Quote of the Day (Eric Reitan)

“[T]he doctrine of biblical inerrancy has the effect of inspiring its adherents to pay more attention to a text than to the neighbors they are called upon to love. Sometimes it even inspires them to plug up their ears with Bible verses, so that they can no longer hear the anguished cries of neighbors whose suffering is brought on by allegiance to the literal sense of those very texts.”
– Eric Reitan, at Religion Dispatches Pulpit

Also at Religion Dispatches is an article about Roger Haight and his views on, among other things, the resurrection. Loren Rosson looks at human nature. Bible Bending shared this video of Stephen Colbert freeing his Jews:

The Colbert ReportMon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Birkat Hachama – Stephen Frees His Jews
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And Progression of Faith has a video that raises some questions about the way some Christians understand certain doctrines – in a manner that some will probably find amusing, while others may find it offensive. But they are important questions, and ones that need to be thought about:

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12617299120618867829 Angie Van De Merwe

    This is why the text has lost meaning and value to me, as it is de-humanizing….for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…I remember a cartoon you posted a while back that had a “biblicist” pounding the head of an atheist with the text…very realistic..

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04144487212639973542 Bryan L

    I really disagree with this quote. People who hold to inerrancy care more about the Bible than loving their neighbors? They’re drowning out the suffering of their neighbors with Bible verses? Really? How do you even prove that? Why do people enjoy being so uncharitable towards conservative Christians who hold to doctrines like inerrancy? Bryan L

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I suppose it made more sense in its original context – it was about the position that some take, claiming Biblical inerrancy as the reason, on the issue of whether homosexuals should have the right to marry.Taken out of that context, it is at best an unfair generalization. Having said that, I’m starting to think that it may be time for those who are not inerrantists, not fundamentalists (either in the classic or the modern sense), but are Christians to start using the rhetoric of prophetic preaching in denouncing those who equate conservative American social mores with Christian ethics, who equate dogma with faith, and who claim the Bible as God’s inerrant word only when it serves their interests, while offering implausible twistings of texts that seem to mean something other than what they know in advance “the Bible says”, all the while denouncing anyone who will not acknowledge their view as the only right one.Not everyone who holds to inerrancy has such an outlook, and it is important to make that point. But once one has taken the necessary steps of adding such qualifications, and many instances of the word “some”, I’m not sure that there is not a significant contingent to whom the quote would apply quite readily.I’m also sure that my recent run-in with some conservatives who claim to be Christians and believe that others can be browbeaten into their brand of faith is coloring my blogging at the moment. It might be time for me to take a break, if even a post about LOST ends up turning into a post about that! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04144487212639973542 Bryan L

    James:From the wider context you give it makes more sense.I can see how your recent run-ins would cause you to post on the things you have lately. I end up just ignoring people like that because they piss me off too much and I find it easier to just ignore them and not try to dialog. I did it for a few years and I found it got me know where most of the time. Although there are always those who are watching from the sideline who pay attention so you never know what kind of effect your public dialog could have.Thanks for clarifying the context. Bryan L

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12617299120618867829 Angie Van De Merwe

    You said that those who hold an inerrantist view of the text and hold to that as the standard of Christian mores and dismiss Christian ethics…I would hold that “chirtian ethics” is nothing other that ethics…there is nothing specifically ‘christian about it”. so I don’t see where identifying with “christian” does anything for ethics, per se…unless one wants to use Jesus as an example of christian ethics to the poor, but there are many more issues than poverty that the world needs to address.I’d rather not identify my ethics with religion, as that in itself defeats “ethics”, as it identifies with one type of understanding…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    One would then be led to ask: If the Bible is not inerrant, then is it of God? If not, do we have ANY word from God? If not, is not anything permissible and morally equivalent in its amorality, whether loving or killing one’s neighbor?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Rhology, thanks for your comment! The “can we be good without God” question/argument cuts both ways: one can justify genocide by claiming that God commanded your people to take the land of peoples currently inhabiting it. A colleague of mine once said that he suspects that the net effect of religion on morality is zero, because it inspires both good and evil. I’m not sure he’s right about that, but it is something to think about.As for inerrancy, it doesn’t follow naturally from the claim of divine inspiration. If you meet someone today that you consider a “man of God”, you are unlikely to regard them as inerrant. To claim inerrancy means claiming that human beings’ natural fallibility was overridden, and the evidence from the Bible itself doesn’t support that view of it.Returning to the subject of morality, I’d like to believe that many of us are faithful to our spouses because of love, committment and fidelity, and not merely because we’re afraid of punishment in the afterlife. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16623045145691355028 Blake

    So you equate brow beating with an involved discussion? James, you were actually answered on every point you brought up, and to act as if you were not is disingenuous. You asked for an answer for the points about Isaiah and they were answered, you asked us to give you an explanation about the ascension and it was given. None of these explanations went against the grain of the text, if anything they preserve a richer meaning than the interpretations you gave. There were faults on both sides of the discussion, I know I had mine, but don’t act as if your hands are clean also, they are not. Bryan, don’t throw your brothers under the bus to quickly.In Christ,Blake

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04144487212639973542 Bryan L

    Blake:Who are my brothers that you think I’m throwing under the bus rather quickly? I’m not an inerrantist and I’m probably more mainline than conservative or evangelical. Either way I understood the quote better from the context given and I could relate with his frustration.Bryan L

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02730547311596057146 charlies

