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« Wait…what about me? | Main | Signs and wonders »

Now blind in two senses

Category: Religion
Posted on: March 12, 2008 1:45 PM, by PZ Myers

People in India were told that there was a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary floating in the sky, so about 50 of them suffered burned retinas by staring at the sun. I think we can see that religion definitely attracts stupid people to its ranks.

I sure hope no one tells them that if you hit yourself on the head with a hammer real hard, you'll see swarms of angels dancing everywhere around you. Or, more likely, that if you mail all your money to a preacher, you'll get rich. But no one would be that sadistic, would they?

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Comments

#1

Posted by: zer0 | March 12, 2008 1:47 PM

I sure hope no one tells them that if you hit yourself on the head with a hammer real hard, you'll see swarms of angels dancing everywhere around you.

Ummm... they'd be doing us a favor.

#2

Posted by: Jennifer | March 12, 2008 1:51 PM

I think we can see that religion definitely attracts stupid people to its ranks.

Or at least the desperate and hopeless.

#3

Posted by: Jason Failes | March 12, 2008 2:01 PM

Is it wrong to goad the local Christian fundamentalists into proving that they are really believers via Jesus' litmus test: Drinking deadly poison and surviving (Mark 16:18)?

Well, if that's wrong, I don't want to be right.

#4

Posted by: Rey Fox | March 12, 2008 2:08 PM

"I sure hope no one tells them that if you hit yourself on the head with a hammer real hard, you'll see swarms of angels dancing everywhere around you."

No, it would be birds.

#5

Posted by: MAJeff, OM | March 12, 2008 2:10 PM

When we say the stupid burns, we mean it!

#6

Posted by: kid bitzer | March 12, 2008 2:10 PM

makes me sad. what a waste.

#7

Posted by: Eric | March 12, 2008 2:21 PM

It's called blind faith for a reason?

#8

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 12, 2008 2:27 PM

I dunno. Given the descriptions of God's words and deeds in the bible, placing a miracle in the sky next to the sun to maim his followers sounds about right.

#9

Posted by: Armchair Dissident | March 12, 2008 2:33 PM

Maybe they were just dyslexics trying to learn "Amazing Grace". "I once could see, but now am blind"...

I'll get my coat.

#10

Posted by: heddle | March 12, 2008 2:33 PM

Jason Failes,

Is it wrong to goad the local Christian fundamentalists into proving that they are really believers via Jesus' litmus test: Drinking deadly poison and surviving (Mark 16:18)?
For crying out loud Jason, why do you keep going around challenging with Mark 16:18 (from the so-called Marcan Appendix, Mark 16:9-20) when you've be told a gazillion times that most biblical scholars (of all stripes) believe it (the Marcan Appendix) is a redaction? It is, as everyone knows, not present in the earliest manuscripts. There are plenty of difficult biblical passages--why not challenge believers with some that are indisputably canonical? I can email you a list of really puzzling and difficult passages, if you like.


Your practice is analogous to going around challenging evolution through never-ending references to Piltdown Man.

#11

Posted by: s1mplex | March 12, 2008 2:36 PM

Is God really maiming them, Brownian?

Or, is he lovingly enhancing their remaining sensory modalities?

#12

Posted by: Holbach | March 12, 2008 2:40 PM

Here is just another example of the insane hold religion
has on uncultured minds. These are the same people who
bathe in the Ghanges River while a group is pissing and
shitting upstream from them. This is a holy ritual and
never considered otherwise, so when a human turd floats
toward them they clasp their hands together, bow toward
the holy object and exclaim, "Holy shit"! India will
always be backward, and if Britain had never occupied that
pestilential shithole they would still be in the throes of
their myriad gods and rituals and dying at a rate higher
than they still experience. Even with the atmosphere of
web technology they will remain as a basket case because
of the entrenchment of their religion. Even one of their
not-by-birth countryman, V S Naipaul, summed it up
succintly by quoting Macauly: "All the learning of India
was not worth one shelf of a European library."
"Oh look, that cloud appears to be of a cow shitting; quick, let's open our mouths to receive the holy offal!"

#13

Posted by: Corey Schlueter | March 12, 2008 2:41 PM

Maybe, they should have been looking at the clouds instead of the sun.

"I thought I saw a horsey and duckie, but I changed my mind." - Charlie Brown after Linus describes biblical images formed by clouds.

#14

Posted by: Owen | March 12, 2008 2:44 PM

MAJeff got the "burning stupid" line in before I even ready the article - but I'm happy to find my sense of humor matches his...

#15

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 12, 2008 2:44 PM

A redaction? So how do you tell which scriptures were written by God and which were written by liars? Can you do the same for the Bhagavad Gita? Or is that all lies? Maybe you'd better get some scholars of all stripes to check for you.

Poor ol' Twaddle's got his knickers in a waddle over the Biblical piffle that makes Sky Daddy sniffle.

#16

Posted by: Calladus | March 12, 2008 2:50 PM

Oh my. Is it wrong of me that my first thought was to spread a "Jesus appears in a sunspot" meme, and then start handing out binoculars?

I'm so sorry. Bad Calladus!

#17

Posted by: Wes | March 12, 2008 2:55 PM

The Marcan appendix is an interpolation, not a redactions. Redactions are when you remove something from the text, not add something to it.

Regardless, the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians believe that the Bible, as we have it, is the word of God. The consensus of modern scholars (liberal Christian and secular)--that the vast majority of it is written long after the events they supposedly describe, that the books have been edited and rewritten for ideological reasons, that the vast majority of the signed works are pseudepigraphical, etc--is rejected by many fundamentalists. So even though the snakes and poison verse in Mark is in reality a later addition to a heavily corrupted book, most fundamentalists don't believe that (because their beliefs have little to do with reality).

#18

Posted by: Ranson | March 12, 2008 3:01 PM

@ #3

You forget, some of them already do that. I'm related to more than a few, strong doctrine or not.

#19

Posted by: dWhisper | March 12, 2008 3:13 PM

I don't know... somehow, when I saw the "send the money" we should just capitalize on it and get them to send the money to us instead. You know, for building our churches and the like (said with an eye-roll for those sarcastically challenged)

#20

Posted by: Russell | March 12, 2008 3:13 PM

Jason may have been writing facetiously, but there are plenty of snake handling churches in my neck of woods. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama have passed laws against the practice, according to Wikipedia:

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

It is still legal here in Texas, and the state may be particularly well suited to it, since we have plenty of all four families of poisonous snake found in the US.

#21

Posted by: heddle | March 12, 2008 3:19 PM

Brownian, OM,

Here is how we tell: We don't do any scholarly research. We don't study the earliest manuscripts. We don't compare linguistic styles. We don't look for the sudden onset of different vocabularies. We start with our baseline canon dictated to us by Constantine and his minions. But we play fast and loose. If brilliant scholars such as yourself and other commenters on here point out previously unrecognized difficulties with certain passages, we quickly circle the wagons and declare "redaction!" Because, as everyone knows, the Marcan appendix was considered autographic and canonical for two millennia until that rascal Jason started pointing out that it meant we should be willing to drink poison.

Wes,

The Marcan appendix is an interpolation, not a redactions. [sic]

No, redaction means a revision or an edit. It can certainly include additions to a manuscript.

most fundamentalists don't believe that

Gee, what do you mean most fundamentalists don't believe that? Some habitual commenter on here always accuses me of "projection" when I say what most fundamentalists believe. I can only say that I have been called a fundamentalist on this blog, and hence it follows, reasonably, that I associate with fundamentalists, and yet every one that I know of who has discussed this passage including every fundamentalist pastor of whom I have ever heard mention it recognizes it as a probable redaction, as they recognize some other passages that we wish were not redactions, such as 1 John 5:7-8 in the KJV (a proof text for the Trinity, if it were authentic) and the beautiful story of the adulteress in John 8.

But, I don't need to tell everyone on here, we cleverly sacrifice those "nice" passages for the greater good of giving us credibility to toss out problematic text like the Marcan Appendix.

#22

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 12, 2008 3:25 PM

Here is how we tell: We don't do any scholarly research. We don't study the earliest manuscripts. We don't compare linguistic styles. We don't look for the sudden onset of different vocabularies.

Why doesn't God just tell you what's true and what's not? Doesn't He want you to go to heaven?

#23

Posted by: pedlar | March 12, 2008 3:35 PM

I sure hope no one tells them ... that if you mail all your money to a preacher, you'll get rich. But no one would be that sadistic, would they?

Prettty close.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article3525245.ece

One poor sod learns the hard way:

Desmond Vincent, a surveyor, lost nearly £200,000. He said: "When you are a baptised member of the Church people embrace you. I thought the Lord had blessed him. Now he couldn't sell me chewing gum."
#24

Posted by: heddle | March 12, 2008 3:35 PM

Brownian, OM,

Why doesn't God just tell you what's true and what's not? Doesn't He want you to go to heaven?

A theological/soteriological criticism with this level of gravitas is rarely encountered. I'll freely admit that I don't know how to respond.

#25

Posted by: Armchair Dissident | March 12, 2008 3:45 PM

Heddle: You're missing the point. Your position may be historically accurate, and may even be in the best traditions of modern theology: but it is simply *not* what people believe.

Your analogy to evolution is false. No modern textbooks on evolution refer to the Piltdown man in any respect except as the fraud it is, but modern bibles have the Mark quote, and few challenge its authenticity. Bibles are not published with disclaimers on the front stating, "the views represented as being expressed by Jesus in this book may never have been uttered". My own bible, the NIV Compact edition (with bible guide) is utterly silent on when Mark 16 was written. So it's kind of irrelevant whether it was redacted or not; it's not printed with that disclaimer.

#26

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 12, 2008 3:45 PM

A theological/soteriological criticism with this level of gravitas is rarely encountered. I'll freely admit that I don't know how to respond.

Oh I'm sure, given enough time, you and the rest of your theological hand-wavers will make something up.

If you're really stuck, I suggest you scour the Indic religious traditions for answers. After all, they've been at it for a heckuvalog longer than you Jesu-Come-Latelys, so their thoughts must be so much more profound than your dilletantic hubris.

Or is there some reason we're supposed to bow down to the Abrahamic profundities you proffer from your years of serious scholarly bible study, but you're under no obligation to pay the same respects to those whose apologetics pre-date yours by millennia?

My, but the Emperor's invisible raiments are especially fine today, are they not?

#27

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 12, 2008 3:49 PM

Re: soteriological

Having Greek or Latin roots doesn't automatically make something not bullshit. Astrology and phrenology also take their endings from λογος.

#28

Posted by: heddle | March 12, 2008 4:08 PM

Armchair Dissident,

Heddle: You're missing the point. Your position may be historically accurate, and may even be in the best traditions of modern theology: but it is simply *not* what people believe.

Am I, and all the members of my church (A conservative Reformed Baptist church in the bumpkin land of southern Virginia) not members of the set "people?" And yet I don't think you could find one person in my church who believes that the Marcan Appendix should not be viewed with suspicion.

My own bible, the NIV Compact edition (with bible guide) is utterly silent on when Mark 16 was written. So it's kind of irrelevant whether it was redacted or not; it's not printed with that disclaimer.

You need to get another bible. I'm fairly certain that every bible I have--a KJV, a NKJV, an ESV, an NIV, and an NASB all have the disclaimer--some embedded, like the chapter headings in the text itself (such as the NIV--of that I am absolutely sure--I don't know what's up with your NIV) and some in footnotes. Even the most widely used online bible has the standard NIV disclaimer:
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark%2016&version=31

Of course there are some people who do accept those and other disputed passages as canonical. But it is certainly not "all" people.

