Thursday, May 04, 2006

First Thursday in May....

Happy National Day of (unionistic, syncretistic, confusing of the two-kingdoms, thinking it's a means of grace even though it's not, don't mention Jesus and offend the non-Christians) Prayer

Gleaned from the nationaldayofprayer.org website.... (my comments in italics)

"We are the Judeo-Christian expression of the National Day of Prayer..." Judeo-Christian. Make up your mind.

"The National Day of Prayer Task Force exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership." What is the "Christian community"? Ever hear of the church?

"The National Day of Prayer was created by an act of Congress and is, therefore, intended for all peoples of faith to pray to the God of their understanding" Sounds just like Alcoholics Anonymous and their anonymous god. I don't pray to the "God of my understanding". I pray to the only true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

"This is not a church/state issue" Really?

______

See other Lutheran Commentary on the day at:
Necessary Roughness
and
Cyberbrethren

39 comments:

Lynn of St. John's said...

" In the name of Jesus,Thank You Lord for Lutheran Schools .Amen "

Darius said...

"Judeo-Christian. Make up your mind."

Jesus was Jewish. The term Judeo-Christian is pretty good, because it connotes the reality that there is continuity-discontinuity - the elaboration of a single Western scriptural tradition.

"What is the 'Christian community'? Ever hear of the church?"

Ever hear of the various denominations? Or of Christians who don't go to church? Ever think of not using "Ever..." as a verbal formula? Ever notice it sounds sarcastic?

Seems like sarcasm belongs further down, on your previous post under that miscellaneous "post modern" list - maybe right next to "cynicism..." Ever think of titling that list "A Few Random Miscellaneous Attributes We Like to Foist on People Who Don't Believe Exactly as We Do?"

Okay, okay, I'll stop, and I admit that sarcasm is sort of fun. But I wish that it were possible to communicate tone of voice in type. I enjoy words and don't mean this in a mean-spirited way. I mean, there's light, bantering sarcasm and caustic sarcasm, and I intend this as light. Mixing it up with you is fun; you're bright, and we see things differently in many ways.

"I don't pray to the 'God of my understanding'. I pray to the only true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

That's how you and many other people understand God. Everybody says their God is the true God. Nobody's proved it to anyone else.

Does that make me a post modern relativist? No. I have my view of God too. And I'm as sure that it's the only true God as you are that what you're calling the only true God is the only true God.

To say that you think your idea of God is the true idea of God is something that could easily go without saying, so I'd caution against the possibility of confusing the emphatic assertion of your belief that you've got it right with the idea that stating this emphatically somehow demonstrates or in any way adds credibility to the possibility that the content of your assertion is true.

Preachrboy said...

Darius,

I understand that Jesus was Jewish. Jewish can mean several things, though too. And what was once Judaism is not the same as Judaism today. I also understand the term "Judeo-Christian", (in fact, Judeo-Christian Heritage was my college major). It seems pretty clear that in this context, the term is used to imply the two faiths worship the same god, which they do not. Which god are we praying to? That's the point.

"Christian community" is indeed another squishy term implying the differences don't matter. That's what this day is about, a thin veneer of unity. A mile wide, an inch deep. The word "Church" in the church also refers to the Una Sancta, the one true church which DOES transcend denominations. But rather than speak in traditional Christian terms, as in the creeds, we get this PC-ish term. Just another red flag to me...

And yes, I meant to be sarcastic. But you are also right, that it was meant lightly and in poking jest. Good point about the absence of tone in the written medium.

I will also admit that I can be cynical, among other things associated with postmodernism. We are all influenced by it - it's like the water in our fishbowl - all around us. The second professor I mentioned quipped, that he considered himself "one of only four functioning postmodernists on the faculty" So I guess that's two points for you, Darius.

My main problem with POMO, however, is its assault on absolute truth. I don't mind an honest disagreement with someone who sees something differently. What irks me greatly is when people don't adress differences because they don't believe in such a thing as truth. I think it's a question of honesty, for one. This also happens to be the main problem with the NDP, to whatever god you "understand".

So go pray to your god (this is apostrophe, not sarcasm). But don't expect me to stand next to you and offer my prayer, as if we are praying to the same one.

Ever hear of Elijah's little experience with the prophets of Baal? Not every postmodern, that guy.

Darius said...

Preachrboy:

Gotcha. Those clarifications were all good ones.

Was it Stevie Wonder who said, "There is good and bad/ In everything?" Guess he really said everyone, but in lieu of a better quotation...

On the one hand, there are real differences in perpective among Christian denominations and of course between Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other world religions. So if you mean that pretending the differences don't exist is no good, and dishonest, I agree.

On the other hand - I know, I know, having two hands instead of one is probably post modern, ha ha... But on the other hand, not talking to each other's no good either, imo. Because there are similarities as well as differences. Also, there are enough differences without compounding them with needless misunderstandings/misperceptions which I think often tend to cast people who don't see things one's own way in an unrealistically negative light where there's no communication.

