Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year! What does 2007 hold?

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What does the New Year Hold for Metacorck's blog?

peaking into the crusal ball we can see a series on Doherty's Evolution of Jesus

a series on Dennett's Breaking the Spell

More fun in argument!

all cooming soon to a blog near you.

Happy New year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Subject/object dichotomy and Christian Faith

Recently on a Message board I defended Keirkegaard's idea of fiath as subjective. A fellow Christian said to me:

I think you have fallen into the trap of letting the
>atheists set the agenda fort the meaning of the word
>I answered:
That's so very irnonic. Becasue by embracing the subject Object dichotomy you are doing nothing more than affirming the atheist world view. There is no way to be a Christian and affirm the subject/object dichotomy in the strict "good/bad" framework, with subject = bad, object = good that atheists impose.

That is empirically and Biblically the case. When God speaks thorugh Jerimaiah and describe the new covenant (ch 31) he says "the new covmenat will not be like the old one, for the broke the old one. NO longer will a man say to his neighbor "know the lord" for they will alll know me from the least to the greatest."

Now laws are objective. Rules are objective. He's saying they broke the objective covenant the one based upon rule keeping. They new one will be subjective (they will all know me--knowing is a jubjective matter because it depends upon the indivuaul's percetions).

so he's saying the objective coveneant will be overturned in favor of the subjective covmenat, the one based upon personal experince.

You have fallen into the trap of not being up to date on Heidegger and not being well versed int he thierkers of the tradition, such as Kierkegaard.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Waiting for Godot on the Silentest Night of the Year

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Nativity.....Beckett's charactors Didi and Gogo waiting for Godot.

(George Jones)

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth "

Arguming with atheists on message boards this Christmas eve I find that they are scandalized by the cross. Of course that is as it shoulbe.Yet at the same time that they complain that the incarnation is irrational and that the atonement is silly and primitive and barbaric they also mock my views of God because they don't tell us enough about God as an entity. They are not science and they fall into silence. They are struck by the silence of God. They are always saying why is God hiding why is God silent. That reminds me of what Beckett said about divine aphasia (the inability to recall words) and divine athombia, which is visual language. I love that quote, it's in one of my favorite plays, Waiting for Godot:


Quote:Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast hell to heaven so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labors left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labors of men that as a result of the labors unfinished of Testew and Cunnard it is established as hereinafter but not so fast for reasons unknown that as a result of the public works of Puncher and Wattmann it is established beyond all doubt that in view of the labors of Fartov and Belcher left unfinished for reasons unknown of Testew and Cunard left unfinished it is established what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation wastes and pines wastes and pines and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the strides of physical culture the practice of sports such as tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicillin and succedanea in a word I resume flying gliding golf over nine and eighteen holes tennis of all sorts in a word for reasons unknown in Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham namely concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown but time will tell fades away I resume Fulham Clapham in a word the dead loss per head since the death of Bishop Berkeley being to the tune of one inch four ounce per head approximately by and large more or less to the nearest decimal good measure round figures stark naked in the stockinged feet in Connemara in a word for reasons unknown no matter what matter the facts are there and considering what is more much more grave that in the light of the labors lost of Steinweg and Peterman it appears what is more much more grave that in the light the light the light of the labors lost of Steinweg and Peterman that in the plains in the mountains by the seas by the rivers running water running fire the air is the same and then the earth namely the air and then the earth in the great cold the great dark the air and the earth abode of stones in the great cold alas alas in the year of their Lord six hundred and something the air the earth the sea the earth abode of stones in the great deeps the great cold on sea on land and in the air I resume for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis the facts are there but time will tell I resume alas alas on on in short in fine on on abode of stones who can doubt it I resume but not so fast I resume the skull fading fading fading and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis on on the beard the flames the tears the stones so blue so calm alas alas on on the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the labors abandoned left unfinished graver still abode of stones in a word I resume alas alas abandoned unfinished the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the skull alas the stones Cunard (mêlée, final vociferations)

This appeals to me, I think, because in a whimzical way it mocks the basis of many philosophical concepts about God and in its final degeneration into nonsensical sports talk we are seeing Beckett's usual technique for making the point that in the face of the ultimate truth we can do no more than fall silent..It begins as though describing some empirical scientific study ("according to the work of Puncher and Watmann"), rattles off a number cleches such as "for reasons unknown" every time it mentions a divine purpose, in the end degerates into nonsense and falls silent, as we must all do when confronted with the fact that God is beyond our understanding. But this hints at the concept of God that I struggle with. Struggle? Yes, I struggle with it because I can't just chuck the fatherly love of God; yet I don't see God as a big guy int he sky. Ok well I do but I know that that is a projection of the super ego and God transcends it. Yet I have nothing to replace it with. I see God as the Hegelian dialectic or some repository for the laws of physics, or some rule why which things work out, like the Tao. YEt in addition to all of this I have to see also a God of love who cares. Yet how can the Hegel dailectic care?

