Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Barefoot Bum melts down

It's actually a pretty impressive rant. Too bad it's misdirected.

To be fair, I've had to take my lumps over the years as well. I've learned that I can start to feel invincible, untouchable, when I get behind a keyboard facing an adversary in ideology. It's far different from a face-to-face encounter where tone of voice, nuance, and body language come through. Anymore, for long emails and posts that are emotional in nature, I often take a break and come back to it later in order to cool down and straighten out my head. It looks like the Barefoot Bum could stand to learn that lesson as well.

So I've left this comment:

Rhology responded, "I'll be happy to provide biblical documentation at any time, just ask."
I never figured that statement was an offer to "prove" the Bible is the Word of God. So, I think we're suffering some miscommunication here.


Here's how it all went down:


The BB: Even leaving aside the question of God's existence, why should I assume there's any correlation whatsoever between what you say and what God wants?


Rhology: Not asking you to assume it. I'll be happy to provide biblical documentation at any time, just ask. TGOTB has self-revealed in the Bible, so I'm just reporting it. Don't shoot the messenger.



The reader not tainted by recent temper tantrums will note that I was referring to biblical documentation on the lines of how I can be sure I know that the Bible teaches what I'm saying it teaches.
Your request to write an essay proving the Bible's divine origin is quite a different question. I could provide plenty of evidence for it, but the question is: would you accept it? Take my position on for just a sec - IF the Bible is indeed the Word of God, and you don't believe in it, that makes you a truth-suppressing wicked man who hates God and loves darkness. Why would anyone listen to someone who never takes off his blindfold and refuses directions from those who can see?


So, if my presuppositions are correct, then you're saying exactly what one should expect you to say.


Finally, given your penchant for emoting, I shouldn't be surprised at this post, but I had hoped for more. But caught up in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to think straight.



Peace,
Rhology

16 comments:

Rhology said...

I should have added: One of my favorite things about this exchange is that the BB ends up accusing me of slander, b/c I told him that he "suppresses the truth in wickedness" (Romans 1:18-20).
But he, of course, is 100% justified in calling me a liar, even though he completely misunderstood the thrust of the relevant comment and refused correction even when I reposted the context. Amazing stuff.

Billy said...

I'll accept any evidence that you can provide that the Bible is the Word of God, so please provide some.

Rhology said...

Hi Billy,

Here's a good place to start.

I'd add this and this.

I'd be interested to know what you think of these.

Rhology said...

I'd add that I don't start w/ the Bible in my attempts to prove that Christianity is true. I presuppose it, yes, but that's not the same as using it as a proof for my position. Often my 1st question would be: On what basis is evidence helpful in discovering truth? when I encounter a question like "I'll accept any evidence that the Bible is the Word of God..."

Billy said...

The first link is self-referential, particularly since at the time that Paul was writing "the Bible" didn't exist as a canonical set of books. The second link didn't mention the bible, so I'm not sure how it supports the argument. The third link looked to be more promising, but was in the end disappointing.

1. Psychological realism. This isn't an argument for the Bible being a real-life record; writers create characters all the time. However I accept that many books of the Bible were written in their historical context and frequently reflect real events and characters. Unfortunately this is not evidence that the Bible is the word of God.

2. "Thematic consilience." The argument appears to be that Jewish themes reappear in the narrative around Jesus. That's hardly surprising, is it? His early followers claim messianic status for him, and are anxious to tie his being and message to the Jewish tradition as strongly as possible. In a religious society, it's hardly surprising that the same themes keep emerging; again, it's not evidence that the Bible is the word of God.

3,4,5,6,etc. You'll just have to take my word that I read the whole piece. While it was interesting and provided some useful references to follow up on, there's not a single piece of specific evidence that the Bible is the word of God. Doubtless you feel differently, but if that is the case then we have different definitions of the word "evidence".

Rhology said...

You read this, did you?

What are your responses to the many fulfilled prophecies in the Bible? That is perhaps the strongest argument.

But yes, I have no doubt that you and I have different definitions of "evidence" b/c we are, presumably, coming from different worldviews. In particular, we tend in large part to employ brute facts as 'evidence' of our presuppositions, each of us. The Bible as Word of God doesn't make a whole lot of sense if your presupp is that God doesn't exist.

So, I'd like to know where you're coming from. Are you a theist? Atheist? Agnostic? Other religion?
How does one discover truth?

Peace,
Rhology

Billy said...

"What are your responses to the many fulfilled prophecies in the Bible?"

You mean prophecies in the Bible that are reported to have been fulfilled by the Bible? Again, that's self-referential.

