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How To Resolve: “Genesis vs Science”

April 28th, 2009 · Posted by Hugo · 70 Comments

So a literal reading of Genesis (first book of the Torah) brings many people under the impression that the world/universe was created in six days, is less than 10,000 years old, and that there was a global catastrophic flood. Science teaches us that the universe is about 14 billion years old, that the earth and our solar system dates back about 4.5 billion years (based on ample evidence). How does one resolve these two conflicting theories?

Below are the strategies I could think of. Note that while Genesis (by names in various languages) forms part of many of the Abrahamic religions’ sacred texts, I am coming from a Christian angle, addressing primarily the Young-Earth Creationist strains.

Hypothesis: Satan Deceives!

Many that subscribe to a strong deity-dualism (namely God and Satan as two supernatural entities duking it out) consider lies as “belonging to Satan”. (Traditions with a more poetic understanding could say the same thing, but without a conscious entity actively bringing about deception, and a non-literal appreciation of the “poetry” in Genesis, will not have a problem anyway.)

So what is the problem with this hypothesis? The evidence contradicting the young earth view is everywhere. It is in the fossil record, in the cosmic background radiation, in our understanding of globular clusters and nuclear physics, in the speed of light, and the distances between galaxies… If all of creation is deceptive in that regard, and all deception is the work of Satan, this seems to indicate Satan is the creator. That would be in direct contradiction to the primary message of Genesis 1, the affirmation of Israel’s God as creator, author of fossils and stars. That is the primary message according to both literal and poetical readings.

(Scholarship indicates [citation needed] Genesis 1 was probably written during Israel’s exile in Babylon. During such times, when a tribe was defeated by another, the tribe’s identity, religion, faith in their deity, typically suffers. In that context, Genesis 1 is a defiant call to maintain tribal unity, religious identity, faith, through radical monotheism.)

Hypothesis: (a) the fossils are just there to Test Ya Faith! *or* (b) fossils et al provide an interesting back story

(a) Um, what’s with this hypothesis? Doesn’t this make God a liar, another thing that is explicitly contradictory with Christian theology? (Who can provide a reference to the verse that says God cannot lie?)

(b) Also known as “Last-Thursdayism”, there is nothing logically inconsistent with believing the world was created as-is last Thursday. The question, though, is why, if the universe has this interesting and consistent 14 billion year back story, should it be treated any differently to something that really is 14 billion years old? If you were created last Thursday with all your memories intact, does that really make any difference to your life, which you would live as though you are many years old?

The Wikipedia page on this, the Omphalos hypothesis, has some very interesting insights. I love controversial Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s response:

God essentially created two conflicting accounts of Creation: one in nature, and one in the Torah. How can it be determined which is the real story, and which is the fake designed to mislead us? One could equally propose that it is nature which presents the real story, and that the Torah was devised by God to test us with a fake history! One has to be able to rely on God’s truthfulness if religion is to function. Or, to put it another way—if God went to enormous lengths to convince us that the world is billions of years old, who are we to disagree?

Strategy: “there is no evidence of an old-earth!”

I’m not calling this one a hypothesis. This is a strategy, a choice for ignorance. For many stuck in conflict, this is actually the strategy I’d propose! If your religion is important to you, if you find real value in your religion, what difference does it make how old the earth is? Could you not choose ignorance, explicitly? Accept that you don’t know, and don’t care, and aren’t interested in discussing it? This may be a controversial statement for me to make, amongst my scientist friends, but there is of course an important side-effect I’m also aiming for: leave the debates and arguments to those that study these things.

Not that many strongly-convicted evangelicals would take me up on that offer, since they often perceive science as a threat to their belief system and detrimental to their evangelising. Of course, there is an opposite argument using the same rationale. Quoting the church father, St Augustine, whose theology laid foundations used by most Christians today, explained it as follows:

It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

– De Genesi ad literam 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [AD 408]

(Taken from Wikipedia, here’s another translation.)

The much uglier version of the “choosing ignorance” path, in my opinion, is where the ignorance is outsourced to authority figures (like Adam blaming Eve for the apple ;) ). This is the business model on which creationist organisations and websites like Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International (now creation.com, used to be creationontheweb.com) operate: they use “claims of authority” to win the trust of those with a strong authoritarian style of deciding what to believe. Deferring to authority lets you “escape” responsibility… Is it that much harder to simply say “I don’t know” and leave it be?

Alternatively, take the non-literal stance on Genesis 1-11

This makes most sense to me. (Naturally, I don’t read Genesis literally, that much should be clear. ;) ) Of course, if the only thing that keeps you “believing” is the lack of acceptance of evolutionary theory, you will starting on a path to de-conversion. (Is it worthwhile to believe in a God that only exists on condition that evolution is impossible? Is that your God?) However, don’t let the Christian fundies or the atheists fool you, de-conversion is most certainly not your only choice!

You could read up on Theistic evolution. You could buy e.g. The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth, a book by evangelicals, maybe after reading the wonderful review on Exploring Our Matrix. Or you could go for some free ebooks by an online evangelical community — (1-4, 5).

Have an interesting conversation!

And feel free to ask! If you need some help or conversations to help you embrace more science in your worldview, I have a couple more references up my sleeve which I’ll customise to your needs as best I can, there are more “theistic evolutionists” hanging out here, and there’s my little network of friends, pastors and theologians that I could consult for advice on your behalf. We also have humanists, with varying amounts of secularity, if you find yourself or your worldview drowning in all the new info and need to chat to some people to help you find something to hold onto while the dust settles. (Dust and water, mixing my metaphors here? ;) )

(There’s even one or two “Real Live PhD Scientists” that occasionally take part in discussions, to the detriment of their research!… because they also have a passion for education, for sharing knowledge. Of course, that doesn’t make them the authority figures to be obeyed, it just makes them the knowledgeable bunch that know what’s cutting: within their fields of study, they’re experts on the evidence and the tentative conclusions drawn from that evidence, by the process known as science…)

Additionally, I (we) will be starting our first attempt at a thinktoomuch.net book club in July. I (we) will be reading (and blogging and commenting on) Bones, Rocks and Stars: The Science of When Things Happened — this is much thinner than “The Bible, Rocks and Time”, but sticks to science and doesn’t cover Christian theological concerns.

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70 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ekkedink // May 1, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Ek sukkel nie om dit te glo nie. Ek sou kon glo in die letterlike 10,000 jaar ding, maar dink ook dat dit eerder miljoene jare-teorie is.

    Ek dink egter dat ons met ‘n verkeerde tydsbegrip werk as ons oor God dink. Byv., Eff sê die uitverkiesing is by die grondlegging van die wêreld geskied. Ons werk in ‘n liniêre tydsbegrip terwyl God vir my, eerder in ‘n sirkel-tydsbegrip werk. M.a.w., die uitverkiesing vind m.i. elke oomblik plaas wanneer ‘n persoon besluit om Jesus as Verlosser te aanvaar. Daar’s ook ander argumente om die te verduidelik, maar genoeg gesê.

    As ons anders oor tyd dink, dan hoef ons nie ‘n probleem met die 7-dae te hê nie, want was die in elk geval 7 dae soos ons dit ken, 24 ure? Hoekom het Abraham hulle 900 jaar oud geword? Ons kalender en skrikkeljaar ens het eers later gekom, galileo of hoe (jy sal my hierop selfs nog meer sou kon verduidelik). Ek stem dus saam – nie letterlike Genesis nie, maar ook nie so afgewater dat dit nie meer “aanspreek” nie. Die punt van die Gen. verhaal vir my is:
    dát God geskep het,
    dát elkeen uniek na sy aard geskep is,
    dát God oneindig groot, majestieus is (as ek aan die sterrestelsel dink en hoe klein ons ou wêreldtjie eintlik is).
    dát ek Hom kan erken en kan eer uit die Gen/skeppingsverhaal.

    But then again, I’m not a detail person and rather go for the big picture.

  • 2 Kenneth Oberlander // May 1, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    I think you know by now where I stand on this (the last option). However, I could possibly stand by your ignorance answer, but with one important caveat, which I don’t think you stated strongly enough.

    If you are asked to actively engage in something like this, and you have chosen the “ignorance” route, then acknowledge your ignorance

    Seriously, be consistent. “Ignorance” per se is not a bad thing, because we’re all ignorant about something. In cases such as these the intellectually honest route is not to bluff, or say whatever makes you feel good, or what will please your target audience. It is “I don’t know, I don’t have the knowledge to speak on matters like this, perhaps you should ask those who do”. The only other route available to you is to do the work, study the material, learn. Which automatically takes you out of the “ignorant” category.

    Heh, I liked your use of “outsourcing”…eerily appropriate…

  • 3 Retha // May 3, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Hugo, ek glo self dat mens geloof nie hoef te vergaan as jy in ‘n ou heelal glo nie, en selfs nie as jy in evolusie glo nie. (Oor lg. skryf ek hier: http://gelowigenondersoekend.wordpress.com/2008/12/06/kan-evolusie-regtig-christenskap-verkeerd-bewys/ )

    Het jy al gehoor, (en ek is nie ‘n astro-fisikus om die somme te herhaal nie, ek kan nie hierdie bevestig nie) dat die 14 biljoen jr./ 6 dae saak aan die hand van die relatiwiteitsteorie verduidelik word? Einstein se e=mc(square) beteken dat tyd nie oral in die heelal ewe vinnig verloop nie, maar afhanklik is van massa en versnelling. Die massa en versnelling by die oerknal was van so ‘n aard (en die wiskunde is glo gedoen) dat 6 dae op daardie punt verloop het in die tyd wat 14 biljoen jaar op ons punt verloop het.

    Strategy: “there is no evidence of an old-earth!”
    I’m not calling this one a hypothesis. This is a strategy, a choice for ignorance.

    Ja, dis irriterend- as iemand sê “there is no evidence for … “ as die waarheid is “I am unaware of the evidence for…” En as iemand “there is no evidence for … “ sê as die waarheid is: “I am unconvinced by the evidence for…” is hy intellektueel oneerlik.

    Deferring to authority lets you “escape” responsibility… Is it that much harder to simply say “I don’t know” and leave it be?

    Verstaan ek jou reg hier? As mens ‘n dokter jou gebarste blindederm laat hanteer, dis mos ‘n voorbeeld van “defer to authority?” Moet mens eerder sê: “Ek weet nie hoe om ‘n gebarste blindederm te hanteer nie”en dit daar laat? As ‘n kind ‘n na ‘n onderwyseres luister wat haar leer lees, “defer”sy mos na “authority” en laat toe dat die juffrou se kennis oor letters haar idee word? Moet die kind eerder sê: “Ek kan nie lees nie” en dit daar laat?

    Ekkedink, dis interessant dat jy in dieselfde sin oor die 6 dae en die aartsvaders se ouderdomme praat. Ek het nog nooit saam daaraan gedink nie.

  • 4 Hugo // May 3, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Kenneth:

    I think you know by now where I stand on this (the last option).

    I actually meant to make this a broad one, broad enough to include “non-theistic scientists see Genesis as a mythology from the middle east”, another “non-literal, not-factual-history” reading. I take it from your comment it didn’t quite come across like that then. ;-) The emphasis I placed on “theistic” options to resolve it buried that a bit?

    ekkedink en Retha: toe ek nog meer van ‘n fundie-neigings-Christen was, waar die “letterlike” verstaan van Genesis vir my belangrik was, het ek ook gedink aan daardie soort moontlikhede. Omtrent relatiwiteit, as mens teen die spoed van lig beweeg, relatief tot iemand op aarde bv, sal dit so half lyk of jou tyd stilstaan, relatief tot die vloei van tyd van die persoon op aarde. (Reis weg teen die spoed van lig, vir 4 jaar, reis weer terug, dan’t jy nie ouer geword nie, maar op die aarde is almal 8 jaar ouer.) So nou kan jy reken Genesis is geskryf uit die oogpunt van ‘n reisiger wat teen die spoed van lig beweeg. Dan kan jy loop letterlik wees. Maar wat is ‘n dag dan, as dit nie ‘n son is wat op kom en afgaan nie? So kan jy dit wel maak dat dit 7 x 24 x 60 x 60 x ‘n sekere aantal vibrasies van ‘n Cesium atoom (atoom-klok standaard van tyd) is tussen Big-Bang en selfs nou. Maar dis so arbitrêr, mens besef later jy’s net besig om dinge te buig en te verwrong om te pas by wat jy graag wil hê dit moet.

    Sommige praat van day-age modelle, waar elke dag ‘n “age” voorstel, metafories. Dan’s die volgorde anyway verkeerd, in ‘n paar opsigte. As ek nou reg onthou. Dis steeds bietjie “silly”, vind ek, in retrospek, dat ek sulke goed oorweeg het. Op die ou end is dit ‘n stuk “poetry”, daar is ‘n struktuur aan hoe die ding uitgelê is, ens. Om dit as iets anders te sien is vir my om dit nie te waardeer vir wat dit regtig is nie.

    Aanbeveling: Marcus Borg se “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time” – en nog ‘n paar boeke, maar daai’s ‘n lekker een om ‘n goeie oorsig te kry van ‘n “scholarly angle” op die Bybel.

    Verstaan ek jou reg hier? As mens ‘n dokter jou gebarste blindederm laat hanteer, dis mos ‘n voorbeeld van “defer to authority?” Moet mens eerder sê: “Ek weet nie hoe om ‘n gebarste blindederm te hanteer nie”en dit daar laat? As ‘n kind ‘n na ‘n onderwyseres luister wat haar leer lees, “defer”sy mos na “authority” en laat toe dat die juffrou se kennis oor letters haar idee word? Moet die kind eerder sê: “Ek kan nie lees nie” en dit daar laat?

    As mens ‘n dokter vertrou met jou blindederm, is dit omdat jy iets het wat dringend aandag soek. So jy vertrou sy authority en opvoeding. En daar is nie veel debat in die samelewing oor wat mens moet doen met ‘n gebarste blindederm nie.

    Maar as twee leke nou hard begin baklei en baie sterk glo oor twee kante van … um, iets wat nie regtig ‘n verskil maak nie, … dan vra ek, “wat help dit”? Sukkel om ‘n goeie voorbeeld te kry ja.

    My opmerkings daar was bietjie venynig. Neem in ag: ek dink die wat glo evolusie is ‘n leuen is bloot verkeerd en oningelig oor die wetenskap. So uit my oogpunt is mense wat ander glo en hul “authority” aanvaar om te sê die aarde is jonk, soos mense wat na ‘n dokter gaan met AIDS, en die dokter sê hulle moet ‘n virgin gaan verkrag… of dis te aktief… die dokter sê hulle moet gaan aartappel eet, dan’s hulle fine en hoef hulle niks anders te doen nie. C’mon, hulle het AIDS, of ‘n gebarste blindederm… dis vir my beter as hulle sê “ek weet nie wat om daarmee te doen nie”, as wat dit vir my is dat hulle *verkeerde* goed doen. Die dat ek sê “sê liewers ‘ek weet nie’.”

    Dit is ook advies aan vriende wat lank sit en worry oor die soort ding. As hulle regtig wil weet, moet hul wetenskap verder ondersoek, en behoort hulle te vind die enigste manier om vrede te vind daarmee is om te besef wetenskap het ‘n punt beet. As dit nie ‘n opsie is vir hulle nie, en hulle weet dit, dan moet hulle eerder die hele debat laat vaar en sê “ek weet nie”. Ek het ‘n ou koshuis vriend in Shofar wat sê “ek weet nie, ek gaan nie daaroor worry nie, dis nie regtig in my ‘sphere of influence or concern’ nie”. Ook nie heeltemal waar nie: hy’t besluit hulle het nie goeie argumente oor hoekom lig van sterre wat miljoene ligjare weg is dan sigbaar is nie, hy dink dus die heelal is wel oud. Maar Shofar is nou maar vir hom sy plekkie, so verder breek hy nie sy kop daaroor nie, en sê hy eerder “ag ek weet nie, en daar is daai lig ding” as wat hy hou by sy kerk se offisiële standpunt.

    Want onthou, die kerk, onder “authority from God”, het lank gesê bv Galileo is verkeerd, dat die aarde die definitiewe middelpunt is van die heelal. Yay die egosentrisme van die mens.

