Biblische Inspiration und Randal Rauser

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English version: Biblical Inspiration and Randal Rauser

 

Randal Rauser, der zweifelsohne einer der größten evangelikalen Theologen, Philosophen und Verteidiger des Glaubens (sowie ein liebevoller Mann) ist interviewte vor kurzer Zeit den Pastoren und Theologen Tyler Williams über die Kluft zwischen den Resultaten der historischen kritischen Methode und der Art und Weise, wie Pfarrer zu ihren Herden predigen.

Ich beschloss, darüber zu bloggen, weil ich mit genau diesem Problem zwei Tage zuvor konfrontiert wurde.

Ich ging zu einer evangelikalen Bibelstudie über das Johannesevangelium und wies darauf hin, dass viele Aussagen von Jesus dort nicht historisch sein können, weil es zu große Diskrepanzen mit der Weise gibt, wie er sich selbst ausdruckt in den synoptischen Evangelien

Viele Leute dort waren unwillig, darüber zu diskutieren und sagten nur, dass sie die Historizität dieser Passagen annehmen und ihren Glauben darauf aufbauen wollen.

Es ist bestimmt konsistent mit den Bemerkungen von Tyler (und auch von Randal), dass viele Menschen ihre Zweifel nie in der Kirche zugeben, aus Furcht ausgeschlossen zu werden.

Meiner Meinung nach ist es ziemlich unverantwortlich, denn es ist schon wichtig, ob Jesus diese Dinge wirklich behauptet hat oder ob sie der Theologie von Johannes entspringen (der selbst alles von vornherein hätte erfinden können oder wahre Aussagen Christi modifiziert und spritualiziert hätte).

 

Sie erwähnen den Fall von Barth Ehrmann, der nachdem er ein Fundamentalist gewesen war eine starke Entkonvertierung erfuhr und nun den gesamten christlichen Glauben in Frage stellt.

Zurecht betonen sie die Tatsache, dass ein starres Glaubenssystem viele intelligente Personen dazu führen kann, das Kind mit dem Bade aus zu schütten, sodass sie dann Atheisten oder mindestens Agnostiker werden.

Nachher versuchten Randal und Tyler die Doktrin der biblischen Irrtumslosigkeit zu erretten, indem der Sinn des Begriffs so erweitert wurde, dass  Gott beabsichtigte, die gesamte Bibel als einen heiligen Kanon zu deklarieren.

Sie haben recht, dass es mit nicht-historischen und mythologischen Erzählungen innerhalb der Bibel vereinbar ist, da sie uns geistliche Wahrheiten beibringen.

Das Konzept, dass Gott fälschlich zugewiesene Schreiber in den Kanon einschliessen würde ist schwerer zu verschlucken, bleibt dennoch nicht sehr unplausibel, wenn die Autoren profunde spirituelle und moralische Einsichten hatten.

 

Dennoch ist die Gegenwart von “Terrortexten” innerhalb des Kanons, wobei Gott als ein völkermörderischer Monster beschrieben wird, ein unbesiegbarer Einwand gegen jeglichen Glauben an die Irrumslosigkeit.

Randal geht davon aus, dass Gott die Absicht hatte, diese Texte in die Bibel einzuschliessen, um uns zu lehren, Gott gegenüber ehrlich zu sein und um uns die Verderbtheit  unserer eigenen Herzen zu zeigen, die wir allzu einfach auf Ihn hinein projiziert.

Aber es ist sehr problematisch.

Einerseits ist es gewiss richtig, dass sehr früh Gläubige wie die Kirchenväter Origen und Gregor radikal  die in den Terrortexten ausgedruckte Theologie ablehnten. In der Tat, wie Thom Stark und viele anderen darauf hingewiesen haben  hatten sogar andere biblische Autoren wie Ezechiel und Jonah in dieser Hinsicht  eine sehr unterschiedliche Theologie im Vergleich zu den Schreibern von Joshua und Samuel.

Andererseits kann es nicht verleugnet werden, dass die Terrortexte einen sehr schlechten Einfluss auf nicht wenige Menschen ausgeübt haben, die sie als Ausrede missbraucht haben, ihren eigenen Hass zu begründen.

Aus diesem Grund bezweifle ich sehr, dass Gott wollte, dass sie Teil eines Übernatürlichen Kanons werden.

 

Tatsächlich verwerfe ich die Idee, dass die Bibel unser Fundament sein sollte, um zu lernen, wie Gott ist. Ich denke, dass wir unsere Theologie auf dem Konzept basieren sollen, dass Gott perfekt sein muss, um überhaupt Gott zu sein.

Dies sollte unser Startpunkt sein.

