Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Why Does God Allow It?


I wrote this in 2012 after one of the early school  shootings but it works  for any tragedy

......After the recent tragedy I was, like everyone, moved to tears and sick of hearing about it, sick of being outraged.  I think everyone is asking "why does God allow this." I realize that answers are not satisfying in the sense that they don't stop the tragedy. I still insist that the best time to think about such things and to ask "why does God allow this" is not right after the tragedy sticks but when one is safe and happy and there's no tragedy on the horizon. That way we can think in a raitonal and detached manner about it.
.....During the tragedy when we are grieving and outraged, this school shooting was a total outrage, is not the time to ask the question and expect an intellectual answer. During such a time we have to blame God becuase we have to blame reality. Reality is what it is and we can't change it. When those things strike that we can't stand all we can do is blame the basis of reality for ordering things in such a manner. This answer is basically not for now but it may make more sense latter.
.....The basic question why doesn't  God intervene to stop such things? That's something we can't know. We can say some things are so bad God should just stop them regardless of why he doesn't stop other things. Surely gunning down a first grade class counts as one of those things that must be stopped, yet it wasn't stopped. We can't know the perimeters for God's intervention. We faith is part of it but surely those children had faith, the faith of children. Yet we can theorize as to why God doesn't intervene. We may not undrstand why he does at times and not most of the time, but we can theorize about why he does not as a general rule. That's because if he did there intervene every time there would be no need to search for truth.
.....To set the stage, my take on the whole question of theodicy is the free will defense, but I have augmented that with my view about the need for internalizing the values of the good, to me this is the bottom line. It goes like this: God wants us to have free will so we will have a moral universe. Moral universe doesn't necessarily mean one in which nothing immoral ever happens, but one in which free moral agents willing choose the good. Now that is important because without that you don't really have a moral universe, you have to allow free will, meaning allow the risk of evil choices, in order to have a moral universe. So ironically to have a moral universe you have to risk a screwed up universe in which immoral things happen. This is because "moral universe" means " universe where moral decision making is part of the deal.
,,,,,,The reason it's important to allow moral decision making is because it's part of growth. God could make a world of robots who never disobey but that would not be a moral universe, because they would not be free moral agents, there would be no moral decision making. Through moral decisions we internalize the values of the good. To make moral decisions we must seek truth and answers to major questions all of which requires more internalizing of values. So the real bottom line of what God seems to want in creation is a universe in which free moral agents grow in their heart's choices of good over evil and in which they come to be wise, progressive, adult, mature citizens of the kingdom. The price God pays for that is the world has to be screwed up:

(1) The possibility of evil choices must be constant

(2) God can't end all threats of pain and suffering all the time or there would be no search. No search for what one already knows. If every time we almost hurt ourselves some magic force prevented it we would not to search for truth because we would know obviously what the truth is; vis God's existence at any rate. We would figure it all out.

(3) Pain and suffering must exist in such a world Because for God to act to stop them all the time would be a dead give away.

(4) It's no good saying but God could lessen the degree because perhaps he has. We don't have a really horrible planet to compare it to so we don't know what we've been spared.

The Typical Atheist answer to all of this is to multiply examples. They seem to think if they find the most heart rending ironic seeming form of pain then they have proved that God can't really be good. But that doesn't work because it doesn't answer the exact point about internalizing and the need for search. With that understood the point of allowing a world of suffering is always outweighed by negation of the greater harm of being robots. The problem of not having free will would always be a greater evil and you can't multiple enough examples to stack up to outweighing that.

There are a couple of other points to be made:

I1) Only God can calculate the pay off.

There are too many variables and we don't have the complexity (much less the location outside time) to understand the future and what the facts that must be weighed really are. Only God could figure out if loss of free will would outweigh the evils.

(2) We can trust God to make the best decision

We have no choice for one thing, but for another, God is proved worthy of out trust in the atonement and the things he's done in our lives (for those who are willing to corporate long enough to build trust). So we can trust that God is the only true and fair judge who could weight the balance sheet between harms and goods and choose if creation is worth it.

(3) Counter balancing pleasures.

You have the problem of pain you also have the problem of pleasure. Why are we able to indulge in a seemingly unlimited capacity for small and simple pleasures? We we can appreciate them seeming to a greater extent than other animals. we can philosophize about them and develop them, we can even enjoy their deprivation or delayed gratification. There are a veritable unlimited range of good things in life. This is not a night mare planet. Yet nightmarish things happen, but so do you wonderful things. Only God can judge the balance sheet.

......Of cousre none of this is satisfying right now. I'm as clueless as anyone.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Nature of Biblical Revelation

Atheists on the internet are always talking about contradictions in the Bible. These alleged contradictions fall into many categories. Most can be extinguished simply by remembering that all language had connotative meanings and all good writing uses literary devices, but many are based upon an inadequate understanding of the nature of divine revelation.

