Monday, June 29, 2015

Based on WHAT?


I have heard multiple times from multiple sources over the years that one reason I need to change my position on one topic or another is because "the elders" or tradition has spoken and decided the matter. Most recently, I have visited Ed at his reformedreasons blog and asked the oft-asked/rarely answered question: On what basis is your interpretation/opinion about the meaning of a passage or the "correct" position on a particular opinion the one that must be heeded?

As is generally true, Ed has mostly refused to even acknowledge the question was asked, much less provide an answer. When he did acknowledge the question, his response was...

You clearly do not understand that when we say Scripture is its own basis, it is self-authenticating, it is the final authority, that there is no other basis. My opinion has nothing to do with it. Either you accept that Scripture is self-authenticating, binding, and our final authority and that Scripture is its own ground for this position or you do not. You clearly do not.

You demand something more. There is nothing more. There must be a final authority if there is to be any authority at all. Why can't you understand that? We could say "based on who's authority" ad infinitum" you know.

So, what happened there was he repeated that "Scripture is its own basis..." which is not the question I asked. He repeated that it is self-authenticating, it is the "final authority," etc... all of which does not answer my question.

Look, I love, honor, cherish, read and take seriously the teachings in the Bible. I give it plenty of "authority" (I do not give the words in the Bible "final authority" because that belongs to God, and I will not make a god out of the Bible, as doing so is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, not to mention irrational).

The question is not "will we take the Bible seriously," but WHOSE intepretation on various topics/passages is "right" or whether any mortal can state authoritatively, "I hold the One True Interpretation..."

So, when we read Genesis 1 and Ed (or others) say, "This is a literal history..." on what basis is his opinion on the matter any more weighty or authoritative than mine? It's a very reasonable question.

Consider:

Some topics where there are disagreements, they are relatively simple disagreements. I happen to think that Gen. 1 is told in a more figurative/mythic style and others think it is more literal history. If Ed or anyone else wants to disagree with me, they are welcome to do so. If they insist that I must agree with them, I'll politely decline, as I find their case wanting. I don't think Ed or anyone else is immoral for believing in a 6,000 year old earth, just ridiculously mistaken.

But for other topics - war, how we spend our money, human rights, gay rights, etc - for them to ask or demand that I MUST change my position is asking me to take a stand against morality and rationality. If someone insisted that I, as a Christian, MUST take up arms to fight and kill in wartime, they would be asking me to partake in what I consider to be obviously evil. If someone insists that Christians "must" denounce homosexual marriages, they are asking me to partaken in what I consider to be obviously evil.

So, when someone says, "Here is MY interpretation of various passages as it relates to war or to homosexuality," I hope you can understand how very deadly serious is the question... "On what basis should I abandon what I think is moral in favor of what I believe to be clearly evil?"

The sum total of Ed's argument has been a baseless and irrational appeal to the authority of SOME group of particular believers. Ed said, for instance...

You left a body of elders and sought out a fake group of elders.

My question is ON WHAT BASIS would I know that the first group of "elders" is the "right" group and not the second? Especially when, as far as I can see, the first group of elders is clearly morally and rationally mistaken on the points in question.

If anyone is reading and inclined to answer, I'd welcome them: Regardless of my conclusions, do you recognize the very weightiness of the problem you have when you ask someone to abandon what appears to be Godly and moral and rational in favor of what appears to be immoral, unGodly, unbiblical, irrational and flimsy as hell?

Do you think you should be prepared to answer, "On what basis should I abandon the moral in favor of the immoral?" Or would you counsel me to follow my understanding of God, the Bible, morality as best I can, even if you disagree with my conclusions? Since Ed is not answering these questions, I'm putting it out there for anyone else to take a shot.

4 comments:

Marshall Art said...

Your question is problematic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its insincerity. Like most of your positions, you have no real substantive basis of your own for believing as you do. At the same time, you demand far more definitive explanations from those who believe differently.

