Morality: Social compact or discovered truth?

The subject of morality is always a contentious subject among those who debate it.  Understandably, no one likes it very much when those with differing views on what is or isn’t moral is seen as trying to force ‘their version’ of morality on you or society as a whole.  Whether a person or a group’s vision of a moral standard should be employed on society depends on what makes the idea moral, immoral, or benign in the first place.  If morality is something we get to invent, then it’s just a matter of getting enough people on your side to foist it on the rest of us.  In this case, by definition the majority determines what’s moral and what isn’t.  Conversely, if morality is something we discover, then it’s only natural that it be implemented as a rule regardless of the public opinion.

This angle of the discussion is pivotal to debate as to whose vision of morality is used.  Those who are skeptical if the idea that morality is discovered will often claim that we find behaviors moral, immoral, or benign as the result of some social compact, that society has decided what’s right and what’s wrong.  Doesn’t it strike you as obvious that we don’t find behaviors moral, immoral, or benign because they have been decided so.

The notion that we decide what’s moral and immoral runs contrary to what we know about ourselves.  Society is an abstract thing.  It’s nothing more than the label we assign to a group of individual people living in the same general area.  Each neighborhood is a little society in its own right; and is part of the larger society which is the town; and is part of the larger society which is the state or province; and is part of the larger society which is the nation, and so on.  This implies that groups of people, societies, have made conscious decisions that certain behaviors are right, wrong, or indifferent.

If it’s that morality is decided, then we have been brainwashed into believing murder, rape, and theft are morally wrong.  It isn’t that they are actually immoral in themselves, but society could have, in theory, decided those behaviors were good.  I’m glad they didn’t.  In fact I don’t want to live in a society where morality is is a social construct.  That would mean morality can be determined in the opposite direction.  What is now immoral (out of behavioral fashion): robbery, racism, drunk driving, etc. could be considered good things if enough people get together and decide on it — if morality is determined by social compact.

But think about it yourself.  If morality is determined, then at least hypothetically, you could convince yourself that rape is morally good.  Could you though?  Sure you might be able to concoct a rationale, or a justification, but that only shows that you know it’s wrong.  I mean could you make yourself actually believe that holding a woman down and tearing off her clothes all the while she is screaming, fighting, and pleading for you to stop is morally a good, or even a benign thing?

I think upon careful reflection you should be able to see that morality is not something societies decide on.  We know raping children and killing people for no reason is wrong — not because your neighbors frown upon it.  We know it intuitively and we would find it repulsive to hear that someone believed otherwise.  It’s more than a mere disagreement with society.

Of course there are grey lines.  Not because there is no correct answer, but because none of us like to believe we enjoy doing immoral things.  The fact is we all like to do things others might consider immoral and that muddies the moral waters.  We seek to justify and reason away our bad behaviors.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a right or wrong answer.  It simply means we must work a little harder to discover the truth and accept it when we do find it.  We might even have to convince some people they are mistaken.  I find myself in agreement with Atheist author Sam Harris on this, and I’m paraphrasing: In science when there isn’t agreement or a consensus we don’t throw up our hands and conclude there’s no right answer, we search until we discover it, so why should we assume there’s no right answer when it comes to morality?  Personally, I think it’s worth arguing over.

Comments

  1. paynehollow says:

    Interesting topic. Here are a few initial thoughts, respectfully and politely offered for consideration:

    John…

    1. If morality is something we get to invent, then it’s just a matter of getting enough people on your side to foist it on the rest of us. In this case, by definition the majority determines what’s moral and what isn’t.

    I do not think that any thinks that morality is something we “invent.” It doesn’t matter if the majority of a people say it’s okay to abuse babies, that does not make it okay. I would wager than 99% of sane people would agree, if not 100%. I don’t think there is a group out there advocating solely for the notion of “inventing” morality out of nothing, out of majority whim.

    Certainly no one I know would support this.

    John…

    2. Conversely, if morality is something we discover, then it’s only natural that it be implemented as a rule regardless of the public opinion.

    While I don’t think that an “invented” morality is anything that anyone supports, I’m also not sure that morality being something we “discover” is a right way to put it, either. I don’t think that’s the alternative.

    I think I would put it as a “recognized and acknowledged” morality, with the caveat that we are flawed humans and, as such, our recognition and acknowledgment of the Moral is not consistent or perfect. Maybe that is the same thing as discovered, I don’t know.

    John…

    3. If it’s that morality is decided, then we have been brainwashed into believing murder, rape, and theft are morally wrong. It isn’t that they are actually immoral in themselves, but society could have, in theory, decided those behaviors were good.

    Again, I don’t think that anyone is saying there is nothing that is objectively wrong, we just decide that for ourselves. Do you know of anyone who actually thinks this?

    NOTE: I know people will say something like, “You can’t tell us what is moral, we all have to decide what is moral ourselves…” but INEVITABLY, that is a limited circumstance clause. They are not saying that we could all – or a majority – decide that rape is moral and then it would be. EVERYONE would argue against that. That is not what people are getting at when they say something like that, if you dig deeper, you’ll find that out, I’d wager. No, what they usually mean by that is they are referring to what they consider more gray/less clear behaviors like “Is it moral to smoke? Is it moral to drink? Is it immoral to cuss?” etc. To those who’d say, “Here is THE ANSWER you have to believe on these topics,” people will sometimes invoke the, “It’s not for you to tell me what is moral, we all have to decide ourselves” notion.

    Everyone (99% +, I’d wager) sane agrees that it is objectively immoral to rape a 3 year old girl.

    John…

    4.so why should we assume there’s no right answer when it comes to morality? Personally, I think it’s worth arguing over.

    I would agree that it’s worth taking seriously, knowing that sincere people of good intent will disagree at times, even on important matters that may seem “clear” to both/all sides. The problem is, I think, that there is no “provable” way to demonstrate, “Here is the One Right Answer.” On matters of morality, there is not an objective measure by which we can authoritatively determine One Right Answer.

    And if someone offers, “We DO have an objective source, it is my holy Scripture…” (whosever holy Scripture we may be speaking about). Of course, the problem is two-fold here:

    A. Everyone does not accept the Bible, the Koran, the Pentateuch, Chicken Soup for the Soul, etc as an authoritative source. For each of these texts, it is a matter of subjective opinion on the limits of their moral authority; and

    B. Even for those who accept one text or the other as being authoritative or useful, there are still individual human interpretations to account for and since each of us humans are imperfect, our interpretations are bound to be imperfect, as well.

    So, the problem we run into – even people of Good Will; even people all within one faith tradition; even subgroups within one faith tradition that generally agrees… – is the interpretation of the Moral remains subjective and unprovable. That is why some people find the more humble, less arrogant (and, thus, more moral, ironically) position to take is not so much that we can’t know the “right answer on morality,” but recognizing that we can’t demonstrably prove our take on morality is the One Right View.

    This seems reasonable to me. On what grounds would I presume to tell everyone, “I have the ONE RIGHT ANSWER to all moral questions…”?

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  2. Morality is discovered. Not everyone accepts what is discovered. See the previous commenter. Morality is not easily understood if harm, potential or actual, is the key, since even actual harm might not be realized. Also, harm might be required in doing the moral thing. I maintain that morality is pre-determined and existed before mankind did. It has been revealed to us and to the extent that we like what was revealed speaks more about us than it does about morality itself.

  3. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    I maintain that morality is pre-determined and existed before mankind did.

    I would respectfully ask: Do you have any hard evidence to support this idea, or is it just a philosophical deduction?

    I ask knowing sure that you recognize that the Bible does not have any lines (not that I can think of) that suggests “morality existed before humanity did,” so there’s not really a biblical reason to hold this philosophical opinion.

    Likewise, the notion that morality has been “revealed to us,” what is your evidence for this, or is it just your philosophical reasoning taking you to that conclusion (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just asking for clarification)?

    Thank you,

    Dan

  4. paynehollow says:

    May I respectfully ask where the Bible says “morality is grounded in God…”?

    I ask because I’m not familiar with that verse.

    May I respectfully ask that, if there is a verse in the Bible that says, “morality is grounded in God,” if the Bible also explains what that means specifically? Whether the phrase means morality is literally “grounded” somehow in God, or what exactly that means?

    Again, I ask because I’m not sure what that means.

    And, for those who do not hold the Bible to be an authoritative source for morality, might I ask the question, IF the Bible does say this and IF it explains literally what it means by that, on what basis would other people accept this claim?

    I ask this because your post does not tie any mention of the discussion on this matter specifically to the Bible, for those who agree with it and who agree with particular interpretations of it. I’m wanting to see if this is a general discussion about morality or if it is only for those who hold a particular view or interpretation of the Bible.

    Thank you for this consideration.

    ~Dan

  5. @paynehollow,
    Morality or measurement of good behavior was set forth in the Old Testament with the commandments and other misc information given to Moses (Exodus, Deuteronomy and Leviticus). God gave Moses the law so therefore Christian Morality is rooted in God which is what I believe John was saying.

    In Romans 7:7 Paul writes : “On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.(NKJV)”. The law reveals God’s standard of Holiness which for Christians cannot be kept only with the outward appearance of actions but also with a clean conscience and mind which comes with regeneration. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (NKJV)”

    So Christianity sets the Old Testament law on a higher plan in that not only do we not do somethings we have to have pure thoughts behind our actions.

    Let me know if you want to delve further into Exodus, Deuteronomy or Leviticus or the new Testament.

  6. @paynehollow,
    What are some of your observations on morality that you have seen Christians disagree on?

  7. Dan writes that everyone sane agrees that it is immoral to abuse babies, but he doesn’t present any sort of “hard evidence” that he would require from Marshall regarding his own claims about morality.

    He also picks an interesting example in abusing babies, since I know that quite a large number of people have no problem defending both the killing and even the mutilation of human beings even 39 and 40 weeks after gestation, even though they are more developmentally advanced than a child born at 36 weeks — in other words, a baby born one month prematurely.

    I also know for a fact that, while Dan presumes to inform us about the minimum standards of morality for all sane humans, he himself defends that act of killing very young human beings as a mere medical procedure.

    He’s right that it’s hard to reach a complete consensus even among people of good will who seek to argue the truth in good faith, but ALL OF US here know that Dan Trabue isn’t such a person, and so I recommend not pretending otherwise.

  8. paynehollow says:

    Bubba, having seen how ugly and divisive the last few conversations here have gone, I’m doing my part to try to be as polite and respectful as possible, avoiding any personal commentary and just keeping the conversation on ideals, not on people. I’d appreciate any support from you on this front and I will try to just ignore personal commentary and keep to the ideals.

    Thank you.

    Zanspence…

    In Romans 7:7 Paul writes : “On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law

    Indeed. And in Romans 2, Paul tells us that “requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them…” So, Paul seems to be suggesting that these “laws” are innate, part of who we are. That it’s not necessary to hold to a particular version of some holy text to know at least something about them.

    Is that fair?

    In either case, if one believes that God “gave” laws, does that require that we believe that morality is “grounded in God,” or is it possible that this “giving of laws” was a way of identifying that which is innate – That the laws were just a way of expressing what is common to humanity in terms of what is needed for Good?

    What would you say “grounded in God” means?

    Is it the case that the Bible does not, in fact, say that “morality is grounded in God…”?

    Finally, for those who don’t accept the Bible (or a particular interpretation of the Bible) as an authority on morality, is there some reason they should accept this view?

    Zanspence…

    What are some of your observations on morality that you have seen Christians disagree on?

    Some examples would include:

    Should Christians be involved in wartime killing?
    Should Christians invest money?
    Should Christian women wear only dresses and men wear only slacks/pants?
    Should Christians say the pledge of allegiance to a nation?
    Should women be allowed to preach?
    Should we support gay and lesbian folk in getting married? In adopting children?

    Does that suffice?

    Thanks, I appreciate the thoughtful questions and comments.

    ~Dan

  9. paynehollow says:

    Zanspence, I missed this comment which at least partially answers one of my questions…

    God gave Moses the law so therefore Christian Morality is rooted in God which is what I believe John was saying.

    What I’m trying to get at, though, is what do you all mean by “rooted in God” or “grounded in God…”? If I had to guess, I’d guess you’re suggesting that “good” is what God has said to do and “bad” is what God has said not to do. Is that what you mean?

    Thank you,

    Dan

  10. True respect, Dan, entails the golden rule — treating others as you would like to be treated. Insisting that others meet a standard of evidence that you could never meet and you rarely attempt to meet is hardly respectful.

    It seems to me that your idea of a respectful dialogue allows for your hypocritical m.o., but it precludes as “personal commentary” any criticism of your hypocrisy. That’s pretty convenient.

  11. paynehollow says:

    Bubba…

    Rooted in God means God is Good, he is the standard.

    So, your suggestion is that morality is rooted in God – that God is the “standard” for morality? What do you mean by this? That we must be as good as God to be moral? How good is that? Perfect?

    I ask because I’m not sure yet what you all mean by this.

    And whatever you mean by “God is the standard (for morality?),” on what basis do you hold this view? Does the Bible tell you this? If so, where?

    I ask because I’m not familiar with any passages in the Bible that say this (that is, there are no verses in the Bible that say “God is the standard for morality,” but maybe there are verses that you think say this in other words. If so, I’m unfamiliar with them).

    Respectfully asked,

    Dan

  12. paynehollow says:

    Sorry, my last post cited Bubba for a quote from John. A simple oversight. My apologies.

    ~Dan

  13. paynehollow says:

    John…

    The fact that YOU need clarification only adds to my suspicion that you being a Christian is a sham.

    I ask you to clarify your point, sir, because I do not know exactly what you mean by what you said. Are you suggesting that Christianity requires perfect knowledge of what other people are saying? Is that part of the morality that you are speaking of – by morality, you mean perfection and even clairvoyance? I am sure that’s not what you mean, but this point does not make sense to me so I’m asking for clarification.

    I will apologize right up front and admit that I do not have perfect knowledge or perfect ability to know what others mean. That is why I ask questions. I hope this does not offend.

    Thank you for your patience,

    Dan

  14. I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest that God is source of morality, the determination of what is good or evil behavior. He created all things. To suggest that He didn’t also determine what is good and what is evil requires a suspension of logic, given that He created all things. As He is eternal, having no beginning and no end, how could anything have existed before Him? Therefor, God being the source of morality is logical.

    As to non-believers, what does it matter? They already believe morality is a matter of consensus opinion. What is self-evident is also a matter of opinion, so if enough people believe something is self evident, a consensus is formed.

  15. paynehollow says:

    As to why it matters what everyone believes – not just those who think like us? I think John said it well when he said:

    In science when there isn’t agreement or a consensus we don’t throw up our hands and conclude there’s no right answer, we search until we discover it, so why should we assume there’s no right answer when it comes to morality?  Personally, I think it’s worth arguing over.

    Thinking these things through, making a reasonable and moral case for what is and isn’t moral, it’s worth thinking about, “arguing over,” giving deep consideration to. And if we’re only around those who agree almost completely with us, then perhaps we can argue about morality only within those contexts, but if we’re talking about morality in terms of mixed company, then I would think it is important to discuss it in terms we all agree with, as much as we’re able. Because it’s worth giving good thought to it.

    Does that seem reasonable?

    Thank you,

    Dan

  16. Of course, with one extremely important caveat: that which carries no importance in the minds of the a non-believer, for example, does not diminish the importance of the point at all. What then? Compromise? We have a compromise of sorts on abortion and the result is millions of innocents put to death. That sounds good to you? We certainly have no compromise (more of a forced acceptance in acquiescence to the immoral) on issues of sexuality and how has that worked? Millions of abortions. Hundreds of suicides. Spousal and child abuse. STDs. That sounds good to you? There’s no agreement possible on these issues as long as one side ignores the reality of the wrong position.

  17. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest that God is source of morality, the determination of what is good or evil behavior. He created all things. To suggest that He didn’t also determine what is good and what is evil requires a suspension of logic, given that He created all things. As He is eternal, having no beginning and no end, how could anything have existed before Him? Therefor, God being the source of morality is logical.

    If morality is a “created thing” and if we believe that God is the Creator of all things, then yes, that would make sense.

    But it seems reasonable to ask: Is morality a “created thing…”? Why would we think that. Does the Bible say morality is a created thing?

    I don’t think so.

    Would it not be reasonable to think that morality is not a created Thing, like trees, solar systems, etc, but more a function of interaction? A result, not a creation? I can’t think of a rational reason to think that morality was created. Is there a reason to think so?

    And again, what of those who don’t believe in any Creator, or of one group’s idea of a Creation and Creator, what is the argument to them?

    These seem like reasonable questions to me, worth making a case for and seeking “evidence” about, as much as one can seek evidence on an intangible idea.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  18. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    What then? Compromise? We have a compromise of sorts on abortion and the result is millions of innocents put to death. That sounds good to you?

    John asked a question(s) about how morality is decided/recognized. I’m pondering the question along with him.

    You’re asking a question about what to do about living in a diverse culture where, for a variety of reasons, not everyone agrees on morality, right?

    It would seem to me that we strive mightily to recognize first of all that we don’t have the right to harm or oppress others and secondly that we have some measure of religious liberty to decide matters of morality for ourselves (with the caveat that those decisions can’t/shouldn’t cause harm to others). For starters.

    Does that seem reasonable?

    Dan

  19. paynehollow says:

    ? I’m sorry, what do you mean. I did not say morality is a created Thing. Rather, I asked the questions:

    Is morality a “created thing…”? Why would we think that? Does the Bible say morality is a created thing?

    …What am I equivocating about? I was asking questions, not making declarations.

