Tag Archives: the Bible

You do WHAT in your Bible? How viscerally repulsive! Part II

Sarcastic Trigger Warning: Contains some sarcasm

Conformist Trigger Warning: Contains parts where I disagree with you and am not being sarcastic 

So here we are, not even through Section I, and I already had to stomp off and calm down.  It appears that in the Bible, interracial marriages may be frowned on (i.e. noble Teachers of the Law throw themselves around and cry until all the nasty ladies go away) and using war prisoners as sex slaves is ok.  It also turns out that Jack has a curious habit of avoiding facts like this, and has tried to portray them 1) as belonging to first century Judaism and 2)as some kind of bizarre aberration from otherwise normal healthy and courageous Biblical attitudes.

So far I find his treatment of this subject intellectually dishonest.  And morally abhorrent.

Clearly.  I must be nothing more than a product of my culture, that I take exception to him thus.

Oh wait.  Except the culture I’m from and surrounded by is the one that agrees with him.

I must… uh… I must…  be objecting…. because…

I HAVE AN ACTUAL OBJECTION.

So. Onward.

B. For the person who has a need to conform culturally, nothing the Bible says could
possibly convince him of its sexual ethics and neither will its values resonate with him.

That conformists need to conform and that nothing will convince them otherwise is a given. It’s like the wing being the wing of a winged thing and the winged thing being winged by a wing. A necessary relationship.  Modern conformists will conform to Modernity, Catholic conformists will conform to Catholicism, Protestant conformists will conform to Protestantism.  Reformed conformists will conform to Reformed… ism.

There are, one would assume, also persons of each belief who take their beliefs seriously and hold them, not out of conformity, but out of honest intellectual agreement.

Granting the possibility that there are some non-conformist Reformists out there in the wild somewhere, I don’t understand why he’s bringing this up.  Shouldn’t he be talking about his sincere opponents?

Well, for some reason, Mr. Crabtree doesn’t feel that’s necessary.  Given the level of intellectual integrity he displayed with the Book of Tobit stunt, maybe he feels he’s talking to people like himself.

I shouldn’t be so cruel.  Maybe he was rushed prepping this lecture and in twenty plus years of Biblical studies just never heard of the book of Ezra.

And then there’s me.  Disagreeing with him!  I must be such a conformist to my culture! The culture he signs off on and helped create. I am probably the case in point, right here!

1. Biblical sexual ethics and modern cultural attitudes and beliefs about sexuality are
mutually incompatible.

Damn straight they are.  People who do shit like that go to prison.

C. The Bible is teaching a perspective on our sexuality that will only resonate with those
few courageous, fiercely independent individuals who want to honor their creator with
their lives and have no regard for the favor of the other people around them.

There’s Radical Submission for you.  Doesn’t matter if it destroys you, doesn’t matter that it’s a social menace- just do what I say God says.  Allah Ackbar!

1. Those interested in following biblical sexual ethics today must necessarily form 

an “under-culture.”

Also know as terrorist cells.

2. Not a “subculture.”

Thanks for the correction.  I was confused.

a) A subculture utilizes social and cultural pressure to effect conformity. The
follower of Jesus does so out of free, existential obedience. The Bible never
advocates cultural conformity for its own sake, where no free, existential
choice is involved.

You get inducted into the ‘underculture’ when the underculturists kill your family, take you prisoner, start using you for sex, and then call it marriage so that if you try to run away you can be prosecuted for unfaithfulness.

Girl, stop smarting off!  The Bible would NEVER-  oh wait.

It does.

I love the smell of existential choice in the mornings!

End of Section 1.   Thank Allah.

II. With regard to a moral judgment about sexual behavior (or any other behavior), the
Jesus-follower is interested in what the Bible teaches.

So… Mr Crabtree… isn’t a Jesus Follower, then? What are we supposed to take from this?

Oh, I know,  maybe Jesus Followers are interested in everything the Bible teaches, but primarily follow the teachings of Jesus.

Like when he says in  Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Actually Rabbi Hillel said that too. In the time of King Herod. The one who tried to kill baby Jesus.

“What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man: this is the whole Law; the rest is mere commentary” (Shab. 31a)

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7698-hillel

First century Judaism was so much like the Taliban!

You see, if I was guilty of a crime against God that deserved death, I would totally want people to kill my innocent children.  Wouldn’t you? Or  for them to be used as plunder by a victorious army– hey- I am totally down with that!