"In particular, we tend in large part to employ brute facts as 'evidence' of our presuppositions, each of us."

Well, facts are generally accepted as evidence. The third link you provided doesn't actually contain any facts, though; it's largely opinion, occasionally referencing fact (e.g. "historical centredness"). I hope you're aware of that?

"The Bible as Word of God doesn't make a whole lot of sense if your presupp is that God doesn't exist."

I have no such presupposition.

"So, I'd like to know where you're coming from. Are you a theist? Atheist? Agnostic? Other religion?
How does one discover truth?"

I'm not sure why the question is relevant, to be honest, unless you believe that people with different beliefs are fundamentally different in some way that defies rational discource? I believe in God, but probably not a God that you'd recognise, and I'd need to know what you mean by "truth" before I can answer the other question.

Rhology said...

hi Billy,

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/09/word-of-god.html

You mean prophecies in the Bible that are reported to have been fulfilled by the Bible? Again, that's self-referential.

1) That's not the case for all of them. Many, many prophecies about the Messiah are fulfilled in Jesus and are referred to outside the Bible.
2) Why should I distrust what the Bible says? What is your reasoning?

facts are generally accepted as evidence.

Don't conflate the two categories. Facts are facts. Evidence is facts that someone has ascribed an explanatory value to for a specific position.
I as a theist see the universe as an evidence of God. An atheist sees the universe as evidence that God doesn't exist. Etc.

The third link you provided doesn't actually contain any facts

That's a perfect example of what I mean. I count quite a large number of facts in there.
B/c of this strange comment, I have to wonder (even more strongly than before) whether you are serious.

I have no such presupposition.

OK. May I ask what your relevant presupposition is?


I'm not sure why the question is relevant, to be honest, unless you believe that people with different beliefs are fundamentally different in some way that defies rational discource?


Yes, I absolutely believe that.
The problem is that the Bible teaches the following about humanity:
1) They know that God exists.
2) They refuse to admit it.
3) They love sin rather than to turn to God in repentance.
4) So they lie to themselves and others about God.
Etc.

So yes, I'd like to know this about you.

I'd need to know what you mean by "truth" before I can answer the other question.

That's worthy of a raise of the eyebrow.
Truth = that which corresponds to reality.
Why, what is your definition?

Peace,
Rhology

Rhology said...

Oops, forgot to hyperlink that link up there, but it's useful as well.

Billy said...

I have to be brutally honest, Rhology; questioning whether I am serious or not on the basis of my opinion is a particularly patronising stance to take. You might want to stop with that shit pronto.

"1) That's not the case for all of them. Many, many prophecies about the Messiah are fulfilled in Jesus and are referred to outside the Bible."

Yeah, it's pretty much the case for all of them, as far as I can see, and I'll be genuinely surprised if you can give me one that isn't. I've been given examples by others, but generally they required quite a stretch of the imagination to accept that they're "fulfilled". Prophecies about the Messiah being fulfilled in Jesus are clearly excluded; those prophecies are recorded in the Bible, and our only knowledge of the person of Jesus comes from the Bible.

"2) Why should I distrust what the Bible says? What is your reasoning?"

I didn't say you should distrust what the Bible says, any more than you should "distrust" any other historical document. What I am saying is that if the Bible is a unitary text, then it can't be taken as evidence to support itself; if you are prepared to accept that it is not a unitary text, then you can enlist books in the Bible to support other books. However in both cases the standard disclaimer applies; the evidence needs to be considered on its own terms.

"Don't conflate the two categories. Facts are facts. Evidence is facts that someone has ascribed an explanatory value to for a specific position."

I didn't conflate the two categories. I said that facts are generally accepted as evidence, clearly identifying that there are two categories.

"I as a theist see the universe as an evidence of God. An atheist sees the universe as evidence that God doesn't exist."

Slight correction: an atheist doesn't see the universe as evidence that God doesn't exist. An atheist simply doesn't see the universe as evidence that God exists.

"That's a perfect example of what I mean. I count quite a large number of facts in there."

I'm fascinated; please point me to three points that you would consider a fact in that text (although that's tangential to the main discussion, so don't do it at the expense of the other points here.

"May I ask what your relevant presupposition is?"

I was not born with any presuppositions about God; nobody is. I suppose that my only presupposition is that the universe is as I perceive it. A more relevant question in this instance is, where do our presuppositions come from, and what grounds do we have for them?

"That's worthy of a raise of the eyebrow. Truth = that which corresponds to reality. Why, what is your definition?"

If you aren't aware of it, the question of what is "truth" is one of the big philosophical questions, so I'm not sure why you're raising your eyebrow. For example, I know many Christians for whom "reality" means what they read in the Bible, and as a result, truth is whatever corresponds to the Bible. Personally I don't find this to be a tenable position, and it will certainly make any discussion between us difficult.

