9 Tactics Christians Use to Dismiss Bible Embarrassments (2 of 3)

9 Tactics Christians Use to Dismiss Bible Embarrassments (2 of 3) February 11, 2019

Let’s continue our look at the ways Christian apologists respond to embarrassments in the Bible and Christianity and see how well they work. (Part 1 here.)

Tactic 3: God put them there on purpose

Let’s start with a palate cleanser and hear from “Dr.” Kent Hovind (whose “doctoral dissertation” memorably opened with the line, “Hello, my name is Kent Hovind”). Hovind admits that, yes, there are contradictions in the Bible, but don’t worry about them because God put them there on purpose. According to Hovind’s thinking, the contradictions are there to throw off those who aren’t serious. Let those people become atheists and leave the flock with stronger believers.

Or something.

Tactic 4: Things were different back then

Slavery was always wrong, y’see, but God needed to work within the social context of the Israelites 3000 years ago. And that’s also true for genocide. And human sacrifice. God knew they were wrong, of course, but he needed to ease the Israelites into this new thinking.

This creates the Janus Bible, a Bible that doesn’t tell you the unchanging, difficult moral truth whether it suits you or not but a Bible that looks forward and backward at the same time. Or maybe it’s the Quantum Bible, the superposition of moral rightness and moral evil at the same time.

If God was working within the context of those social customs, why did he impose the Ten Commandments and the hundreds of other laws in the Old Testament with no grace period? And if he could impose prohibitions against murder, lying, and stealing in an instant, why not add prohibitions against slavery, human sacrifice, and genocide?

Do the Bible’s archaic customs sound like a god easing in a new policy, or do they just sound like the Bronze Age thinking that was popular back then? And what happens to the claim of objective morality, moral truths that are unchanging through time? If “slavery is wrong” is objectively true, then the Old Testament shows God dictating a flawed morality.

No, “things were different back then” or “God’s hands were tied” don’t help when God is omnipotent. The ancient Israelites had our brains and could’ve understood modern morality as well as we do.

The Bible can’t be timeless and stuck in the past at the same time.

Tactic 5: Use context selectively

The Stand to Reason ministry has some surprising Bible advice: “Never read a Bible verse.” What they mean is, never read just a Bible verse but use the context of its paragraph or chapter to understand it correctly.

That’s a good step, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The maxim should read: Never quote a Bible verse until you know that its point isn’t challenged anywhere else in the Bible. (More.)

The Bible is a big book, and you can find just about everything in it. God hates the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt, but he later establishes the rules for how to do it properly to other people in Israel. God knows everything, but he had to send scouts to Sodom to learn what was going on. Good comes from God, but so does evil.

The lesson here is to reject the maxim about a Bible-wide context, keep one’s outlook confined, and ignore the verses that contradict your message.

Tactic 6: “Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones”

By this, the Christian means that embarrassing passages like God’s support for human sacrifice or slavery should be subordinate to passages that reject human sacrifice or emphasize God’s love. So the distinction actually isn’t difficult vs. clear passages but rather embarrassing vs. pleasing. That every clash of passages always gives a result that preserves the Christian position is a clue that this isn’t an honest following of the evidence.

The Muslim rule of abrogation neatly sidesteps any contradictions in the Quran, but (like me) Christians are quick to wonder how the Prophet could get something wrong (even if it’s overruled with the correct message later) when he was basically taking dictation from an angel. With tactic 6, Christians bring the same challenge on themselves. Their job is easier—just pick the verse(s) that you like and handwave some rationalization for why you can overrule the competing verse(s)—but problems remain. They’ve opened the door for every Christian to make their own personal evaluation for which verses to keep, and, like the Muslims, they’ve admitted that the Bible is contradictory.

Here’s a clear declaration of this philosophy from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978):

The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of . . . seeming discrepancies between one passage and another. . . . Solution of [apparent inconsistencies], where this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances.

So it’s head’s I win; tails I don’t lose. That’s a bold and surprisingly candid statement that they don’t care about evidence. (I explore this tactic in detail here; also here and here.)

Concluded in part 3.

Everybody’s religion is different.
If there were a single consistent and demonstrable version of it,
it would be called physics.
— commenter eric

.

Image from Bring Back Words, CC license
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  • ThaneOfDrones

    The Bible is a big book, and you can find just about everything in it.

    Just about, but not quite everything.

    The word “trinity” appears nowhere in the Bible (KJV of course).

    Bad news for cherry-pickers. The word “cherry” appears nowhere in the Bible.

    • larry parker

      Fig-pickers it is.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Pig-WHATers, again?

        😉

  • Tactic #3 is totally at odds with God’s supposed all-goodness: who on Earth would voluntarily have their kids go astray, especially when we’re warned time and again that even a single doubt can lead to a “faith shipwreck”?

