Biblical Lysenkoism: Has Al Mohler ever read all four Gospels?

Here are some wise words from J.R. Daniel Kirk in 2011 on pastors and the Synoptic Problem:

It is your pastoral responsibility to help people recognize that the Bible we actually have, rather than the Bible of our imaginations, is the word of God.

If you don’t give your people a category for this kind of diverse Bible being the word of God, then you will create a false sense of connection between a supposedly uniform, univocal Bible and the Christian faith as such. So what happens when they go off to college and take a Bible class at State University? What happens when they get bored one Saturday and map out (or try, anyway) the last week of Jesus’ life in each of the four Gospels?

Uh oh.

That’s when they discover that the Bible isn’t what you led them to believe. And if that imagined Bible is necessary for believing what God has to say about Jesus and the Christian faith in general, then the latter are apt to crumble as well.

Make no mistake, there are tremendous pastoral issues at stake in affirming correctly what the Bible is. But one of the worst mistakes we can make, especially in a day and age where media will tell people the truth if we don’t, is to affirm a vision of a single-voiced scripture that fails to correspond to the text we have actually been given.

Anyone who grew up fundamentalist knows exactly what Kirk means when he talks about getting bored one Saturday and trying to map out the last week of Jesus’ life in each of the four Gospels. We know what he means because we did this.

I remember the first time I made such a chart. It was right after I got my telescope, so I think I was in about the third grade. I was reading everything about astronomy that I could get my hands on, including ambitiously tackling Ben Bova’s In Quest of Quasars — which was a bit beyond my little-kid reading level.

And as a good fundamentalist Baptist kid, I was also reading the Bible. I lay down on the floor with our gargantuan copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and looked up every passage that had anything to say about stars or space or the sun or the heavens declaring the glory of God. There’s some really lovely stuff in there, like 1 Corinthians 15:41: “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.” (Bova used that verse as an epigraph before one of his chapters.)

And that also led me to look more closely at the creation stories in the beginning of Genesis. The story in Genesis 1 was a bit confusing, with light being created three days before the sun and moon. (Light from where? Did such source-less light cast a shadow?) But I quickly forgot about that once I encountered the bigger puzzle: The story in Genesis 2 didn’t fit with the story in Genesis 1. Seven days turned into one. People were made before plants instead of plants before people.

I had been assured by preachers and Sunday school teachers that these stories could be “harmonized,” but I couldn’t make that work. I tried — I made a chart, tracing out the two stories in parallel, but the pieces just couldn’t be made to fit.

I had, as Kirk said, discovered that the Bible wasn’t what I had been led to believe.

That did not lead, at that time, to a crisis of faith in the Bible, but rather to a crisis of faith in my Sunday school teachers. It seemed obvious to me that anyone who read the first two chapters of Genesis would have to realize that the two stories couldn’t be harmonized. So I didn’t begin to doubt that the Bible was trustworthy, but I did begin to have serious doubts that my teachers had actually read it.

Instead of trying to harmonize those stories, I adapted a concept I had just learned from Mr. Bova and decided that these two incompatible stories offered something like a kind of parallax view of creation. That, in turn, led to a mutually perplexing conversation with a Sunday school teacher in which, for a moment, we both sat there, holding up an index finger while winking at each other with first one eye, then the other. He didn’t seem to appreciate my idea, but in fairness I don’t think I was explaining it very well.

That’s a relatively benign example of the kind of Pastor Fail that Kirk warns against. But the stakes are often much higher — particularly in churches that make biblical “inerrancy” an all-or-nothing, non-negotiable foundation of Christian faith. When that happens — when salvation and meaning and Jesus and God’s love are made contingent on the Bible being inerrant and wholly consistent in every particular — then people are being set up for a devastating crisis of faith that can only be avoided by not reading the Bible.

A recent Baptist Press story includes a puzzling account from Mike Licona about his students at Southern Evangelical Seminary catching their first glimpse of the crisis of faith awaiting them:

Licona recalled a student in a class he was teaching at Southern Evangelical Seminary who, with tears forming in her eyes, wanted to know whether there were indeed contradictions. A majority of the class, he said, raised their hands to indicate they were troubled by apparent contradictions. Then he realized it was something he should address.

I say this account is puzzling because Licona seems surprised by this. How is that possible? How had he managed to live and teach in the inerrantist Southern Baptist culture without having encountered this same question dozens of times before? How had he avoided asking those questions himself?

The next bit from the Baptist Press story is even stranger:

As he studied the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Licona began keeping a document of the differences he noticed. The document grew to 50 pages.

So here we have a man teaching in a seminary who seems never to have heard of the Synoptic Problem. How does that even happen?

I commend Licona for determinedly setting out to reinvent the wheel independently, but wouldn’t it have been easier just to, you know, go to the library and consult the shelf-after-shelf of volumes written about all of this?

I’m not saying that from an academic perspective, but from a pastoral one. Licona here is describing himself as being surprised by questions that every church youth group volunteer has faced year after year with every crop of kids.

We tell those kids to read the Bible and a few of them actually do. And some of them actually “get bored one Saturday and map out (or try, anyway) the last week of Jesus’ life in each of the four Gospels.”

And then they have questions. They notice the differences between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and they ask about it. They notice the differences between the Synoptic Gospels and John and they ask about them. They notice the differences among the Synoptic Gospels and they ask about those. Some of the brighter and more ambitious Bible readers will even ask about some of the more esoteric bits gleaned from the not-always-compatible stories in the histories of the Hebrew scriptures.

And if you don’t know how to answer those questions, then you’ve got to do more than bluff around them, because any kid who reads 1 Chronicles on her own deserves a serious, honest response.

How is it that Licona hadn’t previously encountered those kids’ questions? How is it that he hadn’t previously asked them himself?

But as weird as it is to ponder Licona’s innocence about such questions, what’s even weirder is the claim that Dr. Al Mohler makes in this Baptist Press story.

Mohler doesn’t claim to be upset by Licona’s approach to the Synoptic Problem. Mohler claims to be upset that Licona acknowledges there is a Synoptic Problem. Mohler simply asserts that every detail of all four Gospels is completely consistent. The “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” says so, so it must be true — even if everyone who’s ever read all four Gospels knows this is ridiculous.

Mohler, in comments to Baptist Press Feb. 6, said, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy.”

“Even Dr. Licona concedes that we ‘may lose some form of biblical inerrancy if there are contradictions in the Gospels.’ What you lose is inerrancy itself,” Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy clearly and rightly affirms ‘the unity and internal consistency of Scripture’ and denies that any argument for contradictions within the Bible is compatible with inerrancy. An actual contradiction is an error.”

… “The Christian faith rests on a comprehensive set of truth claims and doctrines,” Mohler said. “All of these are revealed in the Bible, and without the Bible we have no access to them.”

That leaves only two possibilities. The second, and more charitable of the two, is that Al Mohler has never read the Gospels. (The only other possibility is the one that won Burt Lancaster an Academy Award.)

What will happen if Al Mohler ever does read the Gospels? What will happen if he gets bored one Saturday and tries to map out the last week of Jesus’ life in each of them? What will happen when he confronts the fact that no amount of shoving, shaving, squinting and blurring can ever produce a seamless “harmonizing” of Matthew and Mark and Luke and John?

Will the whole house of cards come tumbling down? Or will he be able, at long last, to separate the Bible as it is from the elaborate construct he has built all around it?

Chaplain Mike takes a thoughtful look at this whole Mohler/Licona kerfuffle — including an excellent spit-take at Norman Geisler’s impossible-to-swallow statement that Licona has strayed from “the historic view of inerrancy.”

That’s a bit like saying someone has strayed from “the historic view of Lysenkoism.” No, wait, actually that’s exactly like saying that.

Chaplain Mike quotes from the original Internet Monk, Michael Spencer:

We need not claim that the Bible is “…a perfect compass. Or a perfect map. Or a perfect book. Because God is perfect. And if God said it, it must be perfect. It’s perfect. Really, really really perfect. Not just true. Not just a book that brings us Christ and the Gospel. Perfect. And if you don’t come out and walk around saying the Bible is perfect, then you reject the Bible.”