Rhology said...

Sorry Billy, didn't mean to patronise you.

Why should messianic prophecies that are fulfilled in Jesus be excluded? I need an argument for that.
One thing I think I forgot to mention last time is that the Bible is not A book. It's an anthology, of 66 books total, written at different times, by different authors. The fact that one author wrote a bunch of things fulfilled in a guy 100s of years later is significant. It's not all written by one guy.

Our knowledge of Jesus comes from many different sources.
1) Matthew
2) Mark
3) Luke/Acts
4) John
5) Paul

And various extra-biblical sources.

You ask why trust the Bible? In general, one trusts ancient documents unless there is good reason to distrust it. This is a tough spot for you - deny it and you have to forget a great, great deal of recorded history. Virtually all of it. "Well, there weren't videocameras then!" As if videos and photos can't be altered as easily as manuscripts!
Also, these multiple (ie, 40) authors produce one single train of thought and spirituality.
Few other documents in the history of the world claim to be breathed out by deity. Of those that are, all fail tests of internal and external consistency except the Bible.

I'll let others decide if there are more than three facts in the linked-to article.

The Bible says that you were born with the knowledge that the God of the Bible does exist, and that you suppress the truth about that question in wickedness. So I disagree that you have no presupps about God or that nobody does.
Besides, even on your own terms, you presuppose either that it is possible that this God exists, possible He doesn't. You can't say you have NONE.

Yes, I'd very much like to explore what grounds for your presupps are.

"What is truth?" may be a big sticky philosophical question, but in certain ways it is overcomplicated by overzealous people who don't want to face truth.

I know many Christians for whom "reality" means what they read in the Bible

I'll say this - the Bible claims to be breathed out by God. I believe it is. Whatever it describes or alludes to, therefore, is true. But it's not all truth or descriptive of all reality.
Truth is whatever corresponds to reality. The Bible tells the truth about reality. It's a bit backwards the way you described it.

Peace,
Rhology

Billy said...

"Why should messianic prophecies that are fulfilled in Jesus be excluded? I need an argument for that. One thing I think I forgot to mention last time is that the Bible is not A book. It's an anthology, of 66 books total, written at different times, by different authors. The fact that one author wrote a bunch of things fulfilled in a guy 100s of years later is significant. It's not all written by one guy."

I feel that you have to choose - either the Bible is a unitary text, or it is a collection of separate texts. If it is a unitary text, then any messianic prophecies contained within it are self-referential and I can't accept them. If it is a collection, then I can accept the messianic prophecies from one book being fulfilled in a later book as significant, but I can't accept as the Word of God any individual book that does not explicitly make that claim. You can have it one way or the other, but you can't have both.

Doubtless you feel differently.

"Our knowledge of Jesus comes from many different sources.
1) Matthew
2) Mark
3) Luke/Acts
4) John
5) Paul
And various extra-biblical sources."

Your "many different sources" appear to be one source - the Bible. Once again, you have the dilemma above - you can have them as separate sources or a single source, but not both at the same time. The extra-biblical sources confirm the existence of Christus, but don't provide us with any evidence that he was the son of God. So once again, I accept the historicity of Jesus, that he existed - but external sources do not provide any evidence that he was the son of God, nor any evidence that the Bible is the word of God.

"You ask why trust the Bible? In general, one trusts ancient documents unless there is good reason to distrust it. This is a tough spot for you - deny it and you have to forget a great, great deal of recorded history."

It's not a tough spot at all, since I accept the Bible as a historical document. However "trusting" ancient documents does not mean accepting them unconditionally - the practice of history is not based on a yes/no approach to historical sources. If you want the Bible to be trusted as a historical document, then you also have to accept that it must be subject to the same sort of analysis as (for example) Josephus or Tacitus.

"Also, these multiple (ie, 40) authors produce one single train of thought and spirituality."

That's an aesthetic judgement that frankly I don't see.

"Few other documents in the history of the world claim to be breathed out by deity. Of those that are, all fail tests of internal and external consistency except the Bible."

And the Koran. That one's difficult, because at least it did emanate from a single identifiable source, and frankly it wins the aesthetic argument as well (if you read Arabic, that is).

"The Bible says that you were born with the knowledge that the God of the Bible does exist, and that you suppress the truth about that question in wickedness. So I disagree that you have no presupps about God or that nobody does. Besides, even on your own terms, you presuppose either that it is possible that this God exists, possible He doesn't. You can't say you have NONE."

