Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Religous a priori

(1) Scineitifc reductionism loses phenomena by re-defining the nature of sense data and quailia.

(2)There are other ways of Knowing than scinetific induction

(3) Religious truth is apprehended phenomenoloigcally, thus religion is not a scientific issue and cannot be subjected to a materialist critque

(4) Religion is not derived from other disciplines or endeavors but is a approch to understanding in its own right

Therefore, religious belief is justified on its own terms and not according to the dictates or other disciplines


In my dealings with atheist in debate and dialogue I find that they are often very committed to an empiricist view point. Over and over again I hear the refrain "you can't show one single unequivocal demonstration of scientific data that proves a God exists." This is not a criticism. It's perfectly understandable; science has become the umpire of reality. It is to scientific demonstration that we appear for a large swath of questions concerning the nature of reality. The problem is that the reliance upon empiricism has led to forgetfulness about the basis of other types of questions. We have forgotten that essentially science is metaphysics, as such it is just one of many approach that can be derived from analytical reasoning, empiricism, rationalism, phenomonology and other approaches.

Problem with Empiricism

Is empirical evidence the best or only true form of knowledge? This is an apologetics question because it bears upon the arguments for the existence of God.

Is lack of empirical evidence, if there is a lack, a draw back for God arguments?
I deny that there is a lack, but it has to be put in the proper context. That will come in future threads, for this one I will bracket that answer and just assume there no really good empirical evidence (even though I think there is).

I will ague that empiricism is not true source of knowledge by itself and logic is more important.

True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, right? To say we have empirical proof, in the litteral sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for asl ong as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousnds of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truely empirical because we might have missed one.

That's impractical for science so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, that's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is a regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, there was no observation fo cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. But the correlation was so tight we assume cause and effect.

The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight corrolation gives us causality.

The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturslitic c/e and excluding anyting that challenges it. That is just like Kuhns paradigm shift. The challenges are absorbed into the paradigm untl there are so many the paradigm has to shit. This may never happen in naturalism.

So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense.

Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabalistic assumtions building constructs to form a world view) is inadquate because it is merely a contsuct and rules out a prori much that contradicts.

The A priori

God is not given directly in sense data, God transcends the threshold of human understanding, and thus is not given amenable to empirical proof. As I have commented in previous essays (bloodspots) religion is not a scientific question. There are other methodologies that must be used to understand religion, since the topic is essentially inter-subjective (and science thrives upon objective data). We can study religious behavior through empirical means and we can compare all sorts of statistical realizations through comparisons of differing religious experiences, behaviors, and options. But we cannot produce a trace of God in the universe through "objective" scientific means. Here I use the term "trace" in the Derision sense, the "track," "footprint" the thing to follow to put us on the scent. As I have stated in previous essays, what we must do is find the "co-detemrinate," the thing that is left by God like footprints in the snow. The trace of God can be found in God's affects upon the human heart, and that shows up objectively, or inter-subjectvely in changed behavior, changed attitudes, life transformations. This is the basis of the mystical argument that I use, and in a sense it also have a bearing upon my religious instruct argument. But here I wish to present anther view of the trace of God. This could be seen as a co-detmiernate perhaps, more importantly, it frees religion from the structures of having to measure up to a scientific standard of proof: the religious a prori.

Definition of the a priori.

"This notion [Religious a priori] is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Chrisian Theology (498)

The religious a priroi deals with the speicial nature of religion as non-derivative of any other discipline, and especially it's speicial reiigious faculty of understanding which transcends ordinary means of understanding. Since the enlightenment atheist have sought to explain away religion by placing it in relative and discardable terms. The major tactic for accomplishing this strategy was use of the sociological theory of structural functionalism. By this assumption religion was chalked up to some relative and passing social function, such as promoting loyalty to the tribe, or teaching morality for the sake of social cohesion. This way religion was explained naturalistically and it was also set in relative terms because these functions in society, while still viable (since religion is still around) could always pass away. But this viewpoint assumes that religion is derivative of some other discipline; it's primitive failed science, concocted to explain what thunder is for example. Religion is an emotional solace to get people through hard times and make sense of death and destruction (it's a ll sin, fallen world et). But the a priori does away with all that. The a priori says religion is its own thing, it is not failed primitive sincere, nor is it merely a crutch for surviving or making sense of the world (although it can be that) it is also its own discipline; the major impetus for religion is the sense of the numinous, not the need for explanations of the natural world. Anthropologists are coming more and more to discord that nineteenth century approach anyway.

Thomas A Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

Cross currents

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

The Skeptic might argue "if religion as this unique form of consciousness that sets it apart form other forms of understanding, why does it have to be taught?" Obviously religious belief is taught through culture, and there is a good reason for that, because religion is a cultural construct. But that does not diminish the reality of God. Culture teaches religion but God is known to people in the heart. This comes through a variety of ways; through direct experience, through miraculous signs, through intuitive sense, or through a sense of the numinous. The Westminster's Dictionary of Christian Theology ..defines Numinous as "the sense of awe in attracting and repelling people to the Holy." Of course the background assumption I make is, as I have said many times, that God is apprehended by us mystically--beyond word, thought, or image--we must encode that understanding by filtering it through our cultural constrcts, which creates religious differences, and religious problems.

The Culturally constructed nature of religion does not negate the a priori. "Even though the forms by Which religion is expressed are culturally conditioned, religion itself is sui generis .. essentially irreducible to and undeceivable from the non-religious." (Paladin). Nor can the a priori be reduced to some other form of endeavor. It cannot be summed up by the use of ethics or any other field, it cannot be reduced to explanation of the world or to other fields, or physiological counter causality. To propose such scientific analysis, except in terms of measuring or documenting effects upon behavior, would yield fruitless results. Such results might be taken as proof of no validity, but this would be a mistake. No scientific control can ever be established, because any study would only be studying the culturally constructed bits (by definition since language and social sciences are cultural constructs as well) so all the social sciences will wind up doing is merely reifying the phenomena and reducing the experience. In other words, This idea can never be studied in a social sciences sense, all that the social sciences can do is redefine the phenomena until they are no longer discussing the actual experiences of the religious believer, but merely the ideology of the social scientist (see my essay on Thomas S. Kuhn.

The attempt of skeptics to apply counter causality, that is, to show that the a priori phenomena is the result of naturalistic forces and not miraculous or divine, not only misses the boat in its assumptions about the nature of the argument, but it also loses the phenomena by reduction to some other phenomena. It misses the boat because it assumes that the reason for the phenomena is the claim of miraculous origin, “I feel the presence of God because God is miraculously giving me this sense of his presence.” While some may say that, it need not be the believers argument. The real argument is simply that the co-determinates are signs of the trace of God in the universe, not because we cant understand them being produced naturalistically, but because they evoke the sense of numinous and draw us to God. The numinous implies something beyond the natural, but it need not be “a miracle.” The sense of the numinous is actually a natural thing, it is part of our apprehension of the world, but it points to the sublime, which in turn points to transcendence. In other words, the attribution of counter causality does not, in and of itself, destroy the argument, while it is the life transformation through the experience that is truly the argument, not the phenomena itself. Its the affects upon the believer of the sense of Gods presence and not the sense of Gods presence that truly indicates the trance of God.

Moreover, the attempts to reduce the causality to something less than the miraculous also lose the phenomena in reification.William James, The Verieties of Religious Experience (The Gilford Lectures):

"Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over-tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxications most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of all such personages is successfully undermined."

This does not mean that the mere claim of religious experience of God consciousness is proof in and of itself, but it means that it must be taken on its own terms. It clearly answers the question about why God doesn't reveal himself to everyone; He has, or rather, He has made it clear to everyone that he exists, and He has provided everyone with a means of knowing Him. He doesn't get any more explicit because faith is a major requirement for belief. Faith is not an arbitrary requirement, but the rational and logical result of a world made up of moral choices. God reveals himself, but on his own terms. We must seek God on those terms, in the human heart and the basic sense of the numinous and in the nature of religious encounter. There are many aspects and versions of this sense, it is not standardized and can be describes in many ways:

Forms of the A priori.

Schleiermacher's "Feeling of Utter Dependence.

Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith, sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arugments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theorectical pre-cognative realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Rudolph Otto's Sense of the Holy (1868-1937)

The sense of power in the numinous which people find when confronted by the sacred. The special sense of presence or of Holiness which is intuitive and observed in all religious experience around the world.

Paul Tillich's Object of Ultimate Concern.

We are going to die. We cannot avoid this. This is our ultimate concern and sooner or latter we have to confront it. When we do we realize a sense of transformation that gives us a special realization existentially that life is more than material.

see also My article on Toilet's notion of God as the Ground of Being.

Tillich's concept made into God argument.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognative and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a corrolation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.

