Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Just how silly can one story be?

The excuse that most Christians give for there being so much pain/suffering/evil in the world is that ole chestnut about it being our own fault. Everything was rosy in the garden. Then we, more exactly Adam and Eve, ate some fruit and ruined everything. It wasn’t just any fruit; it was a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Most important to note is that God dared told them, not to eat the fruit of that particular tree. They did though and death and all manner of bad things entered the world with Adam and Eve’s sin. Incidentally, Eve took the fruit at the behest of a talking snake.

Apart from that obvious silliness of the tale, it presents some puzzling questions.
Here are 5 that I have never heard any answer to, let alone a good one.

If God is forgiving, why did he not just forgive Adam and Eve’s relatively minor sin?
Baring in mind the pure innocence of Adam and Eve, was God’s damnation of not just them but their progeny ad infinitum a bit harsh. Given how in modern societies the notion of passing blame or sin to relatives of a criminal would be considered an outrageous wrong, why does God seem to think it is ok?

How could Adam and Eve know, prior to eating the apple, that disobeying God was a bad thing?
It is claimed in the story that Adam and Eve happily pranced about naked in the garden and were unashamed because they had no knowledge of good and evil. Let us ignore the bizarre implication that nakedness is evil and something to be ashamed of, even when the only two people in the universe are a married couple (de facto married anyway). The problem here is that Adam and Eve have no knowledge of good and evil. They literally don’t know right from wrong. How then were they to know that obeying God was ‘good’ and that disobeying God was ‘evil’. They simply are not equipped to make a sensible informed choice about it.

Why would God create man knowing he would sin against him?
God is omniscient. God knows everything, including what will happen in the future. Prophesy is often cited as compelling proof of the bibles divine origin. He must therefore have seen it coming. He knew it would happen and went ahead with the whole project anyway. Bizarre and a little perverse.

Why does the tree of the knowledge of good and evil exist?
What would posses God to somehow transmute knowledge into fruit form? Honestly, why? Not only does he do that though, he then puts the tree in the same garden as his completely innocent humans. Remember now that he had a universe of incomprehensible vastness in which to put the bizarre tree but he chose to put it within easy reach of the hapless humans. To digress a little, is there a tree of the knowledge of quantum mechanics? The tree of C++ programming….for dummies? Hey! There might actually have been a tree of the knowledge of the theory of gravity. Newton being hit by the apple was incidental; it was when he wrapped his kisser round that big ole granny smith that the magic really happened!!

How can free will co-exist with the notion of a prophesizing God?
Slightly off topic but I have been looking for an answer to this for a while now. Free will is often cited as the reason why God allows sin. I don’t think the concepts of an omniscient being and free will can co-exist. If God knows everything that WILL happen, the future is already laid out. You have no real choice. Everything you will do in your lifetime is already set in stone. You cannot deviate from the known path of your life. If the outcome of an event is known before the event occurs, there is no choice involved. There are no alternatives.

Can the Christians who might happen by please give me some answers, though anyone who can shed a little light on how these seeming inconsistancies can be reconsiled is invited to weigh in.

115 comments:

Anonymous said...

"If God is forgiving, why did he not just forgive Adam and Eve’s relatively minor sin?"
Adam and Eve were allowed to live out their mortal lives and seek redemption though prayer and sacrifice. On our final day, we are all judged by the Lord and allowed to return to the garden should we be deemed worthy, even Adam and Eve.

"How could Adam and Eve know, prior to eating the apple, that disobeying God was a bad thing?"
All human beings are blessed with a conscience to guide us in His will. All morality comes absolutely from God. Adam and Eve were absolutely told not to eat the apple.

"Why would God create man knowing he would sin against him?"
Sin damages us, not God. Through granting us free will and the ability to be greater than mere animals, we must face and overcome temptation to better our lives.

"Why does the tree of the knowledge of good and evil exist?"
The Lord tests us often that our essence may be strengthened from evil through us mercy and love.

"How can free will co-exist with the notion of a prophesizing God?"
Foretelling events is not a predetermined life. God has not dictated YOUR life in his holy book. Although he has warned of the punishments you will face should you continue to mock his eternal love.

Lucian said...

Why do parents chose to give birth to their children, instead of aborting them all, out of all sorts of fears, or phobias, regarding what they might-or-might-not do to them, or to themselves, or to others; or what others might do to them, or what accidents or bad things might occur to them, etc?

Is a person standing on the roof of a building situated at an intersection, and who sees two cars and knows that they will collide responsible for the accident?

Why did humans first use atomic energy to drop two atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, (not to mention arming themselves to their theeth with nuclear missiles for decades to come afterwards) instead of utilizing it for purely peaceful and energetical purposes from day one?

The fact that people are, at a later age, ashamed of their own nackedness (of which they weren't previously ashamed) is just something that is (period). I can't understand what You find so "bizzare" about it. I also find it funny that You don't know that most/many people are/were pretty shy (to put it mildly) on their first wedding-night (or love-night, or whatever). Given Your age, I'm just flabbergasted by You even asking such questions. :-)

Mamonides (purportedly the greatest Rabbi that ever lived) says the exact contrary of what You are saying about Adam and Eve's moral stupidity before tasting the fruit (as children we also had some knowledge about good and wrong, but at a different level; we also used to trust and listen to our parents).

And not only that they were TOLD not to eat, but they were also been given the reason or explanation WHY not to. (Just like my mother and father not only told me WHAT to do or what not to do when I was little, but they also did not hide to me the reasons, but explained themselves to me [though it was neither mandatory, nor necessary]: they told not to sit down on cold cement because my intestines might get ill; they told me not to go with people whom I don't know or to open the door to strangers becasue they might be bad people who might do bad things to me, etc).

The Fathers say that God would've had forgiven them if they would've repented ... which, needless to say, they didn't (see Genesis).

It's not about minor or major sins, it's about them not being able to handle the truth. [When we discovered atomic energy, we did not use it for the best either].

The tree was not hidden from their sight because it was for their sake that it was created in the first place. The Fathers and Rabbis all say that they would've been given or granted to taste of it when they would've reached the spiritual maturity necessary therefore. (1 Corinthians 3:1-2, 13:11; Hebrews 5:12-14, etc). They also unanimously agree that the fruit in itself was obviously not bad.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Anonymous,

I think you have merely dodged most of the questions by inventing things. For example, sin damages us not God. How do you know? Where does it say that in the bible?
Morality comes for God? I think you are just not being honest about the fruit. It was the knowledge of good and evil. Apparently the only reason humans have an innate sense of right from wrong is that Adam and Eve ate the fruit. They would not have had this sense beforehand. Their sudden shame at their nakedness bears this out.

You completely miss the point on the 'why create us if we will sin' question. God knew, with absolute certainty, before he ever created anything that we would sin. There was never any doubt. Overcoming temptation only makes sense if there is a possibility that you can overcome temptation.

Don't really understand the responce to the why the tree exists. Can you expand on it please.

Again, I think you don't really understand the implaction of an omniscient God. God knows in advance everything that I will ever do, say or think. If these things are known in advance they cannot be altered. I have only the illusion of free will. For example. If I know in advance that John is going to win the lottery. Peter can still plat the lottery hoping to win, but I know before the balls ever start to spin that he cannot, nor ever could have won.



Lucian,

I think you are not giving enough weight to just what it means to have perfect knowledge of the future. In Gods case there are no maybes, no ifs, no coulds. You analogy with parents aborting children does work. Parents have no idea what the childs life is going to be like. If the parents knew with certainty that their child was going to suffer every moment they were alive they might well decide to about the fetus. God does have this knowledge.

As to the person standing on the roof. If he had built both the cars with the magical foreknowledge that this was going to happen and had infinite time to do something about it but never the less, chose to make the cars and sit back and watch I think I would hold him accountable.

I don't know what ponint you are making about the atom bomb, can you explain it further please.

On the nakedness question, I find your responce telling. Not everyone is ashamed or ahy about their nakedness, many people go to nude beaches precicely because they are not shy about it. Many tribes in the world have absolutely no nakeness taboo whatsoever. You are a victim, as are many of us! of thousands of years of the Judeo-Christian guilt machine. Try to view it objectively for a minute. What is it about nakedness that we should be ashamed of. It really is a bizarre thing. It is being ashamed of yourself for how your body is. Do you really think such shame makes sense?

Mamonides obviously wasn't paying attention. We, even as children, have inherited the knowledge. Thats the idea. Adam and Eve had no knowledge of Good and Evil. None, not even as much as a child. A ridiculous concept in itself but that absolutely is what genesis tells us. The sudden shame about nakedness bears out this reading.
Can you see how telling someone not to do something, if that person cannot differenciate between obeying and disobeying, would be pointless. It would be like trying a five year old as an adult. They simply are not accountable by virute of their lack of understanding and innocence, regardless of whether or not they were TOLD not to play with guns and it was explained what could happen.

They were given no oppertunity to repent. Read Genesis. God proclaimed their sentence immediately. Two thing that were a little odd here also. God didn't seem to know what they had done until he met them in the garden. He also couldn't find them??
This is the same God who knows everything you think and do....a little inconsistant wouldn't you say?

As to the tree, there is a reason why even gun loving parents don't leave guns lying around the house. They may eventually want their kids to take up their interest in firearms but that is hardly a good reason to leave them on the kitchen floor. Even if they tell the kids 'don't touch'. What would you think of a parent who used the same reaoning as those rabbis? or indeed the reasoning they attribute to God.

Gavin,

get back to work!!!!

Lucian said...

Monkey Man, :-)

You don't tell the Jews what Judaism is all about. Nor is it appropiate for You to teach the Christians what Christianity is all about.

The fact that You would hold the car-maker responsible is simply ridiculous. [That examples or parables are made >downwards<, never 'upwards', is a fact of elementary logic -- at least that what they've told me in the tenth grade :-\ ]. It is obvious for everybody that makes buildings that anyone might either fall or jump from them, but buildings have to be build if possible. The same for cars. Atomic energy doesn't hurt either. :-\

And not trusting one's whole being, in her entirety, but amputating anything else except logic (which is an algorithm, NOT input-data) is -again- ridiculous. There are also such things as instincts, sentiments, memory, understanding, etc. Don't deny them when there's no reason to. To do this means to self-mutilate oneself spiritually, just like amputating one's legs or arms for no reason. That's the peak of cretinism.

Logic is like light (the words are actually kindred through their PIE roots) -- so try to think about reason as a fire that burns ... but on what does fire burn? On fire, perhaps? :-\ Or on wood? Fire doesn't burn on itself, that's the point ... :-|

Neither God, nor Jews, nor Christians agree with Your abortionist mentality. Sorry. As I've told You, God is free and unconstrained, and in His image and likeness (which is that of His Sovereignty) He made us for no other reason but His uncontainable love.

Oh, but we DO have guns in our houses; the same goes for gas ranges (?), ovens, kitchen-knives, hammers, and an entire plethora of other thingies lying around the houses (no-one puts these things somewhere where children can NOT reach them ... they are very much handy for just about anyone :-\ ) -- we just keep them separate from other thingies (separate drawers, separate rooms: like kitchens or lumber-rooms [?]) ... that's why God put the two Trees in the middle of the Garden, wholly separated and clearly set apart from the rest, ... but not out of reach. Yet our from-Your-P.O.V.-murderous-parents (as well as God) warn us about what to touch and what not, and we listen. :-|

I've already read Genesis reapetedly and and eagerly when I was 4-5-6 yrs of age. When God asked them, they blamed eachother; if Adam would've recognised his sin then and there, instead of blaming Eve ... or if Eve would've recognmised her sin then and there instead of blaming the serpent, (so the Rabbinical and Patristical explanation goes), God would've forgiven them.

And God does not literally forgive because he is not a man to be enslaved to passions. Such a view towards Him is idolatrous. St. James calls Him "the Father of Light in which there's neither change, nor shadow, nor alteration"
If You believe that prayer changes God, You're having a wrong view of God: it changes us, not God. The well-known parable of the Prodigal son shows us the Father welcoming and going to greet the returning son even as he was still very very far away.

Parents like to talk to children and to interact with them in a way completely unneeded for them (the parents), yet completely necessary for the child's growth. (And God also aSKS Samuel about three times "well, ... tell Me, ... what did Eli say to you? Huh?" -- not because He was in need, but because He was Samuel's Father, and it was for him that he behaved in this way). The question "where are you [hiding] ?" (in particular) is asked by millions of parents every day of their children, notwithstanding the fact that they already know where their child is [hiding].

We're affraid (almost to death) of exposing ourselves (whether physically, or spiritually, or mentally, or intellectually) to another one, different from us. That's just simply the way it is, and it would be ridiculous not to be so. ONLY were we to live in a perfect world, where anyone can safely rely on anyone else, because everyone is pure and trustworthy and all that stuff, would THIS sort of [otherwise totally naive] self-exposure, of this great magnitude be imaginable ... and such was clearly the case in the Blessed Garden ... what or whom could they have possibly feared there to use or to misuse or to abuse them there? ... God? Themselves? (they were both pure).

It's hard to undress oneself (evben before a doctor!) for about the same reason that it's hard to go to confession or to consult a psychiatrist; it's hard to trust people generally. Neither physical nor spiritual nakedness is wise in this fallen world. :-(

And sorry for the rush ... :-( [I can barely hold my breath]. (Phew!)

Lucian said...

And I was always extremely pudic, shy and secluded to the uttermost extreme ... this is my way of being ... it predates my-being-able-to-read (which happened when I was about 4 or 5). IF ANYTHING, it was my parents and grand-parents that continually tried (and still try) to "unfreeze" me a bit ... make me be more ... idduno ... :-( uninhibited? :-/ Oh, well ...

larryniven said...

"God proclaimed their sentence immediately."

