Category Archives: Worldview

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.

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.

Do bad things happen to good people?

Image result for "Do bad things happen to good people" Truth Challenge

(courtesy theheadandtheheart.edublogs.org)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This is a familiar topic in secular and Christian discussions. It’s the classic objection to Christianity. I sometimes encounter non-Christians on Christian forums who engage in bashing of Christian values and pooh-poohing ideas of an authoritative Scripture.

Michael Cohen explains it in his Christianity Today article, ‘Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

I met one such person in Jim with this approach on a Christian forum.

God’s sovereignty and free will

The topic was God’s absolute sovereignty and I made this statement:[1]

The sovereign Lord God has given human beings free will and in that free will they choose good and evil actions.

The consequences of those actions are worked out in history but there will be an ultimate accounting at the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

Sadly, those evil actions have resulted in September 11, Hitler and the Holocaust, what is happening in Iraq and Syria today, and the Ebola outbreak.

If God were to step in to stop the ISIL slaughter and Ebola, he may have to do it for all free will decisions. Would you like all free will choices taken out of your life? I wouldn’t like it to happen to me. I enjoy my occasional barramundi or whiting fish fried and cold salad (especially coleslaw).

Jim’s response was thoughtful:

And that option makes some sense when you’re talking about human evil.

But where’s the human evil in the Ebola outbreak?

Where’s the human evil that specifically determined who died in the World Trade Center and who survived?

How is "human evil" relevant when you’re talking about a seemingly impersonal tragedy such as someone being killed in an earthquake?

You asked a simple question:  how does one deal with God’s sovereignty in the face of various atrocities, and I can certainly accept that human free will plays a big part.  But the bigger question isn’t simply about human-caused evil, but why Bad Things Happen to Good People, which was the question posed by a wonderful book in the 1980’s, and I agree with the author’s conclusion that it’s because God is not absolutely sovereign.[2]

Are there any ‘good’ people?

My response[3] was that this is the error of considering that ‘bad things happen to good people’. There are no such people who before God are able to be called ‘good people’. Don’t you understand the horrible infection of sin that has contaminated all human beings and all nations since sin entered the human race by an act of a person’s free will (Genesis 3)?

The fact is that God is absolutely sovereign but that sovereignty includes, (1) The actions of sinful human beings, and (2) the consequences of the Fall into sin.

Evil will be eliminated at Jesus’ second coming. Are you ready to meet him and bow in humble submission to him?

This person’s reaction as a non-Christian was predictable:[4]

clip_image002 Spencer: ‘This is the error of considering that “bad things happen to good people”. There are no such people who before God are able to be called “good people”’

clip_image004 Jim: ‘Spare me. I’ve heard that nauseating nonsense too many times:  bad things happen to good people, because "there are NO good people". So a child today in the ghetto is struck and killed by a stray bullet because HE is sinful, or because Adam and Eve sinned against God?  How precisely does it work?

clip_image002[1] Spencer: ‘Don’t you understand the horrible infection of sin that has contaminated all human beings and all nations since sin entered the human race by an act of a person’s free will’.

clip_image004[1] Jim: ‘I understand that many people have believed that throughout the ages, and I thoroughly, utterly reject it’. 

My response was:[5] I’m sure glad that I don’t seek your advice for accuracy on the human condition – from conception to old age.

Your worldview is diametrically opposed to that of God’s. How do I know? He has told us in Scripture, but you don’t seem to have any time for God’s view on the condition of all human beings. None of us is God. This is the God’s eye view:

Psalm 51:5, ‘Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me’.
Mark 10:18, ‘"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good – except God alone’.
Romans 3:23, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (NIV).
Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

Mark 2:17, ‘On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners"’.

If you don’t accept God’s diagnosis while you have breath in your body, you’ll come face to face with God’s diagnosis one second after your last breath. I urge you to interact with me or any other Christian here, before it’s too late.

Predictably, Jim did not like this reply. To my statement that I’m pleased I don’t seek his advice on the accuracy of the human condition, his reply was,[6] ‘I guess it’s just as well from my standpoint, too, since I’m not particularly interested in giving any advice on that subject.  That said, I’m just as capable as you or anyone else to comment on the ‘human condition’.

As for my saying that he has no time for God’s view on the condition of all human beings, he said, ‘Wrong.  I simply don’t consider Scripture to be the final word on "God’s view"’.

He seemed to act dumb when I asked about his rejection of God’s diagnosis when he takes his last breath and comes face to face with God at death. His evasive word was, ‘Meaning……?’

My further response was[7] that he was as capable as I in commenting on the human condition, but up to this point I have not seen him being sympathetic to God’s view of the sinful human condition. Is that true or not?

To his statement, ‘I simply don’t consider Scripture to be the final word on "God’s view"’, I asked: What is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition? Where do I go to find it?

He asked about the ‘meaning’ of my statement about coming face to face with God’s diagnosis of the human condition at death (one second after his last breath).

My meaning was this: Up to this point on this forum, I’ve read your hostility and rejection of God’s diagnosis and solution for the human condition that is revealed in Scripture.

This is what he and I will face at death: ‘Just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people’ (Hebrews 9:27-28 NLT).

I called on him to dialogue with us on this forum about what will prevent him from experiencing God’s judgment one second after his last breath.

This is a serious business.

Mother nature

Blue Swirl. Artistic Texture...

(courtesy shutterstock)

To another poster, Jim made the comment: ‘And we’ve come a long way in that department [to predict and know what to do with natural disasters], but Mother Nature will always be inherently unpredictable to a degree’.[8]

My reply[9] was that he wants to place the blame on ‘Mother Nature’ and its ‘inherently unpredictable’ degree is a L-O-N-G way from the subject of the original post that I started, ‘Is God absolutely sovereign?’

The sovereign Lord God is not ‘inherently unpredictable’, based on his nature of perfection, it is ‘inherently unpredictable’ to you because you place the blame on a nebulous cause, ‘Mother Nature’.

The all-knowing, omnipotent, omniscient Lord God Almighty acts according to his just nature. Second Chronicle 19:7 exposes God’s nature: ‘Let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes’ (ESV).

He’s the One who is sovereign LORD of the universe. You and I have to answer to Him and not to ‘Mother Nature’.

Do human beings create suffering?

Jim asked at another point,[10] ‘Does Man create ALL of his suffering?  Are people responsible for the deaths that result from natural disasters?’ My reply was, ‘Who caused the universal flood in Noah’s day? Why did it happen? Was it a ‘natural disaster’ according to your definition?’

So is that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ was Jim’s request?

This is my view.[11] I have attempted to provide and answer these two questions in a more detailed way in my article, ‘Does God send cyclones?

There are basic answers to these 2 questions, but he doesn’t like it when I present Bible answers. In my article I provide the biblical material with practical ramifications, but the basic answers are:

1.  There is much suffering that is caused by human beings and their sinful condition. I’m thinking of domestic and child abuse (including paedophilia), corruption in governments, murder, lying, stealing, and even those who build houses in cyclone and flood prone regions of my country.

The Fall into sin by Adam & Eve (Genesis 3) explains how this began and infected the entire human race. But he doesn’t like that explanation.

We can face consequences of this in the here and now with abuse in families, corrupt govts, break and enters, murder, earthquakes, tornadoes, typhoons, cyclones, floods, wars, etc.

2. God can cause disaster for His reasons. He doesn’t always tell us the whys. Isaiah 45:7 provides this statement from the Lord, ‘I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD who does all these things’ (ESV).

Why did God cause the calamity at the time of Noah? He told us: ‘The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart’ (Gen 6:5-6).

As a result, God wiped out the entire human race, except 8 people, through the flood at Noah’s time. Therefore, the evil of people caused God to act in judgement.

