Friday, December 17, 2010

Questioning all communication. Except for mine.

In the very large combox of a recent post, Paul C has been advancing an 'argument' that has become one of my biggest pet peeves.  Its history and usage is inclusive among liberals, Emergents (but I repeat myself), Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, atheists, other skeptics, and now Paul C (who doesn't really divulge his own position).  It's a pet peeve of mine because it casts doubt on all communication.  It is self-defeating.  It is absurd.  And it's an obvious smokescreen to conceal when someone is out of substantive arguments on a given topic.
In this case, Paul C unwisely decided to question Coram Deo and me on biblical doctrine.  Sidenote - it's never advisable for a skeptic to challenge a Calvinist like Coram Deo on such grounds, and I don't recommend doing so with me either.

So, let's get on with it.
Paul C said:
"God said you do" = "your specific interpretation of the Bible". There are many, many Christians who don't share your specific interpretation of your Bible, and there is precisely no reason why I should accept your interpretation over theirs.

Your only defense at this point is to claim that they are wrong, and you are right, because your understanding of the bible is accurate and theirs is not. Unfortunately that isn't actually a reason to accept your interpretation over theirs; it's just your opinion.

But feeeeeeeeeeeeeel free to try.



Rhology said...

Let's say Jimmy were to come along and ask, "Hmm, what does Paul C's last comment mean?"
And Chris said, "It means he is eating tortillas and guacamole."

Paul C might later object and say "No, I was discussing whether I'm a sinner a la Christian theology."
But that = "your specific interpretation of your comment". There are many, many readers who don't share your specific interpretation of your comment, and there is precisely no reason why I should accept your interpretation over theirs.

Your only defense at this point is to claim that they are wrong, and you are right, because your understanding of your comment is accurate and theirs is not. Unfortunately that isn't actually a reason to accept your interpretation over theirs; it's just your opinion.


Paul C said...

Tragically your argument (once again) fails. Your appeal to meaning is rooted in the text under dispute, which is of course viciously circular reasoning. How do you know your reading of the Bible is right? Because your reading of the Bible tells you so. Nice try; epic fail.


Coram Deo said...

Tragically your argument (once again) fails. Your appeal to meaning is rooted in the text under dispute, which is of course viciously circular reasoning. How do you know your reading of the Bible is right? Because your reading of the Bible tells you so. Nice try; epic fail.

But that's just your opinion, and there are readers who don't share your specific interpretation of Rho's comment, and there is precisely no reason why I should accept your interpretation over theirs.

In Him,
CD

Paul C said...

But that's just your opinion, and there are readers who don't share your specific interpretation of Rho's comment, and there is precisely no reason why I should accept your interpretation over theirs.

Well, this is pretty easy to resolve - you can ask Rho to clarify, and he can post a comment for both of us to see right here, in this very comments box. This gives us *additional* information to clarify the *original* information, and is therefore not circular.

So now perhaps you'd like to claim that you can get *additional* information from God to clarify the *original* information he provided in the Bible? Unfortunately that additional information doesn't appear to be forthcoming - and if it is, isn't it strange that different Christians claim to have different additional information?


Now, let's stop for a moment and see how Paul C has already lost the argument.  Why, if the text of the Bible is unclear, is more communication going to help?  Adding more unclear information that requires interpretation, where necessity of interpretation = necessary lack of clarity in Paul C's view as expressed here, is not going to help.  It's going to hinder.  When you want to clear smoke, do you add more smoke?
He thinks that another comment from me will help, but will he allow the Bible that same thing?  Isn't the Bible pretty long, and doesn't it comment on the same topic in multiple passages on most topics?  Does Paul C want a Pope?
And why is his comment exempt from this "problem" as he has set it out?  If I have a different interpretation of:
-His comment
-His clarification
-The clarification of his clarification
-Etc
to the effect that I'm still convinced he's discussing tortillas, will Paul C simply throw up his hands, as he is pretending to with respect to the Bible?  Yeah, probably not.

Coram Deo picks up on this:
Coram Deo said...

So now perhaps you'd like to claim that you can get *additional* information from God to clarify the *original* information he provided in the Bible? Unfortunately that additional information doesn't appear to be forthcoming - and if it is, isn't it strange that different Christians claim to have different additional information?

Why should I believe Rho's additional information? After all he might be lying or confused.

I like my interpretation just fine, and since Rho might be lying or confused can you think of any non-circular reason why I should give more credence or weight to an external authority over my own personal autonomous authority?

What if I think I know best?

In Him,
CD


Paul C said...

What if I think I know best?

You mean, what if you view your interpretation of Rho's statement in the same way as you view your interpretation of the Bible?

If you viewed your interpretation of Rho's statement in that way, I guess you could claim whatever you wanted about his statement *and* claim that only your view was correct.

Which was, of course, my point about your interpretation of the Bible. And here was me thinking that we disagreed!

Coram Deo said...

You mean, what if you view your interpretation of Rho's statement in the same way as you view your interpretation of the Bible?

If you viewed your interpretation of Rho's statement in that way, I guess you could claim whatever you wanted about his statement *and* claim that only your view was correct.

Which was, of course, my point about your interpretation of the Bible. And here was me thinking that we disagreed!


Close, but you missed.

The point is that I was inserting myself into your worldview. If the One true and living God is not the ultimate authority, and if His truth has not been revealed in the 66 books of the Holy Bible, then you and I and Rho are truly autonomous, and we are each our own ultimate authorities.

This gets back to my prior point that you are your own god. You dismissed the suggestion pretending not to know what I meant, but hopefully now you can understand.

The irony is that your worldview is self-defeating because you have no grounds from which to make an objection about anyone else's interpretation of anything, because everything is ultimately just a matter of each individual's subjective interpretation, which is ultimate for each individual.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. - Judges 17:6; 21:5

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. - Proverbs 21:2

Although not not entirely on subject, you might find this article to be of interest.

In Him,
CD

Rhology said...

Paul C said earlierThere are many, many Christians who don't share your specific interpretation of your Bible, and there is precisely no reason why I should accept your interpretation over theirs.

Your only defense at this point is to claim that they are wrong, and you are right, because your understanding of the bible is accurate and theirs is not. Unfortunately that isn't actually a reason to accept your interpretation over theirs; it's just your opinion.

But feeeeeeeeeeeeeel free to try. 



Paul C says now: I don't believe that “everything is ulimately just a matter of each individual's subjective interpretation”, so this argument has no purchase with me whatsoever.

Now, Paul C has many times shown himself to be willingly, intentionally obtuse, so I don't expect him to accept the obvious here, but it should be obvious to anyone else reading.


Paul C later circles back around on himself, as if he forgot, never read, or just didn't comprehend what has gone before:
Paul C said...

Answers to all your questions:

Are you equally interested in my metric to support the accuracy of my personal interpretation that chocolate ice cream is superior to vanilla ice cream, or why I believe my chosen brand of chocolate ice cream is superior to the brand of chocolate ice cream selected by others?

No, I'm only interested in what metric you use to discern the accuracy of your personal interpretation of the Bible over that presented by other Christians.

Why or why not?

Because this discussion is about what metric you use to discern the accuracy of your personal interpretation of the Bible over that presented by other Christians.

Are my religious metrics more important or meaningful to you than my ice cream metrics?

Yes, I'm only interested in what metric you use to discern the accuracy of your personal interpretation of the Bible over that presented by other Christians.

If so, why?

