RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

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RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby Ichthus » Tue Jan 06, 2009 5:34 am

“The Reason for God” (Keller) Book DiscussionPart 1: The Leap of Doubt
SEVEN: You Can’t Take the Bible Literally (and) Intermission


Keller says the reason people have a problem trusting the Bible is that some or most of it is “scientifically impossible, historically unreliable, and culturally regressive,” (99-100). Chapter seven deals with the latter two, as chapter six dealt with the first one.

In answer to this: “We Can’t Trust the Bible Historically” (100) Keller replies:

The timing is far too early for the gospels to be legends,” (101). Keller mentions the gospels were written at most forty to sixty years after Jesus’ death, and Paul’s letters were written just fifteen to twenty-five years after His death – while the witnesses, believers and bystanders alike, to Jesus’ ministry, were still alive (Luke 1:1-4; Mark 15:21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-6) to confirm or dispute the details the authors were writing about. In order for altered accounts to gain acceptance, the eyewitnesses, and their offspring, must all be dead. If Jesus had never done or said the things the gospel writers and Paul wrote about – their writings never would have been accepted because the living witnesses would have stomped them down. Acts 26:26. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: “the Syriac traditions in Thomas can be dated to 175 A.D. at the earliest, more than a hundred years after the time that the canonical gospels were in widespread use. …The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, however, were recognized as authoritative eyewitness accounts almost immediately, and so we have Irenaeus of Lyons in 160 A.D. declaring that there were four, and only four, gospels,” (103). Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is to blame for a lot of misinformation, including the myth that Constantine decreed Christ’s divinity and suppressed all evidence of His humanity in 325 A.D., when clearly “no more than twenty years after the death of Christ, we see that Christians were worshipping Jesus as God (Philippians 2),” (103).

The content is far too counterproductive for the gospels to be legends,” (104). Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,” (104). Keller asks, if that is so, why do they not have Jesus speaking on circumcision? Why invent the story of the crucifixion, which makes Jesus look like a criminal? Why invent Jesus’ Gethsemane experience, or crying out on the cross, which makes Jesus look like a weak failure? Why make (culturally incredible) women the first witnesses of His resurrection, rather than (culturally credible) men? Why paint the apostles as “petty and jealous, almost impossibly slow-witted, and in the end as cowards who either actively or passively failed their master?” (105). Why reveal the horrible failure of Peter? None of that makes sense if the claim Keller is countering is true – it makes more sense that the authors did not feel free to fictionalize or polish up the facts. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis appealed to Greeks and Romans, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation and their emphasis on the poor and oppressed,” (106).

The literary form of the gospels is too detailed to be legend,” (106). This is an interesting section that says, if the gospels were fiction, they “suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic narrative,” (C.S. Lewis) – which “only developed within the last three hundred years,” (106). Keller notes there is a lot of irrelevant detail that only makes sense to include if it actually happened and was part of the author’s recollective memory. He notes that “disciples in the ancient world were expected to memorize masters’ teachings, and that many of Jesus’ statements are presented in a form that was actually designed for memorization,” (106). He also notes Jan Vansina’s “study of oral traditions in primitive African cultures, in which fictional legends and historical accounts are clearly distinguished from each other and much greater care is taken to preserve historical accounts accurately,” (108).

In answer to this: “We Can’t Trust the Bible Culturally” (109) Keller replies:

“Here’s how I advised him and other people on how to deal with a Scripture text that appeared objectionable or offensive to them. … slow down and try out several different perspectives on the issues that trouble them. …the passage that bothers them might not teach what it appears to them to be teaching. Many of the texts people find offensive can be cleared up with a decent commentary that puts the issue into historical context. … To reject the Bible as regressive is to assume that you have now arrived at the ultimate historic moment, from which all that is regressive and progressive can be discerned. … To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. … If Jesus is the Son of God, then we have to take his teaching seriously, including his confidence in the authority of the whole Bible. If he is not who he says he is, why should we care what the Bible says about anything else? … If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? … Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it,” (109-114).

