Monday, March 15, 2010

Answering the Skeptical Rationalist's questions

The Skeptical Rationalist has been assuming and naked-asserting his way through some dialogue on my recent post on science and the problem of induction. Along the way, he accused the Bible of containing contradictions.  I issued my customary challenge to him that I give to any visitor to the blog - give me your 5 favorite candidates for "contradiction" status, I'll examine them, and if they fail to be substantial, I will no longer consider any further suggestions from that person that the Bible contains contradictions.  By which I mean that I will mercilessly mock any further attempt or intimation and remind them of their failure to make their Top 5 stick.

The SR, for reasons I can only guess at, decided not to give me 5 "contradictions", but rather gave me 5 questions, which I will take as an admission of defeat on the question.  Since I'm a nice guy, however, I'll have a go at his questions, with the reminder to my readers that I see no evidence that SR has gone to the extraordinary lengths of looking up his questions in standard commentaries, for example.

1. Why is there no penalty for murder in Exodus 21:20-21?
20 “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. 21 “If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.
CARM says:
God permitted slavery to exist in both Old and New Testament times. But this does not mean that slavery was a God-ordained system. Slavery was an invention of fallen man, not of God. Nevertheless, God allowed it to exist the way He allows other things to exist that He does not approve of: murder, lying, rape, theft, etc.
God also works within the system of fallen man and makes allowances for the freedom and failures of mankind within that system. We see this, for example, in Jesus saying that God allowed divorce because of the hardness of peoples' hearts (Matt. 19:8). The fact is, people are sinners and do things contrary to the will of God. But, even though people have murdered, lied, raped, and stolen, God has still used people who've committed these sins to accomplish His divine will. Moses murdered an Egyptian but was used by God to deliver Israel. David committed adultery but was promised to have the Messiah descend from his seed. This is proof that though God desires that people not do much of what they do, He permits them their freedom, yet uses the system and the people according to His divine will.
In the case of a slave being property, that is simply the way things were done back then. As I said, God worked within the fallen system of man and put limits and guidelines concerning the treatment of slaves.

I'd add a few things:
1) It says "he shall be punished", and that punishment is left up to the discretion of the judges.  They could very well inflict the death penalty if they wanted to.
2) The master who strikes his slave so harshly that the slave might die is a fool and is behaving counter to his own purposes. I wouldn't expect him to last very long as a master.
3) The master would be punished additionally thru the loss of work and profit that his slave can't produce while s/he is recovering from the blow.
4) First, the fact that a servant survived a day after the beating shows that the master was not doing it out of malicious spite, or the servant would not have survived so long. After that, the part that explains it is the last phrase 'for he is his property'. As a general rule, men do not destroy their own property. Because of this, it is assumed that the injury or death of the servant was an honest mistake made by the master in a legitimate act of discipline, for which God does not deem it necessary to punish (source).

2. Why is payment of a fine the penalty for murder in Exodus 21:22?
22 “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23 “But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
See the answer at Tektonics.
 
3. Is it appropriate, if the Bible does not directly address a controversial topic, to find passages whose context is only indirectly or peripherally related, and from these to approximate a doctrinal answer? For example, I don't know that the bible addresses health care, or the environmental conservation. How are disagreements among such to be resolved?
The Westminster Confession, Chapter I, Article VI:
“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture…”
So the answer is yes - the Bible not only gives direct guidance but also principles by which we can live and apply to other situations.  Usually it's not nearly as hard as those who oppose the biblical position make it sound, b/c they have a vested interest in muddling the waters.  Abortion, for example, is not expressly mentioned in the Bible, but anyone who might claim that the Bible is unclear on the matter is a fool.  The hardest matter I've ever encountered in terms of moral questions is euthanasia/when it's permissible to unplugg the terminally ill and really old patient.  That doesn't mean the Bible is unclear on all of those situations or even most of them, but on a few, yes.  Terri Schinder-Schiavo, for example, represents a case where the answer is very easily obtainable; it still amazes me that the courts got it so wrong.

4. How did Abraham determine whether the demand to sacrifice his son was a command of God, a deceit of Satan, or a delusion of his own mind? How would you, if you were in his position today?
Here you go.
A revelation from God Almighty is self-authenticating; there is no asking God for His ID.  No higher authority, whether moral or epistemological, to which to appeal.  Further, there is plenty of information to ascertain between God and Satan - the Bible.  Abraham had quite a bit less, but I see no reason to assume that God wouldn't have provided some way for Abraham to know for sure, given that he didn't have the Bible, but that's not a question that I have to answer today, fortunately. 

5. What biblical contradiction do you find most difficult to reconcile, or most instructive for study in doing so when challenged?
I assume you mean which difficulty is the hardest for me, and the answer is the Incarnation of Jesus, hands down.  How does God become contained in a human body?  How does God mess His diaper, and how does He "grow in grace and knowledge and in favor with God and man?"  How does God become the God-man?  How does God Himself mask His glory and walk around with camel poo splattered on his ankles?  How does He get nailed to a cross?  I have answers, sure, but the whole thing still blows my mind.  It is a great, great mystery, but I see no reason to assume that that which transcends my reason, that which is too great for me to wrap my mind around, is necessarily incorrect.

52 comments:

Joel said...

I don't find your account of slavery convincing, particularly point 4. If it is really somehow illegitimate for a slave to be property (presumably on some kind of NL framework, as the Bible is resoundingly silent on the issue), then why is "death by discipline" not - or at any rate not obviously - some kind of manslaughter, as provided for in other cases? A man may also discipline his son, but I would suppose that it is his responsibility to make darn sure not to beat the lad within an inch of his life. But perhaps I quibble.

justfinethanks said...

This is funny, as an atheist friend of mine happened to bring to my attention the numerical contradictions in the bible.

I'm curious, how do apologists reconcile these two passages:

"Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem."
-2 Chronicles 36:9

"Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months."
-2 Kings 24:8

It seems to me like we have two hard and fast numerical contradictions in two passages (8 vs 18 and three months vs. three months and ten days).

