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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Biblical Inerrancy: New Testament Reliability III

Sorry.

The fact is that I am terminating this thread - for a couple of reasons.

First, I was underwhelmed by the external evidence - not by its volume, or its authenticity, or by its support, but by the "so what factor".

If someone makes it through the Uniqueness, construction and internal evidence and still refuses to acknowledge the reliability of the NT, the problem is not intellectual. It is willful disregard for the very same fact-based process used for any text.

You see, although LiberPaul stated that he used "my intellect and observations" the fact is that Christianity is a thinking, logical faith. It isn't blind, and doesn't require you to check your brain at the church door. The evidence is brutally compelling, and it is dismissal of it that requires abandonment of logic.

External evidence only makes a headline when it is contrary to the NT - and then disappears when that evidence is wrong. For example, "scholars" claimed that Moses could not have authored the Pentateuch because writing did not exist...then archaeologists discovered that there was writing before Moses. "Historians" claimed that the Hittites never existed...until archaeologists discovered indisputable evidence of the Hittites and their culture.

You see, once you have denied the uniqueness, superior construction and internal evidence of the NT, you don't care that hundreds of early writings confirm its accounts, or that the only argument against the historical reliability of the NT is the argument from silence - "well, it doesn't say that anywhere else, does it?" All you care about is that you don't believe.

Scholars, such as Pelty, have examined the NT in great detail in hermeneutics and exegesis, and have found things such as potential common sources between the gospels and difficult timelines to follow. It's neat stuff, and I am looking forward to my seminary classes that start next week - Intro to the NT, Elementary Greek, and Intro to Church History. What they have not found is proof that any of the NT is false.

If it isn't false, isn't it inerrant? I speak of the text, not the interpretation.

Feel free to comment on the ideas presented, and if you disagree, say why.

However, I ask one favor - do you have a reason beyond, "I think", "I can't imagine" or "I have trouble with"? In essence, do you have a reason beyond your own feelings about the subject you don't want to believe is true about God, man, sin, Jesus or faith?

Note: I recognize that I did not address the OT. The primary arguments for internal evidence are the same, plus the amazing level of detail used in Jewish manuscript copying before the printing press. Not one jot nor one tittle has disapeared, indeed.

17 Comments:

  • There's a problem with inerrancy, though. "If it isn't false, isn't it inerrant?" Well, it depends what you mean by "inerrant". The meaning commonly assigned to "inerrant" is not something that I can possibly subscribe to because it assigns magical value to the text and to the mind of the "Christian", in that somehow the "true" meaning becomes "clear" to the "true believer" with no possibility of error - disagreement being a sign of lack of faith.

    I suspect that, to take this further, we'll need to look very carefully at what "inerrant" might mean, and whether we might be better choosing a different word given the associations that "inerrant" has. There is a huge gap between "The Bible is true and reliable" and "The Bible in inerrant" as that word is commonly used. They are not simply synonymous.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 8/09/2005 06:12:00 PM  

  • Hammer,

    I disagree completely with you statement "The evidence is brutally compelling, and it is dismissal of it that requires abandonment of logic." What I find is that people such as yourself will descredit and criticize other religons using this logic thing, but refuse to hold your religion to the same standard you hold others to. The abandonment of logic starts where belief begins.

    Sure there are lots of historical places referenced throughout the OT and NT but I fail to find how that makes any of this true, good fiction references places and people who actually exist, doesn't make the plot true. According to many archeologists the town of Nazareth didn't even exist at the time of Jesus, but we are suppossed to believe he came from there?

    Your final question shows the intellectual dishonesty that permeates religious thought!
    "However, I ask one favor - do you have a reason beyond, "I think", "I can't imagine" or "I have trouble with"? In essence, do you have a reason beyond your own feelings about the subject you don't want to believe is true about God, man, sin, Jesus or faith?" So if it doesn't make sense I should just beleive it because you say so? How intellectual is that?