    Do you think that morality was “created” (whether or not we call it a “thing”)? Why would you think that?

    Thank you,

    Dan

  20. paynehollow says:

    To clarify on the “thing” usage – Marshall had stated, “He created all things.” and so I asked the question I’m asking you: Is morality a created thing? Why would we think this?

    I’m asking, John, because I do not know your answers to this and because you said that thinking on the nature of morality is a worthwhile endeavor. Is that okay?

    DAn

  21. Dan, I could continue to point out the inconsistency of asking Marshall where the Bible teaches that morality was created without providing the biblical support for your hunch that morality is “a function of interaction” or a “result.”

    Even with from that inconsistency, your question is quite valid: I can’t think of a single passage of Scripture that references a moral law or treats the Lord God as the Lawgiver, and certainly there aren’t any psalms that spend 176 verses repeating the same eight Hebrew words to praise God for His law and precepts.

    But I’m curious:

    You speculate that morality is a function of interaction: what kind of interaction? An interaction between or among what, exactly?

    You speculate that it’s a result: a result of what?

    Respectfully, I think you ought to unpack what you’re trying to say.

  22. I don’t see how to address the issue, at this point anyway, without establishing one side or the other. For now, I wish to address it from a religious perspective, and then perhaps later deal with it from a non-religious one.

    We, as Christians, know that God created everything. If there is any doubt, that would put into question the conviction of whatever Christian has that doubt. I put that aside as well for now and focus instead on the easy to review fact of Christian belief that God did indeed create everything.

    As God is the beginning and the cause of the existence of everything, how could that not include morality? Scripture clearly indicates God dictating what is or isn’t pleasing to Him as regards our behavior. It is, as I have been saying a lot recently, rather unambiguous. Since we exist for His benefit primarily, it is logical to assume that what would guide our behavior in whatever manner He finds pleasing is a result of His notions of what He finds pleasing. It’s a simple deduction of logic. And this logic conforms with Biblical teaching as to Who is ultimately in charge and to Whom we must all eventually answer.

    So that covers we who believe. What of those who don’t? I would still insist that morality exists with or without us, but clearly I can’t cite a non-religious source to support that. Yet, we still discover morality, even if we make it up. And without God, we are certainly making it up as we go along. For the Christian, acting morally always is a benefit to us, even if not while we live on earth. For the non-believer, it must benefit us or we won’t do it. OR, we might allow that it might not benefit ourselves, but it might still benefit someone we hold dear and thus, benefit us by the feelings provoked by seeing good happen to our loved ones.

    So the Christian acts morally for God’s sake, which benefits us eternally, and the non-Christian acts in whatever way he decides is moral for the earthly and thus temporary pleasure it brings us while we still live. But is that really morality, or just making ourselves feel good? Even if we do good for others, but never benefit personally, what justification is there to continue doing good? If we do good at all and never benefit personally, then even the good we did is subjective and will soon be regarded as just another pain in that ass duty about which we don’t truly care.

    Then of course, do we need to feel as if we benefit, do we even need to benefit at all, by acting morally? As Christians, living as Christ taught may never bring us earthly pleasure or benefit, but we understand morality isn’t about ourselves, but God’s glory. Without God, most people, if any, will live their lives in suffering simply to act morally. At some point they’ll dispense with whatever they chose to believe was moral behavior and adjust that to relieve themselves of the suffering. They’ll do this due to the fact that there is no benefit to them, unless they are masochists, to act morally without some payoff. It isn’t logical and certainly not beneficial. Morality will change to suit one’s desire to benefit by their actions.

  23. paynehollow says:

    Bubba…

    I could continue to point out the inconsistency of asking Marshall where the Bible teaches that morality was created without providing the biblical support for your hunch

    I have not staked out a position. I do not know the answer, Bubba. I’m just thinking it through and politely asking questions of people.

    I do not know the answer objectively to the question, “Is morality a social compact or discovered truth… or something else?” I don’t know the answer to the question “Is morality a ‘creation…’ of God’s?” Do you?

    Further, not only do I not know the answer, I don’t know that God has staked out an opinion on the matter. Has God? I don’t know. I am unaware of God passing on that information to me, for sure. Do you know God’s opinion on this subject?

    So, since I have not staked out a position, nor have I asserted any claim that the Bible or God has told me the answer, I have no reason to provide biblical support, other than my offering the biblical support of, “I am unaware of the Bible telling us that morality is created.”

    Is that reasonable?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Bubba…

    You speculate that morality is a function of interaction: what kind of interaction? An interaction between or among what, exactly?

    Marshall…

    We, as Christians, know that God created everything.

    These following thoughts address both these points/questions, I think…

    Most believers in God believe God created all things – stars,planets, moons, life systems, at least indirectly. Not every believer believes that God created each first tree, each first kangaroo. Many believers believe God caused these things to come into being by starting the universe, but not that God “created” the first apple tree by snapping God’s fingers and saying “poof! apple tree!”

    So, I’m not so sure that it’s as simple as saying “God created everything…”

    Beyond that, while believers tend to believe that God created all things, at least indirectly, I don’t know that all believers believe that God created all ideas, notions, philosophies or fields of study. Did God create the stars? Most believers would say yes. Did God create the notion of physics? Well, I just don’t know that we can say that. Did God create the notion of rape or war? Did God create the notion of ethics?

    I don’t know. I have no reason to think God created all notions. Do you?

    Isn’t physics the human approach to explaining scientific ideas? Isn’t ethics – or morality – the human approach to explaining how and why we behave in regards to each other?

    If I had to form a hypothesis – and again, I have to say that I don’t know, this is my hunch – I’d say morality is how we should behave around each other. I don’t know that it’s a created “thing,” but a series of behaviors and ideas that are a function of how we interact with others.

    So, when humans are in the picture and we have two humans walking along a path and one says, “Die!” and kills the other, it is a wrong way of interacting, because it deprives another of their life. Is it possible (likely?) that, for those who believe God gave the ten commandments, etc, to Israel, that when God provided those, God was not “creating” a new thing, but just codifying an ideal that exists outside of the Law. That is, it’s not “wrong” to kill someone because God gave us a law saying it’s wrong but it’s the other way around: God gave us the law because it’s wrong, innately.

    To me, this seems a more apt, more rational and, for those who are concerned about the Bible, a more biblical explanation of the notion of morality. I don’t know it’s a fact and can’t prove this, I’m just saying that, at least right now, this strikes me as the more appropriate way to look at the topic.

    Is there any reason we have for thinking that the laws were given to “create” morality as opposed to the notion that the laws helped point out innate, natural, rational realities of humans relating one to another?

    As I noted earlier to Zanspence, Paul suggests that “requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them…” which sounds more like the idea that the “laws” are not a created thing, but an innate reality.

    Thoughts?

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  24. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    So the Christian acts morally for God’s sake, which benefits us eternally, and the non-Christian acts in whatever way he decides is moral for the earthly and thus temporary pleasure it brings us while we still live. But is that really morality, or just making ourselves feel good?

    Might I respectfully ask the same question: If someone posits that they act morally “for God’s sake” – not for morality’s sake? – which benefits them later, is that morality or is that just self-interest to avoid hell/punishment?

    Would we be better off – be better, more moral people – if we acted morally not because “God says so” but because it’s the innately and rational right thing to do?

    That sounds like a reasonable notion to me – and I’m not saying you’re not saying that, to be clear – what do you think?

    ~Dan

  25. paynehollow says:

    ? What does it say about how I view God?

    That I view God as one who values those who do good for good’s sake not for fear’s sake? Because that was my point. Perhaps you misunderstood me? I’m not sure what is troubling about my comment. Would you care to elaborate, or would that be off topic?

    Thank you,

    Dan

  26. paynehollow says:

    On the topic, John, I was wondering if you might have a chance to follow up on this…

    If morality is grounded in God, which the bible says it is, then morality has been set from eternity.

    Where does the Bible say “morality is grounded in God…” (or “rooted in” or that “God is the standard…”)? If we’re looking at morality right now primarily based on what the Bible does and doesn’t say (as opposed to the general, non-sectarian questions of “From whence morality?”), why not begin with what the Bible actually says and doesn’t say, just so we can all be on the same page and know what the other is referencing?

    That would be very helpful to me, at least.

    No hurries, I just see several people pointing to what “the Bible says” and am just wanting to know the source.

    Zanspence and I have looked at how Paul in Romans says that Paul would not have known sin without the law, but also, just a few pages earlier, Paul noted that “the Law” is written on our hearts and minds. In neither case do I see a claim as to the origin of morality, unless we would conclude that “the Law” that is “written on our hearts and minds” is a way of saying that morality is innate to humanity.

    If that’s what we’re concluding, then I would say that this makes sense to me, not just biblically, but rationally, from what we can see in the real world. But I’m sensing some push back, I just don’t know against what, so far.

    Any clarifications would be helpful. Thank you so much.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  27. “…I’m not so sure that it’s as simple as saying “God created everything…””

    The means by which God created everything is irrelevant. Whether over the course of a billion years, seven days or the blink of an eye, nothing came to be without Him causing it to be. He created everything. Considering what Scripture teaches us about God, such HIm being omnipotent, it is enough to state that He created everything, as He had the ability.

    We are also taught that He knows all. With that in mind, it is difficult to make the case that He had no thoughts on what constitutes right and wrong, that He created us and sat back to see how we would interact before deciding on what laws He would mandate for us.

    “That is, it’s not “wrong” to kill someone because God gave us a law saying it’s wrong but it’s the other way around: God gave us the law because it’s wrong, innately.”

    Three problems with this:

    1. There are a couple of spots where the reason we should not murder is mandated to us. One is that we are created in His image. Another has to do with who lives or dies being His job and not ours.

    2. You’ve already rejected this possibility in arguing for SSM. God clearly gives the reason why homosexual behavior is forbidden. The mere act of a man having sex with another male is an abomination, and therefor forbidden. Note here that the morality of the act is not determined by a human perception of harm, but by the mere fact that God regards the act as an abomination. It is a clear example of morality being set by God because He does indeed have ideas as to what is right and proper for our behavior and what isn’t.

    3. It suggests that God was required to abide a standard of behavior, or was guided by some already established standard, before anything existed except for Himself. How does this make sense? How was that standard already established before the already established and existing Supreme Being?

    “Would we be better off – be better, more moral people – if we acted morally not because “God says so” but because it’s the innately and rational right thing to do?”

    No. A payoff exists regardless of why we act morally, whether we are Christians or atheists. To please God is our reason for existing, so if acting morally pleases Him, then it is our duty to act morally. The focus here is on why we act morally. We get a payoff of eternal life, and for many if not most, it may indeed be difficult to act morally without that eternal payoff in mind. But we’re supposed to live in a manner that demonstrates our desire to love, honor and serve God, not our desire to live forever. The latter is a natural consequence of doing the former.

    But what of the atheist who says there is no God or afterlife? What payoff is there for acting because “it’s the right thing to do” when doing the right thing might bring about negative consequences to the perpetrator? Without God, there is no “right thing to do” that isn’t a subjective opinion of one or more men. For one man, dealing with someone who interferes with his plans might require altering the plan to kindly prevent that other guy from interfering. For another, putting a bullet in the other guy’s head is the way to go. Each believes his action to be correct for his purposes and well in accordance with his notion of right and wrong. YOU might say the second guy was acting immorally. But that’s only your opinion to him, and without God, or without the influence of a standard of morality that already existed for man did, there’s no reason he should agree with you, short of how prepared he is in dealing with the civil consequences of his actions.

    There’s no way to get around the fact that without God, there is no standard that existed before man did. All notions of morality are invented subjectively. No matter how harmful YOU might perceive an act to be, there may well exist many who find NOT perpetrating that act to be more harmful to them.

    “In neither case do I see a claim as to the origin of morality, unless we would conclude that “the Law” that is “written on our hearts and minds” is a way of saying that morality is innate to humanity.”

    What is “innate” to humanity is to serve the self in whatever way one finds pleasing to the self. Saying the law is written on our hearts is akin to speaking of a conscience. But the conscience works against our innate and carnal or selfish preferences. Our conscience is meant to guide us away from what is merely selfish and toward what is moral. What is moral already existed.

  28. paynehollow says:

    Okay, ,I’m spending a little time reading and digesting your opinions. While I’m doing that, let me ask the first question that came to mind…

    Considering what Scripture teaches us about God, such HIm being omnipotent, it is enough to state that He created everything, as He had the ability.

    So, it is your opinion that God created/invented the notion of “physics,” the notion of “greed,” the notion of “morality,” the notion of “selfishness” and every other abstract notion – that these all were “created” or invented by God and without God, these abstract ideas would not exist, is that what you’re saying?

    I ask because I want to be sure I’m understanding your position.

    A follow up question: Why do you think this – because of something the Bible says or just because this is what makes sense to you?

    Again, I am just trying to understand your position. I am not implying that there is anything bad about either answer (or some other answer), I’m just trying to get to why you think this.

    Thank you,

    Dan

  29. paynehollow says:

    Continuing to digest your opinions. A few more follow up thoughts:

    About the question of, is it possible that God “gave” the law because something is innately wrong, as opposed to the reverse, you said…

    Three problems with this:

    1. There are a couple of spots where the reason we should not murder is mandated to us. One is that we are created in His image. Another has to do with who lives or dies being His job and not ours.

    Okay, so because we are created in God’s image, it is innately wrong to kill others – that is God’s realm, not ours. This does not mandate against the notion that it is innate. It explains why it is innate – because it is not our realm to kill others. But not simply because God said so, but because it IS so.

    What’s wrong with that conclusion?

    You continued…

    2. You’ve already rejected this possibility in arguing for SSM. God clearly gives the reason why homosexual behavior is forbidden.

    I’ve not rejected that possibility. I’ve said that I don’t think, in my opinion, that your opinion about what that law to ancient Israel is saying is mistaken. Just to clarify.

    That there are rules handed down to ancient Israel or others within the pages of the Bible does not say – as far as I can see – that God is just making up rules and without the rules, there would be no harm done.

    If I may respectfully ask for clarification: Are you saying that only that which God specifically outlaws in the Bible is immoral and nothing else is immoral but what is found in these pages?

    Because killing babies for sport is not outlawed, dumping toxic waste is not outlawed, etc. There are all manner of behaviors that most of us would agree are wrong or immoral that are not spoken of in the bible. I don’t think it is rational to conclude that only that which the Bible says overtly is wrong, is wrong. And I’m sure you’re not saying that, either, but I’m just seeking some clarification, please.

    Thank you,

    Dan

  30. paynehollow says:

    If we’re looking at mostly biblical reasons to consider as we think on the notion of morality and its origins, may I politely offer Genesis 3:

    The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.

    In this story (parable, myth, however one might view it), the world was new and God had given NO rules except not to eat from the tree. After eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve just “knew” good and evil. It existed apart from any rules, in this story, it would seem.

    Indeed, a page later, when their son killed their other son, it was wrong, even though God had not given them a rule against killing. It was innate to humanity, it would seem in these stories, even before the Law came.

    That we, humanity, recognize some of the reasons as to why it is innately wrong (ie, it is innately wrong to kill another because it is killing another – stealing from another, raping another, cheating another – created in God’s image. It is denying them something that is not ours to deny, and any other reasons that it is wrong) does not mean that it isn’t innate, and that morality was “created,” it just means we recognize a reason(s) why it is innately wrong.

    This seems reasonable to me. Do you disagree?

    Thank you,

    Dan

  31. Dan:

    It doesn’t matter whether God’s work was direct and miraculous or indirect and mundane: God is indeed the Creator and Sustainer of all things. About the former, Psalm 139:13 doesn’t imply a belief in a miraculous conception. About the latter, the pastor and amateur bird-watcher John Stott was entirely right to point out that God doesn’t feed the birds through miraculous means. All He does is provide them with the means and resources to feed themselves, and yet in Matthew 6, Jesus does claim that God feeds the birds of the air: if He doesn’t, Jesus is a liar and His argument for why we shouldn’t worry is a crock.

    When something is described as having been written, I don’t see why that implies the absence of a writer — and I don’t understand the idea that, while God created us and our hearts and our consciences, He wasn’t responsible for what was written on our hearts or even the very nature of our hearts.

    Are God’s commands moral because He commanded them, or does He command them because they’re moral? That’s a very old question indeed, and some form of the question has existed for at least 2400 years, but I believe the orthodox response is to claim that the dilemma is a false dilemma, there’s a third alternative that the question ignores.

    – Since God is the “uncaused cause” who is neither dependent nor contingent on anything else, it’s a mistake to conclude that even the moral law exists independently of, and prior to, God’s commands.

    – And since God is holy and consistent, it’s a mistake to conclude that God can arbitrarily determine the moral law.

    – Instead, Christians recognize that the moral law comes from God’s intrinsic nature.

    It’s not that “the moral law is what it is,” but that GOD HIMSELF IS WHO HE IS, which points to the very name by which He revealed Himself to man.

    That Wikipedia page linked above summarizes the Christian response pretty well, quoting philosopher and Anselm scholar Katherin A. Rogers:

    Anselm, like Augustine before him and Aquinas later, rejects both horns of the Euthyphro dilemma. God neither conforms to nor invents the moral order. Rather His very nature is the standard for value.

    I suspect that behind your hunches remains your objection to the idea that God can command the taking of human life, but I’ve pointed you to the Bible’s own explanation for that possibility numerous times: Genesis 9:6 both forbids murder and makes murder a capital offense because we are made in God’s image.

    We belong to God: our unjustified taking of human life is wrong, not because it’s intrinsically wrong, but because it’s God’s prerogative as our Creator and Sustainer, in whose image we are made. Render to God what is God’s, and you can tell what is His by what bears His image (cf. Mt 22:20-21).