Thus raising another question: why, if Adam and Eve could be judged on one simple action, can we all not be judged that way? A loving and righteous God would, presumably, want to judge people accurately but with the least amount of incidental suffering possible. If the Garden was test enough to determine Adam and Eve's moral nature, our lives are hugely gratuitous. Or, if our lives are on the order of the amount of decision-making necessary to accurately judge someone, then God was clearly overhasty in the Garden. At least, so it seems to me.

lucian, I'm unimpressed with your responses mainly because you seem to want to change the definitions of all the relevant words. If you can confine yourself to normal (or normal-ish) English, maybe I can help you. anon, I agree with the chimp - you seem to have missed the point completely.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Lucian,

I have every right to talk about Judasim and Christianity. I am not telling Jews and Christians what their religions are about, I am critising what they say their religions are about.

On the responsibility thing, I honestly can't think of a better way to explain my point so I'm just going to leave it. If you don't my point by now, I don't think explaining it again is going to help.

I am just as emotive a person as you lucian, whether you want to believe that or not. I am not some sort of logic machine. Nor am I an idiot. When someone tells me something that is a blatant condradiction, no amount of appeal to emotion is going to get me to believe it. I am unable to believe this which cannot possibly be true.

Abortionist mentality? Huh?
God love is soo great he desided to make a place of infinite torture. He condemns at the drop of a hat, of the nibble of a fruit.

I do hope you keep any guns you might have lying around out of reach of children. The tree in question. Consider the amount of destruction it has wrough. Couldn't God have managed even a high wall with a locked gate? Would you leave a gun where children could easily reach it, or would you lock it away? The trees in the garden would be like putting the guns in the middle of the garden, away from everything else and making it clear to the children not to touch... does that honestly seem responsible to you?

if Adam would've recognised his sin then and there, instead of blaming Eve ... or if Eve would've recognmised her sin then and there instead of blaming the serpent, (so the Rabbinical and Patristical explanation goes), God would've forgiven them.

Can you point out to me where it says that in the bible or are the rabbis presuming to know what God was thinking?

I'll give you the point on God asking where they were hiding, kind of perverse though playing that sort of game a moment before you condemn children in the worst possible way. Again, you are making assumtions about Gods actions. I'll grant though that your explanation is at least plausible.

We're affraid (almost to death) of exposing ourselves (whether physically, or spiritually, or mentally, or intellectually) to another one, different from us.

This may be true for you lucian and I don't doubt it is the way with many people but I assure that it is not the way with everyone.
I have few fears about being seen for what I am in any sense. I think it is a little sad that you think there is something inherently bad or shameful about your natural form.

As I have previously pointed out, there are many tribal cultures that have no nakedness taboos at all. Is there somehting wrong with these tribespeople?

If I may ask, do you find that your inhibited nature has been a good thing or a bad thing for you?

Lucian said...

Your constant comparisson between the Tree and a gun is uneven, for the reasons highlighted: what do we do with guns? (around the house, anyway). Nothing. We can find a more suitable place for them somewhere at our cabins out in the woods, if we have any. The Tree is not like that. It's more like the knives in the kitchen, detergents in the bathroom, electrical plugs all over the house, the dogs in the backyard, the forks, hoes, and picks in the barn, etc. -- that's where I was getting at with my familiar, everyday analogies which You've labeled as sentimental. I'm glad You think I'm a sentimental guy :-)

LOL :-) And I thought it's usually religious guys that are "anti-knowledge". :-)

If the Bible is the Text, then the Tradition is the Con-Text. (I did not invent the interpretation of the passage, ... I just pass it on) -- that was simply the banal, standard, traditional and Patristical understanding of the text in question. No big deal.

The tribes that You make mention of are to my knowledge in deepest, darkest Africa. I guess the way they dress there is appropiate for the climate and the season. In any case, no tribes *I* know off lack covering of their intimate parts (as scarce as these coverings might be, due to climate, et al).

The "place" that God "created" for the eternal torture of sinners is the same that He "created" for the joys of the righteous: namely Himself. (Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Hebrews 12:29). The Seraphim delight in that Fire (Isaiah 6), while the devils don't (Matthew 25:41), yet the Fire is the same always and for all (James 1:17).

Re my shyness: Exagerations are both bad, to each side: we should avoid deviations. We should find a balance and keep the middle way. (Calling *everybody* a friend is just as unhealthy as being anti-social).

larryniven said...

"It's more like the knives in the kitchen, detergents in the bathroom, electrical plugs all over the house, the dogs in the backyard, the forks, hoes, and picks in the barn, etc."

This alternative analogy actually doesn't help you at all. Responsible adults keep knives and chemicals where kids can't reach them, stick plastic plugs into outlets when they're not already being used, leash dogs, and lock up heavy tools. God, on the other hand, did not one constructive thing to keep the child-like Adam and Eve away from the tree. So I suggest you find a different explanation.

Lucian said...

All responsible and irresponsible adults I know off keep their knives in the drawers of kitchen-closets, very low in height, very easily accesible. The same goes for the gaz-range buttons, etc. They do however instruct their little ones about'em: "don't play with knives and don't meddle at the oven!". (And keeping things accesible is not the same thing as letting them "lie around" as You put it: we keep them separately and issue warnings). The same with the Tree: placed in the middle of the Garden, separate and distinct from anything else; and the fatherly advise to Adam and Eve not to taste of it at any cost, followed by the simple yet serious explanation: it is deadly! (At this point, Your comments seem just too detached from normal, every-day reality for me to take them too seriously: they would have us believe every loving, carring parent to be some sort of a villain, to begin with, which is way too far-fetched).

The Celtic Chimp said...

Lucian,

Do you think most parents would keep their knives in a low drawer if they thought those same knives had the potentially to unleash the most horrible destruction imaginable on the entire world for thousands of years?
You are right, the gun analogy is insufficient. It is more like leaving a nucluear bomb on the kitchen table.

Lucian said...

Not only that they "think", they already know (obviously).

larryniven said...

"All responsible and irresponsible adults I know off keep their knives in the drawers of kitchen-closets, very low in height, very easily accesible"

Are you joking? By definition, these are not responsible adults, and I strongly recommend that you tell them that. I also like how you cherry-picked the easiest of your analogy to defend (and failed), even though it's still a disanalogy with the tree, as the chimp points out.

Further, I don't know in what sense you think God made the tree different, other than telling them about it:

"And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

It was not, as you say, "separate and distinct" from other trees or objects in the garden - that's a total falsehood on your part that you're inventing to make your story plausible. Not only does it seem to be in the same area as normal trees and empirically indistinguishable from the same, God placed it right next to a super-good tree. I think there's a reasonable case to be made, if you look at the actual story in the Bible and not the one you're inventing, that Adam and Eve basically got set up.

And here again we see why your knife analogy is wrong: rather than putting the tree even in an enclosed space, sort of like how we put knives in drawers (and responsible ones among us put them in drawers that little kids can't reach or open), God just sort of plunked it down among all the other, totally useful trees. This would be even worse than simply leaving knives (or chemicals or...) in an accessible drawer - this would be on the order of you scattering razor blades among your child's toys or keeping an unmarked bottle of bleach in the fridge next to the apple juice. Are you seriously telling me that you think a warning would suffice in cases like that? That'd be insane.

Lucian said...

Friend, which part of the words: "placed in the center of the Garden" and "told them not to eat of it" and "for in that day thou shalt surely die" do You not understand?

And there are about 6 billion people on the face of this earth that do not meet Your bizzare criterias. (I'll be a "very old Chinese" before I'll be done teachin' them all the new and improved "household Gospel"). :)

larryniven said...

Has someone taught you to only interact with part of your opponent's arguments? The tree of life was also in the center of the garden, lucian, as I said before - in what sense does a central location distinguish the tree of knowledge as evil, then? (Furthermore, how are Adam and Eve supposed to know that it's the center? The garden wasn't exactly small) Likewise, the Bible doesn't say it was alone in the center. Finally, even if - and this is already a disanalogy from the actual Bible - you put a smallpox blanket or a gun or a knife or an unprotected electrical wire in the middle of a child's room with nothing around it and told that child not to play with it because the child would die, and then you left, that would not suffice. If you doubt this, try it some day - I look forward to hearing about you on the news. Last, the simple fact that lots of stupid people do something doesn't make that thing not stupid - see e.g. belief in Christianity.

If you intend to continue this discussion, I would appreciate you taking it seriously, at the very least.

Lucian said...

in what sense does a central location distinguish the tree of knowledge as evil, then? ... (Furthermore, how are Adam and Eve supposed to know that it's the center? The garden wasn't exactly small) Likewise, the Bible doesn't say it was alone in the center.

Is this for real, or are You just tryin' to make fun of me here? :-\ 'cause I'm not laughin' and my patience has an end, and it's not exactly like I have time to waste either. (Call me when You have soem serious questions, OK?). :-|

The Celtic Chimp said...

Lucian,

The point I was originally making is a simple one. Before Adam and Eve at from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil they were literally clueless about right and wrong. They would not have known that disobeying God was a bad thing. Regardless of that though, even if the tree had been a glowing neon monstrocity, no simple verbal warning not to eat from it would be a sufficent precaution. It was SOOOOO dangerous. God also KNEW that they would eat from it before he gave the warning, which really does cast God in a bad light. He told them they would perish? What would that have meant to them? Death didn't even exist until after they ate the fruit. There are very many glaring inconsistancies and downright absurities in the genesis story.

Lucian said...

The religions that hold to this primitive little fallacious and inconsistent story do not share Your view of the mental retardness or Total Depravity, err, Total Stupidity of the protoplasts. So the inconsistency lies within Your approach to the story. You carefully craft, create and design Your own problems, then set out to salvage what's left of it: Celtic Chimp to the rescue! Have no Fear: Garry's here! etc. If You wanna find out what the silly little Judaeo-Christian fairytales are all about, go ask the Jews and Christians. It's not like they've disappeared from the face of the world, You know (raptured or stuff)

larryniven said...

Lucian, I've had just about enough of this. You haven't answered a single one - not one - of my objections. The chimp and I have not "constructed" the story at all: what we're doing is reading it straight out of the Bible. If anyone is doing the constructing, you self-righteous twat, it's you. The most insulting thing thus far is that you tell us to go ask a Christian or a Jew - I am a Jew, numbskull. Being Jewish doesn't automatically lead one to believe total nonsense, although apparently being whatever you are does. Get your story straight, lucian - there are already enoguh half-baked apologists out there who do more to distort the truth than reveal it.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Lucian,

I was raised Christian. I know what the fairytales are about. Besides, are you suggesting that I shouldn't trust what the bible says. Maybe God wasn't making himself clear. I should go ask a priest or a rabbi to tell what God really meant to say.

Not sure what that stuff about Gary to the rescue was all about. I'm not offering anything, only pointing out what seem like glaring inconsistancies to me. My attitude may seem irreverant to you but I am saying it as I see it. Why reason would I have to be reverant of what is to me a made up story which has cast ignorance and strife on the world for millenia. I know that is not how you see it. I am not insulting you when I critisize religion. I realise that you may not like what I am saying but I just don't think that lying about how I find things would be productive. Would lie about your faith to avoid offending an Atheist?

Lucian said...

C.C.,

You already mentioned twice something about criticising my religion ... and what I was constantly trying to say to You is that it is not my religion that You are criticising here, but Your own conclusions, drawn from Your own opinions regarding Your own interpretations of Your own reading of it ... in which we have no share or part.

Anyway, I was just watchin' this morning a National Geographic documentary 'bout Cain and Abel ... not only that they've confirmed their time-frame being situated 7,000 yrs ago, in 5,000 BC, [thus unknowingly confirming the LXX Chronology (of which they are unaware)] but -more to the point- they were also of the opinion that it was not the sin itself, but the obstinate hardening of the heart and outright denial thereof that followed that drew the final line in the case of Adam & Eve in the Garden, and in that of Cain and Abel outside of it. (I could not agree more with them). It's nice to see how Judaism, Christianity and experts converge in this particular aspect (they seldom do) in a world-wide conspiracy underminining Your position. :-)

The Celtic Chimp said...

Lucian,

Your own conclusions, drawn from Your own opinions regarding Your own interpretations of Your own reading of it

I read it as it is written, you are the one interpreting

For example, can you please point me to the bible verse which shows that
it was not the sin itself, but the obstinate hardening of the heart and outright denial thereof that followed that drew the final line in the case of Adam & Eve in the Garden, and in that of Cain and Abel outside of it

The idea of a documentary about Cain and Abel is laughable in all buy a mythological sense. Can you give me some information about this 'documentary'. I would love to find out a little more about it.

I wonder Lucian if you have courage of your convictions. You know that the bible teaches that you should kill me for 'trying to lead you away from God'. If we were to meet, would you try to kill me or would you ignore that particular lesson from God and trust your own judgement?

On last thing, you repeated seem to make the mistake in assuming I am completely ignorant of Christianity and Judaism. I am not a preist or a rabbi but I am far from clueless about the teachings of those religions. Of course, particularly with Christianity, no two people believe the same thing. The no true scotsman fallacy is a firm favorite of the Christians. My knowing the exact teaching are not actually all that important anyway. Do you know all about the teachings of the followers of Apollo or Zeus? You still reject those Gods though right?

James F. McGrath said...

I think you are reading the story, ironically enough, as though you were a fundamentalist. It is a story about "adam", which is not a name, but the Hebrew word for human being. It isn't about two people in the past, but an analysis of the human condition, and how we all experience a loss of innocence that involves coming of age, awareness of nakedness, and the need to make our own moral judgments. You may in the end not like the story, but your approach is like reading Aesop's fables and then dismissing them with "What nonsense...everyone knows animals can't talk!"

larryniven said...

James, I fear that you missed the opening sentences of this post:

"The excuse that most Christians give for there being so much pain/suffering/evil in the world is that ole chestnut about it being our own fault. Everything was rosy in the garden."

This discussion was designed (insofar as I can tell) to dispute the apologetic tactic of referring to the fall when confronted with the problem of evil. Your answer is the same as the chimp's: the fall, since it was not an actual event, cannot be a theodicy. You may disagree with the chimp's analysis of how useful the Eden story is to modern humans, but you seem to agree with him on the main point of this article.

James F. McGrath said...

