On the pain of being driven out of one’s own land

Progressive British Journalist Robert Fisk wrote an impressive article concerning one aspect of the conflicts between Israel and Palestine which is currently seldom mentioned.

I’m reproducing his article because I find it greatly interesting. This shouldn’t, though, be viewed as my endorsement of everything he had to say.

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

 

 

OK, so by this afternoon, the exchange rate of death in two days was 40-0 in favour of Israel. But now for the Gaza story you won’t be hearing from anyone else in the next few hours.

It’s about land. The Israelis of Sederot are coming under rocket fire from the Palestinians of Gaza and now the Palestinians are getting their comeuppance. Sure. But wait, how come all those Palestinians – all 1.5 million – are crammed into Gaza in the first place? Well, their families once lived, didn’t they, in what is now called Israel? And got chucked out – or fled for their lives – when the Israeli state was created.

And – a drawing in of breath is now perhaps required – the people who lived in Sederot in early 1948 were not Israelis, but Palestinian Arabs. Their village was called Huj. Nor were they enemies of Israel. Two years earlier, these same Arabs had actually hidden Jewish Haganah fighters from the British Army. But when the Israeli army turned up at Huj on 31 May 1948, they expelled all the Arab villagers – to the Gaza Strip! Refugees, they became. David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) called it an “unjust and unjustified action”. Too bad. The Palestinians of Huj were never allowed back.

And today, well over 6,000 descendants of the Palestinians from Huj – now Sederot – live in the squalor of Gaza, among the “terrorists” Israel is claiming to destroy and who are shooting at what was Huj. Interesting story.

And same again for Israel’s right to self-defence. We heard it again today. What if the people of London were being rocketed like the people of Israel? Wouldn’t they strike back? Well yes, but we Brits don’t have more than a million former inhabitants of the UK cooped up in refugee camps over a few square miles around Hastings.

The last time this specious argument was used was in 2008, when Israel invaded Gaza and killed at least 1,100 Palestinians (exchange rate: 1,100 to 13). What if Dublin was under rocket attack, the Israeli ambassador asked then? But the UK town of Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland was under rocket attack from the Irish Republic in the 1970s – yet the RAF didn’t bomb Dublin in retaliation, killing Irish women and children. In Canada in 2008, Israel’s supporters were making the same fraudulent point. What if the people of Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal were being rocket-attacked from the suburbs of their own cities? How would they feel? But the Canadians haven’t pushed the original inhabitants of Canadian territory into refugee camps.

And now let’s cross to the West Bank. First of all, Benjamin Netanyahu said he couldn’t talk to Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas because he didn’t also represent Hamas. Then when Abbas formed a unity government, Netanyahu said he couldn’t talk to Abbas because he had unified himself with the “terrorist” Hamas. Now he says he can only talk to him if he breaks with Hamas – even though he won’t then represent Hamas.

Meanwhile, that great leftist Israeli philosopher Uri Avnery – 90 years old and still, thankfully, going strong – has picked up on his country’s latest obsession: the danger that Isis will storm west from its Iraqi/Syrian “caliphate” and arrive on the east bank of the Jordan river.

“And Netanyahu said,” according to Avnery, “if they are not stopped by the permanent Israeli garrison there (on the Jordan river), they will appear at the gates of Tel Aviv.” The truth, of course, is that the Israeli air force would have crushed Isis the moment it dared to cross the Jordanian border from Iraq or Syria.

The importance of this, however, is that if Israel keeps its army on the Jordan (to protect Israel from Isis), a future “Palestine” state will have no borders and will be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory.

“Much like the South African Bantustans,” says Avnery. In other words, no “viable” state of Palestine will ever exist. After all, aren’t Isis just the same as Hamas? Of course not.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Getty Images) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Getty Images)

But that’s not what we heard from Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman. No, what he told Al Jazeera was that Hamas was “an extremist terrorist organisation not very different from Isis in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Boko Haram…” Tosh. Hezbollah is a Shia militia now fighting to the death inside Syria against the Sunni Muslims of Isis. And Boko Haram – thousands of kilometres from Israel – is not a threat to Tel Aviv.

But you get the point. The Palestinians of Gaza – and please forget, forever, the 6,000 Palestinians whose families come from the land of Sederot – are allied to the tens of thousands of Islamists threatening Maliki of Baghdad, Assad of Damascus or President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja. Even more to the point, if Isis is heading towards the edge of the West Bank, why is the Israeli government still building colonies there – illegally, and on Arab land – for Israeli civilians?

This is not just about the foul murder of three Israelis in the occupied West Bank or the foul murder of a Palestinian in occupied East Jerusalem. Nor about the arrest of many Hamas militants and politicians in the West Bank. Nor about rockets. As usual, it’s about land.

As I mentioned elsewhere, a cultural genocide has been carried out by the French government in my region and I feel extremely grieved while driving through villages where the Germanic dialect of the past has almost died out.

But I CAN’T really imagine what it is means to know that one’s entire land has been stolen away.

It makes me truly sick to see that for countless Conservative Evangelicals, the lives and well-being of Palestinians are far less important than those of Israelis due to their literalist interpretation of Christ’s second coming.

 

As I have explained here, I really think that fundamentalism is destroying Christianity in America.

 

 

 

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Should an inerrant Bible be the very foundation of Christianity?

Eric Reitan, a progressive Christian philosopher (having written an excellent book on the New Atheism and one defending universal salvation) gave several arguments against the central place of the Bible for our faith.

 

How Does God Reveal? Five Christian Reasons to Doubt Biblical Inerrancy

 
The Patheos website is currently hosting a multi-blog conversation about progressive Christianity and Scripture which has generated numerous engaging and thoughtful contributions–such as this one by James McGrath. Because the relationship between progressive Christian faith and the Bible is one of my enduring interests, the sudden flood of interesting essays on the topic has inspired me to take a few minutes to reflect on the issue myself. 

As a philosopher of religion, the way I approach this topic is in terms of a philosophical question: What theory of revelation fits best with the Christian view of God? Put another way, if there is a God that fits the broadly Christian description, how would we expect such a God to reveal the divine nature and will to the world?

Many conservative Christians take it for granted that God has revealed the divine nature and will in and through a specific book. More precisely (although they aren’t usually this precise), they believe that God inspired certain human authors at various times in history to write texts that inerrantly express divine truths–and then inspired other human beings to correctly recognize these texts and include all and only them in the comprehensive collection of Scriptures we call the Bible.

Let’s call this the theory of biblical inerrancy.

Does this theory fit well with broader Christian beliefs? Is this a good Christian theory about divine revelation, culminating in a good Christian theory about what the Bible is and what sort of authority we should attach to it? I think there are a number of reasons to be skeptical.

Put more narrowly, I think there are a number of reasons why Christians should be skeptical, given their Christian starting points. Let’s consider at least some of these reasons.

1. Christianity holds that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God

Traditional Christian teaching holds that Jesus is the Word made Flesh, the incarnation of God in history. And this means that for Christians, the primary and monumental revelation of God is in the person of Jesus, not in any book (however inspired). It is this fact which motivated George MacDonald to say of the Bible,

It nowhere lays claim to be regarded as the Word, the Way, the Truth. The Bible leads us to Jesus, the inexhaustible, the ever unfolding Revelation of God. It is Christ “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” not the Bible, save as leading to him.

