apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, genocide, law, Locke, morality, philosophy, rights, scripture
Like all law students I took a course on “property.” Throughout my life, I was lucky enough to take courses from some very interesting people. My property professor, Douglas Kmiec, was no exception.
The idea that we gain rights over what we create was to some extent developed by John Locke. He described how people will mix their labor with items from the common property and make it theirs.
“The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to….”
John Locke Second Treatise of Civil Government Chapter 5.
I read this in my property class taught by Kmiec. He explained that I might pick up a branch in the forest. Now if I put it down again, then anyone else can pick it up and do what they want with it. But if I pick it up and carve it into a wooden statue, well then it’s mine. At that point I would have the right to do with it what I wanted even destroy it, but no one else would have that right. I thought it was an interesting insight.
Ok so now many atheists want to say God is a “murderer!” He asked/commanded people to kill others. We have such stories in the Old Testament. How can we worship such a God?
Well first of all I tend not to believe the Old Testament is literal. I think the Old Testament is by and large a collection of stories. Yes the Holy Spirit inspired them but how exactly that works, I do not pretend to speak for that Holy Spirit. But even an atheist should consider that Jewish scripture consists of what possibly the very best and brightest cultures thought was some of their best literature. I agree some books do nothing for me but other books I find delightful and wonderful. I am somewhat saddened when I see people reading it only for the purpose they want to get out of it instead of thinking about what the author was up to.
Now although I do not take the Old Testament literally I do think it teaches true messages. But what message can Abraham being commanded to kill his son possibly be teaching? What can stories about God wiping out whole cities be teaching? One answer is that it teaches God is our creator and as such he is not like us. We are not the same. Regardless of what we or even God might want the truth is we are not the same. Reality doesn’t cater to our wants.
Let’s think about this. If a lion intentionally kills a human without justification we don’t say that it is a “murderer.” If a human intentionally kills a human without justification he/she is a murderer. What if God intentionally kills humans? Should God be treated like other humans? This is the hidden assumption of every anti-theist blog crying out that God is a murderer. I just read a paper which seems to imply God committed a holocaust against children who died from natural causes. I am not suggesting that God is not a murderer for the same reasons a lion is not a murder. But I am saying we should not automatically assume God is just like us, in this analysis.
Here is something to consider. If I create a sand castle, I can destroy it and it is not immoral. If someone else destroys my sand castle it is wrong, unless I as the creator give them permission. God created us and he can destroy us and it is not immoral. Others however cannot destroy us and remain blameless, unless they are given permission by our creator.
I realize that this is not an appealing view. But if God is bound by the rules of Logic not even he can change that fact can he? If we are in fact, created by God we cannot truthfully claim otherwise. Even God cannot make this truth, false. This wounds our pride and tradition teaches it wounded Satan’s pride as well. He was unhappy with the truth that he was not like God, and rebelled against it.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” Isaiah 14:12-14
Now my point is not to say the people who claim God is a murderer are “Satans.” Not at all. But it is to say that they are not accounting for the fact that Christians believe God is our creator and generally we think a creator has a right to destroy his creations. They engage in special pleading when they refuse to acknowledge this principle when discussing God’s relationship to us. This is a double standard. They recognize a painter has a right to destroy his painting if he is unhappy with it, but they want to deny this right to a creator God.
 Before I did my blog arguing that marriage should no longer be governed by the state I googled to see if anyone else came to the same conclusion. I was somewhat surprised to see my old Property and Constitutional Law Professor arguing the same thing. Doug Kmiec is an inspirational professor who brought energy and excitement to everything he taught. I am not surprised by this quote from Wikipedia:
“On July 2, 2009, President Obama nominated Kmiec as Ambassador to Malta. He was confirmed by the Senate. In April 2011, he was criticized by the Inspector General of the State Department for spending too much time on what the OIG reported as unofficial (religious) duties, which Kmiec saw as integral to his ambassadorial role.”
And I likewise am not at all surprised by this quote from Tiffany Stanley of The New Republic:
“in the annals of diplomatic misbehavior, Kmiec’s is rather an unusual case. Even the critical OIG report notes that embassy morale was good, he was respected by the Maltese and his staff, and had ‘achieved some policy successes’. The problem, it seems, was that Kmiec may have taken the job a little too seriously.” Columnist Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times writes: “Over the last few years, Kmiec has emerged as one of this country’s most important witnesses to the proposition that religious conviction and political civility need not be at odds; that reasonable people of determined good conscience, whatever their faith or lack thereof, can find ways to cooperate in the common good. Though Kmiec has not sought their intervention, the president and the secretary of State ought to deal with the bureaucrats seeking to silence a voice whose only offense is to speak in the vocabulary of our own better angels.”
I read some other things that make me believe he likely had some hard times. I wish Doug Kmiec the best, and will keep him in my prayers.
 But see: https://bible.org/article/lucifer-devil-isaiah-1412-kjv-argument-against-modern-translations and http://pastordougroman.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/do-isaiah-14-and-ezekiel-28-refer-to-satan/
“Here is something to consider. If I create a sand castle, I can destroy it and it is not immoral. If someone else destroys my sand castle it is wrong, unless I as the creator give them permission. God created us and he can destroy us and it is not immoral. Others however cannot destroy us and remain blameless, unless they are given permission by our creator.”
Nice analogy. Is that a sentient sand castle with alleged free will that you created?
Violetwisp thank you for your good question.
You have raised two additional considerations.
Should it matter whether something is 1) sentient and 2) has a free will.
Locke used the example of an Indian killing a deer and thereby making it his own. Since a deer is a sentient creature, we can see he thought this principle would apply to sentient created things as well.
A chicken is a sentient creature. A farmer raises and puts his labor into that chicken. Therefore he would have a right to destroy it. No other people would have that right. So yes I think this analysis does apply to sentient beings as well.
What about things with a free will? Should that change this moral principle? If we were to say farm animals or deer have a free will then it would seem we could apply the same analysis as we did earlier and conclude that the creature having a free will also does not materially change the moral outcome.
But what if humans alone have free will? Does the fact that we possess free will mean this moral principle (that the creator has exclusive control over his creation) no longer applies? I can not really gather a logical reason why a creatures having a free will would mean it no longer applies.
But even if the principle still applies, would there be some right that all creatures that have a free will have, that would outweigh this moral principle? I do not think so. I am aware that some philosophers think that free will (or something like it) in itself entitles us to more rights but I find them pretty unpersuasive. But even if I were to grant this I don’t think it would clearly trump the other moral principle that a creator has exclusive rights over his creation.
But really I would be quite happy if the atheists who often try to claim God is immoral would at least recognize that generally we think we have a right to do what we want with our own creation. They could then at least agree they are claiming an exception to this general moral principle and say that “but somehow, since we have free will, this moral principle is outweighed in situations where God interacts with us.”
Instead they just seem to ignore these principles and act as if there is no difference between God our creator, and us his creation.