The problem with the notions of revelation in the Christian tradition is that they don't really conform to the earthly or human idea of what revelation should be. The human notion can be seen with the Book of Mormon—handed down from angels on high on Gold tablets—or the Koran—dictated by an Angel who grabbed Mohammed by the throat and forced him to write. The human notion tells us that there should be no mistakes, no problems, and the revelation should be ushered in with fanfare and pomp, clear and indisputable. But that is not the way of many religious traditions, and certainly not Christianity. There are problems, and even though most of them are conceived by ignorant people (most of the Internet atheists claims to "contradictions in the Bible" are based largely on not understanding metaphor or literary devices), there are some real problems and they are thorny. There are even more problems when it comes to the historicity of the text. But the important thing to note is that the revelations of the Christian faith are passed through human vessels. They contain human problems, and they are passed on safeguarded through human testimony. Even if the eye-witness nature of the individual authors of the NT cannot be established, the testimony of the community as a whole can be. The NT and its canon is a community event. It was a community at large that produced the Gospels, that passed on the Testimony and that created the canon. This communal nature of the revelation guarantees, if not individual authenticity, at least a sort of group validation, that a whole bunch of people as a community attest to these books and this witness.

The Traditional view of "Inerrancy."

Most people tend to think in terms of all or nothing, black and white, true and false. So when they think about the Bible, they think it's either all literally true in every word or it can't be "inspired." This is not only a fallacy, but it is not even the "traditional" view. Even in the inherency camp there exists three differing views of exactly what is inerrant and to what extent. Oddly enough, the notion of verbal inspiration was invented in the Renaissance by Humanists! Yes, the dreaded enemy of humanism actually came up with the doctrine of inerrancy which didn't exist before the 19th century, in its current form, but which actually began in the Renaissance with humanists. The documentation on this point comes mainly from Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, New York: Double Day, 1985. The humanist argument is documented on p. 36. He also demonstrates that the current Evangelical view basically dates form the 19th century, the Princeton movement, and people such as Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921). Proponents of this view include Carl C.F. Henry, Clark Pinnock, James I Packer, Francis Shaffer, Charles Warwick Montgomery, and others.

Dulles Lists Five Versions of Inerrancy.

*Inerrency of original autographs and divine protection of manuscripts.
Proponents of this view include Harold Lindsell.

Inspiration of autographs with minor mistakes in transmission of an unessential kind.
Carl C.F. Henry.

*Inerrency of Textual intention without textual specifics.
Clark Pinnock.

*Inerrancy in Soteric (salvation) knowledge but not in historical or scientific matters.
Bernard Ramm

*Inerrent in major theological assertions but not in religion or morality.
Donald Blosche and Paul K. Jewett

Basic Models of Revelation:

Dulles presents five models of revelation, but the faith model really amounts to little more than "the Bible helps you feel good," so I am presenting only four. This core summery will not come close to doing justice to these views. But time and space limitations do not allow a discourse that would do them justice.

Revelation as History:

The Events themselves are inspired but not the text. John Ballie, David Kelsey, James Barr. This view can include oral events; the inspiration of the prophets, the early kerygma of the church (C.H. Dodd) Creedal formulation, as well as historical events such as the atonement. This view was largely held by a flood of theologians up to the 1960s. According to this view the Bible is the record of revelation not revelation itself.

Revelation as Inner Experience:

This view would include mystical experience and views such as Frederich Schleiermacher's feeling of utter dependence (see argument III on existence of God). Religious doctrines are verbalizations of the feeling; the intuitive sense of the radical contingency of all things upon the higher aegis of their existence; part of the religious a priori.

Revelation as Doctirne:

This is the basic doctrine of inerrancy as stated above. In most cases it is believed that the autographs were inspired but some allow for mistakes in transmission and other inaccuracies of an inconsequential nature. This means that 90% of the criticisms made my atheists and skeptics on the internet don't count, because most of them turn on metaphorical use of language or scribal error. I take this position based upon personal experience on many apologetic boards.

Revelation as Dialectical Presence:

The view that there is a dialectical relation between the reader and the text. The Bible contains the word of God and it becomes the word of God for us when we encounter it in transformative way. Karl Barth is an example of a major theologian who held this view.

