Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Biblical Inerrancy II: Straw Men

Christ absolutely trusted the Bible; and though there are in it things inexplicable and intricate that have puzzled me so much, I am going, not in a blind sense, but reverently, to trust the Book because of Him.

-Bishop H.C.G. Moule

(Intro and Ground Rules here)

The previous post addressed the aspects of scripture that are often confused with inerrancy: inspiration, authority, interpretation, and importance. As we look at the “straw men” used to attack inerrancy, we will see that the confused elements are often intentionally confused.

[For those unfamiliar with the term “straw man”, it is a case where one party falsely restates the position of the other party in order to easily attack it. An example in the political arena of a straw man would be as follows:

Mr. Lib - “We are losing the war in Iraq. We should pull out now and get our troops home.”

Mr. Con – “You want to tell the troops that we should cut and run – don’t you think that is cowardly?”

Mr. Lib – “How dare you call me unpatriotic! What ever happened to freedom of speech? I thought you conservatives believed in liberty – but only when it’s your side, right?”

Here, Mr. Lib has committed the fallacy of the “straw man”, where he accuses Con of attacking his patriotism. He does so because it is easier to defend against someone who is calling one’s patriotism into question than it is to explain how an immediate pullout of Iraq is not “cutting and running”.]

Back to the matter at hand.

Straw Man #1: “If you believe in inerrancy, you are a literalist/ you believe it all literally”

This is an intentional confusion of inerrancy and interpretation. It is very easy to discredit someone who believes that every word of the Bible is to be interpreted literally – that person would have to hold that when Jesus says “I am the bread of life” that Jesus actually was made of bread. Such a thought is simply ridiculous, which is why opponents of inerrancy often throw around the term “literalist” or “literal”. However, there is no person who has ever espoused such an interpretation, and even if they did, it is an interpretation of the words, not a value statement of the inerrancy of the entire scriptures. Words mean something, and inerrancy is not interpretation – and especially not a caricature of an interpretation that no one holds.

Straw Man #2: “If you believe that God only speaks through the Bible, then you are denying that God speaks through the Holy Spirit or personal experiences or creation itself”

Another intentional confusion of terms. Holding to an inerrant text of Holy Scripture is not tantamount to denying anything else of any kind. The subject of inerrancy of Scripture is limited to the very subject it clearly is about – the Scriptures. The presence, reliability and authority of other methods that God uses to speak to people are not at issue. I will discuss the ways that God reveals himself to humanity in the post after next to explore this subject in more detail. For this straw man, it is false because it is confusing the issue of authority with inerrancy and is introducing subjects that are not part of the issue at hand.

Straw Man #3: “You think the Bible is a science textbook”

Perhaps the single greatest reason this is a fallacy is that it is a lie. Like the false claim that inerrantists are literalists, no inerrantist is claiming that the Bible is a science textbook. Once again, opponents are intentionally creating a confusion of terms to make inerrantists look like idiots. Whether scientific facts are present or absent and what relation they have to science are matters of authority and interpretation, not inerrancy. Inerrancy does impact the issue potentially – because an inerrant book cannot contradict a known truth. However, believing that there are no conflicts between scientific facts and events described in scripture is a long way from thinking the Bible is a science (or math, or engineering, etc.) textbook. We’ll discuss some of these apparent conflicts later in the series.

Straw Man #4: “You think the Bible is a step-by-step rulebook for life”

This is a curious attack, for it is not even related to inerrancy, authority, inspiration or importance. It is an attack upon an application of Scripture, which is why it is a fallacy. There may be some who apply the Bible in this fashion – but I have never met them. Claiming that the Scriptures are inerrant will affect one’s application (after authority, interpretation and importance are determined), but to state that a belief in inerrancy is equal to a specific and very restricted application is an intentional deception and a straw man.

Straw Man #5: “You worship a book.”

A tedious straw man. Again, I have never met someone who worshipped the Bible instead of Christ. Inerrantists are in agreement with some non-inerrantists that the Bible is a witness to the One we worship. The matter of disagreement for these two groups who agree here is not who is worshipped, but the inerrancy of Scripture. As we will see in an upcoming post, the line of division between inerrantists and non-inerrantists creates room for great disagreement in other areas, too – but the issue of the worship of a book is not one of them, because no one is doing it!

Now that we have dispensed with unintentional confusions and intentional straw man attacks against inerrancy, we will move forward in the next post, “Inerrancy Defined”, where I will define inerrancy and demonstrate the scriptural and historical support for the doctrine of inerrancy. Following that, we will discuss the different ways that God communicates with people in “Revelations, General and Special”, and then the alternate views of Scripture that exist without a belief in inerrancy, before finishing up with a defense of the need for this doctrine.

41 Comments:

  • Hammer,
    First, LOL for your straw man argument - because, of course, in that argument Mr Con. is just as guilty. His first reply is both a straw man and ad hominem! (And, of course, your characterisation of Mr Lib's position is from the very start also a straw man - your own attitudes to this particular issue make it a very hard one for you to choose, because you are yourself biased.) Unfortunately, on the Iraq issue, it seems to be very hard for the two sides to communicate. Both tend to hear and see only the straw man!