I certainly agree that the story does not help with theodicy. Few ancient aetiological tales would nowadays! Many conservative Christians have the strange idea that punishing someone for what somebody else did can be just, whether people today for what Adam and Eve did, Jesus for what we did, etc. Few seem to have given the notion much thought.

Having said that, the post early on turns to the 'silliness' of the story. But that, I would still maintain, is just because it is being read and dismissed without ever getting beyond the fundamentalist approach to the text.

If you can tell me when you first knew you were naked, then I'll accept the possibility that we no longer have any need for myths of this sort to talk about such undefinable moments in our psychological development as human beings. :)

The Celtic Chimp said...

James,

Larry is quite right. Free will and our 'fallen nature' are often cited as the reasons why the problem of evil is not a problem.

I entirely agree that my reading of the story is that of a fundamentalist/literal nature. It was maninly to the fundamentalists I was addressing the post. There are, I'm sure you are aware, many fundamentalists out there. There was a time also when every christian was by today's standard a fundamentalist. I would be very careful of assigning modern psychoanalytic conotations to a story written in a fundamentalist age. Also, if it's purpose were to explore the human condition, shouldn't we have long since disgarded it in favour of more scientific texts on the subject of human development. Anything, and I really do mean anything can be read as analogy. That does not mean it was supposed to be read that way. What does the story of Saul and the massacre of the Amalekites teach us? I don't doubt that some peusdo psycobabble interpretation could be found. The bible for the most part was meant to be taken literally. It is only in the modern age that more educated people will plead methaphor in an effort to cling to some relevance in their 'holy' books. You plead common sense in you discussion, but common sense should surely dictate that any God that might exist is an evil bastard or at the very least apathetic. Common sense has never had, nor ever will have, any place in religion. Religion is an exercise in defying common sense. If you believe in a personal God of any nature, your common sense has left the building.

I don't really understand the significance of the first time you knew you were naked. Maybe the question should be 'When was the first time that you were made to feel it was not ok to be naked?'
When was the first time you were hungry? Surely this moment sybolises a loss of independance. The knowledge that you were completely reliant on others for your very survival. Is this the moment that defines the human co-operative spirit? or is this just some pointless pyscobabble? I think the latter. Just like the nakedness thing.

James F. McGrath said...

The significance of that particular question is that it is what the story in Genesis refers to! Gosh, if you're going to be so critical of a story, you really should read it first! :)

I would dispute that these texts were written in a fundamentalist age. Fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon, in response to the rise of the Enlightenment, science and rationalism. In earlier times, if people were literalists, they were natural literalists rather than self-conscious literalists. For instance, when Paul referred to the heart as the seat of human thought, he was depending on the knowledge available (and had a strong authority in favor of this view, namely Aristotle). He was wrong, of course, but he was not in any sense in the position of a modern fundamentalist who might (if they were consistent) say "the heart has to think, even though all the scientific evidence says otherwise, because it is in the Bible". That's the difference between the natural literalism of the pre-modern era and the self-conscious literalism of the fundamentalists.

In earlier times, however, those well-informed about the Bible, theology, and philosophy (the closest we had to science back then) knew that sometimes you had to discard the literal sense of the Bible in light of other evidence. The church knew that in Galileo's time - there just was not yet enough decisive evidence to necessitate that measure be taken.

As for stories about slaughtering other nations and peoples, those are horrific, but typical of just about every civilization in antiquity. The problem, once again, is not that a tradition or culture has such stories (all that I know of do), but that anyone would claim that such stories ought to determine our thinking and practice in the present. The Bible's literature sets forth a pretty lofty moral standard in places. Is it any surprise that even its own authors and characters regularly failed to live up to it?

The Celtic Chimp said...

James,

I actually wrote the post with genesis open in front of me. Believe me I have read it. I think you missed what I was driving at. I don't understand why you seem to think it is an important thing. I didn't ask about the relevance of the nakedness question, I asked about its significance.

on this:
In earlier times, however, those well-informed about the Bible, theology, and philosophy (the closest we had to science back then) knew that sometimes you had to discard the literal sense of the Bible in light of other evidence.

My question would be, why not discard it altogether? Lets just clean house. Do you think the Authors of the bible intended all this subtlety and metophorical phsycoanalysis? If so, they sure did pack them tales with a lot of extraineous detail.

Lucian said...

My Celtic Chump, :-)

my belief in Christianity and non-belief in other religions has little or nothing to do with me-makin'-wild-claims-'bout-what-other-people's-teachings-are-*actually*-about, and/or me-misconstruing-their-*own*-words-AGAINST-their-*own*-traditional-millenial-or-age-long-understanding-of-said-beliefs, etc.

Your words "where does the Bile say X", or "You're the one interpreting", etc. are a reminiscent echo of the half-a-millennium-old Protestant belief in Sola Scriptura (which is fine); but Christianity is two millennia old, and Judaism even older (at least since the time of Abraham, more than four millennia ago). -- Not to mention that very *few* of these Protestants might actually agree with *Your* particular vision of "what Genesis 3 is all about".

The documetary was called "Cain and Abel" and was aired this past Monday at 11 o'clock in the morning (Romanian time) by the National Geographic Channel. (see link). I've watched it right after waking up that morning while airing my room (the TV is in my parents' room).

As for killin' people, if a bishop, presbyter, or deacon shall strike any of the faithful who have sinned, or of the unbelievers who have done wrong, with the intention of frightening them, we command that he be deposed. For our Lord has by no means taught us to do so, but, on the contrary, when he was smitten he smote not again, when he was reviled he reviled not again, when he suffered he threatened not. (Apostolic Canon #37 or #38).

The Celtic Chimp said...

Lucian,

Thanks for the link,

Christianity is as much *my* tradition as it is anyone elses. I reject it because it is not supported by any evidence.

Is there anything that could be written in the bible that would make you think it was not the word of God?

What if the bible simply isn't true?

Some of the questions I have raises do not require any particular interpretation (though I think it is you rabbis and priests who take liberties with the text). such as how can free will exist if God has perfect knowledge of the future. A simple question Lucian to which I have not recieved an answer. Ask that question of your rabbis and priests and judge for yourself if their response makes sense.

Lucian said...

Your question doesn't make much sense to me either. (I don't mean this as an affront, or anything like it). In Christianity, God is Love, and as such He does not override His own Image in man, a sentient, thinking, sensible, emotional, wilful being, created in His very likeness. (We're neither animals, nor robots). What God sees as good in His infinite knowledge and holiness is not necessarilly shared by other people: think for instance of the pop-atheist stance on abortions, adultery or any other kind of extramarital sex, homosexuality, etc.

What does it mean that God loves you always, no matter what? ... It doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be saved. Yes, He will save every alcoholic in the sense that eventually He will bring each one to a “place” beyond the grave where there is no alcohol, but whether any given alcoholic will be grateful for that or be tortured by it remains to be seen. He will bring you and me to where there is no sin, but whether we feel delivered or deprived, indeed destroyed, depends upon us. (from here).

And I'm niether a Rabbi, nor a Priest; I was just trying to bring to Your attention the fact that You're reading the Scripture in a manner totally foreign to the way that it's been read in Churches (or Synagogues) for centuries, even millennia. That was all.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Lucian,

The point about God being angry and loving you at the same time is a good one, but the analogy fails with regard to Christianity. The author asserts certain things which are completely invented and have no basis in scripture. Hell is not meant as place you simply default to hanging out in if you are (for some reason unable to be in heaven). Hell is a place of torment, a deliberate punishment. That is where the analogy breaks down. Would you condemn the alcoholic sister to such a punishment even for a minute (leaving aside eternity) if you had the power to do something about it. Love compels us to act in the interests of those we love, even if we are furious with them at the same time.

I entirely agree with you that the interpretation of genesis as it has been taught is very different from mine. I suggest though that I am reading it as it is written. I don't pretend to know what God would have done if x had done y or if this had been that way... and that sort of thing.

God is shown to have been perfectly capable of protecting the tree if he had wanted to. He did a fine job of making the tree of life off limits when he wanted to. I could of course be completely wrong about all of it. I only suggest that the story is very suspicious.

God should have known they would eat from the forbidden tree, he knows what is going to happen in the future. Why did he not put that fancy sword in place to protect the dangerous tree in the first place? As I say, I could be wrong. There may be some way or some reason why this all does make sense. If it makes sense to you great but to me there are just too many strange things in there for the story to be plausible. To make matter worse, the only source of this extremely difficult to believe tale is a two thousand year old book that paints god in a terrible light. Why would I believe it (or any other sacred texts for that matter)? I assume you reject the vedas of hinduism, the koran, The Tao-te Ching and the Chuang-tzu of Taoism, the Tipitaka of buddism and all the many others. In all cases a human being told (usually a child) that this book (insert preferred religous text here) is true. That human had no idea whether the book is true or not. They believe it is becasue someone told them it was true etc. etc.
Surely the best approach to any extravagant claim is to be sceptical.

If a person, even someone you trust and know is honest told you that they read a book about someone who came back from the dead (lets call him jim). I would bet you would immediately doubt that the book was accurate. You would most likely look for corroborating evidence for that spectacular claim. Would you simply believe it on faith?
You have of course already done this. Do you not find it at all strange that you are willing to believe a story about talking snakes. A story where knowledge and immortality are somehow compacted into fruit form and a very unforgiving God who should have seen it coming. Why is your choice in this thing and I suspect only this thing (i'm sure you are just as demanding of evidence in other aspects of life) to simply believe on faith. I suppose I am asking

'Why do you beleive?'

I don't know if this is a question you can't answer easily or one you could answer off the cuff but I would be interested in the answer.

James F. McGrath said...

I would have thought the talking snake would be a clear giveaway that this is something more akin to a fable than a historical narrative...

The Celtic Chimp said...

James,

I think it underestimates the people down through the ages since this nonsense was penned to suggest that they had it wrong to suppose it was meant literally. When this was written, people believed a whole of stuff we dismiss as fairtales in the modern world. I think the suggestion that it is metaphor is a modern (last few centuries) attempt to reconsile bronze age beliefs with advancing science.

Perhaps it was meant as a fable. If it was, there are millions of people in the world today (as mind boggling as it may be) who take it as literal fact regardess. Whether it is a correct interpretation or not, their beliefa are the reason for the 'literal reading' critisism.

If such stories from the bible are simply meant as metaphors, what value is there in the bible in a world of scientific experiment, peer reviewed papers and global communications for such a basic and in large part morally reprehensible book. Can any claim to devine origin be seriously made about the bible by the rational theologian. Of course, even the term God is highly subjective in that world, essentially reducing any such concepts to the trival and entirely self suiting. God becomes whatever the theist which him to be, based on little or nothing.

James F. McGrath said...

So you've had your love peer reviewed? You've put your ethical committments under the microscope (literally, I mean, since there is no need for metaphors in a world of science, apparently)?

Historically, people did generally assume the Bible was correct on matters of 'science', because the Bible was expressed in terms of the worldview that its readers shared. But before the rise of modern fundamentalism, there was a willingness (evidence from the time of Augustine through to the time of Galileo) to acknowledge that parts of the Bible do not describe the world as it is in factual terms.

But the underlying reason for that is a recognition, which modern fundamentalists do not share, that the point of the Bible was not in such factual statements, but in its ethical standards, its challenge to love rather than hate one's enemies, and its call for us to recognize our non-ultimacy in relation to the ultimate.

Most scholars and well-informed laypeople in the church know very well that the Bible is a human document. My point is that those who affirm their "belief in the whole Bible" and that they "take it all literally" are the ones who have never actually studied the Bible in any sort of in depth, academically serious way. Taking the fundamentalist stance as the definitive Christian one is like letting popular opinion rather than experts in the relevant field decide matters of science.

The Celtic Chimp said...

James,

Taking the fundamentalist stance as the definitive Christian one is like letting popular opinion rather than experts in the relevant field decide matters of science.

I would agree with that statement if I thought for a minute that the folk who actually wrote the bible intended it to be taken in a non-literal way. I think biblical scholars are experts in much the same sense as a fashion guru is an expert. They are essentially involved in a completely subjective interpreting exercise. There is no way to validate any particular interpretation. What responce would a scientist get if they arbitrarily decided that the data should be interpreted a particular way for no particular reason?

I think viewing the bible in a metaphorical light is absurd given the sheer volume of absolute and unambiguous rules and commandments that are laid down in it (apparently from God). What pearl of metaphorical wisdom do we garner from the tale of the sabbath breaker who was out gathering wood?

If it were to be universally accepted that it was written by humans then I think we would have no further use for it. Loving your enemies in a nice idea but a dangerously impractical suggestion (not to mention close to impossible to achieve)and is a great way to allow tryanny to reign. Pacifism is not nessesarily more moral than approproate violence. That was about the best thing the bible has to offer.
There is more hate than love in any religious text I have even gone through. Condemnation, self loathing, sexual repression, and that most reprehensible concept 'original sin' is one of the worst. Why would we look to the bible for anything?

I'm reasonably sure that if you studied a harry potter book you could invent all kinds of metaphorical assosiations and invent all manner of wonderfully pointless interpretations. The vast majority of what you would find would be what you wanted to find and would have nothing to do with the author's intent. Much like foppish art critics sitting around intellectually fellating themselves by 'interpreting' what a plain white canvas represents. Exceedingly pround of thier theories. It is a vacuous persuit and utterly subjective. It could mean anything. Some of what 'modern theists' are spouting amounts to the theological equivalent. Applying a 'deep' meaning to the bible always strikes me as a desperate attempt to cling to a superstition that has been fairly thoroughly debunked by our advancing knowledge of the world and universe.
I can honestly say I find the waffley, vague, obscurant and often smug 'modern theism' to be more irritating that fundamentalism. It is all words and no substance. It often comes across as little more than a competition to see who can use the most words to say nothing. I think this form of theism is basically valueless.

Also, if the bible is just the work of humans, how does a rational christian know anything at all about God, even his existence must surely be in doubt?

James F. McGrath said...

I don't think all of the Bible was intended to be taken as metaphor. I suspect that those who wrote the story of Joshua either knew that they were making up a story about events that didn't actually happen, in order to support a religious revolution in their own time, which they considered of crucial importance. We need to read such stories in a way that is open to being critical of such ideological use of violence (or at least the threat and rhetoric of violence).

