Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Liberals Have a Tiny Bible??


God Photobomb? 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
One of our more fundamentalist brothers has made a recent attempt at humor, suggesting that liberals have "tiny Bibles..."

There used to be a video store near us that rented movies with objectionable parts removed so the whole family could watch them. I remember thinking, “What a time saver – you can watch Pulp Fiction in 5 minutes!”

In the same way, you can read the Theological Liberal Bible in about that time, and that is barely an exaggeration. Thomas Jefferson famously made his own religion with his “Jefferson Bible.” Theological Liberals just go many steps further. I’m pretty sure this post is longer than their Bible.


Funny Pulp Fiction and liberal joke aside (and I DO think it's humorous, as a stereotypical joke), I think if we were to look at it as a serious commentary, we might have to flip the insight over.

Progressive Christians tend to try NOT to tie God down. We recognize the Bible as the Word of God, profitable for teaching and correction, but we don't think it's some magical book that contains ALL the "Word of God" of an infinite and all-powerful God. Rather, we tend to look at the Bible as God's revelation to humanity from the folk who wrote these accounts thousands of years ago.

But God will not tied down to a few hundred pages.

I find God writ large in each and every mountain and hill, and each and every leaf, blade, flower and needle upon each plant and tree upon each of those mountains; in poems and prose so large that one million million hikes would not allow me to begin to read, much less comprehend.

I find God writ upon the billions of stars across millions of galaxies scattered across an infinite universe.

I find God writ in the little acts of love shown by children throughout the ages, as well as the great acts of selfless bravery and giving by humanity throughout time.

I find God's Word written throughout all of God's creation, in big and small words and they are always written with that tell-tale evidence of love and grace of its Author.

Do Progressive Christians have a tiny sense of the Word of God? No, I can't say that I have found this to be true. Nor do most good conservative Christians that I know and have known.

However, some fundamentalist types have managed to trap the word of a God in a few hundred pages, or at least they seem to think so.

I kind of have to doubt it.

287 comments:

1 – 200 of 287   Newer›   Newest»
Alan said...

I used to have a tiny Bible. I got it as a gift. It was teeny-tiny. Seriously, it was no bigger than a couple inches square and the writing was like 4 point font. Actually it was just the NT and Psalms. So someone else cut out the rest of the OT, not me. I think it was the Gideons, those evil "Theological Lib'ruls."

Also, I'm not sure what difference the size of the Bible makes given that most fundie whackjobs seem completely illiterate. But clearly there's some Bible envy going on here. Freud would have a field-day with your Big-Bible-Boastin' Fundie Friend. ;)

It ain't the size of the Bible, it's what you do with it that counts.

Good God, what's next with these simpletons? Cross size?

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

It really is quite tiring to hear this crap. There is, quite literally, no argument anyone can make to counter this.

For part of her ordination paperwork, Lisa had to create a lesson plan for teaching . . . Nehemiah. I will admit to having skimmed through it and its companion book, Ezra, without really paying all that much attention (kind of like skimming the census roles in Numbers).

Lisa saw in this book, though, the celebration of the community rebuilding the city. She saw it as a model for celebrating the work even the most humble person performs as essential to the completion of the whole task the community is called to do. It was an eye-opening, mind-expanding example of the way even those parts of the Bible we admit to passing over with barely a glance contain riches should we allow ourselves to read them.

Small bibles? Prove it.

Dan Trabue said...

As a joke, I think it's fine. Liberal christians DO sound like sometimes they are just cutting out the parts they don't like.

Of course, the problem is that fundamentalists and conservatives do this, as well. They just don't recognize it when they do it.

Still, as a joke, it's fine. The problem is that they were taking it seriously.

Dan Trabue said...

Lisa's Nehemiah lesson plan sounds cool, by the way.

Marshall Art said...

"Of course, the problem is that fundamentalists and conservatives do this, as well."

Any examples come to mind?

Dan Trabue said...

How about any of the vast passages dealing with wealth and poverty? How about "Woe to you who are rich, blessed are you who are poor?"

How about 1/4 of the book of James?

How about passages teaching how we are to be welcoming to foreigners? How about the Jubilee and Sabbath rules?

For starters.

Alan said...

"Any examples come to mind?"

Gee, maybe throwing out any verses regarding grace?

Ring a bell, MA?

Marshall Art said...

I've thrown out nothing. I've said you've perverted those verses.

"How about any of the vast passages dealing with wealth and poverty?"

How 'bout 'em? In what way have fundies or conservatives not adhered to those? Simply because some of them build up wealth, that creates jobs thus reducing poverty, that allows them to fund charitable endeavors thus reducing poverty and a host of other societal ills?

That quote of yours, Dan, is not an example. It is whimsical, though.

By the way, we DO welcome foreigners. We just understand Scripture's teachings about how a Christian obeys the laws of their gov't. So again you fail.

By the way, have you returned your property any time lately? Do you go to Sunday service or Saturday? Fail and fail again. I won't respond to the 1/4 of James as that smacks of whimsy in its total ambiguity.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

There is a well-known and time-honored way of reading the Bible. It didn't originate with the Reformers, but they made it available to the first widespread Biblically literate public. Rooted in late medieval hermeneutics, it begins with the somewhat non-controversial thesis that the central reality of Scriptural testimony is the passion narrative. This is what Martin Luther referred to as "the kernel" of any part of Scripture. This is why he could, in his commentary on Romans, offer up words from the prophet Jeremiah, yet state they were the words of Christ spoken through Jeremiah.

The practice Calvin, in particular, developed, of using Scripture to interpret Scripture is rooted in this same understanding; because the Subject of the Bible is one and the time the same thing, all texts refer, in the end, to the reality of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

This was amended, slightly, by neo-Reformationist theologians in the 20th century. Karl Barth reduced it to what at least one semi-friendly critic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer called a "positivism of revelation". Barth called it a theological criticism that, while using the tools of historical criticism, nevertheless subjected these to the final arbiter of Scriptural Truth - the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. He was, for Barth The Word of God; the Bible was what he called, in a well-known essay, the word of Man about the Word of God. It did not and does not mean the Bible is not a trustworthy testimony to revelation; it only puts it in perspective. The testimony of scripture is that Jesus is the Word of God. Calling the Bible the Word of God is to create an idol, to mistake the object for the subject.

Jurgen Moltmann shifted his gaze ever so slightly, seeing in the testimony of Scripture the movement from promise to fulfillment (which he got from OT scholar Gerhard von Rad), with the resurrection providing the key that opens up not only the text, but human history, another "text" given form by the words of the Bible. History itself is opened up, and freed from its bondage to sin. The roots of political theology lie just here - again, a simple enough move to make, yet rooted in the Scriptures.

Art, you keep insisting we are misinterpreting the Scriptures concerning what grace means and how it works in the lives of believers. I would submit that the reading we are offering is not only non-controversial, it is almost kindergarten level Biblical criticism. The words of the page sit there, dead to anything including meaning unless given life and substance by the Spirit that is the source of life. This is as old as St. Paul, indeed as old as Jesus and his reading in the synagogue in Nazareth.

Please, offer up an example of the ways we have misinterpreted these passages, have perhaps mistakenly understood them as central to understanding the rest of the text of the Bible, holding as they do (I submit) the kernel of Biblical truth that enlightens the rest.

Alan said...

BTW, I was clicking around a while ago and came across several posts by some dude on the internet. Turns out MA comments there too (makes you feel sorry for that guy)... The blog was named something like Winging It or whatever (I can't find it in my history right now and I didn't bookmark it.) Maybe you guys know it.

Anyway, MA, since you're sure that everything we ever write is completely wrong always and forever, and since you read that guy's blog, maybe you should ask him these questions. I just skimmed a few of his recent posts, but there wasn't anything I saw there that I'd disagree with. Seemed pretty die-hard, classical 5 Point Calvinism to me.

Yet I'm a heretical, evil, demonic, satanist false teacher who throws out the Bible, and that guy, who says precisely the same things I've said and with whom I think I'd agree with on most of his theology doesn't (as far as I could tell) come under such criticism from you.

Gee, I wonder why that is, MA.

I think it is just more evidence that you criticize, not because you even understand what you're reading (nor do I think you understand what you're writing) but just to criticize. You type just to hear the clickity-clack of your keyboard, you yap like my neighbor's dog just to vent your impotent rage.

Still waiting for you to provide any evidence for your assertions in the previous thread.

Cut and paste, MA.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall, I'm going to say up front that I don't wish any of us to get in a protracted "debate" with you over less than sweet nothings again on this post, as we did the last post.

I will address a few points here, but unless you have something substantive, I will try to avoid going into repeated defenses against your misunderstandings.

You said...

I've thrown out nothing. I've said you've perverted those verses.

Then perhaps you've got the point right off the bat. The writer at the other blog whom I quoted was making the assertion that "liberals" have a tiny bible because they "reject" so much of what the Bible has to say.

This is a misunderstanding of reality.

Speaking for myself, I do not reject any of the Bible, not one word. I DO, on the other hand, take exception to some individual's interpretations of the Bible (just as you claim that you think we've "perverted" some passages).

Striving to seek and know God's will and coming to a different take than a fellow Christian is NOT rejecting the Bible, just disagreeing with the Other's take on it.

Thus, when you SEEM to reject out of hand that which I take fairly literally (for instance, "blessed are the poor... woe to you who are rich..."), I know you aren't actually rejecting the Bible, cutting it down to something more comfortable to your mind, you simply disagree with my take on it.

And, of course, we could go back and forth on how reasonable your or my take on a passage is, but the point remains, neither of us is striving to reject God's Word and reduce the size of our Bible.

We simply disagree.

You recognize that point when others make the claim about you. I would hope that you could have the grace and wisdom to recognize it in others when the same false claim is made about them. Maybe even come to their defense on occasion.

Marshall Art said...

I come to the defense of anyone wrongly accused or attacked. For instance, I totally object to Alan's lifestyle as it is sinful and contrary to Biblical teaching. But I would stand next to him against an asshole like a Fred Phelps who also corrupts Scripture. I wouldn't stand by while some jerks try to beat on him for his lifestyle. You all think that when I speak of sinful behaviors that I'm condemning the sinner. I really don't have to do that anyway. Their insistence on continuing in their sin, whether they want to pretend they don't see it as sin or put forth some other defense of it, condemns them without any input from me whatsoever.

Alan asks why I don't argue with Stan. That's pretty simple. Stan does NOT think, act and talk like any of YOU guys, as Dan can attest.

All of Geoffrey's essays are wonderful, but in debating issues I don't see that those essays provide any clarity to your points of view, particularly in how they conform to Scriptural teaching. What's more, he often brings up things that don't really need to be said or worse, shows his own inability to listen and understand his opponents. For example, few would argue that Jesus is the Word of God. But when most people refer to the Bible as the Word of God, they are referring to the message within It, Its teachings and God's revelation of Himself and His Will to us. There's no idol worship there no matter how badly you need that to be true in order to place yourself on high above us lowly people.

And Dan, you have indeed rejected large sections of the Bible as being the result of "epic writing" that you have yet to prove was the method of writing employed by the OT authors. You reject the words that to you ring false and have never resolved how falsehoods concerning the One True God could run so rampant throughout the OT. In addition, you have not offered an example of where "epic writing" begins and actual historical representations of God's self-involvement with OT characters begins.

You want to fall back to the "agree to disagree" angle. Well here's how that works: We believe what we want to believe. That's it. But should you put forth a belief in a public forum, such as, say, a blog where there is an open invitation to comment, readers have the right to determine if your explanations for why you believe as you do are sound, and should they fall short, as they often do, further conclusions and opinions regarding your positions are natural and to be expected. I've said it before, in perhaps not so many words, that if everyone has their own idea about what the Bible is saying, be it altogether or on specific issues, most will be wrong. There is only one truth at any given time.

And BTW, no one is saying that you are striving to reject God's word or the size of the Bible. But that is the result (to different degrees for different people).

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall, I'm asking you to stick to the topic and offer something substantive or go away. Your first two and a half or three paragraphs don't touch on the topic. Stick to the topic. Lose the ad hom attacks.

Next off topic, ad hom-y post you make, I'll remove the parts that are irrelevant and post only on topic and substantive points.

Just so you know.

Dan Trabue said...

On topic (but ad hom-y) you said...

you have indeed rejected large sections of the Bible as being the result of "epic writing" that you have yet to prove was the method of writing employed by the OT authors.

The way to write this without resorting to ad hom attacks would look like this...

To suggest that part of the Bible is written in an epic style, IS to reject that part of the Bible. It is rejecting the Bible because...

Something like that. State your point, provide support.

My response to THAT comment is: All serious students of the Bible understand that to best understand the Bible, we need to understand the style of writing being used. If we take hyperbole as command, we'd be reading the Bible wrongly. If we take poetry as literal example, we'd be reading the Bible wrongly.

Parts of the Bible, to me, seem to be fairly clearly written in an epic style. Other parts of the Bible seem to be written in a mythic style.

Now, I'm sure you can agree that IF that is the style they are written in, then it IS important to take them that way. Yes?

[And Marshall, that would be a cue for you to answer a direct question that is relevant to the topic and appropriate to address. Don't ignore the question and proceed to write something else, please. Thank you.]

So, if we can agree on that much, then the question is just: ARE there sections written in an epic style, are there sections written in a mythic style?

The answer is: I don't know for sure, but that is the way they seem to be obviously written to me. Do you know for sure that the Genesis creation story is NOT written in a mythic style? What evidence do you have for that claim?

My evidence is that
1. the Creation story doesn't match our scientific understanding of how the world began - the world is not 6,000 years old and its development did not happen in six literal days, we have no evidence to support that.
2. When early peoples told creation stories, they told them in a way that made sense to them - hence the many creation stories that are not scientifically sound.
3. I have no reason to believe that the early people who told the biblical creation story would have done so in any way different than other early peoples. This doesn't make the Genesis story "wrong," it just confirms that it was the story they told. It sounds right, considered that way, it sounds wrong considered as scientific text.

For example.

Thus, considering the creation story as being written in a mythic style is not "rejecting" that part of the Bible, just striving to understand it correctly.

Agreed?

Dan Trabue said...

I used the Mythic writing style as an example, because I thought it was easier to illustrate. But returning to Marshall's comment...

Dan, you have indeed rejected large sections of the Bible as being the result of "epic writing" that you have yet to prove was the method of writing employed by the OT authors.

No, I have not. It is HOW IT SEEMS TO ME. I'm open to better understandings IF someone has some evidence for a better understanding.

Do you?

Have you proven that it WASN'T written in an epic style? If so, I missed it.

The problem with a more literal "historic" interpretation of passages where God appears to command the slaughter of children is that THAT understanding is contrary to the teachings of Christ. I don't think God goes around commanding us to kill children. A literal interpretation of that sort of passage requires that understanding.

You'd have to do some fancy footwork and REAL stretching of the teachings of Christianity to make that case, but if you can do it, go ahead.

Regardless, the point is that we are striving to understand God's Word, NOT rejecting it. Interpretation is not rejection.

Alan said...

Still waiting for some direct quotes about how we "pervert" any of the verses on grace that we've discussed so far.

Alan said...

"Stan does NOT think, act and talk like any of YOU guys, as Dan can attest. "

Great, give direct quotes from both of us showing how he and I differ with regards to the doctrine of grace.

Should be simple for such an intellectual powerhouse as yourself. And given that you keep complaining about how little time you have, cut and paste should save you some time.

You've been asked this question a dozen times now at least. In the time you've responded with several comments composed of your usual longwinded boring yapping, but no actual evidence.

Gee, I wonder if it is perhaps because you can't provide any. Wow, MA making BS claims he can't back up again. What a surprise.

What are you, a third grader who thinks that your pathetic excuses for not providing direct quotes is going to cover for the fact you don't have any? I know you think we're stupid, but we're really not so dumb as to believe you just simply don't have the time.

You don't have any. You make claims you know are false. Therefore you're a liar.

Stan said...

Dan, I know you want to be accurate in your portrayal of opposing beliefs. Do you think it is accurate to claim that "some fundamentalist types have managed to trap the word of a God in a few hundred pages, or at least they seem to think so"? Is it your belief that they actually would deny, for instance, all the rest you listed about God being visible in nature?

I read, by the way, the post you are referencing. When I read it, I didn't even think of you. I wonder if "liberal" is too broad of a term? Like "Christian", it has gotten so wide in meaning that I'm not sure what any individual means by it anymore.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

Is it your belief that they actually would deny, for instance, all the rest you listed about God being visible in nature?

No, Stan. Thanks for asking, though, and allowing me to clarify.

The point of the post was to point out the ridiculousness of saying, "my bible's bigger than theirs!" or vice versa. As Alan noted quite well, "it's not the size of your Bible, but what you do with it..."

So-called liberals aren't "rejecting" or "cutting out" parts of the Bible, especially if some consider folk like Alan, Geoffrey or myself/my church as "liberal Christians," (which none of us are, really, I don't believe).

Now YOU may not consider me a liberal Christian, but I believe the person in question does. (Well, of course, neither of you consider me a Christian at all, but that's a whole other thing.)

You are right, though, that labels such as "liberal" are sometimes less than useful.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Stan said...

May I just suggest that, if you understood him to say, "My Bible is bigger than yours", you misunderstood the point. It was not a matter of size.

He said that if you don't believe that Jesus is the only way, then you have to cut passages which make that claim. He said that if you don't believe that the Bible speaks for God, then you have to cut the passages that claim to speak for God. That was the "size" factor. But ... I'm pretty sure you got that, so that's why I'm wondering if you're treating the idea fairly.

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

If you're going to give me crap about being off topic, then you must give equal crap to the one who provoked my comments. His name is "Alan".

Next, I engaged in no "ad homs" whatsoever. You HAVE rejected parts of the Bible by declaring them "epic" or "mythic" in the style of writing which then denotes those sections as untrue or false or not having actually happened as written. Thus, you don't believe them, rejecting them as untrue or not quite true. Why this is so hard for you to grasp requires another post.

"Parts of the Bible, to me, seem to be fairly clearly written in an epic style. Other parts of the Bible seem to be written in a mythic style.

Now, I'm sure you can agree that IF that is the style they are written in, then it IS important to take them that way. Yes?"


Yes, but only IF it is true that it was written in that style. That it seems to some whimsical person to be so, doesn't make it so. And unless you can prove it is so, I can't see how you are a "serious student" of the Bible to presume it is so. It would seem to me more prudent to, lacking such proof, take the whole thing as "gospel". You take liberties I don't think the Book gives us room to take.

Your evidence is that:

1. I don't debate the time frame of creation because it demands that I put science over Scripture, that I put the abilities of scientists over God's. What He is capable of doing, and how it would appear to our technology I simply will not endeavor to discuss. You obviously think that if science says it, the Bible is wrong or wrong in how it recorded the events. However you explain it, it is a rejection of that part of the Bible.

2. You don't know how the early people of God chose to tell creation stories. You seem to forget that some of those early people had direct contact with God. (Think Moses, for example.) That God would not see fit to explain things as He wanted them known is not logical. I don't regard other "peoples" as having the same insights as the OT authors since they were NOT worthy of His direct contact.

3. "I have no reason to believe that the early people who told the biblical creation story would have done so in any way different than other early peoples."

Nor do you have any reason to believe that they did tell the story in the same way as other ancient people. You simply choose to in order to align Scripture with your preferred beliefs. This requires rejecting that which doesn't conform.

"Have you proven that it WASN'T written in an epic style? If so, I missed it."

No, nor do I need to. You need to prove it to ME. Until such proof is forthcoming, I can't see as how it makes sense to presume such things about that which was written about God. Again, it makes no sense that God, in contact with a number of OT people, would allow any of them to write falsely about Him.

Marshall Art said...

"I don't think God goes around commanding us to kill children. A literal interpretation of that sort of passage requires that understanding."

We've been through this before. God DID command SOME to wipe out entire towns and all who live there. That He hasn't since does not mean a thing. You are rejecting those parts as being untrue simply because you won't, can't or refuse to resolve what you THINK is contrary to His nature. Indeed, you reject all that records manifestations of that part of His nature: His Wrath.

So there's no fancy footwork required for me to accept those passages as accurately recorded. Rather, you have to do one step of footwork to satisfy YOUR argument: you reject them.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Actually, because the post in question references the so-called "Jefferson Bible", always a favorite of people who want to claim that some opponent or other does not believe some or other part of the Bible and wishes it removed - like Martin Luther wanted the Epistle of James removed because of all that "faith without works is dead" stuff in it - I think Stand, while to be lauded, is giving far too much benefit of the doubt to the person in question.

No one commenting here, as far as I know, would "cut", either ideologically or practically, any part of the Bible. Unlike Dan, I don't really consider it all that funny, precisely because the person leveling the charge is being quite serious. This person believes - or would even claim to know - that some even writing here would cut parts of the Bible, quite literally.