    Anyhow, on to the real meat of the post :-)

    "The Bible is a science textbook...
    no inerrantist is claiming that the Bible is a science textbook"

    The problem is that some people do make precisely this claim (indeed, this position has been explicitly laid out in comments on this blog in just the past few weeks). However, you're quite right - it's not that no one makes this claim, but that this claim isn't about inerrancy per se. It's rather about a particular literalist mode of biblical interpretation.

    "I have never met someone who worshipped the Bible instead of Christ"

    You're technically correct, but miss the point slightly. No one actually explicltly worships the Bible. However, there are Christian groups who place the Bible on so high a level that it becomes a god to them. There are Christians who actually have funerals for their old Bibles and bury them, because they regard the paper on which these words are written so highly. This is excessive. Similarly, we meet people who think that every question can and should be answered from the Bible only - and not just every theological question (already a dubious position) but every question simply. This places the Bible too highly, and certainly opens someone to the challenge that their attitude to the Bible is close to worship.

    However, I know that you won't be phrasing inerrancy to commit this error. The problem is that, because some people really do make this error, it can get transferred to everyone who uses the same sort of language about the Bible - which includes this word "inerrancy". This is one of the reasons that, as I've said previously, I actually don't think it's useful any more. It means too many quite different things to different people.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/04/2006 05:11:00 AM  

  • …I actually don't think it's useful any more. It means too many quite different things to different people.

    Could the same not be said about the Bible, Christianity or Christ himself?

    Why not advocate for education, rather than the elimination of thorny aspects of theology?

    By Blogger Robert, at 9/04/2006 09:53:00 AM  

  • Don't be silly, Robert. I'm not suggesting that the concept of inerrancy is optional (certainly not before Hammer's even had a chance to say what it is) - just that the word used to describe it has become almost meaningless. That's totally different to suggesting that Christ is optional.

    Or were you intending to use an example of a straw man, just to make Hammer's point?

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/04/2006 10:07:00 AM  

  • John, if I mischaracterized your view, I apologize. However, the word inerrancy succinctly describes the indispensable concept at hand (I don’t mean to preempt the series).

    Or were you intending to use an example of a straw man, just to make Hammer's point?

    “Don't be silly”…John.

    By Blogger Robert, at 9/04/2006 10:26:00 AM  

  • John,

    "the word used to describe it [inerrancy]has become almost meaningless. That's totally different to suggesting that Christ is optional."

    Christ almost does become optional, when we don't have a trusted source for a description of 1) Who He was/is, 2) And, what His purpose was/is.

    If we define numbers one and two, then we must know the answer to a couple of subsequent questions-if His purpose was/is to redeem us from punishment of our sin, then what is sin and what is punishment vs salvation? Is the true meaning of these subjects how it is defined in the Bible, or is the Bible erring in it's description of sin and that we should deny it?

    Is the description of why (final consequences) we must identify and deny sin and follow Christ erring, as well?

    I can't think of a more meaningful word!

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/04/2006 11:40:00 AM  

  • Robert,
    "Inerrancy" can indeed encapsulate certain truths. My problem with it is that it also encapsulates several other theories. It means different things to different people. This means that we can't use it without long explanation - look at this series we're posting on, for a start! Now, we could as you suggest attempt to educate people as to its proper meaning. However, that would (a) take a long time and (b) require agreement as to what that "proper" meaning is. Neither of these is likely to happen any time soon, hence my belief that it's not a useful word any more. Better to use other words that require less explanation.

    If you (or anyone) feels that we have to use this word, I'd be interested in why. Is it anything more than a shibboleth?

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/04/2006 11:56:00 AM  

  • RT,
    You're missing the point entirely. As Hammer has gone to great lengths to explain, "inerrancy" does not mean the same thing as "trustworthy", "inspired", "authoritative" or any of those other words. It's got a technical meaning all of its own. In your comment, you're talking only about authority and trustworthiness, not inerrancy. Not least, we don't even know yet exactly what Hammer is meaning by that word! I'd be hesitant, therefore, to say a priori that it works in the way you claim.

    Worse than that, though, all I'm suggesting is that we not use the word "inerrancy", because I find in my discussions that it's so woolly as to be useless. I'm not suggesting that we dispense with any theological concept. I'm baffled, therefore, as to why you react as though I'm rejecting Christ! Unless we regard this word as a shibboleth (see above), in which case I'd reject it even more strongly! Knowledge of the right passwords isn't a sound foundation for Christian faith.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/04/2006 12:05:00 PM  

  • John,

    "Not least, we don't even know yet exactly what Hammer is meaning by that word!"

    I was merely refuting your comment that the word is meaningless. Therefore, YOU have dismissed it as meaningless, before Hammer has defined it. I was merely stating that it is quite important to define and understand the word: Hammer-"before finishing up with a defense of the need for this doctrine."

    "You're missing the point entirely. As Hammer has gone to great lengths to explain, "inerrancy" does not mean the same thing as "trustworthy", "inspired", "authoritative" or any of those other words."

    Thanks for the attempt to educate me, but I understand the meanings here, and how they differ from the technical meaning of inerrancy.

