Blogging can be an adventurous journey, one that can be hard on the ego. As we journey from blog to blog, we run into many different ideas and beliefs. Inevitably, we find people who have the audacity to disagree with “me”.
Want an example? Well, first I visited The oxymoron of subatomic particles (salvageable04.wordpress.com). Here I learned that the term subatomic is an oxymoron. Since I have a degree in Chemistry, I was kind of surprised I had missed that.
Then I noted a reblog.
Reblogged this on MJThompson’s Theology Blog and commented:
Today presidential candidate Joe Biden claimed in a televised interview that he would “follow the science’ [regarding covid-19]. I immediately censured his remark in contemplation of WHICH SCIENCE? Then as irony would have it, I found this worthy post. Well worth the read, it addresses my question perfectly. (from here (salvageable04.wordpress.com))
Wondering MJThompson had to say about Joe Biden and science I went to his blog. Instead of anything about Biden, I ended up reading Resurrection Reality (mjthompsons.wordpress.com). In Resurrection Reality, MJThompson argues against a claim in Encountering the Risen Jesus (vaporsinthewind.com) by Peter Ruddock. MJThompson says that a believer can proved to his or herself the truth of the resurrection.
Wondering what Encountering the Risen Jesus had to say in its defense I visited that post. Encountering the Risen Jesus is a rather long post, and it gets into issues besides proving whether the resurrection actually happened. In fact, proving whether Jesus rose from the dead is not the subject of the post. Ruddock is more interested in the significance of the resurrection event. He accepts the truth of resurrection based upon his “experience” of the significance of the resurrection. In addition, the author wants us to understand his position is more moderate and reasonable than the two other camps at the extremes.
How does Ruddock characterize the other two camps? Well, I think it best to read his post, but here it is in bite size.
In my experience, the debate is often polarised into one of two stances: either the Bible is the infallible word of God and so things happened exactly as the gospel writers say they did and we will not listen to any other position on the matter, or the Bible is demonstrably fallible and therefore we cannot take the Resurrection account seriously. I am reluctant to collapse the discussion around the Resurrection into this false dichotomy of myth vs history. We are not forced to choose: both myth and history can contain truths. Both are forms of story-telling that simply package truth differently. The binary distinction separating myth and history is a Western one, whereas the gospels – as Eastern texts – do not make such distinctions and contain elements of both. (from here (vaporsinthewind.com))
What is my objection to Ruddock’s contentions? There is a huge difference between believing the Bible is the inerrant word of God and believing the Bible is a myth. Theoretically, the Bible could be both, but which parts are true and which parts are myth? Ruddock does not want to deal with that hard nut. He sees a different prospect.
You see, as I said in my introduction, the Resurrection is a game-changer. It has the potential to radically alter our perceptions not only of ourselves, but of life itself. It is an invitation to experience reality differently. No wonder it generates such strong responses from people. To consider whether or not one accepts the Resurrection of Jesus is not simply to consider an idea to which we may or may not give consent. To consider the Resurrection of Jesus is to consider the possibility that the world may be other than we imagined it to be. And if the world is not what we thought it was, then the possibility exists – is, indeed, likely – that we belong in it differently. And that is, to say the very least, a daunting prospect. (from here (vaporsinthewind.com))
How does Ruddock argue his case for experience? He tries to paint himself as being like a member of the early church, like the Apostle Paul “experiencing” the resurrection through his Damascus road experience.
How do I react to Ruddock’s presentation? When Ruddock argues for “experiencing” the resurrection, I don’t much disagree. I just don’t place much credence in emotional experiences, and I don’t think the Apostle Paul did. When we read what Paul wrote, we discover that he was a very logical guy. Confronted by the risen Jesus Paul accepted the fact he had sinned. He repented and accepted Jesus as his Savior.
So, I don’t believe the Bible because I have had some great experience. I believe the Bible because reason demands it. I try obey the Bible because God demands it.
Do we “see the light” the way Paul did? Not exactly. Our light is the Bible. Our light is the Holy Spirit. Frankly, I think Ruddock is seeing much the same light. If we believe the Bible and words of the martyrs passed down to us from the days of the first century, then we believe Jesus rose from the dead.
Next Ruddock characterizes those two other camps, those who see the Bible as true, and those who see the Bible as mythology, those camps at the extremes.
If you examine the theology of the Bible-as-the-inerrant-Word-of-God camp closely enough, you will see that they are essentially rejecting the inclusive and non-violent way of Jesus. Their God demands retributive justice and the Risen Jesus will be the one to come back and exact it. They still embrace scapegoating violence as a viable way to create reconciliation, with God orchestrating the ultimate sacrifice. For them, the world still operates as it always has and we can continue to divide people into the righteous and the unrighteous. And the end for the unrighteous is decidedly…unpleasant.