  • 5 Retha // May 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Om dit as iets anders te sien is vir my om dit nie te waardeer vir wat dit regtig is nie.

    Hugo, wat jy dink kan dalk reg wees. Maar raak jy nie nou effens judgmental teenoor mense wat nie soos jy dink nie?

    Want onthou, die kerk, onder “authority from God”, het lank gesê bv Galileo is verkeerd, dat die aarde die definitiewe middelpunt is van die heelal. Yay die egosentrisme van die mens.

    “it’s clear from history that the conflict between Galileo and the church had more to do with politics and personality than religious persecution of science.” – http://swordofthemind.blogspot.com/2007/11/galileos-gaffe-ws.html
    “Contrary to legend, Galileo and the Copernican system were well regarded by church officials. Galileo was the victim of his own arrogance, the envy of his colleagues, and the politics of Pope Urban VIII. He was not accused of criticizing the Bible, but disobeying a papal decree.”- http://www.webexhibits.org/calendars/year-text-Galileo.html
    Die volgende is ‘n blog-inskrywing op ‘n partydige blog, maar dit staaf geskiedkundige punte met kruisverwysings na talle bronne oor Galileo: http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com/2008/10/galileo-story-of-hero-of-science.html
    Egosentrisme van die mens? Ja, ek dink jy is doodreg – ‘n egosentriese Galileo het met ‘n egosentriese pous gebots en toe het wetenskap per ongeluk ook in die kruisvuur beland.

  • 6 Retha // May 3, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Maar as twee leke nou hard begin baklei en baie sterk glo oor twee kante van … um, iets wat nie regtig ‘n verskil maak nie, … dan vra ek, “wat help dit”?

    Ek wil seker maak wat jy bedoel: Bedoel jy dat die aarde se oudheid/ jonkheid iets is wat nie werklik ‘n verskil maak nie, en dus moet leke (of hulle nou die kenners glo of nie) nie daaroor praat nie?

  • 7 Hugo // May 3, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Retha:

    Hugo, wat jy dink kan dalk reg wees. Maar raak jy nie nou effens judgmental teenoor mense wat nie soos jy dink nie?

    Dit is nie my bedoeling nie. Ek skets dit nou uit hoe ek dit sien, hoe ek daaroor voel. Ek verstaan wel goed dat ander anders daaroor voel, en ek weet relatief goed hoe voel dit om self anders daaroor te voel. Dus, wanneer ek in ‘n gesprek tree wat oor ander se perspektiewe gaan, is ek gewoonlik minder uitgesproke. Dis nou maar net nou wat ek dit sterk gestel het. Seker maar besig met bietjie “proselytising”, eh.

    Die “judgemental” vraag is ‘n taai een, eintlik. Wanneer is ‘n sterk mening hê nou judgemental, en wanneer nie? Is dit “judgemental” om te dink iemand anders is verkeerd? Of is dit hoe jy dit vir hulle sê? Ek dink gebrek aan stemtoon in e-kommunikasie maak dit maar moeilik. Mens lees dan stemtoon in waar dit nie sou gewees het in “regte lewe” nie.

    Yup, twee “proud” mense het seker gebots. My gedagtes rondom die mens se egosentrisme is ons neiging om te dink “ons is die hoogtepunt in alle skepping” (soos in beter as diere), “die aarde is vir ons geskep, ons hoef nie regtig daarvoor te sorg nie, ons kan dit *op gebruik*”, en daai gedagtes se verwantskap met “alles draai om ons”.

    Omtrent Galileo, wat dink jy? Galileo moes mos wel afstand doen van heliosentrisme af. En hy het beslis nie aandag gegee aan “Papal authority” nie. Bietjie van ‘n “question/challenge authority” ding daai. Voel jy dit was verkeerd of reg? Of goed of sleg?

    (Van “ons” perspektief, ons wetenskap liefhebbers, is die stereotipiese perspektief maar “die katolieke kerk het vordering terug gehou”, wat sulke soort dinge aanbetref. As ek self terug dink aan wat ek werklik weet van geskiedenis, dan weet ek wel daar’s goed én kwaad gedoen deur daai institusie. En ek verkies maar om nie te dink aan of dit oor die algemeen goed of slag was nie, ek verkies “in watter maniere was dit goed” en “in watter maniere was dit sleg”, en dan los ek dit daar. Die opweeg is nie vir my besonders sinvol nie.)

  • 8 Hugo // May 3, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Ek wil seker maak wat jy bedoel: Bedoel jy dat die aarde se oudheid/ jonkheid iets is wat nie werklik ‘n verskil maak nie, en dus moet leke (of hulle nou die kenners glo of nie) nie daaroor praat nie?

    Verskoon as ek dit gou in “judgemental” terme skryf, maar ek dink dit gaan duidelikheid bied. Hier is wat ek dink:

    Mense wat dink die aarde is jonk, is verkeerd. Dit is waardevol vir mense om te leer en te verstaan hoe die verlede werk, so dis great om daaroor te praat. Dit is wel vir my verkeerd dat sommige mense vir ander om die bos lei en hulle laat glo dit is jonk, wanneer dit so duidelik nie is nie. In daardie gevalle, wens ek mense het minder aandag gegee aan die “jong-aarde nonsens”.

    Saam met dit weet ek hoe belangrik sommiges se geloofsgemeenskappe vir hul is. En hul familie bande. Vir hulle besef ek hoe rof dit kan wees as hulle nou die wetenskap goed verstaan en openlik aanvaar. Vir hulle, is daar dikwels ‘n gestoeiery tussen wat hulle “veronderstel is om te glo”, en wat hulle kan leer met hul verstand en met ondersoeke en met opvoeding. Dus vir hulle sê ek “dalk gaan dit vir jou beter wees om maar net nie daaroor om te gee nie, dit op ‘n ek-weet-nie vlak te los”.

    Wat redenasie oor Genesis aanbetref, ek dink dit is óók vir gelowiges die moeite werd om met die stories te “worstel” en te gesels en te praat oor wat dit beteken. Ek wens net hulle sou dit kon doen binne ‘n raamwerk van “verstaan wat werklik gebeur het”, eerder as ‘n raamwerk van “kom ons kies om dit letterlik te glo en die ‘evidence’ te ignoreer”. Met die laasgenoemde idee word dit te veel “slegs ‘n klomp feite”, en feite wat verkeerd is, dan word dit, uit my perspektief, relatief waardeloos. As mens verstaan hoe die ware “feitlike” geskiedenis dan verskil, dan soek mens die waarde in die poësie en die “betekenis” wat die stukkie dra.

    So dis hoe ek dit sien / daaroor voel, wat hopelik meer konteks bied aan my vorige opmerkings. Ek besef wel ander vind waarde daarin in die letterlike-lees, maar ek bied hier maar my perspektief, en ek stoei teen die “maar as jy dit nie letterlik vat nie, dan verloor dit alle waarde” idee. Dat ek dit nie letterlik vat nie, is maar ‘n “feitlike gegewe”, in daardie konteks, wie is dan die mense wat argumenteer “die Bybel is waardeloos”? (Hint: dit was was nie ek nie. ;-) )

  • 9 Retha // May 4, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Hugo, die aarde is oud, die heelal nog ouer. Daar stem ons saam.

    Dit wil dan voorkom of jy eintlik sê, oor “defer to authority: “If you disagree with me, do not defer to (/listen to/learn from) authorities who disagree with me. Defer to (/listen to/learn from) authorities who agree with me. If you disagree with me, please just say ‘I don’t know.’ “

    Wat redenasie oor Genesis aanbetref, ek dink dit is óók vir gelowiges die moeite werd om met die stories te “worstel” en te gesels en te praat oor wat dit beteken. Ek wens net hulle sou dit kon doen binne ‘n raamwerk van “verstaan wat werklik gebeur het”, eerder as ‘n raamwerk van “kom ons kies om dit letterlik te glo en die ‘evidence’ te ignoreer”.

    Ek het ook ‘n pyn met mense wat kies om evidence te ignoreer. Maar dink jy nie party mense het weer die raamwerk van “kom ons kies om wie ookal sê die Bybel is verkeerd (oor wat ookal) letterlik te glo, en die ‘evidence’ te ignoreer (wat wys dat die Bybel waarde het, selfs as mens Genesis nie letterlik opneem nie.)”. Of selfs dalk “kom ons kies om te glo die relatiwiteit-verklaring is “arbitrêr” en die ‘evidence’ dat dit – merkwaardig – op 6 dae teenoor14 biljoen jr. neerkom te ignoreer.” Hierdie is nie ‘n opinie oor wie reg is nie. Dit gaan oor selfondersoek. Ons moenie splinters in ander se oë soek en balke van dieselfde hout in ons eie oë miskyk nie.

  • 10 Hugo // May 6, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Retha (some English at the bottom):

    If you disagree with me, do not defer to (/listen to/learn from) authorities who disagree with me. Defer to (/listen to/learn from) authorities who agree with me.

    Maar natuurlik! ;-)

    Op ‘n meer ernstige noot, dit gaan nie oor indiwiduele “authorities” nie, dit gaan oor die wetenskaplike proses, die debat, die gestoeiery, en die gesamentlike tentatiewe gevolgtrekkings wat daaruit kom.

    Science is not about any individual authority, rather, it is about a method that has unheard-of success in understanding nature, the things around us, and making extremely useful predictions on which we can build phenomenal works of engineering. All the while remaining perpetually tentative. So it isn’t about “if you don’t listen to me, listen to people that agree with me — and whatever you do, don’t listen to people that don’t agree with me”. Rather, it is about trusting that which has proven trustworthy — the tentative authority of scientific consensus. Always to be challenged, when done in a rigorous and evidence-based way, always to be improved upon.

    The challenge is to teach people how to recognise that, and not confuse it with some “human authority figure” that is able to make it sound like they know what they are talking about, thanks to charisma and psychological/rhetorical skill, and the right context…

  • 11 Hugo // May 6, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    (En cool laaste paragraaf daai, dankie.)

  • 12 Werner // May 8, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Surely questioning the testimony of creation in Genesis indicates unbelief that scripture is “God breathed”. That is a bigger issue than how old the earth is.

    I have past noticed a tendency in my (human) nature to only see what I want to see. To break free (repent) from such a mindset I believe is one of the biggest revelations/unveilings you can experience.

    It is therefore not surprising to me at all that young earth creationists are few in number. However, why they would try to base their “defense” on “facts” makes me wonder!? They should know by now that this is not an intellectual battle, but a spiritual one.

    Just my thoughts….

  • 13 Hugo // May 9, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Um… Werner:

    Surely questioning the testimony of creation in Genesis indicates unbelief that scripture is “God breathed”.

    You’re coming at it with a very specific interpretation of what it means for scripture to be “God breathed”. Many Christians don’t see it like that. Many Christians don’t believe Genesis to be literal and factual history. The choice of words there is then quite loaded, quite specific to one particular way of reading the Bible. But… ok… I’ll humour you, for a specific interpretation of “God-breathed”, and that highly loaded term “unbelief”, many Christians show “unbelief that scripture is God-breathed”. Just like they show unbelief that God instructed/condoned/helped his people to commit genocide… ? Or unbelief that God condones slavery, despite it being accepted in the Bible, according to one way of reading. All those unbelieving Christians, save their souls… ;-)

    What makes this a bigger issue than the age of the earth? Consider how, if the earth is young, all science about it is nonsense and we need not worry about how we’re busy destroying it. (Since all the science about how we’re doing that is based on its millions of years of history.) Can you see how I consider the age of the earth to be a very big issue?

    M’kay, if I combine your last comment with your first, I get:

    To my thoughts, that seems a bigger issue than how old the earth is.

    …which is kinda what you’re commenting. So, is one a “bigger issue” than the other, or are they actually one-and-the-same issue?

    How do you feel about the St Augustine quote?

    And how do you feel about the idea that, if we take God as the creator of the universe, that we should trust the evidence we find in that creation?

    I take it you’re now a young-earther…? Is there any kind of evidence in the world that would have you reconsider and conclude that you need to approach scripture differently? Or do you possibly think “spiritual truths” are different from “factual truths”, whereby the world can factually be old, and find Genesis-et-al to be talking about “spiritual truths” instead of factual ones?

  • 14 Werner // May 9, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Apologies for being a bit trigger happy there, but I wanted to call a spade a spade.
    Now about your paragraph:

    … many Christians show “unbelief that scripture is God-breathed. Just like they show unbelief that God instructed/condoned/helped his people to commit genocide… ? Or unbelief that God condones slavery, despite it being accepted in the Bible, according to one way of reading. All those unbelieving Christians, save their souls… ”

    You are trying to trap me insofar as to support bad things from happening to good people making me the villain. However, what you describe happened to those people is a common pattern in the Bible. God helps people, then suddenly “lets them down”, helps them again… and so it goes on and on, and on. Maybe God wants to reveal something to us? Romans 8:28 might support this:

    And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

    I believe that God lets circumstances come over us, times that we might label “bad”, for a greater “good”. The point is, we cannot see as far as our Creator can, so we make the judgment call as to how we think He should have acted. Who is playing god now? I am sure anyone together with some honesty can see some form of truth in this. Bad things happen to people, but sometimes it unites them in a way that a theme park never can. Think about it… (And please don’t counter with something like Israel bombs the bananas out of Gaza uniting the martyrs… because I don’t know what is going on there, only God knows. Perfect case of we cannot see the “good” in that and not a counter argument.)
    About the issue/non issue of the age of the earth; what I meant to convey is that in the context of defending the age of rocks where Genesis is involved, is to just say if you believe Genesis to be a literal account or not. After that, very little is left to discuss… I believe? Why? Because even Augustine saw the consequences. He knew that he could never defend with rhetoric (something that was very dear to him I believe) the literal interpretation of Genesis, so he took the easy way out. Especially by someone not trained in the art! That’s why he says: It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided…. He probably felt that he is only one Christian and other Christians like me simply are not equipped to have this kind of conversation, especially when dealing with people who think too much, and do more harm (strengthening the opposition via a display of ignorance) than good.

    I take it you’re now a young-earther…? Is there any kind of evidence in the world that would have you reconsider and conclude that you need to approach scripture differently? Or do you possibly think “spiritual truths” are different from “factual truths”, whereby the world can factually be old, and find Genesis-et-al to be talking about “spiritual truths” instead of factual ones?

    Because I believe the Bible to be the word of God, I am a young-earther. Not because of any evidence. I doubt that the evidence science can produce can combat such a stance (or strengthen it), but I have not meditated on that statement much. It is just a feeling I have. However, say science can teleport me 10000 light years away from earth with my trusty acme telescope I would be very happy to look ;)

  • 15 Hugo // May 10, 2009 at 3:21 am

    ;-)

    You are trying to trap me insofar as to support bad things from happening to good people making me the villain

    Not exactly. More trying to point out, again, the things our culture has moved on with and no longer believe. Our Christian culture, that is. And hoped I could connect that with the question of “why not take Genesis in similar vein?” But anyway, not interested in much of a debate either. I’m going to leave it with two questions for now:

    – Even though you disagree with me and don’t share my views, can you appreciate why I consider, from my perspective, young-earth views to be so harmful and/or dangerous? (Example I used above was the impact it has on what we know about how we should treat the environment to avoid destroying it, for example.)

    – If you were teleported 50,000 light years away… and you looked back with your “acme telescope” ;-) – what’s to say you trust that that is really 50,000 years’ history that you are seeing? Would you not show “unbelief” towards your senses yet again?

    (Yup, I’m loading the statement here. ;-) Let me stop with that “unbelief” word. You’ll probably also realise I’m hinting at the fact that we’re already looking millions of light-years into the past towards other galaxies, with you already not believing that past…)

    Um, and another one (or two), ’cause I can’t keep myself in, *sigh*: what is it that makes you take the Bible literally? How do you support and motivate that choice? (Based on what Paul wrote…?)

    I think I’ve left you with enough material to respond to. But if not, if you want a bit more, I’m curious how you feel about e.g.:
    http://mycontemplations.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/some-assumptions-on-creation-and-text/ – I can narrow this broad question down to a couple of more specific details, if you are interested in discussing it.