Resistance to God’s view

At last this person began to respond to my statement: ‘Up to this point I have not seen you being sympathetic to God’s view of the sinful human condition. Is that true or not?’ His reply was that this is[12]

impossible to answer, since I don’t accept the premise on which the question is based.

There really is no point in continuing this so long as you persist in framing questions in such a way that presumes I accept the underlying premises.  I don’t.

Reasonable people can disagree about most things, including questions of faith.  But to persist in asking questions in this manner conveys an utter lack of respect and regard for the person with whom you’re corresponding.

As for my question, ‘So what is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition?’ he was at least to give his view that ‘There is none’. As for my statement about his hostility and rejection of God’s diagnosis and solution of the human condition revealed in Scripture, he was prepared to admit:[13]

Rejection, yes.  Hostility, no.  I’d challenge you to find a single word of mine that conveys ‘hostility’.

As for my citing, Hebrews 9:27-28 (NLT), he said,[14]

This is a good example of what I mentioned above.

If you’ve understood any of what I’d written, you’d know that I don’t believe something is "God’s word" simply because it appears in the Bible.  Obviously, you strongly disagree, and I respect that.  But to persist in writing as if it’s simply ‘understood’ that the Bible IS God’s word is to convey a simple lack of respect in return for me.

My request for him ‘to dialogue with us on this forum about what will prevent you from experiencing God’s judgment’, met with this response:[15]

Please elaborate as to what you think will happen to me as a result of this judgement.  (Now, before you respond, try to keep in mind that a simple verse from Scripture isn’t going to cut it with me.) 

We[16] have a difficulty with obtaining common ground about that nature of God’s judgment, because I don’t know his position on the existence of God. Can we start there?

Do you believe in God? If so, what is his/her nature?

Are you an atheist or agnostic? If so, what causes you to accept that position?

I explained further:[17] You don’t have to accept the perspective I’m espousing that God’s view of the human condition is contained in Scripture, but would you please tell me what Scripture teaches about the human condition? You are the one talking about ‘reasonable people’ who can disagree. Please demonstrate to me that you are a reasonable person who demonstrates the evidence of God’s view of the human condition as stated in Scripture.

Since you don’t accept the underlying Christian world and life view that I espouse, please provide the evidence to me (and us) why you don’t accept such. Let’s start with the subject of the human condition.

You claim that ‘to persist in asking questions in this manner conveys an utter lack of respect and regard for the person with whom you’re corresponding’. No it doesn’t Jim. You have come to this Christian Forum and you DON’T want to deal with the Christian issues I raise. Who is the one showing disrespect for the Christian values espoused by me on this forum? You are the one who is guilty of this. Over and over on this forum you have ‘bashed’ Christian values. Who is the disrespectful one who comes to a Christian forum to castigate Christian values?

The human condition

Related image

(courtesy www.buddycom.com)

 

There are many Scriptures that teach about the common human condition. This one summarises it: ‘When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned’ (Romans 5:12 NLT).

clip_image004[2] Jim had stated:

‘Maybe NO scripture teaches about the human condition.  More fundamentally, maybe God doesn’t HAVE a view of the human condition.

OTOH (On the other hand), maybe there are multiple views of the human condition from literally hundreds of sources.  How are we to know which is the true view?[18]

Yes, there are multiple explanations of the human condition – humans explaining what they THINK caused it. How do we know the true view? That’s why I’d like to introduce you to the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life – God himself in Jesus Christ (John 14:6). But you won’t be able to consider that option until you are open to examining the trustworthiness of Scripture. At this stage I haven’t seen that you are open to such.

When you are, you might like to consider some of the sound reasons for accepting the Bible as a trustworthy, reliable book. At the popular level, I have attempted to address these in:

clip_image002[2] Spencer: ‘Please demonstrate to me that you are a reasonable person who demonstrates the evidence of God’s view of the human condition as stated in Scripture’.

clip_image004[3] Jim: ‘I’m not at all certain what you’re asking’.

clip_image002[3] Spencer: Simply, if you want to know God’s view of the human condition, a reasonable person will go to Scripture to discover it. I ask you to go to the Bible to discern God’s view on why human beings act the way they do in some horrible actions of evil from lying and stealing to Hitler’s Holocaust and what ISIS is doing today. I’m happy to provide some biblical guidance if you don’t know where to start in searching the Bible for God’s explanation of the origin of evil.

clip_image004[4] Jim: ‘The burden of proof is not on me to disprove Scripture; it’s on YOU to prove it, or explain why it’s authoritative.  This is something you can’t do, of course; nobody can.  It has to be accepted or rejected on faith’.

clip_image002[4] Spencer: This statement is laden with his presuppositions:

(1) The burden of proof is on me as a Christian to PROVE Scripture.

This is not so when you make a statement against Scripture and you provide no evidence to prove your statement.

(2) Evidence needs to be presented by only one side – the Christian.

This again is not the case. The evidence needs to be examined by both of us – you the non-Christian and me the non-Christian.

(3) Nobody can prove Scripture as authoritative.

This is false and the links to my articles above should provide ample evidence to disprove your claim. The essence is that I demonstrate that the Bible is a reliable historical document and then I go to that reliable document to discover what it states about its own authority. We use the same mechanism to discover how reliable the writings are of Julius Caesar and what he says about himself and what he wrote.

(4) The Scripture has to be accepted as authoritative, based on faith.

This is false again, based on the information I’ve already demonstrated in the 4 articles for which I’ve provided links: ‘Can you trust the Bible?’

clip_image004[5] Jim:

And the fact that this is a Christian Fellowship Forum is beside the point.  There are constantly disagreements here among Christians over matters of faith, doctrine and politics.   Some of the language gets quite heated and vitriolic; more than any language I use.

But to continue to invoke Scripture as a source for your statements even after I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t consider Scripture authoritative is either:  1) intentionally disrespectful;  or, 2) evidence that this is only a one-way conversation on your part and you really aren’t reading or considering what I’m saying.

Disagreement over faith, doctrine, politics, etc. is to be expected in any kind of interpretation by sinful human beings (as you and I are discovering in our conversation).

I hope that my providing you with links to ‘Can you trust the Bible?‘ will demonstrate that there are sound, rational reasons for regarding the Bible as authoritative. Citing from the authoritative Bible (in spite of your objections) should encourage you to investigate the reasons for regarding the Bible as trustworthy. To continue to quote the Bible is not disrespectful by me; it is quoting a reliable source.

Bashing Christians

Image result for clipart hammer public domain

(courtesy www.clipartlord.com)

 

I responded: I am open to hearing what you are saying and responding accordingly, but you do have a bad habit of putting people down who have good reasons for regarding the Bible as trustworthy and authoritative.

Jim: ‘Which specific Christian values have I bashed? Again, Spencer, there is far more ‘bashing’ that goes on here directed from one Christian to another than anything I’m ever involved in’.

clip_image006 I am dealing here with the way you oppose (bash) Christian values. You have done it here with me when you slam dunk the fact that I support the authoritative Christian Scriptures. Take your statement, ‘Nobody can prove Scripture as authoritative’. That’s a deliberate slamming of a Christian value – the authoritative Scripture. ‘Nobody can prove’ is Jim’s absolutistic statement against a Christian value of the trustworthy Scripture. You surely have not investigated every attempt to demonstrate the authoritative Scripture for you to say emphatically, ‘Nobody can prove’. Here in this post you give an example of how you engage in bashing a Christian value.

clip_image006[1] Here is another example in your post of slamming a Christian value.

clip_image002[5] Spencer: ‘So what is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition?’
clip_image004[6] Jim: ‘There is none’.

clip_image002[6]Spencer: ‘Who said? Jim?’

clip_image004[7] Jim: ‘Of course.  I’m the one you’re talking to.  Who else would it be?’

The topic is ‘Who has the final word on God’s view of the human condition?’ Jim’s slamming of this value was, ‘There is none’. My come back was: ‘Who said? Jim?’ and your response was that you’re the one I’m walking to. ‘Who else would it be?’