The other camp – the throw-out-the-Resurrection-because-the-Bible-is-unreliable camp –rejects Jesus, I believe, for much the same reason: Christianity as they see it practiced by the first group does not offer any experienced reality that is superior to the one they know. Christians, they argue, are hypocritical, and religion is the cause of so much of the suffering in the world. They (rightly) see the God of Christianity as a Janus-faced tyrant who is nothing more than a projection of an equally Janus-faced humanity. And they want nothing to do with that. They do not see that their justice systems, their economies (whether capitalist or socialist) and all of their ideologies are different manifestations of the same scapegoating reality. (from here (vaporsinthewind.com))
Ruddock paints himself as the moderate. In a nutshell, here is his argument and what is wrong with it.
Argument to moderation (Latin: argumentum ad temperantiam)—also known as false equivalence, false compromise, argument from middle ground, and the golden mean fallacy—is the fallacy that the truth is a compromise between two opposite positions. (continued here (en.m.wikipedia.org))
Most of us tend to think our ourselves as moderate and reasonable. From our point of view, that is the way it looks, but there are in fact many Christian view points. Which is right? Well, each of us has to make the case as best we can as logically as we can.
Reblogged this on Boudica BPI Weblog.
Lovely piece – Here’s my take I have invited The Word to take up residence in my heart and have realized the promised Grace, Peace, and courage to do what I could not do otherwise. God is in my experience incomprehensible to the human mind and as for scripture- It was passed verbally in languages no longer spoken and translated and interpreted in countless ways. A continual and dedicated attempt to “be” in His presence is required in my opinion to be able to apply what is written to my life moment to moment. I will not attempt to evaluate other’s- but do gravitate to thinking that seems to be aligned with my experience.
I like that Jeff. Well put!
We don’t have the original copies of the books of the Bible in the original languages. Nevertheless, we have good copies. There is not much in great dispute. When we compare the various translations, that becomes fairly obvious. Yet I agree. “A continual and dedicated attempt to “be” in His presence is required in my opinion to be able to apply what is written to my life moment to moment.” Why? Even when we know what the Bible says, we have trouble believing what the Bible says.
Romans 14 begins with this verse.
We argue over a lot of silly things. Christians have killed one another over when and how to baptize people. How dumb is that? Romans 14 makes it clear that over doubtful things we should leave judgement to God. The Bible is not a club for beating others over the head.
The key is doubtful things. The Bible is clear that we need to baptize new believers. Therefore, we should do our best to do that. Where the Bible is clear, we must obey, and sometimes it is going to cost us.
As long as you are discussing logical fallacies see this from Wikipedia:
“A false dilemma (or sometimes called false dichotomy) is a type of informal fallacy, more specifically one of the correlative-based fallacies, in which a statement falsely claims an “either/or” situation, when in fact there is at least one additional logically valid option.“
Rest is here:
How many truths are there?
“How many truths are there?”
You say that God is truth. If God is one and yet God is also infinite in every possible way, you tell me?
There are an infinite number of truths? Jesus Christ died for our sins. If there is a truth that we are not sinners, then that was not necessary. All God had to do was select a different truth.
Does the possibility that there are an infinite number of truths mean EVERYTHING is true? No. It would seem that for every true statement we could make at least an equal number of false statements, and probably even far more. For example, to God there may be an infinite number of truths He could say about the resurrection that we don’t know about and that we may never comprehend. Because of our lack of comprehension about that miracle, there may be even more false statements we could make and most of our statements of that truth, because it is incomprehensible, are obviously incomplete truths.
With reference to Jesus dying for our sins, this is a profound truth that is also profoundly unexplainable. We can assume for God its necessity without ever understanding the full import that necessity. It’s a mystery, as Jeff related, that we accept on faith and the grace that the Holy Spirit puts in our hearts.
Such mysterious often symbolic truths, because they are unexplainable and incomprehensible, often take on a legendary or mythological quality, especially when we know the truth in our hearts even without the benefit of sufficient understanding or direct knowledge. Remember Doubting Thomas:
New International Version
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas(A) (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side,(B) I will not believe.”(C)
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace(D) be with you!”(E) 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”(F)
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;(G) blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(H)
So why do we believe the Bible? Not because, as with Thomas and the other disciples, we have direct knowledge, and not because we either have complete information or absolute understanding from Scripture either. In the sense that Jeff speaks of, we believe what we are graced by God to believe of “the story” out of faith. That is the profound “truth” that we actually “know”, whatever the full incomprehensible actuality is.
