The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CLII (Charity)

December 12, 2005 | 111 Comments

The Squad gives incomplete and inconsistent advice to a reader who donates to almost every cause but still feels swamped by an avalanche of charitable appeals. While they correctly note that “[i]n the Gospel of Matthew 25: 31-46, we’re all reminded that we are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit those in prison,” it might have been prudent to emphasize that it’s a bit more than a friendly reminder. Those who don’t nourish the sick, naked strangers in the SuperMax are “cursed” and must “depart . . . into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

The Squad also opines that “[t]he point of charity is not only to change the world but also to keep the world from changing you” and suggests the reader restrict the giving to his or her favorite charities. No scripture is cited for this proposition, and it’s not clear exactly what they mean. One the one hand, they could be saying that it doesn’t matter what one gives to so long as one isn’t influenced to change one’s mind about what constitutes a good cause. But even the relativists among you would agree that there’s some difference between giving to this and this.

More likely, the Squad means that charitable giving shouldn’t cause a significant change in one’s own economic condition. In support of this notion, they propose that one shouldn’t be made to feel guilty by thoughts that “there’s more you should be doing” or feel pressured to sell all one’s possessions and move into a refrigerator box. But their reliance on Luke 21: 1-4 –wherein “Jesus praises a woman who gave a small single coin at the temple . . . [and tells] his followers that her generosity was the greatest because what little she had she gave” — obviously doesn’t support that argument. Jesus wasn’t saying that giving less is good — He was saying that charity is meaningful only if you give until it really, really hurts and thereby changes your circumstances, even if you’re already destitute. Indeed, in the example, the poor woman “put in all she had to live on.”

Comments

111 Responses to “God Squad Review CLII (Charity)”

  1. Mort Coyle
    December 12th, 2005 @ 11:23 am

    Taking care of the poor, oppressed and outcast is mandated more in the Bible than any other commandment. It is a central theme that comes up again and again, in hundreds of verses. This would seem to indicate that charity is of paramount importance to God.

    There is a long Jewish tradition of practicing charity, known as “tzedakah”, which dates back to the time of Moses (see Leviticus 23:22). It is actually more than a tradition, it is considered a “mitzvah” or commandment from God.

    Likewise, the Christian church has held charity to be a core value from its inception. Here’s one example from the Book of Acts: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)

    Jews and Christians continue to be at the forefront when it comes to charitable giving. The embarrassing examples of rich televangelists living opulent lifestyles do not negate the fact that untold millions of rank & file theists who *do* give sacrificially.

    If there is a hell though, then I think there is a special place reserved for those who solicit charity but don’t actually need it. Some do it out of greed, others out of laziness. These people leech money that should be used for those who *really* need it. According to Jewish tradition “Tzedakah” is to be given generously and lovingly but also with wisdom and common sense. Perhaps that’s what the God Squad was getting at.

  2. Lily
    December 12th, 2005 @ 12:05 pm

    I completely agree with Mort. The God Squad is really wrong on this one. If it doesn’t hurt a little, I can’t see how we can be said to be giving enough. Funny, how easy it is to to make excuses for not helping.

  3. Mookie
    December 12th, 2005 @ 12:58 pm

    When I used to watch TV, sometimes late at night or on the xian channels, I would see these little infomercials with WASPs extolling the virtues of donating. They claimed they gave all their worth to god (whatever that means), and somehow became massively successful as a result. It was actually kind of scary to see people lie so drone-like, very cultish. There obviously was a reality-disconnect somewhere, but this is not surprising since it involves xians.

    Mort and Lily,

    Sell your computers and donate the money to charity. Cancel your internet service and donate the money to charity. If it doesn’t hurt, then you’re not doing enough. We will certainly miss you.

  4. franky
    December 12th, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

    Those passages are used all the time to sucker people into donating “till it hurts” because god has promised that it will be returned to them 10-fold or something like that.

    Sad, so very sad.

  5. jahrta
    December 12th, 2005 @ 2:59 pm

    Only problem with “giving until it hurts” is that if you keep it up, you’ll eventually become a charity case yourself. This self-deprecatorial cultish mindset contributes more to the overall condition of poverty than it helps. if people really gave a damn about ending the cycle, they’d provide these people with training in some viable real-world skill while clothing, feeding and housing them with tangible goods. If people keep on holding out their hands for charity, knowing that it’s coming without forseeable end, then why would they ever have a good reason to try to improve things? I know there are some programs that do just this (habitat for humanity is a good one) but they are in the minority. Also comprising the minorty are the people who are down and destitute who are actually trying to break the wellfare/charity cycle on their own. Most charities – while well-meaning, are often ultimately just perpetuating the problem.

    This isn’t to say that I advocate the cessation of all charities (people need to eat after all) – I just wish there was some sort of standard by which people receive this relief.

  6. Mort Coyle
    December 12th, 2005 @ 3:21 pm

    Nice try Mookie. Part of the “wisdom and common sense” that I referred to is not overextending oneself to the point of ending up in need of charity oneself (and thus becoming a drain on others). This means finding a balance in generous giving so that one can continue to be a giver:

    jahrta, here’s an example of a charity that is actually trying to break the wellfare/charity cycle through the use of “micro-loans”:
    http://www.womensopportunityfund.org

  7. Jason Malloy
    December 12th, 2005 @ 3:29 pm

    You may feel guilty, thinking there’s more you should be doing, but consider this: In Luke’s Gospel 21: 1-4, Jesus praises a woman who gave a small single coin at the temple. He told his followers that her generosity was the greatest because what little she had she gave.

    This is completely pathetic. This guy interprets the New Testament for a living and he can’t even get the most straight-forward verses right.

    I’ll bet that lazy goy bitch Thom probably makes Marc write all the Christian shit.

  8. Lily
    December 12th, 2005 @ 4:00 pm

    Private charity does usually extend to trying to help people break out of the cycle of poverty, alcoholism, and drug use.

    There is another kind charity that I really like called “Modest Needs”, which does what individuals do when they respond to an appeal in a particular situation for a particular individual. It makes one time grants to help people who aren’t dependent get over a rough spot. (http://www.modestneeds.org/)

    These are people who would otherwise fall through all the cracks because they are working and don’t qualify for government aid. So far as I know, it is the only one like it out there.

  9. sternwallow
    December 12th, 2005 @ 4:59 pm

    Matt.19
    [21] Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
    [22] But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

    No “favorite charities”, no “give till it hurts a little”, no “not overextending oneself to the point of ending up in need of charity oneself (and thus becoming a drain on others)”. A Christian is told by Jesus himself to give ALL and the only reward to expect will be in heaven. The fact that this commandment is self-defeating and impossible (and downright stupid) is merely another black mark against the bible and praise for those who ignore biblical laws in order to do what is right and proper and just.

  10. Lily
    December 12th, 2005 @ 8:57 pm

    Sternswallow:

    That is a remarkably foolish reading, even by the standards that obtain here.

    If you cannot understand a book meant for adults, it is time to go back to kiddy lit. Then, when you have conquered one and two syllable words, maybe you can do junior high English again where you will learn about poetic and literary devices and reading for comprehension.

    Why, if you try hard, maybe you will get to read Silas Marner. But I have to warn you–when Silas says that “My gold has come back to me”, he doesn’t think his little girl is a pile of coins.

  11. Mort Coyle
    December 12th, 2005 @ 10:33 pm

    I have to agree with Lily about the silly interpretation of Matt. 19:16-30.

    Jesus issued this challenge directly to the rich young man, not to all Christians. Jesus is extending to him the same invitation He extended to Peter, Andrew, John, James, Matthew, etc., when He told them to drop what they were doing and become His disciples (Peter, Andrew, John & James were working at their fishing business, Matthew was at his tax collector’s booth).

    Jesus has also just finished, in Chapters 18 & 19, explaining that one must come to God in humility, like a child who has nothing. The cockiness of the rich young man stands in contrast to those whom Jesus has said the kingdom of heaven belongs to. At the same time, the way he has approached Jesus indicates that all of his wealth and self-righteousness has still left him hungry for something more.

    A very common belief among Jews of that time was that wealth was a sign of God’s favor and blessing and, therefore, the rich were assumed to inherit eternal life. Jesus is turning this assumption upside-down, as He does throughout the Gospels. The real heart of this exchange is the “…come, follow me.” The challenge of Jesus is whether or not one is willing to follow Him regardless of the cost. If He is who He claims to be, it is not an unreasonable challenge.

    There are many wealthy followers of God depicted in the Bible: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Joseph of Arimathea (in whose tomb Jesus was placed), Lydia (a wealthy businesswoman who became a Christian leader in Philippi), etc. The issue isn’t the wealth they possessed but whether or not that wealth possessed them. As Jesus said elsewhere, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

    Some Christians are called to be wealthy and use their wealth and influence for the kingdom (Count Zinzendorf was a great example of this) while others are called to give it all up (like Francis of Assisi or the Moravian Christians who sold themselves into slavery in order to share the Gospel with African slaves) while others are called to remain in a middle-class existence (a category which didn’t exist in Jesus’ day – one was generally either rich or poor or really poor).

    The real lesson in the story of the rich young man is that God is not impressed by wealth or status or religious piety, but simply wants people who will follow Him wherever He leads. Following Him, by definition, includes taking care of the poor.

  12. Tony
    December 12th, 2005 @ 10:40 pm

    Jahrta,
    There’s giving until it “hurts” and giving “until you’re on life support”. One means not buying the wide screen TV you’d like this year and donate a lot of the proceeds to charity. The other is, like you said, turning yourself into a charity case. This is not for everyone. It was for Mother Teresa.

    You still have an obligation to provide for your family and friends in need.

  13. Bryce
    December 13th, 2005 @ 2:57 am

    If I were a remarkably foolish person, I might interpret Jesus’ words to the rich young man, followed immediately by “… it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” as saying it might be a good idea to sell the Hummer and the yacht and give all the money to the poor. But I’m sure Jesus was just talking about the single rich young man and not -all- rich people, right Mort? Because saying -all- rich people are unworthy of heaven is kind of a silly idea. And as Lily has pointed out, the Bible is for grown-ups. Isn’t it?

  14. bill
    December 13th, 2005 @ 5:44 am

    Why is Mort, possibly the most tedious contributor to any site I have ever encountered, given a pulpit to preach from on a site called the raving atheist? Has the world gone completely mad? Mort has virtually taken over and repelled large numbers of people through preaching the bible, the very thing we are trying to get away from.
    Why on earth is Mort allowed to do this? If we wanted scripture (which adds NOTHING to any rational debate) we could go to any number of sites polluted with this hayseed nonsense. If it doesn’t stop this site/blog is dead. Only Mort and RA will survive. I think that would make Mort quite happy too.
    Just go through some of Mort’s postings. They are brainless. Whenever a challenging issue is raised Mort plunges into his (her?) bible and starts quoting reams of garbage and over-analysing a text which this site, in principle, rejects. No atheist wishes to be subjected to any more of this theological nonsense and I for one did not expect to find evangelising xtians given so much space to preach and yet still be allowed to avoid any real debate. The very fact that we are atheists in a sadly theistic world screams out that we have had enough!
    In anticipation of a response from Mort I am now going to metaphorically stick my fingers in my ears and …” nya, nya, nya, nya ….”

  15. Anonymous
    December 13th, 2005 @ 6:46 am

    “But even the relativists among you would agree that there’s some difference between giving to this and this.”

    Sorry, I don’t value human life as a general rule. I value my quality of life and the quality of life of my loved ones. I’m a relativist in the sense that there is no absolute right and wrong, good or evil.

    If something is useful, I won’t hesitate for a moment to consider if god (speaking through Lily or Mort Coyle or a statue of the virgin Mary) or anyone else thinks it’s wrong, so long as I don’t end up at odds with the authorities (which would make the act not useful, wouldn’t it?).

    And the funny part is that most christians are the same way, except for the fact that they often don’t even care if their relativistic actions get them in trouble with the law (that’s “man’s law”, they often say with contempt). They simply quote some bible babble that may or may not seem to back their position and that’s all the justification they need. And if the text doesn’t quite back them up they “interpret” as necessary.

  16. SteveR
    December 13th, 2005 @ 7:52 am

    bill said:
    Why is Mort, possibly the most tedious contributor to any site I have ever encountered, given a pulpit to preach from on a site called the raving atheist?

    Bill, calm down! If Mort and his ilk didn’t show up with all their nonsense, who would we argue with? Ourselves? Instead of viewing Mort as a negative influence on this blog, rather, view him as ‘entertainment’, something to help us while away the long winter days. Besides, from reading some of your posts, you have more than enough intellectual firepower to deal with anything that Mort throws your way.

  17. jahrta
    December 13th, 2005 @ 10:16 am

    Y”ou still have an obligation to provide for your family and friends in need.”

    I agree – charity begins at home. My friends and family are provided for.

  18. Lily
    December 13th, 2005 @ 2:29 pm

    Mort is not the most tedious contributor to any site you, Bill, have ever encountered. The problem is you. You don’t want to be informed or given something to think about that contradicts your uninformed opinions. The most tedious contributors to this site and others that you visit are precisely those of you who ask the same ignorant, belligerant questions over and over again without ever paying attention to the excellent information that you get from most of the Christians posting here.

    And forget the foolishness of SteveR’s answer. You have no intellectual firepower with which to deal with the solid information you get from Mort. You have intellectual pee-pee, at best. Until you all can demonstrate basic reading comprehension, you can never be taken seriously in any capacity.

    This is why we end up leaving, once what little pleasure we have in correcting your foolish notions is used up. There is a certain fascination in watching you make the same ill-informed, illogical arguments over and over again. Most of you remind me of a 2 year old trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. The only difference is that the 2 year old does eventually learn. None of you seem to.

  19. Mort Coyle
    December 13th, 2005 @ 4:03 pm

    Bryce, that’s the whole point; it is harder for people who have lots of stuff to let go of it.
    It’s a well-known axiom (especially among charitable organizations) that poor people are more generous than rich people (based on percentages they donate). The story of the rich young man illustrates this point, as does the illustration of the camel through the eye of the needle. Jesus’ invitation to “…sell all you have and give it to the poor, and come follow me…” was directed to the rich young man, but the warning about being too attached to riches applies to us all.

    And bill, I’m glad to be the fly in your soup. ;^)

  20. SteveR
    December 13th, 2005 @ 8:07 pm

    Lily says: ” You have no intellectual firepower with which to deal with the solid information you get from Mort.”

    Au contraire, Lily. Bill has at least one foot planted firmly in reality at all times. What solid information have we gotten from Mort?

  21. Lily
    December 13th, 2005 @ 8:35 pm

    SteveR:

    Reading comprehension, lack thereof, sigh.

    See message #11. The universally accepted, adult reading of the passage in question by those who actually know how to read and evaluate what they read in context. Doesn’t even matter if they are believers or not. There is precious little disagreement about this passage among scholars or adult readers. You could learn something by paying attention. But you won’t. You won’t.

  22. Anonymous
    December 13th, 2005 @ 9:05 pm

    Lily’s condescending manner is mildly amusing. It’s the only benefit from reading her posts.

    Lucy Muff is more entertaining, though.

  23. Percy
    December 13th, 2005 @ 9:09 pm

    Bill said: “If we wanted scripture (which adds NOTHING to any rational debate) we could go to any number of sites polluted with this hayseed nonsense.”

    I’m astonished – Bill actually seems to be complaining about people quoting scripture in the comments box of a God Squad Review centering around what the Bible teaches in regards to giving! Wow… *stunned look* Rofl. Bill, you crack me up, lol.

  24. SteveR
    December 14th, 2005 @ 8:38 am

    Lily says: “Reading comprehension, lack thereof, sigh.”

    It’s not my reading comprehension, it’s your self-serving inclination to cherry pick and then interpret selective bible verses that support your own personal material aggrandizement. How about:

    Mark 10:23 . . . Jesus said to his disciples;’How difficult it is for these possessing wealth to enter the kingdom of God.’
    Matt 6:19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . .
    Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give alms . . .
    Luke 18:22 . . . sell all thou hast,and distribute unto the poor…

    Lily says: ” There is precious little disagreement about this passage among scholars or adult readers. ”

    What scholars? Scholars that you chose that reflect your views? Catholic scholars? Jehovah’s Witness’ scholars?

  25. Zenji
    December 14th, 2005 @ 2:24 pm

    I think the issue of wealth in a religious context is very difficult. The fact of the matter is, a lot of people are suffering very much, and if you are rich, you have at your hand a means to alleviate some of that suffering.

    You can argue all you want that it is impractical to do so, or that you practice selfishness and see no need to do so, or you can say that if you do so too much you’ll be in need yourself. But the fact remains that IF i want to be religious, and IF i want to ‘love my neighbor as myself’ (the summation of the Law, remember, the highest principal), that i cannot look upon human suffering and not do what i can to ease it.

    If you don’t care about the suffering of others, that is your right. You don’t have to be religious to care about the suffering of others, many non-religious people do so care. But Jesus was talking to religious people, and in his view it was IMPERATIVE to care about the suffering of others. Because that is what Love demands. Jesus taught radical love, the love of giving up all you had and following him, throwing yourself on the mercy of God and dedicating your life to Utopian dreams. Almost no one has followed him in this, certainly not after the first century or so, with some notable exceptions (St Francis, for example).

    As an atheist, i don’t expect you to be swayed by Jesus’ idea that you should do this. But I do think it is what he wanted of Christians.

  26. jahrta
    December 14th, 2005 @ 2:50 pm

    Zenji:

    “If you don’t care about the suffering of others, that is your right. You don’t have to be religious to care about the suffering of others, many non-religious people do so care. But Jesus was talking to religious people, and in his view it was IMPERATIVE to care about the suffering of others. Because that is what Love demands. Jesus taught radical love, the love of giving up all you had and following him, throwing yourself on the mercy of God and dedicating your life to Utopian dreams. Almost no one has followed him in this, certainly not after the first century or so, with some notable exceptions (St Francis, for example).
    As an atheist, i don’t expect you to be swayed by Jesus’ idea that you should do this. But I do think it is what he wanted of Christians.”