But you seem to have forgotten the question: ‘So what is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition?

I didn’t ask for Jim’s view of the human condition but God’s view. Do you understand how you slam Christian values and you don’t seem to realise what you are doing?

clip_image006[2] Another example of Jim’s ‘bashing’ Christian values was his response to my statement,[19] ‘This is the error of considering that ‘bad things happen to good people’. There are no such people who before God are able to be called ‘good people’.

His reply was, ‘Spare me. I’ve heard that nauseating nonsense too many times: bad things happen to good people, because "there are NO good people”. So a child today in the ghetto is struck and killed by a stray bullet because HE is sinful, or because Adam and Eve sinned against God?  How precisely does it work?’. ‘Nauseating nonsense’ is clearly Christian bashing.

clip_image006[3] An additional example of his put down of Christianity is his response to my question, ‘Don’t you understand the horrible infection of sin that has contaminated all human beings and all nations since sin entered the human race by an act of a person’s free will?’[20] His reply was: ‘I understand that many people have believed that throughout the ages, and I thoroughly, utterly reject it’.

clip_image006[4] Another put down of Christianity by Jim:[21] ‘But the bigger question isn’t simply about human-caused evil, but why Bad Things Happen to Good People, which was the question posed by a wonderful book in the 1980’s, and I agree with the author’s conclusion that it’s because God is not absolutely sovereign’.

For a refutation of this, see my article, Is God absolutely sovereign?

 

Notes


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Is God absolutely sovereign?’ ozspen#18. Available at: http://forums.compuserve.com/discussions/Christian_Fellowship_Forum/_/_/ws-fellowship/123619.11 (Accessed 19 October 2014).

[2] Ibid., Jim Odom#21.

[3] Ibid., ozspen#23.

[4] Ibid., Jim Odom#24.

[5] Ibid., ozspen#38.

[6] Ibid., Jim Odom#43.

[7] Ibid., ozspen#46.

[8] Ibid., Jim Odom#30.

[9] Ibid., ozspen#42.

[10] Ibid., Jim Odom#44.

[11] Ibid., ozspen#64.

[12] Ibid., Jim Odom#48.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] This is my response at ibid., ozspen#65.

[17] Ibid., ozspen#53.

[18] Ibid., Jim Odom#55.

[19] Ibid., Jim Odom#24.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., Jim Odom#21.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 November 2015.

Only read authors who agree with you?

clip_image001

(image courtesy polyvore.com)

By Spencer D Gear

Could you imagine understanding Bart Ehrman’s theology to the point of agreeing with him or refuting him without reading what led to this kind of statement, ‘In early Christianity, the views of Christ got “higher and higher” with the passing of time, as he became increasingly identified as divine’ (Ehrman 2014a:353)?

However, that’s not what one fellow thought as he started a thread on a Christian forum on the Internet. He asked: Does this sound like a reasonable approach for Christians to deal with opposition?

  • Know both sides of an argument, but my library is almost all from Christians. Is that illogical? He didn’t think so because:
  • He’s a doubting Thomas who weighs arguments and liberal opposition to Christians comes across as ‘No Duh I could have come up with that one!’ He considers that he could have invented that objection and he doesn’t need the arguments of liberals as he can come up with a good enough response without reading them.
  • The arguments most often boil down to supernaturalism vs naturalism and the liberal considers the case closed, but the Christian has lots more evidence to prove and they need lots of technical skills. It is much harder to defend the Bible than to attack it, so why allow the liberals the time of day to defend their view? Why pay money to buy liberal material when they have a ‘home field advantage’ over Christians? The liberal plays reckless offense while the Christian is constantly on the defence.
  • I seek conservative scholars who cause some anger for conservatives as they seem to be critically analysing the data but they still try to defend supernaturalism.
  • He feels like he’s facing an average 10-year-old who is bashing the supernatural and finding ‘holes’ in the Bible. He considers the real skill is in knowing Greek, Hebrew, context of Scripture, and knowing how to put the pieces together. Then he makes the audacious statement: ‘. I seriously think there’s no skill at all in attacking the Bible!! Bart Ehrman[1] in all honesty sounds like a 10 year old to me, yes he makes good objections but ANY context/language ignorant person can make good objections!’
  • So, why should he pay money to read ‘experts’ attack the Bible when the skill is in defending it.
  • He asked if he made sense or was he delusional? Should he get more balance into his library?
  • Fair and honest conservative scholars properly represent the arguments of skeptics anyway.[2]

Defenders know the enemy

I take a different perspective for these reasons:[3]
1.    When Paul was in the midst of the Areopagus (Mars Hill), he had done his research on alternate religions in the area: ‘I perceive that in every way you are very religious … observed the objects of your worship …found also an altar with this inscription “To the unknown God.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…’ (Acts 17:22-23 ESV). He ‘read’ the enemy before he proclaimed the truth.

2.    Especially when it comes to Easter and Christmas seasons in Australia, the people who will be called upon by secular media for articles or to comment on these two celebrations will be radical liberals such as John Shelby Spong, the Jesus Seminar fellows, Bart Ehrman, liberal Uniting Church or Anglican clergy/scholars, etc. The evangelicals are not the ones given priority for comment and articles. To be able to respond to these liberals, whether by articles or in letters to the editor, I need to know what the enemy teaches. When Spong was in our capital city of Canberra in 1991, an article about him was published in the Canberra Times by Robert Macklin, ‘The Gospel truth?’ (Aug 4, 1991) which focussed on Spong’s attack on fundamentalism. I was pastor of an evangelical church in the ACT at the time and I asked for a right of reply which the CT published as, ‘The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong‘ (Aug 11, 1991).  I would not have known the details of Spong’s heresy without reading him. I have a few of his books in my library. I have since reviewed his book, A New Christianity for a New World (2001) in Spong’s swan song — at last!  Exposure to Spong’s false teaching has led to these further articles: Spong’s deadly Christianity and John Shelby Spong & the Churches of Christ (Victoria, Australia).
I find it always helpful when critiquing a liberal scholar or teacher of a false gospel to quote from his or her material. It affirms our own credibility.

3.    I completed a 5-year research project in my PhD dissertation (thesis-only in the British system) which examined the presuppositions of John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar concerning his views of Jesus’ resurrection. I would not have understood his perspective as comprehensively so that I could assess it unless I read extensively in his material. I discovered that he has a particular leaning to scholars who support his view. Here’s a grab from my thesis:

If historical scholarship is not used to discover absolutes or certitudes, but only by its best reconstruction to arrive at a decision ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ (Crossan 1995:x), how does a scholar decide between divergent conclusions concerning aspects of the historical Jesus by various scholars? It is important to note Crossan’s perspective regarding those who offer a contrary opinion: In quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv; emphasis in original). Why would he want to preserve his opinion and scholarship and retain it in-house? Is there a possible presuppositional bias coming through?

So Crossan only wants to quote from fellow liberals who represent his ‘intellectual debts’. I do not want to be among evangelicals who only quote each other. There is a substantial amount of good scholarship among evangelicals, but I do not choose to read them only. That would not be good research nor enable me to give a penetrating, but balanced, response.

This person on the Christian forum stated that ‘Bart Ehrman in all honesty sounds like a 10 year old to me’. But that’s not how he sounds to the general populace or the Christian laity when he shows up in the mass media. The media doubters love his kind of objections to the Bible.

That’s why I consider that if I’m going to refute Ehrman, I need to know his material and the arguments he uses so that I can refute them or agree with them in the media and among friends or enemies. When Ehrman is in the media, do you take advantage of the ‘comments’ or ‘letters’ sections to challenge and refute him?