And then he adds: “My friends, our faith is not a Jenga game, dependent on blocks of post-Enlightenment logic being stacked just right so that they are in danger of collapsing if one of them is moved the slightest bit.”

The precarious Jenga tower of perfect consistency that Al Mohler has erected cannot survive an attentive reading of the Gospels. I wonder if Mohler could survive it himself.

 

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  • Vermic

    “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy clearly and rightly affirms ‘the unity and internal consistency of Scripture’ and denies that any argument for contradictions within the Bible is compatible with inerrancy. An actual contradiction is an error.”

    The Guide Bible is definitive.  Reality is frequently inaccurate.

  • Kirala

    The Guide Bible is definitive.  Reality is frequently inaccurate.

    I can’t help feeling that the entry for “Earth” would read roughly thusly:
    Good
    Mostly Good
    F^#!’d Up
    #($% If I Know

  • french engineer

    “”The Guide Bible is definitive.  Reality is frequently inaccurate.”
    I can’t help feeling that the entry for “Earth” would read roughly thusly:
    Good
    Mostly Good
    F^#!’d Up
    #($% If I Know”

     “mostly harmless”

  • Naymlap

    Thank you for openly addressing Genesis.  It seems like one of the most obviously problematic parts of a literal bible, but aside from one Bible as literature teacher in undergrad no one has actually mentioned it, and when I ask someone about it they just scratch their heads and say “that can’t be right…”

  • The_L1985

     This always bothered me, although I didn’t always have words for why.  I can trace my confusion over Genesis all the way back to kindergarten and A Beka’s Primary Bible Reader.  The first story was the creation and the fall of Adam–which skipped a fair bit of Gen. 2.  I remember wondering why they left some of it out–after all, if the Bible was the Word of God, and every word in it was important, why cut out what was presumably a good-sized chunk of the Eden story?

    And of course the answer turned out to be that the folks at A Beka didn’t want small children to notice that there are actually 2 different creation stories in Genesis and have a crisis of faith that the adults couldn’t counteract.

    I remember most of the Bible educational curriculum that A Beka provided: weekly Bible readings based on large, illustrated cards; the A-B-C Bible Verses program, in which 26 verses (one beginning with each letter of the alphabet) were to be memorized, often devoid of context; a history of the Bible/apologetics course that was designed to reinforce Good Protestant Values.  The idea that the Bible was literally free from any kind of error was constantly emphasized.

    And of course, this idea of Bible-as-factbook doesn’t hold up to even the scrutiny of an elementary-aged child, which is why we were never encouraged to read the whole Bible, only pre-approved bits and pieces of it.

  • Fusina

    I’d like to see their expressions if they ever read the Egyptian creation myths. On account of, having read them, they are damn close to word for word the Adam and Eve story–or at least the first five days. I suspect that crept in while they were “sojourning” in Egypt. The one big change, natch, is that YHWH God did it, and not the Earth God and the Sky Goddess (Ged and Nut, IIRC). And if they did nick the myths, it was probably because they sounded plausible, and it was easier to edit a story already being told than to make up something entirely new. Or maybe the Egyptians copied from the Hebrews. Who knows anymore. In any case, myths are cool stories to read.

  • Hilary

    Fusina

    This is completely off topic, but earlier on another Slactivist post and reply discussion you mentioned that you were feeling down, depressed, and needed to hear somthing positive in the world.  This isn’t happy like cute bunnies and lolcats, but it is an important example of a little less hate in the world, and maybe a little more hope.

    http://www.reconciliationnotrevenge.com/

    My temple is one of the 3 main sponsers, Mt. Zion Temple in St. Paul, MN.  If I were to give this an lol/I can haz cheeseburger meme title, it would be either:

    1. Hate – ur doing it wrong

    or

    2.  Generational revenge – FAIL

    I mean, if Palestinians and Israelis can decide they’d rather live together then die together, what is world comming to?  Seriously.

    I hope this helps you feel a little better about the world.  Take care of yourself, and be kind to yourself.

    Hilary

  • Fusina

     As someone with cultural roots both Jewish and German, yes, it does. I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that those living there can learn to live together regardless of religion. I like your meme titles, Generational revenge – FAIL is good.

    I think it may be battle fatigue, at least in this case. I’m fifty, and damn proud to have lived this long, but it seems the teenage girls are still fighting the same battles I fought as a teenage girl. Maybe it is getting better, at least the idiots are now being outed as such, but it seems we have such a long way to go to full equality. And I find myself falling into old patterns of thinking–especially regarding things like clothing choices and activities.

    Oh, lastly, Hi up there. I have relatives in Minneapolis, and possibly also in St. Paul. Mostly they are up in Aitken County, and yes, I do have Norwegian Bachelor Farmer relatives (long story there).

  • MikeJ

    Is the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy completely true, inspired by God, and containing no contradictions?

    Maybe we need a Statement on the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy Inerrancy.

  • Lunch Meat

    I was going to say, for someone who supposedly believes in “sola scriptura,” he sure is putting an awful lot of faith in a statement formulated in the late 70s over, you know, the actual scripture.

  • Tricksterson

    Well Al Mohler says so and he is the Seal of the Prophets right?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The story in Genesis 1 was a bit confusing, with light being created three days before the sun and moon. (Light from where? Did such source-less light cast a shadow?)

    Rationalizable as the remnants of the Big Bang radiation, if someone wants to try and carry that off. :P

  • TJ Baltimore

    Except that the early universe was opaque for the first couple of hundred-thousand years http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recombination_(cosmology).

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I was handwaving, not trying to be 100% scientfically accurate. Keep in mind I don’t believe in God anyway :P

  • AnonaMiss

    If someone isn’t able to grasp the idea of multiple accounts of an event, understand that one doesn’t have to be lying to present an inaccurate/biased/skewed account, and reconcile those accounts into a general understanding of what they’re getting at, that indicates a gaping hole in their literary education where the detective genre should be.

    And that’s heartwrenching.

    I get the feeling that reading Murder on the Orient Express would blow these people’s minds.

  • Carstonio

    I get the feeling that reading Murder on the Orient Express would blow these people’s minds.

    Only if they’ve been taught that Agatha Christie was God and that questioning the novel was a mortal sin. I think it’s a mistake to assume that people like Licona’s student aren’t intellectually capable of grasping the cognitive process you outlined. Her reaction suggested that she had found out that a trusted loved one had been deceiving her for many years, and she was still processing the feelings of fear and betrayal. The old cliché of her brain telling her one thing and her heart telling her another.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    This is one of my arguments for teaching literature in schools:  it can be an excellent tool for teaching critical thinking.

    The example I like to hold up is “The Tell-Tale Heart” as an introduction to the concept of the Unreliable Narrator.

  • Jer

    So basically Mohler says that not only can the Bible never be wrong, the Chicago Statement cannot be wrong.  And what’s more, neither Al Mohler’s interpretation of the Chicago Statement nor Al Mohler’s interpretation of the Bible can be wrong.

    And I’ll lay you odds that Al Mohler sees no irony whatsoever in the fact that his justification for why his interpretations of the Bible or the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy can’t be wrong is pretty much the same argument that is used by Catholic lawyers to justify Papal Infallibility.

  • P J Evans

     On the other hand, papal infallibility has been used only twice.

  • Carstonio

    papal infallibility has been used only twice.

    Once during Scrabble.

  • Magic_Cracker

    To quone!

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     It’s also important and fun to remember that “papal infallibility”  doesn’t so much mean “The pope’s pope-powers mean that he can say any crazy shit he wants and it will be true” as it means “In retrospect, we can conclude from the fact that God didn’t preemptively huck a lightning bolt at him to shut him up means that the pope probably did not just commit heresy”

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    This is an accurate statement about what the dogma says (though I don’t think anyone thinks lightning bolts would be involved in stopping him). I think the funniest explanation of infallability that I ever heard was along the lines of “if the Pope was infalliable in Maths he could still get zero on the maths test.”