The believer is justified in assuming that his/her experinces are experiences of a reality, that is to say, that God is real.

Freedom from the Need to prove.

Schleiermacher came up with his notion of the feeling when wrestling with Kantian Dualism. Kant had said that the world is divided into two aspects of relaity the numenous and the pheneomenal. The numenous is not experienced through sense data, and sense God is not experineced through sense data, God belongs only to the numenous. The problem is that this robbs us of an object of theological discourse. We can't talk about God because we can't experience God in sense data. Schleiermacher found a way to run an 'end round' and get around the sense data. Experience of God is given directly in the "feeling" apart form sense data.

This frees us form the need to prove the existence of God to others, because we know that God exists in a deep way that cannot be estreated by mere cultural constructs or reductionist data or deified phenomena. This restores the object of theological discourse. Once having regained its object, theological discourse can proceed to make the logical deduction that there must be a CO-determinate to the feeling, and that CO-determinate is God. In that sense Schleiermacher is saying "if I have affections about God must exist as an object of my affections"--not merely because anything there must be an object of all affections, but because of the logic of the co-determinate--there is a sense of radical contengency, there must be an object upon which we are radically contingent.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

None so blind as the atheists on CARM

One of the folks on CARM today says "Craig's argument has been beaten so you argument is down the drain." now I just got through saying Craig says the universe come to be, had a beginning, my argument says it probably didn't but it doesn't matter. Yet this mental giant decided that my argument is tied to the success of Carig's argument.

why can't they think?

They got their comeuppance and they are pissed as hell. I proved my argument and they could not answer it so they are mad as little wet hens.

give them the empirical evidence for god they ask for and they can't handle it.

(1) they have to distort the concepts because get them off script and they can't cope.

Dante had nothing at all to say that applied even a little to the temporal beginning argument. everything he said was tailor made to answer Craig and the temp arg has nothing to do any of Craig's assumptions really.

(2) Dante was confussed by the term "becoming."

I used that phrase not to suggest that the universe going "bing" from nothing to something in a flash, but in abstract terms, the Greek? being and becoming.

In a state of timelessness there is no becoming. The explasion of the BB is a state of becming becuase it's expanding. It's moving from one size to a bigger size becuase its exhanding that is becoming. It's becoming expanded. But he asserts that I mean something else and then asserts that I know anything because he's off script and he can't cope

(3) If he said anyting at all to contradict the argument please tell me what it was? he said nothing.

(4) I quoted physicsts he never responded to the issues at all. never addressed he quotes which clearly say he is wrong.

In all athiest assertions to the extent that "there is no empircal evdience for your God" it's only becuase when it is givne you stick your heads in the sand and say "I will not look! No ! nNo it can't be there I reruse to see it! no nononnon"

(5) After it became obvious that they could not answer the argument they began going "this has all been talked abuot before and you lost then. In former discussions with whomever may have been invovled, the atheist lost. they did the same foolish little games of deniel that they are doing now. no atheist has ever won a God argument becuase they can' play fair and they refuse to deal with the facts.

(6) Here's the clencher. If Dante is right about his argument against the temp argument then he's wrong in his argument about Craig!

that is totally ture, listen up.

He says Craig's argument that the universe "began to exist" is wrong. According to him (really to Richard carrier) if the universe began from a timeless nothing then God is outside time. If God is outside time he can't create or even think about creation because there is no change in a timeless void.

Now if that is a good argument it means to make it you have to attempt all the prmeises of my argument! No change in a timeless void

the only difference is Dante disputes that there is this timeless void because the universe doesn't just pop into being from a state of nothingness, it's continually and infinitelly expanding from an infintessimal point.

The problem is the evdience says (phsyicists experts the numbers) that there is no time and time is meaningless the closer you et to the expansion.

(a) he's wrong in saying that there is no going forom nothing to something. that Hawking thign is disproven. There is a state where QM flux does something for the first time then inflationary expansion. In that gap between the two there is no time. that measn there should be no inflationary expansion.

(b) He never answered the documentaiton I laid down from experts. He is not an expert, his opinon does not our weight experts.

(7) another problem with atheist answer. they always assuem their opinons are iron clad and experts that disagree wtih them are iditos and don't know anything.

The next time you whine about "there's no empirical evidence for your God" just remeber these simple rules.

(1) atheists can't handle facts or evidence.

(2) empirial evidence is irrevlivant becuase if it says something don't like you just refuse to accept that it means anything. thus it's pointless asking for evidence.

(3) I have given empirical evidence. I've showen that empirical data backs up good reason to believe in God. But you cannot accept that there is a good reason.

because you fear hell you must convence yourselves that christians are sutpid and there can't be a single good reason to ever believe in God, not even a little bity bity bity bit. So that means it's pointless to talk to you.

It's foolish to call for empirical proof of God, not only because you dont' want it and you will always refuse no matter how good the evidence, but also because world views are not things that can be proven with any one peice of evidence or arguemnt.

why would that be? Because world views, like belief in God, are paradigms. Paradigms require a whole world understanding. It's not a matter of stacking up facts to prove a view point. Its' a matter of coming realize there's a whole other world if you look through the lens of the new paradigm.

Science is a paradigm. Thomas S. Kuhn proved that there are no facts that build up to prove science. Science is a paradigm and it progresses through paradigm shifts not through a progression of facts. That means you have a world view change in order to see through he lens of the new paradigm.

There are lots of individual reasons to beileve in God, many of them are very good. No one of them is going to "prove" God because God, like science, like materialism, is not something that can be proved with evdience.

Science cannot be proved, nor can materialism. These are world views, they require paradigm shift. It is silly, regressive and unfair to say things like "there's no proof for your God." That's like saying "there's no proof for reading." "There's no proof for realizing that love life."

Do you realize there is no empirical evidence you could ever offer that proves someone loves life? you have to love life then realize that you do, you can't prove you do you can't prove someone else Does. belief in God is like that. It's not a matter of proof it's a matter of realization.

But for someone who really has that realization, it's real strong and it can't be shaken. you think they are stupid because they don't pay by your rules. They don't look at the world through your lens so you think that's real stupid becasue you not looking through their lens.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why is it so hard for atheists to learn new thing?


I've been lurking on CARM. Always a hazardous thing to do. But there is a whatever it is we do with atheists on message board (a battle?) non discussion, a non debate, a ridicule sessionbetween a New guy (apparently Christian) Ancient Archer, and a bunch of atheists who haven't got the slightest idea what he's talking about.

The key issue is expansion from the Big Bang. AA uses an argument very similar to mine, called "argument from temporal beginning."The argument says that modern physicists posit that the initial condition of the universe is a timeless void in which nothing happens becasue there is no time and thus no becoming. Now Dante, one of the major atheists on the thread, uses this phrase "becoming" to misunderstand the whole argument. He assumes that AA is saying that the universe just goes "pop" and it's here instead of expanding. He thinks that makes all the difference. For him it does because his shtick is arguing with William Lane Craig. The guy is so studied and practiced at arguing against Craig arguments that he sounds very impressive. The problem is AA is not Craig he's not arguing anything like what Craig says. That "Dante" guy doesn't care because he can't really handle going of script. He's so impressive when in form against Craig, and has no idea what's being said otherwise. So the clings to his Craig script for dear life and totally misses the point.

The argument says there is no change in a timeless void. For example, if you could go the inside of a black hole you would find things just frozen for eons. If there were other people in there the would be frozen and not move and just stay like that because no time there's no change. In saying "no becoming" AA is not saying the universe comes into being like pop its there. He's saying the abstract concept of "becoming" which we find in the Greeks, is not operative in a timeless void. No sequence without time, thus cause is meaningless and thus nothing can happen. Now the false Dante argues that there is a first moment of time, but the big bang is expanding form a point of singularity and that point is infinitesimal so there is no point at which the universe starts up or comes into existence. But the thing is neither my argument nor the version that AA gives really says that. He is misled by the phrase "becoming." So he thinks the argument is that the universe just appears there out of nothing. Then that leads to much ridicule because he has nothing else to say. The calling of names is en toned, the allegations of total ignorance. All becasue this guy is so unable to think off script that he can't listen to what's being said.

AA is saying that the expansion happens in the context of a timeless void, if we go by the latest theories, which are of course proposed without appeal to the divine. Now the false Dante and his pals begin talking as though AA thinks the universe really did come from a timeless void. They get confused and don't understand that the argument really says they think that, or rather they should think it if they are up on what the latest theories say. Of course they don't get this so they just resort to saying "you don't know anything about it, because you don't argue Craig like I do."

Here is the major quote used by AA which is actually from my God argument list and sums up the nature of one of these modern theories. From an article by Sten Odenwald who is a NASA physicist and runs a website called Astronomy Cafe.

