Category Archives: Apologetics

Intolerant Intolerance

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(Wintour photograph courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was first published (without the graphics and subject headings) in On Line Opinion, 21 Febrary 2019.

During the January 2019 Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam, Anna Wintour, long time fashion editor with Vogue, spoke publicly about her disagreement with champion tennis player, Margaret Court, over homosexual marriage.

Dame Anna Wintour DBE dived into the ‘intolerance’ issue against homosexuals. Her target was tennis champion, Margaret Court.

clip_image003(Margaret Court Arena, photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Age reported that Wintour ‘has thrown her support behind the push to rename Margaret Court Arena over the tennis champion’s opposition to same-sex marriage’.

Wintour stated, ‘I find that it is inconsistent with the sport for Margaret Court’s name to be on a stadium that does so much to bring all people together across their differences”‘, in a speech delivered at the Australian Open Inspirational Series in Melbourne on Thursday [24 January 2019] , to applause.

She continued: ‘This much I think is clear to anyone who understands the spirit and the joy of the game.Intolerance has no place in tennis” emphasis added).

Wintour continued her broadside against those who support traditional family values:

“I have been alarmed by your prime minister’s record on LGBTQ rights, which seems backward in all senses,” she said.

“That no one can be expelled from school for their orientation, should not require clarification. A government should protect its people, not make it unclear whether they will be accepted.”

Not once in that article did the journalist mention Anna Wintour’s intolerance towards Margaret Court and Scott Morrison.

I find it disconcerting when a person opposes the ‘intolerance’ of Margaret Court on the subject of homosexuality and doesn’t see her own intolerance towards Margaret Court’s values.

It is a self-contradictory statement to accuse another person of intolerance while perpetrating the same oneself.

Other media joined the Wintour refrain

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(image courtesy longfordpc.com)

There were a considerable number of mass media examples that promoted the Wintour homosexual chorus. Three instances were from:

ABC News:

ABC News Brisbane, Qld reported that ‘Wintour said when Australia passed same-sex marriage in 2017, “the world sang in celebration” with it’. Wintour continued:

“Intolerance has no place in tennis. What we love [is] watching these remarkable men and women exceed themselves while being themselves in many different forms.

“Margaret Court was a champion on the court but a meeting point for players of all nations, preferences, and backgrounds should celebrate somebody who was a champion off the court as well.”

Do you hear Wintour’s ‘off the court’ intolerance towards Margaret Court’s sexual values as a Christian?

This article quoted Margaret Court’s views about the approach of her opponents who call for the renaming of the Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park. Court called this ‘another example of freedom of religion under threat…. I should be able to have my say as a minister of the Gospel…. I believe I shouldn’t be bullied for what I did in my past’.

Not a word was stated in this article about Wintour’s intolerance towards Margaret Court’s views.

Channel 9:

MSN Channel 9 explained the Wintour event with similar quotes to those by The Age and ABC News Brisbane about Primer Minister Scott Morrison and tennis champion and now Christian minister, Margaret Court.

Wintour didn’t hold back about her views on the proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act:

“That no-one can be expelled from school for their orientation should not require clarification,” Wintour added, referring to previous proposals for the Sex Discrimination Act to be amended in a way to allow religious schools to do so.

“A government should protect its people, not make it unclear whether they will be accepted and we are struggling with these issues in the United States as well.”

This article failed to expose Wintour’s own intolerance in her speech.

News.com.au

News.com.au provided similar details on the Wintour speech, with a sub-heading, ‘Fashion legend Anna Wintour has taken a swipe at Australia’s Prime Minister and one of our greatest tennis stars in a scathing speech’.

This news report and others were pleased to use Wintour’s statement in her speech: ‘This much I think is clear to anyone who understands the spirit and the joy of the game. Intolerance has no place in tennis’.

Again there was no effort to demonstrate Wintour’s own intolerance.

In this article I point to an apparent lack of discernment by journalists into the nature of intolerance that Wintour actively perpetrated. She practised the very thing she complained about with Margaret Court and Scott Morrison.

This is one of the main issues:

Intolerant intolerance

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Dr Jeremy Sherman exposed the nature of Wintour’s intolerant intolerance with examples from other situations that can be applied specifically to Wintour’s proclamation at the speech delivered at the Australian Open Inspirational Series in Melbourne on 24 January 2019.

  • “It’s true. We shouldn’t tolerate intolerance. We should nip it in the bud, set clear boundaries.”
  • “If we tolerate intolerance it spreads: Racism, sexism, prejudices of all sorts, judgmentalism, negativity, bigotry, factions squaring off and fighting: right vs. left, this fundamentalism vs. that.”
  • “An eye for an eye just leaves the whole world blind.”
  • “To bring about greater harmony we must all of us be tolerant. No exceptions. Loving, listening, caring for each other, respecting each other’s opinions whatever they may be.”

Sherman exposed our hypocrisy when we try to tolerate certain behaviours yet name others as being intolerant. He said the ‘truest practical question’ is ‘not whether to be tolerant or intolerant but when to be which’.

So far, I have not noticed the mass media I read expose Wintour’s intolerance of her own views – against Margaret Court’s and Scott Morrison’s views.

Sherman rightly exposed the dilemma:

‘Folks who don’t notice the hypocrisy don’t appreciate the bind we’re all in and they cut themselves unconscionable slack. They manage the bind ineptly at best, self-servingly at worst, telling people not to be judgmental when they’re being criticized, and not noticing they’re being judgmental when criticizing others’.

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

In applying this to Wintour’s speech content, Wintour didn’t seem to be aware that she herself was intolerant towards Margaret Court’s and Scott Morrison’s values. It would been startling to hear Wintour admit: ‘I oppose Court’s views on homosexuality, but in saying that, I’m making an admission this is an intolerant statement I’m making’.

It would have been even more remarkable to hear Wintour admit: ‘We live in a free society where freedom of religion and thought are allowed. It shouldn’t be surprising that a modern society like ours accepts homosexual behaviour, but I should not lambast Margaret Court’s worldview as that would demonstrate my intolerance’.

Michael Mendis calls it ‘the paradox of tolerance‘ because tolerance is a ‘self-contradictory principle’ as it is reflexive. The phrase is not original with him:

He stated that the principle of tolerance ‘dictates that we must be tolerant of everything. We cannot pick and choose what we will tolerate and what we will not. If this is so, then tolerance requires us to tolerate even intolerance‘.

Thus, if somebody is proclaiming or practising intolerance, Mendis rightly observes that ‘the tolerant person cannot, in principle, speak out against what the intolerant person is doing, since speaking out against intolerance would itself be an act of intolerance”.

Therefore, his assessment was that ‘tolerance as a principle, then, is clearly illogical, and therefore irrational. It is much more logical and rational to espouse intolerance, for then one does not get entangled in any contradictions-self or otherwise.

Intolerance as a principle does not require us to be consistently and universally intolerant’.

Who raised this paradox?

Enter Sir Karl Popper, Austrian-British philosopher of science and political philosopher:

“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them”.

In my view, it shows the lack of logical precision by the Australian mass media that they don’t expose the intolerant intolerance by Dame Anna Wintour’s statements against Margaret Court’s Christian beliefs about homosexuality and the Prime Minister’s views on amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act.

Intolerant tolerance of Court’s & Morrison’s values

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The Collins’ Dictionary (online) defines ‘intolerance’ as an ‘unwillingness to let other people act in a different way or hold different opinions from you’ (2019. s.v. intolerance).

Therefore, for Wintour to accuse Margaret Court of intolerance because she didn’t support same-sex marriage is to engage in an act of intolerance towards Court’s values. When will the supporters of certain values wake up to the fact that to accuse opponents of being intolerant is to engage in an act of intolerance perpetrated by themselves?

Other media join the Wintour spin

1. Sporting News, Australian Open: Anna Wintour slams Margaret Court over gay marriage stance (24 January 2019).

2. Perth Now, Wintour of discontent gets a serve from WA tennis legend Margaret Court (25 January 2019).

3. Daily Mail Australia, Fashion icon Anna Wintour slams Scott Morrison’s gay rights record and calls for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed in a fiery speech – but she’s not Snow White when it comes to the #MeToo era (24 January 2019).

4. Women’s Agenda, Thank you Anna Wintour for highlighting what should be key to sport: ‘Intolerance has no place’ (February 2019).

5. Vogue Australia, Anna Wintour on inclusivity and the power of tennis (24 January 2019).

6. Fox Sports, Australian Open 2019: Anna Wintour calls for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed (24 January 2019).

7. SBS News, Vogue editor Anna Wintour slams Scott Morrison on LGBTQ rights (24 January 2019).

8. WWD, Anna Wintour Slams Margaret Court and Australian PM Over LGBT Issues (24 January 2019).

9. 3AW News Talk, Tom Elliott takes “hypocritical” Anna Wintour to task over Margaret Court comments (24 January 2019).

10. CNN, Anna Wintour slams Margaret Court, Scott Morrison over LGBTQ rights (25 January 2019).

Intolerant intolerance

See: Be Intolerant Of Intolerance! At: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/ambigamy/201501/be-intolerant-intolerance

Also, The Paradox of Tolerance: https://bigthink.com/the-paradox-of-tolerance

Enter Karl Popper: Paradox of tolerance, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

Works consulted

Singer, M 2019. ‘Intolerance has no place in tennis’: Wintour criticises Margaret Court. The Age (online), 24 January 2019. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/intolerance-has-no-place-in-tennis-wintour-criticises-margaret-court-20190124-p50tcs.html (Accessed 8 February 2019).

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(image courtesy Brotherhood News:

Facebook censors biblical posts against homosexuality)

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 05 March 2019.

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Commercial celebrations contaminate Christmas

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A Child is Born, courtesy GodTube
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(courtesy Clker)

By Spencer Gear PhD

Some of these details were published in my article, Make-believe and celebrations: Christmas message ignored, (On Line Opinion, 24 December 2018).

This is a delightful season for summer fruit from the tropics and temperate climes. I purchased a pawpaw that looked just right. I struck a problem when I cut it open.

It wasn’t seen from the outside, but around the stem, there was a small bad spot that had developed mould on some of the seeds inside. Once the bad section had been removed, the remainder of the pawpaw was delicious. I would never have written off the entire pawpaw because of some contaminated seeds.

But that’s what some people want to do with Christmas. The season has been commercialised with festivities that disguise the true message of Christmas.

1.   Paddling in the Christmas shallows

Let’s clear away some debris. December 25 is not the birth date for Jesus’ birth. There is no biblical mention of the exact day of Jesus’ birth. A few hints in the text indicate it was not in the middle of the northern winter. Shepherds were in the fields overnight guarding their flock (Luke 2:8). This suggests a time of more temperate weather.

There were early discussions about the date of Jesus’ birth in early church leader in northern Africa, Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215). He wrote: ‘There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, and in the twenty-fifth day of [the Egyptian month of] Pachon. This is 20 May according to our calendar (The Stromata 1.21).

For the first 300 years of the church’s existence, it did not celebrate Christmas. December 25 was adopted in AD 336 when Constantine was emperor. In 354 a list of Roman bishops was compiled. The words that appeared in 336 were, ’25 Dec: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae, i.e. 25 December, Christ born in Bethlehem Judea.

Around that time there were pagan festivals honouring the Roman god of agriculture, liberation and time – Saturn. Mithra (Mithras) was worshipped by the Persians (Iran, Iraq and vicinity) as the god of light. Could this have been a tactical decision by a christianised Emperor, Constantine, to encourage people to consider the new faith of Christianity?

2.  The Santa sham

I well remember the deceitful fun my parents had with us kids at Christmas with the gifts under the tree. The jolly old Santa was part of my family’s tradition. We children knew no other way to celebrate Christmas. Now we know its pretense, but who wants to spoil the fun for kids?

This legend has been traced back to the monk, St. Nicholas, born around AD 280 in Patara, modern Turkey. He was esteemed for his godliness and kindness. Many legends have sprung up around his story.

As for the name, Santa Claus, it emerged from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas. As for the chubby, bearded fellow in the red suit, those features originated in 1822 when Clement Clarke Moore, a USA Episcopal minister, wrote a lengthy poem for his three daughters, ‘An account of a visit from St. Nicholas’.

He was cautious about publishing it because of its petty subject. However, that poem seems to have been responsible for the contemporary image of Santa – the tubby old man in red who could climb up a chimney (history.com).

This year, I visited a major department store in the Brisbane region to purchase a nativity scene for my house. When I asked the person at the front door to direct me to where I might find such a scene, she naively responded: ‘What do you mean?’ She had no idea of the true meaning of Christmas and where a nativity scene fits into the picture. To her knowledge there were none in this very large store. She was correct.

However, she knew lots about Santa, tinsel, lights and Christmas trees.

3.  The contaminating myths

At this time of the year, the doubters, protagonists and atheists are out in force in the mass media. They try to show that the decline and contamination of Christmas indicate that the celebration is phoney. It demonstrates the ‘Christ-myth’ (Bruno Bauer, Arthur Drews). It’s really not a celebration of the Son of God but is a festivity for the god of sun.

Some focus on the supposed connection between the Egyptian religion and Christianity, particularly the Horus-Jesus relationship. Horus was the Sun of God.

4.  How are myths created?

Jane Yolen, in her Myth Writing Workshop defines myth as ‘a made-up story that explains the existence of a natural phenomenon – such as where thunder comes from or why snow falls from the sky. Myths – which often include gods and goddesses and other supernatural characters who have the power to make extraordinary things happen — are popular even when people know the actual reasons for natural phenomena’.

This agrees with the Collins’ Dictionary definition that a myth is ‘a story about superhuman beings of an earlier age, usually of how natural phenomena or social customs came into existence’. It is fiction, an invention and promotes historical, mystical and supernatural falsehoods – for creative reading, film and performance.

5.  Jesus’ birth as truth or fiction

How do we know Jesus birth and life are rooted in history and not fiction? His forerunner, John the Baptist, was born at the time when Herod was king of Judea (Luke 1:5-7). Herod the Great lived 73-4 BC and was appointed King of Judea by the Romans from 37-4 BC. Jesus was born ca. 6-4 BC under Herod’s late reign (see Matt 2:16).

Image result for clipart 25 December Christian Christmas(image courtesy Clipart Library)

The awful details of Herod’s death are recorded in graphic detail by the Jewish historian, Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.5). Josephus regarded this kind of death as ‘God’s judgment upon him for his sins’. He was brutal in his treatment of opponents.

6.  Is Herod’s massacre of young children a myth?

Matthew 2:16 records, ‘When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi’.

A writer on historical topics, Michael Grant, considered these details not to be historical but myth or folk-lore. The massacre of the children was invented, although he conceded it was likely related to the historical fact that Jesus probably was born in one of the last years of Herod’s reign (in Gordon Franz 2009).

In my research, I found no record of this massacre in secular literature outside the Bible. However, it is consistent with the brutality of Herod. He slaughtered friends, enemies and relatives (see Josephus Antiquities, 15:5-10). He even killed his second wife, Mariamme I, out of jealousy (Antiquities, 15.3.5). He had some of his sons killed (Josephus War 1.27.6).

Archaeology and other research have discovered much evidence to support the trustworthiness of Bible records.

‘Now for the first time, one hundred and ten 2,500 year old Babylonian tablets have been discovered in Iraq which provide a glimpse of Jewish life in Babylonian exile’. It corroborates the biblical story mentioned in Ezekiel 1:1. The Huffington Post, Australia (6 December 2017), hardly a Christian publication, concluded: ‘This discovery is a remarkable confirmation of the historical reliability of the Biblical text’.

7.  Embarrassment

Something that may have caused embarrassment or created difficulty for the early church is more likely to be authentic. Why? Because it is improbable that the writers of the Gospels would deliberately set out to write false, embarrassing or contradictory material that would weaken the position of the church.

Josephus stated: ‘But let not a single witness be credited, but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex’ (Antiquities, 4.8.15).