Biblical inerrantists might argue that nothing precludes God from both revealing the divine nature primarily in Jesus and authoring an inerrant book as a secondary revelation. This is true as far as it goes. But there are reasons for concern.

First, there’s a difference between the kind of revelation that Jesus represents, and the kind that a book represents. A person and a book are different things, and we learn from them in different ways. Consider the difference between having a mentor in the project of becoming a better person, and reading self-help books.

Doesn’t Christianity teach that God’s preferred way of disclosing the divine nature and will is through personal, living relationship rather than fixed words? The problem with throwing in an inerrant book as a “supplemental” revelation is that it can lead to Bible-worship. Given human psychology, there is something alluring about having a book with all the answers. But if God primarily wants us to find the answers through personal engagement with the living God, as discovered in Jesus, isn’t there a real danger that fixation on the Bible will distract the faithful from God’s primary mode of self-disclosure?

None of this is to say that human stories–witness accounts of divine revelation in history–aren’t important. They can motivate a desire to seek out the one whom the stories are about, and they can offer tools for discerning whether you’ve found the one you seek or an imposter. But once they are seen as secondary, as valuable as a means to an end, the need for inerrancy dissipates. If what really matters is my friendship with Joe, and if I sought out and formed a friendship with him because lots of people told me stories about him that revealed him as an awesome guy I wanted to meet, do I really need to insist that those storytellers were inerrant? Why?

2. The Jesus of Scripture was not an inerrantist

In John 8:1-11, we have the story of the teachers of the law coming to Jesus with an adulteress, and asking Him whether they ought to stone her to death as the Scriptures prescribe. The passage itself declares that this was a trap: If Jesus came out and directly told them not to stone her, He would be defying a direct scriptural injunction.

He avoided the trap: He didn’t directly telling them to act contrary to Scripture. Instead, He told them that the one without sin should cast the first stone.

It is a stunning and powerful story (no wonder someone decided to write it into the Gospel of John, even though it didn’t appear in the earliest versions). But notice that Jesus didn’t tell them to do what Scripture prescribed. Instead, He found a powerful way to drive home exactly what was wrong with following that scriptural injunction–in a way that avoided their trap.

In short, Jesus disagreed with some of the teachings in the Scriptures of His day. In the Sermon on the Mount, he offered gentle correctives to earlier teachings–teachings which started in a direction but didn’t go far enough. The lex talionis command to punish evildoers eye for eye and tooth for tooth may, at the time, have served as a restraint on retributive impulses: don’t punish beyond the severity of the crime. But for Jesus, that level of restrain was insufficient. It was a start on a path, perhaps, but only that. Jesus followed the trajectory of that path to its conclusion, and enjoined His listeners to turn the other cheek.

In short, it’s clear Jesus didn’t have the inerrantist view towards the Scriptures of His day that conservative Christians have towards the Christian Scriptures of today. Conservatives might argue that Jesus would view the modern Bible–or maybe just the New Testament?–in the way they favor, even if the approach to Scripture that He actually modeled is at odds with their approach.

Allow me to treat such a speculative claim with suspicion. If Jesus is the primary revelation of God in history, then it strikes me as appropriate to follow His model for approaching Scripture, and respectfully look beyond the letters on the page to the deeper intentions that finite human authors might have missed, noticing trajectories and exploring where they might lead.

3. In the New Testament, Paul distinguished between his views and the Lord’s

 In 1 Corinthians 7:10-12, Paul says the following:

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her…

I’ve talked about this passage before, so I won’t go into details. What interests me is the distinction Paul makes between his own views and those of the Lord. In this passage, it’s clear that Paul did not see Himself as taking dictation from God. He made a clear distinction between his own opinions and those of the Lord, and by making the distinction explicit was signaling to his readers that they should treat the injunctions differently–as if he didn’t want to claim for himself the kind of authority that he took to accompany Jesus’ explicit teachings.

But if inerrantism is true, then Paul’s teachings are the inerrant word of God, and so have the same kind of authority as Jesus’ words. In other words, if inerrantism is true, then Paul was wrong to make the distinction he made. But that distinction is made by Paul in a letter that’s in the Bible. And if inerrantism is true, a distinction made in a letter that’s in the Bible has to be accurate. But if it’s accurate, inerrantism isn’t true. Zounds!

An exercise in creative interpretation might offer the inerrantist the wiggle room to escape this logical trap, but inerrantists are routinely skeptical of such creative interpretation of Scripture. At best, then, this amounts to a difficulty for inerrantism, the sort of difficulty one often sees when trying to force a theory onto subject matter that doesn’t quite suit it. Theories can perhaps weather some such difficulties, but if they become too common it is hard to reasonably persist in endorsing the theory.

4. Efforts to overcome apparent contradictions in Scripture lead to a false view of Scripture

Speaking of difficulties of this sort, the Bible isn’t a neat, orderly, systematically consistent treatise. The Gospel narratives, for example, aren’t identical. They tell the stories of Jesus’ life in different ways. Details differ–for example, in accounts of the resurrection. Bart Ehrman does a fine job of cataloguing  many of these in Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible.

Mostly, these tensions aren’t explicit contradictions but rather what might be called apparent ones: they don’t seem as if they can go together, because you’d need to tell a rather convoluted story to make them fit.

Inerrantists have not been remiss in offering such convoluted stories. But if you need to tell enough of them in order to make your theory map onto what it’s supposed to explain, the theory becomes increasingly implausible.

And there’s another problem, one that should be of concern to Christians who care about the Bible. The convoluted tales that you have to tell in order to make disparate biblical narratives fit together end up leading you away from an honest appreciation of the message of the biblical authors. As Ehrman puts it, “To approach the stories in this way is to rob each author of his own integrity as an author and to deprive him of the meaning that he conveys in his story.”

When you do this, you care more about preserving your theory about the Bible than you do about understanding and taking in its message. For me, this is one of the greatest tragedies of an inerrantist approach to Scripture: It makes it difficult for readers to engage with the Bible on its own terms. It’s like someone who is so devoted to a false image of their spouse that they can’t see their spouse for the person they really are. Likewise, the steps that need to be taken in order to preserve the doctrine of inerrancy in the face of the Bible’s actual content means that it becomes impossible to have an intimate relationship with the Bible as it really is. This is not taking the Bible seriously. It is taking the doctrine of inerrancy seriously at the expense of the Bible.  

5. God is love

Christianity teaches that God is love. In fact, it is the closest thing Christians have to a scriptural definition of God:  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8).

If God is love, then we experience God when we love. If God is love, then the primary way we can encounter God is through loving and being loved–that is, through cultivating loving relationships with persons. This may help to explain the Christian view that a person–Jesus–served in history as God’s fundamental revelation, rather than a book. Books can’t love you. And you can’t love a book in the sense of “love” that Christians (and the author of 1 John) have in mind when we say God is love.

When we feel the profound presence of the divine showering love upon us–or when we feel the joy of being loved by others–we are encountering the divine nature as something coming to us from the outside. But when we love our neighbors as ourselves, we are channeling divine love, and experiencing it “from within” (so to speak). The divine nature is moving within us, more intimately connected to us than any mere object of experience. I think this is what the author of 1 John means when he says that whoever does not love does not know God. To love others is to be filled with the spirit of God. It is to let God in.

