Roundup

I love this scene from The Simpsons where Homer buys a gun.

More evidence of the difference between intelligence and wisdom: Stephen Hawking: “Science Will Win” (over religion).  He perpetuates a false dichotomy (scientific inquiry can exist within God’s universe).  He makes multiple errors in this line alone:

When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible.

Size does not confer value (do wives prefer diamonds or boulders?).  He begs the question by assuming that human life is insignificant and accidental, because neither are true if God created it.

I hope that he repents and believes soon.

Anglicans impose sanctions against gay affirming Episcopal church – good for them.

The homosexual religious movement has done nothing good for the unity of the church. Quite the contrary, it has seeded and fostered division and disobedience to God and his word time and time again. Its good to know some church leaders are growing a backbone and responding with influence killing sanctions. And that’s best course of action with people who are hell bent on spreading sexual immorality and false teachings. Restrict, restrain and if possible kill their influence.

Are Gill Slits Really Powerful Evidence for Evolution? – no, just more bad science and propaganda.

Planned Parenthood has well established procedures to hide pedophiles like this from justice.

OF PELICANS AND BABIES – Mike highlights the moral schizophrenia of pro-legalized abortion Greens who fight to save every pelican.

The Crime of the Century (General Motors) – Steve nails it.  This was a massive, multi-billion dollar theft carried out by the Federal Government.

Who would have thought that euthanasia could have a downside? /sarcasm — New study analyzes the legalization of euthanasia in Belgium

The paper finds that nurses administered life-ending drugs without the patient’s consent in 120 cases, as compared with 128 cases where the patient requested the drugs.

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0 thoughts on “Roundup”

  1. I actually saw the Hawking interview on ABC. It was fascinating how Hawking, with all his intelligence, didn’t see the answer in front of him. Sawyer asked him what question he would like to have answered. He said (essentially) “I want to know why we’re here.” He pointed out that our existence was essentially impossible, so why did we come to exist? In the next breath, he denied the existence of God. Um, excuse me, but wouldn’t “An intelligence outside of our natural universe did it” be a natural, understandable, logical answer? You know, kind of like ignoring the elephant in the room. Having been told, “You can only answer the question from a naturalistic perspective”, the most obvious answer is now eliminated.

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    1. An intelligence outside of our natural universe did it

      For a scientist like Hawking, that answer doesn’t help. All it does it pose even more questions. From a naturalistic perspective, our existence is extremely unlikely, but given the vastness of the universe, the odds increase, and Hawking himself believes that we are not alone – that there are likely numerous civilizations out there.

      Hawking has spent his life finding things that seem completely unbelievable, and gradually, with investigation, finding natural explanations. Hawking has been radical before, and he has admitted being wrong before. If the evidence pointed to a source of intelligence outside of the universe, I don’t think he’d have a problem stating that. He’s got nothing to lose.

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      1. “He’s got nothing to lose”

        Except his reputation, which the militant atheist academy would destroy for daring to suggest that there is a God, and that it is not The Academy.

        If the man is unable to recognize that Christianity is not opposed to reason, a rather basic thing to grasp, we should question his ability to use reason in other areas.

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      2. You and others here, as well as this blog post attempt to destroy those who suggest (and that’s all he did) that there might not be a God. What’s the difference?

        His peers certainly would criticize him if he said there was a God. That’s what scientists do when their peers suggest something that isn’t supported by evidence.

        You’re making something out of nothing. Scientists rarely even talk about God. Science is the study of the natural world, and when you hear a scientist talking about the existence of God, it’s usually an answer to a reporter looking for a good sound bite, and some controversy to their story.

        As for Christianity is not opposed to reason, how else can he explain the standard rejection of mainstream science by many Christians? This idea that there is a tiny percentage of Christian biologists who know the real truth about our origins is destroying the reputation of Christianity when it comes to being reasonable.

        If you ask me, and I don’t expect you to, there is no conflict between believing in God, and believing in what is currently understood about the natural world. There is nothing wrong at all with looking at the natural world as God’s creation, and one does not need to reject science to do so. It’s not my conclusion, but I can’t fault those to disagree.

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      3. Ryan, you are being either ignorant or disingenuous. There are countless quotes and examples like this from Dr. Richard Lewontin from Harvard:

        Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.

        Implying there is no evidence is hyperbole gone mad — http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/hyperbole-gone-mad/ .

        As for Christianity is not opposed to reason, how else can he explain the standard rejection of mainstream science by many Christians?

        Straw man.

        Hope you enjoyed your two comments. I was feeling generous.

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      4. As for Christianity is not opposed to reason, how else can he explain the standard rejection of mainstream science by many Christians?

        An additional thought on that false argument. It is peddled so recklessly that I think the evos actually start to believe the propaganda. But think about how many branches of science there are and how many findings in each one. Think about the science of embryology, where pro-lifers are the ones trumpeting the scientific fact that a new human being is created at conception and the pro-abortionists switch from science to (bad) philosophy to push their agenda.

        There is one main area of conflict, and as noted in the Lewontin quote above the evos tipped their hand regarding their bias long ago. People like Ryan who pretend otherwise are either very poorly informed or lying.

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      5. Neil, forgive me, but you’re being a bit of a jerk.

        I don’t ask that you change your mind, but it when it is obvious that you’re not even willing to consider another’s opinion, you prove yourself a fundamentalist.

        I was having a civil conversation with someone on your blog, where YOU bring up controversial topics. You slide in and ridicule me, my intentions, my morality and my intelligence, and somehow manage to point out that I am lucky to be able to comment at all.

        You sir, are the one who is lucky to have a group of people here that are generally nice to each other, despite differing opinions, allowing you to have a voice through greater readership.

        If you want a one track website that promotes your religion without argument, turn the comments off and save yourself the trouble.

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      6. More deception on your part. We’ve been through this many times and I don’t appreciate your faux surpise. I obviously welcome opposing views but refuse to waste time with people who deliberately and endlessly equivocate. It is pointless. The end.

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      7. First person who mentions a GAY PINK UNICORN loses the argument.