I agree the analogy I used is far from perfect. But it is not totally off base either. Jason using the poison passage over and over to discredit Christianity is not unlike, in my opinion, using the Piltdown man over and over to demonstrate what undiscriminating oafs we scientists are. I wouldn't push the analogy beyond that--but that is the point I was making.


Brownian, OM,

How many times must I cry uncle? Your objections are unanswerable by the likes of me.

#29

Posted by: Andreas Johansson | March 12, 2008 4:12 PM

Armchair Dissident:

modern bibles have the Mark quote, and few challenge its authenticity.

Can you back up the later generalization? Of the five Bibles I have at hand, four do mark it as a later addition.

(Possibly significantly, the one that doesn't is from 1958 while the others are from the '80s or '90s.)

#30

Posted by: PZ Myers | March 12, 2008 4:14 PM

Yeah, but Heddle...you're nuts, and I expect you congregate with similarly nutty people. I'll concede that you're a "people", but you're far, far from rational.

#31

Posted by: The Angry Astronomer | March 12, 2008 4:18 PM

I beat you to this one PZ. Plus, I point out that this isn't the first time it's happened. :P

#32

Posted by: Armchair Dissident | March 12, 2008 4:19 PM

Am I, and all the members of my church (A conservative Reformed Baptist church in the bumpkin land of southern Virginia) not members of the set "people?"

You may be a set of the member "People", but you are clearly not a member of the set, "people who believe that a guy called Jesus said that". That does not, in any way, mean that the second set does not exist. That second set, of course, appears to include the authors of the NIV Compact Edition which was the standard text the three churches I belonged to in my Christian years.

And yet I don't think you could find one person in my church who believes that the Marcan Appendix should not be viewed with suspicion.

And yet, I could find many in the churches I attended who didn't. Correction: I could find many in the churches I attended who didn't even know there was a theological problem with the passage.

#33

Posted by: Armchair Dissident | March 12, 2008 4:26 PM

Can you back up the later generalization? Of the five Bibles I have at hand, four do mark it as a later addition.

Yup. "Holy Bible, New International Version, Compact Edition with bible guide"; ISBN 0340374071. This is the 1998 edition of that bible.

#34

Posted by: Jim | March 12, 2008 4:27 PM

Heddle @28.
Every fundamentalist with whom I have discussed the Bible claims the King James Version is the literal word of God and without error. So are you saying you belong to a fundamentalist church which believes the KJV is not literally inerrant?

I'm not being argumentative, I'm just astonished at your comment. Did I misunderstand your position?

#35

Posted by: Mark | March 12, 2008 4:32 PM

This seems to imply that staring at the sun can make someone completely blind. Does anyone know if that is accurate, or if it just creates a blind spot, like a laser would?

#36

Posted by: Owlmirror | March 12, 2008 4:35 PM

Any religion that starts off with the Nicene Creed as its basis has no claim to gravitas in the first place.

It's a sanity test. If you believe it, you fail.

#37

Posted by: Andreas Johansson | March 12, 2008 4:38 PM

@Armchair Dissident: Read my post again. The generalization I asked you to back up was "few [modern bibles] challenge its authenticity" - repeating that some edition of the NIV doesn't in no way backs that up.

#38

Posted by: Chris | March 12, 2008 4:38 PM

As Darwin (possibly) would have said: Add more chlorine to the gene pool.

#39

Posted by: octopod | March 12, 2008 4:39 PM

Mark, it might not make you totally blind in your peripheral vision, but I bet it'd nuke your fovea pretty good.

Psh. These people wanna see the Virgin Mary so bad, why don't they smoke some ska pastora (Salvia divinorum)? I'd bet on 75% of them seeing her. 90% if I get to tell them about it first.

#40

Posted by: heddle | March 12, 2008 4:42 PM

Armchair Dissident in #25,

but modern bibles have the Mark quote, and few challenge its authenticity.

I believe Andreas Johansson in #29 was challenging your generalization that few bibles challenge the authenticity of the passage in question. Repeating that your bible does not is not, it seems to me, an adequate response--but what do I know, being the irrational creature that I am?

Jim,

Every fundamentalist with whom I have discussed the Bible claims the King James Version is the literal word of God and without error. So are you saying you belong to a fundamentalist church which believes the KJV is not literally inerrant?

If you define fundamentalist as someone who believes in the literal inerrancy of the KJV then I am not a fundamentalist. In fact, I have blogged about why we have very good reasons to believe that the KJV is the worst of the broadly accepted English translations. Furthermore, I have only belonged to conservative evangelical churches, and not one of them ever held the position than any English translation is inerrant--the claim of inerrancy is always limited to the original manuscripts. And yet I still get called a fundamentalist all the time on this and similar sites--so I guess it depends on your definition of fundamentalist.

#41

Posted by: Armchair Dissident | March 12, 2008 4:42 PM

I just want to add: seriously, "WTF!"

This is supposed to be a book either inspired, or actually written (depending upon who one listens to) by God himself and the principle objection to a quote in Mark is that, basically, "it might have been faked". Yet Mark is in the Bible as a story of God's supposed son!It's the F'ing bible! People throughout history have died over the interpretation of this book, and people like Heddle feel safe stating that one passage may be open to interpretation?

You don't need to look at Intelligent Design or their like to see that God is made up. You just need to read Heddle. God. Creator of the Universe. Creator of everything. Screws up a "Universe for Dummies" guide, and - given his output - couldn't get a job as an editor in "Gods weekly".

#42

Posted by: mona | March 12, 2008 4:43 PM

But, even if a bible mentions the issues with quotes like Mark 16;9-20, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good note. The copy I have uses a rather vague note, to the effect of, "some manuscripts and ancient translations don't have this segment." If it's not being very specific about, say, the estimates on the year of the passage's earliest appearance, it can be rather easy to ignore a note on the issue, by absentmindedness or willful ignorance. That being said, I don't know how frequently the bible's footnotes are written in such a way for recent editions. It's just a possibility that should be considered.

#43

Posted by: Ichthyic | March 12, 2008 4:45 PM

For crying out loud Jason, why do you keep going around challenging with Mark 16:18 (from the so-called Marcan Appendix, Mark 16:9-20) when you've be told a gazillion times that most biblical scholars (of all stripes) believe it (the Marcan Appendix) is a redaction?

hey, heddle, why not go yell at someone who might care what you have to say on the issue, like maybe the pentecostal snake handlers?

#44

Posted by: Armchair Dissident | March 12, 2008 4:47 PM

Repeating that your bible does not is not, it seems to me, an adequate response

And yet, my bible still does not. So explain to me, precisely, why - if I were a christian - I should not believe that chapter. My bible is - according to your definition - wrong. Which other bits are wrong? How do I know they're wrong? How many other bibles are wrong? For that matter, why should I have to read through the countless redactions and revisions? I thought God was "God"! Why couldn't he get it right the first time, and everytime!

#45

Posted by: Ichthyic | March 12, 2008 4:48 PM

How many times must I cry uncle?

why bother coming back here again and again just to do so, then?

I'm sure I speak for all regulars here when I say we wouldn't miss your "contributions" even a tiny bit.

seriously, you don't need to worry about us.

#46

Posted by: Graculus | March 12, 2008 4:50 PM

It is still legal here in Texas, and the state may be particularly well suited to it, since we have plenty of all four families of poisonous snake found in the US.

I'd be willing to import some black mambas* if any of them get bored with regular old rattlesnakes.

BTW, aren't all but one of the venomous snakes in the US pit vipers of one sort or another? That makes two families (Viperidae and single Elapid)

*Yes, I know the inland taipan is far more venomous. The black mamba is, however, one of the world's crankiest snakes.

#47

Posted by: Armchair Dissident | March 12, 2008 5:01 PM

Read my post again. The generalization I asked you to back up was "few [modern bibles] challenge its authenticity" - repeating that some edition of the NIV doesn't in no way backs that up.

No. You didn't:

Can you back up the later generalization? Of the five Bibles I have at hand, four do mark it as a later addition.

Where's, "modern" mentioned?

(Possibly significantly, the one that doesn't is from 1958 while the others are from the '80s or '90s.)

My bible was published in 1998. Is that sufficiently "modern" for you?

#48

Posted by: raven | March 12, 2008 5:02 PM

There is no such thing as a biblical literalist. The book contradicts itself in hundreds of places, some critical. So they all quote mine, skip over weird stuff, and fill in the blanks. The most egregious one is the Rapture Monkey Syndrome. Which is poorly supported in the first place to the point where the vast majority of Xian sects don't believe it.

It is also flat out contradicted by the OT, Genesis myth. After god murdered all but 8 people and destroyed the biosphere, he promised to never do it again. I'm sure the Rapture Monkeys have some lame ad hoc response that makes sense only to morons. They always do.

Next time you run into one, point this out and watch them turn reason, logic, and their sluglike brains inside out. It is very funny.

Gen. 8.

The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though [a] every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

22 "As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease."

#49

Posted by: Freehand | March 12, 2008 5:31 PM

I was raised Southern Baptist (I got better, thanks) and my granddaddy was a preacher. While I'm open to those who think "Fundamentalist" can include folks willing to entertain the notion that some of the bible is not inerrant, my grandpa would have considered calling that a slippery slope to be too kind.

Here's what the American Heritage Dictionary says:
"Fundamentalism:
1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism. 2a. often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture. b. Adherence to the theology of this movement. "

I once spent a shift on guard duty with a fundie who insisted that the KJV was the only inspired version of the bible - including the original Greek and Aramaic.

#50

Posted by: Adam | March 12, 2008 5:54 PM

I was on a flight waiting to take-off from Charlotte, North Carolina to San Francisco and placed "The God Delusion" on the seat next to me (face-up). Given that Charlotte has at least one foot firmly planted in the bible-belt, I was interested to see the reaction from the fellow passenger in my row. Within a minute, he asked me about the book. "Is it pro or anti?" was his first question. I explained who you were, what the book was about, and that I had only finished a few chapters.

As soon as I finished speaking, a disgusted look crossed his face and he said, "Well, I hope you don't base your decision on just one book." I smirked and turned away.

#51

Posted by: heddle | March 12, 2008 5:55 PM

Armchair Dissident,

So explain to me, precisely, why - if I were a christian - I should not believe that chapter.

For the same reason that you should not believe, uncritically, the other passages that scholarly research has indicated as probable redactions. If, for example, there was good evidence that an eighth century scribe penned the book of Jude, then we should not accept it as canonical, even if Zondervan puts it in the bibles it publishes. Nor should we believe the errors Jerome made in producing the Vulgate, just because they are there. For the same reason we don't claim that the accounts of the resurrection attributed by some to Josephus are anything but what most scholars believe them to be: redactions by misguided Christians.

With this particular "poison" passage, it is convenient for you to believe that we have no legitimate reason to reject it--that our arguments are capricious rather than related to the scholarship end evidence that cast doubts upon its authenticity, because that would spoil the fun. No, it must be accepted uncritically, because it can be used to your advantage, a la Jason.

My bible is - according to your definition - wrong. Which other bits are wrong? How do I know they're wrong? How many other bibles are wrong? For that matter, why should I have to read through the countless redactions and revisions?

This is argument ad absurdum. I could tell you what passages are suspect, I already mentioned a few and they are in fact the most widely cited. There is a small handful of others. (Furthermore, none of the passages in question have any substantive effect on the core gospel message of scripture--so in some sense it doesn't matter if you believe them or not--apart from the risk to misguided snake handlers.) And here is a newsflash--these problems have been known for a long time--they did not remain hidden until revealed by "the blog with the most intelligent comments of all blogs in the history of blogs" dug them out. Again, It is not the case that there are many passages in dispute, and it is not the case that Christians willy-nilly toss out passages when convenient--as I already mentioned in some cases they are passages that we'd dearly love to keep in. But the fact that we treat them with suspicion (as to their authenticity) even though they may be beloved (e.g., the adulteress of John 8) just doesn't jibe with the view that we Christians are all uncritical, nonintellectual, irrational, red necked bumpkins with multiple rows of buck teeth. But, of course, that's the picture you'd like to paint.

