Sunday, January 29, 2023

My Freewill Defense

The Free Will Defense is offered by Christian apologists as an answer to any sort of atheist argument such as the problem of pain or the problem of evil. The argument runs something like: God values free will because “he” (“she”?) doesn’t want robots. The problem with this approach is that it often stops short in analysis as to why free will would be a higher value than anything else. This leaves the atheist in a position of arguing any number of pains and evil deeds and then crying that God had to know these things would happen, thus God must be cruel for creating anything at all knowing the total absolute pain (which usually includes hell in most atheist arguments) would result from creation.

The apologists answers usually fail to satisfy the atheist, because in their minds noting can outweigh the actual inflicting of pain. Something atheists evoke omnipotence and play it off against the value of free will, making the assumption that an “all powerful God” could do anything, thus God should be able to cancel any sort of moral debt, make sin beyond our natures, create a pain free universe, and surely if God were all loving, God would have done so.

The better twist on the free will defense would be to start from a different position. We should start with the basis for creation, in so far as we can understand it, and then to show how the logical and non self contradictory requirements of the logic of creation require free will. What is usually missing or not pointed out is the necessity of free will in the making of moral choices. This is the step that atheists and Christian apologists alike sometimes overlook; that it is absolutely essential in a non-self contradictory way, that humanity have free will. Thus, free will must out weight any other value. At that point, since it is a matter of self contradiction, omnipotence cannot be played off against free will, because God’s omnipotence does not allow God to dispense with Free will!

Before moving to the argument I want to make it clear that I deal with two separate issues: the problem of pain (not a moral issue–tornadoes and diseases and the like) becasue it doesn’t involve human choice. Pain, inflicted by accident and nature is not a moral issue, because it involves no choices. Thus I will not deal with that here. I am only concerned in this argument with the the problem of evil that is, the problem of moral choice. The free will defense cannot apply to makes where the will does not apply.

Basic assumptions

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

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

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

(2) that internal “seeking” leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or 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 truly 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 ultiamte 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 the 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; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.

In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.

This theory also explains why God doesn’t often regenerate limbs in healing the sick. That would be a dead giveaway. God creates criteria under which healing takes place, that criteria can’t negate the overall plan of a search.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleological ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the individual to do immoral things in the name of “the greatest good for the greatest number.” I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can’t help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that ultimate duty that love demands of any action. Robots don’t love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oriented ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of countless lives and untold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from either deontolgoical or teleological perspective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultimately leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrifice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrifices for the good of the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes available the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultimately saving the babies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It’s internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one’s own life for the other.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Atonement As God's Solidarity with Humanity

Here is the way I find many atheists and skeptics thinking about the idea of Jesus sacrafice on the cross:

So what if Jesus was crucified? what's the big deal? There re much worse ways to suffer. Crucificition is bad but it is far from the worst thing that can happen to you. So why was it a sacrifice, I mean after all he is God, what would it matter to him if he dies? And he got to come back.
Now this is incredibly ignorant, but it occurs to me there are some resons for this kind of chaotic thinking, but also one big hidden premise. Before launching into that analysis, however, I would like to comment on the inadequacy of Christian understanding.

First, most Christians try to answer this out of a need for piety. They do not give a theological answer, they give a pious one. The pious answer can't be undestood by modern people, they lack pious feelings, so it just makes it worse. The pious answer of course is to try and mount up the pain and make it seem so very much worse. O. Jesus suffered in hell and he suffers every minute and he's still suffering and he felt all the agony in the world. Of course it doesn't' really say that anywhere in the Bible. While I think this is true, and while my pious side feels the prier sense of reversions and gratitude to our savior for this work, we can't use this to answer the question because modern impiety can't understand the answer. They just hear us reiterating their hidden primes.

The other Christian answers are Propitiatory atonement, Substitutionary, or Moral government. These are the three major ways of looking at the atonement. Propitiation means to turn away anger. This answer is also incomprehensible to moderns. God is so very angry with us that he can't stand the sight of us, he has to stick Jesus between himself and us so he will see Jesus and turn away his anger. This just makes God seem like a red faced historical parent who couldn't comprehend the consequences of his creation when he decided to make it. Substitutionary atonement says Jesus took our place, he received the penalty our sins deserved. This comes in two verities: (1) financial transaction, Jesus paid the debt,(2) the other is closer to moral government, Jesus was exicucted because he stepped in and took the place of the guilty party. Both of these are also problematic, because they really allow the guilty to get off Scott free and persecute an innocent person. The thing is in real life you could not go down to the jail and talk them into letting you take another prisoners place. WE can harp on how this is a grace so fine we can't understand it in the natural mind, and relapse into piety again singing the praises to God for doing this wonderful act, but it wont answer the atheists questions.