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     When Mohler was a boy, he really wanted to grow up to be a Cardinal.  The fact that Southern Baptists don’t have Cardinals was an obstacle, but only for a time. 

    Now Mohler gets to have the religious authority that was denied him by the faith was born to, and all is well in the world(of Mohler).

    I know a man Mohler literally had excommunicated from his church, for asking it to start teaching more books from the Jewish faith, once he discovered at the grand old age of 65 that the Bible was incomplete. 

    Mohler arrived at the proceedings with an armed bodyguard.  He then ordered a ballot passed to all members of the church, asking whether this man would get to stay.  A little more democratic than the Catholic church’s way, but still. 

    So no Mohler see no irony at all between his supposed Baptist faith that eschews authority, and his incarnation as the Cardinal of the CDF/Southern Baptist Pope.  In fact, he celebrates it, and unfortunately most of those whose churches fall under his purview have no problem with it either.  They honestly had been waiting for someone to tell them what God meant. 

  • everstar

    When I was a physics undergrad, I fell into a conversation with another physics undergrad who also happened to believe in Biblical inerrancy.  Somehow or other we got to discussing the resurrection and he insisted that the resurrection accounts lined up well enough that they’d be accepted as eyewitness testimony in a court of law.  I was so bewildered I couldn’t manage to say anything like, “You mean the accounts where there’s either no angel, one angel, or two angels?  The accounts where it’s either a group of women, the apostles, or Peter and John who find the tomb?  Those accounts?”  But it’s probably just as well.

  • The_L1985

     Well, yes, they would.  They would be accepted precisely because there are differences between the accounts.

    After all, the police are trained to discount stories by “eyewitnesses” that match up too perfectly, because it indicates that the “witnesses” met up to make sure their stories matched, and thus their accounts have the strong possibility of bias.

  • everstar

    Huh.  I figured the disparity in details was too big to reconcile them, but this is why I’m not a cop or lawyer, I suppose.  Thanks for that.

  • lowtechcyclist

    One counterargument I got about that first Easter morning was that all these things happened, just at different times over the morning.  I never bothered to try to see if it would work; I could only envision a Keystone Kops-type sequence of people going to the tomb, leaving, passing other people on their way to the tomb, then heading back to the tomb and arriving after some but not all of the others had left, with angels etc. showing up in different combinations for each group.

    Some people want to believe in inerrancy so badly that if Easter Keystone Kops is what it takes to reconcile everything, then Easter Keystone Kops it is.

  • Jim Roberts

    Y’know, I don’t have much of a problem with this approach other than that people who endorse this insist that it all actually happened exactly as described. I mean, the disciples are stuck in their upper room feeling exactly like chumps for following a dead guy when word reaches them that he CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD. Pandemonium makes perfect sense as a reaction, and well explains the conflicting narratives, but only if you allow that the reason they conflict is that they didn’t all happen as described.

  • Tricksterson

    Add in that the accounts were written down decades after the facts, at least somewhat secondhand (at a couple of points it’s mentioned that a particular event in a Gospel was told by a witness) and it becomes impossible to believe that things weren’t fuzzed.

  • alfgifu

    Y’know, I don’t have much of a problem with this approach other than that people who endorse this insist that it all actually happened exactly as described. I mean, the disciples are stuck in their upper room feeling exactly like chumps for following a dead guy when word reaches them that he CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD. Pandemonium makes perfect sense as a reaction, and well explains the conflicting narratives, but only if you allow that the reason they conflict is that they didn’t all happen as described.

    When I was the sort of little girl who read I Chronicles and started to wonder about the differences in the Gospels, I came across this argument and it made perfect sense. It’s quite possible to put together a coherent narrative from more or less the entry into Jerusalem through to the end of the resurrection story if you just assume that people were confused and running about trying to work out what was going on.
    In some cases apparent contradictions can be dealt with by making assumptions about what the text doesn’t say. eg where ‘two angels guarding the tomb’ becomes ‘the angel spoke to X’ you can either assume that one of the angels left, or that the text just doesn’t mention the second angel because only one of them spoke.

    This all seemed really significant back when I was about twelve. It’s a little less relevant to my faith these days – I really don’t think it matters much – but I have a nostalgic fondness for people who make the effort to get narrative cohesiveness out of the separate accounts.

    The best example I know is the epic radio play cycle The Man Born to be King (Dorothy L. Sayers) which is a brilliant and character-ful series of short plays covering the whole life of Jesus. It’s from a Christian perspective, but I bet it would read just as well from a retelling-an-interesting-myth perspective. 

    Of course, Sayers knew she was writing fiction (even though she believed it was based on a truth), so that helps.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I have nothing to say of relevance to your post, but I wanted to say that your analogy is awesome and amusing. 

  • GDwarf

     

    Somehow or other we got to discussing the resurrection and he insisted
    that the resurrection accounts lined up well enough that they’d be
    accepted as eyewitness testimony in a court of law.

    A remarkably low bar to clear, since eyewitness testimony is wrong far more often than it is right, a problem our entire justice system has (don’t get me started on most forensic “science”) but it’s bad enough with eyewitnesses that police, attorneys, etc. admit it.

  • BC

    These people are frantically trying to prop up a house of cards.  When information was more concentrated, you could just use authoritarianism – it is because it is what I say it is (which seems to be what Mohler is doing with that nonsense about the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy).   But now more and more laypeople are informed on these controversies and authoritarianism no longer carries the day.   They will paper this controversy by appealing to “faith” and a “strong belief” but the issue is out there and, eventually, that house of cards is going to fall.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I appreciate Fred and Co.’s efforts to get the Mohlers* of the world to see that their view of the Bible is just that, a view, I fear they will always look at the Bible
    this way.

    *Someone whose identity is inextricably tied up with with promoting their view of the Bible while never admitting that it is, in fact, just their view of the Bible.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy clearly and rightly affirms
    ‘the unity and internal consistency of Scripture’ and denies that any
    argument for contradictions within the Bible is compatible with
    inerrancy. An actual contradiction is an error.”

    Y’know, between this and the Chicago school of economics I’m starting to think that Chicago needs to, I dunno, exercise some sort of copyright defense of itself.  It’s really starting to grind my gears the way people who deny reality keep appending Chicago to everything.

    And don’t even get me started on the evils of the Kenyan Mooslim Usurper and his evil Chicago-style political machinations that stole the country away from all the right-thinking not-Chicagans…

  • ReverendRef

     On the plus side, there was the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral that was adopted by the House of Bishops in 1886 that laid out a guideline for ecumenical relations.

    That was a pretty forward-thinking document that still has validity.

  • AnonaMiss

    Also, Chicago-style pizza, the One True Pizza.

    HERETICS WILL BURN.

  • Turcano

    Oh pull the other one.  You people haven’t even figured out that you’re supposed to put the sauce on first.

  • P J Evans
  • Amaryllis

      No stuffed Chicago-style?
    No. Although Chicago may have its saving graces, when it comes to pizza, New-York-style thin-crust is infinitely superior.

    “This isn’t a pizza,” it said, after a minute. “This is a hot tub filled with cheese and sausage.”
    “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Dave said.

    “Isn’t it?” the [alien] asked. “I don’t pretend to be an expert on your
    disgustingly meat-based bodies, but it seems to me that the primary
    ingredients of this object are designed to block up every artery in your
    circulatory system. If we do indeed decide to destroy you, we could do
    it just by delivering one of these pies to every man, woman and child on
    the globe.”

  • Amaryllis

      No stuffed Chicago-style?
    No. Although Chicago may have its saving graces, when it comes to pizza, New-York-style thin-crust is infinitely superior.

    “This isn’t a pizza,” it said, after a minute. “This is a hot tub filled with cheese and sausage.”
    “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Dave said.