    great work, hopethe church can get honest

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Dr. McGrath,Good talking to you.You said:one can justify genocide by claiming that God commanded your people to take the land of peoples currently inhabiting itOne could only properly justify the genocide of the OT-era Amalekites, Jerichoans, etc, by the OT Israelites by appealing to the Bible, but that’s it. No proper reading of the text would lead one to the conclusion that random genocide is OK. Why bring that up?A colleague of mine once said that he suspects that the net effect of religion on morality is zero, because it inspires both good and evil.Fair enough, but you’ll rarely catch me defending “religion”, since only Christianity (well, and OT Judaism) are actually true religion, given by God. Others are simple attempts by sinful man to reach out to gods of their own making.If you meet someone today that you consider a “man of God”, you are unlikely to regard them as inerrant. Again, fair enough, but that’s hardly the claim of the Bible. It’s inspired by GOD, not by a godly man.To claim inerrancy means claiming that human beings’ natural fallibility was overridden, and the evidence from the Bible itself doesn’t support that view of it.That’s what I was getting at, actually. Why listen to it at all? If you say, “I accept what is good and disaffirm the bad”, what standard do you use to judge which parts are good and which bad? How is that different from functionally making yourself the authority over the Bible? In which case, why act like it is authoritative in anything it says, since you would follow different parts of it if you were so disposed?I’d like to believe that many of us are faithful to our spouses because of love, committment and fidelityI guess what I’m asking is how those ideas of love, commitment, and fidelity have any meaning outside ourselves or a collective human group idea (which can and does change) w/o a revelation of their goodness from God.Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Hi Rhology. I’m not sure you understood my points, so I’ll go back through and try to clarify.1) Why mention genocide? Because in the Bible there are commands to exterminate the inhabitants of the land. I’m not sure what “random genocide” is, but if your point is that “God-ordained genocide” is OK, then you are equating morality not with love, or with compassion, or with anything else, but whatever God wants, even if it involves killing innocent children. That may in fact be your viewpoint, but I’d appreciate it if you’d say whether it is or not, so that I don’t discuss where I think you’re coming from rather than what you actually think.2) The Biblical writings were written by human beings. And so my point was that it is possible to believe that those individuals were inspired without believing that God overrode their capacity for error. The fact that there is plain evidence that their individual styles and personalities were not eliminated makes it a priori unlikely that their other faculties were overridden. It seems odd to claim that God chose every word that should be in these texts, and yet inspired them to look like they are written by people with different styles, not to mention different degrees of grammatical competence.3) Everyone chooses not to follow some parts of the Bible, based on their “common sense” and their understanding of right and wrong. Some might still condemn witchcraft, but few want the practitioners to be stoned. Some might object to tattoos based on Leviticus while ignoring the commandments in the surrounding verses. And so the answer to your question is that we need to wrestle with what is right and wrong. And hopefully we will find some overarching principles, like love for others and the Golden Rule. And once one identifies those principles, one may end up concluding that even the Biblical authors, being fallible human beings, did not always live up to those standards, even though they are among those who advocate those standards. Having higher standards than we actually meet is a not uncommon part of human experience.4) Finally, I think there is a danger of putting the cart before the horse, as it were. We cannot say in advance that God must give us an inerrant guidebook that eliminates the need for us to make decisions and take responsibility before them, and then say that if the Bible does not meet that standard it is worthless. It may be that God intends for us to do without such inerrant anchors, because it is essential for our maturity. To make a comparison, our parents are fallible, although we usually start off thinking they aren’t. We usually go through a phase of rebellion, and often later in life realize that they were not infallible but they were often right. Perhaps the Bible is similar – at the very least, many people find themselves going through those same stages when it comes to the Bible, namely of blind trust, rejection after recognition of fallibility, and then renewed appreciation not as inerrant but as frequently wise, helpful, and inspiring.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Hello Dr McGrath,I’ll respond to your points as you laid them out.1) God-ordained ANYTHING is not only OK but necessarily good by definition, since God’s character is the very definition of good. It would have been sinful to disobey the Lord’s command in the OT to exterminate the Amalekites. Look at what happened to King Saul when he didn’t wipe out all the Amalekites – God chastened him for his sin.No one is innocent. Everyone is sinful, even children (and I have two young ones, how well I know this!); God puts people to death every day, even children. God is justified in killing anyone at any time, and if He commands you to do it, you are obligated and it is the right thing to do. (Whether God WOULD do that in a modern context is an entirely different question, however.)2) The Bible was written pen-to-paper by humans, yes, but God inspired and oversaw the writings. What precisely are you suggesting, then, for this in-between point for “inspired, but not actually God-inspired”? How do we judge which parts are right and which are wrong? As for your comment about diff styles, are you unaware of the typical inerrantist explanation of how God inspired the text of the Bible? Let me commend to your reading the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy to help you.3) Yes, people choose not to follow the Bible, but that’s b/c we are sinful people. The question is whether we are JUSTIFIED in doing so.You seem to offer “wrestl(ing) with what is right and wrong” and “love for others and the Golden Rule” as the standard of comparison for knowing good and evil. But perhaps “love one another” is part of the UNinspired, errant text of the Bible? How would you know?How does “wrestle with it” give any guidance? I’m asking whether I’m right to do this or that – I’m looking for something external to myself. Does God speak with authority on right and wrong, or not? Your counterexamples from the OT reflect a poor understanding of how to apply the OT commands to NT living, just FYI.4) Why can’t we say that? He seems to say just that in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, doesn’t He?So, it looks like your answer to the question “How do I know which parts are good and which are bad?” is “wrestle with it, go with what is loving”, more or less? How does this escape my charge of the elevation of yourself as authority over the Bible that I expressed in my previous comment?Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks for linking to your blog post, which points out the selectivity of the early church’s adoption of laws and standards from the Jewish Scriptures. What seems strange to me is your assumption that we should stop using the same discernment and selectivity today.The resolution to the issue of Gentiles and the requirement of circumcision was not self-evident to the early Christians. They debated and disagreed. Both turned to the Scriptures, and although those who advocated the plain sense of Scripture wanted to exclude or circumcise them, Paul’s much more creative use of Scripture, allowing the evidence of Gentile Christians’ receipt of the Spirit to trump Scripture’s plain sense, prevailed.It is important, when looking at the Bible, to acknowledge not only “what the Bible says”, but also what these authors were doing when they wrote what they did. They disagreed, changed, developed and creatively transformed. The church decided what to include in the Bible, and what I’m suggesting is that we acknowledge this, and take more seriously our responsibility to use the Bible in a moral way. I know you will object yet again to my suggestion that our own moral standards be allowed to guide our reading and interpretation of the Bible. I’m not opposed to having the Bible also challenge our current views – I definitely believe in dialogue. But the simple truth is that we do not go around cursing our enemies with bears our blindness, or pronouncing the immediate death of those who fail to be honest about their giving. To do such things would be Biblical, just as the institution of slavery could be defended on Biblical grounds. The only way to avoid following the Biblical examples into their shortcomings is to allow its overarching principles to guide us. A close reading and the plain sense of the household codes in the epistles might justify slavery, but all it takes is “do unto others what you would have them do unto you” to realize it ought to be eliminated.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Dr McGrath,If by “selectivity” you mean the NT writers, then yes, I’d agree, but we are apparently coming from very different viewpoints on the authority of said NT writers. The NT writers are clarifying and defining the New Covenant, and of course it is highly obvious that we don’t live in OT Israel anymore. A brief comment in Rom 13 is sufficient to dispel many of the questions raised on this topic. The diff here is that there is no further authority, no word from God, to stop believing this or that in the OT or NT beyond what the NT has said. God has spoken sufficiently now, there is nothing else that needs to be said until the Eschaton. However, if I pick and choose what to believe and follow, I am de facto a higher authority than the Bible. Why even bother reading it?Re: circumcision – yes, they debated, and it’s all recorded and resolved in the Bible. As far as biblical WRITERS disagreeing, could you clarify? Obviously Peter, who would later be a NT author, was wrong in Galatians 2 but came to agree with Paul, who was in the right. What do you mean? Surely not the tattered old canard of Paul vs James!You said:take more seriously our responsibility to use the Bible in a moral way.Again I ask what moral standard we should use to judge what God has said. Please supply it. One’s own moral views? This will lead in the real world to nothing more than might makes right; whoever can marshal enough force will then control the definition of morality. Contrast that with the biblical worldview – God is the definition of good and He has made that sufficiently clear. People sometimes misunderstand and sometimes twist the truth for their own ends, but it is definitely knowable that they are wrong to do so. On your proposed view, there is no way to tell who is right and wrong. I am surprised, frankly, to find a professor of religion peddling such poor understandings of proper biblical exegesis. Are you not sufficiently versed (no pun intended) in biblical hermeneutics to tell the difference between DEscriptive texts (like most of Acts) and PREscriptive texts (like most of the epistles)? Of an institution (ie, slavery) that is permitted to remain b/c it is not the main point of the Gospel and b/c the Gospel is mostly spiritual, not primarily governmental in nature (even though ’twere Christians who championed its destruction in the UK and the US)? It is kind of hard to watch this violence done to the text.Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    There were Christians on both sides of the debates about slavery. Just ask the Southern Baptists. That’s the reason they exist.I am very familiar with the Chicago Declaration on Biblical Inerrancy. I simply agree with most Evangelicals outside of the United States in not subscribing to it. I don’t find the term “inerrancy” to mean anything like what it sounds like when defined with so many qualifications.As for these matters being settled in “the Bible”, you are missing the point that Paul’s letter to the Galatians wasn’t Scripture when the debate between Peter and Paul was taking place. And so presumably in order to get the table of contents of Scripture as inerrant as well, you need to trust the church’s authority at least that far. I suppose the question is why stop there? How do you know that God has entrusted authority to the church only so far as to get a book and then withdrawn in in favor of the book?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Hello Dr McGrath,I don’t see any rebuttal so far to my contention that you have set yourself up as an authority over the Bible, and that therefore there is really no good reason for you to read or take into acct any of it at all. I do think interaction with that point would really benefit our discussion here.Yes, there were Christians on both sides. Yet, the impetus for abolition came from…Christians, not from some other group of different conviction. I should further think that it is obvious to any reasonable mind that the reason a group comes into existence is not necessarily the same reason for which it remains in existence. I don’t think the Anglican Church existS, NOW, just so that the King of England can satisfy his hot pants, after all.I am glad and sad to hear that you are familiar with the Chicago Statement. Given the strange comments you’ve made that display an ignorance of proper hermeneutical process, I would commend it to your reading again, so that you won’t make the same mistakes an additional time. True, Galatians wasn’t even written when the Paul/Peter event occurred. Yet Galatians is the only way we know about the event and its outcome TODAY, and that’s what matters. No one is claiming Sola Scriptura for the time before the Scriptura existed, after all. I don’t trust any church’s “authority” for the Canon. Let me recommend James White’s _Scripture Alone_ for a better idea of what we mean when we discuss the Canon. It’s a popular-level book, but honestly I think it would fit where you are pretty well at this point. In a nutshell, we trust GOD to make His self-revelation known, gradually to the church as a whole, not to any one council or any one body or any one bishop. It is a testament to God’s way of doing it that knowledge of the Canon gradually became known and agreed upon across a wide geographic area despite the long distances and bad communication entailed in such dispersion. Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Rhology, I don’t believe I’ve “set myself up as an authority” over the Bible. I cannot extract myself from my physical human existence, my cultural, historical, and linguistic context, my Christian faith, and everything else that makes me who I am, and read the Bible without presuppositions, assumptions or influences. And so the claim to treat the Bible as one’s authority is a potentially perilous one, since Christians who clearly have no interest in literally following Luke 14:33 regularly quote other passages to clobber others for not doing “what the Bible says”. Of course, one can bring in other passages to nullify this one, and while a subject like homosexuality will be met with “the Bible says…” the challenge to have no possessions will be met with “you can’t take that literally, and see here there were people with possessions, and…and…” But the truth of the matter is that, when conservative Christians choose to quote the Bible about homosexuality or some other issue, but ignore its teachings about wealth and social justice, and then object that “you cannot set yourself up as an authority over the Bible”, they are deceiving themselves and often others. The conservative viewpoint uses the Bible no less selectively than any other. It just has a more extensive apparatus in place to make it possible to pretend that isn’t what is going on. I think I’ve written enough to keep the conversation going, and so we can leave the difficulties involved in claiming that an errant church put together a collection of precisely those writings which are inerrant for another time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Hello Dr McGrath,No one is asking you to read the Bible in a way impossible for a human to do – free from presupps, etc. But one either takes the text and its meaning as authoritative and defining, one rejects it altogether, or one picks and chooses. The text manifestly means sthg, much like your comment and books and blogposts manifestly mean specific things. You are having a discussion on biblical authority etc with me right now, rather than discussing cooking stew on the surface of Mars. You have already said explicitly that there are teachings of the Bible that you reject, and that means you think you know better (or else you’re a complete idiot, and I don’t think you’re an idiot). If you know better, then you are setting yourself up higher than the Bible. The Bible says do this or that, you say no. It’s as simple as that. I’m just wondering why you bother listening to the rest of it, or better yet, why you would cite it for any moral authority for some other question. Why not just cite yourself, since you know better?Why follow Luke 14:33, and why cite it? Are you saying I *should* follow it? Why? You said:one can bring in other passages to nullify this oneThis is another example of your poor understanding of biblical hermeneutics. It is the job of the exegete who takes the entirety of the Bible seriously to understand what a given psg is saying and then to understand it in light of its immediate and wider context. Seriously, this is elementary information. One does not “nullify” a text with another. One can harmonise, one can illumine, etc. Your misunderstanding about what Luke 14:33 actually *does* mean is at the heart of your mistake here, but your wider unwillingness to take the Bible seriously is the root of the problem rather than a single symptom. Did Jesus give up EVERYthing He had? No. Did Jesus command His disciples to take with them a couple of swords just before Gethsemane? Yes. What does all this mean? Whatever it means, it doesn’t mean what you said it means. The teachings are not in conflict – they are both/and, and the false dilemma you are proposing is just that – false.There is, however, no alternative psg on the topic of homosexuality that would serve to “nullify”, as you put it, the condemnation of homosexuality in 1 Cor 6, Romans 1, etc. Unless you have one in mind…And it’s fine with me to leave the church/Canon discussion where it is. I appreciate the time you put into our discussion here.Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks, Rhology, for your reply. The reason I don’t think it is possible to avoid “sitting in judgment on the Bible” is that the Bible is quite plainly factually inaccurate on some matters, such as whether thinking takes place in the brain or in the heart. Does that affect Paul’s overarching point when he uses such language? Not really. We can still grasp his language metaphorically, but that doesn’t change the fact that in Paul’s time it was taken literally, and he does not anywhere indicate that he meant as a metaphor what his contemporaries understood literally. The same may be said of other details in the Bible: the “firmament” that holds up the waters above, for instance.I’ve also posted before about the need to “read the Bible ethically“, since that has come up in our conversation.If the Bible cannot consistently be taken literally when its plain sense indicates we ought to, then we have no choice but to either reject the whole thing or to seek a core message and underlying principles that can be translated or mediated in some way into our own time, culture and worldview. But requiring that modern readers of the Bible accept an ancient worldview in its entirety in order to accept the Christian faith. Some act of translation is required, and if we cannot bypass the question of what to do with Luke’s depiction of the ascension in the context of our current astronomical knowledge (for example), then we have no choice but to make a judgment about the Bible, too. Even those who attempt to maintain some form of literalism make the same judgment – they simply choose to reject modern science because of what they understand the text to say. But that’s different from the ancient authors and readers who simply had this cosmology as an assumption, not something that involved a leap of faith. In short, I don’t think we can accept the whole package as it comes to us, nor do I think anyone successfully does so today, even if they claim otherwise. And if we say that we can find a way of interpreting the message, interpretation involves judgment on our part – about what is central and what is simply cultural, and about how to re-express what we believe is central today.One last thing – I’m not ignoring your question about homosexuality, it’s just something I’ve discussed in a lot of other posts and thus am reluctant to repeat in an already lengthy comment. But I am intrigued by your assumption that the disciples having swords should be treated as prescriptive rather than descriptive, and that you assume Jesus’ words about “whoever does not have a sword” ought to be taken literally. That might be something worth talking about further. What possessions do you believe Jesus had?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Hello Dr McGrath,You seriously think someone should consider that an idiomatic expression is a “factual inaccuracy”? What’s next – will you suggest I read the Skeptics’ Annotated Bible or sthg? Sheesh.Now that we know that the Bible is factually inaccurate on your position, perhaps it is so on other issues as well. Maybe it’s wrong when Jesus taught us we should love others. When it says we should forgive and turn the other cheek. When it commands me not to murder professors of religion (to take a ridiculous example). Where does it stop? I’ll tell you where – with YOU. You have demonstrated it over and over and indeed you admit that very thing in this comment. Your post on reading the Bible ethically is highly flawed. You really think David “got away with” his adultery? His guilt thrown in his face? The lifelong guilt of murdering an innocent man, one of his Thirty? The death of his newborn son? Or perhaps you’re unhappy that David wasn’t put to death for his crime. Yes, his crimes were heinous. So are yours, and mine. We need a Savior, and Jesus Christ is that Savior. His forgiveness covers all sin repented of, and God is in charge of punishment, not you. The problem is, you deny that there is any reliable acct of that Savior that we can know, and you substitute yourself in the place of God Who has begun and completed His plan of redemption of guilty sinners like you and me. You are a poor substitute for Jesus.You said:If the Bible cannot consistently be taken literally when its plain sense indicates we ought to, then we have no choice but to either reject the whole thing or to seek a core message and underlying principles that can be translated or mediated in some way into our own timThis makes no sense, sorry to say. Why think that its “core message and underlying principles” are any good? These guys claimed to be speaking for God, after all. I ask (for the 4th time): Why quote the Bible at all, given your position?Luke’s depiction of the ascension in the context of our current astronomical knowledgeWhence comes this naturalistic worldview? Naturalism is fatally flawed and it is foreign to the Scripture, but you apparently don’t hesitate to apply it whenever convenient. It’s not a commendable practice. Jesus’ post-rez body was glorified, you know? Could pass thru walls, had non-painful spear and nail wounds, could pass thru the stone over the entrance of His tomb, etc, remember? And it’s supposed to upset me that you can’t explain how far He rose or whether He suffocated in outer space or sthg? What nonsense. interpretation involves judgment on our partAnd some interps are legitimate, and others are not. Surely you would not think it is legitimate if I claimed that your own comment here means that you are actually a KJV-Only Mormon who is building a spacecraft. What possessions do you believe Jesus had? A tunic and an undergarment, of course. Shoes. The occasional lunch or dinner. It’s right there in the text, sir. Of course, perhaps, as I proposed earlier, Luke 14:33 is not actually factually correct…Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    OK, so your position is that Jesus pretended to be physical and ate with the disciples in order to show that he was physical, but in fact he had no need of oxygen and was immune to the radiation in outer space, not to mention food (the fish he ate surely wasn’t enough to last the whole interstellar journey)? I cannot prove otherwise, but it does seem to me a strange viewpoint.I also don’t yet understand what your explanation is as to why, in a time when people thought that heaven was literally “up there”, Acts depicts Jesus as literally ascending to heaven, and yet somehow readers were supposed to understand that this was not a literal physical description of an ascent to heaven?I certainly acknowledge that I am a poor substitute for Jesus. But hat must be emphasized is that you don’t have direct unmediated access to Jesus any more than I do. We have ancient texts whose relation to the figure of Jesus can only be assessed by means of historical criticism. And so you are at times making your own judgments, at times deferring to the Chicago Declaration and other sources of authority, and deferring to these ancient texts as understood by modern-day conservative Christians. It is not that you are listening to Jesus while I am not. You are pretending you have direct access to truths to which you do not have direct access, and you are claiming to take the text at face value when you are not. You are looking for certainty, and so instead of acknowledging your own selectivity in using the Bible, you condemn others who are honest about being in dialogue with the Bible. I quote it because it is part of the Christian heritage, but it is not the only source of doctrine for Christians – even for those who claim that it is their only source of doctrine.As for naturalism, I never mentioned it. I mentioned astronomy. If you wish to discuss the size of the universe and the problems with situating heaven physically beyond it, we can, but it isn’t about naturalism, it is about observation and evidence. It is also about whether you are more like Job, who was willing to allow experience and observation to challenge his theology, or Job’s friends, who thought they were defending God when they defended the traditional, conservative wisdom about God.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Is there a third way to view these things?Is it possible that God and Jesus spoke to people within the framework within which they lived?So Jesus ascends because that is what the people he was speaking to expected as opposed to seeing him dematerialized like a Star Trek ensign by the Transporter. That makes my point sound silly….but there is a point.If Scripture is a record of God’s interactions with specific people from specific areas and specific cultures…is it too much to assume that God uses imagery which coincides with which people are already familiar?For Abraham he is a Pot(?) crossing between sacrificed animals. Why? Because Abraham had some understanding for what that meant.Frequently in the gospels, Jesus’ actions and sayings are followed by “in order that the scriptures might be fulfilled”. It almost seems to communicate that Jesus was consciously and purposely fulfilling them…as opposed them simply happening. It’s as if God has chosen to work within the framework that humans already have.So….Jesus doesn’t explain the physics of his resurrection body to people who would have no comprehension of physics. God doesn’t correct his people in the Old Testament from assuming that the Sun revolves around the earth, because they have no context for correction anyway.AS far as “setting oneself up over the Bible”…uh…that’s what all Christians do.Any attempt at incorporating Scripture or faith into our lives must pass through the filter of our experiences. One can’t even say “I believe the Bible is inerrant” without first deciding whether or not one believes the arguments for inerrancy. The arguments come first, the belief second. The arguments must be processed and judged by an individual before they are accepted…..one way or the other.No one comes to a position on such a thing by some magical mind-wipe that instantaneously fills a person with the belief already formed and perfected.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks, Terri, for making one of my points more clearly and more succinctly than I managed to!I don’t really have a preference between the view that God condescends, as Calvin said, to speak to us in a language we can understand, or that Christians expressed their faith in God in terms of the worldview of their time. I’m not sure how we’d be able to tell the difference between the two just by looking at the Biblical writings.A Star Trek reference is always welcome – although I found myself thinking of Kirk’s question from Star Trek V: “What need has God of a space ship?” :)I might add that it seems to me that none of the Biblical authors would have known about the need for a breathable atmosphere and that such was lacking if you ascended high enough. Indeed, Paul refers to one who ascended to the third heaven and considers equally plausible that this took place “in the body or out of the body”. And so the most natural way of reading Luke’s account in the context of that worldview and time is that Jesus was “flesh and bone” and physically ascended, and his appearance in a locked room was, like his ascent to heaven, from Luke’s perspective something miraculous rather than something to do with a change in Jesus’ “composition”.

