Barack Obama’s other controversial pastor

Barack Obama has asked megachurch pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. This has made gay activists furious, since Rev. Warren supported Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California:

Barack Obama’s choice of a prominent evangelical minister to perform the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that – in the wake of a gay marriage ban in California – is looking for a fight.

Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, opposes abortion rights but has taken more liberal stances on the government role in fighting poverty, and backed away from other evangelicals’ staunch support for economic conservatism. But it’s his support for the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that drew the most heated criticism from Democrats Wednesday.

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. “[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.”

The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle.

I appreciate Mr. Obama’s gesture to social conservatives in inviting Rev. Warren. But it will be interesting to see if Mr. Obama resists the pressure from his base, which will probably also give him grief over Rev. Warren’s pro-life beliefs. Mr. Obama has a history of throwing associates under the bus–to the point of giving us this new cliche–once they attract negative attention. But he is going to be president now, and he doesn’t have to bend to his critics. I will give our new president major credit if he still lets Rick Warren say the prayer.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • The Jones

    Another step towards me liking Obama. ESPECIALLY if he actually follows through DESPITE fierce resistance. Who knows, maybe he’ll follow through on what previously looked like a super-bogus claim to “bring people together.” I for one thought his moderate flair during the campaign was hogwash designed to placate moderates and marginalize Republicans. Looks like it’s possible that his liberal flair (get out of Iraq, clinging to religion, perhaps even the Freedom of Choice Act?) was the pander to voters.

    I’m excited to see which one is the case.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Personally I think Warren shouldn’t do it. It seems to me too much like a blessing on an administration that’s promised to roll back protections for the unborn.

    But I’m bitter and vindictive, so consider the source.

  • Carl Vehse

    “This has made gay activists furious, since Rev. Warren supported Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California”

    Hmmmm… Furious Activist Gays. Maybe the F.A.G.s will throw their panties at him during the inauguration.

    BTW, Proposition 8 passed by 52%. Thus appropriately, it now should be referred to as the California constitutional amendment on marriage. The constitutional amendment went into effect on November 5.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Well, one can be somewhat pleased that Pastor Warren will give the invocation for a Pres. Obama who is opposed to the pastor’s views on abortion and homosexual marriage.

    However his choice for the poet, Elizabeth Alexander, to hold forth at the inauguration gives a bit of pause. She wrote the following in the poem, “The Venus Hottentot”:

    “Her genitalia will float inside a labeled pickling jar . . . ”

    “Monsieur Cuvier investigates between my legs, poking, prodding . . . ”

    “Since my own genitals are public I have made other parts private.”

    No Robert Frost she. Sooner or later Obama gets trapped in his basically radical chic view of life.

  • Carl Vehse

    “I will give our new president major credit if he still lets Rick Warren say the prayer.”

    Hmmmm… this assumes that Warren will give a prayer that does not kowtow to the political/traitorous views of those at the inauguration.

    I recall from the past a Lutheran pastor who could have offered a Christian prayer but instead gave a politically-correct (but un-Christian) prayer that would not offend the worshippers of Baal present at a prayer gathering.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, it will be a test for Rick Warren as well. I just hope he doesn’t wear a Hawaiian shirt! (It won’t be Southern California weather, that’s for sure.) I also hope he prays, as Christians are commanded to, in the name of Jesus.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    I think President-elect Clintama made the right choice.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    I think they do make Hawaiian style parkas now…

  • Don S

    Let me first say that the article quoted in the post misrepresents Rick Warren’s politics. He is definitely politically conservative, as he stated on Hannity & Colmes in August right after the “Saddleback Forum”. He does not promote government efforts to address poverty. Rather, he promotes Christians’ private efforts to address poverty, with a particular emphasis in his church body on Africa, and the AIDS epidemic on that continent. He just does not believe that pastors should be front and center on political issues. He did directly speak out on Proposition 8, however, considering that to be a moral issue appropriate for a pastor to advocate.

    I think Warren is right to accept the invitation of his President to pray at the inauguration. Prayer is not political, and all people, no matter their politics, need it. We all need to pray for Mr. Obama, and his administration. Warren does need to stand up for what’s right, though, and pray in Jesus’ name, and effectually. Billy Graham was a master at doing that, regardless of the politics of the president for whom he was praying.

  • Michael the little boot

    Carl,

    “Hmmmm… Furious Activist Gays. Maybe the F.A.G.s will throw their panties at him during the inauguration.”

    And people have asked Dr. Veith to kick ME off this blog. I know most of you think gay people are wrong and unrepentent sinners, but why have none of you called Mr. Vehse on this? Is it okay to call people hurtful names if they don’t share your beliefs about what is or is not a sin?

    I’m reminded of something Jesus said about who should cast stones…

  • Michael the little boot

    I think it is short-sighted for a president to include an exclusivist pastor in his inauguration at all. Even though Christianity is the religion of the majority in this country, Obama will be president to everyone. Allowing a person who believes most people in the world will go to hell because they don’t share his beliefs to speak at this event will alienate a lot of people. That’s not a president’s job. This is a politically motivated move. Which means, before he’s even president, Obama ’12 is already in full effect. Beyond disappointing.

  • CRB

    He should have invited Oprah, that way he would offend no one except those who believe, teach and confess the truth!

  • Carl Vehse

    “Allowing a person who believes most people in the world will go to hell because they don’t share his beliefs to speak at this event will alienate a lot of people.”

    Yeah… but only those going to hell, Michael.

  • FW

    I repeat. Obama will be a classic liberal democrat. His judicial and governmental views on HOW to govern will lean towards the conservative side of the liberal spectrum. He will govern as a centrist. He will try to govern in a way that shows he knows that is is also the president of the 48+% who voted for the other guy.

    The only people who will be surprised at this will be the ones who did not think he was sincere during his campaign and chose to believe the republican portrayal of him as a closet communist subversive radical hidden agenda whatever…..

    as for the HRC. they represent gays about as much as al sharpton represents american blacks. I have been on this blog for a long while now.

    could it be that I am more representative of typical gay men and lesbians than those overly loud “gay activists” are?

    correspondingly, could it be that all of you here are way way more representative of typical christian conservatives than say jim and tammy faye bakker and pat robertson and jan and paul crouch and the mormon church? AND rick warren? Rick Warren most certainly does not represent MY brand of Lutheran conservatism. Not even close….

  • FW

    Yeah. lets see if rick warren prays in Jesus name….

  • Michael the little boot

    Carl,

    “Yeah… but only those going to hell, Michael.” So it IS okay to treat those who aren’t “saved” as though they’re not people. Is that what I’m hearing from you, Carl? I’ve read the Bible, and never found that. When people pointed fingers at others, Jesus pointed them back to themselves. You really surprise me, Carl. Continually. Glad you think you’re funny.

  • Michael the little boot

    I know there’s no way to have someone pray at the inauguration without offending SOMEONE. I’m just saying he should have been more sensitive. He is everyone’s president. He should have someone pray who believes every citizen is an equal citizen, regardless of what they believe.

  • http://thejcalebjones.tumblr.com The Jones

    Carl, I’ve got to agree with Michael on this point: F.A.G.s was over the line. That was over the line. It seems you’ve abandoned making substantive points and are just making fun in a derogatory way. That’s not cool.

    But Michael, I think (I’m not 100% sure) that I agree with everything Rick Warren believes in the homosexual rights issues, and I don’t believe that gays and lesbians should have any fewer rights than others. The discrepancy comes down to what you mean by “rights” and “equal.” But not even Rick Warren will say that gays aren’t equal citizens.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    So let me get this straight, Michael. Your view is that, if Obama had chosen a pastor who shared his own views, i.e., one who believed in homosexual marriage and abortion on demand, that would have been “inclusive” and would have brought us all together. But his gesture of selecting a pastor with whom he personally disagrees is exclusive, and drives us all apart. Interesting logic.

  • Michael the little boot

    The Jones,

    I didn’t say equal rights. I said the pastor praying at any inauguration should believe all US citizens are equal, regardless of what each citizen believes. I understand making that statement sounds like I’m talking about homosexuals, but I’m not. I’m talking about everyone Warren disagrees with. He is a famous person, and his positions are well-known. He believes anyone who is not a Christian is not “saved”. We live in a pluralistic nation. We should not represent ourselves as a whole with an exclusivist position. Asking Warren to pray at this event is giving credence to his position, which I think is a step backwards. I don’t expect a lot of agreement here, but there you go.

    To reiterate: I’m not talking about Warren’s position on homosexuality, or on *ahem* the change to CA’s constitution. I’m talking about Warren as an exclusivist, fundamentalist Christian. He represents a position which excludes a good number of US citizens.

  • Michael the little boot

    Lars,

    Thanks for going off half-cocked. When did I say anything like what you wrote? I said Warren is an exclusivist. Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the term? He doesn’t believe I, as a nonbeliever, am saved. He has made his opinion on this matter known. There are many pastors who do not share his exclusivist views. I would have liked for the Obama team (come on, it’s not like Obama himself was the only person weighing in on this pick) to take that into consideration. I’m not asking them to have Bishop Spong give the prayer. But having a fundamentalist give the prayer is a move which EXCLUDES a good number of people, moderate and liberal Christians included. To say nothing of the devotees of other religions, and the nonreligious. He may be a Christian, but Obama is not only the president of Christians.

    I’m glad the responses I’ve got have put words in my mouth. You expect me to say certain things which I don’t say, then you call me on saying the things which I haven’t said. As a person who works in a library, I’m glad to see people know how to read.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    OK, how about these words? Your position seems to be that all “fundamentalists” (which seems to mean anyone who actually believes the historic doctrines of the church) should forever be barred from speaking at public ceremonies. Your definition of inclusivity means excluding everybody who offends you, and including everyone who offends me.

  • CRB

    Well, if there truly IS a separation of church and state, then why have a prayer at all?!

  • subcutaneous

    Michael, can you suggest someone to give the prayer who would not be seen as “exclusivist” or would not offend “a good number of US citizens”?

    BTW, I see your usage of the terms “fundamentalist” and “exclusivist” just as disparaging and offensive as some of the terms that offend you.