    “Isn’t it?” the [alien] asked. “I don’t pretend to be an expert on your
    disgustingly meat-based bodies, but it seems to me that the primary
    ingredients of this object are designed to block up every artery in your
    circulatory system. If we do indeed decide to destroy you, we could do
    it just by delivering one of these pies to every man, woman and child on
    the globe.”

  • Tricksterson

    Mooslim?  Are you implying that Barack Obama worships Bullwinkle?  (shrugs)  Works for me.

  • http://vovinyl.blogspot.com/ FangsFirst

    Are you implying that Barack Obama worships Bullwinkle?

    Bullwinkle worship? now that I can get behind!

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     That can get messy.

  • http://vovinyl.blogspot.com/ FangsFirst

    That can get messy.

    Only when we attempt to pull rabbits out of hats.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I could go with flying squirrel worship. Apparently they are one of very few animals way cuter IRL than they are in cartoon form:
    http://cuteoverload.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/article-2280610-17a7117d000005dc-649_634x591.jpg?w=560&h=522

  • http://vovinyl.blogspot.com/ FangsFirst

    Oh my god. Real-life “anime eyes”…

  • ReverendRef

    What will happen if Al Mohler ever does read the Gospels? What will
    happen if he gets bored one Saturday and tries to map out the last week
    of Jesus’ life in each of them? What will happen when he confronts the
    fact that no amount of shoving, shaving, squinting and blurring can ever
    produce a seamless “harmonizing” of Matthew and Mark and Luke and John?

    What will happen, I think, is that his (their??) reading of the Bible will start to look an awful lot like late Copernican models of the solar system — if it hasn’t already.  That is, it’s generally correct (with the sun at the center), but it’s faulty in that it needs an ever-increasing complexity to keep the planets within their perfectly circular orbits.

    They’ve got Jesus at the center (giving the benefit of the doubt over inerrancy at the center), but they need ever more complex theories and systems to keep it all working properly.

    What they need to be able to do is move from a Copernican model of scripture to a Keplerian model of scripture which uses actual observation and comes up with a much more elegant and workable view.  Because it’s in the Keplerian model where we give up trying to force scripture into our defective system and start living into the system and model that we were given.

    In other words, God is a whole lot bigger and smarter than we give God credit for.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    They’ve got Jesus at the center (giving the benefit of the doubt over inerrancy at the center), but they need ever more complex theories and systems to keep it all working properly.

    If they’ve got Jesus at the center, how come they never seem to care about what Jesus actually said were the most important things?

  • ReverendRef

     If they’ve got Jesus at the center, how come they never seem to care
    about what Jesus actually said were the most important things?

    That’s why I said, “giving the benefit of the doubt over inerrancy at the center.”

    In all actuality, I really doubt they have Jesus as their center.  But for the sake of the argument I made (Copernican vs. Keplerian), it made more sense to phrase it that way.

    The reality, I think, is that their center consists of what they deem as inerrantly right (which can change over time) in order to maintain power and control.  Because it’s so much more comforting to know that you are inerrantly, absolutely right and you’re going to heaven rather than be faced with the messiness and uncomfortableness that actual faith entails.

  • MikeJ

    If they’ve got Jesus at the center, how come they never seem to care
    about what Jesus actually said were the most important things?

    The sun is at the center of the solar system but you wouldn’t want to actually *go* there.

  • Tricksterson

    Speak for yourself.  If there was the tech available to visit the suns core safely I would do so in a heartbeat and am betting I’m not alone.

  • Hilary

    Thanks.  Now I’ve got this stuck in my head, just for the one line of the refrain.

    “If there was the tech available to visit the suns core safely I would do so in a heartbeat and am betting I’m not alone.”

    So you might as well be . . . .

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM2z60kDdZo

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    The sun is at the center of the solar system but you wouldn’t want to actually *go* there.

    That is not using the same meaning of “center” as what ReverendRef and I
    were using.  Your response would only make sense if you thought we meant
    the “center” as Jesus’ actual body, and that Christians should lodge themselves in his spleen or something. We are talking about belief
    systems, not the physical universe.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Clearly, the differences in the Four Gospels can be explained by the fact that Jesus is Luther Arkwright or vice versa.

  • Tricksterson

    Well, looking at the wikipedia entry it does say Luther died and returned, more powerful than before so he’s at least equivalent to Gandalf.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Also, if you listen to Big Finish’s audio adaptation, you get to hear David Tennant say “I love you, Rose” in case that sort of thing ignites your squee.  (Tennant plays Arkwright, who, by happy coincidence, has a girlfriend named Rose)

    (On the other hand, the narrative structure of Luther Arkwright is complex to begin with, and BF’s adaptation borders on incoherent in places)

  • AnonymousSam

    “Stop it! Stop thinking! Stop thinking for yourselves!”

  • Ygorbla

    I don’t think Al Mohler would have a problem with an attentive reading of the Bible; from his perspective, the Bible isn’t really what’s important.  All that’s really important to him is remaining true to the immaculate revealed truth of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

  • vsm

    My favorite piece of inerrantist apologia is the case of the two genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. It doesn’t require too much detective work to discover the lists are contradictory – they can’t even agree on who Joseph’s dad was. As a somewhat obnoxious teenager, I thought I had discovered the ultimate gotcha to pull on some poor Fundamentalist soul. When I got the chance to try it, I was informed that one of them was actually Jesus’s genealogy via Mary, and I’ve heard the claim several times afterwards. I still don’t quite know how you can look at the word “Joseph” in those lists, apply your inerrantist and literalist hermeneutic and read “Mary” in one of them. At least I learned to not argue about with Fundamentalists.

  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

    I remember one of my first assignments in my Intro to New Testament class in college was to take sections from all the Gospels, get a set of colored pencils and underline in different colors the parts that were the same in all four, in only three, in only two or were unique to that Gospel. It’s an  eye-opening exercise if you’ve never really looked at the way the Gospels relate (or don’t relate) to one another. 

  • Makabit

    I think one of the religion teachers at the Catholic high school I used to teach at did that with the kids. At one point they were all walking around with photocopies of the Gospels, highlighting like crazy in different colors. I never got around to asking what they were doing, but it was clearly a very detailed process that took a lot of time.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Norman Geisler’s impossible-to-swallow statement that Licona has strayed from “the historic view of inerrancy.”

    As a historian (at least by degree, if not vocation), I find this notion fascinating.  My reaction is basically the same as Fred’s, in that a historic view of a thing that’s not based on reality isn’t worth holding onto or affirming.

    The weirdness of it goes so much deeper than that, though.  One of the most important things to learn as a historian is how to suss out historic views of whatever you’re studying.  That’s why you write works cited pages in papers and add in bibliographies to cover books you read but didn’t actually use for anything.  It’s why learning the difference between primary and secondary source material is so important.  It’s why there’s an entire sub-field of historiography that any good historian must know and understand.

    Historians do this precisely because historians are always “straying from the historic view” of pretty much everything.  We’re learning new things about history all the time.  We’re uncovering new artifacts and manuscripts.  So historians take those new bits of information and incorporate them into what we already know.  Sometimes those new bits of information radically change our understanding or interpretation of events.

    That’s the entire purpose of learning and studying.  That’s what makes it so damn much fun.  To chastise someone for straying from a “historic view” of a thing is to indicate that you don’t understand the meaning of either term.

  • Jim Roberts

    “And of course the answer turned out to be that the folks at A Beka didn’t want small children to notice that there are actually 2 different creation stories in Genesis and have a crisis of faith that the adults couldn’t counteract.”
    Three, really. There’s the poem, there’s the just-so story (verses 4-7 of chapter 2), and then the anthropocentric story. Verses 4-7 have been folded into the antropocentric story, but there’s abundant history and mythology about just that story that doesn’t appear in the Christian Bible.

  • http://twitter.com/upsidedwnworld Rebecca Trotter

    “The Christian faith rests on a comprehensive set of truth claims and doctrines,” Mohler said.