What happened on resurrection morning? ‘The Sabbath day was now over. It was dawn on the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb’ (Matt 28:1). Imagine it! Women who weren’t worthy to be witnesses in that Jewish culture were the first to the tomb to find it empty.

Image result for picture embarrassment public domain(image courtesy Medical Xpress)

This is, therefore, more likely to be a credible witness to what happened historically because of the embarrassment factor.

Similarly with Herod! It would be embarrassing for the Gospel writer to record something as history if it did not happen. That record has been here for people to consult for 2,000 years and the Christian church worldwide has grown to be the largest religious group in 2015, ‘making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people, according to a new Pew Research Center demographic analysis’. That’s about 2.26 billion followers. Surely a myth wouldn’t engineer such a following!

Herod was a brutal king. As indicated, one of the leading criteria ancient historians use to determine the authenticity of an historical document is embarrassment. This applies to the investigation of what happened in 1770 when Captain James Cook sailed along the eastern coast of Australia, the terrorism on September 11 2001 in New York City, or whether Herod massacred the boys under 2 years’ of age in Bethlehem and its vicinity (Matt 2:16-18).

For a further discussion of these criteria, see Robert H Stein, The “Criteria” of Authenticity.

8.  That questionable census

The incarnation at the first Christmas when the pre-existent Son of God became a human being was accompanied by historical events and a human being with attributes of a person.

Jesus’ birth was at the time when emperor Caesar Augustus issued a decree for ‘all the world’ to ‘be registered’ (Luke 2:1). This was ‘the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria’ (Luke 2:2). Augustus was the greatest Roman emperor who reigned from 27 BC until his assassination in AD 14 (Ancient History Encyclopedia). Thus, Jesus’ birth was rooted in history and not myth.

(image courtesy Wikipedia: The Virgin and Saint Joseph register for the census before Governor Quirinius. Byzantine mosaic at the Chora Church, Constantinople 1315–20).

This historical information has some protagonists up in arms:

(1) ‘There is no record of Caesar Augustus’ decree that “all the world should be enrolled” (Lk. 2:1).  The Romans kept extremely detailed records of such events’ (N F Gier 1987).

(2) No records exist that Quirinius was governor of Syria when Luke wrote his Gospel. John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar stated, ‘The journey to and from Nazareth for census and tax registration is a pure fiction, a creation of Luke’s own imagination’ (Crossan 1994:20).

Even though there are questions about the accuracy of the biblical record, observe the association of Jesus’ birth with secular rulers – Herod, Caesar Augustus, and Quirinius. God’s purposes were worked out through unbelievers.

Herod died in 4 BC and Quirinius didn’t begin to rule in Syria until AD 6. Jesus was born in 5-4 BC. Is Luke telling a whopper? How can we answer this apparent historical discrepancy (suggested by J. Hampton Keathley, III)?

Flower10  An ancient census form from an official government order in Egypt, dated to AD 104, spoke of a house-to-house census for those who returned to their own homes. Archaeologist John McRay spoke of another papyrus from AD 48 indicating ‘the entire family was involved in the census’.

Flower10 External evidence to the Bible states census registrations happened about every 14 years and that Quirinius could have been twice in charge of these registrations. Luke records in Acts 5:37 that he was aware of the later registration or census of Quirinius, the one reported by Josephus. Luke shows from Luke 2:1-2 and Acts 5:37 that there may have been two census’ registrations by Quirinius. Or, there could have been two Quiriniuses,

Flower10  A distinguished archaeologist, Jerry Vardaman, found a coin with the name of Quirinius on it in very small writing, or what we call ‘micrographic’ letters. This places him as proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC until after the death of Herod. ‘The census would have taken place under the reign of the earlier Quirinius. Given the cycle of a census every fourteen years, that would work out quite well’.

Sir William Ramsay, the late archaeologist and professor at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities gave a similar theory of one Quirinius who ruled Syria on two occasions. ‘He concluded from various inscriptions that while there was only one Quirinius, he ruled Syria on two separate occasions, which would cover the time period of the earlier census’.

9.  Manipulation of evidence

Have I stage-managed the evidence to arrive at a conclusion that conforms to Christian orthodoxy? That’s not my motivation. I want to honestly examine the evidence since Luke has a reputation of being a reliable historian. All readers of this article can choose to close down further examination of the evidence and claim that Luke got it wrong because of presuppositional resistance to the birth of Jesus happening as described in the Gospels.

The other option is to pursue the evidence where it leads. That’s what I’ve attempted to do. As a researcher of the historical Jesus, like all historical evidence (that cannot be examined in the laboratory by repeatability), the conclusions reached can be only probable and not 100% certain.

I have found reasonable answers to the Christmas questions posed about the biblical text.

10.  Conclusion

The season has become infected with profiteering and extra effects such as Santa, reindeers, tinsel, lights and Christmas trees.

Commercialisation of the Christian message or a bad experience should never testify against the real person and events surrounding Jesus’ birth.

Mouldy pawpaw seeds did not deter me from enjoying a special piece of summer fruit. Neither should a contaminated Christmas season stop us from remembering the Person who began this celebration ca. 4 BC, Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world.

The intrusion into the Christmas season of foreign symbols and signs detracts from the meaning of Christmas.

The history of the Western world turns on this event. The Christ child was prophesied in Micah 5:1-2 to be born in Bethlehem, 700 years before his birth. And it happened as predicted.

In the same era, Isaiah prophesied that he would be more than a baby in the manger. This child would be God the Son who would ultimately govern God’s kingdom. The baby of Bethlehem is the wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father and prince of peace.

He’s the One whom we celebrate every Christmas. The extravagance of the season should never blind us to the fact that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Image result for image For unto us a King is born and the government shall be on his shoulder

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 December 2018.

Can human beings know good from bad?

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Is it possible for human beings to discern good versus evil moral actions? What is the standard by which a person or nation decides if behaviour is pleasing or evil?

The Christian is clear as to what is evil because Scripture declares it:

‘If there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character”’ (I Cor 15:32-33 NLT).

They know the deeper problem: ‘

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

“I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds (Jer 17:9-10 NLT).

As for the godless, secularist, I’d like you to meet Allan. This is my online interchange with him. He pursued a few different topics.

Allan: He agreed with Dan: ‘We [human beings] are indeed fallen angels’.[1]

Spencer: Instead of believing Dan, why don’t you obtain your understanding from Scripture? We are human beings, created in the image of God. Adam corrupted that and we would have done the same (Gen 1-3; Rom 5).[2]

See: What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)? [Got Questions Ministries]

Allan: ‘Personally, I believe it [heaven] is some sort of reunification with a larger whole that is one unified field of energy, but still many individual conscious self-aware personalities. Experiencing unbelievable all consuming euphoria and overwhelming pure love’.

Spencer: When you invent ‘I believe’ personally, you are off into presupposition land.

Allan: ‘Heaven, therefore, is probably not a place, but rather a state of being?’

Spencer:

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Even though your statement ends with a question mark, there is no need to hypothesise like this. Jesus was clear: ‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2 NIV). Heaven is definitely a place, so says the Messiah.

Allan: ‘But instead, quote chapter and verse to justify any position however awful, inherently evil, depraved indefensible or untenable?’

Spencer: I agree Allan that some horrible things have been done with a label of Christianity or Christ. I do not endorse any of these. I’m thinking of the slaughter during the Crusades, and sexual abuse in churches and church institutions.

The apostle Paul could call himself ‘the worst of sinners’. In spite of the sinful actions of many within the church, this I know; ‘”Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I (the apostle Paul) am the worst of them all’ (1 Tim 1:15). I apply Paul’s description to me, the chief of sinners, but God’s grace reaches beyond our sin through repentance, forgiveness and faith.

Allan: ‘Even as Herr Goebbels and co turned up at their church each Sunday morning and sang Christian hymns and recited Christian prayers from a Christian prayer book.
‘Without question, they were hypocrites pure and simple as are those who protect, forgive and succour paedophilia and paedophiles’.
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(photo Joseph Goebbels, Chancellor of Germany, propaganda minister, World War 2, courtesy Wikipedia)

Spencer: We can point fingers at Hitler, Goebbels, church child abuse, etc (and we should), but when God examines me, His conclusion is, ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve’ (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
We are all not fallen angels but wicked human beings, from the inside out. That’s God’s assessment, not my invention.

Allan: ‘I think we know good from evil if never ever having read a bible or holy scripture’.

Spencer: Without God’s moral absolutes in Scripture (e.g. 10 commandments, the Sermon on the Mount – Matt 5-7), each person does what he/she believes is right. Lenin chose the Gulag, Hitler’s Holocaust wiped out about 6 million Jews – 1 million being children – some men rape women and children, others commit terrorist acts, while some in the banking industry cheat customers.

Allan: ‘Good as we know and understand it has its foundations on love’.

Spencer: Yep, sexual love of children, erotic love of porn and prostitution, promiscuous love of many leading to HIV (AIDS), syphilis, gonorrhoea and other STDs. ‘Love’, however it has been defined, has led to much damage and illness children and adults.

Allan: ‘The Christian Bible and the lessons as espoused by the Rabbi Jesus, was very-very different from the one reinvented, revised and massively edited by the cronies of Constantine … at the first synod, around 350 AD?’

Spencer: Are you an historical theologian and professor of Bibliology (the doctrine of the written Word) who knows the development of the Bible to write that kind of postmodern deconstruction?

Allan: ‘And relied on mainly four, non-eyewitness, plagiarised and systematically embellished gospels, for its Alleged authority?’

Spencer: Are you talking about the 4 Gospels? Luke’s Gospel differs from your deconstruction where he obtained his information from those who handed down eye-witness accounts (Luke 1:1-4).

You don’t like the idea of the sacramental confessional. Neither do I. However, Jesus’ exhorted us to seek Him for forgiveness: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us’ (Matt 6:11). This is not an appeal to father confessor but to Jesus himself.

Allan: ‘Then do something real inside your political organisations to clean out the evil at its very heart. The time for covering it up/excusing/justifying it? Is well and truly over!’

Spencer: Do you really mean that? It was you who stated: ‘Evil produced at all levels by similar if converse levels of hate?’

What is your cure for getting rid of the evil in the human person, political establishment and terrorists?

Notes

[1] The following quotes by Allan B are from his comments to the article by Peter Sellick, ‘The knowledge of good and evil’, On Line Opinion (online), 13 November 2018. Posted by Alan B., Tuesday, 13 November 2018 10:42:41 AM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20027&page=1 (Accessed 14 November 2018).

[2] The following is from ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 14 November 2018 2:12:51 PM.

 

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(pinterest)

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 November 2018.

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Fourteen Holey Bible arguments against Margaret Court

A Note to Dr Robyn J Whitaker

margaret Robyn J Whitaker

Rev. Dr. Margaret Court (photo courtesy| Dr Robyn J Whitaker (photo

Victory Life International, Perth, WA) | courtesy University of Divinity)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A shorter edition of this article was published in On Line Opinion, 7 November 2018, Holey Bible arguments against Margaret Court

What would cause many in the tennis community, mass media and social media to get up in arms about world champion tennis player, Margaret Court’s, support for heterosexuality. She has boycotted flying with Qantas because it supports homosexual marriage. Some in the Christian community oppose Dr Court’s stand against homosexual marriage.

This is one example of a Christian who took Dr Margaret Court AO MBE to task. It is my response to ‘Note to Margaret Court: the Bible isn’t meant to be read that literally’, by Robyn J Whitaker, Trinity College, 2 June 2017 (ABC News, Brisbane, Qld)

What are the holes in Whitaker’s arguments against Court and Court’s support for heterosexual marriage over Whitaker’s backing of modern Christian families that include gay couples? Here is what I found (In some places, I’ll address Dr Whitaker as ‘you’ and ‘your’).

Image result for clipart single numbers Hole 1: It starts with Whitaker’s title that the Bible is not meant to be understood as literally as Margaret Court reads it.

Then she does exactly what she told Margaret not to do. She literally accept the fact that there are 66 books in the Bible; Abraham fathered children with his concubine as well as his wife.

Her literal interpretation continued: She accepted that David and Solomon had entire palaces full of wives and concubines and that polygamy was common.  Slaves were used for concubines. There was no hint in her article that these were supposed to be interpreted metaphorically or symbolically.

Whitaker made self-defeating statements with her examples. She failed to meet her own standard of the Bible being read too literally. The article cannot live up to the criteria she set in the title.

So her self-refuting statements are of necessity false. She violated the law of non-contradiction. This states that A and non-A cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense. This promoted a contradiction when she accused Margaret Court of reading the Bible “that literally” when she did exactly the same with your reading of the Bible.

Image result for clipart single numbers Hole 2: What is literal interpretation? She assumed we knew. When I was in high school in Qld, I learned that to understand a document literally meant to accept the plain meaning of the text. This includes the use of figures of speech and symbols.

My seminary text for biblical interpretation was Berkeley Mickelsen’s , Interpreting the Bible. He wrote that “literal” means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this evident meaning is included in the literal interpretation.

Therefore, “by literal meaning the writer refers to the usual or customary sense conveyed by words or expressions” (Mickelsen 1963:17). So when I read Whitaker’s article online, I assumed that figures of speech were included in the literal meaning. That’s how I understood her  statement that David’s and Solomon’s wives and concubines “served as symbols of their power and status”.

The Cambridge Dictionary (2018. s.v. literal) states the adjectival meaning of literal is, ‘having exactly the same meaning as the basic or original meaning of a word or expression’. e.g. a literal interpretation of the Australian Constitution.

Iain Provan summarised his view of ‘literal’. It harmonises with The Cambridge Dictionary definition: Literally means that Scripture is read with “its apparent communicative intentions as a collection of texts from the past, whether in respect to smaller or larger sections of text”.

This means readers “take full account of the nature of the language in which these intentions are embedded and revealed as components of Scripture’s unfolding covenantal Story – doing justice to such realities as literary convention, idiom, metaphor, and typology or figuration”.

To read Scripture (or any literature) literally is to try to understand “what Scripture is saying to us in just the ways in which we seek to understand what other people are saying to us – taking into account … their age, culture, customs, and language, as well as the verbal context within which individuals words and sentences are located. This is what it means to read “literally,” in pursuit of the communicative intent of God – in search of what to believe, how to live, and what to hope for” (Provan 2017:105).

I would be in strife if I didn’t read Whitaker’s “Note to Margaret Court” literally. Or, should I put a postmodern or allegorical spin on it and make it mean whatever I, the reader, determine?

Related image Hole 3: You claim that Margaret Court was wrong in her open letter to Qantas and on Channel Ten’s “The Project” because she stated that the Bible confirms that marriage is a union of a man and a woman.

Which standard did you use to judge that Mrs Court’s analysis was wrong and yours was correct? Your article concluded that the Bible describes family life that is ancient, different, reflecting patriarchal structures or arranged marriages in early Christianity and is not for today.

In addition, you seem to have brought into your new concept of marriage something that you oppose – “culturally bound ideology”. For you, it includes gay couples and “Christian values of love, justice and inclusion found throughout the Bible and is why so many Christians support marriage equality”.

It is you who has promoted that last statement in your politically correct support of homosexual marriage. Again you make a self-defeating statement. You oppose the “culturally bound ideology” of the Bible’s structure of family life, but you promote your own culturally bound contemporary ideology of marriage equality and modern Christian families including gay couples.

If you were to agree with the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, you would have the same opinion as he had regarding marriage: “’A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:5-6).

Jesus was an enthusiastic supporter of heterosexual marriage. He did not state that a man should leave his parents and be joined with his male partner and become one flesh with him.

Margaret Court’s conclusion agrees with that of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t harmonise with your belief that progressives do not offend contemporary political sensibilities, including sexual orientation.

Therefore, your view is contrary to that of Jesus. Margaret Court’s stance on marriage agrees with that of the Saviour and yours is the one at odds with the Bible and the Master.

Related imageHole 4: You have committed an historian’s fallacy in your claims against Margaret Court. This is how you promoted this fallacy:

1. Mrs Court claimed that in the Bible in the past, marriage was a union between a man and a woman.

2. Mrs Court, who makes this claim, did not take into consideration marriage equality that was not taught in biblical times.

