"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Monday, July 12, 2004

A further response to Darkstar218

Hi Tim

Thanks for your post.

Tim: Before I start, I want to first address your misinterpretation of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. Again, in the correct context of Scripture, what does this passage mean?... We, as Christians, must not quench fire of the Holy Spirit when He speaks through believers or treat the message with contempt, but we are, at the same time, obliged to test these messages AGAINST SCRIPTURE (as the Bereans of Acts 17:11) to see if it is truly a Word from God we are receiving or that of a false teacher.The way we test false teachers is with SCRIPTURE.This does not preclude me from testing men and women who proclaim to come in the name of Jesus Christ.It, in fact, gives me charge to do so.But what I use to test their message is not Kant or Freud or Foucault, but the standard of Scripture which they proclaim to follow.
1 Thessalonians 5 doesn't even mention *scripture*, so it's amusing that you suggest that *I* am misinterpreting it. Do you really believe that the Bible can only be interpreted properly by adding words which aren't there to begin with?

I don't believe that the Bible is inerrant. You do. But I think the Bible does offer good advice about false teachers:
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" [Matthew 7:16]
We should look very carefully at the works of those who claim to be preaching "truths".
Tim: Scripture does not change the definition of evil at a whim or justify evil acts.Again with 2 Samuel - comparing God to Stalin and Hitler just a thoughtless analogy.They can't even be compared.The reason Stalin and Hitler’s acts were unjust and evil was because their motives were that of greed, hatred, and domination.God punishes and rebukes to reconcile and restore to fullness - which was see happens in the very next verse.
And what are the motives of God, spelled out time and time again in the Old Testament?
"You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Exodus 5:20]

"And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you." [Leviticus 26:30]
God shows jealousy and hatred to those who will not worship him, to the extend of damning not only them, but their children, grand-children and great-grand-children.

Evidently you think that is moral. Stalin and Hitler both punished the descendents of those who opposed them. Evidently you think its different for God, who you hold up as your absolute standard for morality, because you think that by definition God can do no wrong...
Tim: I have to ask, What definitions of LOVE and MORAL are you using and where do those definitions come from? As I've written before, the secular notions have no weight if you mean that Love means everything goes and anything is acceptable.All Loving does not mean accepting all things under all circumstances, and God (and mankind) would never claim to BE that definition of All Loving.All Loving does not mean removing all pain and suffering from the world.
I don't know about you, but I'm using generally accepted definitions of these words:
LOVE: "A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness..."

MORAL: "Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny... Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior..."
I'm not the one claiming that "love" and "morality" can in any way be "absolute". You are - but you use these words inconsistently. How can it be moral or loving for *God* to do something, if it would not be moral or loving for humans to do it too? How can it be moral or loving of God to damn the descendents of those who displease Him, if it is not loving for humans to do the same?

Would you threaten to spank your daughter purely because of the bad behaviour of your son? I say that would be immoral - even if your motivation was to cajole your son into repentance. Apparently you think that's OK.
Tim: On top of this whole discussion, there are a few other things to consider about 2 Samuel 12.1.) Most of the time, we focus on David’s sin for sleeping with Bathsheba.However, doesn't the door swing both ways?We are not certain from Scripture, but there is no mention of Bathsheba resisting David’s advances.
You know, Tim, when you are in a hole you should really stop digging.

Firstly, you seem to have forgotten that God specifically says in 2 Samuel 12:11 that *he* will bring the evil (or "calamity"). To excuse his culpability for the consequences of his actions because the participants are themselves are immoral is just whacko.

Let's say that Bathsheba did want to sleep with David in full view of her husband and the general public. (There are numerous other examples of God apparently inciting whoredom and adultery, e.g. Hosea 4:13). The penalty for adultery in those days was death (see Leviticus 20:10).

Your argument seems to be that it is moral for God to punish wrong-doers by inciting their relatives to commit immoral and even illegal acts.

Do you really think that that is *moral*? Is *that* what you want to teach your children? Or base your life on? I don't.