Because this discussion is about what metric you use to discern the accuracy of your personal interpretation of the Bible over that presented by other Christians.

Anyway, why should I answer your questions?

I can offer you no reason why you should answer my single simple question, other than to demonstrate what metric you use to discern the accuracy of your personal interpretation of the Bible over that presented by other Christians.

Why would you care? What difference does it make to you?

Why I care and what difference it will make to me is irrelevant to the question of what metric you use to discern the accuracy of your personal interpretation of the Bible over that presented by other Christians.

So, now that I've answered all of your questions in full, perhaps you'll do me the courtesy of answering the single question that I posed to you before you started throwing irrelevant questions at me. What metric do you use to discern the accuracy of your personal interpretation of the Bible over that presented by other Christians?


Rhology said...

One last time, then: what metric do you use to decide that your interpretation of your own comment is more accurate than another skeptic who doesn't share your specific beliefs?

Either you have one, or you don't. If you do have one, I'd have thought that you want to share it both with other skeptics and non-skeptics alike, in order to help them come to truth.

But perhaps you don't have any metric at all. That would be funny, wouldn't it? So very, very funny.


Finally, David, having totally missed the point, chimes in with a completely unhelpful aside:

David said...

Paul C,

The problem is that Alan and CD do not have an answer to your question. Hence, the need to evade and digress.

Let's just answer him here so as to get it out in the open.
David,

My interpretation of your comment is that you're inviting Paul C for coffee on Mars.  
Please give me a good reason to think that my interpretation of your comment is wrong, whereas your preference of interpretation is correct.  Then make sure to let me know why I should prefer your interpretation of your answer to that question over mine, b/c my guess is that I'll continue to think you're discussing coffee on Mars.  Answer that question as many times as you can, and let me know when you're done, so I can just say, with Paul C: "That's just your interpretation" one more time, so I can distract and divert you, so that you won't have to deal with the actual topic at hand.


75 comments:

David said...

Is there an answer to Paul C's question here? Maybe there is, but I've honestly lost track in all of the verbiage. If there's an answer, as a favor to all concerned, perhaps you could clarify and re-state it for me.

Rhology said...

David,

Are you expecting that there will be an answer? Do you think that any, and I mean ANY, piece of communication has a meaning, and that alternative interpretations would be wrong?

David said...

Still no answer.

Rhology said...

Sheesh, dense much?

Here is how you interpret ALL texts and ALL communication, except in cases when you are intentionally attempting to distort the meaning of the communication in question. And then even, say, Derrida, will write a book and expect you to interpret it according to the grammatico-historical method, in its proper context about how the GHM is dead.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical-grammatical_method

bc said...

lurker subscribing

David said...

Finally, an answer of sorts. Now, was that so hard? Did we really need all the evasion and digression?

Ok, so we have a method. So, now we have to figure out if the method is valid. For example, why do different people using the same method on the same text will still come to different conclusions? I'm not saying that there are an infinite number of possible interpretations, and we can usually narrow down the possibilities with respect to interpreting ancient texts. But humans are flawed creatures, and our methods are flawed, too, including the method that you are promoting here. So, when we get multiple interpretations using the methods offered, what are we to do?

Even if we could agree about what the text said, we have to figure out if the text is in any way accurate. Does it always, absolutely, in every case, produce absolutely accurate interpretations and/or absolutely accurately reflect what actually happened at some point in the past? We have to figure out if those who claim to have heard the voice of God actually heard the voice of God. What if they were wrong about this? What if there are inaccuracies in the textual record? If the writers were wrong in their beliefs or descriptions of events, how could we know that the writers were wrong?

Seems to me that we're a long way from being able to say that Alan is speaking an absolute truth to Paul C when he says "God said you do". Maybe God said this. Maybe God didn't. Can a flawed human really say for sure, one way or the other?

Rhology said...

Did we really need all the evasion and digression?

I wasn't the one who asked the self-defeating question, David. You were the one who seconded it. I'd say the blame falls on Paul and you.

I'm trying to get you to think a little. It's been tough.

Now, do you want me to use the GHM on this comment of yours, or would you prefer I use some other means of interp, in which I don't take context, grammar, or culture into consideration?

bossmanham said...

All of these claims that it's not possible to uncover correct interpretations of divine texts discounts the intervention of the divine Being. All Christians, no matter their stripe, rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting scripture.

Perhaps God, knowing that not all of His doctrines are of equal importance, allows some leway in interpreting His word so that we have to study hard and build our character to come to know Him more fully?

This also discounts the depravity of man's mind. Some people just twist the scripture out of pride and arrogance.

None of this entails that we can't know its true meaning.

David said...

"Now, do you want me to use the GHM on this comment of yours, or would you prefer I use some other means of interp, in which I don't take context, grammar, or culture into consideration?"

Hey, I'm all for looking at the writings of the Bible using the historical context of the ANE and Roman Empire. I actually think that it explains a lot of what we read in the OT and NT.

As far as my comments go, free feel to use the GHM to interpret my comments. But I have to ask, do you equate the comments of a human with the alleged comments of a supernatural creator of universes? That is, is a method that might be useful for human communication going to work when it comes to divine and supernatural communication? And are you going to claim to be able to interpret my comments with absolute certainty?


"All Christians, no matter their stripe, rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting scripture."

I'm not sure that this is increasing my confidence in your interpretation. At least with the GHM, we have something that is semi-concrete with respect to interpretation. "Guidance of the Holy Spirit" kinda suggests that you have to start with a certain interpretation before you do the interpretation. You have to believe that the naked emperor has clothes on before you can see them.


"This also discounts the depravity of man's mind. Some people just twist the scripture out of pride and arrogance."

"None of this entails that we can't know its true meaning."

Actually, I think that the first statement strongly suggests that the second statement is not accurate.

bossmanham said...

I'm not sure that this is increasing my confidence in your interpretation. At least with the GHM, we have something that is semi-concrete with respect to interpretation.

The GHM is assisted by the Holy Spirit. Of course someone who lacks the Holy Spirit will find no confidence in the notion. But I find great confidence in divine assistance. Be a fool not to.

Actually, I think that the first statement strongly suggests that the second statement is not accurate.

The you need to present the argument that shows that because SOME people will do this, that means no one can actually understand it.

Hint, there isn't one. Frankly, the assertion is just dumb.

Walter said...

As an outsider (currently) looking in at Christianity, I find it hard to believe that some spirit of God is guiding Christians in matters of divine revelation. Believers spend more times fighting amongst themselves than they do anything else. Most Christian blogs seem to be dedicated to fighting against the doctrinal beliefs of other Christians who believe something a little bit different than they do. And every side is convinced that the Holy Spirit is guiding them to the Truth. This is one of the things that shook my faith in Christianity: everyone is absolutely convinced that their own particular set of dogmas has God's stamp of approval; and everyone that disagrees is an apostate that has let sinful pride distort the supposedly plain and obvious truth that the Creator has revealed.

...and the internecine squabbles between Christians goes on and on and on.

Coram Deo said...

Looking at the blogs you follow and the books you read your comment makes perfect sense, Walter.

Babinski, Loftus and Ehrman, oh my!


In Him,
CD

The Chemist said...

Walter,

I think disagreement is not a bad thing. For one, it shows that people care deeply about God and understanding Him. In some cases, the level of vitriol is much too high, especially in minor side issues. In these situations increasing grace would be warranted instead of launching into a full scale idea war. However, there are certainly cases where those who claim Christianity evidence they are not Christians at all by their actions and/or beliefs. I see no reason not to confront them (or more aptly put, their ideas) to (1) show them the error of their ways and (2) potentially prevent others from falling into their errors.