3. Therefore, Margaret Court is wrong to claim that the Bible supports heterosexual marriage.

One of the problems with this erroneous reasoning is that it does not deal with the issues at hand, issues such as these:

  • The foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldview is based on Old and New Testament Scriptures.
  • God decided who should be joined together in the beginning of time: ‘A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Heterosexuality was God’s design.
  • Jesus Christ confirmed this position (Matthew 19:5),
  • As did the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:31).

Your support of marriage equality over heterosexual marriage is a politically correct line of reasoning and is fallacious because it doesn’t deal with a range of issues biblically, including the Scripture’s perspective on homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) and the Bible’s support of heterosexual marriage in both Old and New Testaments. It also has been called a political correctness fallacy.

Related image Hole 5: Margaret Court “is even more wrong” to suggest she is being persecuted for her views, you stated. The situation is more serious. She has been bullied. To bully is to “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something” (Oxford Dictionary online 2017. s v bully). Mrs Court has been bullied and intimidated by the threat of tennis players to boycott Margaret Court Arena at the 2018 Australian Open Grand Slam tournament.

Girls Being Mean ClipartShe has been bullied by the threat that the arena named in her honour at Melbourne Park should be changed for the 2018 Australian Open.

(image courtesy clipartxtras)

Then there was the ridicule by tennis super-brat and now commentator, John McEnroe, after Mrs Court’s statement that “tennis is full of lesbians”. McEnroe fired back, “This is true and who gives a f***? This is not true and who should give a f***? This is half true and should we really give a f***?” (AAP 2017)

Open lesbian and tennis great, Martina Navratilova, engaged in emotional abuse of Mrs Court in her “open letter from Martina Navratilova to Margaret Court Arena” when she stated:

“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere.

“And now, linking LGBT to Nazis, communists, the devil? This is not OK. This is in fact sick and it is dangerous. Kids will suffer more because of this continuous bashing and stigmatising of our LGBT community” (Navratilova 2017).

Navratilova supported the change of name of Margaret Court Arena: “I think the Evonne Goolagong Arena has a great ring to it”. Would you endorse this?

Etihad Stadium crop.jpg(photo Etihad Stadium, courtesy Wikipedia)

Does Whitaker consider the former Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, should have had a name change between 2009-2018? It was sponsored by Etihad Airways, the national airline of the Islamic country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is now known as Docklands’ Stadium.

Was she an advocate to change name of Etihad Stadium during its sponsorship of the stadium?

What is the Islamic view on homosexuality? The Muslim commentary on the Quran, Hadith, states in al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152: [Muhammad said] “Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver”. Another statement from the Hadith is: “Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done’ (Sunan Abu Dawud 38:4447).

Thus, Islam requires capital punishment for both the perpetrator and recipient of what the people of Sodom did.

What did the “people of Lot” do? Lot’s (Lut in Arabic) life is explained in Genesis, chapters 11-14, and 19. He lived in Sodom, a city of open homosexuality (see Genesis 19:4-9). What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Greg Koukl examined the options in depth and concluded:

We know the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were homosexual, “both young and old, all the people from every quarter” (19:4), to the point of disregarding available women (19:5-8). After they were struck sightless they still persisted (19:11). These men were totally given over to an overwhelming passion that did not abate even when they were supernaturally blinded by angels.

Homosexuality fits the biblical details. It was the sin that epitomized the gross wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah—the “grave,” “ungodly,” “lawless,” “sensual conduct of unprincipled men” that tormented Lot as he “saw and heard” it “day after day,” the “corrupt desire” of those that went after “strange flesh.”

Islam’s punishment for homosexuality is an extreme treatment compared with what Margaret Court advocated.

Homosexuality may be punishable by imprisonment or death in the UAE. Why didn’t Dr Whitaker support the cancellation of the sponsorship of Etihad Stadium for the sake of the LGBTIQ+ community when Islam is opposed to homosexuality?

It seems inconsistent to me that she wanted to downgrade Mrs Court’s persecution and abuse for her statements on homosexuality but avoid dealing with a Muslim country’s airline’s sponsorship of Etihad Stadium in Australia.

Margaret Court has put up with persecution, abuse and ridicule from the tennis community, mass media, and now pro-LGBTIQ+ bias from Dr Whitaker, a woman representing the Christian community.

Related image Hole 6: You cherry pick a Bible verse without bringing contextual understanding to try to oppose Mrs Court’s teaching ministry as a woman at Victory Life Centre, Perth.

You claim that if the literalism that Mrs Court applied to Genesis on marriage were applied to 1 Timothy 2:12, she would be in hot water because it forbids women to teach or have authority over men.

The facts are that “I am not permitting a woman to teach” focussed especially on the church where Timothy was located at Ephesus. However, in other churches women could prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:5), give a teaching on occasions (1 Corinthians 14:26). Women were not excluded from teaching in Colossians 3:16, ‘Let the message about Christ live among you like a rich treasure. Teach and correct one another wisely’ (NIRV), and the older women were to be good teachers of the younger women (Titus 2:3-4). One of the spiritual gifts is that of teachers (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Nothing in these verses indicates the teaching gift is exclusively for men to minister to a mixed gathering.

As a female teacher of males in a church college and university at which you work, and your affiliation with the Uniting Church, you should know that literal interpretation includes examining the use of plain language, figures of speech, literary context, and the cultural context. It is hypocritical, in my view, for you to challenge Margaret Court’s teaching as a minister while you are involved in a related kind of ministry as a female teacher.

Therefore, Margaret Court is not out of order by being a Christian teacher. Interpreting the Bible literally and in context does not lead to your conclusion of Mrs Court being in “hot water” as a female teacher. Rather, she is in the hot seat of being one of God’s gifts to the church and stating publicly exactly what Jesus taught in support of heterosexual marriage and thus rejecting homosexual relationships.

God’s grace as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection extends to all sinners as Paul illustrated, “Some of you used to do those things. But your sins were washed away. You were made holy. You were made right with God. All of this was done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was also done by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:12). What they “used to do” included those who “practised homosexuality” and other sins.

Through Christ’s salvation there is hope for change among those who used to practise homosexuality and other sins.

Please be consistent with your biblical interpretation. You were the one who quoted Galatians 3:28 to affirm that there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female because “all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. That teaching is profoundly troublesome for your statement against Mrs Court as a Christian teacher.

Related image Hole 7: There are holey Bible arguments in what you excluded as much as what you included. Your claim is that polygamy was common in the Old Testament (which is true) and that you don’t hear anyone advocating this as a “biblical view” of marriage.

That is only partially true. A cult group such as the Mormons historically practised polygamy. You fail to mention that this polygamy in the Old Testament was between a man and women and not male to male. It was heterosexual polygamy.

However, are you not aware of a website such as, http://www.christianpolygamy.com/? Polygamy is not only advocated by the Mormons but also, “Idaho evangelical Christian polygamists use the Internet to meet potential spouses”. Christian polygamy also is promoted in: http://www.truthbearer.org/polygamy/.

It is a significant issue in African churches where polygamists are converted to Christ.

Related image Hole 8: What was God’s view of polygamy? His original plan was one man for one woman from the beginning with Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27; 2:21-25).

That changed when sin entered the human race (Genesis 3) and Lamech had wives (Genesis 4:23). The Law of Moses was clear for the Israelites: “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” (Deuteronomy 17:17).

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). In that same chapter, there is a warning of the consequences of polygamy:

The Lord had warned Israel about women from other nations. He had said, ‘You must not marry them. If you do, you can be sure they will turn your hearts toward their gods.’ But Solomon continued to love them anyway. He wouldn’t give them up (1 Kings 11:2).

Related image Hole 9: You declare the traditional nuclear family can be found in the Bible if we look for it, but it’s not the dominant model. The information given above makes it clear that the nuclear family (with aberrations such as polygamy) was found in the Bible in both New and Old Testaments.

You stated that the Bible doesn’t condemn “what we understand to be loving, mutual LGBTQI relationships today”. This is an imposition on the biblical text which states,

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, emphasis added).

Another translation of “men who have sex with men” is “male prostitutes, sodomites”.

Those who practise homosexuality are prevented from entering the kingdom of God – along with wrongdoers, deceivers, the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers.

The New Testament does not allow or stress homosexual relationships. Its statement is clear nonetheless: “Since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). It’s a serious violation of Scripture when you want to harmonise a verse like this with ”loving, mutual LGBTQI relationships today”.

clip_image024 Hole 10: You make a case for faith being what makes a person a Christian and not family structures or sexuality. That is not what Jesus taught: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16). By the fruit of homosexual relationships, will you recognize Christians? The biblical evidence says, “No”.

Yes, faith in Christ alone for salvation is the primary requisite. However, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 declares the people with certain kinds of behaviour will not enter God’s kingdom. Homosexuality is one such activity. Faith needs to be demonstrated through God’s kind of works, not works defined by political correctness (see James 2).

clip_image026 Hole 11: You stated that Mrs Court’s “culturally bound ideology” is rejected by “biblical scholars and mainstream Christian churches”. Here you have committed the Appeal to Common Belief fallacy.

When you claim that a particular group of people – biblical scholars and mainstream Christian churches – accept the anti-literal interpretation as true, you have not presented evidence for the claim. It is erroneous reasoning.

This is careless thinking and is a dangerous way to accept information.

This is your faulty reasoning:

  • Many people (scholars and mainstream Church people) believe in a non-literal interpretation of what Margaret Court accepts literally.
  • Therefore, the non-literal interpretation is correct.

clip_image028 Hole 12: Your statement that “in the New Testament, Jesus said nothing about homosexual relationships or marriage, except that people should not divorce” is a diversion.

There was no need for Jesus to affirm same-sex relationships because his definition of marriage excluded them. He was not silent but defined the marriage union as between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:5).

clip_image030 Hole 13: Your assertion that many Christians are not represented by the views of Margaret Court or the “so-called Australian Christian Lobby”. This commits a Hasty Generalisation fallacy, also known as argument from small numbers. Ask  Australian rugby union star, Israel Folau, about that!

You have drawn a conclusion from a small sample size (your estimate of “many Christians”), rather than examining statistics that are in line with the average situation. Your debunking of Mrs Court’s view and that of the Australian Christian Lobby because they do not line up with your “many Christians” of another view is deceptive reasoning.

AustralianChristianLobbyLogo2011a.jpg(image courtesy wikipedia)

A better solution would be to examine the statistics for the mainline churches versus the evangelical churches, including Pentecostal churches.

USA church growth expert, Ed Stetzer, has a particular interest in what is happening in the Australian church. He has analysed the Australian church scene and reported in the Bible Society Live Light, (12 May 2015) that too many churches are stagnant.

His observation of the Western world, including the Australian outlook, is that “mainline Protestantism” in the USA and its counterparts in the rest of the English speaking world are “rapidly declining”. He used the Uniting Church of Australia as a representative example, but this could be applied to other members of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCC). He expects this trend of progressive Protestant decline to continue.

By contrast, evangelicalism (represented by Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby) is growing in Australia. His view is that some of this may be partly related to those moving from NCC churches.

Stetzer said that the majority of Protestant Australians who attend church go to a conservative church. It may not call itself evangelical but is influenced by that movement.

A survey of 1,015 adults at Easter 2015 found that “just over half (52%) of Australian’s believe that God exists as the creator of the universe and Supreme Being. These findings have yielded similar results to the same question asked of the Australian public 6 years ago” (McCrindle Research).

According to the 2016 National Church Life Survey, the Pentecostals have overtaken Anglicans as Australia’s second largest religious group by attendance, behind the Catholic Church (https://wwrn.org/articles/46227/).

This should account for Stetzer’s comment that the large numbers of Protestant Australians attending church are conservative. He considered this represented the majority of Australian Protestants. I consider that a better assessment would be to state that a significant number of Protestant Australians attend conservative churches.

Therefore, Dr Whitaker, to dumb down the views of Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby on homosexuality as “not representative” of “many Christians” is to commit the Appeal to Popularity fallacy. This fallacy invokes the popularity of a proposition to provide evidence of its truthfulness.

Here you have committed this fallacy:

  • Many Christians promote modern Christian families that include gay couples and are not represented by Mrs Court’s or the Australian Christian Lobby’s views.
  • Therefore, the truth is that the modern Christian family includes gay couples.

This is invalid reasoning because it does not engage with a contextual interpretation of the biblical texts and the statistical divide between mainline Protestants and evangelical churches.

clip_image032 Hole 14: It is acceptable to send a player of rugby league, rugby union, ice hockey and basketball to the “sin bin” for certain offences against the rules of the games.

One of the largest holes in your agenda, Dr Whitaker, is your avoidance of the key factor – yes, the key factor – that has screwed up our worldviews. This is the problem of sin that has infiltrated every human being and our culture. “God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).

Image result for christart Sin(image courtesy Clipart Library)

Sin entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12) but this sin not only screwed up human beings and their relationships, it also contaminated the universe.

God told Adam that because he listened to his wife (not his male partner) and ate from the tree from which God commanded him not to eat, then, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Genesis 3:17).

However, you have been negligent in eliminating the problem of sin and its influence in Old Testament polygamy and other aberrations of marriage, including homosexual marriage, heterosexual adultery, and promiscuity (sleeping around).

The teaching on sin is central to Christianity. Sin consists of acts of offence against God and breaking his laws. “There is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-12).

However, the contamination of sin in relationships was missing from your article. There is no point in Jesus’ death and resurrection for redemption if there is no need to be liberated from the guilt of sin. Jesus Christ “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

There was no need to be freed from the sin of homosexuality or polygamy in your presentation. The sin problem left a big hole in your argument.

Conclusion

There’s a huge gap between Dr Margaret Court’s holy Bible and Dr Robyn Whitaker’s holey Bible on the authority of Scripture that contains teaching on homosexuality, gay couples, marriage equality, polygamy, heterosexuality and sexual purity..

I found 14 holes in Dr Whitaker’s case against Dr Court. There are possibly more. It is a serious situation when Whitaker castigates Court’s views when heterosexual and not homosexual relationships are supported by Jesus Himself.

You have bought into the contemporary, pro-homosexual, politically correct agenda that receives vast mass media coverage. Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby have promoted the biblical mandate of heterosexual marriage, which was supported by Jesus, the apostle Paul and has been the norm since the beginning of time.

I recommend that you make an apology to Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby for promoting your own views over those endorsed by Scripture – all in the name of your being a representative of Christianity.

Works consulted

AAP 2017. John McEnroe makes light of Margaret Court same-sex marriage saga. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 5 June. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/john-mcenroe-makes-light-of-margaret-court-samesex-marriage-saga-20170604-gwjyxa.html (Accessed 25 October 2018).

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Navratilova, M 2017. An open letter from Martina Navratilova to Margaret Court Arena. The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/an-open-letter-from-martina-navratilova-to-margaret-court-arena-20170601-gwhuyx.html (Accessed 25 October 2018).

Provan, I 2017. The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press.

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2018.

Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

Child And Book

(courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In searching the Internet for more information on reader-response ways to deconstruct any text, I was attracted to Dr Jeremy Koay’s1 brief article, ‘What is reader-response theory?‘ (2017) This is an exceptional overview of a method that is overwhelming the reading of documents of any kind, whether narrative, poetry or interpretation of art.

Even though the article was published in December 2017, no comments had been made to it, so I forwarded my response.

1. Problems with reader-response: From the article

I find that a major problem with read-response theory is that it cannot consistently interpret literature. You stated, ‘The idea of pure literal meaning is contestable because our culture, experiences and worldview shape our understanding of words’. Is that how you want me to read your article? Or do you want a literal reading (which includes figures of speech)? Can I engage in postmodern, deconstruction, reader-response techniques with your article to make it mean what I decide it means?

Could you imagine the recorded history of Emperor Nero, George Washington, Hitler and the Nazi concentration camps, Captain James Cook circumnavigating NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia being interpreted by reader-responses?