Intermission questions: what do you think of Keller saying it is impossible to prove a belief (as strong rationalism requires) but beliefs can be evaluated to be more reasonable than others, though still rationally avoidable (the task of critical rationalism)? What do you think about Swinburne saying that “The view that there is a God…leads us to expect the things we observe—that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate within it, that it contains human beings with consciousnesses and with an indelible moral sense. The theory that there is no God…does not lead us to expect any of these things. Therefore, belief in God offers a better empirical fit, it explains and accounts for what we see better than the alternative account of things,” (121). What do you think of Keller saying that how we come to know God is by using our minds (fideists: read: God-given minds) to evaluate what the Playwright has revealed about Himself in the play, including in writing Himself into it?
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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby WW_III_ANGRY » Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:41 pm

If the bible isn't literal then anything can mean anything. Which, is what happens by evidence of the numerous sects and offshoots, from cults to the big ones. From David Koresh to the Pope.
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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby Bob » Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:39 pm

Hi Ichthus,
“The timing is far too early for the gospels to be legends,” … In order for altered accounts to gain acceptance, the eyewitnesses, and their offspring, must all be dead. If Jesus had never done or said the things the gospel writers and Paul wrote about – their writings never would have been accepted because the living witnesses would have stomped them down.

The first thing that is wrong about this argument is that legends are often just hyped up memories, not fiction. Secondly, if the style of writing is considered to represent the feeling around Jesus whilst not actually being historically true on all accounts, the accounts would have been accepted on those grounds. Thirdly, there wasn’t the “public opinion” or a comparable spread of media in those first years; rather the Gospels were oral tradition, even after being written down. This means that the Gospels and letters of Paul can well represent a non-historical reminiscence of Jesus, especially when you understand that with Paul and John the historical Jesus faded as the cosmic Christ grew.

Added to this, Christianity was in danger of being stamped out by Romans authorities if it proved troublesome. It is well attested that the Romans only recognised Judaism reluctantly because of its long tradition. The Jews were very aware of this and rejected Christianity in some cases because of the danger it brought through being a non-authorised sect. The Jews were also responsible for having Paul arrested for “spreading lies” and he was only able to save himself by calling upon the rights of his Roman citizenship. So the idea that there was no opposition is not true.

Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: “the Syriac traditions in Thomas can be dated to 175 A.D. at the earliest, more than a hundred years after the time that the canonical gospels were in widespread use. …The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, however, were recognized as authoritative eyewitness accounts almost immediately, and so we have Irenaeus of Lyons in 160 A.D. declaring that there were four, and only four, gospels,” (103). Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is to blame for a lot of misinformation, including the myth that Constantine decreed Christ’s divinity and suppressed all evidence of His humanity in 325 A.D., when clearly “no more than twenty years after the death of Christ, we see that Christians were worshipping Jesus as God (Philippians 2),” (103).

Considering that Irenaeus’ was seeking to preserve unity within the church, it is no wonder that he wrote that the only way for Christians to retain unity was to accept one doctrinal authority – the episcopal councils – and reject Gnosticism. The reason was the danger of disarray in the church, which clearly was against the movement around Paul’s and John’s writings. Irenaeus was said to be the disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was said to have been a disciple of John the Evangelist. Whilst this is the prevalent movement, it has no bearing on the question whether historicity has been preserved in the Gospels and Epistles. In fact, some historians have said that Paul’s writings are themselves the best witnesses of the disunity amongst Christians in those early years.

“The content is far too counterproductive for the gospels to be legends,” (104). Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,” (104). Keller asks, if that is so, why do they not have Jesus speaking on circumcision? Why invent the story of the crucifixion, which makes Jesus look like a criminal? Why invent Jesus’ Gethsemane experience, or crying out on the cross, which makes Jesus look like a weak failure? Why make (culturally incredible) women the first witnesses of His resurrection, rather than (culturally credible) men? Why paint the apostles as “petty and jealous, almost impossibly slow-witted, and in the end as cowards who either actively or passively failed their master?” (105). Why reveal the horrible failure of Peter?

The literary style of the Gospels is far too strong to be ignored. The synoptic Gospels had to be included, even if John went his own way, because of the styles of Mark, Matthew and Luke which had found widespread acceptance. Whilst Mark is written in the style of a Greek tragedy, Matthew is a polemical attack upon the Judeans who conjecturally brought the dispersion upon the remaining tribes and Luke added the conventional content to have the story of Jesus accepted into literary circles.