I thought God was "God"! Why couldn't he get it right the first time, and everytime!

OK, that critique is simply too Brownian, and is beyond my limited capabilities.

#52

Posted by: AgnosticTheocrat | March 12, 2008 6:09 PM

"Gee, the Virgin Mary sure looks an awful lot like a giant, thermonuclear ball of fi...AHHHH MY EYES!!!"

#53

Posted by: Armchair Dissident | March 12, 2008 6:15 PM

For the same reason that you should not believe, uncritically, the other passages that scholarly research has indicated as probable redactions.

There's more passages that are wrong?

Once again, this is supposed to be the word of "God", yet apparently only those sufficiently educated in the nuances of what is truth and fiction, in a grand work of fiction, are supposed to be able to discern the truth from the fallacy! The fabled concept of the human soul is supposed to be dependent upon this correct interpretation, and yet it can be wrong?

So, to cut it short: a simple question: who's right? The catholic church or the anglican? Why, and upon what basis.

This is argument ad absurdum. I could tell you what passages are suspect

No, it would be argumentum ad ignorantiam; but by all means do. But I want every single one, and by that I mean every single passage in the bible which is wrong; why, and why it is not mentioned in my bible that it is wrong.

#54

Posted by: Knight of L-sama | March 12, 2008 6:20 PM

Slightly off topic, but some more religious nutiness, this time in Russia.

http://www.russia-ic.com/news/show/5932/
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2008-03-12/russian-protestant-leaders-call-for-ban-on-ikki-tousen

#55

Posted by: Monado, FCD | March 12, 2008 6:24 PM

Hmmm, an annotated bible would be interesting. (e.g. "This section was added in the 200s by Christians trying to distance themselves from Jews."

#56

Posted by: CJO | March 12, 2008 6:25 PM

What are we considering "authentic," heddle? Do you mean (in the cited case) authentically Markan, or authentic in that you think there's a reliable way to know that a given passage comes from Jesus himself?

#57

Posted by: CJO | March 12, 2008 6:28 PM

Hmmm, an annotated bible would be interesting. (e.g. "This section was added in the 200s by Christians trying to distance themselves from Jews."
I believe the Jesus Seminar has published something along those lines.

#58

Posted by: Monado, FCD | March 12, 2008 6:28 PM

The whole "Christ's ascent into heaven" is a later addition according to biblical scholars.

#59

Posted by: Madhu | March 12, 2008 6:38 PM

Wow! how did this thread end up being about biblical literalism and fakery?! (apart from the lone brit troll who went unanswered and I suppose thankfully unfed)

Anyway, the bit about this story that caught my eye is that most of the victims were young girls! I hope that observation doesn't trigger some other crazy thread here about gender differences in gullibility (if not intelligence) now! I rather charge the parents and churches with systematic mental abuse of the poor girls!

#60

Posted by: heddle | March 12, 2008 6:46 PM

Armchair Dissident,

The fabled concept of the human soul is supposed to be dependent upon this correct interpretation, and yet it can be wrong?

I certainly hope you are wrong! And I must say I have never heard of "salvation by access to the correct translation of the bible, one without error." That would be very bad news indeed. And just as bad would be "salvation by not believing anything that turns out to be false," or its cousin "salvation by believing only things that turn out to be true." Man--in any of those cases there would indeed be no hope. Did they teach you such doctrine at your church?

But I want every single one, and by that I mean every single passage in the bible which is wrong; why, and why it is not mentioned in my bible that it is wrong.

Yowz'm Mastah Dizzdent. How would I know why anything is or is not mentioned in your bible's commentary? Do you see my name on the editorial board? The only other NT passage of substance that comes to mind is Acts 8:37, when Philip is witnessing to the Ethiopian eunuch. It is simply skipped in many modern translations--that is Acts will go from 8:36 to 8:38, because, again, it is not found in the earliest manuscripts. For example, see:
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%208;&version=31;
The suspect verse reads:

And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts 8:37, NASB)

So you can see why we are embarrassed and arbitrarily leave it out, and without merit attribute its absence to some unnamed scholars,--it is so damaging to Christian theology and it leaves us at the mercy of our critics. We just had to dump it, before people like Jason used it against us.

#61

Posted by: Rick T. | March 12, 2008 6:54 PM

the claim of inerrancy is always limited to the original manuscripts

That's a real odd thing to assert especially as you well know that there is not a single autograph of the scriptures in existence. It's inerrant, you know for sure, although there is no evidence for your assertion. Typical.

#62

Posted by: amphiox | March 12, 2008 6:55 PM

I'm afraid there's only one way to resolve this paradox with the various bibles and their disparate contents.

If the god who presumable dictated those passages is not imaginary, then he must be either 1) evil or 2) insane.

Accept this conjecture and all the paradoxes disappear.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my quest to return a coke bottle to the almighty.

#63

Posted by: Ichthyic | March 12, 2008 7:00 PM

Wow! how did this thread end up being about biblical literalism and fakery?!

Heddle.

what else?

#64

Posted by: raindogzilla | March 12, 2008 7:01 PM

On a lighter note, looks like the Bertrand Russell Appreciation Society has failed in their effort to launch a giant teapot into geosynchronous orbit.

#66

Posted by: Baratos | March 12, 2008 7:13 PM

So out of over a billion people in India, only 50 were stupid enough to look at the sun? That actually sounds pretty good.

#67

Posted by: MTran | March 12, 2008 7:25 PM

@ #55 "Hmmm, an annotated bible would be interesting."

They're rather easy to come by. My most recently printed English language bible is "The Oxford Annotated Bible" RSV from 1962. It doesn't even inclued Mark 16: 10 - 19 in the text, though it refers to it in a footnote, with a comment regarding its stylistic problems.

The Oxford annotations are very similar to the ones found in the Bibles supplied in the churches I attended when young.

I have found the religious whack jobs who seem to have infiltrated every layer of US politics and garnered so much media attention to be utterly alien to my own experiences in the liberal, mainline, denominations I grew up in. Yet there they are...

#68

Posted by: Kseniya | March 12, 2008 7:39 PM

This is tragic. I don't even know what to say.

So instead, I'll go here.

:-/

#69

Posted by: astrolieber | March 12, 2008 8:09 PM

I'm an Indian Christian, and I feel really bad.
@holbach :
Fuck you ! Racist,imperialist bastard. Rot in hell, you
son-of-a-bitch motherfucking pigshit-covered asshole.
@PZM :
Sorry for besmirching these fine pages. But, I can't stand
such shit.

#70

Posted by: Andreas Johansson | March 12, 2008 8:14 PM

Armchair Dissident:

Read my post again. The generalization I asked you to back up was "few [modern bibles] challenge its authenticity" - repeating that some edition of the NIV doesn't in no way backs that up.
No. You didn't:
Can you back up the later generalization? Of the five Bibles I have at hand, four do mark it as a later addition.
Where's, "modern" mentioned?

In the claim of yours I was quoting and replying to, from post #25:

modern bibles have the Mark quote, and few challenge its authenticity.

(Possibly significantly, the one that doesn't is from 1958 while the others are from the '80s or '90s.)
My bible was published in 1998. Is that sufficiently "modern" for you?

You decide: you introduced the "modern" qualifier.

I don't doubt that you've got a Bible that lack any indication that Mark 16:9-20 is a later addition. What I asked you to back up was that few, implying a minority of, modern Bibles (for whatever definition of "modern" you were thinking of) has such an indication.

#71

Posted by: Eike | March 12, 2008 8:22 PM

This seems to imply that staring at the sun can make someone completely blind. Does anyone know if that is accurate, or if it just creates a blind spot, like a laser would?

Neither. Astronomer Andrew Young has a page about this: http://mintaka.sdsu.edu/GF/vision/Galileo.html#religious (scroll down to "Naked-eye solar hazards". Phil Plait used this as a source for a chapter in "Bad Astronomy".). People might do minor damage to their eyes if they look at the sun for several minutes (the figure given is 1000 seconds or more), but nobody goes blind from looking at the sun with the naked eye.

#72

Posted by: Pierce R. Butler | March 12, 2008 9:21 PM

That news story Prof. Myers cited doesn't seem very substantial.

Am I the only one having flashbacks to the Great LSD Hoax of 1970-71?

My science teacher promoted that one in class before it was debunked, contributing immeasurably to my later bitter cynicism.

#73

Posted by: David Marjanović, OM | March 12, 2008 10:05 PM

Your practice is analogous to going around challenging evolution through never-ending references to Piltdown Man.

With the difference that there are millions of pentecostal snake-handling non-tongue-non-speaking Christians out there in the USA who really believe in all that stuff. That's as if there were universities all over the globe where Piltdown Man were taught in paleoanthropology courses and even published upon -- which, however, ain't the case.

I certainly hope you are wrong! And I must say I have never heard of "salvation by access to the correct translation of the bible, one without error." That would be very bad news indeed. And just as bad would be "salvation by not believing anything that turns out to be false," or its cousin "salvation by believing only things that turn out to be true." Man--in any of those cases there would indeed be no hope.

You do realize you're making arguments from consequences here?

#74

Posted by: Jason Failes | March 12, 2008 10:06 PM

"For crying out loud Jason, why do you keep going around challenging with Mark 16:18 (from the so-called Marcan Appendix, Mark 16:9-20) when you've be told a gazillion times that most biblical scholars (of all stripes) believe it (the Marcan Appendix) is a redaction?"

I suppose it's because if you take out every part of the Bible whose authorship is in question, every part of the Bible we're not sure when it was written, and every Biblical passage that is otherwise factually questionable, metaphoric, allegorical, based on older legends, or completely erroneous, there really isn't anything left, or at least nothing left that is miraculous.

Indeed, resorting to picking on the particular problems with a particular passage (without treating the entire rest of the Bible, by degrees I admit, as similarly suspect), is just a cheap way of defending the indefensible....and I was in no mood to play the shifting goalpost game.

That, and it was a joke, kinda.

I don't actually go into churches with bleach (that often). I usually only save it for door-to-door faith peddlers who, universally, have no idea that that passage is suspect and also, universally, have refused me (thankfully, I suppose, it's more to make a point than to off someone with their own credulity...you never could get them all, I suppose)

Oh, and to everyone, sorry for Heddle. I fed him once, and he kind of follows me around now.

#75

Posted by: Holbach | March 12, 2008 10:14 PM

astrolieber, the indian christian @ 69
Stark history is such a bummer, especially when it's
effects are still so evident in the India of today. I will
not recant any of my statements, caustic or factual, and
still state that India is a product of its myriad fanatical
religions and the impoverishment of its populace, both in
civilized culture and basic health structure. Railroads
came by way of Britain as did so many worthwhile and so
necessary infrastructure. Statistics show that in 25 years
India will surpass China in population. Incredible, that
there will be close to 3 billion humans in just two Asian
countries! No attempt is made to control this eventual
devastating phenomena, as at least in India, religion will
remain as pernicious as ever and continue to retard any
semblance of intelligent population control. By then, there
will not be a blade of vegeatation left in that country,
with even the natural areas used to accomodate the run-away
hordes. It's no wonder that life expectancy will always
be below the rest of the world. There will be a tremendous
increase in human and bovine excrement that will eventually
engulf the sub continent. Even the tigers in the Sunderbans
will be killed off and eaten as necessary food.
Your pathetic profanity only exacerbates your plight in that nightmarish hellhole. Hell is an imaginary place
made up by your religion to instill fear into your puny
life and hope it engenders the same in mine. Why don't you
call on your imaginary god to improve your plight in that
fifth world cesspool. And why don't you get your god to
smite me down and prove to you that your pathetic life is
in its power. Let's see your god, you insane moron.
Since you are indian christian, perhaps pig shit will be
more suitable for your diet. Why don't you vent your spleen
and religious insanity on a site other than Pharyngula.
There are many deranged religious sites that will be happy
to digest your freaking religious crud.