I wouldn’t necessarily apply the same argument to a farmer with animals as to a benevolent creator with its creation, but as you’ve gone to the trouble of doing so, I have to inform you that this argument holds even less water with vegetarians. I don’t have the right to murder any sentient being for my pleasure or profit, and I don’t. Atheist vegetarians kind of ruin your argument there.
So would it be a ‘fair’ scenario if an omniscient deity created us knowing what we were going to do, while giving us free will so we’re not mindless robots, but killed us before we could explore where our free will could take us? Surely free will would have to be consistent with have a chance to use free will, or it’s pointless. Or does “here’s your free will, now I’m going to use my creator’s prerogative to kill you’ makes sense?
Thank you for your follow up comment.
“I have to inform you that this argument holds even less water with vegetarians. I don’t have the right to murder any sentient being for my pleasure or profit, and I don’t. Atheist vegetarians kind of ruin your argument there.”
I agree that atheist vegetarians probably would not agree with everything I said in the comment section. (But this is not necessarily the case) But I don’t think their disagreement ruins the argument that John Locke makes. Nor does their disagreement ruin the argument I make. Atheist vegetarians are not that large of a group. Most people do seem to understand that people should have more rights than animals. Regardless of whether someone thinks it is wrong to kill animals most people do understand that our labor going into creating something can give us ownership of that thing.
Now it is true that someone who is an animal rights advocate might think that this creator’s right is outweighed when we are talking about sentient beings. But even there it is a matter of weighing competing values. I think it would be an improvement if at least people would recognize this generally accepted belief about our rights to our own creation and then explain why they think other factors outweigh that consideration. Instead we just get the blind assumption that the creator of something has no more right to destroy his creation than anyone else. They apply creator’s right in many cases for humans but not at all when it comes to God.
I think your next paragraph is getting off the point of the blog. But that is ok by me I will give answers to your questions as best as I can.
“So would it be a ‘fair’ scenario if an omniscient deity created us knowing what we were going to do, while giving us free will so we’re not mindless robots, but killed us before we could explore where our free will could take us?”
Whether that is “fair” or not depends on what happens to us thereafter right?
” Surely free will would have to be consistent with have a chance to use free will, or it’s pointless. Or does “here’s your free will, now I’m going to use my creator’s prerogative to kill you’ makes sense?”
I think having a free will implies an opportunity to use it. But I am not really sure that anyone who had a free will was not able to use it. There are, of course, physical restraints. I might will that I could sing like Barry White but my vocal chords and other body parts responsible for sound won’t do that. I’m not entirely sure what you are getting at here.
“Instead we just get the blind assumption that the creator of something has no more right to destroy his creation than anyone else. They apply creator’s right in many cases for humans but not at all when it comes to God.”
I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I can’t think of any case where I apply this “creator’s right” you discuss. If other people do, they either choose to ignore or are genuinely ignorant of how animals feel. The god you believe in would not have this excuse.
Mike Moore said:
“I agree that atheist vegetarians probably would not agree with everything I said in the comment section. (But this is not necessarily the case) But I don’t think their disagreement ruins the argument that John Locke makes. Nor does their disagreement ruin the argument I make. Atheist vegetarians are not that large of a group. Most people do seem to understand that people should have more rights than animals.”
At one point, most people thought it was okay to own other people.
Nice Argumentum ad populum fallacy. Used when you can’t dispute the point Violet made.
Almost your entire piece argues that inanimate objects are the same as conscious beings, which even most religious people would deny.
For example, if we cloned thousands of humans, do you think religious institutions would then argue we have the right to kill them on a whim? Even if some did argue that, quite a few more would argue against it.
“If a lion intentionally kills a human without justification we don’t say that it is a “murderer.”
Really? We don’t call it a man killer and generally hunt it down and kill it?
“Now although I do not take the Old Testament literally I do think it teaches true messages.”
Why are you right and millions of your predecessors wrong? Have you ever wondered why you don’t want to take it literally? Is it because it’s a methodologically laden, superstitious, violent, contradictory magic book that doesn’t make much sense unless you take it metaphorically and try to parse meaning from it and interpret it in a specific way so you can justify the horrors it contains?
“Regardless of what we or even God might want the truth is we are not the same. Reality doesn’t cater to our wants.”
First you have to prove god is reality. Then prove your god is reality while the thousands of other gods are not.
“God created us and he can destroy us and it is not immoral. Others however cannot destroy us and remain blameless, unless they are given permission by our creator.”
That’s a dangerous rule.
So if someone says god told him to kill his son, then it’s okay and not murder?
You’ve yet to illustrate why it isn’t immoral or link it to reality. You have messy analogies, flawed logic and make excuses for atrocities.
Your very own magic book describes your god as benevolent. He’s supposedly all-loving. The point is your book contradicts itself (in this area and many others) and shows that your god is not all-loving. If you read the bible, you have no problem finding numerous examples of god being anything but all-loving.
Hello Mike thank you for posting your thoughts.
“Nice Argumentum ad populum fallacy. Used when you can’t dispute the point Violet made.”
I did fall for that fallacy because I am not arguing that athiest vegetarians are wrong because they are in the minority. My point is that just because some minority of people might not agree with some of the premises of my argument that does not mean the argument is “ruined.”
“I have to inform you that this argument holds even less water with vegetarians. I don’t have the right to murder any sentient being for my pleasure or profit, and I don’t. Atheist vegetarians kind of ruin your argument there.”
She incorrectly thinks that just because some group (“Atheist vegetarians) does not agree with some of my premises the argument is “ruined.” I do dispute that point. Do you think an argument is ruined just because some particular group doesn’t agree with the premises? It may not be convincing to them but that doesn’t mean the argument is ruined. I imagine you might find some religious people who don’t accept the premises that arguments for evolution are based on. Do you think they ruin the arguments?
You might also want to consider what I say here:
But even so the argument need not hold less water with vegetarians. Vegetarians also accept this view toward many things they create. The issue of whether something is sentient is really something beside the point of the creators right. People can argue it is relevant but which animals even qualify as sentient is pretty vague.
I am not inclined to try to sort it out with animal rights groups at this point because it’s a very broad group with wide ranging views. What lines they draw is highly variable. Some might think Colonel Sanders is as evil as Himmler. Others seem to accept that even though chickens are sentient they should not have the same rights as people. The line drawing is very much up in the air and unclear. Are cockroaches sentient?
“If a lion intentionally kills a human without justification we don’t say that it is a “murderer.”
“Really? We don’t call it a man killer and generally hunt it down and kill it?”
Really. Calling something a “man killer” is not the same as calling something a murderer. Yes we hunt it down and kill it. Often with no trial I might add.
“Now although I do not take the Old Testament literally I do think it teaches true messages.”
To which you asked(I numbered your questions):
“1) Why are you right and millions of your predecessors wrong? 2) Have you ever wondered why you don’t want to take it literally? 3) Is it because it’s a methodologically laden, superstitious, violent, contradictory magic book that doesn’t make much sense unless you take it metaphorically and try to parse meaning from it and interpret it in a specific way so you can justify the horrors it contains?”