No one of these views is really adequate. I urge a view based upon all of them. In some sense, that is, the Bible manifests versions of each of these views. So it is not just governed by one revelatory model, but is made of redacted material which exhibits all of these views. For example, the prophets spoke from their experience of God--their inner experience of God's prompting. Their words are recorded as the books of the prophets in the Bible. The Biblical prophetic books are then the written record of the inner experience of these men. The Gospels exhibit all of these tendencies. Passed on from oral tradition, redacted by members of the communities which passed on the traditions, they represent the written record of the events of Christ's life and ministry. In that sense the events themselves were inspired. But Jesus teachings, which we can assume were transmitted accurately for the most part, represent the word actually spoken by Jesus, and thus by God's perfect revelation to humanity. Jesus is the revelation; the Gospels are merely the written record of that revelation passed on by the Apostles to the communities. Thus we see both the event model and the revelation as doctrine model (traditional view). In the Epistles we see the inner-experience model clearly as Paul, for example, did not know that he was writing the New Testament. He demonstrates confusion at points, as when (in I Corinthians) he didn't recall how many of Stephan’s household he had baptized, but when it came to his answers on doctrinal matters he wrote out of the inner-experience of God. We can also assume that the redactions occurred in relation to some sort of inner-experience, they reflect some divine guidance in the sense that the redactors are reflecting their own experiences of God.

I know these views sound wildly radical to most Christians, but they are based on the works of major theologians, including those of the most conservative schools. The dialectical model is vague and sounds unimpressive. It really seems to be tautological statement: the word of God becomes meaningful when we encounter it in a meaningful way. Therefore, I adopt a model of revelation based upon all four models (granting that we do encounter it in more meaningful ways at some times than at others, but provided we understand that this is not saying that it ceases to be the word of God when we don't so encounter it), and of the doctrinal model accepting the views that say inerrant in intent but not specific transmission. The transmission includes some mistakes but of a minor kind.

"The Bible is Just Mythology"

The most radical view will be that of mythology in the Bible. This is a difficult concept for most Christians to grasp, because most of us are taught that "myth" means a lie, that it's a dirty word, an insult, and that it is really debunking the Bible or rejecting it as God's word. The problem is in our understanding of myth. "Myth" does not mean lie; it does not mean something that is necessarily untrue. It is a literary genre—a way of telling a story. In Genesis, for example, the creation story and the story of the Garden are mythological. They are based on Babylonian and Sumerian myths that contain the same elements and follow the same outlines. But three things must be noted: 1) Myth is not a dirty word, not a lie. Myth is a very healthy thing. 2) The point of the myth is the point the story is making--not the literal historical events of the story. So the point of mythologizing creation is not to transmit historical events but to make a point. We will look more closely at these two points. 3) I don't assume mythology in the Bible out of any tendency to doubt miracles or the supernatural, I believe in them. I base this purely on the way the text is written.

The purpose of myth is often assumed to be the attempt of unscientific or superstitious people to explain scientific facts of nature in an unscientific way. That is not the purpose of myth. A whole new discipline has developed over the past 60 years called "history of religions." Its two major figures are C.G. Jung and Marcea Eliade. In addition to these two, another great scholarly figure arises in Carl Kerenyi. In addition to these three, the scholarly popularizer Joseph Champbell is important. Champell is best known for his work The Hero with A Thousand Faces. This is a great book and I urge everyone to read it. Champbell, and Elliade both disliked Christianity intensely, but their views can be pressed into service for an understanding of the nature of myth. Myth is, according to Champbell a cultural transmission of symbols for the purpose of providing the members of the tribe with a sense of guidance through life. They are psychological, not explanatory of the physical world. This is easily seen in their elaborate natures. Why develop a whole story with so many elements when it will suffice as an explanation to say "we have fire because Prometheus stole it form the gods?" For example, Champell demonstrates in The Hero that heroic myths chart the journey of the individual through life. They are not explanatory, but clinical and healing. They prepare the individual for the journey of life; that's why in so many cultures we meet the same hero over and over again; because people have much the same experiences as they journey though life, gaining adulthood, talking their place in the group, marriage, children, old age and death. The hero goes out, he experiences adventures, he proves himself, he returns, and he prepares the next hero for his journey. We meet this over and over in mythology.

In Kerenyi's essays on a Science of Mythology we find the two figures of the maiden and the Krone. These are standard figures repeated throughout myths of every culture. They serve different functions, but are symbolic of the same woman at different times in her life. The Krone is the enlightener, the guide, the old wise woman who guides the younger into maidenhood. In Genesis we find something different. Here the Pagan myths follow the same outline and contain many of the same characters (Adam and Adapa—see, Cornfeld Archaeology of the Bible 1976). But in Genesis we find something different. The chaotic creation story of Babylon is ordered and the source of creation is different. Rather than being emerging out of Tiamot (chaos) we find "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Order is imposed. We have a logical and orderly progression (as opposed to the Pagan primordial chaos). The seven days of creation represent perfection and it is another aspect of order, seven periods, the seventh being rest. Moreover, the point of the story changes. In the Babylonian myth the primordial chaos is the ages of creation, and there is no moral overtone, the story revolves around other things. This is a common element in mythology, a world in which the myths happen, mythological time and place. All of these elements taken together are called Myths, and every mythos has a cosmogony, an explanation of creation and being (I didn't say there were no explanations in myth.). We find these elements in the Genesis story, Cosmogony included. But, the point of the story becomes moral: it becomes a story about man rebelling against God, the entrance of sin into the world. So the Genesis account is a literary rendering of pagan myth, but it stands that myth on its head. It is saying God is the true source of creation and the true point is that life is about knowing God.