I admit that often it seems like harmonization is possible (the apparent contradiction between how Judas died I think is a solid example of a successful harmonization, even though it's brought up pretty often.) But when you are dealing with hard numbers, how do you maintain inerrancy?

I'm genuinely curious.

Rhology said...

Joel,

I admit to being unsure about that.


jft,

A couple of things.

1) Are you familiar with the major lines of textual transmission for the OT: the Masoretic Text (in Hebrew) and the Septuagint/LXX?
2) And then there's of course just regular textual variance in the Masoretic (and LXX).

That's not the only one of those numerical discrepancies between Samuel/Kings and Chronicles. There's another one when the two books discuss how many horses Solomon had in his stables, and there are a few others IIRC. The answer is that one of the numbers is more probably correct than the other, but the level of uncertainty is high enough that it's just left as it's found in the majority of the manuscripts that are in our possession. In this case, my guess is that the numbers are like that in the Masoretic mss. So I figure that one of them are right (probably) and the other is due to a slip of the pen over the course of some centuries.

Does that make sense?

justfinethanks said...

1) Are you familiar with the major lines of textual transmission for the OT: the Masoretic Text (in Hebrew) and the Septuagint/LXX?
2) And then there's of course just regular textual variance in the Masoretic (and LXX).


Uh, that's all Greek (or Hebrew as the case is) to me. I guess these sorts of passages bring up some complicated issues in old testament textual criticism which I admit I'm pretty ignorant of.

So I figure that one of them are right (probably) and the other is due to a slip of the pen over the course of some centuries.

Does that make sense?


Well, yes that does make sense, but it seems like someone could agree with you on this point and still maintain it refutes the doctrine of inerrency. After all, explaining the reason why a contradiction appears doesn't make it not a contradiction. Are you arguing that the original texts are inspired and free from error, and so inerrancy is not threatened by mistakes that in all likelihood slipped in during the transmission process?

Skeptical Rationalist said...

So I figure that one of them are right (probably) and the other is due to a slip of the pen over the course of some centuries.

So, the bible is errant in some degree. I'm glad to see the admission--you know, it's not that doubters and skeptics necessarily disprove the entire Bible with this line of argument, it's just the claim that every single word of it is inerrant is so clearly false. It's okay, really. Frankly I find many so-called contradictions thrown out by skeptics to be picayune, irrelevant, and the resolutions so easy for even a skeptic to see that I wonder why they bother. Why do I care about the variances in detail? It's like pointing out the dents on a used car when the main concern is whether or not the engine runs.

That's why I went with discussion questions rather than facile contradictions. I could really care less whether Jesus was born in the days of Herod the king (3 BC, if memory serves) or during the governorship of Cyrenius (6 CE, ibid), and if you'll recall I said I'm mildly curious to see if you'd make any excuses I hadn't heard before; I'm more than capable of using "the Google" myself. It's not an admission of defeat, I just get bored with the simple stuff, and I'm getting a fair bit of accuracy at predicting your responses to many different things.

I was trying to go for something a bit more novel. I'm interested in the particular responses you give and, if you're amenable, something less adversarial. If you're not here to pick a fight, neither am I.

On to your responses:

Skeptical Rationalist said...

1: I'm not sure I see a coherent answer here. If the bible is the word of God, and the Word of God contains provisions for buying, selling, freeing, retaining of slaves, how is this not God-ordained? I believe I saw you say elsewhere that those who interpret the bible in favor of slavery are in error, so why didn't god command Moses: "XI: THOU SHALT OWN NO SLAVES"?

If there is a coherent answer here, it seems to be that a beating severe enough to take in excess of 48 hours to result in death indicates a lack of intent to kill, therefore the crime is more akin to what's on modern books as manslaughter?

2: Again, you would liken this to manslaughter. I'm satisfied with your answer and the resource linked to.

3: Excellent, you got exactly what I was asking with this question. I actually don't think euthanasia or abortion for that matter is at all unclear from a biblical perspective. (I have no need to muddy the waters, I just don't give it credence in the first place, no offense.) Can you think of any instances of modern issues on which honest Christians might disagree, and how to resolve such?

4: This is one of those instances where it was pretty similar to what I thought you'd say--that at least in modern times, any command from God would be Scriptural (ref: my clarification on the other thread.) Still, Abraham didn't have scripture, and the story didn't make reference to any extant text he might have possessed at the time. Still, I don't have any idea what "self-authenticating" means or what it would look like. Clothed in glory, raining down golden beams of light, attended by choirs of surpassing beauty, Satan in disguise appears to Abraham and says "SACRIFICE YOUR SON." Abraham doesn't ask god for his ID (Star Trek reference?), but if you don't have an ID-checking policy, doesn't that mean that Satan could take advantage of you? We're free to speculate on what might have gone through Abraham's mind on the way up the mountain, but to me in seems an instance where the text is...lacking.

5: Very interesting answer. I've found Jesus' struggle with doubts and fears interesting, as well. Even if he for some reason fears the crucifixion, surely the knowledge that it is both preceded and succeeded by an eternity of glory at the right hand of God is sufficient comfort? His mayfly life as a mortal is almost insignificant, proportionally. When I imagine a God of infinite love yet bound by infinite justice regretting the consequences of his beloved children's foolishness, and searching for some way to break the cycle, it breaks my heart. I've had occasion to feel rage and love at the same time and yet to instantly forgive the mistake without a moment's hesitation. (Note: If the Gospels are eyewitness accounts, then how does the account of Jesus' doubt exist at all? (Mark 14:35-40) He was arrested immediately thereafter and would have had no future opportunity to relate the content of his prayer.)

bossmanham said...

Also with the slavery thing:

1)This is in the context of God laying out laws for an institution that already existed for hypothetical situations. These were like labor laws we have today. They are giving the 'slaves' rights, unlike the early American slave trade. But this slavery was nothing like that. The slavery the Egyptians practiced was.

2)The slavery of this time was more of an indentured servitude. Many people sold themselves into slavery for protection and sustenance.