    But let’s get to the very root of the issue, Dan.

    Would we be better off – be better, more moral people – if we acted morally not because ‘God says so’ but because it’s the innately and rational right thing to do?

    “That sounds like a reasonable notion to me…

    1) What is our supreme moral duty? It seems to me that Jesus Christ Himself answered that question when teaching us the greatest commandment (Mt 22:37-38).

    Our supreme moral duty is to love God supremely, with all that we are and all that we have.

    2) How does one love God? Christ Himself told us how we are to show our love to Christ, by obeying His commands (John 14:15), and the same Apostle who recorded this teaching applied the same principle directly to God.

    For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” – I John 5:3

    Our supreme duty is to love God, and we love God by keeping His commandments.

    The “better, more moral people” are the ones who seek and obey God’s will.

    A sense of morality without reference to God and His revealed will is no innovation: it may still be practically useful in terms of our social relations, but it’s woefully deficient on the most important point — the supreme moral duty of devotion to God.

  32. paynehollow says:

    Continuing with your objection, you say…

    3. It suggests that God was required to abide a standard of behavior, or was guided by some already established standard, before anything existed except for Himself.

    I don’t think we need to rationally conclude that morality was already established before anything existed. We can also reasonably conclude that, with the creation of new Things and Situations (people exist now, where they didn’t before, etc), there are some behaviors that are inherently outgrown from the situation itself.

    500 years ago, there was no need to have a moral guideline about who can reasonably drive gas-powered automobiles, about what speeds they can go and where, because the situation did not exist. With the creation of new sets of circumstances, we “find” innately obvious (relatively, more or less) appear.

    That God has not “created” rules for us about the morality of driving an automobile does not mean that there are no moral implications of this new Situation. I think we can reasonably conclude that new Situations cause a need for the recognition of New moral guidelines.

    What do you think?

    ~Dan

  33. Argh. Didn’t close the [i] tag at the end of the text from I John.

    Sorry, John.

  34. paynehollow says:

    Bubba…

    I don’t understand the idea that, while God created us and our hearts and our consciences, He wasn’t responsible for what was written on our hearts or even the very nature of our hearts.

    Seems reasonable to me.

    Bubba…

    It’s not that “the moral law is what it is,” but that GOD HIMSELF IS WHO HE IS, which points to the very name by which He revealed Himself to man.

    I’m not sure that I follow. Are you saying that because God is God – good, loving, just, gracious, forgiving, etc – that these traits of God are what make up our moral values?

    Maybe, I think I can agree with that. We are created in the image of God, we have that spark of God within ourselves and that is why these morals are innate, like that?

    I could buy that.

    ~Dan

  35. paynehollow says:

    Let me clariy that in my last answer, where I said “seems reasonable,” I meant that it seems reasonable that God is responsible for what is “written” on our hearts.

    I just don’t think the idea that this means God “invented” morality is sound. But perhaps we agree on that.

    ~Dan

  36. Dan,

    “So, it is your opinion that God created/invented the notion of “physics…””

    No, but he did create physical law.

    “…the notion of “greed,…”

    Apples and oranges. Greed has no relation to the question of the source of morality. Nor does selfishness. That is to say, they are only examples of the concept of morality; they are examples of immoral behaviors.

    Morality, however, is not an abstract, except to those with no belief in a higher power. Believers do not quibble about the existence of moral law, but only about whether or not we are abiding it as we should. Believers may not perceive the totality of morality, or just how it rules a given behavior, but they understand that there is a moral law that governs their actions regardless of the outcome. Non-believers use outcomes to subjectively determine what constitutes morality. Hiroshima is a good example. To YOU, it is an example of returning evil for evil, and you choose to focus on civilian lives lost. To more rational and reasonable people who look beyond the superficial aspect (as regards the morality of the action), the costs of perpetuating this action versus not determined that this was the more moral course to take given the circumstances. Weighing all the possibilities showed the act to be the moral one compared with the continuation of what was at the time, more conventional methods. Obviously, destroying those cities and the people in them, was far more righteous than risking far more lives on both sides of the war through conventional methods. Here, if taking lives is to be avoided, dropping the bomb meant fewer lives lost overall. A highly moral move.

    “…without God, these abstract ideas would not exist, is that what you’re saying?”

    What I am saying is quite clear. Without God, morality is subjective and human invention. With God, we have a source for morality that existed before we did and it is to us to discover morality. We can discuss the source of greed some other time.

    “This does not mandate against the notion that it is innate. It explains why it is innate – because it is not our realm to kill others.”

    Not at all. It explains only why God formed morality regarding the taking of life. It is still done without justification. And most of those who do will rationalize the act, thereby making it “the right thing to do” for them. They have created their own morality in conflict with an already existing morality.

    “That there are rules handed down to ancient Israel or others within the pages of the Bible does not say – as far as I can see – that God is just making up rules and without the rules, there would be no harm done.”

    The point here, isn’t the law, but why the law was handed down. You believe God handed down morality because certain actions are innately wrong. Nothing in Scripture suggests that, but much in Scripture speaks of what is pleasing to God, as well as behaviors He hates. Lev 18:22 explains why the act of a man having sex with a male is prohibited: because it is an abomination. To whom? To God. It isn’t required that it is an abomination to you. It doesn’t matter that you might think murder is wrong. It is wrong because it offends God. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be immoral.

    BTW, killing babies for sport is murder. It needn’t be specifically worded in Scripture for it to still obviously be murder. Dumping toxic waste isn’t immoral. Where one dumps it could be and that is covered in Scripture as well in terms of the negligent act harming others. You again try to make unclear what is already unambiguous.

    Gotta go.

  37. paynehollow says:

    Maybe it’s the case that at least some of us Christian-types here can agree on this: That morality is innate to humanity – something isn’t moral because God said it was, but it’s right because it’s good, loving, true, pure, etc – and that we all generally recognize these innate values because we are all created in the image of God and have that spark of God within us, that of “God’s Law” “written” upon our hearts (metaphorically).

    And once we get beyond the Bible believing set, we might still agree that morality is not from a Lawgivers Command, but that it is innate. The difference between the religious types who’d affirm this and the agnostic types is that we would cite this innate nature of morality as being because we’re all created in God’s image, whereas they’d just affirm it is innate – that it just IS, it’s part of what makes us human… Maybe?

    ~Dan

  38. Most people – atheist, agnostic, whoever – know right from wrong. Even people who do wrong know it’s wrong, and I think that’s because, like Dan said, we are created in God’s image. I don’t find this statement at all objectionable. It’s one of those rare statements Dan makes with which I fully agree.

  39. I totally disagree. This notion of morality being an innate characteristic of mankind is unsupportable. As Terrance puts it, most people know right from wrong. But why? Mostly because at this point in the history of mankind, Judeo-Christian influence is culturally ingrained.

    What is moral is indeed so because God says it is. That’s a simplistic way to put it, but it is the reality of it. At first, all there was was God. He already had such character that would result in morality existing while creating all things. Dan made reference to Genesis and Adam and Eve knowing right from wrong because of eating of the fruit. But what was right and what was wrong was obviously, therefore, already determined.

    All are created in God’s image. Too many act in a manner totally in rebellion against God and moral behavior.

    As to the concept of God’s law written on hearts, there are two references in Scripture made in this way.

    Twice in 2 Corinthians the expression is used, both appearing Chapter 3 in verses 2, then 3. “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.” There were false teachers in Corinth who would use letters of recommendation to further their ruse. Paul and his students didn’t need those, for they were as letters of recommendation by their taking to heart what Paul taught and living it. In verse 3, Paul restates it once more, as a metaphor. Paul puts himself as the pen, the student the letter, the Word the ink, and the human heart that which the Word is written upon. But here, it is put there on their hearts by Paul teaching them the Gospel.

    Also, in Romans 2: 14-15, the phrase is used again in reference to Gentiles that did not receive the Law of Moses, but engaged in practices that aligned with the Law…“…even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)”

    So the expression is poorly applies here to suggest that morality is innate. It is not. Not everyone agrees with what constitutes good and evil and for many, too many, it is totally subjective and self-serving.

  40. paynehollow says:

    Marhall…

    Dan made reference to Genesis and Adam and Eve knowing right from wrong because of eating of the fruit. But what was right and what was wrong was obviously, therefore, already determined

    May I ask a question, then? On what basis were “pre-law” people “wrong” if God had not told them the rules you are suggesting God had already “determined” but not yet passed on? Did God condemn people for doing things they did not know were wrong?

    Also, I’m reading how you’re reasoning this all out, but I don’t see any biblical passages that support the claim “God invented rules…” Do you have none and this is just your best reasoning of a conclusion that makes sense to you or on what basis do you insist this is not just your opinion, but “reality?”

    Thank you,

    Dan

  41. Marshal,

    I agree that Judeo-Christian values have influenced our society for the better. But you must acknowledge that even before Christianity, certain things were condemned in just about every culture in the world. Murder and rape are two examples. Why were they condemned? Why did people recognize, before the advent of Christianity, that these things were wrong? I suggest that morality is innate.

  42. “May I ask a question, then? On what basis were “pre-law” people “wrong” if God had not told them the rules you are suggesting God had already “determined” but not yet passed on? Did God condemn people for doing things they did not know were wrong?”

    Adam had knowledge of good and evil. I would suspect the topic might have come up now and again at dinner. Hard to believe, considering what he had lost by his disobedience, that he would not pass down the knowledge he had gained. So the knowledge was there. Even Cain must have had some inkling and also passed it down.

    Genesis 6 speaks of men increasing in number and then being inclined to sin, doing what they chose to do, that their every inclination was to evil. It is written in a manner that hints the choice to do either good or evil was dismissed for instant self-gratifications. To put it another way, there is no indication that they were unaware, but that they didn’t care.

    One must also acknowledge that God did have direct influence with an assortment of OT characters, and to then suggest that His concepts of righteous behavior being unknown is illogical.

    “Also, I’m reading how you’re reasoning this all out, but I don’t see any biblical passages that support the claim “God invented rules…””

    You seem to forget the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil. Do you suppose it just grew by itself in the middle of the Garden of Eden that He Himself created?

  43. Terrance,

    The term “Judeo-Christian” would encompass both Testaments, wouldn’t it? Therefore, we do not have to imagine that the Christian ethic appeared with Christ, as His ministry spent time explaining what should already have been practiced by the Jews since Moses’ time.

    In any case, the fact that other cultures come to see the downside of certain behaviors means only that they crafted their law and morality to conform with those consequences. But murder, for example, was already wrong before the implications of the consequences of murder could be realized.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that there are benefits to murder for the murderer if the murderer is willing to deal with the negative consequences that are also attached to the act. (This is the negative image of doing good, which also often carries negative consequences.) The murderer weighs the importance of the victim’s loss of life (and possibly the suffering of the victim’s survivors) against the benefits gained by committing the act. Since the murderer sees more value in the benefits of murdering his victim, it is seen by him as the right move, and hence to him, moral.

    In the meantime, while the rest of the murderer’s society might think differently, society’s dictating that murder is immoral is more than likely, in truth, a move to prevent one’s own murder. That is, if I agree that murder is immoral, and we craft laws and punishments for committing murder, my chances of being murdered go down.

    The Judeo-Christian perspective begins with the fact that God prohibits murder, and then debates why He did. But the debate is moot and irrelevant. What is important is that God insists it is wrong. We don’t need to know why.

    The non-believer needs to know why, and lacking that, such as the false premise that no harm comes from a society that sanctions same-sex marriage, morality is fluid and subjective.

  44. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    You seem to forget the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil. Do you suppose it just grew by itself in the middle of the Garden of Eden that He Himself created?

    Well, as you no doubt know, that story sounds more like it should be taken as a myth to me. Including and especially the “tree of good and evil…” I suppose you think there was an actual literal tree with bark and branches and fruit hanging on it and it was literally a “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” that literally bore fruit and that fruit, once eaten, passed on this knowledge?

    Respectfully submitted: I don’t believe there is reason to take that story literally or believe there was a literal tree of that nature. Assuming you do think it was an actual, literal tree, do you think there were many of these trees, or just the “one in the center of the Garden?” Do you think God chopped down this tree so it would not replicate or do you think it died off with the “sealing” of the Garden?

    I return to my question: Do you have a biblical reason to think that God “invented” rules? You pointed to this Tree story, but that does not say that God invented rules.

    Thank you.

    John, how about you: You stated, “If morality is grounded in God, which the bible says it is…”

    Or “rooted in” or “God is the standard for Morality…,” is it the case that the Bible does not say this, or where did you get this from? I’m asking because you and others have suggested this, I’m wanting to know what specific passage do you get this from, since I’m pretty sure it never literally says this.

    I’d appreciate if you could get to this when you have a chance.

    Thank you very much.

    Dan

  45. Dan,

    If you’re going to throw out the Bible when used to support an explanation of why God is the source of what is or isn’t moral, then don’t ask what in Scripture supports the notion. You’re going to throw it out if it doesn’t conform with your worldly position anyway, so what the hell is the point? Furthermore, if you’re going to ask questions about how many Trees of Knowledge existed in Eden, then you’ll forgive me for regarding your recent pleas for civility as the load of crap I suspected they were. What kind of an asshole asks a question like that, especially since it is crystal clear I am going only by what we can readily review Scripture as saying?

    And again, as always, we see you defaulting to the dishonest notion that if the Bible does not say something in the specific manner that satisfies YOUR standards, it never said it at all. I’ve given plenty that suggests pretty heavily, if not explicitly, that God is the source of morality. I’ve also provided clear explanations for concepts you misapply and misunderstand (written on hearts). Apparently your “serious and prayerful study” means something entirely different than what those words imply to honest and rational people.

    How quickly you again resort to the very behavior of which you will now deny guilt.

  46. Marshal,

    I’m baffled by your argument. Without God, wouldn’t morality be arbitrary, and thus nonexistent? It seems so – because without God, there’s no “true” right and wrong.

    And I’m not sure I agree that murderers view their actions as moral – at least not most. Justified, maybe. But moral? I think that’s a stretch.

    You suggest that society adheres to morality out of selfishness (e.g., preventing one’s own murder) but that doesn’t explain all the other things people do for one another. Americans, for example, send money overseas all the time to help people who are starving, involved in some sort of conflict. Why? Selfishness? In what way?

  47. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    If you’re going to throw out the Bible when used to support an explanation of why God is the source of what is or isn’t moral, then don’t ask what in Scripture supports the notion.

    I have not thrown out the Bible. I disagree with your interpretation. There’s a difference.

    ~Dan

  48. Terrance,

    “I’m baffled by your argument. Without God, wouldn’t morality be arbitrary, and thus nonexistent? It seems so – because without God, there’s no “true” right and wrong.”

    That’s what I’m arguing, dude.

    The question of how all murderers view their act isn’t the point. That some or any might actually see their act as a moral good is. Even among those that might proclaim such a thing, I would say that there are those who actually believe it. One must also keep in mind that this must take into account all the various cultures around the world, and how some of them might be so totally and distinctly different from ours that we wouldn’t be able to believe such a difference could actually exist, and exist sincerely.

    I’m suggesting that there is always a payoff and that payoff might only be that one enjoys the opportunity to do good. It does their hearts good. Is that not a true motivation to you? As such, it is indeed selfish. But you cannot simply view selfishness as harshly as the term generally implies. Indeed, that sort of selfishness would not be a problem for most people as most who hear of such people do not in the least look down upon them for doing good for the good feeling it provokes within them. But that’s not the same as doing good for God’s sake. I would say that one can act on both motivations—to do for God as well as for how it feels to do good.

  49. Dan,

    “I have not thrown out the Bible.”

    of course you have. You asked for Biblical support. I gave it and now you want to turn the discussion to what we can take literally and what we shouldn’t. The chronology of events in Scripture suggest heavily, if not explicitly, that morality came from God. You asked and now you want to question whether the world was created as Scripture describes. That’s a different issue, but if you want to say that Genesis is some metaphor for the reality of creation, the chronology of events remains the same if you are truly the believer you claim to be. Your “what ifs” are irrelevant distractions. What if monkeys flew out your ass? They don’t, so what would it matter, and why would you ask? I don’t need to speculate on such things, such as the possibility of the existence of other Trees of Knowledge in Eden (especially since Genesis only references the existence of ONE) just because you don’t like the implications of an accurate relating of the Genesis account on the issue at hand.

  50. paynehollow says:

    Marshall, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what “what ifs” you speak of. Feel free to clarify, if you wish.

    I return to my question: Do you have a biblical reason to think that God “invented” rules? You pointed to this Tree story, but that does not say that God invented rules.

    I suppose you’re saying that, given how you interpret the Bible, and given your understanding, it seems to you that God must have invented rules. If so, okay. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that literally says that God invented rules (in fact, I’m quite sure that does not exist) and I don’t find your reasons on how you extrapolate that idea very compelling, but you are certainly welcome to your opinion.

    Thank you for sharing your opinion, just the same,

    Dan

  51. Dan:

    Going back to our exchange, you suggest that “morality is innate to humanity” — ” that it just IS, it’s part of what makes us human.”

    The problem with this position is that the moral law comes with no authority: there are plenty of atheists who believe that traditional values were “useful” in prehistoric times, but even then those values weren’t morally binding, and there’s no reason why we MUST cling to these values in the wake of the agricultural, industrial, and digital revolutions.

    If a moral law is to have any authority, it must be transcendent.