1) I’m not sure who you consider my predecessors. But there was a constant tradition to not interpret the old testament literally in the Catholic Tradition dating very early on. I find many atheists think fundamentalism which sprang up in the late 19th century is “traditional” Christianity. But this is not the case.
2) I don’t think it’s a matter of what I want. The Christian tradition I was raised in does not teach that the texts need to be read literally. I never really saw it as important to complain and say they should be read literally. I know some fundementalists and almost all atheists try to read it literally but whatever.
3) No I wouldn’t say that. You seem unaware of the long history of reading scripture and the many meanings it holds.
“Regardless of what we or even God might want the truth is we are not the same. Reality doesn’t cater to our wants.”
“First you have to prove god is reality. Then prove your god is reality while the thousands of other gods are not.”
I suggest you read this to get my views on this comment:
“God created us and he can destroy us and it is not immoral. Others however cannot destroy us and remain blameless, unless they are given permission by our creator.”
To which you said:
“That’s a dangerous rule.
So if someone says god told him to kill his son, then it’s okay and not murder?”
No that doesn’t follow from what I said. But if God actually did command the death of his son then it wouldn’t be murder. God could of course raise him right back up again. God has control over death and can cause and reverse it. You like many atheists want to say that God has some obligation to keep his creation forever. This is far from clear morally and really doesn’t work in any other case where we create something.
“You’ve yet to illustrate why it isn’t immoral or link it to reality. You have messy analogies, flawed logic and make excuses for atrocities.”
I gave an illustration in the blog. We acknowledge that the creator of something has a right to control and destroy his/her own creation. The logic is clear. We just get a bit uneasy when we understand that we are the creations. But if Christianity is true then that is just a fact. No matter how benevolent God that truth will remain.
“Your very own magic book describes your god as benevolent. He’s supposedly all-loving. The point is your book contradicts itself (in this area and many others) and shows that your god is not all-loving. If you read the bible, you have no problem finding numerous examples of god being anything but all-loving.”
I think you are going a bit afield from the original blog. The original blog explained a moral principle that we all accept – at least to varying degrees. And explained how that principle means God is not immoral for destroying what he himself created. Sure some people want to make exceptions but they offer not logical reason to have these exceptions when it comes to God’s relationship with us.
“I can’t think of any case where I apply this “creator’s right” you discuss. If other people do, they either choose to ignore or are genuinely ignorant of how animals feel. The god you believe in would not have this excuse.”
What I labeled the “creator’s right” does not just apply to us and animals. It applies to things as well. Like paintings, wood carvings, and sandcastles. You would agree that you have a right to destroy your own painting or sandcastle while others do not right? I don’t think we disagree with the right in general.
You just think sentient animals should be an exception or that other moral concerns outweigh it in that case.
Maybe you have covered it in the exchange with Violet. I have a few questions that we need to address first.
Is your argument that because your god is said to have created man, he is within his rights to kill all of them and no questions asked? Is this it or there is a different argument you are advancing.
I am not sure that is my argument. I do not think it is relevant if someone is “said to have created” something. But it’s close.
I think the principle is that generally the creator has exclusive ownership over (including the right to destroy) his creation. Others do not have this right unless the creator gives it.
I think most people agree with this on every other creator createe relationship. Except perhaps us and God. I say “most” people because as violet said she would not agree with it for animals. (I think most people agree with me on that.) And I think some dissenters might want to argue that we “create” our children. Although no one has argued we “create” our children yet, I anticipate some might think that way.
You are not being clear. Either your argument is since god created he can do whatever he wants or it is not. That said, however, I don’t know who creates sentient beings to kill them at his/her whim. The lengths an apologist goes to make excuses for their gods is amazing.
And I think you commit a category error. A sculpture and a living thing are quite different. A human being has plans, desires and if you believe your god created them to kill them at will whenever he feels bored, I really do not know why you still find such a being worthy of worship
“You are not being clear. Either your argument is since god created he can do whatever he wants or it is not.”
You are paraphrasing the argument somewhat incorrectly. I am not saying God can “do whatever he wants.” That is like the divine command theory of morality and I do not believe that.
I am saying God created us and the entire universe. Therefore not only can he destroy some or all of us humans, or animals, he can destroy the entire universe without moral blame.
But that doesn’t mean God can “do whatever he wants” without moral blame. For example, if some other god (“alt god”) existed and created a different universe God would not morally be able to destroy that alt god’s universe. At least not with out some other justification which outweighs alt god’s right to exclusive control of his universe.
You are saying if god for whatever reason gods have decide to kill any of his creations, we shouldn’t question. I can’t tell you how abhorrent I find this.
How would a god whatever that is be blameless? Why create sentient beings? To kill them when it feels like
“You are saying if god for whatever reason gods have decide to kill any of his creations, we shouldn’t question. I can’t tell you how abhorrent I find this.
How would a god whatever that is be blameless? ”
Thank you for you comments. BTW I noticed you have a blog where you ask some good questions there as well.
My view is that God can destroy his own creation because he is the creator. Look at it this way. Do you think God had a moral obligation to create us? If not then why does he have a moral obligation to keep us after we are created? Again this is how we look at all of our creations paintings, sandcastles, statues etc.
Is it horrible to think that we are mere creations? It might be for some, but it is the truth. No matter how much we don’t like the fact that we are a creation of someone else, that won’t change the truth. According to certain traditions Satan rebelled against this truth. He did not want to accept that God was above him. He did not want to think that God might have rights he did not have.
At least if you believe these scriptures you believe we are a creation of God. So this belief goes hand in hand with our understanding of why God has power over us which we do not have. I think atheists often miss this. They sort of piecemeal the beliefs and come to the conclusion God is terrible.
“Why create sentient beings? To kill them when it feels like…”
These are good questions. But keep in mind, they are really beside the point of whether it is moral to destroy your own creation. Why does anyone destroy anything they create? Why do people destroy their own sandcastle or painting or statue? It can happen, but it is fairly rare isn’t it? We tend to like our own creations unless we screw it up somehow. I think this is a reason to think God does not want to destroy us.
But in the case of creations that can by their free will choose to do evil there might be even more reason to destroy them. Keep in mind that the perspective is not just that of the thing destroyed it the perspective of whether this creation is good or bad for the entire universe. It is not impossible to imagine that the universe might be better off without certain people even though the rest of us learned from their existence.
Let me on the on set state clearly I don’t believe any scripture. My questioning your view is not based on believing the scriptures but rather what you propose. I don’t have a reason to believe we were created. I think on the other hand life is part of the universe. That nature acting on atoms can and does behave in such a manner that some are animate and other inanimate.
You commit a category error when you say that sentient beings, us, and paintings are comparable. Have you met a painting with feelings? I would like to have a word with such a painting, honestly I want to. If your god existed or any other god did and created sentient beings just to kill them whenever it feels like it, I would still find it abhorrent.