Ehrman’s heresy about Jesus

clip_image003(photo of Professor Bart D. Ehrman, courtesy Wikipedia)

What does Bart Ehrman believe about the divine Jesus? He stated:

In early Christianity, the views of Christ got “higher and higher” with the passing of time, as he became increasingly identified as divine. Jesus went from being a potential (human) messiah to being the son of God exalted to a divine status at his resurrection; to being a preeminent angelic human being who came to earth incarnate as a man; to being the incarnation of the Word of God who existed before all time and through whom the world was created; to being God himself, equal with God the Father and always existent with him. My own personal beliefs about Jesus moved in precisely the opposite direction. I started out thinking of Jesus as God the Son, equal with the Father, a member of the Trinity; but over time, I began seeing him in “lower and lower” terms, until finally I came to think of him as a human being who was not different in nature from any other human being. The Christians exalted him to the divine realm in their theology, but, in my opinion, he was, and always has been, human.

As an agnostic, I now think of Jesus as a true religious genius with brilliant insights. But he was also very much a man of his time. And his time was an age of full-throated apocalyptic fervor (Ehrman 2014a:353-354).

These are hardly the words of a 10-year-old skeptic who doubts the nature of the God-man Jesus. It is a view of Jesus that needs a full-blown and thoughtful rebuttal. What is happening in the research and thinking of this eminent scholar who is debunking the core of Christianity – the divinity of Jesus? This is not child stuff. This is serious business that requires a full-blown apologetic for a response.

Thankfully, one evangelical lecturer in theology, Dr Michael Bird, at the Anglican Ridley College, Melbourne was prepared to expose Bart Ehrman’s errors in, ‘How God became Jesus: Bart Ehrman gets it wrong, again’ (ABC Religion and Ethics, 16 April 2014).

clip_image005Mike Bird (courtesy Ridley College)

Bart Ehrman wrote, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, Mike Bird and some colleagues wrote a critique with this response, How God Became Jesus: The Real Origin of Belief in Jesus’s Divine Nature. In Bird’s response on ABC’s Religion and Ethics he stated:

Whereas Ehrman likes to point out the ad hoc and adversarial context in which beliefs about Jesus evolved in the course of the first four centuries of the Christian era, Charles Hill demonstrates the remarkable coherence of “orthodox” views of Jesus and their rootedness in the New Testament. Hill shows that what became Christian “dogma” about Jesus was not merely a knee-jerk reaction to various debates going on inside the church.

So despite the fact that Ehrman’s book is genuinely informative in places, my co-authors and I think he gets many things wrong – seriously wrong. Yet there is no doubt that many people will lap up the book because of its putative “insider” perspective. Ehrman describes how he once believed that Jesus was God and later came to have a very human and even low view of Jesus. He gives readers the inside scoop on the historical problems and theological paradoxes that traditionalist Christians hope you never discover.

Although Ehrman claims that he is simply not interested in whether Jesus really is God, preferring to limit himself to the matter of history, I suspect otherwise. Ehrman, implicitly at least, is an evangelist for unbelief, enabling sceptics to keep their disgust with Christianity fresh, while trying to persuade believers that their cherished beliefs about Jesus are a house of historical straw.

For all of his failings, Ehrman has at least done Christians one favour. He has challenged us to ask afresh, “Who is Jesus?” While some will say “legend,” some will say “prophet,” some will say “rabbi.” There will be still others who, like Thomas leaving his doubt behind when he encountered the resurrected Jesus, and could not but exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (Michael Bird, How God became Jesus, 16 April 2014).

Conclusion

Those who are building defences know the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy who is attacking, the adversary who is on the offensive. They know the enemy. Surely this is what the Bible teaches!

Hosea said it in Hosea 4:6: ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me’ (ESV).

Paul, the apostle, warned believers about the opposition and the equipment needed to fight challengers:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Eph 6:10-18 ESV).

John warned:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (1 John 4:1-3 ESV).

There is wisdom in applying this message from the Book of Proverbs: ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice’ (Prov 12:15 ESV).

Works consulted

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1995. Who killed Jesus? Exposing the roots of anti-Semitism in the gospel story of the death of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Ehrman, B D 2015. After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity, rev. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, J D 2014a. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2014b. The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, 2nd rev ed. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

Ehrman, B D 2013. The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2012a. Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2012b. Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2011a. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2011b. Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2009a. Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them). New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2009b. God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2006. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2005a. Lost Christianities : The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths we Never Knew. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2005b. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2003. Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press.

Notes


[1] Some of Bart Ehrman’s publications include Ehrman (2015; 2014a; 2014b; 2013; 2012a; 2012b; 2011a; 2011b; 2009a; 2009b; 2006; 2005; 2003).

[2] Christian Forums.com, Theology, Christian Apologetics, ‘Do I have a “flawed” library of study material?’ Dirk1540, 30 September 2015. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/do-i-have-a-flawed-library-of-study-matierial.7910228/ (Accessed 1 October 2015).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#6.

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 February 2019.

Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

clip_image002

Logic portal (Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

On a semi-regular basis, I meet a fellow on a Christian forum who delights in condemning other Christians and me by his use of logical fallacies.

Here are a few examples he used:

Christianity comes out of that primitive era, and unlike other fields of endeavor, philosophy, social systems, science — remains largely mired in Iron Age thinking. Hence my perfectly reasonable comment — imagine if we relied upon primitive Iron Age thinking when it came to medicine, etc.[1]

Here he uses a question begging logical fallacy.

What is a logical fallacy?

‘A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an “argument” in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support’ (Labossiere 1995).

Why should we even be concerned about people using logical fallacies in conversation or when they write? What is your response when a person doesn’t deal with the issues you are raising? They may give you the flick pass of avoidance, change the topic, reach a conclusion that is unrelated to the flow of the conversation, and may abuse you. Does that cause you to want to engage in discussion with them? Is it possible to have a rational conversation with people who do this?

When someone uses such a fallacy, it is almost impossible to have a logical conversation with that person who is committing a logical error. He or she is being illogical in the discussion. When discussions become irrational – because of false logic – there is no way to get back on track until the matter is addressed.

Begging the question fallacy

This is how I replied to David’s ‘Christianity comes out of that primitive era’ and is ‘primitive Iron Age thinking’:

This is your question begging fallacy again. Since you say Christianity ‘remains largely mired in Iron Age thinking’ you are inferring that ‘Iron Age thinking’ is what you will expect from Christianity today and you would NOT expect that to happen in medicine, etc.

You will never be able to handle the Christian worldview until you give [up] your logical fallacies of (1) question begging and (2) ridicule. When will you admit your use of logical fallacies against Christians and a Christian worldview on this forum?

I read your posts very carefully and I can see the fallacious reasoning. I’m no dummy when it comes to logic.[2]

God Eyes

ChristArt

Anti-Christian antagonist’s appeal to ridicule fallacy

The non-Christian, David’s, response was:

You will never be able to handle the Rational worldview until you give up your logical fallacies of (1) superstition dressed as history, and (2) sophistry.

It matters not at all to me whether you choose to participate in a rational examination of religious beliefs. But it’s unreasonable for you to assume or expect that rational people will redefine the language to accommodate your personal beliefs.[3]

My reply was:

Those are not logical fallacies that you mentioned. They are your presuppositions that you are imposing on me.

We cannot have a rational discussion when you continue to use logical fallacies such as the one you use regularly here – the fallacy of ridicule.

You have this added issue: ‘The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 2:14).

You will continue to ridicule Christians because you will not accept these things until Jesus changes you through repentance and faith in Jesus. I will continue to pray that the Lord will draw you to consider a holistic worldview that includes the dynamics of spiritual reality.[4]

David started this thread by citing a Christian, Judith, who wrote: ‘The supreme God of the universe is an enigma, therefore atheist (sic) find it too complicated to believe in him’. His response to her was:

Superstition is not “complicated.” It’s the easy way out — it doesn’t require education, or deep thinking, just an unquestioning adherence to cultural traditions, and a clownishly arrogant willingness to explain the unknowable as if it were known.