    And that right there would be the problem. The bible says NO SUCH THING. The Christian faith rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Perhaps Mohler et al should get to know him?

  • Carstonio

    One need not be a Christian to appreciate the moral concepts that Fred espouses. A principle that I’ve heard in environmentalism is “What kind of world do you want your grandchildren to live in?” I would reword that for morality to say “What kind of world do you want to live in?” Fred might be able to answer that without having to think much about it, but the question might be completely alien to Mohler.

  • Hth

     Word.  What an f’ed up way of looking at faith — a comprehensive set of truth claims and doctrines?  What in holy hell does that have to do with taking up your cross and following Jesus?  Who, might I add, pretty much could not have had any opinion whatsoever on the Synoptic Problem, for obvious reasons.

  • stardreamer42

    If you postulate an omnipotent God, then I don’t see any problem in claiming that He can be simultaneously inerrant about two (or more) mutually-contradictory statements. It just shows that we cannot possibly know the mind of God. At root, isn’t this a slightly different version of “can God make a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it”?

    More flippantly, isn’t the ability to engage in that sort of doublethink highly prized among right-wing Evangelists and politicians both at the moment, and expected of their followers? Who cares if what Glenn Beck said last week is the exact opposite of what he said yesterday? They’re both absolutely true!

  • aunursa

    If you postulate an omnipotent God, then I don’t see any problem in claiming that He can be simultaneously inerrant about two (or more) mutually-contradictory statements. It just shows that we cannot possibly know the mind of God. At root, isn’t this a slightly different version of “can God make a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it”?

    When most Christians (and Jews) postulate an omnipotent God, that’s not what they mean.  They don’t mean that God can do that which is logically impossible.  And they don’t mean that God can do something that is against His nature or will.

    God Can’t Do Everything
    Aren’t you sorta misusing the term “omnipotence”?

    Omnipotence: Having unlimited or universal power, authority, or force

  • Carstonio

    That sounds like the Dogbertian distinction between “all you can eat” and “all you do eat.” It’s not obvious to me why a god with total control over everything, capable of suspending physical laws, wouldn’t also be capable of transcending logic. That suggests that logic transcends the god, and I imagine Surak might have something to say about that. And I’ll leave aside the question of how the nature of a god can be knowable, and instead suggest that a being without limits might lack the constraints of a “nature” or personality.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    As CS Lewis once put it: nonsense does not cease to be nonsense simply because you put “God can” in front of it.

  • Carstonio

    I agree that it’s far too easy to invoke the Christian god as the ultimate subject matter expert to endorse one’s argument, no matter how nonsensical. But Lewis seems to assume that sense and nonsense have inherent existence, rejecting the possibility that these are simply creations of our limited perceptions. I’m not arguing for one or the other, and I know that my point sounds like “Puny human minds are too small to comprehend God.” It’s really that all assumptions about gods should be questioned.

  • aunursa

    It’s not obvious to me why a god with total control over everything, capable of suspending physical laws, wouldn’t also be capable of transcending logic.

    I’m not sure what “transcending logic” means.  And I’m not sure that omnipotence implies total control over everything.  I’m merely pointing out that there is more than one definition of “omnipotence”, and the one that Christians and Jews have traditionally applied to God does not include the ability to do absolutely anything.

  • Carstonio

    Total control over everything wouldn’t preclude free will if the god in question chooses not to exercise that control over humans. Omni is an absolute term, and so is infinite, and neither seem appropriate for the meaning that you cite for Christians and Jews.

  • aunursa

    “Omni-” may be an absolute prefix, but “omnipotence” has more than one definition, and some of them are not absolute.  But please don’t take my word for it.  Look it up in the dictionary.  Read these articles below.

    Of course you’re free to criticize the idea of an omnipotent deity.  But if you’re criticism is based on the idea that omnipotence means a deity can do absolutely anything, you are attacking a straw man.

    God Can’t Do EverythingAren’t you sorta misusing the term “omnipotence”?

  • Carstonio

    I’m not criticizing the omnipotence idea specifically. If we were talking about gods with defined limitations, I would be questioning the basis for those limitations. I similarly question the assumptions that Epicurus made when he discussed willingness and ability. From my standpoint, no set of assumptions about gods is any more or less defensible or justifiable than any other.

  • aunursa

    From my standpoint, no set of assumptions about gods is any more or less defensible or justifiable than any other.

    I don’t have any problem with that view.  I only have a problem with the “big rock” conundrum and other popular straw men created to defeat the notion of an omnipotent God.

  • Carstonio

     I can understand that. Reminds me of George Carlin’s classmates in Catholic school. My specific criticism of omnipotence is that it doesn’t seem to solve anything and creates more questions, but that can also be said of many other concepts of gods. My only frame of reference for the idea is Superman and the limitations that comic writers have overcome in creating challenges for the character, such as John Byrne’s reboot of Lex Luthor. While I don’t pretend to know how theologians have wrestled with omnipotence, I wonder if they ever feel they’re making unnecessary work for themselves, instead of considering other models for gods.

  • aunursa

    I wonder if they ever feel they’re making unnecessary work for themselves, instead of considering other models for gods.

    The theologians are limited by their understanding of that which they consider to be inerrant revelation…

    When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
    Genesis 17:1

    I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
    Isaiah 46:10

    Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
    Mark 10:27

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     I generally understand “transcending logic” and similar phrases as meaning, roughly, having an understanding of the deep structure of the universe that is different enough from the superficial understanding I am capable of that a pair of propositions which contradict one another at my level of understanding are understood to exist in harmony.

  • AndrewSshi

     The answer that the schoolmen of the fourteenth century came up with to this issue is that God has his absolute power–by which he could do anything, even cause a thing not to have happened–but that He also has his ordained power, i.e. the limits that He has chosen to set on His power.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    It isn’t logically impossible to make something so heavy you can’t lift it. Builders do it all the time.

  • aunursa

    It isn’t logically impossible to make something so heavy you can’t lift it. Builders do it all the time.

    Making something so heavy that you can’t lift it is not logically impossible.

    The logically impossible is making something so heavy that an omnipotent entity, one capable of lifting any object, can’t lift it.

  • stardreamer42

    Omnipotence: Having unlimited or universal power, authority, or force

    Unlimited means unlimited; if you start putting conditions on it, then it’s not unlimited any more.

    But the point I was making is that this kind of argument is bog-standard when discussing things like the problem of evil: “It may not make any sense to you, but our understanding is limited and God’s is not.” And I don’t see Biblical contradiction as being any different from that, in terms of the applicability of the argument. It only looks contradictory because you’re mortal; God is absolutely capable of having both of those statements be inerrant at the same time, and that’s what’s important.

    Note, please, that I consider this particular argument to be the world’s biggest cop-out; effectively, it’s saying, “We don’t have any answer for that question beyond ‘because I say so’, so STFU.”
     

  • aunursa

    Per the dictionary, omnipotent doesn’t necessarily mean “unlimited power.”  It can mean “unlimited authority.”

    At any rate, Christians aren’t arguing that God can do absolutely anything.  If you have a quibble, it appears that it’s over terminology.  If you define omnipotence as the ability to do absolutely anything, including things are logically impossible and things that are contrary to one’s nature (e.g. Can God become forgetful?), then most Christians and Jews would agree that God is not omnipotent — using that definition.

    The article at this link discusses traditional and philosophical definitions of omnipotence.

  • stardreamer42

    You keep not engaging with my point in favor of quibbling over whether or not “omnipotent” means what we think it means. Forget “omnipotent” — at this point it’s a distraction.

    The POINT is that it’s absolutely routine for people with questions about why this or that thing doesn’t make sense, or seems to be contradictory, to be told that the fault is in their perception, because they are not God and cannot understand God, because God is perfect. Why, then, is that argument not just as routinely deployed about questions of internal Biblical contradiction? The two, or three, or however many there are versions of the Creation story or the Resurrection are all inerrant because God is perfect and His understanding surpasses the best we can achieve. 

