Making sense of the NT

Argue for and against Christianity

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply
Online
User avatar
Sherlock Holmes
Under Suspension
Posts: 1620
Joined: Wed Dec 29, 2021 10:42 am
Has thanked: 48 times
Been thanked: 82 times

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.

User avatar
JehovahsWitness
Savant
Posts: 18075
Joined: Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:03 am
Has thanked: 433 times
Been thanked: 660 times
Contact:

Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #121

Post by JehovahsWitness »

JehovahsWitness wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 9:15 am
Mithrae wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 8:58 am
... 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?
Mithrae wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 5:13 am
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...
Its big of you to admit that; I agree with you. Well ... my work here is done.



Have a great day,


JW
INDEX: More bible based ANSWERS
http://debatingchristianity.com/forum/v ... 81#p826681


"For if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. So both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah" -
Romans 14:8

User avatar
theophile
Guru
Posts: 1217
Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 7:09 pm
Has thanked: 39 times
Been thanked: 79 times

Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #122

Post by theophile »

mgb wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 1:03 pm
theophile wrote: Tue Jan 04, 2022 7:43 am 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.
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.
Hmm. I don't consider these things corruptions per se. A corruption to me would be a redaction or addition to the text that dampens or contradicts its core message. (Contradictory verses or commands would be the exception in what you cite, but I feel these often have resolutions if we look closely, to your later point.)

As a bit of a side note, I'm pretty sure there is no universe where the bible is right about history. I don't think we should even consider such a thing, certainly not as a definitive source. (Frankly, as theists, we should just recognize that and move on versus calling continuous fire on our position.)
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.
What does that practically mean? I don't 'pray for guidance' so much as I research and work creatively to find new, viable ways to understand and accept what's being said. Biblical studies is a highly iterative process... But I suppose I do hope guidance comes in my sleep as I process the information, if that is what you mean by 'pray'?
See last answer. All aspects of our faith should be open to discernment which is a gift from God.
There's a tension though. Sure, it's a gift from God, like Solomon when he asked for wisdom. But that doesn't mean we don't have to work for it. Just think of a more mundane example: the food that we eat could equally be construed as a gift from God, but this doesn't relieve us of the need to prepare the earth, plant and nourish the seeds, or to harvest the crop. We can't lose sight of the active side of it - in fact, that's where we should focus all our effort (leaving the things we have no control over to 'God').

User avatar
theophile
Guru
Posts: 1217
Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 7:09 pm
Has thanked: 39 times
Been thanked: 79 times

Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #123

Post by theophile »

Mithrae wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 4:43 am
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.
I don't know how else to respond other than going to what I think is the core 'message' of the bible (from which we can then see what follows from it, and what does not).

Highly debatable, but at the core of the bible (IMHO) is an affirmation of life in all its forms. Our calling from Genesis 1 is to get into that spirit, and to create / foster a world where every kind of life can flourish. Not to create a mono-culture like Babel, but a diverse ecosystem where everything can 'be' and fulfill its potential in communion with others (and God).

Now the jerk reaction: how could genocide possibly follow from this? Or indentured-servitude? Or hell? Which of course are all fair and deeply troubling questions.

Before I touch on that though, we have to understand that getting into this spirit, and working towards the end that I'm suggesting, is not going to be all puppy-dog kisses. It's a high-risk, high-stakes game that is cosmic in scope. It's liable to go wrong even when we think we have everything right. (And we can't just call fire on God because of it - I think that is to fundamentally misunderstand God's nature and power, and our responsibility in it.)

So I think we should ask ourselves the question (which is what I believe the bible asks time and again in its stories), how far should we go to achieve this end?

For instance, what if the world fell into complete and utter corruption? (Genesis 6) How far should we go to correct it? Is there a point where the only recourse is to wipe the slate clean and start fresh? Where genocide is truly called for in order to give life a chance?

I honestly can't say no to that question. I get how morally reprehensible it is to our modern sensibilities, but we have recent historical examples we can draw on. When evil has become so entrenched, so intractable, so oppressive and destructive to the life around it, that the only path forward is to take out the corrupted life.