The complete perfection of the inerrant literal reliability of Scripture is just a distraction to satisfy the Doubting Thomas’s of the world who require something unnecessary, even diverting, to actual scriptural knowledge and belief.
Please do not misinterpret what I am saying here. I’m not saying that there was not an “historic” resurrection nor am I saying that Jesus did not “actually” die for our sins, whatever that fully means. However, even after Thomas put his hands into the risen Christ’s wounds, do you think he completely understood everything about the actuality of the history that he was at that moment experiencing? In so far as he did, I don’t think it was only through his five senses.
The whole argument is indeed like chasing one’s tail. Perfectly omniscient, perfectly omnipresent, perfectly objectively understood historical inerrancy doesn’t exist when we are actually living an experience. The truth that we can partially glean from that necessarily imperfect subjective experience is not mutually exclusive to the truth that we glean through faith and grace, with the latter, I think, being the more profound truth. It’s not an either/or.
Infinite number of truths? What does that mean?
We are made in the image of God. Logic is built-in. Aristotle did not invent logic. Aristotle “discovered” the rules of logic by documenting something people were already doing.
The Bible is the written Word of God. Word symbolize concepts. Logic is required to understand the strings of words that we use to communicate. Throw out the requirement for logic, and we cannot communicate. God cannot communicate with us. God cannot communicate His truth, who He is and how much He loves us, to us.
So what are you trying to communicate? When you throw out the rules of logic, you lose clarity, not the Bible.
Are you trying to say that everyone has his own truth or that the truth cannot be discerned? Are you trying to say that the Bible is not inerrant or that the we are not capable of discerning what the Bible has to say without error? Frankly, I don’t know what you are trying to say. If you give up trying to be logical, you won’t either.
God is the Truth. We cannot each have our own truth. That would render the Truth — God — meaningless. Unless “I” am God, “I” cannot own God.
We cannot fully discern the Truth because we cannot understand God. God is infinite. Nevertheless, we can know God, and we can understand as much as we comprehend. God wants us to know Him.
God is perfect. His Word is perfect. You and I are not perfect. So, we require His help to comprehend and understand as much of the Bible as He wills.
I am not the center of everything because He is the center of everything. Because He is God, everything depends upon Him. That includes His revelation, the Bible. You don’t understand it? Then pray and ask for wisdom and understanding.
What is the testing of our faith about? We have trouble trusting even in the truth, facts we know to be true. I can believe Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead. I can read the reports in the Bible. I can learn about the martyrs who died passing truth of Jesus onto us. I can see lives and civilizations changed by the truth of Jesus. I can study the history of the Jewish people and marvel, knowing that if the Bible is not true Jewish history makes no sense, and I can still lack the faith to endure the pain that comes with believing. Or, I can ask God for wisdom and understanding.
I think you think that I am saying things that I am not. For example, you seems
to think that I believe that God didn’t create logic, He did. Logic, however, as wonderful as it is, is a limited epistemology for finding truth, but it is not the ONLY epistemology. It’s not even the ONLY epistemology that we use and have used for human knowledge. As you know, the basic rules of logic and science were only recently discovered (not invented) fairly recently in entirety of human existence, and in less than a blink of the eye of God in the time since perhaps one Big Bang began things.
Like everything in creation, God created logic and made it part of our thinking, part of the extravagance that is man, perhaps even part of why man is made in the image of God. God is truth and logic is one epistemology for finding truth. However, I think you would agree that the infinity of God’s truth is not limited to mere logic. We can say that God is logical and that his creation is logical without limiting God (or ourselves) ONLY to one epistemology for finding truth,. If we do so, we make the mistake that so many atheists (and the modernist Christian philosophers) do by making a God (or rather another idol of God) out of logic. As in love, God is logic, but He is not only logic.
In fact, to not recognize the limits of logic in finding truth is to actually defy the rules of logic. Every logical epistemology begins with fundamental postulates that are proven by how well they work to predict and explain reality. On the other hand, logic actually breaks down when it hits apostulate that cannot be either proven or explained by a preceding postulate. In this way, logic epistemologically works in one sense through statements of causation. It is not logical to think of causes going on infinitely with one cause preceding another ad infinitum. (This is why logical positivists like Ludwig Wittgenstein ultimately concluded that if one digs deep enough logic breaks down into an endless series of tautologies). So then what is the logical cause of a causeless cause, of an unmoved mover?
We have to have a whole other realm or knowledge and truth, and a whole other limited epistemology of truth finding within that othet realm of knowledge to get to that kind of truth. I am saying, as is Scripture, that that realm is through revelation and the spiritual epistemology is through a personal act of will, faith, and a grant of grace by the Holy Spirit. Don’t believe me, however. Really study the Bible with contemplation and prayer. It will tell you all about this.