  • Joe

    I think Obama is way out of bounds with his pick of Rick Warren to give the invocation. But not because Warren is exclusive or offensive. It is also not because his theology is not Lutheran. No, I think this is a terrible pick because it is insincere. He should have picked a pastor with whom he agrees. This is just political pandering regardless of who he chooses – whether they are “inclusive” or “exclusive.” To me this tells me exactly how little his professed Christianity means to him.

    Frank – I do wish you would stop claiming that anyone who thinks Obama is going to rule as a radical as having bought into some underhanded GOP deception. I am withholding judgment (and praying that he does rule from the Center) at this point. But my conclusion that Obama is/was a radical is based on his record – not McCain’s ads. One small example is his affiliation with the New Party. You couldn’t get the New Party (neo-marxist political party formed in the mid-1990’s) endorsement unless you pledged yourself to a very leftwing (sorry “progressive”) agenda. In fact, the New Party made people sign an actual written pledge before they would give out an endorsement. Obama received the New Party endorsement in 1996 (the New Party later died). He has never given a speech explaining when his views changed or why. So, while I hope I am wrong, I am not expecting him to do anything inconsistent with what he has done in the past.

  • Michael the little boot

    Lars,

    Why do you want to jump on me? You’re not wanting to listen to me, only to mischaracterize what I’ve said. I didn’t say fundamentalists should be barred from speaking in public ceremonies. But I do find, in a pluralistic nation, that it does not serve our common interests to have someone offer a public prayer for the incoming president who has proclaimed things which alienate a huge number of people. It just makes no sense in a country which proclaims itself the “melting pot” of the world.

    I also never said anything about “offending” anyone. Offense is an emotion, one most people feel from time to time. I can’t, as an adult, expect there to be anything that will offend no one. Most things have the potential to offend. But this goes beyond that. This is the president-elect basically giving a public thumbs-up to a man who really does not believe everyone in the US should be included as a “real American.”

  • Michael the little boot

    subcutaneous,

    No, I can’t suggest someone. I personally think praying in any sectarian sense has no place in a pluralistic society. But, as someone who has studied religion, I know there are better choices. What you’re asking is like burying me in discovery. How can I really give a suggestion here, out of ALL the religious figures in the world? There are too many to name just in the US, let alone know or understand.

    While I don’t try to offend people, I do not set out NOT to offend. If you are offended by my use of those terms, perhaps it’s an opportunity for you to ask yourself why you’re offended. What is it specifically about my use of those terms you dislike? I can see why you call them disparaging, since that’s my intention: to disparage exclusivity. It’s just tribalism. I’m not the one who believes we’re higher than the other animals, but I am the one advocating for us not ACTING like other animals.

  • Jack O’Neill

    I’m sorry, I guess I’m getting old; now the homosexuals are offended at the usage of the word fag? Where is the insult in that term? It came from a yiddish word for little bird, vaygalah. [German voegelein.] Is queer better? The origin and meaning of that term is clear, and definitely pejorative. I am not going to use the term gay, so I guess I’ll just call them homosexuals.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jack,

    “…now the homosexuals are offended at the usage of the word fag?” Not NOW, Jack. It’s always been an offensive term. You can use homosexual, since gay is not to your liking. I’ve talked to all my gay friends, and they give you permission.

  • Kelly

    I missed that quote from Warren where he said that not everyone in the US is a “real American.” I suspect it’s a non-existent mischaracterization of those raving “fundamentalist” Christians, who happen to make up the majority of Christians in this country and throughout history regarding these particular issues of contention. I’m amazed that this little group of radicals are treating Warren’s ideology like some crazy radicalism, instead of a norm. Christians have always believed that homosexual behavior is wrong, that Jesus is the only means of salvation, etc. They may not *like* those ideas, but to be shocked and amazed?

    This outrage over Warren seems like just a channel for people to express their frustration over Proposition 8. Warren annoys me plenty, but it’s obvious that all real belief is exclusive by definition. By suggesting you’re right on something, you’re automatically insinuating that a lot of people (who you don’t have to hate) are wrong– unless all belief is a whim inside your head and has no bearing on reality, which I know some think.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith (@6) “I also hope he prays, as Christians are commanded to, in the name of Jesus.” And I hope that he, and everyone else here, understands that doesn’t mean that you have to say “… in Jesus’ name”, or even “Jesus” in a prayer. If that were so, then the Lord’s Prayer, given to us as a model, would be lacking. Let’s not get legalistic here.

    Michael (@10), if I thought it was worthwhile to correct Carl at this point, I’d do so. But he’s welcome here, it’s clear, no matter how wrong he is. Though a few others do say something from time to time, it’s far from the majority.

  • Carl Vehse

    Michael: “Allowing a person who believes most people in the world will go to hell because they don’t share his beliefs to speak at this event will alienate a lot of people.”

    Carl: “Yeah… but only those going to hell, Michael.”

    Michael: “So it IS okay to treat those who aren’t ‘saved’ as though they’re not people.”

    Michael (responding to what someone said about another post of his): “Thanks for going off half-cocked. When did I say anything like what you wrote?… You expect me to say certain things which I don’t say, then you call me on saying the things which I haven’t said.”

    Carl: Dittos, Michael.

  • Michael the little boot

    Kelly,

    First of all, I never said fundamentalists hate anyone. I also specifically said this doesn’t have to do with prop 8. I take issue with your statment “…it’s obvious that all real belief is exclusive by definition.” It’s not obvious. There are plenty of people for whom belief has nothing to do with being right or wrong. Some people realize we live in a world which is not so easily described in these terms.

    “I suspect it’s a non-existent mischaracterization of those raving ‘fundamentalist’ Christians, who happen to make up the majority of Christians in this country and throughout history regarding these particular issues of contention.” Okay, time for a history lesson. Fundamentalism is a movement within Christianity which began in the late 19th century, entering the public eye with the publication of a multi-volume work entitled “The Fundamentals” in 1910. When I use the term, this is what I mean by it. There is little in Fundamentalist Christianity which one could rightly characterize as more traditional than other forms of Christianity. To say fundamentalists make up the majority of Christians in this country is to misunderstand what the word means. To say “Christians have always believed that homosexual behavior is wrong” is something of a misnomer, since this belief has been widely held regardless of religious affiliation. It is not especially Christian.

    Not to put to fine a point on it, but Christians have not always believed in the divinity of Christ. We had a long discussion about this recently. It wasn’t until the council of Nicea that this doctrine was made official.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I agree, Kelly: Everyone certainly has a right to be hell-bound and a “real-Amercian”. Nobody even has to fight over that right. Its just comes naturally to every red-blooded American sinner. I doubt if Pastor Warren has a problem with that right. Lot’s of people have a problem with this realistic theology, though. To name sin as sin is becoming really un-patriotic.

  • Michael the little boot

    Okay, Carl. You got me. Point to you.

  • Michael the little boot

    tODD,

    I don’t mean anyone should “correct” Carl, and I don’t mean to suggest he isn’t welcome. What I meant by saying something about others asking Dr. Veith to remove me is that there’s just no accounting for what constitutes a “removable” offense. I thought Carl’s comment @ 3 was beyond anything I’ve said, and I was expressing surprise that no one had even mentioned it was not a cool thing to say. I guess most people just disregard those statements. I am less mature than those people.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan,

    “Nobody even has to fight over that right.” Really? Do I have to refer you to the statement made by former prez George H.W. Bush about atheists not being considered as citizens or patriots? Or about people not being able to run for public office in Texas without publicly espousing belief in a “Supreme Being”? Or about the fact that, in the little town where I work, I fear people finding out about my beliefs due to prior negative reactions? Maybe you, as one of the majority, do not have to fight for your right to be called a “real American”, but some of us DO.

  • Michael the little boot

    Does anyone realize how it makes non-Christians feel when Christians talk about this as a Christian nation? That others are welcome here, as long as they stay in their corner? I admit Warren has never said anything like what I suggested. I was using hyperbole. But it is a serious feeling people who are not Christians have in this country. I am talking about how it feels not to be in the majority in a nation that pays lip-service to pluralism, but gets angry and offended when reminded there are others at the party.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    MTTB,

    What a crock of crap.

    This country goes out of it’s way to make people feel welcome. More so than any other country on the face of the earth. That’s why they keep coming.

  • Don S

    Joe @ 25: Actually, Rick Warren and Obama are pretty good friends. I think that probably had as much to do with it as anything. Obama has been coming out here to Warren’s annual AIDS summit for several years, and from all reports they are quite close. They have political and theological disagreements, to be sure, but I think Obama looks to Warren as one of his spiritual advisors. So I don’t really think it is a hypocritical move. I used to think so, before and during the campaign, but I no longer do. I really think in a way Rick Warren is becoming the new Billy Graham, in the sense that he seems to be making himself available to politicians of both parties for this type of role.

    Michael, those of us who believe that Christ is the only way to salvation are just practicing historical Christian faith. It’s not “exclusivist”, because Christ’s free gift is available to everyone. We are no better than those who have not yet accepted the gift. We are simply forgiven, because of Christ’s merciful act on the cross. I can guarantee that there is no way that Rick Warren thinks any less of those who are unsaved than he does of those who are saved. We are all citizens, equally entitled to the liberties granted to us under the Constitution.

  • Michael the little boot

    Don,

    I’m glad you think that (I had no doubt, really). You and I have different definitions of the word “exclusivist”. I take my definition from the Comparitive Religions class I attended in college. Your belief that you are part of the only true “way to God” makes you an exclusivist by that definition.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Lip-service to pluralism? Really? Are you serious?

    More, like lip service to Christianity. That’s what I live and experience, but perhaps its different here.

    And I would really like you to show me where anyone has said atheists are not considered as citizens or patriots and where it says that people are not able to run for public office in Texas without publicly espousing belief in a “Supreme Being”.

    If those are true, they’re pretty stupid rules and no Christian that I am close to espouses those ideas as good politics – at least not to me. I know some non-Christians who come close to those views, but our nation views them and their false theology as “Christian”. It’s a shame.

    I think I, like you Michael, want to be a citizen of a nation where one is free to believe according to their conscience. Everyone should have an equal right to run for public office on the merits of their own convictions and not on the specifics of their religion. I keep thinking I live in that sort of country. Silly me.