For what it's worth. In many cases, the disagreements are minor and the major thrust of the beliefs are in unity (e.g., salvation in Christ alone through faith; the trinity; ect.). Quite often the disagreements are about how those truths work rather than the truths themselves.

David said...

The you need to present the argument that shows that because SOME people will do this, that means no one can actually understand it. Hint, there isn't one. Frankly, the assertion is just dumb."

Perhaps you missed my point, and the word in question isn't "understanding". The phrase in question is "true meaning". Not quite the same thing.

If some people will do this (twist, ect.), and if all men have depraved minds, how do you know which men "just twist the scripture out of pride and arrogance"? You think that those who disagree with you are twisting and they think that you are the one doing the twisting. Again, given that all are depraved, how do we determine "true meaning"?

With respect to "holy spirit", I think Walter has the right idea.

bossmanham said...

Perhaps you missed my point, and the word in question isn't "understanding". The phrase in question is "true meaning". Not quite the same thing.

I was actually giving you the benefit of the doubt that your point wasn't even dumber than I first thought. Are you seriously asserting that the author didn't intend a meaning for what he or she wrote down? Should I take everything you write in the same way? How ridiculous.

Now, if you're saying we can't know the true meaning beacause of other poeple's disagreements, then it is the question of understanding on our part, and none of what has been presented here entails that we can't know the true meaning of the text.

If some people will do this (twist, ect.), and if all men have depraved minds, how do you know which men "just twist the scripture out of pride and arrogance"?

Same way you do it with everything. Look at it yourself. Epistemic issues say nothing about the truth of a proposition.

Rhology said...

I'd add that all this stuff about questioning whether an unspiritual man can understand Scr at all does nothing but bolster our response to Paul C's original question. In the face of the Bible's stating that Paul C is not going to be able to access all of its meaning, he should listen to those who are spiritual and not default to questioning all communication that's convenient to question (while ignoring the fact that his own communication is subject to the same "problem").

If he thinks that it's too confusing to pick between denominations or whatever, I suggest repenting before Jesus of his sins first and worrying about which church to join later.

David said...

BMH,

"Are you seriously asserting that the author didn't intend a meaning for what he or she wrote down?"

Uh, no. Where did you get that idea? Wow, you really missed the point.

I might question whether or not a biblical author is really hearing the voice of God, but I assume that when the said author recorded something, the author had a certain purpose or meaning in mind.

However, can we know with absolute certainty what that meaning was, now that thousands of years have passed and the language we use is different from the language of the author? I’m not so sure. We might make some reasonable guesses, but which reasonable guess is right (if any)? How can we tell if a given reasonable guess is wrong?

I think that the claim that we can look at an ancient text and know anything about the mind of God with anything approaching absolute certainty is pushing things a bit. We might learn something about the human author. But learn something about God? This is something that I doubt.


"If you're saying we can't know the true meaning because of other people's disagreements..."

I'm not saying that you can't know the true meaning "because of disagreement". The inability to know the true meaning is not really a direct product of the disagreement. Instead, the disagreement is an indicator or symptom of a bigger problem. Disagreement is a result, not a cause.


"Epistemic issues say nothing about the truth of a proposition."

I don’t believe that this addresses the issue. Human are depraved, so humans twist the scripture out of pride and arrogance, right?. This means that YOUR views could be twisted, too. This also suggests that even if there is a truth out there, correctly identifying and describing the truth is going to be highly problematic. What difference does it make if there is a truthful proposition if depravity prevents us from determining what that truth is?

"Same way you do it with everything. Look at it yourself. "

Ah, you're right. I must be stupid and ridiculous not to see this. The problem must be that I'm twisted and unspiritual. For example, I’m sure that if I said we can't determine what the author meant because the passage is not easily translated, you would think that I was just being proud and arrogant, right?

David said...

"In the face of the Bible's stating that Paul C is not going to be able to access all of its meaning, he should listen to those who are spiritual and not default to questioning all communication that's convenient to question (while ignoring the fact that his own communication is subject to the same "problem")."

So, Paul C should listen to those who can see the emperor's clothes.

bossmanham said...

However, can we know with absolute certainty what that meaning was, now that thousands of years have passed and the language we use is different from the language of the author?

Then it is the understanding issue I brought up earlier and you said was wrong. Not my fault you aren't clear on your own argument.

What about a text being old means we can't understand it? This needs an argument behind it as well.

I think that the claim that we can look at an ancient text and know anything about the mind of God with anything approaching absolute certainty is pushing things a bit. We might learn something about the human author. But learn something about God? This is something that I doubt.

Another argument needed here.

Here's mine:

1) God would have no trouble developing a means of knowing about Him.

2)If God did develop such a means, then it would be understandable.

3) The Bible is the main means by which we know about God.

4) Therefore, the Bible is understandable.

Basically, your hidden premise is that God is incompetent or something.

he inability to know the true meaning is not really a direct product of the disagreement. Instead, the disagreement is an indicator or symptom of a bigger problem. Disagreement is a result, not a cause.

Or it's an indicator that some people are just dumb, or hard headed, or prideful, or have malicious intent. It certainly doesn't have to be that the Bible isn't understandable.

Human are depraved, so humans twist the scripture out of pride and arrogance, right?. This means that YOUR views could be twisted, too.

Some humans do. I don't approach my reading of the Bible with pride and arrogance. Doesn't mean that there isn't hidden pride and arrogance, but the GHM really nullifies that, especially with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture twisting is so blatantly obvious to those who have an ounce of training in hermeneutics, I think that even you could pick it up if you tried to be objective for two seconds. Just like you thought I'd misrepresented you not too long ago and you urged me to reread what had been written, so too can you do so with the Bible. Knowledge doesn't come easy. Historical documents take study.

Ah, you're right. I must be stupid and ridiculous not to see this. The problem must be that I'm twisted and unspiritual. For example, I’m sure that if I said we can't determine what the author meant because the passage is not easily translated, you would think that I was just being proud and arrogant, right?

Not necessarily, although it's always a possibility that your sinful arrogance is getting in the way...in many different instances.

I think it's possible that atheists can have a pretty good understanding of what the Bible says. It takes God to really apply it to your heart, but the heart must be willing as well (there's my Arminianism slipping in).

The Chemist said...

I was thinking about the criticism that all people lead by the Holy Spirit should arrive at consensus. To make this argument fly, you need to assert an additional premise that all Christians are essentially perfect students. I don't like this language, but I am too lazy to dwell on it right now to flesh out the wording. I think, however, the point gets across. People do not approach God in the same teachable way. Different people can certainly resist the work of the Holy Spirit to different degrees. In this way, I would expect a diversity of views simply because Christians are sinful. In other words, such a phenomenon is not inconsistent with Christianity. It would be inconsistent if the Bible teaches that Christians are sinless and perfectly obedient to the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. If that were the case, you would have a good argument.

David said...

What about a text being old means we can't understand it? This needs an argument behind it as well.”

I think we have an issue with semantics here. There is a difference between saying that you “understand” a text on some level and declaring that a text allows you to claim with absolute certainty that “God says X” and that this is an absolute truth and that there cannot be any other way to read the text. My problem is with the latter. To remind you, this is what I was responding to in Alan’s previous post.


>But learn something about God? This is something that I doubt.

“Another argument needed here.”

