Biblicism in a Single Image

David Hayward has created yet another excellent cartoon:

The irony, of course, is that many Biblicists will not get this, because they cannot envisage a distinction between what God or Jesus says on the one hand, and the Bible on the other.

  • Alex A Dalton

    I’m not sure I get this….lol.

  • Alex A Dalton

    Ah ok…Now I see…The sheep can’t hear Jesus, because their tuned in to the Bible. I mean – I guess I can see it. Maybe you could unpack it for us a little. Where else do we hear the voice of Jesus – if not through the biblical text?

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I think there are two answers to that. On the one hand, the possibility that one could in some sense hear the voice of Jesus in some other way – by the Spirit speaking, through other people, etc. – is worth considering. On the other hand, the possibility that what Jesus’ core message was, or some element of Jesus’ teaching, could get obscured through appeal to other parts of the Bible, is also an aspect (think for instance of the so-called “Red Letter Christians”).

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    James, everyone’s political philosophy drives their understanding of the “real world”. Fundamentalists, or those “attuned to the text” usually separate the “real world” from the “spiritual world”. Not only does it lead to sectarianism, but it denies truth other than “special revelation”. In our society, we allow for sects, as we believe that religious liberty is important in a free society. The question is what to do, when a particular sect disagrees with America’s “ultimate values” such as liberty of conscience, individual rights, and tolerance.

    I don’t think the “answer” is to claim Jesus as “moral model” for Americans. We have been doing humanitarian aid, and seeking to resolve the conflicts, and address evil in the world. The question today, is one of priority, for America. We cannot continue to support financially all of the causes, as the money is just not there. Americans are hurting at home. And we must take care of our own business, not seek “Utopian ideals”!

  • Alex A Dalton

    Angie wrote: Fundamentalists, or those “attuned to the text” usually separate the “real world” from the “spiritual world”. Alex: You’ll have to elaborate on this. It would seem to me that Fundamentalists would be those most likely to see the “real world” *as* the “spiritual world”. Angie: Not only does it lead to sectarianism, but it denies truth other than “special revelation”. Alex: In some sense, I think the content of this blog is mainly sectarianism – in the form of slightly veiled bigotry towards Fundamentalism – probably mostly as James personal reaction to (and coping with) his own experience within Fundamentalism. Angie: In our society, we allow for sects, as we believe that religious liberty is important in a free society. The question is what to do, when a particular sect disagrees with America’s “ultimate values” such as liberty of conscience, individual rights, and tolerance.Alex: I’m not sure one needs to *do* anything – over mere disagreement. Surely one should have the liberty to disagree with even our ultimate values. Angie: We have been doing humanitarian aid, and seeking to resolve the conflicts, and address evil in the world.Alex: This sounds like a George Bush Jr. speech. What is the evil in the world that America as a nation has been addressing? And how have we done this?  

    • Angie VanDeMerwe

      Alex, the ones that would believe in the real world AS the spiritual one, would be “post-millenialist” in their eschatology. But, this position has not been popular broadly speaking after the World Wars,  because “idealistic understandings” of reality are not practical.

      When Rome fell, Augustine (a Church Father) sought to bring an explaination to “buff up” Christian belief….in a transcendental realm (The City of God)…which became the understanding of “pre-millianialists”…..Luther, though, was an “amillinialist”…Each position sought to make an apology for believing in the “return of Christ” and the Church’s part in the world, until “Christ’s return”.

       Such beliefs are motivating forces for action, or inaction, but aren’t verifiable other than through personal belief in text/tradition. Falsification cannot be accomplished in the transcentdental realm, therefore, one has to rely on probabilities and if one wants to act on “faith” apart from reason.  This is problematic in my opinion, because irrationality is not how our society has made it alliances, in negotiation, and contract based on self interest, not irrational belief systems!

      • Alex A Dalton

        Angie – it really has nothing to do with eschatology. Christian Fundamentalists believe the world is thoroughly imbued with the spiritual. They believe the Spirit of God inhabits their bodies as the Temple of God. Demons inhabit other people, etc. That is the sense that I’m using “spiritual”. I am not sure how you are using it.