The problem is I'm trying to understand something that is essentially beyond our understanding. Now the problem with saying this is as soon as we say "God is beyond our understanding" someone says "I don't understand, how can that be?" So we always being asked to define that which we cannot define and to understand that which we of necessity believe is beyond our understanding. By "we" I don't mean to suddenly start using the royal we, but anyone who realizes the natrue of God as a mythical reality beyond word, thought, or image, is pretty much part of that "we."

God's reach downward from the rarified air of "mystery" to the warm fuzzy of Christmas is accomplished through the incornation. That's what Christmas is about. Jesus is the bridge whereby God becomes human and understands and loves humans. Bridges work both ways. So through that we can understand only dimly and fleetingly the idea that God transcends any sort of human understanding.

Hbr 1:1 ¶ God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Hbr 1:2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Hbr 1:3 Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

We can see this means God's grasp on questions such as pain and torment in the world cannot be judged by human standards. This would like trying to estimate the difference between the understanding of virus and what clear grasp of the human condition a virus actually has, vs. an understanding that would be far beyond that of the most brilliant thinks of the human race.

Trying to judge God by the standards through which we judge each other would be idiotic. We could say God can't understand human pain and is only dimly aware of it. But the fact that he tried and that he reached out and bridged the gap through Christ indicates that he does understand. That makes the failure to deal with it in the here and now all the more mysterious, but it doesn't mean that God doesn't have a handel on the problem; it means ony that we don't understand that.

Now atheists hate the repair to mystery, they see it as a cop out. Ordinarily I have to agree with them. As a former atheist that is one thing that drove me up the wall when I would argue with Christians, every time you get them in a corner they try to get out by repairing to mystery; no one knows the mind of God. I don't think what I'm saying here is that, because I'm not saying we can use this mystery to close down any sort of questioning about theodicy. I'm just saying that the true reasons for it are not something we can ever really know in words; although perhaps we can know it in mystical union with God.

Incornation had one goal in mind: atonement. Christ was born to die, and to rise. Is that barbaric? Of course it is! atheists are right to be put off by it. It would be pointless to offer an image of suer and spice and everything nice when the whole point of it is to show God's willingnes to enter our pain and to identify with us. Now atheists are always saying "O that was nothing for God, he can do anything, so it didn't rally hurt. Besides crucifiction is not the most painful daith I can imagine." I can show you a guy on a message board right now saying this very thing. I could link to the very post, but I've seen it so many times what's the piont? Yet he's right, and yet wrong. It would be pointless of God to hold a contest of pain. God could suffer more than all of humanity put together and still not be challenged or dinted. That's nto the point. The point is God's demonstration to us that he is in solidarity with us. Who cares that some have suffered more than Jesus, if that is possible, its not a context but a symbol. We have open the power of the symbol and take it as God's promise.

Through the relationship of solidarity, of identification with us, we enter into Christ's death and express our solidarity for him. This is basically what Paul says in Romans six about how we aer baptized into Christ's death. Through that identification we have relationship with God and that creates the grounds upon which sin is forgiven! This is God's speechifying to us. This is how the silent God, gripped by divine apasia speaks to us and shows us through his divine athombia the truth of his love; he becomes one of us, dies at the lowest social level, as a criminal, a "loser." He is raised from the dead to a new hope and a future. Through this solidarity with us, this identification, we are raised to a new hope and a future in Christ!

It's prefectly Hegelian: the Fahter is the thesis, the son the anti-thesis, and the resurrection in the Spirit the synthesis. I told you I saw God as the Hegelian dialectic. So God speaks through is actions in Christ as the incornate solidarity with humanity. He shows us visually that he is identified with us. But we must enter into that solidarity and step out in faith to walk in newness of life.

The whole point of the play Waiting for Godot is not that they are waiting for God, but that they are waiting for the big human payoff; meaning, or social utopia, or to get rich, or find God, or whatever. But God is a good metaphor for thi concept. They are waitng for this big thing that suppossed to be coming but never quite does. Not to say say that Beckett was a christian, although I could argue that we can't say he wasn't. He hated Catholics but liked protestants and was interested in Christian philosphy all his life. It is not implaussable to thin that one sees Christian symbols in Beckett. The two tramps in Waiting for Godot, Didi and Gogo, wait by a little tree, withered and small. This is symbolic of the world tree. But one might take the world tree as an archetype of the corss, especiallyt his one in the paly. They are waiting by the cross, they can never quite committ they neve quire undersand; Godot has already come!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Take the Koester Challenge

A poster singing himself "LO" has criticized my understanding of Koester's ideas on pre Markan redaction. This is serious because I rely heavily upon Koester's concept, my understanding of which is under fire, that the pre Markan redaction was circulating in written form as early as AD 50. I've been waiting to find my copy of Koeter's book to answer. I've now gone through all the boxes and must conclude the book is well and truely lost. Nevertheless, I will still answer these arguments.

