Climbing back on the hampster wheel to nowhere.

 

Okay, I have been criticized for a failure to address an online article which purportedly answers all my complaints about the stoning of disobedient children, the forced marriage of rapists to their victims, and other atrocities of the old testament. Actually, I have read the text in question, which is quite a feat of patience on my part since it kicks off by asking “What is the old testament good for today?” and gives the top answer of

The old testament tells the beginning of earth and the human race.

This, of course, immediately begs the question of why anyone who has read this blog would refer me to such an article. The obvious inference of this claim about the old testament is that the bible provides useful information about the origin of the earth (i.e. that it was created in 6 days and that somehow ‘day’ and ‘night’ were created three days before the sun which defines those constructs) and the origin of man (i.e. Adam, Eve, garden, talking snake and deadly fruit trees.) This would indicate that the individual would have to answer an awful lot of questions and explain an awful lot of factual observations provided by a huge body of scientific inquiry before even offering such a mindless statement.

So, yes, in order for you to accept the literal accuracy of origins as the old testament reports it, if you believe things like dinosaurs and people lived at the same time before the flood, you certainly must choose to not think – or at the very least dedicate your entire capacity for thought to the process of self-delusion. Thought leads you to much different conclusions than the one that bible fables are literally true.

Nonetheless, the article was not about evolution and natural origins. It was about why the old testament is important even though (to quote the author) “Old Testament law is not binding on us today.” So I read on, though, truthfully, this opening remark did not help soften any biases I already had coming into this argumentative mess.

Let me provide a brief summary (in my words) of “The Gospel Way” thesis on this topic:

  1. Old testament law is no longer binding because of the new testament
  2. The old testament is still very important for revealing things such as origins, evidence to support faith, principals of truth, and appreciation of the new testament
  3. But some old testament law is binding (e.g. idolatry) because it’s in the new testament as well.

What this, of course, means is that the old testament is no longer binding for those laws that we now realize are simply crazy and we would have to be insane to defend. But its still okay to keep some of the old testament hatred alive, such as against the gays, because Paul also hated the gays…er, that is, loved the gays whom he thought deserved eternal torment and hell-fire…you know, Jesus-love, the kind of love where he doesn’t want you to go to hell…but, God love ya, that’s were you’re going if you insist on screwing folks of the same sex.

The logical incoherence of all these claims can be easily demonstrated. The problem with most arguments from the Christian side is that they are all delivered without regard to an infrastrastructer that is established as a result of other claims they have made. That is, their arguments seem to have no appreciation that they must remain consistent across their framework of arguments.  As a result, you end up with the same set of arguments used over and over even though they have been previously refuted by the implications that their argument would have.

Let me give an example in order to clarify.  The article in question makes the claim that the old testament is important because it provides the evidentiary basis for truth through prophecies that are resolved by the new testament (primarily Jesus as the messiah.) For the purposes of this argument, we won’t even take into account the dubious nature of how the new testament seems intentionally constructed to frame the story to uphold certain expectations of one that document is claiming to be the messiah.  (That is, if you are writing a gospel about the individual you are claiming is the messiah, you are going to make you narrative mesh with expectations that potential followers would have. It would be absurd to claim that new testament writers had no knowledge of the old testament; therefore, their narratives are already suspect with regard to wise men and virgins and other mythical constructs of their stories.) But, let’s set that completely aside.

The claim is that old testament law is no longer binding, but that the old testament provides evidentiary proof through prophetic revelation. But if we look at old testament verses, it directly indicates that the covenant of the old testament shall last forever.  (For example in Genesis 17:19, Leviticus 23:14, 1 Chronicles 16:17, Psalm 119:160.) I think it is safe to say that the old testament prophecy “endureth forever” does not hold if the articles claim that old testament law is no longer binding is valid. The disregard for the implications of isolated claims is endemic in these types of writings. To take the issue further, even the new testament makes reference to the enduring validity of old testament law in verses such as Matthew 5:17-19 and Luke 16:17.

Second, with regard to the horrendous treatment of women, that persists in most of Paul’s writings and generally views women as the property or at best an extension of men who rule them–that’s right, new testament.  This shabby chick treatment is as new testament as it gets, yet these principles are often swept aside with claims such as “Paul was just trying to establish order in the chaos of their day. That obviously doesn’t carry the same meaning in today’s context as some of his more insightful anti-gay writings which are obviously timeless in their application.”