I tend to think most people do pray to the same God - that is, people for whom that word gives positive direction and meaning to their lives, and it's not just a figleaf for their egoism (as in, for example, "religious" terrorism, or deliberate manipulation of God-talk for purposes of partisan politics).

But our approaches to drawing nearer to God, so to speak, and peoples' ideas about God, certainly vary a great deal. Yet some of the similarities to me are intriguing. Quick example:

YAHWEH, in the Jewish tradition, means ineffable, beyond words. Christians give God three names, but I think most would still regard God as bigger and more wonderous than any verbal formulas we can apply.

Buddhists don't talk about God at all. Does that make them perfect Jews? I'm only half kidding. Furthermore, if you look at the values promulgated in Buddhism's Eightfold Path - well, anybody who really lived like that would be an outstanding Christian.

Preachrboy said...

Galatians 1:6ff:

"6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned"

"misunderstandings/misperceptions"? "unrealistically negative"? Guess you don't like Paul either. That intolerant so-and-so!

Darius, there really are numerous similarities between all world religions - except true Christianity. You suggest that a Buddhist perfectly following his laws is similar to a Jew or Christian following his. But what you fail to see is that Christianity is NOT about following moral laws. Christianinty is the only religion of grace, in which the central teaching is God's work for man, not man's work for God.

This is why Paul condemns all "other gospels", as it is not "good news" to hear more about what you have to do or should be doing. The Good News is ONLY that Jesus did it ALL for us at the cross. That's it. Simple. But people make it complicated.

Preachrboy said...

Oh,

And while you are certainly right that God is "beyond words", that doesn't mean that we shouldn't use words to describe or understand him. After all, it is HE who has chosen words as a means to reveal himself to us and as a means of his grace.

"Christians give God three names" No we don't. God reveals himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We didn't make this stuff up.

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." John 1:1

Darius said...

Yes, your comments pretty well summarize your belief that Chrisitanity is entirely or almost entirely about - belief. And your belief that you've got that right.

I believe otherwise! Christianity has a legacy of contemplative prayer going back at least as far as the Desert Fathers. Monastic life is a venerable aspect of the Christian tradition.

Not sure if you're wanting to exclude it from Christianity. Of course we can each define Christianity any way we want to, but that becomes highly subjective and historically inaccurate.

As far as the Trinity goes, no, we're not its authors. Anonymous members of the early church writing decades after the crucifixion are the people who wrote the gospels.

You believe the gospel authors when they say that every word they wrote was God-given. Ditto Saint Paul.

I believe there is inspiration to be found in the gospels, Paul, and the rest of the Bible. I also believe it contains material that's distinctly uninspired.

Preachrboy said...

Darius,

You continue to marginalize the truth of what the text actually SAYS! You are free to do that, but you are wrong to do so.

I don't understand why you bring contemplative prayer into this, or how monasticism is related to our discussion. I don't deny monasticism existed (exists), but it certainly isn't central to the faith. In fact, it is fraught with problems, historically. Just ask former monk Martin Luther.

I find your concern for historical accuracy quite ironic, because it is you who are departing from the historical and accepted faith, by promulgating a pick-and-choose approach to the text. This is a recent historical innovation. The Bible does not contain God's word, it IS God's word.

The authors of the Gospels are neither anonymous, sir. Perhaps you are thinking of the Gnostic gospels, written about 100 years later than the true Christian Gospels.

homo escapeons said...

The real Judeo Christian Community can be found in the Holy Land. Here the Jewish tour guides parade the PentecHostiles around for viewings of historical venues and the perceived future home of the faithful.
The guides take the money knowing that they are excluded from the NEW Jreusalem and destined to ride out the Tribulation because of their reluctance to acknowledge Yeshua. The tourists feel sad for their hosts but chalk it up to the beauty of free will.
We know that the Israelis will never let Jerusalem fall into the hands of Islam (Masada or any facsimile will never be repeated) and that Operation Samson (Nukes) would virtually ensure the mutual destruction of most of the Arab real estate in the Middle East. That works for both groups.
The Judeo Christian Community is a symbiotic front that is guaranteed to disapoint both members on some level, however it is absolutely essential to maintaining the hopes and aspirations of the two.

CPA said...

I think the Desert Fathers would be very much with Preachrboy and not with Darius. So how's about not roping them in to arguing for things they would abhor, Darius?

Darius said...

Preachrboy:

A recent commentator on my blog put it well: "selective emphasis."

First, you're absolutely right that central to the theology of the text is the resurrection, Jesus as God and Savior, and the idea that not one word shall be changed or added because God said so.

There are other non theological dimensions to the text as well. And in my view - too long for a comment, but I'll be blogging it - the theological aspects are the least reliable, truthful, or meaningful. The non-theological aspects of the text are what I find most inspired and pointing to our relationship to God. Again, way too much for a comment, but I'll be focusing on these on my own blog.

True, the contemplative approach isn't central to the faith as it's known and practised by the general public - relegated to monasteries. Too bad, I think. What do we think Jesus was doing in the desert?

As you know, Martin Luther was pretty much flagellating and horse-hair jacketing himself to death. His wasn't the ideal approach to contemplative life.