I realize that the view I hold to is a little known minority view. I know I'm bucking the mainstream. But I think it makes a lot more sense and shows why there was an atonement. Before getting into it, however, I want to comment upon the atheist hidden premise. The explicit premise of the atheist argument is that atonement works by Jesus suffering a whole lot. If Jesus suffers enough then restitution is made. But wait, restitution for what? For our sins? Then why should Jesus suffer more than we do or more than our victims do? Why do skeptics seem to think, that Jesus must suffer more than anyone ever has for the atonement to work? It's because the hidden premise is that God is guilty and the atonement is the time God pays for his own mistakes. Jesus has to suffer more than anyone to make up for what God has done, inconveniencing us by creating us.

The sickness of the modern mind can scarcely comprehend Christian theology now. I wonder if it isn't too late and we are just past the day when people in the West can really be saved?

I mean consider the idea that usually acompanies this argument: well he is God after all, a little torutre death cant' hurt him. In the old days, when we had a culture that ran on Christian memories, people said how great that God would do this for us when he didn't have to! Now the argument is "Of course he had to, it's the least he can do, after all I didn't asked to be born, so I'm entitaled to whatever goodies can get in compensation." That's why I think the hidden premise is to blame God; its as though they are saying God has to suffer more than anyone to make up for the suffering he caued as creator. This sort of atttitude is very troubling. In any case, my view is the Participatory atonement. It was embraced by several church fathers and modern theologians supporting it are mentioned below:

I.The Atonement: God's Solidarity With Humanity.

A. The inadquacy of Financial Transactions

Many ministers, and therefore, many Christians speak of and think of Jesus' death on the cross as analogus to a finacial transaction. Usually this idea goes something like this: we are in hock to the devil because we sinned. God pays the debt we owe by sending Jesus to die for us, and that pays off the devil. The problem with this view is the Bible never says we owe the devil anything. We owe God. The financial transaction model is inadqueate. Matters of the soul are much more important than any monitary arrangement and buiness transactions and banking do not do justice to the import of the issue. Moreover, there is a more sophisticated model; that of the sacrafice for sin. In this model Jesus is like a sacraficial lamb who is murdered in our place. This model is also inadequate because it is based on a primative notion of sacrafice. The one making the sacrafice pays over something valuable to him to apease an angry God. In this case God is paying himself. This view is also called the "propitiatior view" becuase it is based upon propitation, which means to turn away wrath. The more meaningful notion is that of Solidarity. The Solidarity or "participatry" view says that Jesus entered human history to participate in our lot as finiate humans, and he dide as a means of identifying with us. We are under the law of sin and death, we are under curse of the law (we sin, we die, we are not capable in our own human strength of being good enough to merit salvation). IN taking on the penalty of sin (while remaining sinless) Jesus died in our stead; not in the mannar of a premative animal sacrafice (that is just a metaphor) but as one of us, so that through identification with us, we might identify with him and therefore, partake of his newness of life

. B. Christ the Perfect Revelation of God to Humanity

In the book of Hebrews it says "in former times God spoke in many and verious ways through the prophets, but in these latter times he has spoken more perfectly through his son." Jesus is the perfect revelation of God to humanity. The prophets were speaking for God, but their words were limited in how much they could tell us about God. Jesus was God in the flesh and as such, we can see clearly by his charactor, his actions, and his teachings what God wants of us and how much God cares about us. God is for humanity, God is on our side! The greatest sign of God's support of our cause as needy humans is Jesus death on the cross, a death in solidarity with us as victims of our own sinful hearts and socieities. Thus we can see the lengths God is willing to go to to point us toward himself. There are many verses in the Bible that seem to contradict this view. These are the verses which seem to say that Atonement is preipiatory.

C. Death in Solidarity with Victims

1) Support from Modern Theologians

Three Major Modern Theologians support the solidarity notion of atonement: Jurgen Moltmann (The Crucified God), Matthew L. Lamb (Solidarity With Victims), and D.E.H. Whiteley (The Theology of St. Paul).In the 1980s Moltmann (German Calvinist) was called the greatest living protestant theologian, and made his name in laying the groundwork for what became liberation theology. Lamb (Catholic Priest) was big name in political theology, and Whiteley (scholar at Oxford) was a major Pauline scholar in the 1960s.In his work The Crucified God Moltmann interprits the cry of Jesus on the cross, "my God my God why have you forsaken me" as a statement of solidarity, placing him in identification with all who feel abandoned by God.Whiteley: "If St. Paul can be said to hold a theory of the modus operandi [of the atonement] it is best described as one of salvation through participation [the 'solidarity' view]: Christ shared all of our experience, sin alone excepted, including death in order that we, by virtue of our solidarity with him, might share his life...Paul does not hold a theory of substitution..." (The Theology of St. Paul,Whiteley 130). An example of one of the great classical theologians of the early chruch who held to a similar view is St. Irenaeus (according to Whiteley, 133).

