9/15/2008

JASON AND THE BIBLE-NOUGHTS


Over at EvolutionBlog, the normally-sanguine Jason Rosenhouse has a hissy about one of those soft-headed religious guys who want to make nice-nice with Darwin. I take him to task as follows:

In particular, the first eleven chapters of Genesis must be discarded almost in their entirety if modern science is to be accepted. Jettison those chapters and the Bible's foundational teachings go with them.

Jason, this is simply untrue. One does not have to discard Genesis, one merely has to recognize that the Bible is not a science textbook and not misread it as such. St. Augustine came to that conclusion in the fifth century with the limited amount of scholarship available in his day, as Ken Miller has pointed out on more than one occasion.

Now, Jason, I have to admit that I can't rule out the possibility that you feel that a literal reading of Genesis is (in your words) foundational. If so, you're wrong. The Catholic Church does not require such a reading as a litmus test of faith, and neither do the mainline Protestant churches---in other words, the vast majority of those who call themselves Christian do not find it necessary to regard such a reading as foundational. Given that, isn't the above declaration a bit of a 'straw man'?

The cause of human integrity is not furthered in the slightest by Christianity.

That may be true, Jason, but it is a non sequitur with respect to the passage that you are quoting from Brown: "For the sake of human integrity -- and thus for the sake of good Christian living -- some rapprochement between Darwin and Christian faith is essential." Here Brown is not saying that human integrity is furthered by, much less dependent upon Christianity. Rather, he is saying 'good Christian living' must be in accord with 'human integrity.' It is a poor faith that denies the existence of facts simply because they seem to be at odds with traditional beliefs. I don't doubt that a believer like Brown sees Christianity as making a world a better place, and as a skeptic you are more inclined to see it as a plague, but that's not the claim that's being made. You clearly misread the claim because you are provoked by any positive association with Christianity.

Brown has not squarely faced the problems evolution poses for Christianity. He does not even seem to recognize them.

No, what you mean is that he does not appear to accept the zero-sum game you are playing as an inevitable outcome. You don't actually have any evidence that he doesn't as a personal matter recognize the very real problems that evolution poses for Christianity---which, I might add, are not based on a literal interpretation of Genesis, but on Pauline theological glosses. Rather, you just presume that such must be true and appear wistful that all religious aren't as polarized as Ken Ham.


Picking and choosing the parts of Christianity you like while ignoring the parts that conflict with science is not an act of integirty. It is an act of intellectual desperation.

As mentioned above, there are legitimate textual reasons to reject a literal understanding of Genesis as theologically binding. There is nothing desperate about using scholarship and reason to place a text in the appropriate historical context. To find real desperation, you should look at the extraordinary pretzel logic employed by evangelicals to justify the radical inerrancy that they are committed to due to decades of poor scholarship and worse theology.

Oh, and enjoy the Bernard Herrmann score!


Jason And The Argonauts - Prelude - Bernard Herrmann



*****UPDATE*****

Jason has replied with a correction.
I may have misunderstood one of his comments. I think, also, that he may misunderstand the Rev. Malcolm Brown, but I could be wrong. Brown's prose (or at least my ability to interpret it) is a little fuzzy at the moment. In the spirit of humility, I've offered to write Brown for clarification. This should be fun.

16 comments:

Irradiatus said...

I like you, am posting at both locations :)

Scott,

You are right that the specific example of Genesis, when read from a non-literal interpretation, isn't itself refuted by the scientific body of knowledge.

However, I think Jason's point in that argument is that there are many specific and foundational tenets of the bible that simply don't fit the view of reality that science has painted.

As Brown points out, the church cannot question the methodology of science. He is saying that nothing we have learned of our universe through empirically using our senses (and extensions of them) is antithetical to the bible, and that religion should not and cannot refute these "facts". Brown is saying that Christianity can fit snugly around and behind the natural laws we have discovered, not refuting the laws, but being separate and unrelated to them.

But there are many other points that simply cannot be reconciled between science and the Bible - points that call into question the entire religion (if we are to accept Brown's contention).