    Biblical Apologist's Guidelines:
    1) Accept the divine, absolute literal truth of the bible.
    2)Redefine Literal when needed.
    The bible state that homosexuality is evil, that's literal but it also states that mixing of different fibers in clothing is evil (Leviticus 19:19), that's not literal
    3)Learn to beleive two or more contradictory ideas simultaneously.
    The OT is the unchanging word of god
    The NT is the unchanging word of god (compare leviticus to what you actually do and believe)
    4)Ignore or re-interpret the last 600 years of science.
    Claim science is wrong, or redefine literal so you can claim the bible doesn't say what a critic thinks, or claim science has always agreed with the bible
    5)Acknowledge the hundreds of "fulfilled" prophecies in the bible.
    due to step 1 we already know the bible is literal word of god
    due to step two we can make virtually any phrase in the bible a prophesy
    due to step 3 we can believe that the facts and prophecies are in agreement
    due to step four we can bend the facts around to fulfill the most tenuous prophecies
    6)Learn that Moral relativism is not true.
    slacery is a prime exemple of the timelss moral techings of the bible
    7)Learn that absolute morals can change depending on the time and culture.
    slavery has always been morally wrong except that it hasn't always ALWAYS been wrong. Polygamy ditto!
    8)Become comfortable with your own insanity
    You must learn to deal with your cognotive dissonance as you reconcile all of the contradictory ideas inherent in biblical literalism. You are there!!!!

    A big thanks to Thmus.org for the preceeding steps to bibilcal literalism

    By Blogger LiberPaul, at 8/10/2005 08:25:00 AM  

  • liberpaul,
    I think the problem here is that you see Hammer as trying to show that the Bible is universally compelling as a document. However, Hammer's arguments only apply to those with faith in the divine inspiration of the text in the first place. Essentially, this is a debate internal to Christianity, about how the Bible should be understood. For an outsider, the furthest we can get is that the Bible is at least as reliable as any other ancient documents (actually, it's often much more reliable than many others, as Hammer shows), but we can't prove the Bible's "truth" merely by the exercise of logic.

    There is an application to everyone, of course, because Christianity makes certain historical claims about this Jesus chap. However, the "gospel" is much more than simple historical facts; it's far more about ourselves and our moral status, and about God and God's views on matters. So, the arguments here will have a bearing on apologetics. However, trying to persuade someone of the truth of Christianity by trying to show that the Bible is the inerrant word of God is futile, just as much as the efforts of the Scholastic theologians to prove God's existence by the exercise of logic.

    pax et bonum

    John

    By Anonymous John, at 8/10/2005 10:34:00 AM  

  • John,
    While we disagree on many things, there are few who I have encountered in blogdom that I am blessed by as much as you.

    I am ascribing "true and reliable" tomean "inerrant". It is the interpretation of some parts that cause dissension, destruction, and even growth - but battling about whether "turn the other cheek" means "be a pacifist in every way" or "never return insults or attack someone because of an insult" in no fashion diminish the truth of "turn the other cheek".

    LiberPaul, you never addressed my evidence. I'll update my initial post with the appropriate weblinks to the evidence. Then I'll make another comment with the first link.
    If you take the time to read it, you may be surprised as to what I wrote. What you address is, um, irrelevant to this discussion. If you have a subject you'd like me to post on and become a discussion, I am open to that!

    Cognitive Dissonance is the result of a difference in behavior and attitude. It is not a state that one can become comfortable with or "learn to deal with" - it must be elimnated by changing behavior or attitudes. I recommend using put-downs that you know what they mean, or at least ones that I do not have education in, and would thus be unaware of your misuse.

    Choose just one issue that you honestly want to discuss and use logic with. I'll go there with you.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/10/2005 10:54:00 AM  

  • LiberPaul,
    Start Here.