2) Scrtiptural

...all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into his death.? We were therefore burried with him in baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in his death we will certanly be united with him in his resurrection.For we know that the old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him, for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him; the death he died to sin he died once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Chrsit Jesus.(Romans 6:1-5)

In Short, if we have united ouselves to Chrsit, entered his death and been raised to life, we participate in his death and ressurection thourgh our act of solidairty, united with Christ in his death, than it stands to reason that his death is an act of solidarity with us, that he expresses his solidarity with humanity in his death.

This is why Jesus cries out on the cross "why have you forsaken me?" According to Moltmann this is an expression of Solidarity with all who feel abandoned by God.Jesus death in solidarity creates the grounds for forgiveness, since it is through his death that we express our solidarity, and through that, share in his life in union with Christ. Many verses seem to suggest a propitiatory view. But these are actually speaking of the affects of the solidarity. "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath thorugh him! For if when we were considered God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"(Rm 5:9-11). What appears to be saying that the shedding of blood is what creates forgiveness is actually saying that the death in solidarity cretaes the grounds for reconciliation. IT says we were enemies then we were reconciled to him thorugh the death, his expression of solidarity changes the ground, when we express our solidarity and enter into the death we are giving up to God, we move from enemy to friend, and in that sense the shedding of blood, the death in solidarity, creates the conditions through which we can be and are forgiven. He goes on to talk about sharing in his life, which is participation, solidarity, unity.

. D. Meaning of Solidarity and Salvation.

. Jurgen Moltmann's notion of Solidarity (see The Crucified God) is based upon the notion of Political solidarity. Chrsit died in Solidarity with victims. He took upon himself a political death by purposly angering the powers of the day. Thus in his death he identifies with victims of oppression. But we are all vitims of oppression. Sin has a social dimension, the injustice we experience as the hands of society and social and governmental institutions is primarily and at a very basic level the result of the social aspects of sin. Power, and political machinations begin in the sinful heart, the ego, the desire for power, and they manifest themselves through institutions built by the will to power over the other. But in a more fundamental sense we are all victims of our own sinful natures. We scheme against others on some level to build ourselve up and secure our conditions in life. In this sense we cannot help but do injustice to others. In return injustice is done to us.Jesus died in solidarity with us, he underwent the ultiamte consquences of living in a sinful world, in order to demonstrate the depths of God's love and God's desire to save us. Take an analogy from political organizing. In Central America governments often send "death squads" to murder labor unionists and political dissenter. IN Guartemala there were some American organizations which organized for college students to go to Guatemala and escourt the leaders of dissenting groups so that they would not be murdered. The logic was that the death squads wouldn't hurt an American Student because it would bring bad press and shut off U.S. govenment funds to their military. As disturbing as these political implications are, let's stay focussed on the Gospel. Jesus is like those students, and like some of them, he was actually killed. But unlike them he went out of his way to be killed, to be victimized by the the rage of the sinful and power seeking so that he could illustrate to us the desire of God; that God is on our side, God is on the side of the poor, the vitimized, the marginalized, and the lost. Jesus said "a physician is not sent to the well but to the sick."The key to salvation is to accept God's statement of solidarity, to express our solidarity with God by placing ourselves into the death of Christ (by identification with it, by trust in it's efficacy for our salvation).

. E. Atonement is a Primetive Concept?

. This charge is made quite often by internet-skeptics, espeically Jewish anti-missionaries who confuse the concept wtih the notion of Human sacrifice. But the charge rests on the idea that sacrafice itself is a premative notion. If one committs a crime, someone else should not pay for it. This attack can be put forward in many forms but the basic notion revolves around the idea that one person dying for the sins of another, taking the penalty or sacrificing to remove the guilt of another is a premative concept. None of this applies with the Participatory view of the atonement (solidarity) since the workings of Christ's death, the mannar in which it secures salavtion, is neither through turning away of wrath nor taking upon himself other's sins, but the creation of the grounds through which one declairs one's own solidarity with God and the grounds through which God accepts that solidairty and extends his own; the identification of God himself with the needs and crys of his own creation.