I say that the basis of morality can only be *consistency*. If we expect a standard of behaviour in others that we do not expect in ourselves, we are hypocrites...
Tim: There are some who believe that the only real evidence is scientific... I am curious what you would say is a definitive proof or evidence for (fill in the blank).Or are you one of these philosophers who believe that there is no such thing as proof and nothing can be certain?(I'm asking this in all sincerity because I don't know where you stand.My tone is not one of sarcasm.)
I've always been fond of this quote from Steven J Gould on that very point:
"Science is all those things which are confirmed to such a degree that it would be unreasonable to withhold one's provisional consent."
The question is then, of course, what we are prepared to accept as confirmation...
Tim: My personal basis for Biblical TRUTH and Absolute Morality (and I'll definite that in a bit) revolve around one crucial event / person and that is Jesus Christ.The reason why it’s foundational is because Jesus claimed to be GOD, and God claimed to be the author of the Bible and creator of the Universe.... If Jesus Himself upheld the Scriptures and gave sanction to its completeness and validity, and He gave evidence to show that He was indeed God as He claimed, would this not support the conclusion that Scripture is in fact the inspired, complete, inerrant Word of God?
Let's be careful here. To assume that the Bible is inerrant, or that Jesus upheld that inerrancy, without properly considering the evidence to hand is circular reasoning.
Tim: For that, the first evidence I'll cite comes from the conclusions of Simon Greenleaf...
Simon Greenleaf died in 1853. A lot has happened in Biblical scholarship and archaeology since then. Since his time, most *Christian* scholars have come to the conclusion that even the supposed "Mosaic" writings of the Old Testament were put together by various sources over hundreds of years; and that the Gospels were not written for at least a generation after the death of Jesus, and depend on each other or perhaps a lost common source.

Are we to discard their opinions and the evidence which they have gathered merely because it conflicts with some pre-conceived notion of the "Truth" of the Gospels? If so, we can say goodbye to any notion of logic and reason being the basis of your beliefs.
Tim: So why is that significant?It’s because Jesus predicted His own death and resurrection.NO ONE in history has ever accomplished that to the detail that He did.And the reason why He could is because He is God, as He claimed.This unprecedented miracle was the last evidence the disciples needed to proclaim and witness to a hostile and violent world of Christ’s life.But even so, they witnessed dozens of miracles before His crucifixion as are recorded in the Gospels.
Again, the Gospels were not (according to most *Christian* experts) completed until at least generation after the death of Jesus. That gives plenty of time to retro-fit stories to supposed prophesies. Even worse, you seem (again) to be forgetting the words of the Bible itself.

According to Matthew 11:20-24, the towns of Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum witnessed the best of the miracles of Jesus first hand - but they turned him away. If *these* people did not believe in Jesus 2,000 years ago, how can we be expected to today? Is it because if we don't we'll be damned just like Jesus damned the people in these towns (even, apparently, the people there who *didn't* see his miracles first-hand)?

Is that the best you have to offer? Threats of damnation? That doesn't seem very moral to me...
Tim: And Greenleaf is not alone in his assessment.Scholars, historians, archaeologists, and Biblical and non-Biblical writers have come to similar and supportive conclusions of the life and resurrection of Christ.Hank Hanegraaff writes about the reliability of the Bible by evidence of the available Manuscripts, Archaeology, Prophecy and Statistics...
Now you are on very dangerous ground... Look. If, as it seems, you only read Fundamentalist apologetics, then it's not surprising that you have a false sense of what scholars say about the Bible.

Read elsewhere - in any standard non-Fundamentalist University textbook, for example - and you'll get a very different picture.

Most *Christian* scholars do not believe that the Bible is a truly accurate history of Israel. Most *Christian* scholars accept that the Gospels were modified in their formative years to meet the needs of the early Christian Church. (I provide numerous quotes, sources and references on my webpage Facts For Fundamentalists).

Why should I accept the opinion of Hank Hanegraaff (or Sir William Ramsay, who died in 1916) over that of Bruce Metzger, emeritus professor at Princeton and chairman of the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version? Or William G Dever, Professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona? Or Bart Ehrman, Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill?

Now, you can disagree with their opinions all you want - but it is dishonest and immoral to simply pretend that these opinions do not exist... And that is *precisely* what Fundamentalist Apologetics do.