        Seriously though, surely science has to proceed on the implicit assumption that God doesn’t exist? Even those scientists who believe in God must have to assume that God is not going to fiddle about with what they’re doing. What would science look like if we’re expecting a different result for every experiment? So we proceed as though God wasn’t there. At least, that’s how I understand this quote from Lewontin. I also have to wonder if any of the folk who love to use this particular quote have ever read anything else by him?

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      8. The opposite is true. God created an orderly universe so we can expect repeatability. Ryan & Co. just play that “God of the gaps” straw man card out of ignorance or deception.

        Sent from my iPhone

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      9. You’re building up quite a straw man Neil. If God created an orderly universe for us, then there is no need to invoke God in science. We can study science based on evidence alone, and individually, we can have our own believes of where it all came from. You can ridicule Hawking for doubting there is a God, but you have no basis to question his science.

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      10. Ryan, please read carefully and then comment. I didn’t question Hawking’s science. This is example #49 of why your comments are so tiresome when you address issues where you are so closed-minded.

        If God created an orderly universe for us, then there is no need to invoke God in science.

        You are mixed up. We invoke God as a completely logical explanation for creation of an orderly universe and life. That is where the evidence and logic points.

        Sigh. Back to moderation.

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      11. I think you’re getting your famous scientists mixed up. For the record, Richard Dawkins has been well known since he published “The Selfish Gene” back in 1976. It’s relatively recently that he’s become the Arch-Atheist.

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      12. “Seriously though, surely science has to proceed on the implicit assumption that God doesn’t exist?”

        Why must it proceed on the implicit assumption that God doesn’t exist?

        The founding of modern science was based on the assumption that God DOES exist, and since God is reasonable and logical, so too must the world he createdbe reasonable and logical, and thus we can use reason and logic alone as tools to better understand the world.

        It’s not that we proceed as if God were not present, rather, we proceed on the assumption that the universe we live in is orderly, reasonable, and logical… and that humans share a common attribute of reason and logic.

        I trust I have been clear in explaining this difference, if not I can try and rephrase.

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      13. “As for Christianity is not opposed to reason, how else can he explain the standard rejection of mainstream science by many Christians?”

        Considering we can look at 2000 years of Christian history of embracing reason, the tremendous contributions of Christians to science, etc… You’re a smart guy, I bet if you made a stab at answering this question yourself you might find the rather obvious answer.

        Considering the Amish are a relatively small (but cool) minority, I think it’s safe to say that the number of Christians who are rejecting modern science and technology is really quite few.

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      14. At this juncture I would like to re-recommend the book, “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization”, not because it’s about Catholicism, but because it primarily deals with demonstrating how pre-reformation Christianity (and a number of post reformation Catholics) were the driving forces behind so much modern science, etc.

        It’s no accident that the list of the most influential mathematicians and astronomers is filled with Jesuit priests.

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      15. Also, since when has one answer posing even more questions been a stumbling block for scientists? Isn’t that the nature of science? That is unless one’s open-minded curiosity has been replaced by a close-minded burden to prove what is already “known”.

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      16. That’s a good point. Perhaps I worded it wrong. The problem with this particular example is that the answer not only poses another question, but it poses the SAME question, and if we use the same logic we used for the first, we then ask “Who designed the designer?”

        Also, calling Dr Hawking “closed-minded” is ludicrous, if you know his work.

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      17. but it poses the SAME question, and if we use the same logic we used for the first, we then ask “Who designed the designer?”

        Oh noes! We never thought of that one! Oh wait, yes we did . . . and it has been answered a few thousand times.

        Also note how the materialists treat that as a trump card even though it isn’t a scientific argument and it ignores the rather obvious alternative: The universe must have existed eternally without a designer. But we know from science and philosophy that that isn’t true.

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      18. The “who designed the designer” reply is indeed a weak one. It is often raised when someone points out that an eternal universe and/or an infinite regress are impossible.

        To which the atheist replies, “oh yeah?? Well you believe in an infinite regress! So there!” which ignores that Christians don’t believe in an infinite regress… AND seems to imply an admission that infinite regresses are impossible.

        Nothing like admitting you are wrong when attempting to defend how right you are.

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      19. “who designed the designer?”

        unmoved mover. Uncaused causer.

        Nothing can come from nothing. If, before the big bang, there was nothing… Then the big bang could never have taken place, because nothing can only give rise to more nothing.

        So, at a specific point in time (probably the start of time) the nothingness gave rise to “something”, that something being this universe.

        An infinite regress is impossible, and violates basic laws of logic. The only logical explanation is that the universe was set in motion by some force that is capable of causing motion but is itself not in motion (otherwise we would have the issue of infinite regress). You can call this force whatever you wish. Some choose to call it God.

        Oh, and the person who came up with the big bang theory even while being bashed by the atheist academy for injecting religion into science? A catholic priest. Because Christians are so anti-science.

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      20. So, at a specific point in time (probably the start of time) the nothingness gave rise to “something”, that something being this universe.

        This will be my last attempt to politely answer a question. Neil. if you delete this, I will go away for good, so here’s your opportunity to rid your blog of my offensive comments. Kindly offer my email address to LCB in case he wishes to have a conversation about it.

        The big bang actually resulted not only in the creation of the universe, but in the creation of time. Just as one cannot travel further south than the south pole, one cannot go further back in time than the big bang.

        Do I truly understand what this means? Heck no. I doubt anyone does or ever will – but from what we have observed, the math shows that this event in the distant past did not actually have a preceding event.

        I explained my view on Christians being anti science, and retracted much of it, but that comment was deleted.

        Honestly, I don’t think anything that has been discovered in cosmology (or science) would lead a person to be an atheist.

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      21. Oh, man, that was tempting. But I approved it anyway.

        Now follow the commenting guidelines or don’t come back. If you don’t like the commenting guidelines, don’t come back. If you are going to pretend I haven’t been clear with the commenting guidelines, don’t come back, because if you don’t understand by now you never will and I don’t have time to babysit.

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      22. Ryan,

        I am aware that time probably began at the big bang.

        I’m not disagreeing with that, I simply used ‘probably’ because we can not say with as great of certitude as we can about other matters.