    I was clearing up that inerrancy has some impact on the belief or disbelief in the literal truth of the Bible, as those who don't subscribe to Biblical inerrancy often don't subscribe to the essentials of Christian doctrine. The recent Borg post is a good example, since this is being utilized as a "Christian book" in many arenas. Borg doesn't buy Biblical inerrancy, and his beliefs are expressed well in his dismissal of essential Christian doctrine.

    I'm not making this about Borg, but merely using his thoughts and the recent post as an example of how that flows from the original topic.

    In an effort to prevent my part of "over-discussion" of a term yet to be defined, I will leave it at that. While inerrancy needs to be defined, and is most certainly an autonomous and technical term, it is also intertwined with a host of other concepts of great importance.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/04/2006 01:01:00 PM  

  • If you (or anyone) feels that we have to use this word, I'd be interested in why. Is it anything more than a shibboleth?

    Obviously, meaning is more important than word usage; but it’s clear (to me at least) that inerrant / inerrancy, with regard to the Bible, is (or ought to be) rather unambiguous.

    Better to use other words that require less explanation.

    Which words do you have in mind? Are they not synonymous with inerrancy?

    By Blogger Robert, at 9/04/2006 01:58:00 PM  

  • Robert,
    If "inerrancy" was unambiguous, there'd be no need for this huge series Hammer's embarked on. It's simply not true that everyone means the same thing by it. It'll be interesting to see whether what Hammer proposes by "inerrancy" is precisely what you'd suggest (judging from previous debates, I doubt it; I doubt even further whether your definition and mine would coincide).

    As for other words, that depends. It's precisely because they're not synonymous that I prefer them. For example, in RT's comments above, it is better to stick to "trustworthy" or "authoritative" when that's what we mean. If we mean that the Bible is invariably correct when it talks about God and God's relationship to Creation, let us say that; if we mean that it is invariably factual whenever it touches any matter at all, let us say that. If we mean that the KJV is God's Own Version, let us say that; if we mean that the original autographs in the Hebrew or Greek were where the inerrancy lies, let us say that; if we locate inerrancy within the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the writers and readers, let us say that. Trying to stretch "inerrancy" to cover all eventualities leads only to confusion. Some of these issues, Hammer's already dismissed, and others will come up in future posts. What remains to be seen is whether we we finally agree with him about inerrancy (!) and whether, once we see what Hammer means, we think that "inerrancy" is the best term to use for this idea.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/04/2006 02:50:00 PM  

  • RT,
    I didn't say that "inerrancy" is literally meaningless. Indeed, the issue is rather than it's much too meaning-full (although I did use "almost meaningless", the context should I hope make it clear that this is due to the range of meanings assigned to it rather than to strict emptiness). I feel that there are too many different ideas sheltering under the term for useful discussions to take place without long and tedious preliminaries to establish exactly what the participants mean by it. For example, despite your saying that you don't confuse the terms, your very first comment attempted to rebut my reservations about the word (not even the concept) by appeals to the trustworthiness of Scripture and its usefulness in formulating doctrine. As Hammer said in his previous post, neither of these ideas is inerrancy. You cannot argue for inerrancy by appealing to trustworthiness.

    Hammer's purpose in this series of posts is (as I understand it) precisely to try and help to clear up some of this confusion. However, this cannot of course render the entire world suddenly of one mind. What it will do is allow those of us who read it to discuss this idea (Hammer's understanding of "inerrancy") without unnecessary confusion. In this context, I'm happy to carry on using the word "inerrancy", because it will (in this context) have a very clear and unambiguous meaning: "Hammer's definition". Elsewhere, that will not be possible, because not everyone will have read this series. So, outside this forum, I retain my reservations about the word.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/04/2006 03:12:00 PM  

  • I saw there were 11 comments was worried I came to late to the party to add anything interesting. Instead I see a silly argument about the word "inerrant" itself. Hammer choose to use the word "inerrant" and is going to great lengths to define what it is and is not. The word may be somewhat tainted in some circles and that is an interesting side comment but doesn't really address the meat of Hammer's series. Yet somehow we get 11 comments out of it...

    Ok, back to the actual post. Hammer, it was really, really (x many more really's) foolish to use the most controversial debate of our time, and choose a side as an example of a straw-man. Either go with something less controversial or show an example from each side. But whatever you do, don't put he phrase "cut and run" on the non straw-man side. This takes a lot out of the credibility of the whole series. If you are trying to persuade people, you need to be more, eh, persuasive.

    I also worry about the word "intentional". As you so clearly pointed out with "cut and run", not all straw-men are intentional. In fact, most people on the opposite side of an argument actually believe the straw-man version of the other guy's beliefs. In fact, understanding the difference between the straw-man and the actual belief is perhaps the hardest and most important method to truly understand another point of view. Actually, it pretty much explains why I still hang out here. You've convinced me you are neither stupid nor evil, yet you hold many beliefs I can't easily justify without assuming one or the other, thus I hang out to try to understand.

    I've already written too much and haven't gotten to the actual points themselves, yet. I'll put those the next post.

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/04/2006 07:24:00 PM  

  • In my following comments, multiple times I point out your strawmanification (yea, I just made that up) of legitimate issues. While it is reasonable to attack the straw-men of others, be very careful of only seeing the straw-man version of the argument. I think there are real issues hiding within these statements.