Throughout the history of Christianity there have been some approaches emphasizing doctrine and others emphasizing contemplation. This is historically fair to say. It's also fair to say that the process of how the New Testament came to be written was not known until modern scholarship began examining the earliest codices written in ancient Greek.

Until then, it was assumed, for example, that the gospels were written by the four disciples with those names. It wasn't known that the earliest writings were written decades after the crucifixion and were based on oral traditions that had developed in the meantime. These findings have implications for our view of the reliability of the text in certain respects.

What you think of as the historically accurate view is a traditional view that took shape before we had the ability to have a look at the text in historical terms.

I attended the U of Chicago divinity school. It's a very good school academically. The authors of the gospels were indeed anonymous members of the early Christian church. The traditonal view that John lived into very advanced old age to write that one himself is possible but not particularly plausible.

They see it the same way at Harvard and Yale. The faculty at these div schools are multidenominational and tops in their fields. The RSV was considered the most accurate English translation when I was in school - I notice there seems to be a "New" RSV online.

The online versions don't seem to have the scholarly information that my old hardcopy does, but I'd assume the new hard copies would have that. What's nice is that it summarizes the scholarship and also gives you some idea of their methods. (The scholars are experts in fields like ancient languages, archaeology, linguistics, comparative literature and so forth.)

Different perspectives. Different emphases. To me, interesting. And I'm sure we're both doing our conscientious best to understand our faith.

Preachrboy said...

The arrogance of "modern scholarship" is really boundless.

"We know better than the church has for 2 millenia. We are more enlightened. We have ivy growing on our walls!"

The historical-critical, "higher critical" approach to the text, which you seem to have studied under and represent well is the problem here. It's a whole set of assumptions hostile to the historical Christian faith.

Textual criticism is a different matter - actually a very useful tool in understanding what the autographic text actually was.

And there are numerous brilliant "top" scholars who do not buy into higher criticism either.

I'm interested to hear more about your background, Darius. Did you study ancient Greek and Hebrew? What denomination do you identify with (or are you above and beyond such labels)?
Are you presently a church professional of some sort, or in the secular world? Your blog doesn't seem to divulge much about you...

The Cubicle Reverend said...

What I a finding interesting is all intellectual back and forth that I admit I didn't entirely understand, I am wondering how important prayer really is to any believer. Take a look at the life of Christ, the greatest example, what did he do with prayer? He spent almost equal parts praying with his brothers and sisters as well as going off to the wilderness alone to spend with God. That's all. Perhaps it could be seen as monastic, but it wasn't in the strictest sense of the word because he was constantly in the world and didn't hide behind some walls. We really have lost a lot of the purity of our faith haven't we?

Preachrboy said...

I dunno, Rev....

Certainly I am in support of prayer. Certainly none of us prays as often or as well as we should.

But I would also be careful with just HOW we use Christ as an example. He was sinless, we are sinful. He was the Word-Made-Flesh, we are mere flesh, who must rely on HIS word. He was the savior - and we certainly follow him, but we are not him.

Of course, if you get to decide which words those are and which you don't like because you proclaim his Gospels anonymous or inspiration to be "uneven", then, not so much so...

Darius said...

Hi PB - You just got a highly favorable "review" by a "Dale" responding to your comment on my last post, and I wanted to say, I agree with him completely. At least as far as the PB who shows up on my blog!

Ya know, you're a bit less congenial when I post to yours...

Enough with the names already! I mean, you started off with "post modernist," which I have only the vaguest of ideas about in terms of some kind of really modern art that I'm pretty sure I'd hate.

Don't know what you mean by "higher critical" etc. My point was that today we have the benefit of being able to look at the most ancient texts with the tools and methods of modern scholarship. I think that began maybe late 19th century? So the Christian tradition developed for centuries without benefit of this.

Scholars reading the most ancient available texts in the Greek and applying things we know about how language works in order to have a more accurate understanding of what scripture says and the processes involved in how it came to be written - nothing wrong with that in my book...

No, never studied ancient Greek or Hebrew or got a peek at any ancient codex. (Codici? Curlique? I don't know...) But as with any other field of study, if you don't have the skillset to engage in first hand research, you have to decide what sources are most credible and have the best credentials for engaging in original research.

I was impressed with the faculty at U of Chicago because the faculty had a wide-ranging representation among denominations, and they were certainly brilliant. And they agreed on the basic historical facts and probabilities concerning scripture and its composition, and you at least got some rough outlines of the methodologies by which they'd been led to these conclusions.

I have a Masters from the UC divinity school - the academic and not the pastoral track, but pretty much the same classes. Not employed in the field, but it's been the center of my field of interest and concern since my early twenties.

Jim Roemke said...

Darius,
Sometimes all anyone can do for in talking with someone with such great credentials as you have it to pray to the one true God, the Holy and Blessed Trinity. I will be praying that Satan does not continue to sift you as wheat.

Preachrboy said...

Darius,

I don't mean to be less than congenial. I thought we had come to an understanding that a little light-hearted sarcasm was acceptable in our exchanges. Please read my comments in the friendliest possible tone. Of course we're going to run the danger of irking each other, as theology is always personal, and we disagree sharply.