If any of that is true, then it is by encouraging us to love one another that God makes possible the most profound revelation of the divine nature and will. And while the Bible does encourage us to love one another, the theory about the Bible which takes it to be the inerrant revelation of God may actually be an impediment to love.

We end up focusing more attention on the Bible than on our neighbors. We are more committed to “doing what the Bible says” than we are to loving those around us. Out of a desire to be connected with God, we insist that homosexuality is always and everywhere sinful–and when the gay and lesbian neighbors we are supposed to love cry out in despair, their lives crushed by these teachings, we stifle our compassion, shutting out love in fear that loving them as ourselves might lead us to question the inerrancy of the Bible.

If God is love, then any theory of revelation that tells us to find God by burying our noses in a book is a problematic theory. If God is love, we must look for God in the love we see in the world. The Bible, understood as a flawed and finite human testament to the God of love working in history, can be a deeply meaningful partner in our quest to encounter God and live in the light of divine goodness. But as soon as it is treated as inerrant, it is in danger of becoming a bludgeon used to silence those neighbors who want to share experiences that don’t quite fit with this or that verse.

The Bible points away from itself. Respect for it demands that we look up from the page and engage with our neighbors and the creation. God is alive in the world. The Bible tells us that God is alive in the world. In so doing, the book is telling us that if we want to find God, we need to look into our neighbor’s face with love, and at the natural world and all its creatures with love.

Because God is there. God is there, revealing Himself in the vibrancy of life and the child’s laugh and the mother’s tender kiss. God is there, in the gay man who sits by his longtime partner’s hospital bedside, gently stroking his brow. God is there, in the joyous wedding vows of the lesbian couple that can finally get a legal marriage after years together.

And any time a too-literal allegiance to the letter of the biblical text causes someone not to see the face of God in that tenderness and joy, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy has blocked divine revelation, impeding God’s effort to self-disclose to the world.

 

 

Here follows my own response.

 

Dear Eric,

it would be a terrible understatement to say that this post of yours was extraordinarily amazing 🙂

Here is a major problem for the Conservative Protestant position: it cannot merely be that their Bible is inerrant, but also that people who first recognized it that way were as well. If they weren’t, what give us the guarantee that their decision was correct?

Therefore, I view the doctrine of Solo Scriptura as rationally extremely problematic.


I also agree that God’s revelation was the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and that it is not propositional knowledge, even if it logically entails affirming certain truths.

I think that Biblical inerrancy is IMPOSSIBLE in the first place, due to the presence of many conflicting voices in the collection of books having been gathered under that name.

Therefore, ironically enough, inerrantists themselves have constantly to pick and choose which texts they take at face values and which they necessarily have to distort because they contradict the former.

The real danger here is that according to the doctrine of inerrancy, if you find some Biblical verses describing God as commanding moral atrocities, you HAVE to conclude that the God experienced by ALL other Biblical writers endorsed them as well.

Tragically, nasty fundamentalists considerably water down Christ’s call to love our enemies to make it match the theology of the imprecatory psalms.

And many of them will give up Christianity altogether, become bitter anti-atheists while keeping the same fundamentalistic mindset.
So a New Atheist recently wrote he wants to burn the whole Bible because of the presence of atrocities within it, ignoring the obvious fact there are many other Biblical authors who did not approve at all of them.

As you expressed it so well, the priority of Conservative Evangelicals is NOT to become more loving persons and turn the world into a better place BUT to combat heresies and frenetically defend particular verses having been empirically refuted.

This explains rather well why they’re so obsessed with homosexuality while utterly ignoring (or even upholding) crying social inequalities.
I have come to see books within the Biblical Canon in the same way I view other Jewish and Christian books, and offered a parallel between C.S. Lewis and the apostle Paul writing down their experiences with God.

I think that the basis of a progressive Christian theology should be the idea that as a perfect being, God has necessarily to be much more loving and just than any (purely) human being could ever be.

Thus, if your theology teaches that God predetermined countless babies to grow up for being damned and eternally suffer, you’ve made a reductio-ad absurdum of it.

I think you’re an incredibly bright person and defender of our faith, and I wish much more people would read your writings instead of those of William Lane Craig.
His evil view of God is one of the main reasons why Conservative Evangelicalism is increasingly collapsing.
https://lotharlorraine.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/armenian-genocide-02-jpg.jpeg
Keep the good work!

 

 

 

 

Intelligent design, eternal torment and the restoration of everything: an interview with Kevin Miller

I had the immense privilege to interview the great and incredibly gifted movie maker Kevin Miller. He is a unique person in many respects and an outstanding Christian having left behind a great part of his conservative Evangelical baggage.

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Leaving Conservative Evangelicalism

Lotharson: Hello Kevin, I’m very glad you accepted to give me this interview. Could you please sum up your personal and religious background for the benefit of our readers?

Kevin Miller: I was raised in a theologically liberal but morally conservative home. My grandfather was actually a minister in the United Church of Canada, which is probably one of the most liberal Christian denominations in the country. However, at age 9, I had a “born again” experience at an evangelical Christian Bible camp. I pretty much kept that experience a secret though b/c my parents were pretty antagonistic toward that way of thinking. In my teens though, both of my parents underwent a similar experience, and we wound up attending an evangelical Mennonite Church. From there, I attended a Bible College, eventually earning a degree in youth ministry. After college, I spent 8 months in Kenya doing missionary work. Then I came back to Canada and went to university. That’s when my life and faith sort of imploded. I didn’t have any real Christian community around me, and all of the stuff I had been suppressing all those years came out. So I spent a few years wrestling with a lot of demons before finally emerging from the wilderness due to a reencounter with some friend from Bible college–and also a powerful reencounter with God. I felt like the prodigal son who had finally come home. But I still only had one foot inside the circle, so to speak, b/c I felt that somehow I’d been brainwashed or indoctrinated during my time spent in the evangelical world, and I didn’t know how to move forward. Thankfully, some good mentors came into my life around that time and started to provide me with a framework in which to analyze my experience.
Kevin Miller: I’ve always been a pretty analytical person, constantly questioning things. It’s probably some sort of unhealthy coping mechanism, b/c it makes it pretty difficult to buy into a particular theological system or faith community. I always tend to find myself on the boundary. I think that’s where I feel most comfortable.

Academic persecutions against intelligent design?

Lotharson: This is quite a fascinating story and helps better understanding your works and creations. My next question would be about your thoughts on intelligent design (ID). You wrote the script for the movie “Expelled” describing the academic intolerance towards ID. What did motivate you to do this?

220px-Expelled_logo

Kevin Miller: I was recruited for that project following the release of my first film, “After…,” a psychological thriller that takes place in the subterranean world beneath Moscow. How that goes together with the battle between Darwinian evolution and Intelligent Design I’ll never know. Originally, I was called in to attend some development meetings about what was then a hypothetical film about Intelligent design starring Ben Stein. I was really passionate about the topic (it appeals to the frustrated academic in me). But I actually told the producers not to hire me, b/c I didn’t think I had the sense of humor the project required. However, a few days later I got the call, and I was on the job. I had never worked on a documentary before and I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully some of the other people around me did. So what motivated me? An intense interest in the topic as well as the opportunity to work on another film and to stretch myself creatively. Oddly enough, that set me on a path I had never anticipated in terms of documentary films, to the point where that’s what I’m best known for now.

Lotharson: Okay. Do you personally believe there’s a real academic persecution against ID?