    Straw Man #1: “If you believe in inerrancy, you are a literalist/ you believe it all literally”

    I think this is just an argument of degree. In fact, I would claim your "Jesus actually was made of bread" line was basically an straw-man of this argument. The question is, what should be taken literally and what should be taken as allegory and metaphor. If Jesus told stories to make a point, why is it foolish to believe God used the technique before? If one is unwilling to assume that, one is a "literalist". This comes up big time when discussing creation.

    In fact, I'd wager one can take the Bible as inerrant while still believing less of it should be taken as literally as you believe. And if you disagree with that, well, why is "literalist" not the correct term? I see quite a slippery slope, here, that strikes at the very heart of this whole conversation.

    Straw Man #2: “If you believe that God only speaks through the Bible, then you are denying that God speaks through the Holy Spirit or personal experiences or creation itself”

    I assume the straw-man here is the word "only". Yea, I'll give you this one. Hard to imagine why anyone claim this with sincerity.

    Of course, if you are Catholic and believe the Pope is also inerrant (correct me if that is inaccurate, I don't want to create my own straw-man, here) then I could see a conflict. If the Church says something in direct and obvious disagreement with the Bible, does the universe cease to exist? (That, btw, was more or less the plot-line to the movie Dogma, and yes I'm joking here.)

    Straw Man #3: “You think the Bible is a science textbook”

    Let me re-word this for you. You think the inerrancy of the Bible includes some scientific facts. You do not believe the Bible only contains "spiritual" facts.

    I'm sure #3 actually gets said, and I certainly agree it is a poorly worded statement, obviously incorrect, but I think your repeating it this way is, in essence, as straw-man of the real argument.

    Some believe the inerrancy of the Bible does not include scientific facts, only spiritual beliefs, and if science and the Bible are in conflict it is perfectly reasonable to assume science is correct. You do not believe that. That is the true point of #3 and it is correct.

    Straw Man #5: “You worship a book.”

    I'm not sure about the Bible, but it certainly appears some treat displays of the ten commandments as some sort of idol. I imagine there are some that fall into the trap of turning the book into an idol, at least in part. I agree this is not the same as Biblical inerrancy, though.

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/04/2006 08:05:00 PM  

  • Mark: "Instead I see a silly argument about the word "inerrant" itself."

    Indeed. I apologise whole-heartedly for my part in bringing this about (including raising the issue in the first place!). Can we deal with the real issues, as raised by Mark and myself?

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/05/2006 03:21:00 AM  

  • lots of fire out here in the west, busy time for all the firefighters. I'll read and post comments soon. For now I must catch up things around the house.

    Pyro

    By Blogger pyrosapien2819, at 9/05/2006 12:16:00 PM  

  • Hah!

    I was hoping for the grand trifecta of UK John, Mark and John B. with my straw man example, but only got two out of three to bark about it. You guys are predictable - but if we are even somewhat logical, we should be! Sorry to jest at your exepense...ok, I'm not sorry. It was fun.

    Inerrancy has been confused with all of the words in "What Inerrancy is Not" as well as with some of the straw men. That is why, of course, I am defining it.

    How do we educate? The same way we do with all doctrines. There is no other way but to teach through the fog. Just as I will not cede the term "religion" to those who wish to paint it as negative, I will not cede "inerrancy" to confusion and intentional mischaracterizations.

    John,
    Please give the names of two people you have personally met who have had funerals for their Bibles. I have not only never met such a person, I have never met someone who personally knew someone, and that sort of legend, if ever true, would most likely take place in the areas where inerrancy is most believed, right? Methinks your example comes from TheOnion.com. Whacko stories do not a defense make. Similarly I have never met someone who thought that every question should be answered from the Bible - and, I surmise, I am a lot more likely to be in contact with these kind of folks (since they would be in the "fundamentalist" camp) than you.

    Second, I believe that Mark corrected the "science textbook" straw man well. John, YOU have used that straw man when RT was recounting scientific facts in the Bible. (I can't find either, but it's the post you speak of). To say the Bible has scientific facts is not to say it is a textbook. That's why it was a straw man.

    Mark,
    I must say, you as an agnostic have a greater grasp of the things I'm discussing than theological liberals!

    a) Literalist is meant as exactly what I lampoon, which is why it is a straw man. Those who use the phrase hope to use exactly the kind of verse I quote to make an inerrantist look silly, and they don't mean that person X takes a verse more literally than person Y. They are using a straw man to undermine inerrancy, which is not literalism.

    b)Yes, the straw man is the word "only". Again, it is why it is a straw man. They mean exactly that.

    c) You have exchanged one fallacy for another. You provide two options - either the Bible doesn't have scientific facts and science trumps the Bible or we think that the Bible trumps science. The fallacy of the excluded middle is in effect here - many of us don't believe that the Bible and scientific fact are in deviance at all.

    d) OK. There can be a transposition of the Bible to a place it doesn't belong. I'll discuss that in an upcoming post.

    Pyro,
    God protect you as you fight to preserve others.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 9/05/2006 04:50:00 PM  

  • I was going to comment on Hammer's post, but personally, I think it's ridiculous (and funny) that people can have an argument over whether a word actually means what it means. The legacy of Bill Clinton at its finest.

    By Blogger karl, at 9/05/2006 05:38:00 PM  

  • Hammer,
    "Please give the names of two people you have personally met who have had funerals for their Bibles."