I think the other examples you raised are all discussions in themselves (happy to go there), and similar thought experiments can show how they may follow from the bible's affirmation of life. But that doesn't mean we should just outright accept them... They are highly conditional just like the above.

mgb
Guru
Posts: 1666
Joined: Sun Oct 03, 2010 1:21 pm
Location: Europe
Has thanked: 7 times
Been thanked: 21 times

Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #124

Post by mgb »

theophile wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 7:29 amI don't 'pray for guidance' so much as I research and work creatively to find new, viable ways to understand and accept what's being said. Biblical studies is a highly iterative process... But I suppose I do hope guidance comes in my sleep as I process the information, if that is what you mean by 'pray'?
Yes, we should always be open to guidance. Not just in relation to bible text but in all things.
There's a tension though. Sure, it's a gift from God, like Solomon when he asked for wisdom. But that doesn't mean we don't have to work for it. Just think of a more mundane example: the food that we eat could equally be construed as a gift from God, but this doesn't relieve us of the need to prepare the earth, plant and nourish the seeds, or to harvest the crop. We can't lose sight of the active side of it - in fact, that's where we should focus all our effort (leaving the things we have no control over to 'God').
True. But when we read the bible passages God wants us to pay attention to can 'come alive' by grace. Howard Storm mentions this. We should read the bible 'with' God.

User avatar
Mithrae
Prodigy
Posts: 4268
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:33 am
Location: Australia
Has thanked: 87 times
Been thanked: 169 times

Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #125

Post by Mithrae »

theophile wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 8:32 am
Mithrae wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 4:43 am 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.
I don't know how else to respond other than going to what I think is the core 'message' of the bible (from which we can then see what follows from it, and what does not).

Highly debatable, but at the core of the bible (IMHO) is an affirmation of life in all its forms. Our calling from Genesis 1 is to get into that spirit, and to create / foster a world where every kind of life can flourish. Not to create a mono-culture like Babel, but a diverse ecosystem where everything can 'be' and fulfill its potential in communion with others (and God).
Highly debatable seems like quite an understatement. I've known hundreds and heard of millions of people who would variously say that the core message/s of the bible are something like 'believe in Jesus' or 'relationship with God' or 'love God and love others' or 'turn away from these defined sins,' and I can see how those various ideas can be read throughout the texts. On the other hand you're the only person I've ever seen suggesting the above, and in all the chapters between "be fruitful and multiply" in Genesis 1 and the "river of life" in Revelation 22 there's precious little that springs out as suggesting the primary importance of flourishing life as an end in itself, least of all in terms of diversity or anything approaching egalitarianism towards non-human life! We don't like death, so the paradise worlds in the first and last chapters of the anthology have no death (besides the 'second death' of billions of souls writhing in eternal torment), but that hardly rises to the level of a major theme let alone core message.
theophile wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 8:32 am Now the jerk reaction: how could genocide possibly follow from this? Or indentured-servitude? Or hell? Which of course are all fair and deeply troubling questions.

Before I touch on that though, we have to understand that getting into this spirit, and working towards the end that I'm suggesting, is not going to be all puppy-dog kisses. It's a high-risk, high-stakes game that is cosmic in scope. It's liable to go wrong even when we think we have everything right. (And we can't just call fire on God because of it - I think that is to fundamentally misunderstand God's nature and power, and our responsibility in it.)

So I think we should ask ourselves the question (which is what I believe the bible asks time and again in its stories), how far should we go to achieve this end?

For instance, what if te world fell into complete and utter corruption? (Genesis 6) How far should we go to correct it? Is there a point where the only recourse is to wipe the slate clean and start fresh? Where genocide is truly called for in order to give life a chance?
How one imagines God's nature and power is a pretty key point there, I agree: We'd have to be talking about a God whose power and abilities are not only limited by logic or by the laws of physics or even at the scale of galactic superclusters, but a deity so limited as to be held by constraints which even Kardashev type 2 civilizations might find relatively trivial; a deity limited by constraints at a mere planetary level. If the flourishing of all kinds of life were a major priority for a type 2 civilization we can readily imagine planets like Mars and Venus being terraformed over the centuries to accommodate that objective, whereas (even granting this highly dubious framework of interpretation) stories like the flood and genocide of the Canaanites suggest limitations not only of locality but even of innovation, of finding ways to steer and correct a wayward trajectory rather than "wiping the slate clean"... as a PR rep would put it.