Odenwald, NASA
Copyright (C) 1987, Kalmbach Publishing.
Reprinted by permission

Theories like those of SUSY GUTS and Superstrings seem to suggest that just a few moments after Creation, the laws of physics and the content of the world were in a highly symmetric state; one superforce and perhaps one kind of superparticle. The only thing breaking the perfect symmetry of this era was the definite direction and character of the dimension called Time. Before Creation, the primordial symmetry may have been so perfect that, as Vilenkin proposed, the dimensionality of space was itself undefined. To describe this state is a daunting challenge in semantics and mathematics because the mathematical act of specifying its dimensionality would have implied the selection of one possibility from all others and thereby breaking the perfect symmetry of this state. There were, presumably, no particles of matter or even photons of light then, because these particles were born from the vacuum fluctuations in the fabric of space/time that attended the creation of the universe. In such a world, nothing happens because all 'happenings' take place within the reference frame of time and space. The presence of a single particle in this nothingness would have instantaneously broken the perfect symmetry of this era because there would then have been a favored point in space different from all others; the point occupied by the particle. This nothingness didn't evolve either, because evolution is a time-ordered process. The introduction of time as a favored coordinate would have broken the symmetry too. It would seem that the 'Trans-Creation' state is beyond conventional description because any words we may choose to describe it are inherently laced with the conceptual baggage of time and space. Heinz Pagels reflects on this 'earliest' stage by saying, "The nothingness 'before' the creation of the universe is the most complete void we can imagine. No space, time or matter existed. It is a world without place, without duration

What that says is that there is no time in the initial conditions into which the proto universe expands. The expansion is a break in the condition of super symmetry. That is a contradiction to physicist and no one knows why it happened. My argument says it should not have come about. Since it should not have happened (becasue no change in timeless void there could not be anything to change it) that's a pretty good reason to beileve in God. It requires some outside agent who is not subject to physical law to change the set up so that something contrary to physical can happen. Of the phrase "contrary to physical law" is a metaphor since it's not as though a celestial legislature passed a real law. Now some atheist pick up pon that and evoke the old descriptive physical law thing. But that doesn't really change the argument because either its not supposes to happen and that suggest an outside agent.

Of course some atheists are quire to change this with being God of the gaps, becasue here's a gap, we don't know how it is that the expansion began in a timeless void. But the atheists are sure science will expalin it some day. Not a God of the gaps argument because this is more than just not knowing, it's a actually violation of what is suppossed to happen according to the descriptions of the way the universe tends to work (ie violates physical law). AA tells them that is faith. They don't care. It's a faith they like better than Christianity.

So the circus of misunderstanding continues. The ridicule is just about to begin. Of course since they can't understand that this is not William Lane Craig, then they have to just lash out rather than try to listen to what's really being said. Now one further wrinkle. The major attack on Craig that Dante was leading, and the way this all began, centers around the argument that God can't create from outside time because it's a timeless void. This is really the height of atheist hypocrisy. They say God can't create the universe because he would have to do from outside time and he can't even think let alone act because outside time there is no change. But wait, they are spending 89 posts telling AA that there is no timeless void, the universe expands from a singularity it doesn't come up into a timeless void. where is this timeless void God is supposed to be in when he creates if this is the case? If God is suppossed to be in a timeless void when he creates then why is not the universe expanding into a timeless void? If God is hamstrung because of this timeless state, how it is that the expansion is able to expand and to function when God could not?

When the Christian says it it means he doesn't know anything. When the atheist says it, it's a brilliant and absolute dilemma which can't be gotten around! The answer I give and that AA gives is that God is not in a timeless void. The timeless void is in God. Rather, it's an illusion created by the fact that reality is in the mind of God. Prior to God's consideration of this reality, there is nothing; that creates the illusion that there's a timeless void. What actually happens is God begins to think about time and thus time appears. Of course time is not independent of space. space/time is a coherent whole, and time is a function of space/time. So the moment at which expansion seems to happen is actually the moment God begins to thin about space/time. Now this brings up another total hypocrisy. "Dante" says there is a first moment of time, then he denies that the universe "comes to be." He claims this thinking of the universe as "coming to be" is an indication that AA doesn't know anything. That must always be the upshot of disagreement on the net. So time has a first moment but not the universe. The universe expands form infinitesimal. But the evidence says there is no space apart from time and no time apart from space. Thus it would be impossible to have a first moment of time without a first moment of space, which I assume would be a coming to be.

Why must arguments on message board always be battle grounds of the ego and exercises not listening?

Friday, September 19, 2008

That Time of Year

Well my freinds, that terrible time of year is upon us once again. Not just time of year, but time every four years. The time when America get's ripped off again because they voters are too stupid too stupid to stop being fooled by the same gang of criminals every time!

Now, Bush had four years to think about it, and he couldn't figure out that if the housing market collapsed the economy would be hurt. Now the economy is almost on the verge of collapse. Bush is putting through the largest bail out since the new deal, and republicans are so stupid they are still going to yack about government regulation. Bush put this move off last year saying "O the people losing their houses were lazy and didn't want to get good jobs and really buy houses the right way." But that's just a big stupid lie. I never missed a payment, never late with a payment. I had the money to make the payments. But the mortgage company wanted to steal the house, so they fooled around with the rules and changed them in just the right way that we couldn't make the payments anymore. Most people who lost their houses had them stolen like we did.

If Bush had done the bail out last year it would not have cost nearly as much as it will now because the major financial institutions weren't in trouble then. Now the banking system is on the edge of collapse. Yet there are still republicans clamoring about the evils of government regulation! why are are people too stupid to read about history? Every single time have gotten into a mess like this its because some idiot tried let the free market do its thing. Why can't they understand the free market works by killing people. They are called poor people, and they have to die and be harmed immeasurably when the market corrects itself.

Here we go again. another presidential campaign. More lies, more crap. It's this time every four years that I can really see why atheists hate Christians. I've seen some discussion on fundie blogs already that makes the sick.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jesus and Old Testament Morality


Some Criticis of Christian morlaity are always getting us to lose slight of the big pictue. They put so many little knit picking aruments like "in Passage X God cammands themt o kill so and so,and so and so didn't do anything that wrong."

They will present a massive profussion of such passages, most of which (thinking of the OT now) are based upon the fact that people over 2000 years ago looked at things very differently and had different standards of what constituted morality, truth, compassion and brutatlity. So natuarlly a great deal ancient world morality will seem very brutal to us.

But the atheists always distract us form the big picture. Everytime I try to demonstate one or two major princples that oversweep the whole field and tie up all the problems into one neat little point that can esaisly resolved, they just go "Yea? well abotu here, where x got stoned for blowing his nose?" "what about about where God tells them to wipe out the Pedestriakites and kill even the bateria on their dinner plates?!! that's bad, God is BAD BAD BAD!!!"

But never will they just face the central point and take it like real thinkers. They want this massive profussion of problematic verses to stand in the way of rally understanding or thinging about Biblical moralty; and often much what passes for their problematic verses is misunderstood.

DD prestens a lit of what's wrong with Jesus' morality, here's what he does:

(a) doubles up on synoptic passages so he can present them like four different enstances, instant multiplicty of examles. Now Jesus dint' say "pluck out your eye" once, but four times! four times as bad!

(b) mostly misunderstood because no attempt is made to watch for figurative language so he sees "i come to bring not peace but a sword" as a litteral statment that Jesus likes war! I can't even begin to comment.

But in this thread I want to ask each and everyone of you speicail, pease do not quote an massive profussion of texts in a vien attempt to show "how bad the bible is." Let's stick to the two central poinkts that I want to get at.Please?

Point 1: OT morality is progressive.

that's right. It doesn't seem so because it is brutal and unfair in many places. But:

(a) still better than surrounding committees that had infant sacrifice and no rules for freeing of slaves in jubilee year, no prohibitions against raping slave women, or civil recompense for rape or anything of the kind.

(b) Points to advancements in moral thinking over and above what the others had in terms of; written code, basic rights for slaves, expectation of humane treatment, laws to help the poor, ect.

The point; God told Israel they would be a light to the gentiles, they were. Their example led to better morality on a progressive scale; but it took time of course. Yet the standards did change.

Now of course atheists will argue that this is not indicative of a divine plan. On the other hand it meshes perfectly with my view of inspiration. It's not a memo from God but a collection of writings that are inspired by divine/human encounter.

Moreover, remember the principle of shadow to substance!

the Mosaic law was imposed to show how bad bad could be. It was a measuring stick to demonstrate and clearly define sin. It was not the solution to sin. So it shows how hard it is to live perfectly and how difficult it is to keep a benchmark of righteousness, it's supposed to be hard and unreasonable; because trying to live a holy life under our own effectuates is hard and unreasonable.