None of that makes sense if the claim Keller is countering is true – it makes more sense that the authors did not feel free to fictionalize or polish up the facts. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis appealed to Greeks and Romans, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation and their emphasis on the poor and oppressed,” (106).

This is a very superficial view, since the Romans wouldn’t accept “new Gods” in such an offhanded way. They were indeed religious, as Paul is said to have ascertained, and they were not prepared to accept “some fool” with new ideas. It was the Way of Christ, which has always been more powerful than tales of the “Life of Jesus” and which is given more airing in those Gospels than anywhere else, although the Gnostics offer an interesting perspective of that material.

“The literary form of the gospels is too detailed to be legend,” (106). This is an interesting section that says, if the gospels were fiction, they “suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic narrative,” (C.S. Lewis) – which “only developed within the last three hundred years,” (106).

This is rightly associated to C.S. Lewis who, as a Professor of Mythology was able to make clear that the Gospels were not comparable to Greek Mythology and do not follow the same intentions. But it is not true that the Gospels are as compelling as novelistic, realistic narratives. There is certainly a certain amount of detail in the Gospels, but they hardly anticipated the technique of modern writing.

Keller notes there is a lot of irrelevant detail that only makes sense to include if it actually happened and was part of the author’s recollective memory. He notes that “disciples in the ancient world were expected to memorize masters’ teachings, and that many of Jesus’ statements are presented in a form that was actually designed for memorization,” (106). He also notes Jan Vansina’s “study of oral traditions in primitive African cultures, in which fictional legends and historical accounts are clearly distinguished from each other and much greater care is taken to preserve historical accounts accurately,” (108).

I don’t believe that any detail is “irrelevant” in the Gospels because, despite us being far removed from the culture in which the drama is set, we understand a lot of what we are told intuitively. We clearly do not know the historicity of oral traditions in African cultures – nor indeed whether they are in actual fact “primitive” – since there hasn’t been the extensive study of those traditions that there has been on the Gospels, especially considering the brisance of criticism of the Gospel in history.

“Here’s how I advised him and other people on how to deal with a Scripture text that appeared objectionable or offensive to them. … slow down and try out several different perspectives on the issues that trouble them. …the passage that bothers them might not teach what it appears to them to be teaching. Many of the texts people find offensive can be cleared up with a decent commentary that puts the issue into historical context. …

This is, however, what historical criticism is doing …

To reject the Bible as regressive is to assume that you have now arrived at the ultimate historic moment, from which all that is regressive and progressive can be discerned. … To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. …

Again, this is too simplistic an argument. There are enough examples of attitudes that disturb people, not just because the Bible seems to promote such attitudes, but also the people who are holding the Bible up. This is often twofold barrier, which can grow into a threefold and fourfold barrier depending on the way the denominations argue. It isn’t contention with God, but with those who say they speak in his name.

If Jesus is the Son of God, then we have to take his teaching seriously, including his confidence in the authority of the whole Bible. If he is not who he says he is, why should we care what the Bible says about anything else? … If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? …

There are enough people who do take the teaching of Jesus seriously and precisely because they do they come to different conclusions than the Church. It is this fact that is permanently avoided and instead, pseudo-questions are proposed which have nothing to do with the original criticism.

Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it,” (109-114).

I can find a lot of literature which would outrage me and make me struggle – is it necessarily inspired because of that? Superficial arguments!

What do you think about Swinburne saying that “The view that there is a God…leads us to expect the things we observe—that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate within it, that it contains human beings with consciousnesses and with an indelible moral sense. The theory that there is no God…does not lead us to expect any of these things. Therefore, belief in God offers a better empirical fit, it explains and accounts for what we see better than the alternative account of things,” (121).

Again, the fact that people reject theism does not mean that they reject all ideas of “intelligent design”. It is also more the problems with the implications of a certain kind of theism than with a general idea of theism or “intelligent design” that people have.

What do you think of Keller saying that how we come to know God is by using our minds (fideists: read: God-given minds) to evaluate what the Playwright has revealed about Himself in the play, including in writing Himself into it?

The idea that an author could write himself into a story is an interesting idea – and it offers itself to interpretation – but it is no more than that. There are other inspiring ideas which are immediately decried as polytheism or some other pseudo-theism, but why, if the analogy of the playwright has some kind of relevance, then surely all inspiring ideas must have too!