The mythological elements are more common in the early books of the Bible. The material becomes more historical as we go along. How do we know? Because the mythical elements of the first account immediately drop away. Elements such as the talking serpent, the timeless time ("in the beginning"), the firmament and other aspects of the myth all drop away. The firmament was the ancient world's notion of the world itself. It was a flat earth set upon angular pillars, with a dome over it. On the inside of the dome stars were stuck on, and it contained doors in the dome through which snow and rain could be forced through by the gods (that's why Genesis says "he divided the waters above the firmament from the waters below”). We are clearly in a mythological world in Genesis. The Great flood is mythology as well, as all nations have their flood myths. But as we move through the Bible things become more historical.

The NT is not mythological at all. The Resurrection of Christ is an historical event and can be argued as such (see Resurrection page). Christ is a flesh and blood historical person who can be validated as having existed. The resurrection is set in an historical setting, names, dates, places are all historically verifiable and many have been validated. So the major point I'm making is that God uses myth to communicate to humanity. The mythical elements create the sort of psychological healing and force of literary strength and guidance that any mythos conjures up. God is novelist, he inspires myth. That is to say, the inner experience model led the redactors to remake ancient myth with a divine message. But the Bible is not all mythology; in fact most of it is an historical record and has been largely validated as such.

The upshot of all of this is that there is no need to argue evolution or the great flood. Evolution is just a scientific understanding of the development of life. It doesn't contradict the true account because we don't have a "true" scientific account. In Genesis, God was not trying to write a science text book. We are not told how life developed after creation. That is a point of concern for science not theology.

How do we know the Bible is the Word of God? Not because it contains big amazing miracle prophecy fulfillments, not because it reveals scientific information which no one could know at the time of writing, but for the simplest of reasons. Because it does what religious literature should do, it is transformative.

All religions seek to do three things.

All religions seek to do three things:
a) to identify the human problematic,
b) to identify an ultimate transformative experience (UTE) which resolves the problematic, and
c) to mediate between the two.
But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others. Given the foregoing, my criteria are that:
1) a religious tradition reflect a human problematic which is meaningful in terms of the what we find in the world.

2) the UTE be found to really resolve the problematic

3) it mediates the UTE in such a way as to be effective and accessible.

4) its putative and crucial historical claims be historically probable given the ontological and epistemological assumptions that are required within the inner logic of that belief system.

5) it be consistent with itself and with the external world in a way that touches these factors.
These mean that I am not interested in piddling Biblical contradictions such as how many women went to the tomb, ect. but in terms of the major claims of the faith as they touch the human problematic and its resolution.

How Does the Bible fulfill these criteria? First, what is the Bible? Is it a rule book? Is it a manual of discipline? Is it a science textbook? A history book? No it is none of these. The Bible, the Canon, the NT in particular, is a means of bestowing Grace. What does that mean? It means first, it is not an epistemology! It is not a method of knowing how we know, nor is it a history book. It is a means of coming into contact with the UTE mentioned above. This means that the primary thing it has to do to demonstrate its veracity is not be accurate historically, although it is that in the main; but rather, its task is to connect one to the depository of truth in the teachings of Jesus such that one is made open to the ultimate transformative experience. Thus the main thing the Bible has to do to fulfill these criteria is to communicate this transformation. This can only be judged phenomenologically. It is not a matter of proving that the events are true, although there are ensconces where that becomes important.

Thus the main problem is not the existence of these piddling so-called contradictions (and my experience is 90% of them stem from not knowing how to read a text), but rather the extent to which the world and life stack up to the picture presented as a fallen world, engaged in the human problematic and transformed by the light of Christ. Now that means that the extent to which the problematic is adequately reflected, that being sin, separation from God, meaninglessness, the wages of sin, the dregs of life, and so forth, vs. the saving power of God's grace to transform life and change the direction in which one lives to face God and to hope and future. This is something that cannot be decided by the historical aspects or by any objective account. It is merely the individual's problem to understand and to experience. That is the nature of what religion does and the extent to which Christianity does it more accessibly and more efficaciously is the extent to which it should be seen as valid.

The efficacy is not an objective issue either, but the fact that only a couple of religions in the world share the concept of Grace should be a clue. No other religion (save Pure Land Buddhism) have this notion. For all the others there is a problem of one's own efforts. The Grace mediates and administrates through Scriptures is experienced in the life of the believer, and can be found also in prayer, in the sacraments and so forth.