Take Jesus' water to wine miracle. We know what water is: it's two hydrogens and an oxygen. Wine has ethanol, which also has carbon atoms. Everything science tells us - the laws that govern chemistry and physics and which we can plainly see govern this universe - argues that turning water to wine is sheer impossibility.

Sure, you can say "but Jesus is divine he has powers beyond physics". But that statement simply refutes everything that Brown was saying.

So Jason's point - that the Bible and Christianity are not reconcilable - still holds. Only certain aspects, such as metaphorical interpretations of certain aspects can be reconciled. The rest, again, simply requires a faith in things that go against what our empirical knowledge tells us.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

So Jason's point - that the Bible and Christianity are not reconcilable - still holds.

I think you mean Christianity and science. But then, Jason is conflating one understanding of the Bible with all of Christendom.

Only certain aspects, such as metaphorical interpretations of certain aspects can be reconciled. The rest, again, simply requires a faith in things that go against what our empirical knowledge tells us.

In many cases there is no reason to choose between a metaphorical interpretation or something more straightforward that seems at first glance to require some jiggery with natural law: take, for example, such things as Jonah in the whale. In such cases, we Christians feel free to consider other possibilities.

Keep in mind that even 'laws' in nature are held provisionally. The suggestion of Susskind and others that there might be a 'multiverse' (which has for the skeptic the happy consequence of rendering all 'fine tuning' arguments irrelevant) would mean that even 'Laws' for this present universe might not be in effect in other times and places. It seems strange that many skeptics would regard the massive hand waving accompanying multiverse and string theory scenarios in physics is less speculative than the hand waving of some religionists where their holy writ is concerned.

Everything science tells us - the laws that govern chemistry and physics and which we can plainly see govern this universe - argues that turning water to wine is sheer impossibility.

No. The chemical reactions that could lead water and stray carbon atoms to form sugars spontaneously are not impossible, just highly improbable in an open system. A superior intelligence that can momentarily 'game' part of that system through the input of energy could make that sequence of reactions more probable. I wouldn't consider the above a scientific claim because it can't be tested---which is why science can't rule it out, either.

Forthekids said...

I guess I'm just really curious how you can disgregard certain parts of biblical history and not others. You seem to pick and choose which parts of scripture you're willing to believe, and those parts of biblical history that don't line up with the current scientific consensus you disregard as being true.

Heads up: It's scientifically impossible to rise from the dead. Miracles are out as well. So, that pretty much does away with the Christian faith. Why the heck bother with it? Is it simliar to a social club or a place for moral support with others who try to follow a particular moral guideline?

I don't get where you draw the line on what is historically accurate in scripture and what is not. If the entire first chapter of Genesis isn't to be taken seriously, what's the point of bothering with any of it?

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Hello, ftk. Long time no exchange thoughts. I know we don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but I hope you are well.

You seem to pick and choose which parts of scripture you're willing to believe, and those parts of biblical history that don't line up with the current scientific consensus you disregard as being true.

Hmm. Science is free to change its mind, but people of faith are not free to use the minds God gave them? I'm sure that's not really your position, but there's something to be said for having an open mind in the realm of faith. John Wesley once said, "But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think." Unity in essentials, tolerance in those things which are not essential. I happen to believe that a literal interpretation of Genesis is not necessary for salvation; others, such as Ken Ham, believe otherwise.

In any case, it's not really a simple black-and-white, true or not true thing at work here. In reality, I have no idea when and where God is directly active in creation, and neither does anybody else. Consider a miracle: is turning water into wine a suspension of natural law, a breaking of the rules? Or did Jesus just know something about the rules that we didn't know? There is no way for us to answer that question, I think, either by science (which presumes lawfulness and denies the possibility of miracles) or by faith. But I do believe that faith leads us to ask questions that science can't answer, and these are probably more important questions. My human curiosity wants to know HOW Jesus turns Aquafina into Zinfadel, sure. But I would hope you would agree that the question of WHY Jesus performed certain signs and wonders is probably more important. Science studies cosmic order; religion, cosmic purpose.