Little children love fairy tales and mythology, so indoctrinating them from their earliest years pays dividends for a lifetime.[5]

This kind of accusation against the Christian faith of ‘superstition’, ‘unquestioning adherence’ and ‘clownishly arrogant willingness’ cannot go unchallenged in my estimation as an evangelical Christian who believes the Gospel. So, my response to him was:

Your ‘clownishly arrogant’ accusation (appeal to ridicule fallacy) and your other statements in this post indicate that your answers are restricted by your commitment to naturalism which you say includes ‘the infantile state of our science’.

When you start with naturalism, that also includes ‘our still-feeble understanding of human psychology’ (your language), you will not include that which will open up mysteries of the naturalistic unknowable, life after death, eternity, etc.

It will not allow you to consider how you can experience eternal life now and in the life to come. That needs you to be open to revelation from God through Scripture. That includes the testing of Scripture by the tests you apply to any literature to determine its reliability.

More implications flow from your belief about God than from any other subject. If you would reject your commitment to naturalism and be open to God’s revelation, you would find a remarkably new world that,

1.  Shows from where you and the whole human race came;

2.  That will lead you to understand who you are and why you are here on earth.

3.  It will tell you the rights and wrongs of values. How you should live morally will come from this openness to God and his revelation.

4.  And have a guess what? This will tell you where you are going. There is life after death because God has revealed it as so.

When you give up your naturalistic worldview (which does NOT require rejection of science), you will find that the revelation of the world through Scripture fits like a hand in glove with reality.

If there is no God and He has not revealed his plans for you, me and the universe, there is no ultimate reason for living. I find no meaning and purpose in life; there is no right or wrong in life except my shaky opinion. Then it doesn’t matter how you or I live. We can eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

However, I urge you to consider the implications from your naturalistic worldview. It doesn’t prepare you for the Final Judgment (read about it in Matthew 25:31-46).

I know you won’t like what I’ve said here, but your commitment to the restrictive world of naturalism, leaves a big hunk of your world blank.

Thank you for considering these matters.[6]

To another poster, Cheryl, I wrote:

There is another dimension: Each worldview needs to be checked against the evidence. Or, to put it another way: How does a worldview compare with the comprehensive reality available to us?

I consider that a major difference between David and me is that I want to examine the evidence available to me to reach a decision on whether that worldview matches reality.

I’ve checked out naturalism, theism, pantheism, panentheism, atheism and agnostism and I’ve found that the most comprehensive understanding of reality is Christian theism. I have an open approach to considering evidence. I don’t exclude any of these -isms, but I compare their content with the evidence.

The Christian worldview answers prominent issues relating to:

1. The origin of the universe with its design;

2. Why there is evil in the world and how to deal with it.

3. Purpose for life;

4. Hope in life that prepares one for death.

I have not found acceptable answers to these 4 questions in the other -isms. The Scriptures confirm two areas for obtaining information about our world and human life: (1) Creation – the created universe (see Romans 1:16-32; Psalm 19:1-6), and (2) Scripture (see 2 Timothy 3:15-17).[7]

In another response to me, David wrote:

Has it occurred to you that one of the central purposes of a religion — more or less any religion — is to provide answers to life’s mysteries? Your list above would only be remarkable if Christianity didn’t provide answers to all of them.

What good would a manmade religion be if it didn’t have an origin story, or didn’t have a plan for thwarting evil, or didn’t give purpose to life, or didn’t give hope in life, or didn’t make one feel better about our inescapable deaths?

Islam answers those 4 questions. So do various Native American religions. So does Judaism, which doesn’t hold that Christ is the messiah.[8]

My reply was:

In case you have forgotten, David, the ‘Fallacy – Appeal to Ridicule‘ (Michael C. Labossiere 1995, in The Nizkor Project), which you use regularly against me, other Christians, Christianity, and Christian beliefs, means:

Also Known as: Appeal to Mockery, The Horse Laugh.

Description of Appeal to Ridicule

The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an “argument.” This line of “reasoning” has the following form:

1. X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).

2. Therefore claim C is false.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: “1+1=2! That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!”

You use this fallacy of ridicule throughout your responses to me with statements that Christianity is

  • ‘superstition dressed as history’;
  • ‘sophistry’;
  • ‘Your view of life strikes me as desperately sad, and wasted if it requires a crutch as unimaginative as that offered by organized religion’;
  • ‘To manufacture an artificial “purpose” oriented toward a fantasy life’;
  • ‘subservient to the imagined demands of some “loving” (but frankly, ugly) tyrant’;
  • ‘The childish belief that we need religion in order to have morality, to know right from wrong, is deeply flawed and erroneous’;
  • ‘You talk about the afterlife as if it were a known fact, because, God revealed it to us”;
  • ‘The bible is the word of God, because God has revealed to us that it is. Where did he reveal it to us? In the bible’.
  • ‘It’s lazy to reject all of science – a work in progress – in lieu of a magical story’ (this is not only part of your fallacy of ridicule but it is a false allegation. Not once have I stated that I ‘reject all of science’. I have said to the contrary that I accept the scientific enterprise. Go read my posts with accuracy.)
  • ‘If one needs the bible for morality, they have bigger problems than knowing right from wrong.’
  • ‘Your list above would only be remarkable if Christianity didn’t provide answers to all of them’;
  • ‘What good would a manmade religion be if….’, and
  • ‘Once emancipated from the crippling entanglements of Iron Age religions, humans are genuinely free to explore the answers to those 4 issues in a rational, more honest, more fulfilling way’

This is fallacious reasoning for the reasons given above.

When you make a statement like, ‘What good would a manmade religion be if….’, you are displaying your presupposition as your conclusion. Thus you are using a Begging the Question Fallacy.

I hope that you will get to the point of giving up your use of logical fallacies against Christians and deal with the evidence for their beliefs.[9]

God's Ears

ChristArt

Conclusion

David is but one example of a non-Christian who loves to ply his antagonism against Christians on a Christian forum and uses logical fallacies to try to side-track Christians from the real discussion. The core issues involve

a. the reliability of the Scriptures; see my articles:

clip_image004 Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

clip_image004[1] Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

clip_image004[2]Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

clip_image004[3] Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

b. the Gospel message, which includes

The Content of the Gospel . . . and some discipleship

c. eternal life or eternal damnation.

clip_image006Can people KNOW they have eternal life in this life?

clip_image006[1] Does a Christian experience eternal life NOW?

clip_image006[2] Continue in the faith to guarantee eternal life

clip_image008 HELL & JUDGMENT

clip_image008[1] Is hell fair?

clip_image008[2] Is there literal fire in hell?

clip_image008[3] Hell in the Bible

clip_image008[4] Are there degrees of punishment in hell?

clip_image008[5] Facts about Hell

clip_image008[6] Torment in Old Testament hell? The meaning of Sheol in the OT

clip_image008[7] ‘I will beat the hell out of God’

Christians also are capable of using logical fallacies in their discussions. See my article, Christians and their use of logical fallacies.[10]

For further discussions on logical fallacies, see also:

clip_image009 Logical fallacies hijack discussions (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image009[1] One writer’s illogical outburst (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image009[2] I highly recommend the site, The Nizkor Project, that includes a list and explanation of the many logical fallacies with exposition by Michael Labossiere (1995).

clip_image010

Works consulted

Labossiere, M C 1995. Fallacies. The Nizkor Project (online). Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ (Accessed 8 June 2015).

Notes


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Public Affairs, ‘Superstition Vs. Eyewitness/Faith/Historical Document’, David Woodbury #37, June 6, 2015. Available at: http://christianfellowshipforum.com/ (Accessed 8 June 2015).

[2] Ibid., ozspen #41.