Sunday, January 15, 2023

The Amalekite Problem

The Amalekite problem should be a much bigger problem for Christian apologists than it is. As a Christian apologist, I say we don't take it seriously enough. The reason for this, however, is because the atheists harp on it constantly, and no answer is ever good enough for them. I can understand that, since there doesn't seem to be a good answer, but one does get tried of trying. I am more appualed by some Christian answers than I am by the atheists constant harping. In the OT God orders the Israelits to wipe out many differt people's, but for some reason the Amalekites have become the icon of brutality and genocide disguissed as divine wrath.Christian apologists only make it worse when they try to defend it as a rational action. This usually takes the form of "well they deserved it, they were really evil, God gave them 400 yeas to repent, that's more than enough time,in fact its just down right generous; therefore, it's ok to slaughter little babbies." I always get visions of Gastopo and guys in jack boots.

I sometimes wonder what my fellow Christians think about in their spare time

This is one of the basic reasons I'm no longer an inerrentist. I cannot accept the idea that God would ever command salughter of infants. Slaughtering anyone is bad enough, but to slaughter innocents, that's never acceptable. I don't accept that God would really do that. Here I draw upon my models of inspiration: the Bible is a collection of writtings made by humans which reflect their encounters with the divine. That's not to say these writtings don't have a lot of purely human understanding in them. People were very cruel in the ancient world. Genocide, slaughter, infanticide, brutality in war, these were commonplace, and they are all reflected in the book of 1 Samuel.

It's not that there is no value to the conventional answer, but it doesn't go all the way.

The Conventional Answer: The Amalekites were Jerks

The Amalekites were basically a grang of thugs, they tried to do to Israel what Israel did to them. In fact, they were foreign invaders, they were reaching beyond their own lands to raid others beyond their boarders. God's command to wipe them out can be seen as an act of divine justice, the exicution of the highest authority agaisnt a lawless people who had to be stopped. But that answer doesn't cover all the bases. It doesn't justify the slaughter of infants.

I think to some extent the action against adults was justified. One could understand this as the divine court passing sentence on lawless criminals; these were thugs who had tried to wipe out Israel; God gave them time to repent.None of that answers for total destruction and slaughter of infants.

I will argue that God didn't order the slaughter of infants. While we cannot prove this with an actual text, there's a very good likleyhood that it was an addition to the text, and thus not the original command.

Purpose of the Narrative

1 Sam 7:3–15:35. The emergence of monarchy is the theme of 1 Sam 7:3–15:35, which is particularly linked to the person of Saul. There is no doubt that this narrative is the result of an intensive redactional process, but the exact features of this are impossible to determine. While the story is cast around the disputed leadership of Samuel and the emergence of Saul, the real debate does not concern personalities. Rather, it concerns the relationship between the faith of the community and public forms of power and how the trust Israel has in Yahweh should be implemented in institutional forms. The narrative discloses to us opinions which believe not only that monarchy is required to cope with historical threats, but that monarchy is a gift from Yahweh to Israel for the securing of the community. A counter opinion, more forcefully expressed, argues that monarchy is a departure from faith in Yahweh even as it is a departure from the old tribal organization. Both opinions are expressed in this complicated narration of chaps. 7–15. It is a truism of scholarship that the narrative contains two sources reflecting two strongly held political opinions which judge the institution of monarchy positively and negatively. Scholarship moreover has held that the pro-kingship source is from the period itself, whereas the anti-kingship sources are later, reflecting disillusionment with the tyranny of Solomon.

The slaughter of the infants, which is just one phrase in a larger command, is not a major focuss at all. It is a refelection of the attitude of ancient peole, and the over all passage is designed to show that Saul did wrong by not wipping out enough people! The redactor doesn't really care about the infants at all, the only point is that the action is part of showing strength of Sauls character in following God's command. The action is not a polemic justifying slaughter of enemies, but a mere after thouht, part of a larger whole.The point of the passage is the justification of monarchy. Samuel represents the old form of power, the weak system which had to be changed because new times reqiured strong leadership. But Saul was not that leader; the monarchy was good but Saul was not the man for the job. He didn't obey God compeltely enough. There is also a discordant voice that God didn't want the people to have a monarch, but that voice is brought under submission to the will of the people.

The Text

The text of 1 Samuel is one of the most heavily redacted in the Bible. As we will see, it's very presence in the canon has been brought into question, but the version we have is probably a corrupted second rate copy, and the LXX is closer, and Q4Sama at Qumran closer still, to the actual original.

Institutte Bibilcal Scientific Studies:

Biblical Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls and OT

"1&2 Samuel"

"For the past two centuries textual critics have recognized that the Masoretic Text (MT) of 1&2 Samuel has much textual corruption. The Samuel MT is shorter than the LXX and 4QSama. The Samuel MT has improper word division, metathesis, and other orthographic problems. Certain phrases and clauses go against the Hebrew grammar rules. Parallel passages vary from each other" (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.227-8).