3)Man stealing, such as was done in the African slave trade, was prohibited (Exodus 21:16).

4)It is not commending the beating, it is articulating the method they used to determine punishment. Just as it did earlier in the context when it laid out to execute someone guilty of premeditated murder, and a lesser punishment for accidental murders, similar to our laws. To emphasize, the context is key here. God is in the process of regulating how Israel determines punishment in different situation. He isn't necessarily recommending or commanding any of the institutions that He is regulating.

It's funny when atheists cannot seem to decide if believers take the Bible too literally or not literally enough.

bossmanham said...

SR,

So, the bible is errant in some degree

Not in its original autographs. No learned Christian has ever held that small scribal errors never entered the texts. Lucky for us, we have so many manuscripts to compare, dating to within 150 years or so of the originals, that almost all errors (not that there were many to begin with) can be detected and have been corrected. Yay textual criticism.

it's just the claim that every single word of it is inerrant is so clearly false

Depends on what you're talking about here. If you mean the original writing, what the actual author wrote down with his/her own hands (or had transcribed by an associate) then you would find nothing but disagreement from Rho and me.

If you mean copies of the originals, then there may be slight errors in spelling or scribal additions or subtractions (whether intentional or not) then we'd admit there are, in the copies, some issues. I guess it depends on what your definition of error is. If you demand perfect spelling, I guess that's an error. I think the idea and original intent of the author is what is important to get across. If there are additions, then those I would consider errors. Most errors, however, "crept into the manuscripts because of visual errors in copying or because of auditory errors when a group of scribes copied manuscripts that were read aloud. Other errors resulted from faulty writing, memory, and judgment, and still others from well-meaning scribes who thought they were correcting the text" (cited from here).

However, even with that considered, the Bible we have is 99.5% pure and the other 0.5% can be figured out by comparing manuscripts. For all intents and purposes what we have today is what they read 1900 years ago.

bossmanham said...

I could really care less whether Jesus was born in the days of Herod the king (3 BC, if memory serves) or during the governorship of Cyrenius (6 CE, ibid)

Actually, it was both. Cyrenius was governor and Herod was king. The "issue" you're thinking of is the question of whether Cyrenius was actually governor as Luke records. There were people who questioned this until it was discovered that he was either governor twice, or was serving in some governing capacity even through the census. That cleared up the issue.

Have you ever actually studied the moder Biblical historical and archaeological data, or are you just parroting what you've read on fundamentalist atheist polemic sites?

NAL said...

bossmanham:

The "issue" you're thinking of is the question of whether Cyrenius was actually governor as Luke records.

That's not the "issue" I'm thinking about. The "issue" I'm thinking about is the one where Luke and Matthew link Jesus' birth to a census that occurred during the reign of Herod who died ten years before the census carried out by Cyrenius, during his second term, circa 7 CE.

bossmanham said...

The "issue" I'm thinking about is the one where Luke and Matthew link Jesus' birth to a census that occurred during the reign of Herod who died ten years before the census carried out by Cyrenius, during his second term, circa 7 CE.

Just because the only census documented outside the Bible happened in 7 doesn't mean there was no census in 6 - 3BC. In fact, based on the historical recording of the doctor, we should conclude that there was an earlier census, given that Luke has been proven correct in all of his other accounts.

Furthermore, scholars have suggested several other viable solutions to the issue, including that the translation of the word protos, usually translated "first", can also be translated "before" showing that this was a previous census taken in Quirinius' first term.

You skeptics keep embarrassing yourselves over the centuries with these supposed historical discrepancies, but the trend has been that you are constantly proven wrong. Why should I think that this will be any different?

And why are you posting under two names, NAL?

Rhology said...

jft,

Yes, you got it. The doctrine of inerrancy claims inerrancy only for the original autographa, which we can reproduce to 98-99%, but leaves open the possibility of scribal emendation and errors over time in the copies. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, for example, makes that distinction very clear.


SR,

I actually don't think euthanasia or abortion for that matter is at all unclear from a biblical perspective.

I agree about abortion, but questions in euthanasia are extremely difficult sometimes.
When is death death? At what point is someone beyond attempting to save? Those kinds of things are very, very tough. Fortunately, we have a merciful God. If I were ever faced with such a situation, I'd do what I thought was best after much prayer and consultation with others wiser than me, and ask God for forgiveness if I made a mistake, which He'd grant.


Can you think of any instances of modern issues on which honest Christians might disagree, and how to resolve such?

There are lots, but not as many as the liberals or Emergents would have us think.
One good example is the doctrines of Calvinism. bossmanham in this combox is not a Calvinist. I am. Yet he knows and proclaims the Gospel and worships the same God. In terms of this lifetime, we can resolve the situation by going prayerfully to the Scripture, yet we are mindful that there will never be perfect agreement. The Bible even expects this, see here and see 1 Cor 11:19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
Anyway, we wait for the Eschaton, when there won't be any more disagreement or misunderstanding of God's revelation.


Abraham didn't have scripture

What he had was just as good - God speaking. That's all that Scripture is anyway.


Still, I don't have any idea what "self-authenticating" means or what it would look like.

Of course you wouldn't; you're a rationalist. Is is objectively self-authenticating, which means that it's from God, Who is the very foundation for all being and truth. There's no asking God for His ID, nothing by which you can verify His identity or nature beyond His own communicating it to you. HOW I KNOW THAT is a separate question, and deals with how God communicates/reveals it to humans. God's self-revelation is of a quality all its own, and one demonstration of that is the impossibility of the contrary. I have no reason to think I can know anything if God has not spoken.

Rhology said...

Abraham doesn't ask god for his ID (Star Trek reference?)

Nicely done! ;-)
(Not a very good movie, though.)


doesn't that mean that Satan could take advantage of you?

Absolutely, that's why I must check everything that purports to be of God in the light of what God has already revealed. Since God hadn't revealed nearly as much to Abraham at the time, I expect that God kind of poured it on in terms of making clear that it was God Who spoke.


I've found Jesus' struggle with doubts and fears interesting, as well.