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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby Ichthus » Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:21 am

Thanks for replying, WWIII_ANGRY and Bob. Perhaps I am asking this a little late (though, it was covered by implication in the intro. thread), but what is your background as pertains to why you know what you know about this subject? I've gleaned some of it in our past discussions, but was hoping for a fuller answer. I need to get caught up in my Moral Truth thread and will reply here when I can. <><
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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby Uccisore » Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:25 pm

I have a big problem with the second bolded point, it seems to come from a purely modern bias. When we say
Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,”


all of that is succinctly covered by saying the Gospels were written to spread the true faith in Christ. Now, if there is a presumption that Gnosticism or some other heresy is just as or more valid than the tradition handed down to us, or that Christianity handed down to us is otherwise false, then sure, the above is a nice way of describing what it's like when the leaders of a fledgling religious movement start spreading ideas they know to be false. Very shady stuff. But if we're assuming THAT, then why even talk about the Bible? We've already thrown it out, we're just looking for a justification after the fact at that point. If it all went down just as the Church Leaders told us, then obviously the apostles would find themselves with policies that needed promoting, power that needed consolidating, and a movement that needed building.
I'm glad Dan Brown has been invoked, because I'm reminded. This sounds to me like taking something completely innocuous, and wording it in the most sinister way possible, to make an issue where none exists. For comparisons sake, holocaust deniers do the exact same thing- anybody recording or defending the events that actually occurred 'promoting their policies' and 'cementing the power of their ideology' and other such things.
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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby omar » Thu Jan 08, 2009 4:40 am

If I may:

--- Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,” (104). Keller asks, if that is so, why do they not have Jesus speaking on circumcision?
O- Because the early church was still divided on this issue (see the Book of Acts). Paul is a late addition to the movement, a persecutor turned into it's hero...to some but not all.

--- Why invent the story of the crucifixion, which makes Jesus look like a criminal?
O- The story was a verifiable fact. Faith was needed only to believe what happened three days after.

--- Why invent Jesus’ Gethsemane experience, or crying out on the cross, which makes Jesus look like a weak failure?
O- Gethsemane was written, perhaps, before Jesus became God. Pleading with God, the Father, is a typical reaction for a prophet and even Jesus compares himself to a prophet at times in the Gospels. This passage can be regarded, I believe, as one of the earliest and it is in Mark, the earliest of the the Gospels where we find Jesus crying out as if in failure. Turn to John, perhaps the latest of the Gospels, and you see a more restrained agony, almost tranquility. We do not fully appreciate the influence of arguments on the ground in affecting the writters of these accounts either. By focusing on Jesus' humanity, corporality it was was acceptable, to the Church of Rome, to allow a show of weakness they could explain away easier than trying to answer some of the heresies that said that Jesus did not die in the flesh-- a charge that lasted long enough to make it's appearance even in the Koran.

--- Why make (culturally incredible) women the first witnesses of His resurrection, rather than (culturally credible) men?
O- Because it accentuates the tradition of God speaking through the mouth of babes and weaklings that they may not boast of themselves but give full credit to God above. It is well known that women have a distinguished role in many jewish stories, so that it is not improbable that women became the vehicles of culture once again.

--- Why paint the apostles as “petty and jealous, almost impossibly slow-witted, and in the end as cowards who either actively or passively failed their master?” (105).
O- Again, Christianity is not a religion of supermen but of undermen, men who relished their weakness, their sinfulness rather than the mistake others made out of hubris that they were righteous when no one was or ever could be. If they were outstanding men then Jesus died for nothing. Telling us about their weaknessess only strenghtens their theology.

--- Why reveal the horrible failure of Peter?
O- To show the boundlessness of forgiveness.

--- None of that makes sense if the claim Keller is countering is true – it makes more sense that the authors did not feel free to fictionalize or polish up the facts.
O- A rushed conclusion.

--- Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis appealed to Greeks and Romans, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation and their emphasis on the poor and oppressed,” (106).
O- The writings of Paul offered a "positive" view of material creation???? I guess Nietzsche was wrong in calling him a slanderer. As for the emphasis on the poor and the oppressed...this was the true means by which the early church became dominant. The poor and the oppressed always have formed the majority of society and continue, to this day, to provide the fuel, the dry wood, that can catch revolutionary fire. But what happens when the weel runs dry? When the poor or oppressed does not comform? This is what interest me and should interest any intelligent person.
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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby Carleas » Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:30 pm

“The content is far too counterproductive for the gospels to be legends,” (104). Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,” (104). Keller asks, if that is so, why do they not have Jesus speaking on circumcision? Why invent the story of the crucifixion, which makes Jesus look like a criminal? Why invent Jesus’ Gethsemane experience, or crying out on the cross, which makes Jesus look like a weak failure? Why make (culturally incredible) women the first witnesses of His resurrection, rather than (culturally credible) men? Why paint the apostles as “petty and jealous, almost impossibly slow-witted, and in the end as cowards who either actively or passively failed their master?” (105). Why reveal the horrible failure of Peter? None of that makes sense if the claim Keller is countering is true – it makes more sense that the authors did not feel free to fictionalize or polish up the facts. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis appealed to Greeks and Romans, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation and their emphasis on the poor and oppressed,” (106).


Isn't this a little bit disingenuous? You don't actually consider Jesus a criminal, or think the bible makes him look that way, do you? If none of these supposed shortcomings is actually a shortcoming, it's not fair play to call them shortcomings as a defense. It's using them as shortcomings only when it benefits you, and then claiming that they're something else in other types of discussion. Isn't that intellectually dishonest?

(It's interesting that most of us have picked on this section, including Uccs.)
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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby Ichthus » Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:50 am

As you will soon see, I haven't responded to everything.

WWIII_Angry, yeah, if we don't interpret it as it is meant, we can make it mean whatever we want it to. But, that there are varying interpretations does not mean a correct, literal interpretation is impossible.

Bob:

So the idea that there was no opposition is not true.
-- Bob

Keller doesn't say there was no opposition (Paul started out as Saul and so was very familiar with those who persecuted the early Christians, having come from them). In fact, Keller says, "It is not only Christ's supporters who were still alive. Also still alive were many bystanders, officials, and opponents who had actually heard him teach, seen his actions, and watched him die. They would have been especially ready to challenge any accounts that were fabricated. ... Paul could confidently assert to government officials that the events of Jesus' life were public knowledge: 'These things were not done in a corner,' he said to King Agrippa (Acts 26:26)."

Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: “the Syriac traditions in Thomas can be dated to 175 A.D. at the earliest, more than a hundred years after the time that the canonical gospels were in widespread use. …The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, however, were recognized as authoritative eyewitness accounts almost immediately, and so we have Irenaeus of Lyons in 160 A.D. declaring that there were four, and only four, gospels,” (103). Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is to blame for a lot of misinformation, including the myth that Constantine decreed Christ’s divinity and suppressed all evidence of His humanity in 325 A.D., when clearly “no more than twenty years after the death of Christ, we see that Christians were worshipping Jesus as God (Philippians 2),” (103).

Considering that Irenaeus’ was seeking to preserve unity within the church, it is no wonder that he wrote that the only way for Christians to retain unity was to accept one doctrinal authority – the episcopal councils – and reject Gnosticism. The reason was the danger of disarray in the church, which clearly was against the movement around Paul’s and John’s writings. Irenaeus was said to be the disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was said to have been a disciple of John the Evangelist. Whilst this is the prevalent movement, it has no bearing on the question whether historicity has been preserved in the Gospels and Epistles. In fact, some historians have said that Paul’s writings are themselves the best witnesses of the disunity amongst Christians in those early years.

I recall reading about some of this, though I have yet to fully research it. There was disagreement 'because' of early forms of gnosticism, and this is shown in Paul's letters (and John's gospel and letters, etcetera). There was disagreement between Paul and some of the apostles, but they were smoothed out, and did not have to do with whether or not Christ should be worshipped or considered divine... it had to do with stuff like circumcision and eating with gentiles and what not. You haven't really spoken against the quote.

“The literary form of the gospels is too detailed to be legend,” (106). This is an interesting section that says, if the gospels were fiction, they “suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic narrative,” (C.S. Lewis) – which “only developed within the last three hundred years,” (106).