So, I really do hold out the possibility that where miracles are concerned, or where apparent conflicts between scripture and science emerge, that they are ultimately resolvable in a way that is consistent with God's nature and purpose. I don't assume that miracles couldn't happen, nor do I insist that any particular scripture be rejected as 'false.' I do think that there are factual errors in the Bible as we have received it, and if you look closely you'll find that most evangelicals admit that as well. Are you shocked by that declaration? You shouldn't be. Look carefully at evangelical statements of faith. They typically claim that the Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts. Ah, but none of these manuscripts exist any more. So even evangelicals admit that there may be problems with the texts that we have now, even while some of their brethren often jump through a variety of hoops in their attempts to smooth over various alleged contradictions.

So, it turns out I'm in pretty good company to recognize that the Bible we have is not perfect, and it's just common sense that our human understanding, being limited, is not going to be able to completely divine God's intent in all cases solely by referencing the Bible. But that doesn't mean that the Bible is untrustworthy. It's our understanding of the Bible, our limited knowledge of how it relates to nature, that is likely to be at fault. So, I just don't find it necessary to accept or reject the Biblical witness as a whole based upon our current scientific understanding. Nor do I go around like Jefferson cutting out the verses that I don't like. I like them all, and I affirm that the Bible as a whole contains revelations about God's nature and purpose. I just don't pretend that the Bible was intended to answer every question, or be the final word on every subject, the only authority that matters in every domain.

I don't get where you draw the line on what is historically accurate in scripture and what is not. If the entire first chapter of Genesis isn't to be taken seriously, what's the point of bothering with any of it?

The thing I would stress is that there is a difference between taking Genesis seriously and interpreting it literally. In the fifth century St. Augustine acknowledged that interpreting some portions of Genesis literally was a bad idea, because it led to claims about the world that ran afoul of the evidence, and this could do harm to the Christian witness. Ken Miller has mentioned this more than once in his books and public appearances, so you're probably familiar with that claim. Here's the money quote:

"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."

You can read more about Augustine's thought here. While I am not myself Catholic, I think Christians of all denominations recognize that Augustine is not only an important thinker, but one of the Church Fathers whose writings help define conventional, orthodox Christian theology. If Augustine (and many others, as shown here, ) were content to consider non-literal interpretations as either equally or more valid than literal ones, then I think I am in good company. It's not a question of being so arrogant as to think that I can know exactly what is historical, and what is metaphorical in every case. I don't know. I just understand that within the domain of science we have to rely strictly on evidence and not privilege any set of propositions held on faith, including my own.

Anyway, for the record where Genesis 1 is concerned I tend to accept the framework interpretation, largely on textual grounds. I'm fond of Lawson Stone's idea that the text is liturgical in character. I believe that the text should be honored, because it tells us some pretty fundamental things about God's nature and purpose, which is to say that He willed it, and called it good, and made man imago dei. That these declarations are affixed in a traditional Mid-East liturgy that is not meant to be a literal, blow-by-blow historical account does not make them any less worthy of veneration.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

The thing I would stress is that there is a difference between taking Genesis seriously and interpreting it literally.

So when Jesus said (Mar 10:6) "But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE." was Jesus being serious but not literal? I'm not asking rhetorically, I would appreciate an answer.

ftk had asked: "I don't get where you draw the line on what is historically accurate in scripture and what is not." I don't see it either and it seems to me you have equivocated. While it is true that 'belief in Genesis' is not salvific and charity should be extended, OTOH you profess to be a follower of Christ and yet you seem to dispute what Christ Himself said.

So, would you please clarify for the record, what do you really believe in the bible is factual and literal (even if lacking evidence)? For example, do you believe Jesus was born of a virgin and was the begotten Son of God? Did Jesus perform miracles? Was Jesus resurrected? Was there really an exodus thru the Red Sea? Did the Jews really settle the "Promised Land"? Did God exist eternally and create the universe (space, energy and matter) regardless of its age? etc....

