Making sense of the NT

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Sherlock Holmes
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Making sense of the NT

Post #1

Post by Sherlock Holmes »

Hello,

I've been debating (online) against atheism for many years, I'm very well educated in the sciences and to a lesser degree, philosophy.

However - and I know I'm not alone here - Christianity itself, the New Testament, remarkable and thought provoking as it is, and not questioning the legitimacy of the texts we have access to, I am ultimately deeply puzzled by it all.

Christ revealed some deeply profound things, completely dumbfounding prevailing Jewish beliefs and this goes in its favor, as it's sheer radicality is just not something I'd expect to simply emerge from prevailing ideas.

Yet it makes no sense at the end of the day, for example why go to all this trouble? the entire human race is in a state of anguish, confusion and beginning to collapse, why is that logically necessary as part of creation?

What exactly are humans expected to do? it is far from clear (as is evidenced by the many doctrinal arguments over the past twenty centuries).

So that's my position, I'm interested in hearing some candidate answers!
When one has eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #111

Post by theophile »

Mithrae wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 8:58 am
theophile wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 7:43 am In short, it strikes me that you're trying to convey a different worldview from that of the bible. A whole new religion perhaps that the bible gives us glimpses into and shares components with but that it also outright conflicts and ultimately fails to deliver.
New religion, or new covenant? The prevailing Christian preoccupation with the bible as the primary source of God's guidance seems to be a tacit admission that he has failed to write his law in his people's hearts and minds as supposedly promised (Jeremiah 31:31-34/Hebrews 8).
If the bible is causing us to stumble, we should throw it out. (Just as we should pluck out our eye if it leads us astray.)

So I think you're spot on (not that God 'failed' per se but that the bible ought not be our ultimate source).

To put it otherwise, I would say there is a difference between committing adultery with the bible (putting what it says above all else) and saying that the bible itself is adulterous (insofar as it conveys guidance from 'false gods').

I take mgb to be saying both. I agree on the first point (and have my own answers to the questions I posed). It's the second point that makes me bristle.

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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #112

Post by theophile »

JehovahsWitness wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 9:15 am
Mithrae wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 8:58 am
theophile wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 7:43 am In short, it strikes me that you're trying to convey a different worldview from that of the bible. A whole new religion perhaps that the bible gives us glimpses into and shares components with but that it also outright conflicts and ultimately fails to deliver.
New religion, or new covenant? The prevailing Christian preoccupation with the bible as the primary source of God's guidance seems to be a tacit admission that he has failed to write his law in his people's hearts and minds as supposedly promised (Jeremiah 31:31-34/Hebrews 8).
Is there any reason why a law "written on a persons heart" cannot >> ALSO << be available in papier form?
I think to mgb's point, the text can convey generalities. The specifics of what is called for from every human in every instance of history is beyond documentation.

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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #113

Post by mgb »

theophile wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 7:43 am Your further line of thought is dangerous though.

1) You're basically saying that the bible is unfaithful in its relationship to God (or that certain texts at least are essentially committing adultery in the guidance they provide). This feeds the atheist argument that we should just throw the whole thing out.
All fair and useful questions here...
There are certain things in the bible that are not likely to be true. Noah filling the Ark with 'every' pair of animals is not likely to be exactly what happened. Certain commands from 'god' that contradict other statements. The assertion that Moses wrote the first 5 books of the old testament when his death is recorded in those books. How could he record his own death? There are many things that can be put down to human ingenuity or invention. So we have to take some things with a pinch of salt. But it does not matter. There is sufficient guidance in the bible for anyone who reads it carefully.
2) It opens you to cherry-picking, and why you deem certain biblical texts more God-faithful than others. So what is your method to sort the wheat from the chaff?
We should pray for guidance about points we find difficult. We should allow God to guide us and give us discernment.
3) It suggests (per my last point) that you have another access (non-biblical) to God and God's guidance that we do not. Which gives us nothing to hold your ideas accountable to unless you're able to further elaborate how this 'receptivity' you speak of works.