But in the NT we find God entering history as a man, and we have a direct example of what to do, just follow Jesus' charter. which leads to point 2.

Point 2: Jesus anticipated the Categorical imprative.

that gives us a logical modern framework in which to play out Christian morality in a deontolgoical fashion.

The imperative of Kant anticipated (and that's where Kant got it) in the golden rules do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The "as you would hagve them do unto you" clause is what makes it clever, because it is both objective and flexible at the same time.

These two points explain the basis of Biblical morality and they make up for all the little picky verses where God appears to be a rotter, because they explain why the context of OT morality is so culturally bound, and demarcation a sense in which OT morality is progressive. It also explains NT as modern, advanced, logical and Kantian.

Did Jesus Support OT morality?

Mithrandir24 Put a note on the comment section saying:

As is the case with most of your posts, this was very interesting and informative. While I understand that the morality expressed in the Hebrew Bible was rather progressive for its time and the New Testament has been the inspiration and/or basis of much of the more advanced ethical theories in Western philosophy (Kant's categorical imperative being one as you pointed out), I have a few problems.

Surely you would agree that some of the laws in the OT are rather unrealistic in the punishments they prescribe for transgression, and in many cases just barbaric (e.g. Deut. 21:18-20; Num. 15:32-36). Now, my problem lies in the fact that Jesus seemed to affirm and condone the law of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17). It's hard for me to believe that stoning children to death for disobedience (see the Deut. passage) is compatible with the character of Jesus Christ, who seemed to love children very much (Luke 18:16-17) and opposed those who wished to impose the death penalty on the adulteress (John 8:1-11).

My question is, how do we make sense of this? Do you think evangelicals are wrong when they argue that Jesus saw the Law as infallible?

The examples of verses you give say this:

example (1)

Deu 21:18 ¶ If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and [that], when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

Deu 21:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

Deu 21:20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son [is] stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; [he is] a glutton, and a drunkard.

Deu 21:21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Example (2):

Num 15:32 ¶ And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.

Num 15:33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

Num 15:34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.

Num 15:35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

Yes, these passages are a problem for me as well. Frankly, I find it hard to accept the OT or the idea that God would really mandate such a law. They are unjust, the leave no value for the individual, you are part of the tribe, the tribe does x, you do x, the tribe does not do y, you do not do y, you don't get to choose. that is all. I couldn't live that way. I can't believe God would really impose such vengeful and unjust ideas. So the question is, because Jesus says "the law will not pass away" are we believe that therefore, Christ supported everything prescribed in the OT? The conservative Evangelicals would have us believe that because Jesus says the law wont pass away, therefore, he's supporting every stoning of every child who may have ever been stoned in Israel. I don't think that's a fair conclusion. Jesus just didn't really really interested in systematic theology. My theory, that's why he drafted Paul. Jesus was a lot more concerned with modeling behavior for us.

The answer to this question will reflect our overall theological tendencies and it will center around our views of inspiration. Those who follow verbal plenary view of inspiration ("inerrency") are bound to believe that these dictates of stoning people (almost every kid in modern middle America would wind up dead) are really God and Jesus endorse Them. I can't believe he would, they do seem antithetical, and I dont' think the "law wont pass away" passage establish that he would support it all. Jesus never gives us a theological answer about inspiration or hermeneutics or any of it. He doesn't tell us how we know, he just shows us what to do, how to be, how treat people. It's that treatment of people that is most troubling. Because how can one says who says "love your enemies" endorse killing rebellious children?

Now mind you the passage above is not talking about Theodore Cleaver skipping school to seem himself on tv. That passage is talking about drunkards, late teenage kids who really live in Sin. Be that as it may I can't really see putting them to death.

One Clue we might take from this is that Jesus tells us the summation of the law and the prophets, the whole OT, is "love God, love your neighbor." That makes it seem even more absurd to think that he would support stoning an unruly kid, even he was drinking and smoking pot and sleeping with every girl in class; he still could be brought back. What about the story of the prodigal son, he went off as a rebellious teenager to live in sin.Jesus didn't say anything to imply that he should have been stoned. Instead he said the fathers welcomes him back with open arms when he repents. Kind of hard to do if you've already stoned them.

What about the verse "nothing shall pass from the law..." This fundies tell us must mean we have to live by the law, the law is good, the whole OT is inspired. I just got through having a major argument with a fundie who tried to prove that the Bible says a follower of Jesus will not believe in evolution because it's opposed to the law. The logic was so convoluted I can't even repeat it. But this person totally confused the law in the sense of Mosaic law vs "the law" as a designation for parts of the Bible that aren't the prophets. That allows him to say everything in the Bible must be believed because Jesus said nothing will pass form the law. law= whole bible, therefore, everything in the Bible is literally true.

Let's look at the passage where Jesus seems to support the law. Leading up the passage we have the beatitudes. Leading away form the passage we have a verity of teaching that all center around the idea of being more righteous than the pharisees. This is important because it seems to be the fall out of the passage, nothing shall be lost from the law, do all that it says, and you have to be than the pharisees. This seems to give us a super legalistic Jesus, but it's really something else.

Look at the beatitudes, leading up to the statement about the law:

Matthew - Chapter 5

Mat 5:1 ¶ And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

Mat 5:2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Mat 5:3 Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 5:4 Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Mat 5:5 Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Mat 5:6 Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Mat 5:7 Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Mat 5:8 Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Mat 5:9 Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Mat 5:10 Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 5:11 Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Mat 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

What do we see going on here.I bet most of us would pick out the idea meekness, peacemaking, name of the blessed states, the poor, ect ect. But what he's actually talking about is the Kingdom of God after it comes. When are the poor going to blessed? When will the meek inherit the earth, sure wont be in the Bush administration. It's obviously, after the end of the age. That's important because what he says in the major statement about the law not failing, or not being negated is that it will be fulfilled. He says All will be fulfilled.

Mat 5:17 ¶ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

He is also talking about keeping the law, I'll get to that in a minute. It is important to notice here that the actual statement "I am not come to abolish the law" is about fulfilling the law. The beatitudes are an example of this because they refer to the end of the age. That's what the law predicts, in its broader scope as a designation of scripture the law is about the coming of Messiah, the coming of the kingdom and the end of the age. This is the ultimate point he's making it's an eschatological statement.

But he's going to tie the two ideas together, he's going to tie behavior, doing what the law commands, with fulfilling the prophesies of the coming Kingdom. The link is that we are living in the kingdom, in the "already aspect," of realized eschatology. That is we live in the power of the kingdom, the power to be Godly and do God's work, to bring God's love into the world. We look foreword to the complete coming of the Kingdom when God triumphs over all evil. We are holing up a rare guard action waiting until the main boyd of God's forces arrive, led by Jesus, to complete the battle. That's the connection, because until that comes we are the outpost of the kingdom and it is the power of the Kingdom, not the law, that get's us through.

Mat 5:13 ¶ Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Mat 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Mat 5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Mat 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

It is our witness that will draw people into the Kingdom. Now he is where the redactor places the statement about preserving the law:

Mat 5:17 ¶ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

So he is primarily concerned with fulfillment and our part in the fulfillment is to bring in as many as we can to the kingdom; we are the light of the world. We are the city of on the hill. Why does Jesus say "think not that I have come to destroy the law?" what was said that in any way suggests that he's abolishing the law? That could be a rhetorical device or some reference of which I'm not aware. Most of the Q1 statements come from this section, the beatitudes are the kind of thing supposedly akin to Greek cynicism and thus very Q1-like. So there may even be a Greek rhetorical device at work. Actually I doubt that. I think it's because they knew he was talking about eschatology disruption, so the tendency would be to think of the coming of the new age and the end of the old.

Now he shifts over from eschatology to daily life. Here's where he shows us his conservative side.

Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The talk about fulfillment has a downside, we also have to do everything the law says. But it get's worse:

Mat 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Incidentally that statment indicates that Jesus identified more closely with the more heterodox factions, like those at Qumran, he's for being more strict than the pharisees. But why does he make this shift, and how can anyone expect one to be more legalstic than the pharisees?

Actually he doesn't say to be legalistic at all. He says to be more righteous. That's the whole point of Jesus' ethics all along. He defines keeping the law in the most compassionate sense. While the Pharisees say "put a fence around the law, make sure you keep every letter" Jesus says "Yea, yea, letter, letter's good, keep the letter but keep it in love." So even though he might say the law is true and the law will endure, would he actually say "stone the kid?" the law doesn't have to stone the kid. You can always find that he's not that strict. The law allowed for stoning adulteresses but Jesus let one off the hook.

Jesus principle of keeping the meaning (which includes the compassion) and rather than the letter, or perhaps fulfilling the content of the letter with meaning (spirit) is seen in the following passages, where he goes on to define what means by "your righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees."