"In 1952 Roland De Vaux and Lankester Harding found manuscripts of Samuel under three feet of debris in Qumran Cave 4. 4QSama shows that the Old Greek Bible (LXX) was based on a Vorlage similar to 4QSama. Josephus agrees with 4QSama in 6 places against the MT and LXX. Josephus, 4QSama, and LXX share about three dozen readings against the MT" (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.229).

"Where the book of Chronicles parallels 1 Samuel, the readings of Chronicles follow 4QSama rather than the MT 42 times. Only one time does Chronicles agree with the MT. Over 100 times 4QSama does not agree with any ancient reading" (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.230-31).

The Book of Samuel varies widely and frequently from the Masoretic Text. 4QSama preserves a number of superior readings that help correct errors in the Masoretic Text (DSS Bible, 213). Let's look at some of these.

One dramatic example is in I Samuel 11 where the MT and KJV left out the first paragraph. The Longer reading in the DSS explains what happens in this chapter. It says:

"Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites viciously. He put out the right eye of all of them and brought fear and trembling on Israel. Not one of the Israelites in the region beyond the Jordan remained whose right eye Nahash king of the Ammonites did not put out, except seven thousand men who escaped from the Ammonites and went to Jabesh-gilead" (The Dead Sea Scroll Bible translated by Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich page 225). Then verse one of I Samuel 11 starts.

1 Samuel 14:30

There is a mis-division of words here in the MT. The 4QSama divides it differently which makes better sense. The MT has hkm htbr rather than hkmh hbr in the 4QSama.

1 Samuel 14:47

There is a singular instead of a plural noun in 4QSama. 4QSama is the better reading.

1 Samuel 15:27 There is an omission of the subject in the MT. According to 4QSama Saul is the subject who grabbed the garment, not Samuel.

The Place of 1st Sam in Canon

Revisited Albert C. Sundberg, Jr Thomas J. Sienkewicz and James E. Betts "The Old Testament of the Early Church" published by Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois in 1997.

The Prophets collection was canonized about two centuries after the Law, i.e., about 200 B.C.E. This collection is divided into two sections, the Former Prophets (the historical books): Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, which were in circulation about 550 and reached their final form before the Latter Prophets. Except for minor editorial changes made later, the Chronicler utilized the Former Prophets in their final form. However, apparently he did not regard them as canonical because he took great liberties with them, especially with Samuel and Kings, in his rewriting of the national history.

The Latter Prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah and the Twelve12) contain sections undoubtedly from the third century (cf. Isa. 24-27; Pfeiffer 1941:61, 441-443). This places the terminus a quo after the Chronicler. On the other hand, the absence of the Book of Daniel (dating 164 B.C.E.) from the collection indicates that the collection was already closed at its writing, otherwise it would have been included. Thus, the Prophets collection must have been canonized about 200 B.C.E. Sirach13 44-49, a list of famous men in Jewish history, is a summary of the Law (ch. 44-45) and Prophets (the Former, 46-48.18; 49.1-50; the Latter, 48.20-25; 49.6-10, even naming the Twelve). H. J. Cadbury found that Septuagintal language has influenced the Greek of Sirach. He says, "That the translator knew the prior Greek translations of some of the canonical books is not only implied in the preface. . .

but is sufficiently proved by his use of identical Greek with the Septuagint in the same context" (Cadbury 1955:219-225). This is shown in verbal coincidences that are most striking in the catalogue of famous men and their respective parallels in the Old Testament and in detailed descriptions of the accouterments and service of the High Priest. In some cases these coincidences are striking because of the unusualness of the words, or the transfer of a word in the same context where Sirach and the Septuagint agree against the Masoretic text (1 Sam. 13.3), or where the translator shows a knowledge of Greek Chronicles. This evidence that the translator of Sirach knew a standard Septuagint text tends to confirm the judgment that the statements in the prologue testify to the canonical status of the Prophets. Thus, it is evident that the canon in Sirach consisted of the Law and the Prophets. Daniel (9.2) cites Jeremiah (25.11 ff.) as "the word of the Lord to Jeremiah."

This tells us that the place of Samuel in the canon was by no means assured. Because the redactor didn't feel the former prophets were canonical, great libertties were taken. We also see differences between the Ms which form the parent of the LXX translation, and those of MT. What all of this amounts to is that 1 Samuel is a very corrupt text, and the likelyhood is quite high that the passage is redacted. This is even more certain when we consider that the infant passage itself has been redacted.

James A. Sanders, Inter Testamental and Biblical Studies at Clairmont, Cannon and Community, a Guide to Canonical Criticism. Philladelphia: Forterss Press, 1984, 15-16.