Where the historical questions should enter into it are where the mediation of the UTE hedges upon these historical aspects. Obviously the existence of Jesus of Nazareth would be one, his death on the cross another. The Resurrection of course, doctrinally is also crucial, but since that cannot be established in an empirical sense, seeing as no historical question can be, we must use historical probability. That is not blunted by the minor discrepancies in the number of women at the tomb or who got there first. That sort of thinking is to think in terms of a video documentary. We expect the NT to have the sort of accuracy we find in a court room because we are moderns and we watch too much television. The number of women and when they got to the tomb etc. does not have a bearing on whether the tomb actually existed, was guarded and was found empty. Nor does it really change the fact that people claimed to have seen Jesus after his death alive and well and ascending into heaven. We can view the different strands of NT witness as separate sources, since they were not written as one book, but by different authors at different times and brought together later.

The historicity of the NT is a logical assumption given the nature of the works. We can expect that the Gospels will be polemical. We do not need to assume, however, that they will be fabricated from whole cloth. They are the product of the communities that redacted them. That is viewed as a fatal weakness in fundamentalist circles, tantamount to saying that they are lies. But that is silly. In reality there is no particular reason why the community cannot be a witness. The differences in the accounts are produced by either the ordering of periscopes to underscore various theological points or the use of witnesses who fanned out through the various communities and whose individual view points make up the variety of the text. This is not to be confused with contradiction simply because it reflects differences in individual's view points and distracts us from the more important points of agreement; the tomb was empty, the Lord was seen risen, there were people who put there hands in his nail prints, etc.

The overall question about Biblical contradiction goes back to the basic nature of the text. What sort of text is it? Is it a Sunday school book? A science text book? A history book? And how does inspiration work? The question about the nature of inspiration is the most crucial. This is because the basic notion of the fundamentalists is that of verbal plenary inspiration. If we assume that this is the only sort of inspiration than we have a problem. One mistake and verbal plenary inspiration is out the window. The assumption that every verse is inspired and every word is true comes not from the Church fathers or from the Christian tradition. It actually starts with Humanists in the Renaissance and finds its final development in the 19th century with people like J. N. Drably and Warfield. (see, Avery Dulles Models of Revelation).

One of my major reasons for rejecting this model of revelation is because it is not true to the nature of transformation. Verbal plenary inspiration assumes that God uses authors like we use pencils or like businessmen use secretaries, to take dictation (that is). But why should we assume that this is the only form of inspiration? Only because we have been conditioned by American Christianity to assume that this must be the case. This comes from the Reformation's tendency to see the Bible as epistemology rather than as a means of bestowing grace (see William Abraham, Canon and Criterion). Why should be approach the text with this kind of baggage? We should approach it, not assuming that Moses et al. were fundamentalist preachers, but that they experienced God in their lives through the transformative power of the Spirit and that their writings and redactions are a reflection of this experience. That is more in keeping with the nature of religion as we find it around the world. That being the case, we should have no problem with finding that mythology of Babylonian and Suzerain cultures are used in Genesis, with the view toward standing them on their heads, or that some passages are idealized history that reflect a nationalistic agenda. But the experiences of God come through in the text in spite of these problems because the text itself, when viewed in dialectical relation between reader and text (Barth/Dulles) does bestow grace and does enable transformation.

After all the Biblical texts were not written as "The Bible" but were complied from a huge voluminous body of works which were accepted as scripture or as "holy books" for quite some time before they were collected and put in a single list and even longer before they were printed as one book: the Bible. Therefore, that this book may contradict itself on some points is of no consequence. Rather than reflecting dictation, or literal writing as though the author was merely a pencil in the hands of God, what they really reflect is the record of people's experiences of God in their lives and the way in which those experiences suggested their choice of material/redaction. In short, inspiration of scripture is a product of the transformation afore mentioned. It is the verbalization of inner-experience which mediates grace, and in turn it mediates grace itself.

The Bible is not the Perfect Revelation of God to humanity. Jesus is that perfect revelation. The Gospels are merely the record of Jesus' teachings, deposited with the communities and encoded for safe keeping in the list chosen through Apostolic backing to assure Christian identity. For that matter the Bible as a whole is a reflection of the experience of transformation and as such, since it was the product of human agents we can expect it to have human flaws. The extent to which those flaws are negligible can be judge the ability of that deposit of truth to adequately promote transformation. Christ authorizes the Apostles, the Apostles authorize the community, the community authorizes the tradition, and the tradition authorizes the canon.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

when I was born there were two of me

Image result for Ray Hinman

Ray Hinman (June 20, 1956-Jan 24, 2014. He has been dead 6 years, and died two days before Pete Seegar.

My brother Ray wrote those words at one time, "when I was born there were two of me.". We did come into the world together. He was always there, I never knew a time when he was not there. As kids we were rambunxious, obnoxious, noisy, hyperactive, sarcastic. We were always there for each other. When we walked home from kindergarten bigger boys would pick on us because when they grabbed Ray I would cry, and shout "leave him alone!" When they grabbed me he would cry and shout. We always knew what each other meant by cryptic comments when  no one else did. We always looked out for each other's feelings. 