So, rather that my having to go back and explain that I didn’t say something that you wish that I had said, and then correcting me, why don’t you carefully read what I actually wrote and ask me to explain that? It will save some time and confusion.
I did not say you believe that God didn’t create logic. I think you are trying to avoid using logic.
How important is logic to God? Consider.
The Book of John begins by affirming the divinity of Jesus, referring to Him as the Word. “Word” is the translation of the Greek “logos”. Here is an article on that.
The word logic comes from logos.
What is the “problem” with logic? Logic is confining. If God tells Adam not to eat the fruit of a certain tree, Adam cannot pretend that by eating that fruit he is obeying God. That would not be logical.
Are there other ways of discovering the truth besides logic? All I know is that we need logic to discern truth from falsehood, good from evil.
You have a better way? Then demonstrate it with a logical proof.
One other place where you think we disagree but where you may just be hearing something that I am not saying, or more likely, I may not be communicating very well what little knowledge I have come to on these matters is this:
If God is infinite and God is truth, then God’s truth must be infinite. In other words, the truth that is God is one because there one God, but God’s truth manifests itself infinitely, as infinitely as the truth of why a bird can fly, or what is dark matter and dark energy, or how the grace that comes from the Holy Spirit works? Do you see what I mean now?
The truth is infinite in the sense that there is no end to what can be known, and God knows everything. However, there is only one truth. God is that Truth. He defined the truth and made it to be.
“The truth is infinite in the sense that there is no end to what can be known, and God knows everything. However, there is only one truth. God is that Truth. He defined the truth and made it to be.“
Exactly what I thought that I was saying.
“Are there other ways of discovering the truth besides logic? All I know is that we need logic to discern truth from falsehood, good from evil.
You have a better way? Then demonstrate it with a logical proof.“
I’m not sure if you are just being obtuse or I am, or perhaps we are just talking past each other. Anyone else here please feel free to step in. 🙁
1. You want me to prove with logic that there are realms of knowledge for which logic has no purchase? Just think about that for a minute. It’s like asking someone to hammer a nail in a board without the hammer or the nail or the board. Revelation is not necessarily illogical but it also does not necessarily come from logic. It is an “epiphany” (look up that word) that comes from faith and the grace of God while living a relation to God’s “Word made flesh” (Jesus), or as Jeff put it so well:
“I have invited The Word to take up residence in my heart and have realized the promised Grace, Peace, and courage to do what I could not do otherwise. God is in my experience incomprehensible to the human mind . . . .”
This is my experience as well in so far as God has graced me with such knowledge.
2. Let’s not confuse intelligibility with intelligence. No doubt, a tiger is intelligent, and has a mental ability to learn and utilize a crude form of sentient tiger logic: “If I do A, and B happens over and over again, then I can assume that, if I do A, then B will happen this time.” But most of a tiger’s cognition and acting, although it may be logically intelligible to us, is not done out of any great understanding about the rules of logic. Most tiger thinking is instead done out of innate instinct or out of other mental reflexes having to do with imprinting that are actually faster, more ancient forms of cognition than pure reason. I would argue that much more than we want to admit or realize, our thinking and reacting to reality is is the reflexive cognition of this sort, and that the Bible’s metaphors and messages are imprinted and acted upon in this way far more than we imagine.
I could say more, but that is more than enough for you to stew on for a while.
You keep saying we are in agreement. Then you keep saying logic is not needed. That is where we are in disagreement.
What I have trying to do is defined the area of disagreement.
Consider the definition of mysticism.
Is mysticism a real possibility? Probably. The Bible says we cannot see God and live. Apparently, actually seeing God is more than our minds can handle. Nevertheless, some of the prophets, Moses in particular, “experienced” God in some sense. Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured. However, that is not what the Bible is about. It is a book.
Do we experience illumination and insights we cannot explain we study the Bible? I think so, but Bible is a book, and the insights we gain almost invariably make it easier to logically explain what the book is telling us. Otherwise, we cannot share what we have learned.
Effectively, that is the heartache with a mystical experience. Peter, James, and John were limited in what they could share.
To a large extent we are stuck with reason and logic. I believe the Bible because it makes rational sense. I have faith in the teaching of the Bible because when I apply those teachings they work. Applying those teaching thus increases my faith, which is logical.
“You keep saying we are in agreement. Then you keep saying logic is not needed. That is where we are in disagreement.”