    Actually, this one does come from personal experience. A girl I was at college with (can't remember her name, sorry!) really did bury her old Bible in her back garden, and said a prayer over it! And quite a few other college Christian-Union people said at the time that they shared her feelings about the Bible and agonised over what to do with "worn out" copies. So, not full-blown liturgical funerals (which I didn't mean to imply, as I hope you realise) but the thought is definitely there. Again, though, it's on the extreme edge of opinion but does show the direction in which some people end up travelling when led astray by incorrect theology. The quote I posted on my blog today by Hooker relates to this, I think - in escaping one error, they flee too far and make the opposite error.

    As for the science textbook, this may be a failure of communication more than anything. I assumed that we weren't discussing the idea that the Bible was only a science textbook, because that's not what you said. Rather, I thought we were dealing with the position that Mark articulated - that it is appropriate to look to the Bible to answer questions of science. As I said in my first comment, I'd certainly agree that a belief in inerrancy doesn't imply any such view of the Bible. But my point was that, because some people do have that view and defend it with notions of inerrancy, it isn't a pure straw man - indeed, it's a criticism that a formulation of inerrancy must consider.

    Finally, the problem with "literalism" is that some people do claim to follow a literal understanding of the Bible. They are, of course, mistaken! It is (as you said) wrong to assume that inerrancy implies literalism - but it's an error made by the literalists as much as by their critics!

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/05/2006 06:08:00 PM  

  • I must say, I tried really hard to avoid the Iraq thing, but was too weak. I'm glad to hear it was an intentional jest.

    The fallacy of the excluded middle is in effect here - many of us don't believe that the Bible and scientific fact are in deviance at all.

    I understand you believe this, but it just ain't so. I still believe this post points to where your heart really lies in the matter. (pun intended)

    In science, nothing is considered inerrant, any theory, law, presumed fact is open for eventual reevaluation and dismissal. It all goes back to experiment and observable and trying to tie all the pieces together as elegantly as possible. When observation disagrees with theory, the theory must change (after, of course, much additional work to see if the observation was correct in the first place, that no calculation was messed up, etc. etc.)

    So let me word it another way. You believe the word of the Bible to be on par with any repeatable experiment or observation.

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/05/2006 06:31:00 PM  

  • Man, I'm just too weak on the whole Iraq thing...

    Anyway, the correct answer to the whole "cut-n-run" issue is:

    "The problem comes with open-ended deployments and unclear military missions. In these cases we will ask, ‘What is our goal, can it be met, and when do we leave?’ ...we will not be permanent peacekeepers, dividing warring parties. This is not our strength or our calling... America’s goal should be to deter wars—and to win wars when deterrence fails. Sending our military on vague, aimless, and endless deployments in the swift solvent of morale."

    (I'll shut up, now.)

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/05/2006 08:58:00 PM  

  • First, thanks for your prayers.

    second, I can only agree with what you wrote. I think perhaps that some of your "straw men" would be better classified as other logical fallacies, but most fallacies are a combination of more than one type so not a big deal.

    Seems like you're building up to describing the difference between "truth" and "fact", and what catagories of knowledge Scripture is "innerently" defining. Authority and "fact" are inversely proportional when the product is truth.

    Pyro

    By Blogger pyrosapien2819, at 9/07/2006 12:23:00 PM  

  • Mark,
    I agree that nothing in science is inerrant...which is why I do NOT classify the word of the Bible as "on par" with any repeatable experiment.

    It is legions above it. Someone, perhaps in the intro post(?) mentioned that they considered a science textbook to be inerrant. Thankfully you have debunked that for me. No textbook is inerrant...but there is fact and truth within. How can this be? Well, all truth is God's truth, and I have not - nor will - restrict the volume of truth to Scripture.

    It will be clearer in two more posts how that makes sense.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 9/07/2006 03:17:00 PM  

  • I agree that nothing in science is inerrant...which is why I do NOT classify the word of the Bible as "on par" with any repeatable experiment.

    Really? I'm having a hard time believing this, so I'm going to try to dig a bit deeper, reword things a bit.

    When I said "in science, nothing is considered inerrant", what I meant was all the theories and models had the open possibility to be incorrect.

    When I said you "believe the word of the Bible to be on par with any repeatable experiment or observation," I meant very specific, concrete measurements like measuring the time it takes some specific object to fall some specific distance.

    I understand you hold the Bible higher than any equation or prediction of the time, I'm talking about the actual measurement itself.

    That object did take some specific time to fall, right? Reality isn't subjective, is it?

    This is what I meant by "any repeatable experiment or observation".

    Sure, the measurement might not be completely accurate, but one's interpretation of the Bible can be slightly off as well, so the equivalence seems to still hold. I was sure you'd think the actual time it takes an specific object to fall in a specific experiment held the same level of truth as the Word of the Bible.

    Am I wrong, here?

    If you disagree with this, I can't in believe you really meant "many of us don't believe that the Bible and scientific fact are in deviance at all," or at least that this sentence has any real meaning.

    BTW: anyone who claims science textbooks are inerrant doesn't understand science at all. There is a reason every theory must be "falsifiable" to qualify as scientific. Science uncovers truth closer to reality than any other system ever created because the scientific philosophy itself understands its own errancy. Modern conservatives never seem to get that. I think it is because they substitute authority where truth (and for that matter, morals) belong.