        All I am asserting is the following:
        I. An infinite regress is impossible
        II. At some specific point, nothingness somehow someway gave rise to somethingness

        The above two I suspect we agree on. I am further asserting:
        III. The only way that this could take place is if some force set everything in motion, yet is not itself in motion. That some force started the chain of causality, but is itself uncaused. We can call this whatever we wish. Some call it God. This isn’t the God of Christianity, merely an unmoved mover and uncaused causer.

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      23. I don’t think we disagree much on that at all, but it must be said that in order for something to give rise to something else, we need to rely on the existence of time (or not, perhaps causality is not related to time as much as I think). The current math shows that the big bang was not preceded by anything.

        It is in our nature to think that since there was a “bang”, then something caused it, but perhaps there was no more a cause to the big bang than there is a cause to the continuing motion of a ball that is already in motion. Perhaps the big bang was the only possible outcome of the state that existed before time was a factor – if that makes a shred of sense to anyone.

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      24. An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest.

        If you are willing to start making exceptions to this rule, perhaps we could talk about other exceptions to other rules? Or more exceptions to this rule?

        Maybe we could use a single term to describe all events which are exceptions to the natural order– I vote for “miracle.”

        I must warn you Ryan, you are coming dangerously close to coming to your senses and admitting “there is indeed a God”

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      25. An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest.

        Yes, I know, but “stays” implies the preceding state is known. If time began when the big bang “happened” then the universe has always been in motion.

        I’m not asking for an exemption to the laws of physics, and I’m not admitting there is a God.

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      26. So we can’t have a reasonable, logical universe without a reasonable, logical God? I’ll accept that as an explanation, although I have yet to hear any reason why that explanation is more logical or reasonable than other explanations that do not require God. Particularly when the properties of God are extended beyond reason and logic into loving, personal, desiring of relationship etc.

        Perhaps my only real problem with Christianity (lets leave aside other religions; we all know what we’re talking about here) is that once you’ve cracked open the door and stuck in the divine foot, you then leap from there to the conclusion that that explanation trumps all others, and should be accepted (with all the trimmings and accessories thrown in) by default. You don’t attempt to justify why an eternity of worshiping this deity is more logical than an eternity of non-existence. I’ve never heard an answer to the question I’ve asked a few times (although perhaps not here): What happens if you get to heaven and decide then that you actually don’t like what you see? What happens to your free will then?

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      27. On iPhone so can’t give a long reply. Ultimately I would indeed assert that a reasonabe logical universe can not exist without a reasonabe logical “prime mover”, which could also be called God. Which was the conclusion reached by the ancient Greeks 2500 years ago.

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      28. I agree that Christians shouldn’t take shortcuts. Two step conversations are reasonable: 1. There is a God. 2. He revealed himself through the Bible.

        “I’ve never heard an answer to the question I’ve asked a few times (although perhaps not here): What happens if you get to heaven and decide then that you actually don’t like what you see? What happens to your free will then?”

        You will be like Christ, so it would be impossible not to like it. Provocative question, but ultimately an answer would not be required to know enough about God.

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      29. P.S. I think the more pertinent question would be, “What if you are in Hell and decide that you’d rather have your sins imputed to Jesus’ account and his righteousness imputed to yours? Can you change your mind?” No.

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      30. Neil’s above post is pretty awesome.

        This is indeed a 2 part conversation.

        The first part is based on “There is a God”, the second part is “He revealed himself through the Bible.”

        The two parts are very different.

        We may determine “There is some supreme being, some unmoved mover or uncaused causer” just like the ancient greeks did. That doesn’t give us a #2.

        You further wrote,

        Perhaps my only real problem with Christianity (lets leave aside other religions; we all know what we’re talking about here) is that once you’ve cracked open the door and stuck in the divine foot, you then leap from there to the conclusion that that explanation trumps all others, and should be accepted (with all the trimmings and accessories thrown in) by default. You don’t attempt to justify why an eternity of worshiping this deity is more logical than an eternity of non-existence. I’ve never heard an answer to the question I’ve asked a few times (although perhaps not here): What happens if you get to heaven and decide then that you actually don’t like what you see? What happens to your free will then?

        I’d like to take that part by part.

        1) once you’ve cracked open the door and stuck in the divine foot, you then leap from there to the conclusion that that explanation trumps all others, and should be accepted (with all the trimmings and accessories thrown in) by default.

        I’m not sure entirely what you mean by that, as I know very few persons who assert that the explanation trumps all others. What we Christians are asserting is essentially this: A) That God exists B) That he created the universe C) That he revealed himself through the Scriptures. As far as I am aware we are asserting nothing more and nothing less.

        As I’ve stated elsewhere, the belief that we have a logical God and therefore a logical world has been the driving force behind many Christian scholars and scientists who have sought to better know that God (and know about Him) by better understanding what he has created.

        2) You don’t attempt to justify why an eternity of worshiping this deity is more logical than an eternity of non-existence.

        You are getting into some great meat-and-potatoes issues at this point.

        I’m not entirely sure what you are asking here. Perhaps you could rephrase this?

        I THINK what you are really asking is “Why would heaven be superior to non-existence?” Could you rephrase/clarify so I don’t go off on a tangent?

        3) What happens if you get to heaven and decide then that you actually don’t like what you see? What happens to your free will then?

        I ❤ this question.

        Let's talk about heaven for a second.

        In this world, this universe, we are subject to change. That's essentially what time is, the process of change. It is in time that we are capable of doing things like making decisions. Without the ability to change, we would not have free will. During the process of change we experience various things. Love and loss, joy and sadness, courage and fear, etc.

        When we go to heaven (God Willing!) we are entering into an unending, unchanging, eternal relationship with God.

        That eternal part is important, because in this context it doesn't really mean "A never ending stream of time", but it more means "A permanent unending single moment."

        So we are dealing with an eternal, unending single moment of complete total absolute joy and happiness. At that juncture, since we have left the world which is subject to change, we can no longer change. So to speak of "getting bored of heaven" is a bit of a misnomer, because there is no changing, so getting bored would be impossible.

        Obviously such things also apply to hell.