Seems to me that those who are claiming that they can learn something about God for an ancient text are the ones who need to make the argument here. I think that those who claim to be “thinking God’s thought” bear the burden. Seriously, this is one heck of a claim, don't you think?

“Here's mine.”

Ok, good. Let’s see what we have here.

1) God would have no trouble developing a means of knowing about Him.”

Makes largely untestable assumptions about the nature, capacity and intentions of God. More significantly, it makes assumptions about the capacity of humans.


“2)If God did develop such a means, then it would be understandable.”

More assumptions.


“3) The Bible is the main means by which we know about God.”

Here’s the really MASSIVE assumption. Easy to declare. Very difficult to support. Most cultures have their sacred texts and stories which are presented as “the main means by which we know about God(s)”.

David said...

“4) Therefore, the Bible is understandable.”

Is it? May I quote you from a previous discussion?

“David, many translations say that God visited iniquity on the children, or that God simply dealt with them. The passage is not easily translated, as shown here. It can even be understood as saying the children acquired these sins from their parents and God continues punishing them for it because they keep doing it.”

In other words, you really don’t know what the passage to be translated really means, the full meaning of the passage is elusive, and there are many ways to interpret the passage. In short, it is not really understandable.


“Basically, your hidden premise is that God is incompetent or something.”

Actually, most of my premises are centered on the limitations of humans. It’s really the humans that I have no faith in. I think we can agree that humans are flawed and imperfect creatures, yes?


“Or it's an indicator that some people are just dumb, or hard headed, or prideful, or have malicious intent. It certainly doesn't have to be that the Bible isn't understandable.”

Doesn’t HAVE to mean that, but it certainly supports the conclusion that “understanding” may be elusive. Again, I think we have to figure out what is meant by the word “understanding”.


"Some humans do. I don't approach my reading of the Bible with pride and arrogance. Doesn't mean that there isn't hidden pride and arrogance, but the GHM really nullifies that, especially with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Scripture twisting is so blatantly obvious to those who have an ounce of training in hermeneutics, I think that even you could pick it up if you tried to be objective for two seconds. Just like you thought I'd misrepresented you not too long ago and you urged me t.o reread what had been written, so too can you do so with the Bible. Knowledge doesn't come easy. Historical documents take study."

Ok, so you and Alan both look at the text. You both use the GHM. Neither of you twists the scripture You both are guided by the Holy Spirit. But you come to quite different conclusion about numerous significant things. Your disagreements are not just about minor things, but they include some major issues as well.

Given that the Bible is understandable, why did this happen? So, who’s right? Is either one of you right? How can you tell? You’ve used up the tools you claim will provide the answer (GHM, Holy Spirit). Now what?

David said...

Chemist,

I understand your argument, I would agree that the diversity of views may be consistent with Christianity for the reasons you outlined. Unfortunately, it does not help to inspire confidence when a Christian says "God says X".

We seem to have a dilemma here. A Christian says "God says X". But Christianity says that Christians are sinful, and therefore, flawed and imperfect (or depraved or whatever word you want to use here). So, when a Christian says "God says X", what are we to make of the accuracy and veracity of this statement?

NAL said...

bmh:

Of course someone who lacks the Holy Spirit will find no confidence in the notion.

I don't see it as I'm "lacking" anything. I see it as having the ability to discern the difference between reality and what is a product of my imagination.

zilch said...

You say exegesis, I say eisegesis
You say hermeneutics, I say plain reading
Tomato, pyjama
Potato, true meaning
Let's call the whole thing off

bossmanham said...

Seems to me that those who are claiming that they can learn something about God for an ancient text are the ones who need to make the argument here.

No, I'm pretty sure most historians are fairly confident that we can understand something of ancient texts.

Makes largely untestable assumptions about the nature, capacity and intentions of God.

My gosh, man. You are dense. The only assumption I make about God is definitional, namely omnisceient. That means He would know how to break through any cognitive and epistemic problems man may have, whatever it may take.

More assumptions.

So it's unjustified that if God wants us to know something about Him then he would make it understandable? That's retarded. Any autobiographer has it as a goal to make his life understandable. Honestly, David, these are terrible responses.

Here’s the really MASSIVE assumption.

Yes, premises are quite often assumptions.

And if my premises hold, then the conclusion follows. All you've done is hand waving, which does not refute any of the premises. Come on, give me something substantive.

Actually, most of my premises are centered on the limitations of humans. It’s really the humans that I have no faith in. I think we can agree that humans are flawed and imperfect creatures, yes?

Yes, and I also think that God can and has overcome the limitations of humans. So again, the hidden premise is about God. The very definition of God entails that He'd have no problem with producing revelation.

Doesn’t HAVE to mean that, but it certainly supports the conclusion that “understanding” may be elusive.

Only with further argument, since I've provided four other possibilities. The odds are better that one of those is the case. Five times better, not to mention any other possibilities I've failed to bring up.

Ok, so you and Alan both look at the text. You both use the GHM. Neither of you twists the scripture You both are guided by the Holy Spirit.

Yes. Doesn't mean one or both of us can't be mistaken. But again, that doesn't entail that it can't be correctly interpreted either.

Same with everything you've ever written.

Matt said...

I think that it would be a useful clarification to distinguish between a de facto and de jure objection in this context. The de facto objection states that a Christian cannot know the meaning of any given Bible verse. The de jure objection states that to claim to know the meaning of any given Bible verse is unreasonable in some sense.

The de facto objection is absurd and unprovable. And as Rho has pointed out, it's also self-defeating. A de facto objection to the intelligibility of Scripture bears no essential dissimilarity to a de facto objection to the intelligibility of communication itself. But the very fact that we are engaging in communication presupposes the intelligibility of communication. Thus, the de facto objection fails.

The de jure objection also fares badly, as once again, a de jure objection to the intelligibility of Scripture, in general, bears no essential dissimilarity to a de jure objection to the intelligibility of communication itself. If such a de jure objection is valid, then we could indeed engage in successful communication, but it would be unreasonable for us to claim that we have succeeded in successfully communicating (that is, it would be unreasonable for us to claim to understand each other). This is also absurd.

Most of the discussion in this combox seems to center around the de jure objection, which, even if it is valid, carries no force against any particular system of theology. Just because it is not reasonable for a Christian to claim to know the correctness of his theology does not mean that the Christian does not know the true theology, or know that he knows this. But such a point is moot anyway, given the failure of the de jure objection.

Paul C said...

Yes. Doesn't mean one or both of us can't be mistaken. But again, that doesn't entail that it can't be correctly interpreted either.

How do you tell if you've correctly interpreted it?

NAL said...

Paul C:

How do you tell if you've correctly interpreted it?

By using the correct interpretation method. Duh.

zilch said...

Nal: I knew that.

bossmanham said...

Matt,

So I'm not the only one reading Plantinga. Warranted Christian Belief is so good.

Matt said...

So I'm not the only one reading Plantinga. Warranted Christian Belief is so good.

I agree. He is a great epistemologist.

Rhology said...

How do you tell if you've correctly interpreted it?

The same way you were able to tell that his comment was relevant to this discussion. Sheesh. When will you understand that using words to call words into question is a tad absurd?

NAL said...

Rho:

When will you understand that using words to call words into question is a tad absurd?

So what do you suggest, hand gestures?

Paul C said...

When will you understand that using words to call words into question is a tad absurd?