    That is, if you want to look at the evidence. You can refuse, obviously, but it is your loss, not mine.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/10/2005 11:02:00 AM  

  • Hammer,
    Thanks for that clarification! It sounds like we're not really that far apart, then. The problem with using "inerrant" is that the word is too often claimed by the extreme wing, who then say that, because the Bible is God's inerrant word, it must perforce be literally and factually correct on every matter that is even tangentially referred to within the text. Provided that we're squarely within "true and reliable" territory, you'll get little arguments from me on these matters. :-)

    Where we differ, of course, is in how we should understand the Bible in various places and how we should engage with the text. But those are secondary matters, if no less interesting and important for that!

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 8/10/2005 11:42:00 AM  

  • Hammer,

    I started reading the material you pointed me to and I have to say it is as unconvincing as anything else. The tests that were used to determine which books should be included in the canon is somewhat amusing. As if a bunch of politically motivated religious zealots could identify God's word over others. Makes sense to me that there is some harmony in the bible, after all the bible was fixed around JC as if he had existed and as if the OT prophesised him. They had to make it somewhat intellectually sound, although it is far from that.

    " It is important to note that the Church did not create the canon; it did not determine which books would be called the Scriptures, the inspired Word of God. Instead, the church recognized, or discovered, which books had been inspired from their inception. Another way of saying this would be , “a book is not the Word of God because it is accepted by the people of God. Rather, it was accepted by the people of God because it is the Word of God.” Simply put, people cannot give a book divine authority! We can only recognize the divine authority given to it."

    How do you know this to be the case, because someone said it was so?

    Of the five principles, you mention miracles, where are they now, I thought believers faith could move mountians? Why should I believe a bunch of sheepherders who say they saw something, something impossible to boot?

    Noncontradictory, may ass!

    Gen 1:25-27 - humans created after animals

    Gen 2:18-19 - humans created before animals

    Or is this one of those translation, or interpretation things?

    Mk.3:29
    "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation."

    Acts 13:39
    "And by him all that believe are justified from all things."

    Seems contradictory to me!

    You fall on your face trying to explain away all of the BS contradictions. Unconvincing arguement from the get go!


    Cognitive dissonance: psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes (as a fondness for smoking and a belief that it is harmful)

    You only looked at the first definition on dictionary.com....

    congruous:
    1)Lacking in harmony; incompatible: a joke that was incongruous with polite conversation.
    2)Not in agreement, as with principles; inconsistent: a plan incongruous with reason.
    3)Not in keeping with what is correct, proper, or logical; inappropriate: incongruous behavior

    Still, I am not impressed with the arguements. Emporer Constantine was the sole force that put the bible together....for his own gain.

    Test your faith, check this out:

    www.jesusneverexisted.com

    By Blogger LiberPaul, at 8/10/2005 02:57:00 PM  

  • liberpaul,
    As I said, these arguments aren't ever going to convince an atheist or other non-Christian of the reliability of the Bible. You're making the wrong arguments in the wrong place.

    Constantine was not the sole force who put the Bible together. The OT existed in its present form long before him - it was formalised by the Jews before Jesus was born. The NT was substantially agreed for a long time before the canon was formalised - the debate wasn't over its entirety but over a few books only.

    As for citing jesusneverexisted.com, I don't think you can hold that up as a paragon of logical thinking. I've visited it extensively in the past and it's hardly a paragon of rigourous logic or even an example of passable reasoning. It's merely a collection of polemics against Christianity, some of which are so misguided and ignorant as to be laughable.

    As I've said, we're talking here of how Christians approach their holy writings. It's got nothing to do with trying to "convert" anyone who isn't already a Christian.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 8/10/2005 03:57:00 PM  

  • Wow... at first when I read this, I thought it a good post, but really I had nothing to add by commenting. That is until I read liberpauls comment with the link. My faith is strong, so I took his little test and looked at the link. I will probably have nightmares tonight... that site is pure evil.
    My views on my faith are this (and the strange thing is ... just this morning I was telling someone else this same thing!)... I was speaking with a non-believer or marginal doubter, at best. I told them If I'm wrong, and you are right, then when I die, I will just go to sleep and no one loves a good nap more than me. However, what are you going to do if I am the one who's right. If I'm right, when I die, I will go to Heaven to be with my spiritual Father in a place so wonderful that I not even my dreams come close to discovering its beauty... and they will go to an everlasting Hell. Eternity is going to be there and be the same regardless of your beliefs. Just because you refuse to believe in something does not mean it is not true. Seeing isn't believing... believing is seeing, and each and every person will have sight at some point. Just for some, sight, and therefor belief, may come too late.