But my point about the creation stories is that there is good reason to think that ancient authors and editors were more sophisticated than you give them credit for. Whoever put the chronologically conflicting stories in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 side by side clearly thought it was possible to appreciate both as something other than historical narratives.

The Bible contains different sorts of literature. If you want to critique the version of events in Exodus and Joshua using historical criticism, that's entirely appropriate. My objection was to the use of a factualist approach to the creation myths.

As for doubt, any beliefs that aren't open to doubt are "not even wrong", as my colleagues in philosophy would put it. Those sorts of religious beliefs are indeed the most terrifying. But the Bible is full of positive stories about doubt and questioning - the book of Job being the most famous example, but by no means the only one.

The Celtic Chimp said...

James,

Whilst I do think the creation stories were meant to be taken literally, I am open to convincing that that is not so. It doesn't really matter in terms of critiquing the story from a literal perspective for the simple reason that those to whom the critique is directed certainly believe the story is literal.

I suppose though, if we do view the bible in a non-literal light the question becomes

'Which bits are supposed to be factual and how do we tell the difference?’

Some of the questions I raised are still relevant regardless of how you take the bible. If you believe that bible contains prophesy (fulfilled or yet to be fulfilled) or even if your belief goes no further than believing God is omniscient; you must still address the problem of how free will fits with a perfect knowledge of the future

James F. McGrath said...

I don't think God or anyone else has perfect knowledge of the future - at best you end up with what I call the bored view of God, at worst you end up with determinism.

In some cases the claims to prediction in the Bible are false: for instance, the book of Daniel is regarded even by some Evangelical scholars, as well as all other mainstream scholars, as a pseudo-prophecy. That's what apocalyptic literature was: somebody writing in someone in the past's name, interpreting and offering hope for a current crisis writing in the name of a past luminary.

In other cases, it may be the modern reader who has misunderstood what is meant by "fulfillment of prophecy". In the case of Matthew's Gospel, there are two options: one is that the author was trying to pull a fast one, the other is that Matthew meant something like typology rather than prediction. But no one can look at the passages he quotes in the first couple of chapters in their original contexts and think they are actual predictions about the Messiah.

As for how we know what actually happened, the only possible answer is historical criticism. The tools of historical study are the only way to assess historical evidence.

The Celtic Chimp said...

James,

Not sure if you believe it is or not but

Do you think the bible a valuable document. If so why?

Also,

Is the bible (or any part of it) divinely inspired in your opinion?

James F. McGrath said...

The Bible is valuable in all sorts of ways. It preserves, among other things, some of our earliest writings by Christian authors, and so I would expect anyone who stands within the Christian tradition to have some interest in these writings. I also find much that is in it spiritually and ethically challenging (while some parts are abhorrent, but that just goes to show that its authors and characters fail to live up to those challengingly high standards, as do I).

As for inspiration, if you mean by that some process that enabled these authors but no others to write with a precision or an authority that other human beings could not, then no. If you mean did at least some of the individuals who wrote these works have the same sort of religious or mystical experiences that I and others have had, and write in light of them, then I do think that is the case. But such experiences do not confer infallibility on them any more than on me - and that is an important and challenging part of the Bible's message.

The Celtic Chimp said...

James,

I would certainly be more comfortable if all Christians took the same skeptical approach that you do. It is certainly a more reasonable approach.

I find it hard to accept though that there is not more to it than what you suggest. The bible must be seen as 'special' in some way. Jesus was certainly not the only character in literature (fiction and non-fiction) to have suggested the idea of pacifism and universal love. Jesus was essentially a hippy who claimed to be the son of God.

Is there anything in the bible which we cannot get from a more contemporary source and without the genocide, slavery and all that?

scott gray said...

cc--

this post of may, or may not, be of interest:

http://agnosticlectionary.blogspot.com/2008/05/scripture-instruction.html

scott

Lucian said...

For example, can you please point me to the bible verse which shows that: "it was not the sin itself, but the obstinate hardening of the heart and outright denial thereof that followed that drew the final line in the case of Adam & Eve in the Garden, and in that of Cain and Abel outside of it"?

I don't pretend to know what God would have done if x had done y or if this had been that way... and that sort of thing.

Sorry, I just thought it was obvious: Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; ("I desire not the death of the sinful, but I wish for him to turn around and be alive"). Or the fact that the building of Noah's Ark took over a century, in which there was more than plenty of time for repentance; or that God Himself descended to the Sodomites and Gomorites, desperately searching to find at least 10 righteous there, etc. This, plus the entire message of the Gospels.

The point about God being angry and loving you at the same time is a good one

Angry at our deeds, never at us, because He knows what those deeds will finally do to us who are doing them. (See the Parable of the Prodigal Son).

Hell is not meant as place you simply default to hanging out in if you are (for some reason unable to be in heaven). Hell is a place of torment, a deliberate punishment. That is where the analogy breaks down. Would you condemn the alcoholic sister to such a punishment even for a minute (leaving aside eternity) if you had the power to do something about it. Love compels us to act in the interests of those we love, even if we are furious with them at the same time.

As I've already stated above, the Fire is the Presence of God Himself, "for our God is a consuming fire". In this fire the Seraphims dwell, delight and rejoice (as Isaiah tells us), while the wicked suffer. The problem lies not within the Fire, (unfortunately), but rather within us and how we relate to that Fire.

As for my religious belief, I've already answered that question the first time we spoke, and I meant it. --> My intent is not to make You believe (I'm not modest, I'm just being realistic), but to try and answer [in the ordinary sense of the word, not the metaphysical one] or address certain questions or unclarities You might have, and possibly "tempt" You with these answers ... nothing more (though it seems like our world-views couldn't be further apart ... I guess I was still naively hoping for that whole 'East/West divide' to be just a superficial myth ... turns out it's not). You're a man of certain "stubborn" convictions, and I respect them, and You also seem to be honestly asking, and I sense a true curiosity and inquisitiveness coming from Your side (so I'm feeling that I'm doing something constructive here, giving You glimpses into something You would otherwise have no chance of knowing [objectively speaking]) You're not into polemic, and neither am I, and I like that.

larryniven said...

"Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; ("I desire not the death of the sinful, but I wish for him to turn around and be alive"). Or the fact that the building of Noah's Ark took over a century, in which there was more than plenty of time for repentance; or that God Himself descended to the Sodomites and Gomorites, desperately searching to find at least 10 righteous there, etc. This, plus the entire message of the Gospels."

First things first, Noah's flood never happened as described in the Bible. Even if it did, we now have to ask why the modern-day obstinate sinners aren't being gunned down. Your answers remain inconsistent at best and contradictory at worst. What we have here, contrary to your opinion, is not a mere difference in "world-views" but rather a difference in rationality: namely, you apparently are willing to do without it.

James F. McGrath said...

I'd love to have a Christianity that didn't have the heritage of slavery, genocide, crusades and so on. I'd also love an America that skipped those aspects, and indeed a humanity. But the truth is that all human traditions have such taints. I prefer to dialogue with this tradition that has given me so much of value, and try to learn from past mistakes - if nothing else, it warns me how much that I think is progressive in my own thought today will look old-fashioned to future generations!

Garret said...

You pose some excellent questions CC! Indeed.
Garret, getting skeptical

The Celtic Chimp said...

James,

it warns me how much that I think is progressive in my own thought today will look old-fashioned to future generations!

Indeed, that is something I think about often. I have tried imagining what way things might be viewed in the future. I don't often like where the trends go. I think a couple of 20th century savages like us would have a hard time fitting in :)

The Celtic Chimp said...

Garret,

Are you making fun of me?

Either way, I'll take the praise!!! :)

The Celtic Chimp said...

Lucian,

For all our disagreement, and I agree that it is extensive, I do value any insight such debates can provide. I don't see either of us crossing the border any time soon but debate can't hurt!

Regards.

Garret said...

CC said
"Garret,

Are you making fun of me?

Either way, I'll take the praise!!! :)"

:) back at ya.
No I am not making fun, actually. I had been doing apologetics as an evangelical Christian on Rays for 4 or 5 months- and now I am evolving- away from being a "fundy", and quite possibly my faith altogether.
You actually ask a series of eloquent questions there that help highlight the absurdity of the overall narrative, and I can no longer just ignore it. (It has been a journey of a few months, actually.)
I looked into evolution and saw some of what science actually has, and can no longer pretend that ID has anything significant, nor that Genesis is accurate.

The huge stretches that one has to take to rectify the contradictions in the bible are tiring to defend, and should not be there in the first place, certainly not if the book is "infallible" or "inspired".

My suggestion to any Christian reading this is to stay away from apologetics, you cannot pretend that there is a reasonable defense to the faith in the marketplace of ideas. You will get creamed, you will look for answers, and they will not be the ones that you hope for.
On the other hand, I thank men and women like CC, Clostridium, Irukandji (laura) et al to help me find honest answers- you are having an impact- keep fighting!
Thank you,
Garret

The Celtic Chimp said...

Garret,

Most appriciated. I fear most of our efforts over at rays are falling on deaf ears, still, if even one person frees themselves it is worth the effort.

One of the hardest things a person can do is change their mind, especially if it is in a direction they would prefer not to go. I think deconverting from a faith is one of the tuffest moves. It is essentially moving from a place of reassurement and comfort to a harsher reality. It takes courage and a high degree of intellectual honesty.

Well done to you. Wherever your questioning takes you, you do yourself credit just for asking the questions.

All the best.

Garret said...

Hi CC!
I will gladly give my story to you on how I came to reject Christianity- I would like to do it here- make a new thread if you want, and I will jump in on it.
btw- I am also reading Evolution for Dummies, the book that Ray owns and proudly proclaims that science has NO empirical evidence for evolution. This shows how Ray has his blinders firmly bolted to his head, and earplugs cemented firmly in place...what a travesty. The book lays it out very elegantly and in the simplest of terms.
A great blogsite that you may know of, that helped me to see that I was wrong about evolution as an 'ID' guy, is IIDB-

http://iidb.infidels.org/vbb/index.php

under evolution/creation. Those guys there are great at grinding away at creationists, and presenting clear cut evidences in favor of evolution properly understood.
Thanks Gary- and btw great work on your posts at Rays, I'm on the sidelines watching!

Matthew said...

CC, this would have been a rather fascinating read had it not been for a couple clearly unnecessary snide comments which sufficiently ticked me off (irony - the same attitude for which Ray Comfort is regularly antagonized would seem to be permeating your blog).

"Apart from that obvious silliness of the tale"

Great way to start off by exhibiting your objectivity.

Snide comments and clear bias aside (I'm guilty of the same things all the time), let's take a look at your 5 "puzzling questions":

1. "If God is forgiving, why did he not just forgive Adam and Eve’s relatively minor sin? ... Given how in modern societies the notion of passing blame or sin to relatives of a criminal would be considered an outrageous wrong, why does God seem to think it is ok?"

An odd (and more than annoying, from my perspective) way to justify your view. Because our human legal system (which is SUCH a good example of justice...) does not practice something, how DARE God not follow suit??? After all, man is clearly wiser than his Creator, right? This isn't logical, God should not be expected to follow our pathetic example of justice (if our legal system was truly a good example of justice, then we wouldn't have people like O.J.).

Also, as to the main point of your question, you were doing so well of keeping the whole situation in perspective until now. Relatively minor sin? No sin is minor, and even if it was, this one would not have been "relatively" minor, as there was no other sin to compare it to (it wasn't 'relatively' anything). Not eating from that tree was easily the simplest rule God has ever provided us with, thus violating it would be relatively the most serious of all sins, as it was the simplest to avoid (after all, this was the ONLY rule they had to follow, and what a shameful lack of respect they had for their Creator in violating it).

2. "How could Adam and Eve know, prior to eating the apple, that disobeying God was a bad thing?"

Adam and Eve did not possess the knowledge of good and evil because they had only experienced one of them (they couldn't tell the difference between good and evil, because they had never experienced evil). Once they ate from the tree (man's first act of disobedience in history), they experienced sin for the first time (now they possessed knowledge of both good AND evil). You would not know what good was if you had not experienced evil, nor would you know what evil was if you had not experienced good. Therefore, it is not that they did not know of good OR evil, merely that they did not know of BOTH of them. They only knew good, as they only knew God and not sin.

If you had asked Adam and Eve if "disobeying God was a bad thing," they most likely would have asked you three questions:

1.) What does disobeying mean?
2.) It means not doing what God says?! That's crazy! Why would anybody ever do such a thing?
3.) What does 'bad' mean?

The word used in Genesis for "knowing" (ידע - yâda‛) good and evil is the same word translated "feel" in Job 20:20 and Ecclesiastes 8:5. You see the connotation? While, had it been explained to them, Adam and Eve could have intellectually grasped the concept of evil, they did not truly "know" evil until they experienced it first-hand. They knew they were to obey God (they only 'knew' good), but the serpent helped them know HOW to disobey God (intellectual knowledge which they acted upon).

We may not have the full story, Adam may have offered the same excuse to God which you are offering for him now. ;)

3. "Why would God create man knowing he would sin against him?"

God created man so that He could love man and man could love Him. Love is a choice, not something which is forced. Where there is no choice, there is no love. Stay with me here... If Adam had not sinned, then he would not have developed a sinful nature. If Adam had not developed a sinful nature, then his children would not have inherited a sinful nature. If Adam's children had not inherited a sinful nature (desire to sin), then the choice of God over sin would mean nothing as they would not have wanted to sin anyway... thus, no love. So, in a way, it would seem that it may have been God's will that Adam should fall into transgression so that we would truly have a choice.

One cannot claim his choice of God over sin as evidence of his love for God if he did not love sin first.

4. "Why does the tree of the knowledge of good and evil exist?"

The same reason He created Adam knowing he would eat from it. See #3.

5. "How can free will co-exist with the notion of a prophesizing God?"