[3] Ibid., David Woodbury #47.

[4] Ibid., ozspen #51.

[5] Ibid., David Woodbury #1.

[6] Ibid., ozspen #42.

[7] Ibid., ozspen #45.

[8] Ibid., ozspen #50.

[9] Ibid., ozspen #52.

[10] Christian Forums is a very large forum at: http://www.christianforums.com/. I’ve encountered some who use various fallacies on this forum, but especially the red herring fallacy and the straw man fallacy. On this forum I normally hang out among Baptists, Salvation (Soteriology), Soteriology debate, and Christian Apologetics as OzSpen.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

The bashing of Fred Nile’s views on ABC TV (Australia)

By Spencer D Gear

The Reverend and Honourable
Fred Nile
MLC

Rev Hon Fred Nile MLC.JPG

Member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales

(courtesy Wikipedia)

Australian Broadcasting Corporation logoType
Statutory corporationAvailability
WorldwideHeadquarters
ABC Ultimo Centre
700 Harris Street
Ultimo 2007, SydneyBroadcast area: Australia

Owner
Government of Australia

(courtesy Wikipedia)

If you want to see the mass media bias against Christians, watch what secular journalists do to a politician who is an evangelical Christian operating from a biblical worldview in his or her policies. That’s what I saw on Thursday, 16 April 2015 in the Australian ABC TV programme, 7.30. See, ‘Fred Nile: Controversial Christian Democrat MP poised to hold balance of power in New South Wales parliament’.

Here the ABC proceeded to expose Fred Nile MP (Upper House, New South Wales parliament), who is ‘renowned for campaigning on social issues. He opposes gay marriage, gay adoption, Islamic face coverings, and wants limits on halal food in Australian supermarkets’. The ABC’s bagging of him continued, ‘But despite his long history of activism, he does not understand why some people call him controversial’.

Fred’s response was:

“It always surprises me, because I’m the most non-controversial person you could get,” he said.

“Everything I believe is just so – in my opinion – mainstream and ordinary.

“The only controversy comes because there are groups of people who oppose what I’m saying.”

Then 7.30 proceeded to expose Nile’s approach to Muslim immigration:

Rev Nile once called for a halt to Muslim immigration, and now he fears that a larger Islamic community will try to impose sharia law.

“There are some dangers that Australians should appreciate,” he said.

“Once [the Muslim population] gets to 5 per cent or 10 per cent, it’s not that the Australians change [but] the Muslims change and become more militant and more demanding.”

The opponents on ABC TV

So who does the ABC call on to oppose Fred Nile?

Islamic Friendship Association Spokesman Keysar Trad condemned Mr Nile’s statement.

“I’m very disappointed with Fred Nile’s contribution to New South Wales,” he said.

“As a man of God, as a Reverend, you’d expect him to be inclusive, you’d expect him to reach out with love and compassion and peace towards others.

“But what we’ve seen from him over the last couple of decades is vitriol, divisiveness and fear mongering about Islam and Muslims.”

Then there was Greens MP, John Kaye, who spruiked his opposition to Nile’s policies:

“Fred has always been the pilot fish of the lunar Right,” Greens MP John Kaye said.

“When homophobia was the cause of the day, Fred was right there as their man in parliament.

“Now it’s hatred of Muslims, and fear of Muslims, whether it’s mosques or halal food, Fred is their voice in parliament.”

Mr Kaye said he expected Rev Nile to vote with the Government on most issues.

“He is the Government’s patsy,” he said.

Enter illogical thinking

By calling Fred Nile ‘the pilot fish of the lunar Right’, John Kaye is using an ad hominem logical fallacy to put down Nile. What is a logical fallacy? It is illogic in action. But the journalist who did the interviewing of John Kaye did not call him for using such fallacious reasoning. If he called him to task, he could have said something like, ‘Why are you labelling Fred Nile’s character and actions when you should be dealing with the truth or falsity of his claims about homosexuality, Muslim immigration, halal food and mosques? That’s false reasoning that you are using’. Hearing that from an ABC journalist would send this viewer into an unnatural tizzy fit. The ABC, based on my past listening and viewing, is not in the habit of giving favourable coverage to Christians who are engaged in the public culture.

Does this contemporary journalist not have the common sense to know what John Kaye did in that kind of response? Kaye did not deal with the issues Nile is raising and their impact on Australian society.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fallacies

The supporters on ABC TV?

Who would you think that ABC TV’s 7.30 would bring in support of Fred Nile so that there would be ‘balance’ in the programme? Outside of his wife, there was

Not a soul. Not one! clip_image002[4] clip_image003[4] clip_image004[4]

The ABC receives approximately $6.61 billion (over 5 years) in Australian government funding to run its broadcast operations. There are many Christians who live in Australia, so who would any journalist worth his salt choose to engage positively with Fred Nile’s views? There was not a single person. So, I sent

A complaint

This is the online bellyache I had against the ABC and its bias:[1]

I’ve just watched your 7.30 programme featuring Fred Nile and his wife in which you proceed to bag Fred Nile for the things he stands for. This was a classic example of ABC bigotry towards this Christian parliamentarian. Who did you choose to oppose him? A Greens MP who proceeded to slam him for what he wants to do about Islamic migration and Fred’s support for the James Packer casino.

If the ABC was to present a balanced programme I’d just about have a heart attack. For every one who opposed Fred on 7.30, you should be presenting one in favour of Fred’s views. That would at least be fair. But Leigh Sales had only the bag in hand to bash Fred Nile’s views.

I’m tired of the bigotry that the ABC presents against those who don’t support the ABC’s agenda. If you did to a Muslim, what you did to Fred, you’d have a Jihad on your hands. But you think that it’s perfectly OK to bash Fred Nile, a Christian, while you receive $2 billion[2] in funding from the Federal Govt. It’s time that the ABC learned what fairness and justice are about.

You slammed Fred Nile with your dose of injustice. What will 7.30 do to change its approach to people who have views with which it disagrees?

P.S. I don’t live in NSW so I can’t vote for Fred Nile but as a Christian, I found what you did to be utterly offensive.

I omitted to mention that one other opponent was featured on 7.30, Islamic Friendship Association Spokesman, Keysar Trad.

The ABC’s reply

How do you think that ABC would reply to what I emailed to them? Well, I’m not allowed to tell you. But I can say, from my perspective, it was not favourable towards the content of my complaint to it about Fred Nile’s views.

But it did make sure that I couldn’t tell you exactly what it said, by making this claim at the end of the email received from a person at ABC’s ‘Audience and Consumer Affairs’ on 20 April 2015. It stated:

The information contained in this email and any attachment is confidential and may contain legally privileged or copyright material. It is intended only for the use of the addressee(s). If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are not permitted to disseminate, distribute or copy this email or any attachments. If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender immediately and delete this email from your system. The ABC does not represent or warrant that this transmission is secure or virus free. Before opening any attachment you should check for viruses. The ABC’s liability is limited to resupplying any email and attachments.

I can’t even give you my response to this reply because I included some quotes from the ABCs reply.

Conclusion

The overall emphasis of the 7.30 story on Fred Nile was to paint this politician who could hold the balance of power as an extremist who doesn’t represent what the Greens MP or the Islamic association promotes.

There’s a lesson here for all Christians who want to engage in public issues through cultural apologetics. Be prepared for antagonistic bashing from mass media journalists and their producers.

New South Wales Legislative Council (55th Parliament)

Coat of arms or logo

Upper house (since 1856) of the Parliament of New South Wales

(Courtesy Wikipedia)

Notes


[1] I sent this via an online complaints form to the ABC on Thursday, 16 April 2015, and at my request I received a copy of my complaint by email reply. I await a response from the ABC, but I’m not holding my breath expecting them to do anything by way of change of editorial policy. However, they need to hear my protests and reasons for it.