Probably never, since it isn't absurd. Down here on earth, it's called "communication", "discussion", "debate", and other similar terms. Words are pretty integral to the whole thing, you see.

Anyway, one thing I'm clearly not doing is saying that the Bible can't be correctly interpreted; of course it can. I'm merely asking how you can tell when you've correctly interpreted it.

Over to you for a) answer or b) evasion.

Coram Deo said...

Rho,

How am I to interpret it when Paul C says:

Probably never, since it isn't absurd. Down here on earth, it's called "communication", "discussion", "debate", and other similar terms. Words are pretty integral to the whole thing, you see.

Anyway, one thing I'm clearly not doing is saying that the Bible can't be correctly interpreted; of course it can. I'm merely asking how you can tell when you've correctly interpreted it.

Over to you for a) answer or b) evasion


How can I know what he means? How can I be sure that he isn't attacking my flipjap with a Gnarler #7 flubjub beta packet 0093338844 orf unk kab janup lip?

I 0 8 O very 44 +--; 74? Where up is and or ever not when? Gorble? Gnarf?

In Christ,
CD

David said...

"Anyway, one thing I'm clearly not doing is saying that the Bible can't be correctly interpreted; of course it can. I'm merely asking how you can tell when you've correctly interpreted it."

Exactly. This is the question that still has not been answered. Lots of evasion and misunderstanding of this point (see CD's latest response), but still no answer.

Two or more people look at the text. All act "objectively". All use the GHM. No one twists the scripture. All are are guided by the Holy Spirit. But we get two or more interpretations and conclusions.

Who's right and how can you tell? Is anyone right? How can you tell? If someone is wrong, how can you show that they are wrong?

Why does this happen when God is omnisceient and knows how to break through any cognitive and epistemic problems man may have, whatever it may take. In fact, the evidence suggests that God has fails to do what it is claimed that God can do.

One can continue to refer to my points as "retarded" or by whatever other pejorative one chooses (Have I referred to arguments of others using words like "retarded"?). One can make up all the premises and assumptions that one wants, apparently without any need to support these premises and assumptions. One simply claim that the Bible is God's word.

But we still have no answer to the questions.

Coram Deo said...

Exactly. This is the question that still has not been answered. Lots of evasion and misunderstanding of this point (see CD's latest response), but still no answer.

You've missed the point altogether, David. How can I tell if I've interpreted Paul C's question correctly in order to offer an answer, and once I've answered how can Paul C (or you, or anyone else) have any confidence that my answer has been interpreted correctly?

Such is the entire point of the very post in which you're presently commenting *hint - see title*

We can all play your game of questioning all communication forever and ever, but as Rho rightly points out, it's pointless.

But we still have no answer to the questions.

That's only a matter of interpretation.

In Christ,
CD

zilch said...

I hate to disagree with fellow atheists (forgive my apostasy here), but I don't see how anyone can claim that there is one "correct" interpretation of the Bible, in any absolute sense: there will always be disagreement about exactly what some things mean. Words are simply too imprecise, even given any amount of hermeneutics and/or exegesis.

If God exists, presumably He knows exactly, in every case, what the correct interpretation of every bit of Scripture is; but that knowledge cannot be vouchsafed to exist in any human mind, unless you believe that perhaps one person has it right, at least in any given case.

For instance: I don't see how you can go from a decree such as "thou shalt not murder" to knowing exactly how to apply it in every possible set of circumstances. And the disagreements between believers, even (or perhaps especially) between those who claim to have inner guidance from God, bears out the impossibility of any "correct" interpretation.

This is not to say that there is no interpretation to be gleaned from such statements: but it's never exact. Traduttore, traditore, as they say.

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch

Paul C said...

We can all play your game of questioning all communication forever and ever, but as Rho rightly points out, it's pointless.

While I realise it's fun for you to have raging arguments with the imaginary atheists of your imagination, I'm not questioning all communication. Far from it, in fact: it's precisely because I believe that clear communication is possible that I'm asking you the question.

At a restaurant, few people argue over what the meaning of the words in the menu are. Any misunderstandings can be cleared up by asking questions: of your fellow patrons, of the waiter, of the chef. On the other hand, Christians have been arguing over the meaning of the words in the Bible for a couple of thousand years now, despite the fact that many claim the chef of the Bible answers their questions.

This isn't necessarily a problem, nor does it (for me, at least) undermine the credibility of the bible. It's a complex and profound collection of documents, written by a range of authors, containing a multitude of literary styles, and mainly read in translation. We would be surprised if there weren't disagreements over the interpretation of at least some of the passages.

People might offer different ways of approaching these conflicting interpretations to judge which ones are more accurate. You go beyond this. You claim that your interpretation of the Bible is more accurate - closer to the truth - than that of other people calling themselves Christians. Indeed, occasionally Christians such as yourself will go so far as to accuse others of being false Christians.

This fascinates me, because it's difficult for me as a non-Christian to understand how you can be so certain. So I ask a simple question: how do you know that your interpretation of the Bible is more accurate than theirs?

Paul C said...

We can all play your game of questioning all communication forever and ever, but as Rho rightly points out, it's pointless.

I'm sure that it's very satisfying raging against the imaginary atheists in your head, but I'm not questioning all communication. Quite the opposite, in fact: it's precisely because I believe that communication is possible that I'm asking the question in the first place.

When we go to a restaurant, we don't argue endlessly over our interpretations of the menu. We agree on the meaning of the words, we understand what the dishes are; if we don't, we can ask our fellow patrons, the waiter, or even the chef.

A menu is a relatively simple text to interpret; the Bible is clearly not. This is to be expected; it's a collection of texts in varying literary genres, written by a range of authors over an extended period of time and most often read in translation. We would be surprised if there *weren't* different interpretations proposed.

That doesn't mean that it's impossible to interpret the Bible more or less accurately; in fact, I argue the opposite. Christians (and others) don't argue over the relatively mundane parts of the text, particularly where there's only a single phrase or passage involved.

They do argue over many passages, however, and have done for a couple of thousand years. For me, this doesn't undermine the credibility of the Bible; again, I argue the opposite. Only a complex text that is open to interpretation could possibly provide religious guidance.

You claim that your interpretation of the Bible is accurate, and that offered by other Christians is not. Sometimes people such as yourself go further and denounce other Christians as false in some way. Sometimes I can understand this (those who deny the divinity of Jesus, for example); many times, I can not.

So I ask you a simple question: how can you personally tell that your interpretation of the Bible is more accurate than theirs? It's not a trap, this isn't a battle of wits, I'm not trying to prove you a fool or a charlatan; so why you refuse to answer, I have no idea.

p.s. My first response may have hit the spam filter; I prefer this second response in any case.

Rhology said...

Paul C, you're a case study in "guys who can't let it go".

When will you understand that using words to call words into question is a tad absurd?

Probably never, since it isn't absurd.


That's just your interpretation of the thought you think you had about the interpretation that you think you understand me to have been saying. Before we continue, I simply call into question that you've properly understood me.


Down here on earth, it's called "communication", "discussion", "debate", and other similar terms.

That's just your interpretation of the thought you think you had about the interpretation that you think you understand me to have been saying. Before we continue, I simply call into question that you've properly understood me.


Words are pretty integral to the whole thing, you see.

Yes, I do like chocolate syrup with my computers, thank you.


Anyway, one thing I'm clearly not doing is saying that the Bible can't be correctly interpreted; of course it can. I'm merely asking how you can tell when you've correctly interpreted it.