    Our AWARENESS of the law may be innate, but it must be an awareness of a law that transcends the physical universe, because no “is” of the physical universe could EVER imply an “ought” of a moral law. That transcendence doesn’t necessarily imply a personal Creator (but what else in our experience creates imperative commands?), but it’s supernatural enough to be rejected by atheists and by materialists posing as agnostics.

    It seems to me that you’re trying to craft a conception of morality for which there can be consensus, not only in a pluralistic society, but in a secular society. I can see why you would do so, but ideas have consequences, and if (as I believe) secular humanism separates us from the concept of transcendence upon which morality depends — along with other key concepts like human rationality and free will — then the prudent thing is to reject it and urge people to return to monotheism.

    After all, the Bible teaches that the fool says in his heart that there is no God, and that reverence for God is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Ps 14:1, Prov 1:7 and others).

    A Christian shouldn’t be trying to make morality work without God; instead, He should recognize that morality cannot work without God, and that’s one of the very practical drawbacks of denying God.

    I pointed this out in my last comment, but it bears repeating:

    According to Jesus Himself, our primary moral duty is devotion to God.

    Taking God out of the equation ALSO removes our primary moral duty, and so what is left is AT BEST a shriveled stump of the moral law.

  52. Dan, there might be a question or two worth asking:

    1) Do you agree that our primary moral duty is devotion to God?

    2) If so, do you not also agree that, by denying the existence of God, an atheist abandons his primary moral duty?

  53. Marshal,

    Then I don’t know what the hell we’re arguing about. I admit, when I saw you were engaged with Dan, I only read the last few posts or so. Dan has a tendency to set people off where there’s simply too many comments to read. So, maybe we do agree after all. My apologies.

  54. No worries, Terrance.

  55. paynehollow says:

    Bubba…

    1) Do you agree that our primary moral duty is devotion to God?

    I would not call it a “primary moral duty” but the Christian’s first “rule” as taught by Jesus is to love God with all we are. I think I would call it our first consideration in how to live life. If that’s the same thing as you mean by “primary moral duty,” then yes.

    Bubba…

    2) If so, do you not also agree that, by denying the existence of God, an atheist abandons his primary moral duty?

    I think I don’t think of these as “duties” or “rules” in the sense that you are speaking of.

    Looking at the Bible verse you appear to be referencing, we find Jesus being “tested” by someone who is presumably not a follower of Jesus…

    And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

    And He [Jesus] said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”

    And he [the lawyer] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

    And He [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

    I believe that in loving God and loving our neighbor, we have found the way to live. These aren’t legalistic rules, but the way to a Good and Right life, in my opinion.

    So, anyone who does not love God, God’s creation, God’s people, they are failing to live in a Good and Right way. Ultimately, I believe that “Love God, Love humanity, Love God’s creation,” are the principles that help us rightly understand morality or Right Living. But I don’t know… saying a non-theist is “abandoning the primary moral duty…” that sounds too legalistic for my tastes.

    I think one fundamental key component in rightly understanding Morality is rightly understanding and embracing Grace. I do not believe that morality is a list of rules to bang over people’s heads and insist upon, but a Way, a Path that one must undertake by Grace, not by legalism.

    So, I don’t know, are we saying the same thing? Maybe not. This is what makes sense to me, though.

    I return to the point, though, that I believe that morality – understanding right and wrong – is innate and part of what it means to be Human. In that sense, the general idea is something that we can/should all be able to agree with.

    My thoughts, for what they’re worth.

    Dan

  56. paynehollow says:

    I would, at some point, like to return to John’s original question: Morality – social compact or discovered truth?

    There is no religious bent in the post itself, so I’m wondering what we would say to those who may not agree with the Bible or our particular opinions about what the Bible says or means.

    In defending our position: Do we insist that others have to accept our particular holy text and our particular interpretations of that holy text as a given, or can we make a case for our opinions that stand alone, independent of whether someone agrees with our interpretations of our favorite holy text?

    Any thoughts?

    Thank you,

    Dan

  57. “I return to my question: Do you have a biblical reason to think that God “invented” rules? You pointed to this Tree story, but that does not say that God invented rules.”

    So apparently your question requires a verse that specifically states an answer in a manner that is absolutely unequivocal, direct and worded specifically to satisfy you, without any need whatsoever of adding 2+2. This constant rejection of concepts due to a lack of the above absolutes you need is why you’re seen as completely dishonest.
    “This Tree story” was not the sole argument, but one point of the entire argument that shows how Scripture begins with God and all else follows.

    Your “what if” was the question regarding whether or not there might have been more than one Tree of Knowledge. This is an incredibly disingenuous question given your claims of serious and prayerful study. Genesis does NOT say, “Do not eat of any of the TREES of Knowledge.” It does not say, “Do not eat of A Tree of Knowledge.” It says only, “…but you must not eat from THE tree of the knowledge of good and evil…” As such, there is no reason to suspect that there existed more than one.

    In any case, verse 8 of that same chapter begins,

    Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden;

    Obviously, He also planted that Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the very Garden where he put Adam. How can this not be “interpreted” to indicate that such knowledge came from God and HIs notion of good and evil? If this is not compelling to such a serious student of Scripture, provide a better alternative.

  58. paynehollow says:

    Because it is clearly a metaphor, not a literal tree, Marshall. You hold the opinion that this “tree” must be a literal tree holding literal fruit that literally gave a literal Adam and Eve “knowledge of good and evil.” And if that’s what you think, okay.

    I don’t agree that it’s a necessary interpretation of that passage.

    In my opinion.

    But again, even if God planted a literal “knowledge of good and evil seed” and literally watered a literal tree from a sapling to a tree bearing “knowledge fruit,” does that demand that this was God’s “invention” of morality? Does it mean that morality is not innate in humanity? I don’t think so. Maybe when Adam swallowed the “knowledge fruit” it birthed in humanity this innate sense of morality. Why could not a literal interpretation of this story be taken this way? Why is that guess of something not stated not as valid as your guess of something not stated?

    The thing is, Marshall, this passage – even taken literally – does not say that God “invented” morality, nor does it insist that 2+2=4, or God+”Knowledge Fruit” = an “invented” morality. It just does not necessarily follow. It’s a fine guess, but it isn’t a fact, nor is it insisted upon by even a literal interpretation.

    In my opinion.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  59. Dan,

    For your question of March 21, 2014 at 3:49 PM, without God the answer can only be that we invent morality to satisfy our personal preferences. An individual might perceive murder as always wrong, but that doesn’t bind the next guy to the concept in any way shape or form. If morality doesn’t exist unless we exist to dictate what morality is, morality is then totally subjective and based upon personal preference and then the consensus of the majority. For to possibly say, “Everyone can see that murder is wrong due to the unjustified taking of a life.” is still a subjective opinion. It is not a fact. It assumes an equal degree of empathy existing within everyone. But since God forbade murder, it then becomes a fact that murder is wrong, even if the concept of murder never crossed a human mind and murder had never taken place in human history.

    Morality does not require that we discover it in order for it to exist. Not for the Christian. But that morality does exist holds no sway over the non-believer who would only pick and choose what is or isn’t moral behavior as he finds convenient.

  60. paynehollow says:

    To my thinking, an innate morality is one of the better arguments in favor of the existence of a Planner… of God. I don’t think that without God, we have to “invent morality,” I think it remains reasonably, observably innate.

    Consider:

    1. We’re on an vast island that’s never heard of the notion of a “God.”
    2. People on the island are in separate communities, not having connections to one another.
    3. The people in a given community can all easily agree on some basic moral precepts – it is self-evident to these people that it’s wrong to cause harm to innocent bystanders (the Golden Rule) and from this basic notion, rules against theft, murder, assault and rape arise. Agreeing on this is easy, because it seems this way to all the people in the community. On some more minute twists of morality, there are disagreements (is it okay to force your children to go out on their own at 16? at 18? Are you obliged to help them once they’re adults? etc), but on the broad strokes of not causing harm to innocent bystanders, it’s an easy agreement.
    4. Once the individual communities expand and meet these other communities, they realize VERY consistently that each community recognized the value of the Golden Rule and had rules that arose from this notion.
    5. What would explain this common morality? It must be innate! This is a very credible conclusion, given the circumstances. Maybe not the only one, but it’s a very compelling one.
    6. Now, WHY is it innate? For this question, they have no great answers. Because the Golden Rule actually serves to help the community and thus, it’s both helpful to others and necessary for self interest? Well, maybe, perhaps the case could be made, but it seems a bit weak, to me.
    7. But what if there were a Designer, a Common Creator, from which we all sprung and those values have been “planted in us” (not literally, like a seed, metaphorically) and are just basic to what it means to be a human? That, to me, is a compelling explanation for the Why Morality?

    But, if we remove the innate theory for morality, it seems to me we remove a link to God and the necessity for God, from a purely rational point of view.

    And of course, the Bible (to me) hints at this theory, as well, in the repeated places where it speaks of God’s Word written on our hearts (by the way, Marshall, why is “written on our hearts” metaphoric but a tree of knowledge literal? just curious) or God’s Law being common to all people, being written on our hearts and minds. That just seems, to me, a much more rational and biblical explanation than the “invented” theories (either invented by God or by humanity).

    One man’s opinion,

    Dan

  61. “Because it is clearly a metaphor, not a literal tree, Marshall.”

    Metaphor or punchline. It doesn’t make a bit of difference. You asked for Biblical support for the suggestion that God is the source of morality. I gave it and now the only way you can rebut is to crap on Scripture and claim we can’t take from it this logical premise.

    If it’s only metaphor, it still clearly shows that morality comes from God since He planted the Tree of Knowledge Himself. He didn’t create Adam with an innate sense of right and wrong. Adam had to eat of the Tree for that. Thus, God gave mankind morality that God already had in order to be able to give it. It doesn’t matter how He did it. He did it. The story, even if only a metaphor, explains the source of morality as being God Himself. Don’t change the height of the bar now that it has been hurdled. Scripture clearly supports my position.

    As to your last, you make massive assumptions about how the people would act without knowledge of God. You NEED them to act in a particular manner in order to shore up your weak position, but there is no evidence you could ever provide that such a community would progress in that manner you need to be true. For example…

    What makes you certain that it would be at all self-evident to these people that they would agree that causing harm is the least bit immoral? More likely, the weaker would assert such a thing so as to persuade the stronger in power not to harm them. If they can get the stronger to think in terms of “what if it was you?”, they might succeed in influencing a creation of a code of behavior. Or, the stronger would just kill them and move on to other topics.

    The irony here is in how you ascribe to these tribes characteristics that are based on YOUR cultural sensitivities. You can’t imagine feeling different about what is or isn’t moral because of your cultural inculcation. It’s the very thing for which you admonish others when speaking on how the ancient Hebrews might behave in a given circumstance, and here you do it in a way that could be the perfect example of the definition of the concept.

  62. Why does a discovered truth have to come from God?
    If your answer is “God created everything, including truths” then this is a meaningless discussion that shows once again that Christians are incapable of having a reasonable discussion about morality that can consider or refute an opposing view.
    So please, someone, tell me why a “discovered truth” needs to come from God- what makes morality so special that it couldn’t have existed without God?

  63. Dan, VERY briefly, I believe true grace does not minimize sin but deals with it, not through our attempts to please God, but through God’s active, loving, undeserved actions to address its very dire consequences.

    For that reason — and for the very simple reason that Jesus consistently refers to God’s commandments and not His mere suggestions or “considerations,” — I believe it is unwise in the extreme not to admit the obvious, that our chief moral obligation is devotion to God.

  64. George,

    I would think, with the exception of people like Dan, whose level of conviction is always in doubt given just about everything he says that isn’t just lip service to the contrary, the question of social compact vs discovered truth allows for non-believers a chance to make a case that can hold some water.

  65. In an earlier comment, Marshall, you stated that

    Morality does not require that we discover it in order for it to exist. Not for the Christian. But that morality does exist holds no sway over the non-believer who would only pick and choose what is or isn’t moral behavior as he finds convenient.

    This seems to imply that “non-believers” cannot account for moral truths without invoking God- unless you use the term “non-believer” as meaning someone who doesn’t believe in moral objectivism as opposed to someone who doesn’t believe in God. If it is the former then you seem to believe that an atheist cannot believe in objective moral truths.

  66. George,

    The atheist cannot account for the existence of objective moral truths. They simply assert their existence and do so as it suits them. Put another way, what they discover is not necessarily a moral truth, but what they are willing to recognize as one.

  67. “Because it is clearly a metaphor, not a literal tree, Marshall.”

    It seems to me that the above statement clearly purports to be a statement of objective truth. I would respectfully suggest that the above statement is clearly not one that can be objectively proven as it is presented. While I certainly could be wrong, I strongly suspect that the above statement is clearly an (unsupported) opinion being presented disguised as a statement of fact.

  68. Why can’t an atheist account for a moral truth? What is so special about moral truths that make them unaccountable in an atheist epistemology?
    I think you might be mistaking your personal account of moral truths for “the only possible way to account for moral truths”. Just like you might think that the earth was created in six literal days, an atheist has a competing and reasonable explanation. Just as you might believe that God created man in their present form, or that the Earth rests on a firmament, or that people die because of sin, or that demons cause disease, or that there was a global flood and we are all descended from 8 human survivors, or the moon is its own light source. Yet other people have reasonable beliefs that directly contradict each of these beliefs.
    So again, what specifically is it about morality that makes it impossible for an atheist to account for?

  69. George,

    If an atheist says, “I was mugged yesterday, and by that experience I discovered mugging people is immoral.” The atheist who mugged him might disagree. THAT guy might have needed the money, or perhaps finds great joy in beating the crap out the people he robs.

    The Christian, on the other hand, has empathy for the first atheist, and understands the suffering of all mugging victims. The Christian can agree that inflicting suffering for personal gain is a bad thing that should be lessened by whatever means possible. But that suffering does not make it immoral. That is to say, that the Christian need not have any way of understanding or relating to the suffering of a mugging victim to accept the immorality of it. A Christian doesn’t need to know that it hurts, or that loss of property causes hardship. A Christian already knows that hitting people and stealing their stuff is sinful and not to be done by one who strives to be a good Christian.

    What I’m saying here is how does a non-believer come to understand morality without the benefit of experiencing harm or benefit? A non-believer needs to experience harm or benefit in order to even imagine the possibility that a given act is moral or immoral. This explains your position on homosexuality. You can’t imagine how it is harmful, so you take a “no harm, no foul” approach. But your inability to see the harm has no bearing on the morality of an act, though it is required in your determination of what is or isn’t moral. Thus, you are not so much discovering, but taking a step in forming a social compact.

    Put another way, for the Christian, something considered immoral suggests there will be harm of some kind should we engage in the forbidden act. We need not try it out for ourselves. What’s more, should we go ahead and try it for ourselves, we might not experience the harm with the first act, and perhaps not the second or third. We may never. But the fact that we lucked out has no bearing on the morality of the act. A non-believer might feel they can engage in the behavior without worry from that time on, then, eventually experience the harm (or cause harm to others—the other side of the coin). Had that non-believer lived according to the Judeo-Christian understanding of morality, he cannot lose.

    A non-believer might consider another moral act immoral because he experienced harm by engaging in it. For example, being honest can often bring about discomfort. But being honest is moral. A non-believer might adjust this notion based on the level of discomfort honesty has inflicted upon him. He may be less than perfectly honest from that time forward. He believes he’s discovered something about the morality of honesty that isn’t true, but it shapes his life because it wasn’t exactly objective, but subjective…based on his personal experience.

    A lot of rambling on my part, but I’m trying to consider just how a non-believer truly acts on a concept of objective morality, and if it truly can be objective when he is left to decide for himself. How do you respond?

  70. Marhsal is officially my hero. And I say that because there’s no way I could have argued the point better. It’s clear, to the point, and true. It’s great.

  71. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    A non-believer needs to experience harm or benefit in order to even imagine the possibility that a given act is moral or immoral.

    ? Why? I (admittedly a Christian, but not one who holds to your theories on this point) have never experienced myself or amongst my close friends a genocide, but I don’t need to experience something to see the harm done. Simple empathy and reason common to humanity let’s me – or anyone – see the harm. I’m not sure why the emphasis on personal experience for those who don’t agree with this theory of morality is a necessity.

    Could you explain this notion?

    Thank you,

    Dan

  72. paynehollow says:

    Craig…

    It seems to me that the above statement clearly purports to be a statement of objective truth.

    To clarify: As always, Craig, when I am speaking of my opinions about how to interpret the Bible, I am offering MY opinions. I can not prove of disprove objectively the non-existence of a magic knowledge fruit tree. Nor can I prove or disprove objectively the non-existence of purple unicorns with rainbow wings.

    I’m just saying I have no reason to hold an opinion that either might exist.

    I hope that explains that.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  73. Dan,
    Surely you can understand how your comment as you chose to phrase it might be confusing to someone unaware of your penchant for expressing statements of opinion as declarative sentences. Perhaps were you to say “in my opinion”. Instead of “Because it clearly is…”. Most people wouldn’t express an opinion in that manner. It gets confusing for people when you don’t communicate opinion as opinion. I’d respectfully suggest that you could express your opinions in a manner that is less declarative , and better expresses the fact that you are offering an opinion.

  74. Dan,

    All your empathy does is persuade you that you’d not want to experience that suffering. From there, you declare, by what is by definition the very essence of subjective reasoning, that genocide is immoral. Of course, genocide is murder on a large scale, but again, the bombing of Hiroshima was not an immoral act given the exhaustively weighted and considered alternatives. But you prefer to conflate killing with murder and thus all killing is immoral to you. This is subjective, not objective reasoning.

  75. Terrance,

    As, shucks.

  76. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    All your empathy does is persuade you that you’d not want to experience that suffering.