[2] Malcolm Turnbull MP, Minister for Communications, on his website stated, ‘the Government’s continued investment in national broadcasting of more than $6.61 billion over the same five year period’ (FAQs on ABC and SBS, 19 December 2014, Malcolm Turnbull MP).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

Does God send cyclones?

Satellite image of Cyclone Yasi (off north Queensland intensifying on 1 February 2011 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

On the evening of 3 February 2011, I sat and watched the extended TV news coverage of the devastation caused by cyclone Yasi as it crossed the North Queensland (Australia) coast in the very early morning of 3rd Feb, and devastated that region.

Tears came to my eyes as as I saw on film how house roofs were ripped off like rubble. Large trees were torn up by their roots and thrust across houses, cars, streets and whatever else was in its path by the force of the 300km per hour winds at the core of the cyclone. The main streets of Mission Beach (where the cyclone first reached land), Tully, Tully Heads, Cardwell and Innisfail looked like a napalm bomb had hit them. It was like a war zone. Only one person was reported as dying from generator fumes and not directly from the cyclonic destruction. Three babies were born to mothers who were affected by Yasi.

Why, oh why, Lord do you send or allow such horrendous winds, torrential rain to cause such destruction were among the thoughts that came to my mind? A better question would be: Do you, Lord God, send cyclones like this? It is you who sends the rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). Therefore, is it You, God, who creates and delivers cyclones?

A Christian friend said that my statement is a non sequitur (it does not logically follow) to state that God sends the rain, therefore God sends the cyclone. I agree with his judgment. However, is there other evidence that it is the Lord Almighty who creates disasters like cyclones?

What happened in North Queensland looked like a very angry God unleashing his wrath on that region. I ask of you, Lord: Please help me to understand it. I know of the link between the fall into sin and the devastation unleashed on human beings (sin) and the curse on nature that followed (see Genesis 3; Romans 5, 8).

But I’m finding it hard to comprehend the horrific nature of what has happened in north Qld. How does the goodness of God integrate with what looks like such evil? I’m not being blasphemous, Lord, but this horror is beyond my feeble mind to understand.

1.  This was the projected path of cyclone Yasi, as indicated by the US Navy.

2. Here is some film of the destruction: (a) Tully residents reveal horror of cyclone’s wrath; (b) Cyclone Yasi; (c ) Record disaster strikes Queensland; (d)  Devastated by cyclone Yasi.

Christian friends, how do you understand and justify the horrors of cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes? About ninety percent of Australia’s banana crop was annihilated by this cataclysm near Tully.

An Expensive pile of debris at Hinchinbrook Marina in Cardwell, Qld (caused by cyclone Yasi 2011, photo in public domain)

When we think of the horrific tsunami in the Indian Ocean at the end of 2004, Australia’s Yasi cyclone caused a pittance of damage. This tsunami was precipitated by a gigantic earthquake under the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004.  The United States Geological Survey stated that

“in total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa”.

Cyclone Yasi’s devastation is only a glitch when compared with this catastrophic destruction of the tsunami.

There were devastating floods in Pakistan in 2010. One report stated that there were 1700 people dead. This same report indicated that the damage was estimated as US$43 billion. Australian ABC radio reported that the number who died in the floods was about 1500. The floods affected 20 million people and damaged 1.7 million houses. This item stated that 6 months after the floods there were still 170,000 people living in makeshift camps. Here are some pictures of these Pakistani floods.

Cyclone Yasi is small in comparison with the devastation of these other two major events. But it still requires an answer to the question: Does God cause or allow this?

The Christian view of Providence

For an explanation, we need to go to the Christian view of God as creating the universe with all of the powers accompanying the running of that universe. God is preserving his creation with his holy, benevolent (wanting to help others), wise and powerful Person. Over this universe, God exercises sovereign control through what is known as His Providence. The basic etymology of “providence” is foresight and from this understanding we know that God provides for the future.

“Providence means that continuous activity of God whereby He makes all the events of the physical, mental, and moral phenomena work out His purposes;  and that this purpose is nothing short of the original design of God in creation. To be sure, evil has entered the universe: but it is not allowed to thwart God’s original, benevolent, wise, and holy purpose” (Thiessen 1949:177).

When we look at the horrors of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Pakistani floods, and the Queensland cyclone, Yasi, how are we to understand the providence of the good and benevolent God and the presence of such devastation? Let’s look to the insight provided by God’s revelation in the Scripture.

God did not create the world the way it is today. His original world was perfect (Gen. 1:31; Eccl. 7:29). The repulsive evil in our world came about by the fall of Adam into sin (Gen. 3). We cannot blame God for the ugly sin in our world. That is the outcome of Adam’s disobedience (see Romans, chs. 5 and 8). Other Scriptures provide further insight:

Job 1:12, ’The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD” (NIV).[1]

Job 9:5-7, “He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble. He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars”.

Psalm 22:28, “For dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations”.

Psalm 103:19, “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all”.

“Proverbs 16:1, “To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue”.

Matthew 5:45, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

Acts 14:17, “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy”.

2 Thessalonians 2:7, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way”.

Please also note what Jesus said about the Galileans and the people who died when the tower of Siloam fell:

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:1-5).

These verses indicate that the Lord God is in sovereign control of what is happening in our world, at the human level (e.g. Job), the nations (Ps. 22:8), providence over all people (Acts 14:17), and the end of the world (2 Thess. 2:7).

These disasters, whether they be the tsunami, floods, cyclones, tornadoes and earthquakes, are all designed to get the attention of the people of the world so that they will repent (Luke 13:1-5). They should be asking, “Am I ready to meet God when I die? I need to repent or I will perish”. Is that what will happen as a result of cyclone Yasi? It should.

When we examine these verses, we conclude that the good, benevolent, holy Lord God Almighty has all of the evil acts of creatures under his control and that nothing can occur without His permission and sovereign superintendency. Thus, God overrules the evil acts of human beings to for His ultimate good purpose.

God works all things in the universe, whether they be designated as disasters or good acts, for his ultimate good outcome. Remember these Old Testament events: the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers towards Joseph, the resistance of Pharaoh, the action of the heathen nations in invasion of Israel, and then there was the sinless Christ’s death on the cross. Since then, there has been horrific persecution of the church, wars and rumours of wars.

For the people of God, we know God’s purpose is achieved this way: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God’s ultimate aim is for His glory through whatever he does in our world: “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11).

What else can God do to get our attention, if it doesn’t happen through floods, tsunamis, cyclones, earthquakes, etc?

I consider that evangelical systematic theologian, Wayne Grudem, made a sound, concluding assessment:

“Every believer who meditates on God’s providence will sooner or later come to a point where he or she will have to say, ‘I cannot understand this doctrine fully.’ In some ways that must be said about every doctrine, since our understanding is finite, and God is infinite. But particularly is this so with the doctrine of providence: we should believe it because Scripture teaches it, even when we do not understand fully how it fits in with other teachings of Scripture (1994:336).

Does God create evil?

When we examine the damage done by the cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes and earthquakes, some are tempted to refer to God as an evil being for doing or allowing these things. Is it possible for God to create moral evil?

How do we respond to what God said in Isaiah 45:7? “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (KJV, emphasis added). So, God does create evil according to the KJV translation. How do we explain this when God is said to be good and righteous?

