Hasn’t God Said?

Someone shared this status update on Facebook:

The devil is using the same trick that he used in the garden by getting people to second guess what God has already told them.

Has not God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Has not God said that marriage is between a man and a woman?

Has not God said that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father?

Has not God said come out from among them and be ye separate?

Don’t dare let the devil move you out of the truth that God has delivered unto you.

That deserves some analysis, since it uses several tactics that conservatives use to mislead people, rather ironically placing themselves in the role of the serpent in the story in Genesis 3 while claiming to side with God!

The person who first came up with the status has clearly not read the Genesis story carefully. I say that not just because it doesn’t feature “the devil” but more importantly because the serpent is depicted, not as casting doubt on what God did say, but misquoting what God said in order to cast doubt on divine goodness.

And that’s what this status update does. It asks whether God has said that marriage is only between a man and a woman. The answer is no – that is something that can be read into a variety of passages, but is not said in so many words. It asks whether God has said that Jesus is the only way to the Father – alluding to one phrase in the Gospel of John, and ignoring that the person depicted as saying that is described from the outset as the Word-become-flesh, the Word who is explicitly said to give light to every human being coming into the world. And the last one takes Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:17, offering an inexact quotation of Isaiah 52:11 which was a call to leave Babylon and return from exile, and attributes it to God in Paul’s version and with its own slant.

The status update begins badly, by treating the words of the Bible as though they are God’s own words. But it then makes things worse still by misrepresenting what the Bible and God have said.

And so the advice that the person gives, about not letting people deceive you by deceitful use of things God supposedly said, turns out to be very good advice indeed. But will most of those who read that status update have the wisdom to see that the one offering this advice sounds a lot like the serpent in the garden?

  • http://profiles.google.com/wkennethleonard Ken Leonard

    I love it when people say, “Didn’t God say …?” and I can just answer, “No.”

    On the other hand, I sometimes wonder why I still have friends.

  • Kaz

    Perhaps in the Gospel According to James McGrath you could offer the slant, “And this good news about the bad news about fundamentalism shall be preached to all the inhabited earth, and then…..I donno, but I sure miss twinkies.”

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

      Why twinkies?

      • Kaz

        Maybe it’s just my mood this morning, but explaining it makes the implied criticism almost seem gratuitous. However, since you asked, it’s a double endendre that can highlight two vantage points: (i) you miss the paradigmatic physical junk food because only it adequately corresponds the spiritual junk food that you prefer (liberalism), or (ii) even though fundamentalism is spiritual junk food, in your view, you can’t help but crave things that it gave you which liberalism does not.

        Obviously at this stage in my life I’m largely in agreement with Roger Olsen, and by “Junk food” I’m alluding to his observation that liberal Christianity is “thin, ephemeral, light, profoundly unsatisfying. It seems to me barely different from being secular humanist.” He’s a very perceptive man, and seems to have captured the problems pretty well. For example, he pointed out how in the mind of the liberal Christian, the Bible is different only in degree from other books, not in kind. This reminded me of the time I pointed out how it seemed that in your worldview the Bible is not superior to any other book filled with philosophy, like the works of Plato, or Aristotle, for example. In harmony with Olsen’s observation, you replied by saying something like “Why should the Bible be superior to other philosophical works?” That you even asked such a question told me that we were even further apart in our worldviews than I had previously perceived.

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

          To put my response to Olsen another way, if “liberal Christianity” means Christianity that reflects the cosmology and worldview of a particular era, then the earliest Christianity is liberal Christianity, and it is only later, as cosmologies and worldviews changed, that some insisted on clinging to the view of an earlier era because it happened to be the worldview of previous generations of Christians, including the Bible’s authors. That is why “conservative” Christianity ends up being a very radical departure from earliest Christianity even in the process of fighting to try to keep the same worldview as they had to the minimal extent that that is even possible.

          • Kaz

            That’s not really what I was referring to, James. I’m not referring to the things in societies that can ebb and flow, emerge and disappear, but about those things that are considered eternal truths. Once a Christian rejects the Christian Bible, he is left to determine eternal truths according to his imagination, and I can’t see how such a construct can help but ultimately collapse as arbitrary.