Did Emperor Nero, George Washington, Hitler and James Cook say and do what is recorded in their journals and history about them or is that open to the readers’ interactive deconstruction with our reader-responses from our century and cultures?

That’s what we are dealing with in examining any writing from the past or present. I wouldn’t interpret the articles in the Brisbane Times (BT) that way.

Imagine my reading your writings with that view? Surely you want me to read this article so that I understand the content of what you mean, within the bounds of English grammar and syntax, rather than imposing 21st century Brisbane environment and my reader-response on your text.

If I read the BT like that and passed on my postmodern, reader-response, interactive, contemporary interpretation of today’s BT stories to the people in my community, they would think I was going over the edge mentally.

EduMaxi chose not to publish my reply, so I sent this inquiry: ‘I submitted a comment on 28 August 2018. It has not been published. Are there reasons  for this delay or non-acceptance of the comment?’

2. Email rather than online reply

Dr Koay chose to reply by email rather than publishing my letter on the EduMaxi website’s target readers are primarily language teachers (not philosophers)’. So he considered my reply was philosophical.

I won’t publish his email because he has not given me permission to do that. However, you’ll pick up some of his content in my response, sent by email on 13 September 2018. I use ‘you’ and ‘your’ in referring to Dr Koay.

From your content, I raise five concerns:

2.1 ‘Pure literal meaning is contestable’

You say that this is because culture, experiences and worldview shape our understand of words. I don’t disagree with that perspective. However, I contend that my current worldview cannot be used to deconstruct the meaning of, say, John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Stanley E. Fish tried to do it in Surprised by Sin and came to an understanding that, I think, would cause John Milton to turn over in his grave).

OF Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit

Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast

Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,

Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,…. (Paradise Lost, Bk 1)

I consider that I would be cheating Milton to use my culture, experience and worldview to place my meaning on Milton’s poetry written in the seventeenth century. I need to understand the language and concepts he used and the biblical worldview to which he referred. Uncovering the intent of the author is my primary task as an interpreter of any document from your article, to the Brisbane Courier-Mail, or to the Bible. This is done by listening to the ‘plain meaning’ of a text.

I don’t use the language of ‘pure literal meaning’, so I don’t know how that differs from taking a text – narrative or poetry – at face value. I obtain the meaning from the text and not from my creative invention (reader-response, pesher method, allegorisation) of the text.

I have great difficulty in refusing ‘pure literal meaning’ when I investigate Captain James Cook’s circumnavigation of NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia in HMS Endeavour in 1770:

A three-masted wooden ship cresting an ocean swell beneath a cloudy sky. Two small boats tow the ship forward.

HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland, by Samuel Atkins c. 1794

How is it possible to use a reader-response interpretation dealing with the Endeavour when Captain James Cook’s name is associated with an ocean-going ship, The Endeavour? Pure literal meaning applies as much to Jacinda Ardern’s being Prime Minister of NZ and Scott Morrison’s recent ascension to the PM of Australia. Is plain reading of a text the same as ‘pure literal meaning’ to you?

You stated ‘ This theory rejects the structuralist view that meaning resides solely in the text’. Do you consider that structuralism (meaning because of the language system) has been superseded by postmodern reader-response methodology?

I can’t walk into a local fish and chips shop and give a reader-response interpretation to the menu and expect to get what I ordered. I had to ask for clarification when some friends and I had lunch at a local tavern. My friend ordered whiting for the fish dish. He discovered his fish was NZ whiting and not Australian whiting. Questions for clarification are not equivalent to reader-response hermeneutics whether in the supermarket, at Centrelink (social security), reading The Sydney Morning Herald or the Bible.

I endorse the perspective that readers engage with a text to question concepts raised, discover etymology of words, cultural divergence from contemporary culture, etc. However, that is not the position you advocate as a theory: ‘Readers, as much as the text, play an active role in a reading experience (Rosenblatt, 1994)’.

It is my understanding that readers do not create content of a writing; authors do that. Readers may disagree with the content and provide reasons for such, but creating meaning is not their roles. Readers may develop personal or group applications from the text, but this is not part of the author’s intended meaning.

2.2 ‘I regard the theory as a theory – nothing more and nothing less’

I commend you for treating this reader-response literary device as ‘a theory’, which means it has yet to be proven.

However, that is not the view of many promoters of the reader-response approach. They use it as a method of hermeneutics. Take these eminent promoters of reader-response views:

According to Wolfgang Iser, ‘the meaning of a text … is not inherent in it but must be produced or actualized by the reader’ (Iser in Culpepper 1983:40, 209).

Iser explained the supposed ‘vacant pages’ and ‘gaps’ in a text that a reader uses in active and creative ways. His perspective was that ‘the gaps, indeed, are those very points where the reader can enter into the text, forming his own connections and conceptions and so creating the configurative meaning of what he is reading…. From the given material [the reader] must construct his own conception of the reality and hence the meaning of the text (Iser 1972:40, 276, emphasis added).

‘While the meaning of the literary work remains related to what the printed text says,… it requires the creative imagination of the reader to put it all together’ (Iser 1980:142).

‘More recent research (Eco 1985 and 1994; Iser 1980; Ricoeur 1992) has accentuated the creative role of the reader in interaction with the text. Intertextuality is a component of this dialectical process’ (Zumstein 2008:135 n. 17).

John Dominic Crossan: ‘‘This, then, is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse’ (Crossan 1998:20; 1999:3 emphasis in original).

That aborts my research as an historian and historical Jesus’ scholar. It would cause my examination of the historical HMS Endeavour, Captain James Cook, and the historical Jesus, to be a contemporary mish-mash of historical evidence and personal, contemporary, public deconstruction. Historians should hang up their historical credentials and become innovative writers of historical fiction if they pursue reader-response methodology.

While you state reader-response is a theory for you, it is not so for many other postmodern writers.

2.3 ‘My father drove me to school’

In using this example, I consider you have confused the ‘gaps’ in reader-response theory with committing An Argument from Silence logical fallacy.

The logical form to your argument is:

Person 1: The boy claims his father drove him to school (a truthful statement) and then remains silent;

Person 2: Then, it is true his father drove him to school (but the boy leaves out a lot of evidence that Person 2 creates about the vehicle).

You state that you ‘do not equate this to a “pure literal meaning”’. Is ‘my father drove me to school’ literally true? If so, then it conforms to a ‘pure literal meaning’.

However, what you have called an example of reader-response theory in action is really fallacious reasoning:

The reason this technique works so well, is because imagined reasons are often more persuasive than real reasons.  If someone wants to be convinced, this technique works like a charm. However, to the critical thinker, this will not fly.  Silence is not a valid substitute for reason or evidence (Bennett 2018).

You also use an Argument from Silence fallacy in your statement: ‘For me, the fact that you (not other readers) commented on my blog suggests that you and other readers may have ‘read’ it differently’. Do you have evidence to prove this statement?

2.4 ‘… I do not and cannot expect that to happen’

Image result for clipart Literal Interpretation

(image courtesy Exegetical Tools)

You don’t expect readers to understand the intended content of what you wrote because of their different worldviews?

I find this to be ambiguous. Because I may have a different worldview to yours, that does not mean I cannot objectively (but imperfectly) examine the words, grammar, syntax and content you wrote so that I could respond online to your article. That is what I did originally and is what I’m doing now to your email reply.

I observe that you were able to deal with the content of what I wrote – without any difficulty – so you could email me your response. I did not observe any creative, reader-response of filling in the ‘gaps’ in your reply. You did clarify what you wrote in response to my ‘comment’ to your article.

2.5 Ultimate truth

You gave statements about those who do and do not agree with ultimate truth because of their differing worldviews. One was: ‘ Others believe that since we can’t objectively assess an ultimate truth, they subscribe to the idea of versions of realities’.

Because you dealt with the generic ‘some’ and ‘others’, it makes it difficult to respond when there is a lack of specifics. However, in my research (480pp dissertation in New Testament, University of Pretoria, South Africa) I noted that some deconstructionist, reader-response promoters reject any examples of absolute truth (e.g. Iser, Crossan, Derrida, etc.).

Your statements included those who believed, ‘Since we can’t objectively assess an ultimate truth, they subscribe to the idea of versions of realities’. Are they absolutely sure of this belief?

That should be shattered on the absolute truth that driving rules in New Zealand and Australia require that we drive vehicles on the left-hand side of the road. Any other side is an aberration by those breaking the law or for legitimate reasons (e.g. road works). With this denial of absolute truth in Aust and NZ, does it include a denial of the moral view that it is wrong to murder and steal?

3. Works consulted

Bennett, B 2018. Logically fallacious (online). Available at: https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies (Accessed 13 September 2018).

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1999. Historical Jesus as risen Lord, in Crossan, J D, Johnson, L T & Kelber, W H, The Jesus controversy : Perspectives in conflict, 1-47. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.

Culpepper, R A 1983. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press.

Fish, S E 1980. Is there a text in this class? London and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Fish, S 1987. Surprised by sin: The reader in Paradise Lost. New York: Macmillan.

Iser, W 1980. The act of reading: A theory of aesthetic response. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Koay, J 2017. What is reader-response theory? EduMaxi, 5 December. Available at: http://www.edumaxi.com/what-is-reader-response-theory/ (Accessed 13 September 2018).

Zumstein, J 2008. Intratextuality and intertextuality in the Gospel of John. In T Thatcher & S D Moore (eds), Anatomies of narrative criticism, 121-136. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

4. Endnotes

  1. 1Dr Jeremy Koay is a New Zealand-based Independent Researcher and a Research & Development Consultant at EduMaxi. He obtained his PhD in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington in 2015. His research interests include Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis and TESOL (Koay 2017).

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 January 2019.

Can you be neutral on any topic?

Do unbiased people exist?

Image result for clipart No Bias public domain

(courtesy dreamtime.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Can you read any document and be neutral about the topic? Do all of us have biases, or can we lay aside those biases to be able to read a document, including the newspaper, or view a video or TV programme objectively?

I was blogging with JayB on Online Opinion when he raised this topic:

I read the first few pages [of my PhD dissertation] & so far it seems to be a rebuttal of Crossant. Whoever he is. That’s all. Nothing new or any ground breaking revelations so far.

I will read the whole thing, make some notes & draft a reply as I see it from a neutral point. It maybe some time, but I will report back.

Should I agree with Crossant, Spencer, or disagree depends on if they are taking the Testaments as being absolute truths or can have mistakes in them.

Posted by Jayb, Tuesday, 10 July 2018 4:54:31 PM[1]

The dissertation can be found at: Crossan and the resurrection of Jesus : rethinking presuppositions, methods and models ?(University of Pretoria, South Africa 2015)

How should I respond?[2]

1. No neutral person or writer exists

This blogger considers he can examine my 480pp dissertation without bias:

“I will read the whole thing, make some notes & draft a reply as I see it from a neutral point”.[3]

There is no such person as one who can respond “from a neutral point [of view]”. How do I know you, I, and anyone else have biases that cannot be neutral?

He has lots of things he cannot neutral about. Whenever you give us your opinion in Online Opinion, you demonstrate your bias and that you are unable to see things “from a neutral point”.
You have a bias (cannot remain neutral) about which brand of coffee you prefer, what is REAL football, and your favourite sports’ team. Your economic, religious and political philosophies are not neutral – you have biases. When it comes to God and his action in the universe, you have no “neutral” point of view. Neither do I.

We all have a world and life view about God, everything in the world, humanity and ourselves. Not one of us is exempt.

1.1 Eric Metaxas: “Everything I do is affected by my faith.”

Eric Metaxas February 2012.jpgMetaxas in 2012 (courtesy Wikipedia)

Eric Metaxas is a #1 New York Times bestseller author, speaker, host of radio programme the Eric Metaxas Show, and a vocal defender of Christianity in the public sphere. He was interviewed for the Bible Society newspaper Eternity.

He confirmed how his bias affects all that he does and there is no such thing as neutrality in his life. He cannot be neutral. Neither can anyone else! He explained:

Everything I do, I hope, is affected by my faith. But that’s really a joy, because I think that’s the whole point, that belief in the God of the Bible gives your life meaning.

It’s not just a private thing, or this little thing that I put in a corner, but it affects everything. So it affects how I see the world, I hope it affects how I treat other people, how I see myself. And certainly in terms of what I do – writing, broadcasting, speeches – it all really comes directly out of my faith.

[My faith] is all consuming, but I really think that’s the nature of Christian faith. God wants us to give him every part of our lives, so that it affects everything about us, all the decisions we make. And it’s a freeing thing as opposed to a constricting thing….

If you don’t know who you are, that the God who created the universe created you and loves you, it will really be impossible to ever be satisfied, because you were created by someone who created you to want to be satisfied by him and by his will for your life, which as I say is a freeing thing (Holgate 2016).

2. Dumping presuppositions on us without owning up

Back to JayB and his post.

These are his presuppositions about issues. It’s not wrong to have presuppositions, but they need to be tested to discover evidence to support or reject them. Presuppositions relate to what we assume to be true. I have them. So does he. We cannot be neutral about anything from trivial things such as which breed of dog we enjoy the most to who created the grand design in the universe.

Atheists, Christians, Buddhists, agnostics, Muslims and sceptics cannot be “neutral” on anything.

Let’s check a couple of his presuppositions in his short post that demonstrate he cannot be “neutral” when examining my dissertation:

“I read the first few pages & so far it seems to be a rebuttal of Crossant. Whoever he is. That’s all. Nothing new or any ground breaking revelations so far”.[4]

2.1 Reading a few pages to assess 480 pages

In a few pages out of 480 pages, he claimed he read nothing new or ground breaking. That’s because he had a bias (can’t be neutral) about a Christian assessment.

His “neutrality” extends to the point of not knowing who John Dominic Crossan is and his bias is such that he doesn’t bother to spell Crossan’s name correctly. He is NOT “Crossant”. In 6 lines of the post, he spelt Crossan’s name incorrectly twice.

Therefore, he didn’t read the early pages of the dissertation with care. I’m left to guess what “neutral” perspective he will give to the rest of the thesis, if this is an example. His post demonstrated he could not be neutral.

3. The Bible: No absolute truths and can have mistakes in  it

He wrote:

Should I agree with Crossant, Spencer, or disagree depends on if they are taking the Testaments as being absolute truths or can have mistakes in them.[5]

This demonstrates a WHOPPING lack of neutrality. I have to take the OT and NT according to his presupposition that these 2 testaments CANNOT teach “absolute truths or can have mistakes in them”.

There he established his own presuppositional absolute that both OT and NT must NOT teach absolute truths and they “can have mistakes in them”. He is not “neutral” about the nature of Scripture. He came to this discussion with a bias against God’s absolutes in Scripture.

Colson with President George W. Bush after receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal, December 20, 2008 (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Chuck Colson (d. 2012), special counsel to President Richard Nixon and imprisoned because of the Watergate scandal, had a mid-life crisis encounter with Jesus Christ and became an evangelical Christian. It was after that he started Prison Ministries International.

In one of his BreakPoint radio programmes (Colson 2003), he explained the impact of cultural voices on our children – “There is no ultimate truth, no moral code by which to live our lives”.

Added to this is the message that God is “totally irrelevant”, if he exists. We make our lives for ourselves and we are accountable to nobody.

This message is bombarding our kids from all angles.

The most dangerous thing kids can do is to handle this by “compartmentalizing” the sacred and the secular in their minds. This is a split-level faith. God lives on the top floor; I live in the basement with no connecting staircase. Instead, we have to help them understand that the Christian faith is relevant to everything in their lives. Jesus knocks on the door of our life and wants to occupy all of our life.

And so one of the most important things we can teach our kids is how to see all of life, not just their home life or the time they spend at church, from a Christian point of view. No matter how hard we try to guard them, they’ll hear conflicting messages. We must help them put intellectual muscle behind their faith.

In the Old Testament, God provided the Israelites with a model for passing down His truths to their children. In Deuteronomy 6, He tells them—and, I believe, us—to “impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

In other words, no matter what the culture tells us, it’s our responsibility in the routine of life to teach our kids that truth exists, that we can know it, that we can live it, and that, in the final analysis, it’s all about God. In my next commentary, I’ll talk about practical ways to do this.