This is rightly associated to C.S. Lewis who, as a Professor of Mythology was able to make clear that the Gospels were not comparable to Greek Mythology and do not follow the same intentions. But it is not true that the Gospels are as compelling as novelistic, realistic narratives. There is certainly a certain amount of detail in the Gospels, but they hardly anticipated the technique of modern writing.

Huh? Of course they didn't--they weren't fiction. Here's what Keller says: "Lewis meant that ancient fiction was nothing like modern fiction. Modern fiction is realistic. It contains details and dialogue and reads like an eyewitness account. This genre of fiction, however, only developed within the last three hundred years. In ancient times, romances, epics, or lengends were high and remote--details were spare and only included if they promoted character development or drove the plot. That is why if you are reading Beowulf or The Iliad you don't see characters noticing the rain or fallings asleep with a sigh. In modern novels, details are added to create the aura of realism, but that was never the case in ancient fiction," (106). Keller then mentions details that would have only been mentioned because they had been "retained in the eyewitnesses' memory," (107). Fact check: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.S._Lewis

Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it,” (109-114).

I can find a lot of literature which would outrage me and make me struggle – is it necessarily inspired because of that? Superficial arguments!

The argument is not "it outrages you, therefore it is true." The argument is "if it cannot challenge you, it isn't true." Totally different forms.

Uccisore...

Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,”
-- Ichthus

...obviously the apostles would find themselves with policies that needed promoting, power that needed consolidating, and a movement that needed building.

Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,” (104). Keller asks, if that is so, why do they not have Jesus speaking on circumcision? Why invent the story of the crucifixion, which makes Jesus look like a criminal? Why invent Jesus’ Gethsemane experience, or crying out on the cross, which makes Jesus look like a weak failure? Why make (culturally incredible) women the first witnesses of His resurrection, rather than (culturally credible) men? Why paint the apostles as “petty and jealous, almost impossibly slow-witted, and in the end as cowards who either actively or passively failed their master?” (105). Why reveal the horrible failure of Peter? None of that makes sense if the claim Keller is countering is true – it makes more sense that the authors did not feel free to fictionalize or polish up the facts. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis appealed to Greeks and Romans, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation and their emphasis on the poor and oppressed,” (106).

Omar:

--- Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,” (104). Keller asks, if that is so, why do they not have Jesus speaking on circumcision?
O- Because the early church was still divided on this issue (see the Book of Acts). Paul is a late addition to the movement...

That issue only came up after Jesus' ascension (and they didn't want to fictionalize things). We already discussed in the MT thread that some of Paul's letters predate the gospels--he wasn't 'relevantly' (to this quote) late. Note that "Acts" is a continuation of Luke's gospel.

--- Why make (culturally incredible) women the first witnesses of His resurrection, rather than (culturally credible) men?
O- Because it accentuates the tradition of God speaking through the mouth of babes and weaklings that they may not boast of themselves but give full credit to God above. It is well known that women have a distinguished role in many jewish stories, so that it is not improbable that women became the vehicles of culture once again.

Oh no you di-int.

Carleas:

“The content is far too counterproductive for the gospels to be legends,” (104). Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,” (104). Keller asks, if that is so, why do they not have Jesus speaking on circumcision? Why invent the story of the crucifixion, which makes Jesus look like a criminal? Why invent Jesus’ Gethsemane experience, or crying out on the cross, which makes Jesus look like a weak failure? Why make (culturally incredible) women the first witnesses of His resurrection, rather than (culturally credible) men? Why paint the apostles as “petty and jealous, almost impossibly slow-witted, and in the end as cowards who either actively or passively failed their master?” (105). Why reveal the horrible failure of Peter? None of that makes sense if the claim Keller is countering is true – it makes more sense that the authors did not feel free to fictionalize or polish up the facts. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis appealed to Greeks and Romans, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation and their emphasis on the poor and oppressed,” (106).


Isn't this a little bit disingenuous? You don't actually consider Jesus a criminal, or think the bible makes him look that way, do you? If none of these supposed shortcomings is actually a shortcoming, it's not fair play to call them shortcomings as a defense. It's using them as shortcomings only when it benefits you, and then claiming that they're something else in other types of discussion. Isn't that intellectually dishonest?