Kevin Miller: I would call it more of a bias against Intelligent Design as a viable explanation for the origin, complexity and diversity of life and the origin of the universe. One one level, many people see ID as merely a Trojan Horse for some form of biblical creationism. I disagree. While most proponents of ID are people of faith, the brightest lights amongst them are truly seeking to engage in a scientific enterprise, particularly in the area of information theory, for example. The question is, what is the best explanation for the information we find in DNA? Ideally, scientists will always infer to the best explanation, follow the evidence wherever it leads. However, how do we define “best”? This is where the rule of parsimony kicks in. The best explanation is always the simplest explanation, the one that requires the fewest number of unverifiable assumptions. As Richard Dawkins likes to point out, God is pretty must the most complicated explanation someone can offer, because now you have to explain where God comes from. Even so, as Dawkins admits in the film, the idea that some form of intelligence may be responsible for the universe and everything in it is neither inherently religious nor unscientific, even though it may be friendly to a theistic worldview. But scientists are not philosophers. They are observing, measuring, experimenting, etc. If you watch Sean Carroll ‘s recent debate with William Lane Craig, for example, you can see that many non-scientist ID proponents are simply speaking a completely different language than cosmologists, biologists, and other scientists who are on the front lines running the numbers. They’re trying to solve complex equations, to explain mechanisms according to physical laws, not philosophize about how those mechanisms and laws came to be.
All that to say, I don’t think there is any more persecution against ID than there is against astrology or leprechauns. If anyone from any of these communities came to the table with a viable model to explain a natural phenomenon, people would pay attention.
I remember asking Michael Behe how science would be different if ID was the prevalent theoretical model. He had no answer. That troubled me. No surprise his interview didn’t make it into the film.

IntelligentDesign

Universal salvation

Lotharson: Thanks! I agree to a large extent with what you’ve said. Ironically enough, you were yourself “expelled” by the same conservative Evangelicals complaining about this alleged state of affairs. Could you please tell us more about this?

Kevin Miller: I wasn’t exactly expelled. I was just prohibited from teaching a course on documentary filmmaking at Trinity Western University (located in Langley, BC, Canada) due to my views on hell. Ironically, I was allowed to screen “Hellbound?” there several months earlier, and a few months after being barred from teaching on campus, I was invited to present a paper at a philosophy event DEFENDING my views on hell. So go figure. It’s a strange world. I will say, however, that my views on many subjects have shifted substantially over the past decade, thanks in large part to my extensive interaction with the atheist community re: “Expelled.”

Lotharson: How did your views evolve?

Kevin Miller: Well, you can’t undergo the sort of scathing criticism I faced as a result of “Expelled” without it affecting you. I made a point of trying to engage our critics in a meaningful way, and I took their criticisms of our film and my own views seriously. Through discussion and debate, you get to see things from a number of different sides. And I came to see many of the things I felt quite certain about didn’t quite merit that level of certainty. I guess you could say that’s when the serious deconstruction of my belief system began, and it’s been an ongoing project ever since. My departure from traditional evangelical beliefs about hell is just a small part of that process.

Culture war and bigotry

Lotharson: I guess that criticism from atheists and other non-Christians can be quite a help for reaching more reasonable views. The problem I have with ANTI-atheists is that they constantly resort to mockery and emotional bullying, in an useless and oftentimes counter-productive way. Did you experience that too?

religionisrape

Kevin Miller: Mockery and bullying is present on all sides. That’s something that disillusioned me during “Expelled.” I found that many people on all sides were more concerned with scoring points against their opponents than seeking the truth through meaningful dialogue. It’s an understandable occupational hazard though, b/c you can only go around the Mulberry bush so many times before you get frustrated at your opponents’ seeming inability to grasp the obvious truth to which you have committed your life. However, as Jonathan Haidt points out in “The Righteous Mind,” most of us arrive at our philosophical/theological positions via an emotional rather than a rational process. So until we have some kind of transformational emotional experience, we remain rather impervious to rational arguments launched against our views. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see emotions running high. Emotion is at the heart of everything. So is identity. We don’t respond well when our identity is threatened.

Lotharson: Precisely! Jon Haidt is quite an outstanding scholar and I greatly appreciate his efforts to overcome the culture war. Now I’d be interested to know more about your views of hell.
Who were the authors who influenced you the most as you were considering the possibility of universal reconciliation?

Defense of Christian universalism

Kevin Miller: It all started with Brad Jersak, author of “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell and the New Jerusalem.” I edited the book for him back in the fall of 2008. That experience is what convinced me I had to make a documentary on this topic, although I wasn’t in a position to begin pursuing it until nearly three years later.

The thing that struck me about Brad’s book was how little what I was taught about hell was actually in the Bible. He also introduced me to the various streams of interpretation regarding final things throughout the history of the church. I should have known this stuff (I’d been to seminary after all) but it was all new to me. I should also note that I was well prepped for this mind-shift due to another book I had edited for Wayne Northey. It’s a novel called “Chrysalis Crucible.” It really got me questioning the connection between God and violence.

Another book, coedited by Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin, called “Stricken by God?” faced this question head-on, arguing that the atonement and nothing to do with God punishing Jesus for our sins. Once you start to think along those lines, the idea of hell as a place of eternal, conscious torment pretty much falls to the wayside. In terms of universalism, some key influences were Thomas Talbott, Robin Parry, Richard Beck, Brian McLaren, Eric Reitan, Sharon Baker and Julie Ferwerda. They showed me that a viable case could be made for a non-retributive view of God and hell. Of course, Michael Hardin is also front and center throughout. So is his “rabbi,” Rene Girard.

Lotharson: The following passage is widely seen as extremely problematic for universal reconciliation. Matthew 25:46 (NET) “And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Most Conservative Evangelicals use the following syllogism:
1. We know that the saved will live eternally in bliss
2. The damned will be punished in the same way the elects are rewarded
3. Thus the damned will suffer eternally.
What’s your take on this text?

sHEEPGoats
Kevin Miller: This isn’t nearly as problematic as it appears. It all comes down to the word translated as “eternal.” In Greek, the term is “aionios,” an adjective that means “of an age” or “age-long” rather than “never-ending.” So it can be interpreted as either qualitative or quantitative, or perhaps both. At any rate, in this parable, the righteous will receive a reward in keeping with the age to come and the wicked will receive a punishment in keeping with the age to come.

There is no reason to assume the reward or punishment will last forever. Furthermore, the intent of this parable isn’t to provide a systematic theology of the afterlife but to emphasize how strongly Jesus identifies with “the least of these.”

The other thing I chuckle at when people try to use this to establish a belief in hell as eternal torment is that the qualification for avoiding hell has nothing to do with faith. In fact, the sheep had no idea they were doing anything that merited a reward. Works is the deciding factor here, in particular how we treat the poor. So if proponents of eternal torment want to use this parable to bolster their case, they’ll also have to concede that faith doesn’t enter the equation.

The only thing that matters is righteous action–at least if you read this parable in isolation. And if you want to combine it with other parables and verses that emphasize faith, you’re sort of stuck in a contradiction. Unless, of course, you want to say the good works are the fruit of faith. But then I’ll remind you that the sheep had no idea they were serving God by helping the poor. So once again, it’s problematic.