Here's the thing I gotta admire about Art, BTW. He comes here and discusses stuff with us. It isn't always coherent, to be sure. Still, he comes here and presents, to the best of his abilities, his point of view. There are those I could list who used to do so, but no longer do, and when invited to do so, give some excuse as to why they can't or won't. So, kudos to Art.

Marshall Art said...

Alan,

"Still waiting for some direct quotes about how we "pervert" any of the verses on grace that we've discussed so far."

Try this: hold your breath and perhaps I'll provide something. Keep holding it...hold it...don't let it out...

"Great, give direct quotes from both of us showing how he and I differ with regards to the doctrine of grace."

OH, I see. I must show what YOU want to see as if that would tell the tale. Sorry, but I don't respond to attempts at manipulation. As long as you support homosexual behavior in any form as not being sinful, that's all the evidence I need to distinguish you from Stan or any other "real" Christian. Unless you've secretly changed your mind on that topic...

"You've been asked this question a dozen times now at least."

Try asking a dozen more times. But try to hear this again: I'm not about to spend time on your behalf. Call me any names you want. Apparently it's OK with Dan if YOU'RE doing the name-calling. (Next will come Dan's brief, but token, attempt to show fairness)

My whole point is that you all present your "grace" arguments in a manner that seems to tolerate bad behavior. This is borne out by the fact that you all never address the bad behavior but would rather assume that people like me are judging and condemning people, rather than the behavior in question. In addition, your understanding as you present it suggests that God Himself does not care how we behave because of grace. It's clear that grace hasn't kept you from being an arrogant asshole, anymore than it's kept me from being equally snarky in my comments to the likes of you. I presume, by your presentation of grace, that there is nothing I can do for which you should ever give me crap, such as jumping to your commands that I produce something that might require a search throughout all our discussions over the years. No. I do NOT have that kind of time, nor do I consider you worthy of such an expenditure if I did. If you don't like the way I present my arguments, don't read my comments.

In the meantime, I suffer the childish "When did I say that exactly?" crap you guys are trying so score with. But there's a limit to just how much I'll be made to follow such manipulative rules of play. You all make this harder than it has to be.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Art: "You HAVE rejected parts of the Bible by declaring them "epic" or "mythic" in the style of writing which then denotes those sections as untrue or false or not having actually happened as written."

I do not believe, nor have I ever that I can recall, the two creation stories in Genesis report actual historical fact. I do not believe the walls of Jericho fell because the people marched around them. In fact, the archaeological record is clear that the walls of Jericho did not fall at any point in the historical frame of the book of Joshua. The book of Judges reports the people sacking the city of Ai. "Ai" in Hebrew means, ruin, and, again, the historical record is clear that the city was deserted hundreds of years before there is any evidence of the ancient Israelites in Palestine.

None of this means I do not think these stories are "false". They provide readers with all sorts of clues about who God is, how God relates to those whom God has called. There is nothing either controversial, or even particularly remarkable about this point of view.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Grace neither tolerates nor does not tolerate "bad behavior" because God, being gracious, does not weigh our actions in pardoning us.

The penalty for our sin was paid in the only way it could be paid - the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The justice meted out was . . . resurrection from the dead, the end of the separation of all creation from God.

This is, as I stated above in a post you dismissed as irrelevant, the kernel, the heart, the lenses through which Scripture is read and understood and proclaimed. All we read, all we prayerfully consider within the pages of the Bible, flows from this central reality, and refers back to it.

That is what enlivens Scripture. This is what turns the dead letter that kills to words that bring life.

After all the words we have typed in which we have made it quite clear that even our most loving acts are tainted with sin that, without grace, count as nothing before the wrath of a just God, you still persist in believing we "tolerate" bad behavior. OK, fine, believe that if you wish. It doesn't make it any less true, it doesn't make us out to be libertines, antinomians, or otherwise immoral individuals or even whole denominations who hold this reality - the grace of God incarnate in Jesus crucified and risen as the punishment and judgment upon sinful humanity - to be opposed to God, or blasphemers, or anything else. This is the Gospel and I will stand by it, because it is true, even if heaven and earth should pass away.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I do not think it manipulative of anyone to ask, sometimes repeatedly, for someone who has made a charge against another to provide evidence for that charge. Dan has asked for it. Alan has asked for it. I have asked for it. Not because we are playing a game. You made the charge. Give us some evidence to substantiate that claim.

That's all.

Stan said...

Actually, Geoffrey, that was my primary thought. I read awhile ago "Ten Signs that you're an unthinking Christian." When I read it I thought on many of the points, "Actually, I don't agree with the position this is offering as 'Christian'." As such, it wasn't very much of an impact. Similarly, I'm a Calvinist who is often faced with accusations about "what you Calvinists believe" that I feel no compunction to defend because I don't believe it.

In the same way, if you do not disagree that the Bible teaches that Jesus is the only way, then the post's argument that "liberals" have to remove that from their Bibles is meaningless to you. You don't qualify to that definition of "liberal". You know, if the shoe fits. If it doesn't, don't wear it.

The truth is there are many who classify themselves as "Christians" who deny fundamental things like the deity of Christ, the doctrine of "saved by grace", the suggestion that the Bible is inspired by God, all sorts of basic stuff. They do indeed "cut" those facts from their Bibles. If you don't, you don't, and the post in question wasn't about you.

One other side, educational point, Geoffrey. As it turns out, Luther didn't actually want James removed. He actually included it in his commentaries. He called it "an epistle of straw" because it didn't address the gospel. He didn't seek to have it cut. He just didn't see it as useful for preaching the gospel.

Dan: "I'll remove the parts that are irrelevant and post only on topic and substantive points."

Just a procedural question. Does blogger provide for that option? I'd love to be able to edit comments from people. (I don't mean intent as much as offensive content. On my blog I've had to block some comments because of language which I would have included because of arguments.)

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Again, Stan, you are both too kind and far more gracious than I could ever hope to be to the person in question, precisely because I, for one, have been repeatedly accused by the person in question of doing the very thing written about. No matter how hard I have attempted to make clear this caricature is inaccurate, the charge is leveled, again and again and again.

Furthermore, the person in question "bans", among others, Alan, myself, and I believe Dan, from commenting at his blog. Furthermore, he has attacked me, except not to my face, as being cowardly and passive-aggressive, and then when I have attempted to confront him, he runs away. Experience has taught me that this person is, to be blunt yet honest, a liar and a coward.

The post Dan is referencing here is an example of the kind of fundamental dishonesty in which he engages pretty much constantly.

Marty said...

I think in order to edit a comment you would have to delete the comment and then cut and paste what is relevant from your e-mail. But then you would have to set up yhr option to receive all comments in your e-mail inbox.

Marty said...

"Furthermore, he has attacked me, except not to my face, as being cowardly and passive-aggressive"

Yeah. He's thrown that one my way as well. He was somewhat nice to me for a while...tolerated me....I think....because I'm pro-life. So far he hasn't banned me but, I have no desire to continue any more conversations with him.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Marty, the whole lack of self-awareness on display as someone (a) calls another a coward and passive-aggressive; yet (b) refuses to engage the person so named - it's really kind of funny.

Off-topic, but relevant in some way, too.

Marty said...

It kinda boggles my mind that he's a United Methodist. There's quite a few conservatives at my church, but nothing like this guy.

Alan said...

And MA yaps for another dozen or so paragraphs, manages to say nothing, and still doesn't provide evidence for his assertions.

Cut and paste, MA. You could have done so a dozen times by now if you actually had any evidence.

Why not just admit you were wrong? Why not just admit that the doctrine of unconditional election that we've all been espousing for a bazillion comments now is completely orthodox but that you simply don't agree with the doctrine itself?

Why keep going on pretending you have evidence when everyone can see that you do not?

I know how emotional you get and clearly you're very upset at someone continuing to press you for evidence you never had to begin with. But of course, you could minimize your embarrassment simply by admitting that fact in the first place, or doing so now.

Or you can keep on for another million comments complaining how you just don't have time to cut and paste a simple comment or two.

Because that's *totally* believable.

Alan said...

"If you don't like the way I present my arguments, don't read my comments. "

They're not arguments if they're not backed up by anything, MA. They're just whimsey, as Dan would say.

Alan said...

"May I just suggest that, if you understood him to say, "My Bible is bigger than yours", you misunderstood the point. It was not a matter of size. ... But ... I'm pretty sure you got that, so that's why I'm wondering if you're treating the idea fairly."

Hi Stan,

I'm think I'm treating it as fairly as possible. It's a joke. I treated it like a joke because it doesn't merit serious consideration. And now I know the source, I consider it even more of a joke.

Alan said...

"The truth is there are many who classify themselves as "Christians" who deny fundamental things like the deity of Christ, the doctrine of "saved by grace", the suggestion that the Bible is inspired by God, all sorts of basic stuff. They do indeed "cut" those facts from their Bibles. If you don't, you don't, and the post in question wasn't about you."

Well, the problem, Stan, as you've likely gleaned from this fun little exchange here is when, like me, you believe in the deity of Christ, the doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, or any other traditional, orthodox doctrine and you're still told over and over by someone like MA that you don't. That you're not a "real" Christian (as he states above.)

So when this person continues with the constant posting of the same lies over and over when, as you've seen, he refuses to offer a single quote to demonstrate his accusations are true, what then?

I'd welcome your suggestions on how to deal with such people.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Stan, I just checked out your blog and while there are some small matter with which I might take issue - being a United Methodist and all - by and large I cannot find much with which to disagree.

I would point to this post in which you write the following: "According to Scripture, believing is a gift from God. It doesn't come out of our own efforts. It's given to us. As much as we'd like to think otherwise, we're just not up to the task of placing our full confidence in Him as long as we're dead in sin. So He grants it. Jesus said it (John 6:65). Paul said it (Phil 1:29). It is, despite our preference to the contrary, a repeated concept in the Bible. Oddly enough, so is repentance. Paul told Timothy to keep on "correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim 2:25). Note that repentance is granted by God, and note especially that He may grant it ... or He may not."

I said much the same thing and was told that I was just not interpreting the Bible clearly. The comment-a-rama went from there to the accusation that, arguing that repentance and grace and faith being a gift from God is somehow an endorsement of immorality, which I never said, implied, and would never say nor imply.

In any event, it was nice to stumble across your blog.

Alan said...

"According to Scripture, believing is a gift from God. It doesn't come out of our own efforts."

We've all been saying the same thing for about 200 comments, yet according to MA we've all been misinterpreting Scripture.

First of all, obviously this conversation is going no where. So here's a suggestion, offered in all sincerity: MA, why don't you go argue with Stan? Obviously anything we say is heresy to you. But apparently when he says the same things, he's a "real" Christian. Good, fine. whatever.

Since what he's saying is the same thing we've all been saying for a couple hundred comments, I suspect we'd all be happy to have you go hash it out with him. Maybe he can get you to see reason. Maybe not. But in the meantime we're saved your ridiculous yapping, and you're saved having to read the same comments from us again and again and again.

It's a win-win situation (except for poor Stan.)

Save the rest of us the hassle of reading your crap and go argue with him for a while. Seriously.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I've been reading "The Freedom of a Christian" by Martin Luther, and came across this little bit: ". . . I believe that it has now become clear that it is not enough or in any sense Christian to preach the works, life and words of Christ as historical facts, as if the knowledge of these would suffice for the conduct of life; yet this is the fashion among those who must today be regarded as our best preachers."

There's a lot more in this short treatise, and I'll be writing about it tomorrow. Just thought I'd share that.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan...

Just a procedural question. Does blogger provide for that option?

What Marty said. I was just going to copy and paste the relevant stuff into a new comment and not post any irrelevant stuff.

Marshall Art said...

Alan,

Whine much?

Marshall Art said...

Geoffrey,

You, like Dan, are putting faith in archeologists, scientists or whatever over the authors of the Bible? The issue for me is should we? Sure, we can investigate to the best of our abilities (humans, I mean), but as humans are imperfect, how can I have faith that they are accurate in their investigations to the point that I can rely on their results as being more factual than the words of those who have had direct contact with God, or took notes from them?

In Dan's case, and maybe yours, I don't know, he rejects stories that describe God's nature because other stories and teachings of the Bible seem to him to conflict with the actions of God he is rejecting. Case in point, the many stories of God destroying entire peoples, either by direct action (storms, floods, whatever) or by directing his chosen to do it for Him. It is hard to imagine that any of these actions were carried out without the killing of small children, babies and old people. Despite the Bible clearly stating that God did these things, and ordered His people to do these things, Dan rejects these stories as myth, hype, or some other fiction. My problem is that 1) it makes God a liar or it is a lie about God and what He is capable of doing or commanding others to do, and 2) it leaves an incomplete picture of God's nature, leaving out the very wrath from which Christ's sacrifice saves us all who believe in Him.

I wish to take a step to the side and address this:

"Marty, the whole lack of self-awareness on display as someone (a) calls another a coward and passive-aggressive; yet (b) refuses to engage the person so named - it's really kind of funny."

Here's something else that's funny:

First off, if Neil no longer wishes to engage with you, your attempts to engage with him would seem to me to be what Alan has his panties in a bunch over. Neil might suggest that if you are going to go on and on, you know, yap, yap, yap like his neighbor's dog, well...what would be the point and profit to him? Frankly, I don't think you're so much banned as simply tiresome, in his mind. I've asked him in an email once, but don't recall his response exactly to explain his position. I recommend posting a comment and see what happens. He certainly won't be any more impatient than Alan is with me.

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

Is this your blog, or Alan's. Just wondering.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

You are asking questions - do I put faith in the authors of the Bible or archaeologists? - that are put by children. I put "faith" in both. The ones, the authors, I trust to give me information concerning who God is, how God acts toward those whom God calls children. From archaeologists, I trust that when they find a ruined city, and around it not a trace of evidence of the people the Bible calls the Israelites before the final establishment of the kingdom (that is, during the period of the Judges, before the tabernacle was moved to a central location), they are reporting correctly. Furthermore, it does nothing to my sense of the text, of what it tells me, that I know they did not bring down the walls of Jericho, or destroy the city of Ai.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Art, please, go read this. The words aren't mine, they are Martin Luther's. They say nothing that I have not said, I have added nothing to them, and they make the same point I have made. If there are any questions, go ahead and ask. All the same, please go and read.

Thanks.

Alan said...

Yeah, I knew MA wouldn't follow my suggestion. Because doing so would be the grown-up thing to do, and we all know by now what to expect from MA

Alas.

Hey, MA, how's that evidence coming? Got your cut and paste quotes ready for us yet, liar?

Alan said...

"Alan,

Whine much?"

MA,

Lie much?

Alan said...

"[redacted] might suggest that if you are going to go on and on, you know, yap, yap, yap like his neighbor's dog, well...what would be the point and profit to him? "

Hilarious.

Marshall defends HWMNBN for banning people who just yap, yap, yap, and yet isn't self aware enough to see that he's a yap, yap, yappin' troll himself.

Just shut up and leave if you're not going to actually provide Biblical evidence for any of your whimsey, MA. Go yap at someone who cares.

Marty said...

Marshall said: "Despite the Bible clearly stating that God did these things, and ordered His people to do these things, Dan rejects these stories as myth, hype, or some other fiction."

Me thinks you misunderstand Dan's position. I've never read anywhere in anything that Dan has EVER written that he rejects anything in the Bible. He does however disagree with certain interpretations. How does one get that through your thick skull?

You know Jesus talked a lot in parables. They weren't literally true. I'm not much of a literalist anyway. Taking the Bible too literally causes way too many problems for me. For instance, do I believe a whale really swallowed Jonah? No. I don't. I even doubt the existence of Jonah. But certain truths can be learned from the story either way.

But you, it seems, need these stories to be literally true in order to believe...otherwise it would shake your faith to it's core.

Edwin Drood said...

Alan,

You have absolutely no knowledge for the Bible or religion. A few posts ago when Dan was talking about a Baptist Preacher blessing a baby. You confused the term with baptism. This means you're not aware to the sacraments or how major denominations interpret it. Yet you still show up to argue religion. More than anything it's obvious that you only enjoy dragging down Christians because you are not one.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Marty wrote: "How does one get that through your thick skull?"

After all these years, hundreds of comments, thousands of words, I continue to wonder that myself. He claims that Dan denies parts of the Bible, something I have never seen and could not imagine happening. He claims that the presentation of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith is an open door to antinomianism, to immorality, which it is most definitely not, and is a position I have never, and would never take, affirm, or repeat if it ever were espoused.

Yet, he continues to make these claims. He continues to claim that I don't understand something, or present it contrary to its historical status. He claims I support immorality. He claims all sorts of things, either by direct statement or inference, that I have never said, implied, I do not believe, and would certainly never advocate. I have made myself as clear as possible, yet he insists my words mean something other than they most clearly mean.

Yet, I am leaning more and more toward the position Dan continues to take - as long as the views are offered in good faith, with honesty, it seems to me the discussion needs to continue. We can set to one side the more than occasional ad hominem and discuss the matter on the merits. So, Art understands that, in fact, "liberals" do not in fact have "little Bibles". He merely disagrees with our interpretations of parts of it.

I guess my next question is this. Is it disagreement that, at the very least, is rooted in granting to the other a certain latitude? Are we willing to begin by stating that one side may very well have it all right, or all wrong, or perhaps have stumbled upon parts of the truth in the midst of messing up some other stuff?

Marty said...

Geoffrey, I think that you, Dan, Alan and I are willing to grant latitude. That's been quite clear throughout all these conversations. I'm willing to bet that if you believe that the Jonah and the whale story is literally true you will not label me a heretic for thinking otherwise. But the problem is Marshall will not grant that kind of latitude. His mind needs to be changed in order for that to happen. So there can really be no debate or sharing of ideas with him in an attempt to learn anything.

Marty said...

But on the other hand, Marshall, you can be incredibly funny. I like your sense of humor. I just wish it was easier to communicate with you on matters of faith.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I once heard of a United Methodist minister (!!) stating from the pulpit that Job was an historical figure, a contemporary of Abraham.

I have searched and searched the Bible for the source of this claim and come up empty. Does this mean that I discount whatever the man may have said regarding the teaching in the Book of Job upon which he preached? Of course not! I'd be kind of silly to do that.

It matters not one iota to me whether one believes such a thing or not. It matters not one iota to me whether one believes Jonah concerns actual events or not, the Exodus occurred exactly as recorded in the book of the same name, on and on and on. The problem I have is the insistence that only in reading the Bible as some kind of reportage of actual historical events that occurred thus and no other way can we discern what the Spirit is saying to us through the pages. We read nothing, quite literally nothing, else in such a way. We understand, say, the novel Crime and Punishment to be one long string of lies, a story made up about people who have never and would never exist; yet it contains a multitude of truths; so much more the Bible with all its stories and teachings are true whether or not what is depicted is historically accurate or not.

In other words, I couldn't care less, the question is irrelevant to my reading of the Bible and how it moves me. Art asking me the question is a bit like asking me a question in Urdu. I wouldn't understand that, either.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Marty, in case you are interested (or anyone else, for that matter), if you go here I have a post on Wesley's doctrine of Christian perfection. It is all part of this larger discussion.

Marty said...

"I once heard of a United Methodist minister (!!) stating from the pulpit that Job was an historical figure, a contemporary of Abraham."

LOL

I've heard that in Southern Baptist pulpits.

I don't think Job really lived either. But I'm not gonna argue with anyone if they think he really did. I couldn't care less either.

I'll take a look at your post as soon as I can. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Marshall Art said...

I don't lie too often, Alan, and I haven't here. I simply don't believe you worthy of the effort you expect me to expend. I will post as often as I like and until Dan bans me altogether if he so chooses. But you'll have to pound sand before I'll bend to you will. It's just the way it is. So grab a hanky and deal with it. By the way, I don't believe it's possible for me to force you to read my comments. So that you do is all on you. Boo-freakin-hoo.

Marshall Art said...

Marty and Geoffrey,

Regarding Dan rejecting parts of the Bible,

the manner in which he chooses to regard parts as myth is done to ignore a side of God's nature that doesn't fit with the kumbaya portrayal he favors. That's a rejection. You both wish to refer to what he does as interpretation, but if that interpretation dismisses certain aspects of God's nature or will, it is a rejection. This is really the type of inference that has lead me to my belief about what you all believe and don't believe. It is saying something without using exact words to express it. It is implication, even if you don't intend to imply it. As I've often said to Dan, I can't help the conclusions YOUR words provoke and continue to provoke with each additional word meant to refute the conclusion. As an analogy, it is similar to swinging a hammer in a confined area and continually hitting another in the head. You can insist all you want that you are not intending to do so, but it happens nonetheless. If I were the only one who concluded in this manner, that would be one thing, but others who no longer engage with you folks feel the same way. I don't know how many are needed to make a difference to you, but there's only so many who read our comments, so I don't bother with such numbers.