Wir können dann  die unterschiedlichsten biblischen Texte als die menschlichen Gesichter Gottes ansehen (um Thom Starks wundervollen Ausdruck zu benutzen), das heißt als genauso inspiriert wie Bücher ausserhalb des Kanons (wie die von den Kirchenvätern, Aquinas, Wesley, C.S. Lewis und nicht zuletzt Randal Rauser selbst verfassten).

Und ich bin überzeugt, dass nicht-christliche Autoren viele Aspekte von Gott erleben können und Dinge über Ihn gut begreifen können.

Wie ich in einer zukünftigen Post argumentieren werde, haben wir gute Gründe zur Annahme , dass auf diese Weise  der Apostel Paulus im Laufe seiner Rede in Athen  einige heidnische Autoren betrachtete.

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

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Invisible burden of proof

Progressive Evangelical apologist Randal Rauser has just written a fascinating post about the way professional Skeptics systematically deny a claim they deem extraordinary.

 

I’ve talked about God and the burden of proof in the past. (See, for example, “God’s existence: where does the burden of proof lie?” and “Atheist, meet Burden of Proof. Burden of Proof, meet Atheist.”) Today we’ll return to the question beginning with a humorous cartoon.

Religion cartoon

This cartoon appears to be doing several things. But the point I want to focus on is a particular assumption about the nature of burden of proof. The assumption seems to be this:

Burden of Proof Assumption (BoPA): The person who makes a positive existential claim (i.e. who makes a claim that some thing exists) has a burden of proof to provide evidence to sustain that positive existential claim.

Two Types of Burden of Proof

Admittedly, it isn’t entirely clear how exactly BoPA is to be  understood. So far as I can see, there are two immediate interpretations which we can call the strong and weak interpretations. According to the strong interpretation, BoPA claims that assent to a positive existential claim is only rational if it is based on evidence. In other words, for a person to believe rationally that anything at all exists, one must have evidence for that claim. I call this a “strong” interpretation because it proposes a very high evidential demand on rational belief.

The “weak” interpretation of BoPA refrains from extending the evidential demand to every positive existential claim a person accepts. Instead, it restricts it to every positive existential claim a person proposes to another person.

To illustrate the difference, let’s call the stickmen in the cartoon Jones and Chan. Jones claims he has the baseball, and Chan is enquiring into his evidence for believing this. A strong interpretation of BoPA would render the issue like this: for Jones to be rational in believing that he has a baseball (i.e. that a baseball exists in his possession), Jones must have evidence of this claim.

A weak interpretation of BoPA shifts the focus away from Jones’ internal rationality for believing he has a baseball and on to the rationality that Chan has for accepting Jones’ claim. According to this reading, Chan cannot rationally accept Jones’ testimony unless Jones can provide evidence for it, irrespective of whether Jones himself is rational to believe the claim.

So it seems to me that the cartoon is ambiguous between the weak and strong claims. Moreover, it is clear that each claim carries different epistemological issues in its train.

Does a theist have a special burden of proof?

Regardless, let’s set that aside and focus in on the core claim shared by both the weak and strong interpretations which is stated above in BoPA. In the cartoon a leap is made from belief about baseballs to belief about religious doctrines. The assumption is thus that BoPA is a claim that extends to any positive existential claim.

I have two reasons for rejecting BoPA as stated. First, there are innumerable examples where rational people recognize that it is not the acceptance of an existential claim which requires evidence. Indeed, in many cases the opposite is the case: it is the denial of an existential claim which requires evidence.

Consider, for example, belief in a physical world which exists external to and independent of human minds. This view (often called “realism”) makes a positive existential claim above and beyond the alternative of idealism. (Idealism is the view that only minds and their experiences exist.) Regardless, when presented with the two positions of realism and idealism, the vast majority of people will recognize that if there is a burden of proof in this question, it is borne by the idealist who denies a positive existential claim.

Second, BoPA runs afoul of the fact that one person’s existential denial is another person’s existential affirmation. The idealist may deny the existence of a world external to the mind. But by doing so, the idealist affirms the existence of a wholly mental world. So while the idealist may seem at first blush to be making a mere denial, from another perspective she is making a positive existential claim.

With that in mind, think about the famous mid-twentieth century debate between Father Copleston (Christian theist) and Lord Russell (atheist) on the existence of God. Copleston defended a cosmological argument according to which God was invoked to explain the origin of the universe. Russell retorted: “I should say that the universe is just there, and that’s all.” With that claim, Russell is not simply denying a positive existential claim (i.e. “God exists”), but he is also making a positive existential claim not made by Copleston (i.e. “the universe is just there, and that’s all”).

In conclusion, the atheist makes novel positive existential claims as surely as the theist. And so it  follows that if the latter has a burden to defend her positive existential claim that God does exist, then the former has an equal burden to defend her positive existential claim that the universe is just there and that’s all.

Here is was my response.
This is another of your excellent posts, Randal!