The Hebrew word for “create” is bara, the same word used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (NIV). The Hebrew ra, translated as “evil” (Isa. 45:7 KJV), can have a breadth of meaning as demonstrated by these various Bible translations:

Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, writes concerning ra:

“The word can be used to apply to natural disasters such as these words imply. But there is no compelling reason to restrict it to natural disasters, for the word is an extremely common word used of evil generally: It is used of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9), of the evil among mankind that brought the judgment of the flood (Gen. 6:5), and of the evil of the men of Sodom (Gen. 13:13). It is used to say, ‘Depart from evil and do good’ (Ps. 34:14), and to speak of the wrong of those who call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20), and of the sin of those whose ‘feet run to evil’ (Isa. 59:7; see also Isa. 47:10, 11; 56:2; 57:1; 59:15; 65:12; 66:4). Dozens of other times throughout the Old Testament it refers to moral evil or sin. The contrast with “peace” (shãlôm) in the same phrase in Isa. 45:7 might argue that only “calamity” is in view, but not necessarily so, for moral evil and wickedness is (sic) certainly also the opposite of the wholeness of God’s “shalom” or peace. (In Amos 3:6, rã’ ãh is a different but related word and has a similar range of meanings.) But Isa. 45:7 does not say that God does evil (Grudem 1994:326 n7, emphasis added).

There are a couple of parallel verses to Isa. 45:7. Amos 3:6 states:

When a trumpet sounds in a city,
do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
has not the LORD caused it?

Lamentations 3:38 reads:

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

The Hebrew for “calamities” in these latter two verse is rã’ ãh and it has similar meanings to ra. The NIV has translated rã’ ãh in these two verses as “disaster” and “calamity”. So, God creates disasters and calamities! Can this be applied to cyclones Yasi, Larry and Tracy in Australia, the Indian Ocean tsunami, hurricane Katrina and other disasters? Isa. 45:7, Amos 3:6 and Lam. 3:38 confirm this.

We know that God performed one massive disaster in sending the flood in Noah’s day that wiped out the entire human race except Noah and his family (Genesis 6) because of the earth was corrupt before God and filled with violence (Gen. 6:11). God did it again by destroying Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). God has demonstrated that He can bring disaster through judgment.

But is God responsible for creating sin – moral evil? We turn to the Scriptures and hear from James 1:13-14:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.

It is clear from these two verses in James that God never causes evil temptation. Human beings are personal agents who are responsible for yielding to temptation. But how do we apply this to Isa. 45:7? The KJV translation could send a wrong message about the Lord God: “I make peace and create evil”. “Evil” is a legitimate translation but there are other options. We cannot assign what is morally evil to God. H. C. Leupold notes on Isa. 45:7:

“It is not the morally good and the morally evil that are being attributed to Yahweh, but things good and bad are said to lie totally in his power, as far as their physical aspects and consequences are concerned. The RSV version does full justice to the issues involved when it says: ‘I make weal and create woe.’ Note similar statements in Amos 3:6b; and Isa. 14:24-27. ‘I am the Lord who does all these things’ aptly sums it all up” (1971:122).

We cannot conclude that God does evil because that would mitigate against who God is – the good, righteous God. To say that God does evil would be to create another kind of god. Of Yahweh, the only true God, we know:

The goodness of God is revealed in Scripture: “No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19); the Psalms proclaim “He [the Lord] is good” (Ps. 100:5; 106:1; 107:1). David exhorts us: “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8).

The righteousness or justice of God is made clear in passages such as Deut. 32:4, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he”. Even King Nebuchadnezzar got it correct: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just” (Daniel 4:37).

When we say that God is righteous or just, we mean that God’s actions are always right and His nature is the final standard of what is right and just. Wayne Grudem explains from the life of Job and God’s bringing calamity to Job:

In answer to Job’s questioning about whether God has been righteous in his dealings with him, God answers Job, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?…Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:2, 8). Then God answers not in terms of an explanation that would allow Job to understand why God’s actions were right, but rather in terms of a statement of God’s own majesty and power! God does not need to explain the rightness of his actions to Job, for God is the Creator and Job is the creature. “Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9). “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place…?” (Job 38:12). “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, “Here we are’?” (Job 38:34–35). “Do you give the horse his might?” (Job 39:19). “Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars, and spreads his wings toward the south?” (Job 39:26). Job answers, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth” (Job 40:4).

Nevertheless, it should be a cause for thanksgiving and gratitude when we realize that righteousness and omnipotence are both possessed by God. If he were a God of perfect righteousness without power to carry out that righteousness, he would not be worthy of worship and we would have no guarantee that justice will ultimately prevail in the universe. But if he were a God of unlimited power, yet without righteousness in his character, how unthinkably horrible the universe would be! There would be unrighteousness at the center of all existence and there would be nothing anyone could do to change it. Existence would become meaningless, and we would be driven to the most utter despair. We ought therefore continually to thank and praise God for who he is, “for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut. 32:4) [Grudem 1994:204-205].

Disasters and God’s judgment

I received an email with the content of this blog (below) under the heading, “Japan denounced Israel exactly 1 year before earthquake and tsunami”. This blog appeared at Armageddononline.com #257:

Ron Reese from 5 Doves has discovered that ON MARCH 11TH, EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO, JAPAN DENOUNCES ISRAEL!!! http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/annou…3/0311_01.html

Exactly 1 year ago March 11, 2010…The exact day of the 9.0 earthquake in Japan hit a year later in 2011.
Genesis 12:3 “I will Bless those who Bless (Israel), and Curse Those Who Curse you.”

Remember, America forced Israel to remove 8,000 Israeli’s from their homes in Gaza, then came Katrina where America lost 800,000 houses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama.

Japan demanded that Israel not build 1,600 housing units in east Jerusalem. After the 9.0 earthquake Japan may have to rebuild 1.6 million homes.

God is not mocked! Pay attention America!

A more detailed comment by Ron Reese is in, ‘Ron Reese (15 March 2011) “On March 11th, exactly one year ago, Japan denounces Israel!!!

What are we to make of those who want to link Japan’s actions (sins?) against Israel with the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11th March 2011?

Jesus will not allow us to draw the conclusion that the Japanese, because of their response to Israel, are any more sinful than we are. This is clearly stated in Luke 13:1-5:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them,  “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (ESV).

To paraphrase Jesus for Aussies today, based on Luke 13:1-5: There are people present today who speak about the Japanese who denounced Israel one year before the tsunami. Jesus answers these who see this as judgment against Japan: “Do you think that these Japanese are worse sinners than all Australians because they acted in this way? No, says Jesus. I tell you: but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”.

We do not have the right to pronounce that the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear meltdown are God’s judgment on Japan – based on Luke 13:1-5. Providing judgment is God’s job and he will do it in our time. God has told us (Luke 14) that we all are sinners who need to repent and the Japanese crisis should be a reminder that all sinners need to repent.

Use your mind in discerning where to live.

To understand the impact of floods and cyclones, God has given us minds to discern which areas of Australia are the most prone to floods and cyclones. If we want to avoid being victims of floods and cyclones, we can choose to avoid living in those areas.

The Australian government’s, Attorney-General’s Department, Emergency Management for Schools, has compiled this graph of the most cyclone prone areas in Australia as Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

www.crikey.com.au has located this range of maps to show the flood prone areas of Brisbane and District after the January 2011 floods.

May the Lord help us to be wise in making decisions about where we live in Australia.

Conclusion

  • Does God send cyclones, tsunamis and tornadoes? Yes, he does create disasters and these acts of “mother Nature” must be put down as acts of God.
  • We cannot state that certain acts of God – calamities – are specific judgments against certain sins in contemporary society. God does not reveal that to us so Christians dare not pronounce such judgments when disasters happen.
  • God, by his very nature (good, just, righteous), cannot create moral evil.
  • Human beings cannot make the judgment of associating catastrophe with God’s judgment (see Luke 13:1-5).
  • God’s actions in sending woes should be a wake-up call to the world of sinners to repent or perish. Human life is temporal.

For further consideration, see my articles:

Also see John Piper’s articles: “Don’t waste your cancer”; “Where is God? The supremacy of God in an age of terror“.

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Leupold, H. C. 1971. Exposition of Isaiah (vol 1, chapters 1-39). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

The first edition of this article was on Friday, February 4, 2011.

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 May 2016.