  • Jason

    This is a slight change of subject but it relates to Jesus eating fish and breathing Oxygen.We (meaning us conservatives) make a big deal about the “physical” resurrection of Jesus, and yet I can’t help but think it doesn’t quite matter. Because after 40 days, Jesus left earth, whether by the Shakina glory of God that looked like a cloud or through star trek teleportation, his physical body went to heaven. Any interaction I might have with him is surely not through his physical body, whether it being he hears my prayers, or “indwells” me, or gives me strength, etc, this are all supernatural elements more disposed to the spiritual side. Indeed, for 40 days Jesus showed a bunch of proofs he was living, but after those 40 days and for the last 2000 or so years, it is pretty much indistinguishable from whether only his supernatural spirit went to heaven. The resurrection was to validate Jesus’s person and ministry, and yet it does nothing of that sort for me, since I have to read about it and it is indistinguishable from whether it didn’t happen. Why doesn’t Jesus stay on earth , demonstrating through infallible proofs he is who he said he was, just as he was so eager to do for the first forty days?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Jason,I could go into my latest pet theory that there is no such thing as a human “spirit” and that God is the only eternal Spirit and being without substance….but I’m sure it would annoy everyone.From my perspective, which is not the same as James,’ I’m pretty sure, humans are physical beings, made to dwell in a physical world. God made us that way –and by “made” I am not referring to YEC views–and seems to value the material world.So why does it matter if Jesus was “physically” raised from the dead? Because, in my view, it is directly related to the role of Jesus as “the second Adam”…”the firstborn of many”….us being the many.We are going to be “like him”.That isn’t a view that most Christians subscribe to…but it’s one that makes more and more sense to me personally.

  • Jason

    terri,Interesting response. So in your view if we are not raised into physical bodies after we die, we could not longer exist. Our “being” is eternally simulated by our physical brain power via electrical signals and chemistry. And while this might not apply to Jesus per say (because He is also God and therefor able to be nonphysical), his resurrection into a physical body gives us hope that we will have the same. I like your answer for several reasons. 1) I am fully convinced that all my thinking and feeling takes place in my brain via the physical cells there, and not in some hovering metaphysical spirit around my head. Therefor it did always seem strange that one day I could still think without this hardware.2) It indeed gives reason for Jesus being raised into a physical body, though I still wish He had hung around a bit longer, made some youtube videos of himself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Dr McGrath,I’m a conservative Calvinist Baptist, so it should be fairly obvious what I believe, just in case that should prove helpful for anyone.Jesus did not *pretend* to be physical. He had and has a physical body, but a *glorified* phys body. It’s unlike anythg in our experience so far, but the biblical acct gives some info about it, as I mentioned some above. Anyway, people thought heaven was “above” b/c that’s the typical way to describe it in the OT and in Jesus’ own words. “I am from above”, etc. And Jason is right to say that He was obscured by a supernatural cloud representing God’s shekinah glory. It’s not a natural event, admittedly; so what?And of course, you don’t have any idea, if your position is true, whether He actually ate fish, whether He ascended, whether He said ANYthing, whether He actually even rose from the dead. You simply beg the question when you assert that I don’t have access to Jesus. The NT certainly thinks I do, and Christ is my mediator with the Father – 1 Tim 2:5.Let’s be clear. I accuse you of picking and choosing what you’ll believe from the Bible. With respect to what we’ve been discussing here, I do no such thing and I invite you to show where I do so, and to show it with sound and proper exegesis, though I’ve seen little of that here so far. It’s not the case that “as understood by modern conservative Christians” is a just characterisation. A very large amount of my position has support from the early church onward. Further, this is a naked assertion – you need to SHOW where I do that, not merely assert it. You tried last time to show a couple of those and those didn’t turn out so well. Moreover, this commits the genetic fallacy; perhaps conservatives believe it b/c it’s true. You said:You are pretending you have direct access to truths to which you do not have direct accessCould you please describe precisely how you know that?As for naturalism, I never mentioned it.You merely presupposed it in your “astronomy” question about the glorified post-rez body of Jesus. Let’s not play games, please.it isn’t about naturalism, it is about observation and evidence.Spoken like a true naturalist. You’re no Christian, my friend. God is the supreme source of truth, and if He has said sthg occurred a certain way, that thing occurred in that way, regardless of how much inductive ‘evidence’ you might bring to bear on the case. This empiricism is a hopelessly flawed system of thinking. Yes, it usually doesn’t occur like that, but that’s the point – the rez and ascension of Jesus are special events! The diff between us is that I realise the depth of the dilemma for humanity if God hasn’t spoken, and you still cling to a short-sighted, fideistic “we’ll be OK if we can just be good enough” wishy-washy belief system. Such a worldview isn’t what one needs to face the evil of this world, to be honest.You appeal to Job – when was the last time you actually read the ending of Job? What is Job’s reaction to God’s appearance, non-explanation, challenge, and rebuke? “I repent in dust and ashes.” That is your responsibility and obligation before Jesus. Indeed, it will be your very salvation.terri said:God doesn’t correct his people in the Old Testament from assuming that the Sun revolves around the earth,And how precisely do you know that they thought the sun revolves around the Earth?AS far as “setting oneself up over the Bible”…uh…that’s what all Christians do.Speak for yourself, not for me, please. You apparently know little about what “all Christians do”. Peace,Rhology

  • P

    it isn’t about naturalism, it is about observation and evidence.Spoken like a true naturalist. You’re no Christian, my friend. God is the supreme source of truth, and if He has said sthg occurred a certain way, that thing occurred in that way, regardless of how much inductive ‘evidence’ you might bring to bear on the case.I don’t think that is the definition of a naturalist. A naturalist would be one who claimed that the supernatural can not happen because all there is is the natural world and its laws. That is different then being convinced by evidence and observation. The latter is still faith, namely faith that you are not being fooled by a demonic being, albeit that is still a possibility. So Jesus says the mustard seed is the smallest seed. And yet here I am holding a seed that is smaller in my hand. I don’t know any Christians today who claim that indeed I am being fooled, that every time someone thinks they are looking at a smaller seed, it is actually Satan standing between their eyes and the seed, creating an optical allusion. Instead they add some qualification to Jesus’s statement, perhaps the smallest seed being sown in fields int he first century. Fair enough. But notice we allowed for reinterpretation of the text to account for observational evidence. A more literal reading we simply take Jesus at His unqualified word. I accept the supernatural though I find it more plausible there are smaller seeds then mustard seeds that that our evidence for it is a supernatural allusion.And how precisely do you know that they thought the sun revolves around the Earth?For a good history of church – science disputes high lighting the tension between biblical interpretation and science, get “Beyond the Firmament” by Gordon Glover, there is an extensive section on the Copernican controversy. As a Calvinist Baptist myself, I am afraid some of my heros where on the wrong side (namely Calvin and Luther). That wouldn’t prove though that was the though of ancient Israel. I guess you could put it this way. Everyone in the world that ever wrote about it thought the sun revolved around the earth, it was the cosmology of all ancient people we have any records of. It sure SEEMS to be what the Hebrews wrote when the mention the motion of the heavens and how the earth stands still. But I suppose there is no direct evidence they weren’t the only enlightened ones . . . I just wish they had told someone.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Rhology…are you suggesting that the ancient Israelites believed that the earth revolved around the sun?…cuz I think you would have a hard time supporting that view from Scripture. In fact it would contradict Joshua and the whole “the sun stood still in the Sky” explanation. So that’s how I know that’s what they believed, because that’s how they described it. You haven’t really addressed the point I made about inerrancy. When did you come to such a belief, as you now view it, and how didi you get there? I’m assuming that someone explained the concept to you and it seemed probable in your eyes, so you accepted it. You probably judged the idea to be a good one after your personal conversion and exposure to the concept. You made a decision based on your own individual feelings about it.We all do. Admitting that our minds have influence over our beliefs is not an admission that you’re wrong.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    I meant “we’re wrong”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    terri,You made the positive assertion, I’m asking you to back it up. Can you? Or are you just throwing sand in Christians’ eyes?Why precisely would the sun standing still contradict it? The underlying action God took to stand it still isn’t named. Did the Earth stop rotating for a while? Did the sun move with the Earth? Something else? It’s a miracle; God is at work. I came to this belief around when I was born again, about 15 yrs ago. Since then I have seen a great many arguments against inerrancy and all have turned out to be worthless. Please also read in my previous coment the paragraphs beginning with “God is the supreme” and ending with “your very salvation” for more info.On one hand, yes, I believed it. On the other, I don’t accept that I was the primary cause; God was, b/c God is responsible for changing people’s hearts from sin to God-love. You seem to take a step and then withdraw, but I’m quite wary of this approach. So I’ll agree to a limited extent as far as this goes, but the inferences you draw have so far not been any good.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Psalm 19In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;seems like a description of the sun revolving around the earth to me.I couldn’t find the section of the comment you mentioned, but I will say this: God is supreme…but everything we know about Him comes through people. Whether it’s men writing down their personal experiences with Him, or testifying to one another about what God has done in their lives, everything travels through people, and as a result, is prone to being influenced by people.You could argue that the Holy Spirit is what makes someone believe in inerrancy, or any number of doctrines, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who claimed that Jesus personally appeared to them and declared such and such a doctrine. Most people, myself included, are brought to faith through the actions and influence of other people, not by special revelation/visions.To not take into account this synergy between God and man is setting oneself up for confusion when trying to harmonize or make sense of the very different portrayals of God in the Bible.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Hi terri,but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who claimed that Jesus personally appeared to them and declared such and such a doctrine.Indeed. I don’t know anyone who’d claim to have seen Jesus personally. Rather, the Bible teaches that God is the One Who brings people to faith in Christ, from death to life, from blinded minds to soft hearts and reason that can finally submit itself to Truth, to Jesus’ lordship.And I agree 100% that God usually uses various means, even physical means such as events and other people, to convict us of sin and bring us to faith in Christ. Since there are a great deal of competing influences in the world, however, God’s Spirit is at work only when sin is being exposed, when one’s guilt before a holy God is being revealed, and when Jesus’ Cross as remedy is being commended and lifted up. Otherwise, it is deception. Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    HmmSeems I’m late to the party again.There is something I want to correct from earlier in the comments about slavery.I see this mistake again and again and I’m a little surprised that the scholars here have made it.Slavery in terms of the bible and those times particularly before 17th Century was more equated with Servanthood than what we know now.Whilst there were cases of war-slaves and obvious abuses in some cultures, slaves of Israel had plenty of rights and freedoms.For a start, slaves could marry (and marry their masters daughters if they so wished), inherit their masters fortunes, own land and so on. They were accountable to their masters of course, but let’s not forget the jubilee year where all slaves were made free again.In fact, slavery was a valid and legal form of repaying debt – people could literally sell themselves into slavery – and some slaves undoubtedly enjoyed the job so much they made a rule specific in the OT for slaves who wanted to continue serving their masters.So, please, do not use the same fallacious arguments that anti-theists use when discussing things like slavery in the bible – it discredits all of us as Christians whether you consider yourself liberal, mainstream, conservative or whatever.I’m frankly disappointed that intelligent people here are using those pot-shot arguments from the side that would wish to see all of us fail.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    In case you hadn’t noticed, Lex, the liberals are not on our side. They DO want to see us fail, they’re just more subtle about it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I’ll let others chime in about whether they think that any form of ownership of one person by another is acceptable. But I think the relevance of the subject of slavery to a conversation with a Southern Baptist who claims that Christianity is something static, and that Christians uniformly were on the side of the abolitionists, ought to need no explanation to anyone familiar with how that denomination came into existence…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    If you mean me, Dr McGrath, I claimed no such thing. Shame on you for misrepresenting my position (that is, IF you are referring to me).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04144487212639973542 Bryan L

    I’m not so sure ancient slavery was as rosy as some would like to make it out to be, either Roman slavery or Hebrew slavery.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12244370945682162312 NAL

    The accounts of slavery in Leviticus 25 don’t sound like serventhood to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08891402278361538353 Truth Unites… and Divides

    Rhoblogy: “Hello Dr. McGrath,I don’t see any rebuttal so far to my contention that you have set yourself up as an authority over the Bible, and that therefore there is really no good reason for you to read or take into acct any of it at all. I do think interaction with that point would really benefit our discussion here.”James McGrath: “Lately I’ve found myself thinking that Jesus’ humanitarian emphasis in his saying about the sabbath law could be applied to the whole Law and indeed the whole Bible: “The Bible was made for human beings, not human beings for the Bible. Therefore a human being is lord of the Bible.”” ——–This is prima facie evidence straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth confirming Rhoblogy’s contention that James McGrath sets himself up as an authority over the Bible.In the form of a syllogism:Premise 1: James F. McGrath is a human being. Premise 2: “A human being is lord of the Bible.” (McGrath)Conclusion: James F. McGrath is lord of the Bible.