I don't consider Jesus a criminal, no (He was/is innocent), and didn't think of it like this until Keller pointed it out. But imagine living back then, trying to tell people about Jesus' "sacrifice". I wonder if it was like trying to convince your parents that your girlfriend would actually make a good wife and mother "because" she's doin' someone else's time. Not something you'd want to make up.
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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby Bob » Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:25 pm

Hi Ichthus,
Keller doesn't say there was no opposition (Paul started out as Saul and so was very familiar with those who persecuted the early Christians, having come from them). In fact, Keller says, "It is not only Christ's supporters who were still alive. Also still alive were many bystanders, officials, and opponents who had actually heard him teach, seen his actions, and watched him die. They would have been especially ready to challenge any accounts that were fabricated. ... Paul could confidently assert to government officials that the events of Jesus' life were public knowledge: 'These things were not done in a corner,' he said to King Agrippa (Acts 26:26)."

The point is that there were varying and competing theological groups which made up the early following of Christ. One Jewish scholar, Pinchas Lapide actually said that he believed that this is one of the main reasons for Christianity being rejected in Judea, alongside the fact that Jesus had failed according to common opinion by ending up on a cross. This would have influenced a lot of people – even if they did applaud Jesus when he was alive – and led them to forget him quickly. You only have to understand basic psychology: If you have held high hopes and they are dashed, the last thing you want is to be reminded of that experience by people who claim that the man you followed isn’t really dead – especially as a Jew after roughly sixty uprisings that provoked an increasingly opposing force.

The fact that Luke claims that Paul said those things to Agrippa may be something that convinces you or I, there is doubt about whether Luke is rendering a literal rendering of Paul’s words because he tends to gloss-over and leave out much of the trouble and strife that sometimes lasted for years. He contradicts Paul here and there, who is more explicit about the differences he had with James. The size of the church is also often exaggerated, overlooking the fact that it was considered a blessing when a church grew from tens to twenties and thirties and was tolerated by the rest of the population.

I recall reading about some of this, though I have yet to fully research it. There was disagreement 'because' of early forms of gnosticism, and this is shown in Paul's letters (and John's gospel and letters, etcetera). There was disagreement between Paul and some of the apostles, but they were smoothed out, and did not have to do with whether or not Christ should be worshipped or considered divine... it had to do with stuff like circumcision and eating with gentiles and what not. You haven't really spoken against the quote.

What I am saying is that what Irenaeus wrote has simply no bearing on the question whether historicity has been preserved in the Gospels and Epistles and it is wrong to quote him to try and prove otherwise. It wasn’t so much that Irenaeus opposed Gnosticism as that he was very early promoting a wholly different theological direction, marked out by Paul and John, forming a church hierarchy and to some degree “hellenising” the faith – and the Gnostics opposed this, wanting to maintain the intuitive and spontaneous church.

Shalom
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Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby Ichthus » Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:01 am

[This is a recording, please stay on the line; do not hang up.] Thank you WWIII_ANGRY, Bob, Uccisore, Omar, and Carleas for participating in this chapter of the book discussion. All are invited to continue discussion of the chapter, but this reply concludes my participation in this chapter, as I must now turn my attention to the remaining chapters of the discussion. Thanks again.

Hm.

Well.

I don't know for certain how much of what you said is accurate, but, it seems to me that the ones who really knew Jesus and really dealt with Jesus (noting Paul was called by Jesus and endorsed by the apostles) won out despite opposition when it comes to whose representation survived public scrutiny. As for the "Gnosticism" end of things--we've done this already... newcomers can search for my thread "Against Gnosticism" in ILP.

something that convinces you or I,


Please don't. With the whole thing, not just with that little snippet.

[This is a recording, please stay on the line; do not hang up.] Thank you WWIII_ANGRY, Bob, Uccisore, Omar, and Carleas for participating in this chapter of the book discussion. All are invited to continue discussion of the chapter, but this reply concludes my participation in this chapter, as I must now turn my attention to the remaining chapters of the discussion. Thanks again.
Last edited by Ichthus on Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby Bob » Wed Jan 14, 2009 7:02 am

Ichthus wrote:Hm.

Well.

I don't know for certain how much of what you said is accurate, but, it seems to me that the ones who really knew Jesus and really dealt with Jesus (noting Paul was called by Jesus and endorsed by the apostles) won out despite opposition when it comes to whose representation survived public scrutiny. As for the "Gnosticism" end of things--we've done this already... newcomers can search for my thread "Against Gnosticism" in ILP.

something that convinces you or I,


Please don't. With the whole thing, not just with that little snippet.