And one thing I'm clearly not doing is saying that your comments can't be correctly interpreted; of course it can. I'm merely asking how you can tell when you've correctly interpreted them.


Coram Deo,

I 0 8 O very 44 +--; 74? Where up is and or ever not when? Gorble? Gnarf?

If I could be sure that words mean things, I'd giggle, especially when I think you said "Gorble?". But as we've seen, I can't be sure you said it, so I can't be sure it was funny.



David,
Two or more people look at the text. All act "objectively". All use the GHM. No one twists the scripture.

Your assumption.
How about: "All SAY they use the GHM. All SAY they are being objective. No one SAYS he's twisting the Scr."? Wouldn't that be a lot more, you know, honest?
And your points ARE retarded, since they reduce ALL communication, INCLUDING YOUR OWN RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW, to absurdity. The fact you can't see this displays the depth of your postmodern commitments, and doesn't speak well of your critical thinking skills.

zilch is far closer to the truth than any skeptic in this thread has so far gotten. What he needs to do is apply what he said to ALL communication, asking the same questions of his own communication. Then we might get somewhere.

zilch said...

zilch is far closer to the truth than any skeptic in this thread has so far gotten. What he needs to do is apply what he said to ALL communication, asking the same questions of his own communication. Then we might get somewhere.

What makes you think I don't do that already? Of course what I said applies to all communication.

cheers (or beers? or fears? or sneers?) from snowy Vienna, zilch

Paul C said...

I'm merely asking how you can tell when you've correctly interpreted them.

Unfortunately neither of my comments showed up, which is a good example of how communication can (and does) break down.

I can tell when I've correctly interpreted something that somebody else has said by having a conversation with them. If I'm not sure if I've understood them, or if they let me know that I've misunderstood them, I can ask them to clarify. If we're not getting anywhere, we can ask or refer to a third party to help us to clarify.

I'm not sure why you find this hard to understand, or why you think I'm questioning all communication. As I explained (better in the second comment that didn't get through the filter, I think), I'm not questioning all communication at all. If I didn't think that communication was ever possible, it wouldn't have occurred to me to ask the question in the first place.

And the reason I won't let this go is because you won't provide an answer.

Paul C said...

That pesky second comment read as follows:

We can all play your game of questioning all communication forever and ever, but as Rho rightly points out, it's pointless.

I'm sure that it's very satisfying raging against the imaginary atheists in your head, but I'm not questioning all communication. Quite the opposite, in fact: it's precisely because I believe that communication is possible that I'm asking the question in the first place.

When we go to a restaurant, we don't argue endlessly over our interpretations of the menu. We agree on the meaning of the words, we understand what the dishes are; if we don't, we can ask our fellow patrons, the waiter, or even the chef.

A menu is a relatively simple text to interpret; the Bible is clearly not. This is to be expected; it's a collection of texts in varying literary genres, written by a range of authors over an extended period of time and most often read in translation. We would be surprised if there *weren't* different interpretations proposed.

That doesn't mean that it's impossible to interpret the Bible more or less accurately; in fact, I argue the opposite. Christians (and others) don't argue over the relatively mundane parts of the text, particularly where there's only a single phrase or passage involved.

They do argue over many passages, however, and have done for a couple of thousand years. For me, this doesn't undermine the credibility of the Bible; again, I argue the opposite. Only a complex text that is open to interpretation could possibly provide religious guidance.

You claim that your interpretation of the Bible is accurate, and that offered by other Christians is not. Sometimes people such as yourself go further and denounce other Christians as false in some way. Sometimes I can understand this (those who deny the divinity of Jesus, for example); many times, I can not.

So I ask you a simple question: how can you personally tell that your interpretation of the Bible is more accurate than theirs? It's not a trap, this isn't a battle of wits, I'm not trying to prove you a fool or a charlatan; so why you refuse to answer, I have no idea.

Paul C said...

And it looks like they're all getting trapped in the spam filter.

Rhology said...

Sorry - thanks for the reminder; I just cleared out the filter.

Rhology said...

I can tell when I've correctly interpreted something that somebody else has said by having a conversation with them.

Stacking mistake upon mistake.
Which reminds me of the way you justify science - I point out the problem of induction and thus the fact that every conclusion based on scientific study commits a logical fallacy; you rush to reassure me that 100 logical fallacies are much better than 1.

Rhology said...

how can you personally tell that your interpretation of the Bible is more accurate than theirs?

By studying the issue, Paul. And when I'm mistaken, I pray that I'll change my position. I've done so in the past, even recently.

Paul C said...

Stacking mistake upon mistake.

Please identify the mistake that I've made, given that I'm not questioning all communication.

By studying the issue, Paul. And when I'm mistaken, I pray that I'll change my position.

That's not an answer to my question. When you're studying the issue, how can you tell if your updated interpretation is more or less correct than your previous interpretation? And how do you know when you're mistaken?

Rhology said...

What I'm saying is that you're asking how you can know whether a mistake has been made. Adding a bunch more incidents in which it's questionable whether the true interp can be known... I don't see how that helps.

One can know it the same way one knows, for the 10th time, that your comment is about metacommunication and not about tortillas and guacamole.
God made our minds to be able to access truth in sufficient ways to a sufficient extent, and made the Scripture sufficiently clear about sufficient things in order that we might sufficiently know what He has purposed for us to know. Here's an example that might help. Some Christians think one can "lose one's salvation"; that is, end up in Hell after spending part of one's life in such a spiritual state that, if died at that time, one would end up in Heaven with God.
I know this is untrue b/c of numerous parts of the Bible, especially Romans 8:29-31, but I wrote a series on this issue as well.
So if you're curious, I suggest you do some reading of comparative exegesis, not run around casting doubt on communication's ability to communicate, as you've been doing (but as you're now denying that you've been doing, which is disingenuous).

Paul C said...

What I'm saying is that you're asking how you can know whether a mistake has been made. Adding a bunch more incidents in which it's questionable whether the true interp can be known... I don't see how that helps.

I'm not suggesting adding “incidents in which it's questionable whether the true interp can be known”. In the example I gave, imagine that I've never heard of “celeriac” before. Asking the waiter what celeriac is doesn't lead to confusion; it's new information to help me understand the menu better.

In the restaurant, asking the waiter is a means of gaining clarification. I'm asking what methods of clarification are available to you (and implicitly, why other Christians fail to avail themselves of those methods) in your reading of the Bible.

God made our minds to be able to access truth in sufficient ways to a sufficient extent, and made the Scripture sufficiently clear about sufficient things in order that we might sufficiently know what He has purposed for us to know.

Yet to an outsider it seems that Scripture is not sufficiently clear for anybody to claim that they have the definitive interpretation of it.

Some Christians think one can "lose one's salvation"; that is, end up in Hell after spending part of one's life in such a spiritual state that, if died at that time, one would end up in Heaven with God.
I know this is untrue b/c of numerous parts of the Bible


So if the Bible is so clear on the issue, how have those other Christians failed to notice those “numerous parts”?

not run around casting doubt on communication's ability to communicate, as you've been doing (but as you're now denying that you've been doing, which is disingenuous).

I'm fascinated to know which of my statements you believe was “casting doubt on communication's ability to communicate”, because that certainly wasn't the intent behind any of my statements.

As you may recall, this came about because this came about because I pointed out that, from the perspective of an outsider, when you tell me that “God said you do” what you appear to be communicating your specific interpretation of the Bible. Particularly in your case, there seem to be many, many Christians who don't share that interpretation, and I have no way of knowing which is correct.