Every analogy I can think of - parenting, teaching, governance or so on - suggests that the good way to go about things is to arrange matters such that most people are achieving suitable positive results most of the time, whereas from Genesis to Joshua to Revelation we see biblical narratives promoting the model which, quite literally, Adolf Hitler came to embrace: Instead of prioritizing the wellbeing of those who are actually alive and on that basis discriminating between good and bad methods, the biblical and Nazi approach is to prioritize some vision of utopia and thereby discriminate between 'good' and 'bad' people, simply getting rid of everyone who doesn't fit into that supposedly perfect world. In fact whereas the Nazis wanted to eliminate some 10% or 20% of Europe's population (if that) to get their utopia, in at least those three books the biblical authors want their deity to eliminate 90-99% of world or regional populations! That's almost exactly the opposite of the 'flourishing of life in all its forms' which you apparently see as the core biblical message; a total failure of finding ways to adjust to, accommodate or even guide the way life and people actually are.

Does that then constitute guidance from 'false gods'?
theophile wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 8:32 am I honestly can't say no to that question. I get how morally reprehensible it is to our modern sensibilities, but we have recent historical examples we can draw on. When evil has become so entrenched, so intractable, so oppressive and destructive to the life around it, that the only path forward is to take out the corrupted life.
Ironically, you're probably thinking first and foremost of the Nazis there, amiright?

User avatar
theophile
Guru
Posts: 1217
Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 7:09 pm
Has thanked: 39 times
Been thanked: 79 times

Re: Making sense of the NT

Post #126

Post by theophile »

Mithrae wrote: Thu Jan 06, 2022 4:26 am
theophile wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 8:32 am
Mithrae wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 4:43 am 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.
I don't know how else to respond other than going to what I think is the core 'message' of the bible (from which we can then see what follows from it, and what does not).

Highly debatable, but at the core of the bible (IMHO) is an affirmation of life in all its forms. Our calling from Genesis 1 is to get into that spirit, and to create / foster a world where every kind of life can flourish. Not to create a mono-culture like Babel, but a diverse ecosystem where everything can 'be' and fulfill its potential in communion with others (and God).
Highly debatable seems like quite an understatement. I've known hundreds and heard of millions of people who would variously say that the core message/s of the bible are something like 'believe in Jesus' or 'relationship with God' or 'love God and love others' or 'turn away from these defined sins,' and I can see how those various ideas can be read throughout the texts.
I would suggest that these things you mention (and the millions of people who say them), all follow from a fundamental affirmation of life. But if there is a real contender in the bunch, it is to love God above all else. The first and greatest commandment.

But did God create life in Genesis 1 simply to be loved by it? Or for the sake of the life itself? Because God loves life?

The latter feels more compelling to me. Generally speaking you create something out of love for it, not to be loved by it. Which means at bottom God fundamentally affirms life, not Godself. (And shouldn't we do the same? To show how much we love God in return? Our love of God being exhibited by our love of life, and joining God in its pursuit?...)
Mithrae wrote: Thu Jan 06, 2022 4:26 am On the other hand you're the only person I've ever seen suggesting the above, and in all the chapters between "be fruitful and multiply" in Genesis 1 and the "river of life" in Revelation 22 there's precious little that springs out as suggesting the primary importance of flourishing life as an end in itself, least of all in terms of diversity or anything approaching egalitarianism towards non-human life!
Doesn't mean I'm wrong. But you're right: after the fall in Genesis 3 all care for non-human life pretty much disappears. And things narrow down even further to individual people (Abraham, the Jews) before widening out again in the gospels (to include Gentiles as well). But this doesn't mean we can just forget Genesis 1 (and even 2) where diversity of life took center stage (or Revelation 22, to your point, where this end is again beginning to be achieved). Better to conclude there is something else going on in the (fallen) times in between, as history (/humankind) works itself back to that initial trajectory.

If we want to be reminded of God's love of this diversity (and our place in it) we should read God's speeches to Job in 38-41.
Mithrae wrote: Thu Jan 06, 2022 4:26 am
theophile wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 8:32 am Now the jerk reaction: how could genocide possibly follow from this? Or indentured-servitude? Or hell? Which of course are all fair and deeply troubling questions.

Before I touch on that though, we have to understand that getting into this spirit, and working towards the end that I'm suggesting, is not going to be all puppy-dog kisses. It's a high-risk, high-stakes game that is cosmic in scope. It's liable to go wrong even when we think we have everything right. (And we can't just call fire on God because of it - I think that is to fundamentally misunderstand God's nature and power, and our responsibility in it.)