    If I read of a child on the other side of the world having her genitals mutilated, not only would I not want that to happen to me, I would not want it to happen to anyone. Why do you think only Christians would experience empathy for people suffering completely removed from them?

  77. paynehollow says:

    Craig…

    Perhaps were you to say “in my opinion”. Instead of “Because it clearly is…”.

    For the same reason that, if someone suggested to you he kept a purple unicorn with rainbow wings in his back yard, you would say, “Clearly, this is not the case…” Meaning, you have no reason to believe it to be factually correct.

    If someone said they had this unicorn in their backyard, would you not say “clearly, you don’t…”? Or would you say, “Wow, I’ve never seen one, could I come by and see it…” accepting the claim of what clearly seems a non-fact, as fact?

    ~Dan

  78. Dan, it appears that you are equating anyone who might believe that the tree in the garden was actually real with someone who claims they have a unicorn in their backyard.

    If this is the claim you are making then your earlier assertion that your “Because it clearly is…” statement is opinion is clearly a lie.

    I have no problem with you expressing your opinion, whether I agree with it or not. However, when you make a statement that clearly appears to be a statement of fact, then hide behind “It’s my opinion”, it raises doubts about your objectives.

    Again, I respectfully suggest that if you were to express your opinions clearly as opinions, there would be less confusion. If this is somehow an unrealistic expectation or unreasonable in any way, then I apologize. It seems to me that clarity is important in these conversations and that it is worth some degree of effort to strive for clarity so as to minimize these side tracks. I’m sure you agree that it is quite important to identify opinion as opinion, and to be clear about when an opinion is being expressed.

    Thank you for considering this.

  79. “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

  80. Dan,

    You again miss the point. Having empathy does not equate to the act that drew your attention being immoral or moral. It just means that you can put yourself in the shoes of one who is suffering and come to a conclusion about whether or not you’d have an issue with seeing such suffering continue. And you do such based on putting yourself in that position mentally. Thus, you choose to regard it as immoral. It doesn’t make it so.

  81. paynehollow says:

    Craig, may I ask: Do you think it would be helpful for everyone to express their opinions as clearly-stated “their opinions,” or just me? I’m wondering why you’re making this suggestion only to me, when I point this fact out (that my opinions are my opinions) all the time, and when I ask you all to clarify if you are speaking of your opinion or fact, you seem wary to do so.

    Regardless, clearly all my opinions about unprovable facts ARE my opinions, not demonstrable facts.

    But there are opinions and there are opinions. Again I ask you, if someone said to you “I’ve got a unicorn in my backyard…” do you automatically give them the benefit of the doubt and say you’d love to see it, or do you begin from the position of, “Ya know, I sort of doubt it. Clearly, unicorns are mythical creatures…”?

    Thanks for the clarification and the suggestion. I shall continue to point out that my opinions are my opinions. I think that’s a good thing for all of us to do.

    ~Dan

  82. Dan,

    the reason I point this out to you is that it is one more example of your inconsistency. You expect others to identify their opinions as opinions, while you fail to do what you ask of others. If you would re read your actual words you would see that clearly your statement does not appear to be a statement of opinion, but a statement of fact.

    I was wondering why you’ve gotten so defensive over this and I’m not sure, but I have a couple of ideas. The first is that you only speak in opinions. Despite your word choice, you think that everything you say is opinion and thus not worth the time to clarify , since you just don’t speak in facts. The second is, that in this case you seem to be equating the belief in a literal tree, with literal fruit, in a literal garden of Eden, with a literal Adam and Eve, to someone who claims to own a unicorn. The problem with your construct is that while I can prove that someone doesn’t have a unicorn in their back yard, you can’t prove that your opinion of the Genesis story is correct. It’s just your opinion. It’s just your opinion that is contrary to the majority of Christian scholarship and thought for the last few thousand years. You can offer nothing concrete to support your opinion, yet you choose to pretend that to disagree with your opinion is akin to claiming to own a unicorn.

    So, I’m glad that you agree that it is better not to present your opinions in a way that they might be construed as factual statements. I’m sure it will be helpful if you were to model the behavior you expect of others.

  83. paynehollow says:

    I’m not defensive, I’m asking you a question.

    I would think that at least the folk who deal with me regularly would know by now that I am always consistently clear that my opinions about unprovable matters are CLEARLY my opinions. Do you harbor some doubt that I secretly think my opinions are provable facts? If so, let me clarify for you: My opinions are my opinions, not facts. If I state an opinion about an unprovable fact, it is ALWAYS an opinion.

    Now, perhaps it would help if you could get everyone here to agree to this same reality. Does that not seem reasonable and consistent?

    Do you recognize that your opinion about a literal “knowledge fruit-bearing tree” in a literal garden is simply your opinion, an unprovable interpretation of an ancient text, and not a fact?

    You’ve asked me to clarify that my opinion was in fact, my opinion. Will you do the same, for consistency’s sake and out of respect for a rational discussion?

    Where you say you think it is glad to not present my opinions as facts, and I am always glad to clarify that point if someone is not sure. Do you agree that it is good not to present your opinions as facts?

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  84. paynehollow says:

    Again I ask you, Craig, if someone said to you “I’ve got a unicorn in my backyard…” do you automatically give them the benefit of the doubt and say you’d love to see it, or do you begin from the position of, “Ya know, I sort of doubt it. Clearly, unicorns are mythical creatures…”?

    Your answer appears to be, “No, I do not give them the benefit of the doubt, but would ask them to prove it… And, if they can’t prove it, I have no reason to think that their claim is factual and every reason to think that it isn’t, even though I can’t prove a negative…” Is that a correct summation of your response? If not, would you mind clarifying?

    If that is your response, then perhaps you understand my response about “knowledge fruit tree” claims?

    I thank you.

    Dan

  85. paynehollow says:

    To help keep the comparison consistent, let’s assume this fella with the unicorn tells you it’s in his backyard, but the unicorn only lets you see it if you truly believe in unicorns. Thus, your visiting the backyard and not seeing the unicorn is not proof that it doesn’t exist. He has created an unprovable claim.

    You can’t say for a fact that there is no magic unicorn in his backyard, but you state “I have no reason to believe that in the slightest…” just the same, do you not?

    And if so, then perhaps you can understand my position about knowledge fruit trees? Yes, it is my opinion, in that I have no ability to disprove this claim, but I will state it as a sure thing absent any reason at all to accept it as fact. Would that not be the same thing you’d do with the unicorn man?

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  86. Dan,

    You seem confused. My problem is not with you having opinions, but with how you present your opinions. When you say “Because it is clearly a metaphor, not a literal tree…”, this is not phrased as an opinion. I understand now, that you are saying that it is an opinion, but as you phrased your comment, it appears to be an assertion of fact. Unfortunately we don’t know what exactly is going on in your brain when you write things and are limited to what you actually write down. In this case, you appear to be asserting a fact, rather than an opinion. I would think that you would want to minimize those areas of confusion rather than to maximize them. But that’s your call.

    I fail to understand why you won’t just own up to a poor wording choice and move on, rather than introducing this extraneous obfuscatory crap into the conversation.

    It’s pretty simple, when you express an opinion, could you please express it in a way that people know that it is an opinion.

    “Do you recognize that your opinion about a literal “knowledge fruit-bearing tree” in a literal garden is simply your opinion, an unprovable interpretation of an ancient text, and not a fact?”

    1. Do you realize that I never actually asserted any personal position on this issue, therefore your question makes no sense in the context of the conversation?

    2. Do you also realize that there is enough support for the idea that the Genesis story is literal within the last few thousand years of Judeo-Christian scholarship that agreeing with this stream of thought places one clearly within the bounds of Orthodoxy?

    3. Do you realize that your “mythic” position is clearly a position held by a tiny minority of Christians, and would probably be considered (at best) on the fringes of Orthodoxy?

    So, if you are asking me what position I actually hold I can answer that question, If you simply want to make assumptions about my positions feel free, but don’t expect me to validate your assumptions.

    “Do you agree that it is good not to present your opinions as facts?”

    Obviously I do, since I’m asking you to use more precision in how you present your opinions. What in the following quote would suggest that it is a statement of opinion?

    “Because it is clearly a metaphor, not a literal tree…”,

  87. Unless you answer my question about whether you equate a belief in a literal Genesis with a belief in unicorns, I’ve given you all the response your bizarre idiotic hypothetical deserves.

  88. Oh, and adding even more ridiculous conditions to an already ridiculous hypothetical doesn’t help it become less ridiculous.

  89. “Yes, it is my opinion, in that I have no ability to disprove this claim, but I will state it as a sure thing absent any reason at all to accept it as fact.”

    Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. You are quite willing to state your opinion as “a sure thing” (in other words as fact), despite it being an opinion.

    You do realize that it is a bit strange to state an unprovable opinion absent any reason to accept it as fact as a fact is contradictory, don’t you?

    What do you think it is about your opinions that allows you to state them as fact without any reason to believe them to be actually factual?

    Can you offer any objective evidence to support your opinion?

    Can you understand that when you state your unsupported opinion as “a sure thing”, that others may not have the benefit of your years of Bible study and evidence to back up your opinion and therefore suspect that you are stating a fact rather than an opinion?

  90. paynehollow says:

    Craig, is the belief in a literal knowledge tree a sure thing, a fact or an unprovable opinion?

    Thanks,

    Dan

    • “is the belief in a literal knowledge tree a sure thing, a fact or an unprovable opinion?”

      Let me put it to you Dan. Is Jesus’ bodily resurrection a sure thing, a fact or unprovable opinion?

  91. It appears that Dan cannot help but confirm my charge that his determination of what constitutes fact or opinion is totally self-serving. Social compact or discovered truth, it is immoral.

  92. paynehollow says:

    John, thanks for the question. I’m glad to answer… You should know that I believe in Jesus’ bodily resurrection. But regardless of my belief in that, it is an unprovable opinion. We can’t “prove” demonstrably and objectively that Jesus rose from the dead. Yes, there is testimony, but that is not the same as objective fact, unless you think all human testimony is 100% factual and without any error.

    So, John, Craig is supporting what I’ve long supported – that we should be prepared to state clearly when we are speaking our opinion or if a claim we make is a provable fact.

    Is a the claim of a literal “knowledge tree” a provable fact or an unprovable opinion?

    Do you agree with me that the claim of Jesus’ resurrection is not demonstrably provable?

    Thanks for the assistance.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  93. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    It appears that Dan cannot help but confirm my charge that his determination of what constitutes fact or opinion is totally self-serving.

    ? I am unsure of what you mean by that or how it relates to the topic here.

    It is fact that the literal existence of a “knowledge fruit tree” as described in the OT Creation story is not a provable fact. Agreed? Nor is it disprovable, agreed?

    It is also a fact that we can’t disprove my example of magic unicorn. Agreed?

    But does the fact that we can’t disprove the unicorn mean there is much likelihood of its existence? Or that we should accept the claim without some skepticism?

    Does the fact that we can’t prove or disprove the knowledge tree mean that we should just blindly accept it as a a likely fact? Or is it reasonable – absent any reason to believe in it – to find such claims to be dubious?

    I’m not sure what there is to object to in my reasoning, but thanks for the thoughts, just the same.

    Dan

  94. Dan,

    Why would I even dignify your question with a response when you ignore so many of my questions. Just one more indication of your convenient double standard.

  95. paynehollow says:

    I asked first. I would think simple politeness and orderliness would make you want to answer my simple question – especially based on your demand that I do as I always do and make clear if something is my opinion. I’m simply asking that you do exactly what I’ve done – I made clear that my opinion about the knowledge fruit tree is an unprovable opinion, I’m just asking you to clarify your position in response.

    Seems fair and reasonable to me.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  96. OK, I’ll do what you won’t. My opinion, is that the tree in the garden was an actual literal tree. Fortunately my opinion is shared by the majority of Judeo Christian scholars over the last several thousand years. However, the problem with your ploy is that it only addresses the belief, not that actual existence of the tree. I have no problem saying that I believe the Genesis account to be literal and am quite content to stand with the majority of Judeo Christian scholarship over the centuries. In no way would I ever begin to assert as you have that my belief is “a sure thing”. Finally, what I may or may not believe is immaterial to whether or not the tree literally existed.

    I’m not sure what you think you’ve accomplished. Up until this point I’d never made any claims of fact or opinion about the tree. To the contrary, you clearly made a statement of what you term opinion, then proceed to assert that your opinion is “a sure thing”. If you are so confident that your opinion is “a sure thing”, then you should have no trouble demonstrating that.

    For all the dodging around you’ve done it just seems like it would have been easier to just do what you ask others to do and identify opinions and opinions.

    So, now I await the answers to the unanswered questions I have posed to you. I’ve played your petty little games and put up with your absurd hypothetical that constantly change as their flaws are exposed so I’d just hope that you’d back up your “respectfully” crap and live up to the expectations you have of others.

  97. “But there are opinions and there are opinions…”

    I’m sure that your point is that your personal unsupported opinion is somehow superior to others opinions so that you can assert your personal opinion to be “a sure thing”, by what standard do you separate opinions into the “a sure thing” category and the non sure thing category?

    “Do you harbor some doubt that I secretly think my opinions are provable facts? If so, let me clarify for you: My opinions are my opinions, not facts. If I state an opinion about an unprovable fact, it is ALWAYS an opinion.?

    “… in that I have no ability to disprove this claim, but I will state it as a sure thing absent any reason at all to accept it as fact.”

    Given that you quite clearly say that you will state your opinion as if it is “a sure thing”, then yes I do harbor some doubt. Can you demonstrate why this particular opinion is a “sure thing”? Can you demonstrate that there is a meaningful difference between “a sure thing” and a fact?

    I just have to say that I just feel sorry for you if it is so important to you that you be right that you are willing to contradict yourself and to refuse to hold yourself to the same standards you expect of others.

  98. John,

    Seriously, c’mon, you can’t actually think that there’s any evidence that Christ rose from the dead, can you? That’s just some wild ass opinion you’ve pulled out of thin air.

  99. paynehollow says:

    There is no objectively demonstrable evidence by which we – you or I – can prove Jesus rose from the dead. I don’t know what is odd about that. Do you think there is some provable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead or that the tree in the Garden is a literal tree?

    If so, what is that provable, objective, demonstrable evidence?

    Dan

  100. Dan,

    We don’t have any provable, objective, demonstrable evidence for Caesar. We rarely have such evidence for a litany of historical facts that people accept each day without second guessing it.

  101. paynehollow says:

    Craig, obviously I think there is evidence to believe in Jesus’ resurrection, otherwise, I wouldn’t believe it, would I?

    I’m making the distinction between evidence sufficient to think something is real and demonstrable fact. We have insufficient evidence to prove Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as a demonstrable, objective fact, obvious to all. We DO, however, have a good bit of evidence, sufficient for me to believe it.

    It’s like the OJ (or other, inconclusive trial): We may have evidence that is sufficient for us to form an opinion, but that is different than saying we know this as a demonstrable fact.

    IF you have demonstrable, objective evidence to prove as a fact that Jesus rose from the dead, why would we not have presented it already and ended all debate on the topic? The fact is, we can’t demonstrate it to be a provable fact. We just can’t.

    There is no harm in admitting the obvious.

    And the difference between Jesus’ story and why I find it to be sufficient evidence to believe and the theory of a literal “knowledge tree” and why it’s more comparable to the magic unicorn is we have no reason to insist on this as even a potential reality.

    So, may I ask for a clarification? Where you say…

    In no way would I ever begin to assert as you have that my belief is “a sure thing”.

    Does that mean that your opinion is simply an opinion – one that you can’t prove at all, not a demonstrable fact?

    A follow up: do you recognize that many people would have no reason at all to presume this story isn’t a myth, as it appears to be to the objective reader (in my opinion, to be sure)?

    Thanks for clarifying.

    Dan

  102. paynehollow says:

    Terrance…

    We don’t have any provable, objective, demonstrable evidence for Caesar.

    Indeed, we don’t, and an excellent point to make. I certainly do think there is sufficient reason to believe in Jesus’ resurrection, even though it is not demonstrably provable as a fact. But this is my point, right? All I’m saying is that it’s not demonstrably provable, which was in response to John’s question to me.

    And may I ask: do you recognize the world of difference between the recording of the history of Caesar or Jesus and the passing on of the story of the “knowledge fruit tree…”?

    Do you recognize that the opinion about the knowledge fruit tree is only an opinion, with no way of demonstrating it to be a fact? Do you recognize that most people without a religious agenda have no reason to accept this tree any more so than a magic unicorn?

    Thanks,

    Dan

  103. Dan,

    It’s not “demonstrably provable” because it’s not that kind of fact. Historians will tell you that historical facts are different in that they can never be “100% proved.” However, historical stories are considered “factual” if there exists two or more independent sources testifying to the same thing. We have that in this case. We actually have MORE evidence for Christ than Caesar. And since you’re not a complete moron, you already knew this, Dan. You already knew that historical facts have different requirements because of their very nature.

    I recognize that there is more evidence for Jesus’ life, miracles, betrayal, death, and resurrection than there is evidence for a “knowledge fruit tree…” However, since you’re willing to believe that Jesus existed and did all those amazing things, then why are you having trouble with the story of Adam & Eve – since Jesus Himself took the story to be literal. Jesus would know, wouldn’t He?

  104. “And the difference between Jesus’ story and why I find it to be sufficient evidence to believe and the theory of a literal ‘knowledge tree’ and why it’s more comparable to the magic unicorn is we have no reason to insist on this as even a potential reality.” [emphasis mine]

    Dan, are you actually arguing that a claim of the miraculous becomes more plausible if it’s theologically important? There’s absolutely no relation between the concepts of plausibility and importance, and so there’s no reason your appropriation of the atheists’ contempt for the miraculous should stop at Genesis or Exodus and not continue to the empty tomb.