That’s why we can say that the whole message of the Law can be summed up in the formula “treat others the way you want to be treated”

Otherwise there would be no explanation for things like this:

Deuteronomy 20:4 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.

Or, if by some chance, no one would want these things to happen to their children when they were dead, even if they did worship Baal instead of Yahweh, we may be forced into another line of thought.

Since the Law, as it actually stands, CAN’T be summarized as ‘treat others the way you want to be treated”-

What if the Christian Bible, as it now stands, does not actually present a coherent vision of ethics?

A. The Jesus believer conforms his beliefs to what he is convinced, by sound reason, is
true, not by what “appears” to him to be true.

Perhaps this was more clear in the lecture.  The distinction between ‘appears to him to be true’ and ‘convinced by sound reason to be true’ doesn’t make much sense to me.  I myself would use those phrases interchangeably.

I am curious about his use of the word conform.  A conformist being someone who believes a thing out of a psychological need to be like everyone else- what business does anyone who is not a conformist have conforming their beliefs to something they are convinced of by sound reason?  Shouldn’t what they are convinced of by sound reason be their belief already without having to conform to anything to anything as a middle step?

Possibly just semantics. Onward. Furthur.

1. We “walk by belief (faith), and not by sight” = we live and think in accord with
what we know, by reason, to be true, not what appears true to us because of our
ill-considered and uncritical perception.

forgive my crummy greek transliteration here.

The choice to translate pistews (“faith”) in Corinthians 5:7 as ‘belief’ rather than ‘trust’ is an interesting choice, but possible.   The jump from ‘belief’ to ‘reason’ in the paraphrase, especially when contrasted with ‘íll-considered’ and ‘uncritical’ makes a switch not easily noticeable in English- moving pisteuo away from meaning an intellectual commitment, which it may legitimately do, and towards meaning  rationality and the process of reasoning- more in the direction of logos.  Which is illegitimate, according to the usage and rules of the Greek language as I understand them.

That, when compared to some  random passage from Tobit, makes this point sort of smell to high heaven, but, if he would leave out the Bible verse, it would be a pretty fair argument.  Act and think more reasonably, not less reasonably.

But it’s something almost anyone, of any religion would agree to. Mm. Except the old school Abrahamic religions. In those religions nothing counts unless God says- and then you just have to trust that it’s right.

Maybe that’s why he feels he has to mutilate a Bible verse into making this point. So that he can have access to it too.

Too bad it actually says ‘we live by trust, not by sight’.

a) Typically, our unreflective perception will be a reflection of the culture that
has shaped me.

Again this holds of anyone- of any culture. If there were a culture that had discovered the god-damned Well at the End of the World, and knew all things as unquestionably as Urd, a child raised in that culture would unreflectively parrot Ultimate Truth.

That a belief is cultural is not a criteria for the truth or falsehood of that belief.  Just the maturity or immaturity of its believer.

b) 2 Corinthians 5:7 

uh- what? Yes.  See above.

2. Coming to grasp a worldview or paradigm rationally can be likened to a rock
climber climbing the face of a sheer rock cliff. He makes his way up to one
foothold from which he can then ascend to the next.

a) All too often, we become rationally convinced of an intellectual or
philosophical foothold, only to return to the familiar lenses of our uncritical
prejudices and perceptions in order to resume thinking about the topic.
Accordingly, we make no progress toward a rational conclusion in which we
have confidence

Sure.

But sometimes we perceive our cultural prejudices AS footholds.  And we climb on them to dazzling heights of falseness and bigotry, without ever noticing that we have done so. In fact, we believe that we HAVE reached a rational conclusion and that conclusion does have our full confidence.

Because a false step in intellectual rock-climbing doesn’t necessarily lead to the death of the climber.  It leads to the death of the Gays. Or the Jews. Or the Canaanites. Or whoever else you didn’t have the integrity to take into consideration.

B. The Jesus believer grants authority to the Bible above any other authority. The Bible is his primary source of instruction with regard to matters of morality, theology,
philosophy, and spirituality.

Such a short paragraph, to spawn so many questions.

Is a Jesus follower defined as a member of one of the many Christian religions? Or some one who follows the teachings of Jesus as the key to understanding the rest of Scripture?  Or someone who believes that Jesus’ death was a magical act that will force God not to destroy the Earth in the Apocalypse?  Someone who believes Jesus was a great teacher? Someone who believes Jesus was God? Someone who believes Jesus was Prometheus in disguise? What exactly is a Jesus Follower?