  • 16 Werner // May 10, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Answer to question 1: I don’t necessarily think your views are bad, but somehow I missed why humanity would handle our current situation based on the age of the earth. I guess that young earthers are few in number and hence fail to see how they pose a danger by increasing in number. Maybe I must be enlightened.

    Answer to question 2: From Genesis: And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. I find this passage most fascinating. One of the most extraordinary feats of creation (by human standard at least?) only mentioned as a by note, the stars ? I believe God wants to show us something here. Even though He has the power to create an awe inspiring universe full of stars by speaking it (which includes making the stars in it shine already!!!); His full attention is on us instead (an even bigger marvel!!!). I will believe in that instead of a singularity that suddenly went… well uum vacuum (un-singular??). Instead the god of this world makes you think you can look in to the past and twists the immensity of creation against us. Scripture tells us By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
    Yes by what Paul wrote combined with the testimony of the people who believe the same. But in reality there are many more inputs that are “black boxed” in my head into my belief that I have. I can’t help it.
    I read your link but nothing really pops up in my head. I cannot watch the video as bandwidth starved South African companies have me on proxy filtering and my proxy avoidance does not work in Windows 7. Sigh…

  • 17 Hugo // May 10, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    That still doesn’t explain to me on what grounds you decide to take Genesis literally. If “God-as-creator” is the most important thing for you there, you can read that from a non-literal reading as well?

    From the link: Cobus pointed out that the genres of historical and scientific writing did not yet exist back then. The Bible also talks about stars falling from the sky (onto the earth…), for example, which sketches out again their pre-scientific understanding/description of stars.

    With regards to ecology, our current situation is only understood in the way it is, because we look at it and understand it in the context of millions of years of history. Without that history, we can’t really say anything about what is or isn’t happening to the climate. If young-earthers had more power, I’d even be scared to point this out, because I don’t want to inadvertently convince anyone that we need not care.

    Instead the god of this world makes you think you can look in to the past and twists the immensity of creation against us.

    I don’t know what you mean there, exactly? Are you referring to the perspective/realisation that we aren’t the crown jewel of all of creation, that everything around us wasn’t created specifically for us? That “we are but guests in this universe”…? I don’t see how that is something that could be considered “against us”?

    Back to the evidence question: you know tree rings form on a yearly basis, right? If you were to hypothetically find a tree that had 40,000 rings in its trunk, would you accept that as evidence of at least 40,000 years of history? In a similar vein, if yearly seasons caused a yearly pattern in terms of layers in ice close to the poles, would you consider 40,000 layers as adequate evidence for at least 40,000 years of history? Where does that fall apart for you? “The Bible is the ultimate evidence, not creation”, hence you would consider some of such evidence to be misleading in some way if it contradicts? Or something else?

    The video talks about literalism and fundamentalism, and draws a distinction between the two. (A fundamentalist is a literalist that says that anyone that doesn’t take the Bible literally, is not a Christian. A literalist-but-not-fundamentalist is not so exclusive, more accepting of diversity in interpretation.) Crossan then also warns about the dangers of fundamentalism. In the context of my link, the clip wasn’t particularly important.

    To touch on Genesis again, and the bit you quoted: “And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.” -> the sun, and the moon. The ancients didn’t realise the moon isn’t really a light, it’s but a mirror reflecting the sun’s light. I also recall, off the top of my head, Genesis saying day and night was created before sun and moon, which I think connects in some way to some ancient cosmologies (views of the universe) in which the sky was considered e.g. a sphere that was light and blue in one half and dark in another. They didn’t know the blue was caused by the sun refracting in the atmosphere. They would have freaked out to see a black sky in the day, had they landed on the moon, which they didn’t know was that big. ;-)

  • 18 Werner // May 11, 2009 at 11:02 am

    That’s just it, I did not explain on terms you would accept why I take Genesis literally. It’s a belief, not a conviction of facts.
    What I mean by “against us” is that it draws us away from the word of God. If we don’t believe the first chapter, where do we draw the line? Let’s wave the Gospels as well? Because that is what this is all about. If you can bring into question just one part of the word of God, you taint it all. Humans are so susceptible to desensitization in small increments; I believe this to be such an increment.
    Further more,

    I don’t see how that is something that could be considered “against us”?

    goes against scripture. God created the universe for us, so we can be stewards over it. To believe that we are just merely here is not in accordance with scripture. For you, that is not a problem because you do not view scripture in that way, for a “fundamentalist” Christian like me that is heresy. From Genesis 1: 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”. This demonstrates the reason why we don’t give even an inch, because it starts you on a path away from God’s will. (I am sure I don’t have to quote scripture to you but for the sake of someone else ;) )
    Your argument about layers on ice and rings on trees is obviously a strong one, one that I cannot directly refute with science or scripture. You know that ;) However, I can fight fire with fire by directing you to the testimony of lots of people whose lives were touched by God’s hand. In the same way you cannot explain away those things.
    I will see that I get to view that video. Sounds interesting.
    With regards to the ancients, the bible does include things such as the earth is round, something that the ancients surely could not have known?

  • 19 Hugo // May 11, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    On this comment:

    What I mean by “against us” is that it draws us away from the word of God. If we don’t believe the first chapter, where do we draw the line? […] Humans are so susceptible to desensitization in small increments; I believe this to be such an increment.

    I know what you mean. Many a Christian find some balance, like CS Lewis for example. Some Christians go the path of the emerging church. Some end up becoming “liberal Christians”. Some deconvert completely.

    Atheists claim this is because there is actually not a god, and once you start looking at the evidence, you just can’t help but come to that conclusion, and that the only way you can stay a Christian is to become a fundamentalist and simply ignore all evidence to the contrary.

    Others suggest that if God really exists, and your faith in God is strong enough, you need not fear looking at evidence. With regards to fundies that seek explicit belief in explicit miracles as ways to bolster their faith, some theologians in this camp would say they show unbelief. That unbelief makes them fear scientific evidence… ;-) (OK, I’m basing this on anecdotal evidence, one theologian pointed me at this idea. From there I extrapolate and am quite sure there are a number that support that theology.)

    So you recognise my bias there… ;-)

    Now about that “be fruitful and multiply” idea… how do you feel about over-population? At which point do you think we’re being too fruitful and multiplying too well? That we should limit our numbers and keep that to two. Isn’t that suggestion going against scripture, as God ordered us to *multiply*? (Yes, again, I’m calling into question how literally you can take these things.)

    The “universe was created for us” idea I do consider dangerous. There are a number of different nuances one can take on that theology. Some are good, some are bad. The bad is supposed to be avoided and the good promoted via a thorough understanding of what it means to be stewards… (and I have a couple of stewardship-related posts to write).

    I can fight fire with fire by directing you to the testimony of lots of people whose lives were touched by God’s hand.

    I’m not denying that! Christianity and its memes have touched many, many lives for the good. (And some for bad, but ignore that for a moment.) That means it is a worldview that does good, that does connect people with what I’d call God. But it does not mean Genesis is factually true. I’m sure you know that those two are not directly linked?

    So my main question now is… let me make it a paragraph. I understand you consider your spiritual growth to be very important. Of utmost importance. And that you consider the scientific search for fact to be secondary to that, so you would rather ignore “facts and evidence”, if said facts and evidence were to harm your faith. Am I correct? And do you think this scales? Can everyone ignore facts, in favour of faith? Or are there a couple of unlucky sods that need to bite the bullet and actually go searching for facts so that we can learn how to cure disease (develop the germ theory), understand our ecosystem and biology and genetics and all the things we understand these days, so that we can be better stewards of our planet?

    With regards to the “Bible says the Earth is round”, there are other places in the Bible that suggest it is flat. It speaks about the four corners of the earth, it speaks about being high enough to see all the earth (which would be possible if it were flat), it speaks about a number of other perspectives as well. To me, these things are not contradictory and do not undermine the Bible’s value, because I don’t take them literally. A literalist, on the other hand, requires perfection in the text, which opens him up to having trouble with all the “contradictions” you can dig up when you take it literally. Silly question: how many people discovered the empty tomb together? (Go check all four gospels.)

    Also, what do they mean by a round earth? Flat-and-circular round, or actually spherical?

    Incidentally, Aristotle provided observational evidence for a spherical earth as early as 330 BCE. I mentioned this in my wonderfully “heretical” post, Who cares if Jesus thought the earth was flat? – an idea I’d still like to discuss some more. ;-)

    If you would like to know more about how the Bible can be taken seriously, very seriously, without being taken literally, I would happily buy and send you a copy of Marcus Borg’s “Reading the Bible Again, for the First Time”. He certainly doesn’t take a literal approach to the text though, and if you accept what he suggests, you are likely to end up with a qualitatively different faith. One about relationship and sacrament, sacrament-to-the-sacred, rather than one of whether you believe the right things, accept the right dogma. But you don’t have to accept what he says, I would still be very, very curious how you experience what he wrote.

    No pressure though, I fully appreciate how you feel that would be desensitizing to what you consider to be “heretical ideas”, and thereby a threat to your literalism. (In my case, in reading Borg et al, I feel closer to the original, actually, and consider contemporary fundamentalism a relatively new invension, dating back a couple of centuries.) And my path did take me all the way out via secular humanism, so… you have been warned. ;-)

    To reiterate what my main question is: how do you feel about scientific fact and who needs to pursue it? Does your notion of God really demand of you to ignore facts and evidence if they’re dangerous, or can your notion of God co-exist with the search for physical, scientific truth? A number of theologies, including e.g. the Catholic one if I’m not mistaken, claim two truths can’t contradict one another (I’ll avoid chipping in about Buddhist koans and paradoxes-that-help-you-grow, including the paradoxes in the Bible… oh wait, I just did :-P ), hence scientific truth and Christian truth should be compatible, making the scientific pursuit a worthy one.

  • 20 Werner // May 12, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Some deconvert completely.

    Yea that almost happened to me not so long ago. It’s never been an easy path.

    Atheists claim this is because there is actually not a god, and once you start looking at the evidence,…

    In some way I can understand this behavior from humans, however I am not going so arrogant as to think I can understand and dismiss an entity that can create this universe. That is silly, considering how complicated the universe is.

    That unbelief makes them fear scientific evidence…

    Extrapolate to the max ;), but I think in some ways there can be truth to this, in the sense that their unbelief make them fear many things. Hunting miracles definitely is not the way to go, but I have a feeling that people that want to bolster their faith this way won’t get what they want (miracles). From all the stories I have heard they involve humble Christians only interested in serving God’s kingdom. Nothing more.
    With regards to “multiplying” too much, I am sure you will agree that nature is going to come against us (depleting resources). The question then is will this be a gradual effect or a sudden stop? The latter is the one that I am sure we are all trying to combat as I am sure we can agree that, that is going to be a humanitarian disaster of biblical proportions. I think God will allow this to happen because how else are we going to listen? We are facing the worst kind of problem ever, because the consequences of one generation’s actions are carried by the next, consequently freeing the offenders of their “crime” or “selfishness”. This kind of behavior is exactly what Christianity apposes, because sharing the greatest commandment of all is to do onto others as you want done onto yourself. I still then fail to see how a literal interpretation holds imminent danger to
    Humanity.

    My point is that by taking scripture and making an example of certain verses by isolating them out of context with a literal interpretation makes the verses look illogical completely insane. However , if you take everything that is said literally equally serious and together as a whole, the Bible and the word of God, then there is harmony and peace. In other words the Bible says: “Go freely and multiply, but do it in such a way that you won’t destroy it for you children’s children!” (Italics mine!)

    Christianity and its memes have touched many…

    No! I am not talking about the mimetic aspects of Christian behavior, although I obviously agree that a lot of these memes are good practice. I am talking about unexplainable miracles; Things that science cannot explain. Therefore to reiterate, I fight your scientific evidence of an old earth with my anecdotal evidence of miracles. I can point you to many people with firsthand accounts. (Even your St Augustine healed someone). The day I can bring one of my own testimonies I will (which would still be second had to others though :( ), but until then what I have is the much, much weaker anecdotal kind. However, there are so many of these accounts that even though they are hearsay statistically you can scientifically blanket them as “evidence of something”. Whether that “something” is taken as evidence of “people telling lies”, there is something there that cannot be denied.

    Or are there a couple of unlucky sods that need to bite the bullet and actually go searching for facts so that we can learn how to cure disease (develop the germ theory), understand our ecosystem and biology and genetics and all the things we understand these days, so that we can be better stewards of our planet?

    That is unfortunately your view of the consequences of “faith”, not mine. I still believe in doctors, scientists and the Borg Cube they represent. But, when they trespass into the spiritual where they don’t belong I start to wonder. To give you an analogy: What can poking a toaster (“scientific testing”) tell us about its creator? Not much.

    And my path did take me all the way out via secular humanism…

    Thanks for the heads up ;). At least you know where that rabbit hole leads, and because of that you can more easily resist such a path in the future. This is a good thing.

    To answer your main question, I think science is awesome and believe there to be a dichotomy between science and the spiritual realm. Naturally since humans are involved and both these fields require such lifelong devotion and study, the problem that one of the two wanting authoritative status over the other has inevitably raised its head. That unending quest for power springing forth from the pride in man (especially men) wanting to be all knowing, being able to tell good from bad, which brings us back to that tree in Genesis.

  • 21 Kenneth Oberlander // May 12, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    @Werner

    however I am not going so arrogant as to think I can understand and dismiss an entity that can create this universe.

    This of course presupposes that such an entity exists at all. ;-)

    I am talking about unexplainable miracles; Things that science cannot explain.

    This is an argument from personal incredulity…just because science cannot currently explain it, doesn’t mean that it can’t.

    However, there are so many of these accounts that even though they are hearsay statistically you can scientifically blanket them as “evidence of something”.

    Hmmm…I would say this is evidence that human senses are not always reliable, nor are the conclusions reached from interpreting those senses.

    Whether that “something” is taken as evidence of “people telling lies”, there is something there that cannot be denied.

    I don’t see how this follows from your previous statement. If we can explain “unexplained events” as the human brain fooling itself due to its internal wiring (or through other, scientific means), how is this is evidence for “something there that cannot be denied”, by which I presume you mean a spiritual realm??

    What can poking a toaster (“scientific testing”) tell us about its creator?

    Quite a lot, actually, although you will have to do a bit more than poke it. You can take it apart, and see what it looks like internally. You can analyse its appearance and work out how old it is. You can see it has wiring, and requires electricity. You will be able to deduce from the bread crumbs inside and the heating elements what the purpose of the toaster is. Which will lead you to several confident conclusions about the creator of the toaster, namely, that it had a knowledge of electronics, that it made bread, that it liked its bread toasted, that it grew grain, that it had a steady source of electricity available to it etc. etc.

    I think science is awesome and believe there to be a dichotomy between science and the spiritual realm.

    Hmmm…the problem is, there is no evidence for “a spiritual realm”. We can explain almost all aspects of the human psyche that used to be attributed to “a spiritual realm” to normal neural consequences of our human wiring. There is no reason to believe that the major questions that remain are not amenable to scientific thinking, and to exploration via evidence-based approaches.

  • 22 Werner // May 12, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    This is an argument from personal incredulity…just because science cannot currently explain it, doesn’t mean that it can’t.

    I agree. Taken in context of the original argument then it wins a point for the spiritual, as the spiritual offers an explanation. (One that is rejected by science! )

    If we can explain “unexplained events” as the human brain fooling itself …

    You say “If we can” which indicates we cannot. Thus we cannot explain these things which lead to my conclusion of “something there that cannot be denied”. What I am trying to say with this line of argumentation is that by science, science cannot deny that there is something going on (people telling about miracles) that science cannot explain?

    Quite a lot, actually, although you will have to do a bit more than poke it.

    That entire paragraph shows us that the creator of the toaster understands what he has created, things that the investigator understand too. How does that tell something important/new about the creator? He knows what we know? That is not useful. To make it clearer, using your example with us as the inquisitor, we cannot say that the creator understands “magical subatomic particle X” because we don’t have knowledge of such a particle. Therefore, poking the toaster cannot tell us something about the creator that is interesting and new such as: Who is the creator, what does it love, what is its values. These important relationship answers.