I don’t think so. I think you are right in that, reason is necessary for any approach to analysis and discussion of anything. Our extravagance in this regard, perhaps more than any other attribute, defines us as human, the “rational animal”. The ability to reason with each other uniquely represents in us a high level of cognition, and it would be impossible to write or read any book, including the Bible without this ability to reason. So we really have no disagreement there.
“What I have trying to do is defined the area of disagreement.“
I’m not sure what our disagreement is. If you thought that reason alone (Including all it’s forms – logic, science, historicism) is the ONLY epistemology for understanding scripture and in particular, the Word Made Flesh, then we would have a disagreement. However, from what you have just written, you seem to grant the rationally unexplainable qualities to perhaps the most profound experiences of saints as illustrated in the gospel. So what is the exact “area of disagreement”?
Rather than look for disagreement, might it be more productive to explore the areas where one of us perhaps has found some knowledge that the other might not possess, and in this way, we both can become more enlightened. For example, I did not know that some of the Apostles found it difficult to rationally relate what you have called their “mystical” experiences. I would be very interested in learning more about this.
I looked up the etymology of the word “mysticism” and found this:
“Mysticism and rationalism represent opposite poles of theology, rationalism regarding the reason as the highest faculty of man and the sole arbiter in all matters of religious doctrine; mysticism, on the other hand, declaring that spiritual truth cannot be apprehended by the logical faculty, nor adequately expressed in terms of the understanding.“ From here:
From my readings, I know that this seems to be an argument in Christian theology that began in the High Middle Ages with the Western rediscovery of the Classical Philosophers like Aristotle and crescendoed with Enlightenment philosophers, reverberated through the underlying disagreements of the Reformation, had much to do the rational revolts against mysticism that caused the rise of Deism and then Atheism, and the argument continues to this day.
Personally, I do not think it has to be an argument. As you just so ably pointed out, scripture provides ample evidence that an exploration of both the rational interpretation and the mystical experience through revelation may be necessary for the greatest understanding and living of the revealed incarnate Christ in God’s creation. It does not have to be an either/or disagreement. In fact, I have found that an open minded study of the psychological, sociological aspects of religion also provides an even greater understanding of the issues, it is approached with wonder rather than with the idea of controverting or proving either side of this, what I consider, dumb argument.
Mysticism comes from the same root word as mystery. In exploring the limits of reason and revelation to come to our personal best knowledge of God and his purpose for each and for all of us, I think it may also be necessary to embrace a certain amount of mystery. Some things simply must be accepted with a certain humility on faith, as the story of Doubting Thomas tells us. Unfortunately, such humility rarely comes from both ends of the polar spectrum, and I think you would agree that a humility of the incomprehensible and infinite mystery of existence especially rarely is exhibited from the rational atheistic or the fundamentalist extreme ends of this argument.
Humility has its place, but there is a difference in admitting we don’t know the truth and not being humble enough to accept the truth.
If we accept the belief that Jesus is God and rose from the dead, then it is difficult not to accept the Bible as His revelation.
Is the Bible without error. What the writers of various books that make up the Bible were without error. We don’t have those, but we have copies. We cannot read the original language, but we have many translations. Is what read without error? No, but with a little work we can largely discern what God has revealed to us through the Bible. We can at least understand the fundamental principles.
What role does mysticism have in reading and understanding the Bible? Not much. Mostly, we study, but sometimes we have to pray for understanding.
One the things we seem to have pray for is that we are suppose to read the Bible as we would an ordinary book written long ago. That is, we have to put ourselves in shoes of the people who first read it and try to understand what the author God inspired is trying to tell us. No hocus-pocus. No mystery. Just what is that guy trying to say. Is he using poetry? A metaphor? A parable? A song? An idiom? Or is he just speaking plainly. Whatever his technique, we have to make allowances and put our shoes of the first readers and try to understand as they would have understood.
Can the Bible say things to us that the first readers would not have seen? Yes. We have have the whole Bible. In addition, we have the benefit of two thousand years. Therefore, we look at the Bible from a different perspective.
Anyway, I don’t see a necessary conflict between logic and reason on one hand and mysticism on the other. To the extend we can we must use logic and reason. That is how we are wired. Mysticism is what we deal with when we have no other way of resolving an experience.
If you encountered a spirit, how would you know that spirit was from God or Satan? The Bible has an answer.
Anyway, do you believe the Bible inerrant?
Is the Bible inerrant?
Well, first I think that you would have to rationally define your terms.
“inerrant” literally means “without error”, but what kind of error Is the Bible supposed to be without? Factual? Historical? Metaphorical? Aesthetic? Sociological? Philosophical? Pedagogical? Cosmological? Ontological?