So I think we should ask ourselves the question (which is what I believe the bible asks time and again in its stories), how far should we go to achieve this end?

For instance, what if the world fell into complete and utter corruption? (Genesis 6) How far should we go to correct it? Is there a point where the only recourse is to wipe the slate clean and start fresh? Where genocide is truly called for in order to give life a chance?
How one imagines God's nature and power is a pretty key point there, I agree: We'd have to be talking about a God whose power and abilities are not only limited by logic or by the laws of physics or even at the scale of galactic superclusters, but a deity so limited as to be held by constraints which even Kardashev type 2 civilizations might find relatively trivial; a deity limited by constraints at a mere planetary level. If the flourishing of all kinds of life were a major priority for a type 2 civilization we can readily imagine planets like Mars and Venus being terraformed over the centuries to accommodate that objective, whereas (even granting this highly dubious framework of interpretation) stories like the flood and genocide of the Canaanites suggest limitations not only of locality but even of innovation, of finding ways to steer and correct a wayward trajectory rather than "wiping the slate clean"... as a PR rep would put it.
I think we can strip God from the equation and still ask the question. Power is just a variable, and too often we let it distract us from the heart of the matter. (The bible becomes a complete farce once we start ascribing omnipotence to God, as so many of us do.)

But if we want to talk God's power, I would push it even further than you do here. It's more like the power of a word. A message and calling. Literally a spirit we can get into... All originating from a fundamental affirmation of life.

I don't think God has any real power in Godself but the ability to disrupt us, like a message and calling that can knock us off our horse, and in the process compel us to commit our power to God... (I personally find it helpful to black-box God beyond that, i.e., to treat God as a black-box issuing a fundamental affirmation of life. No real power in Godself, but the potential to have the full force of the world backing God up...)
Mithrae wrote: Thu Jan 06, 2022 4:26 am Every analogy I can think of - parenting, teaching, governance or so on - suggests that the good way to go about things is to arrange matters such that most people are achieving suitable positive results most of the time, whereas from Genesis to Joshua to Revelation we see biblical narratives promoting the model which, quite literally, Adolf Hitler came to embrace: Instead of prioritizing the wellbeing of those who are actually alive and on that basis discriminating between good and bad methods, the biblical and Nazi approach is to prioritize some vision of utopia and thereby discriminate between 'good' and 'bad' people, simply getting rid of everyone who doesn't fit into that supposedly perfect world. In fact whereas the Nazis wanted to eliminate some 10% or 20% of Europe's population (if that) to get their utopia, in at least those three books the biblical authors want their deity to eliminate 90-99% of world or regional populations! That's almost exactly the opposite of the 'flourishing of life in all its forms' which you apparently see as the core biblical message; a total failure of finding ways to adjust to, accommodate or even guide the way life and people actually are.

Does that then constitute guidance from 'false gods'?
The Nazi's targeted specific peoples and individuals. They wanted to create a German mono-culture (something like Babel). The Bible targets something that cuts across peoples and individuals. Any evil spirit (such as Nazism) that is harmful to life. (Again, Jesus came to save both Jews and Gentiles, right?)

But I hear your point, in the Old Testament there are calls against specific people as well, e.g., the Canaanites, making for deep racial divisions that are still troubling Jesus in the gospels (and frankly the world today). But is that because an evil spirit ossified in the Canaanites just like the Germans in WW2? Or is it perhaps because God's message was contorted as it entered Israel's (fallen) hearts and minds? Or is it perhaps to your point, false gods at work in the bible? ...

An interesting question I think.
Mithrae wrote: Thu Jan 06, 2022 4:26 am
theophile wrote: Wed Jan 05, 2022 8:32 am I honestly can't say no to that question. I get how morally reprehensible it is to our modern sensibilities, but we have recent historical examples we can draw on. When evil has become so entrenched, so intractable, so oppressive and destructive to the life around it, that the only path forward is to take out the corrupted life.
Ironically, you're probably thinking first and foremost of the Nazis there, amiright?
Most obvious example yah. And we really should think of Nazism as a spirit too. Something that can show up in people, and that people can give power to. Per above, it's such anti-life spirits that can cut across people that really need to be destroyed. It's only when they become so entrenched that the corrupted life empowering them may need to be destroyed as well. But that should always be our absolutely final resort.

Post Reply