3.1 Defend the integrity of Scripture.

Open Bible 2

(image courtesy ChristArt)

 

I don’t have the space to do that here, but some pointers for defending the reliability of the Bible are:

clip_image002Can you trust the Bible? Part 1 (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image002[1]Can you trust the Bible? Part 2 (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image002[2]Can you trust the Bible? Part 3 (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image002[3]Can you trust the Bible? Part 4 (Spencer D Gear)

I recommend you check the material in Norman L Geisler & Frank Turek’s book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Crossway Books 2004). In the Index, check out ‘New Testament’ where Geisler & Turek provide a list of reasons why we can trust the reliability of the NT:

clip_image004 Accepted as legal evidence,

clip_image004[1] Accuracy of reconstruction,

clip_image004[2] As 27 individual documents,

clip_image004[3] As having more manuscripts,

clip_image004[4] As having more supported manuscripts,

clip_image004[5] As historical novel,

clip_image004[6] As inerrant,

clip_image004[7] As meeting tests of historicity,

clip_image004[8] As received from Holy Spirit,

clip_image004[9] Figures, historically confirmed,

clip_image004[10] Historical reliability,

clip_image004[11] Reconstruction of the original,

clip_image004[12] Sources of,

clip_image004[13] Storyline of (Geisler & Turek 2004:439).

4. Dishonesty about neutrality

Scale, Weigh, Judge, Books, Equial, Balance, Justice

(courtesy pixabay)

I found JayB’s reply to be dishonest because:

1.    Up front, he refused to acknowledge his presuppositional biases and that he cannot be neutral on any topic – including assessment of my dissertation.

2.    Then, he has the audacity to judge my 480pp dissertation after reading only a few pages. He concludes, “Nothing new or any ground breaking revelations so far”.

If I made a judgment on an extensive writing by him after reading only a few pages, the academic community would have every reason to send me off to training in logic and assessment of any document. His “neutrality” is shattered on the rocks of his bias against my writing – after reading only a few pages.

3.    He created a new absolute: “depends on if they are taking the Testaments as being absolute truths or can have mistakes in them”.

So the NT must not contain absolute truths and it must be admitted that the NT has mistakes in it. That’s his own created absolute to challenge what he considers are wrong absolutes. It is contradictory that an anti-God enthusiast wants to rid the Christian NT of absolutes while creating his own absolute.

See also: Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic (Spencer D Gear).

5.  Works consulted

Colson, C 2003. At Cross Purposes: Christian Parents and the Postmodern Culture. Breakpoint, 19 August. Available at: http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/12263 (Accessed 25 January 2014).

Geisler, N L & Turek, F 2004. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Holgate, T 2016. Everything I do is affected by my faith,” says #1 NY Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas. Bible Society Eternity (online), 14 April. Available at: http://www.biblesociety.org.au/news/everything-i-do-is-affected-by-my-faith-says-1-ny-times-bestselling-author-eric-metaxas (Accessed 11 May 2016).

6.  Endnotes


[1] Online Opinion 2018. What is your view for one to worship humans? (online). Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=8313&page=28 (Accessed 23 July 2018).

[2] My first response was in ibid., posted by OzSpen, Monday, 23 July 2018 8:44:49 AM

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., Jayb, Tuesday, 10 July 2018 4:54:31 PM.

[5] Ibid., posted by OzSpen, Monday, 23 July 2018 8:50:24 AM.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 July 2018.

Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter ‘treat’

 
Image result for clipart easter bunny and eggs public domain   Image result for clipart Jesus woman at tomb public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article is published in On Line Opinion, ‘Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter “treat”’, 4 April 2018.

Please note in the ‘Comments’ section at the end of the article the number of posters who don’t deal with the content of the article. Instead, they pour out their vitriol against Christianity with a string of logical fallacies.

I responded as OzSpen. However, when people are engaged in the use of erroneous reasoning, it’s impossible to have a logical conversation with them.

What are logical fallacies?

Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others (Purdue Online Writing Lab: Logical Fallacies, 1996-2018).

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 May 2018.

clip_image005_thumb clip_image005_thumb1

Learn how to screw up your worldview

Related image

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A doubter about the existence of God and other things religious wrote that part of his problem,

is that I have a passing academic interest in religion, so pulling things out of that context causes a bit of cognitive dissonance. Theologically I’m very liberal–I know it’s a slippery slope, but it is what it is. I see cultural context everywhere, I don’t trust the Gospels’ historicity, I read John as mysticism, the less said about Paul the better, and I’m aware of how diverse early Christianity was. I won’t claim that the version that survived wasn’t the true one, but I definitely see other factors at play in its success. One of those actually may have been divine intervention–it’s intriguing that there are visions associated with both of the people who transformed it (Paul and Constantine), but this is definitely a tangled knot of problems that aren’t going to be solved anytime soon. So I’m trying to be open to the possibility that the all the important stuff actually is true, but it’s going to involve a lot of leaps of faith to come to that conclusion.[1]

This is only part of a post he made to a Christian forum (you can read a continuation of it at footnote #1, but it unveils a considerable amount of information about his perspective. Let’s see if we can unpack some of the issues that are driving his agenda.

A.  Liberal resistance to God

What I observe about his perspective, associated with his ‘cognitive dissonance’, i.e. disharmony in his thought processes, is that his …

1. Presuppositions cover up issues

I addressed him directly:[2] I’ve been looking at this paragraph that you wrote and it seems to be overcome with your presuppositions that are preventing your examining the biblical material at face value. Let me pick up a few of them and I’d appreciate it if you would correct me if I’m wrong:

Your passing academic interest in religion and pulling out of context causes cognitive dissonance. I’m unsure if this ‘context’ is the academic interest or context in Scripture or something else. I’m unclear on your content. If your context is ‘academic interest in religion’, then I’ll have to know whether that is a university, seminary, college or Christian setting (and whether it’s a liberal setting) to be able to try to uncover your presuppositions.

2. We know where the slippery slope leads

Image result for clipart slippery slopeFrom where did you get your ‘very liberal’ theological position? Was it from the evidence from Scripture or from ‘very liberal’ sources who/that dumbed down other views, especially those of Bible-believing Christians? You’ve admitted that it is ‘a slippery slope’. This means that that position is doomed to destroy faith and cause disillusionment with people and decline of churches. We know this from the decline in theologically liberal denominations worldwide. Take a look at the Anglican Church here in Australia (outside of the Sydney diocese), Anglican Church in UK, Church of Scotland, United Church of Canada, Episcopal Church (USA), United Methodist Church (USA), Presbyterian Church (USA), American Baptist, etc. See the article, Liberal churches in decline while orthodox ones grow, says study of Protestants in Canada‘.

3. Stuck in a rut

‘It is what it is’ is an unhealthy way of examining or correcting one’s views. I find the better approach is to investigate the evidence from Scripture without imposition of previous beliefs. Are you a postmodern deconstructionist when it comes to your reading of Scripture?

4. Historicity of the Gospels

You say, ‘ I don’t trust the Gospels’ historicity’. That seems to be your presuppositional imposition on the Gospels. What primary investigation have you done into the nature of historicity of any document and applying those criteria to the Gospels? Other researchers have gone before you who have already done that and they have come to a positive position on the historicity of the Gospels and the NT. I’m thinking of leading researcher at the University of Manchester, the late F F Bruce: The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (available online). Right beside me on my desk is Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP 2007). What causes you to refuse to accept the historical evidence provided by these scholars?

4.1 John’s Gospel and mysticism

‘I read John as mysticism, the less said about Paul the better’, he wrote. That statement is loaded with your presuppositional agenda. You would have to give me lots of other information for me to understand why you regard John as mysticism. By the way, it’s a very different kind of Gospel to the Synoptics because it was written for a different purpose, ‘The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name’ (John 30 30-32 NLT).

Then you give the thumbs down to Paul (presumably referring to his letters and the history about him in the Book of Acts). Without your telling us why you make that statement, I wouldn’t try to guess what leads you to that kind of view.

5. Leap of faith and unthinking Christianity

You say, ‘I’m trying to be open to the possibility that the all important stuff actually is true, but it’s going to involve a lot of leaps of faith to come to that conclusion’. To the contrary, Christianity does not require you to put your brain/mind in neutral and resort to a ‘leap of faith’ to accept it. All of the historical basis of Christianity can be subjected to the same tests of historicity that you give to any other historical document about Nero, Martin Luther, George Washington, Captain James Cook or the September 11, 2001 disaster in New York City. However, there is the strong dimension of faith, but that is in the person of Jesus Christ for salvation, the Jesus who is revealed in Scripture. If you don’t know who Jesus is (because of theological liberal presuppositions), that leap of faith will be into darkness rather than into the light.

B. His responses to my challenge

In the following I deal with his responses to what I have written above. These are some of his emphases:

1. Liberal bias that opposes one-way religion

Image result for clipart one way Christianity

He wrote:

No formal training, I’ve just accumulated knowledge here and there–mostly of a liberal bias, yes. Not specifically Christianity but religion in general. It’s uncomfortable for me to switch from viewing something as interesting in the greater scheme of world religion to zeroing in on one and saying, “Maybe this one actually is true.” It’s getting less strange with time, but it’s definitely still jarring.[3]

How should I reply? Here goes![4]

I was raised in a religiously liberal home and it wasn’t until my parents were converted from liberalism to biblical Christianity that I was even open to other evidence. I did not pursue the evidence wherever it led until that time of conversion for my parents.

What has caused you to consider that the liberal bias of accumulated knowledge is correct? This indicates that you have censored some important areas for consideration. Why have you done that? Have you ever considered how your ‘liberal bias’ lines up with reality – the truth? Why liberal and not conservative? What attracts you to liberal religion?

You don’t like going from the general (greater scheme of world religion) to the specific of one religion being true. Surely this should not be a difficult thing for you to do because you are forced to do it in everyday life, even with much lesser products. Do you use a mobile phone? If so, surely you have examined a range of mobile phones before concluding a certain one was the best for you. That’s what I had to do recently.

You do this in a whole range of activities. What causes you and me to take medicine prescribed by the Dr and not swallow ‘RoundUp Poison Ivy’:
clip_image002
The purpose of the product influences that choice.
When it comes to the choosing which religion is the truth, it takes care in comparing that religion with reality, facts/truth. What is truth when you examine religion?
Have you found a better search engine on the www than Google? Why does Google seem to be the preferred product over, say, Bing or Yahoo?
Another analogy would be when something happens to the motor of your automobile. Do you choose to take it to a motor mechanic instead of a painter or cabinet maker? You can be narrow in your choices.
When it comes to dealing with the worldviews of any religion, I challenge you to examine which of those worldviews fits reality. See the difficulties with:

You face a major hurdle before you can even begin to investigate worldviews, religion and God. You start at the wrong end of your inquiry, by excluding certain evidence. When you start with a liberal bias, you will see liberal views in a much more favourable way and anti-liberal views negatively. This is not a beneficial way to examine evidence.

I hope you realise the self-defeating nature of your view with a ‘liberal bias’. You don’t like one-way religion but you have chosen that view yourself, i.e. religion with a liberal bias. That’s every bit as one-way as biblical Christianity. Do you realise how self-defeating your argument is?
May I suggest a better approach: Pursue the evidence, wherever it leads.

2. Evolution defeats Christianity[5]

I’ll pick up a few things from the early parts of his post.

2.1 Presupposition favours evolution

He wrote: ‘I walked away from Christianity as a child because of evolution’. Go to the science section of this forum to discuss this further if you want. However, to allow Charles Darwin & Co to determine HOW God created and continues to create is a view that has added to Scripture. It’s your presuppositional agenda. I don’t see the origin of species and adaptation (Darwinism) in Scripture, but I won’t discuss further.

See my articles:

2.2 Starting with allegorical interpretation.

Again, his reasoning is, ‘I’m not sure if dropping literalism means dropping conservativism (sic), because there have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism’.

You provide not one piece of documentation for this. It is your assertion. Therefore, it is a diversionary tactic. If you want to interpret Genesis as allegory, then start a thread and raise the issues. Do you want the first man and woman to be an allegory? Are you going to treat Noah and the flood as an allegory? How about Abraham? Is God’s promise to Abraham, ‘I will make of you a great nation’, an allegory that had no relationship to the nation of Israel?

Image result for clipart interpretation public domainHow do you read your local newspaper, whether hard copy or online? Do you read it literally or impose your allegory on it? Take this morning’s article from the Brisbane Times (29 January 2017), Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US.[6]

The article began: ‘New York: President Donald Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect on Friday night (Saturday AEDT). Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports’.?

What would stop you from making this an allegory where you force your own meaning onto it to make it say what you want? That’s what allegorical interpretation does. It imposes a meaning from outside of what the text states. It is far too easy for you to say, ‘there have been people who’ve read Genesis as allegory since the religion first started up. That seems to be even more common in Judaism. I didn’t know that this stuff could be read in layers when I was seven, but I certainly know it now’.
So you are already accepting the ‘layers’ of allegorical interpretation without investigating whether that is the case and the harmful consequences of what that does to any piece of literature, including the Bible.

For further explanations of the meaning of allegorical interpretation and the damage it does, see my other articles:

clip_image004 Is the Bible to be interpreted as literal or metaphorical?

clip_image004[1] What is literal interpretation?

clip_image004[2] What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

clip_image004[3] Isn’t it obvious what a literal interpretation of Scripture means?

clip_image004[4] The wedding at Cana led to divorce

See also:

clip_image006 The danger of allegorical Bible interpretation (Danny Coleman);

clip_image006[1] Sins of Interpretation #1: Allegorical method (Kruse Kronicle/Kenneth Bailey);

clip_image006[2] Historical implications of allegorical interpretation (Thomas D Ice)

clip_image006[3] The Bible: How should we interpret it? (John Ankerberg interviews Norman Geisler)

2.3 Resurrection, the Bible and truth

He continued: ‘If I decide the Resurrection happened, I can then start working on the question of how much of the rest is true, but that seems a bit backwards as a starting point.’ But you have already told us about your ‘liberal bias’. How will you ever get to understand Jesus’ resurrection as an historical event without telling us which historical criteria you will be using to examine the evidence?

See my articles:

clip_image008 Can Jesus Christ’s resurrection be investigated as history?

clip_image008[1] Christ’s resurrection: Latter-day wishful thinking

clip_image008[2] The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Comeback to Beat Them All

clip_image008[3] Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

clip_image008[4] Junk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection

clip_image008[5] Can we prove and defend Jesus’ resurrection?

clip_image008[6] Easter and the end of death

2.4  Garden of Eden promotes misogyny[7]

You say, ‘Can you be conservative and read the Garden of Eden metaphorically? I find it a very powerful statement when viewed symbolically, but when taken literally, I think it’s blatantly misogynistic. My liberal bias very clearly lines up to the reality that Eve has been used as an excuse to justify the oppression of women throughout all of Judeo-Christian history’.

You can’t be a legitimate biblical interpreter and make the Scriptures mean what you want them to mean. When you impose a metaphorical hermeneutic on the Garden of Eden, you introduce your own story into the narrative. That’s called a red herring fallacy because it takes us away from what the narrative states. There is no indicator in the text of Gen 1-3 (ESV) that tells us the Garden of Eden narrative is an allegory. That’s your ‘liberal bias’ imposition.

You have nailed what drives your agenda: ‘I lean towards the liberal view that the Word of God was filtered through a patriarchal culture and picked up some of its bias’. Again, that’s imposition on the text. It’s eisegesis (putting your meaning into the text) instead of exegesis (getting the meaning out of the text). Unless you put your presuppositions up for examination and follow the evidence wherever it leads, you are going to have difficulty in pursuing this investigation. I see your foggy worldview of liberalism blinding you to the reality of what the text states.

When you pick and choose what you want to make allegory, you are the postmodern deconstructionist[8] who is deconstructing the text to your own worldview. I urge you to place your presuppositions on the altar of critical examination (I ask the same of all of us on this forum, including myself).