    By Anonymous SAH Mom, at 8/10/2005 08:02:00 PM  

  • LiberPaul,
    I didn't use dictionary.com. I have a masters' degree in Psychology.

    I missed the contradiction. Do you know of any who would abandon the obvious answer that Christ's power was of God and substitute a power of the devil instead, who are believers? Anyone who would abandon logic in such a fashion, as the Pharisees in the passage did, to cling to their illusions has chosen their fate.

    Genesis 2 is not a timeline. you have to make assumptions to make it so.

    I see you have failed to choose a subject to discuss. Feel free to give us one at any time.

    SAH, thanks for your input. Unfortunately, the warnings of Hell are few and far between in this day and age. Not only is there no Jonathan Edwards, there are few who would dare quote him - at least on that subject! The abandonment of the discussion of hell by churches has weakened the impact of the position, unfortunately.

    Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God is a chilling read - and a chilling verbal message. It is, nonetheless, frighteningly logical.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/11/2005 11:03:00 AM  

  • If this is suppossed to be about how xtians view the bible then hold the bible to the same standard as the Koran, the Dhammapada or the Bhagavad Gita. You accept as true the gibberish in the bible but automatically discount the other stuff.

    I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. – Steven Roberts

    I have read much of Mr Hammers work relating to the "reliability" of the bible.

    " Contrast the Bible with the compilation of Western classics called the “Great Books of the Western World”: a selection of more than 450 works by over 100 authors spanning about 2500 years – Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Dante, Aquinas, Rousseau, Shakespeare, Hume, Kant, Darwin, Tolstoy, and Joyce to name a few. While they are all part of the Western tradition of ideas, they are extremely diverse in their views on almost every subject."
    Well, Mr Hammer, there wasn't a group of people gathered in Nicea that attempted to harmonize all of these works. Doesn't it make sense to you that these don't agree while the bible does based upon this fact!

    Unique in prophesy???

    If Jesus was supposed to be the son of David, but was born of Mary the Virgin through god, then he wasn't a descendant of David, now was he? Weren't they suppossed to call him Emmanuel?

    Can't deny the influence it has had in Western Civ. for both good and bad.

    "It is important to note that the Church did not create the canon; it did not determine which books would be called the Scriptures, the inspired Word of God. Instead, the church recognized, or discovered, which books had been inspired from their inception. Another way of saying this would be , “a book is not the Word of God because it is accepted by the people of God. Rather, it was accepted by the people of God because it is the Word of God.” Simply put, people cannot give a book divine authority! We can only recognize the divine authority given to it."
    Whaaaattt???!?!?!?!? Here is a leap of faith that is anything but intellectually honest! Perverse logic at best.

    Archelogical finds that support stories in the bible are not proof of truth but the work of good writers of fiction. Where are the Roman accounts of Jesus? The Romans were known for their record keeping, yet there is no mention of the slaughter of the babes by Herod, or the Cruci-fiction of JC.

    Evil? Pure Evil? Of course, anything that contradicts your extremely narrow world-view would be evil. The stories in the bible are not new. Noah and the flood was predated by the Epic of Gilgamesh. The triune god existed in Egypt long before christ; Horus, Isis and Osiris. The feasts of Bacchus and Ceres are when the Pagan's ate of the body of their goddess and drank the blood of their god. The cross was used as a holy symbol for the god Agni and also appears on Babylonian art. The tree of life grew in India and China and the Aztecs had a Graden of Eden too. The fall of man, the atonement and redemption are part of the cult of Mithras and pre-date even him!