Like the term “biblical sexual ethics” we have gotten all the way to the end of Section II without  Mr. Crabtree saying  what he means by this phrase.

Pretty odd, for a teacher at a school where I was taught to define my terms in order to communicate.  He knows he should be doing this.  Why isn’t he?

Is he trying to communicate? Or is he trying to do something else?

Hm.

So.  The Jesus follower is someone, at least, who: grants authority to the Bible above any other authority.   

Why?

We aren’t told.  It does rule out all forms of the Orthodox Church and the Catholics, since they do not adhere to Sola Scriptura and hold their traditions and bodies of approved writings as authoritative along with the Bible.

Not a bad plan when you consider the role of Canonization councils in the Bible’s formation.

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

No one is above the Word of God!   Except for every group of bickering theologians ever. And Martin Luther, too, if he could get away with it!

And now that Jack Crabtree has taken on himself the authority  to damn two of the three major branches of Christianity,  he tells us, of the Jesus Follower, that

The Bible is his primary source of instruction with regard to matters of morality, theology, philosophy, and spirituality.

The Jesus Follower is also a male, BTW.

And curiously enough, Mr. Crabtree wasn’t really being honest with us about the whole ‘Bible is highest authority’ thing.

In the list of subjects for which the Bible is the primary source of instruction, do you see what’s missing?

The STEM sciences. And Psychology.

For authority on those subjects, one must look elsewhere. Interestingly enough, these disciplines demand their hypotheses have testable feature that allow their veracity to be determined.  Psychology must produce accurate enough results that people will purchase therapy, and that the police agencies investing in Criminal Psychology Training  will have improved results and want more.

The disciplines of which the Bible is an authority?

No verification is required.

He doesn’t tell us why he’s let the STEMs and Pych off the hook. Perhaps that’s all we need to know.

1. The Jesus-follower is not impressed by what is or is not acceptable to his culture;
he is interested above all else in what the Bible actually teaches.

Nor am I.  And so am I.

Now, we drink. Me, from my glass, and you, from yours.

 

 

 

 

Section III, coming soon.

 

 

 

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Dismissed by the Dismissive

Sarcastic Trigger Warning: Sarcasm.  May cause uncertainty and defensiveness. 

This is a post that, a number of years ago, I never imagined I’d be writing. Granted, a lot of things have been happening lately that I’d never dreamed would, but this one is really sticking out for me.

Years ago, I attended a small Liberal Arts school called Gutenberg College.  It  was and is a weird school and I mean that as a compliment in many ways.  The core structure of the program  consisted of reading the primary documents of Western Civilization  and holding small intense discussion groups on each one.  Textbooks and histories were there in the background to provide context, but the majority of the program involved trying to figure out what people in the different eras of history thought.  To see through their eyes and understand the patterns they saw, and how the world looked through the spectacles of those patterns.

To see how those patterns changed and changed each other, over the course of history.

To try to let your own eyes fall away like scales.

That was how I understood it at the time, anyway.

It was a formative experience (for me) and it’s one I prize, whatever the flaws or deficiencies may have been.

The teachers and staff (one and the same thing, called tutors, due to budget) were all Christian.  I would never have gone if they weren’t.  However, unlike some groups I’ve been around, they claimed they weren’t teaching ‘from a christian perspective’ as much as they were teaching history and the history of various perspectives.  The tutors, for themselves, believed that Christianity was a historical truth.  Study would lead to that conclusion, they felt.  So study, of anything, was permissible.  Looking back, the program probably was biased, but the bias was very laid back. You could play around.  Explore.

Coming from where I came from, it was real edgy.

In the time since I finished, I’ve heard that there have been changes.  That things have gotten a bit… mm… narrower.

Recently, in a spate of nostalgia, I was looking over the Gutenberg website.  There were, indeed, signs of increased paranoia and narrowing definitions.  They were, in fact , coming from the source I had heard they were coming from.

But one of their posted articles broke my heart.   It’s from about a year ago- you can find it here. By Mr. Ron Julian.

http://msc.gutenberg.edu/2013/04/dismissed/

It is a response to a Huffington Post article- also a year old.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/6-things-christians-should-just-stop-saying_b_2767507.html

So this is late breaking news, all around.