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/07/2006 06:17:00 PM  

  • ”Sure, the measurement might not be completely accurate, but one's interpretation of the Bible can be slightly off as well, so the equivalence seems to still hold. I was sure you'd think the actual time it takes an specific object to fall in a specific experiment held the same level of truth as the Word of the Bible.”

    Although not directed at me, I’d like to respond.

    There are two distinct issues here: reality (truth) versus one’s perception of reality (truth). Reality is obviously objective…it is what it is; but if a scientist miscalculates or otherwise taints an experiment, if a theologian (or blogger) misinterprets the Bible because of ignorance or is guilty of eisegesis, truth is not altered. Truth is durable! It is therefore incumbent upon thinking individuals to be open-minded, especially with respect to science and theology.

    However, I would say that all truth is not on “the same level”. For example, despite the sizeable impact of the discovery of the laws of physics, they are virtually inconsequential when compared to the magnitude of their creator and how He relates to His creation, which the Bible reveals. The Word of God isn’t more true than natural laws per se, just more important. It’s really the difference between natural and supernatural.

    By Blogger Robert, at 9/07/2006 08:00:00 PM  

  • Robert,
    You were doing quite well there, right up to the last sentence: "It’s really the difference between natural and supernatural." Sadly, that view has been condemned since the earliest days of the Church - the "supernatural" is not better or more important than the "natural" merely because of its nature. "Supernatural" includes the devil as well as God.

    By Blogger John, at 9/08/2006 03:33:00 AM  

  • John, are you suggesting that drawing a distinction between the natural and the supernatural “has been condemned since the earliest days of the Church”?

    “the "supernatural" is not better or more important than the "natural" merely because of its nature. "Supernatural" includes the devil as well as God.”

    By “supernatural”, I’m referring to everything beyond the natural universe, which includes God, His angles, Satan, etc. It also includes intangibles, such as God’s will, God’s eternal and immutable plan and so on. So yes, the supernatural is much more important than the natural, in that it is more substantial and more consequential, to say the very least. This does not mean that we ought to ignore science; to do so would be absurd. However, blurring the distinction (of importance and essence) between natural and supernatural is a mistake, whether it’s nature worshiping pagans or “name it and claim it” Word Faith adherents who believe that “faith is a force” that can be manipulated for personal gain.

    Why is this point debatable?

    By Blogger Robert, at 9/08/2006 07:57:00 AM  

  • Robert,
    It's not drawing a distinction, but claiming that the supernatural is "better" than the natural that is my concern here. So, I absolutely disagree with you that "supernatural" is in any way intrinsically better or more important than "natural". Orthodox Christianity has always maintained that the flesh and the spirit are both important - we do not seek to escape the physical world for the spiritual, for example, as the gnostics and many other heretical sects did. This idea that "spiritual" is "better" also lies behind ideas such as docetism (that Jesus only appeared to be a human being - he didn't take on the "inferior" physical aspect of humanity). We do not worship God because He is spirit but because He is Good. Just in the same way, God's word isn't important because it's "spiritual" but because it is (a) God's and therefore (b) true.

    If I could rephrase your suggestion as follows, I'd be happier:
    "God is much more important than the created, in that [He] is more substantial and more consequential, to say the very least."
    This is because (a) God created both the "supernatural" and the "natural" - both are secondary to the ultimate reality, which is God alone - and (b) because God is actually both "supernatural" and "natural", not least as a result of the Incarnation. We cannot say that the supernatural is Godly and the natural unGodly. As those who follow the incarnate Christ, that option is not open to us. Both the supernatural and the natural have elements that reject God, but both are inhabited by God and subject to redemption.

    If we're using "supernatural/natural" merely as descriptive terms, I have no issue. However, once we make value judgements that one is better than the other, we have serious theological problems.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/08/2006 10:21:00 AM  

  • I have to go with Robert on this one. (Well, not that I agree, just that it is logically consistent.) He didn't say the supernatural is "better", he said it is "more important". I have no trouble with the thought that Satan is more important than science.

    This also leads to my own bias and misunderstanding before. I was limiting myself to my perception of scientific knowledge and stated Hammer (and Robert, etc.) believed the Word of the Bible to be on par with the input to science, the physical observations and experiments.

    Based on what I've read since, I think I got it right from my own point of view (what I was looking for), but used wording that implied more than that.

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/08/2006 01:36:00 PM  

  • For the record, I thought the Iraq example was a non-controversial and very clear example of a straw man (although not balanced in the sense of providing examples on both sides, which is usually a good idea to do).

    The reason it is non-controversial is because the most careful people on both sides of the issue admit that the following two positions are not the same position:

    1. Wanting to pull out of Iraq is cowardly.
    2. Wanting to pull out of Iraq is unpatriotic.

    When Hammer was saying is that it's a straw man to paint position 1 as if it is saying position 2. They are different positions. That doesn't mean that everything in position 1 is correct or that its terminology accurately presents the opposing side, but it is very clear and very uncontroversial that position 2 is a straw man of position 1.