    It is, as I noted above, the perfect unanswerable, un-arguable-with response whenever reality interferes with the demands of religion. So why don’t they use it for these questions? If I were them and had an argument at my fingertips that can render any of the hard questions the fault of the questioner, you can bet I’d be deploying it for something like this!

  • Carstonio

    Good point. The “puny human minds” argument wrongly treats questioning  as wrong, and I wonder if the theologians who use this argument realize that they sound like orthodoxy enforcers. (Assuming that the theologians aren’t part of the religion’s power structure.) From my limited exposure, their theologies sound like systems of internal logic that depend on core assumptions, and it’s not obvious why one set of assumptions would be better than any other, or why any such assumptions would be necessary.

  • aunursa

    The POINT is that it’s absolutely routine for people with questions about why this or that thing doesn’t make sense, or seems to be contradictory, to be told that the fault is in their perception, because they are not God and cannot understand God, because God is perfect.  Why, then, is that argument not just as routinely deployed about questions of internal Biblical contradiction?

    It may very well be absolutely routine for skeptics to be told that the fault is in their perception.  I regret that I don’t understand what this point has to do with my previous comments.

  • Robyrt

    Contradictions in the Bible are the result of our imperfect understanding of a difficult text, not some additional level of understanding that only God can access. Why is this different from the problem of evil? Because the Bible (unlike the universe) is specifically designed for consumption by humans, so it doesn’t make sense for it to rely on things that are not intelligible to us. Evil, on the other hand, is a question which God’s active refusal to answer (in Job) implies that we are incapable of or unwilling to or not ready to understand the answer.

  • Carstonio

    The problem of evil is what I mean by assumptions. The question exists only because of the postulate of a deity with omni qualities. Similarly, the argument from evil is simply the opposite postulate, flatly rejecting the possibility of such a deity. It’s as though the advocates of both postulates ignore the existence of other theologies. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Contradictions in the Bible are the result of our imperfect
    understanding of a difficult text, not some additional level of
    understanding that only God can access.

    That argument is not too far removed from the “fossils in the soil are fakes put there by God to test your faith”.

    It says God is, as your Bible says, purposely putting stumbling blocks before the blind.

  • Makabit

    No, the fake fossils are a lie, meant to screw with your head in a high-stakes game  of ‘screw with your head’. The Bible is only a challenge.

    It’s the difference between an English teacher demanding that you figure out some themes of Hamlet on your own, as opposed to actively lying about them.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There’s wanting someone to do a little thinking, and then there’s just plain being obscurantist.

  • aunursa

    No, the fake fossils are a lie, meant to screw with your head in a high-stakes game of ‘screw with your head’.

    Evangelical Christians have told me that Jesus was born to a virgin in order to fulfill messianic prophecy and prove that he is the Messiah.  Evangelicals have also told me that the resurrection of Jesus proves the truth of Christianity.

    Most Christians apologists seem to expect that Jews will dispute the miracles of the virgin birth and the resurrection.  I don’t.  My response is this would be: “Was Jesus born of a virgin?  Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t.  Was Jesus resurrected after being dead for two or three days (depending upon which Gospel you’re reading)?  Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t.  But even if Jesus was born of a virgin and even if he were resurrected from the dead, it wouldn’t prove the truth of Christianity.”

    How could that be?  Why would God allow such miracles to happen for a false religion?  I would point the apologist to Deuteronomy 13:1-4.

  • Hilary

    As far as accepting Jesus as Messiah, I’m still holding out for this:

     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9MfrovtTtw

    Lo yisa goy el goy cherev, lo yimedo od milchamah

    Nation shall not raise sword against nation, nor shall they study war.

    I don’t have a problem seeing Christianity as another covenant God made for people to be in, and certainly a lot of Christians are good people, but the fulfillment of Judaism and the Torah . . . . ?

    Lo yisa goy el goy cherev . . . . come back and we’ll talk when that actually happens because of Jesus.

    Hilary

  • The_L1985

     My Jewish boyfriend uses that one when people try to convert him to Christianity.  He’ll give a (not-painful–the joking kind that is deliberately held back so as not to hurt) slug to the arm, and say, “Nope, there’s still violence in the world.  So the Messiah clearly hasn’t come yet.”

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     If you postulate an omnipotent God, then I don’t see any problem in
    claiming that He can be simultaneously inerrant about two (or more)
    mutually-contradictory statements.

    Is that the doctrine of Omniquantism?

  • stardreamer42

    Interesting. I used to call that “pantheism” — the view that all religions are equally valid. But “omniquantism” is less subject to misinterpretation, since “pantheism” can be taken to refer to a particular pantheon. So thanks, I’ve learned something cool today!

  • AnonymousSam

    *Tilt* Pantheism means something very different than “all religions are equally valid.” That’s indifferentism. Pantheism is more like “the universe is a manifestation of God and divinity can be found in nature itself, rather than in the belief of a transcendental being.”

  • Diona the Lurker

    Actually, that’s not really what pantheism is – the actual definition, quoting from Wikipedia, is “Pantheism is the belief that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent God, or that the universe (or nature) is identical with divinity. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal or anthropomorphic god.” Apparently the misconception comes from the idea that the word pantheism, which means “all God”, really means “many gods”.

  • lowtechcyclist

    Basically, the inerrantists have decided that the Bible is the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy’s bitch – the Bible has to be what the CSoBI says it is, and if the Bible is clearly something different from that, you must be imagining it.

    So don’t read the Bible, kids, that might lead you into the ways of sin, error, and even unbelief.  Just accept the truth of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and you’ll be saved.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Anyone who grew up fundamentalist knows exactly what Kirk means when he talks about getting bored one Saturday and trying to map out the last week of Jesus’ life in each of the four Gospels. We know what he means because we did this.

    I am reminded of a bit Bob Altemeyer relayed starting on page 120 of The Authoritarians here.  Here is a salient extract from his findings:

    Most of the fundamentalists stuck by their guns and insisted no contradictions or inconsistencies existed in the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection, no matter what one might point out. I call that dogmatism. Furthermore a curious analogy kept popping up in their defense of  this seemingly indefensible stand. Many of them said the evangelists were like witnesses to an automobile accident, each of whom saw the event from a different place, and therefore gave a slightly different account of what had happened. I’m ready to bet they picked up this “analysis-by-analogy” in Sunday school, or some such place. Like the arguments against evolution, you can tell they just swallowed this “explanation” without thinking because it is, in fact, an admission that contradictions  and inconsistencies  do exist. The “different angles”story just explains how the contradictions got there.

    Ultimately the true believers were saying, “I believe so strongly that the Bible
    is perfect that there’s nothing, not even the Bible itself, that can change my mind.” If that seems like an enormous self-contradiction, put it on the list. We are dealing with very compartmentalized minds. They’re not really interested in coming to grips with what’s actually in the Bible so much as mounting a defense of what they want to believe about the Bible–come Hell or Noah’s high water.

  • LL

    You know, one of the reasons I come to this website (in case anyone was wondering, maybe they don’t care) is because most reporting on religion sucks. It really sucks. It either sucks because the reporter is not at all religious and is so lazy that he/she doesn’t really report anything, mostly feel-good stories about missionaries and “controversies” where “both sides” are given “equal treatment,” or it sucks because the reporter is REALLY religious and works for some religious publication and must adhere to certain “guidelines” in their “reporting.”

    If not for Fred’s blog, I wouldn’t know that there are people (maybe not enough people, but they’re there at any rate) within the religious community who actually question things. And bring up uncomfortable subjects and don’t let their “leadership” shut them up so that all they ever talk about is how they can be even more like Jesus. 

    It gives me a little hope that it is possible to be smart and decent and also be religious. Because seriously, that is really effing hard to see most of the time. Because many self-described religious people are just assholes. And many of them appear to be pretty stupid as well. And the “leadership” of various religious denominations seems to be dominated by the assholish and the stupid. 