Definitely. That's definitely related, and tough.


searching for some way to break the cycle, it breaks my heart.

Neither bossmanham, PChem, nor I would say that God was "searching for some way to break the cycle", however. He planned the Cross from eternity past.


If the Gospels are eyewitness accounts, then how does the account of Jesus' doubt exist at all? (Mark 14:35-40)

The Gospels are inherently supernatural; they're not only eyewitness accts, they're also God speaking, so I'd expect some supernatural insights.
That said, there's no reason to think Jesus couldn't've just told His disciples about the whole thing after His resurrection, for ex.


I agree with bossmanham that there's no reason not to think there were 2 censuses.
I don't think I see why bossmanham suspects NAL of posting under 2 names, though. I've never known NAL to do that.

NAL said...

bossmanham:

Just because the only census documented outside the Bible happened in 7 doesn't mean there was no census in 6 - 3BC. In fact, based on the historical recording of the doctor, we should conclude that there was an earlier census, given that Luke has been proven correct in all of his other accounts.

Using the Bible to confirm the Bible. Who could have seen that coming?

There is no census of the Empire attested to, outside of Luke.

/I think bossmanham is being snarky when he asks if I've been posting under different names.

Rhology said...

There is no census of the Empire attested to, outside of Luke.

So what? Luke is a historical source all by itself.
What is your argument that b/c evidence for a historical event that is claimed hasn't been discovered yet, means it didn't happen?

marhaban said...

Since you are on this topic, I'd like to know your thoughts on the parable of the mustard seed.

As a kid, I was taught that the mustard seed is the smallest seed and it grows into the largest tree and this represents how if you have great faith, God can do amazing things with you.

Now, Jesus didn't exactly say that, but he did say the mustard seed grows into a tree large enough for birds to nest in the branches.

"Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof."(Matthew 13:31–2)

How do you explain away the fact that mustard seeds actually grow into small bushes not trees, (definitely not big enough for birds to nest in the branches)? Was Jesus mistaken and meant a different seed? Something got lost in translation? He wasn't a botanist and was not familiar with plants? Did he mean that mustard seeds don't actually grow into trees, but it would be cool if they did?

Thanks

Rhology said...

http://www.tektonics.org/qt/smallseed.html

bossmanham said...

Using the Bible to confirm the Bible. Who could have seen that coming?

Who did that? I'm referring to what scholars know about the era and the historical occurrences as compared to Luke's testimony. As William Ramsay points out, "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense...in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians."

And since the Bible is a compilation of separate historical writings, simply comparing one part to another to discern historical reliability is not fallacious, ie comparing Paul to the gospels is not circular. It would only be fallacious if I said Luke was correct because Luke said so.

/I think bossmanham is being snarky when he asks if I've been posting under different names.

Actually, you responded to my response to Skeptical Rationalist as if we had been having the dialog. I took it as you and SR were the same person. If I'm wrong, I am sorry. It wasn't an indictment, it was curiosity.

bossmanham said...

Marhaban,

Really, the mustard seed thing? That is so old. Let's hear some complaints that haven't been beaten to death.

NAL said...

bossmanham:

I'm referring to what scholars know about the era and the historical occurrences as compared to Luke's testimony.

A work of historical fiction would have many passages that are historically accurate. This does not imply that other passages are historically accurate.

There were people who questioned this until it was discovered that he was either governor twice, or was serving in some governing capacity even through the census. That cleared up the issue.

Actually it didn't. That evidence exists that Quirinius was governor twice is wishful thinking.

When the argument comes down to "you can't prove it didn't happen that way", you know their evidence is suspect.

Skeptical Rationalist said...

Let's hear some complaints that haven't been beaten to death.

My thoughts exactly. That's why I went with discussion questions rather than offering up contradictions that I really don't care about. Like I said, I don't care about the body work. I care whether the engine runs.

And incidentally, "the slavery of this time was more of an indentured servitude"? What a contemptible lie. I have the book in front of me.

bossmanham said...

A work of historical fiction would have many passages that are historically accurate. This does not imply that other passages are historically accurate.

You could say that about anything. On the other side, just because there are works of fiction that have historical truths it does not follow that Luke's account or any of the Bible is a work of fiction. We couldn't be sure of the truth of anything on this standard.

Actually it didn't. That evidence exists that Quirinius was governor twice is wishful thinking.

That's another one of them naked and worthless unbacked assertions. I see you lack anything of further substance to say.

When the argument comes down to "you can't prove it didn't happen that way", you know their evidence is suspect.

You do? Quote the scholar who uses this as a means of determining historical truth please. The burden of proof lies on the you, the skeptic. After all of the historical corroborations of the whole of the Bible, it is up to those who want to show that the discrepancies have merit to prove their case. As long as there is no positive evidence to the contrary, I am justified in believing that the Bible is entirely historically accurate. All you have is an absence of evidence, which we all know is not evidence of absence.

What we see displayed here is a temper tantrum of the worst sort.

bossmanham said...

And incidentally, "the slavery of this time was more of an indentured servitude"? What a contemptible lie. I have the book in front of me.

Why is it contemptible? By what standard are you judging this?

Furthermore, what counter evidence do you have that it was not indentured servitude? Why did you not interact with the other 4 points?

It actually clearly was indentured servitude that was at issue in the time of Moses, as seen when it is addressed in the Levitical law.

"Leviticus 25:
35 “‘If your brother becomes impoverished and is indebted to you, you must support him; he must live with you like a foreign resident.
36 Do not take interest or profit from him, but you must fear your God and your brother must live with you.
37 You must not lend him your money at interest and you must not sell him food for profit.

39 “‘If your brother becomes impoverished with regard to you so that he sells himself to you, you must not subject him to slave service.
40 He must be with you as a hired worker, as a resident foreigner; he must serve with you until the year of jubilee,
41 but then he may go free, he and his children with him, and may return to his family and to the property of his ancestors.
42 Since they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt, they must not be sold in a slave sale.
43 You must not rule over him harshly, but you must fear your God."