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    James,Do you agree with capitalism and debt-driven economies? Capitalism and debt leaves many out in the cold but I don’t see too many people decrying capitalism – I don’t see them decrying the way America does health systems either.There are a great many slave-traders in this modern day and age – Bankers, Insurance Companies and Global Corporates that employ people in India in sub-standard conditions that we are not accustomed to in the West.Oh, they don’t actually call the people below them “slaves” and ‘capitalism’ means they can go get another job anytime they want — but do you think that another job is going to be somehow better – IF indeed there is another job. And what about good ol’ shining USA treatment of foreigners – I think if you do a comparison of how God instructed the Hebrews to treat foreigners and how you Americans treat foreigners you should be doing some repenting!All capitalism means is that the slaves are free to move from one master to the next.CEO’s, politicians and Bankers would not exist without the little people working for them. Same as the Slave owners of the old days.Don’t be fooled into thinking we are in a bright new age of humanitarianism.I’m not anti-capitalist, I’m just pointing out the truth you fail to realise.Wherever there are people, institutions and corporations, there will be exploitation of one sort or another – don’t try to tell me that a single mother working for £5 p/hour shift work in a factory is somehow better off than a hebrew slave who would simple be doing different tasks for her master.Read Deuteronomy 15.Don’t be so stupid to assume that modern day governments and laws are somehow more just than governments throughout history – it’s just different minorities and different people groups that get targeted and discriminated against.Study your government and laws as critically as you study the OT government and laws and you will see that injustice exists today just under a different name.“If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free.When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed.You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you.You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.It shall come about if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you;then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also you shall do likewise to your maidservant.It shall not seem hard to you when you set him free, for he has given you six years with double the service of a hired man; so the LORD your God will bless you in whatever you do.”

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    Just to follow up to my last post to put it in perspective.If the earth goes on for another 2000 years, to the people of that time our current governments, laws and culture will seem just as barbaric and confusing to them just as our history is to us.“The poor will always be with you..” I think we can take it as read that means the exploiters will always be with us too.File this under “log in your own eye”.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    re: slavery… are you kidding me? I mean, seriously?I somehow doubt that any of the commenters would be willing to travel back in time and become a slave under any regime or culture.Lex, I couldn’t agree more with your description of things. Capitalism, while not perfect is by no means the same as slavery….Communism might come closer to that, what with the restrictions on personal freedoms, and ownership of property.Slavery isn’t abhorrent just because of the financial aspect, but because of the denial of human freedoms associated with it. It’s one thing to be poor and stuck in a back-breaking job, and quite another to be considered the property of someone else and subject to their whims and mistreatment.Also….not all the poor people in the world have been exploited or “enslaved” by some oppressive force.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    oops, I meant to writeLex…I couldn’t disagree more with your description of things.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I couldn’t possibly fail to disagree with you less (as a good friend of mine used to say). :-)I think Lex is right that there is a lot of injustice that many contemporary Christians are content to put up with. I do agree with Terri inasmuch as I think it is inaccurate to simply suggest that nothing has changed except for who is rich and who is oppressed. And one doesn’t need to literally time travel in order to experience this. There are plenty of places on earth today that still do things in a much more traditional way. I often say that there are a lot of things about the New Testament I never understood until I lived in Romania for a few years. At present, my sense of my own failure to be a good Christian has to do with my not doing more to challenge injustice, rather than failing to feel certain about this or that doctrine.As for capitalism, I think there is much that Christians could challenge, but at present the most we usually can come up with is denunciation of greed. That’s fine, as far as it goes, and it is an element of Christian proclamation that has faded too far from view in contemporary North America. But having also seen the failure of communism in Eastern Europe up close, and a not unpleasant but still imperfect hybrid of capitalism and socialism in the UK, my own view is that we need Christian economists who will not simplistically say “Let’s bring back the Jubilee year” but who, motivated by concerns for justice and equity, think creatively about social and economic issues. To put it another way, democratic capitalism may indeed be the “lesser of two evils” compared with communist dictatorship. But why should we assume there are only two evils? I’d love to see some creative thinking about how we might preserve democracy and the drive to be creative and succeed that capitalism provides, while also providing protection from those who perhaps inevitably will not succeed in such a society, as the successful realize they can be even more “successful” (in monetary terms) by replacing their workers with machines. Of course, that creates new jobs to keep the machines running. But if we’re going to keep replacing people with machines and old machines with new machines, then if we are to protect people from destitution we have to have ways of retraining those who are able to continue working, among other things.Well, since economics is something I know very little about in any sort of depth or detail, I should probably stop here. But if there are participants who feel better versed in these areas, I’d love to listen in on an ongoing conversation on that subject!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    You say the bible contains errors/ Does God know about the errors? If not then He is not omniscient. If He did, but lacked the ability to prevent them then He is not omnipotent. If he is able, but chooses not to correct the errors, then He is not a good god.As for your assertion that Paul was in error for implying that thinking occurs in the heart instead of the brain, Paul was speaking to a first century audience for whom the concept of the brain as the thinking organ would have been alien. Paul was trying communicate Gods truth to that audience and introducing the modern concept of the brain would result in obfuscation. BTW technically thinking occurs in the mind (part of the soul) not the brain.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    If he is able, but chooses not to correct the errors, then He is not a good god.On what basis? Because you personally believe that He should fix errors?The views you’re describing flow first from your assumptions about what God should or shouldn’t do, not on what He actually does, or doesn’t do.Does God correct pastors who make mistakes? Does he listen to Christian speakers thinking,”You’re really close to describing what I meant, but you’re completely wrong on point #3.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    On the basis of logic… My views are not based on assumptions about what I think God should do but on what the Bible says about itself (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16).God cannot be a good god if he allows errors in the book he wants us to live by. In that case hes just sitting on His throne laughing at us….. If the Bible is inerrant then a churchgoer has a objective basis on which to judge the correctness of the sermon.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    2 Timothy 3:1616 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousnessnope…not a word about inerrancy.The logic you refer to begins and ends with your presuppositions. Why can God not be a good god who allows errors? Have you read the Old Testament? Book after book about the errors of His people–hundreds of years of idolatry, bad choices, oppression. If I follow your logic then God must not have been a good God for allowing his chosen people to fail so miserably.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04605470284153454825 phil_style

    “God cannot be a good god if he allows errors in the book he wants us to live by.” What, but he can be good if he orders the mass killings of other humans? “In that case hes just sitting on His throne laughing at us…..” No, Wrong. At least he isn’t ordering the mass killings of other humans though right?”If the Bible is inerrant then a churchgoer has a objective basis on which to judge the correctness of the sermon”And if it’s not then hows about love as a basis?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    Did you even read what I wrote? Can you even read? Ok Ill type really slowly. 1) 2 Timothy 3:16 was not referenced to supprt my argument for inerrancy. I was saying that the Bible makes statements about its purpose. So if God knows what the Bible says about how it is to be be used but did not intend for it to be used that way, and could care less about whether we obey it then he is not a good God. My logic begins and ends with truth.I made no statement about the errors his followers committed: only about errors in the text itself. I will not respond to your last statement because I implicitly answred it when I refuted your previous statement.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    “I made no statement about the errors his followers committed: only about errors in the text itself.”The two are inextricably linked. People wrote the text. People inspired by God. People who were trying to follow Him. People who weren’t always perfect.The only way to hold onto inerrancy is to deny the humanity of the Bible’s authors….to set them in a class apart from every other human being on earth. We don’t do that for our pastors. Being a fellow protestant, I’m assuming, we don’t do it for church fathers. The Bible can be true without being inerrant.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04605470284153454825 phil_style

    Craig, are we all supposed to read your last comment at the speed you typed it? If so, how are we supposed to know how fast it was typed?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    Im sorry Terri that was uncalled-for. Im new to this blogging stuff. But do you expect me take you seriously?Pstyle Im handicapped and type with one hand. It is an arduous task to respond to your posts. I have made a succinct, cogent and (if I must say) compelling argument. Please do not expect me to respond to every inane, ludicrous remark that flows from your prodigious fingers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    The only way to hold onto inerrancy is to deny the humanity of the Bible’s authors….to set them in a class apart from every other human being on earth.Foolish thing to say. No, we affirm BOTH the humanity of the authors AND God’s involvement and protection from error.And the BOOKS are set apart from every other. And the EVENT of inspiration is set apart. The authors are accidental – they are prophets, yes, but God’s involvement is that which makes the big difference.The Bible can be true without being inerrant. How do you know? In which parts? What do you think is an error in the Bible? Be specific, and explain how.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04605470284153454825 phil_style

    Craig, as one who has disability I’m sure you realize the innappropriateness of accusing people of having any kind of Reading difficulty ( your reply to terri) and you must realize that in blogging the same standard of decency applies as out in the ‘real world’. Also, I am much obliged that you would notice my “prodigious fingers”. Thankyou for your kind praise. It encourages my heart/ brain/ soul/ mind.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    This is not an “error”…but a point to illuminate where I am coming from.From the council of Jerusalem–Acts 15:19-20It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.From Paul1 Corinthians 8:4-84So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 7But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.Who is right? Was the council at Jerusalem wrong for telling Gentiles to avoid food sacrificed to idols as an instruction for following God.Was Paul wrong for saying that idols are nothing and eating food sacrificed to them is not, in and of itself, wrong?These concepts are in conflict with each other. They can’t both be right.I resolve the conflict by acknowledging that Christianity is a cumulative belief system.In Jerusalem, the Jewish Christians could only stretch so far in welcoming the Gentiles into God’s Kingdom. It was leaps and bounds for them, yet still didn’t go far enough. Paul, who ministers almost exclusively to Gentiles says…”hey…that food/idol thing…that’s really not a big deal.”We are watching theology develop right before our eyes. If you hold to inerrancy, how do you explain that?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    Out in the ‘real world’, I expect to be taken seriously. Have a nice life yall.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Pstyle….thanks for defending me, but I leaned a long time ago not to let silly personal insults from irritated bloggers bother me. I usually try not to acknowledge them. They are but weak arrows incapable of hitting their target.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    The decision of the Acts 15 council was so that the Jews and Gentiles, formerly separated for centuries by racial stigma, could better get along in the churches. No foods are unclean – see Mark 7. Yet for the sake of a brother’s weakness, I will abstain – 1 Cor 8, Rom 15. So, the church leaders in Jeru were asking the Gentiles to abstain from certain behaviors that remained highly offensive to Jewish-bred converts to Christianity, so as to enable better unity in the churches. terri, I get the feeling you’re not very serious here. Statements like “can be true w/o being inerrant” are poppycock, and reasonable people should know better than to say things like that and then to throw out thoughtless “contradictions” like you just did. Since you hold to errancy, I have a lot of questions for you, that Dr McGrath didn’t trouble himself to answer.(link) How do we judge which parts are right and which are wrong?(link) You seem to offer “wrestl(ing) with what is right and wrong” and “love for others and the Golden Rule” as the standard of comparison for knowing good and evil. But perhaps “love one another” is part of the UNinspired, errant text of the Bible? How would you know? How does “wrestle with it” give any guidance? I’m asking whether I’m right to do this or that – I’m looking for something external to myself. Does God speak with authority on right and wrong, or not?(link)So, it looks like your answer to the question “How do I know which parts are good and which are bad?” is “wrestle with it, go with what is loving”, more or less? How does this escape my charge of the elevation of yourself as authority over the Bible that I expressed in my previous comment?(link) if I pick and choose what to believe and follow, I am de facto a higher authority than the Bible. Why even bother reading it?(link) Again I ask what moral standard we should use to judge what God has said. Please supply it.(link) The Bible says do this or that, you say no. It’s as simple as that. I’m just wondering why you bother listening to the rest of it, or better yet, why you would cite it for any moral authority for some other question. Why not just cite yourself, since you know better?Why follow Luke 14:33, and why cite it? Are you saying I *should* follow it? Why? Tell you what – you answer those questions, and you and I can keep talking. Otherwise, you can have the combox to yourself. Nice talking to you.Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    Thanks Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Rhology…Your interpretation is not what Acts 15 actually says, and it doesn’t address whether it was the right thing to do or not.Paul skewers the “Judaizers” requiring circumcision for Gentiles in Galatians, but also has Timothy circumcised in Acts 16.Was he right to do so? That’s all I’m adding to the conversation….because it’s not really a conversation. There is no give or take, just a demand(!) that everyone accept your arguments.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17303885427565816487 Josh

    “BTW technically thinking occurs in the mind (part of the soul) not the brain.”If you believe thinking technically takes place in the soul, not the brain, that is a spiritual belief, not a technical fact. Because technically it can be demonstrated that thinking takes place in the brain.If you believe in the inerrency of scripture because you believe certain things about God, that is a belief about theology, not a technical fact. If that is your opinion about how to interpret the bible, fine. If you believe God supernaturally gave you that revelation, fine. But to claim it is the only logical and correct way to do so is not supportable fact, it is an opinion.I don’t want to nitpick on one “BTW” comment, but it seems representative of the nature of so many of the comments here. Some of the views of the bible expressed here in the comments are among the most uncharitable Christian statements I have ever seen.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    There is no give or take, just a demand(!) that everyone accept your arguments. The refuge of the liberal who has no answer – hurt feelings and the claim that the conservative is a big meanie.I’ll take that as a “I have no answer to your questions, Rhology”. Thanks terri.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    “BTW technically thinking occurs in the mind (part of the soul) not the brain.”If you believe thinking technically takes place in the soul, not the brain, that is a spiritual belief, not a technical fact. Because technically it can be demonstrated that thinking takes place in the brain.If you believe in the inerrency of scripture because you believe certain things about God, that is a belief about theology, not a technical fact. If that is your opinion about how to interpret the bible, fine. If you believe God supernaturally gave you that revelation, fine. But to claim it is the only logical and correct way to do so is not supportable fact, it is an opinion.I don’t want to nitpick on one “BTW” comment, but it seems representative of the nature of so many of the comments here. Some of the views of the bible expressed here in the comments are among the most uncharitable Christian statements I have ever seen.Its called an A Priori argument. . Its stands on its own as an argument of logic without the need for supportable fact.The argument proves that statements about the inerrancy of scripture imlpy beliefs about the character and nature of God. IOW if you believe the Bible contains errors then you MUST believe that God is not all-knowing, not all-powerful, or not good. You are left with no other choice.Look, Im a big fan of Godel, Escher, Bach. If youve read the book you know that the distinction between brain and mind is not trivial. Sorry professor, I should have left it out.Terri it took me all of three minutes to look up Acts 16 in an online commentary and find the answer to your question.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17303885427565816487 Josh