    The trunk of every religion is the same, it is only the twigs and berries that differ....

    By Blogger LiberPaul, at 8/11/2005 11:04:00 AM  

  • Since you only make one argument, LP, I'll address it: Mary was of the house and lineage of David as well. Matthew's geneology leads to her, not Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob, not Heli (or Eli). Heli was Mary's father. Did you really think that the Gospel writers couldn't manage to get that right, during the lifetimes of the immediate family members of the principals?

    The argument from silence is an illogical fallacy that I already addressed.

    I am amused that you simultaneously argue that the NT is a big contrived conspiracy yet then insist on all these "contradictions" that you are able to find. Both cannot be true, unless you are of an intellect beyond all men that lived. Choosing to say that archaelogocial finds that back up NT history are not evidence of accuracy belies that possiblity.

    I'll make a post just for you...

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/11/2005 01:16:00 PM  

  • I suppose its like talking to a wall anyway. The contradictions involved just go to show you that it was manmade and it is not perfect even though a bunch of guys tried to make it so. Is that really hard to understand? (besides I think I used the word attempted)

    You use the Arguement from Authority, the arguement from antiquity and special pleading throughout the new testament reliability writings. While xtianity is based upon the fallacies of appeal to force and false consequences.....

    Which Gospel was Mary named as the descendaent of David? I must have missed that one. But I do know that Matthews Geneology doen't mention Mary but Joseph who did not father the child...at least according to its account or are you using a differnet bible? Contradiction maybe? Nawwwww, the bible doesn't contradict itself, it is harmonious from beggining to end (picture tongue in cheek).

    Why did they call him Jesus and not Emmanuel?

    I thought I made a damn good point about:
    "It is important to note that the Church did not create the canon; it did not determine which books would be called the Scriptures, the inspired Word of God. Instead, the church recognized, or discovered, which books had been inspired from their inception. Another way of saying this would be , “a book is not the Word of God because it is accepted by the people of God. Rather, it was accepted by the people of God because it is the Word of God.” Simply put, people cannot give a book divine authority! We can only recognize the divine authority given to it."
    Whaaaattt???!?!?!?!? Here is a leap of faith that is anything but intellectually honest! Perverse logic at best.

    That is a prime example of the arguement from authority. These so-called "authorities" recognized these works as divine??????? Who made them an authority?

    It's not the least bit disturbing to you to know that most of the pomp and dogma of xtianity predates it? What is missing from these points that make it intellectually inferior? Why don't you want to know about the origin of your precious religion? Look up those myths, or are you too pusillanimous to find out you have embraced a falsehood?

    It is interesting how far people will go to believe something irrational.

    By Blogger LiberPaul, at 8/11/2005 02:45:00 PM  

  • Hammer,
    "Not only is there no Jonathan Edwards, there are few who would dare quote him"

    Which I regard as a good thing :-)

    IMO, Edwards was a poor theologian with a seriously flawed picture of God. He had some right ideas, but elevated them beyond their rightful places - God can be angry, but anger doesn't define God's actions; God does not delight in the punishment of sinners; man is not capable of infinite actions or infinite offences, and so no infinite punishment is required.

    By all accounts, Edwards was a very good preacher and instrumental in starting a revival in faith and practice in his area. However, I think his thoughts were more accurate when he was pondering the nature of that revival than the nature of God.

    But this is really a matter for a different place :-)

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 8/11/2005 03:55:00 PM  

  • LP,

    "Well, Mr Hammer, there wasn't a group of people gathered in Nicea that attempted to harmonize all of these works."

    Seriously, this argument needs to be shelved as it is not particularly accurate. As John mentioned, the canon was relatively complete by this period, but there were still books that were disputed in 325. If we want to be technical about it, there are books in dispute to this day (the so-called Apocrypha). In any event, Constantine is not responsible for the canon (however you might define it).