Mat 5:21 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

Mat 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

He's going further than just the letter here, he's dealing with the motivations for killing, or motivations for anger, or the subtly of anger.

Mat 5:23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

Mat 5:24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

the letter of the law would say leave the gift at the alter. Jesus says hey that's not enough, go make it right with your brother so your gift will be sincere.

Mat 5:25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

Mat 5:26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

He's making an analogy between being held accountable for hatred of the brother and dealing with a legal advesary.

Mat 5:27 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

Mat 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

It's not enough to just not commit adultery, but one must also snuff the motivation for straying. In all of these things he's going further than the law. He's always going in direction of compassion. Compassion would reconcile with the brother, compassion would refrain form saying the most damaging thing, compassion would not objectify a woman and would work on restoring the relationship in marriage.

Here we have one of my favorite verses because, in my view, it is tricky.

Mat 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Mat 5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.

What a super legalistic one might say. He's actually saying we should cut off our hands if they offend us or pluck out our eyes. Does Jesus relay expects anyone to do this? Of course not! why would he? No Christian I know has ever tried it either. Do Christians hands offended them? I've never ask but what does it mean? There's one use of the hand that offends when I was kid that I would have gotten in trouble for if my parents knew about it. In the context of adultery what do you think he's saying? The eye is offensive because it leads to lust, what does the hand do? well as James Joyce once said, when a woman at a party ask "may I kiss the hand that wrote Finnegan's Wake?" Joyce replied "It's done other things as well." What do you suppose he meant?

Jesus is not telling us to cut our hands off. He's using humor, this is actually some of the law mid eastern ancient world humor of the bible, and it's sarcasm. he's saying "if you have a lame excuse such as 'my eye can't stop looking,' or 'my hand can't stop flogging the log' then cut it off!" But he know these are merely lame excuses and one doesn't control lust by putting out one's eyes. One doesn't lust because the eyes refuse to corporate. Self control begins in the mind. You learn self control in the mind the eye and the hand can't help but follow. He's saying confront the problem where it exists, don't' give me lame excuses. Why is he talking about this at all? He's still working on the idea of living righteously.He's still working on Keeping the law, and he's laying out the principle that we keep the law not by keeping the letter, but by keeping the spirit of the law. This passage is proof of that. It would be letter of the law to say cut off the hand, pull out the eye. He's saying go further than deal with the motive for sin.

Mat 5:31 ¶ It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

Mat 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Here again we have this principle enunciated even more clearly. In our modern times all we can see is "don't' get divorced." In Jesus say what they would see here is, You owe your wife something. The wife could not make a living on her own. To be divorced would be a total disaster for a woman, a come down to poverty or even worse. she should not run down and get the want adds to look for a job. There were very few opportunities for an unmarried woman to make a living without sinning.

Jesus is saying sure the letter says you can get a divorce, but the spirit says you can't. Because the meaning of the law is not "you get off scoot free" the meaning of the law is a way to protect women. The divorce thing was originally good for women because it meant they could be let out of a marriage without being thought sinful. But then the economic situation make it a disaster. Jesus is saying you must consider the woman's plight and you can't divorce just for convince or so you can have your own affair.

Mat 5:33 ¶ Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

Mat 5:34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

Mat 5:35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

Mat 5:36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

Mat 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Again, go fruther than the law. Instead of having a list of what not to swear by, just don't do it.

Mat 5:38 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Mat 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Clearyly this is that principle, turn the other cheek. The law says you can take equal revenge but Jesus says you dont' have to, you can offer the other cheek, forgive, use non voiolence.

Mat 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have [thy] cloke also.

Mat 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Mat 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Give more than is asked, go further than the law.

Mat 5:43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Isn't that horse dead by now? Go further than the law. Don't just love the nieghbor love the enemy, make him a neighbor.

Mat 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Mat 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Mat 5:47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so?

Mat 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

As a legalist he says "be perfect" which on one can do. In defining perfection, however, he does not order legalism, in every examle it is not the letter of law of which he is convered, it is goign beyond the law to find the meaning of the that with which the law deals, the motivation for sin, the nature of the problem, and then we apply love. That is what being perfect his, and he says it right here: eveyrone loves those who love him and hates those who hate him, when yo love everyone you are perfect as God is prefect.

Now in thinking about that stoning passage. Having my sense of hwat Biblical inspiration means I can see that as aamn attempt to come up with a law that we humans think is divine. I am certain Jesus really understood that that he really secretly knew all about Buatlmann and exegesis (at least on some level) and would have not really accepted such a passage.But even as an inerrentist I would not accept that Jesus would stone the kind. The principle of Jesus seems to always been the Spirit give life, the letter kills, go beyond the letter of the law and do that which is in keeping with the spirit of the law. The letter of the law says stone the kid. The spirit of the law says protect the community but try to reach the kid.

No reason to think he would support everything. you can't jump from a summary that says "the summary of the law is love." to stone the kid. It's not logical, and Jesus' standard was clearly go beyond the letter to the spirit of the law, which is love.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Further answer to Hector Avalos: Ph.D. Glut

I am still smoldering at the dishonesty of Avalos in portraying the shortage of academic positions as some kind of special problem that only academic communities have. This problem is universal in all of academia. In my last response to Avelos I linked to article by Gary North on the problem. But there is a second article I did not see, it is "The professor Glut revisited."

This problem is in all departs in all subjects across the board, and anyone teaching anywhere in academia should know this. This article is essential for anyone in graduate school to read. Everyone in grad school or with any kind of academic ambition should read this article.

quote from North:

Why does any Ph.D. student at any but the top graduate schools believe that he will get tenure at any university? The odds are so far against him, and have been for a generation, than he ought to realize that he is about to waste his most precious resource – time – on a long-shot. Investing five or more years beyond the B.A. degree, except in a field where industry hires people with advanced degrees, is economic stupidity that boggles the imagination. Yet at least 200,000 graduate students are doing this at any time. Of the 46,000 who earned a Ph.D. in 2003, an equal number (or more) got to ABD status and quit. Probably more than half of the others quit before they got to ABD status.

At $20,000 or more per year in tuition and living expenses, plus the $35,000+ not earned in the job market, trying to earn a Ph.D. is a losing proposition.

In some departments, the years invested are horrendous. Breneman's dissertation went into the grim details, department by department. Anyone seeking a degree in philosophy was almost doomed to failure, yet the Ph.D. degree took on average over a decade beyond the B.A. to earn. There were almost no college teaching jobs when they finished. That was before the glut.

Remember I've said before I am "ABD." Many atheists thought I was lying about something called "ABD" but there it is in North's article.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Theodicy Debate

the issues addressed by the previous poster deserve serious consideration. Thus here is a debate with a skeptic that deals with the major issues.

I received an email from someone who wishes to simply 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 falsifiable? Well if any particular scientific theory turns out wrong then it's just being tested as a theory, so science itself can never be falsified. 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 assumptions of which he has no knowledge.Of course I deal with Biblical contradictions by appealing tomodels of revelation 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" inaccurate 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 impetus 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 complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

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 ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized.

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) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices

(4)The possibility 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 purpose 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 entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined 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 tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultimate goals, ends and purposes 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 probably 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 internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; intetrsubective, internal, not amenable 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 popularity." 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 knows 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 inoculate
Christianity such that it's unfalsifiable, 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 falsifiability is indiscriminate. 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 concept. One cannot just go around saying "that's unfalsifiable." You must show:

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

Now let's don't get confused here. Scientific theories are falsifiable, but not science itself. Why should Christianity 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 Christianity and Christian belief many such questions will be.

The most important point is why should an existential experimentally oriented Philosophy have to measure up to a philosophical concept designed for persistent empirical observations?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Answer to a Poster on "Why Doesn't God Heal Stupdity?"


About three years ago I wrote a post, so long ago I was in my old family home. The post was about he website "why does God hate amputees" and I called it "why does God hate stupidity?" I staled it that not because I think having doubt is stupid, not because I think the problem of pain is not a very serious and very important question that should make us all think but becasue I find this guys approach insulting and obnoxious. Every so often some of his fans still respond to that post and say things about how brilliant he is and how stupid and evil I am for not seeing that is so great. This morning I got a comment form someone who I thin is sincere so I decided to answer it here in the major section.

This post came under the heading of "Anonymous" but it's not by the regular nemesis who posts by that name. Even though I have a rule against publishing comments by anyone using that name, I will make an exception because the poster probably did not know. but I ask him, I would like to hear from him, but please use another name. Even a number will do, but "Anonymous 1" is taken.

It is probably pointless for me to post this, but stupidity calls. I haven't read the site myself, so let me just say that first. But I get the gist of it as it was pointed out to me by a friend. I admit the reasoning is flawed, and it's a classic case of good observation leading to a bad conclusion.