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

              You seem to be assuming that the Christian Bible does not reflect the sorts of assumptions and components of cosmology and worldview that ebb and flow. And so it sounds as though you are saying that, in order to become a Christian, one has to find a way of accepting the assumptions of an ancient worldview. I reject that.

              • Kaz

                So you agree then that you determine eternal truths according to your own imagination? What does a ministry based on that method of validating truth claims look like?

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

                  Kaz, are you not trying to understand my view? Or are you trying to deliberately distort it in the hope that you can make it look unappealing to people who may read what you wrote but not what I have? As someone who emphasizes the importance of the array of ways of knowing we have at our disposal – including reason and science and not just imagination – and the need for humility regarding things that we cannot know and/or cannot be certain about, how could you possibly think that anyone would find your claim plausible that I “determine eternal truths according to my own imagination”? Why not interact with the views I hold, rather than playing these bizarre games and engaging in what I can only presume to be deliberate distortions?

                  • Kaz

                    “Why not interact with the views I hold, rather than playing these
                    bizarre games and engaging in what I can only presume to be deliberate distortions?”

                    I’m trying very hard to interact with your views, but since so much of what you believe about what it should mean to be a Christian is presented in the context of what you reject, and since you seem disinclined to answer the very questions asked in an effort penetrate the mystery, I’m left trying to piece it together based, not on well-defined, clearly-articulated affirmations, but on denials. Not an easy chore.

                    I suspect that one of the reasons you’re disinclined to present a positive case for your beliefs is precisely because they aren’t very well defined, except via what you reject. You’ve thought pretty hard and thereby reached firm conclusions about what you think Christians should not believe, and what interpretative methods they should not utilize, etc, but what you accept and why you accept it is perhaps so amorphous that even you find it hard delineate it so that it’s apprehensible to others.

                    I recently saw the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, and there was a phrase that reminded me of you: “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” I’m sure that some who heard that phrase got goosebumps, and have repeated it many times since, especially when under the influence of some mind-altering drug. But what does it mean, really? It’s meant to sound inspiring, but once we get past our emotional reaction and engage in some serious philosophical reflection, we realize that it probably means no more and no less than the feeling we let it inspire within us. That is to say, in the end, it sounds less like something truly inspiring and more like something conceived to merely sound inspiring, and we might even end up feeling a bit foolish if we allowed it to work.

                    For Christianity to endure it needs more than the ever-changing expressions that merely seem inspiring at the time but which ultimately have no foundation; it needs the ever-fixed mark of eternal truth. Telling me why you don’t think fundamentalists have that truth doesn’t do anything to help me contemplate and weigh the reasons you have confidence that you do.

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

                      Your assumption that Christianity is about “eternal truth,” propositions that can be assented to irrespective of time in history or cultural context, is part of the problem. Where do you get the idea that the important truths about the infinite God are comprehensible to humans, capable of being articulated in human language at all, much less articulated in a manner so as to be unaffected by changes in language and culture?

                      It seems to me that in your desire to have eternal truth, you are in fact distracting and detracting from the onky eternal Truth, namely God.

                      If your impression is that I only criticize views that I disagree with, and do not tell what I think, then it may be that you read my blog rather selectively. But I suspect the problem may be your assumption about which I commented above. You think that ine’s faith and worldview either offers a creed of eternal truths as you understand them, or it offers nothing. My own response to that would be to suggest that believing you have eternal truth is not the same thing as actually having it.

                    • Kaz

                      And there you go, responding to yet another attempt to get you to start articulating your own beliefs clearly so that readers can gauge why you are compelled to hold and affirm them by instead telling me that my method is flawed. It’s time to look in the mirror Mr. McGrath and turn your attention away from the flaws you’re determined to perceive in others for a while and accept responsibility for the imprecision and confusion inherent in your position. It’s time to end the charade.

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

                      OK, as someone who has emphasized that God transcends what we can know and say, and that all language we use about God is inaccurate and imprecise, and that we therefore must embrace our own inability to be certain as inherent in our being human, wherein lies the charade? You keep assuming that a recognition of God’s transcendence which humbly accepts our inability to speak and know accurately in the face of God’s ineffable grandure is a shortcoming, and that false claims to do better are preferable.