    OK, I’m not a student of philosophy, but as far as I can tell, it looks like an a priori argument can only go as far as both sides agree on the a priori assumption(s). Which in this case is what, a particular definition or belief of what “inerrency” means? How far can a debate of meaning go using a priori arguments if both sides don’t agree on the initial assumption(s)? Perhaps I am unintentionally over-simplifying because I never took philosophy 101.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    OK, I’m not a student of philosophy, but as far as I can tell, it looks like an a priori argument can only go as far as both sides agree on the a priori assumption(s). Which in this case is what, a particular definition or belief of what “inerrency” means? How far can a debate of meaning go using a priori arguments if both sides don’t agree on the initial assumption(s)? Perhaps I am unintentionally over-simplifying because I never took philosophy 101. First off I stopped at Phil 102, so dont be intimidated by that. And Im a Mathematician not a Theologian, but Ill try not to be intimidated either. I was thinking of the plain meaning of the word: without error. When I say that God is not good if he were able but chose not to correct errors in the scripture, Im implying that the Bible is a guide-book by which we are to pattern our lives and that deliberate untruths would reinforce that characterization. To me, the Bible is a guide-book by which we are to pattern our lives (It claims to be such, see 2 Timothy 3:16). If he were able but chose not to correct errors in the scripture, then, to me that implies something about his character. What is your definition of inerrancy? Do you disagree that the Bible is a guidebook by which we are to pattern our lives? Do you deny that a God who would deliberately allow errors in his guidebook should be ignored, dismissed, rejected?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    disregard the privous postOK, I’m not a student of philosophy, but as far as I can tell, it looks like an a priori argument can only go as far as both sides agree on the a priori assumption(s). Which in this case is what, a particular definition or belief of what “inerrency” means? How far can a debate of meaning go using a priori arguments if both sides don’t agree on the initial assumption(s)? Perhaps I am unintentionally over-simplifying because I never took philosophy 101. First off I stopped at Phil 102, so dont be intimidated by that. And Im a Mathematician not a Theologian, but Ill try not to be intimidated either. I was thinking of the plain meaning of the word: without error. To me, the Bible is a guide-book by which we are to pattern our lives (It claims to be such, see 2 Timothy 3:16). If he were able but chose not to correct errors in the scripture, then, to me that implies something about his character. What is your definition of inerrancy? Do you disagree that the Bible is a guidebook by which we are to pattern our lives? Do you deny that a God who would deliberately allow errors in his guidebook should be ignored, dismissed, rejected?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Here’s a link to a post I wrote a while ago about why God might give a fallible Bible. It isn’t inconceivable.As for Rhology’s claim, I have encountered this before. People respond and yet it is claimed that “no one has answered”. Presumably what is meant is that no one has answered to his satisfaction. But if you go to his blog, you’ll see that he says that no evidence could persuade him of the Bible’s errancy. Presumably not even God could persuade him, and so we mere mortals presumably should stop trying and concern ourselves with answering the questions of those who are actually interested in a conversation in which we all may learn, rather than simply promoting a viewpoint that apparently no evidence could ever change or modify.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Thank you for the link, Dr McGrath. I will interact with it soon.Sneak preview – I’d LOVE to see you attempt to defend the idea that evidence carries any meaning whatsoever outside of a worldview in which God has spoken clearly, unmistakably, and without error. You continue to show your true colors – you’re a naturalist with a cross on your nametag.Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06135739290199272992 Eric Reitan

    It’s rewarding to see that a quote from me can stimulate such a lively discussion. For even broader context than my RD article provides, it may help to locate the quote within my ongoing work on the nature of divine revelation. Some of that work is summarized in Chapter 8 of my book, IS GOD A DELUSION? A REPLY TO RELIGION’S CULTURED DESPISERS, especially on pp. 175-177. But the full development of my ideas here has yet to be published.The gist of it is this: a God whose essence is love would not choose, as His primary vehicle of revelation, a static text. We learn most about love through loving and being loved. And it is PERSONS whom we can love, as well as who can love us. And so it is in persons and our relationships with persons that the divine nature is made most fully manifest. Christianity affirms this when it maintains that God’s most fundamental revelation in history was in the PERSON of Jesus. And Jesus was, if nothing else, a model of agapic love. His core message was love. And He never wrote anything. Instead, He made disciples–PERSONS–whom He sent out into the world.In this context, a text that collects human testimony concerning divine revelation in history, especially one that reports on the life and teachings of Jesus, is going to be invaluable. But it will cease to be valuable if we come to pay more attention to this text than we do to our neighbors. Jesus Himself declared that He is present in the neighbor in need, and the community of the faithful is called “the body” of Christ, that is, the place where Christ is present, embodied, on Earth today. Not in a book. In persons.When the biblical witness is treated as the proxy voice of persons who lived long ago, and we listen to the voices of those persons as we do the other members of the body of Christ, then the biblical witness becomes an invaluable partner in our efforts to understand what God is saying to us–that is, what God is communicating through the web of human relationships and the spirit of love that moves within that web.But when the biblical witness is treated as inerrant in a way that no human being is inerrant, it trumps the voice of the neighbor and is used as a conversation-ender. It becomes an excuse not to listen to the lived experience of the neighbor. Or it becomes a measuring stick for deciding which neighbor should be listened to (their experience conforms with the biblical template) and which should be dismissed (because their experience does not conform).And since compassionate listening is one of the most essential acts of neighbor love, it follows that a doctrine of biblical inerrancy is an impediment to such love.Therefore, I conclude (contrary to what Craig argues here) that a God of love would NOT create an inerrant text.As far as 2 Timothy 3:16 goes, let us recall that at the time this letter was written, “Scripture” referred to what Christians today call the Old Testament. The author of second Timothy says that these Hebrew writings are “God-breathed and…useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” Now we can ask two questions here. First, was the author of second Timothy right? Second, if he was, what does that imply about how we should approach these Old Testament Scriptures? Focusing only on the second question, we can reasonably ask what we have to believe about the Old Testament Scriptures in order to affirm that it is useful in the ways mentioned? And we can reasonably ask about the different possible senses of “God-breathed.”On both questions, Karen Armstrong’s THE BIBLE: A BIOGRAPHY offers a concise historical account of the numerous different answers through both Christian and Jewish history. There is, in short, not a single, incontrovertible interpretation.Anyway, that’s my contribution to this. Do with it as you will. I must return to work…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    …..But when the biblical witness is treated as inerrant in a way that no human being is inerrant, it trumps the voice of the neighbor and is used as a conversation-ender….. Ive never contended that humans are inerrant only that God is omniscient and omnipotent. and that His word is God-breathed and claims to be God-breathed. How condescending of you Dr McGrath, to claim that I have a kindergarten mentality,and that Ive turned off my brain, when Ive presented you with a concise cogent and compelling argument using nothing more than the fertile mind God gave me to refute your assertions. Are you going to answer my questions?Should I send this series of posts to your tenure committee?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I have tenure, but you are free to send anything I’ve written to anyone you like.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17303885427565816487 Josh

    Craig, I was really commenting on the nature of the debate itself, not the arguments presented. I’ll stay on the sidelines in that regard. I think it takes faith to believe in a rigid view of inerrency of the bible, and it takes faith to believe the bible is a divinely inspired document despite errors. And I do not think 2 Tim. 3:16 requires a belief in inerrency to believe in God and in an inspired bible.Are you trying to threaten Dr. McGrath with your last comment? Wow… Also, I think you drew a poor conclusion from that quote, and you also attributed it to the wrong person.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    Can you answer directly without referring me to a bunch of nonsense that Ive already refuted?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06135739290199272992 Eric Reitan

    I wasn’t going to post here again since I have so much else to do, but it’s obvious I need to clarify a point. Craig quotes something I say and then comments on it in a way that he seems to think constitutes a refutation. Here’s what he says:”…..But when the biblical witness is treated as inerrant in a way that no human being is inerrant, it trumps the voice of the neighbor and is used as a conversation-ender….. Ive never contended that humans are inerrant only that God is omniscient and omnipotent. and that His word is God-breathed and claims to be God-breathed.”I know that neither Craig nor any other biblical inerrantist maintains that humans are inerrant. That’s my point. When a person takes a TEXT to be inerrant, given that no HUMAN is taken to be inerrant, it follows that the person will pay more attention to the text (which is assumed to be inerrant) than the neighbor (who is assumed to be fallible). This is what I think is dangerous. We learn how to love by getting on with the messy business of loving one another. And one of the most fundamental features of loving one another is really paying attention to one another. But why pay attention to fallible people when you think you’ve got an infallible book? Why listen to them when they share life experiences that are in tension with the most obvious meaning of the book? The tendency is to silence them by quoting chapter and verse: “It’s says so here. It’s never wrong. So you must be wrong. Now shut up.” The fruits of the doctrine of inerrancy are particularly vivid in the case of homosexuality: the anguished cries of gays and lesbians who are excluded from full participation in the life of the community are ignored in favor of Romans 1:26-27. For a vivid sense of how poisonous these fruits can be, the documentary FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers a dramatic example.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06269406662901556027 Craig

    MY point is that by insisting that the Bible contains errors you are anthropomorphizing God. The God I know (and love) would not willingly allow errors to enter His sacred text and is powerful enough to ensure that this does not occur by communicating with (breathing into the minds of) the authors. Someone once asked a famous evangelist if God spoke to him in an audible voice and he replied that God speaks to him a lot louder than that. A puny god with a mind the size of a tenured Theology professor: now THATS a scary concept!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    2 Timothy 3:16.This is a famous text…..The last 2 letters alleged to have been written by Paul and Peter are 2 Timothy and 2 Peter.They contain some remarkable coincidences for works allegedly written in very different circumstances.Both letters warn against false teachers.Both attack and insult those false teachers, and warn about events in the last days.2 Timothy talks about how useful Mark is , and how Luke is with Paul. (Curiously, both are alleged Biblical authors)2 Peter talks about the writings of Paul and how they are scripture. Curiously, Paul also is a Biblical author. 2 Peter also says this is his second letter Peter only ever wrote 2 letters in his life , it seems.If 2 Peter is the second letter by Peter, then perhaps 1 Peter is a genuine letter ?!?Both have a very high view of scripture. In 2 Timothy, Paul asks for his scrolls, while 2 Peter links Paul’s writings in with scripture and calls Paul a ‘dear brother’.Methinks, church leaders tidied up these letters to make the church unified against false leaders, and to validate traditional authorship of New Testament books and to declare them to be scripture. Certainly nobody has shown they are genuine, and scholars have pretty much abandoned any idea that 2 Peter is by Peter.So even 2 Timothy 3:16 looks like an orthodox forgery, very much in the manner of 2 Peter.

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    @terrire: slavery.From reading your response, it seems your main problem is with the word “ownership” not the concept or anything else.What if we use the word “contract” instead.I genuinely wonder if it is a coincidence that personal loans ie: debt (at least in the UK) is limited to 6 years at the most?Think about this – In the OT you get into debt and owe somebody, you ‘sell’ yourself as a slave to work off the debt. You do this for 6 years and then are set free at jubilee year.In the UK, you get into debt – you owe somebody and you sign a ‘contract’ for 6 years. If you fall behind they add more charges on top – increasing the value of the debt. If you fail to pay they bankrupt you – which is a form of punishment that keeps you from accessing other financial products.The bankruptcy takes another 6 years to discharge before you can ‘return to society’.Whereas the slave, well he’ll get bed + breakfast – and you know what, he may even develop a friendship with his master and after 6 years of his ‘slave-contract’ he’ll say “Hey, it’s pretty good here, I think I’ll stay and serve you – better than going back out onto the streets and becoming another mans debtor”.And here’s the bonus – if the slave leaves after 6 years, God commands the master to give him a good send off and “furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat”. How many creditors do you know who will do that?!I don’t think your outrage over ‘ownership’ of people really stands up against the historical record and the instructions in the OT.You clearly don’t understand the ‘ownership’ angle and it’s too bad you are not able to see past stereotypes or your conditioned Western mindset to realise the concept that ‘slavery’ was not all that bad for some people (especially those that chose it) and that some slave owners could actually be kinder than being employed under a boss.Don’t make the same mistake as your last President in thinking that ‘freedom’ brings happiness, stability, democracy and peace.What do you suppose this passage means and who was it directed towards?“Were you a slave when God chose you? Don’t let it trouble you. But if you can get your master to set you free, do it. Those who were slaves when the Lord chose them are now the Lord’s free people. Those who were free when God chose them are now slaves of Christ. Christ has paid the price for you. Don’t become slaves of human beings.How can Paul instruct people not to become a slave if it is not something that can be chosen – just as you choose to sign a personal loan?Would it not be Gods intention that we seek help from the church before we make ourselves ‘slaves’ to a financial contract?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09539170598198122642 Chris

    Dr. Reitan,Thank you for your fantastic comments here. I agree with all that you’ve said here.Blessings,-Chris

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    LexFirst of all I find your points a little like double-speak.On the one hand, you portray modern employee relationships and debt as being modern-day slavery, and use the language of victimization.On the other hand you say that slavery wasn’t all that bad, and if we just came around to your way of thinking….then everything would be peachy.As far as the OT…your points only apply to Israelite slaves. The Israelites were allowed to keep any foreign slaves however long they wanted. They could buy and sell them at will. They could make them slaves for life.Leviticus 25:4646 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.Why the difference? Why regulations protecting Israelites from slavery? Because even then slavery was not considered a good, desirable thing to have to submit to. God did not want his people to be slaves.Exodus 21:20-21 20 “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, 21 but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.So…it’s ok to beat someone senseless as long as they can get up after a day or two….because they are your property. Wow…the good old days!An important thing to note is that even though the slavery regulations for Israelites existed, they weren’t followed with any consistency. Read Jeremiah 34.The question is: If slavery was considered objectionable for God’s chosen people, then by extension, it is bad for all people. Jesus extends the boundaries of God’s people to include all the nations.The optimism with which you portray slavery simply astounds me. Perhaps a few cases out of thousands might occur in which a master and his slave form some sort of close bond, like family or friendship…..but those cases would be few and far between.Also…in the passage you quote I think it’s notable that Paul instructs people to become free if they can.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Dr Reitan (and anyone else),I invite you to interact with what I’ve written about you here. Long story short, I’m somewhat less than impressed by your squishy comments.Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04088870675715850624 Sam Norton

    Love the further stuff from Dr Reitan. Thought you might like this favourite quotation of mine:‘God has four people recount the life of his incarnate Son, in each case differently and with inconsistencies. Is this not just in order that the literal word is not taken too seriously, and that the spirit may be given its due? In other words a mediocre account is to be preferred…’ (Wittgenstein)As it happens I’m giving a talk at the Sunday evening service this coming weekend entitled ‘The Sin of Fundamentalism’.PS James, I still disagree with you about the location of thinking – the Bible is more right than you suppose – but I’ve gone back to the original post to say something there.