    By Blogger Jeremy Pierce, at 9/08/2006 01:40:00 PM  

  • Mark,
    I don't think that we can say that the supernatural is more important than the natural. We must compare either science and theology (in which case, asking which is more important is a nonsense because we have to say that they're important for) or nature and supernature (in which case asking which is more important is to invite precisely the issues I was talking about). For example, God is not important because God is supernatural but for quite the opposite reason - because God is the Creator and Sovereign of the natural (as well as being Good and Loving and all the rest).

    We cannot compare science (humanity's study of nature) with God's word (part of the self-revelation of God) because it's not comparing like with like. It's like saying, "Which is more important - potatoes or politics?" In the abstract, we might say that politics is more important, because it deals with the allocation of potatoes. However, to the starving person, potatoes are more important for their immediate situation.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 9/08/2006 02:10:00 PM  

  • Thanks, Jeremy. I didn't want to get into that any further, because in this series it is so important to me to focus on what the actual issue at hand is. Plus, you said it much better than I could have!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 9/08/2006 02:42:00 PM  

  • For the record, I agree with Jeremy as far as it goes. Hammer did had full control of the dialog, after all. Given what Mr. Lib said, the "cut and run" almost isn't a straw man at all, almost, while the patriotism line clearly was in this specific case. (None of that changes my initial comment, though.)

    John, I think you can rank things in terms of universal importance. Sure, it forces you to define 'importance', but still reasonable. It is perfectly fair to ask if you prefer the taste of apples or oranges.

    Hammer, I take it you agree with Robert on the issue of science and the Bible? Was my final (!?) attempt at rewording your view correct?

    This exercise is interesting in relationship to the straw man discussion. You can't really claim to understand something unless you can say it in your own words, yet the attempt to do that will often end up with a straw man of the initial position. You don't know if your own words are good enough until the other person verifies them.

    This can be very hard as sometimes it seems one side is speaking Greek and the other Japanese. When rightthinker the other day said in discussing inerrancy "...what is their authority if not the Bible?" I had to re-read the comment several times to get what he meant. What does authority have to do with errancy? Why must the universe be set up in such a way that such an authority can be assumed as a very basic first principle?

    But it is comments like that one that really give me the information I keep coming back for. You can't tell me what your assumptions are because they are too deep for you to see them. Same is true for me, I'm sure I have assumptions I don't realize are there as they are deeply embedded into my world view.

    BTW, while I'm rambling, do all the social conservatives on the list agree that "Inherited Obligation" as defined at Red Family, Blue Family accurately describes your world view?

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/08/2006 05:21:00 PM  

  • God is not important because God is supernatural but for quite the opposite reason - because God is the Creator and Sovereign of the natural (as well as being Good and Loving and all the rest).

    Yes, God is greater than all things (but that’s not in question here). John’s argument, however, misses the obvious: the natural is temporal, whereas the supernatural is eternal. Furthermore, just because natural things are less important, in no ways makes them unimportant.

    Christ’s natural body was replaced by a supernatural body, which is our hope. Additionally, God’s word repeatedly warns us to forego carnal lusts, concentrating on spiritual maturity instead.

    Please don’t misunderstand my view. I’m not suggesting that the natural in general and human nature in particular are unnecessary per se. It is simply the case that, while the material world plays its role, it ranks lower than the spiritual.

    [Hammer, I’m sorry about the off-topic comments.]

    By Blogger Robert, at 9/08/2006 06:24:00 PM  

  • Yo Mark! Rightthinker is a she! LOL! I'm just teasing-I'm not a "hypersensitive feminist".

    Your link to Red Family, Blue Family annoyed me from the first opening of the page...

    "I run in liberal circles - east coast, urban, educated, liberal circles, to be more precise. My friends are the kind of people who watch PBS and read The New Yorker for more than just the cartoons. They are accustomed to having explanations for things, and get agitated when they don’t. They can’t just shrug and let mysteries be mysteries"

    It annoyed me particularly because it furthers the liberal schpeal that a conservative (or "Neo-Con", Conservative Christian Fundamentalist, etc.) isn't educated, and is fully satisfied with being ignorant, blind and without any knowledge. Utter nonesense!

    Simply because we yield to God (for clarity, I'm speaking about Jesus as He was testified to in the Bible-not a made up one) doesn't mean we don't seek knowledge, education or truth!

    Honestly, this person is a Unitarian Church member? I can't believe I read as much as I did of the article! (see: http://www.carm.org/uni/unitarianism.htm for a good definition of this world view church)

    Truth be told, for this particular (me) female, conservative, Christian, evangelical, Biblical inerrantist, there is simply no candidate conservative enough anymore. I'm about THIS close to becoming an Independant.

    Because this person is a liberal, they have NO grasp on what MY family is structured like. Their view would have to drastically change in order to do so. The evaluation (pink box) was absurd and completely derougatory. Funny how sickeningly biased and "beautiful world view" the blue box was..

    To hear what a REAL Christian Conservative family is like-try asking one. My blog has several archived in-depth articles about Conservative Christian parenting. As a wife to an overwhelmingly happy educated Conservative Christian husband, and an (*gasp*) educated stay at home mother of
    four well-behaved, healthy and happy children, I am a better source than this crap for article depicting Conservative Christians.