Now, CC, I'm sure you've asked many Christians this question before, but I also know that you are very intelligent and I would have thought that you would have attempted to answer it yourself before you took it to someone else. The answer, as with many questions, makes more sense when you arrive at it yourself, but I'll do the best I can to put it all on the table for you. Allow me to illustrate (I'm going to assume that you are questioning God's omniscience, not man's free-will - if I'm wrong please let me know): Do you have children? If so, then surely you know that a parent, knowing their child quite intimately, can most often offer their child a choice and know what the child's choice will be about 60-70% of the time (this percentage will change when the child hits his/her teens, as the parent begins to know the child less intimately). Now, in all honesty, the parent really doesn't know an incredible amount about the child. We'll be very generous and say that they know an incredible 10% of all there is to know about the child and 80% of what there is to know about all the variables that go into the decision. It's not hard to see, then, that God, knowing 100% of all there is to know about us and 100% of all there is to know about all the variables that go into our decisions, is going to easily top the parent's 60-70% accuracy. You could call it GUESSING if God knew 99.9% of all there is to know about us and our situations, but because it is 100% it is called KNOWLEDGE. It's still our decision, He just knows us so well that if we were to ask Him what we were planning on doing, He would always be right.

Good questions, but I'm growing tired of hearing them. I'm sure you have something more original, so please feel free to throw it my way, I'd love to have something really interesting to chew on for a while.

In Christ's Love,
Matthew

The Celtic Chimp said...

Garret,

Could you e-mail an article and I will put it up as a post.

gary__connolly@hotmail.com

Thanks,
Gary.

James F. McGrath said...

Matthew, as a Christian I have to say I find your approach to the Adam and Eve story seriously problematic. You are assuming that the story is not merely a historical account (as opposed to say myth, or parable, or a symbolic story, or whatever you might like to call it), but as a precisely accurate account. In conversation with people who have read any scholarship on the Bible and have some education in Biblical studies, you cannot simply make such assumptions without justification - no matter whether those conversation partners are atheists or Christians, liberals or conservatives.

If you'd like to explain how you can know what no Biblical scholar I know feels that they can know, I'd be very interested to hear more!

larryniven said...

Matthew, I'm glad you're interested in hearing original questions, cause I've got some for you. You say, first of all, that God wants humans to love It, and, second, that such love could not be possible without a prior love of sin (in your words). In that case, weren't Adam and Eve's actions precisely in line with what God wants? If they hadn't disobeyed, we would all still be in the garden and - according to your own criterion - unable to love God in the way that God wants to be loved. So why would God punish them (and the rest of us!) for doing something that, ultimately, he very much wanted them to do?

Also, if you look closer to the beginning of the comments, I've got another question connecting the fall to the problem of evil - if you can answer that, you'll be the most intelligent apologist I've ever run across.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Matthew,

CC, this would have been a rather fascinating read had it not been for a couple clearly unnecessary snide comments which sufficiently ticked me off (irony - the same attitude for which Ray Comfort is regularly antagonized would seem to be permeating your blog).

Yeah it's true. I suppose the sarcasm isn't nessesary. I try not too but what can I say, sometimes I can't resist. I'm working on it. Try not to take to much offence. There is an element of calling it as I see it too. The point is well taken though. I'll try to ease off on the snipes. I will be especially glad to do so in honor of serious and honest discussion.

I have quite a bit to say on your repsonse but unfortunately don't really have the time right now. I'll get to it as soon as possible. I would be very interested in your repsonse to James too as he is coming from the point of view of a more liberal interpretation of the bible.

One thing I would like your take on.

Why do you believe that the bible is the word of God?

Matthew said...

@ James

First, you're appealing to the opinions of scholars as evidence, which is problematic. Secondly, you've asked me how I can know what no biblical scholar you know feels they can know. As I don't know which biblical scholars you know (and, again, you're appealing to scholarship), that makes this question a little more difficult to respond to. I read the Bible for what it is, with no feeling of need to try to make it fit with what the "wise" men of our age say, and from this open-minded reading of the Bible, I see no indication in Genesis or anywhere else in the Bible that the Genesis account was intended to be taken as anything other than a literal historical account. There are certain passages in the Bible that are clearly not literal based off of what they say about themselves, but this is not one of those scenarios. Show me, from the Bible, a reason to believe that the Genesis account of creation was not meant to be taken literally.

I don't know what your alternative theory is, otherwise I could offer a better explanation. But as it stands, I don't even know what angle you're coming at this from. I might point out, however, that the Bible does provide genealogies which allow us to trace a lineage from Adam to Jesus (suggesting that the Genesis account was meant to be taken literally).

@ larryniven

"weren't Adam and Eve's actions precisely in line with what God wants? If they hadn't disobeyed, we would all still be in the garden and - according to your own criterion - unable to love God in the way that God wants to be loved. So why would God punish them (and the rest of us!) for doing something that, ultimately, he very much wanted them to do?"

I wish you had at least tried to see the answer to this one yourself before you tossed it my way. Yes, Adam and Eve's disobedience was a part of God's plan for the creation, but it would still be a grave injustice for God to turn a blind-eye to blatant disobedience. Allow me to appeal to children as an example once more: If you leve your children at home to go out to dinner with your friends, and tell your children to "lock the door" so that nothing will happen to them, and then accidentally leave your key behind when you leave, then return late after the children have gone to bed, then you are going to be depending upon your children's (predictable -after all they are kids) disobedience to get you in the door. If you discover that your children DID disobey you and forget to lock the door, then you will be happy, but you will also punish your children for their disobedience (otherwise they would disobey you again in the future).

Just because God plans around our disobedience doesn't mean that it is okay to disobey Him.

"I've got another question connecting the fall to the problem of evil"

Which question are you referring to? (you've asked a LOT of questions on here, but I simply don't have the time or energy to spend answering every question which everyone has asked. Please be specific - I appreciate it and would love to take a go at it)

@ Celtic Chimp

"I'll try to ease off on the snipes. I will be especially glad to do so in honor of serious and honest discussion."

I appreciate it immensely.

"Why do you believe that the bible is the word of God?"

As opposed to what? My answer can better fit your inquiry if I know what the alternative is that you are offering. For the moment, I will assume that you are asking how I know that the Bible is God's Word rather than man's, and that in either case I would consider it true (If you were asking how I KNOW that it is true, then please let me know).

I believe the Bible to be the Word of God because of what it says about itself (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17 & 2 Peter 1:21).

In Christ's Love,
Matthew

larryniven said...

Sorry, Matthew, I'm not dumb enough to fall for that. My argument was not that their disobedience was morally permissible. I never said anything remotely like that, and it appears you've simply read that claim into my argument, possibly without reading what I actually said. Rather, I claimed, using your premises as justification, that it wasn't even disobedience in the first place. First you said that they defied God's desires by eating the fruit, and that defiance constituted the disobedience. Later, though, you claimed that God's real desires in this case were for them to eat the fruit. Thus, by your own standards, it wasn't disobedience at all. Further, your analogy fails, for relatively obvious reasons. As a parent in that situation, I wouldn't have a divinely foreknown plan for locking myself out like you claim God has a plan for us; I also wouldn't divinely foreknow the results of locking myself out the way you claim God knew the results of the experiment in the garden. Please try again.

The other question was:
why, if Adam and Eve could be judged on one simple action, can we all not be judged that way? A loving and righteous God would, presumably, want to judge people accurately but with the least amount of incidental suffering possible. If the Garden was test enough to determine Adam and Eve's moral nature, our lives are hugely gratuitous. Or, if our lives are on the order of the amount of decision-making necessary to accurately judge someone, then God was clearly overhasty in the Garden. At least, so it seems to me.

Matthew said...

@ larryniven

"First you said that they defied God's desires by eating the fruit"

Actually, no, I never said that. Now you're putting words in MY mouth. They defied God's COMMAND, they couldn't possibly have known what His desires were.

"Further, your analogy fails, for relatively obvious reasons. As a parent in that situation, I wouldn't have a divinely foreknown plan for locking myself out like you claim God has a plan for us; I also wouldn't divinely foreknow the results of locking myself out the way you claim God knew the results of the experiment in the garden. Please try again."

Duh, of course it FAILS. None of us are omniscient, so there IS no perfect analogy.

"why, if Adam and Eve could be judged on one simple action, can we all not be judged that way? A loving and righteous God would, presumably, want to judge people accurately but with the least amount of incidental suffering possible. If the Garden was test enough to determine Adam and Eve's moral nature, our lives are hugely gratuitous. Or, if our lives are on the order of the amount of decision-making necessary to accurately judge someone, then God was clearly overhasty in the Garden. At least, so it seems to me."

This isn't a difficult question, it's an illogical question. Adam and Eve were not "judged" in the Garden in the sense you are describing (they were still judged after they died just like everybody else). Their initial sin merely left them no longer eligible of living in the Garden of Eden or living forever. You're comparing Adam and Eve's being banned from the Garden to our coming judgment after death - apples and oranges.

By the way, your tone is overly confronatational (and rude) and thus putting me in a bad mood - causing me to also be confrontational and rude. I know better than to put myself in that sort of situation for too long, so unless you plan on being more civil in the future (and you may not have intended to be otherwise, but tone can be difficult to determine in written text so we all have to be very careful), I'm only wasting my time and my friends and family will suffer. So please try to be semi-friendly, no matter how idiotic you deem me to be.

larryniven said...

"They defied God's COMMAND, they couldn't possibly have known what His desires were."

Aha! Two interesting things result from this. First, you have now admitted that God commands things other than what God desires. Your God is a deceiver, Matthew. Second, I don't know in what sense defiance requires malice, but fine - I can rephrase. They acted against God's desires, and this fact is what caused their disobedience. Again, now we must reevaluate your initial argument with the new information that God actually did want them to violate the commandment, in which case, again, the disobedience disappears.

Next, you claim that Adam and Eve were only judged to be ineligible for eternal life in the garden and that this is not identical to being judged to be ineligible for entry into heaven. Okay, sure - but they're in the same category, I think. In both cases, God must decide who's worthy of eternal life in paradise. To deny this to Adam and Eve based on one decision seems overhasty; or, if not, to force us through decades' worth of decisions seems gratuitous. And, for the record, this is me being cordial, cause you're still in high school. If you're unhappy with me now, just wait til you're a grown-up.

James F. McGrath said...

Matthew, you can ignore Biblical scholarship if you want to, but then I expect you not to use translations into English made by such scholars or with the help of the resources made available by such scholars. You can learn the original languages, if you can find a way of learning Greek without the help of those with expertise in Biblical languages, and read any manuscripts that you can find that were not made by well-trained scribes, generally scholarly sorts even in antiquity. I suspect it will be quite a challenge, but unless you are willing to do that or are doing so already, then I hope you'll have the honesty to admit that you are dependent on those with expertise on the Bible for your own allegedly "face value" understanding of it.

Perhaps next you could explain to me how the presentation of two incompatible genealogies for Jesus proves the historical factuality of Adam, or of the Bible more generally. It seems more natural to read these genealogies as ways of affirming Jesus' Davidic heritage (negated, alas, if Joseph wasn't his father), his connection with the genealogies of Jewish Scripture and/or with Adam, and so on. I don't see any reason, in view of the discrepancy, to regard them as having had detailed historical data. And it seems to me that that is far more a "face value" reading of the Bible than the one you are offering.

Matthew said...

@ larryniven

"Your God is a deceiver, Matthew."

You stand on shaky ground there, my friend. I would be careful who I accused of deception.

"but they're in the same category, I think."

You think wrong.

"If you're unhappy with me now, just wait til you're a grown-up."

Well, I appreciate that, thank you.

@ James

Your first paragraph completely missed my point in disregarding your appeal to scholarship. It is not an acceptable debate tactic to say "well everybody who's ANYBODY agrees with ME," that tells me nothing. I don't care what EVERYBODY thinks, if I did then that would mean I wasn't capable of thinking for myself. If you had accompanied your appeal to scholarship with an explanation of WHY those scholars felt the way they did, it would have been perfectly acceptable.

"two incompatible genealogies"

Um... you DO know that the genealogy in Luke chapter 3 is MARY'S genealogy, right? It says Joseph in following Jewish custom, but it is fairly common knowledge (had you researched this before accepting it as a contradiction on blind faith) that the genealogy in Luke is that of Mary. Look into it.

By the way, "as a Christian" you are attacking God's Word (and accusing either Luke or Matthew of being a liar) and this makes me question your motives. What exactly DO you believe?

larryniven said...

Sorry, man, anybody - deity or otherwise - who commands things that they don't actually want to happen is a deceiver, period. Unless you want to propose some alternate definition of what it means to deceive someone?

Garret said...

Matthew...
"you DO know that the genealogy in Luke chapter 3 is MARY'S genealogy, right? It says Joseph in following Jewish custom, but it is fairly common knowledge (had you researched this before accepting it as a contradiction on blind faith) that the genealogy in Luke is that of Mary. Look into it."

Well, I myself have believed that it was Marys geneology also- but that was because I took the word of apologists. The text says that it its Josephs line- Luke 3:23 ....being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph... NASB.
Then I debated this against Skippy the Skeptic, and please look at how that went. It was not pretty. -
https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=

34704819&postID=5228012867313904503

James F. McGrath said...

Matthew,

I am not attacking or challenging "God's Word". Christianity is about Jesus, not the Bible. And unless you've discarded honesty as one of the virtues Christians follow, then being honest about what the Bible is can't possibly be an attack on Christianity. Perhaps it seems that way to you, but then perhaps it is your "Christianity" and not mine that is the problem.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Matthew,

As opposed to what? My answer can better fit your inquiry if I know what the alternative is that you are offering. For the moment, I will assume that you are asking how I know that the Bible is God's Word rather than man's, and that in either case I would consider it true (If you were asking how I KNOW that it is true, then please let me know).

I believe the Bible to be the Word of God because of what it says about itself (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17 & 2 Peter 1:21).
\

I am not offering an alternative. I suppose you could look at it like this.