So even right there it says not to deal with these servants harshly, but if the case arises in which a master does, then the Exodus 21 passage would apply in determining whether the boss deserved punishment.

For more go here and here.

NAL said...

bossmanham:

On the other side, just because there are works of fiction that have historical truths it does not follow that Luke's account or any of the Bible is a work of fiction.

Straw man argument. I'm not claiming Luke's account is a complete work of fiction. I'm claiming that you can't attribute historical accuracy to all of Luke based on some historical accuracy.

That's another one of them naked and worthless unbacked assertions.

You probably don't see the irony of this statement.

The burden of proof lies on the you, the skeptic.

And I have met it. I have presented evidence that the census of Quirinius occurred circa 6 AD. This is in direct contradiction with Matthew's account.

The burden of proof is also with those who claim inerrancy with Luke's account. All that's been forthcoming is naked and worthless unbacked assertions.

bossmanham said...

I'm not claiming Luke's account is a complete work of fiction. I'm claiming that you can't attribute historical accuracy to all of Luke based on some historical accuracy.

This isn't a straw man, as I never said you were claiming that it's a complete work of fiction. I'm saying your basing your contention that not all of Luke is accurate on absolutely nothing but your own skepticism.

You probably don't see the irony of this statement.

Since I haven't been making unbacked assertions, no, I don't.

And I have met it. I have presented evidence that the census of Quirinius occurred circa 6 AD. This is in direct contradiction with Matthew's account.

We're talking about Luke's account, but whatever. You have shown no evidence that there wasn't another census. The very existence of the account in the gospels is evidence of a previous census.

The burden of proof is also with those who claim inerrancy with Luke's account

Well, no, the task would be on the skeptic to show a mistake in the Lukan account, which no one has done. All we have are people that say "oh look, there are no other accounts of this census except what is in the Gospels. It must not have happened." But that doesn't follow at all. And since we have two independent early accounts which speak of a census at the time of Jesus' birth, I see no reason to doubt that.

Do you have a reason I should, other than you don't like the source?

Rhology said...

Missed a few things...

the bible is errant in some degree

The COPIES are not necessarily inerrant. But we have lots and lots of copies, so there's not really any doubt what the autographs said except for a small % of cases.
So, no, the Bible is not errant. You need to qualify that statement a lot more carefully.


I find many so-called contradictions thrown out by skeptics to be picayune, irrelevant

Believe me, you're not alone.
Yet you were the one who made the claim that the Bible has contradictions in the other combox that inspired this post. So don't act all high and mighty. You started this.


If the bible is the word of God, and the Word of God contains provisions for buying, selling, freeing, retaining of slaves, how is this not God-ordained?

It is God-ordained. But that doesn't mean that it's the best; God often provides direction and oversight over imperfect institutions. Another example would be gov't. And church.

Skeptical Rationalist said...

Yet you were the one who made the claim that the Bible has contradictions in the other combox that inspired this post. So don't act all high and mighty. You started this.

No, what I said was "in my experience the bible is just as 'errant' as any other book of myths, and it was scholarly research that made me stop calling myself a Christian."

You were the one who took that to specifically refer to internal contradiction. In general, the books I've read lead me to believe they're accounts passed down orally for many decades after the events in question, not actually written by eyewitnesses, and illustrative of the historical and theological trends of the times leading up to them. But I think the simplest explanation is that Jesus was not the son of god, the resurrection and other miracles are legends or confabulations, and that the deification occurred as the story was passed from person to person by faith communities whose legitimacy rested upon the very accounts they themselves were circulating. It's a recipe tailor-made for exaggeration, mythification, and I think it would take a miracle for such accounts to be as accurate as they are claimed to be. To rephrase my earlier metaphor: because I do not think the engine runs, I am not overly concerned about the dings in the paint.


If the bible is the word of God, and the Word of God contains provisions for buying, selling, freeing, retaining of slaves, how is this not God-ordained?

It is God-ordained. But that doesn't mean that it's the best; God often provides direction and oversight over imperfect institutions. Another example would be gov't. And church.


I'm still not buying it. 2nd Timothy 3:16 doesn't say "except when he's making the best of a bad situation." If god doesn't like slaves, why doesn't he say "Thou shalt own no slaves?" Why does Jesus use the beating of slaves as a metaphor, without any indication that he or his father disapprove of the institution? It doesn't add up.

bossmanham said...

Hmm, evidence of the resurrection and personal experience, or Skeptical Rationalist's pontifications and blind assertions...tough choice.

And I always disbelieve apostates who say they studied their way out of Christianity.

bossmanham said...

2nd Timothy 3:16 doesn't say "except when he's making the best of a bad situation."

What!? The Bible is inerrant in what it asserts. If it never asserts that slavery is "the way to go" and only regulates the institution (which was demonstrably not anything like early American slavery) then how does that show any lack of inerrancy?

Even if the Bible did approve of slavery, it wouldn't follow that it is errant. But since it doesn't, the issue is moot.

If god doesn't like slaves, why doesn't he say "Thou shalt own no slaves?" Why does Jesus use the beating of slaves as a metaphor, without any indication that he or his father disapprove of the institution?

I don't like slavery (I like people, so if I met a slave I would probably like them) yet I don't make it a point to announce that fact everywhere I go.

What are you talking about "beating of slave" metaphor? Any time Jesus discusses it, it's in a negative context. Slavery is always something to be avoided for people (ie slavery to sin or to idols). And since Jesus advocated the golden rule, that would seem to rule out the affirmation of the institution of slavery.

All of your contentions sound like their straight from evilbible.com or something, a site not known for its logical prowess. Read some stuff that deals with these subjects in a more objective way.

Skeptical Rationalist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skeptical Rationalist said...

Hmm, evidence of the resurrection and personal experience...

The next "evidence" for such that I see will be the first.

And I always disbelieve apostates who say they studied their way out of Christianity.