In sixth grade the teacher read to the class an unpublished story by Mark Twain, from life magazine. That's when he set his sites on being a writer, He taught himself all about literature. It came from out of nowhere, he began spending all of his time reading, He would get home from school and go right to the books instead of football as had been his passion. In eight grade he gave an oral book report to a speech class on Goethe's Faust part I. It as brilliant the class as thunder struck. I was amazed at his erudition and his poise and his eloquence. People were coming up to me  all day and saying "I didn't know your brother was a genius."

That was crucial because we had dyslexia and early schooling was marked by failure and being treated like dunces (until they tested our IQs!). Spanked with boards for being lazy (by the principle--Texas schools of mid 60s). We could barely read, we hated ourselves and we shored each other up by mutual support. Then this literature thing turned Ray on to using his mind. He just got the idea he could teach himself and he began doing it. This was really in opposition to the teachers. He actually knew more at the end of high school than many of his teachers and I know that's true.

He was also brash and rebellious, sharp and critical of authority. We were both attracted to the "movement" of the 60s. Anti-war, we went to protests (this was 7-10 grade1971-72). An example of how Ray was in eight or ninth grade. We went to a  little private school ran by church of Christ. They had a big Dress code and we hated it. We wanted long hair they would not let us have it. One day we missed some school for snow (rare in Dallas). The school administration declared that we had to go for a make-up Saturday but to make it less odious we could dress any way we wanted to (except no short skirts on the girls). Everyone wore ragged blue genes and t shirts except Ray. He wore a suit and tie.

In the period that followed (72-77) he really was my hero. I resented him but also admired him. He was much more socially able and more successful in dealing with the opposite sex. Sex being the operative word there. Dressed like a hippie but not in a pretensions way. Ran around all over town with all kinds of women, getting drunk and smoking dope and going to parties, making his own -parties by the turtle creek or Bachman lake or some place. He dropped out of high school and moved down town. Took GED and scored one of the highest scores in the City.

In the high school years, 16, 17 he went on several hitchhiking trips. My parents were terrified but he was nota run away, He got them to sign a letter saying he had their permission because the deal was, he was going anyway. He did have stories from the road. He hide in the dark in the Rockies and watched a coven of some kind do something with torches and someone (he really didn't know what they were doing he just didn't want to be seen). He was shot at in West Texas and attacked by a ghost in Denver. He stood on a dark rainy highway in Oregon and did not see Bigfoot (said he never thought about it), He first went to Colorado, the up the West Coast to Vancouver, Then up the east coast to Toronto. That picture at the top on a park bench was taken in Boston on that trip, he was 17.

He was lean and strong and full of life and what the Bible calls "The pride of life." He was brilliant, he read a lot  of Nietzsche and decided he would become an ubermench. He told me once he knew he wasn't one but he wanted to force himself to be one anyway. He wrote prodigiously. After growing apart in high school--I had debate and he had hitchhiking-- we got back together in college. He started to community college took philosophy was on the honor Roll and my parents were elated. He was also at odds with them about being a writer. They wanted him to be able to support himself.  He just wanted to write. We developed a world around ourselves and our books. It centered on the coffee shop. Discussions were to us what water is to a duck. We discussed everything fueled by books and our own writings.

Everything changed in 77. That's when Ray had his break down. He saw the goddess Dianna fly past the moon while smoking dope on the roof at our parents home. He was never again free of delusions. Gradually over time he became like my child. By the time he died I had almost forgotten the strong rash independent young genius he was in his youth. He was lucid but developed a lot of delusional fears. We struggled through the maze of the mental health care industry for two decades before I realized they were nuttier than he was. In the end we wound up wild catting with nutrition and forgot the shrinks., He tried hard to make it as a writer. Every passing year grew that much more desperate; He finally quite trying the last eight years of his life. He was always going to get back to it.

I think the two great defining moments for him were the Central America movement and taking care of our parents. We worked as organizers in the central America movement from about the dawning of Iran=contra (85?) to the anti-climatic end of the Sandinista government in '90. Ray poured his heart and soul into it, s=he shown as an activist. Quoted in the Newspaper for some protest we organized (Dallas Morning News) "Ray Hinman, 31 year old Poet.." I said "hey you are officially a poet, says so in the paper." He said, "I am also officially 31, says so in the news paper." He saved a woman's life. Jenifer Casolo was charged by the Salvadoran government and her lawyer too. Both arrested a d tortured. Ray threw himself into calling all over the country to get urge t action alerts generated. When Casolo came to Dallas Ray was introduced to her as "The person primarily responsible for getting you out." The Lawyer was saved too.The other great moment was in caring for our parents. We basically ran our own private nursing home 2/7 for three years. Our mother had Alzheimer's our father had a big heart attack and then some kind of dementia.  He was invaluable in care for  them. I could not have done it without him. I could really see what he was made of then in his unselfish caring for our parents.