Second, what other inerrancy do I compare the Bible to and what do we judge it by? For example, one argument that scriptural apologists make is that the Bible is a better historical record than many other historical records that we have credibly relied upon, but better is not the same as perfect, is it? We don’t even have a perfect record somewhere of what happened last week? Is the cosmological creation mythology in the Bible, not just better, but perfectly without error when compared to what scientists know about the Big Bang, or about the geological record? Perhaps you can narrow the criteria of Biblical inerrancy, because I’m not sure such perfection is a knowable proposition even if it were true. You could say that the Bible is inerrant in all these categories, but what data would you use to logically prove it because no data sources are completely and objectively inerrant. We could say that God says the Bible is inerrant and the Bible says God is inerrant so He should know, but that’s a tautology, a Fine statement that may be true but it is also circular argument. How can either statement be subject to being falsified if wrong or proved right if right? Because no human is without error, could we be in error in thinking the Bible is inerrant? Again, would we need a known inerrant model to compare the Bible to? As far as I know there isn’t such a thing.
Finally, why is the question important? What is the “agenda” behind the question? Let’s say the most profound truths in the Bible (such as the reality the Jesus is God and that He somehow died for our sins and resurrected from that death) were essentially somewhat incomprehensible, but also basically inerrant. But let’s also say that we could rationally prove that the cosmological information in Genesis was not scientifically without error, wouldn’t that still be the most important information to ever be known to humankind? Why focus on error rather than truth? Isn’t that sort of playing into the skeptic’s game? What moral power over others do we get out of an assertion that the Bible is without error and then that our own interpretation of that inerrancy is also inerrant? I mean to me this sounds like an argument that atheist and fundamentalists of different camps constantly have with each other while those who are actually inspired by living a relationship with Christ through faith and grace just smile at the nonsense and go about their business.
So unless you can come up with a way to define the argument better, unless you can explain whether such a thing is even rationally knowable, and unless you can explain. why it is somehow important to the main mission of the Bible, I will have to answer your question of scriptural inerrancy by saying “I don’t know; I don’t know if it can be known and I’m not sure why I need to care. Please explain?
Still throwing up a smokescreen. Sigh! I have dealt with your other issues. Not going to do it again and again and again.
You want a formal explanation of what it means to call the Bible inerrant, read this.
I will deal with this issue. It is easy.
If the Bible is not the perfect Word of God, we can pick and choose what we want to believe. We can find a perfection within ourselves that we can use as an excuse. Effectively, we can do what Adam and Eve did. We can pretend God did not say what He say. We can even say the Word of God is wrong. We can eat the forbidden fruit because we are the truth, not God.
I’m putting up a smoke screen? Any discussion must begin with an agreement on the definition of terms, don’t you think?
Here is basically what the Catholic Church says about inerrancy:
In short, the Church treats the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, with the understanding that its import was as God’s inerrant pedagogical inspiration for what we each and as a Body of Christ need to know to be with Him, through Him and in Him.
But note how the Church treats “literalism”. God did not mean for the Bible to be a book of physics. This view seems to align with Ruddock‘s statements about myth and history being simply two of many different teaching techniques within the perfect pedagogical toolbox that is God’s scripture. But what is God aiming at teaching us and how did that change over time, particularly between the Old and the New Testaments, the startling reality shift that the Resurrection brought about?
It seems apparent that the Bible evolved as God determined that we were ready to evolve in our belief. God is unchanging but we change as we learn both as a human species and as individual human beings. The most obvious and stark shift in our evolution of understanding was when God became man. The actual physical and historical reality of that event is incomprehensible to us, but the myth of that happening is infinitely revelatory (with faith and God’s grace) to the human heart.
So why this dispute? What is the “agenda” that the sides are trying to push. You say the reason for the dispute is this:
“If the Bible is not the perfect Word of God, we can pick and choose what we want to believe.“
I think you need to dig a little deeper into those motivations. Be honest, don’t you give any truth at all in what Ruddock says here:
“If you examine the theology of the Bible-as-the-inerrant-Word-of-God camp closely enough, you will see that they are essentially rejecting the inclusive and non-violent way of Jesus. Their God demands retributive justice and the Risen Jesus will be the one to come back and exact it. They still embrace scapegoating violence as a viable way to create reconciliation, with God orchestrating the ultimate sacrifice. For them, the world still operates as it always has and we can continue to divide people into the righteous and the unrighteous. And the end for the unrighteous is decidedly…unpleasant.“
How much of the one camp seems to be stuck in the Pharisaic thinking before revelatory awakening of the Resurrection event, simply refusing to evolve our learning as God is actively and perfectly teaching us to learn in Scripture?