To go on, to find the exact quotes that support the conclusions is not only difficult, but next to impossible as it is the culmination of posts and comments over a lengthy period of time as well as several blogs. Even so, when I do jump on a statement you guys make that support the conclusion, it's like starting all over again as if all those many comments of the past had never taken place. Alan can wet himself all he wants before I'll expend the effort to satisfy his demands. And as if that wasn't enough, I am expected to support my case in such a narrow and particular manner that to stray from these rules put forth by you guys, especially Dan's, is self-serving on your parts and serves to stifle the point I make and distract from it.

But I press on, because I care.

Marshall Art said...

Geoffrey,

Your faith in the archeologists and the scientists is to make them equal to God. You rely on them as if they're incapable of being wrong. They can only make an assessment based on their ability and to the extent that their methods are good enough to be beyond reproach. I don't have that kind of faith in people trying to get answers about that which happened 5000 years ago. Less about what happened millions of years ago. I just don't believe we're that good. That they can't find evidence only means they couldn't find evidence. No more. Anyone is free to believe whatever as a result, but I have no problem believing anything in the Bible is true. For me, the question is more a matter of whether or not it is worth the time to prove it happened or not. Could Jonah be swallowed by a whale and exist for three days? Why not? Aren't we talking about the power of God here? Are you going to limit his ability according to what seems possible to YOU? Fine. Go ahead.

As to whether or not I grant latitude to others to believe what they want, I don't know why I must continually state that I do. I regard it as a given. But these discussions are comparing the different beliefs we hold and why I or you don't buy into the other guy's and the ramifications of doing so. For example, I maintain that there is no Biblical support for believing that God has allowed room for any manifestation of homosex behavior. Those that disagree have failed to present bullet-proof arguments to the contrary and thus, it is clear to me, that they are in rebellion. I can't make them change, and they are too given over for me to be able to persuade them otherwise (obviously). But I am not going to grant latitude to the idea that they might be right when everything I see says they are wrong. It's immoral and you all support it. Do I need certified documents for this or do you not support it? You think it's not immoral perhaps, but you do support it.

Gotta go.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Quite simple - I don't even know what "homosex" means. It isn't a word in the English language.

Furthermore, you keep harping on sex. Sex. Sex. Sex.

The topic has changed. I haven't brought up sex of any kind. You keep bringing it up. I'm not in the least concerned with sex in these discussions. You seem to be obsessed by it.

I have no idea how you can say I equate what "scientists and archaeologists" do with what God. In fact, I cannot even understand how you reach that conclusion from what I've written. It is, quite literally (to me), mindless. It is senseless. It is nothing I would ever think of thinking! It's ridiculous, meaningless drivel!

Seriously, Art. C'mon. Some of us are trying to have a serious discussion about the Bible and the Christian life and grace and you bring up sex and how I think scientists and archaeologists are equal to God. I'm trying to have a serious discussion on the merits of some of the most basic understandings of the faith, and you talk about "homosex" and claim I say stuff that would never occur tome to even think in a thousand years. No, I can't stop you from reaching the conclusions you do; I honestly wonder, however, how it is possible for any human being to do so.

Alan said...

"I don't lie too often, Alan, and I haven't here."

There's another lie.

The first lie was saying that all of us (except you, naturally) have it all wrong on the doctrine of grace. You know that to be a lie because you know you cannot provide even one solitary quote that demonstrates it to be true.

Now you're lying by saying you aren't lying.

So yeah, you're a liar. Over and over.

Geoffrey wrote, "Yet, I am leaning more and more toward the position Dan continues to take - as long as the views are offered in good faith, with honesty, it seems to me the discussion needs to continue."

How can this conversation with MA be construed as being conducted in good faith and with honesty, when he makes claims he knows he does not have any evidence for?

What's honest about that?

MA whines: "Your faith in the archeologists and the scientists is to make them equal to God."

I won't speak for Geoffrey, but nothing he has written has given me any impression that he has "faith" in archeologists in the Biblical definition of the term (Heb 11:1)

Marty wrote, "Geoffrey, I think that you, Dan, Alan and I are willing to grant latitude. "

That's true, to a point. I'm willing to grant latitude on adiaphora, but not on truly important matters of doctrine. I would not, for example, allow MA to join the PCUSA if he so desired because he subscribes to the Pelagian heresy. Now, if his theology was at least minimally correct and we simply differed on whether or not the Earth is 6000 years old, that's something I don't think is doctrinally important enough to argue about. So latitude is important, but there are pretty obvious limits. One can't deny the saving nature of Christ's death and resurrection, like MA, and still call oneself a Christian.

Alan said...

"The topic has changed. I haven't brought up sex of any kind. You keep bringing it up."

I've observed that as well. Odd isn't it that its the only sin he can think of. Even in the conversation about the fundie preacher, he kept talking about gay sex as if he didn't even understand that the parents were heterosexual.

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

Alan said...

"But I press on, because I care."

Don't do us any favors, MA. Please. Feel free to kick the dirt from your sandals and move on any time!

I'll help you pack!

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Here's what I mean by "latitude". You want to believe, for example, that the 12 tribes sacked the city of Ai? Fine. You want to defend the position that this is historical fact because it is in the Bible? OK, that's fine, too. As Alan says, I consider stuff like this unimportant for the central reality of salvation.

What is not granting latitude is holding those ideas as described above and insisting that they are the sole truth, and any other position is not only mistaken but proves that the person who holds that position is not Christian. I can accept you read the Bible the way you do and still believe, in some fundamental way, that you are a Christian. You cannot grant the same to me.

That's the difference.

Marshall Art said...

Whether or not I describe you as Christian or not is not dependent upon whether Jericho fell in the manner described in the OT.

As to whether you equate archeologists with God, it was not a literal statement. I don't believe you do consciously, but your statement suggests that they are without error in their work and that they can be relied upon to be absolutely perfect in their work to the extent that there is no possible way in which the Bible stories YOU suggest they refute could ever be true. Does this clarify my point for you? I believe the Bible stories and you believe the archeologists. Again, why would I believe any person over those who had direct contact with God? or took dictation from them? or penned what was faithfully handed down in the oral tradition which OTHER scholars in the field consider to be damned accurate histories?

"Homosex" is another abbreviation, just like "homo". You can make a big deal about it in order to demonize me, or you can lighten up, be mature and assume I'm freaking tire of typing out "homosexual" every time I wish to make a point. NO. I will not substitute "gay" because I resent the attempt to redefine words, events, institutions and Scripture to their satisfaction, no matter what the other 98% of the population thinks. Not only that, but I don't believe there is any criteria regarding who gets to coin a term.

Regarding sex. I know you people like to think that I am obsessed with it. No more or less than most normal people. But I am fascinated by how obsessed our culture is, particularly those who would seek to alter the meaning and definitions of words, events, institutions and Scripture. But also, sexual immorality is the easiest sinful behavior to use as an example for the fact that it is so blatantly twisted for personal preference and so often seen as unimportant, despite the fate that awaits those who disregard Biblical teaching. To support my position that it is an ideal example to use, I will merely repeat these words: unwed child mothers, STDs, abortions, divorces, spousal abuse, suicide. Oh yeah. You're right. How silly of me to think that sexual immorality is so important a topic.

One more thing, as to clarification and explanation: Sex, and particularly homosex behavior, is the one area where we are definitely opposed. So again, it's the easiest subject to use as an example. Once again, lighten up. If you thought it was proper to eat babies, I'd use that all the time instead. And as Scripture plainly and clearly prohibits homosexual behavior without regard to context, it qualifies as an example of rejecting a part of the Bible. Thus, I'm still on topic.

"What is not granting latitude is holding those ideas as described above and insisting that they are the sole truth, and any other position is not only mistaken but proves that the person who holds that position is not Christian."

Once again, I grant all the latitude in the world for people to believe what they want. But in the context of a blog discussion, I don't think I'm required to pretend that I think all opinions are worth a damn, when they clearly aren't. I am not required to buy into every argument, nor am I required to pretend it has merit, when it clearly doesn't.

Here's an example: as I type this, I can look to the left of the comment box and see one of Alan's fine comments. Note the very end. He believes, apparently, that grace allows him to use God's name in vain. He apparently rejected that part of the Bible that denies him that privilege. And really, it's one thing to have it slip out of one's pie hole, but like my niece, to consciously type it out is willful. He did it on purpose. Fortunately for him, there's grace and he can do whatever he wants.

Marshall Art said...

Alan,

"The first lie was saying that all of us (except you, naturally) have it all wrong on the doctrine of grace. You know that to be a lie because you know you cannot provide even one solitary quote that demonstrates it to be true."

First of all, I guess you're going with the "takes one to know one" bit, right?

I suspect you all have it wrong because you all believe things that are unBiblical. Frankly, I'm still studying the Calvinist notion of grace and natural man and total depravity (something I'd wager you're good at). In the meantime, that would mean that I do NOT think I know it all or have it all "right". I simply believe my understanding of it is more accurate because I do NOT believe it entitles us to sin at will. You SAY you never said that, but you live it.

"Now you're lying by saying you aren't lying."

If you say so.

"How can this conversation with MA be construed as being conducted in good faith and with honesty, when he makes claims he knows he does not have any evidence for?"

Run it by me again, sweety. Which claims of mine trouble you so? You know, of course, that lacking evidence is not a sign of lying, don't you? I may have no evidence of a theft, but if I saw it, I would know it happened, and to say so without evidence would not make me a liar.

"I won't speak for Geoffrey, but nothing he has written has given me any impression that he has "faith" in archeologists in the Biblical definition of the term (Heb 11:1)"

Good for you, Alan. Good for you.

"One can't deny the saving nature of Christ's death and resurrection, like MA, and still call oneself a Christian."

And I'm sure you have a host of quotes that back up THIS lie.

"Even in the conversation about the fundie preacher, he kept talking about gay sex as if he didn't even understand that the parents were heterosexual."

Yeah, I definitely tied the practice to the parents of the child. Uh huh.

"Don't do us any favors, MA. Please. Feel free to kick the dirt from your sandals and move on any time!"

I wouldn't THINK of denying you my company. And hey, don't forget, shadow o mine, you aren't forced to read my comments.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Your statement regarding my attitude toward the results of archaeological research does indeed clarify your position, but it in no way reflects my position regarding any intellectual endeavor, archaeological or otherwise. Nor does it reflect anything I could imagine myself thinking.

Does that clarify my position for you?

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Further to clarify, I believe the Bible stories tell us who God us, how the people who wrote them believed God lived in relationship to the chosen people. They convey information on any number of levels concerning the complex and always-changing nature of the people toward their God, and God's steadfastness in covenant toward the people.

So, I do not "believe" the archaeologists, whereas you "believe" the Bible. That is not only a false dichotomy, it is nonsensical.

As to your comments concerning "sexual sin", I still have to wonder . . .why? Ours is a country plagued with problems, deep-seated problems rooted in greed and poverty, dehumanization and violence, perhaps most of all that anomie and nihilism that are the result of the tottering of so much of our social, cultural, and civic life. It provides all sorts of fodder for serious Christian contemplation on how the churches can respond in faith with love to our neighbors.

You, on the other hand, return time after time, to who schtupping whom. The rest doesn't seem to exist for you. I'm not saying that people shouldn't be fornicating; I'm saying that in the scale of our national problems, it might even be considered a symptom of a far deeper spiritual malaise that, once addressed forthrightly and faithfully, might well not so much disappear as at the very least retreat a little.

You want to consider me immoral for this position? I can't stop you from thinking that, obviously, despite countless times I have made the explicit point that I do not hold the positions you wish to ascribe to me. Take in to consideration, however, that your notion of what I think and believe is so far removed from anything I actually do think and believe; your interpretation of things I've written is so often so wrong as to be almost a parody of misunderstanding; and as your most recent comments suggest, you claim to grant latitude without ever once actually doing so, leading me to believe that you do not even understand the things you write. All this taken together tells me that, really, discussion on these matters is quite impossible. No amount of words, no appeal to Scripture, tradition, history, or fact sways you. So, at this point, I shall comment on Dan's posts, and should you feel so moved to comment on things I have written, I shall note it, but, really, I'm not sure the attempt at clarification is worth the effort.

I have benefited from the exchange, as I have returned to certain Reformation sources that I have not read in decades, finding in them all sorts of food for thought and contemplation, so in that way it has benefited me. That you have seen fit to dismiss my presentation with "blah, blah, blah" sums up, really, how little you value any thought not your own.

Marshall Art said...

There you go. "Blah, blah" is seen as dismissing you entirely. It was said to dismiss what you wrote as being irrelevant at the time. Sure. It sounded lofty and thoughtful to you as you wrote it, and likely you were somewhat proud of yourself for your profundity. But it didn't mean smack to the my position and didn't reflect anything I said, only what you and yours wanted what I said to mean.

"Your statement regarding my attitude toward the results of archaeological research does indeed clarify your position, but it in no way reflects my position regarding any intellectual endeavor, archaeological or otherwise."

That's funny, Geoffrey. You presented it to counter my position on the historical nature of the OT stories. If you wanted to simply suggest it as a possible alternative, you didn't take the time to say so. So my conclusion that you find the archeologists' version to be superior to the authors of the OT is natural and logical. Don't blame me for your incomplete argument. At the same time, if you put stock in their findings at all, how are you NOT at least bordering on supposing they would have better insight into the events of the period?

"I believe the Bible stories tell us who God us, how the people who wrote them believed God lived in relationship to the chosen people."

So do I. But to suppose that the stories aren't accurately recorded, that they are some kind of mythical or metaphorical representation of actual events is to believe in that which isn't true presented as fact. If the stories didn't happen as represented, then they give an untrue representation of both the events AND how God relates to His people. What's more, we're left to wonder what is and isn't true, and for those who don't like what the Bible says, they feel free to act according to what they'd prefer, rationalizing it in any of a number of ways.

more---

Marshall Art said...

"You, on the other hand, return time after time, to who schtupping whom."

No. I don't return to who's doing whom. I speak of the fact that "schtupping" is going on at all when it shouldn't be. I've listed all the reasons why focus needs to be on this particular sin. As to those YOU'VE listed, "greed and poverty, dehumanization and violence", who ISN'T speaking on those. (For the record, often poorly and with an improper focus on the root causes and even when it's taking place---for another time) But sexual sin, which causes so many problems within our culture is NOT addressed except in a manner that perpetuates it. Condoms, "safe sex", none of it makes a difference to the bottom line of ills plaguing our nation. Even from a totally secular perspective, the belief that sex is a personal thing with absolutely no public/societal ramifications is naive at best.

What's worse, is that even within the body of Christ, and I use that in the most general manner possible including many who exist in name only, there is far too lax an attitude regarding sexual behavior. I don't, nor have I ever, suggested a puritanical, "sex is evil" alternative. The act isn't. When and how it takes place can be.

"I'm not saying that people shouldn't be fornicating (do you mean "should"?); I'm saying that in the scale of our national problems, it might even be considered a symptom of a far deeper spiritual malaise that, once addressed forthrightly and faithfully, might well not so much disappear as at the very least retreat a little."

I agree that it IS such a symptom. But how does one address it forthrightly and faithfully if one does not address it at all? Test-driving, getting the milk for free...the best we hear is lip service. There's no cultural attitude that one is weak, dishonorable, selfish and least of all, immoral regarding sexual behavior. From a Christian perspective, this attitude is akin to rejecting and/or ignoring all that Scripture has to say on the subject.

"You want to consider me immoral for this position?"

Not exactly. I consider you immoral for supporting immoral behavior. Just because you don't, won't or can't see the immorality of your positions on homosex marriage or abortion, doesn't mean they are no longer immoral.

"Take in to consideration, however, that your notion of what I think and believe is so far removed from anything I actually do think and believe; your interpretation of things I've written is so often so wrong as to be almost a parody of misunderstanding;"

...meaning of course that the problem lies specifically and only with me and not in your ability to articulate yourself in a manner that does not lead me, as well as others, to conclusions of which you disapprove. Dan has the same complaint.

"No amount of words, no appeal to Scripture, tradition, history, or fact sways you."

Words and appeals to Scripture formed my current belief. Your appeals to Scripture fall short. Not my bad. Tradition, history...what of them should trump Scripture itself in my mind, and when? Facts? Yours, or real facts? Your interpretation of facts or your understanding of what constitutes fact? Basically, this is just you being pissed that I'm not finding your words, appeals and understanding of facts compelling enough to be swayed. At least one of us is not so crushed by the inability to persuade.

"I'm not sure the attempt at clarification is worth the effort."

This is a dodge, Geoffrey. Plainly and simply a dodge.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

No, it is not a dodge. It is waving the white flag of surrender. I no longer believe it possible to have a fruitful exchange on our positions, because (a) you frequently misunderstand them, to the point there just seems no possible way you could arrive at the conclusions you do based on what has been written; (b) no matter how often I, or Dan, or anyone else, insists that we do NOT hold the positions you claim we do, you insist that, in fact, you are right and we are wrong; (c) I take sexual sin quite seriously, but believe that there are ways to address it that do not include preventing the corporate blessing of a child because it was conceived and born out of wedlock, or demonizing those whose errors may well be errors of love as much as moral turpitude, or labeling as "whores", or "bastards", or "scum" those whose lives do not live up to a moral ideal.

You see my position as one of moral laxity. I see it as gracious.

Marshall Art said...

Be a little more honest, Geoffrey. I did not label anyone a whore, if you're referring to my niece. I said she talks like one. You don't see a distinction here? You want to whine about ME misunderstanding or misrepresenting when you make such mistakes?

You're still hung up on the proper use of the word "bastard" as if it was used as slang rather than it's definition, when you've chided me over definitions in the past (think "socialist" for example). This suggests that definitions must be cleared by you and one is judged by the word used according to your preferred definition, rather than a dictionary definition. Under these conditions, how can you expect your counterpart to perfectly understand ANYTHING you say? How can I be expected to arrive at conclusions you desire under such conditions?

"...I take sexual sin quite seriously, but believe that there are ways to address it that do not include preventing the corporate blessing of a child..."

There was no such prevention suggested by the story, but only in the imaginings of you, Dan and Alan. Indeed, only the location was at issue, not the blessing or how many could witness it. This has been pointed out more than once and yet you still can't seem to grasp that fact. Yet I'M the one who doesn't understand what I read.

"...demonizing those whose errors may well be errors of love as much as moral turpitude..."

"Errors of love"??? What the hell does THAT mean? That we are without self-control and thus relieved of responsibility for our actions? If this doesn't lend credence to the charge of support for immorality, I don't know what else does besides a total confession. Is this the "one thing led to another" defense? Grow up.

What's more, I haven't demonized anyone (one exception to which I'll respond in a moment). But YOU guys demonized the Memphis pastor. Both he and I (I suspect) have merely put the demonizing where it not only belongs, but needs to be highlighted now more than ever, at a time where we brag we are more advanced than people past, on the sin itself.

(Those to whom I refer as "scum" are those who have PROVEN to be so by their heinous actions, such as islamic terrorists who hack the heads off of bound victims. There is no grace in not calling evil by its name or, in this case, nicknames, i.e. "scum".)

And please, I've asked Dan, and now I ask YOU: what ways do you prefer to address sexual sin that has proven to turn anyone from it who found it to be the best thing since sliced bread? I'm dying to know as I'm willing to use whatever is effective to persuade those I'd like to see turn from wickedness and toward God.

Marty said...

Alan: "So latitude is important, but there are pretty obvious limits. One can't deny the saving nature of Christ's death and resurrection, like MA, and still call oneself a Christian."

Hmmm....so Marshall has to believe the Calvinist perspective on the nature of Christ's death and resurrection in order to be Christian?

That's really not something you can judge Alan.

Alan said...

No, Marty. To clarify, I think MA clearly denies that salvation is through Christ. He has made it clear that he thinks we are saved by making our own choice to be saved.

The notion that we can save ourselves is not and has never been a Christian one. (Heck, even the Catholics don't buy that one.) If someone believes Jesus isn't Christ, then that's not someone I'd recognize as a Christian.

Marshall Art said...

This is indeed the debate between Calvinist and Arminian, but does not indicate the latter is not Christian. It indicates, in this case, that Alan thinks he can make such judgments.

But to be sure, I never said that Christ doesn't save us. And I never said that our choosing Him is the saving act. I know Calvinists don't think God gave us the free will to make such decisisions, but like Arminians, I don't necessarily agree with that interpretation. To be more accurate, I'm still studying the situation and haven't yet made up my mind as to which more accurately reflects what the Bible says. I think Alan goes with Calvinism because it allows him to pretend to be among the elect no matter how he lives his life.