One clear sign of your insincerity in asking the question is what provokes the question in the first place. More often than not, it is asked in discussions of issues for which there is plentiful Scriptural support that does not align with your preferred position. For now, I'll just refer to them as "the social issues" (TSI). To deflect attention, you divert with the question "on what basis?". The basis is generally clear. The text is rather specific (such as in the case of Lev 18:22) and the words used are not in question. If the words used are not in question, it is difficult to argue the meaning of the words when assembled in the order they are. You then choose to ask the question as if there is really any question regarding the meaning the words could possibly have in the order they are assembled in the verse, as if there can be any other possible meaning without first injecting that which no other part of the passage in which the verse resides provides.

Then of course there is that plethora of scholarly study and interpretation that is comprehensive and exhaustive, often including those who, like yourself, would prefer that things were different and Scripture said otherwise. This then goes far beyond mere "truth by vote", but more like, "no doubt about it" given the agreement by otherwise opposing factions of experts.

Next we see the routine and blatant lack of support you provide for your positions. What support you provide is ambiguous at best, particularly in comparison to the that which is presented by your opponents. In this you fail at answering your own question to the satisfaction of any reasonable, rational and honest person. For example: Scripture says marriage is a good thing? Perhaps. But what does it mean by the term "marriage" and ON WHAT BASIS can you insist that it does not specifically refer to the definition understood by mankind since the dawn of time...one man/one woman? OR, more to the point, that Scripture could ever possibly suggest it might mean merely "any two (or more) people"? You give no basis other than your woefully questionable preference that it needs to mean what you want in order to maintain your otherwise un-Scriptural position.

Then there is the following:

Marshall Art said...

"Look, I love, honor, cherish, read and take seriously the teachings in the Bible. I give it plenty of "authority" (I do not give the words in the Bible "final authority" because that belongs to God, and I will not make a god out of the Bible, as doing so is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, not to mention irrational)."

We could ask you your own question here, as we cannot see any basis for believing that you "love, honor, cherish, read and take seriously the teachings in the Bible" given your inept attempts at rationalizing your positions on various issues, particularly TSI. Indeed, your arguments are insulting as evidenced by your parenthetical clarification. The Bible is indeed our final authority because it stands as the Word of God. This statement does not make Scripture God and no one who opposes you worships the Scripture at all. The very suggestion is insulting and without basis in reality. On what basis, then, could an honest person make such an accusation? The answer is clear. On the basis that one can dismiss whoever can be presumed to be making a god of Scripture. Far easier to make such an accusation than to face the truth that Scripture doesn't in the least support your positions and opinions.

To "love, honor, and cherish" the Bible requires far more than lip-service. When you cannot back up your positions, or your accusations against those who demonstrate far more reverence, on what basis can anyone accept the claim that you have any regard whatsoever for Scripture?

"But for other topics - war, how we spend our money, human rights, gay rights, etc - for them to ask or demand that I MUST change my position is asking me to take a stand against morality and rationality."

But on what basis do you claim your position is the moral and rational position? You offer nothing but more opinion. No Scriptural support that is ever solid enough to withstand counterpoint. Nothing that doesn't result in the pathetic "let's agree to disagree". The result is another accusation, another insulting charge that your opponents are immoral and irrational...and a wholly baseless charge given your provide nothing substantive to back it up.

The fact is that your basis is clearly personal preference, not Scripture. There is no Christian teaching against war, for example. There would be no stories of God sending His Chosen People to war against wicked peoples. There would be no prophesies of Christ returning to war against wicked people. You take verses, such as "turn the other cheek" and without basis, apply it to ALL forms of justified violent action, as if violence itself could possibly be evil. (Feel free to suffer any criminal assault upon you and yours if you choose)

As there is nothing unambiguous that you ever provide to support your opinions, it is clear that you interpret based on your opinion and preferences. Those form the basis of your Biblical understanding. The rest of us use Scripture as a basis for our opinions and preferences and our ability to defend ourselves with far less ambiguity alone supports this.

At some point, you must provide the basis on which YOUR positions rely. If you ask the question, you must answer it as well. You don't. You never do.