Unlike most Evangelical apologists, you’re a true philosopher of religion and don’t seem to be ideology driven like John Loftus (for instance) obviously is. This makes it always a delight to read your new insights,

I think that when one is confronted with an uncertain claim, there are three possible attitudes:

1) believing it (beyond any reasonable doubt)
2) believing its negation (without the shadow of a doubt).
3) not knowing what to think.

Most professional Skeptics automatically assume that if your opponent cannot prove his position (1), he or she is automatically wrong (2), thereby utterly disregarding option 3).

skeptik

All these stances can be moderated by probabilities, but since I believe that only events have probabilities, I don’t think one can apply a probabilistic reasoning to God’s existence and to the reality of moral values.

While assessing a worldview, my method consists of comparing its predictions with the data of the real world. And if it makes no prediction at all (such as Deism), agnosticism is the most reasonable position unless you can develop cogent reasons for favoring another worldview.

Anyway, the complexity of reality and the tremendous influence of one’s cultural and personal presuppositions on reality make it very unlikely to know the truth with a rational warrant, and should force us to adopt a profound intellectual humility.

This is why I define faith as HOPE in the face of insufficient evidence.
I believe we have normal, decent (albeit not extraordinarily) evidence for the existence of transcendent beings. These clues would be deemed conclusive in mundane domain of inquiries such as drug trafficking or military espionage.
But many people consider the existence of a realm (or beings) out of the ordinary to be extremely unlikely to begin with.
This is why debates between true believers and hardcore deniers tend to be extraordinarily counter-productive and loveless.

The evidence are the same but Skeptics consider a coincidence of hallucinations, illusions and radar deficits to be astronomical more plausible than visitors from another planet, universe, realm, or something else completely unknown.

magonia

In the future, I’ll argue that there are really a SMALL number of UFOs out there (if you stick to the definition “UNKNOWN Flying Objects” instead of a starship populated by gray aliens)

Of course, the same thing can be said about (a little number of) miraculous miracles.

 

On hell and a psychopatic mindset

Progressive Evangelical theologian Randaul Rauser wrote a new amazing post about the problem of hell (understood as a never-ending torture).

BildI agree with anti-theist Richard Dawkins that terrorizing small kids with this is a form of child abuse and that this damnable doctrine ought to be jettisoned.

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Randal wrote

 

In my recent interview with Robin Parry on universalism, Robin observed that Christians should want universalism to be true. Indeed, he put the point rather provocatively when he declared, “You’d have to be a psychopath not to want [universalism] to be true.”

Psychopath?! Them’s fightin’ words!

That might seem like a daring statement, but as Parry notes, even conservative Calvinist philosopher Paul Helm agrees that Christians should want universalism to be true. Indeed, J.I. Packer makes a similar point when he observes: ”If you want to see folk damned, there is something wrong with you!” (Revelations of the Cross (Hendrickson, 1998), 163).

So we are left with a situation in which proper Christian character requires that we hope universalism is true even as we are to believe it isn’t.

Next, Robin addresses the underlying tension between the doctrine of eternal conscious torment and Christian “moral character formation”. He explains:

“Someone said to me, ‘Oh, I believe that hell is tormenting people forever. I don’t have a problem with that. And I think, when you first come across this view, if you’re an ordinary human being, you would have a problem with that unless there’s something really wrong with you, something seriously in terms of your moral compass. So then you have a theological system where you have to try and desensitize yourself to this. And there is a real problem of a theological system that actually, rather than cultivating virtue in your attitudes and so on, cultivates attitudes that are actually vicious.”

As Parry points out here, eternal conscious torment presents a serious problem, for the Christian determined to move beyond the pained contortions of cognitive dissonance and to a real embrace of the doctrine is required to adopt attitudes toward some of God’s creatures that are, as Parry says, “actually vicious”. To be sure, the individual may not know who the reprobate are, but they do know that a subset of God’s creatures will be subject to eternal torments even as the elect experience maximal joy in a restored creation. Consequently, they should seek to inculcate in themselves attitudes that are in conformity with God’s, including a satisfaction in the horrifying future of the reprobate. It does indeed seem that the only alternatives at this point are extreme cognitive dissonance or vicious attitudes that are indeed inimical to the cultivation of true Christian character.

Parry is not suggesting that advocates of eternal conscious torment are vicious. But he is claiming that consistently embracing eternal conscious torment as the fate for the reprobate requires the cultivation of attitudes that are vicious. Think, by analogy, of the meat eater overcome with compassion when witnessing the horrors of the slaughterhouse. But rather than resolve not to eat meat, he resolves to harden his emotions against the terrible fate of industrial livestock. Likewise, the Christian overcome with compassion or immobilized in anguish for the eternally damned either lives in cognitive dissonance or seeks to inculcate vicious attitudes whilst cauterizing his compassion and embracing the divine plan of never-ending torment for the reprobate.