One could say Catholic Church’s language here is diplomatic on the literalism question of inerrancy or one could say that it is a middle ground that compromises some important principles. Any look at the lives of the Saints will tell you, however, that there was nothing moderate or compromising about the REVELATION that they received from God nor the tasks that they put themselves to as a result of receiving the Holy Spirit? No, I think that the argument is all wrong to begin with.
How do we know when someone is Christian? Right orthodoxy? Right dogma? Knowing which rules to follow and which are outdated taboos and customs? Rabbinical knowledge of. Scripture? Which scriptural passages are to be taken literally and which are to be taken figuratively?
THEY WILL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE.
Much of the Bible is didactic. Romans and Hebrews, for example. So, the moral instruction is quite clear. What is required to be a Christian is quite clear. The Apostle’s Creed is taken from the Bible.
Genesis is an example of historical literature. In about three chapters, God tells how He created the universe, including us. Add a bit more, and we get the Great Flood. Can you imagine God trying to explain how He created the universe today? We still would not understand. How did the Great Flood happen? I don’t know, but that does not mean it did not.
There is another problem. Because the education of the Hebrew slaves and our own differ so much, we have trouble understanding that part of the Bible as they would have, but that is what we need to do. Your reference actually doesn’t say much different. The Catholic Church has just gone a bit too far trying to accommodate “science” when scientists actually don’t know as much as some would suggest. I just think it interesting that genetic studies say we all share the genes of one woman. Likely, we also all share the genes of one man.
Where do you and I differ substantially in practice? You try to use “love” as an excuse for nonsense like same-sex marriage and Socialism. Yet, the Bible is quite clear. No excuse for finding ambiguity.
Our first job is to love God. If we love Him, we will obey Him.
While I appreciate your telling me what I’M trying to do, have you considered actually listening to what is actually being said to you first. Who here is actually attempting to bend Scripture to fit his minuscule, very human and therefore necessarily very errant ideological agenda of the moment?
Love, God’s love, is far more eternal, far more profound, far more inerrant than the moralizing of the moment. But the eternal and inerrant quality of love that Jesus taught us is not always as black and white as we would prefer. We would prefer that sort of perfect certainty, and so if we react with belligerence and condescension, especially to the seemingly amorphous but foundational concept of Christian love, then we may wish to reconsider our understanding of what it actually means to be a Christian. We can begin by looking at the example in Scripture where Jesus was basically was crucified out of exactly the same kind of dogmatic belligerence against the God of Love, then consider that Saul persecuted early Christians similarly until he was transfixed by love, and then there are the lives of all the other Saints martyred for love.
We cannot convince those who, in their pride will not be convinced, and our belligerently persecuting the belligerent for being belligerent is simply oxymoronic. God lays out for us the a path of love for us to follow and He left us bread crumbs to mark that path of love. However, in a finite and fallen world, love simply does not often provide the formulaic rule bound certainty we so desperately crave.
Socialism and homosexuality? My job is simply to love as best that I can and, to set an example or love, not to judge. I’m not gay and I am not a rabid Socialist (or a rabid heterosexual sex advocate or rabid Capitalist either). We do the best that we can to love moment by moment. We fail. Like Adam we fall again. We get up. We try again. But we should, I think, find peace and we should find joy in the effort. At least I do when I am most sure that I am being the most loving and empathetic person that I can be, but I have a long way to go (as you can tell from my tone here sometimes). 😉
Here is a quote from Mildred Bangs Wynkoop’s “Theology of Love” that I may have given before, but it is always worth coming back to:
“LOVE takes the Harshness out of Holiness. Love takes the Incredibility out of Perfection. Love takes the Antinomianism out of Faith. Love takes the Moralism out of Obedience. Love takes the Gnosticism out of Cleansing. Love takes the Abstraction out of Truth. Love puts the Personal into Truth. Love puts the Ethical into Holiness. Love puts Process into Life. Love puts Urgency into Crisis. Love puts Seriousness into Sin. Love puts Fellowship into Perfection.”
I think you are missing a fundamental truth about love. We must love in truth. Does love does justify anything? No, but love can motivate us to do the right thing. What love cannot do is make something that is wrong right.
If someone points a loaded gun at their head and says they want to kill themselves because life is too hard, what do you say? It is okay because you love them, and there are too many people anyway. It would be loving of them to kill themselves and save the whales?
If some guy wants to make “love” to a child because he and that child love each other, what do you say? It is okay because they love each other?
Think about what this old proverb is saying.
How does love cover a multitude of sins? What happens when we love other people? Do we want to harm the people we love or be generous to them?
Consider how Peter made use of that old proverb.
We are known by our love because love motivates us to be generous to each other, not because love justifies our sins against each other.