    But back to the subject of this post, the collective will of the people should not be allowed to dictate anyone’s Creed either. Whoever is invited to pray for Obama’s election should pray according to their faith and conscience and the rest of us are free to pray with that person or not.

  • Michael the little boot

    Steve,

    Why do you even comment on my comments? You only ever say things along the lines of “what a crock of crap.” You are not really in a place to say what it FEELS like to be in the minority as far as your religion is concerned. Your statement “This country goes out of it’s way to make people feel welcome.” shows you have no grasp of what it FEELS like to be outside the majority in that regard. And when this president, whom so many here have derided as extreme, radical and ultra-liberal, invites someone like Warren to pray at his inauguration, it shows how far we’ve yet to go, as a nation, in really making people feel welcome.

    There. I’ve added more to my crock of crap. Enjoy!

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan,

    No problem. Robert Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal, asked former president George H.W. Bush the following question: “Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?” Mr. Bush replied “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” You can find any number of things referencing this quote by searching “George H.W. Bush atheists patriots” or something similar. Go to sourcewatch – dot – org and search it. It can also be found in The History of the Issue by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, but I know she is a much-derided figure by believers, so hopefully you can find it in the other places I suggested.

    As for the Constitution of the State of Texas, it allows for officials to be “excluded from holding office” if said official does not “acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being”. You can go to religioustolerance – dot – org if you’d like one place to check that out, or search “texas public office supreme being”.

    “I keep thinking I live in that sort of country. Silly me.” Yes. Well, hopefully you’ll read some things I listed here.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    “You are not really in a place to say what it FEELS like to be in the minority as far as your religion is concerned.”

    Are you kidding ? I’m a Lutheran!

    I’m so sorry, Michael. I’m so sorry that we have allowed this victimology to prosper to the point where we have so many sniveling people in this country.

    I don’t see the newcomers to this country (those who really are that much different) but the young people who were born here , or the people that have been imbued with this ‘poor me’ attitude (usually in college).

    Everybody has problems! Everybody has something about them that maybe somebody else doesn’t care for. It’s called life.

    We are in realy big trouble(this country). Really big trouble. We have raised a nation of crybabies.

  • Peter Leavitt

    We are in really big trouble(this country). Really big trouble. We have raised a nation of crybabies

    While the Left, with its self-interested emphasis on victims, has created a plethora of crybabies, most Americans soldier on through their difficulties, including the present economic one. America at its core is still a nation of disciplined, hardworking people who are smart enough to know that the the Marxism and nihilism of the Left is horse manure.

    Michael and his leftist buddies need to find some real work.

  • Carl Vehse

    “Not to put to fine a point on it, but Christians have not always believed in the divinity of Christ. We had a long discussion about this recently. It wasn’t until the council of Nicea that this doctrine was made official.”

    Michael, occasionally you really drop a load. This is one of those times. Furthermore, for someone who is not a Christian, telling the list what Christians believe about the divinity of Christ, and when, is like a medieval blacksmith coaching professional basketball. Borrowing a comment from elsewhere, “If you don’t play the game no one cares about your version of the rules.”

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Peter,

    Good thoughts, Peter.

    And I didn’t get offended…not once.

  • Michael the little boot

    Steve,

    Nice condescension. I don’t see where I’m crying. I never said I had problems no one else has, and I never said I deserve special treatment. I said there are many people in this country, not just Christians.

    It’s convenient to be alternately Christian or Lutheran as it suits your purpose. You’re a Christian, Steve, and, last time I checked, that was still the dominant form of religion in the US.

    I’ll stop crying now.

  • Michael the little boot

    Peter,

    I’m not a liberal. I’m not on the left. I’m not a marxist. I’m not a nihilist. I have real work. I work at a public library. Essentially, I work for you, Peter.

    With all the complaining that goes on here, it’s funny you act like I’m the only one doing it. I guess since I’m complaining about things with which you disagree…well, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I don’t know how anything you’re saying about Americans being hard-working has anything to do with what I said. You’re arguing with a straw man. Luckily, this straw man’s got a brain.

  • Michael the little boot

    Carl,

    I was raised a Christian. My brain, my entire way of thinking, was formed in the church. I am a Christian, except for the minor problem that I don’t believe in the divinity of Christ, or in God at all. But I DO know the rules, kid. Just because I’ve gone to play on a different field, doesn’t mean I don’t still understand what’s going on in your game. Nice fake, though.

  • Michael the little boot

    Man, I missed these dogpiles. :)

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    “I think it is short-sighted for a president to include an exclusivist pastor in his inauguration at all.”

    Perhaps he should also include an exclusivist inclusivist for good measure.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Michael, am I correct in inferring (from posts such as 20 and 21) that you equate fundamentalism with belief in salvation/damnation?

    I know you mentioned the historical roots of fundamentalism but you did not mention your understanding of what beliefs distinguished that movement from the Evangelicalism out of which it grew. Hence my inference.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    MTLB,

    Ok, Ok,…you are not a crybaby.

    Lutheran theology is a minority theology…that was my point. I know what is is like to be in the minority and I don’t ask for anyone to put me on equal ground. That some people think less of me because of what I believe, well, that’s the way it goes…life isn’t fair.

    Sometimes the more we try to engineer fairness, the more unfair things get.

  • The Jones

    Michael,

    You’re having some trouble with definitions. What do you mean by “equal” at post 20? Equal doesn’t mean “exactly the same.” Sure, women are equal under the law as men, but they are not “exactly the same.” If they were, we wouldn’t have separate bathrooms.

    So, in our pluralistic nation, giving Warren a spot gives precedence to his beliefs, which you think would be a step backwards. Warren’s beliefs make him unfit for the position of giving the invocation. Well, I don’t agree with your position that HIS position keeps him from the post. And I think to DISqualify Warren based on his beliefs is a step in the wrong direction. AND, I don’t think your beliefs (about certain beliefs about homosexuality disqualifying someone for the inagural invocation) should take precedence over mine in this pluralistic society that we live in.

    That’s a long way of saying: You yourself don’t match up to the standard of equality that you are pushing on Rick Warren.

  • Michael the little boot

    Tickletext,

    “Perhaps he should also include an exclusivist inclusivist for good measure.” Nice. I’m a pluralist, actually. I believe everyone is working out their own existence, and trying to do the best they can. I believe Rick Warren is trying to do the best he can. I believe I would not be doing my best were I to keep silent on this blog with my dissenting opinion. Just because I think Warren, in his view others are going to hell because they don’t share his belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, is making a choice to believe something which excludes too many people for a US president to include him in an inauguration, doesn’t mean I am being exclusive. I am trying to be more inclusive. Warren is not. Hence he should not offer the prayer.

  • Michael the little boot

    Tickletext,

    I equate exclusivism with some sort of salvation/damnation dogma. I was using the terms “exclusivist” and “fundamentalist” to describe Warren. Perhaps I was a bit lazy and used them like they were interchangeable. The area is grey, but I’d say they’re not exactly so; but isn’t that splitting hairs? I think you’re inference is more like a trap door. I tend to side-step those.

    I don’t know why I would have to digress into evangelicalism. I’m pretty foggy on American Christianity, anyway. I fell asleep in that class. A lot. Why do I get the sense you’re playing gotcha?

  • Michael the little boot

    Steve,

    I’m old enough to know life’s not fair. I don’t think objecting to Warren giving the inaugural prayer is anywhere near trying to engineer fairness. On that point (“Sometimes the more we try to engineer fairness, the more unfair things get.”) we agree. Remember, I never offered an alternative. I disagree Warren is the right choice to give the prayer for a centrist president. I don’t think that means there should be a smorgasbord of clergy, poets and nonbelievers. I don’t think we need to offer prayers to the universe or anything. There are other CHRISTIANS who would be better choices! I’m not going to offer alternatives myself, because that is beside the point: that is, Rick Warren will not be speaking for the citizens of the US. He will only be speaking for part of us. Which is not what we do in our country. Is it?

  • Michael the little boot

    The Jones,

    First of all, I want to get this out of the way. Again. “AND, I don’t think your beliefs (about certain beliefs about homosexuality disqualifying someone for the inagural invocation) should take precedence over mine in this pluralistic society that we live in.” Okay, seriously, I’m talking about Warren’s exclusivity. I understand this thread is about that issue, but I thought other ideas had entered into it. Isn’t that part of the point of having comments on a blog?

    I don’t think your analogy about women applies to what we’re talking about. I’m not saying everyone should be represented at the inauguration. I’m saying Warren actively chooses to believe other people are going to hell. He is not private about this belief. He actively excludes people from his prayer simply by writing about his beliefs in this area. There are those who will not feel free to pray with him, because they know exactly how he feels about their souls.

    “Well, I don’t agree with your position that HIS position keeps him from the post. And I think to DISqualify Warren based on his beliefs is a step in the wrong direction.” Why? You didn’t give any reasons. I think Warren, in being so publicly against all other religions as a way to get to God, disqualifies himself.

    “You yourself don’t match up to the standard of equality that you are pushing on Rick Warren.” Well, I’m not giving the prayer. I think Rick Warren and I are equal as citizens, but equal doesn’t mean exactly the same.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    MTLB,

    While R.Warren may not be the best choice, Obama may not be either.

    But since he’s (Obama) the one we elected, then the guy he picked is the one speaking for us.

    Otherwise, the same thing could be said about Obama…that he only speaks for part of us…and that wouldn’t be right, either.

  • Manxman

    If he lets Warren say the prayer, I’ll give Obama credit, too – for cunning. Such a thing advances the false idea that somehow there can be accommodation between Biblical Christianity & the horrendous things Obama is likely to promote in the name of inclusiveness. I’m afraid Warren will be another evangelical “useful idiot” for the liberals.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Michael, my question was an attempt to better understand your views, not a “gotcha” query. I tend to think that the blogosphere in general would be more productive of fruitful interchange (not to mention more pleasant) if we would spend more time formulating and asking questions and less time labeling and indicting one another on the basis of our cheap presumptions and easy classifications. That includes Christians and non-Christians alike. Perhaps I’m being naive.

    So let me ask you for one further clarification: you are saying that in order to be a true pluralist one cannot believe in hell. For you, pluralism is not merely a civil distinctive but also a theological one. Is that accurate?