    And, anyway, what reason do we have to insist upon Jesus’ story? You’ve written before that you don’t insist on the bodily resurrection and you’ve even prided yourself on the claim that your faith in Jesus would somehow survive his being a corpse that has long since decomposed.

    Why should it matter AT ALL if the story of Jesus were entirely fictional?

  105. paynehollow says:

    I’m arguing, fellas, that the stories in Genesis were written in a time prior to the Modern Era of history telling.

    I’m arguing that the stories in Genesis appear, on the face of them, to be obviously told in a mythic form.

    I’m arguing that Jesus’ history was observed by many people and recorded as history, within the time frame of the Modern era of history telling.

    I’m arguing that Jesus’ story reads like history, not like myth.

    I’m arguing that we have no reason (beyond tradition) to treat the knowledge fruit tree as a literally factual story.

    I’m arguing that we do have reasons to accept Jesus’ story as literally factual.

    And while I’m no historian, I don’t think the evidence for Jesus amounts to more than the stories of Caesar. We have pictures/busts of Caesar, for one thing. But that’s really an aside. I’m just noting that I’m answering John’s question: Can any of us objectively demonstrate that Jesus not only existed but rose from the dead? No, we can’t. We just can’t.

    Can you objectively demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead? Please, demonstrate. As a believer, I would welcome this. I just don’t see evidence to support this opinion (that we can demonstrate objectively that Jesus rose from the dead).

    But if we can’t demonstrate this to be an objective fact, we have to admit that this is our opinion, not a demonstrable fact. Just plain English, not a knock on my Lord and Savior.

    That’s all I’m saying. Why is this objectionable?

    Thank you,

    Dan

  106. Despite the fact that your promise to answer my questions after I answered yours now appears to be clearly a lie, I will nonetheless do what you will not and answer your question in the absence of your answers.

    “Does that mean that your opinion is simply an opinion – one that you can’t prove at all, not a demonstrable fact?”

    No, it means that I am quite comfortable in my opinion being my opinion. I have no need to assert that my opinion is “a sure thing” or that to disagree with my opinion is akin to believing in unicorns. Unfortunately, you seem to have a much higher view of your opinion. I had asked earlier how your assertion that your opinion is “a sure thing” is different from asserting you opinion as fact. Had you lived up to your earlier promise, I might already know the answer, unfortunately you chose not to follow through on your promise.

    The problem here is that the lack of “evidence” that satisfies you really doesn’t address the real issue of whether there is enough evidence to categorically label Genesis as a myth or real. So, what you’ve done is set up a standard which is meaningless and decided that the evidence doesn’t meet your arbitrary meaningless standard.

  107. “I’m arguing that the stories in Genesis appear, on the face of them, to be obviously told in a mythic form.”

    I was unaware that how something appears to a layperson was a something that people use to determine the historicity of something.

    Seems like we’ve gone from it’s “a sure thing” that the Genesis account is fictional to, the stories “appear” to by mythical. I’m sure we’re all waiting for any objective evidence to back up this claim.

    I suspect we’ll see the evidence soon after Dan answers questions. In other words, never.

  108. And while I’m no historian, I don’t think the evidence for Jesus amounts to more than the stories of Caesar.

    Well, you’re wrong. Regardless, you didn’t answer my question. If you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who actually existed, and if you believe in the Triune God, then what is your problem with the story of Adam & Eve? Jesus Himself took it to be literal history.

  109. And Dan, you continue to demand that which is IMPOSSIBLE. You cannot 100% prove the reality of ANY historical fact. So why do you keep asking for us to do so? That isn’t how historical facts work, Dan, and you damn well know it. Quit asking for the impossible and answer my question.

  110. Terrance,
    You have to get in line, Dan owes me answers before you;) In all seriousness, I think that’s Dan’s point. Because we can’t prove with 100% accuracy any historical event, it becomes easy to simply decide that it’s only an opinion and therefore can be dismissed or ignored if it becomes convenient to do so. Personally, I think that you , I, John, and MA would agree that if it is possible to demonstrate the historical accuracy of the Gospels, then it becomes possible to make a reasonable case for the historicity of the OT given how Jesus and others treated the stories. Obviously I’ve simplified the process here, but to take the position that any given OT story is factual is certainly within the realm of the reasonable. To simply arbitrarily lump the Genesis account in with stories of unicorns is to be too lazy to actually looks at the case that has been made. Agree or not, it seems ridiculous to simply dismiss it according to some personal arbitrary standard.

    Dan,
    As has been pointed out historical facts are more of a probability than a certainty, given that could you express as a percentage how likely you feel it is that the physical resurrection of Jesus is factual and how likely it is that the Genesis account is factual?

    I don’t have high hopes for answers, but I ask anyway.

  111. Craig,

    I can’t understand why Dan claims to be Christian while also dismissing things out of convenience, like you said. He treats the Bible like a buffet, picking and choosing which parts to believe and which to ignore. Dan and those like him make God in THEIR OWN image.

    And I don’t think either one of us should hold out hope that Dan will actually answer our questions.

  112. Terrance,
    I suspect the key word in Dan’s biblical interpretation is Dan. He’s been quite clear that the reason he finds the OT histories unhistorical is primarily because they don’t sound historical (to him). Unfortunately, he simply hides behind “it’s only an opinion” as of all opinions carry equal weight, and therefore can all be dismissed equally easily.

    My opinion based on past history is that the likelihood of Dan answering a majority of the questions he’s been asked is very low. By the same token the likelihood of Dan insisting that we answer his questions before he answers ours in very high. Actually since he’s already done just that I guess the likelihood is about 100%. Oh, and I predict that his reason for not answering questions is that the questions are so far back in the thread that he just can’t find them and would we please repeat them all so he doesn’t have to look. Of course that’s only an opinion.

    Based on past behavior.

  113. paynehollow says:

    I’m not entirely sure what we’re disagreeing on here, gentlemen.

    Let me remind you of the order of this last exchange:

    1. I asked the question, “is the belief in a literal knowledge tree a sure thing, a fact or an unprovable opinion?”

    2. Instead of answering that question, John answered by asking his own question, “Let me put it to you Dan. Is Jesus’ bodily resurrection a sure thing, a fact or unprovable opinion?”

    3. I answered John’s question, “Yes, it is an unprovable opinion.” Period.

    4. It appears that Terrance and others here agree with this conclusion.

    5. Note: By noting the obvious, “Yes, it is an unprovable opinion,” I’m not demanding anything of anyone, I’m not saying this is bad that we can’t demonstrate beyond all doubt that Jesus rose from the dead, I’m just answering John’s direct question with a directly observable, factually correct statement.

    Am I mistaken in any of this?

    Going on from there…

    6. And, just as with Jesus’ resurrection being a belief that is an unprovable opinion, so too, with a literal Tree in the Garden.

    7. With the caveat that, at least with Jesus, we have some grounds on which we can say, “While not 100% provable, belief in this event is not so remotely hard to believe; It came from a time of the Modern Era of history and it reads like history, whereas the Knowledge Tree story reads like a myth and comes from a time of mythic storytelling.”

    8. In noting this reality, this is not a suggestion that there is anything wrong with the Genesis stories, and certainly not a suggestion I’m abandoning or insulting the Bible. I just have reached the conclusion (having started off from the belief in a literal Genesis) that there simply is no rational or biblical reason to treat these early stories as anything other than myth. Just like I treat the Psalms as poems and the parables as fiction. Using our reason, we all assign what literary style we think various stories are told in and this is my conclusion on the Genesis stories. There is nothing inherently “bad” about assigning literary style – we all do it, it’s just part of good exegesis. Now, we may disagree about whether this line or that is more properly called literal or metaphorical, but we’re all using our reasoning to make an estimate as to the style.

    What exactly is it we’re disagreeing about?

    And Craig, I may not be a literary historian, but see if you can find me any literary historians (at least ones not starting with the presumption of a particular form) who would not look at these Genesis texts and say, “That is clearly mythic in form…”

    Thank you,

    Dan

  114. paynehollow says:

    Terrance…

    I can’t understand why Dan claims to be Christian while also dismissing things out of convenience, like you said. He treats the Bible like a buffet, picking and choosing which parts to believe and which to ignore.

    I answered this above, but thought I’d directly answer it here.

    1. Just to be clear, I don’t “denounce” anything out of the Bible.

    Marshall reads the words “blessed are you who are poor… woe to you who are rich…” and chooses to not take it literally. Why? Because he thinks it is metaphorical language.

    Should we denounce Marshall as “dismissing” passages because, to him and his search to understand the Bible, he thinks this passage is best interpreted metaphorically?

    Can we agree that people will read the Bible and reach different conclusions on a passage’s literal or metaphorical nature? And that disagreement on our best interpretation as to a given literary form of a passage is not a sign of “dismissing” the Bible, but simply disagreement?

    2. When I (or you or anyone else) interprets a passage to be a different literary form, I don’t do it for convenience (and I’m sure that’s the case for the rest of you). You should keep in mind: I started from a conservative background. I had no desire or reason to interpret the Genesis stories as metaphorical, I just kept reading the Bible and saw no reason to take what sounded like (even to this conservative – at the time) clearly mythic in nature. How would that be for convenience? What would be “convenient” about that for me?

    3. I do not treat the Bible like a buffet. I interpret passages differently than you and you than me. When Marshall treats Jesus literal words to be metaphor, should I criticize him doing so as treating the Bible like a buffet? Look, here are some lines that I take to be literal…

    * Blessed are you who are poor. Woe to you who are rich.
    * Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.
    * Do not take an oath.
    * Sell your belongings, give alms to the poor.
    * Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!
    * If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
    * Overcome evil with good.

    For instance. Now, do you take each of those literally? Does the fact that you treat some literal passages as metaphor mean that you take the Bible as a buffet? Or does it just mean that you disagree with me about how best to interpret passages?

    My opinion is that we will disagree on whether a passage is best understand metaphorically or literally, but that does not mean anything other than we disagree. I don’t accuse you all of dismissing the Bible when you interpret things differently than I do. Would it be rational and fair, you think, to extend the same grace to those who disagree with your interpretations?

    Thanks,

    Dan

  115. Dan,

    Until you answer the questions as you agreed to , I see no reason to invest any more time in this conversation.

    Since your position is the one outside of the mainstream of Judeo Christian scholarship, it would seem that the burden of proof is on your to provide support for your opinion.

    To summarize, the disagreement stems from your inability to identify opinion as opinion, to acknowledge the fact that the statement I originally quoted of yours was an overreach, your refusal to abide by the same expectations you have of others, and your refusal to answer questions.

  116. Dan has a point: Genesis certainly “reads like a myth,” what with its men living upwards of 900-plus years. Far more realistic are the Gospels, where a man is scourged, crucified, and impaled — evidently piercing his heart and a lung — and yet 72 hours later, he’s walking six miles and more to Emmaus, the perfect picture of health.

    THAT story reads like history.

    There’s such an obvious difference in style between the books of Moses and the Gospels that I can’t believe there’s even a controversy here.

    Man parts a sea? Obvious myth. Man walks on water? History.

    God through Moses feeds multitudes with manna from heaven? Obvious myth. God through Jesus feeds multitudes by multiplying loaves and fishes? History.

    Deadly plagues? Obvious myth. Miraculous healing and even resurrections? History.

    The gospel of Luke just rings of modern historical approaches, with a prologue where the good Gentile doctor explains how he carefully researched everything that went into his orderly account.

    Just because Luke 3’s genealogy of Jesus includes, not just Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but Noah and Seth and Adam, we cannot conclude that those ancestors are historical. And just because Moses was present in Luke 9’s account of the Transfiguration, we cannot conclude that Moses was a figure of history.

    It’s all myth! — or at least, there’s nothing remotely unbiblical in Dan treating it as such, just as there’s nothing uncharitable in his mocking you for holding a different view.

  117. OK it’s over Bubba slams the puck through the 5 hole for the win. Shut down the thread it’s not getting any better than that .

  118. paynehollow says:

    Gentlemen, when you cite stories of a miraculous nature and human religious tradition in their defense, you have to recognize, I hope, that you all are the ones asking for people to take a leap of faith to accept your hypotheses.

    Again, I’m not at all sure what problem you are having with what I’ve said, since you mostly seem to agree with my points. If you’d like to reference my points I’ve summarized above and let me know the problem you’re having, please do so. As it stands now, we seem to be stuck in agreement on the following:

    * When I or your offer your opinions about unprovable claims, they are our opinions, not demonstrable fact.

    * It’s a good idea to make it clear (if anyone is unsure) that we’re not confusing our opinions for facts.

    * If someone makes a rather outstanding claim (miraculous unicorns or magic knowledge trees), we can rightly suspend disbelief until the one making the outstanding and irrational sounding claim offers definitive evidence. If none is forthcoming, we have no reason to accept either a claim for a magic unicorn or knowledge fruit trees, just based on “cause I think so” sort of claim.

    Thanks for any thoughts that dispute this apparent agreement or, as Craig suggested, we can end it now.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  119. Marshall reads the words “blessed are you who are poor… woe to you who are rich…” and chooses to not take it literally. Why? Because he thinks it is metaphorical language.

    I don’t believe Marshal believes the passage is completely metaphorical. I imagine that Marshal chooses to put that statement into a context which fits the overall message of the New Testament.

    Can we agree that people will read the Bible and reach different conclusions on a passage’s literal or metaphorical nature?

    Of course. Some people (i.e., liberal Christians) pick and choose which parts of the Bible are relevant (e.g., love) and which parts are irrelevant (e.g., prohibition on homosexuality). I don’t deny the existence of Scriptural abuse, Dan.

    And that disagreement on our best interpretation as to a given literary form of a passage is not a sign of “dismissing” the Bible, but simply disagreement?

    No, we don’t agree. You are, in fact, dismissing certain parts of the Bible.

    2. When I (or you or anyone else) interprets a passage to be a different literary form, I don’t do it for convenience (and I’m sure that’s the case for the rest of you).

    I think you do it purposely because you like to ruffle the feathers of conservative Christians. I seriously doubt you believe even half the B.S. you spout.

    You should keep in mind: I started from a conservative background.

    So you say.

    3. I do not treat the Bible like a buffet.

    I disagree, sir.

    For instance. Now, do you take each of those literally? Does the fact that you treat some literal passages as metaphor mean that you take the Bible as a buffet? Or does it just mean that you disagree with me about how best to interpret passages?

    I put them into context.

    You still haven’t answered my question, Dan. How can you reject the literal interpretation of Adam & Eve when Jesus Christ Himself, in whom YOU BELIEVE, accepted it as literal fact?

  120. paynehollow says:

    Terrance, you do not know that Jesus accepted them as a literal fact. You just don’t know that. You are reading into the text what the text does not say.

    You offer as “proof” that Jesus took it as literal fact that Jesus referenced these stories, but I reference these stories and yet do not take them as literal fact.

    Do you understand that it is your opinion that Jesus accepted the story as literal fact, not what the text literally says?

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  121. paynehollow says:

    Terrance…

    No, we don’t agree. You are, in fact, dismissing certain parts of the Bible.

    You are welcome to that opinion. For my part, when you disagree with an interpretation that I have, I give you the benefit of the doubt that you are simply disagreeing with me, not dismissing Scripture.

    Grace, friends, sweet grace.

    ~Dan

  122. “Marshall reads the words “blessed are you who are poor… woe to you who are rich…” and chooses to not take it literally. Why? Because he thinks it is metaphorical language.”

    Terrance alludes to having some recollection of my explanation regarding the above repeated blatant lie. I never said it was metaphorical. I said, and say again here, that Dan does not understand the message that Jesus conveys with these words. Jesus is not making some socialistic statement regarding economics. Dan prefers to believe he is.

    Now, after all this kerfuffle regarding whether or not an actual Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil existed, my intention of referring to it was in answer of Dan’s request for Biblical backing for the proposition that God is the source of morality, and from God morality was handed down to mankind, rather than morality being some innate characteristic of mankind. Even as metaphor, the Garden of Eden story illustrates that flow of morality from God to mankind. That’s all that really matters here, with regards to the topic of the post.

    But Dan could not respond to that Biblical support for that position and instead chose to divert from the point and deal with whether or not an actual Tree of Knowledge ever existed, as if determining that it couldn’t have existed would mitigate the story as being the Biblical support for which he demanded. Once again, if the story is only metaphor, it certainly does represent the flow of morality for its source, God, to us. As such, morality existed before us and is for us discovered truth. Difficult to see how anyone who calls himself Christian could honestly argue against the notion of God as the source of morality. But then, we’re dealing with Dan, who says all sorts of things.

    Also, the debate about opinion versus fact is recalled by the ironic insistence of Dan that Genesis is “written before the modern era of history”, as if his one source for this concept is itself more than mere opinion. He has never explained why, if we concede that most ancient tomes were “mythic in nature”, why that must include Old Testament books as well, except that doing so allows for him more freedom to dismiss that which does not appeal to his personal ideologies and politics.

    As a sidebar, I would allow for one point, however. That Jesus refers to any OT story does not, in fact, mean that Jesus regarded them as literal histories, because they are indeed merely references. But even if that is all they are, then that only means that neither side of the issue can use those references to support a position. The references of Jesus to OT stories would then have no bearing on whether or not the OT stories actually happened as described in Scripture. However, the existence of Jesus does support those stories as being true.