                    • Kaz

                      Well, I didn’t really ask why you believe in God, or to articulate his transcendence, did I?

                      Setting this argument without end aside for a moment, are you aware that movie screenings for the movie based on the life story of William Edward Fudge start tomorrow? Links to showings at various locations are provided here:

                      http://hellandmrfudge.org/

                      The list of things I don’t know as much about as I’d like isn’t short, but I’m at least certain wherein lies a chair that will be occupied by my somewhat fundamentalist butt tomorrow;-)

                      ~Kaz

                    • beau_quilter

                      So Kaz

                      You say that James is “disinclined to present a positive case for [his] beliefs”

                      You say to James that you are making the “attempt to get [him] to start articulating [his] own beliefs clearly”

                      And when James responds, you peevishly answer, “Well, I didn’t really ask why you believe in God, or to articulate his transcendence, did I?”

                      Say what!!!!!?

                      This is James’ blog, not yours. As one of his regular readers, I can honestly say, I really don’t give a flip what you “didn’t really ask” him.

                      Clearly, you reject James’ views; why do you even pretend that you want to “interact with your [James'] view”.

                    • Kaz

                      Your claim that I’m pretending to want to understand James’s views is just your lack of charity rearing its homely head again. I’ll leave that between you and God, as it’s of no interest to me.

                      As to your surprise at my last response, this merely shows that you haven’t been following my line of questioning very carefully. That too is your problem, really, but I’ll just point out again that I haven’t been asking James to articulate his understanding of God’s transcendence, whatever that would mean. No one would blame James for his inability to clearly delineating that which is beyond human understanding. That is not to say that everything about God is beyond our current understanding, but certainly many things are (e.g. his relation to time).

                      Your misunderstanding is the result of conflating two distinct points of inquiry: (i) Belief in the existence of God and who and what He is, and (ii) belief that being a Christian is the right way to live a life oriented toward God. I’ve never asked James to make sense of #i, and I never will.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Oh, I followed your “line of questioning” quite well – “line of questioning”? You can’t help but sound like a police interrogator. I find it more than amusing when you accuse others of a “lack of charity”.

                    • Kaz

                      “Oh, I followed your ‘line of questioning’ quite well…’”

                      Apparently not, because had you been following my line of questioning carefully then you’d have realized that I haven’t been asking James to delineate the transcendence of God, and you therefore would not have been so confused that you found yourself exclaiming “Say what!!!!!?”

                      “…line of questioning’? You can’t help but sound like a police interrogator.”

                      Thanks for pointing that out. It’s been a lifelong struggle for me to gauge when my comments are in harmony with what might be considered acceptable for one who is naturally direct, and what crosses over the line. If I’ve stepped over that line in this dialogue, then I apologize for that, and I apologize in advance for future instances of bad judgment in this regard that I will surely make.

                      My father was a police officer and a military man, and people often comment how much we are alike. I tend to be very direct, and I try to keep things on track, esp with James, who so often responds to questions with questions, and regularly practices the art of turning a person’s argument around in an effort to expose the flaws in the questioner’s reasoning. I don’t reject that approach in all cases in principle, but there is a time and a place for it, just as there is a time and a place to do as Peter advised:

                      “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

                      I have been trying, very, very hard to get James to do this, and, from my vantage point at least, James is trying very, very hard not to. I’m happy to own the flaws in my own reasoning, but contemplating them doesn’t help me discern the foundations of James’s positive case for his Christian affirmations, or what his concept of Christianity consists of.

                      I had said:

                      “So you agree then that you determine eternal truths according to your own imagination?”

                      That wasn’t meant to be uncharitable, but to show James that, based on his answers, I have been able to infer no more and no less than that his beliefs are based on what he thinks sounds good and hopes are true based on his contemplation of the human condition.