Could you please in brief bullet form outline what you do believe is factual and literal in the bible, at least the high points as mentioned above (and feel free to qualify whatever you feel is unproven(able) even though you may believe it to be literally true)? I'll further assume you construe most of it is not literally true and hence the easier, shorter list is whatever you do believe to be literal.

R. Moore said...

Scott Hatfield said --
"...the Bible is not a science textbook and not misread it as such."

Au Contraire! From the Common Sense Science website:

Energy. The Grant Unification Theory (GUT)

This new model has the potential for a Grant Unification Theory of the universe. The Common Sense Science team feels they will be able to understand what causes gravity based upon this model.

Two forms of energy:

1. Energy = waves (electromagnetic)

Gen. 1:3 "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."

2. Energy with charge = matter [atoms] (electromagnetic waves with a charge of negative or positive to hold the atom together)

Gen. 1:4 "And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."

The basis of all physical objects in the universe is electromagnetism (electricity and magnetism)

The Bohr Model of the Atom

The Bohr Model has 3 assumptions known to be wrong.

Relativity and Quantum Theory, based on the Bohr Model, cannot give a true picture of God's Creation.

Relativity and Quantum Theory, deny design and a creator God.

The New Model of the Atom (Lucas/Bergman)

The New Model (Lucas/Bergman) has a cause and effect basis.

It reduces all forces in the universe to two:

1. Electricity

2. Magnetism

Major discoveries that will help spread the Gospel can result from this new Model of the Atom

And let us not forget the life work of Dr. Hugh Ross!

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

R.Moore's comment is sly. He's a good friend, but I'm pretty sure he regards Hugh Ross's life work as pseudoscience, so the jumble of claims prior to that should be understood as a spoof. I think he's trying to make the point that if we start looking for evidence-free, subjective interpretations of scripture that will fit the science available to us, we can find it. We humans are good at finding patterns that may not be there, like the 'face' in the wall outlet...

As for Starwind's comment: I have no problem with miracles as such. But again, what do we mean when we claim that such-and-such is miraculous? Do we mean that physical law is being suspended by divine fiat, or do we mean that some poorly-understood aspect of physical law is manifesting itself? For all we know, events that we can't explain may be explicable in terms of natural processes. That would in no way undermine the authority of One who could employ Nature to do their bidding. So if 'scientific' objections consist chiefly of rejecting a literal understanding simply because it seems to require miraculous intervention, I don't go along with that. I don't feel any particular need to work out every such claim in scripture. I am perfectly willing to accept miraculous claims, chief among them the divinity of Christ. I don't bother worrying about where there is a natural explanation for most supernatural claims in scripture because they do not impinge upon the domain of science. Maybe Jonah really was swallowed by a whale, and maybe God really did talk out of a burning bush. Or maybe there was some other phenomena involved, explicable in natural causes. My faith doesn't rest on determining which is true in all cases described in the Bible, but rather that the being who inspired the creators, collators and editors of various writings is real.

Further, my point where Genesis 1-11 is specifically concerned is that there are legitimate textual reasons for seeking a non-literal understanding, quite apart from the fact that literal interpretations seem to run afoul of the evidence available to us about the natural world. Many Christians, including many evangelicals, accept 'the literary framework view' of Genesis 1-11. Meredith Kline (an orthodox Presbyterian) was a strong advocate of that view, which rejects a literal interpretation on textual grounds. Kline summarized his views in this article, and I am impressed by his scholarship and those of others who have followed his lead.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

I am perfectly willing to accept miraculous claims, chief among them the divinity of Christ.

Fine. Let me then reiterate my non-rhetorical question you've yet to answer.

When Jesus [whom you agree was divine] said (Mar 10:6) "But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE." was Jesus being serious but not literal?

I have no problem with miracles as such. ... For all we know, events that we can't explain may be explicable in terms of natural processes.

Fine. Let me reiterate again my request for which biblical claims (however presently inexplicable in terms of natural processes) do you believe are literally true? For example, was Jesus resurrected? was Jesus born of a virgin? Did God create everything in the beginning? etc. It needn't be exhaustive nor provable, just some bullets on whatever you feel are the most signficant biblical claims you actually believe to be literally true. Every Christian I know, without exception, would have identified a couple dozen within minutes and though their lists would be different, even contradictory in non-essentials, they wouldn't need to be asked twice. Your silence suggests you believe none of the bible 'miracles', but I don't like inferences from silence.