Mr. McSwain’s article is, as you may note, a list of six things.  These are things that he believes to be so blatantly inaccurate that Christians should at least stop making them into battlegrounds.   He very briefly presents arguments for each one.

He does NOT argue against Christianity as a social structure, he does NOT call Jesus a (probably unintentional) fraud, and he does NOT call God a genocidal maniac. These are all things I would have done.

Have done.

Perhaps this lends me a broader perspective on Mr. McSwain’s article.

Mr. McSwains writes in a flippant  and sarcastic tone, but then, this is a magazine article, not a scholarly one.  Its intended to be funny, easy to read, and entertaining to the audience in much the same way as a football game or a cockfight.

You know.  From back when America  was a more moral place and forcing animals to fight each other to the death, just for the fun of watching a killing, was legal.

That is it’s genre.  According to the online branch of the Merriam Webster dictionary, genre is “a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content” The flippancy of this author’s tone is one that characterizes a genre- ie you can probably assume that an article entitled “6 reasons that [insert name here] should/won’t/hates [insert activity here] is going to be at least slightly sarcastic and definitely written for maximum click value.

The genre of the text being one of the things Mr. Julian and his fellow tutors taught me to look for, in evaluating a text.

Despite the fact that he does go through and talk about a few of Mr. McSwain’s points, in his conclusion, Mr. Julian insists that

“My only concern in this article is to remind Christians that name-calling is not an argument.”

Unfortunately, it seems to me that a large part of what Mr. Julian seems to perceive as name-calling is in fact genre.

I know for a fact that Mr. Julian is capable of recognising this in works of literature, such as Gulliver’s Travels.  He is capable of of holding a rational dialogue with Jonathan Swift despite Swifts’ jabs at humanity and its nature.   He is capable of approaching Chaucer despite the fact that Chaucer made fart jokes about men who represented the most powerful and universally recognized religion in Europe in that day.

What gives?

Perhaps he is not familiar with this genre. It’s pretty common, though.  That would be odd.

He may himself attribute his response to the fact that the jokes being aimed in his direction.

 “More and more, Bible believing Christians are finding themselves targeted in this way, their opinions portrayed as so obviously stupid and intolerant that every right thinking person is justified in dismissing them out of hand. It is only natural, then, that Christians find themselves feeling defensive and uncertain in response.”

Try replacing the word Christian with Catholic in these sentences.  And think of Chaucer.

There are other problems.  In a list of six items, Mr. Julian claims that he is (sort of) with Mr. McSwain in disagreeing with three of them.  He refuses to say which three they are.  Which is interesting, since, unless I am miscounting, he attempts to defend four of them against Mr. McSwain.

I will stick to the points he deals with in detail- the points he admits to disagreeing with Mr. Mc Swain about.

The first point is inerrancy.  Mr. McSwain says that 1)the Bible is full of errors, and that 2) we have no proof that the original wasn’t as well. Even if the text has been corrupted we have no reason to believe that anything other than a fallible document before it became corrupt.  Mr Julian gives a long reply to this, which … seems… to boil down to him saying that all of this evidence stuff is irrelevant…?

Mr. McSwain is showing off how ignorant he is by even by even bringing evidence up.

Mr. Julian believes the Bible’s claim to be true because the Bible claims that it’s true.

” We can question whether Paul wrote a particular word in our manuscripts. We can question whether we have accurately understood what Paul meant. But we do not question whether Paul knew what he was talking about. Paul claims to speak with the authority of Jesus because he was taught by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The inerrantist accepts that claim.”

The reason we believe that Jesus has authority and that the Holy Spirit can empower- instead of believing that Jesus was a kindly moral teacher and that humans unconsciously manipulate psychic energy-

is because Paul and the other apostles said so.

And why do we believe they were right about that?

Because Jesus gave them his authority.  And the Holy Spirit empowered them.

It’s a circle!

Imagine if you accidentally read both the Christian Bible and the Koran! Or the Book of Mormon!  Your head might explode from the contradictory yet unquestionably correct truth-claims!

But wait!  There’s more. It turns out that

“Even more serious is the bullying way McSwain asserts that the Bible obviously has errors:

As we have it, no matter what translation you favor, the Bible is replete with errors. To pretend otherwise is your right. To say otherwise is a lie. You are entitled to your opinions, your assumptions, even your beliefs. What you are not entitled to is a misrepresentation of the facts.