#76

Posted by: Ichthyic | March 12, 2008 10:18 PM

I fed him once, and he kind of follows me around now.

i know the feeling.

have you tried a rolled-up newspaper yet?

#77

Posted by: anon | March 12, 2008 10:43 PM

Holbach,

As a non-religious Indian, I can happily assure you that your comments are batf*** insane.

#78

Posted by: Don Smith, FCD | March 12, 2008 11:39 PM

Or, more likely, that if you mail all your money to a preacher, you'll get rich. But no one would be that sadistic, would they?

Since there was nothing on, I spun through the channels and saw one of those preachers with lists on posterboards behind him. Well those lists were the blessings you would receive if you made a passover offering to god. I was thinking that he would want a lamb roasted or something. No no no! Todays currency of exchange (I thought he said god wanted the offering) is not lambs or wheat or any of that rot. No, it's Money! (color me surprised) Now this offering had to be beyond your tithe and outside of your building fund and not what you normally give to Hinn/Roberts/[some others I don't remember]. And you've got to offer your $200 right away so it'll be a passover offering to receive your seven blessings.

Are evangelicals becoming Jewish?

Oh, and the blessings? I think some were about prosperity and such, but the two I remember were an angel to follow you around (don't you get one of those when you become xian?) and you won't die before your appointed time (wow, that's a relief!)

#79

Posted by: JimC | March 12, 2008 11:39 PM

heddle is a hoot isn't he.

why do you keep going around challenging with Mark 16:18 (from the so-called Marcan Appendix, Mark 16:9-20) when you've be told a gazillion times that most biblical scholars (of all stripes) believe it (the Marcan Appendix) is a redaction? It is, as everyone knows, not present in the earliest manuscripts. There are plenty of difficult biblical passages--why not challenge believers with some that are indisputably canonical?

So now you have to be a historical and biblical scholar to even figure out which parts of the bible are supposed to be Gods word and which aren't? And heddle you are an idiot. Pure and simple. The entire book is canonical. They took a vote remember. It's already in there.

I am a Christian and I find your arguments odious and your arguments unbelievably weak.

I thought God was "God"! Why couldn't he get it right the first time, and everytime! OK, that critique is simply too Brownian, and is beyond my limited capabilities

Simply because you can't answer the simplest of queries to you. Your version of Christianity is weak and incompetent. What you are alleging here is that the original canon was not only not guided by the spirit of God but you are also admitting chunks of this canonized document are later additions and shouldn't count even though the church fathers felt they should be included. Given no originals exist you being rather obtuse.

If an interrant scripture can not be understood by everyone and agreed upon what value difference does it have from a non interrant one?

just doesn't jibe with the view that we Christians are all uncritical, nonintellectual, irrational, red necked bumpkins with multiple rows of buck teeth. But, of course, that's the picture you'd like to paint.

I don't know anyone who does this or even believes it. You however have proven yourself to be uncritical, nonintellectual, an intellectual fraud of the highest order, and a person who advocates genocide and rationalizes just about everything on multiple threads everywhere.

Of course there are some people who do accept those and other disputed passages as canonical. But it is certainly not "all" people.

But clearly Christians do and it has been so in every church I have ever attended. You may be correct in the history but very wrong on the belief and besides what you said could be said about every single Christian doctrine.

#80

Posted by: JohnnieCanuck, FCD | March 12, 2008 11:53 PM

It quite amazes me how an egomaniac like heddle would use false modesty to hide from answering his critics.

The only value to be found in the bible is its evidence of the self delusions of ancient people. For historical studies, it is worth nothing without independent sources of evidence. It has no credibility, given the agendas of its writers.

#81

Posted by: Dahan | March 13, 2008 1:16 AM

Pierce R. Butler @72,

Just cause you don't want to believe it doesn't mean it's not true. Don't believe the story cause it's on an atheist's blog? Of course not! Well how about the Catholic church? Check out:

http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=6199

Criminy...

#82

Posted by: Ichthyic | March 13, 2008 1:23 AM

how's that old saying go?

never attribute to conspiracy what you can attribute to stupidity?

#83

Posted by: autumn | March 13, 2008 1:34 AM

If only Scientologists listened to the true words of L. Ron there wouldn't be the. . . I'm sorry it's still a bunch of crazy crap glommed onto by deluded morons.
Until heddle or some other "true Christian" can provide us with the method of determining what Jesus actually meant, rather than what the writers of the Bible meant, every single word of the Bible is, by every definition, a redaction of someone's (God's?) words.
Is God not capable of changing his literary style now and then?
How is heddle so sure that seeming discrepancies weren't thrown in by God to test believers?
Why have the huge number of Christians who are aware of these "appendices" not published a Bible that finally gets it right, and provides followers with an undistilled sampling of God's word?
Why do I even bother asking?

#84

Posted by: Armchair Dissident | March 13, 2008 4:14 AM

You decide: you introduced the "modern" qualifier.
Huh?!

I mean, seriously, huh?!! That comment is so clearly not true, the answer is there in your own comment! You said:

Read my post again. The generalization I asked you to back up was "few [modern bibles] challenge its authenticity"

That "[modern bibles]" is not my addition, it's your quote. It's precisely what you said. Live with it, get over it, get on with your life.

#85

Posted by: Andreas Johansson | March 13, 2008 7:42 AM

@Armchair Dissident:

i) Read post #25. You'll find that you, indeed, introduced "modern".

ii) You're quite obviously using this selective amnesia about what you wrote to avoid replying to the real question. That's dishonest.

#86

Posted by: heddle | March 13, 2008 7:50 AM

David Marjanović, OM #73

You do realize you're making arguments from consequences here?

No, technically I am not (if by arguments from consequences you mean the fallacy Argument by Consequences.) I did not say his argument was wrong because of the consequences--I merely stated some of those those consequences. It is clear that if one must have a perfect bible, then indeed we have, at least in part, "salvation by access to a perfect bible."

#87

Posted by: demallien | March 13, 2008 10:20 AM

Heddle,

You say that certain parts of the Bible can (or perhaps even should) be ignored, because they were redacted. You seem to claim that this is the normal interpretation of the Bible.

Most people here consider that to be disingenuous for a very simple reason: If such passages are considered to be false, WHY are they still in print?! You don't find science textbooks still in print that talk about the aether or other ideas that have been found wanting.

Basically, until such times as the Christian faith can bring itself to excise dodgy parts of the Bible from print, we are always going to treat any claim to discount said passages as being highly suspect.

#88

Posted by: heddle | March 13, 2008 10:54 AM

demallien,

Most people here consider that to be disingenuous for a very simple reason: If such passages are considered to be false, WHY are they still in print?! You don't find science textbooks still in print that talk about the aether or other ideas that have been found wanting.

Because theology and bible studies are not like physics. Even after viewing all the scholarship, some people might think the Marcan Appendix is canonical. (Although, of course, there are some analogous situations in science. I'm reading a particle physics book that goes into string theory even though not a small number of theorists think string theory is, to use your word, wanting. Oh, and the aether is back!) On a number of levels the prudent route for the bible publishers to take is to include the disputed passages while noting that there is some question regarding their authenticity. It makes perfect sense to me.

You (using the 2nd person plural, referring to whoever the "we" is in your comment) can treat anything you like as highly suspect, and you'll continue to do so as a matter of convenience. However, the "Christian faith" does not print bibles. Publishers print bibles.

You people do realize that this is small potatoes? We are talking about a few passages-- but in fact Protestants, who don't have the Catholic reason of "sacred tradition" to use as a justification, must say that while we believe scripture is inerrant, we have to admit that we have no basis to believe that the process of designating what is scripture was inerrant. Although the process was not a chaotic free-for-all as the history-according-to-Dan-Brown alludes, it was true that there was some question about some books declared canonical: Jude, James, Hebrews, Revelation, and maybe a couple others, and some support for a couple books that didn't make it, such as Shepherd of Hermas and 1st Clement. (On a personal opinion level I could do without Revelation--but Hebrews is truly a wonderful book. ) Thus Protestants, who think about such things, will admit, usually with great reluctance, that the bible is, in fact, a fallible collection containing some (if not all, we hope) infallible books. The men who chose the canon could have made mistakes. (As I said, Rome would disagree.)

#89

Posted by: phantomreader42 | March 13, 2008 11:38 AM

heddle@ #88: You people do realize that this is small potatoes? We are talking about a few passages-- but in fact Protestants, who don't have the Catholic reason of "sacred tradition" to use as a justification, must say that while we believe scripture is inerrant, we have to admit that we have no basis to believe that the process of designating what is scripture was inerrant.

Except that most Protestants DON'T admit this. Aside from you, I've never even heard of a single one who admits this. I've never seen a disclaimer in a bible that says "some of this is just bullshit, and we have no reliable way to determine which parts are bullshit, but we just pretend it's all the word of ALMIGHTY GAWD anyway."

Unless you're totally insane, you have to know that protestants do not behave in the way you claim they have to behave. It seems the general consensus here is that you ARE in fact insane, and that this consensus is supported by the evidence.

On top of that, how can the scripture be inerrant if it is known to contain errors?

The whole idea of biblical inerrancy is founded on the claim that the bible contains NO ERRORS WHATSOEVER!! To claim that the bible contains errors but is still inerrant is insane. It is a contradiction in terms.

#90

Posted by: David Marjanović, OM | March 13, 2008 12:02 PM

I'm reading a particle physics book that goes into string theory even though not a small number of theorists think string theory is, to use your word, wanting.

To be fair, it hasn't been disproven.

Oh, and the aether is back!

What?

(As I said, Rome would disagree.)

I'm not sure about that. In German, the most recent Bible translation (of rather few... maybe three or four in total) is called the Unity Translation because Catholics and Protestants did it together in order to end the strange state of affairs that they had previously used different translations. It has plenty of footnotes like "is missing in the earliest manuscripts" or "some early manuscripts have XXX instead" or "translates literally as". It is used in (at least Catholic) religious instruction in school.

-----------------

That post where I accused you of making an argument from consequences... if you weren't making one, what did you mention all those consequences for?

#91

Posted by: arensb | March 13, 2008 12:03 PM

Armchair Dissident @#9:

Maybe they were just dyslexics trying to learn "Amazing Grace". "I once could see, but now am blind"...

I believe you're referring to the famous hymn, "A Grazing Mace".

#92

Posted by: David Marjanović, OM | March 13, 2008 12:04 PM

Unless you're totally insane, you have to know that protestants do not behave in the way you claim they have to behave.

Calm down, some do. Even though they aren't the majority in the USA.

#93

Posted by: demallien | March 13, 2008 12:21 PM

You (using the 2nd person plural, referring to whoever the "we" is in your comment) can treat anything you like as highly suspect, and you'll continue to do so as a matter of convenience. However, the "Christian faith" does not print bibles. Publishers print bibles.

Oh come off it! That is one incredibly dishonest argument you're making there! If the various churches said 'No, we don't want any Bibles containing these highly dubious sections, and won't be buying any, thank you very much!" do you honestly think that publishers would be printing them? The fact that those passages are still in the book are proof of Christianty's implicit approval of those passages.