"Don't know what you mean by "higher critical" etc. My point was that today we have the benefit of being able to look at the most ancient texts with the tools and methods of modern scholarship. I think that began maybe late 19th century? So the Christian tradition developed for centuries without benefit of this." Yes, thank God, or who knows what state of disarray the church would be in today. "Modern scholarship" is all too often code for "critical scholarship", and it tends toward this view of the text you are articulating. But I feel like I am repeating myself already.

I have to admit I surprised that, having a Masters degree in Theology, you haven't learned about "higher criticism" (at least what it is). I am also slightly surprised that you didn't study the Greek and Hebrew, as we were required to do (beginning as a college Sophomore, for me). I have actually had the fun of translating from the scroll of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as learning all of the textual apparatus of New Testament Greek codices and manuscripts, uncials and minuscals (the Nestle-Aland is what we used). I have to admit that since seminary I have let most of those skills atrophy. But I can still look up a word if I have questions, and I still have a fairly good grasp of the issues in textual criticism.

Again, I'm no scholar. I have simply been a student. But I want you to know there are top-notch scholars who don't share the liberal view of the text that your professors seem to have espoused. You might do well to google and read some critiques of "postmodernism" and "higher criticism" for a better argument than I can set forth.

Darius said...

PB - Sorry about that - it is hard to read tone in type.

That's great that you had that kind of training. At the same time, as you're honest enough to point out, it doesn't make you a scholar in the field.

Something that disturbs me about contemporary discourse in the political and religious spheres is that there is so little agreement on the facts. Of course no one can be perfectly objective, but when scholarship itself is deemed either "liberal" or "conservative," it seems to me that people aren't even making an honest effort at following the evidence where it leads.

A good example is thinking that the gospels were authored by the disciples themselves, on the one hand; or, on the other, that they were authored by anonymous members of the early church several decades after the crucifixion; and that these anonymous authors used the names of these particular disciples because they considered themselves their students or followers - a common practise at the time.

For scholars with the skills and knowledge to approach this stuff, seems to me there ought to be more agreement than disagreement over the facts.

JIM: I return your prayer in the spirit in which I hope it was offered.

Jim Roemke said...

Darius,
It was offered out of deep concern for your soul. The Lord guide you in truth and purity.

Preachrboy said...

Dairus,

An extremely pertinent question is, "What is the nature of the evidence?" In my experience with liberal scholars, there is little evidence to back their claims beoynd their own self-important opinions. What evidence do you present that shows the Christian Gospels are pseudepigraphical?

I suppose it's also worth noting that having lots of letters behind one's name doesn't automatically indicate one speaks authoritative truth. Again, for that, we must approach the text. To me, you seem a little too enamored by the "gravitas" of these scholars.

Finally, I would mention that an important hermeneutic in the Lutheran tradition is that Scripture interprets itself. A favorite hymn of mine ("God Moves in a Mysterious Way") puts it this way:

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

Darius said...

You truly don't see tendentiousness and polarization as a problem in public discourse today? The "talking heads" phenomenon, where "discussion" takes the form of two people with polarized positions who approach discourse like a point-scoring debate, with little to no willingness to see that here and there the other person may have a point? Little to no awareness that dialogue, if engaged in by people capable of looking critically at their own ideas as well as those of others, can sometimes bring people to recognize some common ground or even modify their own thinking?

All of us have to be impressed by credentialed authority to some extent because we can't possibly be experts in everything. When it comes to biblical scholarship - or historical, or scientific, pretty much any domain of study - those individuals at our most respected institutions of higher learning strike me as most trustworthy.

Not sure why that doesn't strike you as reasonable.

Don't know as you read the responses I make to your comments on my blog, but I've already stated the case, in responding to your remarks on being judged by vs. judging the text, that no text interprets itself.

If scholars in the realms of science and technology took the approach that their preconceived ideas were necessarily correct, the way we do today when it comes to relgion and politics, we'd still be living in caves.

I saw no evidence that the U of Chicago staff was "liberal." They were composed primarily of clergy from mainstream Protestant denominations. They shared your beliefs. Unless "liberal" means bringing a high degree of objectivity to their study of the texts and recognizing things that they weren't necessrily expecting or wanting to find ahead of time.

I can't tell you the basis for thinking the gospels were not written by the disciples themselves. I was in div school years ago, and biblical scholarship was not at the center of my interest.

As I suggested, a good start would be picking up a hard copy of the RSV, or maybe by now the NRSV - whatever Bible is in the divinity school bookstores at those divinity schools that are widely regarded as the nation's best in terms of scholarship.

The RSV notes do give an idea of how they reach their conclusions - the methods of study involved. That way you could form some impression for yourself. I recall the presentation was detailed enough, there and in my classes, that it was far from simply being awed by authority. You got some degree of insight into their approaches and methods - not just their conclusions, but an idea of how they arrived at them.