    Ok then. It’s not my aim to bait or otherwise bash you on this thread, but I feel that a few things must be said. According to you, Jesus taught that it is the moral imperative of the wealthy amongst the christians to give money to the less fortunate in order to ease their suffering. This implies that Jesus – a man you claim to be the physical incarnation of your all-powerful god – views suffering as a decidedly bad thing, and that we as mortals should do whatever we can to abolish it. That might sound good on paper, but what it fails to explain is why we need money to fight suffering when we have an all-powerful god in our corner. Is this not the same hoary god of olde who fashioned the earth on a whim in six days (taking a breather on the seventh to kick back and rest – and I’ve yet to receive an acceptable answer to my other question “why does an all-powerful deity need to rest?”)? Are you saying that god is incapable of preventing and/or alleviating suffering….but that the actions of mere mortals and THEIR MONEY CAN? I find this difficult to swallow (much like just about everything else in the bible and organized religion in general).

    I’m not saying that the practice of giving to a worthy cause isn’t a noble act – I’m just saying that we don’t need the bible/god to tell us that giving to people who are less-fortunate than ourselves is a good thing. I do it all the time as an atheist, even though I don’t believe that there is a heaven I can buy my way into.

  27. Lily
    December 14th, 2005 @ 4:29 pm

    We aren’t buying our way into heaven! Zenji can answer for himself; but I have a bit to say on this subject.

    jahrta, in general you seem like an adult of sound mind. Why then do you persist in turning off your brain when you look at scripture? We (Christians) have explained to you over and over again that God created us with free will and those are not just two “feel good” words. Rather the opposite. Consider what they mean and tremble at the awesome responsibility.

    The moral imperative of Jesus is not to give money but to love. For many that includes giving money. Of course suffering is a bad thing! Duh! (and thank you for making that childish expletive the only possible appropriate response.)

    Suffering is the result of our misusing our free will. We are the ones who made hell on earth. Yes, God could bring the curtain down on the whole mess. He has chosen not to. You will have to ask him why.

    Of course he could prevent all suffering– by violating our free will. (See above). Of course our money can alleviate suffering of some kinds. It does so all the time. Other kinds of suffering are helped by friendship, a kind word, a reliable ride to Church or to the doctor’s office, a visit with a lonely, a visit to a prisoner, etc. Which one of these is impossible for you?

    As to why God had to rest on the 7th day. Duh, again. He didn’t, although our iron age writer probably did conceive of it in those terms. We are the ones who need a day of rest from labor. God set the example. Let the exploiters of the workers argue with God, I will not.

  28. Zenji
    December 14th, 2005 @ 9:01 pm

    Jharta says….

    This implies that Jesus – a man you claim to be the physical incarnation of your all-powerful god – views suffering as a decidedly bad thing, and that we as mortals should do whatever we can to abolish it. That might sound good on paper, but what it fails to explain is why we need money to fight suffering when we have an all-powerful god in our corner. Is this not the same hoary god of olde who fashioned the earth on a whim in six days (taking a breather on the seventh to kick back and rest – and I’ve yet to receive an acceptable answer to my other question “why does an all-powerful deity need to rest?”)? Are you saying that god is incapable of preventing and/or alleviating suffering….but that the actions of mere mortals and THEIR MONEY CAN? I find this difficult to swallow (much like just about everything else in the bible and organized religion in general).

    I don’t know why God doesn’t intervene and end suffering. I really don’t. I don’t buy the idea that the only way to do so is to violate free will. I just know that God doesn’t seem to intervene much in human affairs, especially not directly or noticeably.

    The fact that God doesn’t intervene in human affairs doesn’t, in my mind, free me from a responsibility towards my fellow humans. God may not feel the need, desire, or ability, or whatever else, to help out in ways that would be visible to you and me. But i fundamentally believe in Love as a principal, and it makes no difference to me whether or not God even exists.

    I think the problem of suffering is central to human existence on this crappy rock we live on. You may have guessed from my name that I’m inclined to Buddhism at least as much as Christianity, and to be honest, neither one too strictly. But i do believe that suffering is the central truth we all must come to grips with if we are to truly understand our world, and our place in it, and learn how to live. And i also believe that the answer to suffering is Love. Take it as you wish.

  29. Mort Coyle
    December 15th, 2005 @ 1:20 am

    SteveR said:

    “It’s not my reading comprehension, it’s your self-serving inclination to cherry pick and then interpret selective bible verses that support your own personal material aggrandizement. How about:
    Mark 10:23 . . . Jesus said to his disciples;’How difficult it is for these possessing wealth to enter the kingdom of God.’
    Matt 6:19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . .
    Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give alms . . .
    Luke 18:22 . . . sell all thou hast,and distribute unto the poor…”

    Well, SteveR, since you asked (and bill, notice who’s quoting scriptures here!):

    Mark 10:23 and Luke 18:22 are the same story (the rich young man) as Matt. 19:16-30. We’ve already discussed this story and what it means.

    Matt 6:19, along the same lines, deals with priorities. Here’s the full context:

    “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    This particular scripture doesn’t really have anything to do with giving to the poor however. Read a little bit further through to the end of chapter 6 to get the full context.
    It’s really about not making the acquisition of wealth one’s priority, but instead trusting in God’s provision. This isn’t to deny the importance of generosity, it’s just not the point of this particular scripture.

    That leaves Luke 12:33, which is Luke’s take on the same general point about trusting God for one’s provision. If you read the verse in its context, from 12:22 through to 12:34 you can see that. The heart of it is in verse 30, “For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke adds in the importance of caring for the poor. Notice though that what he is denigrating is not the possession of material goods, but putting the pursuit of such things ahead of seeking God.

    In Acts chapter 5, there is the story of Ananias and Sapphira.
    They are judged for fraud, lying, conspiracy, etc., for trying to appear more generous than they were. They sold some land and gave a portion of the proceeds to the Apostles (for distribution to the poor) but claimed that they were giving the *entire* amount of the sale and keeping nothing for themselves. Such is the importance of integrity in the incipient church that God strikes them dead (which pretty much put a stop to such behavior gaining a foothold). How this relates to the discussion at hand is that Peter says, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? *Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?* What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

    The sin of Ananias and Sapphira wasn’t keeping the money, it was, to slightly alter your own words, “personal *religious* aggrandizement”.

    So, anyway, what was your point? You accused Lily of “personal material aggrandizement” when you know nothing about her or her lifestyle. I think we all agree that the Bible makes it very clear that charity is a priority with God. Trying to twist that (by quoting snippets of scripture out of context) into saying that the Bible commands all Christians to eschew all worldly possessions is mistaken at best and disingenuous at worst.

    Don’t you realize that the Bible was never intended to be a collection of verses that can be lifted from their context and used as “proof-texts”? It is stories and poems and conversations; all interconnected. Concepts and themes are developed over the course of chapters and books, not little sound-bites. If you have any interest in correctly understanding a verse of scripture, you have to read it in light of its surrounding context.

  30. SteveR
    December 15th, 2005 @ 9:10 am

    Mort says: ” So, anyway, what was your point? You accused Lily of “personal material aggrandizement” when you know nothing about her or her lifestyle. ”

    My point is that Lily (and you) seem, at times, to interpret certain scriptures so that you can ignore, or at least downplay, the obvious meaning.

    Mort says: “saying that the Bible commands all Christians to eschew all worldly possessions is mistaken at best and disingenuous at worst. ”

    That’s exactly what is does. If there is one thing that is abundantly clear in the NT it’s that Jesus eshewed the accumulation of wealth and implored his followers to give to the poor. You seem to be circling the wagons like Catholics do to avoid criticism of the Church’s wealth accumulation.

    Mort says: ” Don’t you realize that the Bible was never intended to be a collection of verses that can be lifted from their context and used as “proof-texts”? It is stories and poems and conversations; all interconnected. Concepts and themes are developed over the course of chapters and books, not little sound-bites. If you have any interest in correctly understanding a verse of scripture, you have to read it in light of its surrounding context”

    And you’re the one who is best qualified to interpret these verses and tell the rest of us what they really mean, right? Since you seem to have taken up the cross on Lily’s behalf, please provide a response to the question that I posed to her: What scholars do you rely on to teach you what these ‘stories and poems and conversations’ really mean?

  31. Lily
    December 15th, 2005 @ 10:22 am

    Oh brother. You have no idea what you are asking. Which centuries should we include? Which countries? Shall we cite atheist, Jewish, or Christian scholars? A little of each? In English only or shall we include foreign languages?

    Why do we need to do your work for you? This stuff is so easy to research. Will you read it if we do the work for you? Or will you ask the same question a week from now, just as the others do on this site, no matter how much factual information we give them?

    I, for one, would feel amply rewarded if you all would simply not ask the questions over and over in the same thread.

  32. Mort Coyle
    December 15th, 2005 @ 11:04 am

    SteveR said:

    “That’s exactly what is does. If there is one thing that is abundantly clear in the NT it’s that Jesus eshewed the accumulation of wealth and implored his followers to give to the poor. You seem to be circling the wagons like Catholics do to avoid criticism of the Church’s wealth accumulation.”

    Well yes, as previously stated (repeatedly) we all agree that Jesus implored his followers to give to the poor and not to get caught up in the accumulation of wealth. You attempted to twist this to say that *all* Christians should give away *all* their material possessions, which is not a scriptural position (though some, such as St. Francis feel a call to do so). As far as the the Catholic Church’s accumulation of wealth, I do have problems with that. The church I’m part of meets in houses (and so owns no buildings) and has no paid clergy. When we collect money, it *all* goes to the needy.

    I’m certainly not the “best qualified” to interpret the scriptures, but I do understand basic hermeneutic principles.
    As far as what scholars I rely on, I prefer to hear from multiple credible sources and see what the consensus is. Typically, you’ll find that an overwhelming majority of Christian scholars interpret a given verse the same way and do so based on sound hermeneutics (such as the grammatical-historical method).

    A few particular favorite scholars of mine are N.T. Wright (http://www.ntwrightpage.com/), Gordon Fee (http://www.regentbookstore.com/fee/) and Steve Gregg (http://www.thenarrowpath.com/). Wright is an Anglican bishop, Fee is Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) and Gregg is a non-denominational “house church” advocate. They come from very different expressions of the church yet generally agree on what any given scripture means. This is the case with most Bible scholars, regardless of denomination. (where you may find disagreement is on a small subset of somewhat vague and peripheral questions such as the relevance of speaking in tongues or the preferred method of baptism).

    A book I strongly recommend is “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. Another is “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler, which would introduce you to some basic principles of intelligent reading.

  33. SteveR
    December 15th, 2005 @ 11:53 am

    Lily said:
    “Oh brother. You have no idea what you are asking. Which centuries should we include? Which countries? Shall we cite atheist, Jewish, or Christian scholars? A little of each? In English only or shall we include foreign languages?

    Why do we need to do your work for you? This stuff is so easy to research. Will you read it if we do the work for you? Or will you ask the same question a week from now, just as the others do on this site, no matter how much factual information we give them? ”

    Lily, don’t make the question harder than it is. Just provide a few scholars who you and Mort found to be theologically influential. Let me show you how easy it is:

    I have been influenced by reading Spinoza, Thomas Paine, George Smith and Robert Ingersoll, to name just a few. Now you try it.

  34. Lily
    December 15th, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

    Here are some favorites that spring readily to mind. There are many others and many not nearly so famous that have influenced me (and much of the rest of the Christian world) almost as much. Mort will have to speak for himself, since I don’t know if he is as enthralled by the same historical periods as I am. Without further ado:

    Patristic and Medieval: St. Augustine — Thomas Aquinas — Duns Scotus — Dionysius the Areopagite — Bonaventure — William of Ockham – Anselm — Gregory the Great– Venerable Bede. Reformation/Counter reformation Erasmus – Luther — Ignatius of Loyola. Modern CS Lewis — Dietrich Bonhoeffer — Hans Urs von Balthasar — NT Wright — Jaroslav Pelikan — FF Bruce — John Paul II aka John Paul the Great.

  35. Guapacha
    December 15th, 2005 @ 2:50 pm

    Lily:

    Suffering is the result of our misusing our free will.

    I see that Lily is using God’s ‘free will’ escape clause again.

    Whose free will are we talking about? If it’s the sufferer’s free will to suffer then they don’t want charity, nor do they deserve it. Of course, I don’t think this to be true, except in very few cases.

    So if we are talking about the giver’s free will to be righteous or not then I think it is dispicable for a loving God to not only condone this but to actually laud it. God must be willingly to allow the suffering of some so that others can show their righteousness. That is the reasoning of a sick mind or the inaction a powerless person.

  36. lily
    December 15th, 2005 @ 3:44 pm

    Or the “reasoning” of a clueless ninny. Don’t forget Ockham’s razor. Always choose the simplest explanation that covers all the evidence.

  37. Mort Coyle
    December 15th, 2005 @ 3:45 pm

    I should clarify that I only listed a couple of contemporary scholars who’s work I particularly enjoy. If you want an extensive list of scholars I like to reference, from the early church fathers up to the present, I can provide that.

  38. Guapacha
    December 15th, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

    Lily:

    OK, here are two possibilities, there may be others but two will suffice to answer your reply:

    a) There is a loving, all-powerful God who allows some to suffer so that others may exercize their righteousness.

    b) There is no loving all-powerful God.

    Option b) does not require the assumption of a god, therefore Ockham’s razor favors option b).

    Would you care to give some other explanation and your reasoning as to why Ockham’s razor favors it to option a)? After that we can consider your explantion against option b).

  39. Lily
    December 15th, 2005 @ 4:52 pm

    Sorry. It is c. –reasoning of a clueless ninny.

    God does not allow some to suffer so that others may exercise their righteousness. That isn’t even on the table as a possiblity.

    There is a loving, all-powerful God.

    Go back and read the Bible, or at least a couple of Gospels. If you read them in their entirety, you will not be clueless any longer. Since ninnyness (or is it ninnyhood?) is directly related to being sure of something you actually know nothing about, it will take care of that problem as well. A two-fer, as it were.

    Oops, Mort made a wonderful suggestion of a book I haven’t thought of in years: How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler. First read it and THEN go back and read the New Testament. Let me know when you are ready to try again.

  40. Guapacha
    December 15th, 2005 @ 5:33 pm

    Lily:

    As you obviously have no interest in answering my request and only wish to call me names I’ll pass on any further discussion with you.

  41. Lily
    December 15th, 2005 @ 6:09 pm

    You made no request, Guapacha. You asked a non-question. There is no answering a non-question. If I was rude, I apologize but I get very tired of you all throwing nonsense, and ugly nonsense at that, in our faces and expecting us to “justify” your version of what you think the Bible teaches. And to make it worse, you do it after we have spent considerable time in this thread alone, trying to give you a basic understanding of some biblical principles.

    What is it you think you asked? You have set up two premises, neither one of which is correct. It is not possible to choose one of them and defend it or explain it.

  42. Guapacha
    December 15th, 2005 @ 7:05 pm

    Lily:

    You repeatedly called me a ninny or some variation of this. This was wanton.

    You introduced Ockham’s razor into this discussion and, in my opinion, in a way that was not relevent. One needs two or more similar arguments for Ockham’s razor to be applicable. If two arguments are disparate Ockham’s razor is irrelevent and makes no claim as to which argument is correct. The more complex one may well be correct.

    I briefly set up a scenario where it could be applied with relevance to this discussion so that I could fulfill your request that I apply it. I’d like to narrow my option b) in order to make its relevence more clear:

    b) There is no loving all-powerful God. Some suffering is the result of our misusing our free will.

    My request to you was then for a scenario from you whereby I could see how you thought it was applicable and had applied it to dismiss my discussion. I also only asked you to first apply it to my first possiblity because I thought that was more relevent to this thread. Please note that because you think something is not a possiblity does not mean that others share your view. If you wish to use other scenarios that are relevent to this discussion and my post you may do so.

    I’m sure you’ve been told several times that quoting scripture alone is not seen as an argument by most people on this board.

  43. Lily
    December 15th, 2005 @ 9:29 pm

    I have never quoted scripture on this board. What has that got to do with anything? Of course, we are only talking about what the Bible actually teaches. Glad to do it with both hands tied behind my back.

    Let’s try to tease apart the issues. As a sort of overarching premise, can we agree that any text, the Bible, Gone with the Wind, The Sorrows of young Werther, etc. must be understood on its on terms, in order to understand what it is trying to say?

    If so, let us clearly understand that Bible teaches that there is a loving God. It nowhere teaches that God must be willingly to allow the suffering of some so that others can show their righteousness.

    Nor does it teach, as Mort so ably pointed out, that Christians cannot accumulate wealth and/or material goods. In fact, it helps to have those things in order to share them.

    The Bible does teach us to be charitable and Jesus himself told us that when we clothe the naked, feed the hungry or visit the prisoner, it is exactly as though we were doing those things to him. And so we do those things first because we love him. Eventually, every Christian has to come to the point where s/he sees Jesus, no matter how dimly represented, in every human being. We are not, as someone said above, buying our way into heaven.

    Now once you understand what the Bible actually says and teaches, then, you can start to deal with other questions that you bring to the text. In the case of the Bible, even when you *really* understand what it teaches, it is possible, to say, nope. Not convinced.

    But at least at that point we can have a discussion. As things on this board are now, there doesn’t appear to be one of you that isn’t frighteningly misinformed. Thus we talk past one another.

    As for Ockham’s razor? I was using it ironically since there were so many false assumptions in this bit: “So if we are talking about the giver’s free will to be righteous or not then I think it is dispicable for a loving God to not only condone this but to actually laud it. God must be willingly to allow the suffering of some so that others can show their righteousness. That is the reasoning of a sick mind or the inaction a powerless person.”

    Rather than take the time to correct them, I applied the razor in keeping with Ockham’s principle of parsimony.

  44. Percy
    December 16th, 2005 @ 1:08 am

    Guapacha,

    “Option b) does not require the assumption of a god, therefore Ockham’s razor favors option b).

    Would you care to give some other explanation and your reasoning as to why Ockham’s razor favors it to option a)? After that we can consider your explantion against option b).”

    Your observation is flawed because you do not extend Occam’s Razor to option a) as well, which requires the assumption that no God exists. Therefore, without further evidence, the most logical conclusion would be to say that there may or may not be a God.

  45. SteveR
    December 16th, 2005 @ 8:46 am

    Mort Coyle says: ” You attempted to twist this to say that *all* Christians should give away *all* their material possessions, which is not a scriptural position ”

    In YOUR interpretation it is not a scriptural position. Where in the scriptures did Jesus qualify his comments about wealth accumulation to include some, but not others?

    Mort says: ” Typically, you’ll find that an overwhelming majority of Christian scholars interpret a given verse the same way and do so based on sound hermeneutics (such as the grammatical-historical method).. . . This is the case with most Bible scholars, regardless of denomination. (where you may find disagreement is on a small subset of somewhat vague and peripheral questions such as the relevance of speaking in tongues or the preferred method of baptism).”

    What nonsense! Overwhelming majority? Have you heard of the Reformation? Can you explain why there are hundreds of Christian sects out there, all reading the same bible and coming away with different meanings as to what the verses mean? Are their ‘hermeneutics’ all screwed up? I mean, if their ‘hermeneutics’ were similar to yours, we wouldn’t have all these different sects, would we? Small subset? Have you heard of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses? Southern Baptists? Why don’t they accept each others’ theology? Would they agree with your ‘hermeneutics’?

    Mort says: “Another is “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler, which would introduce you to some basic principles of intelligent reading”

    You’re the one who needs lessons in intelligent reading. Try George Smith’s “Atheism, The Case Against God”

  46. Guapacha
    December 16th, 2005 @ 2:28 pm

    Lily:

    I apologize and acknowledge that you have not directly quoted scripture. But you do continually refer to the bible as being misunderstood without explanation as to why others should favor your explanation over the many other interpretations we hear. The bible also contains the Old Testament, which is far from charitable in some passages, why should we not consider its message equally.

    I am at a loss as to the irony in your “application” of Ockham’s razor. I know there are many assumptions in my statement, the first one being that there is a god, the second, given the first that he his loving, the third, given the first that he is all-powerful. I could go on. Also, I didn’t make the statement as something I think to be correct, in fact I think it is contradictory. It is where I am lead by what I think is your argument about God and man’s free will and suffering. If I am going in the wrong direction, please don’t be parsimonious, and give us something in respect to this thread, that you think I have assumed and that you disagree with and why.

    My original post was only to challenge your use of the free will argument. You have made no response as to why the free will argument is valid and so I must assume that you expect us to just accept your assertion as you expect us to accept your interpretation of the bible before others who disagree with you.

    Percy:

    Guapacha:

    a) There is a loving, all-powerful God who allows some to suffer so that others may exercise their righteousness.

    Percy:

    Your observation is flawed because you do not extend Ockham’s razor to option a) as well, which requires the assumption that no God exists.

    How can option a) not require the assumption of a god, it clearly states there is a loving, all-powerful God.

    The two options were not meant to be comprehensive, as I stated there may well be other options, but it was only necessary for two options for me to apply Ockham’s razor. Note that Ockham’s razor merely establishes favor of one theory over another, it does not try to validate the theories.

    I introduced option b) and set up this application of Ockham’s razor in answer to what I thought was a request from Lily to do so. Now, I have no idea what Lily is talking about with respect to Ockham’s razor.

    My arguments are only in answer to the assertion that a loving all-powerful God is absolved of responsibility for suffering because of man’s free will. Some sufferers are not exercising their free will in their suffering (e.g. the oppressed) then the only free will must be the privileged person’s free will to administer relief or not. Therefore, for the ‘free will’ escape clause to be valid:

    There is a god who allows some to suffer so that others may exercise their righteousness or not.

    My reply to Lily’s assertion was about what I think of this reasoning if such a god claims to be loving and has the power to end this suffering. There may be other arguments to allow the suffering to continue that have nothing to do with god allowing man’s free will but they were not arguments I was addressing.

  47. Lily
    December 16th, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

    Ah, there we have it finally, in the open. No matter how many witnesses, theologians or scholars we bring to the discussion, Steve has his mind made up and firmly packed away.

    He understands nothing about the various denominations, what sets them apart from each other and how they came to be. He does not understand that the Mormons are not Christians and do not use the Bible as the source of their theology (yes, yes, I know they claim to be Christians) nor are Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose “Bible” “New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures”, has been deliberately mistranslated to support their peculiar theology. Unfortunately for you, since you do not know what Christians actually believe, you cannot evaluate that claim. (Running frantically to Wikipedia won’t help much.)

    It is one thing to be an atheist. It is another thing entirely to be completely ignorant of the religion which has, from its beginning been the primary influence on western philosophy, art, music, statecraft, literature, etc. etc. Do you have no intellectual curiosity? We are the majority. Why? How is it possible to believe that you see more clearly than the millions of more experienced, better educated and just plain smarter people out there do, even given that there are millions who are less experienced, less well educated, less smart who also believe?

    It is all very fine and amusing to say, as one poor soul did in one of the forums, that whether Christians have Ph.Ds, MDs, or not, they are still retarded. Sober people can only laugh and wonder what hospital allows its inmates access to the internet. You get dismissed and dissed (properly so). But how does such silliness help you understand your neighbors and the society you live in?

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you believe, except as regards your final destination. In this world, you are politically irrelevant. But wouldn’t you like to be able to participate in the public discourse and have your opinions not merely respected but taken into account? That can’t happen, until you can demonstrate that there is some middle ground of shared knowledge on which we can meet and talk.

  48. Lily
    December 16th, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

    aaargghhh! Guapacha, you pack way more into one message than I can adequately deal with and still fool my boss into thinking that I am working. Let me deal with the Ockhams razor question one more time. The principle of parsimony I was referring to holds that when there are several competing arguments, the one that one should be choosen is the simplest or most obvious one. (Until it proves to be wrong, of course.) this is the context in which I brought up the razor for the first time:

    So if we are talking about the giver’s free will to be righteous or not then I think it is dispicable for a loving God to not only condone this but to actually laud it. God must be willingly to allow the suffering of some so that others can show their righteousness. That is the reasoning of a sick mind or the inaction a powerless person.” To which I added a 3rd possibility:

    Argument 1: “That is the reasoning of a sick mind”
    Argument 2: “[that is] the inaction a powerless person.”
    Argument 3: “or the reasoning of a c*** n***” .

    The simplest, most obvious argument, given the premises you originally set out is #3.

    This remark is going to cause me to stick my head in the nearest oven:

    But you do continually refer to the bible as being misunderstood without explanation as to why others should favor your explanation over the many other interpretations we hear.

    I HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT CEASING IN ALMOST EVERY FRIGGING POST I HAVE MADE ON EVERY FRIGGING THREAD I HAVE RESPONDED TO@$##!!!

    Am I speaking in tongues?? Let’s look at this thread alone in which I the Catholic and Mort the Protestant have spoken directly to this issue on the subject related to this post–charity:

    #s 34, 29, 11, 1 If you like, I can go exhume threads from the Archives on which we have spoken to evolution, what inerrancy is and is not, and what sort of literatureS the bible is and what the implications of that are for properly understanding the various books. We have spoken to the relationship of the Old and New Testament and many other topics, as well.

    Maybe RA would let us mount a FAQ that would sum these statements up and then instead of a lengthy post like this one, my entire response could be: #4, 57, 88, 102. Hey RA, are you listening? Wanna save bandwidth????

    Now, all that shouting has exhausted me. Do you want to talk about free will when I recover?

  49. Guapacha
    December 16th, 2005 @ 5:24 pm

    Lily:

    I know what Ockham’s razor is and what its limitations are. I suspected that you did not, but did not want to say so until you had exposed your flawed use of it, as you now have. Ockham’s razor has no relevance in your application of it. Ockham’s razor is only relevant when the arguments have equal weight in all other aspects. If they don’t then they should be evaluated in the those aspects first. It has nothing to do with the simplicity of an argument in and of itself, as you are trying to apply it.

    Have you not wondered why you have to keep repeating yourself? Why should we accept what you have to say, you just keep saying the bible says “this” which is not an acceptable answer to us. Unless you tell us why, without reference to the bible then we can’t answer as to agreeing or disagreeing with you. We can only point out that others don’t agree with you on what the bible says or show you what we think is a contradiction in your argument.

    I answered because I think the free will argument you raised in this thread leads to a contradiction. This does not mean I accept your underlying argument but I am interested in how you want to explain why I misunderstand what I think, as you haven’t actually given one yet, your argument is.

    I’ll let someone else reply to your answer to Steve but your answer contains several logical flaws, such as appeal to popularity, or appeal to authority. Flaws that we have to continually point out and sometimes get tired of having to do so, just like you.

  50. Lily
    December 16th, 2005 @ 6:06 pm

    Oh bother. Another person unable to think rationally. What appeal to popularity? The fact that since AD 1 there has been substantial agreement on what Christians believe? What appeal to authority? The overwhelming consensus of theologians/philosophers and scholars in just about every part of the world, since AD 1 on how to approach biblical study and what the core beliefs of Christianity are?

    Jumping Jehosophat, by that undergraduate [non]logic every law school in this country would have to drop all its courses on constitutional law because every disagreement as to its meaning is proof that it has none, or that it can be interpreted any old way you want; and you will not accept any interpretation but the one that you like.

    And don’t forget to ignore that warning on those chemicals under the sink. The writers just had an ax to grind. You can decide for yourself, whether you will accept their authority or just toss down a nice glassful next time you are thirsty.

    No thanks. I don’t have the patience to pretend that the age of the material, the genres, the ancient languages that the Bible has been translated from don’t make a scholarly approach imperative. Thats why priest and ministers study theology. Ya know? So that you don’t have to, if you don’t want to. I don’t have the patience to argue about something I have studied for 30 years with someone who doesn’t comprehend that he can’t read the Bible as though it were a Ruby Tuesday menu.

  51. Percy
    December 16th, 2005 @ 8:44 pm

    Guapacha,

    “How can option a) not require the assumption of a god, it clearly states there is a loving, all-powerful God.”

    It was a typo, it was meant to be option b), lol.

  52. Mort Coyle
    December 16th, 2005 @ 8:50 pm

    SteveR,

    “How to Read a Book” is not a particularly religious book, but deals more with learning and applying techniques to facilitate more effective reading habits. Whether one is an atheist, agnostic or theist is irrelevant to the usefulness of such techniques. Not sure why you would feel compelled to counter that with a book about atheism.

    “Have you heard of the Reformation? Can you explain why there are hundreds of Christian sects out there, all reading the same bible and coming away with different meanings as to what the verses mean? Are their ‘hermeneutics’ all screwed up? I mean, if their ‘hermeneutics’ were similar to yours, we wouldn’t have all these different sects, would we?”

    Well, since you brought it up, you tell me: How did the Reformers interpret the Bible differently? Which verses and what different meanings are you referring to that these “hundreds of Christian sects” are diverging on? It would be helpful if we could deal with specifics and not sweeping generalizations.

    The Reformation wasn’t so much about Biblical interpretation but about the *place* of Biblical interpretation in relation to Church tradition. To put it in very simplistic terms, Catholicism tended to view Church tradition and scripture as have equal authority, whereas Protestantism tended to view scripture only (“sola scriptura”) as the source of authority in terms of doctrine (in all fairness though, Protestant denominations have their own traditions). Despite this, as I hope Lily and I have demonstrated, Catholics and Protestants *do* agree on the core tenets of the faith. As Augustine wrote, “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

    As I tried to illustrate by citing three scholars from markedly different “sects” of Christianity, the diversity of church expressions does not equate to different interpretations of scripture. Usually denominations have more to do with differing *style* than substance. Although there may be variances of viewpoint (even *within* denominations and congregations) about such peripheral, non-essential issues as eschatology or spiritual gifts, there is unity on the core truths of what the Bible teaches. This is why pseudo-Christian religions like Mormonism stand out like a sore thumb – they deviate from even the most core teachings of orthodox Christianity, appropriating the same parlance and characters (Jesus, for example) but with radically different meanings applied (because they follow a completely non-standard hermeneutic). On the other hand, I can sit down with a Catholic, a Baptist, a Pentecostal, a Lutheran, a Methodist, an Eastern Orthodox, etc. and we can read scripture together and be in complete harmony with one-another yet at the same time learn new insights from each other’s traditions. One of the beautiful things about the global church is that there can be such unity without uniformity.

    The reason I recommended “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” is that it provides a good introduction to basic Christian hermeneutics – the same hermeneutics used consistently by believers and scholars throughout Christianity (regardless of “sect”).

    Guapacha, I’m hoping to weigh in on your Theodicy challenge when I get the time!

  53. Guapacha
    December 16th, 2005 @ 8:52 pm

    Lily:
    What appeal to authority?

    Well you mentioned several yourself, but your attempts to justify this by quoting other authorities just shows why this isn’t accepted as a valid argument. Authorities are often shown to be wrong.

    Lily:

    What appeal to popularity?

    We are the majority.

    Of course this is only true in some countries and is not true of the world. But this has nothing to do with why this isn’t a valid argument.

    Lily:

    I don’t have the patience to argue about something I have studied for 30 years with someone who doesn’t comprehend that he can’t read the Bible as though it were a Ruby Tuesday menu.

    Then maybe you shouldn’t visit an atheist blog and try to tell us that we should accept that the bible is God’s authority and we should base our arguments on it.

    Here’s another one for you: The true scotsman falacy.

  54. Lily
    December 16th, 2005 @ 10:46 pm

    You really are clueless aren’t you? First you pull in a “quote” that doesn’t occur in my last post (we are the majority), then you claim that I have said that you “should accept that the bible is God’s authority and we should base our arguments on it. Never said it. Not once. Ever. Anywhere. You. can’t. read.

    I have said that you all are completely and utterly biblically illiterate. I and others have proved it over and over. But you are unteachable. Let me say this so that even you will get it:

    YOU ARE BIBLICAL ILLITERATES. Until you can demonstrate a minimal understanding of what the bible actually says, there would be no point in trying to persuade you that what it teaches is true.

    Here’s another one for you: straw man argument. The only one you seem to be able to make. It is a logical fallacy. (Note the double l.)

    No further chances for you.

  55. Guapacha
    December 17th, 2005 @ 12:47 am

    Lily:

    It is one thing to be an atheist. It is another thing entirely to be completely ignorant of the religion which has, from its beginning been the primary influence on western philosophy, art, music, statecraft, literature, etc. etc. Do you have no intellectual curiosity? We are the majority. Why? How is it possible to believe that you see more clearly than the millions of more experienced, better educated and just plain smarter people out there do, even given that there are millions who are less experienced, less well educated, less smart who also believe?

    My emphasis

    Lily

    First you pull in a “quote” that doesn’t occur in my last post (we are the majority)

    The quote doesn’t appear in your last post but it does appear in a previous post. Is there a reason why your last post means I can’t quote your previous post? Have you withdrawn the previous post? Please explain.

    Lily:

    Never said it. Not once. Ever. Anywhere. You. can’t. read.

    I don’t have the patience to argue about something I have studied for 30 years with someone who doesn’t comprehend that he can’t read the Bible as though it were a Ruby Tuesday menu.

    My emphasis.

    You may not have said it in those words but as this is not a literature blog and so we are not talking about the bible purely as a work of literature would you care to explain why else we should give the bible more credence than a Ruby Tuesday’s menu?

    Lily:

    YOU ARE BIBLICAL ILLITERATES.

    Hey, this is an atheist blog what else do you expect, although there are some people with a good deal of biblical literacy on this blog. Try a theology blog if you’re frustrated that our interest in the bible is not as intensive or extensive as yours.

    Lily:

    fallacy. (Note the double l.)

    No further chances for you.

    If you now want to argue about spelling then I agree we’ve reached the end of the discussion.

  56. SteveR
    December 17th, 2005 @ 9:39 am

    Mort writes: ” “How to Read a Book” is not a particularly religious book, but deals more with learning and applying techniques to facilitate more effective reading habits. Whether one is an atheist, agnostic or theist is irrelevant to the usefulness of such techniques. Not sure why you would feel compelled to counter that with a book about atheism”

    “Atheism, The Case Against God” is not just a book about atheism, but deals extensively with ‘learning and applying techniques’ of logic and common sense. Besides, I suspect that I have read more books about christian theology than you have read about atheism. Give it a try, your faith should be strong enough to insulate you from any temptations caused by a mere book.

    Mort: ” It would be helpful if we could deal with specifics and not sweeping generalizations.”

    Okay. Do all christian sects believe in the trinity? Do all christian sects believe in praying to Mary? Do all christian sects believe that the Pope is infallible on spiritual matters? Do all christian sects believe in transubstantiation ? Do all christian sects believe Jesus died on a cross and not on a spike? Do all christian sects believe in the rapture? Do all christian sects believe in Mark 16:17-19? Do all christian sects believe that when we die, we become gods on other worlds? Do all christian sects believe that Dec 25 is a pagan holiday? They all read the same bible and yet see different meanings whenever it suits them.

    Mort: “On the other hand, I can sit down with a Catholic, a Baptist, a Pentecostal, a Lutheran, a Methodist, an Eastern Orthodox, etc. and we can read scripture together and be in complete harmony with one-another yet at the same time learn new insights from each other’s traditions”

    Only if you are careful to pick and choose the scripture. Again, if as you suggest there was so much harmony, there wouldn’t be so many different denominations.

    Mort: “One of the beautiful things about the global church is that there can be such unity without uniformity.”

    If this is true (and I doubt it), it’s only because of the presence of greater ‘real and perceived’ enemies.

  57. Mort Coyle
    December 17th, 2005 @ 5:19 pm

    Guapacha, I’m not sure when I’m going to get time to post about the issue of Theodicy (if you read what follows I think you’ll understand why) but hope this link to an excellent essay on the topic will suffice for now:
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1992/PSCF12-92Krienke.html
    I hope you’ll take the time to peruse it.

    SteveR said:

    “Atheism, The Case Against God” is not just a book about atheism, but deals extensively with ‘learning and applying techniques’ of logic and common sense. Besides, I suspect that I have read more books about christian theology than you have read about atheism. Give it a try, your faith should be strong enough to insulate you from any temptations caused by a mere book.”

    I’ll make you a deal. I’ll go pick up a copy of “Atheism, The Case Against God” and read it, if you will read “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” and then pick up a modern translation of the New Testament (such as the NIV or NRSV)) and read it through (allowing it to speak for itself – not relying on “interpretations” by anti-Christian sources).

    You had asked, “Can you explain why there are hundreds of Christian sects out there, all reading the same bible and coming away with different meanings as to what the verses mean?” To which I suggested, “It would be helpful if we could deal with specifics and not sweeping generalizations.” You responded with a list of questions. There are some interesting points about the questions you chose:

    1. Most of them are exactly the type of *non-essential* issues that I referred to earlier. I regularly worship, study and minister with fellow Christians who hold different views on these non-essential topics. At the risk of being repetitive, we practice the words of Augustine, “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials charity, in all things liberty.”

    2. Only one question (G.) actually addresses a verse of scripture.

    3. Questions A, E, F and I are directly related to Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine. Although I embrace JW’s as fellow followers of Jesus, they do hold some spurious doctrines due to the fact that their founder, C.T. Russell, and his cohorts wrote their own Bible translation (despite an almost complete lack of biblical education, theological training, knowledge of Hebrew & Greek, etc.). No biblical scholar, that I know of, endorses their New World Translation. (More info: http://www.contenderministries.org/jehovahswitnesses/nwt.php ). What the founders of the Watchtower (JWs) did was start with a preconceived theology and then reinterpret and even rewrite scriptures to conform to it. This is where fringe groups typically go wrong (I touched on this earlier when I mentioned the use of “non-standard” hermeneutics). By the way, the The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, which I so often see referenced here, commits the same violence of twisting scriptures to conform to a preconceived interpretation.

    4. Questions A and particularly H are related to Mormonism. Whereas JW’s use a corrupted Bible, Mormons relegate the Bible into fourth place behind three books (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) purportedly written by Joseph Smith. Mormons only consider the Bible to be credible to the extent that it lines up with their three holy books. I made reference to Mormonism in an earlier post, but let me state it again in no uncertain terms: Mormonism is not Christianity. Although the same characters appear in their story, nearly everything else is fundamentally different. Mormonism actually has more in common with Hinduism than with Christianity. By the way, I know many Mormons and think they’re wonderful people, they just follow a different religion than Christianity.

    So on to your questions:

    A. Do all christian sects believe in the trinity?

    Let’s begin by defining what the Trinity is. The word “Trinity” does not appear anywhere in scripture. It is not so much explicitly taught as it is inferred: God seems to have revealed Himself in three unique and distinct personages throughout the Bible. What is the extent, nature and ramifications of this? Christians have been discussing that for nearly 2,000 years. Thousands of books have been written on the theme. I wonder, how fully developed was the Trinitarian theology of the Apostles, or the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus, or the Ethiopian eunich? A word that is often used in conjuction with the Trinity is “mystery”. In light of that, just how “dialed in” is our concept of the Trinity supposed to be? I would venture though that 99% of Christians *do* believe in the Trinity (myself included). Notice how the Apostle’s Creed (possibly the oldest extant Christian creed) addresses the Trinity: http://www.mit.edu/~tb/anglican/intro/lr-apostles-creed.html
    Just like in the Bible, the Apostle’s Creed does not explicitly state, but rather infers the Trinity.

    B. Do all christian sects believe in praying to Mary?

    Besides being a non-essential doctrine, it is more a matter of Catholic church tradition than Biblical interpretation. What Bible verses were you thinking of in this regard?

    C. Do all christian sects believe that the Pope is infallible on spiritual matters?

    Again, besides being non-essential, Papal infallibility is a matter of Catholic tradition, not Biblical interpretation. What Bible verses were you thinking of in this regard?

    D. Do all christian sects believe in transubstantiation ?
    Once more, non-essential. Whether one believes in Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation or “Nonsubstantiation”, all Christians believe in the presence of Christ at the Communion table. When I celebrate the Eucharist with other believers, probably all three views are represented in the room, yet there we are together worshipping the risen Christ.

    E. Do all christian sects believe Jesus died on a cross and not on a spike?

    To my knowledge, it’s only JW’s that insist that Jesus was hung from a pole instead of a cross. My response is, who cares? Whether Jesus died on a pole, a “T” shaped crucifix or a “t” shaped crucifix is inconsequential to the point that He did indeed die for us and then rose again. On that essential point, all Christians agree.

    F. Do all christian sects believe in the rapture?

    This is an example of “eschatology” that I referred to earlier as a *non-essential*. Within the church that I’m part of (which is just a small band of believers who meet in houses), there are different viewpoints on the rapture and eschatology. It is an extremely peripheral topic.

    G. Do all christian sects believe in Mark 16:17-19?

    Ah, an actual verse we can talk about. The answer is, no. Mark 16:9-20 is possibly the most controversial portion of the entire New Testament because it does not appear in some ancient manuscripts. For the most part it doesn’t contain anything that isn’t already stated in the other Gospels. However, verses 17-19 are difficult. Was Jesus applying this specifically to those He was sending out (and possibly their initial converts) or to all Christians in the future? Are these words spoken as specific directions or as general predictions of the types of things that Christians would be doing? I know for myself, I’ve participated in driving out demons, speaking in new tongues and placing my hands on sick people and seeing them get well. I’ve not had the misfortune of being bitten by a snake (there is a story in Acts 28 of Paul being bitten by a poisonous snake and shaking it off), nor have I been forced to drink poison (unless eggnog counts). There have been accounts throughout the history of Christianity of people, particularly missionaries, experiencing all kinds of things along the lines of Mark 16:17-19. It would be a mistake though to interpret verses 17-19 as a sort of “checklist” of tests that believers have to accomplish. The concluding sentence of Mark 16, “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere and the Lord worked with them and *confirmed his word* by the signs that accompanied it”, seems to indicate that the words of 17-19 were geared primarily to the Apostles. A literal translation of the beginning of verse 17 from the Greek into English would be: “And to those believing, these signs will follow…” This seems to narrow the scope of “…those who believe…” down to those whom Jesus is directly addressing (the Apostles) who have the faith to obey his command to “go into all the world”.

    Of course, all if this is, once again, quite non-essential.

    H. Do all christian sects believe that when we die, we become gods on other worlds?

    No Christians believe this. It is a Mormon teaching.

    I. Do all christian sects believe that Dec 25 is a pagan holiday?

    Another non-essential and non-Biblical issue. No one would dispute that Dec 25th was originally a pagan holiday which was “appropriated” by Christians who converted from paganism. The issue is whether or not that makes Christmas “bad” or not. It really comes down to one’s own convictions. Paul addressed issues like this in many of his letters in the New Testament. For example, take a look at Romans 14: http://www.ibs.org/niv/passagesearch.php?passage_request=Romans%2014 . In a nutshell, the Bible teaches that in *non-essential* issues such as this to follow your conscience and, “… whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” (Romans 14:22)

    “They all read the same bible and yet see different meanings whenever it suits them.”

    You still haven’t provided much in the way of examples *from the Bible* to back up this assertion. You certainly haven’t touched on any of the core teachings of Christianity, as spelled out in the Nicene Creed (http://www.mit.edu/~tb/anglican/intro/lr-nicene-creed.html ) or Apostle’s Creed (http://www.mit.edu/~tb/anglican/intro/lr-apostles-creed.html ). And, of course, your “…whenever it suits them.” qualifier is absurd. Devout people don’t tamper with Biblical meaning “whenever it suits them”. They diligently and reverentially seek to understand and apply what the Bible says.

    “Again, if as you suggest there was so much harmony, there wouldn’t be so many different denominations.”

    I’ll say it again: Most denominational differences have to do with *style*, not substance. (Style meaning how the liturgy is conducted, the leadership structure, the traditions they follow, the areas of ministry they emphasize, etc.) Style is the “how”. Substance is the “what”. There is overwhelming unity on the “what”. Sometimes people get so focused on the “how” that they try to elevate it to the level of a “what”. That’s just basic human sin. Reminds me of those guys I see on the highway sometimes who are driving a Ford pickup truck with a sticker on the window of a guy peeing on a Chevy logo (or a Chevy pickup with a guy peeing on the word “Ford”). It’s petty. Probably both guys agree that American pickup trucks are the way to go. They just get a little too carried away with their particular “brand-consciousness”. It’s human nature. Likewise, sometimes Christians get a little too carried away with denominational “brand-consciousness”, but when they get into the substance of *what* they believe, there is unity.

    What was the original topic that spawned all of this? Oh yeah, giving to the poor. Charity is undeniably a fundamental teaching of the Bible and is taught and practiced by all Christian denominations. Whenever I minister at a homeless shelter, jail, etc., I’m struck by the diversity of Christians who are there – working together in the essentials and not worrying about the non-essentials.

  58. Lily
    December 17th, 2005 @ 6:26 pm

    Excellent, Mort. Mere Christianity for the 21st century!

  59. SteveR
    December 17th, 2005 @ 6:35 pm

    Lily says: .” . the Mormons are not Christians and do not use the Bible as the source of their theology (yes, yes, I know they claim to be Christians) nor are Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose “Bible” “New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures”, has been deliberately mistranslated to support their peculiar theology.”

    Mort says: “Although I embrace JW’s as fellow followers of Jesus, they do hold some spurious doctrines due to the fact that their founder, C.T. Russell, and his cohorts wrote their own Bible translation”

    Well, this illustrates one of my points: Mort and Lily agree that JW’s use a ‘different’ bible. But Mort says they are followers of Jesus and Lily says, no, they’re not. Of course, JW’s agree with Mort on this one, and the beat goes on.

  60. Lily
    December 17th, 2005 @ 6:57 pm

    Of all the craven ways of evading a substantial engagement with Mort’s arguments…!

    Does it even occur to you that given more information than I currently have, I might realize that I am wrong and change my mind? Or vice versa? And that in whatever case, this is completely and totally irrelevant to the overarching issue of our agreement on the essentials of belief? If the JWs believe the Apostles or Nicene Creed, then I am wrong. It is really so simple…

  61. SteveR
    December 17th, 2005 @ 7:44 pm

    Mort says: ” 1. Most of them are exactly the type of *non-essential* issues that I referred to earlier. ”

    These ‘non-essential’ issues are what divide one set of beliefs from another. Does Lily the Catholic agree that praying to Mary, believing in papal spiritual infallibility, and believing in transubstantiation are non-essential? Attempting to trivialize these differences sidesteps my main point: So many people reading the bible and interpreting it to mean different things.

    Mort says: ” No biblical scholar, that I know of, endorses their New World Translation. What the founders of the Watchtower (JWs) did was start with a preconceived theology and then reinterpret and even rewrite scriptures to conform to it ”

    JW’s have plenty of their ‘own’ scholars who think ‘your’ scholars are wrong. Who is a casual observer to believe?

    Mort says: ” The word “Trinity” does not appear anywhere in scripture. It is not so much explicitly taught as it is inferred: God ”

    Inferred is the key word here – not one word of real scripture to support this ‘mysterious’ concept. Without the trinity concept, the concept of monotheism, the bedrock of christianity, disappears. Christianity would then have multiple gods, which seems to be supported in some scriptures: In John 14:28 Jesus says, ” I am going to my Father, for my Father is greater than I. ”

    Mort: “Again, besides being non-essential, Papal infallibility is a matter of Catholic tradition, not Biblical interpretation. What Bible verses were you thinking of in this regard?”

    I guess that’s the point. There are no bible verses that justify praying to a mortal. Papal infallibility is ‘inferred’ from the papal lineage starting with Peter.

    Mort: “Once more, non-essential”

    Take away all the ‘non-essentials’ from Catholicism and you are left with . . . protestantism.

    Mort: “there are different viewpoints on the rapture and eschatology. It is an extremely peripheral topic. ”

    Peripheral topic?? All the believers on earth magically transported to heaven simultaneously is a peripheral topic?

    Mort: ” I know for myself, I’ve participated in driving out demons, speaking in new tongues and placing my hands on sick people and seeing them get well. ”

    You’ve got to be kidding? Exactly what demons did you drive out, Mort? What tongues did you speak? Anything verifiable and repeatable, or just a bunch of trance-induced jibberish? If you think that you healed anyone by touching them, you are as big a fraud as the TV evangelists who claim to do the same thing. What medical scholars can verify this? You and Lily claim that I don’t cite the correct ‘scholars’ on theology. Well, name one medical scholar who can vouch for your fraudulent claims.

    Mort says: “You still haven’t provided much in the way of examples *from the Bible* to back up this assertion. You certainly haven’t touched on any of the core teachings of Christianity, as spelled out in the Nicene Creed ”

    The Nicene Creed was produced by a bunch of primitive mortal men who voted on the tenets of christianity, no divine happenings here. Catholics, as far as I know, believe in an ‘old’ earth (billions of years). Southern baptists believe in a young earth, about 10k years, based on this: Luke3: 23-38, which traces the geneology of Jesus back to Adam. Catholics and Southern Baptists read the same bible, but one thinks the earth is 10k years old, and the other ~1B years old. How old do you think the earth is, Mort? What’s your ‘interpretation’ ?

  62. SteveR
    December 17th, 2005 @ 7:49 pm

    Lily writes: ” Does it even occur to you that given more information than I currently have, I might realize that I am wrong and change my mind?”

    Does it even occur to you that I can’t read your mind? All I have to go on is what you write. You and Mort need to hash out your scriptural differences a little better.

  63. Percy
    December 17th, 2005 @ 11:01 pm

    Steve R,

    “If you think that you healed anyone by touching them, you are as big a fraud as the TV evangelists who claim to do the same thing. What medical scholars can verify this? You and Lily claim that I don’t cite the correct ‘scholars’ on theology. Well, name one medical scholar who can vouch for your fraudulent claims.”

    Not to say that Mort is right because of this, but let me ask you something: how many medical scholars can prove that the specific events Mort alluded to never happened? I’m astonished that someone with a fair and balanced mind such as yourself would jump to such conclusions as labelling someone a fraud without any evidence of this or firsthand knowledge of the experience in question. Bad form sir, bad form.

    “Catholics, as far as I know, believe in an ‘old’ earth (billions of years). Southern baptists believe in a young earth, about 10k years, based on this: Luke3: 23-38, which traces the geneology of Jesus back to Adam. Catholics and Southern Baptists read the same bible, but one thinks the earth is 10k years old, and the other ~1B years old. How old do you think the earth is, Mort? What’s your ‘interpretation’ ?”

    Imagine two physicists, who share the same base of knowledge, in a lab witnessing the same experiments. After the experiments, the first physicist makes theory A, while the second physicist makes theory B. The theories differ. Does this mean both are not physicists? There are certain core beliefs that Christians share which are what define them as Christians – this is what Mort keeps saying with his Augustine quote (“In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”). As you might say, cake’s cake, no matter what kind of frosting it has ;)

  64. Lily
    December 17th, 2005 @ 11:13 pm

    I know you can’t read my mind, SteveR; you can’t (which is to say won’t) read what I write. Nor what Mort writes, apparently, as our disagreement about the JWs is not a disagreement about scripture. Nor do we need to “hash our differences out”, since they do not extend to our belief that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God. I would, of course, enjoy talking to him, as I enjoy talking to all people who hold dear what I hold dear.

    re the Trinity. Trinity is a fancy word for three (3). Let me give you a very simple explanation. We could say Father, Son, Holy Ghost, every time we refer to God in his fullness of being. But it is more efficient to use the word Trinity. We could drop the word Trinity tomorrow and say instead “Father, Son and Holy Ghost understood in the fullness of God’s being”. But that strikes me as awkward. I’ll stick with Trinity.

    re: praying to Mary. We don’t pray to Mary. Catholics ask her just as they do any of the saints to pray for them, just as they ask living friends and family to pray for them, when so inclined. Catholics emphatically believe that the Universal Church includes those who are safely home, so that it makes sense to ask them to help us pray, as well.

    We do honor her special role in salvation history more than Protestants do but that is more a prudential issue than a scriptural one. Protestants see correctly, I think, the problems inherent in simpler-minded folks misunderstanding the difference between honoring and worshipping. But Protestants do not dismiss Mary as of no regard.

    Re: Papal infallibility. Dear God in heaven. Where do you come up with this stuff? How is such nonsense possible in AD 2005? We do not pray to the pope! Papal infallability was a codification in 1870 of what the Church has always believed: Jesus established the Church, instructed it to preach everything he taught (Matt. 28:19–20) and promised the protection of the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Infallability only applies to doctrinal matters (faith or morals as it is usually put).

    Since few doctrines have been challenged there have only been a few “infallible” pronouncements issued. The last time a doctrine was proclaimed was in 1950 (the assumption of Mary). This was something that had been taught from very early on but was always a matter of contention. By pronouncing infallibly upon it, the doctrine was settled.

    The pope doesn’t make these decisions alone, either. His private theological opinions are not infallible. He has to study, pray, and consult with the rest of the Church before making an infallible pronouncement.

    And finally, the rapture and eschatology (end times) in general:
    Jesus taught in no uncertain terms that no one, not even he, knew when the end would come. Precious little is said about the end in the Bible. Despite that, human nature being what it is, people have always tried to guess. There are several theories out there–the one that has Christians being removed first and the heathen left to soldier on with wars, and who knows what all else, until God brings down the curtain is one of several. It is non-essential, except of course, to those denominations that believe this theory. But it would be news to me that they would disfellowship anyone who didn’t think that was the way it was going to be.

  65. Mort Coyle
    December 17th, 2005 @ 11:58 pm

    SteveR said: “Well, this illustrates one of my points: Mort and Lily agree that JW’s use a ‘different’ bible. But Mort says they are followers of Jesus and Lily says, no, they’re not. Of course, JW’s agree with Mort on this one, and the beat goes on.”

    I’m glad you brought this up, because I should clarify my statement a little. I do embraced JW’s as followers of Jesus but I *do not* support the Watchtower organization. JW’s tend to be very earnest people who are trying to follow Jesus. Unfortunately, they’ve been given some very bad doctrine by an organization that intentionally reinterprets/rewrites scripture and puts a heavy burden of legalism and fear on its adherents. The Watchtower is right on the borderline of what is and isn’t Christianity and displays many cult-like tendencies. Theologically, JW’s follow a very ancient form of Christianity known as Arianism (named Arius of Alexandria). At one time there were millions of Arian Christians, particularly among the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians, and Lombards. The Nicene Council (and resulting Creed) of 325 A.D occurred primarily in response to Arianism as an attempt to clarify just what “orthodox” the Christian theology consisted of in regards to the nature of the Trinity.

    I go back to my earlier statement that I don’t think the Apostles and early disciples (including the thief on the cross, the Ethiopian eunuch, the Philippian jailor, etc.) had a fully fleshed-out theology of the Trinity. Neither did the Arians. Based on that, I’m willing to cut JW’s some slack.

    SteveR said: “Mort says: ” 1. Most of them are exactly the type of *non-essential* issues that I referred to earlier. ”

    SteveR said: “These ‘non-essential’ issues are what divide one set of beliefs from another. Does Lily the Catholic agree that praying to Mary, believing in papal spiritual infallibility, and believing in transubstantiation are non-essential?
    Attempting to trivialize these differences sidesteps my main point: So many people reading the bible and interpreting it to mean different things.”

    I think Lily would be in a better position to speak to this, but from my perspective, I have many Catholic friends who don’t seem to be bothered that I don’t pray to Mary, view the Pope as infallible or believe in transubstantiation. They still embrace me as a brother and fellow follower of Jesus. They do not, of course, consider me Catholic, since these are Catholic distinctives. Obviously these doctrines are important to Catholics. Likewise, the distinctives of the form of Christianity I follow are important to me. I think you’re missing the whole concept of unity without uniformity.

    The “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church – Lumen Gentium”, one of the documents to come out of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (akd “Vatican II”), addressed the issue of churches and believers outside of Catholicism.

    An “Assessment of this Council” was published “as an AID to study by Catholic Students of the Second Vatican Council. They contain material, some written in a journalistic style, for the American reader.” In the section “The Constitution of the Church” the assessment reads:

    “The Catholic Church professes that it is the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ; this it does not and could not deny. But in its Constitution the Church now solemnly acknowledges that the Holy Ghost is truly active in the churches and communities separated from itself. To these other Christian Churches the Catholic Church is bound in many ways: through reverence for God’s word in the Scriptures; through the fact of baptism; through other sacraments which they recognize.”

    SteveR said: “JW’s have plenty of their ‘own’ scholars who think ‘your’ scholars are wrong. Who is a casual observer to believe?”

    Really? Who are these JW scholars and what are their credentials?

    SteveR said: “Inferred is the key word here – not one word of real scripture to support this ‘mysterious’ concept. Without the trinity concept, the concept of monotheism, the bedrock of christianity, disappears. Christianity would then have multiple gods, which seems to be supported in some scriptures: In John 14:28 Jesus says, ” I am going to my Father, for my Father is greater than I. ”

    I realize now that in my haste I used the word “inferred” when I meant “implied”. I get the impression that perhaps you were a JW at one time, before becoming disillusioned and turning to atheism. The early Christians didn’t make up the concept of a Trinity out of thin air. They found it *implied* in scripture. Rather than make a long list of the multitude of verses which *imply* the Trinity, here’s a link which provides the same: http://dianedew.com/godhead.htm

    You are right though about the inherent problems of denying the Trinity and still attempting to follow the scripture without veering towards polytheism. This is the corner that JW’s paint themselves into.

    SteveR said: Mort: “Again, besides being non-essential, Papal infallibility is a matter of Catholic tradition, not Biblical interpretation. What Bible verses were you thinking of in this regard?”

    SteveR said: “I guess that’s the point. There are no bible verses that justify praying to a mortal. Papal infallibility is ‘inferred’ from the papal lineage starting with Peter.”

    But that’s not the point. The point that started this whole mini-debate was when I said, “Typically, you’ll find that an overwhelming majority of Christian scholars interpret a given verse the same way and do so based on sound hermeneutics (such as the grammatical-historical method).. . . This is the case with most Bible scholars, regardless of denomination. (where you may find disagreement is on a small subset of somewhat vague and peripheral questions such as the relevance of speaking in tongues or the preferred method of baptism).” Is this not the point that you took issue with?

    SteveR said: “Take away all the ‘non-essentials’ from Catholicism and you are left with . . . protestantism.”

    No, you’re left with following Jesus. Take away the non-essentials from Protestantism and your left with… following Jesus.

    SteveR said: Mort: “there are different viewpoints on the rapture and eschatology. It is an extremely peripheral topic. ”
    SteveR said: “Peripheral topic?? All the believers on earth magically transported to heaven simultaneously is a peripheral topic?”

    Yes, Eschatology is a peripheral topic. A great many Christians, past and present, do not believe in the Rapture (as popularized by ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’ and ‘Left Behind’). A great book in this regard is ‘Revelation: Four Views – A Parallel Commentary’ by Steve Gregg. ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0840721285/104-4284017-5363963?v=glance&n=283155 ). How things wind up at the end really has little to do with how I follow Jesus here and now (for example in charity to the poor).

    SteveR said: “You’ve got to be kidding? Exactly what demons did you drive out, Mort? What tongues did you speak? Anything verifiable and repeatable, or just a bunch of trance-induced jibberish? If you think that you healed anyone by touching them, you are as big a fraud as the TV evangelists who claim to do the same thing. What medical scholars can verify this? You and Lily claim that I don’t cite the correct ‘scholars’ on theology. Well, name one medical scholar who can vouch for your fraudulent claims.”

    Nice rant. No, I confess, I don’t typically hire teams of medical scholars to monitor when I pray for someone. What can I say? These are things I have experienced. I don’t expect you to believe it unless you were to experience it yourself (and bring your own “medical scholars”).

    SteveR said: “The Nicene Creed was produced by a bunch of primitive mortal men who voted on the tenets of christianity, no divine happenings here.”

    Interesting way to spin it. I would view it as a group of 318 scholars from the early church who got together in an attempt to clearly delineate what the church and scriptures had *already* been teaching and following for nearly 300 years. This was important in a time when a majority of the population was illiterate, communication was extremely slow and undependable and communities were relatively isolated. It provided some standards (In fact, we get our word “Canon” – as in “the canon of scripture” from the Greek word for a measuring stick used by carpenters. The idea being that early church councils occurred for the purpose of providing a guide to churches, showing what scriptures and doctrines had come to be universally accepted through hundreds of years of consensus building.)

    SteveR said: “Catholics, as far as I know, believe in an ‘old’ earth (billions of years). Southern baptists believe in a young earth, about 10k years, based on this: Luke3: 23-38, which traces the geneology of Jesus back to Adam. Catholics and Southern Baptists read the same bible, but one thinks the earth is 10k years old, and the other ~1B years old. How old do you think the earth is, Mort? What’s your ‘interpretation’ ?”
    Only Southern Baptists who apply a particularly literalistic reading to Luke 3 and Genesis 1 believe in a 10,000 year old earth based on that reading. Many do not take that approach. Yet, young earth or old earth, they still worship and follow Jesus. This is the point you seem to keep missing. For umpteenth time, unity doesn’t require uniformity. The heart of Christianity is a living relationship with a living God, revealed in the living person of Jesus. Here are the Creeds again:

    http://www.mit.edu/~tb/anglican/intro/lr-nicene-creed.html
    http://www.mit.edu/~tb/anglican/intro/lr-apostles-creed.html

    Go back and re-read them. Where do you see anything about the age of the earth or the rapture or Papal infallibility?

    As far as my view on the age of the earth? I honestly don’t know. It’s not really germane to my ability to follow Jesus.

  66. Mort Coyle
    December 18th, 2005 @ 12:16 am

    Lily, nice post. I didn’t see it until after I posted. I apologize for my ham-handed treatment of Catholic distinctives. I knew you would do a much better job at it!

  67. SteveR
    December 18th, 2005 @ 11:08 am

    Percy said: “. . . how many medical scholars can prove that the specific events Mort alluded to never happened?

    As it has been stated on this blog ad nauseam, it’s not up to me to prove that the claims of your supernatural events didn’t happen. The burden of proof is on the one who alleges the occurence of events that don’t conform to known laws of science and nature. Otherwise, what’s to stop you from claiming that there are invisable pink unicorns living in your refrigerator and then demanding that I prove that they DON’T exist?

    Percy: ” The theories differ. Does this mean both are not physicists?”

    Your analogy is flawed because it attempts to conflate divine and mortal events. If the bible is truly the divine work of God, there simply should not be so many different interpretations about the meanings of its contents.

  68. SteveR
    December 18th, 2005 @ 11:18 am

    Mort: ” JW’s tend to be very earnest people who are trying to follow Jesus…..the watchtower is right on the borderline of what is and isn’t christianity and displays many cult-like tendencies.”

    Once again, Bertrand Russell reminds us that a cult is any religion without political power. You justify criticizing JW’s as borderline xtians based on YOUR interpretation of theological history. They (JW’s) say that you are full of it (in a nice way, of course) and then proceed to back up their theology with bible verses. (For what it’s worth, I think that you are both full of it). However, you have not made the case that your theology is more correct than theirs, Lili’s hometeam judgements notwithstanding.

    Mort: ” . . I have many Catholic friends who don’t seem to be bothered that I don’t pray to Mary, view the pope as infallible, etc….”

    Half of my family is Catholic, as are many of my friends. And they don’t SEEM to be bothered that I am an agnostic. So what ? I dare say, they don’t accept my lack of belief as acceptable theology, anymore than they believe that your theology is superior to theirs. (quite the opposite)

    Mort: “Who are these JW scholars are what are their credentials?”

    I assume that this is a rhetorical question, since you have discussed the WT at some length. Define credentials.

    Mort: ” The early christians didn’t make up the concept of a trinity out of thin air.”

    Of course they did – they had to, just to keep christianity monotheistic. Dianne Dew’s theology analysis is awash in contradiction. At one point she says “The Son is a distinct personality apart from the Father”, and lists several verses to prove it. Then she says ‘Yet the Lord our Gods is one Lord. This is a mystery.’ It sure is. She lists ACTS17:29 as biblical proof that the trinity concept exists. This is what it says: ” Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” You call this proof? I must still be hungover,because as many times as I read this, I still can’t make any sense out it. Bottom Line:
    There are multiple references to polytheism (Diane Dew says so) in the bible. (Probably as a result of early Hebrews subjected to pagan influences.) To keep christianity monotheistic, the concept of trinity was conjured up by mortal men and voted into reality.

    Mort: ” But that’s not the point. . . ”

    It is the point. ‘Sound hermeneutics is subjective. You define your view as correct by defining all other views as incorrect. Although this discussion involves christian theology, if you toss Judism into the mix, we get yet another set of interpretations of god’s holy word. I’ll say it again: How does a casual observer know who’s right?

    Mort: “How things wind up at the end really has little to do with how I follow Jesus here and now.”

    But it has a lot to do with the subject at hand: how so many christians read the same bible and come away with completely different meanings of its’ contents?

    Mort: ” . . I don’t typically hire teams of medical scholars to monitor when I pray for someone.”

    Gee, I wonder why? ‘Casting out demons, healing the sick, speaking in tongues’ has now become ‘pray for someone’. Do you speak in tongues? Do you cast out demons? Do you heal the sick by touching them?

    Mort: ” This was important in a time when a majority of the population was illiterate, . . .”

    Exactly. A political solution to a theological problem. Constantine needed to unite the Roman empire. Again, no divine happenings here. Move along folks, nothing to see.

    Mort: ” Only Southern Baptists who apply a particularly literalistic reading. . .”

    So when is it appropriate to apply a ‘literal’ interpretation to scripture, and when is it not? Again, lots of folks reading the same bible and dealing with the meaning of its’ contents quite differently. Do you honestly believe that an omnipotent creator would be privy to such an ambiguous endeavor?

    Mort: ” This is the point you keep missing”

    No, it’s the point that I keep making. Either the bible is the word of god, or it is not. If the bible says the earth is 10k years old and science proves it wrong, then the ramifications are staggering. You can worship and follow Jesus, based on what the bible says, all you want, but if parts of the bible are clearly wrong, how much of the rest of it is suspect?

    Mort: “As far as my view on the age of the earth? I honestly don’t know. It’s not really germane to my ability to follow Jesus.”

    Honestly don’t know? If you stick your head any deeper into the sand to avoid an unpleasant reality, you’ll surface in China. What you want and what you need to mollify these unpleasant contradictions of your theology and the ultimate conclusions based there on, is definitely not the same as scientific truth and reality.This is a classic example of christians being ready, willing, and able to suspend rational thought in favor of irrational beliefs to prevent any conflicting information from undermining these beliefs. Shame on you.

  69. SteveR
    December 18th, 2005 @ 11:26 am

    Lily says: “Trinity is a fancy word for three.”

    Apparently, you don’t read anything that I write, either. The trinity is a contrived concept designed to keep christianity montheistic. If you want to debate this, then start with the scripture that I quoted previously (John: 14: 28): ” I am going to my Father,for my Father is greater than I. ” Two separate, distinct entities, not one.

    Lily : ” We don’t pray to Mary.”

    That’s news to all the Catholics on EWTN. What is ‘Hail Mary, mother of god, blessed be the fruit of thy womb Jesus’ all about?

    Lily: “We do not pray to the Pope.”

    I never said you did. Stop distorting what I said. Again, most catholics believe that the pope is infallible on spiritual matters. And you are right about one thing: This papal infallibility doctrine is a result of mortal, flawed humans taking a vote.

    Lily: ” It is a non-essential, except of course, to those denominations that believe this theory.”

    Huh?? Nothing like a little circular logic to get the day started. It’s like saying, ‘Getting car insurance is non-essential, except to those who own cars.’

  70. Lily
    December 18th, 2005 @ 11:55 am

    SteveR: we are back at square 1. You have heard nothing we have said.

    People draw different and conflicting meanings from the Constitution of the United States. We have courts that settle those disputes. Does that prove that the Constitution is meaningless?

    I cannot understand how you can write this with a straight face:

    So when is it appropriate to apply a ‘literal’ interpretation to scripture, and when is it not? Again, lots of folks reading the same bible and dealing with the meaning of its’ contents quite differently. Do you honestly believe that an omnipotent creator would be privy to such an ambiguous endeavor?

    Mort has recommended one of a number of books that deal with hermeneutics. I have in past postings mentioned numerous commentaries like the Anchor Bible series.

    But in lieu of that, consider what you know about language. Have you ever taken a literature class? Have you never seen people disagree over the interpretation of a piece of literature? What makes you think that language is or can be wholly unambiguous? Then consider a book written in a different culture, in different time periods, in different languages which must be translated (and translation is also, necessarily, interpretation) and tell me how it can be so straight forward that nothing could possibly be ambiguous.

    To continue to insist as you do that: If the bible says the earth is 10k years old and science proves it wrong, then the ramifications are staggering. You can worship and follow Jesus, based on what the bible says, all you want, but if parts of the bible are clearly wrong, how much of the rest of it is suspect? is intractable ignorance. We Christians have spoken to this issue in many threads just in the last two months. Your inability to improve the quality of your questions in the light of the excellent information we have provided to you all is sad beyond words.

  71. Mort Coyle
    December 18th, 2005 @ 4:36 pm

    SteveR, just a short, partial response as I only have a few minutes…

    SteveR said: Mort: “Who are these JW scholars and what are their credentials?”

    SteveR said: “I assume that this is a rhetorical question, since you have discussed the WT at some length. Define credentials.”

    No, it wasn’t a rhetorical question. You raise the point about JW scholars. I’d like you to tell me who they are and what their credentials are. By credentials I means degrees, published works, university teaching appointments, years of study in their particular field of expertise, etc. C’mon, Lily and I listed some Christian scholars at your request, now it’s your turn.

    SteveR said: “Sound hermeneutics is subjective. You define your view as correct by defining all other views as incorrect.”

    So you believe that there is no objective meaning in anything? I suppose that would be the logical conclusion of atheism. I wonder though, does that mean when Luke (for example) wrote his Gospel that he had no particular meaning in mind, no particular intended audience, no particular genre of writing style, no particular reason for writing it? If that was the case, then I would concede your point that hermeneutics is subjective.

    SteveR said: “How does a casual observer know who’s right?”

    Hmmm. Probably have to undergo some sort of inquiry and apply some sort of *hermeneutic*!

    SteveR said: “how so many christians read the same bible and come away with completely different meanings of its’ contents?”

    Which contents? All of them? Some of them? A few of them? The overwhelming majority of Christians read the same Bible can come away with the same essential meanings: That God created the universe; that God is loving and involved in the affairs of mankind; that God is a communal being; that God makes Himself known to mankind; that God wants mankind to treat each other in certain ways; that mankind tends to fall short and be rebellious; that God became a man to show what He is like; that He allowed Himself to be humiliated, tortured and killed by mankind; that death was not able to contain Him; that He live again and is active on the earth (I could go on…). You know, the essentials.

    SteveR said: “Do you speak in tongues? Do you cast out demons? Do you heal the sick by touching them?”

    Yes, I have done all of these things. More specifically, God has done it. I really can’t do much of anything on my own.
    And no, it didn’t require that wear a white suit and a Rolex watch and prance around on a stage.

    SteveR said: “So when is it appropriate to apply a ‘literal’ interpretation to scripture, and when is it not?”

    Excellent question. I’ve got a Dr. Suess book here called Cat in the Hat. Would it be appropriate for me to apply a literal interpretation to it? I’ve got a newspaper here. Should I apply a literal interpretation to it? To all of it? What about the comics and editorials? Hmmm. When I’m reading something, do I need to take into consideration factors such as the genre, intended audience, purpose it was written, etc.? I’ve just defined (in very simple terms) hermeneutics.

    SteveR said: “Either the bible is the word of god, or it is not.”

    Ah, but what does that mean, “word of God”? What presuppositions are you bringing about what the “word of God” is supposed to be?

    SteveR said: “If the bible says the earth is 10k years old and science proves it wrong, then the ramifications are staggering.”

    Fortunately, the Bible doesn’t address the issue of the earth’s age. It was never intended to address topics such as that. Some may have attempted to apply it in such a way, but that takes us off into peripheral-land again.

    SteveR said: Mort: “As far as my view on the age of the earth? I honestly don’t know. It’s not really germane to my ability to follow Jesus.”

    SteveR said: “Honestly don’t know?

    No, I honestly don’t know. Do you? There are theories and estimates based on various methods of extrapolation, but as far as I know, according to the scientific method, the question remains to be decisively answered. Whether the earth is 10,000 years or 4.5 billion years (which I would assume is more likely) really has no bearing on my daily life or faith or understanding of the Bible.

  72. Percy
    December 18th, 2005 @ 6:28 pm

    Steve R,

    “As it has been stated on this blog ad nauseam, it’s not up to me to prove that the claims of your supernatural events didn’t happen. The burden of proof is on the one who alleges the occurence of events that don’t conform to known laws of science and nature. Otherwise, what’s to stop you from claiming that there are invisable pink unicorns living in your refrigerator and then demanding that I prove that they DON’T exist?”

    And as I stated, my comments were not trying to prove Mort right and you wrong. My point was simply that you rushed to judgment on a person without any evidence that their claims were fraudulent. That is both illogical (in that you did not first investigate the matter) and closed-minded (not to mention *extremely* rude). And scientists are supposed to *search* for events which don’t conform to known theories and laws, because that is one of the primary ways science is furthered (read Karl Popper)!

    “Your analogy is flawed because it attempts to conflate divine and mortal events. If the bible is truly the divine work of God, there simply should not be so many different interpretations about the meanings of its contents.”

    Who says that people interpreting the Bible is a divine event? The analogy is not flawed, since God created both the Earth (and therefore all conditions, laws, and such in which the scientists conduct their experiments) and divinely-inspired the Bible. Why should there not be so many different interpretations? Did God in bright pink neon letters write in the sky “You shall only have one interpretation of a 1,145 page collection of books, poems, geneaologies, parables, prophecies, letters, etc., that has been around for over 1,600 years and was translated from various ancient languages written by people of ancient cultures”? If the beliefs necessary for salvation and a lifestyle of following Jesus are met (in other words being a Christian), does it really matter how many wise men I believe visited Jesus in the manger? I mean, I suppose it comes down to this: what is the purpose of the Bible? If the purpose is to be a quick answer handbook on every issue in the universe, then I would be inclined to question why there are so many interpretations as well. But I think (and Mort seems to believe this as well) that that is not what it is.

  73. SteveR
    December 18th, 2005 @ 6:30 pm

    Lily: My last post to you was flagged by the system administrator. So from now on, I’m not going to go into anything substantive when conversing with you.

    Lily: ” You have heard nothing we have said.”

    And vice versa.

    Lily: ” Does that prove that the Constitution is meaningless?”

    Different standards for theology (objects of worship and adoration) than for politics. I’m not being asked to accept the Constitution as the true word of God.

    Lily: “. . . and tell me how it can be so straightforward that nothing could possibly be ambiguous.”

    Exactly. You admit that the influence of humans has corrupted the bible (if it ever was the word of god) and rendered it something less than the true word of god?

    Lily: “. . . is sad beyond words.”

    That’s it Lily, stick your head even deeper into the sand. (I must have missed those threads and your kernels of wit and wisdom.

  74. SteveR
    December 18th, 2005 @ 6:39 pm

    Mort: ” I’d like you to tell me who they are and what their credentials are.”

    I have no idea. You need to ask them. Surely you don’t expect me to defend their theology? As an aside, how many degrees and published works did Jesus have? I’ve never been able to find a single word that he wrote himself. Not one.

    Mort: ” Yes, I have done all these things (cast out demons, speak in tongues, heal by touching) ”

    Earlier you said that the contents of the verse in question was ‘geared primarily to the apostles’. And yet you can perform some but not all of these ‘miracles’. Amazing. You seem to be cherry picking (again) selective scripture that suits your immediate theological needs while ignoring parts that may contradict your beliefs. For example, you can do the miracles that are difficult to document, but shy away the ones that more easily can be documented (ingesting poison and handling poisonous snakes). It seems to me that if you can cure someone’s cancer (or whatever) just by touching, then you ought to be able to ingest, say, 5g of radium chloride and handle Inland Taipan snakes without ill effects.(survive) But I’ll make it easier for you: can you think of ANYONE on this planet who is worthy enough to pass this test?
    When you speak in tongues, do you ever record the proceedings? Is it a legit foreign language or just jibberish (as I suspect). Can the verbalized sounds be written down and demonstrated to be meaningful, repetitive, and reproducible over time? Can you actually communicate with others?

    Mort: ” I’ve just defined hermeneutics.”

    For your so-called hermeneutics to be valid, it would have to be absolutely transferrable to all people of all beliefs, of all eras. Since it is clearly not, it remains nothing more than selective justification for a bunch of self-serving opinions masquerading as pious virtues.

    Mort: ” Fortunately, the bible doesn’t address the issue of the earth’s age.”

    It sure does, if you can add. As I mentioned before, Luke 3: 23-38 lists all the generations from Adam to Jesus. If you assign 100 years to each generation, then the elapsed time from Adam to Jesus was about 4500 years. Add the 2000 years since Jesus died and we get the age of the earth, about , according to the bible, 6000 to 10000 years old. Science unequivocally says the earth is billions of years old, not thousands.

    Mort: “Whether the earth is 10k or 4.5B years old really has no bearing on my daily life or faith or understanding of the bible.”

    It certainly should. Incontrovertible proof the bible is in error, big time. Unfortunately, you are devoid of reason and scientific rationality, possessing superstitious beliefs sancified by something other than mountains of evidence. You are a fine example of why science and religion are mortal enemies. Your theology is nothing more than a 2000 year old system of cognitive errors designed to achieve power and control by anesthetizing humans against the fear of death.

  75. Lily
    December 18th, 2005 @ 7:36 pm

    Intractable ignorance. We will have no further discussions. I will answer no further questions. It is a waste of my time and yours. If and when you are ever ready to learn, you will. We have given you all the tools necessary.

  76. Guapacha
    December 19th, 2005 @ 12:03 am

    Mort:

    I’ve now read your reference, three times in fact. It took me three times to glean anything from it. If I had handed this paper in at a college it would have come back:

    Grade: F. You are not writing fiction get rid of the emotional obfuscation.

    The professor would have made no further comment because he wouldn’t have wasted time to critique it.

    As for this statement:

    Scientists find abundant inductive evidence [of God’s existence]…

    On the first two readings I literally stood up, walked away from my desk and took a deep breath.

    I’m going to be like my fictitious professor and not waste any more time critiquing it because it would take far too long. In the end I finally decided that the article actually supports my point but I’m going to add the caveat that I really don’t understand what it is saying and I would never quote it in support. The only thing I would use it for is to show how to misuse the word science (not misuse science, because there’s no science to be found).

    God permits the suffering of some for the benefit of others.

    After reading the referenced article and having thought about it more, I would now say this is the minimal level of His culpability. This is what He is alleged to have done to His son. It is one thing to do this to someone His equal and who is submitting willingly (I think that’s the story). Even then I think He could have come up with something far less gruesome to make His point, unless His point was to instill dread. I find that for an alleged loving, all-powerful God to not intervene to be despicable. I will make no attempt to defend this premise because I don’t actually support it for reasons far less esoteric than to do with the need for man’s free will. Others appear to have no problem with it. I’ll let them defend it.

    In reading some of the arguments presented on this thread I have on more than one occasion thought “Wow, that’s an argument I would expect from a young teenager”. Now, going by the level of the article from The American Scientific (sigh) Affiliation referenced by Mort, I’m prepared to give the authors, as individuals, the benefit of the doubt. They are presenting poor logical arguments because they must not have been taught to use even rudimentary analytical tools. When they ‘learn’ them from seeing others use them, they then try to use them but they misuse them because they don’t understand them.

    My stepdaughter is a psychologist. When she was in college she hated the basic statistics courses she had to take. As I helped her struggle through them I tried to teach her why she needed them. After college she said to me how much she had learned from those courses. Not the actual statistical tools, but the necessity of a rigorous presentation. A proud moment for me indeed.

    This thread has deteriorated into symantics (we don’t pray to Mary) and interpretations, I will leave that to the people who wish to discuss literature.

  77. Mort Coyle
    December 19th, 2005 @ 12:42 am

    Guapacha, I’m sure Karl Krienke, Professor of Physics and Mathematics for 44 Years at Seattle Pacific University and Dean of the School of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, would be amused to know that you’ve given him an “F”.

  78. Mort Coyle
    December 19th, 2005 @ 2:40 am

    SteveR, I can understand Lily’s frustration. As the conversation continues you seem to be getting more shrill and insultive.

    Earlier in our discussion you made the following assertion: “JW’s have plenty of their ‘own’ scholars who think ‘your’ scholars are wrong.” I’ve simply asked you to substantiate this claim. I think it’s important that you do so because it speaks to my over-arching point about the majority of Christian scholars agreeing on their interpretations of essential Biblical doctrines. I’m sure you’re not the type who would make statements of fact without first validating them.

    SteveR said: “Earlier you said that the contents of the verse in question was ‘geared primarily to the apostles’. And yet you can perform some but not all of these ‘miracles’.”

    All scripture is geared, first and foremost, to those who originally heard/read it. One must first determine what the scripture meant to those who it was initially directed to. Only after doing that can one extrapolate what it means to subsequent hearers. So yes, the portion of scripture in question was, first and foremost, geared towards the Apostles who it was being spoken to. The next question is, was it *only* geared towards the original hearers (as is sometimes the case). It seems that things such as healing and casting out demons have occurred throughout church history and still do. As a result, I’ve been willing to try it and have found (like many Christians) that it can still apply.

    You seem to think, however, that Mark 16:9-20 is some kind of “test” of worthiness for Christians. I’d be curious to know how you arrived at such a novel interpretation, which is otherwise only embraced by a few obscure sects in the Appalachians. As far as healing, if someone wants prayer for healing, they are prayed for, not as some type of “faith test” but because they are cared about and it’s not all that difficult to ask God to heal them.

    I’m sorry to report that I won’t honor your request to ingest radium chloride or handle Inland Taipan snakes. To do so, with no purpose other than testing God, would be to directly disobey Deuteronomy 6:16, Psalm 95:8 and Matthew 4:5-7. If, on the other hand, I’m ever bitten by a snake or forced to drink poison then you can bet I will pray that Mark 16:18 still applies.

    Interesting questions about speaking in tongues. I’m curious, what do you think the purpose of speaking in tongues is/was? This might help me to more effectively answer your questions.

    SteveR said: “For your so-called hermeneutics to be valid, it would have to be absolutely transferrable to all people of all beliefs, of all eras.”

    In the first place, says who? In the second place, who says they aren’t? What do you understand the hermeneutics I’ve been speaking of to be?

    SteveR said: “Luke 3:23-38 lists all the generations from Adam to Jesus.”

    Are you sure that Luke 3:23-38 lists *all* generations? Have you done any study of the purpose and function of genealogies in the ancient world? Or are you just making *assumptions*?

    SteveR said: “ Incontrovertible proof the bible is in error, big time.”

    Based on what? Your assumption, devoid of any depth of research, about the intent of Luke’s genealogy?

    SteveR said: “You are a fine example of why science and religion are mortal enemies.

    I’m sure the multitude of Christian scientists in the world will be stunned to learn this.

  79. Percy
    December 19th, 2005 @ 4:21 am

    Steve R,

    “You are a fine example of why science and religion are mortal enemies”

    And you are a fine example of why alcohol and attempts at intelligent discussion shouldn’t be pursued simultaneously. See? Petty insults are easy to trade. Bit harder to be courteous and open-minded, but I’m sure you’re trying your best.

  80. Lily
    December 19th, 2005 @ 8:46 am

    Say what? Science and religion are mortal enemies? Oh boy… we are dealing with a middle schooler. I thought this might be a youngster when it finally dawned on me that he thinks God wrote the Bible and that it isn’t first a text that has to be approached as a text, just like the Constitution or, for that matter, Beowulf.

    I nearly lost it when I read that there are different standards for theology (objects of worship and adoration) than for politics. I’m not being asked to accept the Constitution as the true word of God. Does he envision me surrounding it with candles? How long then before I can read it? Would this be before or after I pray to the pope? (!!!???)

    Despite everything we have said, SteveR just doesn’t get that we are not asking him to accept the Bible as the word of God (yet). Just to read it bringing to bear the usual tools and thought processes used in reading any text. Once he actually knows what it says, then we can discuss whether or not its claims are true.

    Percy: Great to have you weigh in! I loved your remark about a quick answer handbook to every issue in the universe. I can just visualize it now– a sort of Chilton’s manual for death-fearing dummies!

  81. Guapacha
    December 19th, 2005 @ 11:17 am

    Mort:

    Then I think we have a good example of why we don’t allow appeal to authority. Are there any peer reviews of the article published by physicists or mathematicians, as that’s the authority you appeal to?

  82. SteveR
    December 19th, 2005 @ 1:23 pm

    Percy writes: ” And you are a fine example of why alcohol and attempts at intelligent discussion shouldn’t be pursued simultaneously.”

    My arguments, offered in a drunken stupor, exhibit more coherence and rational thought than yours do offered from a state of cold sobriety. Do you actually have an issue with something that’s been discussed ? Or perhaps an original thought of your own (now that would be acceptable as a ‘true’ miracle.) ?

  83. SteveR
    December 19th, 2005 @ 1:26 pm

    My statement is correct. You have only to talk to JW’s to confirm its’ veracity. Obviously, you disagree with their definition of scholars. So be it. I noticed that you avoided commenting on my point that Jesus had no degrees or published works. Does that make the opinions of someone who does superior to His?

    Mort says: “. . . can one extrapolate what it means”

    Subjective. Again.

    Mort: “It seems that things such as healing and casting out demons have occurred throughout church history and still do.

    Without proof, this claim is spurious heresay at best. Can you get any of your ‘Christian scientists” to vouch for these claims?

    Mort: “. . .Mark16: 9-20 is some kind of ‘test’ of worthiness for Christians.”

    Mark 16:17-18 says, ” And these signs will follow those who believe: In My Name they will cast out demons; they will speak in tongues. . . and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.”

    The key words here: ‘THOSE WHO BELIEVE’. If you don’t believe, then these feats are not possible. Conversely, if one does believe, they are possible. You evidently believe ‘enough’ to do some of these feats, but not all. You are being highly selective again, Mort, to suit your spiritual needs.

    Mort: “I won’t honor your request to ingest radium chloride or handle Inland Taipan snakes.”

    Then you must be, in some way, lacking in true christian faith (or the bible is incorrect – take your pick). I’ll ask you again, can you think of ANYONE on this planet with enough faith to pass this test?

    Mort: ” In the first place, says who? In the second place, who says they aren’t?

    Me and every skeptic that I’ve talked to say so. The jews say they aren’t, for one. Jews and christians have a TOTALLY different take on the meaning of Isaiah 53. Are the hebrews hermeneutics flawed? Do they lack sufficient scholarly pedigrees to interpret their own scripture (and agree with yours) ?

    Mort: ” Based on what? Your assumption, devoid of any depth of research about the intent of Luke’s genealogy?”

    I can only go by what the bible says. Convoluting the meanings is your department. You know as well as I do that most christian fundamentalists read it that way. Before you question my interpretations, you may want to try and convince them first. You know, a consistant, united christian front and all that.

    Mort says: ” I’m sure the multitude of christian scientists in the world will be stunned to learn this.”

    We’ve talked about this before. True scientists seek truth over religious dogma, regardless of whose feelings get hurt. Your ‘christian scientists’ may call themselves scientists, but if they believe in talking snakes, talking donkeys, blooming rods, virigin births, resurrection of the dead, 10k year old earth,etc., they are not true scientists. I suspect that most of them embrace the christian label to ‘fit in’ , and have views a lot closer to mine than yours.

  84. Percy
    December 19th, 2005 @ 2:04 pm

    Steve R,

    “My arguments, offered in a drunken stupor, exhibit more coherence and rational thought than yours do offered from a state of cold sobriety. Do you actually have an issue with something that’s been discussed ? Or perhaps an original thought of your own (now that would be acceptable as a ‘true’ miracle.) ?”

    *sigh* I don’t get it – maybe you don’t *want* to have a civil discussion. Or perhaps you haven’t read the numerous requests for you to be more polite. Are childish put-downs the only way you know of having a dialogue, or is it your way of running away from one when difficult issues are raised? I find the whole affair rather sad, because I thought we were discussing an interesting topic. And I’m still waiting for you to reply to my other posts…

  85. Percy
    December 19th, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

    “Your ‘christian scientists’ may call themselves scientists, but if they believe in talking snakes, talking donkeys, blooming rods, virigin births, resurrection of the dead, 10k year old earth,etc., they are not true scientists.”

    How so? In your mind, what exactly is a “true scientist”? Are you aware of the distinction between naturalism as a method and naturalism as a worldview?

  86. SteveR
    December 19th, 2005 @ 2:46 pm

    Percy: ” Or perhaps you haven’t read the numerous requests for you to be more polite.”

    You make a snide remark about me being an alcoholic and you expect me to be more polite? You’ll get what you give.

    Percy: ” . . . or is it your way of running away from one when difficult issues are raised?”

    Can you read? I’ve faced Mort and Lily’s ‘difficult issues’ head on. You may not like the answers, but that’s too bad.

    Percy: ” . . . what exactly is a true scientist?”

    For starters, someone whose judgements are based upon verifiable and repeatable data.
    Do you believe in talking snakes? And how old do you think the earth is?

  87. Mort Coyle
    December 19th, 2005 @ 3:15 pm

    SteveR said: “I’ve faced Mort and Lily’s ‘difficult issues’ head on. ”
    Actually you haven’t SteveR. You’ve avoided answering most of my questions.

    When I have time, I’ll respond in detail…

  88. Guapacha
    December 19th, 2005 @ 4:09 pm

    Lily:

    . Once he actually knows what it says

    There you go Steve, the non-falsifiable claim. You can read the Bible till the day you die but you won’t know what it says until Lily says you do. I admire your patience though.

    Lily, why don’t you head over to exchristian.net. Some of the people over there claim they know the bible extremely well.

  89. Lily
    December 19th, 2005 @ 5:04 pm

    Guapacha:

    What evidence do you have that Steve has read the Bible? He doesn’t seem to know a single accurate thing about it. Reading the Sceptics Bible doesn’t count. Nor does reading a couple of verses from the real thing out of context. The Bible is a book. It is a requirement of intelligent reading that you start at the beginning of at least a chapter and read for comprehension of the actual words on the page in their context. Far better is starting at the beginning of the book. The same goes for you. I see no evidence that you know anything about what the Bible actually says.

    Anyone who tells me that God wrote the Bible and that it cannot be read like any other text (I mentioned the Constitution and Beowulf most recently) tells me that he is wholly ignorant of what intelligent reading is.

  90. Mort Coyle
    December 19th, 2005 @ 5:19 pm

    Guapacha said: “… I think we have a good example of why we don’t allow appeal to authority.”

    “Appeal to authority” isn’t always a fallacy; particularly if the authority in question is known to be competent.

    However, I was not so much appealing to the authority of Prof. Krienke as commenting on the amusing circumstance of your *imaginary* professor giving him an “F”.

    What are the rules on appealing to fictitious authorities such as imaginary professors? ;^)

  91. Guapacha
    December 19th, 2005 @ 6:23 pm

    Lily, I have no idea if Steve has read the bible or not, I have only limited knowledge from childhood, but that is not the point. There are many people who have read the bible extensively and who disagree with you. But because they disagree with you, you are going to claim that they haven’t read it properly. How long will it take Steve to read the bible, three months? A year? I don’t know, but he is up against a non-falsifiable claim because as far as you are concerned he won’t have ‘actually’ read it until he agrees with you.

    As I said, why don’t you save some time and try exchristians.net. Some of the people there, including the host, claim extensive knowledge of the bible. They were once Christians, unless they weren’t “true” Christians that is.

    You have shown us you don’t understand Ockham’s razor. You have shown us you don’t understand why we don’t appeal to popularity. You have shown us you don’t understand why we don’t allow an appeal to authority. You incorrectly made a claim of a straw man argument. You did manage to correct my spelling of the true Scotsman fallacy, but I’m sure you still think there are people who claim to be Christians who you will dismiss and then wonder why we politely shake our head in confusion. And now you don’t understand the problem of the non-falsifiable claim. Try and find a site that teaches critical thinking. Google may come up with some. You may understand more about why we demand this discipline at least when we argue with people we expect to have this discipline.

  92. Lily
    December 19th, 2005 @ 7:46 pm

    This is the stupidest “conversation” I have ever had. And I have 20 years of teaching undergraduates history and literature under my belt.

    Let’s see where you are wrong:

    1. You have not read the Bible. But you have no trouble arguing about what it teaches. Uh huh. This non fictional professor flunked students who didn’t read the text but tried to bullsh– their way through the exam.

    2. No one is up against a non-falsifiable claim. You have read the Bible when you understand first, what the genre is. Are you reading a poem? A fable? This is important for understanding. Then: a. who are the actors in a particular passage? b. What happens in a particular passage? c. What lessons are to be drawn by the actors in a particular passage? d. Do those lessons have limited or universal application? Or something in between?

    3. Your “Scotsman’s fallacy” is not found in any logic text book I am aware of for good reason; it is a mishmash. Nevertheless, it is interesting in that it does not prove what you think it proves, when you apply it to Christians. A Scotsman is one who is born and raised in Scotland. (or naturalized– whatever). He does not, in fact, have to adhere to some 10 or 15 point program of thought or conduct. He can be as bad or good as may be. He is a Scotsman.

    That is not true of Christians. No one is born a Christian. One can be baptised into the family, but one must still claim it and practice it. There is a “program” or a certain number of core beliefs one must have to be a Christian. One can also reject these beliefs. One’s beliefs are best exemplified by one’s actions. So yes, “no true Christian” is a perfectly valid proposition.

    4. You did make a strawman argument. Go look up the definition and go back and see.

    5. Yes, I misused Ockham’s razor. I told you I was using it ironically. I should have been plainer. I was using it sarcastically. The law of parsimony that I was applying was not bothering to correct your mistaken premises. I just didn’t have the energy. The “razor” was me slashing impatiently thru the b.s.

    6. I have made neither appeals to authority nor to popularity. Hence #3 (Go back and look). I was asked a direct question twice to name scholars that had influenced me. I did so. With no further explanation.

    Later, Steve pulled in a quote “We are the majority” from a different message on a different subject. That was no appeal to popularity but a question about his lack of curiosity about what we believe and why we believe it, since we are so influential politically. Had nothing to do with trying to appeal to popularity to prove the truth of our claims.

    See? It isn’t just the Bible you all can’t read honestly. You look at our words but you hear voices in your head translating them into some language only you know. I wouldn’t be so quick to sneer at speaking in tongues. You are just about as impossible to comprehend.

  93. Guapacha
    December 19th, 2005 @ 7:52 pm

    Lily:

    Anyone who tells me that God wrote the Bible and that it cannot be read like any other text (I mentioned the Constitution and Beowulf most recently) tells me that he is wholly ignorant of what intelligent reading is.

    Lily – this wasn’t me.

    Mort:

    What are the rules on appealing to fictitious authorities such as imaginary professors?

    The “F” was for not being clear only, as I said my imaginary professor didn’t actually critique the passage. I’ve had to resubmit for being too verbose! An imaginary professor’s time is very valuable.

    I also said that in the end I decided that he supported my point so I hope he doesn’t get a final “F”.

  94. Guapacha
    December 20th, 2005 @ 12:14 am

    Lily:

    You have not read the Bible. But you have no trouble arguing about what it teaches. Uh huh. This non fictional professor flunked students who didn’t read the text but tried to bullsh– their way through the exam.

    You are right I have little knowledge of the bible but I have not directly argued about what it teaches at all. I have just pointed out that others who also claim to have read the bible disagree with you.

    No one is up against a non-falsifiable claim. You have read the Bible when you understand first, what the genre is. Are you reading a poem? A fable? This is important for understanding. Then: a. who are the actors in a particular passage? b. What happens in a particular passage? c. What lessons are to be drawn by the actors in a particular passage? d. Do those lessons have limited or universal application? Or something in between?

    Steve has no win, if he disagree with you will say he hasn’t read it properly. You will only say he’s read it properly when he agrees with you.

    Your “Scotsman’s fallacy” is not found in any logic text book I am aware of for good reason; it is a mishmash. Nevertheless, it is interesting in that it does not prove what you think it proves, when you apply it to Christians. A Scotsman is one who is born and raised in Scotland. (or naturalized– whatever). He does not, in fact, have to adhere to some 10 or 15 point program of thought or conduct. He can be as bad or good as may be. He is a Scotsman.

    To be a little pedantic it’s a ‘true Scotsman fallacy’, there is no apostrophe and requires the ‘true’ bit. The point is not that he’s a Scotsman, a Christian, or anything else. The point is that the definition of a ‘true’ whatever is changed each time it isn’t convenient. The original story only applies to one person changing the definition but it is usually used as a shorthand way of pointing out that an independent observer can have difficulty with which definition to use when other parties don’t agree among themselves.

    You did make a strawman argument. Go look up the definition and go back and see.

    You claimed the straw man argument in 54. As far as I can see it is against the last paragraph of 49.
    I tried to introduce critical thinking ideas into the thread. I suppose someone who didn’t understand that could construe this as a straw man argument. In which case I apologize.

    Yes, I misused Ockham’s razor. I told you I was using it ironically. I should have been plainer. I was using it sarcastically. The law of parsimony that I was applying was not bothering to correct your mistaken premises. I just didn’t have the energy. The “razor” was me slashing impatiently thru the b.s.

    You introduced Ockham’s razor in 36. I gave a quick and admittedly bad use of Ockham’s razor in 38 because there was nothing I had said in 35 where Ockham’s razor was appropriate, but I thought you asked me to use it in 36. In 43 you said you used Ockham’s razor ironically. In 46 I said I was now confused about your use of Ockham’s razor. In 48 you used Ockham’s razor again. Now, as I said I was confused I don’t think this was meant to be ironic. In 49 I explained that I thought you had used it in a way that was not relevant.

    I have made neither appeals to authority nor to popularity. Hence #3 (Go back and look). I was asked a direct question twice to name scholars that had influenced me. I did so. With no further explanation.

    Authority in this case does not mean a specific person or position, it is the more abstract implied superior knowledge of a person of a given rank or qualification especially when it is meant not to be challenged.

    In 48.

    How is it possible to believe that you see more clearly than the millions of more experienced, better educated and just plain smarter people out there do,

    A direct appeal to the authority of people of more experience (rank), better education (qualification)

    even given that there are millions who are less experienced, less well educated, less smart who also believe?

    A direct appeal to popularity. “See, lots of people agree with me”.

    Later, Steve pulled in a quote “We are the majority” from a different message on a different subject. That was no appeal to popularity but a question about his lack of curiosity about what we believe and why we believe it, since we are so influential politically. Had nothing to do with trying to appeal to popularity to prove the truth of our claims.

    I, not Steve, pulled that quote in 53 in response to 50 which was in response to 49 which was in response to 48 where the original was. I’m sorry I was being brief and didn’t pull in the whole paragraph and didn’t get the context. My confusion as to what I originally meant in 49.

    In 54 you said that that quote wasn’t from 50 your previous post.

    In 55 I pulled in the full quote from 48 explaining that it wasn’t from 50 but from 48 where, as I’ve explained above, you have an appeal to authority and an appeal to popularity.

    See? It isn’t just the Bible you all can’t read honestly. You look at our words but you hear voices in your head translating them into some language only you know. I wouldn’t be so quick to sneer at speaking in tongues. You are just about as impossible to comprehend.

    I agree that I am not a wordsmith and English is a subject I would not claim even a modicum of expertise in. I try to get my spelling and grammar right but I know I’m often wrong. I will also say that I did not intend any insult but following a few rules can make life easier and save time by cutting out a lot of unnecessary back and forth. It is also a long time since I did any formal critical thinking training therefore I may not be exactly right in each of my analyses but I think the general idea is sound.

  95. Lily
    December 20th, 2005 @ 1:41 am

    Forgive me but the above is just a little too convoluted for me to follow. I will speak to just this one point–

    Again, context is everything. I was not appealing to popularity or authority by this paragraph

    How is it possible to believe that you see more clearly than the millions of more experienced, better educated and just plain smarter people out there do, even given that there are millions who are less experienced, less well educated, less smart who also believe?

    but asking why you or Steve (I can’t keep this straight any more ) were not more interested in what we believe given that we are not *all* uneducated, drooling fools and there are so many of us, which makes us decidedly influential politically.

    It seemed at the time and it seems to me now that apart from philosophical questions, knowing what we really believe makes sense given our political influence and the fact that we are your neighbors, doctors, dentists, plumbers, teachers, etc.

    It is all very well to yammer on this site about how much smarter and clearer seeing you are and what a bunch of godidiots we are, but in the light of reality that seems shortsighted to me.

    Ok-one other point– when I said that: I wouldn’t be so quick to sneer at speaking in tongues. You are just about as impossible to comprehend. I was not criticizing you individually (I should have made that plainer by writing you all) nor was I criticizing grammar, style, etc.

    It is so easy to go back just through the comments in just this thread alone and point to places where the clear meaning and sense of what we have written has been deliberately twisted or flat ignored. Every single dreaded theist who tries to participate here will tell you the same thing. We say something and it is as if we have written in a foreign language. You all read some meaning into it that is flat crazy or directly the opposite of what we just said and then take off on some tangent. Most of you really do not know what the Bible actually says. Yet you contradict us and preach to us. What sense does that make?

    Really, I have had enough. I used to think atheism was probably a viable philosophy. I no longer do. I used to think that it was worth trying to clear up some of the weirder misunderstandings of what we believe that I have encountered here; but I no longer do.

    I wasn’t going to participate any further but I felt bad that you had misunderstood my last message to be a criticism of your writing style, which was not my intent at all. Actually, you are more literate than most. But you still don’t seem to actually *hear* anything we say. That is why it doesn’t make sense to continue to spend time here. We are just talking past each other.

  96. Mort Coyle
    December 20th, 2005 @ 2:21 am

    Guapacha said: “The “F” was for not being clear only…”

    Strange, it was quite clear to me.

    SteveR said: “My statement is correct. You have only to talk to JW’s to confirm its’ veracity.”

    Your statement was regarding JW scholars, not rank & file JW’s. Specifically you said, “JW’s have plenty of their ‘own’ scholars who think ‘your’ scholars are wrong. Who is a casual observer to believe?” I would like to answer that question, but first need you to tell me who these “plenty” of JW scholars are. I’m sure you wouldn’t make a statement like this, and then continue to swear by its correctness, unless you could back it up with actual data.

    SteveR said: Mort says: “. . . can one extrapolate what it means”

    SteveR said: “Subjective. Again.”

    Of course it’s subjective! We’re not working with a scientifically measurable subject here. This is textual analysis, not mathematics!

    SteveR said: Mort: “It seems that things such as healing and casting out demons have occurred throughout church history and still do.

    SteveR said: “Without proof, this claim is spurious heresay at best.”

    No, hearsay is second-hand testimony. If I said that someone I know claims to have experienced these things, *that* would be hearsay. I’ve giving my own direct testimony. I’m making no claims beyond saying that this has been my experience and, as already stated, I don’t expect you to believe me nor to I feel any compulsion to try to quantify my experiences.

    SteveR said: “Mark 16:17-18 says, ” And these signs will follow those who believe: In My Name they will cast out demons; they will speak in tongues. . . and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.”

    SteveR said: “The key words here: ‘THOSE WHO BELIEVE’. If you don’t believe, then these feats are not possible. Conversely, if one does believe, they are possible. You evidently believe ‘enough’ to do some of these feats, but not all. You are being highly selective again, Mort, to suit your spiritual needs.”

    I agree completely with your statement here (other than the last sentence). I *do* believe that these *feats* (as you call them) are *possible*. You still seem to be unable to grasp the concept, however, that these are not *tests*. Your use of words like “believe enough” lead me to infer that you’ve gotten your understanding of the Bible from TV “faith” preachers.

    What is your story Steve? Were you subjected to a fundamentalist Christian or JW upbringing? Were you given so much religion that you lost sight of Jesus? Were you taught to read the entire Bible in a naive literalistic way (because that is certainly how you are reading it now)?

    SteveR said: “Then you must be, in some way, lacking in true christian faith (or the bible is incorrect – take your pick). I’ll ask you again, can you think of ANYONE on this planet with enough faith to pass this test?”

    This confirms that you are fundamentally misunderstanding the entire thrust of the text. It has absolutely nothing to do with being some kind of “faith test”.

    SteveR said: “Jews and christians have a TOTALLY different take on the meaning of Isaiah 53. Are the hebrews hermeneutics flawed? Do they lack sufficient scholarly pedigrees to interpret their own scripture (and agree with yours) ?”

    I assume you’re referring to the question of who the Suffering Servant is in Isaiah 53. My understanding is that from the time of it’s writing up until the 2nd century AD, the Jewish interpretation was messianic. For example, the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel (approx. 1 BC), clearly identifies the servant as Messiah. This is, of course, also the Christian interpretation. Around the 2nd century the popular Jewish interpretation began to shift to viewing the suffering servant as the nation of Israel itself. It should be blindingly obvious why the shift in interpretation occurred. Of course, we could spend days on days on the nuances of Isaiah 53.

    SteveR said: Mort: ” Based on what? Your assumption, devoid of any depth of research about the intent of Luke’s genealogy?”

    SteveR said: “I can only go by what the bible says…”

    Please explain to me the system of hermeneutics you use to determine what the Bible says.

    The thing that Lily and I have been trying to get you to comprehend is that if you want to understand *in depth* what the Bible says, then you need to put a little effort into it. You wouldn’t presume to pick up a document written in another language and culture (say, the Iliad for example) and attempt to exegete it without first trying to place it in context by learning something about the culture, people, language, literary style and, perhaps most importantly, what it meant to the original readers. If you *would* presume to forego these steps, then you would be relegated to a fairly shallow level of understanding which, in the case of the Bible, you have made evident. As a result, you have come to conclusions (which, conveniently, support your presuppositional bias) that are wildly off the mark and in some cases absurd.

    SteveR said: Mort says: ” I’m sure the multitude of christian scientists in the world will be stunned to learn this.”

    SteveR said: “True scientists seek truth over religious dogma, regardless of whose feelings get hurt. Your ‘christian scientists’ may call themselves scientists, but if they believe in talking snakes, talking donkeys, blooming rods, virigin births, resurrection of the dead, 10k year old earth,etc., they are not true scientists. I suspect that most of them embrace the christian label to ‘fit in’ , and have views a lot closer to mine than yours.”

    “True scientists”? (Or did you mean “true Scotsmen”?)

    It must be the same impulse that causes people to slow down and look at a car crash on the side of the road; the thing that keeps Christians like me coming back to The Raving Atheist. It’s just so hard to resist, trying (in quixotic fashion) to shed some light on the gross Biblical ignorance that is so frequently on display.

  97. SteveR
    December 20th, 2005 @ 8:08 am

    Guapacha says: “There you go Steve, the non-falsifiable claim.”

    Please don’t confuse her with logic, my friend. I’m afriad she’ll go into meltdown. So far, during the course of this thread, Lily has misrepresented tenets of her own Catholic faith, quoted me incorrectly, quoted you incorrectly, and made totally incorrect statements about whether or not I’ve read the bible. Even a moron should be able to deduce that by reading the posts. But, like you said, if something doesn’t conform to her beliefs, it can’t be real. And don’t forget, she has 20 years of teaching history and literature under her belt.

  98. SteveR
    December 20th, 2005 @ 8:14 am

    Mort: “. . but first you need to tell me who these “plenty” of JW scholars are.”

    I don’t have specific names. If you were really interested, you’d ask them. Surely, you must believe that they would provide them if you asked? You seem to be fixated on me saying that they had their own scholars. It was a mistake on my part (trying to get you to answer why one should believe your theology and not others) to invoke the JW’s. I should have gone right to the jews, whose scholarship you can not question, nor use it as an excuse not to answer the main question.

    Mort: ” No, heresay is second-hand testimony.”

    Yes, it is. I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. But, apparently, you have NO witnesses. Just your say-so. Amazing.

    Mort: ” You seem to be unable to grasp the concept, however, that these are not *tests*.”

    Oh yes they are. What part of ” :These signs will follow those who believe…” don’t you understand?

    Mort: ” What is your story, Steve…”

    Not that it’s any of your business, I was born and raised a Methodist. Never met a JW until about 3 years ago. Can’t stand their theology. You see how wrong you were?

    Mort: ” Were you taught to read the entire bible. . .”

    Gosh, Mort, Lily says that I DON’T read the bible. Which one of you is right?

    Mort: ” This confirms that you are fundamentally misunderstanding the entire thrust of the text.”

    No, it confirms that you are dodging the question. And IT IS a faith test. At the very least, you should concede that it was meant for the disciples, if nothing else.

    Mort: ” Of course, we could spend days on days on the nuances of Isa53.”

    First of all, I can’t find any references in the Talmud that confirms that the Jewish interpretation was messianic. Can you point it out to me? Also, I can’t find one modern-times orthodox jewish scholar who thinks the interpretation was messianic. I’ll keep asking, “whose hermeneutics (on the meaning of Isa 53 ) are correct” ? How does a casual observer know who to believe?

    Mort: ” if you want to understand in depth what the bible says. . .”

    Guapacha was quite correct. The only people who, in your opinion, understand the bible, are the ones who agree with your interpretation.

  99. Lily
    December 20th, 2005 @ 8:56 am

    Yeah, don’t forget that I have 20 years of teaching history and literature under my belt. You, Steve are delusional. You could not pass a freshman “introduction to literature” with your grasp of what “reading” means.

    Do I think you have stared at a page of the Bible or maybe 150? Sure, it is possible. Did you understand a word of it? Nothing here suggests any such possibility. I have misrepresented nothing about my faith. You have no clue what that faith is because you neither listen nor read for understanding. You are too busy guarding your prejudices from any modification.

  100. SteveR
    December 20th, 2005 @ 10:57 am

    Lily: : You could not pass a freshman “intro to literature” with your grasp of what “reading” means.

    As I recollect, I got an A in that course. Your ‘wishful’ thinking falsehoods don’t equal truth, no matter how many times you repeat them. I suspect that you would have a hard time passing any course in logic, since you are so obviously devoid of it.

    Lily: ” Did you understand a word of it”

    Apparently far more than you.

    Lily: ” You are too busy guarding your prejudices from any modification.”

    Well, let’s see about that. I started off as a xtian and stayed one for many years. Then, as I began to read the bible and discover for myself what a fraud it is, I changed my views. This should suggest, even to you, that rather than guarding my initial prejudices, I kept an open mind and changed my mind only in the presence of compelling data. If I was in the habit of ‘guarding’ my prejudices, there would have been no change. If I ever witness a TRUE miracle (Jesus coming to earth in the clouds, talking snakes, Mort healing an amputee) I will repent and be the first to say I was wrong and you were right.

  101. Mort Coyle
    December 20th, 2005 @ 11:24 am

    Lily said: “You could not pass a freshman “introduction to literature” with your grasp of what “reading” means.”

    I tend to agree. The lack of understanding coupled with sheer obstinance is amazing. “A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.” (Prov 18:2)

    Now SteveR has been reduced to quoting partial sentences of Lily’s and mine out of context. Sad.

    SteveR, the reason I’m “fixated” on your statement about JW scholars is because its a prime example of the type of baseless assertions you’ve been making throughout this discussion, or what the Irish (my last name is Coyle after all) call ‘speaking out of one’s arse’. The fact is, you have *no idea* whether or not there *are any* JW scholars or who they might be. You are operating under assumptions, and not in this area alone.

    It almost leaves one slack-jawed with incredulity to make a statement and then hear your rebuttal, not to the statement that is made but to a twisted reinterpretation of the statement. Sort of a sick form of the “straw man” tactic I suppose.

    Here’s a few more questions for you (which I’m assuming you won’t answer based on the track record so far): Is it possible for someone to misinterpret scripture? If so, who is more likely to misinterpret a scripture, the ‘casual observer’ (a classification you seem to apply to yourself) or the serious student/scholar? Is it conceivable, SteveR, that there might be something for you to learn here?

    I’m becoming dubious about the possibility of anything productive emerging from this dialog…

  102. Percy
    December 20th, 2005 @ 11:44 am

    Steve R,

    I’m also curious about how you interpret scripture. Tell me: do you think that it could be wise to examine what a 1,500 year old collection of books, poems, prophecies, and parables meant to the people it was originally written to? Do you think by examining it in that way you might discover a different meaning? Do you think it’s possible that God actually expected you to put in some work to understand scripture, or in your view is the only possibility (since the meaning of it doesn’t seem to just fall in people’s laps) that God didn’t divinely inspire it? Do you think it’s possible that a single word can change the meaning of an entire sentence? An entire paragraph? Do you think it’s possible that those who translated the Bible (which was written in multiple languages) may have mistranslated certain words? Have you ever studied what the Bible verses you have trouble with might have meant to the people they were originally meant to?

    I have a feeling that instead of giving straight answers to most of these questions, you will instead attempt to disqualify or avoid them. But I’m hoping that you won’t.

  103. Guapacha
    December 20th, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

    Lily:

    You are right that context is everything. I’m not saying you are using an appeal to authority to justify a point in this thread. I am pointing out something you said that was unnecessary and you would not have said if you understood why.

    This is condescending:

    How is it possible to believe that you see more clearly than the millions of more experienced, better educated and just plain smarter people out there do,

    This is rude:

    even given that there are millions who are less experienced, less well educated, less smart who also believe?

    Neither has validity.

    Why it’s a good idea to follow a few rules, not withstanding the logic behind them: (very simple and facetious)

    Appeal to popularity:

    Joe: Everybody agrees with me:

    A hour later, after lunch:

    Fred: That doesn’t make you right.

    Appeal to authority:

    Fred: Professor Smith agrees with me.

    Next morning, seventeen intervening comments by others:

    Joe: I think Professor Smith is a very smart man, I enjoy his mathematics lectures very much, but this is a question of biology.

    If you can recognize these problems you can save a lot of bandwidth.

  104. SteveR
    December 20th, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

    Mort: ” I tend to agree. ”

    Now that’s a shock – Mort agreeing with Lily

    Mort: “”A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.” (Prov 18:2)”

    “For it is written I (God) will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. . . has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
    It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1cor1:19-21

    Mort: ” Now SteveR has been reduced to quoting partial sentences of Lily’s and mine out of context. Sad.”

    Please give examples. If I did, it was to save time and typing, not to obfuscate. Since it was intended for you, I assumed that you would know the actual context.

    Mort: “The fact is, you have *no idea* whether or not there *are any* JW scholars or who they might be. You are operating under assumptions, and not in this area alone”

    You’re half right. I know they have scholars. I don’t know specific names, and said so , more than once. You could easily find this information if you cared to, but you won’t because that’s not the real issue. You are using the JW issue to avoid the issue of Jewish hermeneutics, because you know all too well that you can’t hide behind ‘a lack of scholars’ argument when talking about the jews. You’re the one speaking in tongues (jibberish) and claiming that I’m talking out of my ass?

    Mort: “Here’s a few more questions for you (which I’m assuming you won’t answer based on the track record so far): A. Is it possible for someone to misinterpret scripture? B. If so, who is more likely to misinterpret a scripture, the ‘casual observer’ (a classification you seem to apply to yourself) or the serious student/scholar? C. Is it conceivable, SteveR, that there might be something for you to learn here?”

    A. Only when constrained to a pre-defined belief system.
    B. If the casual observer was brought up in the jewish faith, and the scholar in question was christian, see (A.): Also, the casual observer jew could easily take issue with the Christian scholar and not be wrong, according to the tenets of his own faith (his own ‘hermeneutics’).

    Mort: ” Is it conceivable, SteveR, that there might be something for you to learn here?”

    Yes. Attempting to achieve a common area of harmony based on rational thought is futile. The really smart skeptics who frequent this blog learned it long ago and that’s why they are conspicuously absent from this discussion. Now I know too.

    Mort: ” I’m becoming dubious about the possibility of anything productive emerging from this dialog..”

    I reached the same conclusion when you told me that you could heal people by touching them. If your rational thought processes are that far gone, trying to reason with you is about as hopeless as leaving the light on for Jimmy Hoffa.

  105. SteveR
    December 20th, 2005 @ 2:16 pm

    Percy: says: ”
    I’m also curious about how you interpret scripture. Tell me:A. do you think that it could be wise to examine what a 1,500 year old collection of books, poems, prophecies, and parables meant to the people it was originally written to? B. Do you think by examining it in that way you might discover a different meaning?C. Do you think it’s possible that God actually expected you to put in some work to understand scripture, or in your view is the only possibility (since the meaning of it doesn’t seem to just fall in people’s laps) that God didn’t divinely inspire it? D. Do you think it’s possible that a single word can change the meaning of an entire sentence? E. An entire paragraph? F. Do you think it’s possible that those who translated the Bible (which was written in multiple languages) may have mistranslated certain words? G. Have you ever studied what the Bible verses you have trouble with might have meant to the people they were originally meant to?
    I have a feeling that instead of giving straight answers to most of these questions, you will instead attempt to disqualify or avoid them. But I’m hoping that you won’t. ”

    A. Of course, it’s called human history
    B. I don’t know, but discovering ‘different meanings’ that aren’t there accomplishes nothing
    C. I don’t accept your contention that God exists, therefore the question is nonsensical.
    D. Yes
    E. Yes
    F. Yes
    G. Not sure what you mean . Please re-phrase

  106. Lily
    December 20th, 2005 @ 3:14 pm

    Guapacha:

    I tried to let you off the hook, graciously. You would not have it. You are back to speaking in tongues and there is no interpreter. We are finished.

  107. Guapacha
    December 20th, 2005 @ 7:24 pm

    Lily:

    I apologize. After I made that last post I realized that you would not understand it. I have not been trying to be awkward with you. I have tried to explain things to you without getting in too deep and a little lightheartedly. I realize that is not working.

    I recommend that you at least find something reliable about this on the web. Learn what all these terms REALLY mean because you will see them used as shorthand terms all over. Learn how to recognize that you may be using a flaw and so discipline your own arguments. Learn to correctly use the shorthand term when other people are using these flaws. Also you will be able to recognize when people are using a term incorrectly (far too often, and I know I do it myself). In my opinion the most abused, or maybe just misunderstood, term is Ockham’s razor. Ockham’s razor has limitations in its relevance and what it really means when it is relevant. Fortunately it is one of the least used, but still far too often. Everyone loves a “true Scotsman”. Learn where that phrase comes from (its nothing profound but I still find there’s just ‘something’ about using that phrase! Maybe it’s because I’m English) and what is meant when it’s used.

    Mort:

    I ask that you allow me to change my grading from “F” to resubmit. I wish I had the time to defend that but I’ve spent more time on here than I intended. It’s amazing how you get dragged into things. I did learn something from your reference in answer to what I first asked. Thank you.

  108. Lily
    December 20th, 2005 @ 8:53 pm

    Guapacha: I am not confused by the logic terms (and yes, I know the origin of the true scotsman fallacy) but I am confused by your inability to understand what I wrote, which was in plain English.

    It is a fact that when anyone of us is measured against three million others, some will be smarter, better educated, blah, blah, blah. than we are. That is not condescending. It is a proposition which is either true or false. Yes, it is possible that you or I or whoever might be the smartest, etc. of the sample. But how likely?

    It is a fact that some of those three million will be less educated , less intelligent, blah, blah, blah. That is not rude. It is a proposition which is either true or false. Yes, it is possible that you or I or whoever might be the worst educated, the stupidest, etc. of the sample. But how likely?

    In other words, picture a bell curve with three million points spread out over it. Get it now? Some Christians are smart some are not. Some are well educated. Some are not. Some are fat. Some are not. Just like everybody else. So, given that, and since there are so many of us, why aren’t you interested in knowing (with some degree of accuracy) what we actually believe?

    I honestly cannot explain the question I posed more simply than that. There are neither logical fallacies here nor any traps for the unwary. It is a simple, straightforward question.

  109. Mort Coyle
    December 20th, 2005 @ 9:28 pm

    Guapacha, thank you for your gracious comment. I agree with you, it is amazing how one can get dragged in.

  110. Mort Coyle
    December 20th, 2005 @ 10:54 pm

    SteveR said: “For it is written I (God) will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. . . has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1cor1:19-21

    Ah, 1 Corinthians, possibly my favorite Pauline epistle. Perhaps you could help me better understand this passage. Who are the “wise” that Paul is referring to? How does Paul use that term elsewhere in this epistle and his other writings? Who do you think Paul’s original readers would have understood “the wise” to be? What is Paul’s point in referencing Isaiah 29:14? And I wonder about that word “prudent”; what is the Greek there and what does it convey in the Greek? Perhaps there are shades of meaning that have been lost in translation; particularly since “prudent” isn’t as commonly used in the English language as it once was. What does Paul mean by “wisdom of this world”? Was that a common term in his time? What would it have meant to the Corinthians who originally read this epistle? And that last sentence; “the foolishness of preaching”…; is that something akin to what I, Lily and other Christians have been doing here? If not, then what does it mean, this “foolishness of preaching” that can “save them that believe”?

    I look forward to your exegesis with bated breath…

    SteveR said: Mort: ” Now SteveR has been reduced to quoting partial sentences of Lily’s and mine out of context. Sad.”

    SteveR said: “Please give examples.”

    Ok. One example is from this same post where you asked for examples. Towards the end you wrote, “I reached the same conclusion when you told me that you could heal people by touching them.” Now go back and read what I actually wrote: “I’ve participated in driving out demons, speaking in new tongues and placing my hands on sick people and seeing them get well.” and later, “These are things I have experienced.” and later, “Yes, I have done all of these things. More specifically, God has done it. I really can’t do much of anything on my own.” Where in here did I claim that *I could* heal people by touching them? I made it quit clear that *I can’t* do much of anything and also never claimed that this is something I can do whenever I please (sort of like a super-power), which is what you have intimated.

    Here’s another example. I asked “Were you taught to read the entire Bible in a naive literalistic way (because that is certainly how you are reading it now)?” You quoted it back as ‘Mort: ” Were you taught to read the entire bible. . .” and then responded with “Gosh, Mort, Lily says that I DON’T read the bible. Which one of you is right?” Lily’s comment and mine had nothing to do with each other. I was asking you about the hyper-literalistic interpretation you’ve applied to every scripture reference you’ve made.

    There are more examples, but why waste time citing them when you’ll either deny, ignore or try to distract from the point.

    Re: JW’s, SteveR said: “I know they have scholars. I don’t know specific names, and said so , more than once.”

    Now that’s an interesting assertion. You *know* they have scholars, but you don’t know who they are. If you don’t know who they are, how do you know that they have them? I’d be happy to move on to the “Jewish scholar” question once this one has been resolved.

    Some comments on our little Q & A session:

    Mort’s Q: “Is it possible for someone to misinterpret scripture?”

    SteveR’s A: “Only when constrained to a pre-defined belief system.”

    Mort’s Comment: Ummm. SteveR, *every* adult has a pre-defined belief system, so shall I assume your answer is “Yes”?

    Mort’s Q: “If so, who is more likely to misinterpret a scripture, the ‘casual observer’ (a classification you seem to apply to yourself) or the serious student/scholar?”

    SteveR’s A: “If the casual observer was brought up in the jewish faith, and the scholar in question was christian, see (A.): Also, the casual observer jew could easily take issue with the Christian scholar and not be wrong, according to the tenets of his own faith (his own ‘hermeneutics’).”

    Mort’s Comment: Talk about dodging the question! So are you saying that, with the exception of a Jew, the ‘casual observer’ (such as yourself) is more likely to misinterpret scripture than the serious student/scholar?

    Mort’s Q: ” Is it conceivable, SteveR, that there might be something for you to learn here?”

    SteveR’s A: “Yes. Attempting to achieve a common area of harmony based on rational thought is futile. The really smart skeptics who frequent this blog learned it long ago and that’s why they are conspicuously absent from this discussion. Now I know too.”

    And I thought that the really smart skeptics simply knew to stick to the topics in which they are knowledgeable and not be presumptuous enough to act like they know the Bible and Biblical Hermeneutics if they clearly don’t.

  111. Mort Coyle
    December 20th, 2005 @ 10:55 pm

    SteveR said: “For it is written I (God) will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. . . has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1cor1:19-21

    Ah, 1 Corinthians, possibly my favorite Pauline epistle. Perhaps you could help me better understand this passage. Who are the “wise” that Paul is referring to? How does Paul use that term elsewhere in this epistle and his other writings? Who do you think Paul’s original readers would have understood “the wise” to be? What is Paul’s point in referencing Isaiah 29:14? And I wonder about that word “prudent”; what is the Greek there and what does it convey in the Greek? Perhaps there are shades of meaning that have been lost in translation; particularly since “prudent” isn’t as commonly used in the English language as it once was. What does Paul mean by “wisdom of this world”? Was that a common term in his time? What would it have meant to the Corinthians who originally read this epistle? And that last sentence; “the foolishness of preaching”…; is that something akin to what I, Lily and other Christians have been doing here? If not, then what does it mean, this “foolishness of preaching” that can “save them that believe”?

    I look forward to your exegesis with bated breath…

    SteveR said: Mort: ” Now SteveR has been reduced to quoting partial sentences of Lily’s and mine out of context. Sad.”

    SteveR said: “Please give examples.”

    Ok. One example is from this same post where you asked for examples. Towards the end you wrote, “I reached the same conclusion when you told me that you could heal people by touching them.” Now go back and read what I actually wrote: “I’ve participated in driving out demons, speaking in new tongues and placing my hands on sick people and seeing them get well.” and later, “These are things I have experienced.” and later, “Yes, I have done all of these things. More specifically, God has done it. I really can’t do much of anything on my own.” Where in here did I claim that *I could* heal people by touching them? I made it quit clear that *I can’t* do much of anything and also never claimed that this is something I can do whenever I please (sort of like a super-power), which is what you have intimated.

    Here’s another example. I asked “Were you taught to read the entire Bible in a naive literalistic way (because that is certainly how you are reading it now)?” You quoted it back as ‘Mort: ” Were you taught to read the entire bible. . .” and then responded with “Gosh, Mort, Lily says that I DON’T read the bible. Which one of you is right?” Lily’s comment and mine had nothing to do with each other. I was asking you about the hyper-literalistic interpretation you’ve applied to every scripture reference you’ve made.

    There are more examples, but why waste time citing them when you’ll either deny, ignore or try to distract from the point.

    Re: JW’s, SteveR said: “I know they have scholars. I don’t know specific names, and said so , more than once.”

    Now that’s an interesting assertion. You *know* they have scholars, but you don’t know who they are. If you don’t know who they are, how do you know that they have them? I’d be happy to move on to the “Jewish scholar” question once this one has been resolved.

    Some comments on our little Q & A session:

    Mort’s Q: “Is it possible for someone to misinterpret scripture?”

    SteveR’s A: “Only when constrained to a pre-defined belief system.”

    Mort’s Comment: Ummm. SteveR, *every* adult has a pre-defined belief system, so shall I assume your answer is “Yes”?

    Mort’s Q: “If so, who is more likely to misinterpret a scripture, the ‘casual observer’ (a classification you seem to apply to yourself) or the serious student/scholar?”

    SteveR’s A: “If the casual observer was brought up in the jewish faith, and the scholar in question was christian, see (A.): Also, the casual observer jew could easily take issue with the Christian scholar and not be wrong, according to the tenets of his own faith (his own ‘hermeneutics’).”

    Mort’s Comment: Talk about dodging the question! So are you saying that, with the exception of a Jew, the ‘casual observer’ (such as yourself) is more likely to misinterpret scripture than the serious student/scholar?

    Mort’s Q: ” Is it conceivable, SteveR, that there might be something for you to learn here?”

    SteveR’s A: “Yes. Attempting to achieve a common area of harmony based on rational thought is futile. The really smart skeptics who frequent this blog learned it long ago and that’s why they are conspicuously absent from this discussion. Now I know too.”

    And I thought that the really smart skeptics simply knew to stick to the topics in which they are knowledgeable and not be presumptuous enough to act like they know the Bible and Biblical Hermeneutics if they clearly don’t.

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