    We can explain almost all aspects of the human psyche …

    …almost all… So can the spiritual get the rest then? Of course not. Science must or will explain everything in the end (sarcasm). Science is the begin all and end all and anything that comes against that will be trampled, scientifically. Science will even one day explain where we come from. Nothing will take that away from science, its ultimate trophy. This is why it clashes with Genesis because Genesis already claims to know where we come from, and anything that comes against that will be trampled, spiritually. How does one resolve such a conflict?

  • 23 Kenneth Oberlander // May 12, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I agree. Taken in context of the original argument then it wins a point for the spiritual, as the spiritual offers an explanation. (One that is rejected by science! )

    Which means that it’s not much of an explanation then, is it?

    You say “If we can” which indicates we cannot.

    This was a rhetorical question. I’m saying science has an answer for many of these questions. What I’m getting at here is I don’t understand how you can infer the existence of a spiritual realm when science has shown that the “evidence” for this claim is untrustworthy.

    What I am trying to say with this line of argumentation is that by science, science cannot deny that there is something going on (people telling about miracles) that science cannot explain?

    It doesn’t need to deny this, because it can explain them! The only problem is, none of the explanations require the existence of a spiritual realm, mind/body dualism, supernatural causes etc. etc.

    He knows what we know? That is not useful.

    Yes it is. It says we and it share (at least part of) the same underlying body of knowledge regarding the universe we inhabit.

    Therefore, poking the toaster cannot tell us something about the creator that is interesting and new such as: Who is the creator,

    Someone who lives in a society advanced enough to have agriculture, knowledge of electronics, and access to the materials that make up the toaster.

    what does it love,

    Toast!

    what is its values.

    OK, I’ll give you this one. Granted, a toaster can’t say a lot about the values of the society it inhabits, but what if we were looking at, say, a bottle of medicine? Or the Venus de Milo? These clearly have moral implications, namely a society that values health above sickness, and an appreciation for the feminine form. They also tell us completely material things about their societies, namely that it has a well-developed medical capability, and access to steel tools and marble.

    Science is the begin all and end all and anything that comes against that will be trampled, scientifically.

    No! You seem to think I have put science on a pedestal, where It Cannot Be Touched. The reason I think there are scientific answers to these questions is because (a) there are and (b) science has been so much more successful at explaining and predicting our reality than any other method of enquiry that I have a fair degree of confidence that it will (eventually) have an answer for most things as well. Case in point:

    Science will even one day explain where we come from.

    We are chordate animalian eukaryotes. We are tetrapod gnathostome vertebrates. We are mammalian synapsid amniotes. We are hominid ape primates.

    We know where we came from.

    How does one resolve such a conflict?

    I think you already know how I resolve it…

  • 24 Hugo // May 13, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Bendul, I’d love to see your take on this. Though this conversation is getting big already. Maybe just the last couple of comments will give you enough context?

    (Let’s see if he sees that.)

    Back to Werner:

    Some deconvert completely.

    Yea that almost happened to me not so long ago. It’s never been an easy path.

    Yea, you mentioned this to me. I’m curious to know more about that particular matter.

    “You might have ended up on the kind of path I’m walking, scary!” ;-) Could you tell me more about what was it that was so unsatisfying about the threat of “deconversion” or alternatively “going liberal”, versus what you find in literalism? What exactly is it that you feel literalism offers, or your brand of spirituality offers, that you feel you would be lacking had you gone for a more “liberal spirituality” or humanist-leaning spirituality? Or describe “the abyss” you felt you were peering over during that time? (I’d like to see how that compares to my own experiences too.)

    [Context: considering literal-vs-non-literal interpretations of Genesis in the light of science can lead to a so-called “slippery slope of desensitization”, from which paths like deconversion or liberal-Christianity or humanism may present themselves]

    Atheists claim this is because there is actually not a god, and once you start looking at the evidence,…

    In some way I can understand this behavior from humans, however I am not going so arrogant as to think I can understand and dismiss an entity that can create this universe.

    The point being: suppose there is no God, a “slippery slope of considering evidence” will likely to deconversion. Suppose there is a God, considering evidence and science shouldn’t be harmful to belief in said God’s existence. And in my experience (as in, personal experience), I latched onto fundamentalism for a short while precisely because of my doubt, not because I was so faithful and believing. Hence, my brief dabbling in fundamentalism, supported by Shofar, was a symptom of my unbelief, not my faithfulness. YMMV.

    That unbelief makes them fear scientific evidence…

    Extrapolate to the max ;)

    Yup! ;-) Or just speaking from personal experience.

    With regards to “multiplying” too much, I am sure you will agree that nature is going to come against us (depleting resources).

    Not quite. Or if I agree, it is with a couple of very, very significant nuances: we have become so adept at adapting, due to our evolutionary advantage being our minds, which adapts much, much quicker than genes (memes have a much shorter replication-life-cycle, poly-parenthood, not just two as in the case of genes, it’s an evolutionary melting pot like you don’t get in physical matter, like DNA…) The result is that we develop super-efficient hunting/gathering methods, we have too much power. We drive species to extinction at a shock rate. We destroy forests. We dig up and convert carbon buried over millions of years, millions of years ago (bear with me while I accept science for a moment, in explanation of why I think young-earth-belief is harmful from my perspective) to carbon-dioxide gas in a matter of decades. We have the power to so thoroughly “destroy” this planet’s ecosystem, that in worst-case scenarios, the best thing for the planet would be us wiping ourselves out. Even with a nuclear holocaust. (Does it matter? …one could ask. From my worldview: yes! It matters!)

    Gradual effect, or sudden stop? Well, do you realise how much we’ve already wiped out? We gradually put sudden stops to a great many things. The other thing about resource depletion: in a limited-resource environment, competition becomes the order of the day. We return to a harsh survival-of-the-fittest, wherein the poor really, really suffer. Picture a carbon-dioxide market, where we pay for our emissions. The rich drive the prices up. The poor suffer and die of starvation. That is not very godly, and something Jesus would fight against. “Of Biblical proportions”? Yea, I guess we’re in agreement. ;-)

    So after we agree so much, you ask why a literal interpretation is harmful (from my perspective)? Because how do we know how to “do unto others”? How do we know what impact our present actions may have on the future, a thousand years from now? We *cannot* know anything about the 1000-year future based on only 6000 years of history. The reason we’re so alarmed about climate change and similar situations, is because we look at millions of years of history. Only with that understanding, I believe, can we adequately judge what others, in the future, want us to do unto them.

    Let me try another example: do you think it is harmful to forget the germ-theory of disease? Why do we need to understand how germs and viruses spread? Do we need to understand? (And no is a potential answer there, this is not a rhetorical question.) Why? If you feel it is important for us to understand that, the global understanding of the planet’s history is to me a very, very similar situation. If, however, you feel it isn’t harmful to forget, or ignore, germ theory, then we have a nicer and more concrete example to discuss, with a longer history of human interaction with the theory.

    My point is that by taking scripture and making an example of certain verses by isolating them out of context with a literal interpretation makes the verses look illogical completely insane.

    I agree completely. However, where I disagree, is that I think the act of taking of Genesis out of context of its pre-scientific non-literal/factual worldview, and taking a literal interpretation, makes Genesis “look illogical completely insane”. In that context, I quote St. Augustine… (‘Scuse the strong words, that’s for poetic symmetry.)

    I then continue to agree with the rest of your paragraph, including that (non-literal ;-) ) italicised section.

    Therefore to reiterate, I fight your scientific evidence of an old earth with my anecdotal evidence of miracles.

    Is anecdotal evidence of miracles incompatible and in conflict with scientific evidence for an old earth? I just don’t see it that way… so I don’t recognise the fight?

    That is unfortunately your view of the consequences of “faith”, not mine.

    ;-)

    I still believe in doctors, scientists and the Borg Cube they represent. But, when they trespass into the spiritual where they don’t belong I start to wonder.

    And you seriously consider their wandering into the history of rocks and mountains and contents and genetics and astrophysics to be trespassing into the spiritual? I don’t think you do…? I’m talking about old-earthers, Christian scientists (and non-Christian scientists) doing science, and nothing but science. (I’m not talking about the “New Atheist publishing movement”, for example.)

    Thanks for the heads up ;). At least you know where that rabbit hole leads, and because of that you can more easily resist such a path in the future. This is a good thing.

    Heh, what’s wrong with secular humanism? Seriously, I consider secular humanists closer to God than some Christians. ;-) But that’s my post-theistic notion of God speaking: I’m still a humanist. I dropped the “secular” because my language and culture and tradition isn’t secular — I have Christian heritage that I’m proud of, and I consider the narratives, the sacraments and the rituals to be valuable. And I suppose I maybe remain a universalist or a pluralist. Consider the flaming meteorite test -> what do you think?

    That unending quest for power springing forth from the pride in man (especially men) wanting to be all knowing, being able to tell good from bad, which brings us back to that tree in Genesis.

    Grrr, I still haven’t written my “Adam+Eve and the Tree” post. Wish I had. Coming up. Before Christmas.

    Humans can tell good from bad, if you believe CS Lewis for example. To some degree, anyway. His whole (logically inconclusive) “proof” of the existence of God” relied on the fact that we all have a sense of what is right and wrong. He builds his notion of God on that, and actually, while I disagree with CS Lewis on a number of points, so do I. ;-) But my notion has very little to do with the Young-Earth Creationism component of literalist-Christian-God-notions.

    So you’d rather not read Borg then? ;-) He does believe the para-normal exists. (E.g. he commented in that book that there are so many accounts of levitation that, it seems to me, he thinks levitation is actually possible… Naturally I don’t always agree with Borg either.)

    How’s this: http://peterrollins.net/blog/?p=40 – including the first comment… ;-)

    So my main question in this comment is the one I asked first. What is it that made you choose your current spiritual path, when you were “at the brink of deconversion”? What was it that you didn’t like about the idea “leaping into the unknown”, exploring other spiritualities? What does the second option lack from your perspective, what does the first option offer?

  • 25 Michael // May 13, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Great blog!

    Hope you don’t mind my invading your blog. We commented on one of Kobus VW’s entries and I followed it here!

    This is a very interesting subject to me, and I have a few questions that you might be able to help me answer.

    I have steadily been moving towards accepting the old earth perspective and the non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1. This creates no problems for me theologically. I still believe the Bible to be as “God-breathed” and true as ever, but there is a significant difference between poetic truth and historical truth.

    My problem begins with Adam and Eve. In view of your appreciation of C.S. Lewis, I figure we can start there. As far as I remember, he was of the view that God evolved mankind into a creature capable of being “man” in the full sense of the word, and then began his special relationship with them (I am aware that this is a rather crude interpretation of his view, but I think it will do for now). This is all fine and dandy with me. You can read the earliest parts of Genesis as an alegory or myth of man’s fall from grace without much difficulty (In fact, an alegorical apple makes a lot more sense than a real one to me) . The problem starts when one gets into the genealogies of Seth and Cain and everything starts to read a lot more like history.

    I have been toying with an idea for a short while, and I would like you to critique it and possibly supply some alternatives.

    Hypothesis:

    The earlier parts of Genesis are an alegory and a creation myth which explain (among other things), the nature of God, the origin of man (though only as touching his position as somewhat ‘special’ in relation to his creator), his sinful state (and thus, his need for salvation) etc. None of the events need be actually historical in order to be true in a very real and significant sense (as far as I’m concerned).

    There are however real ancestors of Moses and Jesus and many people living today (but not necessarily everyone) named “Seth” and “Cain” and “Adam” and “Eve”. The creation myth was attached to them as “ultra patriarchs” (and “matriarchs”) and this accounts for the gradual movement that I see in the early parts of Genesis from poetic truth (no less significant or valuable) towards historical truth.

    This may be complete bunk. I dunno, but I’d like to hear some open-minded comment on it if you have the time.

  • 26 Hugo // May 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Michael! Invasions welcome! (And I’m working on ways to thread discussions better.) Careful, there was a Kobus commenting on Cobus’ blog a while back, and I don’t think you want to confuse them. ;-)

    Some open-minded comments? I’ll try my best! ;-) I’m approaching things from the… “liberal”? side. (Not the ideal label, but it will have to do. So fundies, literalists and the American Religious Right would call me a “godless liberal”.) Anyway, my perspective naturally influences/colours my reasoning, but I believe my perspective to be based on the best understanding of the past that we have.

    E.g. Real Live Preacher recommended taking the first eleven chapters of Genesis as not-historical/factual, in his series on How to Read the Bible (that’s a link to my blog, not his, I’m lazy). This does seem to me to be a mainstream perspective.

    So yes, that’s rough for someone coming from a more literalist stance, it requires non-literal/factual readings of things like genealogies. Genealogies then become part of the bigger story, rather than a historical narrative, and you get to sit back and marvel at how important a genealogical line was to “the ancients”. ;-) To motivate why that is typically the place where we end up (taking 11 chapters, not just one), are things like Noah’s flood and the tower of Babel.

    Taking a scientific look at the evidence, the conclusion is Noah’s flood could not have been a global flood. I can share some more details with you, or point you at an article about the problems, they’re of the same calibre as the age of the earth.

    And chapter 11, Babel: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. ” This looks like their narrative for providing an explanation for the diversity in language. However, we know very much about language and how it developed, and its diversity is much older than that.

    If you want a reconciling view, you could try things like “Noah’s flood was local, covered all the world that was relevant to Israel”. You could maybe consider Babel a local phenomenon, and consider the spontaneous language diversity being just a local situation, not global. Then maybe you could consider the genealogies to be factual, starting from a particular person or generation and on. I don’t know how much sense that makes though?

    So that’s the start of what some feel is “the slippery slope”, and the motivation e.g. Werner gives for digging in with a literal reading of Genesis 1. Because, in fact, the “liberal” reading goes even further. Consider the Exodus. Archaeological evidence for such a mass migration (millions? for forty years?) is lacking. So… um… the “secular scholarly perspective” suggests the exodus did not occur quite in the way it is described. Some Jewish rabbis, I’m told, respond with “it doesn’t matter”. And I read a bit about it too. The exodus narrative is the founding narrative of the Jewish people, the narrative which shapes their lives. It is a narrative of banishment from, and return to the promised land, and contains profound truth for them, irrespective of historical accuracy. Their commemorating it yearly during passover makes it more real to their lives than anything written in some history book.

    So that sketches out some of my thoughts, and gives some more hints at my perspectives. I doubt you want to drift too far in my direction. ;-) But I can provide some insights/views from my position, and you could use that to help you choose your own path? Whatever that may be.

    Recommended reading, would love to hear what you think about it: Real Live Preacher’s thoughts on The Slippery Slope.

    I hope you found this of some value? I’ll continue our other conversation (on Cobus’ blog) this evening, or tomorrow.

  • 27 Werner // May 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    “You might have ended up on the kind of path I’m walking, scary!” Could you tell me more about what was it that was so unsatisfying about the threat of “deconversion” or alternatively “going liberal”, versus what you find in literalism? What exactly is it that you feel literalism offers, or your brand of spirituality offers, that you feel you would be lacking had you gone for a more “liberal spirituality” or humanist-leaning spirituality? Or describe “the abyss” you felt you were peering over during that time? (I’d like to see how that compares to my own experiences too.)

    I can see your experience was authentic, because I can identify with every word. I always thought about it as a line. I never knew about this line until I approached it. It is scary, because you know that if you cross that line (this is mentally by making a descision) you become the god over your own life. You submit to nothing an no one and you are going to trample your conscience that was so difficult to restore. Life becomes meaningless or just a quest to maximize the pleasure you can get out of it for yourself. That plus, I just could not cross that line. I was scared to do so and I don’t know why.

    See I believe that the Godly family is crucial to start combating what is going on in society. Wasted family values equals wasted youth equals immorality. Not a religious family, a family that knows God and serves his purpose. But I digress.

    I latched onto fundamentalism for a short while precisely because of my doubt, not because I was so faithful and believing.

    So in other words the only way you could believe in a true living God was by going “fundamental”. Fundamental to whom? The majority of unbelievers? Why does the majority dictate truth? Just because the majority of South Africans vote the way they do, are the rest then politically “fundamental” by default? I don’t think they would apreciate that lable, but the same principal applies to them than to these “fundamentalist Christians”. Do you see my point?