Your freewill argument doesn’t hold. One because the freewill debate is not closed and two because if a god created beings with freewill and ability to do evil, it is complacent in every commission of evil.
You can always visit my blog.
What I propose is that if we assume scripture is true about God commanding certain people killed, then we should assume it is true about God being the creator of the Universe and the moral implications that raises.
I am not committing a category mistake when I point out that according to scripture our very existence is owed to our creator. This is a property both people and paintings share, and this property typically has certain moral implications.
You and other atheists make a category mistake when you just assume God and humans are the same. God’s actions toward his own creation should not automatically be treated the same as our actions toward his creation.
Whether something can feel is not necessarily relevant to this analysis. I gave the example of a farmer and a chicken, and Locke gave the example of an indian with a deer.
I further gave the explanation that if a creator was not morally obligated to create a feeling thing to begin with it is difficult to logically see why he would be morally obligated to keep that feeling thing in existence. You really have not engaged any of these arguments which address your point.
No one is proposing God created sentient beings “just to kill them.”
I’m not sure what you you think the relevance of the free will debate being “closed” or open is. Actually I am not even sure what that means. Are you saying some people or person still argues there is no free will, therefore no one can assume free will exists in any argument?
I think that is a pretty broad claim and depends what you mean by complacent. Did he know? Probably. Does that mean he is complacent? Not really. But in any case that is pretty far afield from this particular blog post. I have given my thoughts on the problem of evil on Travis’s blog. If you want to argue about that you can see my comments there. This is really a different issue.
“Ok so now many atheists want to say God is a “murderer!” He asked/commanded people to kill others. We have such stories in the Old Testament. How can we worship such a God?
Well first of all I tend not to believe the Old Testament is literal. I think the Old Testament is by and large a collection of stories. Yes the Holy Spirit inspired them but how exactly that works, I do not pretend to speak for that Holy Spirit. But even an atheist should consider that Jewish scripture consists of what possibly the very best and brightest cultures thought was some of their best literature. I agree some books do nothing for me but other books I find delightful and wonderful. I am somewhat saddened when I see people reading it only for the purpose they want to get out of it instead of thinking about what the author was up to.” Unquote
Sorry friend; I disagree with you.
The author of a book of a Bible has no right to write a religious scripture unless he has received Word of Revelation from the One-True-God. How an author who has received no revelation and is writing with his own sinful hands can claim it to be from God or inspired by God or even inspired by an angel?*
The angles only do what they are commanded to do by God; they cannot do anything on their own.**
If the author has received a Word of Revelation from God then he should expressly mention it that this is a message from God.
If he does not mention it; then he is simply a sinful person faking a scripture and should not be believed in. ***
Such fictional stories should not be believed in.
A truthful Christian should not insist on these stories to be true; it is for this that people get frustrated and leave religion altogether.
[2:80] Woe, therefore, to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may take for it a paltry price. Woe, then, to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn.
[16:50] And whatever is in the heavens and whatever creature is in the earth submitshumbly to Allah, and the angels too, and they do not behave proudly.
[16:51] They fear their Lord above them, and do what they are commanded.
[3:95] Now whoso forges a lie against Allah after this, then it is these that are the wrongdoers.
paarsurrey thank you for your comment. I appreciate hearing your views.
“If the author has received a Word of Revelation from God then he should expressly mention it that this is a message from God.
If he does not mention it; then he is simply a sinful person faking a scripture and should not be believed in.”
Most of the Hebrew Scripture (basically our Old Testament) does not expressly mention that it is a message from God. (the same is true for the new testament) I understand that Muslims disagree with Christians and Jews about how much these scriptures may have been altered. Such that Muslims only accept the parts that agree with the quran as inspired. Yet from what I understand so long as it the scripture does not contradict the quran Muslims accept that it may still be inspired but we just don’t know for sure.
Things are a bit different for Jews for and Christians. In general we think the scriptures are good enough even if they are are not exact replicas and are still all inspired by God. What exactly this means and what meanings God was trying to get across is somewhat up for grabs for Christians and Jews. But neither Jews nor Christians just say this or that passage wasn’t inspired and can be ignored.
Pingback: Woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: ‘This is from God,’ | paarsurrey
Let us continue the conversation here.
Is this to be taken as a statement of fact or just assumed for the purposes of argument? I make no such assumption about scripture.
How far is this from the DCT, which argues whatever god commands is right because he commands it?
Why do you argue that being sentient has no bearing on the question? Is it so that you can find a way to justify your god’s apparent cruelty?
which IMO implies you think these creatures being destroyed is because they have free will and could act differently.
I mean the freewill question hasn’t been settled either way. Am not saying you can’t use it in an argument. It just has no traction for me.
Thanks again for your comments and questions I think they are good questions that others probably wonder about as well.
It would be an assumption for the sake of argument. This post is a response to the typical atheist claim that God is evil in ____ story of the bible. Now the atheists don’t really believe ______ story of the bible is true. They are just trying to argue the God that the Jews and Christians believe in is evil. My point is that they should not just treat God as if he were a person and that it is indeed a category mistake to do this.
“How far is this from the DCT, which argues whatever god commands is right because he commands it?”
Because under the DCT God is not bound by moral principles because whatever he decides arbitrarily becomes good. What I argue is that God can morally destroy the universe he created and act within set moral principles. Does that make sense?
“Why do you argue that being sentient has no bearing on the question?”
Because this principle of the “creator’s right” does not make a distinction between something being sentient. Deers are sentient and John Locke said that by killing a deer you put your labor into it and so it is yours. Cows and Chickens and other farm animals are sentient. Yet if a farmer raises them he has the right to kill them. At least in the US we give them that right. But if some other farmer raises the sentient farm animals then a different person can’t destroy them unless they buy that right from the farmer.
Also I see no reason why just because something is sentient that it follows that it must never be destroyed. It seems like a non-sequitur.
“Is it so that you can find a way to justify your god’s apparent cruelty?”
I don’t think God is cruel. So no I don’t feel any need to get around it.
“which IMO implies you think these creatures being destroyed is because they have free will and could act differently.
I mean the freewill question hasn’t been settled either way. Am not saying you can’t use it in an argument. It just has no traction for me.”
That’s perfectly o.k. I did not create this blog with the notion that everyone who reads it will ultimately agree with me. Really I didn’t. I think people who get too worked up about that do themselves and others a disservice.
I created this blog so that I could explain my reasons for what I believe and people could discuss these matters in a reasonable way and hopefully identify where we part ways. That seems to be what happened here. It seems we disagree on whether we should believe we have free will. I think we should believe we have free will. I may do a blog on why I think that, but it may be a while.
I have no problem with disagreements.
Thanks for your response too.
I don’t think there is anything left to say which would not lead to the proverbial circles except maybe to say that atheists are saying the god of the bible is cruel. The reason I say god of the bible and not of Christians or Jews is because in daily conversations with Christians, all they talk of is a good god, a god who seems to be so far removed from the tribal or is it family god described in the book.