    I await your response, but let me say initially that I find that conception unusual to say the least.

  • Michael the little boot

    Steve,

    Obama was elected. “We” didn’t necessarily elect him, meaning ALL of us, but the way the system works is, once the votes are cast, we accept who has won. I didn’t have any “He’s not MY president” stickers on my car after Bush won. That’s just ridiculous.

    The difference is no one elected Rick Warren. It’s not the same thing. The biggest reason to doubt Obama is he doesn’t really have much of a record to go on, as far as for the time he’s been in public office. We have a HUGE record to look at when deciding which highly public person will pray. Rick Warren’s also a writer, so he’s laid out his beliefs, to a degree, for us.

  • The Jones

    Michael at 60,

    I’m talking about Warren’s exclusivity, too! I agree with him in his exclusivity: that only Christians are going to heaven and all others are going to hell. If that urgency wasn’t real, then my Christian faith would be rather dull. That exclusivity SHOULDN’T disqualify him from giving the invocation. If exclusivity does disqualify someone from the position, then you are nixing virtually all orthodox pastors, priests, rabbis, and clerics from virtually all religions! How is that openness in a pluralistic society?

    The analogy about women was supposed to apply to Rick Warren and my own view on homosexuals. They are equal citizens with equal rights created equally by God. But just because they are equal, that does not mean they are THE SAME. Being equal does not mean that you HAVE to have the same restroom (in the case of men and women) and it does NOT mean that you have the right to marry whomever you want (in the case of gays and lesbians). And a pastor believing everyone is equal does NOT require that he believe that everyone is going to heaven REGARDLESS of what they believe. That’s what I thought you were saying with this comment at 20 “the pastor praying at any inauguration should believe all US citizens are equal, regardless of what each citizen believes.”

    And as to my statement, “Well, I don’t agree with your position that HIS position keeps him from the post. And I think to DISqualify Warren based on his beliefs is a step in the wrong direction,” I will now give my reasons. Because to disqualify someone who has beliefs that hurt people’s feelings (for they do not violate people’s rights) from giving the invocation at the inauguration, you are taking a large step towards disqualifying virtually every orthodox religion from the public sphere. If this is done, the government would be naming “acceptable” religions as those which are relativistic, wishy-washy, feel-good, and very theologically weak. If you go with that position, you are killing religion by the mandate of the government. That is very, very bad for freedom of belief, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. That’s one of my reasons, and I think it will suffice for now.

    And no, you’re not giving the invocation. That’s because the president didn’t ask you. That’s why you’re not THE SAME. But you could give the inaugural invocation if you were asked. That’s why you’re EQUAL. If you say that Rick Warren can’t do it even when he is asked, that means that he is NOT EQUAL. That’s how you are not living up to your own statements of equality.

  • Michael the little boot

    Tickletext,

    “I tend to think that the blogosphere in general would be more productive of fruitful interchange (not to mention more pleasant) if we would spend more time formulating and asking questions and less time labeling and indicting one another on the basis of our cheap presumptions and easy classifications.” I agree. I apologize for my assumption. I’m not really a strong enough person to be taking on so many opinions opposite to mine. That’s not an excuse. Once again, full apologies for the “gotcha” comment.

    I arrived at pluralism first as a theological doctrine, yes. The Bible is vague at best about whether there is something one could call hell. That was part of it, when I was still a Christian. I was shown how many of the doctrines I held dear were superimposed on the Bible, and the strict “burning lake of fire” idea of hell is, as I said, an interpretation of some vague passages.

    That being said, my real problem NOW with the idea of hell is: what’s it for? It made sense when we had systems of punishment in place, we would envision a place which had no other purpose than to punish criminals. This system of punishment worked for a while. It helped people to feel safe, and gave the illusion of a stable society. But now our model is more of the “corrective/rehabilitative” type (probably due mostly to our increasingly gigantic population). In that context, what kind of sense does hell make? How does burning for eternity – or, if you take a more nuanced view, complete separation from God for that same “length” of time – teach someone anything?

    If God were here, right in our faces, talking to me as I talk to my co-worker, brother, or girlfriend, I could understand why God would send someone to hell for rejecting God – though I’d still have a hard time accepting it was worth doing. But that’s hardly what happens in this world, where we can only infer God.

    You have total freedom to believe someone who makes it to the “finish line” without your view of God (or at least a similar one) will not be going where you go when you die. I personally have no view of what may or may not happen to me when I die. So to me, pluralism only means not believing in hell in the context of a conversation with someone who has a belief in the afterlife. One who has no view of the afterlife does not need to include heaven or hell when one says “We are all working out our own existences, and I trust others are doing their best, though I don’t necessarily agree with how they are doing it.”

    So I’m a pluralist for the same reason I am pro-choice: I think other people’s existences – their “souls”, for lack of a better term – are their own business, and that I and everyone else are best served when I allow them to make up their own minds as to how they can best live their lives. Of course we, as a society, impose rules on each other, and I am part of that (a fact with which I struggle), so this idea doesn’t totally translate. The application of it would look like anarchy, for which no one – myself included – is ready. But aren’t our beliefs a reflection of what we think the world, at its best, could be?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Mtlb pro-choice: I think other people’s existences – their “souls”, for lack of a better term – are their own business, and that I and everyone else are best served when I allow them to make up their own minds as to how they can best live their lives.

    The above is an essentially a nihilist position of moral relativism. Christians and Jews hold Biblically and rationally [as did Plato] that we live in a moral universe of truth and justice that can be determined through reason as well as the Bible.

    C.S. Lewis in an appendix to The Abolition of Man, ” Illustrations of the Tao,” that, while their validity cannot be deduced, we have compelling evidence from a variety of civilizations of universal moral law on such subjects as The law of General and Special Beneficence, Duties of Children and Posterity, The Law of Justice, The Law of Good Faith and Veracity, The Law of Mercy, and the Law of Magnanimity.

    Michael’s notion that our souls [As he says revealingly "fpr lack of a better term"] are our own business ignores the wisdom of the best of the ancient Greeks and of the Judeo/Christian tradition that is premised on the eternal moral truth and goodness inherent with a Creator God.

    After having read a surfeit of Michael’s rather sophomoric village skeptic effusions on this Christian blogsite, one wonders what his purpose is other than the satisfaction of bearding serious Christians with his ordinary for our time secular pieties. The fellow gets more attention on this blog than he deserves, though he does have the dubious virtue of sharpening our Christian apologetic.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    “I think [...] that I and everyone else are best served when I allow them to make up their own minds as to how they can best live their lives.”

    God agrees with you, Michael. That is precisely what he does. Hell is not a lesson or a scare tactic; it is about God giving us our deepest desires. If God himself is the sole end for which we were created, then to reject him is it is own punishment. When Paul says “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,” he is describing hell. As C. S. Lewis says, “All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice it wouldn’t be hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.” Hell is “the greatest monument to human freedom.”

    I don’t see any reason to consider someone who believes that as being anti-pluralist. We might even say that God is the arch-Pluralist.

  • Michael the little boot

    The Jones @ 65,

    “I agree with him in his exclusivity: that only Christians are going to heaven and all others are going to hell. If that urgency wasn’t real, then my Christian faith would be rather dull.” Is this really your position? You believe what you believe because your faith would be dull if you did not? This is a serious question. I’m not trying to be incredulous. I am also interested in your answer to a question I’ve asked others here: what is your evidence “only Christians are going to heaven and all others are going to hell”? Once again, a serious question.

    I had a much longer response, but it doesn’t matter. Our definitions are so different, we’re not even having the same conversation. For example: you don’t want the government to name “‘acceptable’ religions as those which are relativistic, wishy-washy, feel-good, and very theologically weak.” First of all, theologically weak in what sense? I find any religion which is so inflexible as to believe it is absolutely right to be very theologically weak. Developmentally, it hasn’t even scaled the second step of Maslow’s hierarchy, let alone anything else. Now, relativistic and wishy-washy are two different things. I think you’re being lazy in using these interchangeably, as I did when I used “exclusivist” and “fundamentalist” to describe Warren. I wonder: if one changes one’s mind, does that make one wishy-washy? If one recognizes life is mostly a grey area with few things one can really say are absolutely right or wrong – if one can say that at all – does that mean one is a relativist? How is being a realist “feel-good”? Just because I don’t have any beliefs about the afterlife, and think everyone else on earth is just as okay as me, doesn’t make me feel-good. But it does mean I don’t assume I have the answers.

    “And no, you’re not giving the invocation. That’s because the president didn’t ask you. That’s why you’re not THE SAME. But you could give the inaugural invocation if you were asked. That’s why you’re EQUAL. If you say that Rick Warren can’t do it even when he is asked, that means that he is NOT EQUAL.” I don’t think Warren can’t give the address. I think he shouldn’t, and I think the president-elect shouldn’t have asked him. I wouldn’t keep him from praying, but I wish someone more inclusive and accepting of those other struggling people on earth would stand in his place. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.

  • Michael the little boot

    Tickletext,

    “Hell is not a lesson or a scare tactic; it is about God giving us our deepest desires. If God himself is the sole end for which we were created, then to reject him is it is own punishment.” Two things. First, what am I rejecting? I see no God. I feel no God. I hear no God, speak with no God. I read the Bible and find no God there, either. I’m not saying there’s no God; I’m saying wherever I look for God, I find none. If I am rejecting God, this is the strangest way I know of to do it. Especially since God seems only to make Godself apparent to those who already want to believe.

    Second, if God created us, and God is the sole end of our existence, God seems pretty childish to me. Pretty self-absorbed. Um, that’s it. Rather short, that one.

    “When Paul says ‘God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,’ he is describing hell.” Without a reference, I can’t look that up to see whether Paul is actually describing hell, or if that is simply your interpretation. Could you provide one? I’m trying to do that asking questions thing, so I’m sorry if I don’t come off well the first few times.