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On inerrancy and picking and choosing

Lotharson: These are good points! I also find it quite stunning that Evangelicals PICK and CHOOSE which parts of the passage they take at face value and which parts they allegorize for avoiding “salvation by work”. Do you agree with me that there are conflicting voices in the Bible, so that inerrantists INEVITABLY have to cherry-pick things?

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Kevin Miller: Everyone cherry-picks. You have to. Even Paul and, dare I say it, Jesus cherry-picked! If you look at how Paul uses the Old Testament, for example, he pays virtually no attention to the original context of many of the verses he quotes.

Peter Enns does a great job in “The Evolution of Adam” of explaining how Paul’s view of Adam’s role in human sinfulness is completely absent from the Old Testament. He adapts Scriptures and theological ideas for his own purposes. In doing so, he was merely in keeping with his times. Many of his contemporaries did exactly the same thing. And how often does Jesus pluck a verse here or there and then completely revolutionize the traditional interpretation?

All that to say, circumstances shift constantly. Therefore, so does our perspective on the Bible. All of us suffer from confirmation bias–the tendency or perhaps the temptation to pick and choose passage of Scripture that support what we already believe. That’s the thing that struck me about Jersak’s book when I edited it. Speaking back to the evangelical world in which he had spent most of his career, he said if we are going to be biblical about hell, let’s be biblical.

That is, let’s listen to everything the Bible says about final things, not just the parts that support what we already believe. That’s a highly problematic approach for someone who desires a hermetically sealed theology, but it’s the only approach that is in keeping with integrity. All that to say, we all tend to take parts of the Bible literally and allegorize other parts as it suits us. The key is to be aware of this tendency and to work consciously against it. This is where peer review can play a key role–as long as the entire peer review process isn’t biased in the same direction!
Speaking of which, I have a bit of a pet peeve re: peer review. Academics like to hold it up as the golden standard, an almost infallible means of achieving truth. The thing we often fail to consider is how the entire peer review process can be just as biased–perhaps more heavily invested in a bias–than individual academics. So if the peer review process holds individuals in check, what holds the process in check? I’m sure you wouldn’t put much stock in an astrologist’s insistence that his or her conclusions were correct because they had been peer-reviewed by other astrologists. 🙂

 

Hell and cognitive dissonances

Lotharson: Yeah, this is why Conservative Evangelicals and militant atheists peer-reviewing their own community are truly laughable 🙂
Conservative Evangelicals often argue that atheists cannot live consistently with their assumption that they and their loved ones are insignificant molecular machines. While I largely agree with this, I am convinced that the cognitive dissonances they are facing are FAR WORSE.
For they believe that most people will eternally suffer as a punishment for sins they could not have avoided, having been cursed with a sinful nature by the almighty Himself. Do you agree with this assessment?

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Kevin Miller: Here’s the thing: Theists argue that unless there’s a creator, everything is meaningless, and our attempts to create meaning absurd, because if God or some sort of equivalent being (or race of beings) doesn’t exist, the only determining factors in the universe (or multiverse) are chance and necessity. We are nothing but stardust come to life for a brief moment, so to speak. Atheists counter this assertion by saying we don’t need an ultimate being to give our lives mean. We can assign our own proximate meaning to other people, objects, events, locations, rituals, etc. If theists are completely honest, they’ll have to admit that’s pretty much what they’re doing anyway.

As Richard Dawkins points out, challenge a Christian with horrific commands from the Old Testament (such as the stoning of adulterers), and they’ll say those rules don’t apply anymore. As we noted above, we all pick and choose which parts of the Bible to take literally and which to ignore. So as Dawkins points out, even though people like to say the Bible or God is the ultimate authority, we are still applying some sort of standard that actually supersedes the Bible. In fact, the only reason we believe the Bible has any authority in our lives is because we have become convinced of his validity or inspiration. And even in this case, it’s the arguments in favour of the Bible’s authenticity that are our true authority. So when it comes to ultimate meaning versus proximate meaning, I think the atheists are onto something.
As for cognitive dissonance, this is certainly one of the key problems facing Christians who believe in a God who violently punished his son on the cross and then threatens to punish the wicked forever in hell. This runs smack into cherished beliefs about God loving his enemies, love keeping no record of wrongs, etc.

Think about it: If God is perfectly loving, and if our own love is perfected in heaven, how could we possibly tolerate people suffering forever in hell? Our compassion would grow in proportion to our awareness of their suffering. Therefore, if anyone winds up in hell, I can’t see how we all wouldn’t be there, with the “righteous” ministering to those who are suffering. The only way around this is for God to either render us unaware of the suffering of our loved ones or for God’s love to be revealed as something completely different than what Christ taught.

 

Fundamentalism and child abuse?

Lotharson: I once stated that folks STRESSING the doctrine of eternal torment too much to their kids are abusing them. This made many of my readers angry and I regretted having written the sentence since it gives the impression that all people teaching Eternal Conscious Torment are abusive. This is not what I meant since my secular Catholic parents taught me that (concerning evildoers) and I never felt abused at all.
That said, I still believe that fundamentalists terrorizing their children in the hope they will “make a decision for Christ” are abusing them. Do you think this is the case and that this can really cause them deep psychological wounds?

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Kevin Miller: If it’s abuse, it’s unintentional. I was “saved” through a gospel presentation that included a threat of hell. And I believe it affected me psychologically in such a way that it essentially derailed the next two decades of my life. But the people who presented that version of the gospel to me were some of the most loving people you will ever meet. Years later I was at a function where I witnessed a kindly old Mennonite lady making a similar presentation to my own young children–who had never heard of hell–and I was horrified. I didn’t want to see them inflicted with such a horrific view of God. There’s a meme going around where God or Jesus says, “Let me save you… from what I’m going to do if you don’t let me save you.” I think that gets right to the bedrock on this one. Think of a parent saying that about him or herself to a young child. It would be considered abusive or at the very least highly coercive.

Calvinism and predestination to eternal torment

Lotharson: I agree it is almost always unintentional. Calvinists are arguably the most vocal opponents of universalism. They believe that God created evil and caused Adam and Eve to fall because He needs to SHOW OFF his punitive wrath. Without eternal torments, he would be unable to maximize his glory and his undeserved grace. What’s your opinion on this?
Kevin Miller: I have to quote Michael Hardin here and say that Calvinism or Reformed Christianity is nothing but paganism dressed up in Christian clothing. The God who would do such a think in no way resembles the Jesus of the gospels, who was a friend–not an enemy–of sinners.
When I say “paganism,” BTW, I mean no affront to modern day pagans. What I mean is they have basically taken the old, sacrificial view of God of pre-Christian religions and made him the center of the Christian faith–which I see as an apologetic against exactly this sort of God. Jesus never demanded sacrifice. Rather, he sacrificed himself. So I would say Calvinism is 180 degrees away from Christ.
At least my interpretation of Jesus. 🙂

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Lotharson: 🙂 Some Calvinists I talked too agree that (according to all criterion of human justice and love) the god they worship is a fiend. But they went on saying that we cannot judge God by our own morality and that He defines what is good and bad. What is your response to this?
Kevin Miller: I would agree. God does define morality. And, playing by their own rules, if Jesus is God, he defines morality in ways that utterly defy their theological system. So it seems to me they have two choices:

1) admit that Jesus was lying or

2) admit that God has a double standard–one form of morality for humans, another for himself. Either way, the results aren’t pretty. Either love never fails, never keeps a record of wrongs, always hopes, always perseveres (cf. 1 Corinthians 13) or it doesn’t. Calvinists are saying it doesn’t. So not only are they contradicting Jesus’ teaching that what makes us perfect like God is love of enemy (Matthew 5), they are also contradicting the clear teaching of Paul.
Lotharson: Most Calvinists I know are nice people. But what could occur if they began imitating the behavior and attitude of the God they profess to believe and trust upon?
Kevin Miller: Exactly. As Frank Schaeffer likes to point out, most people who believe in such a punitive view of God live above their theology. They’re far nicer than the God they worship. And thank God for that! But on a meta-level, I believe our entire society reflects a version of the Calvinist God, b/c our entire justice system is based primarily on retribution. Not only our justice system but our prison system, our economic system, our theological systems, our war machines, even the way many people discipline their children is a shadow version of the punitive God who demands sacrifice in order to achieve peace. This is one of the key insights of Rene Girard and Michael Hardin, who have had a huge influence on me over the past few years. Our entire society is based on scapegoating and sacrifice. It’s how we create culture. This is why Michael says toward the end of “Hellbound?” that the entire church is missing the gospel. That’s because the gospel isn’t divine sanctification of our sacrificial machinery; it’s the antidote to it, it’s the foundation for a new kind of community–call it he Kingdom of God–based on self-sacrifice instead. In this regard, I think we have completely missed the radically subversive message of Christ. It undercuts everything.

 

Libertarian free will?

Lotharson: It seems to me that you agree with Calvinists that there is no such thing as libertarian free will, am I right? Is everything determined by God?
Kevin Miller: Wrong. I believe we are co-determining–at our core, humans are imitators. We look to others to see what we should desire. And then we compete with each other for these objects of desire or states of being, thinking it will give us the sense of identity or immortality we seek, anything to transcend the fear of death that gnaws at our insides, the feeling that we are insignificant. I tend not to look at people as individuals but as members of a herd. The “self illusion” is one of the most problematic illusions we face right now. Alongside it is the notion of free will. We are pack animals for the most part, and our powers of volition are much weaker than we imagine. I’ll go back to Jonathan Haidt (“The Righteous Mind“) on this one. Also Bruce Hood (“The Self Illusion”), Ernest Becker (“The Denial of Death”), Richard Beck (“The Slaver of Death”) and Rene Girard (“Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World”) on this one. All of these writers and many others point to a similar conclusion.
Lotharson: Okay, thanks for the correction. I didn’t know you believe in libertarian freedom. You once said that freedom is just a mean to the end of our salvation. But what if freedom is an end in itself? What if God’s main purpose in creating us was that we develop a good personality naturally desiring Him, so that those lacking it won’t inherit eternal life but BE NO MORE? Is it not conceivable as well?
Kevin Miller: I would hope the end game is self-actualization, that we all become the ultimate fulfillment of our potential. Exactly how that is achieved doesn’t concern me all that much.

 

Palestine and Christian sionism

Lotharson: Okay. I have a last question. Many Evangelicals support unconditionally the state of Israel. A young pastor once told me that the modern Palestinians are the descendants of a people that Israel refused to annihilate during Joshua’s conquest, and that the struggles of modern Israelis can be traced back to this ancestral “sin”: they should have left nothing which breathes alive. What are your thoughts on this issue?

PalestiniansKids
Kevin Miller: Despite having co-written “With God on Our Side,” which criticizes extreme forms of Christian Zionism, I’m not sure if I know enough about the situation to comment on it. However, I will say this: I don’t believe God ever told the Israelites to annihilate anyone in the Old Testament. Second, many evangelicals fail to distinguish between the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Israel is a secular state created in 1948. Within that state are Jews, Palestinians and all sorts of other people. No Christian should ever support any secular state uncritically. So how the State of Israel treats the Palestinians living within its territory (as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) is a completely separate issue in my mind from historical/theological concerns going back to Joshua’s purported conquests of Canaan.
What we can say for sure is that treating anyone as a second-class citizen is wrong. So are acts of terrorism. Whenever theological ideas are used to justify either action, they go against the clear teachings of Christ.

Lotharson: Okay Kevin, this marks the end of our discussion.Thank you for all the time you’ve granted me! I wish you all the best for your ongoing projects.

 

 

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Genocides in the Bible? An interview with Matt Flannagan.

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Regular readers of my blog know that I’m no big fan of Biblical inerrancy and think that while there is much beauty to admire in the Bible, you’re going to find heinous things too.

 

Still, I want to give a fair hearing to people I disagree with. Therefore I was delighted to have had the opportunity to interview Conservative Evangelical theologian Matt Flannagan from New Zealand about this topic.

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In the following interview, we touched on a number of issues while exploring the morality of the conquest of Canaan as described in the Old Testament.

 

DailyMotion version: Click here.

 

Since this is my very first audio-interview, the quality of the sound is far from being optimal. So I hope you can forgive me that, along my lack of professionalism and terrible accent.

 

If a sufficient number of people find that really unbearable, I’ll start out painstakingly writing down the whole dialog.

You can complain at lotharson57@gmail.com or even write a comment here (if you want to have the satisfaction to publicly humiliate me 🙂   ).

 

A small personal tip: I generally listen such long interviews while having to accomplish repetitive tasks besides.

 

A daunting task: defending human rights in France

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While France likes to take pride in being “the country of human rights”, it utterly fails to fulfill this claim in significant respects.

One of those is the problem of European ethnic minorities or cultures in its territory.

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Ever since the French Revolution (in the name of the secular goddess Reason), the government has declared French as the only language of the republic and has systematically persecuted all minorities, forbidding or discouraging them to speak the tongue of their ancestors in their own land.

As a consequence, Breton ( a Celtic language spoken in Brittany), Occitan and Catalan (Romance languages spoken in the South) have almost disappeared from the country.

In my own homeland (AlsaceLorraine), the Germanic dialects spoken by most of my forefathers are gravely threatened since they are no longer transmitted to the youngest generation, owing to past French propaganda according to which regional languages are nothing more than dialects of poor brainless peasants.

It wasn’t rare in the recent past that school teachers would severely punish any child speaking in dialect or even beat him or her.

Clearly, taking measures for wiping out the tongues of a whole sedentary population which has been annexed in the past entirely satisfies the definition of a cultural genocide.

The logical fallacies used by French supremacists [also called Jacobins after the name of the fanatical (and murderous) revolutionaries who first followed this goal] change absolutely nothing to the picture.

It is just not true that raising bilingual children would undermine the unity of our country, and even if it were, this would be no morally sufficient reason for violating a fundamental human right, namely that of self-determination of people having always lived here.

What makes this evil all the more egregious is that Jacobins are the first to get indignant when French-speaking minorities are discouraged from using their language (such as in certain towns in Quebec or in Belgium).

Many of us have felt greatly encouraged while seeing the French parliament removing one legal obstacle for the ratification of the European regional language charter.

If it were finally adopted, there is the real hope that Breton, Occitan, Catalan, Alsatian and Lorraine Franconian (my own Germanic dialect) would be automatically taught in bilingual schools on a large scale as it is done with Catalan in Spain, German in the Italian Sud-Tirol and Welsh in the British Wales, which has greatly contributed to the preservation of these tongues.

The problem is that it still has to be ratified by the French senate which is dominated by conservative and reactionary minds, making it very unlikely.