#94

Posted by: phantomreader42 | March 13, 2008 12:23 PM

Me, to heddle: Unless you're totally insane, you have to know that protestants do not behave in the way you claim they have to behave.
David Marjanovic, OM, in response: Calm down, some do. Even though they aren't the majority in the USA.

Not only are they not the majority, they are such a small minority that after over two decades living in the bible belt and years of wandering the Internet I have encountered only one specimen. Heddle.

For Heddle to describe this microscopic minority as simply "Protestants", implying that ALL Protestants are like this and claim that they all MUST admit this, is insane.

Heddle was referring to a very specific delusion, namely that the bible, though it contains errors, is nonetheless inerrant, and claiming that said delusion is actually held by "Protestants" as a group. Are there any other examples of Protestants who hold this particular delusion other than Heddle?

#95

Posted by: CJO | March 13, 2008 12:36 PM

There's "authentic" again. Heddle, what do you mean by that word? And how far along the road of critical scholarship are you willing to go, really, since as you say, the cited case (the redaction to Mark) is "small potatoes"? Because the critical consensus outside of bible colleges is that the Gospels, all of 'em, are theological fictions that tell us vastly more about the situations and concerns of their authors than about actual events in the life of a certain Galilean rabble-rouser, about which said authors knew essentially nothing.

For instance, a good litmus test for fundamentalism is adherence to the erroneous attributions of authorship (the disciple Matthew as the actual author of that book, say). So, in your cult, is it Mark first, or do you stick with tradition and give Matthew priority?

#96

Posted by: heddle | March 13, 2008 12:52 PM

phantomreader42

The whole idea of biblical inerrancy is founded on the claim that the bible contains NO ERRORS WHATSOEVER!! To claim that the bible contains errors but is still inerrant is insane. It is a contradiction in terms.

Well, only if you can't get your mind around this chain:

1) The original manuscripts as penned by the apostles (or their secretary, as you will, e.g. Luke for Paul or Mark for Peter) are assumed to be inspired.

2) Others (such as Clement) wrote perfectly fine books that can be used for our advantage, but as they lacked apostolic authority they cannot lay claim to inspiration. (This was the issue with Hebrews; its authorship is uncertain.)

3) These books have be fallibly transcribed and fallibly translated.

4) Misguided scribes have had opportunity to make redactions.

5) Men, having to decide which of these books should be in the canon, could not agree on some of them. The Catholic Church argues that they were infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit. Protestants, who profess Sola Scriptura, have no basis other than hope/faith to assert that no mistakes were made.

That is, if you think there is a logical inconsistency between arguing that the original manuscripts were inerrant and allowing that errors have undoubtedly crept in due to the subsequent translations, etc., then I don't know what to say.

Aside from you, I've never even heard of a single one who admits this.

I'm the only one? A Google search on the exact catch phrase "a fallible collection of infallible books"

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=%22fallible+collection+of+infallible+books%22&btnG=Search

results in eight pages of hits. I am sure relaxing the letter of the search but not the spirit will produce many more hits indicating that the classic reformed position concedes, to put it in blunter terms, that the table of contents of the book known as the bible was not inspired.

phantomreader42

"Oh, and the aether is back!" What?

You will hear this all the time--people are talking about dark energy, especially if is attributed to the cosmological constant, as the aether, part deux.

As for Rome, they certainly admit that error might have crept into translations. I was speaking purely of the canon. Rome's dogmatic position is that the canon is an infallible collection of infallible books.

David Marjanović, OM

That post where I accused you of making an argument from consequences... if you weren't making one, what did you mention all those consequences for?

I don't get the question--clearly a mention of consequences is a matter of routine. It there something wrong with pointing out, if you are right then here is a consequence.

phantomreader42

For Heddle to describe this microscopic minority as simply "Protestants", implying that ALL Protestants are like this and claim that they all MUST admit this, is insane.

Unless you are just willfully distorting, please go back and read #88, it does not read ALL Protestants, I wrote Protestants who think about these things. I made no mention about what fraction of Protestants that I believe take time to study how the canon was formed.

I can add that I have taught a Sunday School several times regarding the formation of the canon, and always mentioned that we cannot be sure that we got it 100% right. So at least those that took my classes heard it--and I don't recall anyone being particularly surprised or upset about it.

demallien

Oh come off it! That is one incredibly dishonest argument you're making there! If the various churches said 'No, we don't want any Bibles containing these highly dubious sections, and won't be buying any, thank you very much!" do you honestly think that publishers would be printing them?

Perhaps not, if all bible purchasers spoke with one mind. But as I said, some regard the disputed passages as canonical, so the publishers choose to leave them in with the caveats as mentioned. This is the right thing to do--I would certainly rather have it that way than with the disputed passages removed, because I can study them to my advantage and reach my own conclusions. This is not a difficult concept.

CJO,

Of course I don't go to the extent where I accept the critics who claim the gospels are fiction--otherwise there would be no point in identifying myself as a Christian. Likewise for such higher critics as the Jesus Seminar (who really did vote with colored cards in a manner that would make Dan Brown proud.) If the going in assumption is that, say, miracles don't happen and you then conclude that the gospel accounts of miracles are fictitious--well that means nothing to me.

#97

Posted by: CJO | March 13, 2008 1:36 PM

Well, you didn't answer my question in your response to me. I think it was clear that I know you don't think the gospels are wholly ficticious. But you did answer it above:

1) The original manuscripts as penned by the apostles (or their secretary, as you will, e.g. Luke for Paul or Mark for Peter) are assumed to be inspired.

What you're doing, in my view, is cherry picking. It's no different from the creationist tactic of isolating data from its context to draw favorable conclusions without accounting for all the evidence. What I'm hearing is that critical scholarship is fine, until it makes it painfully clear that the attributions of the gospels to eyewitnesses (or their "secretaries," LOL) simply cannot be correct. Then, uncritically accepted tradition is your guide.

And, yes, I do believe it is possible to be a Christian and accept the truth: that the gospels are theological fictions. That, in and of itself, doesn't mean that Jesus didn't exist, or that he didn't say and do some of the things that appear in the narratives, or even that there were no miracles. It means that the authors of the gospels were no diffferent than anybody else writing theology, that there is nothing magical about those texts. Their subject may still be worthy of worship. That I don't think so, or that I don't believe in miracles, is of no interest here

#98

Posted by: John Phillips, FCD | March 13, 2008 2:57 PM

So Heddle, let me get this right. Scripture is inerrant but you don't know what is or isn't scripture so you don't know what is inerrant. Okey Dokey, (he says, ever so slowly backing away, glancing over his shoulder to see if his escape path is clear).

The problem is that those who give the secular and academic world such grief, invariably through political shenanigans of one kind or another or worse, have no problem in stating what is inerrant.

#99

Posted by: phantomreader42 | March 13, 2008 3:10 PM

Heddle @ #96

Well, only if you can't get your mind around this chain:

1) The original manuscripts as penned by the apostles (or their secretary, as you will, e.g. Luke for Paul or Mark for Peter) are assumed to be inspired.

And of course, there is not the slightest shred of evidence to support this. Just blind faith. But that's to be expected.
Though I realize now that I may have missed your point earlier. It seems you are now claiming that the original manuscripts were inerrant, but the current version is not. This makes the question of biblical inerrancy useless unless you posess these original manuscripts and can read them. I doubt many people are capable of doing so, or even interested in trying.

The impression I get on bibilical inerrancy from actual people is that they think every word of the bible THEY are reading is the perfect word of god (except of course for those parts they find inconvenient). Most of these followers don't like to hear or think about the inescapable translation errors. Some have even gone so far as to deny that it is a translation at all.

2) Others (such as Clement) wrote perfectly fine books that can be used for our advantage, but as they lacked apostolic authority they cannot lay claim to inspiration. (This was the issue with Hebrews; its authorship is uncertain.)

3) These books have be fallibly transcribed and fallibly translated.

If this is the case, then these books now contain errors. This means the current version is NOT inerrant. Even if the original text could be said to be inerrant (and there is not the slightest shred of evidence to support this claim), the original version is not the one people today read and worship and declare as the infallible literal word of god. Does an "original version" even exist? Or have only copies of copies of copies survived? And how many people can really read those?

4) Misguided scribes have had opportunity to make redactions.

Again, if scribes have altered the text, whether through incompetence, laziness, political goals, literary aspirations, or for any other reason, the current version is no longer inerrant.

5) Men, having to decide which of these books should be in the canon, could not agree on some of them. The Catholic Church argues that they were infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit. Protestants, who profess Sola Scriptura, have no basis other than hope/faith to assert that no mistakes were made.

There's not really so much difference between the Protestants and Catholics on this. Neither has any evidence to back them up.

And all this does not even address the many absurd and clearly false claims made in the bible, which demonstrate that it cannot be inerrant. Or are you going to claim that every single one of those is a later addition?

#100

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 13, 2008 3:48 PM

the bible is, in fact, a fallible collection containing some (if not all, we hope) infallible books

Now there's a recipe for justifying almost any interpretation you favour at the moment without having to question whether that voice in your head telling you "[insert Bible passage here] is [select at least one of: metaphor/later insertion/The Literal Word of God]" is divinely inspired or the result of a bad choice at the Shawarma Shop late last night if I've ever heard one.

I wonder why Twaddle and his legions of Scholarly Believers haven't yet taken the final step towards a complete catch-all justification and declared every letter in the Bible to be inerrant though the order in which they're traditionally placed may not be. They'll have their Ultimate Book of Ultimate Truth, albeit in Library of Babel form, and they'll be unimpeachable by meanies like Jason because they'll always be able to claim any phrase, passage, or book in question contains some n! potential transpositions, though the letters themselves are a window into the mind of God.

I can just imagine the air of sophistication and weighty import that it would confer upon Bible study sessions by having a real Knock-Down-Drag-'Em-Out between those who believe "In the beginning was the Word" and those who believe "A Deb Greenish Wight Inn Town."

#101

Posted by: heddle | March 13, 2008 4:13 PM

John Phillips, FCD

So Heddle, let me get this right. Scripture is inerrant but you don't know what is or isn't scripture so you don't know what is inerrant.

You have it right. I do not "know" what is scripture. I strongly believe that the bulk of what is in the bible accurately reflects the original manuscripts, and so give a reasonable account of the inerrant writings. In particular, I believe that the basic gospel message has not been distorted. (And I am aware of several well considered apologies concerning why Christians can trust the bible, but those are beyond the scope of these comments.) The books in question (regarding their canonicity) do not have any sort of substantive impact on the gospel. If Jude, for example, turned out to be noncanonical, it would have no impact on the gospel. (nor would it be useless, it would be a valuable commentary rather than scripture.) I can't understand Revelation, so that particular case would make no difference to me.

The problem is that those who give the secular and academic world such grief, invariably through political shenanigans of one kind or another or worse, have no problem in stating what is inerrant.


Really? I live and work in the secular and academic world. I can't say I know of any instance of "such grief" that has been given by those who have no problem stating what is inerrant. In my role as a physics professor, I don't believe a single person has ever told me what they consider to be inerrant scripture. Not one.

phantomreader42

The impression I get on bibilical inerrancy from actual people is that they think every word of the bible THEY are reading is the perfect word of god (except of course for those parts they find inconvenient). Most of these followers don't like to hear or think about the inescapable translation errors. Some have even gone so far as to deny that it is a translation at all.