        When we speak about heaven we are speaking about a type of existence which is fundamentally different from the existence we currently experience. (It is for this reason that we Christians rightly point out the absurdity of Islam, for it describes heaven merely as an extension of Earth, but with less Jews, as opposed to a new and different sort of existence).

        I hope this helps a bit, and as always, I look forward to your reply. (It might be best to start a new post so the columns reset for your reply).

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      31. Thanks, I will reply as there is quite a bit I want to say on this, but due to circumstances it may only be tomorrow night.

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      32. No biggie. The meaning of life, the origins of all things, the the nature of heaven, and the identity of God are not exactly subjects that lend themselves to short blog posts.

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      1. I prefer blogs where my comments are not edited or truncated, and where I’m given an equal opportunity to respond to direct criticism of a point that I’ve made.

        I’m funny that way.

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      2. Agreed. Then again, you are reasoned and don’t play the time wasting games that some do, so you have a right to that expectation.

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      3. Out of over 24,000 comments on this blog I partially edited one where a guy appeared to be blogging while intoxicated and said something offensive to someone else. I deleted that portion as a courtesy to spare him embarrassment but he has grandstanded for the last two years about how I edit his comments. Yeah, sure. He doesn’t comment here anymore — my tolerance for false teachers is very low.

        I have comment guidelines posted and if anything I am guilty of being way too liberal and patient with them. I also give multiple warnings, and even gave Ryan a “once and for all, print and save this explanation” response. He conveniently ignored it. I think the end result of my policies is much closer to your own blog, where you can write anything, than it is to, say, the Houston Chronicle, where they publish very little and will change your wording if they like.

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      4. Oh, and of course, Ryan the materialist has no logical reason to complain, ever. He could never ground a moral principle that even “biased” comment moderation was wrong and if the universe came into being via his fantasy scenario then of course I’m just doing what would happen deterministically. My moderation — and my writing of this comment — couldn’t have happened any other way. Not sure why he’s so irrational about not seeing that . . .

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  2. I think you’re getting your famous scientists mixed up. For the record, Richard Dawkins has been well known since he published “The Selfish Gene” back in 1976. It’s relatively recently that he’s become the Arch-Atheist.

    Are you seriously suggesting that Dawkins’ gene discovery 3 decades ago, and not his “there is no God” rants, are the reason for the spotlight he currently enjoys?

    An apt scientist Dawkins may well be, but his aptitude in horn tooting surpasses even that.

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    1. Well put. And I’ll go one further. For Dawkins Atheism is a religion. He has spent more time trying to convert people to Atheism than most Christian do trying to convert people to Christianity.

      The difference is that we don’t question someone’s intelligence when we can’t convert them……………..

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      1. I had to laugh a bit at your last sentence, considering the majority of your comments here seem to be one sentence ad-homs, usually piggy-backing on someone else’s comment. There’s a good example right here in this thread.

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    2. No, but you didn’t say “the spotlight he currently enjoys” You said

      …everyone would be saying “Richard who?”

      I had heard of him before I even knew he was an atheist. Perhaps you hadn’t.

      This from 23 years ago. Doesn’t mention God once, doesn’t have to.

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      1. It certainly has. So what? Can a man not branch off? It should be said that Dawkins has two very separate groups of fans with very little overlap.

        His book “The Selfish Gene” has actually sold more copies than any of his other books (so far), and was aimed primarily at an academic audience. It’s not fair at all to say he would not be well known. He was already very famous.

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  3. Sorry, LCB, for the time taken to respond. I’ve been taking advantage of some of the best weather in years to get out into the Irish countryside.
    I don’t intend to try to pick holes in your arguments or attempt to fisk your comments when it comes to these philosophical and theological issues; I don’t have the knowledge or the training to do that. I have read some books on philosophy, in no small part due to my discussions here, but I do find it heavy going. I was, however, a Christian for a long time, and I was, and still am, a keen Bible reader. I believe that most Christians accept far too readily the various doctrines and ideas that make up the faith and are then sometimes placed in awkward positions when forced to defend them. I try to get people to think more deeply about these things, not always to get them to change their minds, but that together we might come closer to some sort of answer. That’s why I ask provocative questions, I’m not always doing it to be a s**t-stirrer. For example, I often read that the idea that we cease to exist when we die is absurd. I immediately ask, why is that any more absurd than some sort of eternal relationship which people cannot really define and struggle to describe? Heaven is far too often defined as some sort of nebulous opposite to the horrific descriptions of its alleged alternative.
    I also think there is a fundamental disconnect of sorts between the western philosophical ideas about God and what we read in the Bible, in particular the OT. The Jewish faith does not seem to have a well developed doctrine of the afterlife, and they were always more concerned with the actions of God in this world. I do think we can say that a more biblically consistent view of life after death involves “this world made perfect” as it was originally created, rather than a spiritual existence. The picture you give of heaven, the unending, unchanging, eternal relationship, does not, in my opinion, have much going for it. How can you have a relationship when you are no longer capable of making decisions? What you describe is not relationship but some sort of subsumation into a collective consciousness. And in this unchanging, timeless dimension, how did Satan manage to reject God?
    Further, I see the biblical authors having a personal view of God, passing judgement of, specifically, his laws and actions, not just his character. It didn’t seem to bother them that God is not supposed to be capable of issuing an illegal decree, as posited by religious philosophers. God is praised for making good laws, implying a standard that exists outside of him. The bible everywhere undermines the philosophical concepts of the absolute truth and standard, with its own inconsistency and incoherence in its own morality. The Christian is forced to accept that certain unpalatable actions must be moral.
    I was looking for a different quote from Bertrand Russell, when I came across this one:

    “But,” you might say, “none of this shakes my belief that 2 and 2 are 4.” You are quite right, except in marginal cases — and it is only in marginal cases that you are doubtful whether a certain animal is a dog or a certain length is less than a meter. Two must be two of something, and the proposition “2 and 2 are 4” is useless unless it can be applied. Two dogs and two dogs are certainly four dogs, but cases arise in which you are doubtful whether two of them are dogs. “Well, at any rate there are four animals,” you may say. But there are microorganisms concerning which it is doubtful whether they are animals or plants. “Well, then living organisms,” you say. But there are things of which it is doubtful whether they are living organisms or not. You will be driven into saying: “Two entities and two entities are four entities.” When you have told me what you mean by “entity,” we will resume the argument.