    Point #4 is almost as weak: an all-loving God could not tolerate any violence against his creatures, be it millennia ago or today; also, in several instances cruelty is not only tolerated, but also actively encouraged or enforced by God himself!

  • Lex Lata

    To a certain extent, I . . . agree with Hovind. 🙁

    Not about God playing stump-the-chump, but about scripture functioning as a sort of selective pressure. Anecdotally, I can trace some of my earliest doubts to those long, Sunday services when I sat reading the Bible straight through, rather than listening to the pastor holler about KISS and D&D and AIDS. The OT in particular surprised me with its depictions of slavery, war crimes, maltreatment of women, stoning, etc.–and these were attributed to the “good” guys. Throw in another decade or so of critical reading and thinking, and an atheist was born.

    The Bible’s moral and continuity problems weren’t the sole cause of my eventual apostasy. But they certainly contributed. As Isaac Asimov is credited with saying, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

    • wtfwjtd

      ” …rather than listening to the pastor holler about KISS and D&D…”

      Ah yes, the good ol’ days, lol. Throw in a dash of “Late, Great Planet Earth”, and I’m right there with you! What utter clap-trap that turned out to be.

      • Lex Lata

        Not long ago I watched a video of Seth Andrews talking about the Satanic Panic of the 80s.

        So. Much. Nostalgia.

    • It’s like scam emails. They’re deliberately poorly written so that it weeds out thoughtful people who will waste the scammers’ time. It’s a filter for stupid.

      • Lark62

        I once told a christian the bible was written as a test. The deity hates groveling and despises anyone who rejects reality. So she wrote the bible to weed those people out. Anyone who thinks the bible contains sound moral guidance or who thinks the deity described therein is worthy of praise goes straight to hell.

        I challenged the christian to prove with evidence they were right and I was wrong.

        Silencio.

        • The Reverse Pascal Test–nice.

          If God exists, the human brain is his greatest gift to us, and the Christians refuse to use it.

    • Wikipedia tells me that your name means “current law.” Is that just a fun term, or does that express something of your philosophy?

      • Lex Lata

        A little of both. Lex lata and lex ferenda are oft-paired phrases still used in international law to denote and distinguish “the law as it is” and “the law as it ought to be,” respectively. Lex Lata sorta reflects my default preference to think about the law in more pragmatic and objective terms, rather than aspirational and subjective terms. And it has a nice alliterative sound.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          Oh. I thought maybe you were Superman’s latest nemesis.

        • Guestie

          I also thought it was a Superman reference.

    • Benny S.

      I have to offer a slight correction / clarification regarding your comment above. You referenced KISS, but you should’ve referred to the more accurate “Knights In Satan’s Service”. Just sayin’.

      Having helped out, I must now return to listening to the backmasking of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”.

      Oh here’s to my sweet Satan.
      The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan.
      He will give those with him 666.
      There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.

    • TheNuszAbides

      To a certain extent, I . . . agree with Hovind. 🙁

      Counseling is available. Stay strong!

  • wtfwjtd

    “Slavery was always wrong, y’see, but God needed to work within the social context of the Israelites 3000 years ago. And that’s also true for genocide. And human sacrifice. God knew they were wrong, of course, but he needed to ease the Israelites into this new thinking.”

    Wait a minute. Why did God start them off with the wrong social context to begin with? Why intentionally start something that would have to be (embarrassingly) discarded by God later? Either way, God is still on the hook here for not only allowing, but actively promoting, immoral behavior.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      And humans never did very well with the “no adultery” commandment,, but He laid that on them anyway, so giving them rules they wouldn’t follow wasn’t a problem.

      • wtfwjtd

        Funny thing is, God seems to have a problem keeping covenants himself, as he keeps changing his mind about who is, and who isn’t, going to heaven for example. Maybe that’s why he laid that “no adultery” thing on them–they say that misery loves company.

    • You see, Mankind is fallen, so their society had sucky customs, like slavery and genocide. God could’ve just dismissed them and said, in a loud voice, “Listen, people: no more slavery and genocide,” and that would’ve been that. But his hands were tied, doncha know.

      • wtfwjtd

        “You see, Mankind is fallen, so their society had sucky customs, like slavery and genocide. ”

        I don’t know how many times I heard that excuse for God as a Christian. When I finally applied a little critical thinking to the story, I realized that Adam “disobeyed” God by eating a piece of fruit (never mind that he apparently hadn’t been taught right from wrong, according to the story), so God responds to the disobedience by demanding human sacrifice of an innocent person? It just goes from bad to worse, with God leading the charge. And then it’s all chalked up to “mysterious ways” or some other excuse.
        No wonder Christians are so confused about morality, their own system makes no sense at all.Without society to guide and shape their morals, they’d still be stuck in the stone age.