I have met one or two such people, but not many. (Actually, I never met even one--not even a KJV only type--who thinks Jesus spoke English or the Apostles wrote in English. The KJV only types argue that they KJ translation uses the best manuscripts, and that is why it, so they say, reigns supreme.) Unless you assume all Christians are morons, then you really should allow that most are smart enough to realize that translators can make mistakes.

the current version is no longer inerrant.

You wrote that several times as if it were a revelation--but it is nothing that I haven't already admitted. You seem to think this should be a horrific problem for Christians, but it is not. See my comment to John Fillips above. To paraphrase it, we have confidence that the core gospel message was unaltered. Now if you stake your theology on a verse from a disputed passage, which nobody should do, then you have a much more vested interest in declaring that the translations are error free.


And all this does not even address the many absurd and clearly false claims made in the bible, which demonstrate that it cannot be inerrant. Or are you going to claim that every single one of those is a later addition?


You would have to tell me which passages you are referring to--but in some sense you are asking a tautology. Since I think the original manuscripts were inerrant, then of course it necessarily follows that any "clearly false claims" are additions. The question is: what are those "clearly false claims." I suspect that if you actually bring some up you'll demand that I employ a literal hermeneutic--for example in the classic case of the biblical claim that pi = 3. I have been down this road many times. They'll be a conflation of inerrancy and literality.


Brownian, OM,

Do you realize that, given my name is heddle, I have been called all obvious variants thereof including "twaddle" since childhood (and mostly only during childhood and by other children--but concerning that rule it is not clear that you are an exception.) Calling me twaddle is as original and clever as those people who make the obvious and trivial distortion of Larry Moran's name. Really, you should have some dignity and try to avoid being such a cliché. I once read that the first rule in comedy is that you are supposed to let the easy ones go by.

#102

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 13, 2008 4:17 PM

Twaddle, you are wrong on so many levels.

The first rule of humour is repetition.

The second rule of humour is that funny comes in threes.

The third rule of humour is repetition.

#103

Posted by: CJO | March 13, 2008 5:04 PM

So, Mr. Heddle, do you care to address how accepting the methods of critical analysis when they show the redaction to Mark but rejecting them when they show that the gospels' authorship has been misattributed, not to mention that tradition got the priority all wrong, is not cherry-picking?

#104

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 13, 2008 5:14 PM

So, Mr. Heddle

Though he's never insisted upon it here (at least, as far as I know), I believe Twaddle is correctly addressed as 'Dr.', not 'Mr.'

#105

Posted by: Ichthyic | March 13, 2008 5:23 PM

So Heddle, let me get this right. Scripture is inerrant but you don't know what is or isn't scripture so you don't know what is inerrant.

You have it right.

ah, that explains a lot.

O.o

Cognitive dissonance is fun!

#106

Posted by: heddle | March 13, 2008 5:33 PM

CJO,

It's a fair question, and some of the answer is related to the fact that this isn't science we are talking about. That is--it is quite impossible to prove that, say, an actual apostle and contemporary of Jesus named Matthew wrote the gospel of Matthew, and it is equally impossible to prove that he didn't--barring some semi-miraculous archeological discovery.

On the other hand, it is reasonable, it seems to me, to ask does there appear to be a phase transition within a book? that would indicate a redaction, or do Matthew and Luke appear to be drawn from the same source? (the Q document.) But asking did Matthew actually write the book that bears his name? doesn't really interest me. For me it is the same as aking "Is Christianity true?"

So without question I bring a bias to this game--to wit, I generally believe the bible is a reliable document. Thus I am interested in scholarly studies questioning various passages, tweaking if you will, because I firmly believe that good English translations (personally I think the NASB and ESV are the best) are 99% correct, especially if those studies are performed or substantiated by Christian scholars. Other, more radical claims, I more or less view as people carving a niche for themselves in academia. After all, we know how tenure works, and you are much less likely to get notoriety (and hence tenure) if you have a thesis that says (to take an example) "You know, old John Calvin pretty much got it right" as opposed to "John Calvin, in interpreting John, really missed the boat, probably because he enjoyed playing with Mercury." In other words, I do indeed take radical claims that much of the bible is fabricated as not crossing my threshold of being worthy of serious study.

It is a fact of life. In the imprecise disciplines, your biases will cause you to reject things out of hand. Not all--I think some of the first-rate atheists of previous generations (but none of the current generation, all of whom pale by comparison) made some serious challenges to Christianity. But literary analyses of the bible--they are so across the board that I don't even bother with the extreme cases.

#107

Posted by: CJO | March 13, 2008 5:57 PM

Other, more radical claims, I more or less view as people carving a niche for themselves in academia. After all, we know how tenure works, and you are much less likely to get notoriety (and hence tenure) if you have a thesis that says...
This is pure ad hominem. It has zero bearing on the strength of the thesis in question.

Beyond that, I appreciate the straight answer. Clearly, I believe that it is already as good as proven that the author of Matthew was dependent on prior written documents (Q and Mark), and that seems, at best, an idiosyncratic way to compose a narrative about events one supposedly witnessed. Far from being "extreme," this analysis answers a great many more problems than it creates, and I submit that this, rather than its tenure-friendly radical implications if there be any, is why it is the current academic consensus.

#108

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 13, 2008 6:04 PM

Not all--I think some of the first-rate atheists of previous generations (but none of the current generation, all of whom pale by comparison) made some serious challenges to Christianity

How many new ways do you want us to keep saying you're basing your life on a myth? (Never mind, I forgot to whom I was commenting.)

#109

Posted by: heddle | March 13, 2008 6:09 PM

CJO,

Clearly, I believe that it is already as good as proven that the author of Matthew was dependent on prior written documents (Q and Mark), and that seems, at best, an idiosyncratic way to compose a narrative about events one supposedly witnessed.

Why? If Q was say, an early collection of Jesus' sayings, then there is no reason why Matthew and Luke couldn't/shouldn't use it. Inspiration does not mean that the writer went into a dark room and, working from a vacuum, recorded dictation. Inspiration means that when Matthew finally got around to writing Matthew he used his own style, his own personality, whatever sources were available--memories (from his failing memory), documents (to assist that failing memory), even perhaps even hearsay--but with all that potential for error the apostle was prevented from making an error by the intervention of the Holy Spirit. That may be nonsense, but it is not nonsense that is exacerbated in some manner if Matthew and Luke worked off the same set of notes--and using those same notes they might even appear to plagiarize one another.

#110

Posted by: Ichthyic | March 13, 2008 6:18 PM

How many new ways do you want us to keep saying you're basing your life on a myth? (Never mind, I forgot to whom I was commenting.)

oh forget it.

once heddle gets rolling, you just have to wait for him to run out of steam.

at least he usually sticks himself to a single thread (which we should thank him for), and there always appears to be enough interested in what he has to say (for whatever it's worth) to keep him going.

One would think he would spend more time on his own blog, but I think the dust has grown too thick there.

#111

Posted by: heddle | March 13, 2008 6:23 PM

Brownian, OM,

How many new ways do you want us to keep saying you're basing your life on a myth? (Never mind, I forgot to whom I was commenting.)

Well, just one would do, for starters--but so far I have not seen even one new way. Actually, I want you (or rather Dawkins et. al.) to say it as well as, say, Bertrand Russell said it. Or Camus. Or at least close. Not as poorly as I said it to my Christian friends when I was in sixth grade: If God made everything then who made God? Look at all the killing done in the name of religion! More people have died in the name of religion than all other reasons put together! How do you know your god is right and the Norse gods are myths? What make you so sure you are right? Anyone who believes that stuff is just stupid! No rational person would believe the bible!

That more or less summarizes the arguments from the current crop of intellectual atheists. If they have contributed something more substantive, please let me know.

Otherwise you (or rather Dawkins et. al) are just not very interesting to me. Which of course doesn't bother them (or you) at all--nor should it.

#112

Posted by: JImC | March 13, 2008 6:47 PM

Otherwise you (or rather Dawkins et. al) are just not very interesting to me.

And each and every one of the things you mentioned above you have no rational answer for so you just dismiss them andthen blame others for being anti-intellectual. The truth of the matter is you can study the bible and it's origins until your head explodes and your no closer to any real truth than a child who poses the questions Brownian posted.

wit, I generally believe the bible is a reliable document

Reliable in what way? The fact that donkeys and snakes talk? Or that God's rear was seen when running behind a mountain? The only thing one can ever do is find the stories an accurate representation of the original. Period.The bible is an interesting book of ancient stories and it's study can be worthwhile but you simply don't approach it honestly.

There was no global flood, donkeys don't talk.

Since I think the original manuscripts were inerrant, then of course it necessarily follows that any "clearly false claims" are additions

Circular and boring.

#113

Posted by: Holbach | March 13, 2008 7:21 PM

Heddle: Let me be blunt and blatant and dispense with the
quasi philosophical bantering: Let's see your god; bring
it down right now and smite us all. You cannot do this
because your freaking non-existing god is a figment of
your deranged religion's creation. Prove it and make
your pathetic case. I know that if I were a supreme
creator and one of my creations questioned my existence,
I would be down in a flash to prove it. It will never
happen because your freaking god does not exist. Can we
say this in any simpler terms? Come on, show us your
powerful imagined god. I am trying to couch this in the
simplest way that even your religion deranged mind can
comprehend. Let's see your freaking god!

#114

Posted by: John Phillips, FCD | March 13, 2008 8:14 PM

Heddle said:

Really? I live and work in the secular and academic world. I can't say I know of any instance of "such grief" that has been given by those who have no problem stating what is inerrant.

You are either being disingenuous or lying. To give one example, the Dover trial, the result of fundies trying to get the inerrancy of the bible, i.e. Genesis, put in the science classroom. Another? The recent school board battle in Florida again against fundies who believe in the inerrancy of the bible trying to foist creationism onto the science curriculum. Neither of which you could be unaware of even if your only source of informtaion was this blog. How many more examples do you want, such as teachers who have been threatened or physically assualted or even hounded out of their schools by fundies because they dared to try and teach evolution.

Heddle, I like you, honestly, even though, or perhaps because, you say the goddammest things at times, but please, don't lie. For delusional belief systems I can accept, but lying I won't.

#115

Posted by: Owlmirror | March 13, 2008 8:33 PM

Well, just one would do, for starters--but so far I have not seen even one new way. Actually, I want you (or rather Dawkins et. al.) to say it as well as, say, Bertrand Russell said it. Or Camus. Or at least close. Not as poorly as I said it to my Christian friends when I was in sixth grade: If God made everything then who made God? Look at all the killing done in the name of religion! More people have died in the name of religion than all other reasons put together! How do you know your god is right and the Norse gods are myths? What make you so sure you are right? Anyone who believes that stuff is just stupid! No rational person would believe the bible!

So why does it have to be a new way? Why do all of the old arguments fail to convince you that your current reasoning is at least suspect, if not completely specious?

What changed for you between 6th grade and now?

#116

Posted by: Josh | March 13, 2008 9:04 PM

This story is disheartening. I thought Kerala was one of the most progressive Indian states, known for its Leftist government and its anti-pollution movement, which put its people at odds with the Coca-Cola company. I guess there's religious mania everywhere (unless, as one of the commenters suggested, the Moonie News Service is mistaken).

#117

Posted by: heddle | March 13, 2008 9:37 PM

John Phillips FCD,

I was perhaps too snarky. Of course creationists cause mischief--but I think you overstated their ability to do so. They are on a pretty massive losing streak--and while this is a big country and you can find isolated cases such as Chris Comer, in general there is not any sort of comprehensive assault, at least not any sort of effective one.

My goodness-- the academy is teeming with atheists.

OwlMirror,

I didn't ask for new arguments out of the blue; Brownian, OM asked me how many *new* ways I needed--so prompted I asked for just one. As for what changed--I became a Christian.