As a lawyer I can assure you that two people can look at the same evidence and reach different conclusions as to what it is evidence of.
Catholics and Orthodox believe the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and has a role in focusing us on specific readings. I think most protestants also think the Holy Spirit guides their Church as well. Atheists often do not read the bible with any traditional context so I think they often don’t look at it the same. It shouldn’t be surprising.
That maybe, I think the evidence should be left to speak for itself.
Good for believers if the holy spirit guides them to the passages to read where god is portrayed as good, so be it
That’s the thing, evidence and data does often does not explain itself. (sometimes a witness will explain himself in his testimony but usually they just testify to what they saw heard felt etc.) Evidence and data needs to be interpreted. Sometimes the interpretation is easier than others. But almost always you need background information to understand data and call it evidence. Church tradition provides that.
That the Holy Spirit guides the Church is part of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity just like the idea that scripture is inspired.
In fact to some extent that understanding comes first. Otherwise how would we even know what writing constitute scripture? So accepting the guidance of the church is not much different than reading scripture and believing it was guided by the Holy Spirit.
Protestants often believe something like this as well, but there are allot of different views and I am not sure I can summarize them all.
I will readily admit that many times, whatever is called into evidence must be explained so judgement can be made whether they fit with the case being heard.
To believe there are beings or agents that direct people to know what is scripture and what isn’t is one discussion am not willing to waste my time on.
“To believe there are beings or agents that direct people to know what is scripture and what isn’t is one discussion am not willing to waste my time on.”
I don’t mean to waste your time. But you do seem to spend allot of time on your blog dealing with Christianity and the bible. I am surprised you are not interested.
Did you ever ask people how they know what books belong in the bible?
The bible doesn’t say what books are in the bible. And over half of the Christian world does not agree with the majority of American Christians about which books are in the bible.
The problem with posts that discuss morality and god in the same breath is there is the tacit implication that god…any god is real.
Thus, sadly, the non- believer gets dragged into a discussion over a god claim in a spurious and ridiculous piece of literature.
It is always wise to make the believer aware that we ( non-believers) hold the bible and other religious text in the utmost contempt in this regard.
Where we take issue with the believer is that they will inevitably at some point proselytize this garbage to kids and attempt to justify/ impose bible-based ethics and morality on society in one form or another.
If the believer had any integrity at all they would first establish the veracity of their deity.
But sadly they do this ass-backwards by using the texts which they claim are divinely inspired, to show the veracity of their deity.
Thus, their position is always (so far) untenable and should be dismissed out of hand.
Thank you for your comments Ark.
I think the atheist can reasonably assume arguendo that god exists and did the things recorded in the bible. They can then try to argue that these things are evil and therefore even if the Christian God exists we shouldn’t worship him. My point is that if they assume those things they should also assume all other facts which bear on the morality of God’s actions. This would include the fact that he is the creator of everything and therefore would have the rights we normally give to the creator of a thing.
Of course, other points would be that our time here is infinitesimally small compared to eternity but that is another argument.
I don’t see why non-believers need to hold the bible or other religious texts in contempt. But I am not sure what difference that would make to the argument anyway.
“If the believer had any integrity at all they would first establish the veracity of their deity.”
Establish it to whom? To you? To some person who might have a very strong motivation not to believe? I think the integrity check is met if the believer can offer his reasons to believe. I have done that. You can disagree, and you can feel free to dispute those reasons. But I don’t think either of us has any moral obligation to make the other person see things our way. We can just disagree.
“But sadly they do this ass-backwards by using the texts which they claim are divinely inspired, to show the veracity of their deity.”
I am not sure what this statement has to do with anything I have said in this blog. The only point I made is that if an atheist is going to argue the Christian God is immoral they should at least consider all the scripture that bears on his morality. They shouldn’t leave relevant facts out and claim their judgment is fair.
A believer can either consider the entire bible inspired by the divine, and thus take it ”as is” or cherry pick the bits that fit in with the individual’s personal interpretation.
I have read several apologists claim that bible is not even that crucial to their faith, as the original texts are lost and what remains are the bastardized versions that have been subject to so much interpolation and redaction that they have little bearing on the “faith” in any case.
Then there are apologists of the William Lane Craig ilk, who subscribe to Divine Command Theory as a way around justifying the heinous acts perpetrated by your god in the Old Testament.
With faith and very few facts there is myriad ways to circumvent the uncomfortable truths, such as the fallacious nature of the Pentateuch and such tales as the Exodus and conquest of Canaan and much of the glaring inconsistencies, ludicrous prophecies (hijacked from the Old Testament) and contradictions of the New Testament.
The bottom line is that as an adult, one is entitled to hold any belief one chooses, this is right and proper, and that right , which is a right and not merely a privilege, should be recognized and entrenched. Be eternally grateful you live in a secular society
( I presume this is correct?) and are able to freely practice your religion.
I sincerely hope you are honest enough to extend the same rights to those who may not be in a position to currently exercise critical thought…..like children.
To ignore such rights and simply ride roughshod in the name of proselytizing is tantamount to child abuse and human rights violation.
“Be eternally grateful you live in a secular society”
Was Stalin’s society a secular one?
“I sincerely hope you are honest enough to extend the same rights to those who may not be in a position to currently exercise critical thought…..like children.
To ignore such rights and simply ride roughshod in the name of proselytizing is tantamount to child abuse and human rights violation.”
Are you saying it is wrong to teach children what I believe about religion?
My question about Stalin might be more relevant than I originally thought.
Perhaps I should of added an extra qualifier to the term secular as you obviously didn’t understand it fully, as surely you are too intelligent to assume I wold meant a communist state such as the former Soviet Union?
Yes, it is wrong to indoctrinate children with your religious beliefs. You should have no more right to rob them of the opportunity to grow up without such mind numbing, fear inducing tripe than you have the right to insist the foreskin be surgically removed from a male child’s penis based on religious considerations.
Both are disgusting and should be legislated against.
Thank you for your views. I am not quite sure in what way your views of religion are different than Stalin’s. Would people be able to go to church but they just wouldn’t be able take their children? Would people be able to express their view that God exists to children or should they be prohibited from doing this?
Your comments do illustrate that people have very different notions of what it means to be moral. And I do appreciate your taking the time to share them here.
Smile…and now you begin to meander down the briar-strewn path of obfuscation and evasive nonsense. Are you schooled in this form of argument or is it a supplementary course Christian lawyers are offered? 🙂
I will not stoop to the level of discussing Stalin in the same argument here as I know you are merely being purposely obtuse.
However, your blog…no problem.
But it doesn’t make you come across as too bright if you are trying to illustrate the benefits of god belief yet displaying such a level of blatant denseness.
If you were living in a theocracy such as exists in Saudi your arse-would-be-grass to use a touch of vernacular. And this was very much the case across most of Europe at one time in the past, was it not?
Maybe you played along with the Santa Clause myth with your children?