Dan Trabue said...

Like most of your positions, you have no real substantive basis of your own for believing as you do.

I disagree with your opinion. I find it very substantial to defend the liberty of individuals to seek the good the best they understand it. I find it very substantial to defend the rights of an oppressed minority. Now, you may disagree with my conclusions, but you can't say that these are insubstantial matters: Human liberty, religious liberty, an end to oppression... these ARE substantial reasons!

Simply because you disagree with my conclusions does not mean that I lack sincerity, Marshall. Be rational.

One clear sign of your insincerity in asking the question is what provokes the question in the first place. More often than not, it is asked in discussions of issues for which there is plentiful Scriptural support that does not align with your preferred position.

As noted repeatedly, the facts don't support this claim. I held your conservative position on homosexuality, for instance. That WAS my position. I had to move my opinion NOT because I held a "preferred position" and wanted to align with that, but because I thought/think it is the morally correct position to hold, sometimes even when it contradicted with my existing position. I changed my values (when I've changed them) to align with morality as best I understood it, not the other way around.

But we've covered all that before. And again, that I hold an opinion that's different than yours is not support that I am being insincere. You do not know my heart, Marshall, stop embarrassing yourself by making claims that you are ignorant of and for which you have zero factual support. Be rational.

Marshall Art said...

"I disagree with your opinion."

You obviously don't understand my opinion. It may indeed be a substantial thing to defend the liberty of individuals to seek the good the best they understand it. The question, however, is whether or not there is a substantive basis for believing that what they understand to be good is actually good. Considering who you defend in such a pursuit, the answer is "No, there is no substantive basis for believing as they, and you, do."

"I find it very substantial to defend the rights of an oppressed minority."

And here is where your subjective opinion of "harm" enters the discussion. Assuming you're referring to homosexuals, they are hardly "oppressed", particularly in today's environment. But that is even apart from the truth, which is that they are not "oppressed" due to opposition to their clearly immoral pursuits and behaviors. That is, no more so than any other sinner would be. Denying the demands of sinners that their sin be celebrated, sanctioned and enabled is not "oppression" at all, but the duty of everyone who seeks to please the Lord. And of course, there is no substantive basis for suggesting that anyone should celebrate, sanction or enable the LGBT community.

"Simply because you disagree with my conclusions does not mean that I lack sincerity, Marshall. Be rational."

You speak of "rational" while misrepresenting my position, which is clearly stated in my initial comment. There I stated that what is insincere is the asking of the question "on what basis?". As was said by the other blogger, the question could be asked regarding any response to it. Provide a basis, as is always done for you, and you ask regarding it, "on what basis?" again. It has no sincere motivation for asking except to deflect attention from YOUR inability to provide basis of any kind for your position.

"As noted repeatedly, the facts don't support this claim."

Note "noted" so much as merely asserted. You offer nothing by way of Scriptural support that is nothing more than ambiguous, tenuous straining of meaning that the text itself does not and cannot provide.

"I held your conservative position on homosexuality, for instance."

Also untrue and this doesn't even rise to the level of an assertion. It is just plainly false. That you opposed homosexual behavior does not mean you held a conservative position. Indeed, you've time and time again demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be conservative, or a conservative Christian. But conservative or not, there is no Scriptural support for the pro-homosexual position. Absolutely none. What's more, you've done nothing to demonstrate that there might be, even if we squint and strain our eyes to see it. As such, there is no possible way Scripture could have led you to the very same arguments as the typical homosexual apologist who distorts and manipulates Scripture in exactly the same way you do. Your insistence that Scripture led you to embrace what Scripture clearly prohibits completely and without equivocation is in no way convincing and indicative of sincere Scriptural reverence and study.

I don't need to "know your heart" to have your own words and weak sauce arguments lead to the conclusion that you're less than sincere in your devotion to Christian teaching and seeking and serving God's will. Indeed, there is no way to be both rational and even slightly convinced of your sincerity given our years of engagement. Your own comments provide all the support I need.