Marty said...

"If someone believes Jesus isn't Christ, then that's not someone I'd recognize as a Christian."

I've never seen anywhere in anything that Marshall has written that he denies Jesus is Christ.

Marshall, quite honestly, seems to be in line with what I was taught growing up as a Baptist.... in that you have to "accept" Christ as your personal savior in order to be saved.

And Wesleyan thought seems to be different than Baptist and Calvinist.

Marshall said: "To be more accurate, I'm still studying the situation and haven't yet made up my mind as to which more accurately reflects what the Bible says.

Me either. But I'm not staying up at night wondering about it or spending any time studying it.

It's all pretty simple for me. John 3:16. All the rest is just window dressing.

Marshall Art said...

I get your point about John 3:16, Marty. But how do you get from there to "He will judge the quick and the dead."? For you and me, that sounds like belief as something we choose to do. For others, choosing is something upon which one might boast. I don't get why I anyone would think my choosing Christ is something worthy of me boasting over. My choosing doesn't save me, Christ's sacrificial death, which pays for my sins, does.

Marshall Art said...

BTW, I don't stay up nights, as it were. I work nights.

Alan said...

"It indicates, in this case, that Alan thinks he can make such judgments. "

"pretend to be among the elect"

See what you did there? First you complain that I make such judgements (Actually I don't. I wrote that to goad you into complaining about it, which you did.) And then immediately after, you make exactly such judgements.

Thus and therefore, you're a hypocrite, and your own words prove it. (And note that unlike other whiners, I provide quotes to back up my opinion.)

Check. Mate.

Marty said...

"I get your point about John 3:16, Marty. But how do you get from there to "He will judge the quick and the dead."?"

Whosoever believes and yes God will be the judge at the appointed time. So, what's your point?

"For you and me, that sounds like belief as something we choose to do."

Well I do believe that God's free gift of Grace deserves a response. But I'm not sure I would call that a "choice". I do tend to agree more with Alan here, but even more so with Geoffrey. However, I still think you are a Christian...but a hard shelled one....as my mother says.

tomatocrazyLovi said...

Hard shelled? Only so far as adhering to what I can clearly see as being true, so clearly revealed to us all in Scripture. How is that a bad thing?

Marshall Art said...

Whoops! Forgot that using my kid's laptop means I need to sign in under my own name. The above was, obviously, me.

Dan Trabue said...

Sorry, been busy the last two weeks.

Y'all are sort of all over the place and I don't really have time to referee y'all's discussions so let me just return to where I left off.

Dan:

Fact: I do NOT reject the Bible. Interpreting a passage differently and finding rational support for taking a passage as written in a particular style and then actually interpreting it in that style is NOT rejecting it. One could repeat, "yes you areyesyouare! You're rejecting it, I said so! So nyaaa!!" 1,000 times (and some have), but it would still not make it so.

Marshall:

Yes, Dan, you ARE rejecting it. You read it differently than I do, and thus you are rejecting it.

Dan:

Marshall, you're conflating your hunches with the Bible. That I reject YOUR exegesis, such as it is, is not the same as rejecting the Bible.

Marshall:

Is, too!

Dan:

Is not.

Marshall:

Is, too!

Dan Trabue said...

So, is there anything on topic to say to that? AND, by "anything to say to that," I mean, "anything to say to that WITH SUPPORT other than, 'says me!'"

If not, move on.

Marshall Art said...

Is there ever a time when you will play by your own rules, Dan? To begin, you do not even repeat my arguments as they are, but instead, deliver your dishonest interpretation of my words. There's far more substance than what you prefer to relate. You don't even support your own beliefs to the extent you demand of me or others on the right. Your preferred view that the OT writers wrote in some "epic" or "mythic" style is not supported by anything other than some stories you've heard of other ancient people writing in that manner. Thus, without ever providing any evidence that the OT writers actually wrote in that manner, you choose to believe that they did in order to declare the Bible provides you support to believe as you do. Diminish the truth of what is written as the result of some fictional style of writing, and you reject what was written, and then you cover your ass by saying you still believe whatever point you think the fiction is making. How convenient! So, your story is, without any evidence to support the connection:

1) Some ancient historians wrote in an "epic" or "mythic" style.
2) The OT authors were ancient people. Thus,
3) The OT is written in an "epic" or "mythic" style.

Talk about "hunches", "caprice" and "whimsy"!!

Dan Trabue said...

One of the comments made here lately was in praise of Marshall who, for all our disagreements, is at least willing to continue the conversation, even if (from our point of view) he is rather flighty and whimsical/emotional/cultural in his reasoning and tends to make fairly serious charges without support other than his own hunches.

And I agree. I DO appreciate Marshall's willingness to hold conversations and continue with them. I just wish he'd support his views more and that he could understand how whimsical his positions often seem, at least to me.

Now, having said that...

Marshall...

You don't even support your own beliefs to the extent you demand of me or others on the right.

I disagree, I've offered reasons why I believe what I believe, which I'll repeat again below...

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

Your preferred view that the OT writers wrote in some "epic" or "mythic" style is not supported by anything other than some stories you've heard of other ancient people writing in that manner. Thus, without ever providing any evidence that the OT writers actually wrote in that manner, you choose to believe that they did in order to declare the Bible provides you support to believe as you do.

My reasons for finding these some of these stories (I'm speaking specifically of the more ancient OT stories, from the dawn of humanity to ~3000-6000 BC) to sound more like "epic" or "mythic" storytelling conventions...

1. From any and all evidence that I've seen thus far, epic/mythic storytelling WAS the style of the day. Cultures across the world have their earliest stories and they almost always mix real world (or possibly real world) people and events with legendary exploits/adventures/events that are peopled with gods and fantastic creatures (demigods, minotaurs, dragons, angels, giants, etc)

2. Other than "list" types of writings (lists of people, lists of stuff), I'm not aware of ancient stories told in any other styles, especially any that would be comparable to modern histories, with an emphasis on linear storytelling with strictly factual events and dates and people. I'm not an expert in the area, I'm just saying I'm unaware of anything comparable to modern histories from this time period. Is ANYONE familiar with any writing of that sort from that time period?

3. The reason why this is important (at least to me) is that IF we impose (and WE are the ones deciding what manner of writing is being used in the Bible, there's not a place in the bible that says, "THIS was written in a poetic style, THAT was written in a modern historic style...") is because there are some passages that I think most people can agree are troubling from a biblical consistency point of view.

cont'd...

Dan Trabue said...

4. Some of the rules of good biblical exegesis include interpret scripture through scripture, interpret all scripture through the lens of Jesus' specific teachings, interpret the obscure through the obvious.

5. Using those measures, we can see clearly that God is opposed to injustice, God is opposed to harming innocents, God is opposed to oppression, God is supporting of looking out for the least of these... These are all ABUNDANTLY CLEAR and obvious core teachings of Christianity and of Jesus' teachings.

6. So, if we come across any passages that SEEM TO US to conflict CLEAR teachings, we can know that the CLEAR teachings are to be given greater weight and we need to make the troubling scriptures conform to the clear teachings, NOT the other way around.

7. So, given a passage that says, "God wants you to go in and kill all the people of this nation, EVEN THE INNOCENT CHILDREN, sparing the virgin girls - those you can take home and make them your wife against their will" (and there ARE passages that say that), we have a problem. Killing innocent children, innocent bystanders and forcing the orphaned virgin girls to become wives, these are all teachings contrary to CLEAR biblical teaching.

8. For these reasons, I can't see a literal and straightforward interpretation of these passages to be reasonable. But does that mean I REJECT those scriptures? No! It just means I can't see how a literal interpration stands. It is not dissimilar to the way that some fundamentalists would say, "EVEN THOUGH the Jesus says 'blessed are you who are poor... woe to you who are rich,' we can 'know' that this is not to be taken literally because..." and they give their reasoning. While I disagree with their hunches on that point, I would not say they are REJECTING Jesus' teaching, they just have a different take on it.

Dan Trabue said...

So, now I have provided, again, my reasoning for the way I interpret the Bible. I have heard other attempts at explaining away these sorts of awkward passages, but ultimately, I have found those explanations wanting.

The "epic" explanation - or something closer to that - seems most reasonable to me and thus, IN AN EFFORT TO ADHERE TO BIBLICAL TEACHINGS and especially the obvious teachings of Jesus, I interpret those passages differently than you do Marshall.

But interpreting it differently is NOT rejecting it, any more than those who reject a more literal reading of many of Jesus' teachings are trying to reject Scripture.

Is my position whimsical? I don't think so. I have solid, biblical reasoning for holding my positions. But at the least, it is not any more whimsical than your approach/interpretation (ie, we have always interpreted them as literal, they seem literal to me, thus we ought to take them as literal).

I find that exegesis of those passages biblically and logically unconvincing.

Marshall Art said...

But again, what you put forth is far more whimsical because of the assumptions you make. I don't care how much evidence you think you've found to suggest how ancient peoples wrote their histories. You haven't provided anything that even hints that the OT writers did the same. You have whimsically chosen to believe that.

And here's more of your whimsy. You believe that because God won't abide our harming innocents, that He has no Godly reason for wiping out entire populations, either by direct action (floods) or by ordering that destruction by the Israelites.

What's more, there is no problem understanding the use of poetic styles (Song of Solomon), fiction (the parables of Christ) or devices like "four corners of the earth". But you would have us believe that any or all of these flow from a more realistic recording into a mythic depiction of a town's destruction and back again seamlessly. But it is YOU who decides when that is happening.

Even more whimsical is your claims of "Biblical support", when what you're actually doing is taking verses that you've selected to mean what you'd like to see and weigh them against passages in the OT that you find offensive.

What you can't seem to grasp is how pretending the OT verses aren't accurate is a rejection as you now do not believe something about God that those verses indicate about His nature. You reject the full ramifications of His sovereignty by deciding that He can't, won't or is unable to do what He forbids of us. Indeed, you base this on what He mandates for us and presume it means He must abide these mandates he puts forth for us. The easiest refutation for this is that He takes life all the time and always has. But He has given us strict guidelines as to when it is permissible for us. He takes life at all ages, in fact, and always has.

What you call biblical support and logic is whimsy for sure. Solid? No. Rather squishy, actually.

Marshall Art said...

"Killing innocent children, innocent bystanders and forcing the orphaned virgin girls to become wives, these are all teachings contrary to CLEAR biblical teaching."

Setting aside the fact that you overstate the virgin girls part, you claim this is contrary to "CLEAR" biblical teaching. But this is only true if you believe God acts capriciously and whimsically, like you do me. I assume He is sovereign, has a plan, and despite the fact I'm not necessarily privy to the details of that plan, I assume it is good because He is good. You judge based on human terms and worse, you judge Him.

And once again, He did not order the taking of virgin girls as wives, but only mandated guidelines so to how He might tolerate it at the time. He tolerated polygamy, but never sanctioned it. He tolerated other things in the OT that He didn't sanction, like divorce. Remember---milk before meat. You dismiss these things as having no bearing no possible reasons or explanations for those things that offend you.

""EVEN THOUGH the Jesus says 'blessed are you who are poor... woe to you who are rich,' we can 'know' that this is not to be taken literally because..." "

Haven't heard anyone say that. We who have discussed this have simply said you aren't understanding what Jesus is saying.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

You have whimsically chosen to believe that.

How much research have you done on ancient writings? None? A little? Extensive?

I've done a little. I'm not an expert, I just know what seems reasonable and what I've seen/read.

"History" is, I believe, generally defined as the beginning of RECORDED history - that is, when humanity had ways of writing down history and passing it on. Recorded history begins about 3500-4000 BC.

With me so far?

In those early writings/stories group, all I have found so far are either epics/mythologies, proverbs/maxims and lists.

I find nothing like our modern histories with an emphasis on linear storytelling and factual accuracy.

Do you or do you not know of real examples of the sort of writing in this time period of which you speak? Do you know of even ONE example of a historic text in the more modern sense you are speaking of?

I'm not saying it doesn't exist. I'm saying I don't know of any. Do you?

If you don't, if apparently ALL ancient writings of "history" tended to be more mythological/epic in style, why would you presume to think the older stories in the Bible are different?

Marshall...

what you put forth is far more whimsical because of the assumptions you make.

I'm making no assumptions. I'm looking at the record as I know it. I see no exceptions to that record to support the sort of more modern style of history-telling you're suggesting.

Why are you making the assumption that I'm on the wrong track?

cont'd...

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

You haven't provided anything that even hints that the OT writers did the same.

I HAVE provided something: That this appears to be the writing style found in this period of history. That IS a bit of evidence.

Now, given that evidence, what would YOU provide as evidence that these stories were written in a different style?

While I'm at it, here's a bit of info on ancient literature. I'm being lazy, it's from wikipedia, but the data there is as I've read it elsewhere and sounds correct to me.

Marshall...

here's more of your whimsy. You believe that because God won't abide our harming innocents, that He has no Godly reason for wiping out entire populations, either by direct action (floods) or by ordering that destruction by the Israelites.

Marshall, if you would like to discuss this, let's do this methodically and rationally. Why don't we deal with one thing at a time.

I've offered the evidence that I am unaware of any writing/storytelling from that time period in the modern style you're suggesting. Before we move on, do you have anything to say to address THAT point?

Marshall Art said...

Yes. If you are not an expert and have found no evidence to separate OT stories from other ancient histories, prudence would dictate that you not assume it must be, or even probably is, written in the same style.

Secondly, you offer no way of determining when ANY biblical stories of God working directly or indirectly to further His plan are myth or fact. I believe that He has guided the OT writers in just the manner He had wanted, and as He had direct contact with many of the characters, the likelihood of the writers having direct or close indirect contact or knowledge of the events would suggest that they were accurate and truthful in their recordings of events. That they don't write exactly like David McCullough is irrelevant.

The main problem I have with your position is that it necessarily equates the truth of the OT with the the fabrications and myths of other histories. It is akin to those who question God's existence using Greek or Roman mythology to support their doubt.

But I believe that God is real and capable of the impossible and that stories of His actions in the OT are true because He would not tolerate falsehoods to be written about Him. If the stories of His destructive power is false and a metaphor for something else, you've certainly never made the connection. What's more, if that is simply to lend righteousness to human desires for conquest, then that makes a sham of so much of the OT, particularly since it would mean that God had no part in those conquests, and would not have approved. The stories then become lies about God. It isn't logical on any level.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

If you are not an expert and have found no evidence to separate OT stories from other ancient histories, prudence would dictate that you not assume it must be, or even probably is, written in the same style.

I should assume it's NOT written in the styles common today the day - is that what you're saying?

Why is that?

And what reason would I have for assuming it was written in a modernistic history-telling style? That seems like a pretty big presumption.

Marshall...

But I believe that God is real and capable of the impossible and that stories of His actions in the OT are true because He would not tolerate falsehoods to be written about Him.

I believe God is capable of anything not contrary to God's nature. The question remains WHY would God inspire people to write in a style not understandable/common to the day?

I don't think you're getting at my point: It is a modernistic hubris/presumption to say that, because a story is written in a mythic or epic style, that it is "lying" or inferior. It is speaking an INCREDIBLY POWERFUL AND GREAT Truth in a way understandable by the people of the day. This is not a spreading of falsehoods or lies. It's just a way of telling stories.

They're not inferior any more than Jesus' fictional parables are inferior simply because they are not factual.

Do you get my point? You seem to be making modernistic presumptions and applying modernistic prejudices against ancient ways of telling stories and when we do this, we depart from sound biblical exegesis.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

you offer no way of determining when ANY biblical stories of God working directly or indirectly to further His plan are myth or fact.

How do you know, Marshall, that Jesus' parables are fiction?

How do you know, Marshall, that when Jesus said, "lop your hand off if it offends thee," that he was using hyperbole?

What is your "way of determining" when ANY biblical stories are myth, poetry, hyperbole, parable or fact?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

I believe that He has guided the OT writers in just the manner He had wanted, and as He had direct contact with many of the characters, the likelihood of the writers having direct or close indirect contact or knowledge of the events would suggest that they were accurate and truthful in their recordings of events.

I agree. God CAN guide/inspire people in a manner God wants. But the question you're begging is: Did God WANT to inspire people to write in a modernistic style of history telling? Does God think that telling stories in a mythic way is somehow inherently bad or wrong and, thus, not likely to be used by God.

You're suggesting that storytelling by myth or epic is wrong and thus God did not use it, but other than your modernistic prejudice against myth or epic storytelling, do you have any biblical or logical reason for thinking this? If you're interested in good exegesis, you can't make a presumption (God wouldn't use THIS form of writing) and then say, "We know God didn't use myth because God didn't use myth, so that's how we know God didn't use myth..."

Begging the question. Circular reasoning. Poor exegesis, seems to me.

Marshall Art said...

You seem to be missing MY point (is that a requirement of the left?). YOU seem to be making modernistic presumptions and applying modernistic prejudices against the intelligence of ancient peoples. That they would need fictitious stories about God in order to understand His Will and nature. But oral tradition is considered to be incredibly accurate by today's standards and by the time the stuff was written down, YOU insist that they absolutely had to have had a distorted version of the events. Or worse, that they invented stories to replace those that had been handed down.

I won't debate about whether or not Moses wrote the first five books. I won't debate exactly which parts I believe are accurate without question. I will defend that the people of the time were not necessarily mentally retarded and in need of some kindergarten level Curious George story in order for them to learn about God. They lacked knowledge. That doesn't mean they were stupid.

More later. Out of time now.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall, I appreciate your trying, but if you're not going to answer questions, I don't really have the time or energy to go around in circles.

I asked...

1. How do you know, Marshall, that Jesus' parables are fiction?

2. How do you know, Marshall, that when Jesus said, "lop your hand off if it offends thee," that he was using hyperbole?

3. What is your "way of determining" when ANY biblical stories are myth, poetry, hyperbole, parable or fact?

4. The question remains WHY would God inspire people to write in a style not understandable/common to the day?

5. I should assume it's NOT written in the styles common today the day - is that what you're saying?

Why is that?

6. And what reason would I have for assuming it was written in a modernistic history-telling style?

7. They're not inferior any more than Jesus' fictional parables are inferior simply because they are not factual.

Do you get my point?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

YOU seem to be making modernistic presumptions and applying modernistic prejudices against the intelligence of ancient peoples. That they would need fictitious stories about God in order to understand His Will and nature.

I have presumed NOTHING about the intelligence of ancient people. I've stated that this is the apparent writing style from that time period. DO YOU HAVE ANY REASON TO SUPPOSE OTHERWISE?

DO YOU HAVE ANY EXAMPLES OF MODERNISTIC HISTORY-TELLING STYLES IN ANCIENT TIMES?

You seem to have this modernistic prejudice that telling stories in a mythic, epic, fablistic way is somehow less honest, less intelligent. Is that what you think? OR do you agree with me that using myths, parables, fables, epic stories to tell truths is an equally valid and honest way of telling history?

Marshall Art said...

I wasn't quite finished when I had to abruptly end my last comment, but no matter. I'll start at the end of your last:

"OR do you agree with me that using myths, parables, fables, epic stories to tell truths is an equally valid and honest way of telling history?"

Absolutely not. Not if they are replacing the actual events that could have been told just as easily instead. How could anything be equally valid and honest to the honest and valid truth? It can only be a pale immitation of the honest truth, but never equal to it.

"You seem to have this modernistic prejudice that telling stories in a mythic, epic, fablistic way is somehow less honest, less intelligent."

Only in your fevered imaginings. What I'm saying is that you have not made the case that such is what describes the OT stories of God destroying entire populations. I'm also saying that simply because you've found that some ancient peoples wrote in this manner, you have not made a case that demonstrates we must also assume the ancient Jews did as well. You are comparing people who believed in Zeus, Apollo and Venus to those who lived with God directly in their midst for forty years in the desert. I don't give much credence to stories about fictitious gods and expect that those who dealt with the One True and REAL God felt compelled to do anything in the same manner as those others who lived at the same time, particularly since they were instructed by that same True God to eat, dress and act in a manner that distinguishes them from all others on the planet. But no. YOU want me to believe that they wrote in exactly the same manner as the rest of the world at the time, or needed to.

next...

Marshall Art said...

Now for your list:

"1. How do you know, Marshall, that Jesus' parables are fiction?"

The first mistake is to compare Jesus' teaching methods with the historical record of the OT authors. More apples and oranges from you here.

But the most glaring difference is that he who recorded the events of Jesus' life spoke of Him using parables. The OT authors made no such statement unless an OT character was doing likewise. To be more apples to apples, one would have to assume the possibility exists that anything Jesus did in any of the Gospels could be metaphor or mythic writing. Are you going that far?