    So it’s nice to know that not everybody is like that. I mean, the leadership assholes are still in charge, and that’s unfortunate, but thanks to electronic communication, they can’t stop the smart people among their constituents from contradicting them. Now I know that Al Mohler and the rest of those idiots don’t have anything to say that I need to hear and there are lots of other places to go to find out what the hell is going on, regarding, say, what the hell is up with the Baptists hating birth control? When did that happen? It’s nice that Fred is willing to chase that down and tell us straight up, rather than having to get it through a WWJD filter on some SBC-controlled media outlet (or whatever Baptist organization is relevant here). 

  • LL

    It’s a shame because the real, human story of Christianity (as opposed to a lot of the silly, made-up stuff in the Bible) is very compelling. 

    But I guess that’s not good enough for people. I guess stories that don’t have burning bushes and pillars of salt and whatnot aren’t sexy enough for the Bible. 

  • AnonymousSam

    A similar, related argument I’ve postulated with a rather more meaningful (IMO, anyway) degree of implications is “Does God have the authority to make a law which God cannot break?”

    After all, laws and the consequences for breaking them is kind of a thing in Christianity, from Leviticus and Deuteronomy all the way to the Resurrection and the Golden Rule. I’ve seen proponents on both sides, with various justifications.

  • aunursa

    “Does God have the authority to make a law which God cannot break?”

    Can God create a law for Himself to keep?  I think if Christian and Jewish theologians would think about this question, most would come to the conclusion: “Yes He can.”  According to the Jewish and Christian Bibles, they believe that God has committed Himself to keeping certain covenants.

  • AnonymousSam

    Not just the forging and keeping of the covenants, but literally, could God put down a law which would then become utterly unbreakable? I’ve heard many people suggest that the reason people go to Hell is because although God doesn’t want that to happen, He/She/Pie is incapable of making exceptions while meting out divine justice. It must proceed with the maximum possible sentence for whatever infraction. Too bad, so sad, but that’s just the way it absolutely has to be.

    Whereas I would argue that if God can’t bend the rules God put in the rulebook, then God is not omnipotent and is being held accountable by a power beyond God’s own.

    (Out of curiosity, why don’t you censor the name of God? No rebuke intended, it’s just that I’ve even noticed a friend who only recently converted censoring it and obviously it’s a thing for quite a lot of others. Personally, I’m of the mind that it’s not like God wouldn’t recognize His/Her/Pie own name because someone stuck an asterisk in the middle of it.)

  • aunursa

    could God put down a law which would then become utterly unbreakable?

    I suppose He could.  I’m probably not in a position to speak regarding the Christian view of your question.  But from a Jewish perspective I would say that it’s not His practice to do so.  See Ninevah for example.

    I’ve frequently read the idea in Christian sources that God cannot simply forgive a sin because that would violate divine justice.  My (admittedly snarky) response is that God is not bound by Christian theology.  He can choose to forgive whomever He wants, even if Christian theologians say He cannot.

    Regarding the use of “G-d”: Some Orthodox Jews when writing use it in place of “God” in order to prevent the desecration of the Name of God.  The reason is that someone else might discard the paper with “God” on it.  This habit has been continued in online writings, because someone might print out the online page or document and then later throw it away.  Even though God’s name is not “God”, some people would say that it is a divine name because that is how many people know Him.  (This is why old Jewish Torah scrolls and prayer books are buried rather than burned.)

    Other Orthodox Jews, who do not follow this practice, do write “God.”  (See here for an example.)  I do not consider myself Orthodox (or Conservative or Reform.)

  • AnonymousSam

    Thank you for explaining.

  • AnonymousSam

    In retrospect, I actually really like that response. What’s the point of being omnipotent if you can’t even break your own rules? And who is Joe Schmoe to tell God, “You made your bed, now you have to sleep in it”?

    Well, unless Joe Schmoe is Jewish, in which case, it often seems like he might be capable of sending God to bed without dinner.

  • Jim Roberts

    There’s a rather lovely story about a group of rabbis who were trying to decide where to build . . . an outhouse, I believe it was. Six of them wanted it in one location, but one wanted it to be put elsewhere. That rabbi asked YHWH to intercede and he sided with the lone rabbi. The six rabbis said, “It is not in our covenant that YHWH decides these things, and we have decided.” The outhouse was placed where the majority wished it to be and YHWH said (and here sources vary a great deal), “I appear to have been outvoted.”

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    That’s this story:  http://jhom.com/topics/voice/bat_kol_bab.htm

    Related in a slightly different fashion here:  http://prezi.com/uffdbsqpyjaq/the-oven-of-akhnai/

  • Hilary

    Thanks, I was just about to pull out my copy of the Pirke Avot and find the exact details of that story. 

    Yes, Jews will tell God to butt out of our debates about how best to obey God by following mitzvot (commandments). The Torah is not in heaven . . .

    God wasn’t kidding when he* called us ‘stubborn and stiff necked’

    *for lack of a better pronoun.  I just can’t get behind the ze/zir/zie stuff. 

  • Elizabeth H

    I just can’t get behind the ze/zir/zie stuff.

    For the record: my pronouns are ze/zir.

  • Hilary

    Where did that come from?  I understand the need for gender-neutral pronouns, but it seems like they just showed up all of the sudden.  Did I miss the memo or something?

    Maybe I’ll get used to them and eventually use them, but for the moment they still feel too clunky for me.  It just doesn’t sound right.  But if that is how you want to be refered to, I’ll do it.  I generally try to be respectful of how others want to be called, even if it doens’t make sense to me personally. 

  • Elizabeth H

    Genderqueer people are a thing. Probably always have been. And the need for a third-person singular gender-neutral pronoun that isn’t ‘it’ would exist without genderqueer people, since it isn’t always possible to know whether a person is male or female, especially if no specific person is being referenced. ‘They’ will generally do, but people grouch about it being plural, as though ‘you’ isn’t both.

  • Aiwhelan

     I’ve heard a tale of a similar debate, going 3-1, and the “1” calls on and gets help from God himself, speaking from the heavens, “He’s right!” 
    And the other three shout back, “And now the vote is 3 to 2!”

  • aunursa

    Reminds me of the friendly competition in The Lord of the Rings — between the elf Legolas and the dwarf Gimli — as to which one will kill more enemy forces.  After Legolas singlehandedly takes down a giant Oliphaunt, Gimli immediately responded, “That still only counts as one.”

  • Makabit

    Bava Metzia:

    “On that day, Rabbi Eliezer put forward all the arguments in the world, but the Sages did not accept them.”Finally, he said to them, ‘If the halakha is according to me, let that carob­tree prove it.'”He pointed to a nearby carob-tree, which then moved from its place a hundred cubits, and some say, four hundred cubits. They said to him ‘One cannot bring a proof from the moving of a carob-tree.'”Said Rabbi Eliezer, ‘If the halakha is according to me, may that stream of water prove it.'”The stream of water then turned and flowed in the opposite direction.”They said to him, ‘One cannot bring a proof from the behavior of a stream of water.'”Said Rabbi Eliezer, ‘If the halakha is according to me, may the walls of the House of Study prove it.'”The walls of the House of Study began to bend inward. Rabbi Joshua then rose up and rebuked the walls of the House of Study, ‘If the students of the Wise argue with one another in halakha,” he said, “what right have you to interfere?'”In honor of Rabbi Joshua, the walls ceased to bend inward; but in honor of Rabbi Eliezer, they did not straighten up, and they remain bent to this day.”Then, said Rabbi Eliezer to the Sages, ‘If the halakha is according to me, may a proof come from Heaven.'”Then a heavenly voice went forth and said, ‘What have you to do with Rabbi Eliezer? The halakha is according to him in every place.'”Then Rabbi Joshua rose up on his feet, and said, ‘It is not in the heavens’ (Deuteronomy 30:12).”What did he mean by quoting this? Said Rabbi Jeremiah, ‘He meant that since the Torah has been given already on Mount Sinai, we do not pay attention to a heavenly voice, for You have written in Your Torah, ‘Decide according to the majority’ (Exodus 23:2).”Rabbi Nathan met the prophet Elijah. He asked him, ‘What was the Holy One, Blessed be He, doing in that hour?'”Said Elijah, ‘He was laughing and saying, “My children have defeated me, my children have defeated me.””‘

  • Elizabeth H

    “Does God have the authority to make a law which God cannot break?”
    Something I’ve heard from a lot of good-king characters, and I think in this formulation it’s Jonathan from Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books: of all his subjects, he is the least able to break the law.