"There are remarkable differences between the LXX and MT of 1 and 2 Sam. Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel, Proverbs and Ezekiel, 40-48, and on a lesser level numerious very important differences in lesser books such as Isaiah and Job. Before the discovery of the Scrolls [Dead Sea] it was difficult to know wheather most of these should be seen as translational, Or as reflecting the inner history of the Septuegent text, or all three. Now it is abundantly clear that the second period of text transmission [which is BC], actually that of the earliest texts we have, was one of limited textual pluralism. Side by side in the Qumran library lay scrolls of Jeremiah in Hebrew dating to the pre-Chrsitian Hellenistic period reflecting both the textual tradition known in the MT and the one in the LXX without any indication of preference. So also for 1 and 2 Sam."

Redaction of Infant Slaughtering Passage

Notes in the New Oxford Annontated Bible on 1 Sam 15:1-35

"Another story of Saul's rejection: The late source. Compare this section with 13:7-15, Samuel, not Saul is the leading figure once more."

This is the very passage in which Samuel relays God's command to wipe out the infants. So even though I still need to find more speicific evidence for that very passage, there is a good chance of proving redaction. While its true that I can't produce an actual MS showing no infant slaughter command, the passage in whcih that command is given has been redacted. The odds are very high that this command was not part of the orignal passage, or we can regard it as such. We know that slaughtering infants in evil, and we have no obligation to accept a command as divine that we know to be totally at odds with God's law and God's moral code.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

God, Science, and Ideology by Joseph Hinman

my new book God,Science, and Ideology ($28.11) Exposes the false science behind atheistic criticisms of belief in God as Unscientific.--Joseph Hinman.

“[T]hese detractors from religion illustrate the use of reductionism and its ideological assumptions in their work. . . they trade on the assumption that our mastery of reality through the physical sciences is so exacting that we can rip God out of heaven and hold him up to the light, and he will disappear in a puff of disillusionment. . . . They claim to disprove something that can’t be disproven using the methods they rely on.”

Monday, January 09, 2023

The great falling away

In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade.Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.[1]
That is a significant loss, 12%. Notice they are not going to the atheists. Although they are going to be unaffiliated which includes atheists. The religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.But of those categories only atheist means no belief in God. The actual atheists have risen to 4%, That;s iniscrule. Only a couple more points than American communists.

Atheists have held steady at 2%. Those who abandon organized religion are not abandoning belief in God per say. That Is good news, but the church needs to take seriously the fact that it is becoming non dominant in the culture. Why is this happening? A major reason is the religious right.

In a 2002 article, sociologists Michael Hout and Claude S Fischer argued that a significant trend in American religion – the skyrocketing number of people disaffiliation from religion – could be partly explained as a political backlash against the religious right. In the two decades since this article was published, a wealth of additional evidence has emerged to support its general argument.[2] Sociologists Joseph O Baker and Buster G Smith summarize the sentiment driving this backlash: “If that’s what it means to be religious, then I’m not religious.”[3]
The great Christian consensus of the past made seminaries and charities possible. It was comforting but it was not real Christianity but socialization. It made real christianity possible but at the exprense of great hyocracy thorgh social oppression. We need to worl toward real spirituality which means keeping Jesus teachings, loving our enemies as well as freeing the oppressed.


[1]PEW RESEARCH CENTER."In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,"(OCTOBER 17, 2019) (Acessed Jan 6, 2023).

[2]Michael Hout and Claude S. Fischer,"Why More Americans Have No Religious Preference: Politics and Generations," American Sociological Review, Vol. 67, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 165-190 (Acessed Jan 6, 2023).

[3]Ruth Braunstein"The backlash against rightwing evangelicals is reshaping American politics and faith" The Guarduan (Tue 25 Jan 2022) (Acessed Jan 6, 2023).

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Does the Bible support Oppression?

This is the continuation to the discussion that began  under the topic "Dark Sideof The Bible."

Anonymous [Pixie] said...

Joe: I was recently conversing with an atheist, who for lack of anything better to say, pulled out the old bit about how oppressive the Bible is.

Pix> There are two aspects to this. The first is whether the Bible is morally bad because it oppresses people.

But the second - and I think more important - is whether a book that supports oppression is compatible with the claim that Christianity is true. I would suggest that this is what the atheist was concerned with too.

Unfortunately, your post addresses the former.

Yes but you disprove no 1 as I think I did, no 2 is moote.In other words the book does not support oppression and  that was the condition under which the truth of Christianity would be questioned, solve1 that takes care of 2.

Joe: The atheist has to show that belief in God, specifically the Hebrew God, made the situation worse. If it didn't worsen the lot of the people of that era, then where's the blame?