    “As C. S. Lewis says, ‘All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice it wouldn’t be hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.’” This sounds like circular reasoning to me. Lewis was really good at that. (The “liar, lunatic, or Lord” argument is another fine example.) He was an author, but he was only an amatuer theologian, and this sentiment is very simplistic. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it? That sounds like someone who can’t accept there are true tragedies in life. Buddhists also suffer this problem. They resolve it with reincarnation. I have known people who died extremely unhappy, after living constantly stressful, pretty horrible lives. They’re dead now. I have no idea whether they are anywhere, doing anything at all. I can’t resolve their lives. One way or another, I hope their lives are resolved, if only through death.

    Sorry. Didn’t mean to get so morbid.

    Hell is “the greatest monument to human freedom.” Speaking of morbid! This statement practically hurts to read. I don’t know how that makes sense to you. I mean, in the context of Lewis’ twisted logic it makes sense. If God exists, couldn’t God have given us the right to choose simply to live our lives? Why this “either/or” choice? In my world there are myriad choices I make every day. I am not so quick to put them in order of importance. Why do you?

  • Michael the little boot

    Peter @ 67,

    “Christians and Jews hold Biblically and rationally [as did Plato] that we live in a moral universe of truth and justice that can be determined through reason as well as the Bible.” Yes, well those may have been advanced thoughts 2,500-3,500 years ago. Now we realize there ARE some things which differ culture to culture. I most certainly am a moral relativist, in the sense I don’t believe I KNOW whether what I think is “right” or “wrong” are absolutes, nor whether they translate between HUMAN cultures, let alone other animal cultures.

    Plato didn’t believe truth and justice could be determined through the Bible. He didn’t hold anything Biblically. He also believed in a realm of Ideal Forms, and in the transmutation of souls. The ancient Hebrews believed the sun revolved around the earth. They all believed a lot of things we no longer hold to be true. Which isn’t to say we should throw them all out; but neither should we accept them blindly as purveyors of wisdom.

    “C.S. Lewis in an appendix to The Abolition of Man, ‘Illustrations of the Tao,’ that, while their validity cannot be deduced, we have compelling evidence from a variety of civilizations of universal moral law on such subjects as The law of General and Special Beneficence, Duties of Children and Posterity, The Law of Justice, The Law of Good Faith and Veracity, The Law of Mercy, and the Law of Magnanimity.” Okay. Why is Lewis the go-to authority around here? He was barely a theologian. He was a writer, possessing the ability to turn a good phrase. His logic remains unconvincing to the not-already-convinced. Since when is naming a bunch of vague, moral-sounding non-laws, then calling them laws, making an argument? When someone starts out saying the validity of their argument can’t be deduced, or that it’s subject to special laws, one should automatically suspect this person of hiding something, as they traffick in the currency of weak thought and rationalization.

    “Michael’s notion that our souls [As he says revealingly 'for lack of a better term'] are our own business ignores the wisdom of the best of the ancient Greeks and of the Judeo/Christian tradition that is premised on the eternal moral truth and goodness inherent with a Creator God.” The ancient Greeks didn’t believe in a creator God. It wasn’t even until Aristotle that they considered the idea of the Prime Mover, let alone a creator God. Plato used “God” and “gods” as substitutes for each other, revealing a less-than-concrete belief in either. He placed the premise for eternal moral truth in his realm of Ideal Forms, as I mentioned before, not in a God, nor even in gods.

    As to my saying I use the word “soul” for lack of a better term: well, I don’t know for certain I have an eternal soul. How do you know, Peter?

    “[O]ne wonders what his purpose is other than the satisfaction of bearding serious Christians with his ordinary for our time secular pieties.” My purpose, as I’ve stated over and over, is to have a continuous dialogue with people who do not share my views. See, although I’m passionate, confident, and, at times, arrogant, I don’t believe I’m absolutely correct. I come here so I don’t get too comfortable. Also, I’ve really come to like the people on this blog, and to enjoy the conversation, which is not usually as heated as this. If those are not good enough reasons, of course Dr. Veith can ask me to go, and I will respect that. But most people here believe this isn’t a blog exclusively for Christians, as they’ve repeatedly told me. So I will stay here as long as I can. It has been a rich, rewarding experience for me. I seriously hope I haven’t ruined it for others.

    What I say may be “ordinary for our time”; what you say is, to me, old, inflexible news.

    “The fellow gets more attention on this blog than he deserves…” One wonders why you continually respond to the fellow, then, Peter.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Michael, Plato, being a philosophical idealist, shares the Judeo/Christian view of truth and goodness being universal, not relative. Read his chapter Nine, “The Supremacy of the Good” in the Waterfield translation of Republic Your view that Plato and Biblical authorities amount to “old, inflexible news” confuses the arrogance of modernity with ancient truths that are the basis for Western Judeo/Christian
    civilization.

    While C.S. Lewis was not a systematic theologian, he was a brilliant, serious scholar of the Christian religion and its literature. He, also, was a scholar of World literature at Oxford and Cambridge who understood the limitations of modern Enlightenment philosophy and literature. Like Plato he was a world-class thinker.

    While I shall continue to engage you as long as you are here with sophomoric village skeptic views, I frankly grow weary of what is a largely sterile debate. I certainly would not lodge on an agnostic or atheist blog, not as a matter of right but of good sense, judgment and manners.

  • Michael the little boot

    Peter,

    Manners? Am I to interpret all the people asking me to stay (and more than once, I might add) as though they were simply being polite? I have actually asked people if I should go. They said no. Well, a few have outright asked Dr. Veith to remove me; but others have said the opposite. I’m not here as a matter of right. And I don’t have good sense or judgement. So there you go.

    I didn’t say Plato or Judeo/Christian “authorities” were old and inflexible. I said you were. While they are the foundation of Western civilization – of course I recognize that – it doesn’t mean I must accept everything they said as wisdom. Plato believed the chair I’m sitting in to be a chair only because it participated in the Ideal Form of “chairness”. That’s pretty absurd. Aristotle posited a theory of “gravity” which had something to do with the essence of things being located in the earth and things being drawn to their essence. Equally absurd. The ancient Israelites believed if one slaughtered another living, breathing creature on a bunch of stones, one’s transgressions, debts, “sins”, etc., would be forgiven. A practice we do not continue.

    Lewis was a world-class thinker. I didn’t say otherwise. I said he was not a theologian. Even the best thinkers can be very, very wrong if they don’t understand the discipline in which they attempt to work, or can’t wrap their brain around a certain concept. For example: Einstein didn’t accept quantum mechanics was correct; yet it is the foundation of modern physics. And Einstein was a physicist!

    We studied Lewis in theology classes and in philosophy classes, and found he very often made mistakes a first- or second-year philosophy or theology student would make because he wasn’t fully grounded in those disciplines, meaning the ancient, as well as modern, practices. And, even though we do not throw out the past – which I said in my comment @ 71 – we allow for the modern revisions of past thoughts also to hold sway, if they prove themselves to be more accurate.

    Which is to say, you are making the opposite mistake from the one of which you accuse me: you allow the ancient “wisdom” to stop you from seeing, in at least some areas of modern thought, we have made advances. And Rick Warren represents a step backward. Of course, not allowing him to give the inaugural prayer would also be a step in the wrong direction; which is why I say I wish he would not pray, or that Obama had not requested it. But he will, and I won’t protest or make signs. I’ll just comment here on whatever Dr. Veith has to say.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Michael, could you give an example or two of Lewis’ elementary logical errors?

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    For the record I strongly disagree with Peter’s suggestion that these conversations are fruitless.

    “If God exists, couldn’t God have given us the right to choose simply to live our lives?”

    Michael, from a christian perspective your question is framed insufficiently. A better premise than “if God exists” would be “if God is who Christians believe him to be,” since for Christians God’s act of creating the world and its creatures is inseparable from who he is.

    Would you agree with this hypothetical statement: if (as Jonathan Edwards said) “there is an infinite fullness of all possible good in God, a fullness of every perfection, of all excellency and beauty, and of infinite happiness,” and if God created the world and its creatures “to communicate of his own infinite fullness of good,” then to say God is selfish for calling us to love him is wildly misleading, since it seems to impute human selfishness to him. If God is basically selfish like humans are selfish, and if we cannot find in him our total felicity and supreme happiness, then of course he would be a tyrant. But if “the happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted,” then he is not a tyrant.

    You may question whether God is indeed infinitely beautiful and good, etc., whether because he does not exist, or because reason or your experience in the world tells you otherwise, or whatever. That’s fine. But you should at least realize that the God of scripture resists our tendency to anthropomorphize him and make him over in our image, for he is wholly other.

    God gives people what they want–or more precisely, WHOM they want–what’s so morbid about that? He says, do you want me? Then take up your nets and follow me. Do you want to live for yourself? Then keep fishing and see what sort of happiness the lake will give you.

    From my perspective, asking why God would force a person to choose between God and self is to betray a misunderstanding of who God is and what selves are. The real choice is between becoming yourself more fully in God (who is our telic destination) or in remaining only partially yourself in yourself.

    Also, I don’t see what this has to do with accepting that “there are true tragedies in life.” It is the atheist who believes that there is no judgment on sin. To the contrary, as a Christian I stare tragedy straight in the face and grant that there is a great deal of evil and trauma in the world, not the least of which is that pain which I have caused others–such that I cannot hope to overcome it on my own but need grace. The world you have described in which individuals merely go on living their lives appears to me rather naive. Indeed, a good deal of what people suffer is the direct result of other people’s misguided and idolatrous attempts to live their own lives.

    The popular idea of hell is that it is a place to which God sends some people who failed some arbitrary test and then, when they get there, they are miserable and want out, but God says, “nope! Tough luck, buddy! You had your chance.”

    But no one goes to Hell against one’s will; no one “goes” there only to be suddenly miserable, only to realize, “what a mistake I made!” If they do, that would not be hell. There are just some people whose will *is* Hell–Hell grows and grows inside their heart until it overcomes them completely. Hell is their heaven. They don’t want God, they want themselves. Like Satan in Paradise Lost, they say it is better to reign in Hell than serve in heaven. And God lets them do as they wish.

    It would be tyranny for God to “send” such people to heaven to be with him, even if they are “good” people who just want to live their lives (or whatever).