    In absence of that adjective…

  • http://www.facebook.com/jake.litteral Jake Litteral

    Of course Mohler will say he’s read the bible, the four Gospels, etc. But then he’ll try and weave those differing accounts into an ad hoc Frankenstein explanation that causes inordinate amounts of cognitive dissonance.

  • aunursa

    Of course Mohler will say he’s read the bible, the four Gospels, etc. But then he’ll try and weave them into an ad hoc Frankenstein explanation that causes so much cognitive dissonance.

    This is how Rabbi Singer of Outreach Judaism put it…

    I know there have been many frantic attempts to respond to some of the countless inconsistencies that exist in the Gospels. These answers, however, are so plainly forced and contrived that even a perfunctory examination of these rationalizations lets its reader know that they were written by desperate men, hopelessly trying to swim with shoes made of concrete.

  • Otrame

    Having faith in God is one thing.  Having faith in the Bible is something else. It seems to me that what Mohler, and many, many others want is for you to worship the Bible, not God.  The  inerrancy becomes becomes what is worshipped, not God.  Not Jesus. That is why it is so easy for them to ignore what Jesus said in the Bible. Jesus isn’t as important as defending their inerrant Bible.

  • AnonymousSam

    An argument I’ve seen postulated on this blog by visitors: “If the Bible wasn’t inerrant, why should anyone care what Jesus said? The Bible’s inerrancy is part of why the message of Jesus is so powerful.”

    And yet they’ll happily ignore every third word Jesus said because HOMOSBADCHURCHPOWERGOOD.

  • The_L1985

     Because a book about a guy who heals the sick, raises the dead, and teaches people to be kind to one another, angering local authorities to the point that he is branded a traitor to the Empire and executed, can’t inspire people if it isn’t literally true.  Um, no.

    Nor does the truth of the Gospels depend on the truth of the dozens of other books with which it is generally published and bound.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In that respect, the stories of Jesus remind me of similar hagiographic treatment of American culture-heroes like Davy Crockett, George Washington, and Lewis & Clark.

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    I remember some Orthodox blogger arguing that all heresies ultimately boil down to a denial of the Incarnation in some way.

    It being Eastern Orthodox, it missed out on inerrantism: asserting that the Word became dried ink.

  • ReverendRef

     It seems to me that what Mohler, and many, many others want is for you to worship the Bible, not God.

    Um . . . No.  What Mohler and company want is for others to worship EXACTLY WHAT THEY TELL YOU ABOUT THE BIBLE.

    They don’t want you to notice two creation stories, or that the sun came on the fourth day, or that Jesus overturned the tables in the temple early in his ministry in John but at the end in the synoptics, or that Jesus was crucified after the Passover in Mark but before the Passover in John, or that . . . pick your discrepancy.

    If I have to force people to believe what I tell them, then I’m not a faith leader — I’m a cult leader.  No thanks.  I’m happy to dig into the questions and try to help people work out their faith without beating them over the head with some cut-up, highlighted and edited Schofield Reference Bible.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    There are three kinds of ‘omnipotence’ I can imagine.  The most basic type is infinite power, which would allow one to accomplish anything that is theoretically physically possible.

    There’s power that transcends physics itself, in which one can do anything that can be described, regardless of whether it’s possible in our universe or not (including changing those physical laws).

    And then there’s power that can do anything, even if it doesn’t make sense.  The ability to make two plus two equal potato.  The problem with this kind of omnipotence is that… well, it doesn’t make sense.  One could argue that this ‘violation of logic’ is a misunderstanding of logic itself, which is in practice simply a way of creating rules about the world.  

    Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

    The simplest ‘clobber verse’ here would seem to be that completely nonsensical statements are not ‘things’ in any meaningful sense…

  • Tapetum

     WARNING!!!
    **Divide by cucumber error**
    **Please reboot universe**

  • Leum

    There’s power that transcends physics itself, in which one can do
    anything that can be described, regardless of whether it’s possible in
    our universe or not (including changing those physical laws).

    And then there’s power that can do anything, even if it doesn’t make
    sense.  The ability to make two plus two equal potato.  The problem with
    this kind of omnipotence is that… well, it doesn’t make sense.  One
    could argue that this ‘violation of logic’ is a misunderstanding of
    logic itself, which is in practice simply a way of creating rules about
    the world. 

    There is (or was, maybe it’s been resolved) in physics about whether the laws of physics could have been other than as they are. That is, it may be that the very nature of existence requires the speed of light to be 3.8×10^9 m/s, for entropy to happen, for gravity to become weaker with distance (even for that weakness to be proportional to the square of distance), etc.

    So I think it can be interesting to extend that debate into logic. Could the laws of logic be other than as they are? Is reason so pure that it cannot be altered, or can it also be subject to change? Can Bloody Stupid Johnson make a wheel where pi is exactly 3? Can if p then q imply if not p then not q? I’m not sure the fact that we can’t understand how this could be the case is an argument against it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.kirby.940 Matthew Kirby

    Well, this guy seems to think he can reconcile any contradiction.

     http://www.lookinguntojesus.net/answering.htm

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    From the Revised Standard Version:

    [Y]ou shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

    That gets up my nose something fierce.

    That kind of behavior reminds me uncomfortably of the kind of mind games I’ve heard about in abusive relationships, where there’s no good end result for anyone except the person trying to be a total jackass.

  • http://www.facebook.com/apologianick Nick Peters

    Just wanting to add my two cents here. I happen to be Mike’s son-in-law. Yes. If anyone knows about doubt, it’s Mike. He’s wrestled with it incredibly often. He also does know very well about the synoptic problem. I think the greater shock is that Seminary students didn’t know about it. (Yes. I know where he taught at there are students who don’t know about it.) Mike and I had several conversations before this event took place where we discussed “contradictions.”  My thoughts on Mohler’s statements can be found here: http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/the-future-of-biblical-scholarship/

  • http://profiles.google.com/lillakalleo Carl Isaacson

    Being an ELCA Lutheran and not a fundamentalist, I’ve never had trouble with the Synoptic Problem. Not a problem, but an interesting literary puzzle that gives us a chance to see different views of Jesus. When I preach that’s what I do – not “who is Jesus,” but “what does Luke, Mark, Matthew, John see in Jesus?” 

    Last Sunday – Lent I – was Luke’s version of the temptation. Matthew and Luke don’t agree on the order of the temptations. What do you make of that? I asked.  Since it wasn’t the point I felt we needed to focus on in our little rural congregation in Kansas, I let the point go. But I’ve not had a complaint about asking people to look at what’s actually in the Bible and wonder what/if it says to them.

    Of course it’s the word of God, Luther is supposed to have said. But is it Word of God for me? Is it addressed to me?

    And we do not only ask of the text what it means, but the text asks of us, What do you mean? That, as I remember it, was one of Bultmann’s thoughts. Bultmann, that heretic! 

    Dealing with the actual scripture isn’t going to make you a heretic nor crush faith. Being unwilling to read the actual text and deal with the actual text will lead to the destruction of faith when a thoughtful reader, as Fred points out, actually encounters the synoptic problem.

    BTW, why have students make their own synopsis when there are Synoptic Gospels available in both Greek and English?

  • Mike

    Hi
    Have you ever thought of the possibility that God Himself was the source of light prior to the ‘light’ being created.
    Just a thought
    Mike