    That's what I thought of the article. Probably shouldn't have asked! LOL!

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/08/2006 06:57:00 PM  

  • Sorry about misspellings and typos-didn't take the time to preview..

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/08/2006 07:00:00 PM  

  • Geez, my apologies for a THIRD response..I totally missed your ACTUAL "BTW" question, Mark. I was sidetracked by the apparent insanity of the writer.

    No, "Inherited Obligation" isn't at all my world view.

    I can't speak for others, but that is a pathetic explanation of where/how/why I come down on social issues. There are a few attributes that I would say I believe in, but the idea in general, as well as most of the descriptions, don't represent my views.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/08/2006 07:23:00 PM  

  • Sorry about the gender mix-up, rightthinker.

    Of course you don't agree with the overall article, it wasn't written for you. But I thought he was making fun of himself in that passage more than anything else.

    Because this person is a liberal, they have NO grasp on what MY family is structured like. Their view would have to drastically change in order to do so.

    Of course, that is the whole point of the exercise. The honest attempt to understand your world view.

    The evaluation (pink box) was absurd and completely derougatory. Funny how sickeningly biased and "beautiful world view" the blue box was.

    Really? If your talking about the "Strict Father Family" and "Nurturing Parent Family", I agree completely, but I think the author does as well. I thought "Inherited Obligation Family" and "Negotiated Commitment Family" boxes lower down were very respectful. There was part of me that was more attracted to the pink box than the blue, though I agree with the blue more.

    To hear what a REAL Christian Conservative family is like-try asking one. My blog has several archived in-depth articles about Conservative Christian parenting.

    It is all about my point above, trying to put things in your own words. At this point I can pretend to be Hammer (without all the Biblical knowledge and details, of course) because I understand what he says pretty well. I often debate him in my own mind. (Yea, sad.) But that isn't the same thing as understanding, translation is needed. It's like singing along with one of my (well-behaved, healthy and happy) daughter's Japanese songs -- I can repeat the words but they have no meaning.

    (While re-reading my comment I see you answered some of my above questions. Thanks.)

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/08/2006 07:33:00 PM  

  • Mark,

    I completely see what you are saying about attempting to put views in your own words. Tricky for me..usually just lengthy ramblings on my part!

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/08/2006 09:41:00 PM  

  • Mark,

    I just really noticed your point in parentheses about your(well-behaved, happy and healthy) child. The only reason I tend to state those particular qualities in discussions like this, is because there is a stereotype by the left, that Conservative Christians who utilize "old fashioned" parenting methods have jacked up kids. :)

    I'm not a braggert, but I am also proud of the hardwork that their father and I put into their growing, and the fruits we see coming to be!

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/08/2006 09:44:00 PM  

  • there is a stereotype by the left, that Conservative Christians who utilize "old fashioned" parenting methods have jacked up kids. :)

    I'll take your word for it, but I've never heard that. Some people are associating ADD and ADHD on conservative child rearing? I guess that makes more sense than a generation of Indigo Children just spontaneously, miraculously arrived to save the world, but what wouldn't!?

    As ADD and ADHD kids are common in both liberal and conservative communities I doubt the complaint about "old fashioned" parenting techniques really comes from the liberal community; sounds more home-grown to me. (Perhaps liberals from conservative areas that came up with that idea.) I've heard more people blame it on parents using television as a babysitter or the general lack of stay-at-home parents, myself. Personally, I think most disorders they assign to kids are just things adults don't like about kids.

    I actually responded to the comment because I once read something very interesting about human societies and human nature. If you compare all the various societies on Earth and see where they are the same and where they differ, you can get a pretty good idea about what is human nature and what is local environment. It turns out that one thing all cultures share is the basic belief that they love their own children more than any other culture loves theirs.

    My guess is this applies to liberal versus conservative cultures as well. This is one of those things that even if it was true before one really thinks about it, the moment one actually says it out loud it is so obviously wrong the belief just goes poof and disappears.

    By Blogger Mark, at 9/09/2006 01:18:00 AM  

  • **Disclaimer...Dangerously off topic..but what's new?**

    Actually, I have no way to understand how much another person loves their child. I can just gauge that by how much I love my own! I know that if a person was willing to abort their child before they knew them, they can't possibly have placed the same value on him or her, though.

    I wasn't talking about ADD/ADHD, which 99.9% of is BS (I have an archived article with research on that, also-hee hee) anyway, but I'm talking about the accusations that you can't possibly be as educated regarding children if you raise them in a "Conservative Christian" home.

    Afterall, the world wants to give our children a worldview, spit on the Bible and it's contents for being "outdated", and scoff at those who believe their is a place in the home for things like: 1) strong discipline, 2) structure, 3) accountability, 4) chores and pulling some weight in the home, 5) bible lessons, 6) possible homeschooling to protect against indoctrination of a world view.

    The proof is increasing godlessness, increasing crime, increasing "Me-ness", decreasing accountability, etc. This is apparent in people's 4-year old's, for crying out loud! They don't want to risk hurting their feelings with a bit of discipline and structure!

    I'm sure there are some non-Christians and liberals who have a part for some of this in their homes, as well. I wouldn't tell others to do with their kids as long as they were taken care of. It doesn't always work the other way around, though.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/09/2006 10:44:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home