"2. How do you know, Marshall, that when Jesus said, "lop your hand off if it offends thee," that he was using hyperbole?"

Again, apples to oranges if you mean to use this to counter the OT stories regarding God's destruction of entire populations. But the sheer exaggeration of the recommendation when used with the previous teaching, together with the fact that there has been no example of anyone doing such a thing, nor any sects of the faith today that teaches such a thing as an actual mandate is enough for me. Have you actually struggled with this verse to the point where you thought it should be taken literally?

"3. What is your "way of determining" when ANY biblical stories are myth, poetry, hyperbole, parable or fact?"

We've been through this before and it's a BS question. It is only asked in a vain attempt to give more credence to your silly notion that the OT writers didn't record the events of God's interaction accurately.

"4. The question remains WHY would God inspire people to write in a style not understandable/common to the day?"

Here's where you assume that these ancient people needed to be told things in a particular manner in order to understand their own history or to feel good about themselves as if they were a bunch of liberal pantywaists who had self-image issues. The real question is why you insist that they would have trouble understanding a straightforward narrative of their own history. I see no need for such an assumption and you haven't provided any evidence that there was such a need. I know that you libs like to pretend that the ancient people just couldn't understand things that we understand. It helps you to justify your beliefs about those parts of the Bible you don't like.

next...

Marshall Art said...

"5. I should assume it's NOT written in the styles common today the day - is that what you're saying?"

I dunno. I don't speak that poorly. But if you meant to type "common to the day", then I would respond as I already have several times. God mandated all sorts of ways that they people of Israel should act, dress and behave in ways that separate them from all others and make themselves distinctive and stand out from all others. Truth and honesty seemed to be a big deal to Him. Thus, I don't see that He would have approved of any writing style that would be counter to that aspect of His nature. You want to believe moral message is all that is at stake here. That's a very subjective perspective.

"6. And what reason would I have for assuming it was written in a modernistic history-telling style?"

I truly can't imagine what reason you would have for assuming anything about Scripture, Dan. But unlike the myths of other ancient peoples about their mythical gods, these histories are about God.

"7. They're not inferior any more than Jesus' fictional parables are inferior simply because they are not factual."

Oh, they absolutely are if they are fictitious. Jesus wasn't talking about historical events in his parables. More accurately, He wasn't concerned with any, but only telling a quick little fable to illustrate a point. The moral of the parables are evident (and often explained for us later), whereas the OT stories are telling a history of specific events. A parable doesn't need to be a fact-based history to serve its purpose, but a history needs to be based on the facts, otherwise it is not history.

"I've stated that this is the apparent writing style from that time period. DO YOU HAVE ANY REASON TO SUPPOSE OTHERWISE?"

With regards to the OT, I don't need to. I trust that God approved of the style used that accurately recorded the events of the time as they happened. YOU'RE the one who needs to show they weren't. To date, all you've done is insist that because other peoples wrote one way, that we must believe ALL ancient people wrote that way, including a nation instructed by their God to act in a distinctively different manner than all the rest of the world.

"DO YOU HAVE ANY EXAMPLES OF MODERNISTIC HISTORY-TELLING STYLES IN ANCIENT TIMES?"

The Bible. That is, if by "modernistic" you mean, telling truthfully the important details of major events of their history.

Dan Trabue said...

First of all, thanks for addressing all of my questions.

Second of all, where you said...

I don't speak that poorly. But if you meant to type "common to the day", then I would respond as I already have several times. God mandated all sorts of ways that they people of Israel should act...

Do we really want to start nitpicking on typos and suggesting those who have typos speak poorly? Fair enough, I made a typo, my bad. But I would have to respond in a like manner then with your response in THE VERY NEXT SENTENCE, "I don't know what you mean, Marshall, I don't speak that poorly. But if you meant, 'God mandated that THE people of Israel should act...'"

But that wouldn't really get us very far, would it?

Unless you want to start a typo pissing contest (one I'd suggest you might lose), I'd suggest letting it go.

Thirdly, of ALL your responses, you have offered much of your opinions and hunches and non-answers/evasions of the questions. WITH THE EXCEPTION of your answer to my question about the fictitious nature of parables. You answered THAT ONE question with a reasonable and supported answer: The text TELLS us they're parables, so by the TEXT ITSELF we can tell they are fictitious.

Very good. You gave a well-reasoned response to that ONE question and I will gladly concede that we can EASILY tell from the text that those stories are intended to be fictitious.

Dan Trabue said...

...BUT, beyond that one point, all that I can see that you have offered is, "I, MARSHALL, think all these things because they are what seem obvious to me."

Beyond the "it seems obvious to Marshall" defense, is there any other reason that I should think your position on ancient texts is more logical, biblical or right than mine? If not, can you understand that if I find your position lacking, I'll choose to stand by my hunches over yours?

Marshall Art said...

"Do we really want to start nitpicking on typos and suggesting those who have typos speak poorly?"

I'm sorry. Break my bones, I'm sorry. Apparently I need some notation to indicate even the most obvious kidding. I'll use the popular :) from now on. Keep an eye out for it. I don't mean actually remove yur eye... :) :) :D

My answer to question 2 should qualify as a reasonable and supported answer. I gave three reasons: sheer exaggeration, no evidence of anyone acting on that exaggeration including sects of the faith teaching it as a mandate to followers, and you. Or are you suggesting that you have struggled with whether or not to pluck out your own eye? But I'll add this: it is not uncommon in Jewish tradition to use exaggeration to make the point. They'll often say things twice in succession in slightly differnt wording OR exaggerate the point for emphasis. If you must have it, I'll find a link to back this up. I don't know off the top of my head where I read this.

For all the rest, I most certainly gave you more than "it seems obvious to Marshall". This "it seems obvious to Marshall" ploy seems to be your default tactic when I expose the holes in YOUR position. You like to talk about using Scripture and I give you the fact that God mandated that the tribes of Israel behave in a manner that distinguishes them from all the rest of the world, from their dress to their diets and codes of conduct. You would have us believe that they wrote history in the same style as the rest of the world. I offer that God mandated honesty and truthfulness, and you insist that they wrote history, particularly regarding the God of all things, in a less than truthful manner.

And of course you demand that I respond to questions based on YOUR assumption that a straightforward style of recording history would be too hard for subsequent generations to understand (they get more stupid as time goes on?)

So I have definitely provided far better than "it seems obvious to Marshall", and by doing so shown the whimsy of your own position. So, no, I can't see why you'd stand by your hunches over my logic. But I have no illusions on that score.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

You like to talk about using Scripture and I give you the fact that God mandated that the tribes of Israel behave in a manner that distinguishes them from all the rest of the world

The OT records God's commands for Israel to be distinguished, therefore the OT histories must be written in a modernistic history-telling style? No, I don't find that convincing, Marshall.

Step back a second: Take an objective look at your reasoning and see if you can see how lightweight and whimsical those arguments would appear to an unbiased person.

So, no, you have offered nothing substantial at all that I can see on the question of "why should we assume the history portions of the bible are written in the manner that Marshall guesses they are?"

I am wholly unconvinced by your arguments or lack thereof on that point. Moving on, then...

Marshall Art said...

And still you dishonestly insist on framing the conversation in words that you hope work in your favor rather than in an objective rational manner. "modernistic history-telling style"? No. Factual, truth-telling style. THAT is how I see the OT stories regarding God's destruction of entire populations. You have NOT shown a reasonable alternative to my more logical perspective, because you don't want to believe that God's wrath is so consuming and overwhelming. You reject that aspect of Biblical teaching to assuage your delicate sensibilities and use an incredible weak set of arguments to justify it. THAT is my position and you have yet to provide a decent counter to it. "Marshall's hunches" is NOT a decent counter against what I have provided. It is sickly weak and cowardly. So go ahead and move on. Your tactics fail miserably anyhow.

Dan Trabue said...

The point (one point) you just don't seem to be getting is that you have an assumption (storytelling by myth or epic or in other less-than-literal fact styles) is wrong, or untrustworthy or somehow less true. This is a modernist cultural bias against the intelligence and integrity of ancient peoples.

Ah, well.

Marshall...

You have NOT shown a reasonable alternative to my more logical perspective, because you don't want to believe that God's wrath is so consuming and overwhelming.

And this is where we get down to your hunch vs my hunch. I think it is infinitely more reasonable to suggest these stories are written in the style common to the day than it is to take them literally and say that, Yes, God DOES sometimes command people to slaughter a whole nation, even innocent bystanders, even children.

Two of the rules of biblical exegesis are:

Interpret the obscure through the obvious and,

Interpret the implicit through the explicit.

The Bible explicitly makes clear that God does NOT punish wish for us to punish innocent people. That is obvious and explicit.

Then you have this passage that suggests the total opposite: That God sometimes DOES command people to punish, kill, slaughter innocent peoples (children included). That is obscure and less than clear. Its implicit teaching (God sometimes commands us to kill innocents) goes directly against the more clear explicit teaching: DON'T kill innocents.

And so, presuming that the stories were NOT told in a literal fashion (which was not done in that time period) makes much more logical and biblical sense than your efforts to try to explain away this contradiction in God's will for us.

You are willing to accept that literal teaching when I see no reason at all to presume it is literal. No logical reason, no biblical reason, no reason at all other than the traditionalists' whim that we OUGHT to read it that way.

I'm not convinced by this whimsical approach, because I see it to be ANTI-biblical and ANTI-logical. You disagree.

My hunch vs yours.

Now WHY should I take your hunch over mine if yours seems so patently illogical and unbiblical?

No reason at all.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I had no idea this little discussion was still on-going.

If I may?

Dan, you are beginning with some obvious observations regarding the nature of the diversity of Biblical literary styles. From there, you seem to move toward an exegetical position that relies upon, I believe, two fine theses: 1) the authority of Scripture rests not in the various texts, but in the Holy Spirit's testimony within us as we, individually and as the corporate body of the gathered people called the churches, read and proclaim these words; 2) in the diversity of styles, through the limited, broken vessels of the authors, editors, compilers, and finally various church councils that assembled the Bible we can testify to the work of the Holy Spirit guiding those folks. The trustworthiness of the Biblical word rests not in the words on the pages; the ancients who compiled that Bible over a period of a couple hundred years would be surprised and dismayed to read such an idea. The authority of the Bible, its trustworthiness and truth, reside in the God to whom it bears witness.

To call the literature of the Bible epic, or myth, or poetry, or allegory (particularly this last) says nothing at all about either its trustworthiness or its truth-value, because those qualities are not something the text of the Bible, qua text, possess. Rather, to call the Bible, in various places, epic, or myth, or (in a marvelous German phrase with far more nuance than any English equivalent) Heilsgeschichte is to recognize the reality that these forms exist within the literature of the Bible! The ancients who compiled the Bible, and much of the history of Biblical interpretation, recognized this reality as both banal and showing the glory of God. cont'd . . .

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

(God, I'm being all Bubbaesque again . . .)

It has only been in the past couple hundred years that the assertion of a multiplicity of literary styles within the Bible has been interpreted by some as denigrating the truth values of the text. For example, to note that there are two mutually exclusive creation stories, rooted in different theologies of who God is, with sources in different mythological traditions, including those of neighboring civilizations, is something that has been recognized for a very, very long time.

Yet, to make such a claim, for some, today, is in some way understood as denigrating the text. I have yet to grasp how this is possible. Considering the reality that millions of faithful Christians (myself included) profess whole-heartedly that these texts are true because what they tell us about who God is, how the God in whom we believe relates to creation, and how we are to relate to God, all the while never once thinking they relate actual events, it would seem to disprove the notion that in order to be a true, believing Christian is to consider what I just said not just false but dangerously so. Yet, that idea persists, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

All of which, it seems to me, kind of says something about the counter-approach on offer here, and its claim to logical soundness.

To repeat, ad infinitum, it is not in any way a comment upon, or denigration of, the truth value or authority of scripture to call its various styles epic, or mythical, or poetic, or allegorical, or anything else. It is to recognize a simple reality.

Dan Trabue said...

What I have a problem understanding is the stubborn certainty on the wrongness of my/our position of our friends like Marshall.

Okay, I can get it that he thinks his arguments hold some validity, even if I find them lacking. But to believe that my "...tactics fail miserably anyhow" - WHAT tactics is he speaking of? I explain the problem with a literal translation of the sort that Marshall favors, I explain what the evidence I see for writing styles of the time, and come to a conclusion that a reasonable explanation is as I've described.

He disagrees, obviously, but okay, so what? How have I/we "failed miserably?" What "tactics" is he speaking of?

All I can see is reasonable (if debatable) efforts at biblical exegesis. What "tactics?"

It's odd.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

It might seem irrelevant, but I think an answer to the following bit of information is entirely relevant to the whole question of how we read the Bible, how we judge authority, Biblical and extra-Biblical in interpretation and so on. First, I would very much like you to read this article on the value of pi in the Bible. Now, some might think it irrelevant, yet it is highly relevant to any serious attempt to address questions to an inerrant reading of Scripture.

Marty said...

I think that anything other than a literal and inerrant Scripture for some christians would call into question the entire Bible. And they simply will not have it. For to do so would shake the very foundation of their faith because they could not depend on the Bible to be true and factual. So they don't even allow their minds to question or even think on these things.

Our Lenten study at my church is "The Fearless Courage to Question". In some christian circles questioning would probably be anathema.

Marshall Art said...

Very quickly, as I haven't the time to respond fully to Geoffrey and Dan, I will say to Marty, whose comment summarizes the issue pretty well, that it is not a matter of not questioning. I have questioned the entire faith in my time. To this day I question aspects of the Bible as my conversation with Stan regarding Calvinism proves.

It's a matter of what is being questioned.

Yes, Geoffrey. This thread is still ongoing, especially since you've added to it. I look forward to carrying on with it.

Marty said...

"It's a matter of what is being questioned."

I'd agree, but even that varies from one christian to another. I personally think it's OK to question everything. Without questions, one will never find the answers...but even at that...we must guard against assuming we have found absolute answers which leads to invalidating interpretations different from our own and calling another's salvation into question. That is one thing that we ought not question.

Dan Trabue said...

Doug has posted a comment that I can see in my email but is not showing up yet here, for some reason. One of his points to me was...

Bible literalists, that you guys seem to disdain, believed the story as written, on faith.

1. I don't disdain biblical literalists. I used to be one. I disagree with biblical literalists. I don't disdain beloved family members and friends who still are literalists in their interpretation, I disagree with them. That's not the same as disdaining them.

2. I disagree with biblical literalists now because I feel they have poor biblical exegesis. They appear to be drawing conclusions based NOT upon the Bible, but upon preconceived notions that are not biblical, but cultural.

3. I, too, believe the stories as written. What's at question here is NOT the stories that were written, but how they were written. I believe Jonah and the Whale story, for instance. It is a tremendous story teaching powerful truths, such as that you can't run away from God, and that God loves everyone, doesn't want to see anyone perish. I believe THAT is how that story was written: to convey those points.

4. Given that I LOVE the story of Jonah, that I only want to learn God's will from it, that I read it seeking understanding, I have come to believe that story AS I BELIEVE IT WAS WRITTEN. It would be a false dichotomy to suggest that the Marshalls of the world believe the story as written and the Dans of the world reject it as written. We have differences of opinion on how/why it was written.

Fair enough?

Dan Trabue said...

Since Doug's comment is still not showing up, I'll post it here:

I just happened across this rather long exchange and have read it through. I don't wish to inject any opinions of mine at this point, as clearly there's more of a history here than I was aware of.

I just have one hypothetical question regarding archeology and the Bible, and history vs epic tales.

Let's say that, tomorrow, an archeologist uncovers a previously undiscovered ruins, and it turns out that it dates to when the Israelites would have been in the area, and indeed has carvings or some such that identify the city as one called "Ai". Essentially, there is enough evidence that this is the city, with its own king, and that the evidence shows it was indeed captured from the west and burned to the ground.

Let's say that this evidence, whatever the extent of it, is enough for you to accept that the story of Ai is, in fact, literally true and not some tale told in the style of other writings. Would this change your interpretation of this portion of the book of Joshua?

The reason I ask this, to be completely up-front, is that archeology is constantly changing our understanding of history and, particularly, of Bible history. For example, the 'writing on the wall' story in Daniel was often criticized by those seeking to dismiss the truth of the story by noting that there was never a king Belshazzar of Babylon. And it seemed very odd that Belshazzar would make whoever could interpret it third in the kingdom.

Bible literalists, that you guys seem to disdain, believed the story as written, on faith. Archeology in the 1860s, however, discovered that Nabonidus was actually king at the time, and was living elsewhere while his son, Belshazzar, was in charge at home. This explains both why there was a Belshazzar running the show, and why he could only make someone third in the kingdom; he was only second. (See this link and search for "Nabonidus" to find the relevant info.) Now, this doesn't prove that the rest of the story is true, but it certainly validated its description of history at the time. Critics no longer had an archeological argument.

This sort of thing has been happening all through the 20th century as well. New discoveries are very often bringing us, scientifically, to where the Bible already is.

So my question to you is; would a change in archeological knowledge change your view of the Bible? If it could be proved that Ai existed when the Bible says it did, and that it was destroyed the way the Bible says that it was -- if it could be proven to your standards that what the book of Joshua says happened, happened -- would your view of this passage of the Bible change? If so, then Marshall Art's contention that you are putting your faith in archeologist and scientists over the authors of the Bible would seem to ring true. After all, if your view of this passage would change, then what you believe about human archeological science takes precedence over what the Bible says happened. Archeology trumps the Bible.

Or is there nuance I'm missing?

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

...would a change in archeological knowledge change your view of the Bible? If it could be proved that Ai existed when the Bible says it did, and that it was destroyed the way the Bible says that it was -- if it could be proven to your standards that what the book of Joshua says happened, happened -- would your view of this passage of the Bible change?

I'm not sure if this is directed to me or not. I'm not sure if you're understanding my reasoning on this point. Let me try to address this. First, I you're referencing the city of Ai because Geoffrey mentions it. But it's not one that I had in mind in any of my comments. Let me recap my points:

1. There are some troubling stories in the OT. For instance, when God is recorded as telling Israel...

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and INFANTS, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

2. A literal interpretation of this story, then, teaches us that God sometimes commands people to kill innocent people. Innocent CHILDREN. Innocent BABIES!

3. This is problematic because it is contradictory to other teachings in the Bible. This is problematic to anyone who takes the Bible seriously because it leaves us with the troubling question: Is God going to command us to do something that the Bible and our own human morality tells us is clearly wrong??

IF God is going to tell us to do something that we can know is wrong... well, hell, where does that leave us?! If God might want us to - command us to sin, how can we know anything is right or good? All bets would be off.

Clearly, taken literally, this passage is troubling.

Cont'd...

Dan Trabue said...

4. But, do we have any logical or biblical reason to think that we MUST take this passage literally? Does the Bible ever tell us to take that passage as a literal history?

No and no.

5. Could God use myth or parable or epic or other fictional or non-literal storytelling styles to convey God's truth? Clearly, yes, God could. Parables are an example of this.

6. So, is there any biblical or logical reason to presume that we couldn't take these as epic or myth or other non-literal style? Not any that I can think of.

7. I hold to fairly orthodox criteria for reading the Bible: interpret the individual through the whole, interpret the whole through the teachings of Jesus, interpret the obscure through the clear, etc.

8. One reason for thinking this passage is non-literal is because this is an obscure and difficult passage taken literally, because it contradicts the clear teaching of the rest of the Bible: Don't shed innocent blood. This teaching is clear and present throughout the whole of the Bible.

IF we are to insist on taking that passage literally, then we are rejecting clear teaching - God does not want us to shed innocent blood, God does not want us to kill children or babies - in favor of the unclear and obscure - God sometimes wants us to kill babies.

So, given this summary, perhaps you can see that the reason that I hold my position is solely in an attempt to honor and respect the teachings of the Bible. In short: I have no reason to not assume this might be a non-literal story and I have great biblical and logical reason to NOT accept it as literal.

Does this not make sense?

Marshall Art said...

No. And here's why:

1. The OT stories ARE troubling. But they are troubling only to those who really are at risk of suffering God's wrath. As a Christian, I don't expect that I am among those.

They are also troubling in demonstrating, actually only giving a hint, I suspect, of the extent to which His wrath could be made manifest.

2. There is a distinct difference between "commands" and "commanded". The only legitimate lesson from these OT stories is that God sometimes "commanded" the total annihilation of particular populations. There is little, if anything, that implies He would "command" anyone in the here and now to do the same. Indeed, there is nothing that anyone could use as Biblical justification to do the same in the here and now.