I think that forming an impression of the soundness of scholarship is the same in any field for the non scholar. For example, you get the idea that science is a sound approach to those matters within its purview not because you think the long white lab coats are impressive, but because you have a limited understanding and appreciation for the scientific method.

Preachrboy said...

Darius,

If the Bible says Jesus rose from the dead, and some impressive scholar from some well-respected institution tells me otherwise, guess which I am going to believe.

If a well-credentialed scientist tells me the sky isn't blue, I will dismiss his claims the same.

My point is NOT that you can never rely on experts for anything. Of course no one can study everything. I am simply saying that based on the conclusions you have reached, you seem to be listening to the wrong scholars.

And it also strikes me that if you're going to go around making such an important claim about the trustworthiness or un-trustworthiness of the Bible, you have some foggy reasons for doing so. "years ago someone made the case, but I don't recall the details" works for some things, but with a claim of such import, I would think you would want a better command of the issues.

I have continued this dialogue with you not to "score points", nor to be close-minded to some insights. However, no, I have no intention of finding common ground on certain issues where my beliefs are strong, clear, and based on an objective standard. We must not be so open-minded as to be empty-headed.

As you can tell, Darius, I am a man of strong convictions. I don't see criticism of the Bible as a learning experience, but rather, a form of temptation.

That doesn't mean we can't speak civilly, but it does mean on the basic issues you will not change my mind.

Darius said...

Preachrboy,

Speaking civilly is good and we should be able to do it. One thing I feel that we definitely have in common is tremendous passion concerning faith and God, even though we have very different ideas. But I feel far more of a connection to you than to people who, say, "aren't into" religion...

The conclusions I’ve reached about how The New Testament was written were not drawn or formulated by me. They are the result of the scholarship I pointed to, along with the single best quick reference I’m aware of for checking out whether it looks to you like serious scholarship: the annotated RSV, hard copy. It’s readily accessible to you with no need for me to demonstrate personal “command” of the content. All I’d be doing is digging out my old class notes and RSV. I’m not going to try and play Bible scholar.

Speaking of science, you compare science’s truth claims and the Bible’s. There’s a big difference. Scientific truth claims can be empirically tested because they relate to the natural world – things we can all see, touch, hear, and feel. (Well, smell too, but scientists seem to conduct less research through smell…) Biblical truth claims are a different matter. Faith is required.

So I’d be interested in your view of what faith is – that’s maybe too large a question. Maybe then, limit it to the question of what if any difference it would make to your faith if you were to look into it and conclude that yeah, it looks like The New Testament wasn’t written by the disciples themselves and was put into writing decades after Jesus’ lifetime.

Not trying to change your views, but guess I wish you were willing to use your obvious intelligence and passion not to “criticize the Bible,” but to think critically about your own perspective on it along with the perspectives of others.

To me, that’s just being honest and truthful. And if God is real – the greatest, overarching Truth - then I don’t see how smaller truths can be a problem for God or for us

But if to you, this same attitude represents “temptation,” I’d need to hear more about that to understand.

Preachrboy said...

I understand you're not trying to play Bible scholar, I'm just saying that to espouse such a view as you do, I would need to have a whole lot more to go on than a "quick reference RSV" and some old class notes. This is the Bible we are talking about here.

To me, your whole approach to scripture destroys its credibility. If I dismiss Genesis, then why not Matthew? If I dismiss this saying of Jesus, then why not this other one? Such a posture leaves no room for certitude, and really ends up invalidating the entire faith.

But I will entertain a hypotetical if you will. What difference would it make to your faith if you were to conclude that the NT was in fact written by the disciples themselves? (For the record, I have no problem with the Gospels being written decades after Jesus' death and resurrection). Better yet, that the Bible is, in fact, the inspired Word of God (in the sense that we don't get to pick and choose passages)?

I suppose my perspective seems rather close-minded to you. I didn't always think this way. One of the first things we learned at the seminary was that if you were concocting "new" doctrine, you were concocting false doctrine.

Faith is a big question, you are right. One of our professors asked us to define faith as a final exam. Of course, he also gave everyone A's, but that's beside the point. For starters, I would point you to Hebrews 12, "...faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the certainty of that which is unseen". Sounds to me like a constant search for "evidence" is not too comfortable with such a definition.

Preachrboy said...

Er.. make that Hebrews 11. Sorry.

Darius said...

Preachrboy,

I wasn’t suggesting you limit yourself to the RSV or borrow my old class notes – you can’t have ‘em, and you’d never decipher them anyway, even if you’re an Egyptian hieroglyphics scholar. The annotated RSV would be a good place to start though, because it gives a good overview, and of course you could always follow up any references you wanted to.

But after reading your last comment to my blog, I’m sure you’d find its notes on scholarship of interest. Most of its conclusions come from doing just the kind of scholarship you outlined: intensive analysis and comparative study of the texts themselves. That’s the main thing they’re doing when they conclude, for example, that the authors of Matthew and Luke made use of Mark to write their gospels.