    So to add to that; to believe in a true living God and have relationship with him you must become a fundamentalist Christian in the eyes of the unbeliever. I would go as far as to say that if you are not viewed as a fundamentalist, the repentance was not genuine. It’s because of that repentance OR renewal of your mind that you get rejected and labeled fundamental. Obviously you cannot quantify repentance so I might be talking rubbish here.

    I read the rest of your comments and nothing particular comes up inside of me. I understand why you say those things, and can see myself saying those things a year ago.

    However, I commend your intentions. That is, if that is what they really are. I would say most attacks against Genesis that I have come across are aimed at deceiving people into thinking that the bible is rubbish. Given people’s predisposition (fallen/sinful nature) to fall for this, I’d say any fundamentalist Christian would only see Satan’s hand in such teachings. Fundamental? You bet!

    Take away a Christian’s food (The word of God) and surely he/she will die. Therefore we are obliged to pray against these teachings and not necessarily do what I am doing now, which is joining the fight intellectually. That just does more harm than good. Ever wonder why most fundamentalist Christians like me would never engage in such conversations, because they (as do I) know they cannot win in this way. It’s not like I expect you to change your mind or anything, on my behalf (maybe on God’s) , but I think if another person comes across this blog he would notice that other people also struggle with these thoughts. And that is good. You should never be alone when you wrestle about these things.

  • 28 Werner // May 14, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Recommended reading, would love to hear what you think about it: Real Live Preacher’s thoughts on The Slippery Slope.

    Interesting read. I see that I have implicitly used the Slippery Slope technique. However, I do not agree on RLP’s black and white stance towards this path of reasoning. My reason? Because we all know how susceptible humans are to desensitization and where it makes them end up.

    The naming of the technique gives us the clue here. Its not, “The Cliff” technique because nobody survives (or would attempt) a moral drop like that, its the little drops that make you “slide” into trouble. To bring it back into context with Genesis and Jonah, surely no human can survive in the belly of a fish for long, on their own strength. So what RLP is saying is that he cannot believe that God has the power to protect a man inside the belly of a fish, the same God that created the universe by just speaking it. See the problem…?

  • 29 Kenneth Oberlander // May 14, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    @Werner
    I don’t mean to pick on you, but I must take exception to this:

    It is scary, because you know that if you cross that line (this is mentally by making a descision) you become the god over your own life. You submit to nothing an no one and you are going to trample your conscience that was so difficult to restore. Life becomes meaningless or just a quest to maximize the pleasure you can get out of it for yourself.

    Do you honestly think this is what happens when you “cross the line?” That you lose all interest, compassion and love for everyone around you?

    Do you honestly think that when you “cross the line”, you become god of your own life?

    Do you honestly think that life after “crossing the line” therefore becomes meaningless?

    Do you honestly think that life after “crossing the line” becomes a nihilistic attempt to maximise your own pleasure?

    Have you ever spoken to “liberal” people? To irreligious people, or to the recently deconverted? Have you observed heightened evidence of any of those characteristics in them?

    For myself, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO.

    I’m not god of my own life. I’m fully aware of my limitations. I’m also aware of my responsibilities. I don’t think life is meaningless. I never have. It doesn’t have the meaning that the religious give it, but that doesn’t make the meaning I find in life any less precious. My life has the meaning that I give it, which is a lot. It consists substantially of the meaning my friends and loved ones have to me, as well as a passion for the natural world. You don’t become an unfeeling automaton programmed for pleasure-seeking once you “cross the line”. You’re still a person, with all the loves, attachments, interests, responsibilities and goals of a person.

    To say that the deconverted have no meaning in life is horribly, tragically wrong. I really think you should re-examine this opinion of yours.

  • 30 Kenneth Oberlander // May 14, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Which leads me on to my second point:

    Take away a Christian’s food (The word of God) and surely he/she will die.

    Based on what evidence? You are surely sick of this question by now, but have you had a chance to speak to those who have lost, or rejected, the word of god? How many deconvertees opt for suicide? What percentage of lapsed theists lead happy lives as opposed to those who don’t?

    To continue your metaphor, to the atheist, the word of god is a spectacular virtual seven-course banquet. It is dressed up in the most amazing sauces, cooked with rarest ingredients, served with lavish care and attention to detail, cooked to perfection and done to a turn. The problem is, it’s all virtual. There is no evidence of the promised banquet. Fortunately, we still have the plain meat and potatoes of reality that is on the plate in front of us. It might not have the floridity and spectacle of the promised banquet, but at least we know we are getting fed ;-) .

    Therefore we are obliged to pray against these teachings and not necessarily do what I am doing now, which is joining the fight intellectually. That just does more harm than good.

    Depends very strongly on what you mean by harm. If you mean harm to beliefs, then I would agree.

    Ever wonder why most fundamentalist Christians like me would never engage in such conversations, because they (as do I) know they cannot win in this way. It’s not like I expect you to change your mind or anything, on my behalf (maybe on God’s) , but I think if another person comes across this blog he would notice that other people also struggle with these thoughts. And that is good. You should never be alone when you wrestle about these things.

    I agree, but not necessarily for the same reasons… ;-)

  • 31 Hugo // May 14, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Werner, “technique”? I don’t know what you mean by calling it a technique? And people don’t all “end up” in the same place, there is no obvious destination if you keep on heading “supposedly down”. Others find it worthwhile to live on the slope, feeling that’s clearly where God expects them to be, for example?

    So what RLP is saying is that he cannot believe that God has the power to protect a man inside the belly of a fish

    Spin or nuance? I’d say he’s saying he trusts God to be faithful with regards to not bending and breaking the laws of physics. Otherwise, why need we care for the planet, say? (So yea, this is a discussion about how “intervening” God is, what laws-of-physics God breaks, and how often… If I’m to get into that discussion, I’d prefer to do it in the context of Practising Science Requires Methodological Naturalism. If e.g. Michael wants to discuss it (making it not just a dialogue between you and me), then maybe it would be more interesting. (Absolutely no pressure, Michael, you and I do have our own discussion going on here. A bit interleaved…)

    It is scary, because you know that if you cross that line (this is mentally by making a descision) you become the god over your own life.

    I disagree with that. That is “theistic brainwashing”, um, the theistic way of thinking. (I’m now something of a post-theist.) Theists believe the only reason they need to do good, is due to a single supernatural entity that says they should. Remove that, then they lose their moral foundation, and “become god over their own life”. A humanistic morality is based on relationship between people, and on compassion. Do you recognise the parallels here, when many theologies suggest God is found in relationships between people, in compassion and love? Those things still exist, no matter where you are on the worldview landscape. Unless you choose nihilism and isolation… we are a gregarious species, and in our relationships with fellow humans, we “find God”, we “find meaning”, we find purpose and love and compassion.

    You submit to nothing an no one and you are going to trample your conscience that was so difficult to restore. Life becomes meaningless or just a quest to maximize the pleasure you can get out of it for yourself.

    It may feel like that when you’re “peering over the abyss”, but that wasn’t what I eventually experienced. I submit to community, to fellowship with humanity, to that which supposed to be what God is all about. I find God in a whole new way. Post-theistic.

    That said, it was a rough ride, and there was a while when my mind went nihilistic on me. Much of that is attributable to stress and drugs though :-P – I was finishing my thesis under immense pressure while grappling with a number of things I shouldn’t have tackled at the same time. Call it a “brief psychotic break”, call it “a religious experience” :-P… six or so weeks later, my mind was still unsettled about a number of things, and considered some other ludicrous ideas, and I believe I did hurt at least one person in the process. But when all was over, I had learned a lot, found my feet again, regained solid fundamentals… and I believe I’m much, much better off now, after all of that.

    Like you mention, going through it on your own isn’t a good idea. I strongly believe humans need community of some sort to maintain sanity.

    by going “fundamental”. Fundamental to whom?

    I can’t really connect to the parts of your comment that talks about fundamentalism. I’m taking mostly the perspective of the Crossan clip I linked above: by fundamentalism, I mean taking a hard-line approach to a worldview, in this case literalist/evangelical/pentecostal Christianity, and considering everyone that doesn’t also have that view, to be wrong.

    By the softer meaning, we all have fundamentals. Everyone. One of my fundamentals is compassion and reason. I.e. I believe we can think about what is right and wrong, and learn something about it from there (even if we can’t find ultimate and perfect answers), and that compassion should be a driving force for how we behave. I could optionally be fundamentalistic in this sense as well, in the way I relate to others that don’t choose compassion, but I think I have a more “open-minded” (in terms of relating) way of discussing worldviews with people.

    With regards to:

    I would go as far as to say that if you are not viewed as a fundamentalist, the repentance was not genuine.

    I do disagree (surprise ;) ). And I dislike and consider dangerous that in-group out-group kind of thinking. That is the kind of thing that causes people to break-with-everyone-else, and thereby invites the “cult” label that people seem to so love fighting about. (I found a friend in Europe has a much softer and open definition of cult, considering e.g. Catholicism to be a cult as well. Though I know some Shofarians would agree in an instant. ;) )

    Take away a Christian’s food (The word of God) and surely he/she will die.

    Obviously we’re talking metaphorical here? ;-) I’d point out that food can be found in many places… in relationships, in conversations, in other spiritual traditions, they all have some food. Some really valuable food. I consider it “fundamentalism” to suggest that *only* the *Christian Bible* contains said soul-food, or in other terms, that God’s Word is found in Christian scripture and nowhere else. (I believe it is found in relationships, much more than anything else, and that the Bible is a collection of writings from people living in relationship with their community of believers, in their relationship with God – hence it captures the word of God, but isn’t solely God’s word. It is *about* God, while I feel certain ways of reading and treating it is akin to making a false idol out of the texts…)

    You end with thoughts I’m in agreement with (though our nuances differ):

    but I think if another person comes across this blog he would notice that other people also struggle with these thoughts. And that is good. You should never be alone when you wrestle about these things.

  • 32 Werner // May 14, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Have you ever spoken to “liberal” people? To irreligious people, or to the recently deconverted? Have you observed heightened evidence of any of those characteristics in them?

    No.

    To say that the deconverted have no meaning in life is horribly, tragically wrong. I really think you should re-examine this opinion of yours.

    I never said that is what deconverted people feel; I said that this is what I feel. I believe there to be a Huge difference. I cannot speak for the deconverted, or the unbeliever for that matter. I speak for myself. This is how I think I will feel when I cross that line.

    I would bounce back then with, don’t you find it interesting why you generalized my feelings to be a judgment onto other people? Possibly because that would make me look bad and strengthen you against me. This is why I say that I do more harm than good by participating here, because satan will make you see things in my words that are simply not there.

  • 33 Werner // May 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    @ 31:

    Look. Looking at what you write I can see that you are a good person with good intentions. I never thought otherwise. I do believe you even get good people that are completely unsaved.

    I read your blog allot and I thought I would give you that Hardcore Believer that you always seek to play with for a while. I kind of became one in the mean time. In the end I know you would always destroy me with pure logic, but I hope that something I say might be like al little mustard seed in there somewhere. If that makes me look bad, I don’t care about what people think about me.

    I hope you are not disappointed that I don’t directly respond to what you said in 31. I read it all and its just that I cannot really disagree with what you say other than in the way I already have. In that way you can consider it a victory on your part. ;)

  • 34 Hugo // May 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    @32, ;-) That’s the trickiness of talking about how we feel about things, eh… often sounds to people like we’re making broad fact-claims when we mean to be speaking about how things feel personally. How does one phrase statements to avoid that misunderstanding, prefix every sentence with “it feels like”? Or #include at the top?

    Anyway, I gotta get outside, get around to ticking off a number of important things on my list for the day off I took today.

  • 35 Kenneth Oberlander // May 14, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    @Werner

    This is how I think I will feel when I cross that line.

    Understood. My point here is you have no evidence that any such thing will happen, so your principle reason to avoid “crossing the line” isn’t an issue.

    I would bounce back then with, don’t you find it interesting why you generalized my feelings to be a judgment onto other people?

    Where did I do that? Almost every sentence is addressed to you personally. I don’t see where I generalised. I most certainly didn’t judge anyone in that post. I just pointed out where I disagree with your opinion, and why.

    This is why I say that I do more harm than good by participating here, because satan will make you see things in my words that are simply not there.

    Harm to who? Or, more accurately, to what? How is your participation here harming anyone?

  • 36 Werner // May 14, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Where did I do that?

    When you said To say that the deconverted have no meaning in life is horribly, tragically wrong.

    Harm to who? Or, more accurately, to what? How is your participation here harming anyone?

    Good point. Harm to me, harm to my beliefs.

  • 37 Werner // May 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    More specifically the words “the deconverted” I interpret as referring to a group of people that does not believe or once believed.

    If that is not what you meant or because you did not scrutinize your every word, I would take it that way.

  • 38 Hugo // May 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    @33:

    In the end I know you would always destroy me with pure logic

    “Destroy” feels so negative, I hope I never come across as someone that is destructive. (I’m trying to be constructive, as best as I possibly can.)

    I hope you are not disappointed that I don’t directly respond to what you said in 31.

    Nope, I’m fine! I’m loving this conversation, though I’m often worried I come across too harshly on certain points? And I don’t feel like I seek victory, but I do seek cross-cultural understanding. (Which means, yes, if you can’t “disagree”, it is something of a “victory” isn’t it. Hmmm… ;) )

    I’m curious what your feelings are, what your impressions are, specifically pointing out that this isn’t about what is “true or fact”, it is about impressions and stereotypes and the like: what impressions do you have (probably via the community you find yourself in) of secular humanists?

    @Kenneth, #35:

    so your principle reason to avoid “crossing the line” isn’t an issue.

    Except in that it is the impressions he got, and the feelings that kept him from crossing the line. Even if it is not an overall objective issue. Personal worldview stance remains highly subjective, no matter how you look at it? And the choice to talk down a scary path specifically so? I think we’re agreed on this though, I don’t mean to argue.

    /me dons his running shoes and gets some fresh air.

  • 39 Kenneth Oberlander // May 14, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    When you said To say that the deconverted have no meaning in life is horribly, tragically wrong.

    Aaaaah, OK. You are right, this is a generalisation. My apologies.

    I will amend it to this: To say that you will find no meaning in life if you should deconvert is horribly, tragically wrong.

  • 40 Kenneth Oberlander // May 14, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    @Hugo:

    Except in that it is the impressions he got, and the feelings that kept him from crossing the line. Even if it is not an overall objective issue. Personal worldview stance remains highly subjective, no matter how you look at it? And the choice to talk down a scary path specifically so? I think we’re agreed on this though, I don’t mean to argue.

    I suppose that to point out that an argument from adverse consequences and an argument from emotion are logical fallacies would be too strident ;-) ?

    Enjoy the run.

  • 41 Werner // May 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    “Destroy” feels so negative, I hope I never come across as someone that is destructive. (I’m trying to be constructive, as best as I possibly can.)

    Yea definitely a poor choice of words.

    what impressions do you have (probably via the community you find yourself in) of secular humanists?

    Wow. What a loaded question. I will try to answer it as best I can. Firstly, I think my church wants us to actively rebuke Humanists. Now, this is my interpretation of what my church preaches, which is pretty obvious in some of their sermons (Therefore Shofarites don’t blame the messenger). But, let me clarify some more. It’s a kind of a rebuke that wants me not to become true friends with them. It’s not like a hate or a despise or something like that, more like a scriptural 2 Cor 6:14: Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For a what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

    So, being a Christian is not easy when you are friends with unbelievers ( OR Humanists or whatever label you want to give them). When you have fellowship with them, that is just plain dangerous (to your faith). They key is then not to depend on them so much as you depend on God for life advice. As long as you can keep that balance in check it should be fine for Christians and unbelievers to intermingle.

    Many Christians are not mindful of this and friends can quickly derail them from their faith, something that I believe the church does not like. Therefore they (pastors) usually take a tougher stance on such things hoping that at least some of that toughness would rub off on its congregation. They have good intentions, but run a bit shallow in conveying these good intentions. When has it ever worked to tell someone: “Don’t do this or that”. Never. But we have to forgive them and see their heart in the matter.

    Oh yea, there was one thing in 31 that caught my eye:

    (So yea, this is a discussion about how “intervening” God is, what laws-of-physics God breaks, and how often…

    This is a good observation; Naturally I believe God can break any “law of physics”. Since they are not “laws” at all but current best theories/explanations? This connects with what I said in my fist post: The battle is spiritual, you cannot believe the things of the Bible if you do not believe God is almighty. See there is that word, believe. It’s a spiritual matter, not a factual one.