Let's hark back to the warning in Matthew 7:16 about false teachers.

Your authorities tell you that historians and archaeologists support the literal "Truth" of the Bible. How can you trust them when a simple examination of the *facts* about what most Christian scholars say about the Bible shows this to be false?

Tim: Now, what about opposing ‘evidence’?A favorite of non-Christians is the ‘science’ of evolution and the Big Bang Theory, supposed billions and billions of years of earth history, radioactive potassium-argon dating, etc...
Now you are being dishonest.

Here is a partial list of Christian and Jewish organisations which accept that the Earth is billions of years old and that life evolved through common descent:
the American Jewish Congress; the American Scientific Affiliation; the Center For Theology And The Natural Sciences; the Central Conference Of American Rabbis; the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ; the General Convention Of The Episcopal Church; the Lexington Alliance Of Religious Leaders; the Lutheran World Federation; the Roman Catholic Church; the Unitarian Universalist Association; the United Church Board For Homeland Ministries; the United Methodist Church; and the United Presbyterian Church In The U.S.A.
It is simply a *lie* to claim that only non-Christians accept the standard scientific explanation of the world; or that "evolution" or an "old Earth" are incompatible with Christianity.

I trust I won't have to correct you on this point again.
Tim: Take radioactive potassium-argon dating, which is commonly used to date volcanic rock and nearby discovered fossils.Andrew Snelling of Creation Magazine writes...
Sigh. "Creation Science" magazine is associated with Answers In Genesis, an organisation which says in its "Statement of Faith":
"By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information."
They say that *by definition* no evidence can contradict the Bible. That isn't science. Do you truly believe that the interpretation by fallible humans of the Bible must over-ride the interpretation of other evidence no matter what that evidence says? I hope not. I remember you saying that you could defend the Biblical account of Genesis using logic and reason...

Turning to Potassium Argon dating... This claim is dealt with at length, and with references to numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers, at TalkOrigin's Index to Creationist Claims Claim CD013.

Now, I'm well aware that TalkOrigins is a sort of bogey-man for Fundamentalists... But the fact is that it merely states what mainstream scientific opinion - Christian and otherwise - says about science.
Tim: The same goes for evolution.Dr. Lee Spetner... writes a fascinating and poignant response to an evolutionary biologist’s claims of justifying the ‘science’ of evolution.I’m not a biologist...
And neither is Dr Spetner. (He's a physisist). Look, the vast majority of biologists accept that evolution occurs as mainstream science describes. The fact that you or Dr Spetner disagree is surely neither here nor there.

Of course there is disagreement about the *mechanisms* of evolution - but that doesn't get round the fact that even "Intelligent Design" advocates like Michael Behe accept that macroevolution occurs.
Tim: So here’s my opposing view and the evidence for it...
Tim, you have presented *nothing* except for arguments based on (a) the given assumption that the Bible is true; and (b) a deliberate disregard for the opinions of others who do not start with that same assumption.

Let's go back to Matthew 7:16. Non-Biblical science has brought us medicine; the motor car; the internet; space travel; and any number of other wonders.

Look at the list of "creation scientists" listed by Answers In Genesis. You will not find *one* scientific advance made by any of those listed which was based on "Biblical science". No - they used materialistic science just like every other scientist.

Creationism has brought science *nothing* except deliberate and blatant dishonesty about the beliefs of others. If that isn't evidence of false teaching, I don't know what is...

Look, we are straying from the point here.
  • Do you think it is moral to encourage the wives of wrong-doers to commit adultery?

  • Do you think it is moral to punish the unborn great-grandchildren of wrong-doers?

  • Do you think it is moral to destroy whole cities if they will not accept your beliefs?

  • Do you think it is moral to punish those who refuse to love you of their own free will?
These are the actions of the God you claim to worship.

There are those, of course, who claim that it is moral for humans to do these things as long as it is in "God's name". Are you one of them?

And if you claim that it is moral for your God to do these things, but not for us to do them, then I can only conclude that your God is a hypocrite.

Best wishes


LINKS: Updated Discussion Index | Darkstar218 Weblog

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