Well no, not really. It's really a matter of the guy is totally insulting, filled with ridicule and refuses to think deeply about any of it because he assume Christians are stupid as shit and he doesn't have to think deeply, all he has to do is make fun.

But in that site, I don't see stupidity, I see pain.

You said you had not looked at the sight. So do you know? I have pain. I have loads of pain. I have so much pain in my life my favorite song is called "Pack your Sorrows" by Richard Farina (Author of the novel Been Down so Long it looks like Up To Me, think about it). The song says:

If somehow could pack up your sorrows
and give them all to me,
you would lose them,
I know how to use them,
give them all to me.

In other words, I know what it is suffer. But, that does not mean that mocking and ridiculing the attempt to have faith in the face of adversity is in anyway intelligent. It is not intelligent, is nothing more than cruel and selfish. If suffering people need God to get them through, who are you take that away from them and crush their hope with cruel mocking?

One of that guy's major attempts at dismissing faith is this, he say "close you eyes real tight and wish real hard for a candy bar or a Milk shake, did you get it? No, why, because there is no God there to give you a milk shake." No that's my paraphrase but he does say exactly that. Now do you really think that is a fair way to look at the problem of pain? God wont give you a candy bar on demand, so there is no God. Now is that really your idea of fair? Do you really think that's an intelligent way to think about the issues? If i said "Ok let's get a magnifying glass now look at your class of water, do you see any bugs? no? that's because science is crap, there are no germs." Would that really be a fair way to think about science?

I am a Jesus person facing the same exact questions as this guy (from what I understand from a cursory knowledge of the site) and if I am to find any silver lining in my trials, is it that I know exactly what it feels like to be an unbeliever.

So do I. I was an atheist, the kind of atheist who loved to argue with Christians and thought they were real stupid and loved to make them feel stupid. But I was never the kind who childishly mocked anything he could at any price.

Before you point the finger at "stupidity," do you consider that someone does not create a site like that without tremendous pain and legitimate disappointment with God.

We still have a responsibility to deal with our pain in ways that does not hurt others. To mock and ridicule religious people becasue they turn to God for support in times of pain is sick and stupid. He's trying to crush the hope of suffering people to make himself feel superior.

How do you then, as a believer, respond to someone who has been hurt in that way by calling them stupid?

Because his words are stupid. he has put no thought of any kind into his mocking and ridicule. The whole site from start to Finnish is simple minded, narrow, hateful, he has nothing of any kind of value to say.

Even if you were right, what does that do for the Kingdom? I hope you don't pass through these trials yourself, so you'll never know this firsthand

too late!

but the truth is, there's a lot of bad teaching in churches that is well meant, but it's based on our American ideas, and not on what God really taught us in the Bible. That kind of bad teaching has caused Christians to make a lot of excuses for God that He doesn't need, and that leaves others rightly skeptical. And it's left a lot of people disillusioned and wounded. So before diagnosing this guys stupidity, consider the possible source. And consider what will expand the Kingdom.

that is a very good statement. I agree with you completely. Good point, bravo. Unfortunately that amputee site does absolutely nothing to foster any kind of serious about the issues. The function of it in atheist circles is to give them an excuse to disregard any kind of answer or argument that Christians give. I went on that guy's board. I posted tons of material and got no serious thought out of them. The only thing they ever said was "show me an expmle of God healing an amputee. just one come on where is it? you don't have one so God is a lie. nothing you can say you matters becasue God is just a big alie in the sky because you can't show me a heald amputee." Even I laed evidence on them of healed amputees they still continued to harp that "that's a lie, that didnt' happen, you can't prove that."

I had good science to prove the miracles of Lourdes. they just continued to squawk, no healing is a miracle until you have an amputee. even a guy growing a new pair of lungs did not impress them because it's not an amputee. So that sight is not furthering the conversion its' closing down the conversation and all it does is give them a chance to squawk and feel superior. They want to boil all of philosophy and all of religion down this one question, no amputee = no God that's it no thought necessary!

That's why it's stupid. Becasue it's simplistic and shallow and it's only advanced as an excuse to ignore all of Christian thoguht.

Up until The Dawkamentalists came on with their hate group act, a lot of Christian apologists kicked ass all over the net. But since atheists learned that it was much more effective to drop the pretense of real thought just vent their hatred there has been an ever shrinking discourse. I now think there are no messages boards anywhere on the net that are worth looking at. none of them at all reflect any sort of intellectual discussion about religious ideas. It is sights like this that are to blame for this state of affairs.

There are a couple of good sites you should look at. One is God is not imaginary, Marshal Brian is Ignorant These guys have done the body of Christ the service of spending their time answering everything thing the guy says, wow! I can't imagine wasting my line on that polavor, but I thank them for doing it.

The other is my own very serious attempt to answer the theodicty question: I advance my own version of the free will defense, which I think has a unqiue angel if I may so, called Soteriological Drama

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Desacrtes and Epistemology

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Rene Descartes

We tend to think of epistemology as fashioned by Descartes. the rationalist constructs a neat little system for obtaining certain knowledge. At the time that Descartes came up with the cogito Europe was embroiled in a crisis of skepticism. The Skeptics weren't just anti-religious, though, they were Calvinists! The Calvinists challenged church authority, and the church was the gate keeper of knowledge. So Descartes' system was aimed at wrecking the arguments of the Calvinists, who despised reason and militated for faith as the ultimate route to knowledge.

Descartes failed in that he didn't bring everyone back to the RCC, but he succeeded beyond his wildest in that he established the method of empirical scientific proof through statistical verification, or helped to do so. Since that time we have tended to think of epistemology as a need little discipline that sets out a systematic system and 1,2,3 we have the truth because we know how we know.

But it doesn't work that way in modernity. Things are too complex. One thing that happened since WWII was a current in German thought that goes back to Brintano and the 19th century came to fruition in the guise of a Nazi, even one accepted in the land of the Nazi deafters.

I speak of course of Heidgeggerian epistemology. That is a very appropriate juncture for a Christian to move into thinking about epistemology, since Heidegger was influenced by two major christian thinkers, in the liberal tradition; the 'father' of modern liberal theology, Schleiermacher, and the "father" of modern existentialism, Keirkegaard. Both were devout christians.

This phenomenological perspective runs parallel to the perspective of mystical religious experince, which is the most sure fire safe guard on faith of which I know.

Heideggerian phenomenology proceeds from a point of allowing the phenomena to suggest their own categories. Rather than "gathering" all data into a heap and forcing it into pre conceived categories, the phenomenologist begins with the root of the experince in sense data and phenomena, and rather than insisting upon filing it where he thinks it goes, he mentally allows the phenomena to suggest its own category.

That means in practical terms experiencing the presence of God rather than insisting through rationalistic means that God exists and God is thus and so. One experinces God and then comes to an understanding of the nature of God.

Now I'm not saying that this can be a total epistemology in and of itself. We also have empirical knowledge and revelation. But you know my view on revelation of the Bible, that is a recorded f people's experinces of god; that is very phenomenological. rather than be dictated their theological tenets, they recorded their experiences and that becomes the tenet as the community compares it to its own experinces; the dialectical presence model of inspiration that Barth and others spoke of.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Avalos Takes on Koester

Hector Avalos

Anti-Bible scholar Hector Avalos defends himself against one of the greatest Bible scholars of the era, on theDebuncking Christianity blog (9/07/2008) Avalos is author of the book The End of Biblical Studies. It's been a couple of years since he wrote the book calling for the dissolution of Biblical scholarship, and Avalos is still taking university money to teach Biblical criticism, even though according to him his field worthless and useless. The great scholar Koester takes issue with being told that his life work is crap and thus critiques Avalos. But Hector strikes back. I not that Hector has not yet quite his job. When will be be to his word and get into a field he thinks has some use to it?

Prof. Helmut Koester of Harvard Divinity School attacks The End of Biblical Studies by clinging to religionist arguments for biblical studies.

In the September/October 2008 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (aka, BAR, pages 11-12), Prof. Helmut Koester, a retired and eminent member of Harvard Divinity School, launched an attack on my recent book, The End of Biblical Studies.

Unfortunately, Prof. Koester’s critique (which is not currently accessible on-line) is short on facts and long on routine religionist apologetics for biblical studies. He begins his critique as follows:

He begins by trying to re-describe the categories of thought in which a Bible scholar would logically work. This trick of re-description is a postmodern ploy. It is not an argument it's a tactic. This is a cheap postmodern tactic, to re-describe things in terms that leave out the assumptions of the advocate and paint the whole enterprise of defense of belief as propaganda. That way one need never bother with valid arguments, all one is continually re-describe the arguments one cannot answer. Now the DC guys will come back and say I'm being so hateful and rude. No, I have said nothing about the guy as a person. But I'm going to critique his strategy becasue that is all it is. It is not a set of arguments, it's not scholarship, it's a rhetorical ploy.