  • Anonymous

    The Internet brings out all types of weirdos. We have one guy here with the mental capacity of rotting timber telling scholars that he is unimpressed (!!) with their sadly nuanced thoughts. Another guy arguing that slavery wasn’t or isn’t all that bad. Insane. It would be like watching the news and listening to people arguing that America should torture people. That could never happen in a country run by a guy who said Jesus was his idol. Hahahahahah …. oh, wait.pf

  • J.Random

    Rhology –The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God.Calvinist Baptists believe that.The Assemblies of God believe that.The Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) believes that.Seventh-Day Adventists believe that.Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that.But all of these groups who believe in an inerrant Bible interpret it differently. *Very* differently, in some cases.So, Rhology — why are you a Calvinist Baptist instead of one of these other groups?Did your ability to think and reason have anything to do with that?If so, doesn’t that mean you’ve set up your own mind as the authority by which you determine just how to obey the inerrant Bible?

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    @terri,On the one hand, you portray modern employee relationships and debt as being modern-day slavery, and use the language of victimization.On the other hand you say that slavery wasn’t all that bad, and if we just came around to your way of thinking….then everything would be peachy.False dichotomy. Employment isn’t all that bad either.As far as the OT…your points only apply to Israelite slaves. The Israelites were allowed to keep any foreign slaves however long they wanted. They could buy and sell them at will. They could make them slaves for life.Leviticus 25:4646 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.Why the difference? Why regulations protecting Israelites from slavery? Because even then slavery was not considered a good, desirable thing to have to submit to. God did not want his people to be slaves.I knew that the argument against foreign slaves would come sooner or later.With regards to foreign slaves I believe this only applied those captured from war… regardless I believe God made adequate provisions for treatment of foreigners slave or free:”I am the LORD your God, and I demand equal justice both for you Israelites and for those foreigners who live among you.” – Lev 24:22″The LORD defends the rights of orphans and widows. He cares for foreigners and gives them food and clothing. And you should also care for them, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” – Deut 10:18-19And apart from the loss of freedom foreign slaves would have been treated far better than America treats it’s foreign detainees currently.Let’s not forget that masters had the freedom to set free their slaves if they so wished – perhaps, as Paul states, if the slave was able to convince them. And there has always been the possibility that slaves could purchase their own freedom.“If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.”Yes this is a tricky one at face value. Let’s once again examine the differences between the law of God and the heart of God.God have given them a law that allowed a provision for punishment by beating.Now often the law was to prevent excessive abuse rather than condone abuse.Think about it, God allowed the Israelites divorce – not because God liked divorce and wanted to see more divorce – it was because they were ‘hard of heart’.It is a similar story with an ‘eye for an eye’ a means of limiting punishment – but acknowledging the powerful human desire for revenge and retribution.What happens when you enforce too many rules upon people? They ignore them and the law is brought into disrepute.Many of the laws that God imposed were stop-gaps – measures to ensure a degree of civility was maintained.Later God would give us his son, the law written on our hearts that would ensure we didn’t try to meet the bare minimum standards of the law- but instead lived by the spirit and tried to treat others righteously.American law allows music companies to sue college students, family pets, dead people and pensioners for millions of dollars for sharing a few music tracks. Is it fair? Maybe not but the law allows for it. if the music industry execs were Christians then perhaps, despite their rights, they wouldn’t sue. But they are also hard of heart.An important thing to note is that even though the slavery regulations for Israelites existed, they weren’t followed with any consistency.So the law was wrong because some didn’t follow it?The optimism with which you portray slavery simply astounds me. Perhaps a few cases out of thousands might occur in which a master and his slave form some sort of close bond, like family or friendship…..but those cases would be few and far between.I don’t think this is a credible argument – we simply don’t know beyond the larger collections of cases we have in the last 300 years.Don’t think I’m defending slavery, I’m just trying to explain that it’s not the way you think it is and the purpose of the law in all this.Someone can be a perfectly law abiding person – but still have a bad attitude. The law simply ensures a degree of civility is maintained – it doesn’t govern how we should ultimately treat each other.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Not at all, but I believe God is capable of communicating clearly what He wants to communicate.So I read and recognise what it’s saying and conform my life thereto. It has led me to reject many traditions I grew up with and take up new ones (a fairly major one within this past month, actually), b/c I am UNDER its authority.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Lex…I think you’re mixing things up a bit.The verses you reference are out of context. They apply to free foreigners who happen to be living in Israel, not foreign slaves. That’s a huge difference.Jesus says that Moses allowed for divorce, not God. This is an important clue that some of the regulations or “laws” were not purely from God, but from the influence of Moses.I don’t know how any honest reading of Matthew 19: 3-9 could be interpreted otherwise. Therefore….I would conclude that many of the things which were in the law were not directly from God.

  • J. Random

    Rhology – “So I read and recognise what it’s saying and conform my life thereto. It has led me to reject many traditions I grew up with and take up new ones (a fairly major one within this past month, actually), b/c I am UNDER its authority.”When you were a part of the tradition you followed a month ago, you placed your thinking under the authority of what the inerrant Bible was saying.But today you have turned your back on that tradition. Doubtless, you had good reasons.To today’s members of that tradition, it must look an awful lot like you’ve put those reasons above the authority of what the inerrant Bible is saying.

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    @terri,I have just explained the purpose of the laws given in the OT and I’ll go out on a limb and say that Dr McGrath would agree with me on this one.Divorce… Eye for an Eye… Adultery… Slavery etc…The law was right, but it was not able to correct peoples motives.Now who is it reading the bible literally and failing to get a deeper understanding of the text?!From Jesus’ own words: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”Doubtless you will simply accuse the author of Matthew of putting words in Jesus’ mouth or something.I’m not going to debate this further with you, I’ve given you enough information to work it out for yourself but you’re allowing your stubborn black and white fundamentalist view of the world to skew your rational.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    What an interesting conversation. I have been labeled both liberal and fundamentalist…all in one comment thread. That’s a record for me.

  • http://spiritcry.wordpress.com/ Cameron

    This thread seems to be getting a little old now, but I do want to address one of Rhology’s points.He asks James this question:I am glad and sad to hear that you are familiar with the Chicago Statement. Given the strange comments you’ve made that display an ignorance of proper hermeneutical process, I would commend it to your reading again, so that you won’t make the same mistakes an additional time.Later on he saysThis is another example of your poor understanding of biblical hermeneutics. It is the job of the exegete who takes the entirety of the Bible seriously to understand what a given psg is saying and then to understand it in light of its immediate and wider context. Seriously, this is elementary information. One does not “nullify” a text with another. One can harmonise, one can illumine, etc.Rhology clearly takes hermeneutics seriously, as I’m sure most of the commenters in this thread do. The final sentence in the second quote also show that he has some fairly stringent rules in his hermeneutic process.What I can’t understand is this: the Bible doesn’t seem to set out a rigid hermeneutical system. The way we do exegesis relies more on our experience and traditions than anything in the Bible. Indeed, a lot of the trouble we have in understanding the New Testament lies in the fact that the NT authors exegeted the OT in ways that seem quite ludicrous to us.Here’s my point: regardless of our view of Scripture, regardless of our view of the reliability of the transmitted texts and regardless of the amount of trust we place in translators to give us a Bible that more or less what reflects what was originally written, we rely on experience and tradition to explain to us what the text means. We can say we trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and I hope to God we do that. Yet the fact remains that the conclusions we come to about the meaning of the text generally echo the hermeneutic tradition in which we find ourselves.As J. Random pointed out this can lead to wildly different outcomes.I find it makes more sense to “wrestle with it, go with what is loving.” I suspect it’s what we’re all doing anyway.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    cameron,You said:go with what is lovingI’m just afraid that there’s no reason to think that we SHOULD be loving, that God commands us to be loving, if the Bible is incomprehensible to us or if it contains errors. We’d have no way to know whether “love one another” is part of the errant text or not! That’s the problem Dr McGrath has not yet touched. Reitan says he will this week; we’ll see.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I’ve touched it, I just don’t accept the assumptions you are working with. I’m not suggesting that “love thy neighbor” is inerrant but “do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” is not, which seems to be the view you assume I have. If one requires a special divine revelation in an inerrant text to learn to “do unto others what you would have them do unto you”, then how are we to explain the fact that some version of this (usually in the negative form, “what you would not have done to you, don’t do to others”) appears in so many parts of the world, in various philosophical and religious systems, independent of Judaism and Christianity?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    It’s an easy answer on my position – God has written His law on men’s hearts and He has bound up eternity in their hearts as well.On your view, well, there’s just no way to know.You know what else appears in so many world systems? The desire to defraud, hurt, and take advantage of others, among other things that aren’t very pleasant. I don’t see you appealing to that as your standard of reference, though, and that’s probably b/c your standard is what you like and nothing more or less. But that’s no help (or obligation) to anyone else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    We see the same tendency to defraud, and the same condemnation of doing so, reflected in ancient Israel’s texts, in their ancient neighbors’ texts, and in modern writings. I don’t particularly have a problem with the notion that conscience is universal, and might even reflect divine communication. But what you need to show if you want to say more than that is why the ancient Israelite and early Christian texts – and more than that, specifically those that ended up in the canon – reflect more than merely a perception of God’s eternal law or goodness, and in fact recorded that divine law or will in a perfect way, while others did so imperfectly. My own point is simply that the evidence suggests that the ancient authors whose works are in the Bible perceived things imperfectly, like other human beings ancient and modern. And if one compares the Bible’s laws and moral teachings to others, one will in most cases get a sense of both their accomplishment and their historical specificity. One can be grateful, appreciative, and even committed to the same basic principles, without believing the authors in question to have written inerrantly.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    You’re missing my point. W/o an authority (say, from God) to tell us whether defrauding someone else is wrong, there’s no way to know whether it is. Maybe it’s not wrong. One way I know the Bible is the Word of God and is inerrant is b/c of the impossibility of the contrary. that’s why I’ve been asking the questions I’ve been asking here. The Bible says THAT defrauding your neighbor is wrong, and it also says WHO your neighbor is, and WHY. Where is the why, the prescriptive power, in your stripped-down, me-centered, liberal view? In this, I can’t tell that you’re any better off than an atheist.One can be grateful, appreciative, and even committed to the same basic principles, without believing the authors in question to have written inerrantly.Sure, one CAN be, but is there any REASON to be?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Rhology…did I miss something or have you completely contradicted yourself?In one comment you say that God has written His law and eternity on our hearts–a purely spiritual experience and knowledge which would seem to supersede any need for an inerrant text.In the next comment you say it’s impossible for humans to know right or wrong without and inerrant text.Which is it?I would concur that God does write His law on our hearts and is exactly the point that James and others have been making all along.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    That’s your argument?! “One way I know the Bible is the Word of God and is inerrant is b/c of the impossibility of the contrary.” To paraphrase, you are sure that God would not have left us without clearly defined moral absolutes, and since you need them, therefore the Bible must have provided them.As Bohr once said to Einstein, “Stop telling God what to do”.I don’t believe that we can start with what our felt needs are as human beings and then demand that God provide (or have provided) for them. Sometimes our desires are not for things that are in our best interests. The New Testament is full of examples of allegiance to a strict adherence to laws that are believed to be of divine origin getting in the way of humanitarian concerns. And yet you seem to want what the Pharisees wanted, a precise definition of “neighbor”, a precise law about a day of rest, rather than allowing the broader principle of love for neighbor to determine one’s application of the law, and even at times trump the law.You refuse to acknowledge me as a Christian, and yet your current complain seems to be that I’m not a “Pharisee”. But at any rate, it seems to me that we must begin with the evidence: Do we have a text that provides us with sufficient reason to think it is inerrant? If we are determined from the outset to defend a text’s inerrancy, we’ll usually manage to to our own satisfaction, and people do that with competing and conflicting texts. And so unless one is willing to allow the evidence of the text to decide the question of whether it even might be inerrant, then one simply has unfalsifiable beliefs, and I don’t think those are more admirable when Christians have them than when others do. Because ultimately, it would seem to me that, if God wanted to persuade you that God did not inspire an inerrant Bible, there’s nothing God could say or do to persuade you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    terri,1) The law written on hearts is not very specific; it is supposed to produce guilt but is not an exhaustive or detailed rundown of good and bad behavior.2) I don’t know how many times I have to say this – if the Bible is errant, you don’t know whether there is or isn’t a law written on people’s hearts, b/c the text that tells you that could very well be errant.Dr McGrath,It’s not that *I* need them; EVERYONE needs them, or else we are all stuck in the same morass of relativistic moralising.Without God serving as the standard of reference for good and bad, murder has the same moral value as patting a doggy on the head and feeding orphans. This is a very simple point. *I’m* not telling God what to do; I’m explaining the consequences of your position.the Pharisees weren’t wrong b/c they wanted some “precise definitions”. I don’t know why you’d even bring them up. They were wrong b/c they set up extrabiblical traditions (sound familiar?) that were even harder to follow than the rest of the Law in certain convenient places, and b/c they were hypocrites in not even fulfilling those but in telling others to.If God wanted to persuade me that He’d written an errant Bible, why did He write one that’s inerrant? Why did He make it so the contrary is impossible? Why didn’t He say “I am God, I screw up sometimes in my communications!”? He says alot of OTHER things about Himself, but that kind of proclamation is…I dunno, strangely absent. Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Why bring up the Pharisees? Simple. They provided precise definitions – who is my neighbor, what is work, etc. By contrast, Jesus’ approach (according to the Gospels) was to tell stories that undermined such definitions – the classic example being the story of the Good Samaritan. What do you do if you come across an individual who doesn’t even have clothing that might allow you to determine whether he is a kinsman or a hated foreigner? He also is said to have healed on the sabbath, and to have argued from a passage in which human hunger took precedence over the divine law about who should or shouldn’t eat sacred bread.I’ll just close by mentioning that there are stories within the Bible that complicate the question of inspiration, truth, inerrancy and who speaks for God, e.g. 1 Kings 22:18-23.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    So, the Parable of the Good Samaritan doesn’t define who is my neighbor? Come on. Telling a story that challenges a wrong definition and corrects it doesn’t mean that the correction isn’t “precise”. You are turning Jesus and the Pharisees to your own ends, and your 21st century political correctness doesn’t look good on them.Why is the 1 Kings psg a difficulty? Did you think I’ve not read that before or something? You may find your answer in 2 Thess 2:9The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan(R) with all power and false signs and wonders, 10and with all wicked deception for(S) those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11Therefore(T) God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe(U) what is false, 12in order that all may be condemned(V) who did not believe the truth but(W) had pleasure in unrighteousness.That is, if you think 2 Thess has a chance to not be part of the unidentified, amorphous, vague “errant” text.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Anyone who is reading this interaction is welcome to take a look at any decent academic commentary on Luke, no matter whether it is by a conservative, Evangelical or Liberal scholar, and to read the section on the Good Samaritan. I’m quite confident that the understanding of the story that I’m offering is grounded in the best New Testament scholarship, and our understanding of the Jewish context of the time. But of course, you are probably so used to reading the text and assuming that some viewpoint other than your own is being condemned by Jesus, that it is hard for you to even hear what the text is saying. I’m not sure there is anything that I personally can do about that, except to hope that the message of Jesus some day gets through to you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    But the message of Jesus is errant. Why would you want someone to believe erroneous things? That’s not very nice of you…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Rhology……the point is that The Bible is a self-revising compilation. I gave a few examples of that somewhere in the middle of this thread.Why should anything be revised if it is inerrant? Why did we need Jesus to come and lay bare the Pharisees for what they were?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    terri,I don’t think you mean it’s self-revising. I doubt you’ve seen a Bible holding open its own pages and writing in the blank pages in the back.The Pharisees and teachers of the Law were right insofar as they taught the Law. But Jesus’ problem with them was that they added to the Law. And they were hypocrites about the Law and their additions.Let me also commend the book of Hebrews to your reading, where it explains why the coming of Jesus was necessary. Galatians 2-4 also.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Well there’s the crux of the problem…you take things too literally.By self-revising, I mean that certain Scriptures revise other Scriptures. I’ve read Hebrews and Galatians…..many times.You know….this whole conversation began with you declaring that James and others were sitting in judgement of God’s Word, and that was somehow a terrible thing.While thinking about this conversation I couldn’t help but recall all of the people in Scripture who when faced with God’s direct Word and communication, not only sat in judgement of it, but asked Him to change it–Abraham bargaining over Sodom, Moses refusing to be the public speaker for his ministry, Jacob wrestling with God and demanding a blessing, Ezekiel refusing to cook his food over human excrement even though God told him to do so, Peter arguing over the eating of unclean animals. There is a long list of saints who thought nothing of outright arguing with God1 Samuel 15:29He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” Yet….in several of the cases I mentioned…God did change his mind. Not only didi he change his mind, but he didn’t even express anger about it, or threaten punishment to the people who dared to disagree with Him.How do you reconcile these points with your very strict definition of inerrancy?