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I want to start an international petition in favor of the ratification of the chart.

My arguments would be organized according to the following lines:

1) It is a shame for a mighty modern Western nation such as France not to respect the right of ethnic minorities on its ground to preserve their cultural and linguistic peculiarities.

It is all the more awkward that all other nations of the European Unions are granting such fundamental rights to their minorities.

2) Upholding regional languages greatly contributes to the richness of our nation, which is also reflected by touristic attractiveness

3) In many cases, the bilingual characters of certain regions were a real bridge towards other European countries.

In Alsace-Lorraine, French-German bilingualism led (notice my use of the past 😦  ) to an easy access towards the whole German-Speaking Europe and greatly facilitated the understanding of Dutch as well as the learning of English.

The knowledge of Occitan and Catalan in South France made it very easy to learn Italian and Spanish and in turn also Portuguese.

It goes without saying that the lost of bilingualism went hand in hand with tremendous economic losses, not only for the concerned regions but also for France as a whole.

4) Bilinguilism does not menace by any means the feeling of being French.

(Actually quite the contrary is the case. It is the repeated persecutions from French supremacists which have disgusted me from the French language and culture, making me prefer Germanic stuff.)

I would like many people all over the world to sign my petition. The contributions of prominent Academics and Politicians would be fantastic, since this would clearly be a wonderful way to put the French senate under pressure by bringing it into a very embarrassing and uncomfortable position.

Now I feel very discouraged and anguished because French supremacist lobbies are extremely powerful in our country and dispose of tremendous means for imposing their views on all the rest of us.

But I feel a strong urge to do something against this revolting injustice and to defend my own culture.

Like Bob Marley famously sang: “Get up, stand up! Stand up for your rights! “.

Moralische Entrüstung und göttliche Genozide

English version: Moral Indignation and Divine Genocides. Feel free to comment there at any time!

Moralische Entrüstung und göttliche Genozide

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Ich hatte einen interessanten Emailaustausch mit Andy, einem bekennenden Atheisten aus Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Wir haben uns vor allem über Metaethik unterhalten aber in diesem Post will ich auf spezifische Sachen eingehen, die er über in der Bibel erwähnten Völkermorde geschrieben hat.

“Wenn du dir manche Rechtfertigungen für die Völkermorde im alten Testament anschaust, z.B. die von fundamentalischen Christen wie Paul Copan z.B., dann findest du übrigens exakt die gleichen Rechtfertigungen wie die, die die Nazis hatten – Copan sagt das die Feinde der Israeliten von Grund auf Böse waren, das nicht ein einziger von ihnen nicht böse war, das die Israeliten sie töten *mussten* weil sie sonst getötet worden wären etc. pp. Und genauso wie die Nazis über die Juden gelogen haben, so bin ich mir sicher dass das alte Testament über die Kanaaniter lügt, bei den Lügen der Nazis ist dies leicht zu zeigen, bei den Lügen im alten Testament ist dies schwieriger weil es keine Quellen gibt ausser solche die von den *Tätern* geschrieben wurden (stell dir vor die Nazis hätten den zweiten Weltkrieg gewonnen – dann würden wir heute auch überall lesen das die Nazis der Welt einen Gefallen getan haben weil die Juden von Grund auf Böse waren und unser aller Untergang geplant hatten…)”

Ich bin Andy sehr dankbar,. seine Meinung auf eine solche Weise geäußert zu haben, denn es wirft viele interessante Fragen auf.

In den Büchern von Josua und Samuel wird es berichtet, dass Gott hebräischen Soldaten angeordnet hätte, ein ganzes Volk zu vernichten, wobei es ausdrücklich betont wird, dass Frauen, Kinder und alte Männer dazu gehören.

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Nun gibt es mehrere Möglichkeiten:

1) die wortwörtliche Interpretation unserer europäischen Bibel ist wahr und historisch und

1.a) Gott hat wirklich ein Blutbad eingerichtet

1.b)  Gott hat das gar nicht gewollt, vielmehr haben die alten Israeliten ihren mörderischen Nationalismus auf Ihn projiziert.

2) die wortwörtliche Interpretation unserer europäischen Bibel ist falsch, wir sollten den Vernichtungsbefehl als eine volle militärische Niederlage der Feinde ansehen

3) die Eroberung von Kanaan und die damit verbundenen Genozide sind eigentlich nie passiert. Erst viel später wurden die Moses und Josua zugeschriebenen Bücher von mehreren unbekannten Autoren geschrieben.

3.a) die Autoren dachten wirklich, dass die Völkermorde passiert wären und fanden das gut. Sie haben aber viele falsche Daten und mündliche Traditionen verwendet.

3.b) die Autoren wollten eine mythologische oder symbolische Geschichte ihrer Ursprünge schreiben und hatten keinerlei die Absicht, sorgfältige Historiker zu sein

Wahrscheinlich gibt es andere Möglichkeiten, woran ich nicht gedacht habe.

Ich würde nicht Paul Copan als einen Fundamentalisten bezeichnen sondern als einen konservativen Evangelikalen, der die Doktrin der biblischen Irrtumslosigkeit verteidigen will.

Er hat mir gesagt, dass er solche Befehle als schrecklich ansieht,obwohl sie aufgrund der tragischen Umstände durchgeführt werden sollten.

Da er aber auch seinen Glauben an die Güte Gottes nicht aufgeben will hat er in seinem Buch hauptsächlich versucht, 2) zu verteidigen. Ich gebe ihm Recht, dass die berichteten Vernichtungsbefehle in dem alten nahen Osten manchmal hyperbolisch oder symbolisch sein könnten. Dennoch gibt es viele Fälle, wo man davon ausgehen kann, dass sie ernst gemeint waren, wie Thom Stark in seinem Buch gezeigt hat.

In diesem Zusammenhang finde ich es sehr merkwürdig, dass Copan nur mit 4 Seiten auf ein Buch geantwortet hat, das mehrere hunderte Seiten umfasst und sich danach kaum mehr darum gekümmert hat.

Ich bezweifle sehr, dass es nur an dem aggressiven und respektlosen Ton von Thom Stark in der ersten Version seines Buchs liegt. Danach hat er sich bei ihm entschuldigt.

Da Copan aber sich bewusst ist, dass 2) dubiös sein könnte, hat er auch geschrieben, dass dieser von Gott angeordnete Genozid eigentlich gerecht gewesen wäre. Der beliebteste evangelikale Apologet William Lane Craig hat mehrmals versucht, den Völkermord weiss zu waschen und ich bin auf seinen letzten Versuch eingegangen.

Aber nun muss man die Tatsache betrachten, dass die Eroberung von Kanaan eigentlich historisch äußert unwahrscheinlich ist, und dass die in der Bibel beschriebenen Massaker nie geschehen sind.

Ich weiß ehrlich gesagt nicht, ob 3a) oder 3b) wahr ist. Die Autoren wollten vielleicht wirklich die historischen Ursprünge ihres Volks dokumentieren und haben sich geirrt.

Aber es besteht auch durchaus die Möglichkeit, dass die Autoren eine symbolische Erzählung beabsichtigten, die später als Historie missinterpretiert wurde.

In beiden Fällen glaube ich, dass es sich um menschliche kulturbedingte Gedanken über Gott handelt und sehe die kanonischen biblischen Bücher an auf die selbe Weise wie Bücher außerhalb des Kanons.