Further, my point where Genesis 1-11 is specifically concerned is that there are legitimate textual reasons for seeking a non-literal understanding, quite apart from the fact that literal interpretations seem to run afoul of the evidence available to us about the natural world. ... Meredith Kline (an orthodox Presbyterian) was a strong advocate of that view, which rejects a literal interpretation on textual grounds. Kline summarized his views in this article, and I am impressed by his scholarship and those of others who have followed his lead.

Did you mean Genesis chapters 1 and 2, or did you really mean through and including chapter 11 (eleven) since Kline's Framework Theory only covers Gen 1 & 2. Further the legitimacy of the textual reasons for a non-literal understanding of Gen 1 & 2 have been disputed and Kline has failed to address his critics. See for example From Chaos to Cosmos: A Critique of the Framework Hypothesis by Pipa (who is also a Westminster Theological Seminarian like Kline). We've been over this before - I have offered in your blog comments an 'old earth creation' literal interpretation before at September 22, 2007 1:11 PM and at September 23, 2007 12:20 PM

You've been quite verbose, repeatedly, in articulating what you don't believe, literally. Could you kindly now at least once, at least tersely, identify what (if anything) you do believe to be literally true. Specifically my two questions above.

Starwind said...

Scott Hatfield:

You earlier above advocated: "Unity in essentials, tolerance in those things which are not essential. I happen to believe that a literal interpretation of Genesis is not necessary for salvation; others, such as Ken Ham, believe otherwise."

As I noted above, Jesus [who you agree was divine and thus presumably speaks Truth] said (Mar 10:6) "But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE." and yet you dispute the biblical account of creation as reiterated, in part, by Jesus. Jesus also said (Luk 6:46) "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do [or disbelieve] what I say?". I.e., if you believe in Jesus, if He is in fact your "Lord", then you believe (and obey) what He says, whereas if you don't believe what He says, your belief in Him as your Lord is questionable. Understanding a literal creation account is not essential, but belief in what Jesus says is arguably essential.

Or pehaps you believe something else? But you've been repeatedly asked what you actually believe Jesus meant and yet you have maintained a steadfast silence, ostensibly to preserve for yourself enough ambiguity, it would seem, to serve both Jesus and Darwin.

When questioned by ftk, you ask for tolerance for your "having an open mind in the realm of faith" and yet you can't bring yourself to actually say for which of your open minded (dis)beliefs you expect such tolerance. That isn't tolerance of biblical nonessentials but rather a blank check to enable numerous potential heresies.

Consider further that while you expect tolerance for your disbelief of God's literal creation of man and woman as Jesus stated, you offer little tolerance yourself for literal creationist views. And it isn't just intolerance for Ken Ham's views. It's also Don Patton's and I've observed you express that same intolerance to YECs like bethyada, and in the classroom (though you claim you are respectful) you expect your students as well to suspend any literal creationsist beliefs in favor of evolution. Understandably, it is your job to teach evolution, but as we've discussed before, you are not mandated to show a PBS video that discredits literal creationism using Ken Ham as the poster boy - showing that video is your prerogative, you could just stick to the science. And equally understandably, you have your pedagogical reasons for showing the video anyway - but let's not pretend that "tolerance" was one of your reasons.

Might Jesus, your Lord, be a literal creationsist? Take care that you don't cause one of those little ones in your classes who believe in Jesus (and what Jesus taught) to stumble....

You have the last word, if any.

