Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A potpourri from a naturalist's reading of the Bible

I met Paul during my recent interaction over the King and I Bible project, and he has posted a lengthy response on a new blog he created b/c his comments wouldn't post correctly.  Blogger is still experiencing these comment bugs, but I suppose it's preferable to 1000s of Asian pr0|\| comments coming in all the time...

2. (Circumcision) is inhumane and it should have baggage.

1) May I ask what evidence you can adduce to demonstrate its inhumanity?
2) I presume you are against tattoos and ear piercings as well, on moral grounds?

What of female genital mutilation? If not, wouldn't this demonstrate sexism on your part?

God did not command female genital mutilation, and in fact the functionality of the female anatomy is markedly diminished after circumcision.  Namely, the woman cannot feel nearly as much pleasure during intercourse.
If you want to charge God with being sexist, I suppose you are free to do so.  I simply request an argument to that effect.  Why is God sexist, and since you seem to think that sexism is bad (if I'm wrong, please correct me), please give me a reason to think so, given your worldview.

3. Please provide evidence for: The existence of a God,

That's not how I roll.  :-)
My argument is that you act as if there is a God, b/c you act like stuff matters.  You act like I can understand you.  You act like there are moral laws.  You act like there are laws of logic.  None of these things are consistent and possible in a godless universe.
I presuppose God exists b/c w/o God, nothing makes sense.  Pointless to point out "evidence".  You'd just reject it anyway b/c you are a sinner.

Let me illustrate by asking you a related question.  Please provide evidence for: The laws of logic and mathematics.
You can't, can you?  No, you have to presuppose their existence to make sense of the universe.  That's an illustration of what I mean.
Specifically, I presuppose and indeed have to presuppose the God of the Bible, b/c no other proposed god in no other worldview contains internal consistency and explanatory power for these questions we're asking.

use these features to show why God would be interested in creating ambiguous literature.

Could you give, say, 2 examples of what you mean when you say "ambiguous"?  Are you open to the possibility that what seems ambiguous to you might seem that way b/c of your ignorance?

It was not written as a historical record, it was written as a letter.

(This is in discussion about Hebrews.)
Yes, a letter that references historical people in such a way that the author makes clear that he is recounting historical events that occurred in the real lives of real people.

The apparent intent is to spread christian doctrine.

Yes, and Christian teaching is based on historical occurrences, such as the giving of the Mosaic Law, the creation, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, etc.

This letter was written somewhere around 1000 years after the event.

I think it's more like 2000 years, actually.
But the time is immaterial - God has a perfect memory.

The author does this by projecting his world view, into the past and overlaying it on the Hebrew's history.

He explains the incompleteness of the OT in terms that explain Christ and also in terms that are inherent in the OT itself.  Such as the repetitive nature of the sacrifices, the inability of the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin and cleanse the conscience, etc.

“What if God were writing it and knew Abraham's heart better than even Ab did, and chose to reveal it more fully in Hebrews?”
See above.

Just so you know, Paul, that's not an answer.

4) “Also, "multiple sources" =/= textual variant.”
Multiple sources/writers/authors often lead to textual variations

I'm sorry, but you're committing a category error here.  The existence of texts that someone, especially numerous someones, felt like copying and preserving for posterity, as well as humanity's imperfection, which is what causes the copy errors, are the causes of textual variation.  Multiple authorship has nothing to do with it.

5. There are many examples of groups of people following charismatic personality's even unto the grave. IE Jonestown, Heavens Gate.

None of those are comparable, and if you'll reread it, you'll see that I was very specific in my language. The apostles would have KNOWN FOR SURE that Jesus was NOT resurrected. That's different than being deceived into thinking that your leader guy is the Messiah, but not having any way to know that was a lie (other than common sense, I mean).  They said Jesus rose from the dead.  If He hadn't, if they'd hidden His body, why go to one's grave confessing that He'd risen when you know for sure that you're not getting anything out of it?

What if they simply went to the wrong tomb?

Why didn't the Sanhedrin just go to the right one and produce the body, then?

Maybe, they saw what they wanted to see

1) It's hardly true that they "wanted" to see Him.  They didn't think He was coming back, remember?  Their hopes were dashed.
2) Are you appealing to the tired old hallucination theory?  Can you name another occurrence when dozens of ppl have seen the same hallucination?  Does it not say something to you that you are positing here a unique event to explain something you otherwise can't explain?  Something that science has no reason to think is possible?

If there is an all powerful loving God, who sent his son as the only way to salvation, don't you think He would have made sure the story was written down correctly?

Certainly.  May I ask why you think that it wasn't written down correctly?  We've seen that you don't know the nature of textual variations, so that's out the window, but perhaps you have something else in mind?

6. Asking for evidence is not the correct way to go about looking for answers?

1) Often it is, but not always.
To show this to be the case, let me ask this:  What is the answer to the questions "is evidence a good way to discover truth?" and "how do you know your mind is properly inclined/geared toward understanding evidence?"  Wouldn't it be true that, to cite evidence as an answer, would be to beg the question at hand?
2) You asked for evidence of God's character.  To ask for evidence of an ought-value, a moral normative value, is a confusion of categories and commits the naturalistic fallacy.  God's character is the standard by which all other standards and actions and questions are judged.  If that is not true, the absurdity to which I refer can be summed up in one word - meh.  That is, there is no reason to do anything, ever.
Here's what I mean, and hopefully it will be helpful when you write up your answer about how things can be compelling on naturalism.  Make sure you deal with the substance of this post when you do.
(This fable might also be helpful.)

Please explain how the authors of the Bible stating the unchanging nature of God, is any more true than the writers of Enuma Elish stating attributes of their gods?