Many religions claim to have texts written or inspired by God. Most of these texts self corroberate. In fact most of these texts insisit that they solely are God's word. They cannot all be right.
It is a simple point of logic then that most of them are false and not the word of God (unless you want to consider a God that is deliberately pitting people against each other.)
Given this situation, nothing written in a holy book can be axiomatically considered true. I am sure you see the problem with using the bible as evidence for what the bible says. You will need some reason to choose one over others, or indeed to choose one at all.

The Celtic Chimp said...

James, Matthew,

I have to say that when I read genesis, I thought it was intended as literally true. I saw no reason to view it any other way.
James, could you briefly give some indication of why these scholars believed it was not so. I realise that this is probably not amenable to a paragraph lenght explanation but any insight would be appriciated.

I have to admit too that the fact of any genealogy being provided at all suggests a literal meaning to me.

James F. McGrath said...

Matthew wrote: "I believe the Bible to be the Word of God because of what it says about itself (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17 & 2 Peter 1:21)."

Can you see this is a circular argument?

Matthew said...

@ James

"Christianity is about Jesus, not the Bible."

You know nothing about Jesus if you cannot trust the Bible. I would assume, then, that you believe at least part of the Bible. Do you believe the part that says it is God's Word? To not believe God's Word is to call God a liar, and to call God a liar proves that the His Word has no place in your life (1 John 1:10), so maybe it isn't me who's missed the point of Christianity.

"Can you see this is a circular argument?"

Because I believe the Bible is trustworthy, when it says that it is not man's trustworthy words but God's trustworthy words, I believe it. If you do not believe the Bible to be trustworthy, THEN it is circular reasoning. CC asked ME why I believed the Bible was the Word of God. Because I believe the Bible, the claims it makes about itself are perfectly good reasoning for me. I realize it doesn't work for you, but as I was talking to CC anyway, that didn't really matter.

@ Celtic Chimp

"I am not offering an alternative. I suppose you could look at it like this.

Many religions claim to have texts written or inspired by God. Most of these texts self corroberate. In fact most of these texts insisit that they solely are God's word. They cannot all be right.
It is a simple point of logic then that most of them are false and not the word of God (unless you want to consider a God that is deliberately pitting people against each other.)
Given this situation, nothing written in a holy book can be axiomatically considered true. I am sure you see the problem with using the bible as evidence for what the bible says. You will need some reason to choose one over others, or indeed to choose one at all."

Thank you,that was actually very helpful. I believe the Bible to be the Word of God above other texts for several reasons:

1. The incredible amount of fulfilled prophecies.

2. Personal experience.

3. The Gospel presented in the Bible is unique, original, and makes more sense than the 'good news' of other faiths.

4. I have yet to find a single criticism of the Bible which stands up to scrutiny.

5. Many other belief systems seem to try to either bring God down to man's level, bring man up to God's level, or some combination of the two. Christianity makes the distinction bold and clear, which makes far more sense to me and is less prideful.

So there you have it. I'm sure James will have something to say here, and I'm just waiting for him to call me one of those pesky "wretched fundamentalists" any moment now. ;)

Good question! If you need further clarification on any of the above points, let me know.

@ Garret

Thanks for that, but notice several important things about the genealogy in Luke:

1. The word 'supposedly' in 3:23

2. Matthew was written to the Jews, Luke was not. Thus it makes sense that Matthew would include the legal lineage (through Joseph) and Luke the biological lineage (through Mary)

3. The custom of not speaking of women except in certain circumstances.

4. Joseph's genealogy includes a man by the name of 'Jeconiah' (who was cursed that no descendant of his would sit on the throne - luckily, Jesus was not a true descendant of Joseph)

5. The early church knew about the 'discrepancy' (it's blatantly obvious) yet still included both in the canon? Why? Because they recognized the custom. It is only now that sufficient time has elapsed for most of us to forget that the skeptics bring it up.

James F. McGrath said...

Matthew,

I'm sorry, your argument remains circular. You believe the Bible is trustworthy because it says it is. This is essentially the old poster:

Rule 1: The boss is always right.
Rule 2: If the boss is wrong, see rule #1.

Just substitute the Bible for the boss (presumably that's an equation you'll be happy with anyway!).

If God did not author the Bible, then there is no insult to God involved in acknowledging the Bible is what it is.

Matthew, if you can show me one instance of this supposed "custom" of giving a woman's genealogy by saying "supposedly the son of X, the SON of Y...", I'll be happy to concede the point. But my guess is this "custom" was invented because it is necessary to make the Bible appear to be correct. That's the problem with the arguments for the sole sufficiency of and/or perfection of the Bible. They have to rely so heavily on things that aren't in the Bible, and often aren't in any available source, that it becomes an infallible imagined reconstruction rather than an infallible Bible.

NaFa said...

Hey Chimp,

Hope you don't mind the comment on your blog

I thought of a alternate Genesis interpretation I once read. It may not be helpful but I thought you might find it interesting.

Apparentlt there were 2 magic Tress in the Garden, one was the Tree of Knowledge and the other The Tree of Life.

When A & E ate from Tree of Knowledge God became angry because their Knowledge was now on par with His. The banishment from the Garden was to keep them from eating from the Tree of Life, which would made them immortals.

So, basically God was afraid of them becoming His equals and not needing Him anymore. Hence, He invent sin and to make us beg him for mercy and make Himself feel needed.

I don't know how accurate that interpretation is, but I thought it interesting.

But what I find really interesting is how Fundelmentalist are able to take this story literally. I mean it is a total mystery to me how an otherwise intelligent and grounded person can manage to detach themselves from reality to this degree.

Do you haver any insights? I really like to hear it.

Lucian said...

5. The early church knew about the 'discrepancy' (it's blatantly obvious) yet still included both in the canon? Why? Because they recognized the custom. It is only now that sufficient time has elapsed for most of us to forget that the skeptics bring it up.

Christian Tradition -throughout recorded human history- has failed at treating Luke's genealogy as the one of Mary. I have yet to come accross a *single* Church Father which does that; not even the Syrian Fathers, -like St. John Chrysostom, for instance- (and btw, the Syrians speak Aramaic until today, not to mention the obvious fact that they're Semites by ethnicity) are known to have ever offered such an [original] interpretation. Not only that, but [the same] history also shows us that the first Christians on the face of this planet to have interpreted Luke as such are the Protestants (1500+ AD): not exactly "early".

As for the word "it appeared", it only points out to the obvious: namely that Joseph was not Jesus' biological father (as Luke has already made the case for that in the preceding chapters).

2. Matthew was written to the Jews, Luke was not. Thus it makes sense that Matthew would include the legal lineage (through Joseph) and Luke the biological lineage (through Mary)

This statement is highly problematic: first of all, Jews trace their "Jewishness" by way of their maternal line (see The Talmud if You don't believe me; or -easier- just ask a Rabbi). So, if anything, it would've been Matthew to have done what You suggest that Luke did.

Matthew, if you can show me one instance of this supposed "custom" of giving a woman's genealogy by saying "supposedly the son of X, the SON of Y...", I'll be happy to concede the point. But my guess is this "custom" was invented because it is necessary to make the Bible appear to be correct.

Not quite. See above. (And also this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this).

Irukandji said...

God was saving that apple for himself, and he really wanted it.

The Japanese have a saying: "Grudges over food are scary." As explanations for the Adam and Eve story go, it makes as much sense as anything else I've heard.

(In other news, I'm on ur blogz, posting in ur commentz!)

The Celtic Chimp said...

nafa,

You are very welcome, feel free to stop by anytime.

The interpretation of genesis that you descibe is certainly consistant with the events in genesis. I suppose that is the problem with interpretation. You can read something almost any way you want to, you just need to make some presuppositions or decide ahead of time where you would like the text to take you. We are all guilty of this to some extent. This is part of the reason why I tried to look at the story from the Christian perspective and point out how the story is inconsistant with Christian claims about its meaning. I have just entered a minefield here. Whatever version of Christian reading I critique, I am guaranteed to be called out by many Christian as misrepresenting their view. I sometimes wonder if Christians themselves realise just how many Christian points of view there are :)
The questions that I asked in this post were based off of a literal reading of genesis. To me, the events are completely inconsistant with a good and caring God.
Another interesting oddity in genesis is God's use of the words 'we' and 'our'. Who other than himself is he talking about?

God being as amazing as he is reputed to be could have created any kind of universe he chose. He could have created humans who had free will but were so good by nature that they would simply never choose to use it for ill. It is impossible to avoid one of two conclusions.

1. God deliberately created humans to be flawed.

2. God was not capable of creating flawless humans

In either case, his punishment of 'sin' then is hardly fair. Arbitrarily descided sin a lot of the time. What is inherantly sinful about sex for example? Why should being naked be shameful? Why is it ok to eat some kinds of animals and not others?
What exactly was the big deal about a garment of two different cloths? I can most certainly understand making killing or theft sinful but some of the sins are totally bizarre. Many sins too directly reflect ancient superstitiions. Witchcraft and scorcery for example. I find it a little odd that God believes in these silly superstitious notions. It should be glaringly obvious to anyone who reads the bible with honesty and an open mind that it is the words of men. Ancient, fearful, barbaric men at that. God's jealousy alone makes a sham of the consept of an omniscient and all-good God.

It is always possible to ignore the parts of a story that invalidate ones reading of it or interpret these parts in a way that batters it into some semblence of consistancy. The moment the reader begins to make assumptions about the actions or motivations of the characters they are 'interpreting', or if you like guessing, what the story means. Some interpretations are more solid than others but all are guess work in part.

An example of this is the requirement for Christians reading genesis literally to invent a motivation for God, not explicit in the narrative, when God can't find Adam and Eve in the garden. A straight forward reading by someone unfamiliar with Christian doctrine is that God simlpy didn't know where they were. This of course clashes with the idea of God's omniscience and so the 'interpreting' must begin.
'God was only pretending he didn't know where they were'
'What God meant was......'
etc.

Genesis is the first book of the bible and so we can only presume is intended to be read first by the new initiate to Christianity. I doubt such a 'blank slate' in Christian terms would make these intrepretations. They would read what is written.

God could have put the tree beyond the reach of Adam and Eve. God need not have created the tree at all. The only explanations for his putting the tree in the garden in the first place was to tempt adam and eve. Why do that? To judge humans? to see what they would choose? God already knows exactly what humans are like and exaclty what they will choose. God also seems not to care that Satan is running around the garden, apparently lying to the perfectly innocent humans. Again here, it would seem to the unbiased reader that God lied and the serpent told the truth. There is simply no sense to it. It requires 'faith'. Faith in this case is akin to holding up your hand, admitting that you can't see the sense in it but choosing to believe it was for the best anyway. This is a position I don't ever even hope to understand.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Matthew,

Thanks for listing your reasons for believing the bible over other religious texts.

I find some of them problematic.

1. The incredible amount of fulfilled prophecies.

I have always found this claim more than a little dubious. To believe that many of the often cited prophesies were fulfilled you essentially just have to take the bible's word for it. Consider the example of Mithras also. He fulfilled many of the same prophesies that Jesus alledgedly did. I have always found this deeply unconvincing.

2. Personal experience.

Obviously I cannot comment on your personal experiences but it is worth noting that other people choose other religion also on the basis of personal experience. It suggests that such experiences are perhaps not such a reliable sourse of truth.

3. The Gospel presented in the Bible is unique, original, and makes more sense than the 'good news' of other faiths.

My problems with reason are many. I doubt firstly that the bible is quite so unique as you suggest. Even if it were, uniqueness is no evidence for correctness. Original. This is true of almost all faiths. Makes more sense. This is the biggest problem. There are so many faiths that I doubt anyone could properly research them all in their lifetime. Worse though, do you really know what most other faiths suggest. To suggest just a few examples, have you read the hadith and koran? Have you looked into the message contained in the bhagavad gita? I propose that you are Christian in large part because it was the first faith properly impressed on you. I could be wrong in your case but it is certainly true of many Christians.

4. I have yet to find a single criticism of the Bible which stands up to scrutiny.

I doubt you ever will find such. Even glaring examples of inconsistancy can be interpreted away if you put your imagination to it. I think you are a very intelligent you man and this might actually be working against you here. You have the capacity to create elaborate explanations to do away with inconsistancies you encounter. Only you can decide for yourself if those explainations really ring true in your bones.

5. Many other belief systems seem to try to either bring God down to man's level, bring man up to God's level, or some combination of the two. Christianity makes the distinction bold and clear, which makes far more sense to me and is less prideful.

This is probably partially true though Islam for example holds to much the same 'we are sinful and less than God' idea as Christianity. That is hardly surprising though as the share a common background. I have always thought Christianity to be one of the most prideful of all faiths. Supposing that God would have himself crusified just so he can spare you (and others). The most powerful entity concievable cares that much about you personally that he is willing to suffer an agonising death for your sake. If that is not prideful I don't know what is.

Only you can really decide for yourself how convincing these reasons are. I refuse to accept that you don't see an element of circular reasoning in this though. You are too smart by half to have missed it.
Ultimately, it seems to me that you have simply chosen to put your faith in the bible. This of course is your choice.

James F. McGrath said...

Lucian, thanks for the points you mentioned about the genealogies and the Church Fathers.

Matthew, I meant to mention in my last comment that it is simply not the case that "You know nothing about Jesus if you cannot trust the Bible" if you mean that one has to trust it as inerrant or infallible in order to do this. One can use historical critical methods of study, and that indeed is what I would recommend. It works for other ancient figures, without trusting everything the sources say about them at face value, and so I don't see why it wouldn't work in the case of Jesus.

As for fulfillment of prophecy, I strongly recommend reading the verses Matthew quotes in chapters 1-2 of that Gospel in their original context. I think you'll find these are cases of typology and not prediction.

The Celtic Chimp said...

nafa,

Sorry, I realised that I hadn't actually adressed the question you asked. I just waffled on :)

I believe that otherwise intelligent, resonable people take a literal meaning from genisis for the simplest of all reasons. They want to. They want to believe the bible is true and that it explains the world. They want to believe that heaven is real. They want to believe that God is looking out for them personally. I think once the decision is made, possibly subconsiously, to simply believe the bible is true, reason and common-sense take a back seat. The truth of the bible is from then on taken as axiomatic. The thought process of the believer becomes something like this

1. The bible is true.

2. If logic, reason or common sense disagree with the bible then they must be wrong because.....
The bible is true.

3. If historically evidence disagree with biblical history then it must be incorrect because...
The bible is true.

4. If a well established and well supported scientific theory diagrees with what the bible says then it must be false becasue....
The bible is true.