LO:You keep repeating this bit:

"Well, we can show that the basic story that makes up the Pre Markan redaction was used by all four Gospels, and that it was circulating as early as AD 50, that's just 18 years after the original events."

You rely on a single book by a single scholar (Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels) to establish the existence of a hypothetical document.

He says scornfully that I rely on a source by just one scholar. The fact of the matter is this point is from the ravings of just one guy (although that guy is the major textual critic in the world). Koester himself says that John Domnic Crosson also agrees with him on the point, and he includes as an apendix to his book an article by Diateseron scholar Jurgen Denker who also agree. Moreover, there is a general trend toward dating the dating the Gospels at a point ealier than the traditional AD 70 for Mark and latter for others. John A.T. Robinson, in his work Dating the New Testmaent places the "proto Mark" as AD45. While evidence from the Talmud indicates that Matthew had to have been circulating as early as AD 70, meaning that in as much as Matt used Mark, Mark must have been written much earlier than 70. We know that something was circulating before Paul began to write, which was about AD 50, becuase Paul quotes or alludes to Jesus teachings and sayings so consistently that Koester assumes he possessed one of the sayings documents. See my chart on Pauline allusion (scroll to bottom of page). Lo goes on,however, and continues his challenge:

The two problems here are, first, that Koester's views are of course contestable, and are contested by a number of scholars, and second, that you inject a large amount of your own interpretation into what Koester (and Petersen) actually say in the book. You really need to take another look at this claim and stop simply repeating it.

Too bad we have no specifics here. He does not produce a single scholar who disagrees with Koester, nor does he indicate what he's talking about when he says I interject too much of my own opinion. Now I am aware that I interject, of course I do because I'm using many sources to build a case for a certain view point. This is an art form through which one uses documentation to mold an original idea. It's deriving originality out of set works that are not one's own. Typically this is called "argumentation." But it is Lo's own burden of proof to show that I inject too much of my own ideas suppported. So far he has not even been specific about what he means.

This is the kind of thing I meant when I said you should take another look at this claim and stop simply repeating it. First, as I said earlier, Crossan says “the 50’s” not “by 50.” Koester describes Crossan’s position as dating the Cross Gospel to “the middle of the 1st century CE.” You interpret this “middle” to mean by 50 precisely, but “middle” means a range of possible dates in the middle, not the exact middle.

That may be a fair criticism, however, I think Koester does say exactly "AD 50." I am sure remember seeing that but I can't find the book. Since I can't prove my point at the moment let's assume our friend LO is right. Now if Corsson says "in the middle fo the century" I agree that a range is implied not a specific year. Narrowing the date to one year in particular seems a bit of a leap, I always assumed that the statement, even if Koester literally says it ("AD 50") Is meant as a rounding off not a hard and fast date. But I think what Lo forgets is that a range means that it could as earlier refer to 45 60 50 as 50-55. It could even mean AD 40-50 as easily as 50-60. So at that rate saying "50" seems reasonable. But I never meant that it must have come out that very year. Now supposed it did come out and begin to circulate in 55? That's still 23 years after events, still eye witnesses around, still a little less than half the distance from the original events that most skeptics assume or that the traditional dates assume. So I really think this point is too damaging to my argument. I think it hardly touches the argument.

Second, Koester is describing Crossan’s position, not his own. You say Koester never says otherwise. Even if this were the case, it would not mean that he endorses Crossan’s position or that he actually says he dates the Passion Narrative source to 50. But in fact, Koester disagrees with Crossan, and on a lot more than the epiphany stories. After describing Crossan’s theory in the paragraph on pp. 218-219, Koester criticizes it, saying, “There are three major problems regarding this hypothesis.” The second of these major criticisms has to do with Crossan’s early dating of a “major literary composition,” by which Koester means Crossan’s Cross Gospel.

Yea I remember that if you read far enough you see that he grounds down the problems to a point where he is not preserving any essential disagreement with Corsson. He's basically knocking out the problems. While he does disagree with Crosson on many fine points he certainly does not disagree with the idea that a pre Mark redaction served as the basis for all four canonical Gospels, that this contained the passion narrative and ended with the story of the empty. He further agrees that this was circulating "in the middle of the century." He certainly does not disagree and if you look you will see that the time period of circulation is not one of the three problems that he puts up. Again, this does nothing to my argument. you are merely knit picking. You are desperate to show that I can't do scholarship and I'm stupid and I'm not good and you are smarter and your just piicking on trivia and bull shit and you don't do anything to touch the basis of my arguments.