But as it goes with biblical defenses, the arguments are simply used for the purpose of quelling those pangs of doubt that pop up when one actually takes the time to read the bible and inevitably discovers some of the numerous absurdities, and then they are tossed aside with no further thought to the logical consequences of those arguments. You will see the same flaws in the debate against evolution as the same arguments are used time and time again even though they have been summarily demonstrated as invalid. I’m not talking about the philosophical pondering of infinite causes or the arguments from morality, but about the established scientific facts the evolutionary process. This is not my claim, though I agree because of the overwhelming abundance of evidence; this is the claim of those who are using these principles to cure disease, increase agricultural yields, and solve countless social problems with a record that puts prayer to shame.

But the sickening implications of the claims of this article are twofold. First, the argument implies that the before the ‘new covenant’ the nauseating laws of the old testament were perfectly okay. Second, it implies that although the law is no longer binding, there is nothing inherently wrong with stoning folks, just that we’re no longer required to.  I certainly understand that it is much easier to recognize now from our much improved moral framework that, for example, slavery of a people or race is outright immoral than it was to recognize it from a time when slavery was simply a part of the culture. Thus, we may understand how such an institution would exist, but the principle of moral objectivity certainly does not allow for slavery to be considered a morally acceptable (or even morally neutral) because it was a cultural norm. It was still wrong; it was still immoral; and a culture is morally improved for not having it. The bible, as a cultural artifact, clearly did not take a stand against the institution (which would have at least been an impressive stand for something claiming to be the word of a benevolent god); however, I will gratefully admit that a great many of those responsible were religious people, inspired to stand against the institution by their faith. But this was a courageous stand apart from their scripture, only led by they their idea about how people deserve to be treated – perhaps motivated by the “golden rule” – much like those courageous religious folks are beginning to take a stand against the anti-gay majority.  Of course, this time the secular movement is a much bigger friend to abused group than those religious folks who are beginning to shake free from the bigotry of their dogma. 

Here’s a little message going around to those contemporary tyrants who proselytize their bigotry as if it has genuine secular merit (i.e. deserves legal action to enforce said bigotry.)

jk

13 Comments to “Climbing back on the hampster wheel to nowhere.”

  1. Kelly 26 October 2010 at 11:38 am #

    I have one answer to this: Martin Luther King, notably one of the greatest civil rights movement leader ever,(second to Christ)was lead and inspired by the Word of God, the very book you ridicule and don’t understand.

    • Jon K 26 October 2010 at 8:10 pm #

      What do you mean by second to Christ? You mean Christ as a man or Christ as an inspiration to civil rights leaders? Christ the man was pretty clear that civil rights were completely unimportant in the material world, particularly since the end was at hand. He did clearly teach that all men are equal in the eyes of God which was quite an admirable thing to teach – particularly in times where this was not generally thought to be the case. But the new testament insists that servants obey their masters – it certainly does not teach that among men the shackles of slavery should be banished. So while it is certainly accurate to say MLK was a dedicated, devoted Christian, inspired by the bible, it is of course not at all accurate to claim that his civil rights messages are a reframing of biblical messages, because they were not.

      MLK was the member of the abused minority group whose rights were being trampled by people who claimed to have the word of god on their side. It was NOT atheists and secularists who fought to keep blacks separated, who threw stones, garbage and obscenties at black children being integrated into white schools – it was white bible beating racists who did so. They were wrong in their position just as anti-gay religious advocates are wrong in theirs – they simply don’t think ‘the others’ deserve the same privledges as ‘the us.’

      Now, as to your final remark, I certainly do ridicule the bible and yes, there are many parts I must not understand about it if the ridicule is not merited. However, the difference is that I have accompanied my ridicule with a detailed and reasoned presentation of what my understanding of its statements are. Are any of my arguments flawed? Well, undoubtedly there are flaws, although I am certainly not aware of them or I would not have made the argument (or later tried to correct myself if I came to the realization after the fact.) But disagreement is really not at all helpful or constructive in any way if you just say – “oh, you just don’t understand!” If you cannot rationally defend your position or point out where I have departed from reason, than it seems much more likely that you understand even less about it than I do.