    That probably sums up my personal frustration with claims to “know the truth.” I don’t, but I don’t think anyone else does either.

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    1. Okay, in my ongoing series of attempting to fully address your comment here RB, I’ll take another part of it.

      The weather here has also been spectacular (and cool, too), so being a ComBox warrior has not been on top of my priority list lately.

      You write,

      I also think we can say that a more biblically consistent view of life after death involves “this world made perfect” as it was originally created, rather than a spiritual existence. The picture you give of heaven, the unending, unchanging, eternal relationship, does not, in my opinion, have much going for it. How can you have a relationship when you are no longer capable of making decisions? What you describe is not relationship but some sort of subsumation into a collective consciousness. And in this unchanging, timeless dimension, how did Satan manage to reject God?

      These are good and important matters to discuss, and throughout Christian history a tremendous amount of discussion has gone into them. From my reading of this paragraph I see 3 distinct issues:

      1) The current view Christians have of “life after death” in relation /possible opposition to what appears in Scripture;

      2) “How can you have a relationship when you are no longer capable of making decisions?”;

      3) “And in this unchanging, timeless dimension, how did Satan manage to reject God?”

      I shall take these matters in reverse order.

      Before doing so, I’d like to take just a moment to note that when we begin to discuss various aspects of heaven and eternity, we are going to hit a wall of sorts. There reaches a point where the discussion shifts to matters that are “mysteries of the faith”, which means not that they can’t be understood or explained, but that they can not be fully described and explained.

      3) How did Satan manage to reject God?

      This has been a matter that theologians have discussed for a great long time. The best explanation I can recall (and unfortunately I can’t recall sources ATM, but the explanation seems quite Thomistic to me) goes as such:

      A) The ability to reject God, requires a few different things. Among them are free will, and the ability to exercise that free will through choice.
      B) We humans, existing in time and therefore subject to the process of ‘change’ can choose one thing, and then later choose another (in most instances. Some things can’t be undone, but you get my drift).
      C) Satan, being counted among the angels (still counted among them, but fallen) was not and is not subject to these processes of change that we mortals experience.
      D) Rather, being a creation of pure spirit, was created at a singular moment (presumably a moment outside of time). He was created with an intellect, free will, and so on.
      E) At the very instance of his creation, he was likely provided with the ability to make a choice about if he would or would not serve the Living God. Having free will, he freely choose not to do.
      F) In this sense, it helps to think of all angels like “eternal light switches” in that at the moment of their creation they are capable of choosing if they are to be eternally ‘on’ or eternally ‘off’. However, not being subject to change, they would never again be able to choose otherwise.
      G) So Satan, most likely at the moment of his creation, made the choice of “non serviam” “I will not serve”

      I hope this helps lay out a framework for understanding the matter.

      2) “How can you have a relationship when you are no longer capable of making decisions?”

      Easy. In this lifetime we make our decision. When we die, if we have chosen the gift freely offered by God, we will have eternal life with Him.

      Let’s use an example: Some sorts of bonds, relationships, can not be undone. They might LEGALLY be declared null, but the bond or relationship still exists. For example, father and son, mother and daughter.

      No amount of anything can make a father stop being the biological father of his son. No amount of anything can make a mother stop being the biological mother to her daughter. (In this I speak not of behavior, but of the reality of the relationship).

      In this you and I may begin to differ, because I am asserting that certain metaphysical and ontological realities ARE. Neil IS the father to his daughters, for all time. They both may perish in due time as all humans do, but even then, Neil still IS the biological father to his daughters, and they ARE the daughters of Neil. I am asserting that there are certain things that are beyond physical, but are metaphysical and ontological.

      And so we enter into eternal relationship with God, which is unchanging in that it fulfills all human desires and is the pinnacle of all happiness.

      In this it helps to understand better the Christian worldview (and this is is heavily thomistic)… all of have a source, ultimately that source is God. Additionally, we all also have a goal, a direction, a particular end. That is also God. He is rightly called the Alpha and the Omega.

      So, we are asserting that the very purpose of our existence is to enter into an eternal relationship with God, which will perfectly satisfy us for all time. You may ask “How would it do such a thing” To which I would respond “That is the nature of the relationship, that it fulfils in such a way.” This may SEEM like a circular argument, but it is not, it’s actually simply an internally consistent argument.

      1) The current view Christians have of “life after death” in relation /possible opposition to what appears in Scripture

      In a previous post we discussed the development of doctrine of the afterlife in Judaism.

      Today we will conclude that discussion by considering Christian development of that doctrine, and to do so we must take into account the account of the Garden in Genesis.

      A) When we first consider the garden in Genesis we may think of it as heaven, but a careful examination will reveal to us that it is not itself heaven (though likely an excellent image of heaven, just as we are an image of God). At various points man is described as lacking something. There is indeed some form of pain in the garden (as after being cast out the judgment on Adam and Eve explain that the “birth pains shall be increased” indicating they already existed). Man and woman are in a very high relationship with God (who walks in the garden during the ‘breezy time of day’ which in the Mediterranean basin is in the time around sunset, when, as the earth cools the hot air of the land blows out to sea and the cool air of the sea blows over the land via convection), but it is not a constant relationship. Finally, they are clearly subject to the forces of change since they are capable of eating of the forbidden fruit (which they are told will have bad consequences if they do… from hebrew it is best translated as “If you eat of this fruit, dying you shall surely die” which is a form of a warning, not a threat)… and as you recall from our previous discussion, the early Hebrew notion of the love of God was grounded greatly in the concept of “Having a long life on the land.” So Adam and Eve were experiencing the best of blessings possible to mankind… BEFORE THE COMING OF CHRIST.