That's a brilliant piece of sophistry, but if you cast your mind back, this discussion is about whether the Bible is the word of God. Until I'm persuaded of that, you will find it difficult to use the Bible as evidence to make other points. And I fail to perceive the "wickedness" that causes me to suppress that truth, unless by "wickedness" you mean the honest application of my free will.

It is entirely possible that God exists, and that's not a presupposition. I would wager that there are even very few atheists that would completely deny the possibility of the existence of God, since it can't be conclusively proven. (Even Dawkins asserts this in the God Delusion, by the way.)

My point is that when I was born, I had no assumptions about the world. Any assumptions that have developed since then have largely been the result of the social environment that I was raised in, as is quite obvious from comparing my belief framework to other people around the world. So my approach is simply to try and remove these assumptions one-by-one, and ask honest questions of the world around me.

"I'll say this - the Bible claims to be breathed out by God. I believe it is. Whatever it describes or alludes to, therefore, is true."

You are confirming rather than refuting my point. Your logic says that you believe the Bible is the word of God, therefore "whatever it describes or alludes to" is true.

"Truth is whatever corresponds to reality. The Bible tells the truth about reality. It's a bit backwards the way you described it."

Once again, you are confirming rather than refuting my point. Your prior assumption is that the Bible tells the truth about reality, while I make no such assumption.

Can I also point out that "truth" and "reality" are not the same thing in the context of this discussion; if they were, we wouldn't need to use both words.

Rhology said...

hi Billy,

I choose the Bible as a unitary collection of texts written at separate times by ~40 diff authors. 'Cause that's what it is.
I accept the whole thing as the Word of God b/c of many different reasons.
However, I'd like to ask you: Any book that makes that claim, for example, Isaiah. Do you yourself personally believe Isaiah is breathed out by God? Why or why not?

You're selectively looking at the historical sources as far as Jesus goes.
We know from history that Jesus' enemies were unable to produce a body.
That the Xtians believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.
That they were in a position to know whether He had or not.
That the Gospels refer to real places that really existed in history.
That the apostles really existed.
That the 12 apostles in particular would have known for certain that He did not resurrect if indeed He did not. Yet they changed the world with their message and suffered terrible deaths for that same message. Yet they knew it was wrong?

I'm only too glad to analyse the Bible like any historical document. The pattern of liberals and most skeptics, however, is typically to examine it with unfair scrutiny, to refuse it the assumption of truth until proven guilty (as is done with any other historical text), and to refuse to even attempt harmonisation between texts. No respect is due that kind of biased 'analysis'.

The "aesthetic" judgment I made is not so much aesthetic as it is theological.

The Qur'an does not succeed in the internal consistency dept, for one thing. Its textual sourcing is quite doubtful as well.
And many Muslims believe it's not all that eloquent.

The wickedness referred to in Romans 1 is the exercise of your free will to sin against God, to break His laws.
Again, you keep assuring me that you're telling the truth, but I have good reason to doubt you, a logical defeater. All your assurances are a waste of breath absent a credible confession of repentance and saving faith and submission to Jesus Christ.

How did I conflate truth and reality? I was the one who defined truth as "that which corresponds to reality."
You OTOH have not provided me with your definition of truth when requested to do so. Would you mind?
Thanks for your time and thoughts.

Peace,
Rhology

Billy said...

"I'd like to ask you: Any book that makes that claim, for example, Isaiah. Do you yourself personally believe Isaiah is breathed out by God? Why or why not?"

No. I'm not sure why I should believe it was "breathed out by God" solely on the basis of that claim, any more than I would accept it if you said that your words were likewise breathed out by God. Perhaps you could explain it to me, and why it should make a difference if it is?

"You're selectively looking at the historical sources as far as Jesus goes."

You then go on to list some plot points from the New Testament without mentioning any other historical sources. I'm not sure whether I'm meant to take this seriously, to be honest.

"The pattern of liberals and most skeptics, however, is typically to examine it with unfair scrutiny, to refuse it the assumption of truth until proven guilty (as is done with any other historical text), and to refuse to even attempt harmonisation between texts."

No historical text is given the assumption of "truth" (by which I assume you mean 100% accuracy) - where on earth did you get that idea? Please read some more about the historical method before you make ridiculous assertions like this - Wikipedia has a good overview article.

"The Qur'an does not succeed in the internal consistency dept, for one thing. Its textual sourcing is quite doubtful as well. And many Muslims believe it's not all that eloquent."

I've never met a Muslim who said that the Qu'ran is "not all that eloquent", and nor has anything I've read ever suggested such a thing. The textual sourcing is significantly less disputed than Bible texts, and I'm not sure why you think differently.