Und genauso wie moderne christliche Autoren sich irren können, können auch uralte biblische Schreiber sich irren.

Das Fundament meines Glaubens ist Gottes Vollkommenheit, die immer der Maßstab sein sollte, um jeden religiösen Text zu evaluieren.

Und nun will ich beschreiben, wie eine gesunde und gerechte moralische Entrüstung bezüglich solcher Texte aussehen sollte.

Evangelikalen tendieren sehr stark dazu, nur die schönen Seiten der Bibel zu betrachten, während sie die hässlichen Texte ignorieren oder weginterpretieren. Und sie würden sagen: die Bibel stellt uns auf eine konsistente Weise Gott als vollkommen gut dar.

Das ist zweifelsohne eine Art von Selbsttäuschung.

Aber militante Atheisten begehen den selben Fehler, wenn sie behaupten, die Bibel würde uns auf eine konsistente Weise Gott als ein moralisches Monster darstellen.

Wie Thom Stark in seinem Buch “The Human Faces of God” (die menschlichen Gesichter von Gott) beschrieben hat haben die unterschiedlichen Autoren der Bibel keineswegs dasselbe Gottesbild in Bezug auf die moralische Natur von Gott.

Wenn 1a) oder 3a) richtig sind dann gibt es einen krassen Kontrast zwischen dem Befehl kein Lebewesen in den kanaanitischen Städten zu ersparen und der Verkündigung des Propheten Ezechiel, dass Kinder nie wegen der Sünden ihrer Eltern bestraft sein sollten.

Nun hätte ich den folgenden Ratschlag für intellektuell ehrliche Atheisten: anstatt zu behaupten, dass der Gott des alten Testaments ein psychopathisches Monster ist wäre es besser, folgendes zu sagen:

“Das alte Testament zeigt uns widerspruchsvolle Gottesbilder. An manchen Stellen wird er als barmherzig und liebevoll dargestellt, während er an anderen Stellen als ein psychopathisches Monster beschrieben wird. Dies zeigt uns, dass das Judentum, Christentum und Islam keine offenbarte Religionen sein können, weil man daraus kein widerspruchsfreies Gottesbild ableiten kann.”

Dies wäre viel redlicher und wirksamer als die Behauptung, das alte Testament wäre fast völlig schwarz, denn das kann man leicht widerlegen.

 

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Eric Seibert iwer biblische Atrozitäte

English version

Lorraine Franconian / Lothringisch

De progressive Evangelikale Theolog Randal Rauser hat de Bibelwessenschaftler Eric Seibert iwer de Thema der Gewalt in de Bibel interviewed.

Eric Seibert

Er hat gonz gut gezeigt, dass de gewähnliche Strategie von konservativen Evagelikalen (wie de Paul Copan oder de William Lane Craig) total doron scheitern, ze beweise, dass de Gott, de sie onbete, keen moralische Monschter isch (oder nit unner een zersplitterte Gehirn leidet).

Dennoch hon ich nit siene pacifistische Iwerzeugunge. Ich glawe on de Theorie des gerechten Kriegs on in de gerechte Strofe von iwlen Taten.

So es isch nit de Präsenz von Gewalt in de Bibel, de mich schockiert sondern Atrozitäte, die gegen Unschuldige begange worde sin, wie Kanaanitische Babies oder Säuglinge, oder een Gesetz, de beso hat, dass eeni vergewaltigti Frau, die nit gewagt hat, ze schrie, als Ehebrecherin besteenigt were soll.

Ich denke echt, dass es vellig unmächlich isch, solche Arte von Gesetzte als gottgewollt ze verteidige.

Nun wirft es viele Froje uf iwer de Inspiration der Schriften. Wenn mir wesse, dass es gonz klar Teele gibt, de  gegen Gottes Wille sin, wie kinn ma oneri Teele vertraue?

Ich glawe, dass en Paradigmenwechsel notwendig isch.

Evangelikale sollte ufhere, de Bibel als immer inspirierter als oneri christliche un jüdische Bicher onzesin, wie ich friher schon amol erklärt hon.

Solch een Verännerung impliziert nit unusweichlich, de theologische Liberalismus un Antisupernaturalismus ze akzeptiere.

Wie ich geschriew hon:

Um ein konkretes Beispiel zu nehmen, lese ich die Bücher von Paulus auf dieselbe Weise, wie ich die von C.S. Lewis lese: ich glaube dass beide vorbildhafte Christen, große Verteidiger des Glaubens und außergewöhnliche Männer waren, und die Existenz von logischen, empirischen und theologischen Fehlern in ihren Schriften verhindert mich keineswegs daran, all die richtigen Sachen wertzuschätzen, die sie herausgefunden haben.

Aber wenn wir nicht glauben, dass die sich im biblischen Kanon befindenden Bücher inspirierter als andere Bücher sind, wie können wir den Unterschied zwischen richtigen und falschen Aussagen über Gott machen?

Während ich nicht für alle progressive Christen sprechen kann, glaube ich, dass wir unsere Theologie auf der Tatsache basieren müssen, dass Gott perfekt sein muss, um überhaupt Gott zu sein.
Sogar wenn Menschen fehlbare Geschöpfe sind, sind sie völlig im Stande, die Vollkommenheit zu erkennen und herauszufinden, was moralisch richtig und falsch ist, wie Paulus es in den ersten Kapiteln des Briefs zu den Römern erklärt hat.

Sogar wenn de Bicher von C.S. Lewis nit ohne Fehler sin, sin de meeschte Christe eenverston, dass er een außerordentliche Mann Gottes gewese isch, viele echte geeschtliche Erfahrunge gehon hat un profunde Einsichte in Gottes Natur erreicht hat.

Awer Gott hat nit direkt durch ihn gesproche, er hat siene eigene kulturbedingte Konzepte verwendet, um iwer de Allmächtige ze schriewe, un zwangsläufig hat er sich aach monchmol geirrt.

Ich sehe de Apostel Paulus un oneri biblischi Schriewer on uf de selbe Weise: wie moderne christliche Autore hon sie echte Erfahrunge mit Gott gehabt un sich Gedanke iwer Ihn gemacht, die sie niedergeschriew hon.

Natürlich eliminiert eeni solchi Herangehensweise nit alle Schwierigkäite.

Denn warum hon Mensche, die behauptet hon, gläubig ze sin, Atrozitäte begange, die sie theologisch begrünet hon?

Konservative Protestante (aach ehemalige) konzentriere sich uf de Problem von de Atrozitäte in de Alte Testament, awer es isch nur een Teel von een generellere Schwierigkäit, nämlich de Problem von de göttliche Verborgenheit.

Christliche Conquistadoren, die de Massaker von de Indianern als Gottes Wille interpretiert hon oder isolierte Stämme, die routinemässig ihre Kinner ihre Gotte geopfert hon, sin aach gonz problematisch.

Denn in all diese Situatione hat Gott erlauwt, dass zahllose Mensche schädliche un möderische Glawe iwer Ihn gehon hon.

Während ich nit een solch breite Problem mit wenige Zeile löse kinn, glawe ich, dass Gott fähig isch, de Leid von de Opfer von religiöse Gewalt erlöse kinn, die sich fir een ewigliche Glick mit Ihm entschiede hon.

Ich wess wohl, dass es de Problem nit löst, awer ich glawe, dass es es viel lindert.

 

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