Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fringe and mainstream

Southern Baptist minister Wiley Drake curses his enemies. Dominated by evangelical Christians, Texas leads the nation in executions. These are just two recent items in a depressingly long list.

In comments to the latter post, an anonymous commenter points us to a couple of links—Levellers and The Ivy Bush—critical of the Texas' evangelicals support of the death penalty.

One the one hand, good for them. I'm unreservedly pleased to see some evangelical Christians come out for a humanist ethical position. It's nice to see that evangelical Christianity does not necessitate every anti-humanist position imaginable.

On the other hand, who are we kidding? Texas is the second most populous U.S. state, and the nationwide and worldwide correlation between the predominance of Christianity and support for the death penalty is direct and clear. Wiley is a 2nd Vice President of the national Southern Baptist Church, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. I've as yet seen no hint that the national Church will repudiate Wiley, but I would suspect they would do so not because he had an unacceptable theology but because he was a little too public about what they mostly believe.

Across the board: the death penalty, the war in Iraq, homophobia, misogyny, the War on (some people who use some) Drugs, support for Bush, white Supremacy, etc. ad nauseam; look behind any anti-humanist movement, every hate movement, every anti-science movement, and you'll see... Christians. The Christians, at least those in the United States, who support the death penalty and other hateful and destructive ideologies are clearly in the mainstream; those opposing them are on the fringe.

These fringe Christians, however, employ a fundamentally inept line of argument. According to The Ivy Bush, evangelical support for capital punishment "represents a terrible misreading of Scripture and a denial of the nonviolent nature of God as revealed in the cross and resurrection of Jesus." Levellers concludes that "apparently Texas evangelicals have completely missed the gospel." But says who? There's simply no way to determine the "right" way to read any scripture. Worse yet, the more literally you read the Christian Bible, the less humanist it comes out; the mainstream case is far better supported on a literal reading than the fringe case. By promoting a variant reading, these fringe Christians are conceding the most important point—the authority of scripture—to the hateful mainstream.

Any time you interpret the literal meaning of a text metaphorically, you are substituting your own authority to choose a metaphor for the authority of the literal text. It's a slippery—and steep—slope. By insisting on the authority (of a metaphorical interpretation) of scripture, the fringe moderates are clinging to the middle of this slope. But by doing so the mainstream extremists can stand on their shoulders: Even the moderates say they accept the authority of scripture over individual conscience; the extremists are just taking them at their word.

The answer, the only answer, is to view the Bible as a work of literature (and, with a few exceptions, bad literature). The status of literature in human affairs is complex, but literature—which includes not only the Bible but also Macbeth, Middlemarch, Mein Kampf and My Little Pony—is clearly not authoritative. There is truth in literature, but nothing at all is true just because it appears in a work of literature. We must absolutely destroy the authority of the Bible if we are to extract any truth at all from it (if there is indeed any truth in the Bible to begin with) and structure our society and conduct our lives rationally, sensibly and humanistically.

25 comments:

  1. Hi Barefoot Bum,

    A little input if you don't mind.

    It's nice to see that evangelical Christianity does not necessitate every anti-humanist position imaginable.

    I don't get it.
    You mean, every position against Secular Humanism as a religion? Or do you mean that every Christian doctrine is counter-productive to humanity?
    If the latter, how do you justify that? What is your basis for determining what is "good" for "humanity" so as to make that judgment?


    I've as yet seen no hint that the national Church will repudiate Wiley

    I'm a Southern Baptist. If that's all he said on that topic, why would we repudiate him?


    the death penalty, the war in Iraq, homophobia, misogyny, the War on (some people who use some) Drugs, support for Bush, white Supremacy, etc. ad nauseam; look behind any anti-humanist movement, every hate movement, every anti-science movement, and you'll see... Christians.

    The following are not "Christian doctrines":

    -Iraq war
    -homoPHOBIA
    -misogyny
    -support for Bush
    -white supremacy

    Unfortunately for your list, that's the majority of the things you mentioned. This is just hateful anti-Christian rhetoric, backatchya.
    But two can play this game.

    Across the board, refusing to give capital criminals what they deserve, Stalin's gulags, Gospel-ophobia, anti-Semitism, the War on religion expressed publicly, support for Hillary Clinton, Arian Supremacy, etc. ad nauseam...look behind them all and you'll see... humanists and naturalists.

    See, the problem is, it's not that fun for anyone. People are people and do bad things all over the place. It's not a good way to argue.
    YOU: "Christian people are bad!"
    ME: "Duh, they're people."



    who support the death penalty and other hateful and destructive ideologies

    How is the death penalty hateful and destructive?


    Levellers concludes that "apparently Texas evangelicals have completely missed the gospel." But says who?

    Great question. To find the answer would require hermeneutics, exegesis.
    Be honest - do you know the meaning of those words w/o the dictionary?
    If so, why didn't you bring that up in your original post?


    Worse yet, the more literally you read the Christian Bible,

    What does that mean - "the more literally"?



    Any time you interpret the literal meaning of a text metaphorically, you are substituting your own authority to choose a metaphor for the authority of the literal text.

    Sometimes the text is intended to be taken metaphorically. "Jesus said, 'I am the door for the sheep.'"
    We check the context and grammar, etc, to find out. That's exegesis.
    My own authority never comes into play b/c I'm taking OUT OF the text the information to shape my beliefs. The text is my authority.


    The status of literature in human affairs is complex, but literature—which includes not only the Bible but also Macbeth, Middlemarch, Mein Kampf and My Little Pony—is clearly not authoritative.

    Agreed, but the Bible claims to be God's breathed-out revelation. Different from the vast majority of texts in the world. On that basis, it CLAIMS to be authoritative. The question is: is it? Just b/c it's literature (which no one denies) doesn't mean it's not authoritative on that basis alone.


    There is truth in literature, but nothing at all is true just because it appears in a work of literature.

    Agreed.
    The Bible is true b/c it is breathed out by God.


    We must absolutely destroy the authority of the Bible if we are to extract any truth at all from it (if there is indeed any truth in the Bible to begin with) and structure our society and conduct our lives rationally, sensibly and humanistically.

    Why is going to the (as I believe) authoritative text to find my beliefs destroying its authority? Seems to be it confirms its authority.

    As for rationality, etc, you as a humanist have no reason to assume that your cognitive faculties are reliably aimed at producing true beliefs, so in your universe trying to live a rational, sensible life is hopeless. And "humanistically" is based on nothing more than personal preference... so strictly speaking, it is "humanistic." But it's not "right" by the way most people mean "right."

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  2. Rhology: I have to get to work, so I'll have to wait to address your other points until this evening. But I want to ask you this:

    I'm a Southern Baptist. If that's all he said on that topic, why would we repudiate him?

    Honest question: Are you saying that it's OK for Wiley to ask his followers to pray for bad things to befall those who exposed his violation of the law?

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  3. It depends.
    Do you have a link where I could all about it?

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  4. I'm a Southern Baptist. If that's all he said on that topic, why would we repudiate him?

    I dunno, calling for the death of people whom you disagree with sounds a tad... Islamist... to me. If Larry called for you to be publicly scourged as a publicly professed Baptist, or your support for the death penalty he'd be roundly repudiated because he is an atheist calling for the public beating of a Christian. By not repudiating Wiley, who calls for the death of secularists, SBC tacitly endorses his call by their silence.

    ... support for Hillary Clinton...

    Because somehow support for a former Sunday school teacher is anti-Christian? To dredge up a classic question of the '90s: Are you mental?

    How is the death penalty hateful and destructive?

    How is it in fitting with the Gospels? It's all very Old-Testament, but not in fitting with the Gospels I've read, unless NIV is a tool of Satan or some such.

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  5. Hi James,

    calling for the death of people whom you disagree with sounds a tad... Islamist... to me.

    Yes, I see what you mean, but one key difference is that the Islamists would actually take it upon themselves to carry that out. SoBaps won't.

    If Larry called for you to be publicly scourged as a publicly professed Baptist,

    Which is not analogous to what Wiley did, since Wiley is praying that **God** would take action, not people.

    By not repudiating Wiley, who calls for the death of secularists, SBC tacitly endorses his call by their silence.

    He **prays to God** for it. Again, it's not the best thing to do, but it's not totally out of line.
    To say "he calls for their death" as you do is misleading - you are making it sound like a fatwa, like SoBaps will now rally to carry out the called-for execution. But that's not what he meant and I doubt anyone takes it that way. The very fact that he alludes explicitly to an imprecatory Psalm is the key clue.

    Because somehow support for a former Sunday school teacher is anti-Christian?

    Did you even read the comment to which I was responding? It equated "Christianity" w/ "support for George W Bush." Absurdity begets more absurdity, and in my case, I use absurdity to mock the absurdity of the original statement.

    How is it in fitting with the Gospels?

    It is explicitly addressed in Romans 13 - the gov't bears the sword (which is used for cutting people into pieces and other lethal unpleasantries) to punish evildoers.
    Genesis 9:6 is the foundation. The Mosaic Law included capital punishment. Roman law, under which Jesus Christ lived (more or less) included it and He never repudiated it. Romans 13 affirms it.
    Opponents of the DP often conflate (wrongly) the execution of a convicted criminal guilty of a capital crime w/ "killing" or, worse, murdering, in general, while they are not comparable. Why? The death row inmate committed a capital crime. Anyone else is not eligible for properly-administered DP.

    And no, NIV is fine. But NASB is better.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  6. Yes, I see what you mean, but one key difference is that the Islamists would actually take it upon themselves to carry that out. SoBaps won't.

    This allows me to bring up a couple of questions that I've always wanted to ask a believer:

    1) Are Wiley's parishioners constrained from acting on such an exhortation because they recognize the social and legal consequences, or because of their Scripture? If the latter, how does that square with support for, say, the death penalty?

    2) If someone like Wiley, and his parishioners, were to have been born in raised in, say, Bokhal, Pakistan, do they honestly believe they would not be the kind of Islamist who would both make and follow through on such calls to action?

    Which is not analogous to what Wiley did, since Wiley is praying that **God** would take action, not people.

    Wishing for retribution to befall other people is the same no matter how it is phrased; wanting God to do it for you is the act of a coward unwilling to take responsibility for their hate.

    He **prays to God** for it. Again, it's not the best thing to do, but it's not totally out of line.
    To say "he calls for their death" as you do is misleading - you are making it sound like a fatwa, like SoBaps will now rally to carry out the called-for execution.


    So what you're saying is that Islamists are far more willing to put their money where their mouths are?

    Did you even read the comment to which I was responding? It equated "Christianity" w/ "support for George W Bush." Absurdity begets more absurdity, and in my case, I use absurdity to mock the absurdity of the original statement.

    You're quite right; I misinterpreted that comment. I do apologize.

    Interesting comments on the death penalty. It gives a far more sophisticated Christian reading than I had before seen articulated. I don't think that your argument invalidates descriptions of the death penalty as "murder" or "killing," but it does do a fair bit to undermine the counter-argument that as a Christian one must logically be opposed to it.

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  7. Ok.... There's a lot of stuff here, let me take it one step at a time.

    Saying "Please, God, smite my enemy" sounds a whole lot like (in a thick Italian accent), "It sure would be a shame if a fire accidentally broke out in your fine establishment."

    Both scripturally, historically, and contemporaneously, God has shown a willingness to delegate his vengeance to humans, and humans have shown a willingness to accept the task.

    Christians most definitely do not, either ideologically nor practically, endorse absolute obedience to the state; they endorse obedience only to the justifiable demands of the state. Jesus himself was not, for instance, complying with the laws of the state when he routed the moneylenders from the temple, and was executed for subversion and sedition by the Roman and Jewish authorities.

    Contemporaneously, we can see not only Paul Jennings Hill but also at the high esteem he's held by a substantial number of Christians.

    It's very clear that Christians believe they are agents of God's will on Earth, and the possibility of martyrdom by the state does not absolutely preclude action.

    Someone who endorses calling for the death of another human being, by natural or supernatural means, has no business whatsoever lecturing me about "hate speech".

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  8. Which brings me to the next point: Criticism and condemnation are *not* "hate speech". Calling for people's death is hate speech. Calling for illegal oppression is hate speech.

    I am a humanist. Briefly, all else being equal, I approve of human happiness and disapprove of human suffering. I count those doctrines as "hateful" and "anti-humanist" that I see increasing or taking pleasure in human suffering without any justification in terms of increasing human happiness.

    You are partly correct: The item I name (the Iraq war, homophobia, misogyny, Bush support) are not directly Christian doctrine, or at least not the doctrine of many Christians. But my assertion is the reverse: Find something hateful and you'll find a lot of Christians, in much the same way that Locke mentioned that "Not all conservatives are stupid, but most stupid people are conservative."

    Across the board, refusing to give capital criminals what they deserve, Stalin's gulags, Gospel-ophobia, anti-Semitism, the War on religion expressed publicly, support for Hillary Clinton, Arian Supremacy, etc. ad nauseam...look behind them all and you'll see... humanists and naturalists.

    The difference between my assertion and yours is that my assertion is factually correct and yours is not (i.e. Aryan (I assume you're not talking about heretics who dispute the status of Jesus) Supremacy is peopled chiefly by Christians) and relevant (i.e. Hillary Clinton has not, unlike George Bush, broken multiple laws and shredded our constitutional liberties).

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  9. I mean by "more literally", if the literal meaning of the text makes sense, it is not interpreted metaphorically or in a time/place/culturally relativistic manner. If God says, "Stone your disobedient children to death," God wants you to stone your disobedient children to death. Always. Everywhere.

    If your exegesis is literal, good for you, you're at least intellectually honest. I would expect, however, that you are quite displeased that our corrupt modern culture prevents you from implementing Old Testament law in all its savage glory.

    the Bible claims to be God's breathed-out revelation. ... On that basis, it CLAIMS to be authoritative. The question is: is it?

    No. This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

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  10. Lastly (for now) here is Rev. Wiley's exhortation in his own words.

    Note that he is exhorting God to kill people precisely because they have insisted on enforcement of duly enacted laws of the State, which renders the "render under Caesar" defense a little thin, to say the least.

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  11. Barefoot Bum,
    What are your academic credentials for evaluating Christian theology? Note: watching Jerry Falwell being interviewed by Larry King does not count. Have you ever read a book by a serious Christian theologian? No, not Pat Robertson. I mean a theologian on the faculty of say, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Emory, Oxford, Cambridge.....?

    Your comments here suggest that you are as familiar with Christian theology as I am with organic chemistry. The difference is that I don't blog about organic chemistry because I know I am not qualified to do so.

    By the way, on a worldwide basis, by far most Christians oppose the death penalty, just as they opposed the war in Iraq.

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  12. Johnathan: I have no interest in and I do not write about Christian theology.

    I'm not in the least bit concerned about the detailed formulation of the lipstick you guys put on the pig of your contemptible scripture or absurd philosophy.

    I do, however, care and write about how Christians, i.e. people who call themselves Christian, actually behave in the real world.

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  13. You have stated that there is no "right" way to read any Scripture. Does this rule also apply to other pieces of literature? Is there a 'right' way to read Shakespeare? Chauncer? Plato? or modern writers? or yourself? Or, are all interpretations of these authors equally valid?

    I would like to clear up one of your misconceptions. You seem to believe that I and other 'fringe' Christians interpret the Bible metaphorically, while the Tx evangelicals we decry intepret the Bible literally. This is simply wrong. For example, Jesus said, "love your enemies." Now, I take that literally. It is the Tx evangelicals who take that metaphorically. The truth is, all Christians read the Bible as a mix. We take parts of it metaphorically, and other parts literally. The key question is, WHICH parts are to be read which way, and that is the question of hermenutics and exegesis.

    I know that you SAY you are not interested in Christian theology, but the truth is you are delving into some theological waters. You seem to want it both ways. On the one hand you admit that you have no interest in studying serious Christian theology, but on the other hand you call it a pig. On what basis can you call it a pig, if you have never studied it?

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  14. Thanks much for linking to Wiley's address. I don't see him calling for death for anyone in there. He's asking God to bring painful judgment upon His enemies in order to bring them to repentance. I do that all the time. There's more to an imprecatory prayer/Psalm than "Oh God, please kill them. Amen."


    James,
    Ask me anythg, I'm happy to be of service.

    James F Elliott: Are Wiley's parishioners constrained from acting on such an exhortation because they recognize the social and legal consequences, or because of their Scripture?
    Rhology: The Scr, fundamentally.

    James F Elliott: If the latter, how does that square with support for, say, the death penalty?
    Rhology: The death penalty is an institution of Scr. A better question would be: If the latter, how does that square w/ NOT supporting the DP?

    James F Elliott: If someone like Wiley, and his parishioners, were to have been born in raised in, say, Bokhal, Pakistan, do they honestly believe they would not be the kind of Islamist who would both make and follow through on such calls to action?
    Rhology: If they were Islamists, then we should expect nothing less, you're right. But they're not, they're Christians. The NT never commands believers to slaughter unbelievers. It calls them to pray for them, love them, serve them.
    And praying an imprecatory Psalm directed at someone that they might experience judgment that would turn them to the truth is one of the most loving things one could do. Leaving them in the darkness where they presently are would be quite hateful.

    James F Elliott: wanting God to do it for you is the act of a coward unwilling to take responsibility for their hate.
    Rhology: Or it's following Scripture.
    You would need to bring forward a binding, objectively-based definition of "cowardice" according to a humanistic worldview to make your charge stick.

    James F Elliott: So what you're saying is that Islamists are far more willing to put their money where their mouths are?
    Rhology: I'm saying they're commanded by their Qur'an to carry it out. The NT knows nothing of such things.

    James F Elliott: I do apologize.
    Rhology: (In total seriousness) I rarely see such transparency in the blogosphere! I commend you. Apology accepted gratefully. :-)

    James F Elliott: It gives a far more sophisticated Christian reading than I had before seen articulated
    Rhology: I'll take that as a compliment too. Again, thank you.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  15. The BB: "It sure would be a shame if a fire accidentally broke out in your fine establishment."
    Rhology: LOL. Indeed it does.


    The BB: God has shown a willingness to delegate his vengeance to humans, and humans have shown a willingness to accept the task.
    Rhology: But in each instance, God has specifically commanded it. But God doesn't do that right now; the standing command in the NT is not to take vengeance by ourselves, not to murder.


    The BB: Christians most definitely do not, either ideologically nor practically, endorse absolute obedience to the state; they endorse obedience only to the justifiable demands of the state
    Rhology: You are 100% right.


    The BB: (Jesus) was executed for subversion and sedition by the Roman and Jewish authorities.
    Rhology: EEEchhhh...kind of. Reading the NT history of it, He was executed b/c He upset the Jewish powers-that-be, who then threatened the relatively weak and insecure prevailing Roman authorities to put him to death under threat of yet another revolt. But all His talk about "the kingdom of God" does have a subversive ring to it, true. That's not why He was put to death, however.


    The BB: we can see not only Paul Jennings Hill but also at the high esteem he's held by a substantial number of Christians.
    Rhology: A coupla things:
    1) One website doesn't = large number of Christians.
    2) OTOH, I can see why they do - he DID defend babies from being murdered.
    3) All that notwithstanding, however, he was wrong to do what he did. He murdered and acted as a vigilante; he was not a valid authority to apply the death penalty to the murderous aborticians (who do, however, merit the death penalty. Would that the gov't would enact such laws.)


    The BB: It's very clear that Christians believe they are agents of God's will on Earth, and the possibility of martyrdom by the state does not absolutely preclude action.
    Rhology: I don't understand why you pick on Christians while the jihadist hordes escape excoriation. You're missing the huge forest for a clump of grass, and you're unfortunately not alone. This amazes me.


    The BB: Someone who endorses calling for the death of another human being, by natural or supernatural means, has no business whatsoever lecturing me about "hate speech".
    Rhology: According to a humanist worldview, why should I take that as anything more or less than your personal preference? And since it's personal preference, why should I listen?


    The BB: Criticism and condemnation are *not* "hate speech". Calling for people's death is hate speech. Calling for illegal oppression is hate speech.
    Rhology: Agreed.


    The BB: all else being equal, I approve of human happiness and disapprove of human suffering.
    Rhology: Which is based on your personal preference. Which precludes the extension of responsibility to anyone else, since their personal preference might well be different.


    The BB: I count those doctrines as "hateful" and "anti-humanist" that I see increasing or taking pleasure in human suffering without any justification in terms of increasing human happiness.
    Rhology: OK, what if I didn't? Do you judge me as wrong? On what basis?


    The BB: The item(s) I name (the Iraq war, homophobia, misogyny, Bush support) are not directly Christian doctrine,
    Rhology: Cool, agreed.


    The BB: Aryan (I assume you're not talking about heretics who dispute the status of Jesus) Supremacy is peopled chiefly by Christians
    Rhology: Yes, I meant Aryan, not Arians. Arians weren't atheists.
    And Aryan supremacy found its best expression in Hitler, who wanted to destroy the Xtian church.
    That to say, it's an extremely debatable point.


    The BB: Hillary Clinton has not, unlike George Bush, broken multiple laws and shredded our constitutional liberties
    Rhology: Again, I'd argue that point very strongly, but I'm rarely in the mood to argue partisan politics.


    The BB: If God says, "Stone your disobedient children to death," God wants you to stone your disobedient children to death. Always. Everywhere.
    Rhology: OK, I kind of see what you're saying.
    Where in the Bible does God say "Stone your disobedient children to death," outside of any other explanation or context?


    The BB: If your exegesis is literal, good for you, you're at least intellectually honest.
    Rhology: "Literal" exegesis could mean several things. Here's how the Bible should be exegeted. Ready? Just like any other book.
    Otherwise known as the "grammatico-historical method", whereby context, grammar, history, culture, etc are taken into acct in order to find authorial intent. Once the authorial intent is established, we have our meaning.
    "Jesus said, 'I am the door.'" Literally? Jesus is a door w/ hinges and a knob. What's the "literal" meaning? Jesus is the way thru which one must enter to have eternal life, to know God, to receive pardon of sin, etc.


    The BB: I would expect, however, that you are quite displeased that our corrupt modern culture prevents you from implementing Old Testament law in all its savage glory.
    Rhology: As if modern culture would have come about if the civil laws of the OT were supposed to still be implemented.
    The OT's civil/gov'tal structure was for the Ancient Near East Israelites. Such laws as "stone your disobedient children" were for them, not for us now. Why else would Romans 13 exist, for example, or the command "render unto Caesar"?
    All that to say, your understanding of the issue is lacking.


    The BB: Note that he is exhorting God to kill people precisely because they have insisted on enforcement of duly enacted laws of the State, which renders the "render under Caesar" defense a little thin
    Rhology: You know, God will do what He wills. He doesn't act in conflict w/ His revealed will just b/c someone asks Him to.
    OTOH, it's God's prerogative to take life whenever He wants. He does it 100s of 1000s of times every day.
    Finally, everyone may note that Wiley never used the words "kill", "death", "murder", or anythg like that. I am not sure where The BB is getting this from.


    The BB: I have no interest in and I do not write about Christian theology.
    Rhology: You have invested a fair amount of combox space here doing just that. Unfortunately, like virtually all humanists I've ever met, your grasp of the issue is woeful.


    The BB: the pig of your contemptible scripture or absurd philosophy.
    Rhology: Contemptible on the basis of your personal preference? Big whoop.
    Absurd, this coming from someone who has to borrow the basis for logic and rationality from Christianity? Such things are not too impressive.


    The BB: I do, however, care and write about how Christians, i.e. people who call themselves Christian, actually behave in the real world.
    Rhology: Even though you have no way to say that any course of action is objectively right or wrong.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  16. Jonathan: For example, Jesus said, "love your enemies." Now, I take that literally. It is the Tx evangelicals who take that metaphorically.
    Rhology: Just b/c they support the DP?
    1) What about loving the victims?
    2) What about carrying out justice?
    3) Why does "enemy" even come into play, since the DP would be carried out by a duly-instated gov't? (Romans 13:6)


    Jonathan: The truth is, all Christians read the Bible as a mix. We take parts of it metaphorically, and other parts literally.
    Rhology: I don't know if I want you speaking for me yet, Jonathan. See my above comments on the grammatico-historical method.
    A good example of someone NOT using that method is Jonathan's refusal to accept the DP as divinely-instated.
    Someone may plead "that's your interpretation!" but of course, that's their interpretation. If we play that way, we'll never get anywhere. A far better method is to actually read the Bible to get our doctrine FROM it. As opposed to going TO the text w/ previously-established ideas and reading them in.


    Jonathan: On what basis can you call it a pig, if you have never studied it?
    Rhology: Now that's a fine question indeed.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  17. Somebody posts:
    "It's nice to see that evangelical Christianity does not necessitate every anti-humanist position imaginable."

    ... to which Rhology responds:
    "... You mean, every position against Secular Humanism as a religion?"

    He assumes, it seems, that Humanism is the same as "secular humanism", whatever that is.

    Humanism as an organized movement came into existence at the University of Chicago in the 1920s, went public with the first Manifesto in 1933, incorporated in 1943, went international in 1952, and published the latest official statement of what Humanists believe as Humanist Manifesto 3 in 2003. All relevant documents are accessible public record.

    The term "secular humanist" was hardly known or used at all prior to 1980, when the "Moral Majority" made it their bĂȘte noir. That it necessarily implies a strident hostility to religion originated as the Jerry Falwell "straw man" view, but it's not what Humanism is about or what it has been from its beginning.

    If Rhology and others would kindly read Humanist Manifesto 3 they would see what "Humanism" means. It is available at
    www.HFSD.info
    or
    www.AmericanHumanist.org
    where you can also download free the short book "Humanism as the Next Step."

    It's not hard to learn what Humanism is. To speak of Humanism without knowing what it actually is does not do credit to its critics. If I decided to criticize the Sermon on the Mount, don't you think I would first read it?

    Why conflate Humanism with this "secular humanism"? Were I to write against Christianity, what would you think of my scholarship if I referred to the Pope as a Seventh Day Adventist?

    To read Humanist Manifesto 3 may be enlightening. Do you know how many times it uses the words "God" and "atheism" and "theism"? Oh. Hmmm.

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  18. Francis,

    Thanks for the link! Read it.

    I could be wrong (though you said "whatever that is", so maybe you don't really know either, and that's OK), but "Secular humanism" seems to me to be humanism that makes statements like the following:

    Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

    Ironically, that is taken from the HM3.
    And I'd add that the HM1 says the following:

    ...it is none the less obvious that any religion that can hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today must be shaped for the needs of this age. To establish such a religion is a major necessity of the present. It is a responsibility which rests upon this generation. We therefore affirm the following:
    FIRST...

    It's claiming to be a religion.
    So I don't think your argument holds a lot of water.

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  19. Jonathan: On the one hand you admit that you have no interest in studying serious Christian theology, but on the other hand you call it a pig.

    You have not read me carefully. It is your scripture that is the pig, the theology is the lipstick. And I've read and studied your scripture carefully; only the most evil, deluded or ignorant would grant it any authority whatsoever.

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  20. I should give you the benefit of the doubt, which I haven't done in this regard. My apologies.

    BarefootBum, have you written a post or would you mind pointing to a post or article or sthg that lays out the way you are able to make moral judgments of other people and of any action as a humanist?

    ReplyDelete
  21. barefoot bum: you cannot so easily separate Scripture from theology. All Scripture is theological, and almost all modern theology is an attempt to interpret Scripture. You keep showing us how little you understand Christianity, all the time continuing to hurl insults our way. It does not strengthen your argument. In the good ol' days of Nietzsche, atheists were a real challenge to Christianity. But these days it seems the best you can do is engage in name-calling. It's disappointing.

    rhology: if you want to argue with me, bring it over to my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Rhology,

    Now we're getting somewhere (and I appreciate your continued engagement).

    The death penalty is an institution of Scr. A better question would be: If the latter, how does that square w/ NOT supporting the DP?

    But as I read my copy of the Bible (yes, I have one, as well as the Koran), those crimes punishable by death are for specifically religious abrogations, for example that poor bastard Abraham had killed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Man, do I feel sorry for that guy. This beggars a two-fold question: For specifically non-religious crimes (like treason), how is support of the death-penalty justified? (I will, for the sake of argument, grant a certain support for executing murderers who break that Commandment not to kill, but that also begs its own question of an exception thereby forcing the stricture to be relative and not absolute.) Second, what then convinces a Christian to subsume religious commitments to the death penalty to secular restrictions against those commitments (stoning those who eat sweet delicious crab legs, for example)? Isn't this putting Caesar ahead of God?

    But they're not, they're Christians.

    Respectfully, that's evading the question entirely. I asked you if, given their same personality traits but a separate set of Scriptures, would they be more likely to behave violently?

    Relating your statement:

    "But God doesn't do that right now; the standing command in the NT is not to take vengeance by ourselves, not to murder."

    to yours on Hill:

    "He murdered and acted as a vigilante; he was not a valid authority..."

    Hill believed that he was acting as God commanded him. Not everyone who acted on God's commands (the Exodus-era Jews, for example) could hear God's explicit commands, but relied upon the testament of prophets, like Abraham and Isaac. By what standard does another believer, such as yourself, claim that Hill wasn't acting as God commanded him? (Anyone else see where I'm going with this?)

    I don't understand why you pick on Christians while the jihadist hordes escape excoriation

    Then I recommend you trawl the archives. Islamists get their share of the excoriation around here. They just don't show up in the comments or have anything to do with our day-to-day lives.

    According to a humanist worldview...

    Um, what Francis said. Humanism is antithetical to Abrahamic religions because it privileges, first and foremost, man as the primary object. It messes with the whole binary construction of the Abrahamic world.

    And Aryan supremacy found its best expression in Hitler, who wanted to destroy the Xtian church.
    That to say, it's an extremely debatable point.


    Um, first, Larry was specifically discussing the Aryan movement within this country, which is expressly and explicitly Christian. Two, you're wrong about Hitler: he fused Catholicism with German paganism; he was no atheist. He did not want to "destroy" the Christian Church... he wanted to co-opt it.

    Again, I'd argue that point very strongly...

    Buh, wuzzah? (I'm always in the mood to argue partisan politics...)

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  23. Jonathan,

    those crimes punishable by death are for specifically religious abrogations

    Some are, some are capital crimes like murder or rape.

    that poor bastard Abraham had killed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath.

    'Twas Moses.

    Man, do I feel sorry for that guy

    I don't. Spitting on God's Law is not funny.

    For specifically non-religious crimes (like treason), how is support of the death-penalty justified?

    B/c the punishment is decreed directly by God Himself. He does what He pleases. He's the Creator, the Lawgiver.

    Second, what then convinces a Christian to subsume religious commitments to the death penalty to secular restrictions against those commitments (stoning those who eat sweet delicious crab legs, for example)?

    The civil laws are no longer in place since the nation of OT Israel doesn't exist. There are no "religious commitments" as far as that goes for a Xtian.

    I asked you if, given their same personality traits but a separate set of Scriptures, would they be more likely to behave violently?

    Sorry, didn't mean to evade.
    Yes, absolutely they'd be the same. Human, sinful nature is pliable to exploitation by sinful desire and Satan in many ways.

    Hill believed that he was acting as God commanded him.

    So do jihadists, big deal.

    Not everyone who acted on God's commands (the Exodus-era Jews, for example) could hear God's explicit commands, but relied upon the testament of prophets, like Abraham and Isaac.

    Well, not so much Ab and Isaac, more like Moses. And a prophet of God *IS* God speaking directly, unlike today.

    . By what standard does another believer, such as yourself, claim that Hill wasn't acting as God commanded him?

    The biblical standard. This is not that hard.
    The Bible says don't murder. He murdered. He was wrong. What's wrong w/ that?

    Islamists get their share of the excoriation around here. They just don't show up in the comments or have anything to do with our day-to-day lives.


    OK, glad to hear.

    Humanism is antithetical to Abrahamic religions

    That's also good to hear. Filing away for the future... ;-)

    it privileges, first and foremost, man as the primary object.

    Yep, that's the fundamental problem.

    the Aryan movement within this country, which is expressly and explicitly Christian.

    Much like this Hill character, CLAIMING Christian and BEING CHristian are not the same. Aryan Sups are not Christian.

    Two, you're wrong about Hitler: he fused Catholicism with German paganism; he was no atheist. He did not want to "destroy" the Christian Church... he wanted to co-opt it.

    Not according to this article which links to papers to that effect posted by Rutgers Law Sch students.

    Quotes like: "It is through the peasantry that we shall really be able to destroy Christianity" from 1933 don't support your statement.
    Besides, in co-opting it to murder people he destroys it.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  24. Rhology,

    Some are, some are capital crimes like murder or rape.

    Rape is a capital crime? Where? Just honestly curious.

    B/c the punishment is decreed directly by God Himself. He does what He pleases. He's the Creator, the Lawgiver.

    Also, doesn't God specifically command his followers to rape and murder? What you're arguing for, AFAICT, is a form of subservient morality that subsumes itself to God's will, and falls prey to the Euthyphro argument: it's not only relative, it's the rankest kind of relativism subject to the whims of something else's cognition as communicated through a third party!

    But let's leave that aside for a moment; your response doesn't answer my points.

    B/c the punishment is decreed directly by God Himself. He does what He pleases. He's the Creator, the Lawgiver.

    But that's the point: The excuse to follow secular usage of the death penalty is because of omission of its mention, not specific commandments to obey it. To follow your definition of exegesis, which referenced historical context, one must realize that the power to kill could only be imparted with the blessing of the priesthood: religious imprecation is implicit.

    The civil laws are no longer in place since the nation of OT Israel doesn't exist. There are no "religious commitments" as far as that goes for a Xtian.

    So, in other words, as a Christian, you cannot reference anything before the Gospels as authority except to provide "historical" references for the rest of the book? Glad to clear that up; Old Testament is off-bounds for any argument of law or ethical foundation. Got it. After all, those laws were not "civil" since there was no separation of the religious and civil leadership at the deliverance of those laws. "Civil" leadership, in the form of kings, came later.

    Yep, that's the fundamental problem.

    Funny, that's what I find so attractive about it.

    CLAIMING Christian and BEING CHristian are not the same

    Oh come on, you're exhorting us to not make assertions and then you resort to "No true Scotsmen" arguments to avoid contrary examples? This seems to be a very slippery foundation upon which to plant your feet. Unfortunately, this has been my experience when debating theists (and especially Christians): a resort to moving the goal posts, semantic parsing, and other logical fallacies. And you accuse Larry of having nothing other than preference to base his opinions on?

    Thanks for the article link; it doesn't completely invalidate the totality of my argument, but it does a part of it. I appreciate the chance to see conflicting information. Still doesn't answer the charges against your positions, however.

    James (not Jonathan)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi,


    Rape is a capital crime? Where?

    Here.

    Also, doesn't God specifically command his followers to rape and murder?

    Haha, my turn to ask: Where?



    subservient morality that subsumes itself to God's will, and falls prey to the Euthyphro argument: it's not only relative, it's the rankest kind of relativism subject to the whims of something else's cognition as communicated through a third party!

    1) There can be no objective morality except that which follows the will of a deity.
    2) On Xtian theism, it's hardly Euthyphro, since God's moral commands, much like logic and reason, flow out of Who God is, out of His character and attributes.

    To follow your definition of exegesis, which referenced historical context, one must realize that the power to kill could only be imparted with the blessing of the priesthood: religious imprecation is implicit.


    You left out Genesis 9 and Romans 13, so your analysis fails.



    you cannot reference anything before the Gospels as authority except to provide "historical" references for the rest of the book?

    No, I reference the MORAL laws as binding still, as opposed to civil and ceremonial laws.
    The punishments for moral laws, however, are different, but the standards remain.

    After all, those laws were not "civil" since there was no separation of the religious and civil leadership at the deliverance of those laws.

    That doesn't make them any less "civil" since the kings were still strongly bound to the religious life of Israel.
    They are "civil" b/c they are in reference to the laws and life of the nation.



    Funny, that's what I find so attractive about it.

    Yes, and you will bear that sin before God's throne of judgment unless you repent. It is nothing short of idolatry.

    a resort to moving the goal posts, semantic parsing, and other logical fallacies. And you accuse Larry of having nothing other than preference to base his opinions on?



    Well, if I'm making bare assertions, I'm apparently being tutored by a master here.
    What is your argument for that?

    Peace,
    Rhology

    ReplyDelete

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