The question is never 'Is this true' when considering something that condracts the bible.
It is more a case of 'Lets see if we can find the flaw in this (must be wrong) theory.'

The truth or validity of the bible is simply put beyond question. Any genuinely honest questioning at least.

I find James style of belief no less perplexing though and in some ways more so. James would probably agree (James I am making an outrageous presumtion on your behalf here, please feel free to smack me down on it) that at least some of the bible is in error. He asserts that genesis was not meant literally. How then does James deal with the problem of evil or the fact that God would allow humanity to suffer in sin (assuming he believes in evolution) for so long without taking any action. At what point in our evolution did we inherit the 'divine spark'. Christian doctrine becomes enormously problematic if you remove the inerrency of the bible and call into question which parts are from God and which ones are not.

Just for the record though, I think this sort of faith is much less harmful. The believer who does not believe that every word of the bible was inspired by God is free to accept modern moral values without contradiction. Such a Christian might for example be involved in gay rights or even be gay despite the bibles clear condemnation of it. I read a tragic blog post by a gay Christian. Ironically a Chritian of the more fundamentalist persuasion. Needless to say his life was being made miserable by the bibles condemnation of homosexuality. He could't help the way he felt but was constantly praying for God to help him (it goes without saying to no avail). He prayed about it constantly and felt enormous guilt about feeling that as much under his control as feeling hungry or thisty. It was a truly sad thing. The guy seemed like a really genuine chap but was having his life ruined by his own adherance to ancient superstitions. A more relaxed faith might have allowed him his faith without all the unnessesary suffering.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Matthew,

Do you think it is possible that bible could be shown to be wrong about something?

The Celtic Chimp said...

Irukandji-san,

O-genki desu ka?

My spelling in english is horrible so I really woundn't expect much from me in Japanese :)

Did I see it written somewhere that you are a linguist? I assume from your name and that last comment that Japanese is one of the languages you speak.

I have started learning Japanese myself. I have only a handful of words yet but it is fun so far!

Matthew said...

@ Celtic Chimp

"1. The incredible amount of fulfilled prophecies.

I have always found this claim more than a little dubious. To believe that many of the often cited prophesies were fulfilled you essentially just have to take the bible's word for it. Consider the example of Mithras also. He fulfilled many of the same prophesies that Jesus alledgedly did. I have always found this deeply unconvincing."

Perhaps you should study prophecy more closely (I didn't even need Messianic prophecy to back up that statement).

"2. Personal experience.

Obviously I cannot comment on your personal experiences but it is worth noting that other people choose other religion also on the basis of personal experience. It suggests that such experiences are perhaps not such a reliable sourse of truth."

If you were under the impression that the personal experiences of those in other faiths presented a problem for me, then you are mistaken. False gods exist every bit as much as the real one does, they just aren't as powerful or as honest about their true nature (you'll have fun with this one, I'm sure, but I'm going to leave it at that for now).

"3. The Gospel presented in the Bible is unique, original, and makes more sense than the 'good news' of other faiths.

My problems with reason are many. I doubt firstly that the bible is quite so unique as you suggest. Even if it were, uniqueness is no evidence for correctness. Original. This is true of almost all faiths. Makes more sense. This is the biggest problem. There are so many faiths that I doubt anyone could properly research them all in their lifetime. Worse though, do you really know what most other faiths suggest. To suggest just a few examples, have you read the hadith and koran? Have you looked into the message contained in the bhagavad gita? I propose that you are Christian in large part because it was the first faith properly impressed on you. I could be wrong in your case but it is certainly true of many Christians."

What you propose is most certainly wrong, and insulting. And no, I have not studied the Koran (in great detail, at least), but I have spoken to a Muslim friend for further clarification of Islamic salvation. Muslims believe in following a rigid system in order to gain entrance into heaven (and even then, Allah only MIGHT let you in). I've witnessed to individuals of many faiths and found their paths to salvation to have common element - man earns his salvation. Christianity is different because it claims that it is impossible to earn your salvation, but that God is still just and will punish evil - yet, in His incredible mercy offers to take the punishment upon Himself - yet not because of any good works we have done to earn such a right. All we have to do is in true godly sorrow over our transgression ASK Him for this free gift. Thus, Christianity is the only religion I have come across in which 1. justice is maintained and 2. self-justification is denied.

"4. I have yet to find a single criticism of the Bible which stands up to scrutiny.

I doubt you ever will find such. Even glaring examples of inconsistancy can be interpreted away if you put your imagination to it. I think you are a very intelligent you man and this might actually be working against you here. You have the capacity to create elaborate explanations to do away with inconsistancies you encounter. Only you can decide for yourself if those explainations really ring true in your bones."

They've all rung true thus far, and to suggest that I would "create elaborate explanations" is rather annoying. I've discovered simple truths behind elaborate deceptions.

"5. Many other belief systems seem to try to either bring God down to man's level, bring man up to God's level, or some combination of the two. Christianity makes the distinction bold and clear, which makes far more sense to me and is less prideful.

This is probably partially true though Islam for example holds to much the same 'we are sinful and less than God' idea as Christianity. That is hardly surprising though as the share a common background. I have always thought Christianity to be one of the most prideful of all faiths. Supposing that God would have himself crusified just so he can spare you (and others). The most powerful entity concievable cares that much about you personally that he is willing to suffer an agonising death for your sake. If that is not prideful I don't know what is."

It's a good thing I wasn't eating when I read this, CC, or I would have choked and it all would have been your fault. I can't believe you've missed the whole point of Christianity by such a great amount. (Genuine) Christianity is not prideful, but incredibly humble. It never ceases to amaze me how God could possibly love me or care about me at all, let alone accept my punishment that I deserved for my sins. There is no "holier than thou" attitude about true Christians who understand the unfathomable and unmerited grace and mercy they have received at the hand of their Creator.

At the same time, I guess I shouldn't have expected you to understand all that. I suppose for someone who only knows Christian doctrine but doesn't know Christ, it would probably look like pride.

"Only you can really decide for yourself how convincing these reasons are. I refuse to accept that you don't see an element of circular reasoning in this though. You are too smart by half to have missed it."

I suspect that was a compliment, but it may have been a veiled insult. It's hard to tell with you.

"Ultimately, it seems to me that you have simply chosen to put your faith in the bible. This of course is your choice."

Ultimately, it seems to me that you have simply chosen to put your faith in your own wisdom. The day I realized that I wasn't as clever as I thought I was was a real wake-up call for me. I pray one day you'll see it, too. 1 Corinthians 1:17-25

"Matthew,

Do you think it is possible that bible could be shown to be wrong about something?"

I'm sure you could string some words together to make it sound that way. Go for it, many have tried. Just try to stick to one issue at a time, please.

In Christ's Love,
Matthew

The Celtic Chimp said...

Matthew,

Relax Mat, I'm not trying to offend you. Stop treating my point of view like it is some kind of attack.

Do you think it is possible that bible could be shown to be wrong about something?

The point of this question was to establish if you even consider it a possibility that you might be wrong.

Matthew said...

"The point of this question was to establish if you even consider it a possibility that you might be wrong."

Well, in that case, yes I could be wrong, Chimp. Me, yes. God, on the other hand, will never be wrong.

My apologies, I assumed you had something specific in mind.

James F. McGrath said...

Matthew,

Here's a question I found it challenging to ask of myself as I was wrestling with these issues: What would God have to do to persuade you that your view of the Bible as inerrant/infallible/perfect is incorrect, and that God alone has the aforementioned attributes?

What sort of evidence would there need to be in the Bible to persuade you of its imperfection?

Please note that the options are not (as preachers sometimes claim) limited to 'perfection' and 'worthlessness'. If I share my own personal 'born again' experience, I don't think I have any sort of inerrancy or perfection, but I don't think that makes my testimony trash. There are more than two options, IMHO! :)

The Celtic Chimp said...

Matthew,

My apologies, I assumed you had something specific in mind.

No probs!

I assume you like manga by the pic. Ever see ninja scroll. Wasn't bad. Ghost in the shell was pretty good too.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Matthew,

Consider this for a moment. Imagine God is evil. In what way do you think the bible would be different if this were so, baring in mind that an evil god would be happy to lie

Matthew said...

James

"Matthew,

Here's a question I found it challenging to ask of myself as I was wrestling with these issues: What would God have to do to persuade you that your view of the Bible as inerrant/infallible/perfect is incorrect, and that God alone has the aforementioned attributes?"

Good question, and I appreciate the slightly more friendly undertone.

God has told us through His prophets, disciples, apostles, etc. that the scriptures are His Word. With that in mind, I suppose the Bible is only as innerant/infallible/perfect as God is. As I have said before, "I have yet to find a single criticism of the Bible which stands up to scrutiny."

Celtic Chimp

"I assume you like manga by the pic. Ever see ninja scroll. Wasn't bad. Ghost in the shell was pretty good too."

Sadly, no, I have not. And, actually, the pic alludes to two of my interests, one being manga, the other DDR (see the arrows in the background).

"Consider this for a moment. Imagine God is evil. In what way do you think the bible would be different if this were so, baring in mind that an evil god would be happy to lie."

I imagine He probably would have made His rules more rigid and the punishment inescapable, and most CERTAINLY would not die for our sins. He would also probably have created us with the automatic desire to be reconciled to Him, and then make such reconciliation impossible. And, in relation to your lie-comment, He would probably tell us that it was okay to sin so that we would do it more often and heap more judgment upon ourselves.

James F. McGrath said...

The Qur'an says of itself that it is not to be doubted (2:1). I don't see how pointing to what God supposedly said in a text can prove anything about that text.

On what basis would you reject the Qur'an's claim to divine authority? How is it possible for someone who doesn't already accept the Bible's authority to be convinced of it?

Garret said...

The Celtic Chimp sez:

"It is always possible to ignore the parts of a story that invalidate ones reading of it or interpret these parts in a way that batters it into some semblence of consistancy. The moment the reader begins to make assumptions about the actions or motivations of the characters they are 'interpreting', or if you like guessing, what the story means. Some interpretations are more solid than others but all are guess work in part."

This, to me, seems to be the perfect summary of modern evangelical Christian apologetics. I tried, folks, I really did, to take the apologetics to the heathens, and was continually amazed at how I (as the apologist) was the one who had to jump through hoops, bridge gaps with hollow piffle (the word of the day!), and square the circle to make the difficulties and contradictions disappear. It is one thing to read an apologetics book as a believer, and to be satisfied with the answers without giving it much thought. It is another thing all together to take those answers and face skeptics, who easily poke holes in your arguments, and ask you to back up your sources with more data. You seek the data, and realize, to your horror, that there is only more scholarly speculation and wishful thinking to apply to the question at hand. A brilliant example is the two geneologies of Christ.

CC, I like this other example that you provide of a simple 'logic difficulty' hiding in the text, that I had never once had the pleasure to consider as a believer-

"God also seems not to care that Satan is running around the garden, apparently lying to the perfectly innocent humans. Again here, it would seem to the unbiased reader that God lied and the serpent told the truth."

I can't see little questions such as these as anything other than brilliant! It could be that I am a stupid man, or a little slow, but I honestly never had sat back and been a skeptic of the narrative before. I had bought into it, and had not done my hmmmm work. I certainly should have, I could have saved a lot of time and money.

Matthew said...

"The Qur'an says of itself that it is not to be doubted (2:1). I don't see how pointing to what God supposedly said in a text can prove anything about that text.

On what basis would you reject the Qur'an's claim to divine authority? How is it possible for someone who doesn't already accept the Bible's authority to be convinced of it?"

Sorry, James, I was under the impression you believed in the God of the Bible. I don't believe I ever suggested that my reasons for believing the Bible to be the Word of God were meant to be taken as a reason to come to Christ. I was merely answering the question that was asked of me. I reject the Quran because I reject the god of the Quran, I reject the Book of Mormon (which, yes, as a matter of fact I have studied in detail) because I reject the god of the Book of Mormon. I reject The Secret Doctrine because I reject the theosophical view of God, etc.

You said you were a Christian, so I assumed you at least believed in the God described in the Bible. If I was wrong, then I apologize.

James F. McGrath said...

Matthew, I'm trying to be patient but you really are making me dizzy. How does one come to believe in the God of the Bible without first believing in the Bible? Are you saying that you came to Christ and a view of God, and then came to believe the Bible because it articulated that same view of God? Or are you once again stating that you believe in the God of the Bible because the God of the Bible is described in the Bible and there says you should believe...?

As for me, I said on my blog recently that I don't think anyone, or at least the vast majority of Christians including Evangelicals, fundamentalists and so-called literalists of all sorts, actually believes in the God depicted in the Bible. Feel free to disagree with me, but I'd appreciate it if you'd read the blog post I've linked to carefully first so that you understand what I mean by that claim.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Garret,

Don't be too hard on yourself. The desire to believe is very strong for some people and we all have a habit of viewing things favourably when it feeds into our desires. The word without God is a messier place. You are forced to realise that things are almost never black and white. I can definately understand why people would be drawn to the certainty and simple rules that most faiths include. When considering difficult moral questions such as abortion, it is much easier for the believer who has essentially been told what to think. A non-believer might reach the point where they are as anti-abortion as the most zealous christian but the processes of getting there will probably have been uncomfortable. Similarly too, it is easier and more comfortable when you look up at the starts to see the work of a caring God. Looking out on the unimaginably vast ocean of space for the non-believer is I think a deeper mystery than the devout can appriciate. There could be anything out there. We know nothing of it. There are no easy answers. By far the most compelling reason most people buy into the God concept is the fear of death. Most people don't want to die. They are quite likely to believe or at least want to believe in something that offers a way out of that most uncomfortable inevitibility. I find it hard to condemn someone for wanting to believe in light of these things. I only wish that religions didn't bring so much negativity with them.
So don't worry if you overlooked the problems you didn't want to recognise. It is almost inevitable with something like God belief. It seems to become so hard-wired after a while I honestly think it is a minor miracle that anyone manages to think their way out of it. No mean feat at all.