This is the classic technique of the rhetorical bully: assume that your position is obviously true and then berate your opponents for their bad faith…”

 

Gosh.  I wouldn’t want to just assume that my position was true!  I’m glad Mr Julian mentioned that that was a bad idea!

The trouble is that the Bible IS full of discrepancies.

Some of them are small discrepancies.  Many of them involve numbers, and so probably could be explained as scribal errors.

My personal favorite is the difference between 2 Samuel 24:1 and I Chronicles 2 1:1. David was enticed to count his fighting men, an action for which God punished him by massacring his people.  Samuel says God enticed him to do this.  Chronicles says Satan enticed him.

Not much difference, though, eh?

Then there are the large discrepancies.

Like how God says in Exodus 20:5

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me… 

But also says in Deuteronomy 24:16

“Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.

But then when push comes to shove, in Numbers 16-

27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.

…God is perfectly willing to execute children along with their parents.  Rules are for humans, sucker!!

Except that by the time God finally gets around to destroying Jerusalem (for the sins of king Manasseh, several generations earlier, according to 2 Kings 21:10-12, 2 Kings 23:26 and 2 Kings 24:3) he’s actually come around and gets kind of ticked off at them for implying that he’s punishing them for the sins of their ancestors.

Ezekiel 18:1 The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:

“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.

And then he runs off to Jeremiah (Jer 31) and explains that one day, he’s going to bring them back from exile and then…

29 “In those days people will no longer say,

‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.

Notice how he doesn’t say he going to save anyone from their sins? He just says that- in the new wonderful future- he’s only going to kill people for their own sins.  No longer will children be massacred along with/because of their parents!  Woot!

Tacit admission, anyone?

Mr. McSwains assertion about discrepancies IS obviously true.  Why Mr. Julian doesn’t see them- I don’t know.   That’s something for him to figure out, I guess.

Mr. Julian, somewhere in this, give a lengthy analogy explaining inerrancy.   He likens the Bible unto a millennia old treasure map guide book thingie.  The book may be weather-stained, battered and written in Klingon, but it was written by the man who buried the treasure in the first place and preserved by his descendants.  Thus.  We know that, even if we can’t understand it, it must be true.

But that isn’t how it works.

What if the man wrote it and left it to his descendants as an easy way to shunt conquistadors and treasure hounds into hungry quicksand?

What if he wrote it as the guide for a hallucinatory journey  through the spirit world in a landscape that looked vaguely like the one they actually lived in to keep the trip from getting too wierd?

What if he was actually insane, but just such a sweet guy otherwise, and they kept it to remember him by?

What if the guide is accurate- and you finally decode the weird script- and make it across the ravine- and survive the snake pit- and find the treasure chest- and open the lid-

And the treasure is something that was only valuable millennia ago? Like a black rock that fell from the sky- or the family’s totem that they aren’t allowed to keep images of?

What then?

I do not believe that the sarcastic tone I’m using in this post is probably helpful to anyone. I feel wretched beating up hapless old men. Particularly Mr Julian, who, whatever his opinions in this article, helped me in so many ways.

But I hate God so much. I refuse to let him get away with this.

There are people trusting Him with their lives. They deserve to know if He has already failed them. Or, you know, is a black rock.

Before the staff they lean on breaks in their hand.  Before the oasis turns out to be dry, when they drank their last water travelling there.

Before they turn into bitter hateful freaks like me.

“Just stating what Christians believe is thought to be enough to show how ridiculous Christianity is.” 

Took the words right out of my mouth, Mr. Julian.

Mr. McSwain has presented arguments, that , if true, would more or less damn Christianity, to a degree that I don’t think Mr. McSwain understands.  McSwain claims he is still a Christian, he has, perhaps, found some way of making peace with his Maker. I would be interested to read him further.

Instead of answering those arguments (I mean, with thoughtful answers), Mr. Julian mostly writes them off as name calling.

Which, regardless of tone, satire or sarcasm, actually IS  name calling.

His only counterargument to what he calls shaming IS shaming.  The thing he condemns as not being an appropriate argument.

Maybe I’ve been working around old people too much.   This article gives me the eerie feeling that I’m losing a parent to Alzheimer’s.

The person I knew is disappearing.

God claims another soul, I guess.

***

It turns out I still write my papers all in one night, Mr. Julian.  More to come… later…

“Only your interpretation” …has been dismissed (but not mine)..