      B) Sin enters the world through their actions, mankind becomes fallen and in need of redemption. A bunch of stuff happens. Jesus eventually shows up. He forgives sins. But humans are not restored to the garden merely by the forgiveness of sins

      C) The promises Jesus makes go significantly above and beyond what was experienced in the garden, showing us the garden is not the pinnacle of what can be reached/achieved/given

      D) Jesus dies and rises (as did Adam and Eve) and Paul refers to Him as “The New Adam”, the first of the new creation, etc etc.

      E) We are promised the same type of New Life that Jesus experienced post resurrection. He is clearly still human, but he is now somehow tremendously different as well. He is seemingly in multiple places at once. He bears wounds that are seemingly deadly wounds, and yet he lives. He sometimes can’t be recognized, and then suddenly is recognized. He seems to have no need of food, and yet He clearly eats and is not a ‘ghost.’ He was dead, but now he is alive.

      F) It is for this reason that Christians lay out a multi-part theology, in which after we all die here on Earth, we enter into a Spiritual relationship with God (or are in Hell, which is the absence of eternal relationship with God). We undergo a particular judgment at the moment of our death, which will seal our fate for all eternity.

      At the end of the world, there shall be an additional final judgment. There will be (as scripture explains) a bodily Resurrection of all persons who have ever lived (presumably what Jesus experienced), and all person’s sins will be laid bare for all to see. All judgments shall be made known to all, and all injustices righted either through God’s infinite Mercy or infinite Justice. Both heaven and earth shall pass away, and there shall be a new heavenly city where the elect dwell. Those unfortunate souls sent to hell will remain eternally separated from God.

      We can’t say exactly what this future place will be like, it is beyond the ability of human comprehension. But after the final judgment heaven will be both a bodily and a spiritual existence. The relationship will remain forever perfect with God, fulfilling all human desires for all eternity unchanging.

      Beyond that we become rather limited in what we can say about that which (presumably) does not yet exist.

      G) It is for these reasons, when we consult Scripture and recognize what it clearly says that we can say that groups like the Jehova’s Witnesses are clearly in error when they teach of a restoration of the Garden, and the Mormons are clearly in error on a great many things, since they are in direct contradiction to what is stated in the text.

      CONCLUSION:

      I hope this helps you better understand both the development of doctrine in this regard and what it is that Christians believe.

      Ultimately some of these things can neither be fully explained or understood because they are part of the “mystery of faith” and are simply beyond full human comprehension. It doesn’t mean that we can’t try, it just means that an infinite mystery can’t be totally comprehended by a finite mind.

      I could go into some greater detail in these regards, but these are matters of obviously very heavy weight, and to more fully address them would kick my post beyond “long blog comment post” and into “essay length”, and at that point it would be simply more efficient for me to start recommending actual essays and actual books on these topics. 😀

      EXIT QUESTION:

      At this juncture we’re exploring some seriously deep issues within Christianity.

      I assert that Jesus is Lord, and is exactly who He claims to have been: the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

      Maybe it’s worth giving Christianity another shot?

      Like

  4. RB, no worries about the time of the response. As I said above, these aren’t matters that lend themselves to brief posting.

    Tomorrow I’ll give a full length response to your post, which brings up a number and worthy matters for discussion. Tonight, however, I’m going to limit myself to a mere 3 short bullet pointed responses. Standard disclaimer to others who may be reading, RB and I will often use bullet pointed responses when dialoging to make sure different topics don’t get mixed up with each other.

    1) In terms of the issue of the the afterlife in the OT, and the development of doctrine in that regard, you bring up a very important matter that deserves serious consideration. At this juncture, however, I would like to simply note that if you take the OT books and place them in more-or-less standard chronological order (though the dates of some documents are disputed, the chronological order of the OT documents is rarely in serious dispute) you will see a development of doctrine over the generations taking place.

    This developing doctrine always remains in continuity with the past, so you’re not seeing a situation of “They believed X at this point, but it changed to Y.” I (as would a number of scholars, though not all scholars) would point to a few key points. They are this.
    A) The egyptians had a very detailed, specific and graphic notion of the afterlife. From a historical perspective, it makes sense that the Israelites would reject getting into heavy afterlife issues in the years following the Exodus, since they had strongly and sternly rejected Egyptian religion

    B) The Israelites seem, from the textual evidence, to have been satisfied for some time with the notion that strongest sign of a relationship with God and being subject to His blessings was to experience, “A long life on the land.” This is the theological reason you see the text describing righteous persons as living for a great long time (ignoring any debate about if they did or not, this seems to be part of the theology the text is trying to bring out). The idea of Sheoul was really quite ambiguous.

    Only after their return from Exile (likely when the book of Job was written in its current and finalized form) do the Jews really begin to grapple and struggle with the issue of how one knows they are blessed by the Lord, and are in a good relationship with him. Since you say (and I believe you when you say it) that you’re familiar with the text of Scripture, I trust that you understand the sorts of struggles I’m referencing, as we see these play out in the post-exile works.

    C) The advanced development of concepts of the afterlife is intimately, tightly, inseparably connected to the development of concepts of the “Messiah” (in Greek, the Christ, that is, “the anointed one of God”). The Jewish people, since their earliest days, had always perceived a link between the Land, the Kingdom, and God’s blessings.

    It is for this reason that Protestants should all be familiar with the Books of the Maccabees. I regard them as canonical, though most Protestants do not.

    Maccabees shows us how the driving ideas behind Judaism were in total crisis. The activity of keeping the Law was causing Jews to be killed, slaughtered, conquered, and scattered to the winds. It is in this historical period that the Jews come to the fullness of understanding that they are in terrible need of a Messiah, a Savior, a son of God (lowercase “s”) patterned after King David (who was called “a son of God” and who was also an anointed King).

    At this juncture I would point out the importance of recalling that God’s primary attribute is not that he is the “god of fire” or “god of rain” but is the God of History itself, directs History, and acts IN History. So this expectation of God intervening an sending a Messiah is internally consistent with previous Jewish theology/philosophy. This also helps people understand why there was great pressure on Jesus to be a militarily leader, to declare himself King, to overthrow the Romans… because that is sort of what David did as well. Then the power of God would intervene in history, as it had in the past, to crush the oppressors and restore the Kingdom.