As far as dismissing goes, and why to dismiss one thing and not another:

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mk 16: 17-18

I suppose one could try and claim that the person writing this passage was alternating between literal and metaphorical meanings in order to try and turn the snake and poison lines into metaphors – but that’s spurious! Obviously, the context here is literal. It’s just one example, but I could give plenty of others that you and/or I would basically dismiss. For good reason! To me, this hardly invalidates scripture as a whole!

It would not affect my faith in any way if it turned out the gospels were written by the disciples themselves.

The idea that Bible is the inspired Word of God in the sense that we don't get to pick and choose passages is your definition of inspiration. It’s not mine – I pointed out mine as being presented in one of my recent posts. But I’m still not convinced it’s even yours. I’m pretty sure I could come up with additional verses you don’t live by or believe.

Inspired is by definition what’s in the Bible. New is by definition false. I think we can think with greater creativity and inspiration about our faith tradition than that.

It’s a pretty good thing that everyone wasn’t thinking that way when the books of The New Testament were new…

Faith has nothing to do with evidence in my personal experience of it. Neither is it “assurance” or “certainty” in the sense of perfect knowledge. With perfect knowledge, what need would there be for faith?

(So that Hebrews passage is subject to interpretation, since it refers to both assurance and certainty; as well as “hope” and “things unseen…”)

Preachrboy said...

Haven't you read the book of Acts? Mk 16 seems to describe much of what actually did happen in the infancy of the church. But that doesn't mean Jesus is guaranteeing such things for all times and places.

That's not dismissing it as "not God's word", but more along the lines of what Rachel was saying in the comments of your blog - meant for a certain audience. (All this, of course, is based on my top-of-my-head analysis, which should not be the final word on the passage).

"Inspired is by definition what’s in the Bible. New is by definition false. I think we can think with greater creativity and inspiration about our faith tradition than that."

Creativity is dangerous when we approach the Bible. What's that warning in Revelation about adding or subtracting words from this book?

"It’s a pretty good thing that everyone wasn’t thinking that way when the books of The New Testament were new…"

That's why it's so important that the Gospels show clearly how Jesus' life fulfills the OT Scriptures. "These are they that testify to me..."

"Faith has nothing to do with evidence in my personal experience of it. Neither is it “assurance” or “certainty” in the sense of perfect knowledge. With perfect knowledge, what need would there be for faith?"

So then, why all the emphasis on evidence that supposedly debunks the text? Why not just accept in by faith?

Darius said...

My reply to your last comment on my blog may get at a basic difference that I think would address all the differences you raise here, and any number of others that could come up around specific Bible passages. It’s a very basic difference, I think, in our perspective on the “words of God” – the language of the Bible. We both see the text as containing many different kinds of language/narrative (including, yes, historical aspects). So addressing what may be another and still more basic question about language might be more useful than getting into specific passages by “cutting to the chase…”

Re. debunking the text, as I've mentioned: it makes no difference to my faith whether, for example, the gospels were authored by the disciples themselves or anonymous members of the early church. I’m open to wherever the evidence leads the most reliable scholarship on this and on any matters regarding what can be learned about the Bible in historical terms.

Preachrboy said...

So, if the Gospel of Luke says it was written by Luke, and it really wasn't... that's not a problem?

I would call that a lie. And I would have a hard time putting my faith in a document written under false pretenses. What else about such a document might be untrue? You see the problem?

Darius said...

I do see how it could be. Again, I think it would end up turning on one's perspective on the “words of God” – the language of the Bible.

However, I think it might be less of a problem than you're thinking. While I'm no Bible scholar, and the best I can do is point you in the direction of the scholarship as it was presented to me, I think not only, as I've indicated, that you'd find its methods sound and familiar with respect to your own studies. I also think you'd find the conclusions drawn nuanced, tentative and qualified where they need to be, and not as diametrically opposed to you're outlook as you seem to be inclined to think.

For example, for sure I never came across the slightest suggestion any of the books were written under "false pretenses." It was normative at that time and place to author books in the name of someone you regarded as your teacher or mentor.

And while overall, the scholarship I was presented indicates anonymous authorship outside of Paul, I do recall that there was some evidence suggesting that certain books may have actually been written by the person named. I think the book of James may have been one; and don't trust me on this, it's memory and a long time ago, but I'm thinking the idea was that Acts may have been written by the disciple Luke even though the gospel of Luke appears not to have been. Could have that totally wrong, just trying to give an example of how what was presented didn't seem to be some kind of mindless Bible ideology, but careful research directed at the language of the text and what's known about the history of that time.

Preachrboy said...

The question of apostolic authorship IS an important one, in that in not only speaks to the veracity of the texts in quesiton, but also to the question of caononicity. Apostolic authorship was a key component of the early church's determination which books to include, and which to not include in the New Testament. Have you heard the terms Homologomena and Antilogoumena?

No, Darius, it is a much bigger "problem" if the Gospels lie about their very authorship. Nowhere do they indicate they are written "in honor of" the apostles, or has the church understood this to be so - until in certain quarters very recently.

Luke, in particular, makes his authorship very clear (and while he, not an apostle, his close association with Paul was important, so that Luke is sometimes called "Paul's Gospel" as Mark is called "Peter's").