Considering you give the impression of someone who restricts himself to reading only apologetics and writings of those who take the presupposition that the Bible is true, I imagine you would. Bear in mind that this is a combox on a blog and it's all too easy to dismiss the conclusion of reading a *lot* of books--all of which I'm sure you'd be happy to shit on from great height, so I won't bore you--as pontificating, due to space constraints.

how does that show any lack of inerrancy?

I'm not saying it does or doesn't. I'm pointing out that it doesn't make sense to me that a God opposed to slavery would make such a mealymouthed case to "regulate" it. This is supposedly the Inspired Word Of God Almighty, I would think he would say whatever he bloody well pleased, and mortal institutions (literally, even) be damned. Think about the Sabbath: he basically tells the Jews to sacrifice 1/7th of their productivity, simply to honor him. Even the Mormons don't gouge their followers for that much. Jesus' advice at several points would wreck your life--"let him sell all that he has and follow Me"--because of higher concerns. But God Almighty, The Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, only takes palliative measures on slavery? I conclude that if he exists, and if the Bible is his word, that the biblical guidelines ought to perfectly express his exact will, no ifs, ands or buts.

The verse I'm referring to is Luke 12 47-48. I'm not saying it's a verse in favor of slavery per se, there's a lot of context, but it troubles me that Jesus speaks so blithely about whipping the servants. Jesus talked about the golden rule, but he also said whoever lacks a sword needs to buy one tout suite.
The Sermon on the Mount would definitely benefit from a bare mention against slavery specifically, but it apparently is an evil he doesn't feel worth speaking out about.

All of your contentions sound like their straight from evilbible.com or something, a site not known for its logical prowess. Read some stuff that deals with these subjects in a more objective way.

You know, I can't say as I have a very high opinion of what might constitute "objective" in your eyes. "Intellectually dishonest and flagrantly biased towards the chosen conclusion," in my experience. But you know, I have, and they suck. I reach a different conclusion. Deal with it.

Never been to that website in particular, but if you hate it that much I'll be sure to check it out.

bossmanham said...

The next "evidence" for such that I see will be the first.

Which corroborates my suspicion that you've never actually investigated the subject.

Considering you give the impression of someone who restricts himself to reading only apologetics and writings of those who take the presupposition that the Bible is true, I imagine you would

Another one of those blind assertions.

Bear in mind that this is a combox on a blog and it's all too easy to dismiss the conclusion of reading a *lot* of books--all of which I'm sure you'd be happy to shit on from great height, so I won't bore you--as pontificating, due to space constraints.

This statement is a little bit rambling. Are you saying you read a lot? So do I. What does that prove?

I'm pointing out that it doesn't make sense to me that a God opposed to slavery would make such a mealymouthed case to "regulate" it.

1) Why doesn't it make sense? 2) Since the institution being regulated wasn't the detestable form that you anachronistically read into the text, who says this kind was necessarily bad? Perhaps God is neutral on indentured servitude? Or perhaps you don't have to approve of an institution to regulate it? There are plenty of other options other than just "oh God must approve because He doesn't explicitly outlaw it." But that's a total non-sequitur. To act like it's not is intellectually dishonest.

I would think he would say whatever he bloody well pleased

He did. He pleased to allow the institution to exist under the Mosaic law. Just because it offends your sensibilities doesn't mean it was a priority for God to stop it. In fact, it can be reasonably assumed that preventing all evil on this earth in this life is NOT His top priority. Your contention is just another form of the problem of evil. Not a compelling reason to stop believing in Biblical inerrancy.

Furthermore, silence on a subject in the Bible (and the Bible is not silent on the subject) would not be an error.

Think about the Sabbath: he basically tells the Jews to sacrifice 1/7th of their productivity, simply to honor him.

So? The point was for them to rely on Him anyway. What a silly complaint.

Jesus' advice at several points would wreck your life--"let him sell all that he has and follow Me"--because of higher concerns.

Um, first off this is a misquote of Matthew 19:21 and Luke 18:22. See, I don't believe you were a Christian at all. This has to be one of the most preached on sermons in history and you don't even understand what the context is. If you spent any time in church, either you weren't listening or the preacher wasn't preaching.

Jesus is speaking specifically to the rich young ruler who relied on his money and his good deeds over God. This is the point, we are to rely on Christ, not ourselves. Jesus is not prescribing that all people do this, He told this to the young ruler to prove a point that the ruler loved the world more than God. The young ruler proved his point.

bossmanham said...

But God Almighty, The Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, only takes palliative measures on slavery? I conclude that if he exists, and if the Bible is his word, that the biblical guidelines ought to perfectly express his exact will, no ifs, ands or buts.

First off, God's word does express all we need to know. Second, what are you basing your criteria on? Your silly expectations and God's purpose do not share a 1 to 1 correlation. Who gave you the authority to determine the way anyone writes down what they want people to know, especially God? In your statement, you're making your expectations the "ought" that God should follow. But that is elevating your opinion to an objective imperative, making yourself above God. So you have made your own standard that which is above God, making yourself god, verifying Paul's contentions in Romans 1. Good for you, although your standard, sadly, holds no sway on me or God.

but it troubles me that Jesus speaks so blithely about whipping the servants.

What are you basing this consternation on? Whose moral code are you invoking to say that anything is wrong? Second, you admit that there is context to consider in Jesus' statement, so it should be a moot issue. Jesus is, like He often does, speaking in a parable. He's relating to people in the society and sharing transcendent truth at the same time. I could use an example of something I may find detestable to share a deeper meaning. Doesn't mean I condone it.

The Sermon on the Mount would definitely benefit from a bare mention against slavery specifically, but it apparently is an evil he doesn't feel worth speaking out about.

Yeah, the whole "treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 7:12) must mean absolutely nothing.

Skeptical Rationalist said...

Which corroborates my suspicion that you've never actually investigated the subject.

Which corroborates my suspicion that you've never actually investigated the subject.

(see, I can argue like Rhology!)


{sarcasm}
Oh, of COURSE I haven't investigated! If I had, I'd have come to the exact conclusion you have! I must up my intake of apologetics, presuppositional scholarship, and foregone-conclusion archaeology immediately! This whole "critical thinking" stuff is just hogwash, of course it's a path to truth to only accept those facts which agree with what I've already believed!"
{/sarcasm}

Skeptical Rationalist said...