There is no way you could read that book and think that Koester disagrees on that key point; the pre Markan redaction circulated sometime in the middle fo the century, before the traditional date of Mark and that it was uses by the four gospels. The whole structure of the book supports that view. There would be no point at all in speaking of Diatesseron if that was not his point, that's the whole idea of talking about readings in the Diatesseron. It would absurd to present an article on the subject by another scholar at the end fo the book if that was not his major point. This is not just some small thing that he happens to agree on, it's a major point to what he has to say about the evolution of Gospels as a whole. It's the whole point of showing that the Gospel of Thomas is independent of the canonicals and it's the whole point of showing that Egerton 2 is not dependent upon John. He quotes about 10 verses, I use four of them on Doxa, showing the differences in the readings for Mark and for Egerton 2. That would be totally useless if his point was not that the Egerton 2 readings are ealier and more primative than the Mark readings. He's not arguing that they are more Jewish to be Politcially correct on ethnicity, he's arguing that they are older, they were circulating first, the represent readings that existed before those in Mark. The whole point of that is to show that here is an original soruce from whch the canoncials are taken. Naturally it has to be an older source.

You also jump ahead to p. 131 to cite two sentences about the PN source, where Koester is no longer discussing Crossan’s position. Yes, Koester believes that all the gospels depend on one PN source and that it ends with the empty tomb story. However, he does not say that this PN source was written by 50.

Yea I think he does. But what if he doesn't? He doesn't disagee with Corsson that it was circulating by "the middle fo the century." Thats' the ssence of my argument. The exact year, as I've already mentioned is not the point.In saying as much as you just said you basically demonstrate that my argument is true.

You pull that from the earlier paragraph describing Crossan’ theory on pp. 218-219, though, as I’ve said you misinterpret “middle of the 1st century” to mean specifically the year 50. Crossan’s study is not one of the studies Koester is referring to on p. 131. Crossan’s hypothetical source, the Cross Gospel, did not contain the empty tomb story. Crossan thinks that story was composed later by the author of Mark.

If he thinks that how could he disagree on the part about the epiphanies coming from more than one source? Koester thinks they came from many sources, in so far as he disagreew with Crosson on that point apparently Crossen doesn't so it's illogical to think he would say that.

So you are ignoring what Crossan actually says about when he dates his Cross Gospel, you are forcing an overly specific interpretation on Koester’s description of Crossan’s “middle of the 1st century”, and you mistakenly take Koester to be agreeing with Crossan on all but the epiphany stories.

No I don't think I"m doing any of that. I think you are so intent on showing what a bastard I am that you missing what I'm saying. The regifity to your mind to assuem that I mean litterally has to be AD 50, not 51, but 50 itelf! thta's jsut stupid. Only someone would take that way who is activley seeking to interprit the things I say in the worst possible light.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Jesus Mythers Can't Cut It By Their Own Criteria

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I have been arguing with an assortment of sceptics on a message board, many of whom can be described as "Jesus mythers." The pure Jesus myther is one who believes that Jesus did not exist as a man in history, but was made up as a fictional character. Who made him up and why can get very complex. The other major requirement for being a myther is the belief that in some sense Jesus is patterned after the dying/rising savior gods of the ancient world such as the Hours from Egypt and the Turkish Attis, and Persian/Roman cult Maitra (Mithras). The problem is, it is hard to find a pure "Myther." Most scpetics will begin to argue about Jesus and our knowledge of him, but when push comes to shove will admit that "I think he probably existed, but we don't know much about him." What I find is that most people can't keep stairght what the argument is about. They confuse arguments for Jesus as a man in history with Jesus as the son of God and both of those issues with the idea that the New Testament has no authority historically, but is a pack of lies. I find that most sceptics are very confused and have no clear understanding of these issues, but their agenda is such that they embrace anything that assists in destroying Christianity.

The mythers and quasi mythers both have little sense of history. Most of them have no idea what historians do or why they arrive at the conclusions that they do. In place of a true understanding of historiogrophy they have placed the evening News. Their basic argument is just that, where is Jesus on the 6:00 news? There is no tarnscript of the ancient world from the local news that speaks of Jesus in an up-to-the-minute way, so there must not have been a Jesus. "There is no contemporary record of his existence." Well, we can show that the basic sotry that makes up the Pre Markan redaction was used by all four Gospels, and that it was circulating as early as AD 50, that's just 18 years after the original events. That closes the gap between the Gospels as we know them in their final form and the original events in an amazing way. The mythers, however, are not impressed. They demand evidence from during Jesus life time and from the every same time as the events were "breaking." This is the evening news syndrome. They seem blissfully unaware of how remote everything was back then and how slow the news would have spread..