    Back in the day when I was not a believer, I saw this program on TV trying to explain how God parted the waters so that His people can pass through. They had this plastic model built and if they simulated a hurricane strength wind from a certain direction it seems like there comes a opening in the water (it was a pathetic little opening on the banks of this sea). Even as a unbeliever I could not believe how dumb that was. These people were trying to prove that God could do it, within the “laws” of physics. Ok so good luck explaining how Jesus walked on water.

    I believe God can create the stars and can make them shine 230 gazillion light years away in an instant. Why can’t he create light in mid flight? What or who has the knowledge to prove that He cannot do that? Physics? I believe God can create the world in six days. I believe He can create it in one day if He wanted to. He can create the universe and earth to look old too (remember the stars shining 230 gazillion light years away). Surely He knew anyone with half a brain would wonder how they could see stars that far away if the earth is less than 10K years old? Did that stop him from demonstrating His Greatness? NO. Why? Because he knew that His grace would overcome any silly physics lession you learn at school. He is much bigger than that.

  • 42 Hugo // May 14, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Thanks! (So you’re pretty brave to be hanging out around here, eh? ;-) )

    The “destroy” word choice is acceptable to me, if its nature is well understood and not meant in its worst sense. It then becomes poetic in a way, and maybe cautionary. (That, versus being “propaganda”.)

    With regards to light-in-mid-flight and fossils-buried-to-…”deceive” or such, I’ve shared my views in the post already. The problem with the breaking of “the laws of physics” (which is a general concept), I wrote about that idea in the concept of science in the post “Practising Science Requires Methodological Naturalism” I linked to above.

    Back to humanists… thanks for sharing your stance/perspective (for multiple meanings of “your”, plural in particular).

    So that focuses on differences. What is the typical impression of what a humanist’s philosophy is? (So far it seems equated with “unbeliever”, a spin I really don’t like, but doesn’t surprise me.) I’ve come across e.g. family that know “humanist is a bad thing” or something like that, but the word doesn’t seem to mean much more to them than that, the general “humanist philosophy” or life stance is apparently an unknown to many. (So they know what secular humanists are not, but they don’t know what they are.) Thus, connected to my question of what the general impression is of what a humanist is: does the concept of a “Christian humanist” mean anything to you?

  • 43 Ben-Jammin' // May 15, 2009 at 2:10 am

    (de-lurk)

    I said that this is what I feel. I believe there to be a Huge difference. I cannot speak for the deconverted, or the unbeliever for that matter. I speak for myself. This is how I think I will feel when I cross that line.

    For whatever it’s worth, I also read what you wrote as speaking for the deconverted or unbelievers. Ah, miscommunication.

    (re-lurk)

  • 44 Ben-Jammin' // May 15, 2009 at 2:18 am

    @Kenneth:

    To say that you will find no meaning in life if you should deconvert is horribly, tragically wrong.

    I don’t think you can say that with certainty. People are different.

  • 45 Kenneth Oberlander // May 15, 2009 at 8:23 am

    @Ben-Jammin’
    I should have emphasised the “will”. Or the “no”.
    More miscommunication…

  • 46 Kenneth Oberlander // May 15, 2009 at 8:34 am

    @Werner
    Have you ever heard of Last-Thursdayism?

  • 47 Werner // May 15, 2009 at 10:16 am

    does the concept of a “Christian humanist” mean anything to you?

    Yes, and I believe there to be many of such people all over the church. Even in Shofar. I get the feeling you are one too? Apologies if I “label” you wrong, or that I label you at all. No person can hide under just one label, and you are the memetic engineer after all ;)

    To answer more clearly, I will make up some numbers to demonstrate my relative feeling about Humanists vs Believers. I believe the intersection of a Humanist and a Believer’s secular values are almost an exact match. That is to say, I don’t think Humanists are really bad people running around doing bad things. The intersetion probably differs more when you compare Humanists, Secular and Christian Humanists with Believers. That last bit of secular values mismatch might be things such as, whether or not to teach evolution at schools. Things that indirectly make it difficult for people to believe in God.

    Obviously we prefer a Christian Humanist above the rest, but not by much. The reason for this is quite complex and could be the part that confuses Humanists so much about believers. Believers put great emphasis (because the Bible does) that you can only be saved from spiritual death if you believe in your saviour, which is Jesus that died on the cross for your sins. That and repentance but I won’t go into that now. Scripture says it best: Galatians 3: 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” The word cursed there is very important to notice. Believers feel that Humanists are cursed because no matter how hard they try to live a righteous life, they will fail and this will bring great sadness or depression. Believers overcame this through Jesus Christ and hence their incredible need to give this gift to other people. They want other people to be free of that curse.

    @Kennith, I have heard of Last-Thursdayism briefly before, Hugo touched on it before. I have not studied it in depth because the question it poses “Why not treat something that looks old, like it is old?” is something that is difficult for me to answer. This is because I do not believe that we can ever with 100% certainty say everything points to an old universe. We can never know.

  • 48 Michael // May 15, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Hey, thanks for the feedback. Read Realivepreacher on the Slippery Slope. Good read.

    I admit that I am attracted to this way of approaching the scriptures. I prefer an allegorical fruit in the garden to a real one because I have tasted the allegorical one but not the real one. I prefer an allegorical wrestling match between Jacob and the angel of the Lord because I have wrestled with God myself allegorically, but not actually. I CANNOT prefer an allegorical resurrection of Christ to an actual one. And here is that pesky slippery slope. Realivepreacher can scoff all he likes – to me, this is a very real, very scary slope.

    Let’s analyse the reasons for this feeling. Maybe I’m scared because of what embracing a more “liberal” approach to interpretation might mean in terms of scandal (Evangelical conservative background rears its ugly head!) If that’s all it is I’ll be happy. In this case, all I need is a little courage. Soren Kierkegaard said something to the effect of “If one were to do something entirely motivated be the fear of God and entirely ignoring the fear of man, one would be guarenteed to cause a scandal”.

    What I’m worried about is that my fear of the slippery slope is motivated by a fear of myself. What if I want to embrace this more liberal approach because of how good it feels to rebel against my conservative heritage? What if theological convictions have nothing to do with it. Realivepreacher encourages us to relax and follow our hearts. If anything in the Bible can be taken absolutely literally, it’s, “the heart is deceitful above all things”. I can’t trust my heart.

    And so (for now) I’m stuck on the awkward border between conservative literalism and liberal allegory. Bummer.

  • 49 Hugo // May 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    @Michael, yea, I know what you mean.

    I’m reading a book by Borg and Crossan which is all about the meaning of the text, and much less concerned about what did or did not actually happen. So I’m wondering if it is possible to shift concern in a similar fashion? The uncertainty about historical fact, where we cannot find certainty anyway, could actually help promote the meaning to greater importance in one’s perspective?

    So that’s one thing I could suggest. Not that it is necessarily good advice. You’re certainly highly reflective and come across as well read (could you recommend some Kierkegaard to me? not that I really have time :-/ ) Good luck with your predicament…

  • 50 Hugo // May 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    @Werner, #47 – yea, I talked about Last-Thursdayism in this post, and linked to the wikipedia page on it, which has some interesting thoughts about it.

    On the concept of “Christian humanist”:

    I get the feeling you are one too?

    I call myself a humanist. I mentioned “I’m still a humanist” in #24. And then I’m a non-literalist to the extent that I don’t care much about the “Christian” label: I don’t go around calling myself a Christian. It’s true that by talking about Christian theological concerns, people come to the conclusion that I am, and I don’t always discuss this assumption of theirs. In a recent conversation with two fundies, I explicitly requested that they stop thinking of me as a Christian. “I’m at most a follower of Jesus” was my line then. “The Bible doesn’t state ‘thou shalt call thyself Christian'” is something else I could add, but how useful is that really? (This leads to discussions of “what makes someone a Christian”, whether the creeds that were eventually set up are definitional, whether we consider the disciples to be Christians in the first few years, etc.)

    Back to the topic at hand…

    What I pick up from your comment, are ideas like these:
    – real Christians believe evolution should not be taught at schools, as it makes it harder to believe in God
    – you use the word “believers” where I would use “literalists” (or evangelicals, pentecostals, fundamentalists, some word expressing a particular theological stance), thereby meaning those that don’t share this stance, you don’t consider to be “believers”?

    Scripture says it best

    I actually had to go read some other translations in order to get a grasp on what it was saying. ;-) (The Message helped me out in this case.) I have my nuances in the way I read that particular text, my way of placing emphasis…

    …which still brings me back to my question from my last post: you talk about humanists and where you stand with regards to them, but I’m still curious what the impression is of what is a humanist?

    Here is a related question:

    “It is wrong to commit murder.” Do you think someone that has never come across any sacred texts from any tradition knows this, or can come to know this by considering it and thinking about it, or do you think the only way someone could possibly conclude murder is wrong, is by submitting to the authority of some sacred text?

  • 51 Werner // May 16, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I explicitly requested that they stop thinking of me as a Christian. “I’m at most a follower of Jesus” was my line then.

    Interesting. Acts 11: and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

    Christian:
    G5546
    Χριστιανός
    Christianos
    khris-tee-an-os’
    From G5547; a Christian, that is, follower of Christ: – Christian.

    G5547
    Χριστός
    Christos
    khris-tos’
    From G5548; anointed, that is, the Messiah, an epithet of Jesus: – Christ.

    Direct translation of Christian means a follower of Christ, that is to say believe in Him and follow his ways (in the spirit that Jesus intended). Your “line” then means you say you are a Christian?

    This connects with your other question about my usage of the word “believer”. I am impressed that you noticed my sudden switch in labels. I was struggling to use the word Christian because these days its meaning and respect has been completely lost. The term Christian Humanist in all respects is an oxymoron. Maybe they should have called it “Religious Humanist”, as that is a much better suited for that worldview. Point being, I wanted to distinguish between someone that has a wishy washy view of Christianity (through good works), and the true believer that writes every word of Scripture on his heart.

    you talk about humanists and where you stand with regards to them, but I’m still curious what the impression is of what is a humanist?

    Using a biblical stance, I think a Humanist is someone that strive to live by the Law and the Letter, but rejects the possibility of a spiritual living god. Academically id say: Humanists strive towards a good moral value system, using conscience as their compass. The problem with this being a human’s conscience can be anesthetized. Just read Ted Bundy’s story.

    The Memes that run rampant within society these days wreak havoc on young people’s conscience. For example, Children are brought up in a society that teach them divorce is not such a big deal (their conscience are seared) which I believe would lead them to divorce easily one day. If said divorcing couple already have kids, especially young ones, the damage to those kids is very hard to reverse. Anyone that cannot see that, well, they have a seared conscience as it is said in 1 Tim 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of a liars whose consciences are seared,

  • 52 Hugo // May 16, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Do you think Soren Kierkegaard was a Christian? (I’ll come back to the rest of your comments later, I’ve gotta head out to town before 5.)

  • 53 Werner // May 16, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    … don’t know they guy. I will check him out though, but first I too am off to Gym. Time to brave the weather here in Cape Town. Don’t call it “Cape of Storms” for nothing, its storming here O_O

  • 54 Hugo // May 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    On what it means to be a Christian:

    Direct translation of Christian means a follower of Christ,

    Interesting predicament we find ourselves with then, with regards to these definitions…

    that is to say believe in Him and follow his ways

    It comes back down to the discussion of orthodoxy and orthopraxy… or something. You’re focusing on the believing part, I’m focusing on the following part. My mind isn’t much occupied with thoughts of “what am I supposed to believe“, they’re occupied with “what does it mean to follow“. To play with your choice of “believers” word then, I’d choose the “followers” word for the other side.

    Borrowing some Marcus Borg quotes:

    A further result: Christianity in the modern period became preoccupied with the dynamic of believing or not believing. For many people, believing “iffy” claims to be true became the central meaning of Christian faith. It is an odd notion – as if what God most wants from us is believing highly problematic statements to be factually true. And if one can’t believe them, then one doesn’t have faith and isn’t a Christian.

    That’s what I’m touching on when I say “I’m not a Christian”. Borg describes modernity’s older way of seeing Christianity as “literalistic, doctrinal, moralistic, patriarchal, exclusivistic and afterlife-oriented”. His paragraph on doctrinal:

    Second, it was _doctrinal_. Being a Christian meant believing Christianity’s central doctrinal teachings. In churches that used either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed regularly, you were a “real” Christian if you could say the creed without crossing your fingers or becoming silent during any of the phrases.

    The creeds, the theology of the trinity, these things, they came about decades or even centuries after the crucifixion. To many moderns, I can’t call myself a Christian if I don’t adhere to some creed. Hence, I say “not a Christian, at most a follower”, and leave the resolving of that up to you. ;)

    The way of seeing and reading the Bible that I describe in the rest of this book leads to a way of being Christian that has very little to do with believing. Instead, what will emerge is a relational and sacramental understanding of the Christian life. Being Christian, I will argue, is not about believing in the Bible or about believing in Christianity. Rather, it is about a deepening relationship with the God to whom the Bible points, lived within the Christian tradition as a sacrament of the sacred.

    Is Marcus Borg a Christian?

    The first bit I quote, suggests another thing: the form of Christianity that you follow is a contemporary one. The emphasis on whether you believe the right stuff or the wrong stuff is not something Jesus was concerned about. He didn’t preach what Paul preached. So what do you call someone that follows Jesus, recognises the timelessness of the example he sets, together with his call to salvation which was “come, follow me”, while considering Paul’s writings to be very contextual, explaining more about how church community was done in that context than what Jesus called us to do? Still something to learn from, certainly… anyway, not really what I want to discuss right now.

    (in the spirit that Jesus intended).

    And who determines what that intention was? What makes Shofar a better arbiter of that, than the Bible scholars and theologians?

    “Anyone that disagrees with me, and my particular interpretation of scripture, has a seared conscience!” ;-) (Meant in good jest, not as a serious argument, albeit thought-provoking.)

    The term Christian Humanist in all respects is an oxymoron.

    In all respects?! I’m sorry, here I feel you’re stepping outside of the realm of “this is our understanding of the concept” and making generalised statements I have to take issue with. I still believe the greatest majority of Shofarians don’t know what a humanist is, focusing instead on a polarised version of what a humanist is not.

    Using a biblical stance, I think a Humanist is someone that strive to live by the Law and the Letter

    Of course, the Bible never talks about the label “Humanist”…

    The impression I get of your impression of the term “Humanist”, is a synonym for “non-believer”. Here you’re describing a “law-abiding citizen”. If you have some exposure to role playing games and how alignments are often represented, there’s Lawful-Good, Lawful-Neutral, Lawful-Evil… Being law-abiding does not make you a good person, it only makes you a law-abiding person. And Humanism has very little to do with law: an unjust law will be protested by a humanist, not adhered to.

    The suggestion that humanists take “conscience” as their moral compass is also not true. They are also very aware of the problematic state of human nature.

    What I find particularly disturbing, is the mention of a serial killer in the same context as humanism. I’m sure you don’t mean to suggest there’s any relation between Bundy and humanism though?

    So forget about believer-vs-non-believer, how would you describe to a non-believer, that doesn’t consider himself to be a humanist, what it means to become one? What is it that differentiates a humanist from the Bundy’s of this world?

  • 55 Werner // May 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Your explanation about believing and following is fascinating. For a moment there I thought you had me. But surely, to follow someone you have to believe that the person exists or existed? How can one follow nothing? If you follow what Jesus said, surely you must believe that He said it, or you are not really following Him, but whoever wrote “His” words? So by following Christ belief is implied!

    It is an odd notion – as if what God most wants from us is believing highly problematic statements to be factually true. And if one can’t believe them, then one doesn’t have faith and isn’t a Christian.

    Interesting indeed. Again I touched on this earlier when I said, if you do not believe God is almighty, or don’t fear God (same thing), what Borg said there is going to be a huge stumbling block for a would-be Christian. Therefore I agree with what he says, but he has it wrong when he says God is testing us, cultivating this feeling that God is against us. This is deception. Just as a child is deceived when he refuses his parents asking him to eat his vegetables? “Surely the parents are against me (testing me), vegetables taste so much worse than candy”. This is human behavior basics 101 that must be unlearnt (repented from).