        • It’s incredible in the 21st century, when the progress possible through following evidence is obvious, that religion still has such a hold.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Well … It’s obvious in isolation or the proverbial vacuum, but conformist rhetoric and a wide range of other material/social pressures can really throw off one’s focus …

        • Guestie

          With respect to the Eden myth, a Christian argued to me, I assume with a straight face, that knowing right from wrong was different from knowing good and evil. Adam knew it was wrong to eat the fruit; he just didn’t know it was evil. Hilarious.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Like SBC leadership is claiming about their inability to rein in their sexual abusers.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Like SBC leadership is claiming about their inability to rein in their sexual abusers.”

          You mean like this:

          https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/investigations/abuse-of-faith/

        • Michael Neville

          The SBC Oberkommando can’t discipline individual churches because of autonomy. Unless those churches sanction same-sex marriage or appoint a woman pastor or something really egregious like that.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          Or if they [gasp!] use a Bible translation other than the KJV 1611 version.

        • Lark62

          I think SBCers are NIV sort of people, especially since each new edition of the NIV makes quiet edits to align with fundygelicalism du jour.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          I may be mixing them up with Independent Fundamentalist Baptists.

          These days, they all look pretty much the same to me.

    • Brian Davis

      You have to wonder what parts of our current social context are offensive to God, but he just hasn’t gotten around to telling us yet. Will future apologists claim that God was always a vegan, but the people of our time just weren’t ready to hear that?

      • wtfwjtd

        I guess we’ll just have to hope that we don’t piss God off too much about stuff we don’t yet know about, and pray that we don’t fry in Hell for eternity for it.

      • Kuno

        I guess we will one day find out that God has always been OK with homosexuality and abortion…

        • Brian Davis

          The views of the majority might progress, but there will always be some people who will be upset to find out that the Pope’s husband had an abortion prior to his gender reassignment surgery.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          I’d pay to read that short story 😉

    • ephemerol

      How about this recipe for the “wrong” social context:

      Abraham, who, apropos of nothing, god chooses alone to reveal his existence, attributes, and the way in which he wants to be worshiped. Add Isaac, Jacob (a.k.a. Israel), Joseph, famine, Egypt, and slavery, and stir for 400 years.

      Along comes Moses, and, apropos of nothing, god chooses alone to lead “the children of Israel” out of “the house of bondage.” They murmur, they doubt, they worship the wrong gods, they like Egyptian food better than “manna” (Hebrew for “WTF is this shit?”), they’re frightened, having no military training or weapons, to go wage a war of conquest completely unprepared.

      The result? God condemns everyone to wander in the desert for 40 years or the rest of their lives, whichever comes first.

      God starts them off with the “right” social context, then proceeds to strip them of it completely, then decides to randomly come back hundreds of years later and hold their descendants accountable as though they still had the “right” social context. What was this god expecting, that the result wouldn’t be a collection of people who were in every way Egyptians? That this wouldn’t constitute actively promoting worship of the Egyptian pantheon? That if he spelled it out for us exactly how much of a dick he is, that no one would ever notice?

      • Well, he was born forever ago, so maybe we need to give him a break for being a little batty.

        • ephemerol

          Those gamma ray bursts eventually give anybody brain damage?

          I’m a descendant of Sir Francis Drake. It’s like if he showed up and threw a temper tantrum because I don’t know how to sail.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Clearly dishonoring your forefather! I hear that really upsets the Divine Olfactory Organ.

  • Polytropos

    According to Hovind’s thinking, the contradictions are there to throw off those who aren’t serious. Let those people become atheists and leave the flock with stronger believers.

    So it’s like Nigerian scammers who deliberately include spelling mistakes to avoid wasting any time with insufficiently gullible marks? That actually makes a lot of sense. Apparently even Mr Hovind can get things right when he sticks to his area of expertise.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      ? I always thought that was to get past the mail filters.

      • Polytropos

        Probably that too, especially in the subject line..

    • Kuno

      That’s exactly what I thought when I read that part.

  • Anthrotheist

    It took me a long time to come to understand Christian faith. I always thought it was about believing in god, but really that isn’t too hard; all it takes is asking the question “why are we here” and being more comfortable with the contradictions of an certain but imperfect answer than you are with the ambiguities of no certain answer at all.

    What Christian faith really is, is believing that God is good, loving, and just; the challenge of faith is believing so in the real world with the available Bible. The inevitable result is unsolvable dissonance swept under the proverbial rug by continuous hypocrisy.

    • wtfwjtd

      “…all it takes is asking the question “why are we here” and being more comfortable with the contradictions of an certain but imperfect answer than you are with the ambiguities of no certain answer at all.”