There are many reasons why we don't have a lot of contemporary records of Jesus' doings. He wasn't important to anyone elite enough to write until years latter after his followers became numerous enough to start going to Rome. Rome was the center of everything, Jerusalem was a backwater for which the Romans could not have cared less.. Jesus was not important enough in a worldly way, to the elites and the powerful people, to be the subject of contemporary writing.The writers whose works were important enough to survive that era were mostly in Rome, or a few other places like Alexandria, but not Jerusalem and certainly not Galilee. Yet the mythers and their confussed coheart of skeptics trnslate this lack of evening news immediacy into what they think is an iron clad argument that Jesus didn't exist. Had existed, they reason, he would have been on the evening news. Most of Jesus' followers were illiterate and poor, but this doesn't even phase the mythers. With no sense f history all they know is, everything that is important is on the evening news.

The news argument goes hand in hand with the general argument "there's just no proof Jesus existed." The problem here is that to achieve a "proof free zone" around the topic they to get rid of the major artifact that proves Jesus existed, the New Testament. They accomplish this setting up phony criteria, criteria that real historians think is silly, and then using that to just totally ignore the NT completely. Any attempt to bring the NT into the argument is met with "that's by biased people who had visions and believed in supernatural so it has to be wrong." I brought all of this up to the historian from whom I was TA, a few years ago when I first began doing apologetics on the net. This man has a big name reputation and he is a well respected historian, Cambridge educated.He said to me "why spend your time arguing with idiots?" This guy was not a Christian, he was an atheist. He thinks the Jesus myther thing is stupid, and so do most real academic historians, and he explained why: Because the same criteria they use to dismiss the NT could be used to dismiss 90% of what we know about the ancinet world. Historians do not see a mythological source and say "O that' can't have any truth in it because it's mytholgoical." No, this histoiran told me of reports of battles in which gods fight with men and it is said that so many people were in the battle that it was more people than lived on earth at that time. But historians do not decide that the battle didn't happen! they do not rule out sources just because they are infected with mythology. Most ancient world sources were biased, had visions and were polemical and religious, which is all the major criteria through which the mythers write out the New Testament. The supreme irony is that the very sources the mythers use to argue for the pattern of dying/rising savior god, which suppossedly undergirds the Jesus story, comes from these same kinds of soruces, people who had visions and were believers in supernatural and myth, polemical and religious.

Michael Grant
In his book Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels, Atheist historian Michael Grant completely rejected the idea that Jesus never existed.

This sceptical way of thinking reached its culmination in the argument that Jesus as a human being never existed at all and is a myth.... But above all, if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned. Certainly, there are all those discrepancies between one Gospel and another. But we do not deny that an event ever took place just because some pagan historians such as, for example, Livy and Polybius, happen to have described it in differing terms.... To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ myth theory. It has 'again and again been answered and annihilated by first rank scholars.' In recent years, 'no serous scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.

Speaking of their being no proof, there is cerainly no proof for the Jesus myth hypoethesis. There is no tone single soruce anywhere before the ninteeth century who ever suggested that Jesus didn't exist. He's proven to have existed alright, many times over, no one ever denied it! There is no a shread of proof for any of the Jesus myth world view because it requies one supposition after another all of which are unfounded, such as a quasi Christian type group going before Jesus time whcih would have the motive to make up such a figure.The author of this theory of Jesus fiction is Earl Doherty, no formal crednetials in Biblical studies, who has championed the cause of Jesus mythism. Doherty quotes Helmutt Koster as an authoirty, but Koster says outright "do not conclude that there was a cyncial or stoic hellinism in Galilee, and that's exactly what Doherty bases his view upon. So he can't follow the adivce of his own sources. The theory also requires that myth run backwards, it must move from an abstraction based upon idealized types and an etherial nature, to a concrete history made up latter to cover for the etheral backdrop. This is totally contrary to any example of mythology. So the mythers have absoltuely no basis for their views, no evidence to back it up, the whoel things is based upon argument from silence and doubious connections and bait and switch to ignore the major Christian evidence. But what's a little hypocracy for a skeptic?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

God is the Mind that Thinks the Universe

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Ultimately I'm a Platonist, but I've been influenced by Berkeley. I think he was one of the most brilliant minds to ever exist on this planet. He argued that to be is to be perceived. God is the universal perceiver that makes it all possible.