No, we only need to show that the Bible made the world a worse place.

How is that not the same thing? Assuming one could believe in God and not accept the OT then showing the problem with the bible doesn't even invalidate belief in Christian God.

And the verses about slavery surely do that. It is well established that slave-owners in the pre-bellum southern US used the Bible to support their position. If the Bible had not said chattel slavery was allowed, that would take away their arguments. That would surely have reduced their support, even if it did not stop them having slaves themselves.

The bible never uses the phrase chattel  slavery, it never says slavery is good. It speaks of it as a fact of life in ANE but it never endorses it. In the NT it pronounces the slave trade to be a major sin which would shut down slavery.Slavery of that era wasnt synonimous with slavery  in the antebellum south, slaves in bbile times were mostly captives in war. They did not have a slave raising industry.

However, we can also do as you ask. How God commands the Hebrews to treat a defeated people after a battle:

16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.

Compare to how the Babylonians treated the Hebrews when they were defeated. The Babylonians did NOT kill every last one of them, instead they exiled the priesthood and the ruling class. Most of the people were allowed to live on as before. The Babylonians were FAR more humane.

You are assuming that the quotes you make  are indicative or Biblical norms. They did not always wipe out every one in battle.Even so the canon of OT was not fixed in the time of Christ. It was not closed until AD 90's. That means verses from Tenock may not have been part of what Jesus called Scripture. certainly we are free to ascertain that given passages constitute human input and not divine.

Joe: We can't expect people in the ancient world, who lived prior to the modern western concepts of autonomy, individualism and democracy and expect them to have learned better at Woodstock. They didn't have Woodstock to learn from and they weren't hippies, they had no sexaul revoltuion and they couldnt' go to a corner drug store and read about it in a teen magazine or a tabloid.

But supposedly they had God telling them! Why did God not tell them about the concepts of autonomy, individualism and democracy? I think it is because God is not real...

why did Jesus not introduced antiseptic surgery? Or nuclear power? God is working with human evolution he's not the big monolith from 2001 a space Odyssey.We are acquiring the sensibilities of the good by developing them as we go along.

Joe: But basically God keeps pace with the understanding of people.

Because he is imaginary, and the Christian concept of God changes as society changes. Hence God seems to keep pace with society.

That is not proof that God is not real. Assuming he is real, how do we avoid understanding him through our present state of awareness? We have to screen God's revelation to us through our understanding. What else can we do?

The Meaning of Imago Dei

Imago Dei or "image of God" is a major concept in christian theology. Many take it to mean the inellectual aspect of man patterened after the sentient qualifites of God. Some think of it as physical body.

Genesis 1:26-27

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground. 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them.”
Pete Enns argues "it is complete guesswork. It is also difficult to see what is gained here. Preserving the biblical description of human origins this way means it has to be adjusted well beyond what it says...

More importantly, equating image of God with the soul or other qualities that make us human puts a burden on Genesis 1:26-27 than it cannot bear—which brings us to the next point."[1]

But then turns around and bases his view entirely on guess work around a secondary meaning of image as a representation of likeness such as sculpture or painting.

J. Richard Middleton (Roberts Wesleyan College) puts it well in The Liberating Image. He offers that the image of God describes “the royal office or calling of human beings as God’s representatives and agents in the world.” Image of God means that humans have been given “power to share in God’s rule or administration of the earth’s resources and creatures.”[1] When one reads Genesis 1:26-27 with this in mind, the point becomes fairly obvious: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish…birds…cattle…wild animals…creeping things” (NRSV).
Are fish, birds, and livestock supposed to see man and say to themselves, "O that's like God being in charge of things?" It makes more sense that it either refers to God's physical body or to God's qualities as a conscious thinking entity. If one is not prepared to think of God as having a body, and I am not, then it must be the latter. The fact that the text equates image with ruling over creation indicates it's more than justa body. It's the quality that n=enables ruling over creation.

[1] Pete Enns,"What Does 'Image of God' Mean?" Biologos (July 27, 2010) accessed 1/5/2023

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Dark Side of the Bible

I was recently conversing with an atheist, who for lack of anything better to say, pulled out the old bit about how oprressive the Bible is. Of course he had to multiply examples with quote after quote about stoning the women and killing others and making slaves obey, yada yada yada, like I haven't thought about this. Iike I was a political organizer in the central America movmenet for years and a seminary student in a very liberal seminary, and I never gave a thought to the social relations in the Bible!

I said the verse about slaughter of the Amalektie infants was an interpolation. He responds with bo'd coup verses, one after another, all suppossedly saying the same things (of course they realy didn't say the same thing, just many things that offend the twentieth century sensiablity). Since there are just way too many veres to respond once for one, and it's all just mulitplying examples, I will list some general princples that I think answer the over all situtation viz God and social opression, especially as it realtes to the OT.