      Actually, modern science does pretty well with that second part, to the point that the “no certain answer” (of science) , even with its ambiguities, now makes a lot more sense than the ancient supernatural religious tales of mankind’s origins. But yeah, throughout most of history, when most of the population was deliberately denied the ability to learn to read and was therefore not able to develop much intelligence, the ancient supernatural myths and tales of mankind’s origins would be a lot more appealing to the masses. And, this also served the purpose of perpetuating religion quite nicely–the more ignorant a population is, the more religious they tend to be. And the easier they are to manipulate and control.

      “The inevitable result is unsolvable dissonance swept under the proverbial rug by continuous hypocrisy.”

      That’s a pretty spot-on description of Christianity, and many other world religions, as well.

      • Anthrotheist

        I might quibble a bit with the difference between “why are we here” and “how did we get here”, and on science’s capacity to answer the former with anywhere near the efficacy as it answers the latter; but I absolutely agree that education definitely appears to have an adverse affect on religiosity.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      What Christian faith really is, is believing that God is good, loving, and just…

      This is debatable. The Christian God is narcissistic, demanding all worship Him, at the penalty of eternal torture for failure to comply. Does that sound good, loving, and just? It doesn’t to me.

      • Anthrotheist

        You hit the point square on the head, I think. Listen to any apologist, and God’s demand for worship is absolutely good, loving, and just . . . for some reason. Maybe it’s because we all have a need to worship him, so he’s just asking us to do something that is always going to be good for us; maybe he knows that worshiping him will keep us humble and focused, which is always good for us. As for Hell, maybe it exists exactly so that God can be just and unrepentant monsters like Hitler have an ultimate reckoning; and God is good because he gives us an opportunity for salvation, which he wants us to utilize because he loves us.

        No matter what the Bible says about God, if you assume that he is good, loving, and just, then nothing in the Bible can ever be evidence to the contrary. That is Christian faith.

  • Lark62

    Feb 12 – Happy Darwin Day!

  • skl

    And if he could impose prohibitions
    against murder, lying, and stealing in an instant, why not add prohibitions
    against slavery, human sacrifice, and genocide?
    … The ancient Israelites had our brains and could’ve understood
    modern morality as well as we do.

    Genocide and human sacrifice could be seen as forms of murder.
    Slavery could be seen as a form of stealing.

    From a Christian’s viewpoint, the “goodness” or “badness” of these things may
    depend on the motivation. For example, the bible has Christ often demanding
    that his human followers sacrifice themselves and even become slaves.

    Here’s a clear declaration of this philosophy from the Chicago
    Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978):
    “The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it
    of . . . seeming discrepancies between one passage and
    another. . . . Solution of [apparent inconsistencies], where
    this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the
    present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by
    trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances.”

    So it’s head’s I win; tails I don’t lose.

    A similar ‘Head’s I win, tails I don’t lose’ could be seen in other types of
    “faith”. For example, “faith” in the truthfulness of Science and Naturalism,
    despite discrepancies/inconsistencies on, say, abiogenesis.

    Perhaps the most certain thing here is your

    Good comes from God, but so does evil.

    As I’ve said before, anyone’s reading of the bible should make clear that
    the god of the bible is an extreme god – punishing extremely and rewarding
    extremely.

    • LastManOnEarth

      The god of the bible is a thug and monster.

      He also happens to command and condone genocide and slavery, so your “could be seen as forms of” doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Yahweh doesn’t consider them a form of murder or steaking, so you can take that weak-ass apologetic and cram it.

      • skl

        The god of the bible is a thug and monster.

        Yes, extremely.

        And also the opposite.

        • If you’re a thug and a nice guy, then you’re just a thug.

        • skl

          If you’re a thug and a nice guy, then you’re just a thug.

          Kind of like Michael Corleone or Tony Soprano. Yet viewers
          just can’t seem to get enough of them.

          Nevertheless, you might be the first person to have called Jesus
          Christ a thug!

        • Otto

          I called him a bigot on more than one occasion

        • If the shoe fits.

        • Sophotroph

          “Yet viewers just can’t seem to get enough of them.”

          Yes, as entertainment. Nobody (healthy) considers them role models.

          “God is totally like Tony Soprano except he’s killed way more people” is not exactly the shining endorsement you seem to think it is.

        • skl

          Yes, as entertainment.

          Perhaps you will give us your theory on why
          thuggery and murder are entertaining.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          More like stirring a cup of sewage into a punchbowl.

          ‘Thug’ overrules any good somebody does.