    It isn’t just Lewis who recognizes this principle. Many others have, including poets and theologians like Dante and Milton and even the alleged atheist Christopher Marlowe, as well as a whole range of Catholics and Calvinists and Baptists and Lutherans alike.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Oh, and Paul’s statement, made in Romans 1:24, is not usually seen as referring to hell per se. I am using his statement to illustrate what I think is the broader picture of punishment scripture presents. As one ancient rabbi put it, “the reward of the commandment is the commandment and the punishment of wickedness is wickedness.” Hell is not just punishment for sin, it IS sin in its fully consummated form.

    (Incidentally, the fallacious popular view is actually a variation on the ancient Greek notion that the soul is self-perpetuating. But according to scripture, there is no life apart from Christ (1 John 5:11-12, John 1:4, Colossians 3:3). Hence, hell is not eternal life but eternal death.)

    Also, I take the Edwards quotation from here:

    http://edwards.yale.edu/archive?path=aHR0cDovL2Vkd2FyZHMueWFsZS5lZHUvY2dpLWJpbi9uZXdwaGlsby9nZXRvYmplY3QucGw/Yy43OjU6MS53amVv

  • Michael the dubious beard

    Peter,

    Lewis’ “liar, lunatic, or Lord” argument is his most famous logical fallacy. Actually, it’s a great example because it commits a couple of them. One, it sets up a straw man argument, by making the premise which supports Lewis’ desired outcome the strongest and severly weakening what he considers the only other alternatives. Second, he treats none of the other serious arguments which are sound, suggesting there are only three ways of looking at the “trilemma”. In fact, one could look at it in a number of different ways, turning it into not just a trilemma but a quadrilemma, etc.

    One such argument regards the difficulty in discerning what quotations attributed to Jesus were actually his words, a perspective popular with many modern biblical scholars. If he never said he was God, he was neither a liar nor a lunatic, to say nothing of Lord. And, from that perspective, he very well could have been the “great moral teacher” against whose reputation Lewis was arguing. I’m not advocating this perspective; that it exists, and that it is logically defensible, shows how far Lewis was from the Lights of modern thought.

    None other than William Lane Craig, highly respected philosopher and Christian, denies this argument is sound; and he is not alone. There are many others, not the least of which are the myriad biblical scholars who do not think it accurate to say Jesus spoke every sentence attributed to him by the Gospel writers. In fact, the near-consensus opinion in mainstream biblical scholarship remains Jesus’ claims to divinity were creations of the early church. But the tools of modern textual and historical criticism were out of Lewis’ grasp, and so he made a very simplistic argument, which today has become one of the most important in all Christian Apologetics.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, Michael, have you read Lewis’s discussion of modern Biblical criticism? It’s variously titled “Fernseeds and Elephants” and some other more descriptive title I forget. Lewis was a professional literary critic and knows far more how to handle literary texts than these Biblical critics, who, as he shows, know nothing about myth, fiction, or historical style. Or tests for authorship or what constitutes literary evidence. The liberal Bible critics are the ones who always employ circular reasoning, assuming that the supernatural is not true and so constructing alternative explanations (so that a text of prophecy that comes true is always dated AFTER the event happened). But Lewis just takes the whole field apart in a way not easily dismissed. Furthermore, contemporary Biblical criticism influenced by postmodernism are recognizing this, that the 20th century critics were influenced by their positivist assumptions and that their confident reconstructions of oral traditions and the like just do not bear up. If you want more up to date scholarship, read, for example, N. T. Wright on the Resurrection accounts.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Michael, C.S.Lewis had justification from the New Testament to claim that Jesus, however subtly, made the claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God. For a fair introduction to this topic, read The Divine Claims of Jesus: The Assertion of Godhood by J.P. Holding including:

    And what of the Synoptics? The fact is that there are ample recorded claims of divinity by Jesus in the Synoptics, which operate against the assumption that only John shows Jesus making such claims. The divinity claims in the Synoptics give a quite unambiguous statement of what Jesus meant when He made those claims. We do NOT, of course, find the direct claim: “I AM GOD.” That would have been a little too confusing to Jesus’ hearers, and at any rate, would not have been precisely correct, only generally correct. The claims, as we shall see, are more precisely fitting to the proclamation: “Jesus is God the Son; the Wisdom and Word of God” – i.e., the second person of the Trinity, which, ontologically, makes Jesus co-equal with God. Even the NT itself, though it refers to Jesus as God (cf. John 1:1, 20:28), shows a preference for expressing Jesus’ divinity through titles: Word, Savior, Son of God, Lord – and by using language to describe Jesus that is appropriated from OT attributions to Yahweh [OColl.Ch, 144-5]. There were reasons for this, as Brown [Brow.JesGM, 33-4] points out, regarding the hesitation in the NT to directly ascribe the title “God” to Jesus

    Note, also, that, Craig, whom you cited contra to Lewis, remarks as follows:

    Studies by New Testament scholars such as Martin Hengel of Tubingen University, C. F. D. Moule of Cambridge, and others have proved that within twenty years of the crucifixion a full-blown Christology proclaiming Jesus as God incarnate existed. How does one explain this worship by monotheistic Jews of one of their countrymen as God incarnate, apart from the claims of Jesus himself?

    Those who cite the fallacy of Lewis’ trilemma argument assume that the clear statements of Christ in John and the Synoptics have been proved wrong by modern liberal scholarship. Even if this were true, Lewis would have made a mistake of factual assumption, not of logic.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Dr.Veith, whenever my liberal Christian friends start quoting from assorted modern liberal texts including from the the Jesus Seminar, I give them a copy of Lewis’ Fernseed and Elephants paper. Also, I agree that N.T. Wright’s , The Resurrection of the Son of God is the book to read by anyone who wishes to be fair minded about the subject of Christ’s divinity.

  • Michael the little boot

    Tickletext,

    “For the record I strongly disagree with Peter’s suggestion that these conversations are fruitless.” I’m glad. Me, too.

    “A better premise than ‘if God exists’ would be ‘if God is who Christians believe him to be,’ since for Christians God’s act of creating the world and its creatures is inseparable from who he is.” I see your point. A more specific way of putting it. Better, I agree.

    My problem with your hypothetical statement is I find no evidence to support it more compelling than that of any other religion. What is the reason to believe your extremely idiosyncratic hypothetical reflects reality? Some religions say God is good, some say evil, some say neither; some say God is imperfect, some say perfect. I have no idea how they feel they have come by this knowledge, or why they can even call it knowledge; but I have no need of these hypotheses. I simply do not believe things for which there is no evidence, and there is no evidence for a God of any kind (except possibly anecdotal evidence, or the “evidence” from the scriptures and books of each religion), let alone for what a God might be like. There are no hard facts. If there is a God, it seems to me, from looking around at life and the universe, God has no care one way or another what I think about him/her/it. And that I only find to be implied.

    It’s not merely that I question whether God is beautiful, or good, or anything else. I question how a person can hope to answer those questions. Scholars try to answer the questions of why things are said about God, at least in the Bible, by appealing to its human origins. They believe there is no way to demonstrate anything these ancient writers said about God is true. Of these scholars, you said in a past comment (“Santa Claus is coming to slap” @ 43) “As far as I am concerned they fail the test of the scholarly imagination. I don’t expect them believe as believes, but to imagine as scholars. By not so doing they seem to miss what [Bruce] Metzger means when he says that ‘the status of canonicity is not an objectively demonstrable claim but is a statement of Christian belief. It is not affected by features that are open to adjudication, such as matters of authorship and genuineness, for a pseudoepigraphon is not necessarily to be excluded from the canon.’”

    As far as using this idea for your own system of beliefs, I agree. If one is trying to conceive of their personal faith, or to become more fully themselves, and misses the imagination as a tool to do so, they are doing themselves a disservice. But these scholars are treating the text simply as a text and subjecting it to the same types of criticism as they would any other. Believers, on the other hand, seem to suggest there are special rules which exempt their books from these techniques. To me, this weakens your suggestion we can know true things about God from looking in the Bible.

    You referred in the aforementioned comment to the point of view “the Church did not create the canon, but came to recognize, accept, affirm, and confirm the self-authenticating quality of certain documents that imposed themselves as such upon the Church.” As I said in my comment to Peter @ 71 “When someone starts out saying the validity of their argument can’t be deduced, or that it’s subject to special laws,” I find it suspicious. How can we have a conversation if we’re not playing by the same rules, or on the same field?

    You further remove God from consideration along these lines: “But you should at least realize that the God of scripture resists our tendency to anthropomorphize him and make him over in our image, for he is wholly other.” If that’s the case, once again, how can we know anything about God? And, if God is wholly other, what does God have to do with this real universe in which we find ourselves, of which we are a part and not, as you say of God, wholly other?

    That’s where I’m going with this – and I hope I’m not out-of-bounds in bringing your former comments to bear on the current discussion. This is exactly what accepting there are true tragedies in life has to do with what we’re saying. Nonbelievers do not come up with hypothetical statements, nor do we invoke special rules, to discuss our version of reality (dark matter and dark energy notwithstanding ;) ). It’s the hypothetical nature of religion I’m talking about.

    I do not believe there are no results from my actions. But there isn’t always judgement. Things don’t always go our way; do they? Sometimes something I define as “bad” happens to me, without the offender being taken to task. I, in turn, cause a lot of pain to a lot of people (not just here on this blog!), and I am not forgiven simply by praying. I must to go to that person and engage them in unraveling the mess I’ve made. That’s difficult, especially if the person is dead, leaving me unable to engage them. In saying the world I describe “in which individuals merely go on living their lives appears to me rather naive,” you mischaracterize my argument. I find your view naive, in that we both say “there is pain in the world, caused by many things, including myself”; but then you go one further by saying there is forgiveness, whether or not the other person has forgiven me, or you, or whomever.

    I do wish to be more fully myself. In fact, that’s the only thing I have any ambition to do: to be more myself today than yesterday. I find the idea we all have the same way to discover fulfillment – that is, in the Christian God – beyond oversimplification. Why would God create so many people, with so many different minds and manners of thought; with so many cultures and possible worldviews which cannot be neatly divided into “right” or “wrong”; and with so many experiences which give each of us different interpretations of our world – why would God do this, and then give us all the same end? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    How about this hypothetical, just for fun: if God made me to be myself, wouldn’t living for myself also be living for God?