  123. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    Jesus is not making some socialistic statement regarding economics. Dan prefers to believe he is.

    Never said it. Don’t believe it. Allow me to clarify: What I believe is that when Jesus said in Luke 6, “Blessed are you who are poor…,” he was speaking of literally poor people, not metaphorically poor people or people who are poor in spirit, but the literal poor.

    Do you believe it means the literal poor or some metaphorical poor? Because I thought you were pretty clear that I was wrong to take this passage literally.

    I further believe that when Jesus said “Woe to you who are rich…,” he was speaking of literally rich people, not metaphorically rich people (whatever that would be).

    Do you believe that it means the literally rich or some metaphorical rich? Again, I thought you were pretty clearly criticizing me for taking this literally to mean actual rich people.

    Anyway, I’ve clarified that I never said nor do I believe this passage is about the modern economic beliefs surrounding socialism. Feel free to clarify your position, if you’d like.

    Thank you.

  124. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    Even as metaphor, the Garden of Eden story illustrates that flow of morality from God to mankind.

    If I may be so bold as to suggest: That would be ONE way of taking the passage, that it was a metaphor to suggest that God literally GAVE rules to people and that outside that “giving of rules,” humans would not know morality. Another metaphorical interpretation would be to say, “And that’s a way of explaining how morality is innate to humanity.”

    You are free to believe your interpretation. I disagree. I hope that is okay.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  125. “Another metaphorical interpretation would be to say, “And that’s a way of explaining how morality is innate to humanity.””

    One could say most anything, but not everything is reasonable. This is such a case. Let’s look again:

    Genesis clearly says that God planted the Garden of Eden, into which He put man. He directed man not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, which was already planted. The Tree of Knowledge was planted by God. God imparted morality by planting the tree from which man eventually learned of good and evil. How then could it be interpreted to mean morality is innate to humanity if humanity was not created with the knowledge of good and evil? As with so much of your serious study, you inject meaning you prefer rather than draw meaning that was intended.

    “What I believe is that when Jesus said in Luke 6, “Blessed are you who are poor…,” he was speaking of literally poor people…”

    This demonstrates that your alleged understanding of how to interpret Scripture is merely lip service. For if you really interpreted verses in light of the entirety of Scripture, you would not be so quick to insist that Jesus is speaking of earthly wealth here. It would have to mean that there is something about being poor that would make poverty an ideal to which a Christian should aspire. It would suggest that poverty means something more important the quality of a man’s character, regardless of the size of one’s bank account. There is no logic to assuming Jesus would call blessed those who are not flush at the moment.

    What’s more, “woe to the rich” has nasty implications for people like Abraham, Job, Solomon, and a host of other Biblical characters, not depicted as evil, who had some scratch. It has nasty implications for millions of millionaires who are good and charitable Christians.

    You do not fool anybody by pretending your leftist sensibilities are a result of Biblical study, rather than your understanding of Scripture being tainted by your leftist sensibilities.

  126. paynehollow says:

    I’m sorry, Marshall, I’m not clear on your point. Is Jesus being metaphorical or literal when he said “blessed are you who are poor…” (speaking literally of “the poor” like the text says) and “woe to you who are rich…” (speaking literally of “the rich” like the text says)?

    It sounds like you’re saying, NO, Jesus did not mean the literal poor and literal rich here, but earlier when I said that, you and Terrance suggested I was misunderstanding your position. Can you help a brother out? Could you help clarify by trying to directly answer the question so we can be clear?

    Oh, and I’m not really asking for a defense of your opinion, just a clarification if this should be, in your opinion, taken literally or not.

    Thanks.

    For my part, allow me to clarify, where you say…

    You do not fool anybody by pretending your leftist sensibilities are a result of Biblical study, rather than your understanding of Scripture being tainted by your leftist sensibilities.

    Whether you believe it or not, the facts are I was a Reagan-supporting, traditional, conservative southern Baptist who reached my (what you call) “leftist” position exactly because of the Bible. I did not read Marx. I did not read “liberal” or leftist literature. I had no desire to be an “evil” liberal (as I considered them in those days). But slowly, over time, given prayer and Bible study and zero influence from “leftist” sources, I reached my positions I have now. In the real world, that is exactly what happened, literally so, demonstrably so.

    Now, you are entirely welcome to consider my reaching these understandings to be “goofy” or “stupid” or whatever, but you can’t say I didn’t reach them in the way that it, in fact, in the real world, happened.

    Just to clarify.

    Thanks again,

    Dan

  127. “But slowly, over time, given prayer and Bible study and zero influence from “leftist” sources, I reached my positions I have now. In the real world, that is exactly what happened, literally so, demonstrably so.” [emphasis mine]

    You cannot demonstrate that you reached your strained positions from Bible study wholly apart from the influence of those with a political agenda. You’ve never tried to do so, because you CANNOT do so. The most you COULD do is argue your current positions from the Bible, but even that wouldn’t prove that those arguments aren’t ex post facto rationalizations.

    As it is, your arguments are so weak that they’re not even credible as ex post facto rationalizations.

    There are a couple good reasons to believe that the beatitudes in Luke 6 refer to spiritual poverty.

    1) The parallel passage in Matthew 5 makes the spiritual aspect quite explicit.

    2) Hebrews 11’s NT roll call of OT heroes of the faith include very wealthy men, such as Abraham, Joseph, and David.

    3) In the very next chapter after Luke 6, immediately “after [Jesus] had finished all his sayings,” we find the account of His healing the centurion’s servant. This apparently wealthy man — wealthy enough not only to have a servant, but to have funded the building of Capernaum’s synagogue — wasn’t criticized AT ALL by the words of Jesus or the editorializing of the evangelist.

    Instead, Jesus praised the rich soldier for having faith that had no rival in all of Israel.

    But never mind all that, Dan.

    Let’s suppose we should take all of Luke 6:20-26 as literal: Jesus blessed those who are literally poor, hungry, and mourning and pronounced a curse on those who are rich, full, and laughing.

    On the one hand, your literal interpretation would explain why you support economic policies that ensure the most poverty and misery.

    But, on the other hand, right in the middle of those blessings and curses, Jesus blessed those who would be persecuted for His sake because their heavenly reward is great — “for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Lk 6:23)

    One thinks of the supreme OT prophet Moses, who endured the Israelites’ frequent griping and faithlessness. One also thinks of Elisha, who was mocked in II Kings 2, and Daniel who was thrown into the lions’ den.

    It’s almost as if Jesus treats the OT records of the prophets’ lives as actual history.

  128. Bubba,
    Again we’ll said. One could also look at the actions of both Jesus and the early church to see what steps they took to alleviate temporal poverty. What one would find is that Jesus really didn’t do much of anything to help the temporally poor, while the early church invested most of its care for the poor to those within its ranks. It would then seem that an appropriate question would be to wonder what exactly was the good news Jesus gave to the poor. It certainly wasn’t how to get out of poverty. At best it was “your blessed to be poor”. Doesn’t actually seem like very good news if you were poor.

  129. paynehollow says:

    Bubba…

    You cannot demonstrate that you reached your strained positions from Bible study wholly apart from the influence of those with a political agenda. You’ve never tried to do so, because you CANNOT do so.

    I would respectfully disagree. I can, indeed, demonstrate it.

    It is demonstrable in the sense that, if you really thought I was just making stuff, you could find the conservative Christians of the conservative Southern Baptist Church I grew up in – Victory Memorial at 3805 Southern Pkwy – and interview them – the pastors, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, ministers of education, etc – and learn about my upbringing;

    You could contact the five guys that were in a Contemporary Christian band with me for ~10 years (1982-1992) and with whom I spent hours and hours each week practicing, praying, doing Bible study, traveling, preaching, doing concerts, youth retreats, etc and interview them. They knew me exceedingly well and they all remain solidly conservative. They could testify that my reading materials were, first and foremost, the Bible and then, only conservative, traditional Christian authors…

    Billy Graham, Jonathan Edwards, John and Charles Wesley, Leonard Ravenhill, Charles Swindoll, CS Lewis, Hannah Hurnard, James Dobson, RA Torrey, John Bunyan, Frank Peretti, Corrie Ten Boom, Charles Finney, Watchman Nee, AW Tozer, Brother Lawrence, EM Bounds, Charles Stanley, Oswald Chambers, etc, etc.

    These friends could testify that, much as they regret the direction I’ve grown, that I was clearly, solidly conservative and traditional in my upbringing and exposure to learning materials, that I was solidly wary of all things “liberal…”

    It is demonstrable in the sense that, unless there’s a vast conspiracy to fake my credentials for reasons unknown, that I was solidly traditional and conservative. In that sense, it is demonstrable.

    Now, is it POSSIBLE that for all those years and with all these very close relationships, I was a “sleeper” liberal, sneakily reading up on the liberal agenda while pretending – for 20+ years, mind you! depending on when you theorize that I switched from conservative to liberal… or 30+ years if you think I started this alleged scam at birth – to be a conservative? Yes, I guess, but that would strain at credulity to the point of insanity. Who would do that? Why?

    You’d have to find some solid research on dozens of people that could testify to my conservatism to include them in this vast conspiracy to pretend to have been raised/believed conservatively – some evidence that shows how they are either lying (for some reason) to protect this secret or that somehow I (and my wife and all her conservative relationships, because you’d have to call her a liar, too, as we grew together in this direction) managed to fool all these people and I went around for TEN YEARS preaching and singing conservative doctrine in churches and youth groups across the southeast! ALL to just, one day trick 10-20 people on the internet (which, of course, I didn’t even know about when I was conservative) into thinking I was actually conservative.

    It’s just not a rational claim to make, Bubba. Just look at the evidence.

    (and just for fun, here’s a bit of hard evidence for my band, Remembrance – a cassette on Ebay!…)

    http://www.ebay.com.sg/itm/Remembrance-Mechanical-Man-Cassette-Louisville-Kentucky-Gospel-Ministries-/161217217732?pt=Music_Cassettes&hash=item25894b84c4

    So, yes, I would say it is demonstrable. There is much more hard evidence that I was raised and believed conservatively for the first ~30-35 years of my life than there is of the resurrection of Jesus, and you don’t doubt that happened.

  130. Dan, what you say is “demonstrable” isn’t JUST your conservative past: WHAT I QUOTED was your claim that you changed because of Bible study wholly apart from the influence of people with a political agenda.

    It’s not the starting point or the destination: IT’S THE ROUTE.

    You’re arguing that you came from Hooterville to Mayberry by train, and you’re invoking old school yearbooks as proof that you grew up in Hooterville. Well, good for you, but that’s not similar to a ticket stub from the train or a bank statement showing a payment to Amtrak.

    For THIS particular trip, from theological conservatism to radicalism, you cannot actually demonstrate that the route you took was Bible study unpolluted by politics.

  131. Bubba,
    Don’t forget you must insist on objective undeniable proof.

  132. paynehollow says:

    Bubba, re: your last comments: What route do you think I took? Do you think I was secretly studying liberal theologians and Marxist thinkers for all those years? What is your evidence that I did so?

    I still, to this date, have not read much in the way of liberal thinkers, no where near as much as I’ve read conservative ones. What evidence is there that there is this “other” route that I’ve taken to get where I am? Who have I read?

    I’m telling you that factually speaking, I did not read or listen to liberal thinkers prior to reaching most of my conclusions. In the real world, it has not happened. My friends and teachers from my conservative days can testify to this. What evidence do you need?

    Are you saying that you think that no one can reach positions such as mine only by reading the Bible without any influence from liberal thinkers? You are not aware that this has happened thoughout history?

    ~Dan

  133. paynehollow says:

    Bubba…

    As it is, your arguments are so weak that they’re not even credible as ex post facto rationalizations.

    I’m sorry, Bubba. Would you mind clarifying something:

    Are you saying that the arguments about what Jesus had to say about literal poverty in multiple places – including here in Luke 6 – are weak? Are you saying that all the times that Jesus refers to the poor, he’s speaking metaphorically?

    When Jesus began his ministry by saying (citing Isaiah), “I have come to bring good news to the poor…” that he did not mean the literally poor?

    That when John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was truly the Son of God and when Jesus responded to John’s disciples to Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

    That when Jesus was at a Pharisee’s house and said, “Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous…” That this was not meant to be the “literally poor…”?

    And similarly for the many other times Jesus references the poor or the rich?

    Or are you only speaking specifically of Luke 6?

    Regarding your concerns about a literal translation, you say…

    Hebrews 11’s NT roll call of OT heroes of the faith include very wealthy men, such as Abraham, Joseph, and David.

    I would suggest that, to me, one can note that the literal poor are blessed, fortunate, watched out for in a special way by God – as we can see throughout the whole of the Bible, unless you make all the references of poverty into metaphors – without saying that this means that God only cares for the literal poor or that all of the literal poor get a free pass from God or anything like that.

    Similarly, I would note that one can say “Woe to you (we) who are literally rich…” without saying that all rich are the worst of sinners. Rather, one can make the case, it seems to me, that wealth is spoken of in the Bible as a trap, a snare, something that can trip you up – and one can see this easily enough in the real world, as well – and so, for those of us who are wealthy, we run the risk of falling into the many snares associated with wealth… and if that is the case, woe, indeed, to we who are rich!

    But that isn’t to say that some might be rich and also follow God, at least not to me.

    The problem of making a metaphor of Luke 6 is that Luke 6 is not a verse in isolation speaking of the blessed, special in God’s sight nature of the literal poor or the traps associated with wealth. These sorts of verses are throughout the Bible, as I’m sure you know.

    And, as you know, many theologians take these passages literally, it’s not just “the liberals” who do so. John Wesley, for instance, notes… “because generally prosperity is a sweet poison, and affliction a healing, though bitter medicine.”

    http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=wes&b=42&c=6

    and he is not alone, as I’m sure you know.

    Something to consider (although I know this is probably way off topic, just responding to your thoughts with my own…)

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  134. paynehollow says:

    Well, dang, I just wrote a fairly detailed timeline of my so-called liberal life and lost it all. In brief, then, I was only surrounded by only conservative thought and opinion until starting in 1996-97, when I started at my current church, which you would consider liberal. But I wouldn’t have started there if I had not already changed my mind on several topics. In reality, in the real world, I only had conservative input from when I was born in 1963 until I started this church in 1996. But in spite of only reading the bible and conservatives, my beliefs changed over a few years, from the mid-80s to 1996 (and, indeed, are always evolving, as beliefs are wont to do if we want to continue to grow).

    The point being, my views changed on most of our points of contention during my “conservative only” years of 1984 – 1996. Other people can attest to this reality – people with no reason to make things up.

    You can disagree with my conclusions, but you can’t say I didn’t reach them as it happened in the real world. You can guess, “Well, he MUST have read Marx or Engles or Jim Wallis during those years…” but that would not be a reality-based guess. In fact, it was only the Bible and conservatives I read and listened to.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  135. Once again, Dan, you seem to prefer straying from the topic of the post. Such behavior results in deletions at your blog.

    Your denials carry no weight with me. Your portrayals of conservatism are as inaccurate as your poor understandings of Scripture. To say you were a conservative at any time in your life is no more than applying a word to whatever you claim to have believed in the past. But based on your current portrayals of conservatism, it is clear you could never have been a conservative. As such, I have no reason to believe you understood the beliefs of your friends and family, even if they were indeed conservative. It is likely that, due to superficial expressions on your part, they never felt the need to look too deeply into what you actually believed, and thus might indeed confirm your claims about your past conservatism, such as it was, should anyone take the trouble to interview any of them. What’s more, appeals to people no one would have any desire to seek out and interview do little to support your spurious claims about your past beliefs.

    More to the point, to suggest that due to some epiphany on your part, your suspect understanding of Scripture during “your conservative years” suddenly converted to leftist understanding without outside influence is more than a little difficult to believe given various current understandings of yours based on such exact copies of arguments put forth by other leftist/progressive/false Christians. These would be arguments and positions already exhaustively and expertly rebutted by far better apologists of the faith than have visited here.

    Now, getting back to the topic rather than your purposeful diversions away from it, I once again refer to Paul’s writings concerning what is written on who’s hearts. When we look at that passage, we see that he is speaking of Gentiles and/or pagans who happen to act in a manner parallel to Christian teaching and what is written on their hearts. If this suggests something innate in such people, what of those Gentiles/pagans who do not act in a manner parallel to Christian teaching? What is written on their hearts that compels them, without any knowledge of Christ, to act in a manner contradictory to God’s Will? How can it be confirmed that they are ignoring truths they know innately as opposed to acting in a manner consistent with the true nature of the human condition?

  136. Dan,

    If you believe that then I don’t think you understand the Bible as well as you think. John 5:45–47, Jesus says, “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

    It seems clear to me that Jesus expected people to believe the things Moses wrote. That would include the story of Adam & Eve.

    Furthermore, passages Matthew 19:3–6 and Mark 10:3–9 refer to Adam & Eve as the first married couple. Did Jesus treat this story as a mere allegory? No, He didn’t. He took it as literal history.

    You have no argument, as usual.

  137. Dan, your opinion about when references to the poor are to be taken literally are about the least objectionable of your positions, even less objectionable than the insinuation that the good news centers on economics when Luke, for instance, couldn’t be more clear about the good news’ being focused on the forgiveness of sin and the provision of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:77, 3:3, 3;16, 11:13, 12:12, and 24:47).