There were more struggles involved in fights criminals disguised a mortgage company who stole our house and living in our car for a short time. This all took it's toll on Ray, his fragile mental condition. The last few years we found a cozy rent house, parents gone, just Ray and I and our little dog Arnie (black and tan coon hound but the tan parts were white).  He loved drinking coffee in the kitchen or on the back Patio and reminiscing. We lost the fire for the great intellectual discussions we had thrived on. He lost the fire for writing he was no longer building for a career as a writer, he was feeling like a a failure and reminiscing about what he loved in the act of trying to be a writer. Nursing his delusions. If only he had written those into novels. He did get the one collection of poems published I think he really just rested in that one accomplishment.

The last Day he was upset because I kept trying to convince him to go to the hospital. He wanted to be at home. He thought I wanted to get rid of him. I told him I wanted to stick together and be old men together, He seemed happy and was perked up. I made him a cup of coffee he drank it and smoked and said it was the best coffee and smoke he ever had, He wanted me to help him to the bathroom and on the  way he had to sit down, He began roaring like a lion, spewed stuff out his mouth and I saw his eyes roll up in his head. I ran for the phone and called 911. By the time I got back he was gone. I was shouting "come back!" After the coroner left I spend hours alone shouting  "Ray! Ray!" I sat out on the patio for days just reliving our times there and try8mng to find peace about it. I eventually realized he was just tired of conflict he made the choices he did for that reason. He was tried of being mentally ill and tired of struggling to make it as a writer in an illiterate society that no longer understands literature.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

containing rather than being the word of God

Image result for Metacrock's bpog inerrancy

Continuing my discussion with Weekend Fisher on "I am  Christian but not an inerrantist"

At one time Karl Barth drew the distinction between the Bible being the word of God or containing the word of God. Since that time conservatives (Evangelicals/ fundamentalists) have imagined that liberals really use this as some important distinction. One example is Matt Slick at CARM. He states: "One of the objections raised by critics of biblical inspiration is that the Bible is not the word of God but that it contains the word of God."[1] Of course he goes on to show that the Bible says different, so he thinks. I'll get to that latter. The problem is Liberal theology is so far removed from the concerns of fundamentalism now that even the idea that the Bible contains the word of God would be too  conservative for most of them. I suggest that the concept of "Bible as word of God" is outmoded but for the reasons neither side would imagine. It's not that there's no God, not that God doesn't communicate with us, but simply that the idea of Bible as word of God is based upon an inadequate model of divine/human encounter. The nature of the encounter that humans have with the divine is more complex and varied it requires a more open  ended sort of model to illustrate it's nature.

The model used by evangelicals and fundamentalists, often called "inerrancy," (officially the "verbal Plenary Inspiration") is sort of based upon the business model. It assumes that the Bible is propositional truth, the statements in it are propositions in that they are either true or false statements and can be defended as such by rational argument. Verbal Plenary because all the verbiage is inspired, thus the opposition to the distinction. This view is usually justified by appeal to scripture itself, this is taking it at is word what it claims for itself, as Slick states:

First of all,["contains" rather than is word] this doesn't fit what the Bible says about itself.  The collection of 66 books that the Christian Church recognized as being inspired speaks as the very words of God in many places.
  1. "Thus says the Lord" occurs over 400 times in the Old Testament.
  2. "God said" occurs 42 times in the Old Testament and four times in the New Testament.
  3. "God spoke" occurs 9 times in the Old Testament and 3 times in the New Testament.
  4. "The Spirit of the Lord spoke" through people in 2 Sam. 23:21 Kings 22:242 Chron. 20:14.
Of course, the errantists (those who say the Bible in its original documents had errors) will reject these scriptures' accuracy; that is, they will deny that God's word is without error -- even in the originals.[2]

First of all speaking "as the words of God in many places" could be construed as containing rather than being the word of God. It doesn't speak that way in every single sentence. There is no conscious awareness expressed by any work within the  canon that there is a canon. The books themselves don't know that they are one of 66 books in a collection deemed "the word of God." There is no reference in the Bible to the Bible. Now the conservatives assert that when we find references to scripture that this is synonymous but it's not. We don't know what scripture means for each writer who uses the term. When Jesus refers to scripture does he mean the same set of books that Paul meant when he refereed to it? If so there is no such place where it says this. When Paul said "all scripture is inspired" (2 Tim 3:16) (literally "God-breathed") the canon of even the OT was not closed, We don't know what he meant by scripture. He could have included books we don't know about, he surely did not mean his own or any other written in "NT era." He was not thinking of letters to Churches by major Christians as scripture,

In terms of the three instances above where it says "thus says the Lord" what follows that phrase might be the words of God, that doesn't mean that what preceded it would be. In many cases the OT says "the word of the Lord came  to him saying." So what is repeated that came to him (whomever) would be the word but that doesn't make things said before that the word. It says God says 42 times how many more times do others speak in the Bible and they are not God? Are the things they say also the word of God? He lists three times where the Spirit of God spoke through people, so those would be words of God but does that mean that all the other times are then not the word of God?