C. Further responses: Distorted reasoning

This person replied and I’ve incorporated his reply in my response.

It’s not a diversionary tactic to not provide evidence–I figured you’d already know what I was talking about, since I’ve been at this for a couple months now; you’ve been doing it for significantly longer! But if you want evidence, I know Clement of Alexandria and Origen interpreted things allegorically, and in Judaism, there’s the Remez approach to interpretation, which appears to be allegorical. There was also apparently a medieval rabbi called Saadia Gaon who said that a passage should not be interpreted literally if that made it contrary to the senses or reason. I am not making any of this up; it is quite ancient and literally biblical. We can go straight to Galatians 4:24, since apparently Paul himself interpreted things allegorically: “Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants.” If Paul wasn’t orthodox, I have no idea what orthodoxy is, haha.[9]

1. Confusion of allegorical interpretation with allegory

You seem to confuse two things:[10] (1) Allegorical interpretation, and (2) A narrative that says something is described as an allegory.
Do you want me to interpret your above information allegorically, by which I make your statements say what I want them to say and not what you have intended them to mean? Let me try one example:

  • ‘It’s not a diversionary tactic to not provide evidence—I figured you’d already know what I was talking about, since I’ve been at this for a couple months now; you’ve been doing it for significantly longer!’
  • By this, Silmarien means that God’s lack of evidence (for Jesus) is merely God’s way of getting through to Silmarien that God has superior knowledge to Silmarien’s beginning inquiries into spiritual things.
  • If I invented allegorical interpretation of everything you wrote, you would have every right to call it baloney or bunkum. Why? Because allegorical interpretation is an illegitimate method of interpretation because it forces into a text what is not there.
  • When Paul states in Gal 4:24 that he was dealing with an allegory. That was a literal interpretation by Paul to confirm the existence of allegory.

2. Genesis and literalism

You wrote:

A critical examination of the Old Testament is very much the problem, though. God creates animals first and humans second in Genesis 1, but in Genesis 2, Adam is created before the animals. Cain conjures up a wife out of nowhere and then goes off and builds himself a city, even though there’s supposedly nobody to live in it yet. I’m sure there are ways to get around all the continuity issues, but for me, it kind of feels like trying to trap God within the pages of a book. Because my problem with literalism isn’t just liberal post-modernism; it’s also mysticism. The surface level of all things religious tends to leave me cold.[11]

To the contrary,[12] a careful examination of the OT is not a problem. Every one of the issues you raise here from Gen 1 and 2 has been successfully resolved. The differences in the order of creation are quite easily explained.

  • Gen 1 gives the order of events:
  • Chronological order
  • Outline
  • Creating animals

Then,

  • Gen 2 goes into more detail on the content about what was in ch. 1:
  • There is no contradiction, since ch 1 doesn’t affirm when God made the animals. Ch 2 gives:
  • Topical order
  • Details, and the
  • Naming of animals, not creating animals.

Therefore, Gen 1 and 2 provide a harmonious statement that gives a more complete picture of the events of creation (with help from Geisler & Howe 1992:35).

Determining the source of Cain’s wife is an old chestnut. It is easily solved. Your claim is that ‘Cain conjures up a wife out of nowhere’. Were there no women for Cain to marry as there were only Adam, Eve (Gen 4:1) and his dead brother Abel (Gen 5:4)?

Cain probably married his sister or niece because we are told that Adam ‘fathered other sons and daughters ‘ (Gen 5:4 HCSB). Adam lived 930 years (Gen 5:5 ESV) so he had stacks of time to have a pile of children. Was Cain committing incest if he married his sister/cousin? At the beginning of the human race there would have been no genetic imperfections. Genetic defects would have emerged following the Fall into sin. Since only a pair (Adam & Eve) began the human race, Cain had nobody else to marry except a close female relative.

You state that Cain ‘goes off and builds himself a city, even though there’s supposedly nobody to live in it yet’. It’s time that you read Genesis 5 more carefully. ‘Supposedly nobody to live in it’ is bunk, when you read the text.

You say, ‘My problem with literalism isn’t just liberal post-modernism; it’s also mysticism. The surface level of all things religious tends to leave me cold’. Your problems with this statement include:

3. Old Testament reliability

His denigration of Scripture continued:

Regarding historical evidence, I accept logical arguments that take the formula “if not P, then not Q. Q is true, therefore P is true.” Could be applied to the disciples’ transformation, as well as Paul’s conversion. There are plenty of facts that are debatable, but these two are not. I’m also intrigued by extra-biblical evidence in general–Constantine’s vision, Genesis 1 continuing to match up to the Big Bang Theory, but evidence for the Old Testament is probably a bit premature.[13]

Do you affirm the Law of Noncontradiction[14] that ‘A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship’?
Evidence for the reliability of the OT is not premature. Your knowledge seems to have a gap here. Take a read of archaeologist, Egyptologist and historian, Dr Kenneth A Kitchen 2003. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

4. Belief and postmodern deconstruction

This isn’t really an investigation, though, since I actually do believe. Experimentation with prayer has been… pretty conclusive. A lot of it could be attributed to brain chemicals, but when a prayer of “Hey Jesus, if you’re real, can you please help me not be crazy over Calvinism?” results in immediately calming down… well, it can’t be the placebo effect when you don’t actually have faith. The problem is that I already have deconstructed everything–it’s too late to not be a postmodernist when you’ve already torn everything to pieces. I guess all I can do now is try to put it back together in a way that’s reasonably orthodox. I did just order Simply Christian, so hopefully that will help. C.S. Lewis offered some food for thought, but not really on a theological level.[15]

Image result for clipart postmodern deconstructionYou say you actually do believe.[16] What do you believe in? What is the nature of your belief? I’m reminded of a verse that James taught, ‘You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!’ (James 2:19 ESV).

Your claim is that you have deconstructed everything and it’s too late not to be a postmodernist. That fact is not true. What you have written in your post is not postmodern deconstruction. For the benefit of those who don’t understand that language, we should define ‘postmodern deconstruction’.

It means that words and sentences have no inherent meaning in themselves. People who read anything construct their own meaning, which is shaped by culture and life’s experiences. So the author’s intention in the writing is deconstructed, i.e. altered by the reader. The reader determines what the author means. Postmodern deconstruction turns an author’s meaning on its head. The reader determines the meaning.

Silmarien, in your post here, I didn’t read anything that told me I must read it as postmodern deconstruction. I observe how close postmodern deconstruction is to allegorical interpretation. Postmodern deconstruction tears the heart out of any document. You cannot apply for social security, secure a bank loan, or answer the rules of the road to get your driver’s license using postmodern deconstruction.

Therefore, it makes no sense to interpret the Bible, your writing on Christian Forums.net, or your local newspaper using postmodern deconstruction. It’s a great way for any reader to make a writing say anything he/she wants it to say. The fact remains that the true meaning of a text or spoken word is based on what the writer or speaker intended for it to mean. Anything else is an imposition on the text.

So, you do not engage in postmodern deconstruction of ‘everything’. You are selective in what you deconstruct. That’s your liberal bias coming into play and that bias needs to be exposed if you are going to read the Bible objectively and not impose your deconstructed message on it.

D. More examples of liberal bias intruding

All of us need to be aware of how our presuppositions can interfere with our interpretations of documents.

1. Presuppositions meet a brick wall of liberal bias

He wrote:

I would say that everyone has presuppositions when it comes to reading anything–biblical inerrancy is as much a presupposition as historical criticism, and an equally modern take. I can’t ignore things like Zoroastrianism’s influence on Judaism or Platonic elements in Christian theology, so my options are 1) abandon all religion as inherently manmade, or 2) accept that cultural influences don’t negate the truth value of a religion as a whole. I’m actually an existentialist with my reading of Scripture–Paul Tillich right now, a bit of Kierkegaard. But when it comes to actual evidence, I do start deconstructing things into meaninglessness. That part is a problem, but the existentialism is kind of necessary for me.[17]

I agree that all of us have presuppositions,[18] but the key to unpacking them is to compare those presuppositions with the evidence from reality.

  • What you’ve done in announcing biblical inerrancy as a presupposition and a modern take, it that this is a throw away line. Why? You provided not one example for us to examine. Norman Geisler’s edited book, Inerrancy (Zondervan 1979), presents biblical and historical evidence to counter your presupposition. Chapter 12 (by Robert Preus) of this book is, ‘The view of the Bible held by the church: The early church through Luther’, in which Irenaeus is cited from his writing, Against Heresies, ‘We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit’ (Against Heresies 2.28.2). Therefore, you are incorrect to state that biblical inerrancy is a ‘modern take’ (‘Scriptures are indeed perfect’, Irenaeus). Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, lived ca. 125-202. That is hardly a modern take in support of inerrancy – the Scriptures are perfect. Chapter 12 of Inerrancy provides other examples from the church fathers in support of inerrancy. Seems like you have a fair amount of research to do to come up with a correct understanding of what the early church fathers believed about the Bible’s perfection in the original documents.
  • Then you provide the unsupported statement of Zoroastrianism’s influence on Judaism and Platonic influence on Christian theology. That may be so, but you are yet to prove your case. Your assertions merely state your opinions. They don’t provide evidence.
  • Your support of Paul Tillich’s existentialism (I have his Systematic Theology) comes with the critiques of existentialism that don’t make it a worldview to live by. The review, ‘Tillich: An Impossible Struggle’, raises some insuperable difficulties with Tillich’s worldview.
  • Deconstructing into nothingness will lead you to nothingness.
  • Starting with existentialism as being ‘necessary for me’ is a brick wall approach to understanding any world view. You are stuck in a rut of experience that won’t allow you to pursue the evidence wherever it leads because … of your necessity for existentialism. Try existentialism if you are caught speeding and the policeman issues you with a fine. Existentialism is not a world view of reality that leads to payment of the fine.

2. Mysticism’s failures

This inquirer (or stirrer) wrote:

The view of the Gospel of John as a work of mysticism is ancient. It’s only a problem in that it puts me on a different page than most people here–mysticism is one of the major reasons I’m not an atheist. I don’t discount the claims because I think it’s mysticism; I actually take them more seriously. I’m very much on the mystical side, that’s a large part of why taking things at face value does nothing for me. As for Paul… suffice to say that I have no love for 1 Timothy. Apparently there are serious doubts as to its authorship, so that’s one less problem, but there’s still plenty of stuff I’m skeptical about, including his claim to authority when he was never there in the first place. Actually, if you know of any good material on him, I’d definitely appreciate it.[19]

You say,[20] ‘Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions!’ Not really! What I’ve been trying to do is uncover your presuppositions as your post at #17 is loaded with your presuppositions, some of which you mentioned, like your ‘liberal bias’, but there were more presuppositions that needed to be exposed to try to see how they fit the evidence.

I acknowledge that the Gospel of John has some different emphases to the Synoptics, but a mystical interpretation, I find, is an imposition on the text. You seem to be engaged in a begging the question logical fallacy. When you start with John’s Gospel as mysticism and conclude with mysticism, you have achieved nothing. It is fallacious reasoning that doesn’t deal with differences between John and the Synoptics.

There are dangers in mysticism. I recommend a read of ‘What is contemplative Spirituality and Why is it Dangerous?’ (John Caddock 1997).

You say ‘taking things at face value does nothing for me’. I wish you luck in trying that approach with buying groceries, abiding by the road rules, reading your local newspaper, or appearing in court to face the evidence?

Concerning the pastoral epistles, I recommend Gordon D Fee’s commentary, ‘New International Biblical Commentary: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988). A later edition gives details HERE. Fee has a considerable amount of exposition on the authenticity of the pastoral epistles. See his index on ‘authenticity’. R C H Lenski’s Introduction to the pastoral letters, in my view, more than adequately covers the authorship controversy. See Lenski (1961:473-484).

3. Christian existentialism

Now he launches into a brief statement in support of …

Christian existentialism. 😉 I’m all about faith as the ultimate act of courage. It’s what cured me of my atheism, so when I talk about leaps of faith, shutting off your brain is not remotely what I’m thinking of.

I mention that I’m pretty liberal so that people know what they’re dealing with. I don’t know where to start with conservative scholarship and definitely do want to take a look at the other side of the story. I know there’s a lot of bad blood between the groups, but please leave me out of it, haha. The infighting is part of what’s stressing me out.[21]

What is Christian existentialism?[22] Would you conclude that this is a reasonable summary of Christian existentialism? It may be defined as

a philosophy of its own that is not compatible with either secular existentialism, nor traditional Christianity. There is a wide variety of forms of existential religion with differing doctrinal beliefs. Kierkegaard and later Karl Barth are sited for attempting to make theology, particularly the Christian faith, compatible with existentialism.

Its premise is that a person must submit themselves totally to God without reasoning — that is, true absolute faith must be void of philosophy or intellect. Religious existentialism then states such things as:

  • A person is autonomous and is fully free to make choices and fully responsible for them
  • Rational grounds for theology and divine revelation do not exist
  • True faith transcends rationalism and God’s commandments
  • The true God is not the God of philosophers or of rationalism
  • The destruction of wars throughout human history proves there cannot be rational understanding of God or humanity
  • A Christian must personally resolve within self the content of faith from being a myth or mystery to being realty or truth before they will allow an understanding and acceptance of salvation
  • It is impossible to discover personal Being and faith through rational reasoning (All About Philosophy: Christian existentialism).

If faith is ‘the ultimate act of courage’ for you, I have to ask, ‘Faith in what? The god of Zoroastrianism; the Jesus who was not raised bodily from the grave; a liberal Jesus who loves people but excludes damnation?

Where to start with conservative scholarship is what I’ve stated: Follow the evidence wherever it leads. However, if you are going to impose your liberal bias, mysticism and existentialism onto the biblical text or an author’s views, you will invent your own god and jesus and won’t allow the conservative scholars to present their cases . You’ll come out with a godhead that looks like the very one with which you began.

For an examination of the conservative side of the resurrection of Jesus, I’d recommend:

(1) The debate between Gary Habermas (Christian) and Antony Flew (atheist who became deist). It’s available in: Gary R Habermas and Antony G N Flew 1987. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate. San Francisco: Harper & Row. In this book, there is a response to the debate by Wolfhart Pannenberg (pp. 125-135). Pannenberg is the European scholar on the resurrection that I mentioned previously to you.

(2) Norman L Geisler 1989. The Battle for the Resurrection. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

(3) James L Snyder 1991: In Pursuit of God: The Life of A. W. Tozer. Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications.

Yes, there is considerable controversy between liberal and evangelical Protestants. I encourage you not to become involved in slinging matches but to examine the evidence, based on the claims themselves. This will require for both sides to: (a) Examine their presuppositions in the light of reality; (b) Do not impose one’s worldview on the text. (c) Refrain from the use of logical fallacies in challenging an opponent.

Speaking of logical fallacies, do you remember your statement: ‘His [Norman Geisler’s] endorsement of Donald Trump. clip_image009 In all seriousness, I disapprove immensely of the politicization of religion. He seems to mix the two a fair amount, and that makes me believe that I’m not his intended audience’ (Silmarien #29).

Here you have committed a genetic logical fallacy. Any Christian apologist worth his or her salt should be assessing politicians and their policies. You obviously don’t like Trump, but when you dump Geisler’s views because of his support for Trump, you have not engaged in debate of the issues that Geisler raised. Instead, you have wiped his views because of his assessment of Trump’s views. This is erroneous reasoning.

4. Presuppositions about presuppositions

Image result for clipart false teaching public domainHis ducking and weaving among challenges continued, this time with a red herring fallacy,

Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions! I’m comfortable with the idea of miracles, just disinclined to look at them as evidence when I think such claims would have ended up in the stories regardless of whether or not they happened. Just as I think that if prophecies were not fulfilled, the disciples would have started forcing prophecies to fit events (or events to fit prophecies) one way or the other. I don’t accept these things as evidence, but that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the possibility that they’re true.[23]

You say,[24] ‘Now you’ve got presuppositions about my presuppositions!’ Not really! What I’ve been trying to do is uncover your presuppositions as your post at #17 is loaded with your presuppositions, some of which you mentioned, like your ‘liberal bias’, but there were more presuppositions that needed to be exposed to try to see how they fit the evidence.