I argue that God is mind, reality is mental and is manufactured by mind. Mind is spirit. Spirit is the center of consciousness that makes existence possible. When one speaks of "Spirit" in the bible one is really speaking of the center of consciousness. Spirit is breath or wind. In both Hebrew and Greek the words for spirit are also the words for breath or wind. So when Jesus said "the wind blows wher it will" he was making a sort of pun. But in the ancient world intellect and consciousness were not the brain they were located in the breath int he chest, in the living and breathing organs.

My Platonic assumptions leads me to understand that the reality that seems so solid to us in the physical world is not solid at all. That is born out by science; it's 90% nothing, it's made up of tiny electrical charges that are made up of fruther tiney elements we don't even understand.

This view is apt to be mistaken for Pantheism. I am not saying we are God or that we are part of God. In a technical sense everything is part of God if realty is an idea in the mind of God. But that doesn't make us deity. There is a distinction between the recognition of deity in God and the basic stuff of the universe.

The upshot of all this is many fold. there are several arguments for the existence of God that I spin off of this outlook, and it solves the problems of temporal begining and of ideas about God thinking.

The view that I mentioned in the ther thread on "God is the mind that thinks the universe" is compatible wth process theology. Process theology says that God is dipolor. One pole is concerecent, that is the pole in which God changes with the universe and participates in crete existence at the most basic level. The other is the "potential" pole in which God is universal and unchaning, but that's in potentiality.

This is compatible with the "Berkeleian view" that I've hatched out, because it is the potenial pole in which the framework of Mind forms the basis of reality; in the concrete pole God is actively engaged in thought about the universe and its nature, and through perceiving his own thoughts about it interacts with the process of becoming in the universe.

The real difference is that in my view God is not really changing, the concrete pole is just a thought in god's mind about himself and his relation to the world, which is also a thought in his mind.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Stout Hearted Women (and men?)

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Father Mouser, of whom I wrote in the article "When is a doctrine a Frudiean Slip?" (the genius who thinks God is having sex with everyone, has struck again. I have a friend who really knows music. She's mostly in chruch mustic, but she knows music like Bach's sons knew the Bach scale. Mouser decides to attack her because she just wants some equality in speech of hymns. My friends Blog is thePsltery. She takes to task the hymn "rise up o men of God"

Rise Up, O Men of God
Text: William P. Merrill, 1867-1954
Generally sung to FESTAL SONG (SM)
Composed by William H. Walter, 1825-1893

For full text, follow this link.

First of all, this hymn reeks of "this text doesn't apply to me" to the female half of the congregation. Maybe once upon a time it didn't, but an inescapable fact of the English language is that it is changing. Women no longer consider themselves part of "men." And the fact is, especially considering the full context of the hymn text, this hymn never really means to address women. So do we really need to use a hymn that excludes (over) half the congregation?

Of course this is going to turn Mouser's world upside down. Like all good little peranoids, he dare not allow anyone to voice any opinion contrary to his own.He has risen up as a "man of God" to combat this
lattest assault upon civilization:

The complaints lodged by the blogger above provide a fascinating study in the doctrinal myopia of modern egalitarians and the foolishness this condition inflicts upon its victims.

Her criticisms (yup, this blogger’s a woman), are three. Let’s examine them in turn.

First of all, this hymn reeks of “this text doesn’t apply to me” when sung by the female half of the congregation. Why? “… an unescapable [sic] fact of the English language is that it is changing. Women no longer consider themselves part of ‘men.’ ”

Again we see the total insensitivity of the fundy. The women feel excluded by the lanague but they should not becasue they should just know better. He goes into a sopng and dance about "traditionally inclusive language." In other words, women are part of "men" or "Mankind."

First of all, this hymn reeks of “this text doesn’t apply to me” when sung by the female half of the congregation. Why? “… an unescapable [sic] fact of the English language is that it is changing. Women no longer consider themselves part of ‘men.’ ”

This kind of challenge sounded revolutionary and daring back in the Seventies (!), but now it just sounds whiney. The use of the masculine in English to comprehend both male and female is as common as ever, except (perhaps) in some highly rarified departments of English, sociology, and women’s studies in the intolerant corridors of academe.

What really sounds whiney is having to re-visit this issue, which should have been settaled in the 70's (he right about that, unfortuantley he's one of those who didn't get the drift). What's really whiney is carping about how women should just shut up and accept being part of "man."