It's like a house of cards, you see. And your professors began by pulling one of the bottom cards - authorship - from the house. You know what happens then... Even years later their students end up with vague ideas about the veracity and inspiration of ALL of scripture... perhaps at best.

Anonymous said...

Been out of country and comming in late on this. Hmm…quite a discussion on the validity of “take or leave” versus “pick and choose”. It would seem that a God would be very direct in his assertion of his speech and interaction with his creation. For God to author up puzzles and mysteries for which the created much solve to attain some level of understanding does not seem God like. In fact, it would be very anti-God because it would not serve all of created, but it only serves those who for some reason may be intellectually inspired enough to search for the puzzle answers.

The human mind has always dwelled on puzzles and questions since the fall. It is the invisible force that moves us in various directions. It is what makes the “pick and choose” of God’s Word so appealing. Make a puzzle, solve a puzzle, feel very good, make another puzzle, etc. If there is a counter force to God, (lets just call it Satan) then puzzles are just what is needed to oppose a directive God.

Remain with your crossword God. But in the end you will still have a lot of blanks to fill in with your quest unfulfilled. I’ll take the WORD as spoken by God and rest with that peace that surpasses all understanding.

Darius said...

Once again, I’m guessing that it all ends up turning on different perspectives on the “words of God” – the language of the Bible. Sounds like you may not want to comment on this, but I do think that without addressing it, we might miss the difference behind the differences. My reply to your last comment on my May 7 post – that part of the reply addressing #3 of the three points we were discussing – is where we left off on the topic.

Haven’t heard the terms you refer to, but sounds like they may have to do with decisions the church made re. apostolic authorship. Feel free to use lay-language. I spent just one year getting my MA, and prior to that had no religious education to speak of. Here and there I’ll remember one of the wordier words like “parasouia” and “eschatological,” but even then, I usually just say something like, “end of time” to make it easier for readers to follow.

And I follow what you’re saying about the “deck of cards” problem – if you’re playing with the theological, or more precisely, Christological deck. And that is surely the set of cards the gospel writers emphasized: that elaboration of the idea of God which is represented by their belief that Jesus was God and man.

For me personally this isn’t a problem simply because faith as I experience it doesn’t depend on Christology. However, it did for my professors. All I can say is they shared your beliefs while viewing/conducting the scholarship in such terms as I’ve suggested. Scholars like the Rev. Martin Marty or Bernard McGuinn can’t be regarded as operating at the fringes. Their work is highly and widely regarded. In recent years Marty has written extensively on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and McGuinn is one of the top church historians in the country.

ANONYMOUS and JIM: One risk of seeing ourselves as for sure knowing the facts about faith and God, and others as for sure being wrong – let’s just say Satanic - is pointed to by the tone of your comments.

God and ego have similar spellings. It’s a fine line between feeling holy and feeling holier-than-thou; between a sense of righteousness and self-righteousness.

Preachrboy said...

Darius,

A leading scholar in our circles has been known to make the case, "All theology is Christology". I wholeheartedly agree.

Marty is a Lutheran, but from my reading, less than orthodox, in his denial of the resurrection and virgin birth. Not so familiar with McGuinn, though I have heard the name.

I misspoke slightly, it's "homologoumena" and "antilogomena" (I always mixed those up), anyway, what is becoming apparent is that while you are appealing to scholarship, you are in need of some scholarship from the "other side". I would suggest you begin some reading on the doctrine of Scripture. The following website might be helpful - it contains numerous articles, many from a Reformed perspective, but still much closer to the church's longstanding view of the text than what you are propounding.

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/bible.html

Jim Roemke said...

Darius,
I do not see my self "as for sure knowing the facts about faith and God." I see what God has revealed about Himself in His Word as being true. This is not an issue of ego, or being "holier-than-thou." It is very truly an issue of the sanctity of God's Word being sure. It is very truly an issue of God's Word and NOT man's word. You may scold all you like, you may wag your finger at us who you label "self-righteous" but I would much rather have a scolding from you than from the Almighty.

Darius said...

"It is a religion that rests on revelation: nobody would know the truth about God... had not God first acted to make himself known. But God has so acted, and... the Bible... is the record... of his self-disclosure."

This is from one of the first links on your url. I think it's central and points to that last exchange back on my blog that I referred you to in my previous comment here, and where I asked you to clarify what you meant.

The basic difference in our perspectives, I'm pretty sure, is how we regard that "record," which consists of the words of the Bible.

It is, after all, THE record. It's the foundation of Christianity as an institution, the source of its beliefs about Jesus. Apart from The New Testament, nobody would even know that Jesus had existed unless they were a really big Josephus fan.

So it's the Bible itself that tells us that it's a written record of God's self-disclosure to the prophets and disciples. It's the Bible itself that tells us that its words about God are, in some special sense, God's words.

That's what I'm trying to talk to you about back on my blog. I could cut and paste that last exchange I keep referring to here, but it would be simpler for you to just comment back there since we both write at some length...


JIM: You say, “I do not see my self ‘as for sure knowing the facts about faith and God.’ You also assert, “It is very truly an issue of God's Word and NOT man's word.”