        • TheNuszAbides

          That reminds me of the atrocious asymmetry of thought crime vs. faith-only salvation. The only mental notion that comes anywhere near being the counter/opposite of ~original ~sin~ and the supposed stain of merely thinking of [naughtiness] is Believing In Yahwehjesus. Never seems to matter how many positive/righteous thoughts one has. (That last bit, of course, is probably as it should be.)

        • TheNuszAbides

          Yet viewers just can’t seem to get enough of them.

          Observers of ritual/theatre have been appreciating tragic flaws for thousands of years. So if you’re going to make an actual point along those lines you might want to engage the narrative of Jesus-as-all-too-human, like the heretics Newton, Jefferson, et al., or the milquetoast-reform Jews who have disabused themselves of attributing “omni-” characteristics to The Big Guy, or the Annunaki explanation of von Daniken.

        • LastManOnEarth

          You don’t get a cookie for the days you don’t murder someone.

        • Guestie

          Fine! I’ll give my cookies back.

    • Genocide and human sacrifice could be seen as forms of murder.

      And yet clueless God did genocide and commanded human sacrifice anyway. Kind of a dick.

      Slavery could be seen as a form of stealing.

      Ditto.

      A similar ‘Head’s I win, tails I don’t lose’ could be seen in other types of
      “faith”. For example, “faith” in the truthfulness of Science and Naturalism,
      despite discrepancies/inconsistencies on, say, abiogenesis.

      I have trust in science. I don’t have trust in the complete scientific explanation of abiogenesis because it doesn’t exist.

      As I’ve said before, anyone’s reading of the bible should make clear that
      the god of the bible is an extreme god – punishing extremely and rewarding
      extremely.

      Yes, he is an asshole. But where’s the extreme reward?

      • skl

        Yes, he is an asshole. But where’s the extreme reward?

        Hint: Its name begins with H-E- .

        • Heaven and hell are inventions of the New Testament.

        • skl

          Heaven and hell are inventions of the New Testament.

          As you would say about all the big stuff in the NT.

          But I think H&H are in the Old Testament also. For example, the end of the old Psalm 23 – “Surely goodness
          and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Or, conversely, Isaiah 33 – “The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless:
          “Who among us can dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?””

        • As you would say about all the big stuff in the NT.

          How can there be “big stuff” in a book meant to be the sequel to the book where God already gives all the big stuff?

          But I think H&H are in the Old Testament also.

          Or not. I don’t find those examples compelling. Is. 33 is clearly talking about here on earth, not the afterlife.

        • skl

          How can there be “big stuff” in a book meant to be the sequel to the book where God already gives all the big stuff?

          Apparently you don’t consider the revelations and miracles in the NT to be big stuff.

        • Apparently you think that God was forgetful and didn’t give his message correctly in the Pentateuch when he had the chance.

          “Oh, yeah!” he said, as he prepared for Jesus and the New Testament. Better late than never, I guess.

        • skl

          Apparently you think that God was forgetful and didn’t give his message correctly in the Pentateuch when
          he had the chance.

          To heck with the Pentateuch. You must mean he didn’t get his message across in Genesis 1.

        • According to you, this dolt didn’t get his message clear in Genesis 1 or the entire book of Genesis or the entire Pentateuch or even the entire Old Testament. Some god.

        • skl

          Some god.

          You can say that again.

        • LastManOnEarth

          Grasping at fucking straws, as you always do.

        • eric

          AIUI the Jewish faith does not have a heaven in the Christian sense; rather, they believe the messiah will create God’s kingdom here on Earth and that the dead will be physically resurrected to dwell in it. That’s why their funeral practices attempt to keep the body whole and try to avoid use of embalming fluids when possible; because they believe that body is going to literally rise up and ‘hold’ that person again.

          So no, AIUI you’re completely wrong. Psalm 23 refers to a literal, stone-and-mortar city of God, not some figurative Christian afterlife. Christians, of course, claim it refers to some different-space afterlife. But they’re doing that because they think Jesus was the messiah and so they’re forced by theology to misinterpret the passage. To Christians, such passages can’t refer to a literal house or city here on earth because if so, Jesus should’ve brought the literal city of God and he didn’t, and that means Jesus wasn’t the messiah.

          Since you claim to be non-Christian, perhaps you can explain to me why you misinterpret that passage in the way only Christians and nobody else does? If you’re really not Christian, why not do the most rational and natural thing and ascribe to it the meaning most probably intended by its Jewish author?

        • skl

          So no, AIUI you’re completely wrong. Psalm 23 refers to a literal, stone-and-mortar city of God, not some figurative Christian afterlife…
          Since you claim to be non-Christian, perhaps you can explain to me why you misinterpret that passage in the way only
          Christians and nobody else does?

          I’m just reading what’s there.

