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> Ask a Theist Anything, An Experiment
Guest_the_crazy_honors_*
post Jul 6 2013, 01:38 AM
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QUOTE (madcap @ Jul 5 2013, 07:58 PM) *
Religion is a moral compass. It provides guidance for believers to follow with common sense.

This is how I feel about the abominations of Leviticus.
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Guest_Crow_*
post Jul 6 2013, 06:03 AM
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QUOTE (madcap @ Jul 5 2013, 05:58 PM) *
When somebody drives into a lake because Google Maps tells them to, you don't blame Google Maps.

Sidenote: I think you forget that lawyers are a thing. And by "thing," I mean "scourge." And by "scourge," I mean "profession I hope to be employed in."

Continue.
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Guest_AK_WDB_*
post Jul 6 2013, 02:02 PM
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QUOTE (the_crazy_honors @ Jul 5 2013, 12:05 PM) *
QUOTE (Research Monkey @ Jul 4 2013, 04:47 AM) *
Anyone who values human life must find the foolish ignorance of this family horrifying and insulting...right? Is there any real defense in the theological realm for these people who are, in the eyes of our secular society, horrifyingly negligent criminals who killed their essentially helpless daughter?

Scripture says not to put the Lord to the test, or to demand that he prove himself or demonstrate his power for your own gain.

Ah, yes. A man is out fishing when his boat begins to sink. He sees a float nearby but does not swim out to it, believing God will help him. Soon after, another boat drives by and offers him a ride, but still he believes God will help him. Finally, a helicopter floats down and offers to rescue him, but he still wants to rely on God. When the fisherman reaches the pearly gates, he asks God, "Why didn't you help me?" God replies, "I sent you a float, a boat, and a helicopter - what more did you want?"
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madcap
post Jul 6 2013, 02:38 PM
Post #24


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QUOTE (Crow @ Jul 6 2013, 01:03 AM) *
QUOTE (madcap @ Jul 5 2013, 05:58 PM) *
When somebody drives into a lake because Google Maps tells them to, you don't blame Google Maps.

Sidenote: I think you forget that lawyers are a thing. And by "thing," I mean "scourge." And by "scourge," I mean "profession I hope to be employed in."

Continue.


Suppose the Neumanns sue their own religion and I have to defend the religion in court (far-fetched, I know). I would probably define my argument in the same vein as:

QUOTE (the_crazy_honors @ Jul 5 2013, 12:05 PM) *
Scripture says not to put the Lord to the test, or to demand that he prove himself or demonstrate his power for your own gain.

AK_WDB's fisherman story seems really relevant too.

It's fortunate that warnings and disclaimers exist (even in the Bible) to help us fault a good old lack of common sense when needed. Wherever these warnings and disclaimers are missing, however, stupidity (sadly) does have a better chance of winning a legal argument. The article Crow linked is a good example; Rosenberg claims there was no warning from Google Maps on the screen of her Blackberry.

This is besides the point, but: yay, she didn't get to sue Google in the end.
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Guest_TheAwesomeKid_*
post Jul 12 2013, 02:24 AM
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QUOTE (Research Monkey @ Jul 4 2013, 04:47 AM) *
Anyone who values human life must find the foolish ignorance of this family horrifying and insulting...right? Is there any real defense in the theological realm for these people who are, in the eyes of our secular society, horrifyingly negligent criminals who killed their essentially helpless daughter?


I'm not sure this is the question we ought to be asking. Obviously from the family's point of view, there is a theological defense that is probably in line with something like:

1. God commands that we put our faith in Him and His sovereignty
2. Putting our faith in modern medicine is as such disobedient to God
3. Furthermore, putting our faith in modern medicine is a (sinful) attempt to subvert God's sovereignty
4. Using modern medicine is akin to putting one's faith in modern medicine.
5. Thus, we ought not to use modern medicine.

Granted, I disagree with this argument (most centrally, with premise 2), and as such, like all of you, I consider this a great and unfortunate tragedy. However, it isn't as though no case could be made for the family's behaviors. I think that theologically speaking, there is good reason for Christians to regard medicine (as we do many other modern conveniences) as "good gifts from God." (James 1:17). But if one's Biblical approach is different, one might very well end up where this family did, theologically speaking.

As such, to me, the far more interesting question is what jurisprudence on cases like this ought to be. Obviously we have precedent regarding Free Exercise Clause, but in my opinion the court's history on that in the last 35 years or so is anything but lucid and consistent.

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Guest_TheAwesomeKid_*
post Jul 12 2013, 02:31 AM
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QUOTE (madcap @ Jul 5 2013, 07:58 PM) *
QUOTE (Research Monkey @ Jul 4 2013, 04:47 AM) *
Anyone who values human life must find the foolish ignorance of this family horrifying and insulting...right? Is there any real defense in the theological realm for these people who are, in the eyes of our secular society, horrifyingly negligent criminals who killed their essentially helpless daughter?


Religion is a moral compass. It provides guidance for believers to follow with common sense. The Neumanns lacked that common sense, so I think we should blame them only and not Christianity at all (edit: in this particular situation).


While I appreciate the sentiment here, madcap, I strongly disagree that Christianity is (just) a moral compass, particularly when we think of a moral compass as guiding "believers to follow with common sense." Indeed, many central tenets of historical Christianity fly in the face of "common sense" -- the idea of a virgin birth, of God becoming a person, of Jesus (who is understood as fully God) dying, of Jesus (who is also fully man) coming back from the death, just to name a few. Granted, these aren't moral teachings, but I think that the larger point stands: traditional Christianity has always held itself as offering something more than guidance. Rather, it has always held itself as being the witness to the most ultimate of truths, and as such, it's the most radically life-changing of things. Christianity is a relationship with God, and the way of living that ensues from said relationship, and that changes everything.
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Guest_TheAwesomeKid_*
post Jul 12 2013, 02:33 AM
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QUOTE (the_crazy_honors @ Jul 5 2013, 08:38 PM) *
QUOTE (madcap @ Jul 5 2013, 07:58 PM) *
Religion is a moral compass. It provides guidance for believers to follow with common sense.

This is how I feel about the abominations of Leviticus.


TCH, do you worry that a hermeneutic which disregards the moral teachings in Leviticus would also force you to disregard other moral teachings? In other words, how does one justify regarding some teachings in the Bible as "worth listening to" and others "not" (if I understand you correctly)? Obviously this is a big question that theologians fight on regularly, so I don't expect you to close the case on the topic, but I am very interested as to your thinking.
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Guest_the_crazy_honors_*
post Jul 12 2013, 04:14 AM
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QUOTE (TheAwesomeKid @ Jul 11 2013, 09:33 PM) *
QUOTE (the_crazy_honors @ Jul 5 2013, 08:38 PM) *
QUOTE (madcap @ Jul 5 2013, 07:58 PM) *
Religion is a moral compass. It provides guidance for believers to follow with common sense.

This is how I feel about the abominations of Leviticus.


TCH, do you worry that a hermeneutic which disregards the moral teachings in Leviticus would also force you to disregard other moral teachings? In other words, how does one justify regarding some teachings in the Bible as "worth listening to" and others "not" (if I understand you correctly)? Obviously this is a big question that theologians fight on regularly, so I don't expect you to close the case on the topic, but I am very interested as to your thinking.

There are parts of the Bible that I do and don't take literally, and parts I'm not sure whether to take literally, which I don't see as a problem. I think my denomination's motto - In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity - sums up my thinking on Biblical literalism. Essentials are things like Jesus' death and resurrection to save the repentant, the commandments to love God and our neighbors, the value of a personal relationship with God (some denominations argue with this, but I personally consider it important, as does my church) and the requirement to pray for forgiveness of sins.

Many nonessentials such as Biblical laws, except those directly pertaining to faith and most moral things, and the interpretation of incredible miracles are left to the individual. While I don't know too many strong examples of this, one that comes to mind is the story of Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego being thrown into a fire because they refused to worship a royal idol and remaining unharmed. Some Christians believe that this story happened exactly as written in Scripture and summarized above, while others view it in various ways indicating the truth of the meaning but not necessarily the literal truth of God breaking the laws of nature. For instance, I've heard the argument that since the Bible is a collection of stories passed down in a culture, some of these stories may be allegorical legends.

This is not to say the Bible contains lies, of course, but some things are generally believed to be open to interpretation. Like many modern Christians, I believe that many of the laws laid out early in the Bible were more applicable and important at the time, and that some of these teachings are anachronistic and unnecessary now - I don't consider wearing mixed linens to be a sin, for example. I think that Christians, with the guidance of a church family, minister, and holistic view of the central aspects of Christianity, are responsible for determining what is and isn't right in this vein.

Then, of course, is the end of the Disciples of Christ motto - in all things, charity. I think I can reasonably estimate we're all in the wealthiest 10% of the world, and I know my family is far from the poorest in our own community. There are people we can help, and if there's one thing I've learned at the church we only recently started attending, it's that you can make a huge difference without sacrificing your standard of living. My family feels no effects from the $4 or so of canned goods we donate per week, but since every family in my small church does the same, our 100-member church has donated several tons of food to a nearby food pantry. While I know I'm straying from your question here, I think this does relate to the question of essentials and nonessentials in that compassion and humility are right up there with prayer and spreading the gospel, and it's good to keep these general things in mind when considering what to take literally. I'm not afraid to admit that different parts of the Bible can superficially conflict with one another, such as love and tolerance for all against stoning adulterers to death. In these cases, the central aspects of Christianity point us to the answers I believe God wants us to see.
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Guest_TheAwesomeKid_*
post Jul 13 2013, 03:32 AM
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I don't want to hijack this thread and turn it into a theological debate, so I'll respond to TCH's last point and then (on this topic) bow out so the thread can return to its original purpose.

QUOTE (the_crazy_honors @ Jul 11 2013, 11:14 PM) *
There are parts of the Bible that I do and don't take literally, and parts I'm not sure whether to take literally, which I don't see as a problem. I think my denomination's motto - In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity - sums up my thinking on Biblical literalism. Essentials are things like Jesus' death and resurrection to save the repentant, the commandments to love God and our neighbors, the value of a personal relationship with God (some denominations argue with this, but I personally consider it important, as does my church) and the requirement to pray for forgiveness of sins.


I think we ought not to confuse literalism with inerrancy. One can believe that the Bible is completely right without believing that it is literal. For example, one can believe the sentence "Usain Bolt is faster than lightning" without believing that Usain Bolt actually moves faster than lightning does (whatever that would mean) because we know that the truth of the sentence doesn't lie in its literal accuracy. Thus, one could (and most Christians do) affirm truths in the Bible that are not literal. For example, Romans 16:19 says "...and the God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet." Most Christians take that to mean that the devil will be defeated. Not necessarily that all Christians are going to one day step on Satan's head in unison.

Thus, the motto "in essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity" probably shouldn't have anything to do with literalism. Rather, it should have to do with theological essentials v. non-essentials.

QUOTE
Many nonessentials such as Biblical laws, except those directly pertaining to faith and most moral things, and the interpretation of incredible miracles are left to the individual. While I don't know too many strong examples of this, one that comes to mind is the story of Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego being thrown into a fire because they refused to worship a royal idol and remaining unharmed. Some Christians believe that this story happened exactly as written in Scripture and summarized above, while others view it in various ways indicating the truth of the meaning but not necessarily the literal truth of God breaking the laws of nature. For instance, I've heard the argument that since the Bible is a collection of stories passed down in a culture, some of these stories may be allegorical legends.


This is where things get potentially dangerous. How do you determine which laws directly pertain to faith and morality? The Old Testament laws aren't neatly delineated into moral and non-moral laws, that's precisely why people disagree on whether particular Levitical statutes ought to apply to Christians today, right? So we've got to be really careful. Moreover, questions of "faith" are not so clear cut. Faith, for the Christian, is grounded in the nature of God revealed in the person of Christ. But if two people disagree about what God loves and abhors, then it is difficult to say that their faith in God is identical. In fact, that's precisely why heresies exist; a person might claim to have "faith" in God, but according to historical Christianity hold a belief that renders their faith heretical.

A corollary to my first question is then this: how do you decide what is allegory and legend and what is truth? Obviously there are hermeneutics out there, but it is dangerous for the Christian to start labeling things as "allegory" without discretion; otherwise he might find himself hard-pressed to defend 'central' tenets (like the life, death, and resurrection of Christ) against charges of allegory and legend.

QUOTE
This is not to say the Bible contains lies, of course, but some things are generally believed to be open to interpretation. Like many modern Christians, I believe that many of the laws laid out early in the Bible were more applicable and important at the time, and that some of these teachings are anachronistic and unnecessary now - I don't consider wearing mixed linens to be a sin, for example. I think that Christians, with the guidance of a church family, minister, and holistic view of the central aspects of Christianity, are responsible for determining what is and isn't right in this vein.

Then, of course, is the end of the Disciples of Christ motto - in all things, charity. I think I can reasonably estimate we're all in the wealthiest 10% of the world, and I know my family is far from the poorest in our own community. There are people we can help, and if there's one thing I've learned at the church we only recently started attending, it's that you can make a huge difference without sacrificing your standard of living. My family feels no effects from the $4 or so of canned goods we donate per week, but since every family in my small church does the same, our 100-member church has donated several tons of food to a nearby food pantry. While I know I'm straying from your question here, I think this does relate to the question of essentials and nonessentials in that compassion and humility are right up there with prayer and spreading the gospel, and it's good to keep these general things in mind when considering what to take literally. I'm not afraid to admit that different parts of the Bible can superficially conflict with one another, such as love and tolerance for all against stoning adulterers to death. In these cases, the central aspects of Christianity point us to the answers I believe God wants us to see.


I've never heard "charity" in that phrase as being 'giving to charity.' I've always thought it to mean "love" (e.g., "and in the end, these three remain, faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is charity."). Your family/church makes (in my opinion) an interesting move in considering that word.

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Guest_the_crazy_honors_*
post Jul 13 2013, 10:51 PM
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Okay, I apologize for not being experienced in the theological debates you claim to avoid. RM posed what he admitted is a loaded question and asked my opinions; I gave them.
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Guest_Research Monkey_*
post Jul 14 2013, 12:25 AM
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QUOTE (TheAwesomeKid @ Jul 12 2013, 08:32 PM) *
I don't want to hijack this thread and turn it into a theological debate,


That's a bummer.


Alright, I have a softball for you guys: how do you resolve the 439 contradictions in the Bible? Some are, from a moral philosophy or a faith perspective, inconsequential but what about big, important questions like what must one do to be saved? Is God merciful? And (a personal favorite) should believers discuss their faith with nonbelievers? There are many more that have many contradictory answers and result in an ambiguous message, and while some could be explain by relatively simple differences in human account (like how many disciples Jesus visited after rising), is it possible that the word of God was somehow...mistranslated? Lost in the post? How do you resolve these? Do you resolve these?



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Guest_TheAwesomeKid_*
post Jul 14 2013, 02:57 AM
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QUOTE (the_crazy_honors @ Jul 13 2013, 05:51 PM) *
Okay, I apologize for not being experienced in the theological debates you claim to avoid. RM posed what he admitted is a loaded question and asked my opinions; I gave them.


Mm, I'm not the greatest at perceiving tone over the internet, but if I've been offensive, I really am sorry. I just wanted to try and understand how you think about these issues, because different Christians think about them differently, but I know that sometimes I get super gung-ho. :/
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Guest_AK_WDB_*
post Jul 14 2013, 04:18 AM
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I don't think anything you posted was offensive, TAK.
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Guest_wutherering_*
post Jul 14 2013, 08:23 AM
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Research Monkey, your post reminded me of a comic that I saw recently:

My personal thinking on religion at this point is heavily influenced by the fact that I was really into DFW when I was 15- that the trappings of religion aren't important, but the real question is, essentially, "is believing in God worth it?"

So to get sort of back on topic, what do you think you get from religion, TAK?

Also, biggrin.gif.




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Guest_Research Monkey_*
post Jul 14 2013, 09:13 AM
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QUOTE (wutherering @ Jul 14 2013, 01:23 AM) *
Research Monkey, your post reminded me of a comic that I saw recently:


I know the anti-atheism circlejerk is in vogue, but the root of it is the same anti-rational thought ideologies that claim any evidence based system of understanding (be it with respect to man made climate change or evolution, or just doubting the existence of a god) is somehow a "religion" or is a "militant" ideology, somehow reversing the situation to presume evidence-based systems are irrational, and I don't think it's particularly comical. As the least trusted religious group in America in an era where only 45% of Americans say they would vote for a qualified atheist for president, I think it's worth noting that people do care about atheism--in fact, they are actively suspicious of it.

I question religion and promote atheism publicly whenever it's socially acceptable (which is rare--but threads like this provide me that chance, plus the chance to pick TAK's brain, which is always informative) for political and moral reasons, not because I'm particularly interested in either the reality of the situation (the existence of a god appears unknowable to me) or what people's personal beliefs are. My issue with the comic is that few are satisfied with "solving their problems," and instead they are intent on solving my problems, their kid's problems, America's problems, and the world's problems in ways that harm civil society and slow the progress of humanity.
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Guest_wutherering_*
post Jul 14 2013, 10:17 AM
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QUOTE (Research Monkey @ Jul 14 2013, 02:13 AM) *
QUOTE (wutherering @ Jul 14 2013, 01:23 AM) *
Research Monkey, your post reminded me of a comic that I saw recently:


I know the anti-atheism circlejerk is in vogue, but the root of it is the same anti-rational thought ideologies that claim any evidence based system of understanding (be it with respect to man made climate change or evolution, or just doubting the existence of a god) is somehow a "religion" or is a "militant" ideology, somehow reversing the situation to presume evidence-based systems are irrational, and I don't think it's particularly comical. As the least trusted religious group in America in an era where only 45% of Americans say they would vote for a qualified atheist for president, I think it's worth noting that people do care about atheism--in fact, they are actively suspicious of it.

I question religion and promote atheism publicly whenever it's socially acceptable (which is rare--but threads like this provide me that chance, plus the chance to pick TAK's brain, which is always informative) for political and moral reasons, not because I'm particularly interested in either the reality of the situation (the existence of a god appears unknowable to me) or what people's personal beliefs are. My issue with the comic is that few are satisfied with "solving their problems," and instead they are intent on solving my problems, their kid's problems, America's problems, and the world's problems in ways that harm civil society and slow the progress of humanity.


I would agree with you that religion should be questioned. Honestly, I would much rather live in a world without widespread institutionalized religion than one with, for a large host of reasons. However, I make a huge distinction between that and general belief in God. As far as I can tell, a good dose of targeted self-delusion can be a really, really, really, really, /really/, good thing. And that is what the comic above is about, as I read it (also, it is not an appropriate direct response to what you said, and wasn't really meant to be.)
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Guest_AK_WDB_*
post Jul 14 2013, 03:31 PM
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Negative numbers do exist. The gravitational force pushing me toward the center of the Earth is exactly the negative of the normal force exerted by my chair.

Also, it is silly to compare a concept used to solve scientific problems with the assertion that there is a magical, all-powerful being consciously controlling the universe.

QUOTE (Research Monkey @ Jul 14 2013, 12:13 AM) *
My issue with the comic is that few are satisfied with "solving their problems," and instead they are intent on solving my problems, their kid's problems, America's problems, and the world's problems in ways that harm civil society and slow the progress of humanity.

It is an extreme over-generalization to suggest that religious solutions, or those advocated by religious people, are always more harmful or less progressive than other solutions.
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Guest_Herohito_*
post Jul 14 2013, 03:58 PM
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QUOTE (wutherering @ Jul 14 2013, 01:23 AM) *
Research Monkey, your post reminded me of a comic that I saw recently:

What does mathematics have to do with atheism?
Its validity is proven, down to 1+1=2, and it conflicts with exactly 0% of the Bible.

Oh and to explain negative numbers in that sense:
There are different kinds of numbers in math. There are real numbers and imaginary numbers. What you use to count pencils is the set of natural numbers (counting numbers; 1,2,3,4,5, so on), while negative numbers and decimals are not part of that set (you don't have .53 of a pencil, you just have a shorter pencil). So in short, that part of mathematics (negative numbers) isn't wrong, it just doesn't apply here. Negatives, decimals, and imaginary numbers are used, just not here.

This post has been edited by Herohito: Jul 14 2013, 04:31 PM
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Guest_TheAwesomeKid_*
post Jul 14 2013, 04:36 PM
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QUOTE (Research Monkey @ Jul 13 2013, 07:25 PM) *
QUOTE (TheAwesomeKid @ Jul 12 2013, 08:32 PM) *
I don't want to hijack this thread and turn it into a theological debate,


That's a bummer.


Alright, I have a softball for you guys: how do you resolve the 439 contradictions in the Bible? Some are, from a moral philosophy or a faith perspective, inconsequential but what about big, important questions like what must one do to be saved? Is God merciful? And (a personal favorite) should believers discuss their faith with nonbelievers? There are many more that have many contradictory answers and result in an ambiguous message, and while some could be explain by relatively simple differences in human account (like how many disciples Jesus visited after rising), is it possible that the word of God was somehow...mistranslated? Lost in the post? How do you resolve these? Do you resolve these?



Okey doke, so this one is complicated. I admit that I haven't read and considered carefully all 439 stated contradictions on that poster. But I have scanned through a large chunk of them, and here are some of my thoughts:

1. As I mentioned earlier, I don't think Biblical inerrancy (believing the Bible is completely true) is the same thing as Biblical literalism (believing the Bible is always completely literal). God instructs Solomon, as he's building the temple, to make the pillars perfect cylinders, 10 cubits in diameter, 30 cubits in circumference (1 Kings 7). So, does that mean pi is 3, according to the Bible? Not necessarily. That assumes that means of measuring distance were meant to be as exact as they are nowadays (which isn't true). Rather, I think that one's got to consider the genre of the story of Solomon. It's not a math textbook, and ought not to be analyzed as such. This is going to prove important.

2. Under this hermeneutic, this means that (for the most part), any supposed contradictions that involve the book of Proverbs are going to fall out. That's because Proverbs isn't meant to be a descriptively infallible text. No proverb is. Every proverb, every aphorism has exceptions, and many proverbs are true though they aren't true all the time. For example, one can accurately say, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" at one point and later say, "you know what, though, I don't miss him" and be right both times, because the first, a proverb, isn't meant to be taken as literally true in every possible case. Proverbs don't work that way. Neither does the Biblical book of Proverbs.

3. Different theologians differ on what to do about the Genesis accounts. Many evangelical and conservative theologians take Genesis 1 to be providing a "Bird's eye-view" of Creation where the Genesis 2 provides a "close-up" look at what went on. Personally I don't agree with that, I prefer not to take Genesis 1 literally because I think a 6000 year old earth is a real problem. And there are, in my opinion, good reasons not to read Genesis 1 literally. Does that mean that God didn't create everything? No. Does it mean that man hasn't been made in God's image? No. All it means is that we don't have to believe that the earth and all that was in it was created in six days in the precise order outlined in Genesis, each day marking the creation of some new facet of creation.

4. These genre points don't resolve every single supposed contradiction, I'm sure, but as far as I'm familiar with the common claims, they resolve a large number of the central ones. I don't take it to be the case that the Bible is mistaken or mistranslated; apologists will tell you that we have far more early copies of the Bible, each confirming the other with 99.5+% accuracy than we do any contemporary texts, and that many of these copies are from far closer in time to the events the Bible speaks of than other writings which we use (Aristotle, Livy, Socrates, Tacitus). If these Bible scholars and historians are right, then it seems to me the radical thing about the Bible is the content of its claims (Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Is he really the son of God?) than whether the text itself can be trusted as having been translated properly and accurately.
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Guest_AK_WDB_*
post Jul 14 2013, 09:06 PM
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Question stemming from my simple ignorance of the Bible: Does a literal interpretation of Genesis actually mean that the Earth is 6,000 years old? I know Genesis says the Earth was created in six days. And I know some people back in the Renaissance era calculated the age of the Earth at 6,000 years. But I don't think - and correct me if I'm wrong - that the Bible ever actually says "Earth was created x many years ago."
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