Avalos cuts lose on Koester, and one might well these remarks as rude:

"Perhaps I should not be surprised that a scholar who
has advocated a Biblical nihilism and has recommended
that Biblical Studies should be ‘tasked with eliminating
completely the influence of the Bible in the modern world’
would launch an attack on the discipline of Biblical archaeology
and on a magazine that is Biblical archaeology’s
most important outlet...What would be required for such
an endeavor, however, is knowledge of the realities of
American religious life and Biblical scholarship in general,
as well as the details of the controversial issues in present
debates. Unfortunately Professor Avalos reveals a deep
ignorance in both respects."

Koester never said he watns to eliminate study of the bible. He wants to eliminate an un-scholarly approach that would guard inerranacy without doing the proper spade work to understand the context of the early community.

He concludes, by saying:

"The relationship of American religious life,
Bible and scholarship is a vital and undeniable
factor in our society—especially in the United
States—however, controversial."

To which Avalos remarks:

At once, we are introduced to one of the most common defenses of biblical studies today. That defense rests on the illusion that “the Bible” is uniquely vital and essential for Christianity and the American religious life.

Pointing out that this is a common defense is something supposes to prove that it's wrong. I haven't figured that one out yet, but that's the name of the game, describe their strategy then re-describe it leaving out their basic reasons and assumptions, that creates the illusion of critique and gives the impression that the critic is up on the psychological motivations of the one critiqued. But it's merely his opinon that he Bible is not vital and he only believes this because he disregards what beilevers see in the Bible and chooses instead to privilage his own position.

Curiously, Dr. Koester seems to privilege a more traditional view of the biblical canon in his attack on my book. But his own past work shows that he did not always think that the Bible, as we currently know it, was uniquely essential or vital for Christians in all periods.

For example, in his own Introduction to the New Testament: History, Culture, and Religion of the Hellenistic Age (2 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982), he tells us the following about other early Christian writings (Volume 1, p. xx1):

"These non-canonical works are witnesses to early Christian
history no less valuable than the New Testament."

This is a rich one. What Koester essentially says is that the Bible is vital but the non canonical sources are also very helpful because theta are artifacts that help us to understand the period and the people. But Avalos treats the statement as though its some sort of contradiction. This is because he is trading upon a tendency among Dawkamentalists to see all Christians as fundamentalists. He's trading upon the ignorance of the Dawkies to think that anyone who would find any value in the Bible must be a fundie.He knows quite well that Koester is not a fundie, and he must know that one can value both the canonical and non canonical sources, either for different reasons or for the same reasons. Surely he must know that one can see the Bible as vital for many reasons and ones reasons do not have to the same as the fundamentalists reasons. But he chooses to ignore all that and pretend that Koester has somehow made some great contradiction. this is a tendency I've noticed in Avalos before; the tendency to treat ideas as posturing, and to prefer postures over substance.

So, why is Dr. Koester not incensed that these non-biblical witnesses are not deemed as essential and as vital for modern Christians?

Well perhaps for one thing it might be because they are. But I think what Hector wants here is for the atheists to think "O yea why not regard GTom and GPete as equal sources of revelation along with the Bible. Why doesn't that make him angry?" But in reality that's not what Koester means when the says the Bible is vital. He is not thinking of the Bible as source of revelation. I doubt that Koester even regards the bible as any kind revelation. If he does I doubt that he thinks of the non canonical books as any sort of back up revelation. He regards all of these texts as artifacts.He wants to study them as an archaeologist, for what they tell us about what people thought. He thinks it's vital to understand the sources of our culture, I think that is correct. But Avalos chooses to regard this as though he Koester is Jerry Falwell. I think Koester has his own kind of faith, but it would not surprise me to learn that he did not. I find this ploy extremely disingenuous. There is no contradiction here. Koester regards both sets of texts as valuable for many reasons. The problem is Hector wants to eliminate the study of all Christian texts and texts related to Christianity. According to his book he wants to study Babylonian religion and Baal worship and so forth with the same methods that Koester studies the Bible. I'm sure Koester would tell him "more power to you." I also say "go for it dude, what is holding you back?" Why hasn't Hector tried to start his own Baal studies department? instead he chooses to spend his time inside the camp that he's wishes to close down, working overtime to kill it off.

Hector goes on:

In his article, “The Text of the Synoptic Gospels in the Second Century,” (in W. L. Petersen, ed., Gospel Traditions in the Second Century [Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1989] p. 19) he says:

"In the late period, the Gospels were considered holy
scripture; no such respect was accorded to them
in the earliest period."

Indeed, the majority of Christians in the first two centuries did not really have what we call “The New Testament.” We know that some early Christian communities got along well with just one or a few Gospels. Jews get along just fine without the New Testament (note that, for Koester, a Christian, “Bible” includes the New Testament).

Of course we probalby should stop and take note at this point that Jews are not trying to be Christians are they? So it wouldn't matter to them if they don't have Gospels. Of course they would get along fine without Gospels because they don't need any. but they are trying to be Christians. They certainly aren't trying to follow Jesus. We Christians have this odd little habit of wanting to follow the guy who started our tradition. To do that we have to cling to the historical accounts of the faith. It really baffles me why Hector thinks that is such a terrible thing. But he does, or so it seems.

So what about the role of the Bible in modern American religious life? Here, Prof. Koester, who is an eminent biblical scholar, shows himself to be an astonishingly poor student of the modern American religious life. He offers no facts, no statistics, and no sociological studies to support his claim about American religion.

You know it's a darn funny thing about that. Neither does Hector. In fact Hector is rather down right ignorant of the story of the Christian left. I published a
critique of his book on the CADRE blog ("Relevance is Where you Fidn it") which included direct factual challenge of all of his bluster about American Christianity and traced out the Christian left from the early centuries. Not a word from Hector. He didn't bother to even try to refute it, juts as he runs in horror at the suggest that he debate me. So I trounced his arguments with facts, which he cannot refute, yet he goes on pretending as though they don't exist. Avalos' arguments are strangely fallacious:

The reality is that few Americans actually read or know much about the Bible. In The End of Biblical Studies, I cited, as one example, the survey published in 2006 by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. It showed that 21.9% of Mainline Protestants and 33.1% of Catholics “never” read Scripture. So how “vital” is the Bible if a sizable group of Christians can get by without ever reading it?

Yes, one could argue that the Baylor survey means that the majority of Christians are reading scripture, but that also would be an illusion. Other studies show that even those who read scripture more than “never,” don’t read or apply much of it.

The study that he evokes can actually be turned around on him so evokes another study to prove the original assertion that is disproved by his own study. The original logic is rather cock eyed anyway: Americans are suffering from ignorance of the Bible, but the solution is not to teach more bible but to do away with the bible. What I suspect is that he's trying to make an appeal to popularity but knows he can't do it head on. I fail to see the relevance in siting this point at all otherwise. Who cares if people don't know about the bible? That doesn't determine the worth of the bible and it just means people are not paying attention. We should build more bible schools not close down the one's we have.

Prof. Michael Coogan (“The Great Gulf Between Scholars and the Pew,” in Biblical Studies Alternatively: An Introductory Reader, ed. Susanne Scholz [Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall 2003] p. 7), a former colleague of Dr. Koester, tells us: "Although the Bible is acknowledged in theory as an authority, much of it has simply been ignored."

In fact, most Christians probably use a miniscule amount of the Bible in their lives because they do not find most of it relevant. This is not just my judgment, but that of many conservative evangelical scholars and sociologists. Dr. Koester should read, for example, Josh McDowell’s The Last Christian Generation (2006) or Robert Wuthnow’s After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty-Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion (2007).

I answered Avalos assertions on this piont in this essy here.

Dr. Koester, who has spent almost his entire academic career in a private divinity school, also is oblivious to the realities of the job market out in the real world, where most colleges are public or are afflicted with constant budget cuts. I hate to break the news to Dr. Koester, but Harvard Divinity School, my alma mater, is not a microcosm of American academia.

Here he returns to the postmodern politically correct card. Koester is bad because an elitist. He's from a private school and he's elitist and he's bad. But at the same time Hector wants the cache that goes with dropping the name Harvard. So he reminds us "I went to Harvard too." But of course he's the politically correct guy who is crusading against the elites even though he's one of them, and even though he has no knowledge of the American left.

So, allow me to inform Prof. Koester of a few realities. The March 2008 edition of Religious Studies News, published by the American Academy of Religion, counted 152 registered positions in religious studies in 2007. In biblical studies, there were 9 primary employers and 81 candidates for positions in Hebrew Bible. There were 16 primary employers and 83 candidates for New Testament jobs.