          Perhaps you can explain why you don’t read what’s there when you say

          AIUI the Jewish faith does not have a heaven in the Christian sense; rather, they believe the messiah will
          create God’s kingdom here on Earth and that the dead will be physically resurrected to dwell in it.

          Perhaps you never read what the NT says about
          the Sadducees (Luke 20:27).

        • eric

          I’m just reading what’s there.

          No, you’re clearly not. What’s there is “house of the Lord.” You’re interpreting that to mean heaven, but it doesn’t say heaven, it says very clearly *house.*

          Perhaps you never read what the NT says about
          the Sadducees (Luke 20:27).

          Ah, so your skeptical non-Christian argument is that we should favor Christian new testament directions on how to interpret the old testament over the interpretation of the group and people who actually wrote it, and over the plain text of the document?

          On what skeptical non-Christian basis should we do that? Why should Christian interpretations written hundreds of years after the original document be given exceptional and unique authoritativeness?

        • skl

          “I’m just reading what’s there.”

          No, you’re clearly not. What’s there is “house of the Lord.” You’re interpreting that to mean heaven, but it doesn’t say heaven, it says very clearly *house.*

          First of all, yes, everyone who reads the bible
          interprets the words of the bible. (Even when it literally says
          “heaven”!)

          But in Psalm 23, what’s also there is “forever”,
          and prior to that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil”.

          My interpretation is that the Psalmist is saying
          1) death is shadowy and evil, and that either
          2) his life on earth won’t end in death, because he’ll live forever with god on earth, or
          3) his life on earth will end in death, but he’s not worried
          because he’ll live forever with god elsewhere.

          Call it a “house”, call it “heaven”, call it “forever with god”. Whatever.

          Ah, so your skeptical non-Christian argument is that we should favor Christian new testament directions on how to interpret the old testament over the interpretation of the group and people who actually wrote it, and over the plain text of the document?

          No, I’m saying you should read what’s there.
          You said the Jewish faith holds that “the dead will be physically resurrected.” But if you read what’s there, you’d see
          that only some Jews believed in resurrection (i.e. the Pharisees) and other Jews did not (i.e. the Sadducees).

        • eric

          Call it a “house”, call it “heaven”, call it “forever with god”. Whatever.

          There’s a significant theological difference between your 2 and 3. And you’re intentinonally interpreting this Jewish book and verse in a non-Jewish way, so that it will be consistent with Christian theology. IOW you’re practicing Christian apologetics while pretending you’re just ‘reading the text.’

          No, I’m saying you should read what’s there.

          There is nothing about heaven in there. Nothing. No mention of it. There’s poetry about not fearing death, and living with God forever. That’s fully consistent with Jewish theology and the concept of God appearing on Earth and dwelling with the Jews here. Christians had to retcon it in order explain how Jesus was the messiah even though he didn’t fulfill the plain and literal text of the OT prophesies.

          And you are arguing in favor of that retcon. Which nobody but Christians do, because pretty much everyone else takes the straightforward and intellectually honest approach of reading a 2,500 year old Jewish text as referring to 2,500 year old Jewish beliefs and not 1,700 year old Christian beliefs. The latter is not skeptical, its not neutral, it’s pure unadulterated Christian apologetics. You can claim to be a non-Christian all you want, but you constantly and consistently practice Christian apologetics, not skepticism.

        • skl

          There’s a significant theological difference between your 2 and 3.

          You may be right. Theologians are kind of like what they say about economists – Ask 12 of them about the causes and
          solutions for X and you’ll likely get 12 different answers. Some might say there’s a significant difference between 2 & 3, others might not. But one thing I might ask the theologians about is the ‘new heavens and a new earth’ noted in the NT.

          And you’re intentinonally interpreting this Jewish book and verse in a non-Jewish way…

          Maybe it’s because I’m non-Jewish.

          … so that it will be consistent with Christian theology.

          But I’m not a Christian. Just a non-Jewish non-religious.

          There is nothing about heaven in there. Nothing.

          If that’s so, makes you wonder what all the OT preaching and commandments were for. Everyone in the OT, I assume, acknowledged their time on earth was relatively short. Better to eat, drink and be merry (even if you have to lie, steal, and kill to do so), for tomorrow they die. To hell with that holy stuff. Or rather, to hades/sheol.

          There’s poetry about not fearing death, and living with God forever. That’s fully consistent with Jewish theology and the concept of God appearing on Earth and dwelling with the Jews here.

          To be clear, it seems a bit more than that.
          It’s Jews living forever (or at least some of them) with god. Eternal life.

          … pretty much everyone else takes the straightforward and intellectually honest approach of reading a 2,500 year old Jewish text as referring to 2,500 year old Jewish beliefs and not 1,700 year old Christian beliefs.