So then you’re saying that you don’t know what you so confidently assert? We’re agreed on that point then.

That which you stated earlier, and to which I was responding, was this: “I will be praying that Satan does not continue to sift you as wheat.”

This constitutes a public “prayer” that happens to include accusing me of being Satanic. You say it’s a pure thing, egoless. Jesus says when you pray, go to your room and close the door.

You tell me I’m possessed by the Devil, then feel “scolded” when I suggest that I disagree; and that there was less than purity of heart in your assertion. You’re very sensitive, yet in a one-way sort of way.

Do you know that Satan has me corralled? This would make you quite a judge. Perhaps you can fill in for Jesus at the end of time if he’s busy that day.

Jim Roemke said...

Darius, do you think Jesus was accusing Peter of being Satanic when He prayed the same thing for him? Satan tries to sift us all as wheat, that needs to be understood. What we are talking about here is not an interesting clash of opinion, it is not a dun academic exercise or rhetoric, it is serious stuff and Satan especially likes to work in serious stuff regarding God's Word. If you do not like my honest and deeply meant prayer for you, too bad, I will continue to pray for you in that manner until Satan stops sifting you!

Bob Waters said...

Hey, Darius!

I had an advantage Pr. Chryst did not. I went to seminary where the historical-critical method was taken as Gospel.

Hey, guess what! It's not scholarship! It's special pleading every bit as subjective as that of the most rabid Fundie. It's simply taking a premise- namely, that I don't have to believe anything in the New Testament I don't like, as long as I can find some explanation, no matter how far-fetched, for how it got there, that discredits it.

Won't work.

Judaism is a distinct religion. Christianity is another. Yes, they have similarities- but they are distinct. Your initial objection to Pr. Chryst's question is simply silly-
and your argumetns, such as they are, literally nothing more than a repetition of the fallacy ipse dixit.

Argue you case, if you like- but don't tell the rest of us that what you say must be true because today's Enlightened Learned Men say that two thousand years of scholarship had it all wrong on the mere basis of the presupposition that it cannot, for purely arbitrary reasons, have been right.

Academically, the U of C is top notch. But what is at stake here is the degree to which it is ideologically driven- and every bit as subjective as you maintain confessional Lutherans or any other group of more faithful Christians are.

Darius said...

PREACHRBOY, thanks for your reply re. how you view the language of the Bible, which I’ve responded to. Because your reply consisted basically of the word, “Yes”, I italicized some follow-up questions in my response.


JIM, you could direct me to the passage, but I’m guessing it doesn’t have Jesus praying for Peter in public in front of others, where his prayer could easily be misinterpreted. In any case, that would be Jesus in relation to his disciples.

As to the likes of us, my point is that in addition to advising people to pray in private and not make public shows of piety – there are many passages in which Jesus speaks to this – he also repeatedly speaks out against judging others.

“…until Satan stops sifting me.” Was it Ronald Reagan who said, “There you go again…”?


BOB: To say that the mostly Protestant ministers who are primarily from mainstream Protestant denominations, share your belief system, and teach at the nation’s leading divinity schools, are out to discredit the Bible could itself easily be viewed as a “rabid” position. It’s possible that your impression of the scholarship may not be as informed and reliable as you’ve been taught.

It is, however, hard to be sure we’re on the same wave length here when we’re not all looking at the same material. Speaking for myself, enough of an indication was given of the methods employed in the scholarship we were presented that it came across as rigorous, self-critical, and unbiased work.

Far-right Christians – not saying this is your position, I don’t know - are the ones with a “premise” that they’re out to prove one way or another: namely, that since the Bible consists of the words of God, and God knows everything, then every word must in some sense be factually true.

The scholarship, so to speak, then consists of amassing evidence supporting their views on what they see as the undisputable Biblical facts while ignoring/minimizing evidence that points to the contrary. As Jim says, this stuff is too serious to take a fundamentally dishonest approach. An honest approach is to begin with an idea of what you think is the case regarding, say, the authorship of Matthew; then examine all of the relevant evidence, whether you like it or not, to see if your idea stands up or needs to be modified/rejected.

UC is multi-denominational, not parochial. That’s one of the things that makes the top notch institutions tend to attract the best scholars – that they’re not ideology or creed-driven.

Two thousand years of scholarship? Scholarship as we know it today, with its knowledge of ancient languages, linguistics, literature, etc., and emphasis on striving for as much objectivity as possible, doesn’t have a two thousand year history. I’m pretty sure 19th century would be more like it.

Quite certain I said nothing “silly” and for sure won't take the time to figure out what you’re talking about since this has been long. Please cut and paste or summarize if you’d like a response, although…

Speaking of long, as Preachrboy pointed out early on, there’s probably a limit to how productive discussion between such differing points of view can be. Must say I’ve found it worthwhile, but feel we’re running out of steam on at least this particular string, although:


PREACHRBOY, I would appreciate your clarification back on my blog because, as I mentioned, I think it might shed some light on what I’ve termed “the difference behind our differences.”