    D) But the Messiah that came, Jesus, was not merely a “son of God” but was GOD HIMSELF. And he proclaimed that the Kingdom was far more than just the land, but was a ‘kingdom not of this world, and God showed his power not by overthrowing the Roman Empire, but by overthrowing death itself (this had been a huge issue for the jews, since they had originally viewed God’s blessing as synonymous with life, but Jews were being killed for following God) which is the ultimate rebuke to all powers of the world. Their most powerful tool, murder, is undone and forever defeated.

    If you can’t read the Maccabees books, you may find that helpful in filling in your historical perspective (as even most Protestants regard the books as important historical records)

    2) I think both of us, as well as Neil, share the perspective of Socrates that “The unexamined life is not worth living” and that we should always question and challenge things that are taken for granted, and be willing to admit our own immense ignorance on many matters in order to become wise.

    3) I do think, however, that there is a fundamental difference between merely questioning things for the sake of questioning, and questioning things for the sake of discovering truth and knowing.

    Ultimately that is what the mind seeks, truth. Skepticism is a good tool, but it is just that, a tool, we should not treat it like an end unto itself. Once we obtain answers, or draw closer to the answers, we should follow those answers in the direction they take us. For they are, after all, the truth. And from the information available it seems rather likely that God does exist, in the first part, and in the second part that he has revealed a great deal about himself through human history.

    It is for that reason that the most logical course of action, in accordance with the truth, is to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and follow Him as He has asked you to.

    CONCLUSION:

    Since the issue of Jewish afterlife conceptions is sort of mostly different from the rest of your post, and the issue of healthy skepticism is also sort of mostly different, I have attempted to reply to them in some fashion in this post since both can well addressed on their own with nice little bows tied around them.

    MY RECOMMENDATION:
    Read Alisdair McIntyre’s “After Virtue”

    Like

    1. “After Virtue” has been ordered from Amazon UK. As for the Maccabees, I used to have an Apocrypha but after two moves in 5 months (long story) I lost a box of books along the way. I assume they’re in the Catholic Bible, I could just get one of those; they must have one or two available here 🙂

      Concerning the historicity of the OT, I have been persuaded by the arguments of historical criticism to accept that the OT should not be regarded as necessarily describing actual events. Considering the importance of say, the Exodus, in the overall salvation theme which does run through the whole Bible, can one take the view that the actual Exodus as described didn’t happen, but is some sort of metaphor for salvation? And still be a Christian? I had always thought you could not, as it would seem to be blasphemous to even consider that perhaps there never was an actual Moses, and that the people to whom Ezra read the law had never heard it before, not because it had been forgotten but because much of it was new.

      I am interested to hear your thoughts on this; is historical criticism reconcilable with being a ‘true’ Christian, if we are saying that things of which Jesus himself spoke didn’t happen?

      Like

      1. iPhone response– will respond fully later.

        I find it very helpful to recall 2 things in regards to scripture and history:
        1) most of scripture is not intended to be the sort of modern history text we use today. Rather, most of scripture is intended to tell ‘salvation history’, that is, the story of God’s interaction and intervention in history (since He is the God of history). Often this means that past events are interpreted from a theological lense. In the ancient world the telling of
        history and the interpreting of history are inseperable.

        2) When Christians recall my point above, we also recall that the Holy Spirit is the primary author of scripture. So, what appears in the text is what the Spirit wanted to appear in the text.

        My faith in the inerrancy of scripture is not the faith that it is a modern textbook. The Gospels, for example, aren’t that sort of document.

        2000 years later we have no way of knowing “did Jesus really say this, but not that?” they are Greek documents telling an Aramaic story. They are theological documents.

        And that is why we emphasize that the scriptures can only be understood through the eyes of faith, otherwise a person is lacking the interpreative key used to unlock the text.

        From the perspective of faith, it makes much more sense. The text as we have received it is what the Holy Spirit wanted us to receive.

        Like

  5. Hi LCB, some interesting stuff in this thread, like “a long life on the land” and all that.

    Surely interpretation is inseparable from *any* telling of history — to tell a story about past events is to highlight or ignore according to some narrative conceit. I can tell a salvation history, or a political history, a feminist history, a labor history, whatever. I can highlight a leader’s character as a driver of world events, or I can highlight external contingencies as drivers of his/her actions. But the facts leave only so much scope for interpretation. There’s no storytelling angle that will allow me to credibly claim the holocaust didn’t happen, or that Moses existed when he didn’t.

    Does “salvation history” mean “myth told as history?”

    Like

    1. There’s no storytelling angle that will allow me to credibly claim the holocaust didn’t happen, or that Moses existed when he didn’t.

      Yes, and no storytelling angle to know if that philosophy is gibberish or not . . . oh, wait, yes there is: It is illogical and doesn’t conform to reality. Using your logic we should ignore your logic. Hmmmm . . . maybe you’re onto something . . .

      Does “salvation history” mean “myth told as history?”

      No, Christianity isn’t like some gutless po-mo religion or philosophy. While the Bible does use illustrations (e.g., parables) and different types of literature (poetry, etc.) one can tell by the context when it is narrating historical facts (unless one is busy playing games).

      Like

      1. So you think there *is* a storytelling angle that will allow me to credibly deny the holocaust? Who’s the pomo here?

        Seriously, I wonder if you misread me. I’m not especially pomo. Postmodernism has some insights and a lot of unjustified extrapolation of those insights. I’m not saying there are no objective facts of history, I’m just repeating the commonplace that to write a history book involves selecting among those facts, highlighting certain factors as causes or effects while leaving other candidates aside. Or, even more simply, focusing on a particular strand of events (like God’s communications with humankind, or technology, or legislation, or class tensions) to the exclusion of others.

        I’m just asking LCB to clarify: when you say OT history is told through a theological lens, are you merely saying that it focuses on theological events, in the same way that “Team of Rivals” focuses on Lincoln’s cabinet-building philosophy? Because if so, “the telling of
        history and the interpreting of history are inseperable” strikes me as being quite as true of a modern history text as of the ancient world. Or are you saying that they had a less definite regard for the facts?