        The whole criterion of falsification is probematic in and of itself as well so I’m not sure why you’re even mentioning it. Barely anything is really truly falsifiable and it is certainly not a criterion that we actually use in any consistent manner to adjudicate between theories. The criterion of falsification as a measure of whether or not propositions are “true” or “scientific”, etc. – completely falls on its own sword as it is self-stultifying. For instance, a statement like “Propositions are not meaningful/scientific/true unless falsifiable” is not itself falsifiable. I wonder if you’ve studied such criteria from the standpoint of analytic philosophy.

        • Angie VanDeMerwe

          No, no formal training in philosophy.

          • Alex A Dalton

            Well – falsifiability as some sort of litmus test for truth or correspondence to reality is untenable. The axiomatic assumptions of any belief system are completely unfalsifiable, as is the criterion of falsifiability itself. You will rarely even see falsifiability mentioned by scientists doing their work, outside of the creation/evolution debate. Such demarcation criteria fell out of use decades ago after realizing that, philosophically, they did not hold up under scrutiny, and actually ruled out a lot of foundational beliefs already held by all parties. You may see such criteria mentioned in abductive reasoning or inference to the best explanation, but only as one of a number of such, which might make a particularly theory more palatable to an individual, over and above another – not as a prerequisite. But all such abductive inferences are decided according to the subjective value one assigns to the criteria themselves. Nowadays, more popular criteria are simplicity, beauty/elegance, tractability, explanatory power, and explanatory scope, etc. It would benefit you to pick up an introductory text on Philosophy of Science, and Inference to the Best Explanation.  

  • Alex A Dalton

    James – aren’t Biblicists committed to the very Biblical notions that God speaks by his Spirit and through people?

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Not all are, no. Whether they ought to be is another question! :-)

      • Alex A Dalton

        James – it just seems like its ultimately a Biblically derived concept, at a minimum.

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Only believers can adhere to a “Spirit” speaking. Those that understand religion as tradition, interpret that “spirit” is nothing other than one’s own personal “conscience”, which is an internaliation of one’s cultural upbringing (family). Our society allows for that, but it can be damning or limiting to those under another’s “conscience”/conviction, esp. if they try to superimpose the text upon the political! When this is done, then not only do we come to understand Christian disagreements, but one can come to understand the dangers of “cultish thinking”. (Cultish thinking is believing one can hear, know, and understand “God”)…

    • Alex A Dalton

      Angie – if you’re going to secularize “spirit”, you might as well just stop using the word. No need for it. Call it conscience. And if all conscience was simply an internalization of one’s cultural upbringing, society would remain fairly static. Your “nothing other” is a ridiculous reductionistic notion of conscience that would rule out alot of the counter-cultural liberation movements throughout history.

      • Angie VanDeMerwe

        Revolutions are counter-cultural movements, true. But, I don’t believe that our government calls for revolution because we have a Constitution that protects rights and dissent and allows for addressing grievances….

        As to conscience, one’s development and understanding of everything depends on what one is taught formally and informally, even though a child is geared to develop self awareness, innately. How that self awareness is understood and expressed depends on how the family/society/culture around the child views “self awareness”, independence, etc.

        Many liberation movements, yes, have happened because of a conviction that one would rather die than live under tyranny. Man searches for liberty of some kind, otherwise, man ceases to be man. Man is a rational animal and needs the liberty of choice.

        • Alex A Dalton

           Angie – forget the Constitution. Not that its not relevant to my comments. The Civil Rights movement had to happen regardless of whether or not we had a Constitution that allegedly protected the rights of blacks for example. Conscience is alot more complex than what one is taught. People have the capacity for conscious moral deliberation and can filter what they are taught by surrounding culture/environment, and respond in ways that are often not inherent to that culture/env. The capacity for moral deliberation is part of what got America its Constitution and liberty in the first place. Culture and environment will always be a factor but it does not eclipse the importance of the individual and their unique decision making.

  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Alex, evil in the world, is defined by America’s ultimate values of liberty. Liberty is justice, because we don’t believe in unlimited government, dominating over individual choices of value.

    • Angie VanDeMerwe

      and such government could be religious or secular….