                      You see, there seems (to me) to be a logical disconnect in the approach taken by liberal Christians in that they believe that the Bible contains the words of men, not the word of God, and that it is riddled with errors, atrocities, abominations, myths, legends, etc, etc, etc, but then they turn around and affirm a teaching that doesn’t just appear smack dab in the middle of other teachings that are rejected, but which is itself founded on the assumption that what has been rejected is true (e.g. Paul’s salvation doctrine is founded on the assumption that man’s fallen state and death are the result of sin, and that Jesus gave us the opportunity to be lifted from that state). They’ll suggest that certain miraculous events may not have happened, but then in the very next breath they’ll affirm the very truth claim that the miraculous events were performed and written about to provide an evidential basis for accepting. What justification can there be for such an approach, and if there is some justification for it, why believe that you are finally willing to let yourself embrace is true?

                      “I find it more than amusing when you accuse others of a ‘lack of charity’” “…. and you accuse others of a lack of charity?’”

                      And I consider it unfortunate when those who demonstrate a lack of charity on a fairly regular basis respond to those who point out this shortcoming with a “you, too” argument that is based upon their own determination to infer the worst of another person rather than allowing that he may not have meant the point of offense in an offensive way. For example, I said:

                      “Well, I didn’t really ask why you believe in God, or to articulate his transcendence, did I?”

                      You interpret that as a demonstration of my lack of charity, yet do you know what I was thinking when I penned those words? I was thinking that this back and forth wasn’t getting us anywhere, and I don’t want to argue with James for arguments sake because I like him despite my complaints, and so I was going to just let it go for now. The “Well, I didn’t really….” wasn’t sarcasm at all; it was resignation, followed by unrelated comments showing that I discerned that it was time to move on for the sake of harmony. You don’t like me, which is your right, but just recognize that your dislike colors what you’re likely to think you “hear” from me.

                    • Kaz

                      Oops, I had said:

                      ” What justification can there be for such an approach, and if there is
                      some justification for it, why believe that you are finally willing to
                      let yourself embrace is true?”

                      Please replace that with this:

                      “What justification can there be for such an approach, and if there is
                      some justification for it, why believe that what you are finally willing to
                      let yourself embrace is true?”

                    • Beau Quilter

                      The approach you are referring to you summarize in the line before:

                      “They’ll suggest that certain miraculous events may not have happened, but then in the very next breath they’ll affirm the very truth claim that the miraculous events were performed and written about to provide an evidential basis for accepting.”

                      Are you then saying that the purpose of miracles is to provide evidence for God?

                    • Beau Quilter

                      I think your 1 Peter quotation is quite appropos:

                      “do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame”

                      James is an excellent exemplar of this verse.

                    • Kaz

                      Funny that you left out the first part of the verse, which is ironically appropriate.

                    • beau_quilter

                      What irony? It applies to James just as well as the latter part.

                    • Kaz

                      No, it doesn’t, and that’s the problem, whether you or he or anyone else is ready and willing to accept it or not. Answering a request that he satisfy Peter’s instruction that he “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” with a combination of questions and assertions that the questioner’s thinking is somehow misguided is NOT to have offered what Peter instructed that a Christian be ready to offer.

                      You see, Beau, James has a responsibility to do this, not just because someone has asked him to out of a sincere desire to crack the content of his convictions, but because he has a position that gives him influence over others. If he is going to use that influence to tear down the faith of others — whether that faith be conceived of by some as misguided or not, and whether that tearing down is viewed by some as a necessary undertaking or not — then, as a professed Christian, he has a responsibility to help build it back up again, and not leave those who come under his influence to try and navigate a sea of uncertainty with blindfolds on.

                      The Apostle Paul did not journey from town to town preaching only the bad news of faulty roads to God; he brought the good news of salvation in Christ. Early Christians found that message so rich and compelling that they gave their lives for it. I certainly wouldn’t give my life for James’s Christianity because at this point it is so amorphous that all it’s inspired is a couple of wrinkles between my eyebrows.

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Kaz

                      James gives reason for the hope that is within him constantly on this website, “whether you [are] ready and willing to accept it or not”.

                      The inescapable irony is that the way that you want to describe James, as someone “preaching only the bad news of faulty roads to God” is such a perfect description of virtually every comment you make on this blog.

                      There’s a huge beam in your eye, and you’re too blind to see it.

                    • Kaz

                      “James gives reason for the hope that is within him constantly on this website, “whether you [are] ready and willing to accept it or not”.”