#118

Posted by: Owlmirror | March 13, 2008 11:54 PM

Brownian, OM asked me how many *new* ways I needed--so prompted I asked for just one.

Yet you haven't refuted the old arguments yet. Your response simply summarizes to "Well, seen those before". Which hardly answers the point.

If a perpetual-motion advocate responded to a repetition of the laws of thermodynamics with "Well, seen those before", would you feel that that provided a rational rebuttal?


As for what changed--I became a Christian.

Oh, come on. How did you become a Christian given that you knew the basic arguments against God? Why did the arguments against becoming a Christian fail? What happened that was more compelling? Why Christianity, rather than any of the other religions out there?

Even C. S. Lewis tried to explain his conversion with more information than that. Although, come to think of it, he too failed to convince that his decision was rational either.

You might as well just say "I had a stroke", or "I had a seizure".

#119

Posted by: heddle | March 14, 2008 7:20 AM

OwlMirrow,

Yet you haven't refuted the old arguments yet. Your response simply summarizes to "Well, seen those before". Which hardly answers the point.


Even if I have no answer for those questions, which I do, that is not the point. If they were unanswerable, then it would still be true that none of the current generation of intellectual atheists has asked anything new. Repeating those same questions is fine but boring. And again, Brownian didn't say: when you answer those questions, then we'll ask you some new ones. He said (slight paraphrase): how many new ways shall ask you? My answer to that stands: one would be nice. And, in spite of your claim, my response is precisely to the point of Brownian's comment. He asked how many, and I answered: one, please.

Oh, come on. How did you become a Christian given that you knew the basic arguments against God? Why did the arguments against becoming a Christian fail? What happened that was more compelling?
Even C. S. Lewis tried to explain his conversion with more information than that. Although, come to think of it, he too failed to convince that his decision was rational either.


There is a difference. I'm a Calvinist, Lewis wasn't. I feel no need to explain my conversion rationally, because I don't think it was a rational experience. I was attending a Presbyterian PCA church because my wife wanted to and because I enjoyed the sermons--they were like interesting seminars. The Presbyterians (at least the PCA) probably demand way too much schooling for their pastors--but one benefit is they tend to give intellectual, academic like sermons that fit my personality. One it day, I'll leave out the details, I was listening and it simply dawned on me: holy crap, I believe this stuff. There was nothing rational about it. Or, for a more dramatic story, consider the apostle Paul. He was riding along the road planning his next persecution of Christians when he was converted by a bolt out of the blue. There was no wooing from God. There was no consideration of the pros and cons. There was no rational process. One minute he was not a Christian, the next minute he was. I think that is the model for all conversions.

#120

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 14, 2008 11:59 AM

Twaddle, you first.

Come up with some new evidence for God, some compelling new text definitively authored by God, or other some such revelation, and we'll be happy to examine it. As it stands, we are not interested in pouring over the minutiae of some ancient text which even you admit cannot reliably be assumed to be the Word of God.

You want new refutations? Have God bring something new to the table then. I mean, what the hell has he been doing these past ~2000 years?

(Y'know what would be even better? Why don't you offer some new refutation of Zeus? Surely you don't believe in him, do you? Well then, let's hear some compelling new reasons why.)

#121

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 14, 2008 12:12 PM

Or, for a more dramatic story, consider the apostle Paul. He was riding along the road planning his next persecution of Christians when he was converted by a bolt out of the blue.

Really? None of us have ever heard that story before.

Far more interesting would be a consideration of how Paul's conversion fits within the Xian concept of free will, or why we shouldn't all just wait for our own bolts out of the blue instead of having proselytisers work so hard at coversion, or why no individual who'd previously never had any exposure to the Abrahamic myths ever spontaneously convert to Xianity. The theological implications of that single story (and what that would, or should mean) may be just as compelling for the non-existence of God as they are compelling for Xianity to you.

#122

Posted by: heddle | March 14, 2008 12:26 PM

Brownian, OM,

Twaddle, you first. Come up with some new evidence for God, some compelling new text definitively authored by God, or other some such revelation, and we'll be happy to examine it.

No I never claimed that I brought anything new to the table. You implied that you could, by asking me how many new ways I wanted to be told. Redirecting the challenge to me, especially when I never claimed I could provide anything new, is just a poor man's way of obfuscating the fact that your comment was just so much bluster.

Far more interesting would be a consideration of how Paul's conversion fits within the Xian concept of free will

There is no the Christian concept of free will. Paul's conversion, however, fits nicely into the model of free will as developed by the reformed theologians, most notably Jonathan Edwards.

#123

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 14, 2008 12:39 PM

You implied that you could

Wrong interpretation. I never implied anything.

There is no the Christian concept of free will. Paul's conversion, however, fits nicely into the model of free will as developed by the reformed theologians, most notably Jonathan Edwards.

Please explain, using data to support his claims.

#124

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 14, 2008 12:44 PM

And please explain the lack of spontaneous Christians, and why the germ theory of disease better explains the spread of Christianity than a revealing God.

#125

Posted by: heddle | March 14, 2008 1:10 PM

Brownian, OM,

No, I can't reproduce Edwards's treatise on free will in a comment, and PZ would probably banish me to the dungeon sooner than my appointed time if I did. Here is a summary that I gave in a Sunday school class that should give you the gist:

http://helives.blogspot.com/2006/01/lesson-5-free-will.html

beyond that, do some homework if you are really interested. Edwards was once named, by Encyclopedia Britannica, as America's Greatest Scholar (not theologian.) He is worth reading.

As for spontaneous Christians, what I really think you mean is: why are there not people who, from a vacuum, suddenly speak with clarity and conviction of the gospel. The reason is, as far as I know, that apart from the prophets of the OT era, God does not go around filling people's heads with new knowledge that didn't acquire in the usual way.

But if you mean why aren't there Christians who become Christians without hearing the gospel message--without hearing anything about God or Jesus--then in fact I think there are many. Your problem is that you are defining a Christian as someone who can make a credible profession. But that is not the biblical definition, although it is an expected consequence for most people. The biblical definition of a Christian is someone who is made presentable to God by, in effect, co-opting the righteousness of Christ. There is no "age of accountability" in the bible. Dead babies in heaven (and from David's story we have reason to believe that that is not the empty set) got there because they can claim Christ's righteousness--that is they are Christians--even though they never heard the gospel. They were regenerated--they spontaneously became Christians without any head knowledge. They are perhaps the most obvious example. But the bible doesn't rule out that others--the quintessential savage--could not be regenerated even though he wouldn't be able to express the gospel. God, scripture tells us, will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy.

#126

Posted by: CJO | March 14, 2008 1:13 PM

Or, for a more dramatic story, consider the apostle Paul. He was riding along the road planning his next persecution of Christians when he was converted by a bolt out of the blue.

Pure theological fiction by the author called Luke, for whom Peter and Paul were figures of legend. Paul certainly never mentions any such dramatic experience in the epistles correctly attributed to him, saying only something like "He appeared to me" in Corinthians --which, by the way, it's clear "Luke" had not read. No setting, no further elaboration. If Paul had experienced such a singular event, why didn't he talk about it?

#127

Posted by: heddle | March 14, 2008 1:17 PM

Correction, the penultimate sentence should read:

But the bible doesn't rule out that others--the quintessential savage--could be regenerated even though he wouldn't be able to express the gospel.

#128

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 14, 2008 1:22 PM

But if you mean why aren't there Christians who become Christians without hearing the gospel message--without hearing anything about God or Jesus--then in fact I think there are many. Your problem is that you are defining a Christian as someone who can make a credible profession. But that is not the biblical definition, although it is an expected consequence for most people. The biblical definition of a Christian is someone who is made presentable to God by, in effect, co-opting the righteousness of Christ. There is no "age of accountability" in the bible. Dead babies in heaven (and from David's story we have reason to believe that that is not the empty set) got there because they can claim Christ's righteousness--that is they are Christians--even though they never heard the gospel. They were regenerated--they spontaneously became Christians without any head knowledge. They are perhaps the most obvious example. But the bible doesn't rule out that others--the quintessential savage--could not be regenerated even though he wouldn't be able to express the gospel. God, scripture tells us, will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy.

You cite as evidence scriptures which you admit are not inerrant. Your explanation extrapolates heavily where there is no support in scripture. Significant numbers of self-described Christians would disagree with your assertions.

In short, you've earned your nickname yet again.

#129

Posted by: heddle | March 14, 2008 1:44 PM

CJO,

There are two ways to argue with me. You can say: OK, lets accept heddle's premise that the bible is more or less true and then show him his conclusions are still bogus. Or you can say: the bible is full of crap. The latter is a reasonable position--but it is an argument stopper.

You have no basis, by the way, to conclude that "clearly" Luke did not read various parts of the Pauline corpus. It is just speculation. And when Paul refers to "and finally he [the resurrected Christ] appeared to me," one could argue that he is indeed recounting a singular event, albeit without the details Luke provided.

Brownian, OM,

You cite as evidence scriptures which you admit are not inerrant.
Come on, that's just being silly. I told you that I am confident that the scholarly translations accurately reflect, at the proverbial 99% level, the inerrant manuscripts. I said any number of times that I am confident that the gospel message is correct--and that the disputed passages are not particularly important. If you are going to say that I can't quote scripture because I already admitted that translations can have errors, then that too is an argument stopper.


Your explanation extrapolates heavily where there is no support in scripture.

Not true. Certainly the overwhelming majority of all Calvinists, which is a sizable (and rapidly growing) minority of all American Christians, would agree that the normative process is to be able to verbalize one's testimony. They would agree, however, that this is only the typical scenario, and would agree that God can save whomever he wants, wherever he wants, whenever he wants--and would also agree that anyone so saved is saved because they can claim the righteousness of Christ. That is exactly what I just said in so many words. It is mainstream reformed theology, and reformed theology is very commonplace. (And, contrary to your claim, they (I) could provide lots of scriptural support.)

#130

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 14, 2008 1:52 PM

So then, yours is a "saved by works, not by faith" position, since neither the 'savage' nor the baby have faith.

I wonder why so many other denominations disagree, since you've got support for your position in scripture?

#131

Posted by: heddle | March 14, 2008 2:08 PM

Brownian, OM

On the contrary, it is an explicity saved by faith position. Neither the baby, nor the savage, nor I did anything to muster up faith. The faith was a gift. In me it manifests itself in the normal fashion. In the baby and the savage--I don't have a clue.

A lot of denominations would disagree--since many are not Calvinistic. No big deal--we agree, for the most part, that there is no "salvation by passing grade on a theology exam." So I am not worried about the consequences of being wrong.

#132

Posted by: CJO | March 14, 2008 2:30 PM

heddle,
Obviously, I'm not interested in your first way. From my perspective, once I've granted that "more or less" we're down a rabbit hole and you hold all the cards --a weirdly mixed metaphor, but one that might make Lewis Carrol smile.

And your other way doesn't do justice to what I'm saying. You are the one who equates "theological fiction" with "full of crap," not I. (Though I do understand why your theology demands that equation, so the argument ends as all such must: you're still a Cal;vinist and I'm still an atheist, ho hum. Maybe others have found something to think about.)

#133

Posted by: phantomreader42 | March 14, 2008 2:37 PM

Oh, Tawddle's a Calvinist! That explains a lot.

Of course, it wouldn't matter in the least to a Calvinist whether or not the bible made any sense at all, and they'd have no interest in finding out which parts of it were true, or making sure the published version was anywhere near accurate.

Because the Calvinist idea of salvation has nothing to do with the bible. It's not by works, or by faith, or by anything anyone on earth has anything to do with.