Consider some alternative translations.
Love does not cover up our own sins. Love enables us to forgive. Because He loves us, God is willing to forgive us as we forgive others, and then some.
I think you have erroneously decided that I advocate some things that I obviously have not (actually, some gross and evil things). Why would you stop a person from killing themselves or from harming a child? Because it violates a rule? Perhaps, but what if it did not, or the rule was not clear, but the act was clearly selfish and wrong?
When we act out of love, the decision may not be clear in every case (pretty clear in the case having sex with children though), but if we are acting out of love (and love’s manifestations in empathy and compassion), then we are doing the best that we can. This often means imperfect choices. Sorry to disappoint your need for a comfortable and dogmatic certainty on everything, but that is just reality.
I fully understand your point of view, but are you sure that you have completely explored mine? The fact that you respond the way that you do (knowing that my heart is not evil enough to accept the sexual predation of a child in the manner you describe), the more that you convince me that you have closed your mind to only hearing what you want to hear and not actually listening for meaning.
Don’t take my word for it, however. For each of those sentences about love that Wynkoop gives, she lays a Scripturally substantiated predicate in “The Theology of Love”. But you don’t have to read that – simply take each one and think it through how the love of God resolves issues for us, and how making a habit of unselfishly practicing love (in other words, practicing virtues) gives us the mental muscle memory that we need to respond in any difficult circumstance where we don’t have time to fully practice rabbinical scriptural legalism and the legalistic answer would be in dispute even if we did.
As a law student, one of my law professors once told me that if you really think something ought to be illegal, it probably is. How does our heart know that if it does not know the letter of the law? It knows it through God’s love living there within each of us to some degree or another.
The stuff that is legal is what bothers me.
Abortion. Even making taxpayers pay for it
Redistribution of other people’s wealth
Same sex “marriage”
Forcing private businesses to abide by civil rights legislation.
Suing people and not paying their legal fees if you lose
Government-run schools, colleges and universities.
Taxing people to propagate beliefs they disagree with.
Using government to promote hated via the application of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality
And so forth.
Can you imagine some of stuff that goes on in China that is legal, that government promotes.
We have a moral code written upon our hearts, but it is not enough without a well formed conscience. So, we must trust the Word of God. We must strive to abide in Christ. That begins by studying and trying to live by His Word.
We should not put our confidence in our own wisdom. We are just men. What is right in our own eyes we cannot rightly Trust.
I suppose I should add this. Consider what you said: “If God is one and yet God is also infinite in every possible way, you tell me?” In what ways is possible for God to be infinite and yet still be One? Even God is subject to logical impossibilities. At least, that is still the conventional wisdom.
Naturally, I would know what logical impossibilities that God may be limited by. The 18th Century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, claimed to be an atheist, but much of what he metaphysically theorized that underpinned reality sounded a lot like God. In short, Schopenhauer thought one vast thing was reality and that the myriad of sensual interpretations of experiences that make up our reality were simply the multiplicity of manifestations springing forth on the surface of that one thing, that one actual reality.
You may take that for what it’s worth. Schopenhauer was a strange bird, but his theories had a logic to them. And it is not that different from what Plato, Aristotle and even Descartes expressed.
I have heard the name, but I have yet to read anything by Arthur Schopenhauer. Shrug! Won’t live long enough.
I have started focusing on writings that have historical significance. That is, if a book made a difference in its day I will put it on my bucket list.
Love this discussion. I will enjoy reading the references more fully. It won’t surprise you that my first impression is to agree with the moderate viewpoint at least as it has been presented here, but I will reserve further opinion until I have read the rest of the referenced material.
I particularly like the “center of our own universe” analogy. God is an infinite metaphysical mystery to me. God exists in the entirety of creation whether we are capable of some necessary limited and fallible understanding of God or not. The difficulty and the paradox for each of us, as the center of our own universe, is not to conflate our infinitesimal selves made in God’s image and constantly existing only through the infinite concentration of God on every molecule of each of our beings with a God that also must concentrate equal infinite attention on every sparrow in the field and every single atom at the other end of the universe.
This paradoxical understanding of our place in God’s universe as both the focus of such awesome individual attention and as just one of many in God’s regard should be as infinitely humbling as it is infinitely gratifying. Is it alright to feel both or do we really have to choose?
Glad you enjoy the post. I was thinking of you when I wrote it.
God is infinite, and He infinite beyond the extent of His Creation. Creation had a beginning. God was, is, and will be.
The truth is better than we can imagine. That is why it is better to love God in Truth.
Can we understand God? Can we comprehend infinity? No. But we can strive to know what is true.