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.

 

  • 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.

  • 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…”

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • Magic_Cracker

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

  • AnonymousSam

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • P J Evans

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

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • Carstonio

    papal infallibility has been used only twice.

    Once during Scrabble.

  • 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.

  • 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://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?

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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”

  • 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.

  • Magic_Cracker

    To quone!

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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://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.

  • 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.

  • 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). 

  • 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?

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.


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