But the Psaltery answered this argument already by saying that women no longe see themselves this way. They feel excluded by lanaguge that is not overtly inclusive in the modern sesne. But of course threatening this wonderful traditoinal hymn is just the greatest threat to the chruch since the the idea of women pastors. Why is it so much trouble just to realize that if people feel a certain way, that a certain kind of speech excludes them, maybe we shouldn't use that kind of speech so much? I've seen some real abuses and people feeling offended when they are clearly going out of their way to feel so, but his song clelary excludes women and it would it really be such a civilization toppeling move just to write something about women in the lyrics? The irony of it all is we know darn well women are not included. Mouser wont them let them rise up as part of the men who are called to rise up because he believes it's not their place to lead in any way or do anything great. So he really is condmening them to silence and wont even mention them. By "including" in the masses who are only mentoned as "men" he's actually excluding them by burrying them in silence. He says directly:

But, hymns do not need to address everyone. Many of them address only God. Others, like Merril’s, address subsets of the Church, in this case men. As a hymn, this one fits well within the mouths of all Christian women, who by this hymn call on men, whose allegiance is to God, to … well, to rise up and to accomplish a variety of tasks that belong to them to do.

In other words he's basically just admitting to the criticism. He's saying "Yea shut up and stay in your place and hope God riases up stong men to save you."

Moreover, there are other criticisms of the theology that Mouser ignores or doesn't grasp.

Secondly, the theology is simply terrible. Follow the link and pay particular attention to verses 2 and 3. "[The Church's] strength unequal to her task/rise up and make her great" simply isn't true. The Holy Spirit's power makes the imperfect Church equal to whatever task God calls us to do. It is not the strength of the male half of the church that will make the church great, it is the strength of the Lord Jesus himself.

Third, this hymn reinforces the church's historical error of thinking that men can more fully conform to the image of Christ than women can. Verse 4 is particularly bad about this. Women obviously cannot be "brothers of the Son of Man." And just as we need to not forget that there are men in the body of Christ, we must not forget that there are women in the body, as well. This hymn doesn't forget it, it ignores it.

"Rise Up, O Men of God" is not fit for either full congregational or for men's group singing. I suppose verse 1 is acceptable for the latter, if groups will stop with verse 1. But there are better hymns that express the need for all of us, including all the men, to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. It's not especially difficult to find and use them instead.

(EDIT: Thank you to the gender hierarchalist critic who made much of the fact that I typed a "u" instead of an "i" in the word "inescapable." What a terrible, horrible, unforgivable gaffe on my part! My typing error was by far the most supportable of your objections to this blog entry. By the way, I'm going to consider it a typo that you missed one of the "l"s in "Merrill" at several points in your rant against my blog entry. Your toss shattered a wall in your glass house, brother William.

Mouser responds to her:

What lies beneath this complaint is nothing other than vexation at the incarnation of the eternal Son of God as a human male. Because of that fact of our faith, it is inescapable that men have a capacity to resemble Christ in ways that women do not. Christ is the Bridegroom, never the bride. He is our brother, never our sister. He is our King, never our queen. He is the Son of God, never the daughter of God. God is Christ’s Father, never Christ’s mother.

In other words its a fair crticism that these guys (Mouser is part of a Patriarchal cult called the CCC, Chrsitian Complementarian Coalition) worship their own maleness. Of course they have not tumblaed to the connection between female personified wisdom in proverbs and logos, meaning that Christ is tied to any one gender. But of course since they set up their own gender as an idol they think he is. Essentially Mouser has has just admitted to Psaltery's criticism.

When the egalitarian protests that the Church errs by thinking in these terms, we learn from this that it is the egalitarian who knows neither the Scripture, nor the power of God – a power which stamps the human race with a shape, actually two shapes (male and female) which in their relationship to one another mimic the most fundamental relationships of all, that between God and His creation, between Christ and His Church.

Of course he says this because they have riased patriarchy to the level of divine command and worhsip it along side God. They think the male sex is enthroned as God's true form. Of course he says two shapes are stamped, but one exists to serve the other.

And, this is why the Bible, and the Church, and William P. Merril sing “Rise up, O Men of God!” The entire hymn is rooted in the Bible’s ancient sexual polarity, which itself springs from God’s very good design at the beginning of all things, and which moves to the glory of the wedding of the Lamb and His bride at the end of all things.

Exactly! In other words, men represent God and are called to do great things, and women aer called to keep their mouths shut and hope that strong men save them.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Theodicy Debate

I recieved an email from someone who wishes to simpley be known as "Alex." Alex takes to task my view on theodocy in which I develop mysoeterilogical drama


I came across doxa, and your site looks cool. After reading your theodicy
about "soteriological drama," I wanted to ask you: don't you think such a
theodicy renders Christianity completely unfalsifiable - and if it does,
does it bother you at all?