3. Part of this is answered in #2 above. It is NOT, however, contradictory to other teachings unless those other teachings are improperly understood and/or applied. For example, there is no law given to us by God that should be assumed is binding on Him. They are laws for us to follow. Teachings for OUR behavior. God can do what He wants because all is His creation to do with as He pleases. It does NOT, for example, contradict the fact that He is sovereign and that all lives are His. (Indeed, some translations don't say "destroyed" but say "devoted" as that which is "destroyed" has no use to the conqueror and is now in God's hands, "devoted" to Him and His judgment.)

Dan also seems to think that God is prohibited from acting against what contradicts "our own human morality" as if He answers to US. THAT contradicts the teachings of the Bible. The OT stories do not.

There is nothing we can do that is sinful if we are told directly by God to do it. Since the OT stories are tales of specific commands to specific people for specific purposes, it is not reasonable to presume the likelihood that God would command the same of us, as we are not in anything like the same situations as those He commanded in the OT. What we know to be sinful is that which He commanded we not do based on our own desires and reasons for doing it.

Marshall Art said...

4. These questions are silly. First of all, we have no logical, and certainly no Biblical reason for NOT taking them literally. The OT stories that always provoke these discussions are told in a most straightforward manner with no hint that they are mythical, epic or fabricated versions of actual events.

To ask if the Bible tells us to take them literally is an incredibly goofy line of reasoning. Does any history book tell us to take it literally, or is it to be assumed that it is meant so? Why would the history presented in the Bible not as well? Because OTHER peoples wrote of their histories in hyped up fabrications rather than factual renderings? That's a stretch. To suppose the ancient Jews did things like other nations does definitely contradict Biblical teaching.

5. We've been through this. God could have used crop circles. So what? Speculate all you want, but until you can PROVE or provide solid evidence that He did use these other methods, you must not carry on as if He DID use those methods. That is applying your OWN prejudices and preconceived notions upon the text.

In additions, I think I've provided that which should demand you never use parables as an example again. Have some integrity.

6. Responses 4 & 5 answer this well enough. It is asking a question as second time so as to enhance your list of reasons. Bad form.

7. Genesis to Malachi. What is that, two-thirds of the Bible? You cannot interpret the individual through the whole by dismissing so much of what that two-thirds says about God's wrath. So much of the OT illustrates the extent of His wrath. You interpret the individual as if it exists without all those other stories describing just how wrathful He can be. Thus, you do not apply this part of the triage of interpretation properly.

The teachings of Jesus include a distinct respect and reverence for the OT, as it was Scripture in those days. There was never any expression by Him that any of it could be dismissed in any way. Not even the Creation story. He warned us of Hell. What could be worse than to be sent there? Flood? Angel of Death? Annihilation of you and everyone in your city by God's people? Thus, you do not apply this part of the triage of interpretation properly.

There is nothing obscure or unclear about God's destruction of the many populations of the OT. He did it often enough for it to be crystal clear that is was a common choice of action for Him in the OT. In fact, He threatened to do it to the entirety of the Chosen People before Moses pleaded with Him not to. Thus, you do not apply this part of the triage of interpretation properly.

8. Once again, and you need to emphatically understand this important point. It is wrong for US to take innocent lives. To this day, God takes innocent lives all the time. They are His to take. He gives and takes life at His pleasure and only He has the sovereign right to do so. THAT'S part of what makes it wrong for us. But you demand that HE abide the rules He created for US. You have no right to make such a demand or to even have such an expectation. God is not us. We are not God. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Ever hear that before?

Your summary falls short when you use expressions like "God sometimes wants us to take innocent life". There is no reasonable inference from the OT stories for this and to use it to make your point is dishonest. As I said, one can only say that God commanded at specific times for specific people to destroy specific populations. No more. It is NOT reasonable to infer any more than that. Speculate, maybe. But speculation is not a serious endeavor and must be kept separate from Biblical teaching which clearly and straightforwardly teaches of God's wrath and the many ways in which it was manifested. To deny these aspects of the OT is to reject the parts of the Bible that teaches of them.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

First, to Doug's comments as it was I who mentioned the city of Ai. I tend not to like hypotheticals such as the one you propose because, quite frankly, anything is logically possible. Would it change my mind about how I read Scripture? Certainly not. It would be, at best, an interesting factoid.

There is a well known stele (pronounced steel-ee) from Assyrian ruins that depicts, and explains, envoys from the kingdom of Israel bringing tribute to the Assyrian king. It antedates, as best they can measure these things, the destruction of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians by a couple centuries, but it clearly indicates that Israel, far from being a major power, was a vassal state of Assyria. There is abundant evidence from other digs and remnants that make clear the heroic, nationalist story told in Joshua might be a bit embellished.

This means little to me as I read it. Why should it? I'm not reading it, or the books of Samuel and Kings, for historical details. I'm reading them for learning about God. Even the reality that these marvelous tales are an embroidered tale of national triumph tells me something about who God is.

I do not hold literalists in "disdain". Like Dan, I find it bad exegesis. I can read the whole Bible without ever once having the question "did such-and-such and event really happen as depicted?" ever trouble my mind because that isn't a question the text poses. Leaving the Hebrew Scriptures aside for the moment, consider the contradictory tellings of the crucifixion. Did the two "thieves" executed along with Jesus mock him, as we are told in one Gospel account? Or did one defend Jesus and profess his faith in him? Did Joseph of Arimathea take Jesus corpse and bury it, or was it taken down by Roman authorities? If I troubled myself over details like this, it would drive me insane. If I thought for one moment it was important, even necessary to reconcile what is, quite literally, contradictory, I would have given up reading the Bible a long time ago.

If you, Doug, or Marshall, find solace in a literal reading of Scriptures, I'm happy for you. I have often made the point that one thing Biblical literalists do for the rest of the Church is remind us of the centrality and seriousness of Scripture to our faith, as we all too often get caught up in doctrinal or other disputes that have only a tenuous reference to the Bible.

The difference between us is, I think, that I can disagree with your approach to reading Scripture without ever thinking that you are bad, or evil, or wrong, or not Christian because you don't read it the way I, or Dan, or others do. On the other hand, we have been told far too often, that we are wrong, in error, not Christian, etc., because we read the Bible the way we do.

At the heart of it, that is the dispute. I fail to see anything in this long exchange that either makes true the whole "tiny Bible" thing, or shows a non-literal reading of Scripture in any way means we disregard any of it. I certainly do not, but hold all of it as the first and final authority of our faith.

It's really that simple.

Dan Trabue said...

What Geoffrey said.

Marshall...

First of all, we have no logical, and certainly no Biblical reason for NOT taking them literally.

I just gave logical and biblical reasons for not taking them literally. Towit:

A literal translation teaches us that sometimes it's okay to kill babies. Logically, that's so obviously wrong as to be laughable. No! A thousand times, No! Our very own fallen human sensibilities tells us how wrong this is.

Agree or disagree with my opinion, that IS a logical reason.

A literal translation would teach us that God sometimes commands us to do what is evil.

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

That is a clear and obvious biblical teaching. To say, "Well, if God commands it, no matter HOW wrong it normally is, it's good for us to do it," undermines this biblical and obvious teaching from James. If that were the case, James would have just said, "If someone says God is tempting them, it's wrong, because if God says it, it's good."

Dan Trabue said...

So, whether or not you agree with my reasons, those ARE REASONS for not taking that passage literally. You can't just plug your ears and say, "NA NA NA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU! You aren't offering reasons 'cause I can't hear you."

If you want to say, "there are no good reasons and, while you are offering reasons, I don't find them sound biblically or logically," then say that and make your case. But the reasons are there for anyone to see, so you can't say they don't exist.

Further, the reasons are there out of concern for biblical accuracy and the ideal of following God's will, so neither can you pretend that those of us who hold these reasons are just wanting to ignore the Bible.

Doug said...

Geoff:

Would it change my mind about how I read Scripture? Certainly not. It would be, at best, an interesting factoid.

Ah, I see. So you've already decided that it's an epic tale, and no amount of evidence to the contrary will change your mind. Gotcha.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Doug, I haven't "decided" anything. What part of "I don't care either way because that's not how I read the Bible" isn't clear to you?

It wouldn't change how I read the Bible because, as I said, I do not ever once consider the question of "fact", either historical, scientific, or some other when I read the Bible. That isn't what the Bible is about. I don't read a biography of Winston Churchill and consider matters related to the collapse of Bynzantium because it isn't related to the topic at hand.

How is this difficult to understand?

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

So you've already decided that it's an epic tale, and no amount of evidence to the contrary will change your mind.

Tell me honestly, Doug: Have you already decided it's NOT an epic tale and no amount of convincing would change your mind?

Do you, like Marshall, think societies that used mythic, epic and other non-literal storytelling styles were wrong for using those styles? Are those styles of writing wrong in and of themselves?

What Geoffrey and I are saying is that some of these stories SEEM TO FIT the epic/mythic/non-literal styles of storytelling that were common to the day. We further are seeing no reason at all in the Bible that would force us to presume that these were written in some style other than that which was common to the day. We further believe that the Bible is a book of the most profound truth and to get hung up on facts is to run the risk of missing the truths, which are the KEY and CENTRAL parts of the story.

In Jonah and the great fish story, the KEY parts of the story - the take-away points - include that you can't run from God, that God wishes to save everyone, that no one is beyond the reach of God, that we ought to love everyone, even our enemies, etc. THESE are the essential truths of that story.

Whether or not Jonah was a real person who was really swallowed by a great fish is irrelevant to the TRUTH of that story. Do you agree with me on that much?

I don't care if someone wants to think that Jonah was a real person swallowed by a real "great fish," it's just not a key element to the story.

I've heard some Christians say, "If that story - Jonah, the Creation, whatever - isn't literally true [meaning, if that story isn't factually true in the way that I always thought it was because that's how I was taught...], then I don't know if I can trust ANYTHING in the Bible and I might as well walk away from Christianity, because it's all based upon lies." Do you fall into that camp?

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Let's use another example. I once preached a sermon from a text in Samuel in which two soldiers are struck dead when they touch the Ark of the Covenant when it slips and almost falls.

How did I deal with that passage? Did I consider it "historical"? That question never even entered my mind. All the same, the story did raise issues - God striking dead two people who, while technically violating the Law, were acting with good intentions, seeking to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from touching the ground.

I preached it as an allegory. I talked about how we humans, with the best intentions and motivated out of love for God, often transgress the Law of God thinking the end being pursued will excuse the means, a transgression. The problem is that God has different ends for us, to be in community with one another, abiding by the Law God has given us. Violating the law, regardless of intention or end, is still a transgression. All the grandstanding in the world does not change the reality that certain things are prohibited.

The story is disturbing to our contemporary sensibilities, yet it has an important, indeed vital, lesson for us. Reading the story this way takes seriously the whole context of the Ark and the Law in the life of the community, what is prohibited and what is permitted, as well as the whole theological view of the role of the Law set forth by St. Paul and later St. Augustine and Martin Luther (creating faithful community bound by its strictures, yet restricted only to violations as a negative sign of the limits of human conduct).

I never once asked, "Did this really happen?" because, quite honestly, I can get all sorts of meaning and understanding without even considering that question. It respects the integrity of the text in and for itself, as a part of a larger literary narrative (Samuel/Kings), and both the original Jewish and later Christian understandings of the story.

Tiny Bible? Nah.

Marshall Art said...

"A literal translation teaches us that sometimes it's okay to kill babies."

No. A literal translation does NOT teach this. A literal translation teaches us that God ordered a specific people to carry out a specific task at a specific time against a specific people. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a twisted, misguided and corrupt inference of the text that teaches what you say. Morons think it teaches them this. There's nothing "logical" about such an inference, and thus, nothing "logical" about your "reason".

"Let no one say when he is tempted..."

So you equate temptation with a direct command from God? Is that what you're saying? Was Moses "tempted" when God told him in Numbers 25:4 "Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the Lord's fierce anger may turn away from Israel."?

Indeed, I am saying, as I did in refuting your "logical reason" above, that one cannot take the Bible stories to justify their temptations because those stories relate specific actions by God. Actions limited to the specifics of the story, not mandates for anyone else to decide who to kill and when. So you are using the term "temptation" improperly in order to make your case for dismissing the OT stories in question.

Thus, I have not said you have no reasons for your positions. I have only said your reasons are poor, weak and illogical as YOU present them. No "nyah, nyah, nyah" has ever been a part of my opposition. It does seem to be a great part of yours, but instead of "nyah, nyah, nyah", you speak of "hunches".

"Further, the reasons are there out of concern for biblical accuracy and the ideal of following God's will, so neither can you pretend that those of us who hold these reasons are just wanting to ignore the Bible."

Yet ignore them you do in insisting they are hyperbolic fabrications in the style of other ancient peoples without proving the style was employed by the the OT authors. You cannot make assumptions like that and then interpret Scripture based on those assumptions, particularly when they don't even measure up to your supposedly preferred method of interpreting Scripture.

Doug said...

Geoff:

Well sure you have decided. You've decided that certain portions of the Old Testament are written in the epic style. You've also decided that any archeological discovery that would prove the literal-ness of one of those stories would not change that decision.

You're full of decisions, dude. Decisions from which you simply won't be swayed from, whatever the evidence. Now, that's a good position to be in when deciding to believe the truth of the Bible. But I guess it all depends on your definition of "truth".

What I find even more interesting is that you don't consider relevant the issue of fact, "historical, scientific, or some other", when you read it. I do hope you don't include "spiritual" facts in that "some other". Just wondering. "Facts" seem to be as relevant to you, with regards to the Bible, as, say, Winston Churchill and the collapse of Bynzantium.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

what you fail to consider by this statement is that if the stories are false, whatever lesson you draw from them regarding God and His nature are unreliable. You can teach what you like and live according to your inferences, but you profit nothing if the stories are false.

WHY, Marshall? WHY? Why, if a storyteller uses non-literal storytelling techniques does that negate the truths of those stories?

Are you amongst those who would say, "IF the stories aren't literally true, then I might as well not be a Christian... If I found out that Genesis was not a literal creation story or that if Jonah was not a literal historic story, I'd reject the whole of Christianity..."?

Stories need not be literal to be full of truth.

Doug said...

Geoff:

Regarding the soldiers touching the Ark. If it really happened, it tells us something about God that you can then apply to our lives today. If it didn't, it may not tell us something about Him. As I said to Dan, it may just tell us something about the human writer of the text. And if so, it would not be suitable to teach spiritual truths from it. If that came from the writer's imagination, you might be teaching something about God that is not based on His personality.

You don't find that the slightest bit disturbing?

progxian said...

Speaking for myself, I celebrate all the different ways Christians have lived and continue to live out their experience of the faith. Even those I could never choose for myself, for whatever reason.

Discussions like this descend to argument because someone has to be right. Me, I don't know if I'm right or wrong. Nor do I care all that much, not really. I do what I can with the tools at my disposal and allow God's grace in Jesus Christ to make up the slack for me.

So, you want to argue? Go ahead. Your argument, however, is not with me. Or Dan.

Dan Trabue said...

I'm sorry Doug. Since I had not said anything about Ai, I was not sure your question was directed towards me. You asked/said...

would a change in archeological knowledge change your view of the Bible? If it could be proved that Ai existed when the Bible says it did, and that it was destroyed the way the Bible says that it was

My view of the Bible is that it is a book of Truth and truths. So, if Ai existed or not, if Jonah existed or not, none of that would change my view of the Bible, because I would still think it is a book of truth.

Do you think there is some problem with considering the Bible a book of Truth?

So, I have no great opinion on whether or not the city of Ai actually fell as described in the Bible. I assume that most if not all the stories in the Bible are based on real events. And I think it a reasonable conclusion that the story's importance is not the facts, but the Truths being taught.

Do you think parables are lacking in integrity if they're not literally accurate?

Doug...

If the entire Old Testament is just a story that has little to no actual facts in it, then it becomes what its detractors claim; a fairy tale.

I'll ask you the same question I asked Marshall: WHY?

First of all, I'm not saying that there are no actual facts in the stories found in the OT.

Second of all, WHY, if epic and mythic storytelling was the way of communicating truth in that time, and parables are one way Jesus communicated truth in his time, WHY is the lack of literal truth in the OT or in Jesus' parables an indication of some sort of fault?

Would you discard your faith if God told you that the OT stories are not literal facts in their entirety? Would you call God a liar if you found out that the stories are not literally factual?

Doug said...

Geoff:

You are talking about things that do not have anything to do with the way I read the Bible.

No, I understand. Facts and accuracy in the text don't matter to you when reading the Bible. Fair enough. You rely on the Spirit of God to take stories that may or may not be true, and may reveal things about God or may reveal things about the writer, who knows.

I believe the Spirit does help us understand the Bible, but from a foundation of truth, not a foundation of uncertainty, which it seems you revel in.

You don't know what God may have or have not done in the past because you believe the stories could be simply imaginative. But you infer what He is like from stories. It doesn't matter to you that the writer, if the story is imaginative, might be precisely opposite to what God is.

Hey, if you want to base your sermons on that, knock yourself out. I just find that an extremely shaky foundation, and one that is prone to all manner of error.

Doug said...

Dan:

Do you think parables are lacking in integrity if they're not literally accurate?

Parables are presented as parables. Grimm's Fairy Tales are presented as fairy tales. The OT is presented as history.

I've already answered the next question. If there are no actual facts in the Old Testament, then it is a fairy tale because we can't know what God is like, or if we're getting, perhaps, a view of God based on the writer's prejudices/ideas/pet theories.

I am exaggerating for effect regarding the totality of the OT, but deciding that some of the OT, to whatever degree you wish, is historically true, lessens that problem, but does not get rid of it.

WHY is the lack of literal truth in the OT or in Jesus' parables an indication of some sort of fault?

Because you may be determining what God is like based on a falsehood. As I said to Geoff, if the story about the soldiers touching the Ark is not historically true, you can't really draw spiritual truth from it. Geoff seems to feel this is not a big deal.

Would you discard your faith if God told you that the OT stories are not literal facts in their entirety?

If it was all an imaginative story, would that be a foundation to build a religious faith on? How would I know it was God telling me that, if all I had were stories that may or may not reflect what He's like?

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

If there are no actual facts in the Old Testament, then it is a fairy tale because we can't know what God is like, or if we're getting, perhaps, a view of God based on the writer's prejudices/ideas/pet theories.

Why?

I think we can get a VERY clear idea of what God is from reading the bible. God is a God, first and foremost of love. That does not change if the stories are literal factual or told in an epic or other non-literal style.

People throughout history have used storytelling conventions that don't rely upon linear, literal facts to tell truths. It is a modernistic chauvinism to presume that, IF a storyteller uses non-literal methods, that the story becomes unreliable or false.

We can tell that God is a God of justice for/on behalf of the oppressed, the marginalized, the widows and orphans. We can tell that God is a God of truth. None of this changes if the writers employed non-literal storytelling styles.

Do you have any reason beyond your hunch that some of these stories are to be taken as literal history?

What do you do with the problems of...

1. There appears to be no evidence that stories were told in the manner you're suggesting back in that time period?

2. A literal translation requires you to have an unreliable morality base - since ANYTHING is permissible for humans to do IF "god tells them" to do it?

3. What do you do with the problem that IF God tells someone to do something clearly wrong, it contradicts the clear NT teaching: That God does not tempt us to sin?

These are the HUGE holes that I have with your position. I don't mind that you hold it, but I just don't see any strong biblical or rational or moral reason to support your conclusion or that overcomes the problems I list above.

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

If it was all an imaginative story, would that be a foundation to build a religious faith on?

What is the foundation to build a faith when Jesus tells parables? Truth stories need not be factual or entirely factual in order to convey truth. That seems to be the hole in this argument from where I sit.

You seem to reject the possibility of SOME non-literal stories being able to convey truth (while accepting others on a rather whimsical basis - that is: I see no solid foundation for why you think SOME non-literal stories are acceptable Truth modes but not others. Your suggestion that the OT is "history" is begging the question. THAT is what we're discussing here.

That is, the question is: Are these OT stories sometimes using epic/mythic/non-literal storytelling devices and your answer appears to be, "They CAN'T be because they're telling history in a literal way, so if they're actually telling it in a non-literal way, they're not being literal, which is what they are..."

That seems to be a circular argument and why I have a problem with it.

Marty said...

"IF the stories aren't literally true, then I might as well not be a Christian... If I found out that Genesis was not a literal creation story or that if Jonah was not a literal historic story, I'd reject the whole of Christianity..."?

Yes. They would have no other choice but to reject it. And that's what scares the hell out of them and why they cling to literalism. It's safe. They need certainty, not truth.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

We do not believe in the Bible. Our faith is in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are not saved by the Bible. We are saved by grace through faith. Much of the discussion over the whole truth-value of Scripture that makes a necessity of historical correspondence verges on idolatry.

The stories aren't true because they actually happened. The stories are true because God testifies to the truth through the Holy Spirit as we read and proclaim the Word of God.