You must have some way of knowing that you're correct, and that's all I'm asking. It has nothing to do with the ability to communicate, whether yours, mine or theirs.

Paul C said...

I guess what it comes down to is this. When I see you, CD or anybody else stand in judgement over other Christians (or just people in general) and claim to understand the mind of God, I look back over the span of Christian history, the mistakes that have been made, the continual reinterpretation of texts, the way in which the faith has been turned to fit the times.

And I wonder - can you be so lacking in self-awareness that you never consider the possibility that you might be exactly the same as every other Christian in history? As prone to error, as prone to hubris, as prone to stumble? And if you do ever consider that possibility, why does it not hold you back from claiming to know the mind of God with such precision that you drive people away from your faith, rather than bring them to it?

That's my main interest. Everything else is a sideshow, really.

David said...

"How about: "All SAY they use the GHM. All SAY they are being objective. No one SAYS he's twisting the Scr."? Wouldn't that be a lot more, you know, honest?"

So, when BMH says that he's using the GHM, being objective and not twisting the scripture...he's lying?


"And your points ARE retarded, since they reduce ALL communication, INCLUDING YOUR OWN RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW, to absurdity. The fact you can't see this displays the depth of your postmodern commitments, and doesn't speak well of your critical thinking skills."

Damn, how many times are you going to miss the point? No one is saying that all communication is impossble, nor do my points lead to that conclusion. I've never tried to suggest that the Bible is totally incomprehensible or that all interpretations are equally likely.

All you're doing here is repeatedly failing to get the point, and/or creating straw men. Maybe I haven't worded things as well as Zilch, but I'm quite happy to second his latest comments ("I don't see how anyone can claim that there is one "correct" interpretation of the Bible, in any absolute sense").

You can say "retarded" all you like, but you've still failed to understand and/or answer the question. You and BMH apply all of the tools available. You come to different conclusions. Who's right? Who speaks for God? Who is thinking God's thoughts?

Rhology said...

There are lots of ways to gain clarification on a passage of Scripture. You can read it again. You can apply logic to it. Check the context. Check the original language. CHeck the historical context. Check one or more commentaries, lexica, etc. There are all kinds of resources of which one can avail oneself. In fact, these are highly, highly recommended.
All, bien entendu, with the intention of truly understanding the text, and done prayerfully and humbly. Which the skeptic's gonna have a hard time doing.

And that doesn't guarantee that you get it right all the time. You asked for how one can get clarification - those are some ways how.
Not everybody consistently does the work of proper hermeneutics all the time. That's why I don't measure truth by counting noses, and why the question of why there are disagreements is not necessarily a big deal to me. I expect it; the Bible predicts it (1 Cor 11).

As to how it appears to an outsider, it makes little difference to me. I can explain it over and over, and as we've seen over and over again with you personally, it doesn't make a dent in your sinful obstinacy. You need a heart change, borne out of repentance, before this is going to register. The Bible warns us that outsiders will think of our principal message as foolishness, and in fact admonishes us to remind the skeptic that his own worldview is foolishness right back.

The Bible can be clear and yet not engender full agreement b/c of many reasons - tradition, sin, inconsistency, ignorance, obstinacy. People are imperfect.

Notice, BTW, that virtually all of these statements can be applied to virtually all communication, including scientific papers/journals, political polemics, relationship interactions, etc.


Anyway...
Paul C said:
I'm fascinated to know which of my statements you believe was “casting doubt on communication's ability to communicate”

See the original post; you've apparently forgotten what has gone before (or you're trying to smokescreen).


the way in which the faith has been turned to fit the times.

That's pretty specious. How many times have the times turned on how the faith was defined? Many, many. Read Harold OJ Brown's "Heresies".


can you be so lacking in self-awareness that you never consider the possibility that you might be exactly the same as every other Christian in history?

No.
I merely ask that those who think I'm wrong show me from the Scripture or plain reason where I've erred. Not too much to ask, but usually too much to ask from a skeptic.


why does it not hold you back from claiming to know the mind of God with such precision that you drive people away from your faith, rather than bring them to it?

1) I have no idea what you mean by "bring them to it".
2) Biblically speaking, the only seeker is God Himself, not any person. Romans 3:10-23, John 4:23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers."

Rhology said...

David,

when BMH says that he's using the GHM, being objective and not twisting the scripture...he's lying?

Not all of us are so simplistic as to think there are two options here: lying or not-lying.
BMH is mistaken, not lying. Sheesh.


No one is saying that all communication is impossble

It must be Extreme Strawman Day for you.
I didn't say you said all comm was IMPOSSIBLE. But you keep casting doubt on the possibility of proper interp of communication. If you deny it, you have some apologies to make for what you've said.


nor do my points lead to that conclusion

Sorry, this is just wrong. They very much do, and I'd say that's why you've been criticised by more than just me on that very point.


You and BMH apply all of the tools available. You come to different conclusions. Who's right? Who speaks for God? Who is thinking God's thoughts?

In this case on this issue, I am right.
Saying "who speaks for God" is emotionally-charged, empty rhetoric. The question at hand is who is properly understanding what He has said. God speaks for Himself, thank you very much.
BMH will disagree and say that he's right. So what? The clarity and understandability of a text is not necessarily intrinsically linked to how many agree on it.

David said...

"In this case on this issue, I am right."

Well, I guess that settles it.

"BMH will disagree and say that he's right. So what?"

So, I guess it's not settled.

Well, actually it is settled. Zilch is right.

David said...

As a final thought, BMH has already acknowledged that the Bible is not clear. In a different discussion at his website, he described a passage in Exodus as "not easily translated". In other words, the passage is NOT clear.

bossmanham said...

There are phrases in German that are difficult to translate into English. Doesn't mean that Germans and Americans can't clearly understand one another, or that even the gist of the conversation can't be understood.

Your argument has already been defeated by reductio. You're just flailing around in the kiddy pool now.

zilch said...

Boss- no one here will disagree that the gist of a conversation, or other intended communication such as a text, can often be understood, if by "understanding" we mean something like "interpreting in such a way that there is broad agreement between the parties on what is meant".

What is in question is whether or not there is one absolutely correct interpretation of some bit of text. Rho has claimed that there is one correct interpretation of the Bible; we non-Christians here have disputed that.

The problem, as far as I can see, is that Rho has employed a slippery slope here, and said that if we cast doubt on there being one correct interpretation of a text (or other bit of communication), then we are saying that no communication is possible at all, which is of course not the case, as Paul and David have already said.

cheers from thawing Vienna, zilch

Paul C said...

There are lots of ways to gain clarification on a passage of Scripture. You can read it again. You can apply logic to it. Check the context. Check the original language. CHeck the historical context. Check one or more commentaries, lexica, etc.

And finally you get around to answering what is a fundamentally simple question. Why it took you so long is beyond me, but there you go - at least we're there at last.

These are all valid ways of checking. Yet there's still a problem, isn't there? Because presumably other Christians have done the same as you - perhaps in even more depth - and yet reached different conclusions.

So while you've answered the question, you haven't really solved the problem. This isn't unique to Christianity, of course - any historical project suffers from the same issues. As I said, I don't think that invalidates the project itself - we must continue to check and re-check. And of course, maintain communication.

What it does invalidate, in my opinion, is any claim that an individual knows the mind of God to such an extent that they can condemn anybody else, or even claim to know what God intends for those people. That's just me, though.