Not really, because I think it's a meaningless question. The problem with it is that Christianity is a world view. No world view is falsifiable in some neat little package that sums up everything thing a person can think or every way someone can look at the world. Falsification doesn't work that way. That's like saying is science falisifiable? Well if any particular scientific theory turns out wrong then it's just being tested as a theory, so science itself can never be falisfied. Thus, that illustrates what I mean about a world view not being falsifiable. Aspects of world views might be falsifiable. Instead of looking for one magic bullet that will kill all of Christianity at once it seems more rational to look to chop up the sections and kill them one at a time (if you can).

If I understand it, the idea is that God's
existence simply must be in doubt in order for us to most efficiently
internalize moral virtues/rules. As such, your concept of soteriological
drama can be invoked to provide a sort of glib response to ANY
philosophical/scientific/theological objection to Christianity!

why Glib? What makes it glib? God's existence must be in doubt to internalize. Well that's reducing it to simplicity. It's not that God must be in doubt to internalize the good, if that were true not being falsifiable would be very helpful because it would mean could really internalize a lot. But the point is that to internalize the good we have to make moral choices. To make moral choices we have to have free will, to to have free will the choice can't be obvious.

The Bible
is full of contradictions? No problem, God put them there because if there
were no contradictions in it, it would be too easy to know that the
Christian God is real, and hence internalization of values would be

Of course I never said that. That would be an absurd idea, so he's just putting words in my mouth making assuptions of which he has no knowledge.Of course I deal with Biblical contradictions by appealing tomodels of revleation other than verbal plenary (aka "Inerrnecy").

Evil exists? Of course it does, God needs us to doubt so we can
internalize values.

He's still arguing from logical absurdity by reducing my argument to simplicity. So let's look at what I really say rather than leaving up to "Alex's" inacurate understanding.

There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so obivioius, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.

The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impitus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.

(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complainance that would be the result of intimindation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truely beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3)the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultaimte meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internatlized.

The argument would look like this:

(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowence of free chioces requires the risk that the chooser will make evil chioces

(4)The possiblity of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpsoe of creation would be thwarted.

This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entials. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclinded to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it.
Argument on Soteriological Drama:

(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tention exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultiamte goals, ends and puroses for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probalby all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from teh heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internatilized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; intetrsubective, internal, not amienable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.

Merely attributing internalization to doubt is clearly not part of my view. I connect one to the other at the point of making free will choices.

Argument from Non-Belief?; this doesn't pose a problem:
the fact that so many people don't believe in the Christian God gives us the
doubt that is required to efficiently internalize values. Et cetera.

What is "et cetera?" I wonder. But the problem of unbelief doesn't post any kind of problem anyway. That would just come under heading "the fallacy of appeal to populairty." Who cares if people doubt? who care if people believe? Neither one proves anything in and of itself.

concept of soteriological drama is similar to other christian responses,
like "God is mysterious," and "God needs us to have faith, faith is the
vestibule through which God chooses to deliver salvation:" these responses
work as responses to any sort of objection, and render Christianity
completely unfalsifiable. And if your soteriological drama concept sort of
innoculates Christianity from intellectual attack, is the intellectual
defense of Christianity disingenuous?

Here he resots to the informal fallacy of black is white slide. This works through finding two aspects of ideas that are totally different and asserting that they are the same because they bot invovles some of the same concepts. To accomplish this he pulls a bait and switch. Did you catch it? Here it is:

where he first assert that Sd is like other Christian ideas and then argues that those other ideas do x,y,and z. Without trying to prove it, he then asserts or leaves the impression made that SD must do that too since the ideas that it is like also do x,y, and z. the problem is Soteriological Drama is really not much like other ideas and he must show that it is like them in such a way that it produces the same effects!

He identfies ideas like "no one knowst he mind of God" and "God requires faith" with Soteriological Drama, when it fact it's not like that at all; because those catch phrases are designed to deflect an attempt at really answering questions. Soteriological Drama is itself a pori an answer to questions about why God does things!

If we cleverly innoculate
Christianity such that it's unfalsifible, and any sort of problem in it is
explained (away) through soteriological drama, are we being fair when
debating with atheists? I'd appreciate your thoughts.


The problem is that your use of falsifiablity is indescriminate. You seem to have hold a scientific sounding toy and can't wait to put into action. But it has to play some relation to the overall cocnept. One canonot just go around saying "that's unfalsifiable." You must show:

(1) What is to be falsified
(2) why do we want to faisify it?
(3) how does one falisfy
(4) is science falsifiable?
(5) is materialism?

Now let's don't get confussed here. Scientific theories are falsifiable, but not science itself. Why should christinaity itself be falsifiable? That would be like saying a world view as a whole would be falsifiable. But if we break down indivudal questions about Christainity and Christian belief many such questions will be.

The most important point is why should an existenial experitially oriented Philosphy have to measure up to a philosophical concept desinged for perscise empirical observations?