I have know one or two people who I wouldn't even try to talk about this stuff with. Their need to believe is so great that I honestly think it would do them more harm than good to start questioning it. Around such people I will hold my peace (sometimes it requires a not-insubstantial effort of will), I will politely nod and rapidly change the subject. The flip side of that coin is people preaching on the street. They really bug me. If they want to believe fine but to start presenting this stuff to strangers as fact.......grrrrrrr. When I see what religions are doing in some places in Africa that is when my Atheism takes a turn in the militant direction. If faiths were held privately by people fine, but when religions start causing deaths I get really pissed off.

I must apologise for the rambling and ranting.

Matthew said...

James

Sorry, James, but I've read your post and, shockingly, I still believe in the God depicted in the Bible every bit as much now as I did before. He is every bit as powerful now as then, and carries every bit as much authority. Is there a gap between Old and New Testament? Yes, we are under a new covenant. Is there a gap between the Gospels and the epistles? Yes, they were under a new covenant. Is there a gap between the epistles and us? Hardly, not much has changed.

How would you describe your Christianity, James? I'd love to know what you DO believe.

James F. McGrath said...

Matthew, I have said a lot about what I believe about many things on my blog and so will not attempt to elaborate a statement of faith in detail here. I would like to hear more about precisely the details of the Biblical God as you understand them. I don't think there is a single unified portrait of God in the Bible, but one that develops over time. The idea that God was localized at Sinai and could refuse to go with the Israelites has been replaced by a God who is omnipresent. So I doubt very much that even speaking about "believing in God as depicted in the Bible" makes sense, since it presupposes that this library of literature written over the course of many centuries has a single unified outlook.

I'm a Christian not because I pretend it is possible to believe exactly what the earliest Christian believed (even, as Ned Flanders put it, "the stuff that contradicts the other stuff"). Rather, these early Christians left a model of relating their heritage to new issues in creative ways, and that is what I seek to emulate in relation to our time.

Matthew said...

The important "issues" haven't changed, James. And God does not change. Ever. (see Malachi 3:6)

P.S. God was never "localized to Sinai" the rest of the world was every bit as much subject to his dominion then as they are now. You should have read the passage in a more hermeneutically sound manner.

James F. McGrath said...

How convenient for you that "hermeneutically sound" means "a reading that confirms my preconceived notions". The scholarly approach is to attempt to take seriously the text's meaning on its own terms, in the context not only of all that the text in question says but also its historical context.

With your hermeneutic, the Bible means that which confirms what you already believe, and so it is you (or better your hermeneutic) that has the ultimate authority, and not the Bible.

Matthew said...

I never even described my method of hermeneutics, interesting that you feel the need to assume that it rests upon my pre-conceived notions simply because I disagreed with you... did it occur to you that maybe it was YOU who read the passage incorrectly? Or do you always assume that your opponent is incapable of being objective?

Incredibly, I've studied hermeneutics and I already knew it was necessary to "take seriously the text's meaning on its own terms, in the context not only of all that the text in question says but also its historical context."

Just because you have a PhD. and I don't doesn't make you correct by default.

Lucian said...

By far the most compelling reason most people buy into the God concept is the fear of death. Most people don't want to die. They are quite likely to believe or at least want to believe in something that offers a way out of that most uncomfortable inevitibility.

LOL :-) Guess I'm not like "most people" then. (I've used to fantasize and dream about suicide at a very young age). I was really struck and stunned when I've read in this small-sized, hard-covered, black-bound prayer-book that it was actually a sin against the Holy Ghost. :-\ (I could read since I was 4 or 5). Never really understood why, but by then I was already indoctrinated into taking anything my belief taught for granted, ask no questions, that sorta thing. :-) [Blame it on my granny :p ]. I was a "Natural Born Gnostic", I guess... :-)

God was localized at Sinai

Someone wrote an article once about "the God of a specific place".

James F. McGrath said...

Matthew,

If my PhD leads to your feeling defensive, so be it. Perhaps that is appropriate. I think that in any other area than Biblical studies, most people would defer to those with advanced degrees as likely to know a lot more about the subject than they do. But for many conservative Christians, a PhD is a sign that one is more likely to be imposing things on the text. It seems odd to me.

At any rate, I was simply responding to what you wrote. I mentioned that the story I linked and alluded to seems to suggest that God was located at Sinai and might or might not go with the Israelites. An omnipresent God doesn't face that issue. Rather than address this in detail, you made a snide comment about my reading not being "hermeneutically sound" without going into detail.

I don't think you've addressed any of the substantive points that commenters have made to you, whether about the genealogies both being of Joseph, about your claim that there was a 'custom' of giving a woman's genealogy as though it were her husbands, about your hermeneutical assumptions, about your tendency to argue in a circle. Please feel free to answer any of the points that I or others have made, but if you are not inclined to do so, I really don't have any interest in trading insults. I don't know about you, but I've changed my mind enough times to know I may well be wrong about a lot of what I think at present, and so I'm interested in constructive conversation, not in denigrating other viewpoints. If you're inclined to do the latter, I'm sure you can do so just fine even without my responses...

The Celtic Chimp said...

Lucian,

I'm fairly sure you are not like

'most people' ;)

neither I am. Coming from me you can take that as a compliment!

All the best,
Gary.

Matthew said...

James,

I'm sorry, I seem to have taken my anger at the snide comments of certain other individuals on this blog (who shall remain unnamed) out on you. As to the localized God thing, I've never read anything anywhere that seemed to suggest this to me, but I suspect that neither of us are going to change our minds any time soon.

I suspect Romans 16:17 applies here and it is our duty to (somehow) get along.

Anonymous said...

Why assume such a literal translation of Adam and Eve?

Being naked seems to merely symbolize innocence, like that of a child. Adam and Eve were children, and like children they did not know right from wrong, they were not aware of they’re own nakedness. I’m not sure about any of you, but I have children and at this point in they’re life (6 and 3) they’ll freely run around the house in the nick with no thought either way.

The tree of knowledge is simply representative of a coming of age. One of the first things that happens when you reach puberty is that you become modest about your body, there’s no way your running around the house naked. Furthermore, who comes of age first? Women do; they reach puberty at an earlier age then boys do, hence Eve taking the apple first. (don’t forget, a sign of puberty is the Adam’s Apple)

Puberty is a natural sign of temptation, a point where you loose your innocence and begin to be driven by your biological urges. Again, the woman was the first to recognize the beauty and allure of the serpent, Adam wouldn’t have known what to think of it. He was too busy playing with sticks.

One must realize this is a social story that begins with a man and woman, who grow to have a family and a community. It’s a human story, not some mystical story of some fantastic God. This is how it begins with everyone, we were all at one point or another in the shoes of Adam or Eve, we all at one point or another take the apple and loose our innocence.

Louis B

Lucian said...

Your interpretation, apart from denying God's existence, to which the story itself points, contains yet another blunder, equating sexuality with sin and loss of innocence, pointlessly blaspheming against the one who made them from the very beginning both man and woman, in his image.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi CC (Celtic Chimp),

You start a blog in Jan. and compose less than 20 posts and you already are getting 104 comments on your latest post? You must have a talent for getting noticed! Bravo my alpha-email primate friend! (I happened to find your site while cruising the blogs of moderate Christians, one of whom apparently had responded to something you wrote. Not that I am a moderate Christian, though I once was. I have since found myself unable to believe what I once did.)

Since you're speaking about the topic of the Bible's "creation" accounts, note how the Biblical authors viewed "creation"...

EVOLVING INTERPRETATIONS OF THE BIBLE'S "COSMOLOGICAL TEACHINGS"--OR--DOES THE BIBLE "TEACH SCIENCE?"
by Edward T. Babinski

http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/geocentrism/cosmology.html

Cheers!

Ed
(Edward T. Babinski, editor of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists)

Andrew Louis said...

Lucian,
is this directed towards me?

Louis B.

Lucian said...

Yes. (Your interpretation is one of mine also; but I thought it needed a bit of tweaking as far as its exacerbated Augustinian-Manicheistic side was concerned: the God of Judaism and Christianity is the Creator God, of both bodies and spirits, and to miss that means to miss the whole point ... the Incarnation among others).

Andrew Louis said...

My interpretation of the bible doe not tend to be literal. I don't see Genesis for example, as speaking to actual events, but rather in metaphorical form to the nature of humanity and its relationship to God. Who by the way I don’t have an objective view of either. Your initial argument to me seems to have within it the assumption of a more literal translation, a more literal objective God. I’m not denying God by this view, if I’m denying anything, I’m denying objectivity.

Of course my view is simply speculation at best, but I can’t escape that view/angle. It does need some tinkering though, your right.

Big topic

The Celtic Chimp said...

Louis B,

This particular post was specifically addressing biblical literalists. I intend (hopefully very soon) to address the more liberal interpretations. Not specifically Genesis. I intend talking about liberal christianity, theology and theodicy and the vagueness that seems inherant, even celebrated in these circles. I realise that the view of genesis debated here is a rather extreme view.

Lucian said...

Please listen to this very short audio-file (that also fits the season) entitled "Peter And Adam", found over here. Thanks.

Steve said...

At the end of the day when we die, we either meet God or simply cease to exist. That day will surely come so until then, kick back and pour me another Jack Daniels..... God already knew I wanted a drink.

Ryan said...

In response to your first question Chimp; when you say "If God is forgiving....".

Here's the problem. God is just. He can not forgive you. I'm sure you've heard this argument before but maybe you need to hear it agian.

God is holy which means He is beyond us. Beyond your mind. Beyond your goodness. He demands justice. He demands purity. He can not tolorate sin.

The only way we can understand it is by comparing Him with a judge of our time. If a judge's whole career is filled with letting criminals go (forgiving) , even thieves, would you consider this "forgiving" judge to be good? No.

Your first commenter, "anonymous", said "we are all judged by the Lord and allowed to return to the garden should we be deemed worthy.." No my friend. No indeed. God, as a good and perfect judge, can not deem anyone worthy but must deem all guilty. Why, because He is harsh? No, but because He is a perfect judge would sees even the hidden intensions of the heart and must not sweep anything under the rug.

We have all taken this good God's glory and have drug His reputation through the mud. We have broken His commandments willingly and knowingly and deserve nothing less than spending an eternity exactly where we wanted to be. A place void of God which is also void of anything good. A place of punishment which God made for the angels who rebelled against Him.

Although the bible teaches that God is holy and good. It also teaches that it is not His will (desire) for anyone to spend an eternity in hell but that all would come to repentance.

This is why He placed the punishment for all our rebellion on the shoulders of His own Son Jesus Christ. He didn't have to do this. A good judge simply hands out judgements to the lawbreakers.

Jesus broke no law. He was innocent, pure and good. But the judgement and wrath that should have been ours was dumped on Him.

Now, God has given you this much time, don't continue on this path. Turn. Recognize what God has done for you as a law breaker. Someone who has trampled on His name many times just in this thread let alone in your whole life. He still offers to forgive you if you will repent and put your trust in Jesus Christ.

Ten out of ten die. Death is like a jump out of a plane. Hitting the ground is like judgement day. Put on your parachute before the unexpected jump. That parachute is Jesus. Trust His chute to save you. Nothing else will do.

James F. McGrath said...

Ryan, you seem to be missing one of the most basic affirmations about God throughout the Bible, namely that God is forgiving. You seem to be starting with a line of reasoning that says

(1) Jesus' death must have been necessary to accomplish something God couldn't accomplish any other way.

(2) Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins.

THEREFORE (3) there must have been no way to forgive sins without Jesus' death.

I am sure you'll quote Hebrews and perhaps a few other fringe texts from the New Testament back at me. But I hope you'll also ask yourself whether it is appropriate on the basis of those few texts to make the rest of the Bible, which repeatedly talks about people being forgiven, into a lie.

But that's the way things work in fundamentalism. You turn some texts into liars in order to affirm the truthfulness of the ones that agree with your viewpoint.

The analogy with a judge is worth pursuing further. Would a judge who let criminals go but went to jail or even death in their place be any more just than one that just let them go? The penal substitution theory of the atonement simply isn't found in the New Testament - and you can be thankful for that, since it makes God out to be unjust! :)

The Celtic Chimp said...

Ryan,

James makes some excellent points.
If it is God's desire that no one be condemned, then why should he condemn anyone. Are there laws which God must follow? Where do God's standards come from, did he just arbitrarily decide then?

If God is a judge, we could more accurately describe him as one who would be willing to let hitler off the hook because he was sorry and asked for forgiveness. He would condemn to an eternity of torture a person who told a single lie but did not repent. This may seem fair to you but I regard it as morally reprehensible. God descides to scapegoat an innocent (Jesus) so we can be forgiven. This makes no sense. Just as we would not accept on person taking on the blame for another persons crime, how does Jesus dying (very temporarily) absolve a sinner of their sins. It is nonsense. If one man was convicted of murder, would you think it fair or even acceptable that his brother go to jail in his stead. Would this be justice. Your God's perfect justice seems pretty lacking to me. And how do you know all this? You read it in a book that has a talking snake in its opening chapter.

Faith is not a virtue. Being gullible is not a good thing. If you can, describe the difference between gulliblity and faith.

Lucian said...

Ryan,

I would also want to add something about God's righteousness and holiness: it is written in both Testaments: "be holy even as I AM holy" and "be holy even as your heavenly Father holy is" ... it doesn't say: "be holy more or in a different manner than God your Heavenly Father is". And in what does this holiness consist? Let Jesus Himself answer this question for us:

Matthew 5:20
 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The Scribes and Pharisees believed in the Law of the Talion, an eye for an eye: our righteousness, according to Christ's own words, should surpass that by far ...

Matthew 5:38
 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
41  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43  ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48  Be ye therefore perfect, EVEN AS your Father which is in heaven is perfect.