That means a total of 139 candidates in Hebrew Bible and New Testament will not get one of those jobs even if all 25 jobs are filled. As I point out in The End of Biblical Studies, when we study closely the quality of jobs in biblical studies available, the picture goes from bad to apocalyptic.

His argument for destroying Biblical studies is that you can't get a job in it. Well we might as well close down every department in the university except Business, science and golf. This just gets back to the sort of anti-intellectual game playing that is the hallmark of Hector's disingenuous nature.He's a postmodern, and like the postmodernist en mass he wants to denude academic life while reaping the advantages of belonging to it. No one is asking the average to be a Biblical studies perosn or a theological student. No one is trying to trick unsuspecting graduates into enrolling in graduate school in theology. For years philosophy departments have sent letter to all student enrolled in philosophy classes telling them they cannot get jobs. Yet for some reason they continue to crowd the roles. Why? Because people want to learn it. It is extremely unfair, dishonest and fascist to try to that away from them. I know this probably never dawned upon Hector but some of us are willing to do our academic thing even when don't make money from it. I ran an academic journal didn't make a dime from it. I'm about to start again and I don't plane to make any money from it again. I'm not even teaching. I don't have Ph.D and I will never in a university but I'm stilling doing papers and will present my papers at professional conventions becasue believe in doing the work and give a rat's hind quarters about being paid for it. This kind of argument, which really is typical of Hector's way of arguing, is so unfair because it's meaningless. What difference could it possibly make that there aren't enough jobs in theology? That says absolutely nothing about the truth content.

Bigger shock for the Hec man. Universities want a professor glut. They do. There were studies in the early 90s promising that there would be a professor shortage in the late 90s when the baby boomer began to retire. They would have had that but what did they do? The dismissed all the TA's, cut programs and went to the one year contract. Why? Because they want a glut. They want too many professors for the number of jobs. Having too many means they don't have to pay them much, and they can keep the young once bouncing around for years on one one year contract after another. Whatever justification for his view Hector thinks he sees in the professor glut the fact of iti s it is artificial and it's not there becasue people don't like the bible; it's in all departments across the board and it's there becasue the people who run the schools want it that way. It's a big mistake to think about academic departments and jbos in terms of the labor theory of value. There is a good article by Gary North, "academics without Academia" everyone considering graduate work should read it.

The real scandal, and one about which Dr. Koester and Harvard Divinity School remain silent, is why even excellent job candidates with recent doctorates in biblical studies from Harvard may end up working in grocery stores or in fields outside of their doctorates. Others leave the field quietly or never finish their graduate work.

The North article answers that. A better question is why in the hell does Hector think this is some special problem of theology? Why do I not have a Ph.D.? Because I took ten years to Finnish. I had to take of my parents because they were both dying. I cared for them round the clock just as though I were a nurse, for three years, then they died. In those three years my graduate work suffered. Well you try chainging your mother's diapers, massaging your father's behind, shaving him, helping him walk, making all the meals and dispensing all the pills, and have to stay in the house 24/7 becasue your mother will wonder off an get killed, and then get through doctoral language work at the same time. So it went for three years. But then the dean said "you have been here too long. you didn't get out soon enough." So they kicked me out. That was not a private theology school, that was a secular liberal arts program;that was not at Perkins. I remember Perkins would hall people in when turned 32 and give them a little lecture on how hopeless it was to get a job teaching theology and urge them to quite. There was no deception there to keep students. In fact they get more money for not keeping them.That is way they kicked me out of the secular program. After a certain period they can't justify it anymore in terms of the tax breaks they get for having a certain number of students. not profitable to keep them after a certain time, that is to eliminate professional students. This society really hates anyone who peruses a life time of learning. Apparently so does Hector.

He knows these things. He is overlooking the fact that these problems are in all departments because wouldn't help his cause any. This way it looks like theology school are mean and no good and take advantage of people. The very same things are going on in atheist ran science departments. My graduate committee chairman was an atheist. The Dean who stole my degree was an atheist. I could begin to think they did to shut down my internet presence except they didn't have any idea about message boards. I know that would be a fantasy becasue they had not one whit of respect for Doherty or any other atheist on the net, or any Christian either. They saw being on the net as a sign of not being very good academically. But that dean did have motive to keep the profitability up for the department. Again. Secular Arts and Humanities and history of ideas program.

In the real world, professors of biblical studies have to explain to a dean why their positions should be retained, when a university could use another expert in biofuels or in food economics. Few colleges have the luxuries of a Harvard Divinity School, and even it finds itself struggling at times to attract students. This evident from the HDS recruiters who have visited me in the past at Iowa State University.

Here he's actually that Biblical studies should be shut down because its' a drag on resources. but Harvard is a private school that was started for religious purposes. It was a Calvinist school. No one is asking tax payers to pay for it. It is paid for by rich guys who want their kids to have the cutlu8ral capital of having gone to Harvard. Same with Perkins.So that is not a drag on the state. No state universities pay for theological school. Those are all private. The public state universities that study religion have religious studies departments and those tend to be very anti-religious. But we could use the same logic and shut down any study of literature, poetry, art, music, any kind of liberal arts. Who is going to study Hector's beloved Baal texts when all the liberal arts are shut down?

I am not actually certain that Dr. Koester has read my book, and he often seems to be working with extracts. That would, of course, violate a basic principle of fairness and diligent scholarship. But, if he did read it, then Dr.

I read it. he still debate me even though he seemed to imply that would if it read it. I would tell Koester stick to the extracts. Another thing, Hector would not send me a review copy and most of the DC crowd is oddly in the dark about review copies. But I did not pay for the copy I read.

Koester misses the larger argument in my book, which shows that:

1) The Bible has already lost much of its influence in American religion;

2) Any influence still left is partly the result of an ecclesial-academic complex, of which Dr. Koester is himself a part, which keeps promoting the illusion that the Bible is important. Without the constant effluence of “new translations,” among other marketing devices, the Bible would probably die.

again, appeal to popularity. This has nothing to do with truth content. IT's not true anyway. Atheism only makes up 3% of world population and about 1.5% of American population(I'll give them 3 just to make a liberal estimate).That the margin of error. Christianity has about 85% of U.S. Pop and even though people answer polls about the Bible indicate about half take the Bible seriously, almost 90% want their children to have some religious influence because of the moral value.

Even if one does not believe the Bible is any sort of inspired word of God it still plays a vital role this is undeniable. It's shocking that anyone with a Ph.D. does not know or understand this. Of course hector has also stated that Shakespeare isn't worth reading.

Shakespeare's works, for example, have no intrinsic value, but they function as cultural capital insofar as "knowing Shakespeare" helps provide entry into elite educated society. The academic study of literature, in general, functions to maintain class distinctions rather than to help humanity in any practical manner

Its not wonder he can't see the value in knowing the Bible. He doesn't see the intrinsic value of Shakespeare one wonders what he does see.

Bible Literacy Project

What would you say is the single most important book an educated person needs to know? When the heads of college English departments were asked what book “at a minimum, every incoming freshman should have read” their number one answer was: The Bible.[1]

Yes, the Bible.

Yet today relatively few students receive high-quality, academic instruction about the Hebrew Scriptures and/or the New Testament. For example: While 81 percent of English teachers in one local survey said that teaching about the Bible was important in literature classes, just 10 percent said they actually do so.[2] Scholarly reviews of textbooks in public schools confirm that virtually all religious references, including the Bible’s role in our history, art, and literature, have been excised from the curriculum.[3] One survey of high school textbooks showed that just one quarter of one percent of literature readings was from the Bible.[4]

The state of Bible literacy is atrocious, that is not reason to give up on it. BTW how many people understand the importance of poetry? while it would not surprise me to see Hectie baby wanting to burn Keats or Wallace Stevens, how many readers out there really ant to get rid of poetry because it's not as popular as American Idol?

Dr. Koester may not like the fact that academic biblical studies is dying, but it won’t make the reality go away. Biblical scholars must to do more than become defensive and assert that the Bible is “vital” if they are to survive in modern academia at all.

Postscript: Dr. Koester’s critique in BAR also includes specific misreadings of my comments about Biblical Archaeology Review. Those misreadings may the subject of a future post.

It's the trendy postmdoern thing to say, destroy Shakespeare he's a dead white guy, destroy the bible, destroy the copy write office, kill the father, hate God destroy turth there's no truth there's no learning, using your mind is elitist. Be a robot let the trendy one's guide your thinking. The attempt to make it appear that Biblical studies is dying out, when in reality all liberal arts appear to be dying out, all the time! this is extremely dishonest.

Notice the one thing missing from Avalos counter attack on Koester. he does not deal with any actual arguments of Biblical criticism.