                      Perhaps so, but I’ve been following his blog at least since his book on monotheism was published and I haven’t seen answers to the very specific questions I have. He defends liberal Christianity all the time, to be sure, and he seems almost obsessed with establishing that it has a fine pedigree by arguing that great Christians of the past have been liberals. However, at the risk of repeating myself, he defends liberalism primarily by setting it over against views he considers faulty, and that approach simply leaves too many important questions unaddressed.

                      In any case, even if there are answers to my questions somewhere on his blog, Peter didn’t say “Direct anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you to your blog and tell him to search the archives.”

                      “The inescapable irony is that the way that you want to describe
                      James, as someone “preaching only the bad news of faulty roads to God” is such a perfect description of the vast majority of comments you make on this blog. There’s a huge beam in your eye, and you’re too blind to see it.”

                      Since so very many of my posts are responses to criticisms of others, even your criticism makes my point.

                    • beau_quilter

                      “Since so very many of my posts are responses to criticisms of others, even your criticism makes my point.”

                      Kaz, unless I’m mistaken you wrote one of the earliest comments on this post, accusing James of having a “Gospel according to James McGrath”?

                      For someone so concerned with the defending the faith, you spend an awful lot of time attacking the faith of others.

                      Do you have your own blog? Are you defending your faith there?

                    • Kaz

                      “Kaz, unless I’m mistaken you wrote one of the earliest comments on this post, accusing James of having a ‘Gospel according to James McGrath’?”

                      Actually, I wasn’t accusing him of having his own Gospel, but suggesting what one written by him might contain.

                      Note that my first post to this blog entry was a _response_ to a clever argument by James that equated someone who simply believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and that the things it teaches (whether directly or indirectly) can therefore be understood as things God “said”, as one whose approach is like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Nice, huh?

                      That criticism comes from a guy who has argued that Christians may be able to embrace gay marriage based, not based on Paul’s arguments, but on Paul’s method or style of developing arguments within his cultural context, even though Paul would not have accepted such a teaching in light of what he actually did say. Imagine how James would feel if someone used his writings to support something he emphatically rejects, not because of what his writings say, but because of his style or approach to developing arguments within his cultural context. He’d probably criticize that person on this very blog.

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

                      I don’t understand why you think I would criticize someone who adopted the same approach I advocate, and applied it to their own different historical and cultural setting in a different way than I apply it to mine. I hope that, in any area in which I have failed to fully work for love and equality because of the limited character of my cultural and personal horizons, no one who comes after me would appeal to my specific conclusions as an authority. I hope they would apply the principles and take them further still, and forgive me for having failed to do so, rather than trying to use me as a justification for not doing so either.

                    • Kaz

                      Yet your own responses to me demonstrate that you in fact don’t accept it when people make inferences based on your writings that you do not endorse, even inferences that expose underlying implications that you didn’t necessarily apprehend.

                      Nice try though.

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

                      Since you have yet to show that you grasp my explicit statements, much less my underlying assumptions, I would suggest that you may be wrong about having accomplished what you claim in the above comment. But by all means present specific examples if you are so inclined.

                    • Kaz

                      I could be wrong, but when someone holds up a shield to deflect probing questions it probably suggests that he realizes that the questioner is too perceptive for comfort. Not that I’m claiming to be unusually perceptive, but some questions and concerns are fairly obvious when one allows himself to seriously reflect on what’s been said.

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

                      Have you already forgotten that I answered your questions (to my satisfaction if for some reason apparently not to yours) and then you refused to reciprocate?

                    • Kaz

                      I must have missed it; can you direct me to the posts?

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

                      The most recent was this:

                      Your assumption that Christianity is about “eternal truth,” propositions that can be assented to irrespective of time in history or cultural context, is part of the problem. Where do you get the idea that the important truths about the infinite God are comprehensible to humans, capable of being articulated in human language at all, much less articulated in a manner so as to be unaffected by changes in language and culture?

                      But there were other questions before that.

                    • Kaz

                      How does that answer the question Peter said Christians should be ready and willing to provide when asked?

                    • Kaz

                      Sorry, poor wording: How does that constitute the answer Peter said Christians should be ready and willing to provide when asked?