Yet I would venture you did not/will not maintain the charade for too long?
Certainly, children are a lot less gullible than many adults believe.
However, seeing as religion and god belief have to be imparted insidiously with all the reward/punishment dogma thrown in for good measure to ensure the child is almost brain washed by the time they are able to begin to exercise critical thought in this regard it says little for the divine nature of gods that such measures are required.
Yes, it would be wonderful if children were prevented from attending church, in the same manner as they are discouraged from attending adult rated movies, drinking, smoking and all the other harmful activities that are considered ”adult” in nature.
Although this would be difficult if not impossible to institute without the cooperation of religious authorities and for them to acknowledge that your god being
omni-everything, will be able to reach out to these ”lambs” once they have come of age.
That they don’t, once again speaks volumes about how man-made god-belief truly is.
Hello Ark thanks for your comments.
I am not sure whether we naturally believe in some sort of supernatural judge or if this is entirely learned.
I think that there is a type of logic to what you are saying but the problems with it are huge and numerous. I think people should be allowed to teach their children their beliefs.
Clare Flourish said:
For me, the sacrifice of Isaac story is a record of a learning about God. In neighbouring nations, there was the thought that God demanded human sacrifice. The ram caught in the thicket shows that God does not.
God has the right to kill- but would a Father want to?
Based on what, Clare? The ridiculous and spurious biblical text?
Surely you jest?
Clare Flourish said:
God is meaningful, whether He exists or not. I could not be more serious. Happy Easter.
Happy Easter to you, too.
But your god is only found in the fallacious text know as the bible. You would afford your deity credibility based on this nonsense?
What if you were convinced that your god had spoken to you and commanded you to kill someone on His behalf. Would you comply?
Clare Flourish said:
If I were convinced, then of course. But I don’t know how I might be convinced other than a psychotic breakdown.
1.Then how do you reckon Isaac was convinced?
2.And why do you consider the accounts of any of the bible characters who claim to have conversed with their god have any more credence than a claim made by the average Christian in thew street?
Clare thanks for your thoughts here. I have heard your interpretation before as well. Thank you for sharing it.
And I think its a good one, but that interpretation only seems to apply the Isaac and Abraham Story.
The argument I make is applies to in a much wider way. Consider that:
“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead…”
So God created us and can destroy us and create us again. If we assume such a God exists (And if atheists want to assume God did or commanded one thing in the bible and pass moral judgment, then they shouldn’t be selective.) then the faith being tested is not so much whether God exists and in what way, but whether we *trust* him.
As to how Abraham knew it was God I am not really sure. I tend not to read these stories literally. I tend to read them for the truth of what they are trying to convey. And rarely is it merely some set of historical facts happened. It has to do with our relationship with God. I think both of our interpretations go in that direction. Yours is that we do not sacrifice people, because that is not what God wants. And mine is that God created us all and can destroy and create us again.
May I suggest you turn off your comment hierarchy thing? It would make for easier posting and reading?
Ah….looky what we have here. Although like so many of your erstwhile religious brethren you have neatly sidestepped addressing the two points I raised, especially the physical mutilation of the penis, at least you admit there is a type of logic,.
All problems can be overcome. But there first has to be acknowledgement that there are problems. I am encouraged that you recognise the fact.
All it requires is an open mind….
If your god was as omni-everything as you lot claim then human intervention in the religious indoctrination of children would be unnecessary, and I reiterate,considering the number of gods it highlights the fact that god belief is all man-made
But at least it got you to think…if only a little. (which is more than most Christians do)
As Pink Floyd once sang…”Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone.”
Why not enroll your kids in a Creationist school like ACE, hmm?
Sorry I never really thought of that as a big deal. So I didn’t mean to sidestep it. Christians do not need to be circumcised so I am not sure that it happens for religious reasons at this day and age.
I don’t think the fact that God is omni everything logically implies that we shouldn’t teach the faith to our children.
I think you are misrepresenting the great and wise Pink Floyd. He is not saying “hey parents leave those kids alone” He is saying “teachers leave those kids alone.” So perhaps you think there should be no schools and let kids learn when they are old enough to decide if they think learning is worthwhile.
I don’t send my kids to a creationist school like Ace because I do not believe what they teach is true. But really I accept the fact that sending your kids anywhere will mean that they will be taught some things I disagree with. I send my kids to a Lutheran school even though my wife and I are Catholic. We love the school and think its great. We don’t believe the scripture alone or faith alone teachings. But the advantages outweigh this.
But then why would you think it is necessary?
I am well aware of what Waters wrote, and one would have thought the allusion was clear enough. Are not Parents teachers? Well, yes, indeed they are.
Teaching children the three ”Rs” etc is a far cry from indoctrinating them with fear-based religious dogma that has no basis in fact or verifiable evidence. This is abuse, pure and simple.
Yet you teach them or allow them to be taught about the bible, which is text based on fiction and lies. Why do you allow/perpetrate this?
I agree, it probably doesn’t happen that much, but it is still done for religious reasons and no doubt you are aware of the reason why it was regularly performed by Christians.
But why on earth would you imagine I am directing my concerns solely toward your religion?
Is this not a tad arrogant?
What on earth is so special about Christianity? Actually…nothing.
So I might be a good idea if you were to express disgust at this practice, especially as your brand of god belief does not insist on it.
I mean, we are talking about the unnecessary physical mutilation of the penis.
Unfortunately, conversations such as these inevitably become circular, so let me ask you straight.
Do you agree with the genital mutilation of children for religious reasons. Yes or No?
I think its good for parents to teach their children. This teaching can include things which people disagree about such as morals and religion.
“Do you agree with the genital mutilation of children for religious reasons. Yes or No?”
If you mean circumcision then yes. I think parents should be allowed to have their boys be circumcised for religious reasons.
There is a lady blogger – damned if I can remember her name – who has seen the light and deconverted and she bitterly regrets circumcising her boys.
If you allow one abusive practice you will eventually allow them all.
Such as despicable people like William Lane Craig who will invoke Divine Command theory for all the heinous things committed by your god.
And this is why such beliefs should be legislated against. And hopefully one day they will.
You state that they (atheists) are not accounting for the fact that Christians believe God is our creator and generally we think a creator has a right to destroy his creations.
Yes we are very much accounting for this causal claim (and the colossal arrogance and inherent evil it contains) and demand evidence independent of your beliefs for its justification. This independent evidence demonstrating what you claim to believe is absent in reality. The claim, therefore, is not based on evidence adduced from reality – or you would present it as the slam-dunk evidence it should be – but, in fact is wholly a faith-based belief contrary to the moral indifference Nature presents imposed on it.