I think you need to ask: ‘What is the truth about reality, especially concerning the person of Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection, and second coming?’ The answer to that question, along with, ‘What are the attributes of God?’ will unlock a gold mine that will take you into eternity, with the beloved or the lost.

‘What happens one second after your last breath?’ is a dynamite question for which you need answers. Your posts do read to me like a version of Pascal’s Wager.

Without Christ changing your life, you will not be able to live up to the high moral standards of Christianity. It’s wishful thinking trying to make it on your own.

5. His struggles

In response to what I wrote above, he admitted his struggles. These are his conflicts within:[25]

  • The idea of eternity is terrifying (that’s a big one for him);
  • Annihilation doesn’t sound bad;
  • Damnation means everyone is in trouble;
  • You can’t magically not struggle with doubt;
  • Why would you take the Bible at face value?
  • ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” seems to encompass at least a bit of mystical dabbling’.
  • The religious experience is in a different sphere to intellect.
  • You balk at Luke 16:31 (ESV), ‘He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”’.
  • · You stated: ‘I don’t have an agenda, but if you’ve spent your life rationalizing away everything, it’s hard to make yourself stop’. There’s a paradox in this statement. You really do have an agenda and that is to rationalise away ‘everything’.
  • ‘Not sure why I’d be worshipping Ahura Mazda [a god of Zoroastrianism], but the bodily Resurrection and the concept of damnation are not things that I reject as unbelievable’.

I replied to him this way:[26]

clip_image011 The idea of eternity is terrifying (that’s a big one for you). This is an example where you are kicking against the pricks – against God’s revelation to you eternally. This is what I’m talking about: ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end’ (Eccl. 3:11 NIV). You may not understand this revelation of eternity, but you need to recognize eternity is right there in your innermost being. I urge you not to resist the wooing of the Holy Spirit in revealing what is there already. An understanding of it is in everyone’s heart – eternity.

clip_image011[1] Annihilation doesn’t sound bad, he wrote. Of course zapping people out of existence at death sounds better than eternal torment in hell/Hades. However, what’s the truth? You’ll read about it in Scripture and not in your or my presuppositions.

clip_image011[2] Damnation means everyone is in trouble, according to his view. This is not so. Biblical facts determine that only unbelievers experience damnation. See: Matthew 25:46 NIV; John 3:36 ESV. I’m sticking with Scripture and not Silmarien’s or my presuppositions.

clip_image011[3] You can’t magically not struggle with doubt is what he stated. Agreed! Thomas doubted (John 20:24-29), but when evidence is provided to counter the doubt, doubt should subside to the point of being pacified or removed. I encouraged him to meditate on Psalm 77:11-15 (NRSV) to help him with his doubt?

clip_image011[4] Why would you take the Bible at face value? That’s because it’s a book of history and should be interpreted like any other historical book. Try taking the bombing of Pearl Harbor or Richard Nixon’s presidency at other than face value! For the same reason, we take Jesus’ death and resurrection at face value.

clip_image011[5] ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” seems to encompass at least a bit of mystical dabbling’. I think you’ve missed the meaning. It means loving the Lord with your entire being. I hope you and I are more than mystical beings involved in mystical activities.

clip_image011[6] The religious experience is in a different sphere to intellect is your perspective. That’s one view. I suggest to you that Christianity involves communicating with your inner being with God and that includes the mind.

clip_image011[7] You balk at Luke 16:31 (ESV), ‘He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”’. That’s the human propensity to doubt the historical and supernatural in Christian experience.

clip_image011[8] You stated: ‘I don’t have an agenda, but if you’ve spent your life rationalizing away everything, it’s hard to make yourself stop’. There’s a paradox in that statement. You really do have an agenda and that is to rationalize away ‘everything’.

clip_image011[9] ‘Not sure why I’d be worshipping Ahura Mazda [a god of Zoroastrianism], but the bodily Resurrection and the concept of damnation are not things that I reject as unbelievable’. I found that statement confusing, that you are worshipping a god of Zoroastrianism but you are open to teaching on the bodily resurrection and damnation. Are you wanting to worship a God/god of syncretism?

I thanked him for engaging with me in this challenging discussion. I pray that the Lord will guide him into all truth.

‘But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate [Paraclete] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment’ (John 16:7-8 NLT).?

He seems to be a seeker but his filter of liberal bias is acting as a blockage.

clip_image012

(image courtesy Pinterest)

E. Conclusion

This person with a self-proclaimed liberal bias came onto an evangelical Christian forum with an agenda of a ‘couple of questions’. That’s shorthand for a number of questions that were filtered through his theological liberal worldview.

I have attempted to expose his presuppositions, many of which do not harmonise with reality and especially with a literal reading of the biblical text. He confused the use of allegorical interpretation with a literal hermeneutic stating that a section of Scripture is allegory. At least he admitted that liberal presuppositions can lead to a slippery slope, by which he meant that the liberal bias descends into something worse – he gave an example of nothingness as one alternative.

He is stuck in a rut, not able to understand or accept the historicity of the Gospels. His leap of faith takes him into mysticism and existentialism. He does not want to understand the Book of Genesis literally but pursues allegorical interpretation.

He did admit that he engages in postmodern deconstruction of ‘everything’, to which I responded that he did not state he wanted me to read his posts that way. Postmodern deconstruction falls flat with any document. He cannot apply for social security, secure a bank loan, or answer the rules of the road to get his driver’s license using postmodern deconstruction.

I agreed with him that his posts do look like a version of Pascal’s Wager.

One of the major problems with his liberal bias of a worldview is that it colours all of his investigation of life and the Bible. It is way too easy for him to commit a begging the question logical fallacy, by which he starts with a liberal bias in examining anything and concludes with a liberal bias. That gets him nowhere.

The final section on his struggles demonstrates the inconsistencies in his world view. His liberal presupposition overwhelm his ability to consider the claims of Scripture at face value.

F. Works consulted

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When critics ask: A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Lenski, R C H 1961. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (earlier published by Lutheran Book Concern 1937; The Wartburg Press 1946; Augsburg Publishing House 1961; Hendrickson Publishers, Inc edn 2001).

Kurish, N & Fernandez, M 2017. Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ executive order kicks in, passengers refused entry to US. Brisbane Times, 29 January 2017. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-as-donald-trumps-antimuslim-executive-order-comes-into-force-20170128-gu0p5o.html (Accessed 29 January 2017).

G.  Notes

[1] Christian Forums.net 2017. Questions for Christians (Q&A), Silmarien#8. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/couple-of-questions.68199/#post-1292985 (Accessed 21 January 2017).

[2] The following points are in ibid., OzSpen#17.

[3] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[5] This is my reply at ibid., OzSpen#52, #53.

[6] Kulish & Fernandez (2017).

[7] Misogyny means ‘dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women’ (Oxford dictionaries online 2017. s v misogyny).

[8] Deconstruction means ‘detailed examination of a text in order to show there is no fixed meaning but that it can be understood in a different way by each reader’ (Cambridge dictionary 2017. s v deconstruction).

[9] Christian Forums.net 2017. Silmarien#54.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[11] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[13] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[15] Ibid., Silmarien#54.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#59.

[17] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[19] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#71.

[21] Ibid., Silmarien#17.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#72.

[23] Ibid., Silmarien#69.

[24] Ibid., OzSpen#70.

[25] Ibid., Silmarien#76.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen#87.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 October 2018.

Question on religion: Australian Census 2016

Australian 2016 Census form, Question 19 [1]

Image: question 19 on the paper 2016 Census Household Form.

(The above question is from the Australian paper 2016 Census Household Form)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

One of Australia’s online ejournals, On Line Opinion, agreed to publish my article, Is ‘no religion’ a new religion? (19 July 2016). At the time of last edit of this clip, there were 125 Comments on the article, which is a very high quantity, when compared with other articles. I’d recommend a read of this article to glean my concern over Q 19. ‘What is your religion?’ in the Australian 2016 Census to be taken on 9 August 2016. Instead of placing ‘No religion’ at the bottom of the options, as in 2010, it is now the first option.

Here are some of my own Comments (as OzSpen) to people who responded. They are organised according to topics, so will not be in chronological order:

A.  Definitions of religion

Direction

(image courtesy ChristArt)

designRed-small Space prevents my answering each one of you but I’m noticing some trends in your responses.

1. Ignoring the extended definitions I gave beyond the 1997 Macquarie Dictionary (large 3rd ed). I included information from eminent NT scholar who has taught at Oxford University, Prof N T Wright, and also by Michael Bird and James Anderson.

2. There was a range of logical fallacies committed (this is a limited number of examples):

(a) Appeal to Ridicule (‘Putting your religion on the census form just tells us that you are incapable of making sense of life and have resorted to some pre-packaged explanation for it all’, phanto Tues;

(b) Red Herring Fallacy (Plantagenet, Tues, THOR);
(c) Genetic Fallacy (Cobber the hound, Tues ‘A poor argument poorly made, well worthy of a PHD in religious studies’);
(d) Ad Hominem Fallacy (Suseonline, Tues, ‘Especially the far-right loonie-toons’). All of these involve fallacious reasoning.

3. Jardine (Tues): ‘Everything – every human action – amounts to worldview in action. If you go up the shop to buy some milk, that, according to your definition, is “religion”…. This means your theory is wrong. And useless’. For you to reach that conclusion, you didn’t carefully read the contents I gave of the meaning of religion and worldview.

4. Shadow Minister (Tues): You say that ‘most of us simply don’t believe in anything, and don’t give a crap what anyone else believes as long as they keep it to themselves’. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be making your comments here. Your argument is self-defeating.

Many of you disagree with the perspective I have presented. I didn’t expect much support or unanimity, but I thank you for engaging with the content of my article with OLO (contd).

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:25:33 AM

designRed-small This is a continuation of my observations of some of the comments you have made to my article.

1. AJ Philips (Tues), you say, ‘All the sophistry in the world won’t make atheism a religion’ and then you refused to read the rest of the article in which I defined my understanding of religion and worldview. Your refusal to read the article sounds awfully like a closed mind, yet you still interacted with others who had read the article! Andy Bannister disagrees with you. See ‘The Scandinavian Sceptic (or Why Atheism Is a Belief System)’.

2. One of the rules of OLO is ‘Do not flame’. I found several inflammatory comments: ‘I didn’t bother reading the rest of the article. When you can’t even grasp such basic definitions and concepts, or are dishonest enough to try to fit a square peg in a round hole, then there is no point in continuing’; ‘Environmentalism and the Loony Green Left are the new religion’; ‘the something from nothing brigade are certainly the most irrational believers we have today’; ‘Religion is like a penis’, and ‘Declaring synonymy between the two is blatant, self-serving balderdash’.

3. I will engage briefly with the more lengthy posts by Rational Razor, Form Designer, and Pogi later, as I have time.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 7:28:58 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor,

I refer to your Tues post. You are sounding more like a supporter of Hugh Harris’s promotion of secularism in schools and elsewhere.

1. Since you did not identify your source for a definition of secularism, I am left to conclude it comes out of the mind of RR. Your view differs from that of the Macquarie Dictionary (1997, 3rd ed. s v secularism), which gives the definition as ‘1. secular spirit or tendencies, especially a system of political or social philosophy which rejects all forms of religious faith and worship. 2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of the religious element’. It defines ‘secular’ as ‘1. Of or relating to the world; or to things not religious, sacred, or spiritual; temporal; worldly’. My article is contending that secularism is as religious as, say, humanism, environmentalism, consumerism, socialism, etc. The Rationalist Society of Australia’s ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia’ is as forthright an example of a Statement of Belief as I’ve seen in any church or denomination.

2. It is not incongruous to claim secularism is at odds with Section 116 of the Constitution if one understands secularism is as religious as Christianity. If the Rationalists want to impose a secular 10-point plan on Australia, that would violate Section 116 if secularism is considered to be religion, having a worldview and praxis (see my article).

3. Your #3 point here is trumped up. My point is that I’m raising the issue that ‘No religion’ can be very religious once one understands the dynamics of the religious categories. My article has nothing to do with making Christians look better. It has to do with honesty about the nature of religion. (continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:12:23 AM

designRed-small RationalRazor, (continuation)

4. Please provide the evidence for this point of yours (Tues post) that Australia regards religion as relating to ‘some sort of supernatural entity’. Your statement, ‘This is why ethics and philosophy cannot be taught at the same time as fundamentalist religious instruction in QLD Schools’. There is no ‘fundamentalist religious instruction in Qld schools’(I live in Qld). There is Christian religious instruction, Hindu religious instruction, Muslim religious instruction, etc. (depending on the distribution of such students – and availability of instructors). ‘Fundamentalist religious instruction’ is your pejorative imposition.

5. Of course people are entitled to say that they have ‘no religion’ on the Census of 9 August, but I’m raising the issue that it is a misnomer for many of the –isms around, including secularism, atheism, agnosticism, etc. You say, ‘Most secular people are united in wanting an end ot (sic) the conspicuous privileging of outdated and largely irrelevent (sic) Christian religious beliefs in our society’. This is an example of your promotion of a straw man fallacy against the accurate content of Christianity. I hope you live long enough to meet some people whose lives have been radically changed by an encounter with the living Jesus Christ who is not your anachronistic ‘outdated and largely irrelevant Christian religious beliefs’.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 21 July 2016 8:15:40 AM

designRed-small Pogi (Wed),

Your Budget Macquarie Dictionary (3rd. ed 2000) does not agree with the citation I provided. I cited from my hard copy of the unabridged Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion) as I stated in the article. It was the first definition. I wasn’t lying. You have the audacity to quote from the Budget Macquarie Dictionary 3rd ed 2000 but you didn’t bother to check the edition from which I quoted to demonstrate I quoted the truth from Macquarie.
You have invented what I did not say by using a red herring fallacy. You go to a definition of theology, which I did not provide. That wasn’t my emphasis. I provided the definition of religion as ‘a quest for the values of the ideal life’ that involved 3 practices:

(1) The ideal life,

(2) the practices for attaining the values of the ideal, and

(3) the theology or world view relating to the quest for the environing universe (Macquarie Dictionary (1997 3rd ed. s v religion). I didn’t invent any of this in the article. It was obtained directly from Macquarie. You are inventing a straw man when you try to dissociate religion from world view. This is not ‘self-serving balderdash’ (Appeal to Ridicule Fallacy) but what a dictionary designates.

It is obviously not what you like, but your analogies of things flying and things swimming do not float because I was dealing with a definition of how to pursue ‘the quest for the ideal life’ (Macquarie Dictionary). If you think things flying or swimming are a quest for the ideal life, so be it. I’m not into that kind of fantasy or speculation.

You claim, ‘We are made of the same stuff as the stars’. Are you kidding? With flesh and blood?
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:51:07 AM

B.  Census Form – redesign

The 2016 Census paper has the category, ‘No religion’, at the top of Q 19: ‘What is the person’s religion?’ See this comparison of 2011 and 2016 Census Forms (image courtesy Hugh Harris, October 31, 2015, New Matilda):

designRed-small Form Designer,

That’s a creative, alphabetical approach to the ‘What is your religion?’ question 19 on the Census form. I cannot imagine the ABS wanting to do your suggested detailed Q 19 for religion as that would require a similar approach to detail in every other question (but surely that is a reasonable request if the ABS is wanting comprehensive Census data).

If the Question remains – as it will be for Census 2016 – who do you think will be completing the ‘No religion’ category? Atheists, agnostics, secularists, environmentalists, socialists, etc.? My point is that the ‘No religion’ category is so poorly defined that the information gained would be essentially useless to decipher, as it tells nothing about those who comprise this group.

There’s the complicating factor that atheists and secularists (for example) wouldn’t like to be included in the broad definition of religion provided by the Macquarie Dictionary.