          Let’s put aside the “1,700 year old” stuff and stick with the 2,000 year old Jewish text and the 2,500 year old and older Jewish text.

          You can claim to be a non-Christian all you want, but you constantly and consistently practice Christian apologetics, not skepticism.

          I recommend that you stick with arguments, and not stick-on labels.

        • eric

          But one thing I might ask the theologians about is the ‘new heavens and a new earth’ noted in the NT.

          Once again, you can’t appeal to the NT as a legitimate authority on how to interpret the OT when the question you’re arguing about is what the proper interpretation is. You have demonstrate why I should take the NT as authoritative in this respect, not just start with the assumption that it is.

          You’re basically arguing circularly – putting some of what you want to conclude (Christianity’s interpretation of the OT is correct) into your premise (If we use the NT to interpret the OT, here’s the result). This is no more valid than saying that everyone knows Vishnu exists because the Baghavad Vita says he does. That claim assumes the theology it’s trying to prove, and you’re making the exact same error here.

        • skl

          “But one thing I might ask the theologians about is the ‘new heavens and a new earth’ noted in the NT.”

          Once again, you can’t appeal to the NT as a legitimate authority on how to interpret the OT when the question you’re arguing about is what the proper interpretation is.

          I’m not appealing to authority. I’m just reading what the Jewish text says, and wondering about theologians’ interpretation of it.

    • ildi

      As I’ve said before, anyone’s reading of the bible should make clear that the god of the bible is an extreme god – punishing extremely and rewarding extremely.

      So, basically Anthony Fremont in It’s a Good Life except without the gaslighting “I only do it because I love you so much, why do you make me have to hurt you” part.

    • Dus10

      Okay, but then you cant say he is good or just. And you cant say you are good or just merely because you follow his rules.

      • skl

        There is no such thing as “good” or “just”. There is only what you
        like. And those in power determine which likes become law.

        • ildi

          You’re welcome!

        • Dus10

          Good and just are adjectives. They describe things- like behavior. You are equating ‘lawful’ with ‘good’ and ‘just’. Can’t i describe a law as ‘unjust’ ‘just’ ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Dont you do the same thing?

        • skl

          Good and just are adjectives.

          And unicorn and spaghetti monster are nouns.

        • Dus10

          This is how we know you aren’t sincere

        • Rudy R

          The same nouns which have the same probably to existing as the Christian god.

        • Are you declaring that objective morality (moral claims that are true or false regardless of whether there are people here to appreciate them or not) exists? I’ve never seen good evidence for such a thing.

          Amuse us.

        • skl

          Are you declaring that objective morality (moral claims that are true or false regardless of whether there are people here to appreciate them or not) exists?

          Nope.

        • Then explain your “There is no such thing as “good” or “just”. There is only what you
          like.”

        • skl

          It’s self explanatory.

        • You have such an adorable way of saying, “I was wrong.” Don’t ever change, little buddy!

        • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

          Rather, it is because people and communities “like” so strongly that there can be good and justice. Pray tell how would a God behave any differently?

        • Rudy R

          Good or just is just a model. Those models just represent a meaning of a thing. The theists model for good is what a god mandates. The secular meaning of good depends on the model. The model as I understand it, is any pursuit that minimizes harm and maximizes non-harm to humans. In that framework, cutting off a living human’s head would not objectively minimize harm to a human, because it would result in death. So agreeing not to kill others is an objective truth. In that model, it does not matter if 1 or 10B people agree, it is objective. It does, however, matter how many people believe in the theist model, because they do not agree on one set of values and moralsl, i.e. slavery, homosexuality, sex workers, and so on.

          BTW, don’t bother arguing about why a human should care about dieing. That’s a debate for ignoramuses.

        • skl

          Living is not “good” and dying is not “bad”. Most beings
          just like to live.

        • Rudy R

          Good, bad, like, dislike…. semantics. Life is generally preferable over death.

        • skl

          If you like.

        • Rudy R

          Again, semantics. If you really want to tease this out, humans, like all the other animal kingdom, has an instinct to avoid actions that would lead to death. An instinct formed from the earliest organic compounds, to Australopithecus and on to Homo sapiens. The innate, fixed pattern of animals, fine-honed through the evolutionary process, to live long enough to reproduce and pass on their progeny. Those animals through the evolutionary process that did not inherit a hard-wired brain to effectively allude death before they passed on their genes, were eliminated from the gene pool. You know, that thorn that plagues theist’s world view called natural selection. It would be highly improbable that Australopithecus, with the brain size of present day chimpanzee, was contemplating such matters. Only present day humans contemplate ought vs. should, good vs. bad, and like vs. unlike.