"The wickedness referred to in Romans 1 is the exercise of your free will to sin against God, to break His laws."

Sorry, you're still not being clear about what my "wickedness" is - what laws am I breaking, exactly?

"How did I conflate truth and reality? I was the one who defined truth as "that which corresponds to reality."

And that's what I meant by conflating truth and reality.

"You OTOH have not provided me with your definition of truth when requested to do so."

I'll get back to you on that one a bit later.

Rhology said...

Hi BIlly,


My apologies for the delay. Been busy.

of course, if Isaiah were breathed out by an all-knowing, all-powerful God Whose law will judge you on the last day, it makes a huge difference, epistemologically and in the way you live. Suddenly we are beholden to Another, the One Who created us and Who laid down a law.

No, I didn't intend for you to take those NT plot points seriously. That's why I didn't write them. {/sarcasm}
Besides, not all those points are exclusively from the NT. I referred to historical sources for several of them.

You accuse me of messing up the process of the way we look at historical documents and then refer me to Wikipedia?

I've never met a Muslim who said that the Qu'ran is "not all that eloquent"

Is that supposed to mean that none exist? The ones I refer to are cited in Norman Geisler's _Answering Islam_.
Its textual sourcing is less disputed b/c nobody focuses on it - it could mean their beheading or the firebombing of their office.
And it's far less PC to attack the Qur'an, b/c it's the holy book of an ethnic minority in the West - it's not PC to do so.
The Uthmanian Revision is a far more radical tampering with the text than anythg that ever happened to the Bible.

The laws you break are those of God. You are not perfect, you have sinned and broken God's laws.
For example, looking at a woman with lust is a sin. You (and I) are wicked.
Saying a hateful thing to someone is a sin. You (and I) are wicked.
Desiring sthg that doesn't belong to you is a sin. You (and I) are wicked.

I define truth as "that which corresponds to reality" and you accuse me of conflating the two terms? I think that's pretty silly - could you clarify?

Peace,
Rhology

Billy said...

"it makes a huge difference, epistemologically and in the way you live. Suddenly we are beholden to Another, the One Who created us and Who laid down a law."

But that's just my point. As far as I can tell, it wouldn't make any practical difference at all to the way that I live. I realise that you know nothing about me, but I'd be interested to know exactly what you think would change. Epistemologically you have a stronger case, but I'm still not sure that it would mean a substantial change in the way in which I view the world.

"I referred to historical sources for several of them."

I hate to be a pain about this (actually, I don't) but you didn't actually give us any references for any other historical sources apart from the Bible. Also, a number of those aren't historical events - the motivations of the Apostles, for example, is not an "event" in history, but your interpretation of a range of events. I assume that you can see the difference.

"You accuse me of messing up the process of the way we look at historical documents and then refer me to Wikipedia?"

I didn't say that you'd "messed up the process", I said that you don't understand the historical method (which is fundamentally based on skepticism). I don't see Wikipedia as an unalloyed source of perfect wisdom - having read the article on the historical method, however, I believe it provides a good introduction to the topic that will save you from having to read more widely. You can take it or leave it, as you wish.

"Is that supposed to mean that none exist? The ones I refer to are cited in Norman Geisler's _Answering Islam_."

No, it doesn't mean that none exist - it just means that I've met a lot of Muslims, in a few different countries, and none of them have ever said that. I've read a few books on Islam - well, alright, I studied it for a year - and not a single one said that. (I haven't read Geisler's book, so I can't comment on it.)

Quite the reverse, in fact - the argument was often advanced that the Koran is such an exquisite piece of literature that only God could have produced it. That argument sounds familiar, doesn't it? It's a lot like the argument that you gave in favour of the Bible's literary merits - and, like that argument, it is wholly specious.

"The laws you break are those of God. You are not perfect, you have sinned and broken God's laws. For example, looking at a woman with lust is a sin. You (and I) are wicked. Saying a hateful thing to someone is a sin. You (and I) are wicked. Desiring sthg that doesn't belong to you is a sin. You (and I) are wicked."

I've never done the latter two, so I'll have to take your word for it. I've certainly done the first one, but I've always found the Christian fixation on sex to be quite paradoxical. If lust is a sin, then does that mean that God doesn't want the human race to survive? I just assumed that if you don't look at a woman with lust you're unlikely to procreate, but maybe I'm wrong.

"I define truth as "that which corresponds to reality" and you accuse me of conflating the two terms? I think that's pretty silly - could you clarify?"

What's pretty silly? You've given a textbook answer, but one that doesn't actually answer the question. What I was hoping for was your definition of "truth" (and possibly "reality").