                    • Kaz

                      So briefly: I not only don’t know the reasons for the hope that is in you, I don’t even know what whatever hope is in you even looks like. You’ve said that Jesus is your savior in that he saved you from a life oriented around yourself so that you could live a life oriented toward God. That doesn’t seem to be a specifically “Christian” endeavor, though, and it could mean so many different things to so many different people.

                      Perhaps in the future I’ll simply compile a list of specific questions designed to help reduced the potential for responses with too much inherent ambiguity and give you the opportunity to answer them or not as you see fit.

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

                      OK, so just to be clear, you are still not willing to answer questions?

                      It seems to me that the problem is not that I have not given reasons for the hope that is in me, but that you assume that Christian hope itself needs to be something different, and so my explanations keep seeming to you to be beside the point.

                    • Kaz

                      “OK, so just to be clear, you are still not willing to answer questions?”

                      I thought you were presenting the question as though it constituted an answer to my questions. If so, then just know that a question isn’t an answer to my questions. If not, then right back at ya.

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

                      No, I was asking you a question in order to better understand your question, which makes little sense in the framework of my own understanding, and hopefully get at assumptions which might be preventing you from understanding me.

                      So I ask again, are you unwilling to have this be a conversation, in which you can not only ask questions but also have questions posed to you?

                    • Kaz

                      I think I’d like to do as I previously mentioned, and come up with some questions that are likely to be more helpful than the ones I’ve been asking. I’d also like to suggest that you turn your attention away from the shortcomings you see in other views for a while and run a series of blog posts making your positive case for Christianity.

                      You could address issues like why you feel you need a savior, why you’re confident that Jesus satisfies that need, esp. in light of the popular view among critical scholars that so much of what’s been written about him was invented by his chroniclers. You could address what you believe he accomplishes in your behalf, e.g. whether the life oriented toward God is something you merely hope to enjoy in the hear and now, or whether you believe that he opened the door for you to have an eternal relationship oriented toward God, and, if so, why, etc, etc, etc.

                      In the mean time, you asked:

                      “Where do you get the idea that the important truths about the infinite God are comprehensible to humans, capable of being articulated in human language at all, much less articulated in a manner so as to be unaffected by changes in language and culture?”

                      That question appears to be based on the assumption that only the truths that are incomprehensible to us are important. I reject that notion, and really don’t even know what the source of such an assumption could be.

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

                      And I do not hold that assumption, as should be clear to anyone who reads my blog on which I regularly emphasize the importance of all sorts of truths that are both comprehensible and important. But I would say that only a God who is incomprehensible to us is truly God.

                    • Kaz

                      I didn’t think you held that assumption, but you asked the question, which may signify that my own thinking wasn’t made sufficiently clear, as you suggested above. All the more reason for me to try and come up with some questions that more narrowly or precisely focused.

                    • Beau Quilter

                      I rest my case

                    • Kaz

                      What case?

                    • beau_quilter

                      Yes, that one.

                    • Kaz

                      The paragraph that James responded to yesterday, which response caused you to exclaim “I rest my case”, was a “by the way” paragraph. The paragraph that actually was a direct response to your post was this one:

                      “Note that my first post to this blog entry was a _response_ to a clever argument by James that equated someone who simply believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and that the things it teaches (whether directly or indirectly) can therefore be understood as things God “said”, as one whose approach is like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Nice, huh?”

                      James’s response had nothing to do with that paragraph, and yet that it is the paragraph that constituted the response to your criticism, which you now imagine highlighted a “case” that you are now able to rest. James’s response, my replies to his response, and his final acknowledgment didn’t help your case, it showed that it’s been misguided from the very beginning.

                      Your very first “Say what!!!!!?” was a response to my statement that I wasn’t asking James to delineate God’s transcendence. Had you and he merely accepted that, he wouldn’t have had to repeat the following question to me:

                      “Where do you get the idea that the important truths about the infinite God are comprehensible to humans, capable of being articulated in human language at all, much less articulated in a manner so as to be unaffected by changes in language and culture?”

                      Not only is such a question missing the mark, as I’ve never asked James to delineate incomprehensible truths, which I pointed out in the post that preceded your “Say what!!!!!?”, but last night James revealed that even he rejects the underlying assumption upon which that question is based. He corrected himself by offering the following very different, clarifying comment:

                      “And I do not hold that assumption…But I would say that only a God who is incomprehensible to us is truly God.”