My point with the Sabbath and Jesus advice at *many* points is that God, in the bible, is not shy in the least about making demands that go against the grain of it, but that apparently the perfect expression of his will allows you to beat an "indentured servant" to death and get off scot free as long as it takes more than two days for him or her to die. If it's in the bible, I assume that it's God's expression of the way things ought to be, in the best of all possible worlds.

The fact that you're bending over backwards to cherry-pick the bits that support your kinder, gentler version of slavery seems to hint that you yourself have some other standard that makes you find parts of the bible distasteful. Curiouser and curiouser.

I also find it interesting that you'll take anecdotal accounts from two millennia ago as rock-solid evidence, but the statements of a living person speaking directly to you are dismissed out of hand because they disagree with your preconceptions.

B said...

''I actually don't think euthanasia or abortion for that matter is at all unclear from a biblical perspective.'

I agree about abortion, but questions in euthanasia are extremely difficult sometimes. '

I'm not so sure it's that simple, even with abortion it is not entirly clear.

Exodus 21:22-25 Is often quoted but there the punishment for causing a miscarrige is a fine, it is not treated like murder or manslaughter. Of course the miscarrige has been translated as causing premature birth, in some versions which could be the case. However this is not entirly clear.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 Could also be interprted as abroving of abortion and euthanasia. I'm not saying that it does for sure but once again it is not entirly clear.

bossmanham said...

presuppositional scholarship

If you don't think there aren't presuppositions in all scholarship, you are deluded.

This whole "critical thinking" stuff is just hogwash

I'm sorry you think that. Critical thinking is something I enjoy quite a bit. When I study the historical evidence of the resurrection, I think critically about it. Inference to the best explanation causes me to come away with the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead. If you have a more plausible theory based on the evidence, go for it. Key phrase "is plausible based on the evidence."

The fact that you're bending over backwards to cherry-pick the bits that support your kinder, gentler version of slavery seems to hint that you yourself have some other standard that makes you find parts of the bible distasteful.

Actually, my argument doesn't at all rely on this slavery being kind or gentle. I am simply stating the facts about the time period and am striving to not be anachronistic. The facts are that poor people who owed debts "sold themselves" to someone to work for them to pay off their debts. But my argument is that God regulating an institution does not equal the condoning of the institution, which is independent to how the institution actually functions. He may be neutral on the whole thing and His purpose may have been to work within what the Israelites already knew. It strips your criticism down to nothing, making it a non-issue. God obviously would not approve of early American slavery, because it was nothing but man stealing(Exodus 21:16).

The fact that you're bending over backwards

This isn't hard at all for me. The fact that you have to use emotionally charged language in your arguments shows their weakness. A person who truly is open to the evidence would consider what I'm saying instead of reacting so emotionally to it.

I also find it interesting that you'll take anecdotal accounts from two millennia ago as rock-solid evidence, but the statements of a living person speaking directly to you are dismissed out of hand because they disagree with your preconceptions.

What on earth are you talking about?

Skeptical Rationalist said...

I also find it interesting that you'll take anecdotal accounts from two millennia ago as rock-solid evidence, but the statements of a living person speaking directly to you are dismissed out of hand because they disagree with your preconceptions.

What on earth are you talking about?


Oh, what could I be talking about? Things like:

"And I always disbelieve apostates who say they studied their way out of Christianity."

"See, I don't believe you were a Christian at all."


I think I'm done talking to you. Too bad.

marhaban said...

Bossmanham,

The facts are that poor people who owed debts "sold themselves" to someone to work for them to pay off their debts.

Except when they didn't. I did read your links, but Leviticus 25 is pretty clear.

44 " 'Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
46 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

bossmanham said...

I think I'm done talking to you. Too bad.

Because I challenged your claim of being a former Christian because of your lack of Biblical knowledge? That's a little thin skinned, isn't it?

marhaban,

Again, you can't read a passage anachronistically as indicating the same thing that happened in America in its first 100 years. This is an indentured servitude (ie not harsh slavery) in which these 'slaves' could be redeemed by a friend, and if that wasn't possible, they were to go free in the year of jubilee.

Lev 25:
47'Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger's family,
48then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him,

54'Even if he is not redeemed by these means, he shall still go out in the year of jubilee, he and his sons with him.

And as Mariano points out in his piece (http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com/2009/11/does-bible-and-its-god-condone-slavery.html)

"Note that the relevant passages from Leviticus 25, namely vv. 39-55, make reference to and distinguish between a “slave” or “bondservant” (`ebed) and a “yearly hired servant” or “hired servant” (sakiyr).
Within the text an explanation is given, via a correlation, as to why the slaves bought from the Gentiles were to be permanent (unless they are mistreated such as having even one single tooth knocked out Exodus 21: 26-27 in which case they were to be let go).
Verse 55 reads,
For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Thus, just as God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to serve Him, the Israelites could free Gentiles from Gentile nations to serve them. It seems rather odd to correlate freedom with servitude yet: they, both the Israelites with Egypt and the Gentiles with their nations, were being liberated from malevolence and would now enjoy benevolence. In Israel, Gentile slaves were afforded virtually unheard of rights and privileges.

An important text to note with regards to the concept of freedom for servitude is that engaging upon the manner in which we think of slavery—basically; kidnapping people—was punishable by death,
He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death (Exodus 21:16)."

marhaban said...

Bossmanham,

I'm not saying it wasn't better regulated or possibly kinder than the American slave trade, but I do not see it as indentured servitude.

they were to go free in the year of jubilee.

This is for the indentured servants NOT the slaves from other countries that can be regarded as property and inherited by the next generation.

I already read your link, but even they don't claim this was a temporary servitude. They justify the slavery of Gentiles by saying Jewish people are servants to God and thus they have the right to make Gentiles their servants.

Just because you are nice to your slaves, does not make the practice equal to indentured servitude experieced by jewish servants with a 7 year time limit.