R. Moore said...

Starwind, I will jump in here as someone who is an atheist, skeptic, and someone who loves to pin irrational thought against the wall and watch it wriggle. Scott has posted his credo, and it demonstrates a rational thought process on the subject of faith, and it provides an excellent philosophy on how one can use use faith as a guide for how to act. Science is rather unhelpful in this area, as the universe could care less whether the species homo sapiens exists or not. Scott has decided to take something on faith; we all do this to stay sane in a universe driven by the laws of chaos. He does not seem to create any sense of authority or obligation on the part of others by this faith. This means I can rationally only criticize his actions as they affect me, to paraphrase Voltaire, Scott is "tending his garden"

What his credo does not do is bog down in debating the details of events lost in history, any more than you worry yourself over the mythologies of a multitude of lost cultures. He does not engage in demands for acceptance of false dichotomies, syllogisms,and non-requiters. He does attempt to forge a philosophy that works for his own well being. If he chooses to use the Holy Bible for guidance, more power to him. In the battle for aphorisms, I prefer Shakespeare,Mark Twain, and Philip K. Dick myself.

I see little real difference between Jesus and Siddhartha (who is not mentioned in the Bible, how did God miss that?) in Scott's credo -- they both represent an ideal he seeks, and he is free to do so without needing to justify it in the natterings of a dead text, though he may choose to if it works for him.

"Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds": your insistence others meet the demands of your logic requires a severe shrinking of intellect on their part. I doubt you get many takers.

Starwind said...

R. Moore:

Scott has posted his credo, and it demonstrates a rational thought process on the subject of faith, and it provides an excellent philosophy on how one can use use faith as a guide for how to act.

There is no evading or diluting what the Bible objectively declares are the standards which guide every Christian who affirms Jesus as God, Lord and Savior. That you, an atheist, subscribe to other humanist or materialist standards is to be expected. But that you further find Scott's credo and philosophy (to the extent he has divulged any) to be rational and excellent according to your standards is insufficient. God expects more from His followers than do atheists expect, not surprisingly. God sets the standard for Christians, not I and not you.

If [Scott] chooses to use the Holy Bible for guidance, more power to him.

Again, for the believing Christian, being guided by the Bible is the minimum. It isn't optional. Atheists understandably do not submit themselves to its authority, much less actually understand what that authority is.

"Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds": your insistence others meet the demands of your logic requires a severe shrinking of intellect on their part.

"Foolish" being the pivotal distinction. You don't believe in God and hence disregarding the Bible is logically consistent for you (albeit at your peril). But Christians who affirm Jesus as Lord also affirm Him as the "logos" - Jesus is "logic" personified. It isn't my logic, nor yours, but God's and the "demands" for the purposes of this discussion is logical consistency. Whereas to affirm Jesus as God but then disregard Jesus' teachings is illogical, arguably a foolish inconsistency.

I doubt you get many takers.

Indeed we don't. Narrow is the gate that leads to life and few bother to look, let alone find it.

R. Moore said...

...There is no evading or diluting what the Bible objectively declares are the standards which guide every Christian who affirms Jesus as God, Lord and Savior.

How objective can something be when churches are splitting over what the Bible says on a regular basis. The facts deny your assumption.

...God expects more from His followers than do atheists expect, not surprisingly.

You know the mind of a God,but simple high school logic is beyond your grasp. You are some kind of savant!

...Atheists understandably do not submit themselves to its authority, much less actually understand what that authority is.

We understand it perfectly. That is why we find viewpoints like yours amusing at one end of the scale, and frightening at the other. (See WWII, Christians exterminate 6 millions Jews and homosexuals, based on the privileged knowledge of the mind of God).

...You don't believe in God and hence disregarding the Bible is logically consistent for you (albeit at your peril).

When I was 5, I worried if I was bad Santa Claus wouldn't bring me presents. I grew up. Millions of American children are easily fooled for years that a magical being drops down the chimney and rewards them, in spite of all their knowledge of the natural world. The fraud is reinforced by all media and peers. Atheists call it good fun, you would call it religion. There is more of your kind of evidence for Santa Claus than God.


Tell me one thing, since you have so much knowledge. When does the bible say this all important Jesus was born and where. This should be easy, so many eyewitness accounts.

Stupid question I know. That is why I respect Scott for staying above such nonsense. But I await an answer.

Starwind said...