Ian Royall’s article in the Herald Sun (‘Campaign for “no-religion” census hits advertising block at major shopping centres’, 13 July 2016) admits this: ‘In the 2011 census, 4.7 million, or 22 per cent, chose the “no religion” box or wrote down atheism, agnosticism, humanism or rationalism in the “other, please specify” box’. At least some acknowledged that atheism, agnosticism, humanism and rationalism fit in the category of ‘other religion’. This is the point that I’m raising. They are religions, but are not often seen as such, but need to be exposed for what they are – religious.

The ‘no religion’ campaign for the 2016 Census is promoted by the Atheist Foundation of Australia Ltd, with campaign sponsors, Rationalist Society of Australia and Sydney Atheists (see http://censusnoreligion.org.au/).
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 11:43:28 AM

C.  Imposition on biblical text

designRed-small RationalRazor (Friday),

Your razor is not too sharp today with your presuppositional impositions on Christianity. This kind of statement by you is void of historical and biblical content: ‘”Accurate content of Christianity”? Please! Whatever could you mean? The unverifiable metaphysical claims? The fact that even Christians can’t agree with each other on the basic beliefs. Was Jesus born of a virgin? IS there a Hell? Which discrepant gospel is true? Does it not occur to you that the “accurate content” you speak of is founded upon unprovable assertions. As a well known physicist once said – unverifiable claims are “not even wrong.”’

Eminent Australian historian, Christian, and former teacher of history at Macquarie University, Sydney, Dr Paul W Barnett, begs to differ with you when he investigates “Jesus and the Logic of History” (1997. Leicester, England: Apollos). His assessment is that ‘for us today and for all who have lived beyond the lifespan of Jesus, he can only be the Christ of faith. Nevertheless, that those who lived after the first Easter were people of such faith is itself not a matter of faith but a historical fact… We stand on sure grounds of sound historical method when we reply that the Christ of the early church’s faith was, without discontinuity, the truly historical figure Jesus of Nazareth’ (Barnett 1997:35). I can cite eminent scholars who provide similar historical verification for the Old Testament.

Your presuppositional rationalism and secularism seem to be standing in the way of permitting the historical method to be used to assess details about the historical Jesus.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 12:17:48 PM

D.  Secular religion admitted

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small Dear RationalRazor (Thurs),

Thank you for identifying that you are the Hugh Harris to whom I referred. I had a hunch you were that person, based on your style of writing and the content of posts.
You don’t like the idea of secularism being identified as a religion. However, it’s way too late to try to convince me otherwise.

Back as far as the late 1930s, there were writers identifying ‘secular religion’. I don’t like using Wikipedia as a source as it is not all that reliable. However its article on ‘secular religion’ is a starter of identification of the ideology of secular religion. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_religion. As World War 2 was approaching, F A Voigt, a British journalist who opposed totalitarianism, identified Marxism and National Socialism (Nazism) as promoters of ‘secular religion’.

Why? It was because of their fundamental beliefs in authoritarianism, messianic and eschatological views.

Paul Vitz has identified self-worship psychology as ‘secular religion’ (Vitz 1977:145).

Emilo Gentile wrote “Politics as Religion” (2006. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). His first chapter deals with ‘secular religion’. He stated that

the sacralization of politics was given a further impetus during the nineteenth century by various cultural and political movements, such as romanticism, idealism, positivism, nationalism, socialism, communism, and racism, which all put forward global concepts of human existence by adopting various aspects of secular religions intent upon replacing traditional religions. These religions could be defined as religions of humanity…. Any human activity from science to history or from entertainment to sport can be invested with “secular sacredness” and become the object of a secular cult, thus constituting a “secular religion”. In politics, however, the term “secular religion” is often adopted as a synonym for civil religion or political religion…. The concept of a secular religion was therefore already in use by the thirties as a definition for the forms in which totalitarian regimes created political cults (Gentile 2006:xvi, 1, 2).

Therefore, your views promoted in this thread, and consistent with the Rational Society of Australia’s ‘10 point plan for a secular Australia’, fits succinctly under the rubric of secular religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 22 July 2016 2:09:38 PM

E.  Confusion of religion with relationship with God

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

 

designRed-small G’day Yuyutsu (your Friday post),

You stated, ‘Secularism is not a religion because it does not help its practitioners to come closer to God’. I provided evidence to demonstrate that secularism was a religion or that there are a number of –isms that have been identified as ‘secular religions’.

Since writing my article for OLO, I have located the National Geographic’s, ‘The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion’ (April 22 2016). Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-nones-rising-religion/.

This article states that

‘But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)’

My understanding, as a Christian, is that you seem to have confused religion with relationship. It was Jesus who stated, ‘’My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:27). The way to move closer to God is to be one of his sheep so that one is able to hear his voice, know who He is, and follow Him. That’s called discipleship – based on a relationship with Jesus – and it is not defined as religion.

The Old Testament gives a similar emphasis: ‘This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ (Jeremiah 9:23-24) [continued]
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:13:29 PM

designRed-smallYuyutsu (Friday, continued),

However, the Christian faith does believe in pure religion and distinguishes it from worthless religion. This is how it is described: ‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (James 1:26-27).

So the pure, worthy Christian religion proceeds from a relationship with God the Father. It is behavioural and needs to tame the tongue, care for orphans and widows who are distressed, and keeps the person from worldly pollution This worldliness could include secularism, humanism, environmentalism, Communism, consumerism, unhealthy thinking, etc.

It is other-centred in behaviour and also cares about godliness in the individual.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:16:10 PM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),

You stated: <<We are all related with God, it’s impossible otherwise, but only some of us actively and consciously seek to come closer to Him. ‘Religion’ is the path that we take to approach God: if the path that we are on does not lead to God, then it cannot be called a “religion” – no matter how many dictionaries say otherwise.>>
That is not my Christian perspective that we are all related to God. We all are made in ‘the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27) but we are separated from God because of our sin: ‘But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear’ (Isaiah 59:2).

As for the word for ‘religion’ in James 1:26-27, I am well aware of what the Greek NT says as I read and teach NT Greek.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in Greek, we find some answers.

James 1:26 begins, ‘If anyone thinks he is religious’. It uses the adjective, threskos [e=eta], religious. The problem with this word is that this is the only time in the entire NT where the word is used as an adjective. We can’t compare other uses in the Bible because there are none. But when we go outside of the Bible to see its use in secular Greek, we find some answers.

In the next verse, James 1:27, it speaks about ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God’. What is pure and undefiled? So ‘religion’ can be either worthless or worthy.
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta] – related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We find the noun in …
(continued)
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:02:13 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu (Sat 23 July),
(continued)

We also find the noun in …
• In v. 27 the noun – threskeia [first e=eta]- related to the adjective from verse 26 is used. We also find the noun in …

• Acts 26:5 where Paul states that ‘according to the strictest party of our religion I lived as a Pharisee’ (ESV). What factors caused the Pharisees to be proud about their religion? The Pharisees were very influential at the time of Jesus and Paul. Pharisees meant ‘the separated ones, separatists’. John 9:16 helps us to see what kind of religion they were promoting, ‘Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them’. What did they require Jesus to do on the Sabbath? ‘There were 39 prohibited groups of activities on the sabbath’ for the Pharisees and they stressed the law that ‘contained 613 commandments (248 positive, 365 negative’. So what kind of religion is it from Acts 26:5 that Paul used to practise? It was external religion and that is the negative kind that James is talking about. It’s religion by external appearances.

Thayer’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning of threskeia [first e=eta] as ‘primarily fear of the gods; religious worship, especially external, that which consists in ceremonies’, while the noun, threskos [e=eta] refers to ‘fearing or worshipping God; religious (apparently from trew; to tremble; hence properly trembling, fearful)’.[3] So it is possible to perform external religious ceremonies from a correct motive. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

There’s one other verse that uses this word for ‘religion’ in the NT:
• Colossians 2:18 states, ‘Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels’. There’s that word again, threskeia [first e=eta], ‘worship’. Here, worship of angels, which is talking about worthless religion.

James 1:26-27 uses ‘religious’ and ‘religion’ (adjective and noun) from the same root. James is careful to show the difference between worthy and worthless religion.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 10:31:55 AM

designRed-small Yuyutsu,

You don’t like the idea that religion is defined as ‘belief in deities’. In fact, you state it is a wrong definition.

‘Believe in’ is a legitimate way to describe what one does in relation to God or other deities. We see an example of this in the NT Book of Acts, chapter 16. The context involved the prisoners, the apostle Paul, his friend Silas and the other prisoners in Philippi. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God around midnight and the other prisoners were listening, there was a great earthquake that shook the foundation of the prison, the doors were opened and prisoner bonds were broken.
When the prison jailer (person in charge of the jail) woke to see this, he was so distraught that he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide. Paul shouted, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here’. The jailer’s response was to call for lights and he fell down trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. He exclaimed, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

Their response was, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household’ (Acts 16:31). ‘Believe in’ is the Greek, pisteuson peri [it should have been epi – my error], meaning, ‘believe upon/in’. It could have been pisteuson eis (i.e. believe into). The meaning of ‘to believe’ in NT terms means to put all of a person’s trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus. By this kind of trust of the inner being (the heart) of a person, he or she throws the personality into Jesus’ arms for deliverance from sin and to receive eternal salvation.

Epi, the preposition, is used to indicate this trust is to rest on Jesus. This is what the jailer had to ‘do’ to be saved.

Thus, ‘believe in’ God is a legitimate way of describing one’s commitment to God.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 1 August 2016 4:03:52 PM

F.  Use of logical fallacies

(image courtesy chopcow.com)

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that can throw a discussion way off topic and may even get to the point where continuing a discussion is nigh impossible. It is important to recognise, name and explain how these fallacies are used in discussion.

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday),

You claim ‘the razor is rational’ but then proceed to give a few irrational razors of responses. You suggest ‘beliefs merited by sufficient evidence’. But you violated that immediately with this statement: ‘Surely, you acknowledge that even if one accepts Jesus is a real historical figure, it doesn’t prove anything about God or Christianity? I accept that the balance of Biblical scholarship agrees there was a historical figure of Jesus, but they don’t agree on much more than his baptism and crucifixion’. You leave out a stack of evidence and then skew the evidence to try to justify your own secular, ‘rational’ reasons. They turn out to be irrational in this example.

Here you have used a faulty generalisation logical fallacy, which gives the meaning of this fallacy, ‘When a conclusion based on induction is unwarranted by the degree of relevant evidence or ignores information that warrants an exception’. So you have engaged in fallacious (erroneous) reasoning because you have not provided one scrap of evidence to demonstrate the reliability or otherwise of the OT and NT documents.

Instead, you have chosen to dump your rationalistic, secular, false views on me, by providing not one piece of evidence to show how documents are found to be historically reliable or unreliable. I have already cited Australian historian, Dr Paul W Barnett’s, views to refute your perceptions here (“Jesus and the Logic of History” 1997). Barnett has refuted your irrational reasoning regarding the NT in his other publications: ‘Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity’ (1999); ‘Is the New Testament history? (2003)’; ‘The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years’(2005); ‘Paul: Missionary of Jesus’ (2008); and ‘Finding the Historical Christ’ (2009).
(continued)

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:23:06 PM

designRed-small RationalRazor (Saturday, continued),

As for the OT, the late Professor Kenneth Kitchen, Personal and Brunner Professor of Egyptology at the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England, conducted research on the credibility of the OT, writing ‘On the Reliability of the Old Testament’ (2003 Eerdmans). He wrote: ‘We have a consistent level of good, fact-based correlations right through from circa 2000 B.C. (with earlier roots) down to 400 B.C. In terms of general reliability – and much more could have been instanced than there was room for here – the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all’ (Kitchen 2003:500).

You say, ‘The gospels did not form part of the earliest narrative and are wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life, mostly borrowed from ancient myth’. I agree that the Gospels do not form the earliest narratives of the NT. They belong to the Pauline epistles and historian Paul Barnett acknowledged this as the point of entry into historical assessment of the NT in ‘Jesus and the Logic of History’ (1997:41ff). However, you continue with your faulty generalisation fallacies with description of the NT narrative as ‘wildly discrepant accounts of Jesus life’ and ‘borrowed from ancient myth’. I grant that a Comment section in OLO is not the easiest place to engage in detailed discussion of the historical viability or otherwise for any document from history. But this is not the place for you to dump your irrational presuppositions regarding discrepant, mythical accounts. Therefore, you have demonstrated that RationalRazor can become IrrationalRazor very quickly.

‘Does hell exist?’ And you want to discuss the Trinity. One of the rules of OLO is to stay on topic, thus violating this rule. To discuss whether hell exists is for a time when you are prepared to examine the evidence for the credibility of the OT and NT documents.

‘Not only is there no evidence, there is no consensus’, you say. That’s a red herring fallacy. This is fallacious reasoning.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 23 July 2016 3:58:27 PM

designRed-smallRationalRazor,

It is you who stated that this information came from me: ‘The historicity of Jesus proves the “accurate content of Christianity”‘. I do not believe that; I did not state that; you have invented that about my views.

You are the one being obtuse by inventing something I did not say. So you have created a straw man fallacy about my views by creating a view I do not promote.

We have no basis to continue a rational conversation when you use the fallacious reasoning of a straw man fallacy in regard to what I wrote.
Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 25 July 2016 9:26:18 PM

designRed-small Pogi,

You wrote: <<I think theist motives, when logically examined, are unintentionally acknowledging that the baggage that accompanies religious faith limits resort to logic, hinders rational reasoning and thus is disadvantageous to those so encumbered. Apparently martyrdom doesn’t always satisfy.>>

You have confirmed what a Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley for 30 years, Phillip E Johnson, concluded: ‘One who claims to be a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs’ (1998).

You are sceptical of the views I wrote because of your own contrary set of beliefs.

Spencer

Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 30 July 2016 12:14:57 PM

See my articles

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion.

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

coil-gold-sm Christians and their use of logical fallacies

coil-gold-sm One writer’s illogical outburst

coil-gold-sm Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

H.  Conclusion

When I raised the issue of ‘No religion’ on the 2016 Australian Census form as possibly demonstrating that this was opportunity for a ‘new religion’ in an article for On Line Opinion (19 July 2016), the anti-Christians came out of the woodwork to label me with all sorts of false tags. The use of logical fallacies was evident throughout their replies. I don’t recall even one overt Christian who replied.

However, the issue needs to be exposed and even the National Geographic wrote an article this year to expose the ‘No religion’ category that may be rising in the Western world but is decreasing in the African world.

The Scriptures are clear that there are no such people as the ‘no religion’ school who do not know of God’s existence. This is stated clearly in Romans 1:18-20 (NIV), ‘

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

No human being on the planet will be able to stand before God and deny God’s existence because the truth of God’s invisible qualities (his eternal power and divine nature) are clearly seen in creation. This leaves human beings without excuse when they stand before God.

What causes their resistance to God? Romans 1:18 states it clearly: They ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’. From God’s perspective, he does not believe in atheists (see John Blanchard 2000).

I.  Notes

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015. ‘2008.0 – Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016’, released 28 August 2015 (Canberra Time). Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/2008.0~2016~Main%20Features~Religious%20affiliation~111 (Accessed 23 July 2016).

J.  Works consulted

(photo The Right Rev Dr Paul Barnett, Moore College, faculty)

Barnett, P W 1997. Jesus and the logic of history. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

Barnett, P W 1999. Jesus and the rise of early Christianity: A history of New Testament times. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.

Barnett, P W 2003. Is the New Testament history? 2nd rev ed. Sydney South: Aquila Press.

Barnett, P W 2005. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P W 2008. Paul: Missionary of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Barnett, P 2009. Finding the historical Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Blanchard, J 2000. Does God believe in atheists? Darlington, England/Auburn MA, USA: Evangelical Press.

Gentile, E 2006. Politics as religion. Tr. by G Staunton. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kitchen, K A 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

Vitz, P C 1977. Psychology as religion: The cult of self-worship. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 July 2016.