  • JKF

    The self-checkmate quote:”Not at all, but I believe God is capable of communicating clearly what He wants to communicate.So I read and recognise what it’s saying and conform my life thereto…”This just a re-stating of your me-centered, judge-of-the-bible accusation that Rhology throws around, just mixed with a dash of but-I-actually-have-the-hs-and-you-don’t, isn’t it?Whose the one doing that reading-and-recognizing with such certainty?This reading-and-recognizing is not different than James McGrath’s reading-and-recognizing in kind or degree. Just self-awareness. All arguments about the infallibility of the written text just knock the problem up one step to reader issues.So when two Christians disagree, where is the breakdown in God’s desire to communicate? Is it in the text, is it in the reading and recognizing? Is disagreement impossible and must at least one of the two not have the Holy Spirit, or is God not capable of communicating clearly?Faith doesn’t start with telling God what to do: – “You will communicate with me” – “You will want to communicate with me” – “You will be clear or you are not good” – “Your Bible must match my expectations” – “I will be able to read and understand this perfectly, or You are not good”Rhology, if you ever come to the point where you start to question the infallibility of the written text, please remember for your faith: God still loves you, even if he didn’t give you what you thought you needed, and he still is good.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    terri,Then read them again for your answers. You’ve apparently forgotten, or you read them sloppily.You said:How do you reconcile these points with your very strict definition of inerrancy?Just what do you think inerrancy actually means?That everyone written about in the BIble was perfect? That every action was spotless and perfect? Hardly! What a bizarre thought. Rather, inerrancy means that the Bible, in its original autographs, is inspired by God and therefore contains no error. How we understand what it is saying is based on simple and sound hermeneutical principles that one uses for every other type of literature all the time – according to authorial intent, in its context. Otherwise known as the grammatico-historical method. Here’s some more help on that.JKF,Whose the one doing that reading-and-recognizing with such certainty?Well, I am, since you ask. I can know that b/c I recognise fatal errors within alternative approaches and therefore reject them. And this is all by the grace of God, not b/c I’m anything special.This reading-and-recognizing is not different than James McGrath’s reading-and-recognizing in kind or degree.Sure it is! One is consistent with the text and one is not. You’ll notice Dr McGrath, when faced with the obvious meaning of a text that makes him uncomfortable, implicitly or explicitly attributes error/errancy to it. You can see it with the way he deals with the resurrection of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the authority of Scripture itself. Heck, even the qualifications for being a teacher in the church of Jesus Christ.So when two Christians disagree, where is the breakdown in God’s desire to communicate?The fault lies not in God, you foolish mortal man (and I say that with no sarcasm). YOU are a sinner. So am I. WE screw up, WE fall short, WE misunderstand. Yet God’s Word is not unclear; He has written it so that we can understand it by His power. Faith doesn’t start with telling God what to do:- “You will communicate with me”No, it starts with “Oh Lord God, You have deigned to communicate with me, who is but dust and ashes. Thank You. Speak and I will listen.”God still loves you, even if he didn’t give you what you thought you needed, and he still is good.I have, after 100+ comments, seen no reason to think that we can reliably know that, if God’s own Word is errant. Why don’t you try to explain that to me, please?Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    Rhology….looking past your condescension, so that I can reply.No one is saying that the fault lies with God if the text isn’t inerrant. You repeat over and over the same argument that if the text is not inerrant, then that means God is at fault. I think I can say that most Christians who do not have a view of inerrancy do not believe that at all. The problem is firmly rooted in your pre-suppositions about what you personally expect God to do.You gloss over my comments, telling me that it has nothing to do with inerrancy….yet never address the fact that 1 Samuel says God never changes his mind….but I can list instance after instance in which God changed his mind. This is not a problem for me because I’m not an inerrantist. But…is it a problem for you? I mean, it’s an untrue statement based on numerous other stories in Scripture. God does change his mind….and I am thankful that He does. My examples were not examples of people who were sinning or imperfect in their approach. As I mentioned before….God didn’t seem to mind one bit their questioning and arguing. So you can’t escape that by saying that the people of the Bible weren’t perfect….because God never indicates that they were not permitted to question Him.People have explained to you several times that simply because someone or something can be wrong in one area doesn’t mean that they/it is untruthful and completely wrong on everything.The cornerstone of your faith does not seem to be based on Jesus. Instead the cornerstone of your faith is your belief in inerrancy. In your view if inerrancy is false, then you might as well abandon your faith. But….that’s a false dilemma.Paul and the apostles brought people to faith, not by getting them to believe in inerrancy, but by telling them what Jesus had done, sharing the news of the Resurrection, performing miracles. The basis of their faith had little to do with believing in a perfect text.The dilemma of inerrancy is a modern dilemma…and it is one birthed out of the great distance in time that lies between us and the events of Jesus’ life. The demand for inerrancy comes from less faith, not more faith….weak faith, not strong faith. It says:”Wow…those things happened so long ago, and all I have are these stories from people that have been passed down. I don’t really trust people usually. How can I believe what they say? How can I put my faith in Jesus as one “who has not seen”? I can’t….not without feeling uneasy. But…hey…maybe if the text is inerrant and perfect and God preserved it without any mistakes…..maybe then I could believe. Then I wouldn’t have to trust in people, and their experiences, or my own experiences.”Just as God can move through imperfect people to accomplish wonderful things….he can move through an imperfect text.By defending inerrancy as you have here, you are actually weakening God and placing limits on Him. You are drawing boundaries and declaring how He can and can not work. I’m not sure what else to say. It seems obvious that you will never agree …or honestly step back to even consider that you might be wrong. The funny thing is…that probably many of the Christians on this thread at one time or another held to some form of inerrancy. I used to. I changed my mind by trying to honestly assess certain questions. My view of God is actually higher now…than it was before.

  • JKF

    The point you were making about us being foolish mortals in my questions is exactly what I was saying (you foolish mortal man).”WE screw up, WE fall short, WE misunderstand.”Yes WE do. YOU are a sinner. I am a sinner.I don’t think its worthwhile trying to convince you that God didn’t promise an inerrant text, WE’re too broken to make sense of it anyways without His help right?I’ve seen friends fall away because of assumptions that they’ve made that God never promised (eg. Only good things can happen to me or God doesn’t love me, God will tell me exactly what to do or He doesn’t love me). Just for your sake, and without trying to convince you of anything in this disagreement our screwed up selves are having:Never forget our faith is in Jesus alone, and if other things we put our faith in fall away we must cling to Him alone.So if you ever change your mind on the Bible’s nature (and if you never do, then ok), please don’t blame it on God, remember that WE’re the ones falling short.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    JKF,On at least one thing (probably a lot of things, actually) we can agree. I too have seen many, too many, friends fall away because of assumptions that they’ve made that God never promised. And heard about many more.The thing is, you can’t know what God promised if the Bible is errant. ANY promise you think God made could be in error. How would you know it’s not? Some feeling? Some emotion? Some overarching group/authority, like the Vatican or the Watchtower or the LDS Prophet or David Koresh or Sun Myung Moon tells you? Some navel-gazing scientist or university professor tells you? Never forget our faith is in Jesus aloneA faith that could well be entirely misplaced. What if the Gospel accounts of His birth, life, death, and resurrection are in error?