To be absolutely clear, the claim I make is that there is no compelling evidence from the reality we share for me to believe as you do. There is no evidence from this shared reality that your god created me or you. Therefore, there is no evidence adduced from this shared reality to support the claim that your god created anything, which means there is no evidence to suggest your god has the right to avoid the moral responsibility for the actions you believe this god wants you to undertake in his name. Your line of reasoning here is fatuous, yet the claim it supports – that this christian moral code is superior to all others – remains a central plank for your faith-based belief in it! You – as a believer in this supposed god – tell us that you cannot be held accountable for justifying the source of the moral code you endorse! This is a get-out-of-jail ploy to avoid being personally responsible for personal actions justified by your belief (that you attribute to this creator god you presume is real) and the moral code this supposed creator wants you to enact.
Sorry, T&R; this line of reasoning you present is a cop out, a rationalization dependent on circular thinking, an avoidance technique from having to face the legitimate criticism of those with the intellectual integrity and fortitude to dare to question the moral privilege you presume to have absorbed from this god and avoid having to justify with anything other than your faith-based belief why it supposedly superior.
When you remove faith-based belief from an honest examination of this moral code from the OT, you find the result as Dawkins so eloquently phrased it… a god not just unworthy of worship but a morally despicable if not depraved critter.
Yep. Nailed it it one.
“You state that they (atheists) are not accounting for the fact that Christians believe God is our creator and generally we think a creator has a right to destroy his creations.
Yes we are very much accounting for this causal claim (and the colossal arrogance and inherent evil it contains) and demand evidence independent of your beliefs for its justification. …
To be absolutely clear, the claim I make is that there is no compelling evidence from the reality we share for me to believe as you do. There is no evidence from this shared reality that your god created me or you. Therefore, there is no evidence adduced from this shared reality to support the claim that your god created anything, which means there is no evidence to suggest your god has the right to avoid the moral responsibility for the actions you believe this god wants you to undertake in his name.”
Ok here you seem to be arguing that you have no reason to believe we were created by God therefore Gods is not entitled to the creators right. Do you at least agree that a creator does have the right to destroy his creation?
“This is a get-out-of-jail ploy to avoid being personally responsible for personal actions justified by your belief (that you attribute to this creator god you presume is real) and the moral code this supposed creator wants you to enact.”
This is a bit odd. What personal actions do you think I am trying avoid responsibility for?
“Sorry, T&R; this line of reasoning you present is a cop out, a rationalization dependent on circular thinking, an avoidance technique from having to face the legitimate criticism of those with the intellectual integrity and fortitude to dare to question the moral privilege you presume to have absorbed from this god and avoid having to justify with anything other than your faith-based belief why it supposedly superior.”
I gave my view on this. I am certainly willing to address anyone who wants to give a reasonable response to the argument. But just saying the line of reasoning is a cop out and rationalization is not a reasoned response. Its just an assertion.
If you think I the argument is circular please explain where.
P1) Creators have the right to control and destroy their creation.
P2) God created us
Conclusion: God has the right to control and destroy us.
In effect it is a daft argument as not a shred of evidence has ever been provided that
there is a god, and the claim that your god Yeshua , is the creator of the universe is just plain silly.
That’s really a different issue than the one discussed in this blog post. This blog post addresses the claim that if the Christian God of the bible exists as written in the bible, he would be immoral.
You and tildeb want to address he evidence that he exists or that he created us.
I would point out, Tildeb seems to alternate between saying there is “no evidence” and that there is “no compelling evidence.” They are 2 different statements. But this blog post really doesn’t address either question.
The reason I say it is silly s because it begins with a false hypothesis. God.
You have to demonstrate there is a god of the bible before any valid/meaningful discussion can be conducted.
One may as well say if “Pinocchio was a real boy…..”
Its not daft to assume something for the sake of argument. Maybe we wouldn’t want to assume Pinocchio was a real boy (at least not at the beginning of the story) but reasonable people do grant points en arguendo.
The addressed in the blog post, is such an argument. It is one where people argue against Christianity by essentially arguing that if the God of the bible is real he is immoral.
Ah, so it is an exercise in point scoring because the biblical god is merely a work of fiction, is this, in point of fact what you are saying?
No it’s not what I am saying. Allowing a point for the sake of argument only admits the point for the sake of argument. It in fact does not admit or denies what is allowed for the sake of argument.
Here is a link that explains it a bit:
But you are making a claim and as a christian you are not merely asking for the sake of it, as you already believe
Thus it is incumbent on you, the believer, to demonstrate the veracity of this belief…God…before we proceed to discuss the issue of morality.
And to get back to how daft this is…
The Pentateuch is fiction so the whole exercise is purely ‘mental masturbation’ as the saying goes.
The only disconcerting aspect is you actually believe in the veracity of the bible and even though your nonsensical assertions are quite clearly fallacious your faith based beliefs will simply reject them.
“Thus it is incumbent on you, the believer, to demonstrate the veracity of this belief…God…before we proceed to discuss the issue of morality.”
Demonstrate it to whom? To you? Or else what?
I am happy to give you my reasons why I believe. But I feel no compulsion that they should demonstrate anything to you. Reasonable people can disagree.
Here you go again with the Or else what nonsense.
Like I really care one way or another.
What are you…Ten years old?
I do not believe in gods…you do.
You believe you have to acknowledge this god, genuflect to it/him, admit you are a sinner/born into sin in fact/ pray to be saved, or risk going to hell and be tortured for eternity/ get baptized etc etc all on the say so of an erroneous text cobbled together by a group of corrupt church officials under the patronage of despotic SOB called Constantine and his Arian sidekick!
You are an attorney at law, shouldn’t you investigate the history of what you believe before you go “Or whating” all over the place?
The truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth…so help me god”?
My prior comment also applies to this one. I won’t retype it.
And this is fine by me….
What’s up Dear, are yoou really visiting this web site regularly, if
so afterward yyou will without doubt take good know-how.
Internal communications plan said:
fantastic post, very informative. Iponder why the opposite
specialists of this sector don’t understand this.
Yoou must confinue your writing. I’m confident, you have a huge readers’ base already!
Great content, thank You !!
It would be circumspect of you to discontinue using the King James version in more rigorous examinations of the Bible. The translators of this version unjustifiably failed to translate the word “day star/morning star” in an attempt to give the false impression that this word is supposed to be a proper name “Lucifer.” This word is clearly a sarcastic epithet for the King of Babylon who is being discussed in the context. Satan is not mentioned here or in Ezekiel. In fact, morning star is used as an epithet for Jesus twice: once in Revelation and once in epistles of Peter. If translators intended on being consistent, then they might as well add in the word Lucifer here as well. It’s not a Hebrew text, but if they think it’s a proper name, then they ought to.
Also, I feel that you’ve suffered a considerable amount by the influence of unbelievers and “liberals” in your reading of the Bible. You have no qualms about saying that you don’t take many of the parts of the Old Testament to have actually happened. I would be more careful, if I were you, in taking such positions. Many of these same portions Jesus and the apostles seem to have clearly taken literally. In following the unjustified higher textual criticism of the spirit of the age you might be entering an area in which the author of your faith is being rejected.
Thanks for your comment.