    […]and leave the resolving of that up to you.

    Yes I do understand your point of view though, when you say you follow.

    Rather, it is about a deepening relationship with the God to whom the Bible points,

    That is just plain wrong. I am sorry. If he makes a statement like that, and expects people to eat it, he is mistaken. Any Christian that understands the doctrine of Christ would laugh at that. Sure we are to have relationship with God, but through Jesus Christ. This is paramount to the Gospel, because did Jesus did not die for nothing!!! He was a real person that died for us! John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. The Bible points to Jesus and his atoning death, not a direct relationship with God. That is what the New Testament is all about, how can he miss that?

    Is Marcus Borg a Christian?

    I refrain from judging the man, but I may discern and appeal to him to rethink what he believes, based on what is written in the Bible and the quotes you have given me.

    And who determines what that intention was?

    You are correct, not Shofar. There is only one that can determine this intention, I believe. John 14:26 “But s when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. Shofar promotes baptism in water and in the Holy Spirit so that you can discern for yourself. Therefore you can say Shofar is a Charismatic church.

    I still believe the greatest majority of Shofarians don’t know what a humanist is, focusing instead on a polarised version of what a humanist is not.

    I agree 100%, I highly doubt I have a proper idea, even after reading lots of wiki pages on the matter. But then do we get the same treatment? Hard to say…

    The reason why I think a Christian Humanist is an oxymoron is because I believe to be a Christian you must believe in whom you are following, which is Jesus who is a supernatural being, but then the definition of a Humanist rejects supernaturalism. Therefore, it comes down to my “injection” of the implied belief when you follow that leads me to this conclusion.

    Here you’re describing a “law-abiding citizen”.

    I think there might be a misunderstanding here. I don’t really know how to convey what I mean, but I will try. Basically, someone whose actions are pleasing to God lives by “the law and the letter”. That is a phrase I made up for myself, and is analogous to the concept of the “works” spoken of in the New Testament. It has nothing to do with the law of man.

    The suggestion that humanists take “conscience” as their moral compass is also not true. They are also very aware of the problematic state of human nature.

    Ok my mistake, but how does this make things any better? Something must be used as a guide, as I am sure they are not using a magic Eight Ball? So how do they circumvent this “problematic state of human nature”?

    So forget about believer-vs-non-believer, how would you describe to a non-believer, that doesn’t consider himself to be a humanist, what it means to become one?

    That is easy. I would open up my bible and read for the non-believer John 3:16-21: 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For l God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

  • 56 Werner // May 16, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    So forget about believer-vs-non-believer, how would you describe to a non-believer, that doesn’t consider himself to be a humanist, what it means to become one?

    Reading it again I might have misunderstood your question. When you say “[…] what it means to become one?” do you mean a Humanist or a Believer/Christian?

  • 57 Michael // May 17, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Soren Kierkegaard was certainly a follower of Christ. He was however rejected to a large degree by the institutional church because (mainly) of his views with regards to Christendom vs. Christianity.

    I’ve been following some of your conversation with Werner and it occurs to me that the labels “Christian”, “Humanist”, “Socialist” (virtually any ‘ist’) is not set in stone but evolves constantly over time (like all language). It may be worth asking two questions:

    1) Why did the believers in Antioch adopt the label “Christian” in place of the then-favoured “followers of The Way”? I have no idea! But perhaps, the previous label had been hijacked by religious people who they wished to distance themselves from?

    2) Was it not precisely this situation that prompted Soren to distance himself from the label “Christendom” in 19th century Denmark, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to distance himself from the label “religious” in Nazi Germany? These people were disillusioned with the institutionalised Church, so they adopted new labels. Why then can’t we do the same if we feel the need to distance ourselves from the “Christian” label, which to so many people has come to mean “bigotted”, “closed-minded”, “homophobic”, and “violent”?

    At first, the answer seems to be that we should go ahead and distance ourselves. The problem is that “the foot that calls itself distinct from the body is not revolutionary, but merely deluded! A foot that revolts against the foot may find itself soon seperated from the Head” (1 Corinthians 12 very paraphrased ;). This desire to distance ourselves from the Christian label is the same desire that led to denominationalism, and the terrible violence associated with it. We have to ask ourselves whether indifference or revolution or reconstruction is the best option for someone who professes to follow Christ?

    PS – About Kierkegaard: he wrote a lot of good stuff, some intensely personal, some very academic, and some very philosophical. I have avoided the second category. I recommend “The Journals” (English version published in 1938) and “For Self Examination” (1848). Here’s a great quote that I think you’ll like (from “Journals”):

    “if the Church is to be emancipated, then I must ask: By what means, in what way? A religious movement must be served religiously—otherwise it is a sham! Consequently, the emancipation must come about through martyrdom—bloody or bloodless. The price of purchase is the spiritual attitude. But those who wish to emancipate the Church by secular and worldly means (i.e. no martyrdom), they’ve introduced a conception of tolerance entirely consonant with that of the entire world, where tolerance equals indifference, and that is the most terrible offence against Christianity”.

  • 58 Hugo // May 18, 2009 at 1:27 am

    @Werner, #55: to believers, it might be important whether Jesus had a virginal birth or not. They find it important to believe it. Naturally, the idea is that belief should flow over into following, so the end-result is arguably supposed to be the same, from the following perspective.

    To someone coming from the “following angle” though, whether Jesus had a virginal birth is not so critical. Consider the hypothetical: suppose we were to discover, next week, irrefutable proof that Jesus had a biological father, what impact would that have? For believers and literalists, this would undermine their fundamentals, namely specific beliefs, while followers could shrug about it, and continue following.

    but he has it wrong when he says God is testing us, cultivating this feeling that God is against us.

    That’s an interesting angle on what he’s saying, I suppose I can understand why you think of it that way, when I think from your perspective. From my perspective, I disagree with the suggestion that Borg is saying God is testing us, but that’s probably because I don’t feel any pressure to “believe the right things”. (Being a follower, rather than a believer ;) )

    How does your “eat your vegetables!” metaphor fit into the picture, does that map to “believe the right things”? On the grounds that “believing the right things” is considered “good for you”, like eating your vegetables? What is human-behaviour-101, that we must repent from wanting to think for ourselves and follow the instruction of our parents (aka the Bible in your metaphor)? I see as another flip-sided element of human-behaviour-101 the desire to defer authority to some authority figure or source, so that we don’t have to take responsibility for our choices and what we believe. “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” -> is an easy way out, to avoid having to use your brain to think about it, to wrestle with it, to mine out the truth, or seek out truth if truth seems too hard to find. That is behaviour I feel must be unlearnt too (repented from).

    But I think we’re more or less understanding one another. ;)

    Yes I do understand your point of view though, when you say you follow.

    Moving on…

    Rather, it is about a deepening relationship with the God to whom the Bible points,

    That is just plain wrong. I am sorry. If he makes a statement like that, and expects people to eat it, he is mistaken. Any Christian that understands the doctrine of Christ would laugh at that.

    Huh?!

    This was a rather disappointing paragraph… that you would take exception to something as simple as that. Marcus Borg is talking about the Bible here, as a whole. He starts with the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament), for example. The Hebrew Bible, read by the Jews, is… “about a deepening relationship with God to whom the Bible points”. Thinking of it like that, how on earth could you gripe so strongly about that statement? Suppose a Shofarian that holds a literalist belief were to make the same statement, would you have responded equally strongly?

    You’re saying: “Any Christian that holds my/our understanding of theology, would laugh at that” or in other words “we laugh at that statement”. Or… “anyone that doesn’t laugh at that statement, clearly doesn’t understand the doctrine of Christ correctly”. I strongly disagree with you here. There are people that would take Borg very seriously there, in total agreement with him, while still subscribing to what you call the “doctrine of Christ” (according to Paul ;) , correct?).

    And isn’t a relationship with Jesus supposed to be a relationship with God? From how I understand the New Testament, the idea is that Jesus came to remove the obstacles that stood between people and God. This was, for example, symbolised by the tearing of the cloth/curtain that kept the not-pure-enough out of the holiest-of-holies in the temple. “That is what the New Testament is all about, how can you miss that?” :-P

    but I may discern and appeal to him to rethink what he believes, based on what is written in the Bible

    I can guarantee you that he knows the Bible better than you do… ;) So “go read the Bible again and rethink what you believe” is not exactly going to be helpful now, is it?

    [context: follow his ways in the way that Jesus intended.] There is only one that can determine this intention, I believe. [the Holy Spirit]

    And how do you know that your church’s interpretation or way of following is more spirit-guided than e.g. Borg’s? Playing literalism for a moment: would it be an unforgivable sin if you were to say Borg’s interpretation is misguided, if it was actually “spirit guided”? If so, how safe do you feel in making such a suggestion?

    Therefore you can say Shofar is a Charismatic church.

    Actually, I say Shofar is a charismatic/pentecostal church because they believe everyone should pray in tongues. “Anyone that has the spirit, can pray in tongues” goes the Shofar theology. Thus, anyone that is unable to, can end up wondering if they really have the spirit. So in your mind, you might equate my definition of “charismatic/pentecostal” and yours, but in my mind, there’s a very significant difference. The Dutch Reformed church also believes they have the Holy Spirit… as do most Christian denominations.

    Jesus is a supernatural being

    You do believe Jesus was 100% human too though, right? ;)

    but then the definition of a Humanist rejects supernaturalism

    Citation please? ;-)

    The shortest possible definition of the humanism philosophy is: “reason and compassion”. I’ve come across some diversity in groups that label themselves humanists. Some do equate Humanism with “secular humanism”, others insist on adding the “secular” adjective in order to distinguish from some of the more bizarre groups that also consider themselves humanists. I can link you to the thoughts and definitions under which my perspective of humanism was shaped, two old blog posts in particular. But, let’s go with Wikipedia’s definition. Shortening to the clauses I feel are relevant (with regards to the discussion about the supernatural):

    the ability to determine right and wrong […] without resorting to the supernatural or alleged divine authority from religious texts

    That is distinct from believing or not believing in the supernatural. As I mentioned earlier:

    Here is a related question:

    “It is wrong to commit murder.” Do you think someone that has never come across any sacred texts from any tradition knows this, or can come to know this by considering it and thinking about it, or do you think the only way someone could possibly conclude murder is wrong, is by submitting to the authority of some sacred text?

    I expect you would agree that you don’t need any beliefs in the supernatural to be able to determine murder is wrong, or stealing is wrong. In that sense, you too, have some humanism in your worldview.

    The wikipedia page on Humanism does seem to lean towards the secular kind, not surprisingly. Consider Christian humanism (arguably a less refined article) for another angle thus, which even has a section Selected Humanist Teachings of Jesus.

    One place where we (humanists) differ from some literalists (not all), would be on homosexuality. Based on reason and compassion, we consider the evidence, we see homosexuality is completely natural, and not a choice. By compassion, we then determine our homophobic culture is wrong. If you were in their position, how would it make you feel? (If your culture told you you may only have intimate relationships with other males, no females, how would that make you feel? As a way of swapping roles. I’m assuming you’re hetero here.) Whereas those believing in supernaturally-revealed morality often cite the Bible as irrefutable proof that homosexuality is wrong. (And the best response here, I believe, is to show them good Biblical exegesis around how weak that belief’s foundations actually are, with regards to what scripture “really says”.)

    Ok my mistake, but how does this make things any better? Something must be used as a guide, as I am sure they are not using a magic Eight Ball? So how do they circumvent this “problematic state of human nature”?

    By grappling with it: by recognising their own flaws and not denying it, by striving to improve, by relying on reason and compassion, being prepared to change their minds (repent) if they find better reasons. By using science: back to the homosexuality example, prior to scientific evidence of it not being a choice, humanists might have had a more uncompassionate or hateful stance towards homosexuality, but through reason, accepting the evidence, they continually strive to improve their ways, and repent of their past wrongs.

    So forget about believer-vs-non-believer, how would you describe to a non-believer, that doesn’t consider himself to be a humanist, what it means to become one?

    Reading it again I might have misunderstood your question. When you say “[…] what it means to become one?” do you mean a Humanist or a Believer/Christian?

    I meant a humanist.

    Let me cut to the chase. Shofar and creationism seminars like emphasizing the definition of secular humanism in terms of “we don’t need God (to live good lives)”. The emphasis I was seeking in this discussion, “from a non-religious person’s perspective”, is… “affirming the dignity and worth of all people, striving towards ethical and moral lives through the use of reason and compassion”.

    From http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=2095 :

    “A humanist,” I said, “is somebody who thinks that people should all take care of each other, and whether there is a god or there isn’t, we should spend our time making this life and this world better.”

    and

    Many others call themselves religious humanists, including many UUs. Some of these use the word “religion” in the traditional way, which Webster’s defines as “belief in a divine or superhuman power to be obeyed and worshipped as the creator and ruler of the universe.” Others claim and redefine the word “religion” in ways that transcend theistic belief, building instead on shared values, community, and the desire to be and do good.

    And there’s some nice bits in my old post (I quoted a nice comment someone left on a previous post):

    On Labelling Myself a Humanist

    Where I’d hope we would agree, is that humanism is a good thing, considered e.g. within the context of people that already don’t believe in God, and aren’t going to start believing. That would be, for me, a happy note to end this discussion on. I don’t think we ever disagreed on that, but I’d just like an explicit confirmation of the positive, constructive aspects of it, albeit within the frame of your grievances about it.

  • 59 Hugo // May 18, 2009 at 1:41 am

    @Michael, #57, my thoughts on your questions, not meant as direct answers:

    1) I wonder if they themselves chose the “Christian” label, or whether that label might have been given to them by outsiders, who found it hard to refer to a group as “followers of… Their Way?” :-P Accepting terms from outside the community is common. I ponder “geek”, which was a negative word at some point, I think, but has turned into a whole “geek pride” thing. ;-)

    2) I’m thinking: there was some things they explicitly wanted to distance themselves from. These things needed a label so that they can talk about it? In my case, I’m not so often labelling the things I’m pushing away from, probably due to my desire to remain as inclusive as possible. I mutate my definitions, while striving to grasp at the underlying ideas I care about, the ideas I feel those labels should be pointing to. When I say “I am not a Christian”, it is less a matter of wanting to distance myself from something than it is about Christians taking exception to me using the label, as they feel I’m too much of a heretic. I don’t subscribe to Christian creeds, not without significant footnotes added explicitly or implicitly to explain the contexts and meanings of the words… (A non-literal approach to creeds? If I insisted on maintaining the label at all times and in all contexts, I bet someone would eventually feel the need to create a meta-creed, a creed about how the creed should be understood. ;) )

    To bed with me, hard work for three days, Thursday is public holiday, Ascension day, so is Switzerland then more Christian than South Africa? ;-) — and then I’m taking long-weekend.

    I owe this blog some posts, it’s been more than a week now. I must break the habitual thought that “posts are supposed to be long, take long, drain me of my energy”. The next post could really be just a short little one. Details could be hacked out in comments, and posts can be updated or expanded at a later date. Yea. OK, I’ll aim to write it in the next 20 hours.

  • 60 Kenneth Oberlander // May 18, 2009 at 8:44 am

    @Werner
    Sorry, I missed this over the weekend.

    @Kennith, I have heard of Last-Thursdayism briefly before, Hugo touched on it before. I have not studied it in depth because the question it poses “Why not treat something that looks old, like it is old?” is something that is difficult for me to answer. This is because I do not believe that we can ever with 100% certainty say everything points to an old universe. We can never know.

    You are absolutely right. We can’t know anything with certainty. There is always a statistical uncertainty involved in something like this. The problem with the “We can never know” assertion is that it presumes that we can never know anything. This is demonstrably wrong, because this isn’t a binary either/or kind of issue. There is a continuum between ignorance and certainty. The evidence at the moment, however, points to a 99.9999…% certainty for an old universe. At some point you have to look at the evidence and decide that it is (to borrow from one of the best science writers of the last few decades) perverse to withhold provisional assent.

    @Hugo

    The next post could really be just a short little one.