Marty said...

Yes Geoffrey. Exactly.

Doug said...

Geoff:

We do not believe in the Bible. Our faith is in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Indeed. But we need to believe in what the Bible says about God to get an accurate picture of Him. I have faith that He wants me to understand Him, so much so that He's given me a clear picture of Him from the history of His people.

Much of the discussion over the whole truth-value of Scripture that makes a necessity of historical correspondence verges on idolatry.

As I noted in my comment to Dan, I believe God wants me to know Him fully, deeply and accurately. It makes sense to me that, therefore, He would want an account of His actions in history to be just as accurate.

The stories aren't true because they actually happened. The stories are true because God testifies to the truth through the Holy Spirit as we read and proclaim the Word of God.

But if the stories aren't factually true, then we can't take detail from them and extrapolate an accurate view of God. Your sermon takes a story and extrapolates other ideas from it, but if it never really happened -- if God never acted in that way -- then you're extrapolating truths from fairy tale. I hit all my points in my previous comment to Dan, so I won't reiterate here.

Marshall Art said...

"We do not believe in the Bible. Our faith is in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are not saved by the Bible. We are saved by grace through faith."

Where'd you get THAT from? I'm guessing...THE BIBLE! But then, how do we know we are saved by grace through faith if the Bible is just some book that may or may not have any factual, linear historical renderings? I would wager that if Christianity existed at all in this day and age, it would not resemble what it does now and would likely be populated by far smaller numbers with far greater divides between the denominations, if we didn't have the Bible and the history it provides us.

Dan, on the other hand, continues to ask how can say that the OT writers didn't write in the same style as other ancient people when his argument for that has no support whatsoever. Talk about "hunch"! It's based entirely on his hunch because he sees no difference between the ancient Hebrews and their God and other ancient peoples and their gods.

Marshall Art said...

Marty,

"Yes. They would have no other choice but to reject it. And that's what scares the hell out of them and why they cling to literalism. It's safe. They need certainty, not truth."

Truth provides certainty. Falsehood and fabrication does not. Dan chooses to equate the OT authors with all other ancient writers (assuming that they DO all write in epic styles for whatever reason---I haven't conceded that that is truly the case) and by doing so, negates the histories that comprise examples of God's wrath manifested through miracles or commands to His Chosen. He thus has a distorted view of God's nature because he won't accept those stories as indicative of a God he will only see as loving, as if a loving God doesn't get angry and vengeful and wrathful. How does he explain hell then? Wiping out peoples' lives is worse than eternal damnation? Where's the love? And what other lesson is taught by these stories Dan sees as "epic" story telling? This has never been answered to my memory.

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

we need to believe in what the Bible says about God to get an accurate picture of Him.

Okay, I DO believe the teachings of the Bible about God.

I have faith that He wants me to understand Him

Okay, so do I.

...so much so that He's given me a clear picture of Him from the history of His people.

HERE is where you are making your leap. I do not believe that every OT story reflects a 100% literal telling of history. And yet, I believe...

God is the creator of the world
God is love
God wants justice for people, especially the least of these
God hates injustice and oppression
God is not willing for any to perish, but for everyone to experience God's grace and salvation
That Jesus is the son of God, who lived on earth, taught us God's ways, who died and rose again

Etc, etc, etc

Now tell me: In SPITE of my not taking all these stories as 100% literal history, have I misunderstood anything about God's nature?

You appear to be suggesting that we can't interpret the Bible non-literally and come to right conclusions about God's nature.

I think I understand God about as well as the next fallible human can understand an omnipotent God beyond all of our understanding. But tell me: Where in my understanding of God am I mistaken or out of orthodoxy?

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

believe God wants me to know Him fully, deeply and accurately. It makes sense to me that, therefore, He would want an account of His actions in history to be just as accurate.

Here again, "it makes sense to me" - to Doug - but not to me. I think God is perfectly able to teach us about God's nature without being confined Bible modernistic history-telling devices. It is a modern chauvinism to suggest that REAL Truth can't come from other history telling techniques than the one we moderns feel most comfortable with.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

He thus has a distorted view of God's nature because he won't accept those stories as indicative of a God he will only see as loving, as if a loving God doesn't get angry and vengeful and wrathful.

I have a distorted view of God? YOU believe that God sometimes commands people to kill babies and kidnap virgin daughters of a slaughtered enemy and make them wives against their will and I have a distorted view of God??

Seriously Marshall, I'm not mocking you or trying to trick you or anything, but try to step back and take an objective look at what you're suggesting. You think the above paragraph represents an accurate image of a perfectly loving and just God.

And WHERE in my views of God do you think I'm distorted?

KEEPING IN MIND that if you think that I think God's nature is NOT one that gets angry about sin, you are mistaken about my views.

So, where exactly do you think I have a distorted view of God? Can you offer even one way in which I have a distorted view of God?

Is thinking that God is love distorted? Is thinking that God loves us and wants the best for us distorted? Thinking that God wants us all to be saved, is that distorted? Thinking that God wants us to look out for the least of these, is that distorted?

Can you offer even one way in which I have a distorted view of God's nature?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

how do we know we are saved by grace through faith if the Bible is just some book that may or may not have any factual, linear historical renderings?

Here you seem to be undermmining your own position. You seem to be suggesting that Marty and myself HAVE REACHED the "right" conclusion (that we are saved by God's grace) EVEN THOUGH we don't read the OT as literal linear history of the modern sense.

Marshall...

I would wager that if Christianity existed at all in this day and age, it would not resemble what it does now and would likely be populated by far smaller numbers with far greater divides between the denominations, if we didn't have the Bible and the history it provides us.

That's a fine guess but it remains unsupported and whimsical.

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

If it's possible that what is written about what He did and said is legend or non-factual, then you can't get an accurate picture of who He is.

And I will ask the question I asked of Marshall: Where is my picture of God inaccurate? One way in which my image of God's nature is inaccurate, can you provide that?

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

again (and for the last time), the parables were never portrayed as literal truth.

Nor were they always identified as parables. Sometimes, they are just offered as stories. Luke 13, for instance...

Beyond that, you're suggesting that the OT stories were portrayed as literal truth. Do you have any support for that, because I can't think of anything to support that conclusion.

The stories are mentioned by Jesus in the NT regularly just as stories from which we can learn truths, but that is not support that Jesus considered the stories literal histories. After all, we oftentimes at my church reference the Creation story or the Jonah story, for instance, without pointing out that it is non-literal history. Why would we do such a thing?

Because we're not afraid of telling stories for the truths found within them. The truths are truths whether or not they represent a modern history-telling style. So, the fact that stories are referenced in the NT is not support for your conclusion. So, do you have any support for that position?

So far, I've heard nothing that would convince me and I've offered quite a bit to convince me otherwise, but I'm entirely willing to listen to any solid argument.

Marty said...

Marshall "Truth provides certainty. Falsehood and fabrication does not

Maybe. Maybe not. You want to be certain of the facts, not truths. The Bible has to be historically factual in every respect in order for you to accept the truths written therein.

Dan Trabue said...

I noticed that neither of our friends answered my question (directly)...

Would you discard your faith if God told you that the OT stories are not literal facts in their entirety?

The closest that I can see to an answer is Doug's...

If it was all an imaginative story, would that be a foundation to build a religious faith on?

Doug and Marshall, I hope you can understand how it sounds like to us that your faith is entirely dependent not upon grace or God, but upon your understanding of how the Bible was written? IF the Bible is not written in a historically literal manner as I think it was, then I would not be able to be a Christian.

That is what it sounds like you all are saying, which sounds like your faith is more upon the bible and your understanding of it, than it is built upon grace and God. I hope that I'm mistaken. Would you mind answering that question? Or, if not answer it, consider it and its implications for your own sake.

Marshall Art said...

I have very little time, but I want to address this:

"Would you discard your faith if God told you that the OT stories are not literal facts in their entirety?"

If God told me to tie my shoes it could only enhance my faith because IT IS GOD TALKING TO ME!!! Duh!

But only slightly less snarky, I say this: Only God COULD tell me that and leave me with my faith still intact. Plus, he'd likely answer my question "why did you allow false stories about you to be told by those who knew better?"

YOU, however, have used whimsy and the weakest argument for insisting that it isn't historically accurate. And I don't appreciate your continued use of things like the creation story and the parables of Jesus to reject the stories of God's wrath. He wacked various groups and populations by commanding His Chosen People, by flood, by storm (Sodom and Gomorrah) and by the Angel of Death as well as other miracles. Without these stories, your picture of God is inaccurate. Your understanding of His nature incomplete. Worse, your alternative explanation for these stories is non-existent. Thus, you've rejected these parts of the Bible.

I'll have to answer your other questions later.

Doug said...

Dan:

Now tell me: In SPITE of my not taking all these stories as 100% literal history, have I misunderstood anything about God's nature?

MA and I have told you numerous times of one big example; God's wrath, and His sovereignty in exercising it. MA's latest has a great example of the Angel of Death as the last plague in Egypt. Or is that epic as well?

Here again, "it makes sense to me" - to Doug - but not to me.

Y'know, when I leave out phrases like "it makes sense to me", you accuse me of insisting that the way I see it is the One True Way and leave no room for compromise or possibility of error. When I do use phrases like that, you spend a whole comment just beating me over the head with the fact that you don't see it that way. Ain't no pleasing you, buddy.

Beyond that, you're suggesting that the OT stories were portrayed as literal truth. Do you have any support for that, because I can't think of anything to support that conclusion.

and

The truths are truths whether or not they represent a modern history-telling style. So, the fact that stories are referenced in the NT is not support for your conclusion.

The Passover feast, and the Seder, is not a ritual acknowledging abstract truths -- God's love, protection & guidance -- but specific, concrete actual, facts that occurred to demonstrate that love, protection and guidance. It showed Israel what God's character is like, rather than just telling them what it is like. They instituted the Seder so that they would not forget, not just the fact of deliverance, but the specific means and methods -- the literal history -- of that deliverance.

Which, by the way, included demonstration of God's wrath -- killing the firstborn of each family -- used additionally as a picture of how the Redemption story would culminate.

And to this day, practicing Jews take part in this same ritual, which was instituted to remember an actual, literal truth.

I noticed that neither of our friends answered my question (directly)...

Would you discard your faith if God told you that the OT stories are not literal facts in their entirety?

The closest that I can see to an answer is Doug's


Which is more of an answer than I got from you on my own hypothetical. If God did destroy the city of Ai as recounted in the Bible, then this would challenge your view of God's wrath. All you came back with for an answer was that you would still consider the Bible a book of Truth.

Doug and Marshall, I hope you can understand how it sounds like to us that your faith is entirely dependent not upon grace or God, but upon your understanding of how the Bible was written?

Geoff has already brought this up, so I will say plainly, once again for those who haven't been paying attention. I believe in God, and God's grace to save me. But I only know this because I have a Bible that tells me so. (And I have parents who told me, too, but they, too, knew because of the Bible. And so on, and so on.) God's work in my life in drawing me to Himself went unnoticed until the Bible showed me His love. Difficulties in my life are hard to understand until I see that Bible says that they will come and I can receive strength from God. Sin's consequences are understood because the Bible shows how they have brought either destruction or a deeper desire for God in others.

Knowledge of God is not impossible without the Bible, but it's far, far more difficult. Ask any missionary. Not one of them would go into the field without their Bible. They don't worship it, either. But they do rely on it.

All of this I'm absolutely sure you would agree with. The only difference is that I believe that, in order for the Bible to give us an accurate picture of God and His attributes, it itself must also be accurate.

Craig said...

"...And to this day, practicing Jews take part in this same ritual, which was instituted to remember an actual, literal truth."

Jesus seemed to take it pretty seriously. I could be wrong but it is the only OT feast, celebration or ritual that the NT church is expected/directed to continue. Albeit with the understanding that Jesus death is the fulfillment of the Passover story.

Feodor said...

Baptism is a Jewish ritual. Marriage. Blessings at a child's birth. Atonement. Ordination. Coronation (in Christian monarchies such as England, Spain, etc., this is a ritual in the church, but begun with Kings of Israel.)

All Jewish.
_________

"But I only know this because I have a Bible that tells me so. (And I have parents who told me, too, but they, too, knew because of the Bible. And so on, and so on.)"

The "and so on, and so on..." gets back to where the Bible told many of our ancestors that the Jews killed Jesus, the sun went around the earth, and niggers are inferior.

So... with your own evaluation in hand, you're really only just a little behind.

Feodor said...

And, the "and so on" gets back to when there was a church but no bible. How in the world did they know anything?

Maybe they had separated from their mother and father in adulthood and had a devotional relationship with the living Christ - before a book displaced him.

Feodor said...

Oh, forgot one: divorce. Jews had that, too, before the church. And Jesus, at least from later Biblical testimony, thought it was important to talk about divorce as well.

Somehow, Christians have gotten around what he had to say. Conservative Christians, too. Presidential contenders, I bet.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

The point Feodor is making is simple enough: the Bible is as much a product of the Church's faith as the Church is the product of Biblical faith. The canon emerged over centuries of debate and discussion, the criterion being which texts reflected the community's understanding of the God whom they experienced and in whom they believed in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit's intervention in their collective lives and worship.

Unless we begin with Christ, with the community's experience of God in worship, the liturgical and sacramental language of praise and sacrifice, and with the reality of Jesus Christ dead and risen, no amount of historical accuracy is going to make the Bible anything more than a pile of pulp with ink on it.

The Bible's answer to the kind of "proofs" Doug is offering, to the kind of thing Art is insisting is the case, comes from no less a personage than the LORD himself to Moses. Moses wants answers. Moses wants proof. What Moses gets is an order. "Stop standing around here yammering and get busy doing what I told you to do. That's be your proof that my Name and my Being are True."

St. Augustine wrote, "Love, then do what you will." Where did he learn that? From the Bible. Martin Luther wrote, "Sin boldly, so that grace may abound all the more." We are sitting around doing the early-21st century equivalent of counting angels on pin heads when the command from God today is, in essence, the command from the LORD to Moses - get out there and live in my name, doing my will. We figure it out as we go.

That includes figuring out what the Bible says and doesn't say, means and doesn't mean. God, the communal experience of God incarnate in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit - that comes first.

Feodor said...

Please forgive me, Dan but this was too juicy to ignore:

"The Passover feast... is not a ritual acknowledging abstract truths... It showed Israel what God's character is like, rather than just telling them what it is like."

Doug, um, I do believe a ritual is in the showing business and not the telling. And, um, I'm pretty sure that "character" is an abstraction of description.

Sooo...... Passover is precisely a ritual which acknowledges 1) the abstraction of a notion of God - to begin with- and 2) the further abstraction of God's character.
______

Damn, I also forgot that the whole notion of a canon of scripture we mooched from the Jews. And the architecture of the worship space. And the idea of ministry.

Wait a minute. Do we have anything original? Messiah? nope. Holy Spirit? nope. Redemption? nope. Hell? nope. Heaven? Hey, maybe Heaven!
______

The Hebrew Bible was written in a cultural context where "accuracy" was spiritual and the idea of fact as in history or science was not present. The books that made it into the Christian New Testament were written thirty to a hundred, maybe more years after Jesus was crucified, and not agreed upon as the New Testament for another two hundred years and was not formally set until the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.

Christians scattered around in antiquity and the middle ages did not have a Bible. They had a Church. For more than a thousand years, the Bible was nowhere to be seen except in monasteries, some cathedrals and bishop's palaces.

And yet Christ was present, guiding the church in the Holy Spirit. That's all that's really needed, surely.


And faith.

Marty said...

"The books that made it into the Christian New Testament were written thirty to a hundred, maybe more years after Jesus was crucified, and not agreed upon as the New Testament for another two hundred years and was not formally set until the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century."

I saw a documentary on the History Channel about the disagreement over which books should be in the New Testatment. According to that documentary we could have had a whole different New Testatent had the votes been a little more in another direction.

Anonymous said...

So, when Jesus celebrated Passover, he was celebrating an abstraction?

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Following up on Feodor's point, if we go east and north of the Danube, east of the Adriatic, and east and south of the Mediterranean, we encounter whole traditions in which Scripture, while present, is secondary to the liturgical and sacramental practice of the gathered the community. This priority of experience is in keeping with a far older tradition than the Protestant monomania on Scripture, which too often tends to denigrate either the history and traditions of the whole faith, or downplay the centrality of liturgy as the proper place for Word.

Doug said...

OK, and this concern over what books were to compromise the canon says what, exactly, about Old Testament writers style? My, what a tangent.

Feodor, have you participated in a Seder? If so, you'll know that there are portions of it that relate the ten plagues, and acknowledging that if God had done just one of the many miracles He performed at that time, it would have been enough to give thanks to Him. This is no abstraction. The ritual does use allegory and such, but to remember, celebrate, and pass on the history of, an actual, literal event.

Geoff says:

What Moses gets is an order. "Stop standing around here yammering and get busy doing what I told you to do."

And if what is written about what He told them to do is shrouded in epic tales, it makes it hard for us to know what He wants us to do. I'm guessing you would not think that God spoke to Moses using that particular literary style. Moses didn't have to work out what God said; God just said it plainly.

I don't think you fellas have tried to make the case for the New Testament being told in an epic style, so appeals to the primacy of Jesus and His death and ressurection are met with a hearty "Amen" from this particular pew, but this does not mean that we can't learn anything from the Old Testament. I know you're not claiming that, but I'm just saying that in order to take spiritual truths from the details, as your sermon did, we have to be able to trust that those details are an accurate portrayal of what really happened.

Consider this: Some say that the whole "dying and returning from the dead" thing is a literary element of epic stories as well, and discount that Jesus did it. But on this, you guys (and I) insist that Jesus' death and ressurection are historical fact. I am not saying that the OT is just as critical as the Redemption, but it is the foundation on which the Redemption is built.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I can't help but put a plug in for John Wesley at this moment. While Wesley admonished his circuit riders to focus solely on the Bible, he was a lifelong student of the history of the faith, in particular the Greek Fathers, the Cappadocians and Origen in particular. His doctrine of sanctification owes much to these four men.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I shall not repeat, again, what I have already said, Doug, because it is quite clear to me you either do not or cannot understand that your way of understanding the Bible and mine are different, and the "objections" you raise are meaningless to me.

Doug said...

Geoff, you may be right. Why a preacher of truth wouldn't be concerned about the accuracy of his source material is beyond me.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I'm not the preacher, that would be my wife.

That you seem to think the source of the truth of preaching is the Bible rather than the God to whom the Bible witnesses, and who reveals the truth in us, tells me all I need to know, really. That is, we have nothing more to say to one another.

Doug said...

Geoff, I would simply add that, given all I have said over and over and plainly, your assessment of what I believe is also just as much mistaken.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

How is my assessment wrong, Doug? I mean, seriously? You base your faith on the factual accuracy of the stories in the Bible. I said that's fine with me, and I don't, and that is fine, too. I explained my reasons as to why I don't, to which you kept appending questions that, I repeatedly told you, meant nothing to me at all because the entire frame of reference is different.

So, where have I misunderstood anything you have said?

Doug said...

The statement "That you seem to think the source of the truth of preaching is the Bible rather than the God to whom the Bible witnesses" is incorrect.

God is the source of Truth.
The Old Testament is a record of how God revealed Himself throughout history to Israel.
Thus, prior to Jesus, the Old Testament was how Judaism understood what God was like.
It is still useful for that, even after Jesus.

With those givens, a witness needs to give a factual, true account. I say that it does precisely that, because the account is factual. If it wasn't, you couldn't take a small passage of Scripture and extrapolate from it, because if it didn't happen, if it was part of an embellishment by the author, you're basis for determining spiritual truths would be significantly flawed.

You have said, "I can read the whole Bible without ever once having the question 'did such-and-such and event really happen as depicted?' ever trouble my mind because that isn't a question the text poses." My issue with that is that if a witness recounts something, it either happened or the witness is lying. And if the witness is lying or embellishing, what, then, do you really know about what the witness actually saw?

If God reveals Himself through the witness of the Bible, and the witness is not accurate, then by definition your knowledge of God is already flawed, even before you factor in human understanding, even before you start to read it. God can reveal Himself through the Word and the Spirit. The Spirit is not inaccurate, and neither is the Word. God is a God of truth. His Word and His Spirit reflect His truth.

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

The Old Testament is a record of how God revealed Himself throughout history to Israel.

The OT is ONE WAY God revealed God's Self to Israel and the world. God also reveals God's Self through God's Spirit, through Creation, through one another. Right?

I said...

In SPITE of my not taking all these stories as 100% literal history, have I misunderstood anything about God's nature?

Doug responded...

MA and I have told you numerous times of one big example; God's wrath, and His sovereignty in exercising it. MA's latest has a great example of the Angel of Death as the last plague in Egypt. Or is that epic as well?