I agree that the King James interpretation of this passage is likely not as rigorous as the other interpretations. I just wanted to note the tradition. I did give the footnote to a few arguments that suggest KJV got it wrong, but it was somewhat beside my main point. Even if Isaiah is condemning a human king and not an angel the point remains. How important people think tradition is in understanding Christianity will vary from person to person.
I don’t always use the King James but here I used it because it gave rise to the tradition I mentioned. I do like the King James version because the language is often beautiful and there are times when it is a better translation than other versions. However sometimes it is hard reading. I have found there are pros and cons to various bible translations. Many protestants I know use the NIV and I will often use that version for that reason and the fact that it is well respected and easy to read. Of course even it is not perfect and at times clearly demonstrates bias:
But on the whole it is one of my favorites.
As for my views on the old testament you might be correct in part. However I am not convinced that Jesus or the apostles insisted on a literal reading of the old testament. It may be that they interpreted parts of it literally, as I do. Other times Jesus tends to break away for literal translations such as how he deals with the adulteress in John and divorce in Mark. I am not aware of anything they said that suggests we need to interpret it all as literal.
“In following the unjustified higher textual criticism of the spirit of the age you might be entering an area in which the author of your faith is being rejected.”
Its interesting that I think the same thing about those who interpret the bible with extreme literal-ism. This IMO is much more a recent novelty than my understanding of passages in a non literal sense. IMO it is the extreme literalists who come with the new spirit of a recent age and reject the tradition of the church as it has been passed down for centuries.
I would say there is insufficient biblical data to even conclude what kind of being Satan is–angelic or what have you (in Hebrew that word just means adversary). What we can deduce from scripture is that he was created for the purpose of testing people. Whether he was directly created in this condition or created with the proper framework and properties that would induce him to fall it makes no substanative difference. God is responsible for Satan. This, nevertheless, does not make him responsible for evil. Evil simply results from a choice against God. It does not have some metaphysical existence.
Anyway, I’m sure you weren’t interested in that. The NIV, by the way, follows a dynamic equivalence philosophy in translation, which is thought-for-thought and not word-for-word. This is going to produce problems as well for in-depth biblical study. Nonetheless, I understand why they follow this translation philosophy. From my knowledge of several languages, I am acquainted with how awkward thoughts can appear when literally translated into another language. Sometimes you have to either add the intended meaning of the author by the idiom or grammatical structure in the footnote or simply allow the translator to use his discretion and translate the passage into something intelligible in the new language. I am, for the most part, for extremely literal translations. I don’t mind reading awkward sentences.
As to your assertion about Jesus’ and the Church’s thoughts about the Old Testament, I would have to see what exact passages you believe they didn’t take literally. I know they take certain prophecies in Isaiah to be referring to their age, even though these passages would require spiritualizing them to make them fit. Nevertheless, Peter does this several times in the beginning of Acts. Paul does this relatively often as well in his epistles. Notwithstanding, I can’t think of a single case of these people taking a narrative section of the Old Testament not literally. I know Paul mentions that the law in the Torah about not muzzling oxen while they tread. He spiritualizes this. He, however, still believes of course that this law actually existed and for the purpose of real oxen.
I imagine that you mean, apropos of this theme, that the beginning chapters of Genesis ought to be taken non-literally. There is clearly nothing within the text itself that necessitates this. In fact, there are many reasons to discount such an approach. I know that the main reason most people do this is not because of proper exegesis, but rather because of their ignorance of the faultiness of many secular models on origins. They assume “science” necessitates a loose reading. That would be a whole long discussion, however. I know there were Church Fathers that also suspected Genesis to be allegorical in parts. But, it can be demonstrated that these particular men came from schools that took massive portions of scripture to always have double meanings. A literal and a spiritual reading and possibly an allegorical one as well. This would just be the doctrine of that particular school, nevertheless.
Thank you for your comments. I enjoyed reading them.
I agree with allot of what you say but if you don’t mind I would like to make sure I better understand what you are saying.
“Evil simply results from a choice against God. It does not have some metaphysical existence.”
Do you think evil exists? For example I think evil is a real property that attaches to certain actions done by moral agents. Admittedly this property is somewhat “queer” as Mackie sates. I think it’s “queer” because it is not a property that yields impressions to our senses. But I do think it exists in the world.
I agree with your characterization of the NIV. I often use that or the King James merely because AFAIK that is the bible most protestants use. And beside a few small caveats I am fine with them. If you think another bible translation is better I would be interested.
As far as why I think the Old Testament is not necessarily to be read literally there are several reasons. They are probably too numerous to list. But for one consider the historical timing of the sources. In the case of the New Testament we have Luke who starts by saying he investigated what he says. Many think Acts is just a continuation of Luke’s Gospel account. Consider the ending of John as well. He says, the miracles he speaks of are so that we will believe Jesus was the Son of God. When we add that up that covers quite a bit of the historical claims.
These New Testament scriptures are not claimed to be like the Quran, as if God gripped the author and the author basically wrote or said things while in a trance. They are affirmatory stating these things happened based on what the author investigated. So they are not denying there is a very real human component to the authorship and an effort on the part of the author that people really believe these occurrences happened.
The clearest exception in the NT to this, would be the book of revelation. But then again that is the book where I would read it least literally.
Then we have the book of genesis. How did we come to have this information? Was it oral tradition from the time of the very first human until it was first written? Its hard to believe that the first humans had written language that would record that. Even there how would the author or initial person know about how the animals were made? It seems we must think that God somehow “seized” someone to tell us these things if we are to have an authentic link to literal truth. But that is not how I understand Christian or Hebrew scriptures to come about.
It seems to me that the contents of these books have been taught and confirmed over time by a people who worshiped God. God inspired them but it’s unclear how any concern about detailed historical claims would play a role. The more general points seem much more significant. For example that God created us in a universe seems much more important than whether the first human really had the name “Adam.” Would the Holy Spirit let the story of Genesis die off because they got the name of “Adam” wrong? I doubt it. That would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It seems to me that the reasons that certain Old Testament oral teachings were preserved by the Holy Spirit is not out of concern that people would learn some factual history. Instead it was preserved for the morals they teach.
I haven’t really read the New Testament to see whether the authors necessarily interpreted the Old Testament literally. I think the genealogies might lend some credence to that view. But we also have 2 Peter who says a day is like a thousand years. (He is not referring to genesis but instead to the end of times, but I also have no reason to think he wouldn’t think the same of Genesis.)
But on the whole I don’t think the New Testament itself gives us sufficient clarity on this. So the next place to look IMO would be the church fathers and how they understood these passages. I also tend to look to my church for guidance on these issues. And on the whole my church does not really require one type of reading over another so I do not get too concerned about it. I don’t have strong views on this either way and I don’t really think it is important to have strong views on this either way.
I did a post that sort of touches on this issue here:
I will reply specifically to this response, but I’m going to bed. In the meantime, here’s a link to a post I just wrote related, somewhat to what we are talking about. No, I didn’t decide to write the post because of you, but because of other reasons.
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