Well ... this start actually reveals the fact that, as soon as someone brings a different perspective into the discussion, you have difficulties and go on the defensive. My approach to this subject (if you would look closely) isn't that I endorse the disarray that Irenaeus was attempting to ward off, but to honestly accept that there were people struggling early on in the church to make it the way it became. These are not recorded to have been the remaining eleven disciples, but possibly only two of them and Paul - perhaps less.

The popular idea that everything moved naturally into the church we have today is a fallacy ... to be seen clearly at least in the last 500 years.

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Re: RFG 7: You Can't Take the Bible Literally & Intermission

Postby James Jay Ferris » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:00 pm

In March of 2004, I saw something; let's call it "One Eyed Jacks."

After sharing the initial insight with a pastor friend, it became: "Streets, Ditches, and Parking Lots."

What I saw was that there are many who read the Bible with only one eye. Often they have already been told what it all means, and sure enough, that's all they can see there. This is basic to the stability of most systems, networks, denominations, "church institutions," and even the "non-denominations."

By looking at things with only one eye, we lose depth perception. It takes two eyes to see into anything with any depth.
Perhaps by now you have already noticed that the Bible is pretty deep, in fact deep beyond any likelihood of human understanding, at least, this side of the second coming.

Reading with two eyes can mean many things, but for the present I would like to examine one aspect of two eyed reading and understanding. What I want to say here is that we need to read about God with both eyes open, one focused on His Word as revealed in the Bible, and the other focused on His Word as revealed in the things created. If we go through life with only one eye open, we are clueless about the creation. If we read the Bible with only one eye open, we are bound to be religious. Jesus came that we might have life.

So here's the deal: Jesus said, "… Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. (Speaking of the Pharisees, Jesus went on:) Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

Apparently the Pharisees were/are trying to get somewhere. The way we normally get somewhere is a "street." Even back then, right next to the streets were "ditches." The problem is, if you are trying to get somewhere with a blind leader, you wind up in the "ditch." For now, it is enough to understand that a "ditch" is one bad but close alternative to a "street." We will take a closer look at a "street" in a moment, but first I would like to bring this into the twenty first century by saying a word about “parking lots.” They are also a close alternative to a "street." Where a blind guide is likely to lead you into a “ditch,” a "one eyed jack" can see just well enough to get you into a “parking lot.” In either case, "ditch" or "parking lot," you're not getting anywhere once you get there. If you want to get somewhere, it’s a “street” that you are looking for and should be on. It's best if you have both eyes open when you are on the way. Did I mention that Jesus is "the Way"?

At first glance, it may look like a "one eyed jack" is a better alternative than a blind guide. The problem is you can't really get anywhere with either one of them. Perhaps that's why "church" buildings need to be next to “parking lots.”

Jesus has opened up to us a new creation, and a new kind of a city, a spiritual city, and the "street" of this spiritual city is "... pure gold, as it were transparent glass." Keep in mind that a street is a way of getting somewhere. Even in a spiritual city, we need to get somewhere.

In God's spiritual city, "The New Jerusalem," the way we get somewhere is love. You can see this better in the Greek than you can in English. Because in The Greek, Christ is "Christos" and gold is "Chrusos." Both derive their functional definition from the Greek word "Chraomai; ... furnish what is needed." In this case, it's "what's needed" to get somewhere. The bottom line is this: without love we are not going anywhere.

"Blind guides" and "one eyed jacks" suffer from a love deficit. Even before Jesus went to the cross, there were too many
lawyers. He died to put the lawyers out of business. Not only was the law nailed to the tree the day Jesus said, “I love you,” but He died to make us into lovers, not lawyers. The way, or "street," is love, and that love is the "gold" of the economy of God. It’s important to be lovers, because the "ditches" and the “parking lots” are full of lawyers. Don't even go there.

Jesus said: "Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers... Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye
entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." Paul went on to say: "Now therefore there
is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong, why do
ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" No matter how you look at it, we aren't getting anywhere with
lawyers, except parking lots – the ones outside their places of religious business, or “ditches,” as a result of taking their advice.

So much for "Streets, Ditches, and Parking lots."
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