Calvinist dogma limits salvation to an "elect" group that god chooses entirely by his own whims, regardless of the merits (or complete lack thereof) of the "elect" in question. The Calvinist god doesn't care who believes in him, or what they do, he just decides to arbitratily reward some people, and torture others for all eternity. And there's no way any human being can understand it or do anything about it.

Calvinism is insane. This is my impression from actual encounters with Calvinists, supported by everything I've read on the subject. The doctrine of unconditional election is one of the five pillars of Calvinism, and it's ridiculous and immoral.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_election

#134

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 14, 2008 2:41 PM

Eww, thanks phantomreader42. And to think I wasted time assuming there was some sense to his theology.

Never mind, Twaddle. Don't bother explaining any more, thank you very much.

#135

Posted by: heddle | March 14, 2008 2:58 PM

phantomreader42

Of course, it wouldn't matter in the least to a Calvinist whether or not the bible made any sense at all,

Insightful!

Your analysis explains, of course, why one of the longest, and one of the most detailed, and one of the most comprehensive biblical commentaries of all time was written by--John Calvin, who presumably was a Calvinist. He went through the trouble because it didn't matter to him whether the bible made any sense.

And that another well-known long, detailed, and comprehensive and possibly most-cited bible commentaries was written by Matthew Henry, a Calvinist. He went through the trouble because it didn't matter to him whether the bible made any sense--he just figured it would be a good way to meet girls.

And why Martin Luther risked his life on the principle that if it is not in the bible then it is not binding--Martin Luther who, when it comes to unconditional election, was arguably more of a Calvinist than Calvin (at least he wrote more about it)--he drew a Sola Scriptura line in the sand because--it didn't matter, to him, whether or not the bible made any sense at all. After all, if one is to be excommunicated, then for laughs it ought to be over something you don't care about.

And Jonathan Edwards, who wrote tomes of commentary and was the consummate Calvinist, because--it didn't matter, to him, whether or not the bible made any sense at all,

And Charles Spurgeon, and Francis Schaeffer, and ....

Yep, none of those Calvinists paid any attention to whether or not the bible made sense...

Nor Augustine (the original church father Calvinist), nor Thomas Aquinas who also taught predestination...

#136

Posted by: phantomreader42 | March 14, 2008 3:15 PM

Actually, exposure to Calvinism was a part of my own deconversion. I got into an online argument with a bile-spewing Calvinist who seemed to live to hate others. This person's idea of Christian teaching was somewhere between Fred Phelps (also a Calvinist) and Adolph Hitler. He explicitly endorsed extermination of anyone who didn't fit into his worldview (which was a LOT of people). This guy not only didn't attempt to follow biblical mandates like love thy neighbor or thou shalt not kill or bear false witness, he emphatically rejected them, even when pointed out.

And I was the only christian in that forum who even had a problem with him. This Calvinist's belief system was totally insane, his every post was dripping with hatred (not only religious but racial), and he was frequently called on it by Jews, Atheists, Pagans, Buddhists, but not by those who loudly proclaimed themselves followers of Jesus Christ. Those "christians" were devotees of Anne Coulter, Jerry Falwell and that ilk, pure right-wing automatons, who kept repeating the same lies no matter how many times they were shown to be false. When they were reminded that they were bearing false witness, they didn't care.

What kind of god would want people like that representing him? And these people aren't just on anonymous Internet forums, they're out there in the real world trying to destroy the Constitution and remake it in their own sick image. These kinds of people indicate that god is either nonexistent, indifferent, or evil. Combining this with the total lack of evidence for the existence of god makes "nonexistent" the only reasonable option.

#137

Posted by: phantomreader42 | March 14, 2008 3:24 PM

But if god chooses who will be saved, with no input from the elect at all, and salvation has nothing to do with beliefs or actions (which is what the doctrine of unconditional election basically says), what possible use is there for a bible? Why do you need a book that tells you what to believe and how to act when god doesn't give a flying fuck about what you believe or how you act?

If the only path to salvation is to be chosen for it by god, and there's nothing at all anyone can do to alter god's choice, then the bible can't save any souls, because those souls are already saved or damned by god's whim, with no hope to alter that whim. It isn't necessary for conversions, because god chooses the converts himself. It has no function at all.

#138

Posted by: heddle | March 14, 2008 3:44 PM

phantomreader42

As for your post regarding your deconversion experience, no offense, but I don't believe you. I don't believe that a mean old racist, theonimistic, anti-Semitic, lying, mass-murder advocating Calvinist caused you to abandon your faith. And further, you were the only Christian troubled by his spew--the rest were Ann Coulter followers who cheered him on. I mean, give me a break. You need to be a bit more nuanced. I should add it to my list of such encounters:

http://helives.blogspot.com/2005/10/when-too-good-to-be-true-is-true.html

As for your questions, I won't answer them, and I'll tell you why. When someone knows nothing about Calvinism, and you obviously don't, it is very reasonable for them to ask or complain "but that's not fair!" or "then what's the point? We are but puppets--everything is predetermined!" or (interestingly enough the exact opposite complaint) "But in that case we might as well just do whatever we want!"

These are reasonable responses. But a reasonable person will say to himself--there have been a lot of Calvinists, for a long time, a lot of them recognizably smart--they must have encountered these questions before.

That injects a bit of humility into their questioning. Assuming the opposition is stupid and hasn't considered the simplest, most obvious questions is just not a good strategy.

People that aren't too bright ask these questions as if they first thought of them, and they are clearly showstoppers. As if Calvin himself, faced with such questions, would be forced to say, "gee, I never thought of that. My bad."

Analogy: If I go to Panda's Thumb and with grace and sincerity ask the consummate dumb evolution question: "What good is half an eye?" someone should take the time to answer. If I go there and say "A ha! Explain to me what good half an eye is you morons! *giggle*, *smirk*" then I should be mocked and ridiculed.

#139

Posted by: PZ Myers | March 14, 2008 4:02 PM

True enough -- there are people who don't understand, and who ask serious and sincere questions.

Then there are deluded people who ask the ranting, silly questions in the arrogant tone.

But you left off a third possibility: the batshit insane lunatics who talk about crazy crap in an even, sensible tone, and demand that we take them seriously because they didn't poop in their pants and scream.

Guess which category you are in?

#140

Posted by: heddle | March 14, 2008 4:06 PM

PZ,

Gee, are those my only choices?

#141

Posted by: phantomreader42 | March 14, 2008 4:20 PM

Twaddle @138:

As for your post regarding your deconversion experience, no offense, but I don't believe you. I don't believe that a mean old racist, theonimistic, anti-Semitic, lying, mass-murder advocating Calvinist caused you to abandon your faith. And further, you were the only Christian troubled by his spew--the rest were Ann Coulter followers who cheered him on.

Oh, Twaddle just called me a liar! Like you'd know truth if it bit you in the ass. Go fuck yourself.
And I didn't say this was the ONLY thing that helped me realize religion was bullshit, just a contributing factor (thanks for providing more data on that, BTW). And yes, the other christians saw this racist fucktard lying and advocating genocide, and either ignored him or treated him as a kindred spirit.

More Twaddle

But a reasonable person will say to himself--there have been a lot of Calvinists, for a long time, a lot of them recognizably smart--they must have encountered these questions before.

So it's the old "two billion christians can't be wrong (but everyone else in the world can be and is)" garbage. I realize these questions have been asked before. Has there ever been any rational answer to them? I doubt it, religion isn't in the business of giving rational answers. Religion is in the business of telling people they're going to be eternally tortured for wanting answers.

Bottom line, there is not the slightest shred of evidence that any god exists, much less YOUR version of god. There is no sense in your theology, no rational reason to believe it. Even if it were true, there would be no way to test it. And it does not lead to good results.

Religion is not necessary to morality, it is not even helpful. Many religious doctrines are appallingly evil. The notion of a being who would torture his creations without end is simply sickening, all the more so if such torture is through no fault of the victim. Even if such a being existed, it would not be worthy of worship.

#142

Posted by: Brownian, OM | March 14, 2008 4:31 PM

But a reasonable person will say to himself--there have been a lot of Calvinists, for a long time, a lot of them recognizably smart--they must have encountered these questions before.

phantomreader42's right. Why don't you use that same rationale and go pouring through the discourses on the Sutras? After all, there've been a lot more Buddhists and Hindus than Calvinists, for a lot longer than Calvin and Christ, and even more of them recognizably smart. A reasonable person would, by your definition, ask himself how it can possibly that he is right while so many others are wrong.

You obviously have no problem dismissing them, yet you somehow expect us to sit here, read your bullshit, and stifle any questions with appeals to authority.

You are indeed the very model of a Christian: nothing but contempt and arrogance hidden behind the thinnest veneer of humility.

#143

Posted by: demallien | March 15, 2008 6:18 AM

You know, whatever you might think about heddle's philosophy, you have to admit, he's quite good at debates. His response to PZ @140 actually made me laugh outloud :-)

#144

Posted by: Strakh | March 15, 2008 9:19 AM

Heddle may be a good debator, demallien, but everything out of his mouth is pure, solid shit.
The point is, in #139 PZ nails it on the head: if shit comes out of your mouth in a reasonable tone, does it make the shit valid, or you worth heeding? No. Watchman Nee, C. S. Lewis and other Christian apologists have sounded so, so reasonable in all their presentations. But every word out of their mouths in defense of their beliefs was pure, solid shit.
Why?
Because every single solitary word they, and heddle, utter rests on the completely groundless claim that a god exists. Once they, and heddle, make that disgustingly ignorant claim, every word following is pure shit.
heddle, as well as Watchman Nee, C.S. Lewis and others, no matter how erudite and reasonable they may sound, are merely shitting out of their mouths.
And after PZ points this out, heddle can only give a smart assed reply that demonstrates he knows he cannot argue with PZ's truth:
heddle is nothing more than a batshit insane lunatic.
'Debating' never trumps the truth, no matter how cute or impressive.

#145

Posted by: Owlmirror | March 15, 2008 6:29 PM

And why Martin Luther risked his life on the principle that if it is not in the bible then it is not binding--Martin Luther who, when it comes to unconditional election, was arguably more of a Calvinist than Calvin (at least he wrote more about it)--he drew a Sola Scriptura line in the sand because--it didn't matter, to him, whether or not the bible made any sense at all. After all, if one is to be excommunicated, then for laughs it ought to be over something you don't care about.

Let's see, what did Martin Luther say about things "making sense"?

Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom ... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism... She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but -- more frequently than not -- struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.

Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God.

Reason should be destroyed in all Christians.

Looks like Martin Luther didn't care a whole lot about "making sense".

Why should Martin Luther have cared about being excommunicated when that only "makes sense" if he accepted the authority of the pope to have an affect on his salvation?

It sure looks like Luther just wanted to promulgate his own interpretation of the Bible; to make himself his own priest and pope. Regardless if that "made sense" or not. And regardless of the threat to his own life. After all, he was pretty sure that he was one of the elect, wasn't he?


Of course, he was not the only one to re-interpret the bible for himself. Other interpreters, both before and after Luther, rejected the authority of the pope to affect salvation. And their interpretation of the whole business was, as I'm sure you're aware, universal salvation.

So, are you going to join the Universalists any time soon?

#146

Posted by: Owlmirror | March 15, 2008 6:38 PM

I was listening and it simply dawned on me: holy crap, I believe this stuff. There was nothing rational about it.

I would just like to say that regardless of whether it was done inadvertently, or deliberately so as to be ironic, I find the expression "holy crap" as an expression of putatively genuine religious enlightenment to be very amusing.

But then, I sometimes have an affinity for the mystical iconoclasm of Zen Buddhism or parts of Sufism.

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