In short, it strikes me that you're trying to convey a different worldview from that of the bible. A whole new religion perhaps that the bible gives us glimpses into and shares components with but that it also outright conflicts and ultimately fails to deliver.
See last answer. All aspects of our faith should be open to discernment which is a gift from God.
(For the record, I won't rule out 'corruptions' in the text - of course that's a possibility over its long history. But that should be an absolutely final resort and only when there is overwhelming evidence for it. We can't just call a text 'corrupted' because, say, it makes us squeamish or offends or moral sensibilities.)
I agree. Scholarship has raised many questions that are of no consequence to some but to others require clarification. Many things have been said that suggest the NT was distorted for various propagandist reasons. Not that they are very important but they do raise questions.

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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #114

Post by brunumb »

theophile wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 7:43 am Faith is more the faithfulness (/staying true) that exists in a dynamic partnership (and all the twists and turns that can take) than it is the belief that a certain static proposition is true.
It takes an enormous amount of faith to believe there is a dynamic relationship where God is involved. God is notably conspicuous by his absence.
Christianty: 2000 years of making it up as you go along.

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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #115

Post by theophile »

[Replying to brunumb in post #114]
It takes an enormous amount of faith to believe there is a dynamic relationship where God is involved. God is notably conspicuous by his absence.
Absolutely.

'God' may not be there at all beyond what the bible says, by which I mean an idea (or more spiritual) form. But that doesn't mean there cannot be good fruits from the partnership (i.e., the Christs of the world, if we believe such beings can exist). There are good ideas/spirits conveyed there, even if there are bad, and we can be in dynamic partnership with any of them, just as we can be with others.

But anyways, I think you're deeply right in what you say. It takes an incredible amount of faith. To do it right at least.

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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #116

Post by brunumb »

theophile wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 6:12 pm [Replying to brunumb in post #114]
It takes an enormous amount of faith to believe there is a dynamic relationship where God is involved. God is notably conspicuous by his absence.
Absolutely.

'God' may not be there at all beyond what the bible says, by which I mean an idea (or more spiritual) form. But that doesn't mean there cannot be good fruits from the partnership (i.e., the Christs of the world, if we believe such beings can exist). There are good ideas/spirits conveyed there, even if there are bad, and we can be in dynamic partnership with any of them, just as we can be with others.

But anyways, I think you're deeply right in what you say. It takes an incredible amount of faith. To do it right at least.
So why do we need the Bible, the NT or any of Christianity at all?
Christianty: 2000 years of making it up as you go along.

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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #117

Post by Mithrae »

JehovahsWitness wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 9:15 am
Mithrae wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 8:58 am
theophile wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 7:43 am In short, it strikes me that you're trying to convey a different worldview from that of the bible. A whole new religion perhaps that the bible gives us glimpses into and shares components with but that it also outright conflicts and ultimately fails to deliver.
New religion, or new covenant? The prevailing Christian preoccupation with the bible as the primary source of God's guidance seems to be a tacit admission that he has failed to write his law in his people's hearts and minds as supposedly promised (Jeremiah 31:31-34/Hebrews 8).
Is there any reason why a law "written on a persons heart" cannot >> ALSO << be available in papier form?
There are several reasons, depending on what purpose or values are supposed to be fulfilled by that communication. For example if the purpose of God's communication were to encourage humanity to love one another, it would be utterly counter-productive to provide a tome filled with tales of the deity committing and commanding genocide, slavery and the killing of homosexuals, heterodox believers or those who gather firewood on the Sabbath!

If the purpose of God's communication were to build a relationship with his creations, once again it would be contrary to purpose to place a material object, a book, between himself and those with whom he supposedly desires that relationship.