Is there a way to proceed in the interpretation of scripture and theological reflection which can help us avoid this impossible choice between cognitive dissonance and moral disassembly? Shouldn’t right doctrine seamlessly interweave with right character formation?

Eric Seibert believes so and he offers a way forward with a hermeneutical principle to guide theological reflection. (For more on Seibert see my audio podcast interview here and my print blog interview here). Seibert’s proposal has a decent lineage: St. Augustine. He begins by quoting the great Church Father:

“Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this two-fold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought.”

Seibert then fills out Augustine’s principle:

“Whenever we read and interpret the Bible, we should always be asking whether our interpretation increases our love for God and others.” (The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament’s Troubling Legacy (Fortress Press, 2012), 66-67).

The position offers at least the beginning of a resolution to the problem. Whenever we encounter a doctrine or a reading of a biblical passage, we must ask of it, does that doctrine or reading increase our love for God and neighbor? If one concludes that it does neither, and indeed does the opposite, we have a reason to reject it. Consequently, the extent to which one believes eternal conscious torment leaves one in the hinterland between cognitive dissonance and the inculcation of vicious attitudes, to that extent one has reasonable grounds to reject the doctrine.

 

Here was my response.

 

Hello Randal, thanks for this new amazing post of yours.

I find it amazing that even hardcore Calvinists such as Paul Helm grant the point that nobody should WANT eternal conscious torment to be true.
This logically entails that they are themselves morally superior to the god they profess to worship.

 

That said, I think that Robin Parry confronts us with a false dichotomy .

Either we believe that people are going to be tortured forever for sins they could not have avoided (having been cursed with a sinful nature).
Or we believe that all of them will inherit eternal bliss.

But there is another alternative, namely that:

1) God did NOT curse us with a sinful nature (the authors of Genesis agree with me on that one).

2) God will grant eternal life to everyone truly desiring Him and there will be lots of conversions beyond the grave (inclusivism).

3) Those not desiring God won’t suffer forever but they will be no more.

Given that, I don’t even feel a need to hope that universalism is true.
I don’t feel a need to hope that Hitler, Fred Phelps or Bin Laden won’t return to dust.

Interestingly enough, many secular European folks told me that if there were a good God, they would not be shocked at all if He were to act in the way I have just outlined.

 

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

 

 

Are ALL religions bad? Sin ALLE Religionen schlecht?

Is Faith a virus?

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This is a common claim of the New Atheists.
Richard Dawkins led the way as he wrote: “I think a case can be made that Faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”

The problem is that this claim is extremely ambigious.

Does that means that all kind of supernatural beliefs are harmful?
Or does that mean that more than 99%, 78% or 50% of them cause harm?

Frankly speaking, I don’t see how the progressive and liberal Christianities of Thom Stark, Randal Rauser, Rachel Held Evans and many others (including myself) who FIGHT fundamentalism is harmful for society.

So, if the New Atheists want to become more than the hateful ideogists they currently are, they should clearly define (in a verifiable manner) what they mean and present evidence to buttress the claim that EVERY kind of Faith is noxious.

Until they do that, we are justified to ignore their rhetorical assertion as being “not even wrong”.

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Lorraine Franconian – Lothringisch

Isch de Glawe een Virus?

Es isch eeni häufigi Behauptung von de näie Atheisten.

Richard Dawkins hat damit begonne, als er geschriewe hat:
“Ich denke, dass ma gonz gut bewäise kinn, dass de Glawe een von de schlimmste Iwel der Welt isch, de ma mit de Pocken-Virus vergläiche kinn, wobei es schwieriger isch, es ze vernichte.”

De Problem isch, dass diese Behauptung extrem ambigü isch.

Bedeutet es, dass alle Arten von iwernatürlichen Behauptungen schädlich sin?

Oder bedeutet es, dass meh als 99%, 78% or 50% von ihnen Schade verursache?

Ehrlich gesot, sehe ich gar niet wie de progressive un liberale Christentüme von Thom Stark, Randal Rauser, Rachel Held Evans un viele oneri Lit (wie mich), die de Fundamentalismus bekompfe, fir de Gesellschaft schädlich sin.

So wenn de näiei Atheiste meh als de hasserfillte Ideologe sin wolle, de sie zerzit sin, sollte sie gonz klar (uf eeni verifizierbare Weise) definiere, was sie mäine un Bewäise präsentiere, um ihre Behauptung ze untermauern, dass JEDE Art von Glawe schädlich isch.

Bis sie das dun, sin wir gerechtfertigt, ihre rhetorische Behauptung als “niet sogar falsch” ze ignoriere.

My blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) (Link Here).