                      So he asked a question, not once but twice, yet _neither of us_ accept the premise of the question. All that’s been revealed is that both you and James don’t have a good grasp of what I’m trying to get him to clarify. Yet part of your “Say what!!!!!?” case has been that:

                      “Oh, I followed your ‘line of questioning’ quite well”

                      As I said before, apparently not. Part of the problem is that you seem to reflect on the sorts of questions I’ve been posing in isolation, as though this specific blog entry is all there is or ever was. I approach these entries as opportunities to continue a dialogue begun some time ago. Another thing that’s possibly part of the problem is that I simply need to be much more specific in my questions. Be it so or not, that hasn’t been your case, as you snidely made it clear that you followed my questioning quite well.

                    • beau_quilter

                      No, that isn’t what “I rest my case” was in response to.

                    • Kaz

                      “No, that isn’t what “I rest my case” was in response to – you missed that train.”

                      Perhaps you could clarify the train, then?

                      “Oh – and when I said “I followed your line of questioning quite
                      well”, I was quoting you – remember? I’ll take credit for “quite well”. I
                      must say, the point of that comment went completely over your head.”

                      It’s possible.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Oh, that train left the station days ago …

                      Time to move on.

                    • Kaz

                      Probably because the cars simply can’t be connected. You’re right, it is time to move on.

                    • Beau Quilter

                      “Well, I didn’t really ask why you believe in God, or to articulate his transcendence, did I?”

                      So the reason we shouldn’t see this as sarcasm or patronization is that I haven’t been “following [your] line of questioning”?

                      Kaz, most of us come to this blog, specifically because we’re interested in what James has to say on a variety of topics. We don’t come here for your opinions. The suggestion that you are somehow in charge of the conversation, that it should follow your “line of questioning”, or that something James says is invalid because you “didn’t really ask”, is arrogant, presumptuous, and childish.

                    • arcseconds

                      For someone who admits they don’t have a clear understanding of what McGrath believes, you’re certainly very ready with assumptions, suspicions, ad hominems and words to put in his mouth.

                      I don’t think it’s that hard to work out a reasonable outline of what McGrath believes, if you’re attentive.

                      It is actually pretty difficult to follow your line of questioning in amongst the bizarre references to twinkies, personal anecdotes about quotes with reminded you of McGrath (how sweet!), editorial page style sweeping demands, and coming down on him like a tonne of bricks when he doesn’t answer as you want him to.

                      But as far as I can work out, your current worry is that liberal Christianity in general and McGrath in particular don’t treat the Bible as a didactic textbook wherein one can read off the things one should believe in once and forever.

                      You appear to think that this amounts to rejecting the Bible, and the only other option is to float around untethered, making up stuff as you go along.

                      As I wouldn’t want anyone else to be roasted alive for daring to answer the wrong question, is this roughly what you’re asking about at the moment?

                    • Kaz

                      Thank you for offering to help, but I really wanted James’s answers to the questions posed, and to the subsequent questions that would surely have arisen in response to the answers, had they been given. You are more than welcome to offer your own if you’d like, but I’ve thrown in the towel and decided to move on. It’s just too frustrating for me to see someone criticize others again and again and again and again and again and again and again, but then throw up a deflector shield when someone tries to penetrate the mysterious content of his own convictions.

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

                      I look forward to hearing about the movie, as I haven’t noticed any mention of showings in my area!

                    • Kaz

                      I enjoyed it very much. It didn’t really delve into the theological particulars that we associate with the conditionalist’s position, but focused primarily on the trials that Edward Fudge went through because of his convictions. In order to make the plot work they had to take one rather obvious liberty, which has to do with Fudge’s “Aha!” moment, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. I think you’ll know what I’m referring to when you finally see the film.

                      A woman who was involved with the filming (she may have been the producer, but it was hard to hear her at first, so I can’t say for sure) spoke and took questions afterward, and she assured us that it will be available on DVD once they’ve taken the film as far as they can vis a vis screenings. She also said that she’s involved with the production of a documentary on the subject, and that they’ve been in contact with various scholars about that.


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