exist. Then again, we have to live then in constant tension with reality and in the inconsistencies necessary of that world view.

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