Your beliefs are (in my opinion) entirely valid, and you are welcome to persuade me of them. When you start lashing out verbally, however, we're right to be suspicious; because that sounds like you working out some barely-concealed personal issues, rather than God working through you.

David said...

"Your argument has already been defeated by reductio. You're just flailing around in the kiddy pool now."

Hey, Brennon. Alan says that when you interpret the Bible, you are mistaken in your conclusions. He's says that when you claim to be thinking God's thoughts, you're wrong. So, why should I listen to you? Maybe even the kiddy pool is too deep for you.

Heading out of town for awhile. I think that Zilch and Paul C have pretty much nailed it in their description of the basic problem here. I second both of their recent comments. No need to add more.

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah everybody.

Rhology said...

Paul,

Why it took you so long is beyond me

B/c I was setting up the absurdity that your questions lead to. Now that that mission is accomplished, I'm OK with moving on to related but different topics.


These are all valid ways of checking. Yet there's still a problem, isn't there? Because presumably other Christians have done the same as you - perhaps in even more depth - and yet reached different conclusions.

Yes.
There might, then, be other things going on. Things that I just mentioned.



What it does invalidate, in my opinion, is any claim that an individual knows the mind of God to such an extent that they can condemn anybody else

Jesus and Paul didn't think this was the case.
The key is the word: sufficient
Nobody is claiming exhaustive or perfect knowledge or intelligibility.



David said:
He's says that when you claim to be thinking God's thoughts, you're wrong. So, why should I listen to you?

Occasionally wrong.
You should listen to BMH b/c BMH doesn't make nearly the amount of unwarranted overgeneralisations that you do.
And it's not exactly a news flash that BMH and I disagree on some things. May I ask, though, why you focus on the DISagreements rather than the much more numerous agreements? We do that, after all!

Paul C said...

The key is the word: sufficient

The same problem applies. You're imagining that understanding works like a jug you can fill up at the tap of truth, where once you reach a certain level you have an accurate understanding of the Bible. That view isn't supported by the evidence, and nor do you have any way of knowing whether you personally have reached that level.

B/c I was setting up the absurdity that your questions lead to. Now that that mission is accomplished

Another thing I find weird is that you genuinely believe that you've won an argument somewhere, but for the life of me I can't work out where. You must be doing victory laps in the stadium of your imagination.

When you've finished, please let me know what "absurdity" it's lead to, in plain English if possible. I'm genuinely puzzled, and tend to think that you haven't actually understood what my position is.

Paul C said...

May I ask, though, why you focus on the DISagreements rather than the much more numerous agreements? We do that, after all!

Because both of you claim to be guided by the word of God. This means that one or both of you is wrong in your claim.

I would also hazard a guess that your disagreements are probably more numerous than you think.

Rhology said...

That view isn't supported by the evidence

Please make the logical argument, then.
P1) _________ (your claim here, in adjectival form) texts will ______ (put desired frequency here) engender unity of opinion.
P2) The Bible has not engendered unity of opinion.
C: Ergo, the Bible ____________ (and put your claim here).

Specifically, please provide the substantiation for P1.


a guess that your disagreements are probably more numerous than you think.

Ah, well, the uneducated guess of an outsider. Isn't it best to let people define their own positions, especially since they're most familiar with them?

Paul C said...

My argument is merely that if understanding was a question of quantity rather than quality, then with 2000 years of exegesis under our belts we should have a reasonably clear understanding of the Bible by now. Since there are quite large variations in Christian belief and behaviour, both between individuals and between cultures, that appears not to be the case.

An alternative explanation is that sin prevents man, individually and collectively, from reaching a clear understanding of the Bible. That seems a little hard to believe, since sin doesn't appear to be preventing us from reaching a clear understanding of other topics. A far better explanation is that the Bible operates like any philosophical text, philosophy dealing with many of the same issues and suffering from exactly the same problem.

Paul C said...

I'm also mildy amused that you didn't pick up on my point that either you or Coram Deo must be wrong in your claim to be guided by God; or else God is doing some selective guiding of you at different points on different issues, which seems like a strange modus operandi.

The Chemist said...

What is in question is whether or not there is one absolutely correct interpretation of some bit of text. Rho has claimed that there is one correct interpretation of the Bible; we non-Christians here have disputed that.

There is one correct interpretation of the text, that which the author intended. Your question is whether or not that interpretation can be discovered and, if so, how is it discovered.

Coram Deo said...

I'm also mildy amused that you didn't pick up on my point that either you or Coram Deo must be wrong in your claim to be guided by God; or else God is doing some selective guiding of you at different points on different issues, which seems like a strange modus operandi.

I'm amused that you still think you have an argument after spending close to 300 comments on this subject between two threads, the contents of which utterly expose the naked absurdity of your ongoing objections.

At some point a Christian's duty to be a good steward when investing the time God has given him comes into to play.

Speaking for myself as opposed to speaking for all Christians who have ever existed, or ever will exist, my private, personal interpretation is that point is right about now.

In Christ,
CD

Paul C said...

I'm amused that you still think you have an argument after spending close to 300 comments on this subject between two threads, the contents of which utterly expose the naked absurdity of your ongoing objections.

As with Rhology, you seem to think you've scored a great victory simply by repeating a point which nobody else thinks is relevant ad nauseum. Unfortunately that doesn't make the point relevant, or even true, and I still haven't seen an argument for why my initial question is absurd, since my personal beliefs are irrelevant to the question being asked.

Since Rhology has now managed to answer the question, "Coram Deo", you are now the last person on these threads - either Christian or non-Christian - who fails to see that the question is not only valid but critical to all of our understanding of Christianity. Congratulations on a wonderful job of spreading the gospel through condescension and evasion.

zilch said...

There is one correct interpretation of the text, that which the author intended. Your question is whether or not that interpretation can be discovered and, if so, how is it discovered.

Thanks for the reply, and thanks for your constant civility, chemist.

I think I've already said that it seems possible that God knows the one correct interpretation of the Bible. This is, of course, supposing the existence of God, which I do not.

But as Paul has made abundantly clear, and as I'm also sure everyone here knows from history, there has been two thousand years of exegesis, and two thousand years of people disagreeing about the interpretation of the Bible, and two thousand years of founding different sects (an estimated thirty thousand of them) based on those different interpretations, and two thousand years of demonizing or killing those with different interpretations.

To my mind, this militates against the hypothesis that there is one correct interpretation available to mankind. Of course, any number of self-anointed True Prophets would tell me otherwise. This does not rule out the possibility that there is one correct interpretation, but that it is very very elusive, such that no one has found it yet. But such a hypothesis is, of course, unfalsifiable, and there's thus no point in discussing it.

In any case, Merry Gilgameshmas, oops, I mean Christmas to you and yours!

cheers from thawing Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

I too am withdrawing here, since all has been said that needs to be. We've been explaining what the reasonable position on any and all communication must be; Paul C and his sycophants appeal to argumenta ad populum like "but some people disagree sometimes!"

After 5 or so quarters inserted into the carousel, this horse is making my rear itch. I'm gonna dismount and get some caramel corn.

Merry Christmas to all,
Rhology

Paul C said...

Paul C and his sycophants appeal to argumenta ad populum like "but some people disagree sometimes!"

One can only hope that for Christmas this year you receive an English dictionary, some remedial classes in critical thinking, and possibly some manners.

"Sycophants". Funny!

Lvka said...

Questioning all communication. Except for mine.


Like this, you mean? :)