Hate to keep harping on Slick but he's so convenient:
Of course, the errantists (those who say the Bible in its original documents had errors) will reject these scriptures' accuracy; that is, they will deny that God's word is without error -- even in the originals.
If appealing to the Bible in a general sense isn't good enough.  Let's consider that Jesus said the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (all of the Old Testament) were Scripture and that the Scriptures cannot be broken, cannot fail (John 10:35).
Some might say that there are instances of verses that "contain" God's word, but that it doesn't mean the Bible is God's word.  The problem is addressed by Jesus.
Luke 24:44-45"Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. "
Notice that Jesus speaks about what is written regarding him in the Old Testament.  Then Luke writes that Jesus opened their mind to understand the Scriptures.  What Scriptures?  The Law (Moses), the Prophets, and the Psalms.  This was a common designation for the Old Testament.  Therefore, Jesus says that the written form of the Old Testament is Scripture.  Jesus goes on to deal with the religious leaders who would violate these Scriptures which he called "the word of God."[3]
Jesus doesn't speak about what is written about him in the "Old Testament." They didn't have one then. No passage in the Bible is aware of itself as "the Bible." When Paul wrote that all scripture is inspired (as I said above) the canon of the old testament was not closed, We don't know what works he meant, although it is a safe bet he would have included the Torah. Equally safe he would not have been thinking of his own letters to churches,

Inerrancy as a doctrine was made to combat evolution. That's why it's based upon literalism,so we can insist the days are not ages. Verbal plenary Inspiration has only existed as a doctrine since the 19th century or so. The church fathers don't use that term and never voice the kind of concerns the innerrantists voice. Here's a concept I learned about in seminary and it was a mind blower to med at the time: the Bible is not the word of God, Jesus is. Everyone knows this but fundamentalists will distinguish between the living word and written word and go on talking about the Bible that way. But the Bible dopes not make that distinction. In fact when the OT says "the word of the Lord came to him saying" it could just as easily really be saying Jesus the actual word of God came to him and said whatever,

The concept of inspiration that I accept is called "dialectical retrieval.," it's based upon Barth, Niebuhr, and others who thought there is a dialectical relationship between the reader and the text. We must assume we dealing with the word of god,k even though Bible is just the written record but in our reading of that record the word of God (the Spirit) will show us what we need to see. It's like the assumptions we made with stop signs, We don't stop at them only early for pragmatic reasons, There are some signs cars never go by, We stop at them because it's the law. There is no law that says the Bible is the word of God but we know that the Biblical texts are written out of the same process of Spirit-driven insight in which we read the text, Thus it pays us to not look legalistically but seriously at the text and to be open to the insights to which the Spirit of God would lead us.

I have an essay that deals with five different concepts of inerrancy and several different models of revelation or inspiration. It's too long for a blog it's on my apologetic site The Religious A Priori.[4] It's based upon Avery Dullle's exceent book Models of Revelation.I recompensed that book Highly,[5] Please read my Essay.

My position is this: The list of canon is a man made institution but it was drawn up with the aid of the Holy Spirit, The Bible is not the word of God but it is a written record of some words the Word has "spoken" to humans though other humans in divine-human encounter. We accept the canon as the judgement of the Church but we know the inspiration is in there and the Holy Spirit will show it to us in dialectical encounter between reader and Text. IOW: read the Bible. Use historical critical methods and think logically,

The point here apologetically speaking is that most atheist Bible problems are based upon the assumption of extreme fundamentalism and extreme literalism. Most of what they say can be dismissed by impelling them what I've said here, I've doingnit for years.,


[1] Matt Slick, "the Bible isn't the Word of God. It Contains the Word of God." CARM. Webpage:

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Joseph Hinman, "The Nature of Biblical Revelation," Religious A Priori on line  (accessed 8/1/16

[5] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation. Maryknoll New York: Orbis Books; 2nd ed. edition September 1, 1992.

Dulles id a Cardinal in Catholic chruch, made so by JPII, His father was secretary of state under Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles.

different notions of inerrancy Dulles Discusses:

*Inerrency of original autographs and divine protection of manuscripts.
Proponents of this view include Harold Lindsell.

Inspiration of autographs with minor mistakes in transmission of an unessential kind.
Carl C.F. Henry.

*Inerrency of Textual intention without textual specifics.
Clark Pinnock.

*Inerrancy in Soteric (salvation) knowledge but not in historical or scientific matters.
Bernard Ramm

*Inerrent in major theological assertions but not in religion or morality.
Donald Blosche and Paul K. Jewett

As you can see inerrancy is far from settled. There are several concepts of revelation in addition to dialectical: