Solo Scriptura and the unique inspiration of the Protestant Canon

Progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser wrote a series of posts defending the Bible against an anti-theist advocating its burning.

 

Here is what he wrote about challenges formulated by nice atheistic philosopher Jason Thibodeau:

“Perhaps most revealing are Jason Thibodeau‘s comments for they reveal a person who seems to be fundamentally confused on the parameters of the discussion. Jason quotes me:

“that is a good illustration of Jason’s overall objection to the Bible. He starts out with bold, magisterial claims about what any author or editor would or would not do as alleged grounds to reject the Bible. “

And then he retorts:

“And what does Randal’s argument for the magisterial claim that the Bible is sacred literature consist of? I have no idea, he has never provided one.”

The problem here is that I never set out to provide an evidential argument that the Bible is in some sense revelation (or as Thibodeau puts it, “sacred literature”). Rather, from the beginning I have simply been rebutting putative defeaters to the Bible’s being in some sense revelation. Jason’s apparent complaint that I have failed to meet a demand I never set out to meet in the first place appears to be either a desperate attempt to redraw the parameters of the debate based on his failed arguments or a more basic confusion about what was being debated in the first place.

Jason’s confusion deepens in an additional comment. He starts off quoting me:

“At this point the weight of Jason’s rebuttal consists of his observation that he finds it difficult to believe Jones would do this. That’s it. But that’s not a serious rebuttal. It is simply a statement of personal incredulity.”

And then he wryly comments “Pot, meet kettle” and quotes my own statement of “personal incredulity”:

“This claim about the moral obligation of the author or editor strikes me as completely ridiculous.”

Yes, Jason thinks he’s being clever here. But in fact he is simply placing his own confusion into broader relief. You see, as I have noted our entire discussion is predicated on Jason’s alleged ability to provide defeaters that should rationally persuade Christians that the Bible cannot be in some sense revelation. That’s what he aims to do with J-MAP. Thus the Christian believes p and Jason is aiming to show that the Christian ought not believe p. The way one does this is by presenting a logically valid argument with plausible premises. Thus, the fact that Jason’s premises rest on nothing more than his own personal incredulity is devastating for the success of his argument. For Jason to reply “Pot, meet kettle” suggests that he doesn’t even understand he has shouldered a burden of proof with J-MAP and has utterly failed to meet that burden of proof.”

 

And here is my response.

 

Hello Randal.

I think you make some good points, such as asking what Jason means by “sacred scripture”.

However I was truly put off by your dismissive and haughty tone.

Jason is not being absurd or confused at all and most people who don’t share your Evangelical convictions are much more inclined towards his side rather yours.
He is a very kind, respectful and humble person and clearly deserves our own respect in return.
You generally produce writings of excellent quality so that it is a true pity you resorted to such a language.

I personally find it problematic to believe that God was directly responsible  for the Protestant Canon as His unique revelation while desiring the presence of erroneous terror texts whose most likely and straightforward interpretation is that He directly commanded atrocities.

I take a view similar to that of Thom Stark and believe that God did not  cause  the formation of the current Canon but rather appropriates it in the same way He appropriates writings of C.S. Lewis despite his mistakes and those of Martin Luther in spite of his egregious statements about the Jews.

I know that this must seem utterly repugnant for every kind of Evangelical. But since the Protestant Canon cannot set his unique authority by itself, an Evangelical could only appeal to the tradition of the Church. And he cannot take this way since Apocryphal books, infant baptism and the adoration of saints were widely (if not universally) accepted during a great part of the Church’s history.

To my mind and that of many non-Evangelical progressive Christians, viewing the Bible in the manner I described above is the only way to be honest to the text and honest to the Almighty Himself.

Cheers.

bible

 

 

Petition against an egregious evil in Florida

Fred Christian is waging a campaign against a crying injustice which leads many of us (Continental Europeans) to view the so-called American dream as an unbearable hopeless nightmare.

 

“Petition Background

I am a 43 year old Florida Resident who never has had health insurance in my adult llife time ! I am one of over one Million Florida Residents who need a little help from my State! Our lives could be shortened by illneses that could have been prevented with access to Medical Services that would potentially keep us alive and heathy! For example I am an asthmatic and access to Medical Services would help, people like me greatly !  “

 

This is an aspect of Martin Luther King that the ruling class wants us to forget.

 

Such as an injustice in an allegedly godly nation is a spit in Christ’s face.

 

I think that proponents of the Christian Right should reconsider their priorities.

Jesus did not threatened prostitutes and homosexuals with hellfire (meaning the lost of one’s existence) but religious bigots and those failing to apply charity.

 

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

SIGN THE PETITION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

How to rationally criticize a religion: the origin of misogyny

I recently bumped into this picture and find it perfectly illustrates an ideological and irrational criticism of religions found everywhere in the Western world.

Foto

 

The first obvious mistake in this image is the same type of shameless overgeneralization I exposed in A perfect example of ANTI-theistic irrationality. The fact that you can find demonstrably odious verses in the Bible is no evidence that the whole Bible (who was written by many conflicting authors) is a wicked book.

The second mistake consists of judging the morality of ancient authors according to our advanced and enlightened Western standards. It would certainly be silly to mock Greek philosophers (or other writers in the antiquity) due to some of their extremely erroneous scientific beliefs. Likewise we should also evaluate the moral (and theological) strength of a historical character according to his cultural background and the Zeitgeist back then.

If this principle is followed, we will find that Paul’s treatment of women was quite progressive for his time (even if it would be pretty reactionary today) and that Jesus view of them was truly revolutionary.

All of this raises the following questions: were men in the past misogynists owing to their religious beliefs?

Or did they develop misogynists religious beliefs due to their desire to subjugate and exploit women and dominate over them?

 

While always boasting about their alleged rational superiority, anti-theists are not trying to scientifically answer all these questions.

Instead they are picking and choosing whichever facts suit them for drawing extremely sweeping conclusions, like far right ideologists do all the time.

 

I think that such kinds of arguments are only valid against fundamentalists and Conservative believers who consider their holy writings as being utterly devoid of errors.

They lamentably fail to show that the entire religion or sacred book is evil or that its past members did not imperfectly experience a perfect God.

De Edward Snowden isch gar nit willkumm in Däitschlond (English too)

English version:  Edward Snowden isn’t welcome at all in Germany

Lorraine Franconian – Lothringisch

Ich bin iwer de letzte Entscheidung von Angela Merkel extrem enttäuscht, de Asylrecht dem Edward Snowden NIET ze gewe, der een Zeuge von de skandalöse amerikanische Verletzung des Datenschutzes von normalen Bürger in oneri Länner isch.

Es isch gar keeni Iwerraschung, da de däitsche Führungsschicht zweifellos gezeigt hat, dass sie es liewer hat, de wilde Kapitalismus ze diene anstatt Gerechtigkhät.

Image

Es sieht so us, als ob de wohre Dirigente von Amerika mit ihre europäische Knechtlänner alles witermache werre, was sie wolle.

 

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Missionary atheism, intellectual honesty and John Loftus

I recently had a short but interesting interaction with anti-Christian apologist John Loftus on the blog of progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser.

Bild

John first wrote to Randal:

Randal, I look forward to your book. It’s really hard to write one from the other side of the fence and have it accurately represent one’s opponents. I think you’ll reject the “Rebellion Hypothesis,” which is needed. It’s too bad many Christians aren’t where you’re at on this, but they probably will be in a decade or more.Dr. James Sennett once told me that my book WIBA didn’t contain any straw man arguments as far as he could tell, for which I was pleased. I hope you can do the same.Just recently a guy said the same thing he did:

I was also afraid that the apologetic arguments mentioned in the book would be misrepresented and it was absolutely refreshing to see their arguments accurately presented and cited before thoroughly deconstructing them (many of which were quoted from the very same books I had read as a teen).

http://www.debunkingchristiani…Not everyone will think this, but I have repeatedly caught you doing what Christians on the other side on my fence say that I don’t do. You do mischaracterize the opposition, a lot, but also a lot less than most of them do.”

I responded:

While I once applauded you for your “advice to a Christian apologist”, I do believe your mischaracterize your opponents a lot too, at least much more than Randal does. Contrarily to your current conviction, there are many, many Christians who reject atrocities found in the Old Testament and who don’t view the Bible as necessarily more inspired than other Christian books, however difficult this might be to grasp for a former Protestant having been traumatized by fundamentalism. So I think you should rename your Blog “Debunking Evangelicalism” and try to really understand your opponents before criticizing them, because you seem to be much more interested to win new converts than having a friendly and respectful conversation about our beliefs concerning ultimate reality. This is very sad for polarized America (and more generally our polarized world) desperately needs nice discussions where people do not bully each other. Friendly greetings.

John wrote back

Lotharson, I try to debunk Christianity in all it’s forms. The problem is that Christianity is a many splintered thing. I quote from the authors who claim to represent Christianity so there are no straw men there. I co-authored a book with Randal, a progressive evangelical, and in it I took on his views. That you continue making this claim means you simply don’t understand. Yours is the correct Christianity, right? If I quote you and argue against you will you say the same thing?

To which I wrote back

Hello John, thank you very much for your answer.You spend the large majority of your time debunking Conservatism Evangelicalism, and I read only few things from you concerning <b> non-Evangelical </b> progressive Christianity.
Let me say I am in total agreement with many things you write, yet I don’t view them as a challenge against my own faith at all. You state there are many Christianities out there, and I agree with you. In oder to defeat Christianity (with a capital “C”) you ought to be able to demonstrate that they are all false or extremely implausible. So you have to develop <u> general </u> arguments showing that all forms of Christianity are equally false. Let me give you an analogy.
There are countless <b> conflicting </b> materialist theories of the mind out there.
I would be completely foolish if I were to conclude that materialism is false just because I could disprove <b> one </b> of them. Yet this is clearly the impression you all too often give. After having shown that inerrancy is an incoherent and silly teaching, you give to your reader the impression this shows that <b>C</b>hristianity has been refuted, losing track of the numerous Christians who reject this doctrine from the very start. Your writings about the problem of pain are far better in that they handle a troubling topic for ALL Christians. You are quite an intelligent guy, and I think you would be far more convincing if you stepped back from the culture war and started understanding your adversaries before criticizing them.
Until then you will remain an ideologist in opposition to Jeffrey Jay Lowder and Randal Rauser who are true scholars earnestly seeking the truth. Cheers.

John Loftus clearly shows by a behavior that he has remained a missionary fundamentalist, much more interested in winning new converts to his own sect of atheism than seeking the truth.I first realized this after having read his dispute with the nice and respect full atheistic philosopher Jefrfrey Jay Lowder.The latter took him to task for not caring about the validity of atheistic arguments used to deconvert people.Here is Loftus’s response:

I would no more spend time arguing against an ineffective atheist argument than I would spend time baking cookies I had no intention of doing anything with. Why bother? I’m not interested in a discussion for discussion’s sake. I have a warranted properly basic belief that there is no God, so all that’s left is to persuade believers otherwise, along the same lines as Stephen Law recently argued.”

I was truly dumbstruck after having read that. John Loftus keeps calling Christian theologians deceptive and delusional liars, and here he has clearly acknowledge he is not pursuing truth.In the past, I had a great respect for John and sincerely tried to engage a real conversation with him.Now I am strongly tempted to just say:”Why bother with him? Why should I waste my time with a self-proclaimed ideologist trying to win converts at all costs?”

 

Iwer de konservative Evangelikalismus un Homophobie (also an English version)

English Version: On conservative Evangelicalism and homophoby. Feel free to comment there at any time!

Lothringische Version  (Lorraine Franconian)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorraine_Franconian

De progressive Theologe Randal Rauser hat echt eeni guti Erwet geleischtet, als er iwer mehrere (repräsentativi) Fälle von Schwulenhass innerhalb der evangelikalen Welt berichtet hat.

Sien meescht uffällige (un voll schreckliche) Beispiel isch de Fall von Evangelike us Amerika, die de Diktator von Ugana gepriese hon, Schwule hinzerichte.

homobashing

Ich glawe, mir hon starki theologischi Grünne, Homosexuelle in de Kerch willkumme ze heisse.

Wenn ich de relative Wichtigket von Homosexualität un soziale Gerechtigket in de Evangelien un de gonzi Bibel vergleiche, bin ich wohrlich iwer de Zitmenge skandalisiert, die Evangelikale iwer de Homosexualität verbringe, während sie niet nur atroce Abweichunge zwischen de Gesundhäitssystem fir armi un räichi kinner toleriere sondern aach GEGEN jeden Versuch sin, diese tragischi Situation ze verännere.

“De werscht een Bom on seeni Obste erkenne…” hat uns de Jesus gelehrt un gewarnt.

 

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Recovering from the Conservative apologetic industry

Randy Harman has just published his fascinating testimony about his experiences as a former Conservative Evangelical apologist.

Part 1

Part 2

part 3

He told us from the very beginning that ” Just as it is easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater, these posts are in no way an attempt to say apologetics as a whole is a pointless discipline, nor are they intended to say that by defining myself as an “ex-apologist” I refuse any rational argumentation or apologetic endeavors.

I am an apologist in so far as it is a “tool” in my belt, not a vocation or an identity.”

In what follows I have copied some of the passages which I find the most profound and insightful.

Reason did little to strengthen my faith, despite my repeated claim that it “saved it.” It just turned me into a jerk with a lot of ammo–a jerk who merely pretended to have things put together by the overwhelming evidence of Christianity but, in reality, who was more assuredly as confused, carnal, and lost as the person I was insistent to win over to Christ through rigorous argumentation.

The doubts that I dealt with ten years ago are the same doubts that I deal with now, albeit in different ways sometimes and I routinely pray, not read, for faith. Rationalism never quenches the thirst of doubt; it only masquerades it.

Apologetics did not save my faith. It saved my pride.”

  • Why is it that so many are threatened when popular boundaries are brought into question by none other than fellow Christians?
  • Why is it, as I have seen personally, so many apologists turn out to be jerks, little different in rhetoric and spirit than the New Atheists they so fervently wish to counter?

As the late Stan Grenz and John Franke note in their tremendous book Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, it is somewhat ironic that modernist thinking has extended so far in both the directions of the “godless” and the “godly.” For every atheist that’s incorrigibly committed to the truth of his philosophical naturalism there is an evangelical incorrigibly committed to his theism in such a way that neither one lacks the need to feel absolutely certain.

For these evangelicals, conviction leaves no room for doubt, and so in popular Christian apologetics doubt is something to be assuaged with answers

I find beauty in the multitude of voices, for the truth is sometimes life does seem nihilistic and we need Ecclesiastes to stand beside us or Job to yell at God with us;

I find beauty in reading Scripture primarily to save my soul and teach me how to live like and within Christ, not in teaching me what to believe and how to think about Christ.

My last two posts (here and here) dealt with my testimony as a trained apologist and a transformation that took place when I allowed myself to really stop thinking of faith as a science. This post still deals with what I find to be a strange irony in the discipline of apologetics, namely, the insistence on a “rational and well thought out” faith with the insistence on upholding scriptural inerrancy and creationism.

To that end, I have to confess that I am incredibly bothered by the fact that the popular apologetics movement laments the 75% of students who leave the faith (they say, “because they don’t have intellectual answers for what they believe”) and yet they demand that one cannot embrace certain conclusions of their disciplines, no matter how well thought out and evidenced.

It is my conviction that when we insist that young people have to choose between evolution and God or the critical results of scholarship and faith, we are not at all helping students overcome some of the intellectual barriers and questions they might have. Rather, we contribute to the swath of students who find Christianity to be opposed to reason.

I have watched too many friends abandon all trust in God because they were told they need to choose between the boundaries set by evangelical apologetics and science.

Though he is still more conservative than I am, I agree with most he has written.

I also want to point out that the enlightenment leaves us with a false dichotomy, namely:

1) having no grounds for thinking that Christianity is true, therefore pretending to know what you don’t know

2) having a Christian faith warranted by evidential arguments in the same way our belief in the theory of universal gravitation is warranted.

Unlike the claims of anti-theists, there are many Evangelicals who think that their faith is grounded on reason and evidence, thereby rejecting 2).

But I think that one option has been utterly left out.

3) Faith does not mean pretending to know what you don’t know, but to passionately hope in something even if the evidence is not sufficient.

I certainly believe there are good arguments against materialism and intriguing ones for the existence of a supernatural realm and theism.

Yet I also recognize that all these arguments (as well as those for atheism) depends on some postulates which cannot be proven and whose acceptance might very well strongly hinge on one’s own psychological make up.

Let us also consider the need of intellectually humility emphasized by Einstein:

“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of “humility.” that is to say the warranted conclusion that there might very well be many things our minds cannot fathom.

I think we have good grounds for concluding that many of our ideas about ultimate reality are pretty tentative and should never be made absolute.

But there is nothing which prevents us from passionately hoping in their truth.

Actually I know no human being who can practically live without hoping in many things he cannot asses the likelihood of.

Do you?

 

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