What I mean is that if you want to critique the biblical doctrine of God, you need to critique the biblical doctrine of God.  We can't be smuggling in outside factors and then pretending we're dealing with this one specific God.
And yes, when I interact with, say, Islam, I deal with Islamic doctrine.  I don't prove an irrationality within Buddhism and then run around yelling about how Islam is false.

You said:
It would seem God changes very much from the OT to the NT
ME: “I would suggest that you're not reading them correctly.”
So you are not a literalist?

1) "Literalist" is not well understood, and no, not everything in the Bible is to be taken "literally" if the context demands a different application.  Context.
I use the literalistic principle aka the grammatico-historical method.
2) The invitation to show that God is indeed different in the OT than in the NT is still open; you didn't try to show it.  Remember that DOING diff things is not the same as CHANGING ONE'S CHARACTER.

In fact in the Hebrew Bible there is hardly any mention of an afterlife or a “satan” at all.

True about the afterlife, though it is certainly present.
Satan appears in numerous places, however - Genesis 2, Job, Isaiah, 1 Chronicles, Zechariah, Daniel...

Are you saying the people of God were changing, therefore their writing of God is changing? Doesn't that undermine divine authorship?

People change, yes, as do their circumstances and historical context.  So their writings will address diff things throughout the course of time, yes. Why would it undermine divine authorship?  We believe that the Scriptures are BOTH divine AND human in their authorship and origin.

These are things we find morally despicable today, even in wartime

"We" do?
I have many, many questions and challenges for this kind of bald assertion.  Please read this over.

Would you argue God still commands us to kill even the innocent among our enemy’s? Does God still want us to commit genocide?

Would you please go back and read the passages you cited and let me know to whom those commands were directed?

Yet it is commanded, then Jesus tells us later only the blameless can cast stones.

1) Did Jesus mean for all time and everyone?  Or did He mean for that situation, since those who dragged the woman before Him were hypocritically breaking the Law themselves in that they:
 a. did not also bring the male offender
 b. were merely trying to get Him to say something that would give them an excuse to immorally put Him to death?

2) Why is it that Jesus also commanded us to judge between truth and falsehood and good and bad teachers?

3) Why is it that Paul commanded submission to the gov't when justified, even in execution of capital punishment in Romans 13?

"I'm afraid that I can't take Luke too seriously, given his propensity to delete my comments, which I assure you contained no unseemly content or profanity.”
So because Luke doesn't take you seriously, you dismiss his writings?

No.  It is what I said, no more and no less.

I am not sure I would want that sort of antagonism around my blog either.

OK.  To each his own.  Why are you here, then?

Have you had a chance to read and respond?

To point out the piles of errors would take more time than I have right now.  Suffice it to say that the article was pitifully bad.

“But as for Fyfe, I'm still waiting for him to let us all know how we can know which desires are moral to have and act upon.” I do not completely buy into his flavor of utilitarianism, but it is interesting.

So I ask you about choosing between desires, and the very article itself says "Desires are not correct or incorrect."  May I ask how this was supposed to help?

What good would it have been if we accepted God as the solution for the orbits of the planets, or the devil for mental illness?

1) I am not at all sure what "the solution for the orbits of the planets" means.  I'd appreciate a clarification.
2) I presume you have some scientific proof that devils do not cause some mental illnesses?  May I know how the control group was set up and what interview questions were asked to ensure that no devil could have answered the way the control did?

Well, sure, but the question is not whether people can "do ethics", but how they justify those ethics.
My point is: we are past the point of easy answers.

I'd very much like to see ANY answer, actually.  Never mind easy ones.  How do you justify your ethics?


Darren said...

good stuff...

Anonymous said...

you are an idiot, circumcision is forced upon a child by ignorant parents. Tatoos and piercings are choices made by cognizant individuals.

Rhology said...


Are not many other decisions, including permanent ones, "forced upon" children by parents?
What precisely is your moral objection?

Paul said...

For the record, I did not clearly specify. I was speaking about infant/forced circumcision. In that case, yes I am against the tattoos and piercing of minors against their will. Once someone is of age to make such a decision they are free to do it to themselves.

Rhology said...

Thanks Paul for the clarification.

Anonymous said...

Mutilation forced upon children is not acceptable, ever. Stop confusing guidance of children with such a horrible barbaric practice !!

Rhology said...


Are not many other decisions, including permanent ones, "forced upon" children by parents?
What precisely is your moral objection?

Anonymous said...

You are a monster !!! How dare you confuse mutilation of children, a despicable act, with parenting. You need to learn the difference between teaching good lessons onto a child that will make them competent human beings as opposed to forcing them into nonsense of your kind. What kind of morality do you subscribe to that would justify mutilation of a helpless innocent child ? It is perverse and disgusting. SHAME ON YOU !!!!

Rhology said...


You're long on emotion and vitriol and short on argumentation and substantive answers.
Simply shouting the same answer and calling me names won't get the job done.

Anonymous said...


Please answer the question posed to you. What sort of morality do you subscribe to that allows mutilation of innocent helpless children as normal ?

Rhology said...

Sorry, I don't play that game around here.
There is a long paper trail about my stance on morality. It's easily found, especially if you look at the Posts To Which I Often Refer in the left sidebar.
You have multiple questions posed to you. Answer them or you can have this combox to yourself.

Anonymous said...

You have questions asked of you and you refuse to answer. You also confuse mutilation of helpless innocent children, a despicable act, with parenting. How do you resolve this ? Regarding this particular issue, you are dodging the question.
You too have multiple questions asked and will not answer to them, perhaps because your position is not defensible.