  • Michael the little boot

    Tickletext,

    “As one ancient rabbi put it, ‘the reward of the commandment is the commandment and the punishment of wickedness is wickedness.’ Hell is not just punishment for sin, it IS sin in its fully consummated form.” This is just circular logic; isn’t it? Since I don’t believe in sin, nor in Absolute Justice, this makes no sense to me.

  • Michael the little boot

    Dr. Veith,

    “[H]ave you read Lewis’s discussion of modern Biblical criticism?” I have not. From your description, I wonder about it, though. What need is there in discussing a text only as a text, and making no other assumptions about it (I know, the one about God not existing – I’ll get to that), to bring up myth? They do know about historical style, as they bring it up when discussing the common practice of “unknown” authors naming their works for famous persons in order to facilitate the possibility of a wider circulation; the tendency of apocalyptic literature to be allegorical to the time in which it was conceived, rather than prophetic; and in some common translation errors due to certain later authors’ ignorance of their earlier counterparts, which led to interesting theology (e.g., the virgin birth) and some things which are just comical (such as Jesus riding into Jerusalem on two donkeys rather than one).

    “The liberal Bible critics are the ones who always employ circular reasoning, assuming that the supernatural is not true and so constructing alternative explanations (so that a text of prophecy that comes true is always dated AFTER the event happened).” I think the more radical claim is that there IS such a thing as the supernatural. Therefore, “liberal” critics are not making an assumption, but trying to wrest the text from the hands of those who make radical claims without providing supporting evidence. I find them more responsible, in that they are only treating the text as a text.

    “But Lewis just takes the whole field apart in a way not easily dismissed.” Well, then I will have to read it. I love stuff like that. Seriously.

    “Furthermore, contemporary Biblical criticism influenced by postmodernism are recognizing this, that the 20th century critics were influenced by their positivist assumptions and that their confident reconstructions of oral traditions and the like just do not bear up. If you want more up to date scholarship, read, for example, N. T. Wright on the Resurrection accounts.” I did go to school at the very end of the 20th century, so I may just be influenced by my positivist assumptions. :) I’ve got a few tabs open to Wright, and will read him, as well as Lewis; but the very fact Wright is discussing as history the resurrection calls into question what he already assumes.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Michael, I think you may have mistaken my purpose in asking that hypothetical question. I’m not asking you to believe that God is good or loving or lovely or beautiful…or anything, really. I’m not trying to persuade you of any of my claims about God. For me to think that I could do so on a blog would be the height of presumption.

    I’m merely trying to show you that the god you seem to reject bears no relation to the God I know. Or rather, I DO recognize that god, but only from Chick Tracts and similar tools of Satan, not from scripture. :)

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    “How about this hypothetical, just for fun: if God made me to be myself, wouldn’t living for myself also be living for God?”

    Yes!

  • Michael the little boot

    Peter,

    “C.S.Lewis had justification from the New Testament to claim that Jesus, however subtly, made the claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God.” You immediately jumped on something I had said I was not saying: i.e., that Jesus never claimed to be God. I said in my comment @ 77 “I’m not advocating this perspective; that it exists, and that it is logically defensible, shows how far Lewis was from the Lights of modern thought.” Meaning he did not include all arguments in his attempt at a logical syllogism. Which further means he not only made the mistake of factual assumption, as you pointed out, but TWO mistakes of logic: 1) he fails to include a serious claim, using only two weaker claims, therefore making his argument one against a straw man; and 2) and he creates a false question, once again by excluding a serious opposing argument.

    (I find it funny, in describing how Jesus claimed to be God, you must include the caveat “however subtly”. I think this, especially, is one example of the difficulty in establishing whether Jesus’ claims to divinity in the gospels were claims the historical Jesus made. Not that the historical Jesus didn’t make these claims, but you highlight a major problem with which the text presents us.)

    As far as Craig, I didn’t say he was against Lewis’ assumption of Jesus’ claims to divinity. I was saying Craig thinks Lewis’ framing of the question is poor. It is the fact Craig AGREES Jesus claimed divinity which gives even more weight to his dismissal of Lewis’ argument.

    “Those who cite the fallacy of Lewis’ trilemma argument assume that the clear statements of Christ in John and the Synoptics have been proved wrong by modern liberal scholarship.” I do not make this assumption. I say it is a defensible position – and it is, despite arguments to the contrary. I do not say I agree with it. The fact Lewis dismisses it out of hand shows he was only interested in arguing with the weaker aspects of his opponents’ thoughts.

  • Michael the little boot

    Tickletext,

    If you think living for myself is living for God (since I am me, made by God, and so being me would be fulfilling God’s purpose); and ESPECIALLY if you think Chick tracts are tools of Satan (if I had never been shown “THIS WAS YOUR LIFE” at a young age by my father, I could have avoided much therapy :) ); I guess I’m confused as to what we’re talking about.

    No big deal, though. I’m confused much of the time!

  • Michael the little boot

    Just began Fern-seeds and Elephants (it was originally entitled “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism”), and am struck by the first paragraph:

    “This paper arose out of a conversation I had with the Principal one night last term. A book of Alec Vidler’s happened to be lying on the table and I expressed my reaction to the sort of theology it contained. My reaction was a hasty and ignorant one, produced with the freedom the comes after dinner. One thing led to another and before we were done I was saying a good deal more than I had meant about the type of thought which, so far as I could gather, is so dominant in many theological colleges. He then said, ‘I wish you would come and say all this to my young men.’ He know of course that I was extremely ignorant of the whole thing. But I think his ideas was that you ought to know how a certain sort of theology strikes the outsider. Though I may have nothing but misunderstandings to lay before you, you ought to know that such misunderstandings exist.”

    I know I haven’t gotten into the paper yet, but I find this introduction revealing.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    When I say “Yes!” I mean that sin (hell) prevents us from being who we really are but Christ restores our true identity. She who dwells in Christ lives for herself in truest sense, but she who dwells in herself alone dies in herself.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Michael, I’m having a hard time understanding your position, which at this point one finds rather slippery.
    Lewis’ trilemma argument is essentially:

    1. Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.
    2. Jesus was neither a liar nor a lunatic.
    3. Therefore, Jesus is Lord.

    Exactly what about the logic of this argument do you find fallacious? Pleas try to be succinct with your points/

  • Michael the little boot

    Peter,

    The problem is the trilemma itself. There are many other things Jesus could have been. One way to say it, just as an example, might be: Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, Lord, misrepresented by his followers, or a literary creation. I’m not saying I believe those I added; but they are serious arguments (and there are more) against using only three. The fact Lewis includes only two very weak opposing points shows his argument to be, as I said, both a false question and an argument against a straw man. That is where he is fallacious.

  • Michael the little boot

    Tickletext,

    I believe who I really am is a person who is not capable of perfection. So I make mistakes, I hurt people, I do really bad things sometimes. But these are a part of being who I really am, and, while I don’t make a practice of seeking opportunities to hurt people, or to be mean, or to cheat, or to be greedy, I don’t expect I will always succeed at avoiding these things. And I don’t beat myself up for that, either. Each time I make a mistake, each time I do something against another, I have an opportunity to practice humility, another chance to realize I’m no better than anyone else. It is something I don’t know I’ll ever escape; but that, in a sense, is similar to your saying “the reward of the commandment is the commandment and the punishment of wickedness is wickedness.” The practice is the practice. There will never be a time I am forgiven for everything, because each time I transgress against someone, I must ask forgiveness. I cannot be forgiven things I will do, as I have yet to do them.

    However, in asking forgiveness from people, and in having to repeat it, I am creating something of a personal liturgy. It is a ceremony, in a sense. I would never seek to be rid of it. What would remind me of the work we all must constantly do? And that this work, this practice, is the only thing which will help me grow into a person who transgresses against others less often?

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    I wanted to mention that Richard Bauckham in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans 2006) aims at utterly upending what Dr. Veith calls the liberal scholars’ “confident reconstructions of oral traditions.” I have not read it, but I understand it is said to be an extremely important new thesis.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Michael, Lewis, after careful analysis of the canonical Gospels came to the reasonable conclusion that Christ claimed to be the Messiah and Lord, the Son of God. That is the basis of the first term of his syllogism. The most you can say regarding this term is that Christ might have been something different. If wishes were horses beggars would ride.

    Lewis in Chrisrian Reflections, p. 155, writes:

    I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them like this. Of this [gospel] text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage…or else some unknown [ancient] writer without knowledge of predecessors or successors suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic literature. i.e. He has an analytic basis for the first term of his logical argument.

    Of course, for you, who are fond of any argument that denigrates Christianity, this is unpersuasive, which ones finds at best disappointing, though in truth Christian faithful have known well for millennia how to put up with assorted despisers of their religion. At any rate, you have far from disproved the logic of Lewis’ trilemma argument.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Michael #92,

    Your attitude is commendable. But the question all of us must consider is: in what or whom is my identity? If my identity is premised on some human relationship, some zone of fragility like work, romantic relationships, family, friendships, personal integrity, religion, the capacity for reason and independent thought, or a personal liturgy of morality, then when those things are threatened I will be bound for disappointment and devastation, for I will have no self remaining. By definition sin is that which alienates us from God, and in that respect it undermines all our attempts to found our identity on the ephemeral and airy things of this world. When sinful creatures attempt to construct their own identity rather than find it in their creator, their loss of identity through idolatry will be its own punishment, since idolatry is the rejection of God in whom our only hope for true identity consists.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Also, to tie into some of what you were saying in #81, Michael, what shall we say to those whose identity is staked out on their power to exploit the weak and afflict the innocent?

    And what shall we tell the weak and the innocent?

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    Shall we say, those who prey upon you and oppress you shall be cut off from God himself unless they repent of their wicked ways, but if you forgive them who trespass against you, God shall forgive you your own trespasses against him?

    Or shall we say, those who afflict you are merely acting according to their personal liturgy of oppression, which is an ineluctable part of who they are, and they cannot imagine being without it, and as such you can forgive them if you want to massage your self-esteem, but you’d be better off learning how to eat or be eaten, so get with the program?

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    After all, “everyone is working out their own existence, and trying to do the best they can.”

