Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eastern errancy

I'd like to respond to this comment about the inerrancy of the Scripture from my Eastern Orthodox friend David Bryan, and as always, to ask him please to correct any misconceptions I've incorporated about EOC. I understand whenever you have to cut this off; moving cross-country is no easy task. But I think the problem for your position is deeper than you realise, I really do.

Men wrote the thing, yes, but "men carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Don't you believe that your church is guided by the Holy Spirit? Why can't someone turn the same objection back on your church? I mean, it's made up of MEN.
What's really funny to me is that it's your church that believes in theosis, faithful believers' partaking in the divine nature. These 4 Evangelists were, I'm sure you'd agree, much, much farther along in their being conformed to the image of Christ than you or I will ever be (until we die). Thus they would have been much closer to God, better, deeper partakers of the divine nature than you or I. And yet, here you are
1) correcting them according to your far-removed, 21st-century perspective.
-The irony here is that EO-dox are usually the ones criticising Reformed believers for looking at early writers and the Scr from a far-removed, future perspective.
2) making a powerful distinction between man and God.
-The irony here is that EO-dox are usually the ones who, from a Reformed perspective, shrinks and blurs the distinction between man and God.

All that to say, in this line of reasoning, you are acting like a liberal Protestant. That's not a good thing, but unfortunately it's not the only area in which EO-dox do so.

Maybe it's not as apparent to you for another reason. I've asked both you and Anastasios about the role that evangelism and apologetics play in the life of the semi-serious and serious EO layman, and you've told me that the former is inadequate and the latter is barely existent. Anastasios in particular let me know that he'd never heard of an EO apologist engaging, say, an atheist in public debate. I could be wrong, but I'm not at all sure you have encountered many atheists or skeptics and really talked turkey with them about stuff like this. So let me come at it from another angle.

You're talking to Joe American Skeptic. You tell him you believe that Jesus Christ instituted a church while He was walking the Earth, and entrusted it to His disciples, and His disciples spread the good news of Jesus all around the world and appointed other people to take their places when they died in the churches and to celebrate the sacraments of Christ, like baptism and the Eucharist. So, this church has come down to us through the years with successions of bishops, which is kind of like what you'd call "pastors".

You tell him you believe the Bible, that you believe what the Bible says and also what the church has always believed down through the centuries. You know, b/c the guys who were handed down the tradition of the church from the apostles and then on down through their successors, they all taught the same things.

So he wonders if it is true? For example, what would you say the sign above Christ on the Cross actually said, in its entirety? Each gospel account stated something explicitly regarding what the sign said, when in reality only one of the four was actually right, at best, and the other three (or all four) were (in some cases drastically) in error as to what the sign actually said after all, right? (He hadn't read Seth's comment, which clears up the misunderstanding.)

You'd say you're fine with one gospel saying one inscription and another saying sthg else, because men wrote the thing. Inspiration doesn't necessarily produce airtight, factual data synchronization. There's still far and away enough agreement as to the major events (Nativity, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost) that Scripture very strongly stands as a faithful witness to the Advent of Christ and the reality of His Church.

He wonders if inspiration doesn't necessarily produce factual data, how do you know that the Resurrection, for example, actually, factually happened?
You'd answer that you have the faithful witness of the church down thru the centuries. It's a lot of people.

Here's where it gets sticky. He thought that "a lot of people" is what caused the problem in the first place - multiple ppl write these varied accts of what was written above the Cross. But suddenly more people is a good thing?

So, what will you say? That you have a succession of people who heard from the teachings of the apostles themselves, no?