  • Anonymous

    Rhology, if your faith is in the correctness of the printed word, then you don’t have any faith at all.There are volumes of books written about the discrepancies in the gospels.Where did Mary and Joseph live before Jesus was born? Bethlehem or Nazareth? Matt and Luke don’t agree. After the birth, did they flee to Egypt or go home? Matt and Luke don’t agree. Who first saw Jesus after his resurrection? The gospels don’t agree. Where did the disciples first see the resurrected Jesus? Jerusalem or Galilee? Gospels don’t agree.We could play this game all day if I had time. Funny you should mention David Koresh, because he did to the NT what Paul did to the Hebrew Bible. They interpreted an old book to mean something completely different, not only from what the authors intended but how those books had been used by worshippers for centuries. Paul was the LDS prophet of his day. Back then, Jews were naturally horrified in the same way Christians are horrified by Joseph Smith.pf

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14247799389009268470 James Pate

    Terri says: “People have explained to you several times that simply because someone or something can be wrong in one area doesn’t mean that they/it is untruthful and completely wrong on everything.”But I think Rhology’s question is how do we know what’s true or false. We have to trust something authoritative, since we don’t hear God audibly these days.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    James, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head as far as the difference of perspective between Rhology on the one hand and some of his conversation partners (including me). Rhology is persuaded that there must be a source that can provide absolute certainty about a number of important matters. Some of us are not so persuaded. And so where does that leave us? It means that we’ll inevitably be wrong about some things, and uncertain about some things – and that we’ll inevitably feel certain about some things that it turns out we were wrong about.The interesting thing is that this doesn’t differ as much as might first seem to be the case from Rhology’s own situation, in which, even if there is an inerrant text, the question of how one interprets it, which Scriptures one starts with when “interpreting Scripture in light of Scripture”, as well as our own human propensity for self-delusion, means that even if we had such an absolute authoritative source, we would presumably nonetheless have significant disagreements. The variations among groups that claim to hold the Bible as inerrant or at least infallible provides evidence for this.Anyway, to put it in a nutshell, those of us who are not persuaded that we have an inerrant text that speaks to us without interference on the part of the human authors, seek to do the best with what we have, using Scripture, tradition, reason, wise advice, scientific evidence, and any other source of information that seems relevant. And sometimes, even with the best of intentions and the best of data, we get things wrong.I understand why this viewpoint can be so terrifying that some feel the need to flee it, denounce it, attack it and avoid it. And I think James Fowler’s notion of “stages of faith” helps shed light on the psychological and emotional aspects of this topic, and why many of those who’ve been part of this conversation are unable to persuade one another that they are right.After all I’ve just written, I’ll end with this disclaimer: As far as what I’ve just written is concerned…I could be wrong.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04088870675715850624 Sam Norton

    So far as I can tell, Rhology’s argument is: unless the Bible is inerrant we have no trustworthy authority to tell us what to do, and that would be awful because it leaves us in our sin.Which is what I belive Paul meant by the ‘curse of the law’.For me, Christ has put away my sin, so I don’t have to be obsessed about finding an authoritative source which tells me what I need to do. I will do the best that I can, seeking to deepen my relationship with the Living God, trusting that He will cover over what needs to be covered over in the end (I will hide in the wounds of Christ) – even if what needs to be covered over is the whole of my life. In other words, I don’t believe that Rhology has a clue about what Christian salvation actually means – and he’s clinging to the ‘inerrant’ Bible as a substitute for it.That sounds harsh, and I don’t mean to be harsh, but that’s how it appears to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    James P.I understand that’s what Rhology is asking…I was just trying to get at some of the underpinning of what motivates the question rather than trying to give an answer that I assumed would be immediately rejected.Without viewing the Bible as inerrant, I still view it as being authoritative for my faith.How do I sort out what is true?I think James M. had a good answer. I know it’s unsatisfying to say….there’s no way to perfectly know A, B, and C. That’s a little scary.Yet…..is God big enough to cover over our mistakes? I emphatically say yes. I am persuaded in the truth of Jesus, not only by the Scriptures, but because the message of Jesus is one that makes sense to me. I can look around and see so many of the things He taught about good and evil in action on a daily basis. It seems as though, in general, reality corresponds to the Christian ethos.I think that’s important. While faith sometimes requires us to believe in the face of confusing circumstances, it must have some root in reality.I believe in the truthfulness of Scripture because of it’s many contributors. WHile things may not always harmonize perfectly, the general message from the gospels and epistles is pretty consistent and is written by various authors/believers.This is important when thinking about other religions which have become popular and have their Holy Writings composed by a single individual–Mormonism, the Koran, Scientology’s teachings…etc.Having two to three witnesses, and all that.I’m not sure if that answers your question exactly.I guess I trust that those who are seeking for truth in the Scriptures will find it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Sam Norton,The biblical notion of “the curse of the law” is actually found quite explicitly in Galatians 3, especially:10For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.(Emph. mine)Dr McGrath and anyone who cares,I’ve answered Dr McGrath’s latest comment.Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14247799389009268470 James Pate

    What’s especially troubling is that, if Christianity is true, we’ll be judged for being wrong. Sure, I can accept wise sayings, traditions, Scriptures, experience, etc., as a guide to make my way through life, and, from that standpoint, it wouldn’t matter if I’m wrong as much. But if I’m judged in the afterlife over whether I believe in Christ, as John says, then being wrong has bad consequences.Then add to that the other revelations. The Koran says people who believe Jesus is God will burn in hell. What do we do?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12399706958844399216 terri

    James P.I understand and have sympathy for your point. I don’t really see how believing in inerrancy changes your point. I mean, we could all believe in the inerrancy of the Christian Bible and be wrong about it…in which case the Koran still holds it’s fiery threats for us.I’m not sure we should come to our theological stances purely out of fear. Surely, some people become Christians out of a fear of hell….but I don’t know that that sort of motivation is enough to keep someone there, or to develop a meaningful relationship with God.Having faith requires bravery.I mean, what if the Catholics are right and I refuse to become one? What if Pentecostals are right and I never speak in tongues?Having an inerrant Bible won’t clear up those dilemmas.At some point, we must step out and trust that God is there to catch us.As Christians…do we really trust in God’s grace. Do we believe that favor with God depends on us and our very correct, never erring theology? We’re in terrible trouble if we do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14247799389009268470 James Pate

    Those are good points, Terri. I guess where the issue of inerrancy (or, really, infallibility) comes in is that it claims we have a reliable revelation of who God is and what God wants, and we’d be in the dark if that revelation had errors, since how would we know what is in error? I think we can scientifically and historically critique the Bible using our science and history, since we have something to compare the Bible with. But how could we say the Bible is in error on God or what God wants? We have no basis of comparison for that, since we’ve not seen or directly heard from God.Of course, someone could just dismiss the Bible, and claims that the Bible are inerrant wouldn’t stop him. But what about the Christians who accept parts of the Bible and not others (consciously, that is–I know James would say fundamentalists do so as well)? On what basis do they accept what they accept, and reject what they reject? Is it a matter of personal preference, or is there more than that?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04088870675715850624 Sam Norton

    Rhology, that last comment from you is remarkable, and revealing. I’m amazed that you think quoting the Bible is an answer here – it’s all about how to interpret the text, something which has been emphasised to you ad nauseam. Let me unpack my point a little more, and then the differences between our viewpoints will be more clear (I hope).Is ‘the curse of the Law’ just about the Mosaic Law, or is it about all possible Laws anywhere? In other words, when God promises that in the New Covenant people will no longer tell each other ‘follow the Law’ because they will have the law written in their own hearts, is this describing a potentially universal spiritual truth (we won’t need to rely on external Laws to guide us because we will have awakened consciences) or is it simply that the Law of Moses will have been ‘programmed in’ to all members of the Covenant?I’m quite certain it is the former – in other words, Jesus awakens our consciences and gives us room to grow into the fullness of truth (I have some things to tell you that you cannot bear to hear now). This awakening comes from being set free from the fear of having to conform to this external code – because we all fall short of the glory of God and therefore any written code can end up (through the workings of guilt) depriving us of the freedom which is God’s intention for us. More than this, Jesus several times gives the disciples authority to make their own decisions about sin – in other words we have the authority to decide what is a sin and what is not a sin.It seems to me that, through being literalistic about what St Paul says, you miss the crucial spiritual teaching he is putting across. In other words, you have made “The Bible” into a new Law – Old Testament theology in New Testament clothes – and if St Paul were alive today I’m sure he would be talking about ‘the curse of the Bible’, were it not for the fact that most people don’t use the Bible in this way. Because of this, you can’t help but keep exposing your underlying fear of human sinfulness, including your own. The whole point of Christ’s dying and rising again is to set us free from this process. We don’t have to be afraid of our own sin any more, and consequently, we don’t have to worry about whether our interpretations of Scripture are corrupted by our own sinfulness – of course they will be, and it doesn’t matter. We’re either going to be relying on our own judgements (and our own judgements INCLUDE deciding that Scripture is ‘inerrant’ in whatever denominational way you want to understand that) or else we are going to be relying on the Spirit to guide us and the wounds of Christ to hide us. As I say, I think you’ve completely missed the point. I really don’t think you understand what salvation means. Sorry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14247799389009268470 James Pate

    Yeah, but Sam, you’re doing some interpreting of your own here.(1.) You’re reading the Hebrew Bible in light of the New Testament. What does Jesus have to do with what Jeremiah 31 originally means? Maybe Jeremiah is saying that God will program the Israelites to keep the Mosaic law (however he understood that), which would allow them to stay in their land rather than going into exile.(2.) I may be misunderstanding you, but your view of salvation looks somewhat antinomian. Some would argue that Christians still need to worry about sin, since Paul warns in Galatians 5 that doing certain sins will bar people from the Kingdom of God.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    Hi Sam,”That’s just your interpretation” is, in my experience, the refuge of the refuted.It is also a double-edged sword and bleeds anyone else’s position just as much as it does mine.Is ‘the curse of the Law’ just about the Mosaic Law, or is it about all possible Laws anywhere?I note a total lack of exegesis of Galatians 3. I really suggest you start there; it’s the only way to make headway in this topic for you. Does it quote from other “laws”? Like which ones might it be referring to?in the New Covenant people will no longer tell each other ‘follow the Law’It’s b/c they will have a new heart, a heart no longer of stone but of flesh, as Ezek says. They will be a new creation, who WANTS to follow the law. Remember Jesus’ statement about divorce? “Moses permitted you to divorce b/c of the hardness of your hearts.” The heart changed by the Holy Spirit is not hard to God’s law anymore. I have some things to tell you that you cannot bear to hear nowCould you unpack the context of that statement, please? This awakening comes from being set free from the fear of having to conform to this external codeMostly backwards. The awakening comes from being set free from the condemnation due to our inability to follow and our utter failure to follow the external code (aka the law). Col 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.More than this, Jesus several times gives the disciples authority to make their own decisions about sin – in other words we have the authority to decide what is a sin and what is not a sin.Cool. I’ve always wanted to kill several of the pet dogs in my neighborhood (I’m not a big fan of yapping dogs), and I’m pretty sure I won’t get caught. Is that OK? I’ll just decide it’s not a sin. In other words, you have made “The Bible” into a new Law – Old Testament theology in New Testament clothes – and if St Paul were alive today I’m sure he would be talking about ‘the curse of the Bible’So how do you account for all the commands that St Paul issued in the NT? St Peter? St Jude? St John? Jesus Himself, in the Sermon on the Mount, the “Woe to you, hypocrites!” part of the Olivet Discourse, etc? The commands to be baptised? To repent of our sin and trust Christ? The framework that the NT sets up is that the moral laws of the OT still apply today, as do the NT commands. We are obligated to keep them, obligated to be baptised. Does our justification, our final glorification, depend on our keeping them? By no means! We CAN’T keep them. That’s the point. We are unable to keep laws, whether OT ceremonial or NT moral, or love-your-neighbor ethical. We are sinful. Christ saves us, by grace alone thru faith alone, and we try to keep the laws out of love for Him and out of a desire to be more like Jesus and to help draw other people to Him. you can’t help but keep exposing your underlying fear of human sinfulness, including your own.Absolutely! Without Christ, my sin would be more than enough to condemn me to an eternity of torment and of separation from the God I love. So when someone comes along and proposes a system that guts the very system and person by which and by Whom a sinful man may be saved from his sin, I oppose it, yes, b/c I fear for the final destination of every unforgiven person. It appears that you are reducing the NT framework to a vague sort of set of be-nice-and-loving commands. The problem is that no one can do that. You can do it SOMEtimes, you can pretend, but you can’t do it all the time nor perpetually. That is why you must repent and trust Christ as Savior, now. we don’t have to worry about whether our interpretations of Scripture are corrupted by our own sinfulness – of course they will be, and it doesn’t matter.I’m confused now, but I think you are more so. So… my interp of Scr could be corrupted and will be according to you. So that means that anyone’s, including your, interp of the parts of Scr that describe Christ’s teaching, His passion, His death, and His resurrection, as well as the descriptions of how said death and righteousness apply to me, could be and will be corrupted? Of course they CAN, but not generally to the man whose interp is illumined by the Holy Spirit. I’m not, of course, claiming perfection or infallibility, but infallibility is not a necessary condition for correctness. The way I know that I have the NT right is by following the NT’s frequent commands to test everything by Scripture and to examine myself, to discern between truth and falsehood. It is a proof of the rightness of my position (again, not b/c I’m smarter or awesomer, but solely by the grace of God) that those who oppose make absurd, inconsistent, and contradictory statements like you’re making here. So I have the obligation to proclaim to you that you need to repent and believe the Gospel, not by my authority but by Christ’s. Peace,Rhology

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04088870675715850624 Sam Norton

    James P – yes of course I’m doing some interpreting of my own, and yes I’m interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures in the light of Christian understandings (I’m a Christian). My point is that we can’t avoid doing that whatever we say. As for antinomianism, that isn’t my intention, more that I want to reduce the law (any law) away from being an absolute. I’m rather fond of Herbert McCabe’s comment ‘God does not give a damn about your sin’ – he cares about sin in the sense that it destroys our life, but not in some sort of metaphysical accounting of soul fashion.Rhology – yes indeed, talking about interpretation is “a double-edged sword and bleeds anyone else’s position just as much as it does mine”. I just don’t think you can do without it, and you’re deceiving yourself if you think you can. “The awakening comes from being set free from the condemnation due to our inability to follow and our utter failure to follow the external code (aka the law).” – very happy to accept that rephrasing. What I want to know is how accepting that the Bible is inerrant is NOT setting up a new law. Pet dogs – do what you believe to be right in the sight of God. I have repented of my sins, I have turned to Christ as my saviour – I just don’t recognise Him in the dogmatism about a text (it seems diametrically opposed to Him actually).I think the underlying difference is that I think the community (which wrote and collated the Scriptures) has authority, including degrees of authority over the individual (in an iterative process). I think in practice you do the same, except that you think ‘an inerrant Scripture’ can be raised up separately to the community to which it belongs, and which bears the burden of interpreting it.I really must stop blog commenting on my day off…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395422809298131385 Levi

    Sam, I’d recommend that. I’m taking your advice as well. Today is my day off too, and I’d much rather have lunch with my lovely wife than read anything else from Rhology.I think soon, we may find out that Rhology is simply N.T. Wrong or Jim West having a little fun with us. :)off topic even more – my verification word was “weenis”. I think i need to grow up :)

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