So, you're saying that I don't understand God's nature because I don't agree that sin makes God angry/sad and that I don't believe God is sovereign? The problem is, I DO think sin angers God, I think I've been quite clear on that point.

Also, I DO think God is sovereign. God is God and can do as God wishes. But, I don't think God commands us to do immoral things. God does not tempt us to do evil, that's what the Bible says, and I believe that clear and evident teaching.

So, your two examples of how I don't understand God's will are mistaken, since I DO think that God is sovereign and I DO think that sin angers God.

So, do you have any actual support for the claim that I don't understand God's nature?

Alan said...

The universe is not 6000 years old.

So, just because the Bible is not factually accurate about the age of the Earth, doesn't mean that God didn't create it. Doug thinks the accuracy of the "source material" means that if you question a 6000 year old earth, you cannot believe that God created the universe. The story is true, even if it didn't happen that way.

People like Doug, HWMNBN, MA and the rest are like the viewers of the show LOST, who obsessed for 3 years over what was the Smoke Monster and what was the name of the "Man in Black" and it turns out those things didn't matter at all because that wasn't the story the writers were telling anyway. They're like my cat, who, when I point to something on the floor, will stare at the end of my finger.

They simply do not understand what the Bible is pointing to, so they'd rather stare at the words instead of the Word.

Doug said...

Dan:

I said, The Old Testament is a record of how God revealed Himself throughout history to Israel.

You said, The OT is ONE WAY God revealed God's Self to Israel and the world. God also reveals God's Self through God's Spirit, through Creation, through one another. Right?

Right, and what you said does not negate what I said. I was merely describing what the OT is; it is the record itself of Israel's history and how God showed Himself to them.

I said, MA and I have told you numerous times of one big example; God's wrath, and His sovereignty in exercising it. MA's latest has a great example of the Angel of Death as the last plague in Egypt. Or is that epic as well?

YOu said, So, you're saying that I don't understand God's nature because I don't agree that sin makes God angry/sad and that I don't believe God is sovereign? The problem is, I DO think sin angers God, I think I've been quite clear on that point.

Also, I DO think God is sovereign. God is God and can do as God wishes.


Just not, apparently, pass judgment on a people and either a) wipe out their firstborn children or b) destroy their cities Himself (Sodom, Gomorrah) or through His chosen people as directed by His prophet (Ai). Also, I did not suggest that you thought God didn't get angry at sin.

And still no answer on the Ai hypothetical.

So, do you have any actual support for the claim that I don't understand God's nature?

If you won't answer the questions I pose, and instead answer other ones, then no, not at this time. I do hope I've answered your concern about my faith being, not in God, but on how the Bible was written.

Dan Trabue said...

Dang. I lost a response.

In short, Doug, I HAVE answered that question, at least once, if not twice.

You asked if it could be archeologically proven that Ai was destroyed by Israel, would that change my position. My direct response to that question:

My view of the Bible is that it is a book of Truth and truths. So, if Ai existed or not, if Jonah existed or not, none of that would change my view of the Bible, because I would still think it is a book of truth.

And again: No, it would NOT change my position. In case you don't understand my position on Ai being destroyed by Israel, here it is:

I HAVE NO POSITION ON WHETHER OR NOT ISRAEL ACTUALLY DESTROYED AI. I CONSIDER IT A POSSIBILITY THAT A PLACE CALLED AI WAS DESTROYED BY ISRAEL.

Since I have NO POSITION on whether or not Ai was destroyed by Ai, discovering that it was destroyed by Israel would not change my position, except, I guess, to be: Well, it appears Israel destroyed Ai.

My view is that the Bible is a book of truth and that would remain the same whether it was proven that Israel destroyed a place called Ai or not.

Clear enough?

Now that I've answered it for the second time, and expanded upon the answer, do you have any actual support for the claim that I don't understand God's nature?

Dan Trabue said...

On my understanding of God's sovereignty, you said...

Just not, apparently, pass judgment on a people and either a) wipe out their firstborn children or b) destroy their cities Himself (Sodom, Gomorrah) or through His chosen people as directed by His prophet (Ai).

1. I believe God DOES pass judgment on people and peoples all the time.

2. If you are saying that it is in God's nature to sometimes have us kill babies, then yes, we have a disagreement on God's nature. So, to be clear: Is it YOUR position that God will/has/does sometimes command people to kill babies?

IF that is your position, then why is that NOT an example of God tempting people to sin, which is expressly and clearly explained as something that God would NOT do?

Marshall appears to fall back on the "IF God commands us to do it (kill babies, rape puppies, drop a nuclear bomb on the entire world, rip the lungs out of a spouse, terrorize a family... ANYTHING that God commands us to do), it is NOT wrong - even if it normally would be - because God is commanding it." This approach, I think, is clearly in contrast to James' teaching that God will not command us to sin.

Some things are just wrong, and I think the Bible clearly teaches us that God does not tempt us to do wrong. When James said that, he did not say, "IF God says to do wrong, it's not wrong, so no worries." No, he just said plainly and clearly, "No, God does not tempt us to do wrong."

I agree with James and think this approach to that problem is poor exegesis.

Dan Trabue said...

Alan, well said, brother. Well said.

Doug said...

Dan:

So, if Ai existed or not, if Jonah existed or not, none of that would change my view of the Bible, because I would still think it is a book of truth.

But that doesn't really answer the question I asked, which was, "Would this change your interpretation of this portion of the book of Joshua?" If Ai was destroyed by Israel, then this portion of Joshua becomes less epic and more literal. The more literal it becomes, the more it challenges your interpretation of how God worked through His people. But if it really wouldn't change your interpretation, then you're just as set in your ways as you accuse others of.

IF that is your position, then why is that NOT an example of God tempting people to sin, which is expressly and clearly explained as something that God would NOT do?

Let me work through this from answers we've already given.
* God is sovereign.
* If God is sovereign, then He can do what He wants with His creation.
* If God is sovereign, then there are thing He can do that I cannot, because I am not sovereign.
* If God is sovereign and I am not, then the rules about what He can do and what I can do are different.
* Therefore, the rules God makes for me are not necessarily rules He has to abide by.
* But, if God is sovereign, He can change the rules.

And he has. The rules he set out for how worship is to be done, for example, have changes. The rules for atonement have changed, when Jesus came. In fact, the Redemption drastically changed the way we interact with God. This is why quoting the book of James to back up your position on the Old Testament can tend towards the apples-to-oranges comparison.

Continuing...

* If God is sovereign, He can ask me to do His will.
* If the rules about what He can do and what I can do are different, then when He asks me to do His will, it could be something that breaks the rules for me but not for Him. But since He specifically asked me to do it, it's OK, because...
* God is sovereign.

Is God allowed to take the life of a child? If not, He isn't sovereign. I think this may be one possible place our opinions diverge. I'll continue assuming that He may do this.

So yes, I believe that God could ask me to do something that would otherwise be a sin for me if I did it of my own volition. That is a key distinction.

More in the next comment...

Doug said...

Continuing...

So the question is, how do I know if God is telling me to do something that would otherwise be a sin? The answer to that is found by looking at how God interacts with His people.

In the Old Testament times, they had no Scripture to turn to, no canon to work from, and no Spirit to help them. So God gave them prophets, through whom the Spirit would speak. And what the prophet said was THE word of God. He could be heard plainly, could be asked for clarification, and could speak to the current situation very directly. There was no need for interpretation or for seeking hidden meaning.

At that time, God was working exclusively through His chosen people. His will came through them. Granted, God's will, in a more general sense, is constantly happening throughout the world, but the manifest presence of God and the advancing of His kingdom were being done through the Israelites.

Then Jesus comes, and the whole picture changes. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus ticks off a list of things beginning with "You have heard that it was said...", and then changing or strengthening the new commandment. The thing is, the rules he's changing are ones that, more or less, God Himself set down. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth"? God said that 3 times in the Old Testament.

But the rules were changing. That's a key point. Things are different now.

In New Testament times, we do have Scriptures to turn to, and a Spirit to help us. We do not have prophets to speak directly and audibly to us about our specific situation, whom we can question and get clarification from. We do have pastors and friends, and our own search for interpretation and hidden meaning.

At this time, God works through all of us, Jew and Gentile, nation and individual. And He changed His method; go into all the world and preach the Gospel. He did not tell his closest friends to conquer, but to spread the good news. He's no longer taking a nation through a desert, He's spreading word of the Redemption that He has now provided.

And so we see through the rest of the New Testament that the message is now a new one, the means are now a new one, and the Spirit is guiding us rather than prophets. And since He no longer has a physical prophet who can be questioned in front of us, we trust the Spirit, whom God has said will not lead us astray and will agree with the Scriptures that we do have.

I see no evidence in the New Testament that we are to be instruments of God's judgment. That message was in the Old Testament. It is not in the New. The rules have changed. And so today, in New Testament times, I would discount any urging to kill a child for the sake of God, because I don't see the New Testament granting that sort of permission, and therefore I don't believe the Spirit would ask that of me. He hasn't changed; we have. God interacts with His people differently now.

Because God is sovereign.

Doug said...

And finally, jumping way back to the main point, a literal interpretation of the destruction of Ai, or other "troubling" passages, seen in this light, cease to be issues. God's judgment, holiness and wrath are seen in the OT, God's love, grace and forgiveness in the NT. Both equally true, but both just as necessary for understanding who God is.

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

that doesn't really answer the question I asked, which was, "Would this change your interpretation of this portion of the book of Joshua?" If Ai was destroyed by Israel, then this portion of Joshua becomes less epic and more literal.

I believe you're not understanding the nature of Epic storytelling. You seem to be using "epic" as if it were defined "entirely fictional; made up." That's not how epic stories are defined, unless I'm mistaken.

Epic is defined in MW:

extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope

So, an epic story might well be (I'd say often/generally are) based on REAL, FACTUAL PEOPLE AND PLACES. It's just that instead of a literal, linear story with every facet being basically factual, you extend beyond the ordinary.

For instance, in the wikipedia entry for the Epic story of Beowulf, it says...

"The poem deals with legends, i.e., it was composed for entertainment and does not separate between fictional elements and real historic events, such as the raid by King Hygelac into Frisia, ca. 516."

It's based upon real people and real events. It just has fantastical mixed in with it. Epic does not equal fictional, although it may have fictional parts.

So, given that, perhaps you can understand that if it were determined that Ai actually existed and ended at the hand of Israel as accounted in the Bible, that would have no effect on my interpretation of that portion of Joshua. How is that NOT an answer to that question (now, for the fourth or so time)?

Is it the case that you were just not holding the same understanding as I do of epic storytelling? That you thought Epic = Entirely Fictional?

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

This is why quoting the book of James to back up your position on the Old Testament can tend towards the apples-to-oranges comparison.

You'd have to support that more than you've done thus far to make this case to me.

It seems like to me that, IF James were answering the question, "Has God led me into sin?" and the ONE TRUE answer was "IF God tells you to do something, then it isn't a sin," then James would have said that. He didn't say that. He said, point blank, "God will not tempt you to sin." God will not tempt you to, ask you to, command you to do that which is wrong.

God is God and beyond our rules, but God won't do what is not in God's nature and asking us to commit atrocities (ie, to kill babies) is not in God's nature, that would be my contention.

If you hold to the position that it IS in God's nature to sometimes command US to kill babies, then you and I hold different views of God's nature on that point.

Dan Trabue said...

Doug...

God's judgment, holiness and wrath are seen in the OT, God's love, grace and forgiveness in the NT.

As an aside and clarification, I'd suggest that God's judgment, holiness, wrath, love, grace and forgiveness are found throughout both OT and NT. One might make the case that there is more emphasis on the latter three in the NT, but both sets are found in both testaments. A point you probably agree with, I'm just pointing it out.

Dan Trabue said...

As another aside, where you say...

We do not have prophets to speak directly and audibly to us about our specific situation, whom we can question and get clarification from. We do have pastors and friends, and our own search for interpretation and hidden meaning.

I'd say we certainly DO have prophets still. There's nothing in the Bible suggesting that "prophet" is a strictly biblical time role. I know many prophets. I'd say my pastor is a prophet.

As another aside, where you provide some interesting thoughts along these lines...

because I don't see the New Testament granting that sort of permission, and therefore I don't believe the Spirit would ask that of me. He hasn't changed; we have. God interacts with His people differently now.

Do you think that could explain why polygamy was acceptable back then and not now? Because cultures change? If so, would that not be another point in the pro-marriage for all people (including our gay brothers and sisters) argument? Yes, society back then tended to think that gay behavior was always wrong, but in our culture, we are increasingly disagreeing with that view. We can see that faithfulness and monogamy is a GOOD and HOLY thing, for ALL people, not just straight folk.

Cultures change and God adapts God's methods/expectations for those cultures? I'm sort of fine with that to a degree, although I'm not sure that some more fundamentalist types would be comfortable with the notion of God changing God's expectations.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Doug actually wrote the following, even as he claims to follow Scripture literally: "God's judgment, holiness and wrath are seen in the OT, God's love, grace and forgiveness in the NT."

Um, Doug, what about that whole Jesus-on-the-cross-abandoned-by-God-to-die-and-go-to-hell thing, which is kind of an important story.

This whole discussion, to my mind, is seriously off the rails for a really obvious, yet surprising reason - the total absence of the Incarnation in this discussion. How do we as Christians understand who God is, what God's wrath, God's justice, God's love, God's mercy mean without reference to the Christ-event? How do we get any sense that God's wrath is always accompanied by God's mercy and forbearance, without reference to Jesus of Nazareth, crucified, dead, and buried?

Doug, your caricature of the differences between the Testaments is something most people give up when they're in, oh, sixth or seventh grade, when they start to be taught that God, being Love (according to 1 John) always deals with us out of love. His wrath, no less than his grace and mercy, are rooted in this same Divine, all-pervasive Love.

For some reason, this idea that we liberals don't like God being all mad at us, mad at sin, seems to make sense only because it is the more fundamentalist folks who seem to be forgetting this little thing called the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. How do we possibly as Christians understand any of these words in a meaningful, and yes Biblical, way without even mentioning the guy's name?

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

As Alan wrote so well, all this focus on whether or not the historical details of the Old Testament are factually accurate misses the point precisely because it focuses on what is, in essence, trivia at the expense of the core message of the larger story, the larger narrative. It's like reading Robinson Crusoe and getting all upset because, at one point in the story, Crusoe strips naked to swim out to a shipwreck and proceeds to bring stuff back to the island . . . in the pockets of the trousers he is suddenly wearing!

Without starting our reading of the Bible with Jesus Christ front and center in our thoughts and heart; without a Trinitarian understanding that the "God" about whom we are reading is this God and no other; we are not only not going to "get" the Bible, we are going to get caught up in worrying over trivia.

Because Doug worries it like my St. Bernard with a rawhide, I will repeat that I honestly couldn't care less whether or not there was archaeological evidence that the Israelite tribes destroyed the city of Ai. If they found a pillar of salt that looked strangely like a middle-aged Levantine woman, dressed in the garb of three or so thousand years ago, it wouldn't add a jot or tittle of meaning to the story of Lot. If a group of people came forward and definitive, genetic proof was obtained that they were half-human, half-angelic, the nephilim, I would go, "Hm," and continue to read the Bible much as I always have.

Not because I don't consider the Bible a reliable source of information; on the contrary, I've been forthright and thorough and repeatedly stated the exact opposite. The difference is the reason for which we are reading. If you are reading the Bible to get insight in to the history of the ancient Near East, well you might get a lesson in literary styles, how stories migrate and change due to cultural and other conditions, and not a whole heck of a lot else.

If you are reading the Bible to find out who God is, how God loves, how we are to live as the people of God saved through God's grace and mercy and love from God's wrath and judgment that the wages of sin are death all of which is incarnate in Jesus Christ, then your reading will be fruitful.

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

It seems as if you are dancing away just a bit from the original point regarding epic stories. I think I can speak for Doug enough to say that we understand what epic stories are. But your Beofwulf example fails, because it overlays the fantastic upon the real events. Then, you compare this (and other mythic stories) to the Bible which is, basically, the true story of a truly fantastic Being, the Creator of all things.

Now, if Jericho (or "Ai"---whatever---use any of the OT examples of God's wrath) was discovered to have existed and destroyed in the manner the Bible claimed it happened, the only remaining question is what God's part in it was.

If He played a role as the Bible suggested, then He "tempted them to sin", as you like to put it. If He played no role, and it was just the Jews trashing a town and killing everyone in it, then the authors lied about God to justify their actions. The Bible, particularly the OT, becomes a book of truths filled with lies, the difference being determined by subjective reasoning of the reader.

In any case, you understanding of God's nature is impacted, and frankly, claims that you are guided by the Holy Spirit are also shakey. You, we actually, have no way of knowing that we are guided by the Spirit unless the direction we are guided conforms with Scripture, which apparently isn't always a true, factual and/or accurate representation of God's revelations to us.

Alan said...

"God's judgment, holiness and wrath are seen in the OT, God's love, grace and forgiveness in the NT."

Heh. I had no idea Doug was a dispensationalist. ;)

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

You're playing word games with "prophets". You don't know one single contemporary "prophet" that gets direct instruction from God Himself, as did Moses for example. When you play these games you are being dishonest. You darn well know what Doug meant by his use of the term.

Alan said...

BTW, Geoffrey, I also find it odd that much of the discussion about Old vs. New Testament here by the literalists seems to be particularly Arian in nature.

Arianism and dispensationalism. This is what passes for "orthodoxy" these days? :)

Strange that someone could claim to be so devoted to simply reading what the Bible says and taking it at face value and yet still fall into those rather obvious heresies.

Unless of course their claim is what I suspect it is, just bunk. Their own apparently heterodox readings of Scripture go blissfully unexamined while they nitpick at others for something to argue about.

Marshall Art said...

Alan's comments are not worthy of an AMEN because they do not reflect what is going on.

First of all, his comments go back to earlier in the discussion whereby he puts his faith in scientists over what the Bible says. I know what science says, I know what the Bible says. I know God is capable of doing something neither says as regards the creation of all things.

Secondly, comparing the creation story to the stories about which we speak is apples to oranges. To concede a less than accurate style there means nothing here. Dan's rejection of the accuracy of these stories has impacted his understanding of God and His nature.

Marshall Art said...

Finally, for now, Geoffrey seems to playing a bit of an chicken and egg game regarding our knowledge of Christ and the Book that teaches us about Him.

Alan said...

"he puts his faith in scientists over what the Bible says"

I have no "faith" in science nor scientists. Science does not require faith. That's why it's called "science" and not "religion."

Alan said...

MA wrote, "Secondly, comparing the creation story to the stories about which we speak is apples to oranges. To concede a less than accurate style there means nothing here. "

And here Dan, MA concedes your point that we can, in fact, distinguish between types of stories in the Bible.

Argument over. You won.

Marty said...

Doug: "So yes, I believe that God could ask me to do something that would otherwise be a sin for me if I did it of my own volition. That is a key distinction.

Well, how in the world would you know it was God asking you to sin and not you're own mind and heart?

I've heard about people doing pretty awful things because they thought God was telling them to...you know...a voice in their heads. We usually think they're delusional.

Marty said...

Oh wait you already answered that question. Forget it. I better read the entire thread before I comment any further.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Art: "Finally, for now, Geoffrey seems to playing a bit of an chicken and egg game regarding our knowledge of Christ and the Book that teaches us about Him."

So, no Holy Spirit, Art? No prevenient grace acting in us before we are even aware of it? No interchange among the words of the text, the experiences of our lives, and the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit?

Of course, I should admit I left out a really important part in my comments just above. Not only is Jesus missing in the whole "how we read the Bible" thing. So is the church. We do not read the Bible alone. We read it together as the people called Christians, the Church. It is here the word is proclaimed, it is here that the gathered sinners and saints of God confess our individual and collective guilt, pray for mercy, receive the sacraments, live as Christians.

Extra ecclesiam nunc salus is, I think, still part of the teaching of the Protestant churches.

So, no, Art, I'm really not doing a chicken/egg thing, unless you consider faith akin to geometry, which I don't.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I missed the following from Doug, but thankfully, Marty caught it, so I tip my hat to you: ""So yes, I believe that God could ask me to do something that would otherwise be a sin for me if I did it of my own volition. That is a key distinction."

The Christian churches have so much blood on their hands because far too many people have bought this line of crap.

It's a lie, pure and simple. Psychopaths and sociopaths talk like this. People who believe their babies are possessed so they pop them in microwave ovens. Villages and peoples and nations butchered in the name of the slain Son of God.

There is a limit to how far I shall pretend this is a friendly discussion on Biblical hermeneutics when dangerous, even insane, comments like this come up. Failure to point them out would be wrong.

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