        Like

      2. What I am trying to say is this: the modern concept of ‘objective’ history didn’t exist in the ancient world.

        To fully understand the text we have to understand how the human writers were operating.

        To the ancients the telling of an historical event was inseperable from the telling of the WHY of that event, whereas today we try to split hairs on such things. Just as today we talk about ‘church and state’ whereas to the ancients they were essentially identical.

        So, for example, since God is believe to reveal Himself in history, the telling of… Say… The exodus or the exile can not be told (for the ancient writer) in any way other than from a theological perspective. Further, these things will always tell us about the identity of God.

        That is what I mean when I say they are inseperable to the ancient authors. I hope that helps clarify. They weren’t trying to write a modern style objective text, they were trying to write a theologized history.

        Like

      3. Ta LCB. I still feel like there’s a straight answer eluding us though: what does this mean about their relationship to what, actually, happened? Are they still concerned that when they say something happened, it should be the case that it really did?

        To believe that history *is*, objectively, a tale about God is different from believing there are no objective facts about what happened.

        “Just as today we talk about ‘church and state’ whereas to the ancients they were essentially identical.”

        I hope you think that’s a positive development in any non-monolithic society?

        Like

      4. We can never know the exact relationship between what “actually” happened and what the text says.

        The Scriptures are faith documents, at most points not intended to provide the sort of “fact” approach modern history textbooks provide.

        Asking the scriptures to give you that sort of information is like asking a modern history textbook to discuss God’s role in WW2. It isn’t what the text is intended to do.

        Trying to establish the “actual” facts of precisely what occured in the deserts of Egypt 3000 years ago in a way that satisfies a modern history textbook is possible. Various approaches allow us to draw some additional information from the text (on a probability basis), other available archeological evidence supports the text in general terms… But that’s the best that can be done.

        So, what you are left with is basicly what you started with. A faith based document that provides a theological view of a set of events. Broad historical evidence shows the document contains much accurate information in general terms, and that’s simply all we have… And likely all we are
        going to get 3000 years later.

        You can take it. You can leave it. But it is what it
        is. I, on the testimony of my forefathers in the faith and the teaching of the Church, accept the documents as the Word of God. Scripture at various points has various levels of meaning. The Exodus account has 2 seeminlgy contradictory accounts of the ‘battle at the sea’. It doesn’t mean there were 2 different events, but there are 2 ways of talking about the same event. The Genesi. Documents has 2 different creation accounts. Does that mean there are 2 earths? No. They are both theological documents and the deepest truths they express are theological truths.

        I hope this helps you.

        As for the issue of church-state, my
        opinion is irrelevent to this discussion. I was using it as an example to illustrate in the ancient world how things we split apart today were not split apart then. To understand their texts we must understand their contexts.

        Like

      5. Well I shouldn’t labor the point (don’t feel much passionate about it anyway), and I always appreciate your professorly patience. Still, I’m obliged to let the record show that the question which remains unanswered for me is, whether you think it’s possible that the OT includes *inaccurate* accounts of events: not just whether it omits things that aren’t part of the story it’s trying to tell. I know you say we won’t ever know the actual events, but do you consider falsehoods or inaccuracies possible. That’s all.

        You say you accept it all as the word of God; I’m not clear whether that means for you that it necessarily gets its facts straight, or just that it gets its theological meaning straight.

        “As for the issue of church-state, my opinion is irrelevent to this discussion.”

        Fair enough. I just likes to know who I’m dealin with, patriot or traitor.

        Like

      6. I can not continue dialog with an individual who is seeking to discover if I am a traitor.

        Thank you for the discussion thusfar.

        Good day, Sir.

        Like

      7. Aw, I mean it as lighthearted provocation of course. I think theocratic leanings are more than unfortunate, but it’s not a PERSONAL matter: I understand why they go with the territory for people who think in covenantal terms. It’s just that, objectively, it would mean you don’t share the American liberty project which I tend to take for granted as common ground. Or, used to: I don’t take it for granted around here anymore. Sheesh, Neil didn’t even condemn Uganda’s death penalty for gays when I invited him to once. (He didn’t say anything in support of it either, but he was silent on the matter. It’s quite possible he just missed it or was choosing his battles or busy … Neil)?

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      8. Nothing personal, Seas, but while I usually read all of everyone’s comments I often just scan a couple lines of yours (I obviously read this one).

        Though I will say you seem to have become pithier, which is good.

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      9. Not too hard to be pithy when the whole content of my comments is, “do you mean that OT authors could have been inaccurate?”

        So do you condemn the Ugandan laws?

        Like

      10. Oops, that sounded too snarky. Just read the 1,900+ posts here and you’ll get a good idea of where I would stand (provided you have properly characterized the actual situation).

        Like

  6. (Thread’s gettin thin, I’ll start down here agin — this is re the thread with myself, Neil and LCB on OT accuracy & Ugandan/Israelite/American theocracy).

    Yikes, nobody’s much into answering simple questions around here today.

    Well of course it’s good to be informed before you declare a view, but how much more context do you need before condemning laws that punish homosexuality with penalties up to and including death?

    I’ve picked up this much about your views: that you think the Bible’s perfect and thus think all the vicious OT laws were appropriate for their time and place (Israelite theocracy). You’ve also said they don’t necessarily apply in other situations, but obviously if they were appropriate once, since God’s nature doesn’t change, then there are hypothetical situations in which they’d be appropriate again. To me, it goes without saying, that’s a very scary view, and certainly constitutes a less than total allegiance to the democracy project.

    Now if I were a Christian, by your lights, I’d have to accept God’s decrees as righteous whether I understood them or not. So when I encountered, say, this Ugandan legislation, I’d have to withhold my judgment until I’d read my Bible some more to figure out what’s orthodox. I couldn’t comment based on my own freshest instincts. How extraordinary to carry that confusing and self-conscious load on your back at all times.

    Like

    1. It is only confusing when you aren’t willing or able to characterize it properly.

      Again, nothing personal (really), but while you are welcome to comment here I decided long ago that nothing I could say was going to reach you. So don’t be upset or surprised when I mainly ignore you.

      Sent from my iPhone

      Like

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