    I have rather a low statistical certainty estimate regarding this prediction… ;-)

  • 61 Michael // May 18, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Thanks. I think your ideas may be right. Anyway… I think I’ve figured out something about you: you’re more of a reconstructionist than a revolutionary (which I think is good, revolutions usually being unpleasant and all) / you’re more interested in getting us to all think about what’s wrong with us all than you are in strawman smacking and labelling the other stupid (which is a reasonably rare thing in the blogosphere). I’m glad. And the labelessness is intriguing (which is, I gather, the intent)! grin. keep blogging. cheers.

  • 62 Werner // May 18, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Eish I am being eaten alive here ;) Let’s see how much I can recover from that.

    Your second paragraph raises a interesting point, and I happen to agree with how that hypothetical scenario will play out. But it is hypothetical.

    About my “eat your vegetables” metaphor. It is just an example (and there are probably many) where human nature resists someone telling itself how to live its life, even when said advice is good advice. The reason for this is probably easy to guess. Human nature and its need for free will is fairly strong. I believe God intended it this way. We do not want to be robots to anyone, not even God. But what God does want is for us to realize (in your words “use your brain to think about it, to wrestle with it, to mine out the truth, or seek out truth if truth seems too hard to find” ) that his advice is always the best advice, to the point where we follow it without question. Because I say God wants I naturally need to back that up with Scripture: Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Therefore, it is not entirely the same as “deferring authority”, because you still chose to “defer authority” making you responsible for that decision (which is deferring responsibility).

    Suppose a Shofarian that holds a literalist belief were to make the same statement, would you have responded equally strongly?

    Even more so! Look. The Old Testament is just that. The Old Covenant between God and His people. Now we have a New Covenant with God, through His Son.

    From how I understand the New Testament, the idea is that Jesus came to remove the obstacles that stood between people and God. This was, for example, symbolized by the tearing of the cloth/curtain that kept the not-pure-enough out of the holiest-of-holies in the temple. “That is what the New Testament is all about, how can you miss that?”

    Exactly! That is correct, but with a slight caveat. In order “to make it work for you” (as it is not automatic), you must believe in Jesus. That is the, through Jesus, as in by believing in what Jesus did (he interceded for us), that I am talking about. If the emphasis is not on that, then it is wrong. I am sure if I read Borg’s book I would find that he agrees with this, I am sure that, that passage was out of context and did him wrong.

    And how do you know that your church’s interpretation or way of following is more spirit-guided than e.g. Borg’s? Playing literalism for a moment: would it be an unforgivable sin if you were to say Borg’s interpretation is misguided, if it was actually “spirit guided”? If so, how safe do you feel in making such a suggestion?

    You clearly think too much, that is a very interesting observation you make. I have also encountered this “thought” on my road and something I have yet to properly figure out for myself. It applies on many “levels” or entity relations. I just cannot comment any further on that question.

    Actually, I say Shofar is a charismatic/Pentecostal church because they believe everyone should pray in tongues.

    Technically Shofar believes in only what that the Bible says. If the Bible says that people that are indwelled by the Holy Spirit can pray in tongues, then it is so. The “should” there is misinterpreted. Some people only start praying in tongues much later than their baptism. It took me almost 2 years to first pray in tongues.

    Thus, anyone that is unable to, can end up wondering if they really have the spirit.

    I agree with this, but this is not something Shofar suggests, but is firm in the mind of the “baptee” (in fact I would suggest to a friend that the thought is from Satan himself). There needs to be better education about this issue. Same goes for worship.

    You do believe Jesus was 100% human too though, right?

    Yea you got me there. I do believe that. It seems kind of confusing for me; he is supernatural now but was not then. Something like that!?

    Citation please?

    Wiki on Humanism (Life Stance) Quote: Humanism is a comprehensive life stance that upholds human reason, ethics, and justice, and rejects supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition.

    I expect you would agree that you don’t need any beliefs in the supernatural to be able to determine murder is wrong, or stealing is wrong. In that sense, you too, have some humanism in your worldview.

    Yes. As I said earlier, A humanist and a Christian has a largely overlapping set of values. This being one of them.

    I am not really into the entire Homosexuality discussion. If I was forced to give a gut feel answer, I strongly believe it is caused by nurture, not nature. Naturally I have no proof of this, but I even believed this before I was a Christian so I doubt it is because of Biblical influence. Furthermore it is not like we hate Homosexuals, or shun them. They will however find themselves under a friendly obligation to go for a session of deliverance. Unfortunately, they must want to be delivered from this or they giving homosexuality a right over their lives and nothing we can do about that.

    Let me cut to the chase. Shofar and creationism seminars like emphasizing the definition of secular humanism in terms of “we don’t need God (to live good lives)”.

    I agree. There seems to be a fair amount of hate speech coming from Shofar’s side with regards to Humanists, and this anybody can verify for themselves by listening the sermons on the Shofar website. This is unfortunate and something that I do not like. Most of us were Humanists once (before we got “saved”) so why now condemn them. It makes no sense, as a Humanistic life stance got us where we are today. The jump is small in contrast to something like Satanism, which has a much worse yield of born again Christians(no citation, but according to my personal experience of the testimony of people in the church) if you get my drift.

    Where I’d hope we would agree, is that humanism is a good thing, considered e.g. within the context of people that already don’t believe in God, and aren’t going to start believing. That would be, for me, a happy note to end this discussion on. I don’t think we ever disagreed on that, but I’d just like an explicit confirmation of the positive, constructive aspects of it, albeit within the frame of your grievances about it.

    Most certainly I agree. But I would like to conclude by saying that you should not underestimate God’s love for every human being on this planet. He will always come for every one of us in a way we ever expected. He is smart like that. They key is just then to receive him when He comes for you. It usually gets worse before it gets better, but that is just His way sometimes. How many times have you heard unbelievers say “Oh my God…” in a time of need? There are some situations that only God can get you out of; I pray that when that day comes for someone they are in a place to receive that love that transcends all ;)

  • 63 Hugo // May 18, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    @Kenneth, #60:

    The next post could really be just a short little one.

    I have rather a low statistical certainty estimate regarding this prediction… ;-)

    You could have added skepticism about me actually writing the post today. *sigh*. I have another conversation going too, which just included this little gem:

    It is also important that proper science is practised. Go and check www_creationontheweb_com and/or read my book “Skepping & Evolusie – onversoenbaar!” to see why I believe that evolution is bad science and creationism is far better science. Evolution is not only refuted from the Bible but also from science.

    Would you be interested in observing and chipping in with some facts, once or twice, should that conversation drift in the direction of actually discussing that matter? (I might steer clear of it though, this is on a theologian/pastor/blogger friend of mine’s blog, he finds himself a target of the fundies’ witch-hunt. I’m trying to avoid derailing too much, that the conversation can remain as useful to others as possible.)

    @Michael, #61, thanks for the kind words! Your impression of what I’m about very accurately matches what I’m striving for, that makes me happy. ;)

    @Werner, #62, sorry, time pressure. I’ll have to respond to your comment later. :-(

  • 64 Kenneth Oberlander // May 19, 2009 at 9:07 am

    @Hugo:

    I have another conversation going too, which just included this little gem:

    Ugh. Just…ugh.

    Would you be interested in observing and chipping in with some facts, once or twice, should that conversation drift in the direction of actually discussing that matter?

    If you think it would help.

    @Werner

    How many times have you heard unbelievers say “Oh my God…” in a time of need?

    I say it all the time…although not quite in the circumstances that you are envisioning!

    On a serious note, that sounds like a “no atheists in foxholes” type of argument. Are you saying that all an unbeliever needs to do to see god is to be put through a bit of pressure?

  • 65 Werner // May 19, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Are you saying that all an unbeliever needs to do to see god is to be put through a bit of pressure?

    Well I am not sure. Again according to my personal experience, which is listening to the testimonies of the people in the church, there are a high number of stories that include difficult circumstances.

    The Bible has lots of stories indicating this is a common pattern God uses to get people to “see”. For example, In the book of Kings one of the kings (king Ahab) allowed Israel to worship Baal. This angered God greatly so he declares to his profit Elijah that it is not going to rain for many years in Israel. (Remember Baal had authority over the fertility of the land in Canaanite religion). Then after 3 years the people suffered greatly and in that way brought them into a place to receive God. See their false god Baal had left them (no rain) and now God can come in and bestow grace to the people. As usual this tactic works and many people are converted.

    Few people come to God while sipping their martini on their new yacht heading out for a cruise. In my personal experience turning to God (and thus away from sin) is not an easy road to take and the struggle can be rough at times. Expect to lose friends and loved ones :(. Very few “magic wand” moments there as God opens your heart to receive Him, but you still need to receive Him.

  • 66 Kenneth Oberlander // May 19, 2009 at 9:49 am

    @Werner

    Again according to my personal experience, which is listening to the testimonies of the people in the church, there are a high number of stories that include difficult circumstances.

    OK. I don’t doubt this. But are you aware of how many testimonies there are that show precisely the opposite? The church is a subset of the population, and you are unlikely to get irreligious folks to talk about their trials and tribulations there. Surely a holistic view of whether “foxholes” cause “atheists” to convert should also feature the irreligious?

    I’m not denying your experience here. I just doubt it’s the whole picture.

    This angered God greatly so he declares to his profit Elijah that it is not going to rain for many years in Israel.

    As usual this tactic works and many people are converted.

    This doesn’t paint a pretty picture of your god…

    Few people come to God while sipping their martini on their new yacht heading out for a cruise.

    You can look at this the other way round. In a world where all physical needs are provided for i.e. most western societies, there is no need to psychologically deal with hunger or thirst or danger by inventing a father figure who will make everything alright some nebulous time in the future.

  • 67 Werner // May 19, 2009 at 10:46 am

    This doesn’t paint a pretty picture of your god…

    Depends on your point of view. Maybe God knows where Baal worship leads too, we don’t. If Baal worship leads to worse circumstances than a 3 year drought, it paints a pretty picture. :)

    A child that is forced to eat yucky vegetables (instead of yummy sweets) does not paint a pretty picture for the child either (of his parents). But over time children become adults and they realize: “Hey wait! My parents actually wanted to help me become strong and healthy.” The same holds true for the relationship between Christians and God. Over time we learn that He only wants us to be free from the bondage of sin. This is not an overnight thing, and I believe this is why it is near impossible for a unbeliever to understand what is going on with Christians.

    You can look at this the other way round. In a world where all physical needs are provided for i.e. most western societies, there is no need to psychologically deal with hunger or thirst or danger by inventing a father figure who will make everything alright some nebulous time in the future.

    Yes I see your point. I believe that once your physical needs are provided for, the next more difficult problem rears its head. Needs of the heart. Those can be just or near as painful as physical needs. My brother lives in Britain at the moment, and he is not a believer. But he finds it’s almost impossible to deal with the people there because of their self centeredness. They will step onto anybody and everybody to satisfy their needs. Sexual immorality running amuck, parentless children who have to accept their fate that they will grow up in unforgiving loveless environment. Let me tell you, they (the ones with their physical needs met) need God more than you think.

  • 68 Kenneth Oberlander // May 19, 2009 at 11:36 am

    @Werner

    I believe that once your physical needs are provided for, the next more difficult problem rears its head. Needs of the heart. Those can be just or near as painful as physical needs.

    Agreed. But the assumption that god is the answer to “needs of the heart” needs to be tested, not assumed. There are other equally effective ways to deal with these needs.

    My brother lives in Britain at the moment, and he is not a believer.

    A question. Assuming (granted, AITMOAF) that your brother is an atheist (I’m uncertain whether “not a believer” means non-Christian or non-religious), do you honestly believe that he will burn in hell for eternity?

    But he finds it’s almost impossible to deal with the people there because of their self centeredness. They will step onto anybody and everybody to satisfy their needs.

    In what sense does this differ from the general run of human societies, at any time, in the history of humankind?

    Sexual immorality running amuck,

    I’m uncertain what you mean by sexual immorality. If you mean promiscuity, again, how does this differ from the general human societal pattern?

    parentless children who have to accept their fate that they will grow up in unforgiving loveless environment.

    You’re telling me that there are more parentless children in Britain than there are in South Africa?

    I doubt that.

    Let me tell you, they (the ones with their physical needs met) need God more than you think.

    No. They need their emotional needs met. Finding god does not equate to this, although you can certainly argue it is one way of doing so.

  • 69 Hugo // May 25, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    @Werner, #62:

    On the “hypothetical” example, to some it is more hypothetical, to others it is less. Our understanding for what it means to be human, that is, to have 46 chromosomes, including an X from your mother and a Y from your father, if you are male, and further appreciation for how the “laws of nature” work, it is quite a bit less hypothetical. I know some consider the conception to be a “creation event”, in that God e.g. created the other 23 chromosomes on the spot. I don’t know whether that kind of thing would make Jesus a real human though, that’s a matter of semantics maybe.

    In any case, that’s not what I was really on about, I was sketching out the differences I perceive between what it means to be a follower versus what it means to be a believer. The hypothetical is useful in the way it helps you reflect on what your stance is in that regard.

    But what God does want is for us to realize that his advice is always the best advice

    Would you then agree that, if some advice we perceived, turns out to have been bad advice, we either perceived incorrectly, or the advice wasn’t from God in the first place?

    Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

    Nice verse! (Empharsis yours.) I like the emphasis on empirical testing to determine what is true and good and acceptable.

    Therefore, it is not entirely the same as “deferring authority”, because you still chose to “defer authority” making you responsible for that decision (which is deferring responsibility).

    It seems you feel that choosing to defer to an authority that isn’t telling the truth, is as much your responsibility as any other choice in life. That’s a hard-line approach that I personally prefer not to take, as it would make me too intolerant and negative towards young earth creationists. Even if said responsibility is true. I’m talking about my “relational stance” now. Basically, by “testing” the impact of accepting that meme into the core of my worldview, I determined it to be harmful, measured in the context of love and compassion.

    Even more so! Look. The Old Testament is just that. The Old Covenant between God and His people. Now we have a New Covenant with God, through His Son.

    But if you consider Borg to be writing about The Hebrew Bible in particular, in that context, you would agree? (Original comment starts with “The way of seeing and reading the Bible”, in my comment #54.)

    Citation please?

    Wiki on Humanism (Life Stance) Quote: Humanism is a comprehensive life stance that upholds human reason, ethics, and justice, and rejects supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition.

    Fair enough, but you did drop the “(capital ‘H’, no adjective such as “secular”)” and refers to the IHEU’s use of the word. Humanist… I took a look back, I’m mostly writing about “humanists” and “humanism”, but you were explicitly referring to “Humanism” with a capital H. The discussion is currently about “Christian Humanist is an oxymoron” I think, which is a bit of a stretch… since the definition you talked about is explicitly defined as being with “no adjective”.

    So I think we’re talking a bit past each other, as to whether we’re talking about general humanism and humanistic philosophies, or a particular union. I certainly agree that traditional Christians would not be able to join that union…!

    Re homosexuality:

    If I was forced to give a gut feel answer, I strongly believe it is caused by nurture, not nature.

    Would you be prepared to go test this, and accept any new insights such testing might reveal? Some resonance with Romans 12:2 intended. Question: if your views of homosexuality predates your Christian status, could you accept that that view of homosexuality might actually be “confirming to this world”, and that Christians that decided to question their prior biases and actually tested it, and come to the conclusion that it is nature and not nurture, at least have some foot to stand on when they’re compassionate towards, and accepting of, committed monogamous homosexual relationships? Or… say… non-physical ones then? Though, granted:

    I am not really into the entire Homosexuality discussion.

    …so we need not get stuck into this.

    There seems to be a fair amount of hate speech coming from Shofar’s side with regards to Humanists, and this anybody can verify for themselves by listening the sermons on the Shofar website. This is unfortunate and something that I do not like.

    Thanks. (Emphasis mine:) I appreciate the sentiment.

    Sorry about taking so long to respond. I’ve not touched on the bits that you’ve discussed with Kenneth, and some of the other places where we are more or less in agreement.

  • 70 Hugo // Jun 10, 2009 at 1:33 am

    @Werner, if you’re watching the “recent comments” thingy, here’s the conversation you were taking part in. It hasn’t progressed much, so you didn’t miss out on much. ;)

    I need to check up on “Shofar member”. (Give me a few more days.) We had a couple of questions for him/her that we were particularly interested in…

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