          Just a thought experiment: What would be your reaction, if you came upon a charging Grizzly Bear while walking on a nature trail while unarmed? What would be your reaction? To immediately run in the opposite direction? Or would you contemplate ought vs. should, good vs. bad, and like vs. unlike before making a decision to react?

        • skl

          If you really want to tease this out, humans, like all the other animal kingdom, has an instinct to avoid actions that would lead to death…Those animals through the evolutionary process that did not inherit a hard-wired brain to effectively allude death before they passed on their genes, were eliminated from the gene pool.

          But as I said earlier – Living is not “good” and dying is not “bad”. Most beings just like to live.

          It would be highly improbable that Australopithecus, with the brain size of present day chimpanzee, was contemplating such matters. Only present day humans contemplate ought vs. should, good vs. bad, and like vs. unlike.

          Perhaps elephants contemplate such things four times as much as humans, given their brain size.

        • Rudy R

          I get the feeling you want me to follow you down the “like” rabbit hole, but like I’ve stessed, I don’t care about the semantics. Perhaps elephants do contemplate such things, but you’re ignoring my larger point. Our ancestors did not contemplate such things and relied on instincts that led to actions to avoid death, none of which included cognitive capabilities that we recognize currently.
          So any comment on my larger point?

        • skl

          Perhaps elephants do contemplate such
          things, but you’re ignoring my larger point. Our ancestors did not contemplate such things and relied on instincts that led to actions to avoid death, none of which included cognitive capabilities that we recognize currently. So any comment on my larger point?

          I’m not sure what your larger point is, other than, maybe,
          humans are “better” than their ancestors. But I think there is no such thing as “better”.

          Or maybe your point is that elephants are “better” than
          humans because their brains are 4 times bigger. (Also, elephants kill for fewer other animals than humans do!)

        • Rudy R

          I’m not sure what your larger point is, other than,maybe,
          humans are “better” than their ancestors. But I think there is no such thing as “better”.

          I didn’t include the word “better” in any of my comments. You’re building a strawman argument, for what, I don’t know. But it is your modus operandi.

          Or maybe your point is that elephants are “better” than
          humans because their brains are 4 times bigger. (Also, elephants kill for fewer other animals than humans do!)

          Again, building a strawman argument by injecting a word I have not used.

          My larger point is that there is such thing as a model for “good”, which, in the moral landscape, in the theist’s perspective is what a god mandates and from the secular perspective, any pursuit that minimizes harm and maximizes non-harm to humans.

        • skl

          I didn’t include the word “better” in any of my comments. You’re building a strawman argument, for what, I don’t know.

          Maybe then you consider humans “worse” or “equal to” their
          ancestors. Well, whatever you like.

          I think our conversation has come to an end.

          Good night.

        • Rudy R

          I totally get it now. You are not here on Cross Examined to honestly debate with atheists. Good night and good bye.

        • Greg G.

          Most beings
          just like to live.

          Humans apply the word “good” to things they like, so it is appropriate for normal humans to say life is good.

  • Rudy R

    In reference to “Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones”, not only do Christians discount bad versus in favor of good versus, but they hand wave away the Old Testament in favor of the New Testament, because the OT was the old covenant with the Jews, while the NT is God’s new covenant for everyone. All that bat shit crazy shit in the OT doesn’t matter anymore.

    On a side note, the NT is bat shit crazy too!

    • “but they hand wave away the Old Testament in favor of the New Testament,”

      Except for the odd bits from Leviticus.

      • Rudy R

        Oh yeah, especially that little bit in Leviticus 20:13. Such a loving message from a loving god! Funny how many Christians agree with god that homosexuality is an abomination, but mostly don’t agree with him that they should surely be put to death. But then again, what non-Christian has ever accused them of not cherrypicking.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    If God was working within the context of those social customs, why did he impose the Ten Commandments and the hundreds of other laws in the Old Testament with no grace period? And if he could impose prohibitions against murder, lying, and stealing in an instant, why not add prohibitions against slavery, human sacrifice, and genocide?

    Furthermore, how do we know God isn’t still limited by our social context?

  • Jack the Sandwichmaker

    3 sounds JUST like what a God who is seriously interested in having a relationship with his creation would do, deliberately try to trick people into not believing in him.
    Or not.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    There is one word that is completely lacking in the ‘Words of God’ SOAP.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    OK, was wandering around youtube and found this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf5otGNbkuc

    go to 5:38 and PAUSE. Just pause so you KNOW there is no ‘trickery’. Focus on the top dot and watch your eyes do weird shit. THEN, look down and see even weirder shit. Yeah, we are so ‘perfectly designed’ that a simple graphic can fuck with our vision.

    • TheNuszAbides

      Red herring! the Crystal Clear Plain Language of Skripture(TM) obviously indicates that this is due to our optical organelles being infested by demonic forces!