R. Moore:
How objective can something be when churches are splitting over what the Bible says on a regular basis. The facts deny your assumption.

Supremely objective. The Bible isn't responsible for church splits anymore than the Constitution is responsible for what lawbreakers do. You don't hold the Constitution responsible when it is repeatedly violated and ignored by our government, rather you quite rightly blame the people who deliberately ignore their oaths of office and ignore what the Constitution (and our laws) state. If you were consistent in your reasoning, you'd blame church goers and church leaders for church splits, not the Bible.

(See WWII, Christians exterminate 6 millions Jews and homosexuals, based on the privileged knowledge of the mind of God).

Hitler, the SS, and the Nazis were not Christians. They persecuted the Christian church as well (Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion - July 6, 1945 - "The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches") though not to the same extent as Jews. Further, the atheist governments of the USSR and China have killed some 137 million people (see 20th Century Mortacracies). What Christians know of the mind of God is what they read in the Bible. Atheists could likewise avail themselves of that "privileged knowledge", as have some, notably C.S. Lewis.

When does the bible say this all important Jesus was born and where.

The date can be approximated as six months after the birth of John the Baptist, approximately the week of August 13, in 5 B.C. (Gregorian) - see Establishing the Date of Jesus' Birth for background.

Starwind said...

Correction:

the week of August 13, in 5 B.C. (Gregorian)

should be:

the week of August 13, in 5 B.C. (Julian)

R. Moore said...

Starwind said --

...The Bible isn't responsible for church splits anymore than the Constitution is responsible for what lawbreakers do.

I do not find the US Constitution at all analogous to the bible, because as a living document, it has has been proven wrong, and corrected (sort of like science). This modifiability in the face of reason is its fundamental usefulness. I doubt you will say the same about the bible. Your analogy completely ignores my point about an "objective" bible apparently being wholly subjective in its interpretation.

..They persecuted the Christian church as well (Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion

The fact you find persecution analogous to genocide is rather disturbing. And the Nazis were Christians -- they attended only Christian churches, read only Christian bibles, were baptized Christians, etc. They invoked the Christian God in justification for their actions. You should read the anguish in the diaries of the Nazi captain who helped save Wladyslaw Szpilman (The Pianist). They make it very clear his fellow SS were active Christians, and Christian belief was the basis for the Nazi treatment of the Jews.

As far as the USSR and China being atheist governments, your first have to show that such an atheist government exists, and what would identify it as such. Saying some people are atheists in no way links them to any atrocities. There is no evidence any of the actions of the USSR or China were in the name of atheism (as though such a thing exists).

...see Establishing the Date of Jesus' Birth for background.

Thanks for the link, this kind of confused analysis is exactly why I asked the question. I hoped you would try to prove such an essential point with information less biased and more authoritative. It too seems to have real problems with the census of Quinirius vs the time of Herod (It does the usual dodge of speculation on the true date of the census, which is well known). So the question remains -- when was Jesus born, and why is this such a problem for a document supposedly written by eyewitnesses?

Seriously Starwind, in spite of all your demands on Scott, you really show yourself to be a real amateur in apologetics. Your arguments are the same stale stuff I get all the time, showing you have thought about your theology very little. It is really not fair to demand of Scott much more than you demand of yourself.

Starwind said...

R. Moore:

Your analogy completely ignores my point about an "objective" bible apparently being wholly subjective in its interpretation.

No, you again ignore the salient point that people doing the interpretation do so subjectively, whether with the Constitution or the Bible. The errors lie with the contradictory interpretations made by people, not the documents.

They make it very clear his fellow SS were active Christians, and Christian belief was the basis for the Nazi treatment of the Jews.

Prove your claim that "Christian belief was the basis for the Nazi treatment of the Jews"; cite the Bible passages or church leaders' sermons or statements demonstrating exterminating Jews was orthodox Christian belief. You were given Neuremberg documents detailing the Nazi plan to persecute Christians: refute them as well (and let Rutgers know of their mistakes). Or do you now argue the Nazis planned to persecute themselves?

As far as the USSR and China being atheist governments, your first have to show that such an atheist government exists, and what would identify it as such.

That hasn't been a problem for anyone else. Start with these:
Which Countries Have State Religions? (p12):
"One important political force is Communism, a regime in which anti-religion is a central tenet of the government. Communist countries, such as the Soviet Union and China, attempted to destroy organized religion partly on ideological grounds and partly as a way to weaken or eliminate organized competition with state power."
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM P23:
"The Commission was told that government officials dealing with religious affairs in Xinjiang must complete political education to avoid “paralyzed thinking” and to “distinguish between normal and illegal religious activities” and, as in all other areas of China, are required to be atheists."

There is no evidence any of the actions of the USSR or China were in the name of atheism (as though such a thing exists).

But they are atheists and they did murder, in indisputably huge numbers. OTOH nowhere is there any evidence that the Bible exhorts Christians to murder Jews in Christ's name. As atheists murder in contradiction to state law, "Christians" who murder do so in contradiction to what Christ taught. The problem again is with the unjustified actions of people and not the otherwise objective documents. You can't legitimately blame the Bible for what people do in violation of the Bible's edicts. The fault rests with liars, thieves and murderers, not the Biblical commands to not lie, steal or murder.

(It does the usual dodge of speculation on the true date of the census, which is well known)

Nowhere did that analysis "speculate on the true date of the census". Your false claim establishes your lack of intellectual honesty.

So the question remains -- when was Jesus born, and why is this such a problem for a document supposedly written by eyewitnesses?

And the answer remains as given. You haven't proven any errors in the analysis, have you. Your only criticism was the that 'census of Quirinius' had not been reconciled with that analysis, and yet that very analysis alluded to the scant and incomplete historical records and interpretation of Luke's reference:
- Quirinius had leadership responsibilities in various capacities, including between 12 and 6 BC, command of the Roman army in Asia which was based in Syria; the "Lapis Venetus" states a census of Apamea (N.W. Syria) was carried out by an army officer under Quirinius; and the "Lapis Tiburtinus" gives evidence that some officer under Augustus was twice legate, at least once (and hence possibly twice) in Syria.
- Josephus in Antiquities 16.9.1 reports that Roman governance of Syria during Herod's reign involved two officers of Caesar, the implication being that similarly Quirinius could have had shared authority (a kind of co-regency) over Syria from Luke's perspective while historical records known to date credit any shared authority singularly to someone else.
- "protos" as used by Luke in 2:2 can mean either "first" or "foremost" and Luke mentions another "census" in Acts 5:37.
- Augustus was generally reorganizing the administration and taxation of Roman occupied provinces, Augustus himself in "Deeds of the Divine Augustus" mentions a census dated to 8 B.C., and there is evidence of censuses in Egypt, Lebanon (adjacent to Palestine and under Quirinius' Syrian command of the Roman army in Asia) and Nabatea.

The factual evidence neither confirms nor refutes Luke's account - taken in total it is incomplete and ambiguous, to date.

Your "problem" arises from your disingenuous demand that eyewitnesses to the birth of Christ (ostensibly a few shepards) should have chiseled the date on a stone somewhere, or your spurious expectation that those same shepherds should have written a portion of the Bible. Well, they didn't - get over it. Commensurately, neither are there comparable eyewitnesses to the birth of Alexander the Great, none of his generals or historians witnessed his birth, nor has his birth date been comparably analyzed but the lack of same (so far) isn't a problem because there are *no* details whatsoever of Alexander's birth save his parentage. We have considerably more information of Christ's birth than we do of Alexander's. That not all of those additional details yet reconcile in no way invalidates our sources, pro or con. By way of example, for 2500 years, Daniel's reference to Belshazzar was deemed evidence of fabrication, that is until monuments referencing Belshazzar were unearthed in 1854 and the factual accuracy of Daniel's reference was finally admitted. Absence of evidence is not evidence of error.

Your arguments are the same stale stuff I get all the time, showing you have thought about your theology very little.

And your reponses demonstrate you still haven't read or understood, let alone disproven, any of it. Rant less and prove more.