    "Archelogical finds that support stories in the bible are not proof of truth but the work of good writers of fiction. Where are the Roman accounts of Jesus? The Romans were known for their record keeping, yet there is no mention of the slaughter of the babes by Herod, or the Cruci-fiction of JC."

    Why is this so surprising to you? Herod' cruelty is well-known, so what would another such incident be in the grand scheme of things? Now, it may be that it didn't happen, but your argument is one from silence in this case. As for Roman accounts of Jesus, why would you possibly think that the Roman authorities, their record-keepers, etc. would care *anything* about a crucified Jew in that backwater province of Judea? I mean, should that surprise anyone? The fact that we have the Testimonium Flavianum is somewhat surprising (assuming that there is a core that can be exacted from the larger text which most think there likely is...), although one could argue that the Christian presence in Rome was large enough (although still likely quite small) and that the communal memory of the events ~64 which were horrific enough that even an adversary such as Tacitus felt some pity for the Christians compelled Jospehus to document Jesus' brief appearance on the scene.

    Hammer,

    Re: the geneologies - This is one of those tough issues because as far as I know, this is a relatively modern view proffered in the 19th century. Eusebius, citing an Aristides, offers an explanation that seeks to reconcile the two geneologies and tie them both back to Joseph, but you would have to decide for yourself whether he successfully makes his case. In any event, I think it is safe to say that the geneologies are problematic for those who hold to the inerrancy (in all facets) of the text.

    On a different note, I would love to read about your classes and what you are learning in them. Enjoy!

    By Blogger Pelty, at 8/11/2005 10:41:00 PM  

  • "Narrow World view"??? You ASSUME that b/c I believe in God and speak WITH Him... Notice, I did not say TO Him.. daily that I have a narrow world view. Son, let me tell you something about me since it is painfully obvious that you know NOTHING about me.
    I have been all across this great country and to several others. I have seen things that would make a grown man cry, vomit or both. I have given birth and planned my child's funeral, which ONLY through the Grace of GOD ALMIGHTY was I able to cancel. I have had times in my life when I felt deserted by God, only to realize that I was the one who had left. I have also had times in my life when the only moments I felt at peace was when I was praying in a Chapel at God's alter.
    Please, don't think to tell me that my view is narrow when you are the one that is obviously not open to any possiblity other than what you percieve to be true. At least I was open minded enough to look, however briefly, at the site that you posted.

    By Anonymous SAH Mom, at 8/11/2005 11:18:00 PM  

  • LiberPaul, et al.

    You've brought up some very interesting points that challenge a Christians understanding of the veracity of the Bible. Personally, I do believe in the Bible as God's word and as a way to get to know God. But, there are many things it says that cause a problem for many believers. I'd like to look at one you've brought up.

    Christian's claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and yet we don't follow every part of the law. I think we often claim it to be God's law, but forget that it is just as much (or perhaps more so) a book about God's relationship to mankind and His search for relationship with mankind. The mention of many laws from Leviticus comes up frequently. But people miss that God's prophets never condemned His people for moldy walls, but for whitewashed walls and empty hearts. Is my life like that? Too often. But the Bible condemns that more than individual laws.

    Perhaps this should be more of a call to believers, like myself, who have too often claimed that the Bible is always right without really understanding the Bible. Are all the laws timeless? Are the prophesies all valid? How do we explain the creation story in light of Gen 1/2/3 which show different things, or in light of the scientific evidence we currently have? All hard challenges.

    All of which make me re-valuate my understanding of the Bible. Is it literal? Always (like the law)? Is it perhaps a story (creation)? Always? Could it be a mix of the two? Could there be different genres that make it hard to understand? Could this reflect that God is more complex than I can understand - sometimes timeless, sometimes enjoying parables, sometimes giving confusing replies, sometimes hiding, sometimes all-present?

    I know, more questions than answers or replies. I appreciate you taking the time to read them. I look forward to any comment.

    By Anonymous ajakeway, at 8/15/2005 01:57:00 PM  

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