Rhology said...

what I said was "in my experience the bible is just as 'errant' ...You were the one who took that to specifically refer to internal contradiction.

OK, good point. Fair enough.
Let me clarify why I went the internal contradiction route then:
1) External critiques aren't any good from an atheistic perspective, for many reasons, one of which is that there's no objective moral prescriptive power in any atheistic worldview, no reason to tell me "you SHOULD reject a book that claims things that are not consistent with reality." You need to do an internal critique for that reason.
2) If the Bible is true, then God is sovereign and man is extremely finite and limited. Therefore, one has every reason to take God's Word over any human observation, even repeated observation, as true and authoritative. Thus you need an internal critique to shake that up.


the books I've read lead me to believe they're accounts passed down orally for many decades after the events in question

And many of them are. But the books apparently don't talk about ALL that the Scripture is.


not actually written by eyewitnesses

I can't imagine how anyone would know that. It's so much hot air.


illustrative of the historical and theological trends of the times leading up to them

Some of them were, and so what?
Yet some of them weren't - the sudden appearance of the God-man, the Messiah, in opposition to most of the leading religious authorities of the day, for example, wouldn't be. Or the lone prophet speaking against the laxity of Israel. This represents a superficial reading level.


I think the simplest explanation is that Jesus was not the son of god

Yes, it makes much more sense to think that sextillions of individual evolution events took place JUST RIGHT to land us here.


2nd Timothy 3:16 doesn't say "except when he's making the best of a bad situation."

But the rest of the Bible demonstrates that. how many zillions of examples do you need?
God fashioning garments for Adam and Eve.
God giving Seth to console EVe after Abel's murder.
God granting diversity at the Tower of Babel. (You like diversity, don't you? Most atheist love it.)
God making laws that govern the punishment of murder.
God flooding the Earth.
God giving Israel judges and later a king.

On and on. You don't understand the biblical paradigm of the already and the not-yet, it would appear.


If god doesn't like slaves, why doesn't he say "Thou shalt own no slaves?"

B/c it's not true to say "God doesn't like slaves". What are you even talking about now?


Why does Jesus use the beating of slaves as a metaphor, without any indication that he or his father disapprove of the institution?

Maybe b/c He's accommodating to illustrations that ppl would understand?
Maybe b/c all men are as slaves to God?

bossmanham said...

This is for the indentured servants NOT the slaves from other countries that can be regarded as property and inherited by the next generation.

1) I don't think that distinction is made in the text. 2) The servants that belonged to the Israelites from pagan nations typically became Israelites, placing them under the same laws as the other Israelite slaves. 3) These servants were freed from the evil and oppressive grip of sinful pagan rituals and traditions. 4) They were not to be mistreated either. 5) Man-stealing was still punishable by death. 6) Ergo this was still nothing akin to the race-based Egyptian or African slavery.

marhaban said...

Bossmanham,

2) The servants that belonged to the Israelites from pagan nations typically became Israelites, placing them under the same laws as the other Israelite slaves.

I think it is interesting that the bible goes from a somewhat more accepting view of aliens in the time of Moses to casting out the foreign women and children in the book of Ezra.

3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law.

From what I have read, it was a shift in thinking that occurred with the Jews in exile in Babylon. While there, they adopted the idea that they needed to stay seperate from the "other" people. Unfortunately, I think this idea is still prevalent today in Israel. When the exiled jewish people returned to their land, they refused to assimilate with the people there and cast off the alien women and children that had married Jewish men.

From your perspective, is this just history or did God condone the mass exile/abandonment of women and children?

bossmanham said...

marhaban,

I don't see any reason to see it as anything but an historical account of God's displeasure with the Israelites marrying non-converts, thereby becoming unequally yoked and exposing themselves to be influenced by ungodly peoples. It was a direct affront to the command of God. The practical aspects to this command seem self-explanatory.

This command is upheld in the New Testament and shows this to be typological of the command to the modern people of God, those who are in Christ. We are not to marry non-Christians (2 Corinthians 6:14).

So the Israelites who had married these non-believing women were told by Ezra to separate themselves from them. They sent them away and therefore undid these unlawful marriages.

bossmanham said...

BTW, this wasn't a new thing by any means. The command to not marry foreign wives is found in Exodus.

marhaban said...

Bossmanham,

Aww, what happened to The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

The command to not marry foreign wives is found in Exodus.

I wouldn't call it a command, advice maybe. ;)

Jacob married wives that kept their family idols.
Esau married foreign wives.
Joseph married a foreign wife.
Simeon married a foreign wife.
Moses married a foreign wife.
David married foreign wives.
Solomon married foreign wives.
Ruth was a foreign wife.

In none of these stories, did God require anyone to exile their wives and children.

Even in Numbers when Mariam and Aaron speak out against Moses for marrying a foreigner, God doesn't tell them they are right and Moses should cast off his family. Instead he rebukes them and gives leprousy to Mariam.

I'm guessing you justify the inconsistency by saying isn't it great that God is forgiving of sinners and sometimes lets things slide. Am I wrong?

In your view if someone converts to Christianity, should they divorce their non-believing spouse and abandon their kids?

Rhology said...

In your view if someone converts to Christianity, should they divorce their non-believing spouse and abandon their kids?

marhaban,
Do everyone a favor and read 1 Cor 7.

marhaban said...

Rhoblogy,

Point taken. But, this just reinforces my belief that Ezra is inconsistent with the rest of the Bible if you believe he was actually was speaking for God and not just a historical figure.

Rhology said...

Can you recognise the diff between the Bible commanding sthg and the Bible recording someone commanding or doing sthg?

marhaban said...

Maybe. I was responding to Bossmanham who said it was an historical account of God's displeasure with the Israelites marrying non-converts and It(marrying foreigners) was a direct affront to the command of God.

I don't have enough context from you to know exactly what you are asking or your thoughts on the topic.

I think it was a historical account of some guy giving a command, his interpretation of what he thought God wanted.

bossmanham said...

I still haven't seen anything inconsistent here with the rest of the Bible.