    I don’t mean to seem sarcastic, Michael. But to me this is naive. Many people are out to do the WORST they can.

  • http://viz.tumblr.com Tickletext

    And the obvious point to make regarding Lewis’s trilemma is that as I recall he wasn’t arguing that Jesus was God. It had more to do with refuting the idea that he was merely a great moral teacher by looking at the kinds of claims he made. Whether or not he made those claims, whether because he did not exist or was misinterpreted, would have no bearing Lewis’s point. IF someone made those claims, THEN he should not be called a moral exemplar.

  • Michael the little boot

    Peter,

    “If wishes were horses beggars would ride.” This is typical of our exchanges. You don’t give my side of the debate careful consideration, but, like Lewis to the liberal theologians of his time, dismiss me out-of-hand. The quotation from Lewis you use in defense is also typical of his ridiculous logic, and I must thank you for giving this example, as it bolsters my argument.

    “I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them like this. Of this [gospel] text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage…or else some unknown [ancient] writer without knowledge of predecessors or successors suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic literature.”

    Once again, Lewis the Logician gives us a simplistic answer. He commits the fallacy of the false dichotomy by saying “of this text there are only two possible views.” This exact argument appears in “Fern-seed and Elephants”, which I read yesterday. (If I was meant to read the entire book in which that essay was republished, it’ll take me a bit longer; but I read the essay, anyway.) I was astounded at how often Lewis commits the fallacy of the false dichotomy. Of any issue there are almost never only two possible views, and especially of a work this old, from a time we can barely touch. He is arguing with a straw man, too, since he doesn’t recognize any other arguments, AND because the opposing view he DOES include is so improbably far-fetched as to make the conclusion he wishes to support look positively GOLDEN.

    Finally, he commits another fallacy here: the appeal to authority. Since HE, the eminent scholar, who has been reading this literature his whole life, has never discovered anything like THIS, it can only be what he says it is. Ridiculous. But professors like to use this argument a lot, so I’ll give him some room. Not enough room to wiggle out of the three fallacies he’s used, but enough for his ego.

    Of course, for you, who are fond of any argument which makes Christianity look as though it towers above all other world religions, this is persuasive. And that’s cool. That’s cool. The thing is, I don’t despise Christianity. You are simply not providing arguments which do anything but persuade the convinced. The fact you refuse to see what are mistakes in elementary points of argumentation shows you want to believe exactly what Lewis said he wanted to believe.

    “At any rate, you have far from disproved the logic of Lewis’ trilemma argument.” Actually, I’ve done that, and more: I’ve shown you will never be convinced of the faulty logic which lies therein.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Tickletext, you’re right that Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote to refute those saying “the really foolish thing” that Jesus was a great moral teacher but not the Son of God. Lewis was struck by the passages in the canonical Gospels where Jesus forgave sins and said that he always existed. From this and more including the miracles he concluded as follows:

    Either this man was and is a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up as a fool, you can spit at Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet as Lord and God. But let us not us come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He dis not intend to.

    The above is hard for many modern people to understand, as the essence of secular modernity has devolved into a combination of voracious individual ego and autonomous libertinism. Lewis understood the amour propre of modernity, as St. Paul understood that of his time with his remark about the foolishness of Christ to most Jews and Gentiles, especially the proud Greeks and Romans.

    As to the Trilemma, Lewis never called it this, nor did he state it strictly as a logical proposition, though Lewis was aware of the logic of anything he said or wrote. After his debate with Elizabeth Anscombe, he cleaned up some logically ambiguous terms in his book, Miracles.

    Following your example, I am trying to be charitable to Michael, though it isn’t easy, as I regard him as a fairly ordinary modern devotee of religious skepticism that occupies our cultural heights, compounded with his scant understanding of the Christian religion.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Michael, I’m impressed that you went out and read the essay I recommended. But I’m confused. You were the one invoking the argument from authority by saying how modern Bible scholars don’t really believe what it says is accurate. I cite C. S. Lewis as being a better authority on ancient literature than the modern Bible scholars are, and you dismiss that. Not by answering the content of his specific arguments, but by accusing him of arguing from authority. And you speak of false dichotomies? The modern Bible critics do that all the time, while not even considering the alternative that Jesus’s claims to divinity are historical. claim

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “Finally, he commits another fallacy here: the appeal to authority. Since HE, the eminent scholar, who has been reading this literature his whole life, has never discovered anything like THIS, it can only be what he says it is.”

    You might read this differently, Michael. Now he was writing at a time when it was considered responsible writing to set forth a synthesis without citing all the evidence behind it. I probably prefer the more recent method of setting them forth so that the reader can make up his or her own mind. But when I read a statement like Lewis’s, I see it more as a challenge. “Go ahead and see if you can find other works like this before the modern period.” He also offers Auerbach as another who agrees on these points. Auerbach fills in some of the details as to what is noteworthy. This isn’t to be one where you are expected to capitulate on the spot. Rather, open a file in your brain, and start to observe. I think his argument is interesting however that turns out.

  • http://inbox5.com Longtime Bob

    This blog seems to be primarily a detailed theological discussion among two or three scholarly contributors, somewhat over the head of the general reader and internet browser. I guess that’s okay if one is interested in the fine details of Christian (and western) theology and its political applications. I’m more interested in Buddhism myself…

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Uh, thanks, Longtime Bob. Anyway, Lewis shows that the Gospels are written in a realistic prose style, one that at that time was reserved for the writing of history. (Myths and legends were written in poetry, with many poetic conventions.) Realistic prose fiction was not invented until the 17th century at the earliest.

    Taken at face value, the Gospels would appear to be in the genre of history. (Actually, an important branch of the higher Biblical critics, the “form critics” do all kinds of things to sort out the literary forms, but they neglect this basic distinction between history and fiction.) Yes, a First century literary genius might have invented realistic prose fiction (so that Jesus is, as Michael offers, a “literary creation”). But who would that be? We have multiple authors of the Gospels, the number of which the higher critics multiply beyond just four.

    So why are the Gospels not treated as history by the higher critics? Because the critics START with the assumption that they could not be true. They assume that the supernatural and things like miracles and the deity of Christ cannot exist. So, they construct alternative explanatory paradigms.

    They do not prove that the accounts of miracles in the Bible or the claims of Christ did not occur. They assume they do not. To then use these authorities as evidence that Jesus did not claim to be divine is circular reasoning. It isn’t just a matter of logical fallacies occurring here and there. The whole project of higher criticism is nothing more than a big circle.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Other problems with higher criticism of the Bible: The critics have taken evolutionary assumptions, positing an oral tradition by which the accounts of Christ were gradually added onto over the years, elaborating them and adding more miracles. But recent evidence shows conclusively that the New Testament was written far earlier than those last-century critics dreamed. (A fragment of the Gospel of John–which they considered the latest and most elaborated of the Gospels–was discovered that dates to 100 A.D.) There just wasn’t time for a long oral tradition (something that the book-oriented Jews didn’t go for anyway),

  • Peter Leavitt

    Dr. Veith, aside from Lewis and Wright could you give us some other excellent writers critical of the “higher” criticism of the Bible.

  • Michael the little boot

    Dr. Veith,

    “There just wasn’t time for a long oral tradition (something that the book-oriented Jews didn’t go for anyway)”

    Just one last thing. The Jews were book-oriented. Unfortunately, the Jews were not the ones who created the oral tradition from which the books were derived. That was the Hebrews and the Israelites. In fact, many Israelites were completely against books, because they saw them as being too inflexible, not allowing for things to change as new information was discovered.

  • Michael the little boot

    Peter (and anyone else who is interested),

    Not that anyone’s necessarily still reading this thread, and I don’t know who will care, but I will take your advice. It’s been fun, for as long as it lasted. Can’t say I won’t be stopping by to read from time to time; but this “typical village skeptic” won’t be muddying the waters with my comments any longer.

    For those of you who made this one of the richest experiences of my life in the last year, I thank you. Anyone who is interested in continuing the conversation may contact me at alittleboot – at – gmail – dot – com.

    For those who feel I’ve ruined their experience, or that I was coming here out of malice, or anything approaching feelings such as these, I apologize. Deeply and seriously. I should have listened to you sooner.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Michael, I appreciate your candor and wise decision. I actually hope that you might someday find it within you to seriously consider Christian or Jewish faith, as both have wonderful treasures and consolations. I know that so far, like many young people, you find religious conviction difficult, though the very fact that you came to this blog-site and engaged with us is probably an indication that some part of you is yearning for serious faith. As Augustine wrote, our hearts are restless Lord until they rest with thee.

    For my part, I apologize for in the heat of some of our discussions being rough with you. I wish you Godspeed.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Michael, I hope you know that it isn’t necessary for you to stop commenting. I’m glad you have been. Christians tend to just talk with each other and direct their arguments, as you say, to the already persuaded. I am thankful for you. Yes, thankful to God for you! Please hang around. I am struck that you have found participating in this blog “one of the richest experiences of your life.” I’d be curious in hearing why that was. At any rate, I’ll keep praying for you, which I hope you don’t mind.

  • Don S

    Michael, I have very much enjoyed our exchanges, and appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you engage on this blog. We are all the richer for having these conversations, and I would hate to see you go. I’m with Dr. Veith — I hope that you change your mind and continue hanging around.

    God bless.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Michael, I defer to Dr. Veith’s and Don S’ judgment on this. It is probably good for a Christian blog to have some dissenting voices. I would welcome your decision to stay on the blog.

  • Van

    Michael,
    I will repeat, once again, a word that describes you…tenacious! It’s amazing. Really. A good thing. It will serve you well….most of the time : )
    I ALWAYS enjoy your presence and comments and think that you are a wonderful addition to this blog. You may rub some the wrong way, but isn’t that just how it is in “real life” too? as opposed to cyber life! It’s OK if someone chooses not to listen to you and take part in a discussion with you. That doesn’t mean what’s being said in the discussion isn’t valid, interesting, thought-provoking and possibly life-changing to someONE.
    Like I’ve said before…don’t leave. You are WELCOME….at least from my point of view!
    I still “chew” over the discussion on atheism this fall..or was that summer? whenever. I think about it a lot. It challenges me still and causes me to cling to my faith and use my mind at the same time.
    Van


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