(1)But first, it's important to recognize the objective.

The atheist has to show that belief in God, speicifally the Hebrew God, made the situation worse. If it didn't worsen the lot of the people of that era, then where's the blame? To do that they have to do two things:

(a) compare to sourounding culture

(b) show that the problem comes directly from belief in the kind of God hte Hebrews had, as oppossed to other types of the day.

(2) Can't hold up ancient world people to modern standards.

We can't expect people in the ancinet world, who live prior to the modern western concepts of autonomy, indivuidualism and democracy and expect them to have leanred better at Woodstock. They didn't have Woodstock to learn from and they weren't hippies, they had no sexaul revoltuion and they couldnt' go to corner drug store and read about it in a teen magazine or a tabloid.

(3) Social Evolution not Revoltuion

Christ didn't explain to people how to build nuclear power plants or th theory of germs and anticeptic surgery, he didn't write medical books to make their lives better. He did some religious thing and went away again. That's becuase his mission was primarily spiritual. He was not a social revolutionary, even though what he said would be very revolutionary if it were practiced.

But basically God keeps pace with the understanding of people. The atheists seem to think that eveyrthing should be a vast revelation, unfolding of the new world before everyone's eyes. I've already sketched out my theory of soeteriologial drama in which God wants an individual search in the heart, and that's why he doesnt' pull back the veil of the sky, reveal heaven and set up shop on earth.

God allows us to make the journey. He allows us to set up our own socieity to apply the principles we learn to internatlize on our spiritual search as part of our ethical understanding concerning living in the world. Thus God allows Society to evolve at it's own place and allows the understanding of people to guide social reform and revolution.

Naturally things will look a lot rougher at the begining than at the end. The ancient world will be a lot more primative and barbarck than the modern world. That's just the conept of social evolution.

(4)The Bible is personal revealation not a guide to social utopia

What throws a lot of people off is that God seemed to be leading a nation in the OT. One would then expect that he would introduce that nation to the proper social enlightement. We forget a lot of those texts were polotical propaganda. The basic funciton of the OT is to form a cultural background so the mission of messiah makes sense. The real narue of Biblical revolation is the dialectical relationship between the reader and text. In other words, don't be suckered by ancient nationalism.

(5) The God led society was progressive

When you compare those barbaric practices of the Hebrews with those of sourrounding cultures they were better. They were more progressive. Consider the nature of war; most slaves were captives taken in war, for most nations around that day a woman captured in war was just a thing to be used as the captor saw fit. She would never again have any kind of rights or consideration and in a many cases be killed. In Hebrew culture she was protected form rape and in seven years had a chance to free herself.

*poor people could glean parts of the harvest for thsemselves

*everyone got land *women went to Moses and demanded their fair share and it was given them

*Women takne in slavery protected from rape

*in Jubalee year the captives could free themselves.

*court sysetm set up to hear compalints of people

actually most of this stuff is more progressive than Trump's social agenda.

(6) Christian principles led to modern concepts of personhood and human rights.

the slave owners in the American south followed their econimic interest. But the workers int he underground RR who tended to be christains, and quakers and abolitinoists over all followed their reilgious princples,and they oppossed salvery, and closed down the slave trade in the 1820's before the civil war, and latter supported the union and helped end the insittution of slavery in the Confederacy and went on to push for women's rights as well.

*First Women's sufferage group in America Pheobe Palmer and Methodist Woen's Association

* firstt organize Abolition groui in America, very same people, Methodist women

*Chrarles Finney crusaded agisnt slavery and supported the abolution movment,and brought the entire second great awakening into the cause. He said "revolution is of God when the intellegence and understanding of the people exceeds the oppression being done to them."

* *Pesant revolts in south Germany for rightrs of the poor

*Olypia, Deconess of Constantinople gave her personal fortune to free slaves. St. John Crysostom led social reform movment that was headed by man Deconeses of his diocesies.

*Christians for Socialism in 20th century chile

*CLamb Central america

*Snadinistas printed bibles tought Bible in literacy campign

*Father Ernesto Cardinal in Nicaragua, Father Camillio Tores in Boliva, all over Latin America Preists and nuns lead social and poltiical revolution against US cold war poltiics and social oppression.

*1930s America Chrsitians for socialism and industrial ation

*Dorothy Day supports christian socialism and starts comminites to bring soup kitchens to poor and share all goods in common.

In every time and place, in every social setting some chrsitrians have wored against the oppression to be the salt and light.

It's a journey of hte individual heart but it plays itself out in the way we relate to each other.