But hadn't the Gospel writers also heard from them? Weren't at least a couple of them eyewitnesses? Why do you rely on early church writers when the earliest ones are untrustworthy?
Or do you trust them for SPIRITUAL truth but not other kinds of truth? How do you make the distinction when the truth in question is not only spiritual in nature, such as
1) the Crucifixion
2) the Resurrection
3) the promised Parousia
4) the new Heaven and the new Earth
5) the theosis of the faithful

On what basis do you assert that those are indeed faithfully transmitted, while other things, such as the Cross inscription, were not? Is it just b/c you don't understand how the Cross inscription accts could fit together (even though Seth explained how)? Why is it better to ascribe error to a production of the Holy Spirit rather than to admit that you don't understand how it could all work together, but God knows and, while often He does make that knowledge and understanding available to humans, sometimes He just doesn't. You talk about mystery an awful lot in EOC; why do you abandon it in this arena? Where does the Bible itself distinguish between "OK, here's some spiritual truth, so this is really the real truth, for real," and "Here's some other stuff about, you know, the physical surroundings, the historical narrative. This isn't really a big deal. In fact, you could probably skip over it, b/c 21st-century archæologists will be able to totally reconstruct the whole thing WAY better than I'll be able to tell it here. So yeah, just fuggedaboudit (2 Maccabees 15:38-39)"?

The same questions go for early church authors. Only, there were alot more of them! You think the 4 accts are irreconcilable, but 40 different early church authors all saying different things is a better situation? Will you retreat to "oh, well, ____ was just speaking as an individual, private theologian, and the church's reaction to it over time bore out that he was mistaken"? But when all the church fathers hold the Scr in highest regard and ascribe no error to it thru hundreds and hundreds of years and thousands of pages, somehow *you* know better, with your 21st-century wisdom and insight?

Is this where following EO tradition leads someone? Is it really that far out of the vein of EOC tradition to hold to the inerrancy of the Bible?
And of course, we must ask, if it is, how would anyone know for sure? After all, if God-breathed Scripture is errant, what hope have non-theopneustos writings from men who were *not* "carried along by the Holy Spirit"?

(Cross-posted at Beggars All)

Friday, July 24, 2009

A quick harmonisation of the Gospel birth accounts

A commenter over at another blog has been throwing out "biblical contradictions", so I thought I'd share my recent response to him.
It's rather humorous to hear him say things like:
If the text is errant, then it gets its authority from matching and providing new insight into a present experience of "god" or life or experience, however you define the ineffable quality of being in the middle of here. And to me it does not "downgrade" the Bible, but rather "upgrades" the rest of life and its resources as means to spiritual truth.
The birth narratives have contradictions...Great stories though - seriously, I think they are beautiful.
So, the falser they are, the more beautiful? I think this man needs to rethink some things. But if you read his comments, he clearly treats the Bible differently than any other writing he encounters, so this is just one more way he does so.

I didn't devote a ton of time to the harmonisation, but it wasn't really all that hard. Here we see yet another way skeptics like him don't bother trying to get to the bottom of the story; they just see a post in the Skeptic's Antiquated Drivel and assume he's got a silver bullet in his gun. It's a shame, really.

Lk 1:21On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

So they didn't go on the 40th, they went on the 8th.

39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.

Back to Naz they go. Doesn't say how long. Doesn't say they never went back to Bethlehem. Doesn't say they never left Naz again their whole life long. Doesn't say whether they left on vacation or back to live there.

Matt 2:1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magia from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the eastb and have come to worship him.”

This is about 2 yrs after Jesus' birth.

7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the easte went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

Looks like they're in Bethlehem at this point, 2 years later.
Did they go back to live there after they'd returned to Naz? Did they decide to move?
The text doesn't say.
Then they flee to Egypt, when Jesus is ~2 yrs old.

Still in Matt 2 - 19After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

So then they go back to Nazareth.
Where's the contradiction?

There is no compelling reason to harmonize them, unless one has an interest in doing so.

Spoken like a true skeptic, with the intention to be unfair to the text.
You harmonise EVERYTHING ELSE, but you're not interested in even trying to harmonise the Bible. Your bias is showing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An interview with Phred Felps' daughter

This is pretty impressive.

Shirley Phelps-Roper is some mishmash of self-righteous, Pharisailegalist, hyper-Calvinist, heartless, and evil all rolled into a loudmouth who doesn't know friend from foe.

Otherwise, I'm getting back into blogging slowly since my mission.