  2. Kelly 27 October 2010 at 3:30 am #

    This is a quick response, because I do so appreciate your humble attitude, it’s awesome:-) It did not escape Martin Luther King Jr. that God brought the Israelites out of slavery, an entire oppressed nation of people, and Christ Himself came to set all people free from the law of sin and death. There’s a reason why you find yourself to be an enemy of God, and it’s because your under that law of sin and death. If you were to humble yourself before God, He would lift you up, open your eyes and set your captive soul free. God is not subject to “scientific experiment” yet He deals personally with the individual. Martin Luther understood God because he knew God. It helps to know the Author before you claim to understand His heart,mind,and message. He invites you to know and understand Him. Seek Him out.

  3. Kelly 27 October 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    Here’s more insight on the inspiration that King drew from the Bible and Jesus Himself, not exhaustive, but to the point. If you get a chance, view the speech he gave the night before his assassination; it’s powerful. I’m sure you’ve already seen it, but we see a man at peace with his own death and at peace with God. Here’s wording from that speech: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life … But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”

    http://www.ncccusa.org/newbtu/lullking.html

  4. Jon K 27 October 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    I’ll write more about the MLK perspective later, but wanted to clarify a couple of your comments. First of all, although I certainly don’t consider myself an enemy of God unless you are relegating the concept of God to the realm of ideas as opposed to something that actually exists. That is, saying I’m an enemy of God (from my view) is like saying I’m an enemy of Voldemort. In other words, I can provide a whole list of reasons why I don’t accept the existence of the God as a reasonable position and among those many other reasons is that the essence and behavior of gods posited by the world’s various religions are not consistent with my concepts of goodness/benevolence, justice/fairness, rationality, or any element of character that I feel would be necessary to qualify for a supreme entity worthy of devotion. (I have provided many reasons for this position in what I write on this blog, particularly with my criticism of biblical content.) Therefore, I’m only an ‘enemy’ of God in the sense that if I hypothetically (from my perspective) allow for his existence then I would be at odds with the particular religious claims that define the divine character. Does that make sense? It’s kind of like me saying “the reason you find yourself to be an enemy of Lord Shiva…” I would imagine (as a monotheist) you would say – “There’s no such thing as Lord Shiva.” I can reasonably discuss what is bad about Sauran or Voldemort and nobody is going to be overly confused about how I can do so without first believing in him.

    The cliff notes version, then is, I’m not choosing to disavow God simply because I don’t like what he has to say (which seems to be what you are implying, though I could be wrong about that); however, I can certainly voice objections about the theological claims to what such a god purportedly says.

    I guess I have some trouble with the idea that “He invites you to know and understand Him.” This is mainly because my expectations of such an invitation are of a form that makes rational sense to me. That is such an invitation would have a rational consistency with experienced reality. So although I find endless fascinating symbols endemic to human psychology that reveal very much about our minds, drives, nature, behaviors, and emotions in humanities religious artificats, there is nothing in them that makes rational sense of God’s literal existence. The additional issue that in order to embrace many of these theological claims you must reject many rational findings of science such as biology (evolution, molecular record), geology (age of the earth, lack of global flood), cosmology (origin of the universe), physics (radioactive decay), paleontology (fossil record) etc. is particularly problematic from my perspective because it requires people to ignore and even reject ways of understanding the natural world that we know to be true because they can be directly demostrated to be true and the resulting knowledge provides the ability to prophesize/predict what will happen (in the sense of verification of our understanding of natural law) much more reliably than the biblcal prophesies which are no more impressive than those of Nostradamous, because they are only revealing after the prophesized event occurs – they don’t truly predict anything. Science provides a predictive power that allows man to harness knowledge of the natural world to do good (of course, man can and has used this knowledge for evil too – but that’s another discussion.)

    As for embracing something that I cannot make sense of, communicating with something that does not communicate back, or loving something that gives me no reasonable inkling of its existence – I simply have no idea how such a feat is possible or how any such relationship could be meaningful to me.