Furthermore if one of the primary values meant to be encouraged in this scenario were faith, then the written word would constitute walking by what is seen rather than what is unseen. Perhaps more importantly, it would undermine not only faith in terms of God's guidance, but also faith in terms of 'salvation' itself: The reality is that even if there is a God no-one truly knows what she has planned for humanity's future or for each individual and it would take a tremendous amount of trust in God to believe that, whatever she ends up doing, it will ultimately be for the best. By contrast it seems most Biblicists try to doctrinize their way around that uncertainty, insisting that because something was written down here or there God has to give them all the good stuff, most commonly redefining faith as something like blind, stubborn belief in order to make it a nice and easy step of gaining that 'assurance' of their salvation.

If the law in written form undermines both love for one another, love for God, and faith specifically as the form or expression of relationship with God, then it's no surprise that Paul wrote that God "made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:3-6).

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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #118

Post by Mithrae »

theophile wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 9:41 am If the bible is causing us to stumble, we should throw it out. (Just as we should pluck out our eye if it leads us astray.)

So I think you're spot on (not that God 'failed' per se but that the bible ought not be our ultimate source).

To put it otherwise, I would say there is a difference between committing adultery with the bible (putting what it says above all else) and saying that the bible itself is adulterous (insofar as it conveys guidance from 'false gods').

I take mgb to be saying both. I agree on the first point (and have my own answers to the questions I posed). It's the second point that makes me bristle.
The bible certainly contains the work of false prophets (eg. Ezekiel, 'Matthew' and Revelation) and rather vicious slander against God (genocides and slavery, pretty much the most evil things in history, and eternal torture, literally the most evil thing we can even imagine). Is there some kind of fine nuance that makes 'guidance from false gods' even worse that all that? If not then surely the question is whether it's possible to stop treating the bible as a single unit, whether it's possible to use a little common sense and discernment in sorting out the good from the bad... and keeping even the good in proper perspective.

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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #119

Post by JehovahsWitness »

Mithrae wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 4:00 am
JehovahsWitness wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 9:15 am
Mithrae wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 8:58 am New religion, or new covenant? The prevailing Christian preoccupation with the bible as the primary source of God's guidance seems to be a tacit admission that he has failed to write his law in his people's hearts and minds as supposedly promised (Jeremiah 31:31-34/Hebrews 8).
Is there any reason why a law "written on a persons heart" cannot >> ALSO << be available in papier form?
There are several reasons, depending on what purpose or values are supposed to be fulfilled by that communication.
Why? Do "purpose or values " dissolve papier? Regardless of the purpose or values of the law in question, unless one stated purpose is to reveal the impossibility of the heart containing something written on papier, logic dicates the two could obviously coexist.




Logic,

JW
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Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #120

Post by Mithrae »

JehovahsWitness wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 4:47 am
Mithrae wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 4:00 am
JehovahsWitness wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 9:15 am Is there any reason why a law "written on a persons heart" cannot >> ALSO << be available in papier form?
There are several reasons, depending on what purpose or values are supposed to be fulfilled by that communication.
Why? Do "purpose or values " dissolve papier? Regardless of the purpose or values of the law in question, unless one stated purpose is to reveal the impossibility of the heart containing something written on papier, logic dicates the two could obviously coexist.

Logic,
JW
If you want to argue technicalities, the quoted passage speaks of God's law being written in his people's hearts and minds, and it's particularly ironic that you are referencing only the former: If we assume that this passage refers to specific laws (rather than to conscience and reason generally) then one could certainly argue that laws written in the mind, their intellectual component, could also technically be written on paper... regardless of how absurd or counterproductive that may be when discussing the bible and primary Christian values. But in that context laws written on the heart would suggest something other than intellectual content, an inward motivation perhaps which the Jewish people under the 'old covenant' had not been granted, in which case then obviously that aspect of 'laws written on the heart' absolutely cannot be conveyed on paper, even technically. You might as well try arguing that love can be set down on paper. Logic, JW!

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