    • Alex A Dalton

      Angie – all of these statements are so vague as to be unhelpful IMO. There really is no monolithic “American” view that I’m aware of. There is no monolithic view of justice, liberty, or even value.  How would you ever categorize these terms? Take polls and calculate percentages? Who are the “we” and how did you determine what they believed? Most Americans probably don’t even have any conscious thoughts on the matter. All of these categories shift with the sands of time as well. Liberty, justice, etc. will be defined in vastly different terms depending on which social group you sample.

      • Angie VanDeMerwe

        Liberty as justice, is not undefined. The individual has the liberty to pursue his own interests and value his own values, apart from over-intending government. So, I don’t think I made any assertions about what Americans believe, other than liberty. Government is to protect such liberty.

        • Alex A Dalton

          Belief in liberty equated to belief in a right to pursue one’s own interests and values, really doesn’t single Americans out in any unique way. The government still prescribes allowable liberty, and American government can constrict the liberty of its own citizens, has done so, and can and has done so in other countries as well.

          • angievandemerwe

            American government should not prescribe an individual’s commitments or values, though, obviously, those that think that government is an answer to control and make others “see things their way”, might prescribe certain things through the regulations, over and above the Constitution. These are debates about whether government should intervene in birth control, for instance, or should that be an individual’s personal choice and responsibility.

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  • Gary

    OK, enough of this deep philosophical stuff. Sheep would never follow the bible literally. Have you even read Leviticus? Sheep-icide. Kind of like us following the bible if Abraham had done in Isaac. Common sense. But probably would have been good….people would recognize insanity when they read it.

  • DRT

    I wrote a comment on a conservative blog tonight that could not understand why an apology was made for burning the Koran.  They felt that their biblicist perspective is nothing like the Islam perspective….but I think it is closer than they think.

    Good job.

    And I want to say that I have not watched your blog long, but as a fellow sci-fi fan and engineer by training I like what your are doing, thanks!

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    A parallel cartoon might be made of a charismatic Christian thinking he’s hearing Jesus’ voice. Instead of Biblicism, you might call that one Anuerism. In each case there’s those who side with Biblicism and those who side with their own personal Jesus inside their heads. Even employing both the Bible and your own personal Jesus, how does that proves one’s case to “what God is really saying to humanity?” 

    • angievandemerwe

      “God” doesn’t say anything to “humanity”.

      • Alex A Dalton

         Angie – how do you know this?

        • angievandemerwe

          Alex, I believe we have biases, that form what we want or desire to be committed to. I do not believe that “God” as a UNIVERSAL is saying anything universally, because of the diversity in how “God” speaks in different religious traditions as to ritual and practice….Diversity is how Protestantism has understood “God” historically. And I believe this, too, because, I do not believe in authoritarianism, which would be “God” speaking through a “Universal” Pope, Text or Church. There is even the Eastern and Western traditions of Christian faith, and various understandings of Judiasm and Islam, as well as Buddhism, etc…

          Religion is man’s attempt to explain reality, whereas, science is the natural explaination. Supernaturalism has to be believed to “hear” anything, whether through some “spirit” or “inspired” text, or religious official.

          • Alex A Dalton

             Angie – referring to a diversity in human perspectives on God really doesn’t tell us that God hasn’t said anything to humanity. As an analogy, most people probably believe in an underlying objective reality that science attempts to describe. There have been a diversity of scientific opinion on the nature of reality throughout history, more failed hypotheses than otherwise, radical paradigm shifts in scientific understanding, and currently there are a vast diversity of views, particularly when it comes to cosmology. Many believe our two best theories – Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity – are irreconcilable and even contradictory at the moment. None of this, however, would contradict the view that science attempts to describe an underlying objective reality – some aspects of which we have accurately glimpsed.

            Further, any explanation (whether scientific or otherwise) has to be “believed”. Indeed, belief is part of the tripartite understanding of knowledge as “justified true belief” that has been around since Plato. Asserting that any or all religions are merely man’s attempt to explain reality as you are, and that there is no legitimate divine revelation is simply begging the question. 

            I’d recommend some introductory texts on epistemology as well. Do you have a solid grasp on how it is you think human beings come to “know” anything? I’d be interested to hear your take on the process.


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