  5. Kelly 27 October 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    Jon,

    Here’s some very candid remarks from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel: “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God, and, naturally,hope that I’m right about my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

    I’m strongly suggesting that Martin Luther King Jr. saw the Bible in a completely different light/reality than you do, because he did put his faith/trust in the God of the Bible.

    It’s okay if you have no idea how it can happen, God says you will find Him when you seek Him with all of your heart. His Spirit makes it possible. God has been the greatest source of love in my life since May 21st 1990. I haven’t had to fake love for Him a day in my life since. He brings the meaning to life, full on:-)

  6. Jon K 27 October 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    Nagel is probably saying the same thing I am but in a much different way. If it actually turned out to work the way that strikes me as tyrannical and abhorrant, then I would have to be God’s enemy out of principle, which would be a pretty grim state of futitilty since one could not really resist a power of that nature. From the quote, Nagel seems to confess a inkling of worry or at least hope that he doesn’t end up in that helpless condition. I lack that perspective entirely. While I agree that it would suck (for Nagel and me anyway) if it did work that way – I can’t bring myself to adjust my worldview for one of many scenarios that I cannot even make sense of. You do the best you can by making sense of the universe as best you can. The Christian way (or any religion I know of) does not make sense to me so it would strike me as irresponsible and reckless to behave as if it were true when I cannot make sense of it.

    Obviously, I have no private experience or insight such as the one you reference that calls my perspective into question or that makes what I discern as ugly and wrong turn into what you seem to see as compelling and beautiful. I do know what is like to be deluded about something – to see something as greater than it really is and no matter what other people tell you, it does not affect how you see it – and no matter what doubts might surface your mind almost automatically conquers them – because I’ve experienced the sensation before (about something that doesn’t have anything at all to do with theology.) I suspect the mechanism of faith in a believer’s mind could have something in common with that experience which leads me to empathize with other people’s experience and suspect something about the nature of them – but obviously I could never know another mind’s experience. Still it seems out of place to hinge any kind of salvation on such waves of emotive ecstasy. (Speaking from my own perspective.)

  7. Kelly 27 October 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    Jesus Christ is hardly an emotion, back to your original question I missed, it is Christ as a Man who moves the most powerful for civil rights. He can take a rebellious heart and change it. I’m sure He had a lot to do with changes Kings heart toward those who perscuted his race. And yes, I whole heartedly agree that King would not have fought for people to accept homosexuality as good for society by granting them marital status. King knew God, the author of all that is true beauty.

    On the Israelites being commanded to take over other nations, you need to understand the context. God knew who their enemies were, and gave Israel permission to take them out. Sounds slightly different than your take on it.

  8. Kelly 28 October 2010 at 12:01 am #

    Sorry, should have re-read, Christ the Man who moves most powerfully for civil rights, this is done by His Spirit, I’m sure you know of the Trinity.

    Lastly, my point was that His Spirit had changed King’s heart personally and led Him in such a way as not to hate those who persecute you, but love them and preach a better way, God’s way.

  9. LeeS 28 October 2010 at 6:27 am #

    Kelly,
    From your post.
    “On the Israelites being commanded to take over other nations, you need to understand the context. God knew who their enemies were, and gave Israel permission to take them out. Sounds slightly different than your take on it.”

    Not sure how this makes things better. That last sentence is really disturbing, and is exactly what I would not want to hear today as the reason to go to war. ie my God has declared you an enemy, and thus I am just to take you out.

  10. Jon K 28 October 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Yeah, I’m gonna have to agree with Lee. Hopefully it sounds more than ‘slightly’ different than my take on it because the whole ‘God gave permission’ take is what sends planes into buildings.

    Is it not at all disconcerting to follow your statement about God as the author of all true beauty directly with his matter-of-fact endorsement of genocide? These are the types of things I’m talking about as nonsensical (and dangerously so.)

  11. Kelly 28 October 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Here’s a site that explains the complexity of what was going on, better. Agree or disagree, God is just in punishing sin.

    http://www.rationalchristianity.net/genocide.html

  12. Kelly 28 October 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    Christians don’t run planes into buildings as a result of what Christ teaches, remember Old Testament no longer binding. Now if you want to check out fundamental Islam you may find a reason to do so.


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