    FAR more objectionable are these:

    – Your outright contempt for any interpretation of the creation account that is more literal than your own.
    – Your rejection of the historicity of even the Passover, the central event of Judaism.
    – Your rejection of the Bible’s clear teaching that, as our Creator and Sustainer, God has the prerogative to end human life when and how He chooses, including through human agency such as His divine commands to ancient Israel to wage wars of annihilation against specific, evil groups of people.
    – Your vacillating on whether the Bible clearly teaches the Virgin Birth.
    – Your belief that Jesus’ teaching regarding why God made us male and female has any bearing on God’s will regarding the configuration of marriage.
    – Your denial that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, where you choose instead to assert that the ordinance was merely an ancient church tradition.
    – Your denial that Jesus died for our sins, i.e., that His death is causally connected to our forgiveness.
    – Your denial of the necessity of the bodily resurrection, where you choose instead to crow how your faith would be unchanged if it were demonstrated that Jesus had long since decomposed as a rotting corpse.

    You also SERIOUSLY downplay the gravity of sin and its eternal consequences, and you cannot even state with any clarity that simple, basic theism is essential for a person to be considered a Christian.

    In NONE of these have you ever presented a persuasive biblical argument. You’ll insist time and again that you’ve reached your positions through careful and prayerful Bible study, but you can never walk us through that process.

    Instead, there’s a gigantic chasm between the Bible’s clear teachings and your beliefs, but there’s no space at all between your beliefs and the radical, statist politics of the Left: any clear teaching of the Bible that is distinctively Christian and potentially offensive to the post-modern secularist, you’ll underplay or contradict outright, but there’s nothing that you won’t distort while hijacking Christ’s message and mission to push your political agenda.

  138. paynehollow says:

    ? My argument is the same as your argument.

    My argument:

    “It seems to me that Jesus could easily reference Adam and Eve and not necessarily think the story is a literal history.”

    Your argument:

    “It seems to me that Jesus could not reference the Adam and Eve story without thinking the story is literal history…”

    How are our arguments different? What would make your opinion about this point which neither of us can prove more valid than my opinion?

    As to Moses, I do believe there was a Moses in a literally historic timeline. His story is not until later in time and in the Bible. Still in a pre-modern history time period, but later. The story does not read like myth, the way the earlier Genesis stories read.

    As to Adam and Eve and a reference to them as the first married couple, again, I and others who consider the story to be obviously myth might also reference them. The story is a real story, whether or not the people or events were literally factual.

    So, on what basis is your opinion that Jesus must have taken it literally any stronger than my case that it’s obviously not literal?

    I do have an argument Terrance, whether you accept it as sound, it remains an argument. The argument is quite simple: The stories in early Genesis are obviously mythic in nature. They read like myth. We have no reason to treat them as anything other than myth. They came from a time in history when people passed on mythic stories.

    Native peoples tell of how the world was on the back of a giant turtle. Well, obviously, that was not the case. Whether or not native peoples believed in literally or just told the story is irrelevant to the notion that it’s obviously mythic in nature.

    We have no reason that I can think of to treat the Genesis Creation myth differently than the native creation myth. They both read like myth, they appear to be myth, and we have no reason to treat them as other than myth.

    That is an argument. Disagree with it if you wish, but it IS an argument.

    What makes your opinion stronger or more believable than mine? Indeed, since you all are the ones making the rather extraordinary claim that we “get” morality from fruit off of a “knowledge tree,” the onus would be on you all to support that with something other than, “It’s what we’ve always heard to be true, so it must be true…”

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  139. paynehollow says:

    Bubba, you’re touching on all manner of points that are off the topic here. I’ll respectfully decline to go down that road and chase that rabbit other than to say that you have misunderstood my positions, for the most part. But my opinions about a wide variety of biblical topics is not really the topic here, so, thanks for the thoughts.

    I will just respond to one which is at least touching on part of this conversation. Where you say…

    Your outright contempt for any interpretation of the creation account that is more literal than your own.

    That I disagree with your opinion about whether the creation story is literal or mythic is no more “contempt” than your disagreement with me about whether Jesus’ meant what he literally said when he said, “Blessed are you who are poor… woe to you who are rich…”

    We disagree about best interpretations. I have no contempt for those who’d disagree with me and want to interpret Genesis literally. I just have no reason to accept their opinion as a reasonable or compelling one. We disagree.

    We have to learn to let it go when others hold different opinions about unprovable ideas than our opinion. It happens, life goes on.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  140. “But my opinions about a wide variety of biblical topics is not really the topic here, so, thanks for the thoughts.”

    Neither was the question of whether or not an actual Tree of Knowledge ever existed on topic, but you had no problem diverting the conversation there. The Tree was brought up as part of a response to your demand for Biblical support for the proposition that God is the source of morality. The story, as I’ve made clear, does not require that it be a literal tree or a metaphorical one. Somehow, likely because you did not expect an actual reply the did indeed support the proposition, you felt a need to focus on the question of the Tree’s actual existence…as if it makes a difference to the validity of either the proposition or the story in support of it.

    You then strayed further by appealing to discussions regarding the meaning of “blessed are the poor”. Why not just stick to the topic in the first place, rather than pretending later that you had nothing to do with the conversation going off course in the first place?

  141. Dan,

    As to Moses, I do believe there was a Moses in a literally historic timeline. His story is not until later in time and in the Bible. Still in a pre-modern history time period, but later. The story does not read like myth, the way the earlier Genesis stories read.

    Try explaining this again. What, exactly, are you talking about? And once I’m satisfied with your answer I’ll address your other point.

  142. paynehollow says:

    Thanks for asking for clarification, Terrance. Glad to oblige.

    You referenced Moses and Adam in your comment to me, Terrance. I was noting that the Moses story came from a later time period (~1000 BC? ish) and the text appears to be written in a different style than the Genesis stories. The time period the Moses stories come from was still in the pre-Modern History era (which didn’t begin until ~500 BC) and appears, to me, anyway, to be written in a more epic style of storytelling. Epic stories can be based on actual people and events, although not strictly in the literal history style of Modern History.

    Clearly, there is evidence that there were a Jewish people, so that is not in question. I do not find it unbelievable that they were enslaved in Egypt and they escaped from there at some point, although I do not believe there is any hard evidence for that.

    The point being that stories told in that culture and time would not have been a Modern History style and we have no reason that I can think of to assume that the facts are all exactly literal – it just wasn’t how they told stories then. But I do tend to believe in a Moses and an escape from Egypt as actual events. I can’t support it with hard evidence, but am satisfied that these stories are based on reality, just told in the style common to the day, as opposed to a more modern style.

    The Genesis stories (“and this is how the snake lost his legs…” “and that is how humanity developed many languages…” “and this is why men have to work the soil… why women have pain in childbirth…” “and that is why humans know right and wrong…”, etc) read like myths, not like history. And there is nothing wrong with telling stories in a mythic style, just like there is nothing wrong with telling stories in parables or in poetry. It’s just a literary form and myth was the literary form common to the time that the Creation stories come from. I’m just saying I have no reason that I can think of – biblical or rational – to assume that these stories represent a literal history.

    Does that answer your question?

    Just for a little background info, here is a story from PBS that cites biblical archeologist, William Dever, saying…

    We want to make the Bible history. Many people think it has to be history or nothing. But there is no word for history in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, what did the biblical writers think they were doing? Writing objective history? No. That’s a modern discipline. They were telling stories. They wanted you to know what these purported events mean.

    The Bible is didactic literature; it wants to teach, not just to describe. We try to make the Bible something it is not, and that’s doing an injustice to the biblical writers. They were good historians, and they could tell it the way it was when they wanted to, but their objective was always something far beyond that.

    I like to point out to my undergraduate students that the Bible is not history; it’s his story—Yahweh’s story, God’s story.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/archeology-hebrew-bible.html

    That’s an interesting and helpful source, seems to me.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  143. paynehollow says:

    You know Bill Cosby, the comedian, right? Are you familiar with his story about playing Buck Buck? Where one team leans has about six guys who lean over to form a “horse” shape and the other team runs and jumps on the “horse…”

    It’s a funny story, give it a listen if you’re not familiar with it…

    http://literalbarrage.org/blog/2012/08/30/bill-cosby-buck-buck-and-fat-albert/

    In the story, Cosby’s relates how the his team was holding 250 kids… 300 kids… 450 kids on the back of their six man “horse,” piled “up to the sky…” before they finally broke down.

    Now, suppose that someone were to approach Cosby and say, “You know, I’ve been doing some research into your childhood in Philadelphia and I’ve uncovered conclusive evidence that you did not – could not POSSIBLY – have held 450 kids “piled up to the sky” on the back of six children. The story is a lie!”

    You know what Cosby might say? “Hey, man, I’m not lying, I’m telling a story…”

    The point being that the point of Cosby’s story is not a literal history, but a good story. And it IS a good story. It’s not a lie, it’s a story. It doesn’t matter that the facts are not literally accurate, that is besides the point.

    It seems to me that the Bible is like that – at least many of the OT stories. The point is NOT that they are a literal history told in a modern style. To try to take them like that would be to miss the point. This is why it’s important to understand the literary style a story is being told in. If you get the wrong style, you miss the point of the story.

    Listen to Bill Cosby, if nothing else, perhaps we can agree that these are funny stories…

    ~Dan

  144. No. Cosby would say that exaggeration is a technique of comedic story telling, the point of which is to make people laugh, not to in any way try to insist that every detail is absolute truth. He would NOT try to insist that such equates to “not lying”.

    The problem with Dever’s opinion is that it deals with something supernatural, and it is the supernatural aspects of Genesis, and Scripture in general, that makes it awkward for scholarly sophisticates to treat Scripture as literal history. Such people, like yourself, then demand proof for supernatural events, that by their very nature, does not necessarily provide for such proofs.

  145. paynehollow says:

    Marshall, it’s not just the miraculous nature that makes these stories seem to be other than a modern history. Sometimes, it’s simple logistics? How would someone of that time create a boat large enough to hold a pair of EVERY animal in the world? IF the world flooded, covering every mountain, where did all that water come from? Where did it go? If 2 million Israelis were in Egypt in this time period, would there not be a record of it? Of their departure?

    And again, there just is no evidence that they told stories in the style of modern history-telling. It’s not just the lack of evidence of miracles, it’s the lack of evidence at all. Which is not to say that the stories passed down are “wrong” or “false” or “lies” because they are told in the styles of the day, it’s just to note that people back then did not tell stories in that style, why would we try to force a modern style on it? It’s not rational or biblical, it seems to many of us. Why would we try to force a literary style that just doesn’t seem to fit?

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  146. So, because the miraculous event of a world flood seems unlikely to YOU, it couldn’t possibly be true. Oh, no. That’s just too far out there. Because a man brutally beaten and scourged, then crucified was seen three days later the picture of perfect health,save marks on his hands, feet and side seems unlikely to YOU….wait….by what measure to you buy into some miraculous events and not others?

    And how is it that someone allegedly devoted to God questions the events depicted in the very Book that contains our best revelation of that God, simply because no other nation has a record of those events? The Book itself is a record, but not one we should believe, apparently.

    And again, there is no evidence that the stories depicted in Scripture were not absolutely accurate. Claims of some “pre-modern era” of history-telling are conveniences when applied to Scripture. To insist that mythologies of other cultures demand that Scripture be categorized in the same manner has no support other than the assertions of those who have simply created this notion that OT authors wrote the histories of their people just like everybody else.

    ” Why would we try to force a literary style that just doesn’t seem to fit?”

    No one tries. But people like yourself force the notion that OT authors wrote in a style that wasn’t factually accurate, simply because the implications of that accuracy are inconvenient for you.

    The real problem is that, while we accept Scripture as written, that acceptance does NOT mean that we regard every metaphor (plucking out one’s own eye if it offends, as if one cannot be blind and lust at the same time) is taken literally. We do not stress over stories that illustrate the extent of God’s wrath, for example. You clearly do and reject Him as a result, replacing Him with some kumbaya alternative you find more pleasing. Labeling OT stories as Jewish fable allows one to create for one’s self one’s own reality regarding God and His Will, and you demonstrate that with regularity. We see that here as you refuse to acknowledge God as the source of morality by questioning the accuracy of the Garden of Eden events.

  147. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    how is it that someone allegedly devoted to God questions the events depicted in the very Book that contains our best revelation of that God, simply because no other nation has a record of those events?

    ? I don’t question the events. I used to believe the events, literally depicted. I just eventually came to the conclusion that the Bible does not require for us to take these stories as literal history. The more obvious explantion (to me) is that they are just what they appear to be: Mythic stories, in the case of the early Genesis stories.

    Look, why do you take “pluck your eye” to be hyperbole to make a point? If I may answer for you: You take it that way because it seems abundantly obvious to you that this is a hyperbolic statement. The statement itself is a testimony to its hyperbolic nature. It READS, in text and context, like hyperbole.

    Same for the Genesis stories: They READ, in text and context, like myth. They appear to be written in that style, at least to me and many others. The only reason I once accepted them as literal history was not because the text demanded so, but because that was my tradiiton. But because I’m more interested in the text than tradition, I had to abandon tradition to honor the text.

    The text of “pluck your eye” does not tell us directly that it’s hyperbole, it just seems obvious to you and I and anyone else that it is hyperbole.

    Same for Genesis. What reason would I have to take it literally when it seems clearly to be mythic?

    Marshall…

    The real problem is that, while we accept Scripture as written, that acceptance does NOT mean that we regard every metaphor (plucking out one’s own eye if it offends, as if one cannot be blind and lust at the same time) is taken literally

    Indeed, the same is true for me. I take as literal what seems to be literal and as metaphor what seems to be metaphor.

    Perhaps a reasonable question might be: On what grounds/based on what criteria do we decide one text is imagery and another is literal? We can use the “common sense” method, (Well, taking into consideration text and context… clearly, that SEEMS to be metaphor…), but we will run up against honest disagreements. What seems to be metaphor to one person does not seem to be metaphor to another.

    But what other method is there? This seems to me to be a good question with no answer. This is why people of good faith have disagreements.

    You appear to disagree with me and John Wesley about whether Jesus meant it literally when he said “blessed are you who are poor… woe to you who are rich…” I disagree with you and many traditionalists when you take Genesis creation stories to be literal, more or less.

    It happens, I don’t know of a way around this sort of disagreement, do you?

    Along those lines, you say…

    We do not stress over stories that illustrate the extent of God’s wrath, for example. You clearly do and reject Him as a result, replacing Him with some kumbaya alternative you find more pleasing.

    I don’t stress over them. I look at the passages that talk about God commanding people to kill babies and other innocents and do not find a literal interpretation to be reasonable. It’s not any different than you looking at Matthew 5 and comparing it to Luke 6 and not finding it reasonable to take a literal interpretation of Luke 6. In either case, we’re not “rejecting Jesus” to replace him with something more agreeable to us, we’re interpreting Scripture using other Scripture and our reasoning.

    And, with no definitive, authoritative Decider to tell us, “Dan is right in this case… Marshall is right in that case… They’re both mistaken on this point…” we simply honestly disagree. And that’s just the way it is. There is nothing sinister on either of our parts (certainly not on my part, and I’m assuming this is true for you), we just honestly disagree.

    Such is life.

    Dan

    • “The bible does not require for us to take these stories as literal history.”

      Translation: it probably never happened.

      Dan, youve never given us your system of how you determine what in the bible happened as described, and what in the bible is just a hyperbolic, metaphoric teaching lesson.

      Id like to know your objective system so that when one reads the bible they can apply your methodology and reach the same conclusions you have.

  148. paynehollow says:

    I’ll be glad to, John. Will you do me the favor of doing the same?

    1. Consider any given text within the context of the passage.
    2. Consider any given text within the context of the rest of the Bible.
    3. Consider any given text though the lens of Jesus’ specific teachings and other Gospel/NT teachings (ie, OT teaches that some foods are an abomination, NT teaches that no food is unclean)
    4. Interpret the obscure and unclear through the clear and obvious. (if we have a passage that tells us that we must hate our brothers and sisters, but other passages that tell us that we are to love everyone – well, clearly, loving everyone is the consistent biblical message, so clearly, the “unclear” message of “hate your family” must mean something other than literally hating them…)
    5. Remain open to common reason and real world evidence, knowing that we have our God-given reasoning and believing, as we do, that God’s Word is written upon our hearts – just not literally!… (If a passage references the four corners of the world, we do not have to ignore reality that the world is not cubic, but round… clearly that must be a metaphorical statement.)
    6. Consider language and cultural differences…

    Like that. There may be other criteria, but this is the gist of it. I don’t know that it’s objective, but I do think it’s reasonable and basically nothing different than what I learned from my good old traditional Baptist forebears.

    And given all of that, why would I take “four corners” to be literally when it seems obviously imagery? Why would we take “pluck your eyes out” literally when obviously it seems hyperbolic? Why would we take the Creation stories literally when they seem obviously to be mythic?

    Thanks for asking.

    How about you? What are your criteria?

    Dan

    • That doesn’t explain how you determine which passage is the controlling passage. For example you dont think God’s command to lay waste to a people group actually happened because God is love or some such thing. Why do you use love as the filter and not the command to kill?

      In other words the bible literally puts both sets of words in God’s mouth. Why do you use interpret the older in light of the newer and not the other way around. Since the OT is significantly longer than the NT, the OT should weigh more heavily by your standard. Especially since there are only a few dozen sentences spoken by NT Jesus as opposed to thousands of sentences by God in the OT. Therefore given “the rest of the bible” is vastly more of the OT and not Jesus’ words, you dont have any reason to relegate the OT comands of conquer to metaphor.

  149. paynehollow says:

    John…

    Why do you use love as the filter and not the command to kill?

    Good question. Important question. My answer is the whole “common sense” thing – the interpret the obscure and unclear through the clear and obvious. Clearly, we know – it is written upon humanity’s heart; it is innate to humanity… it is wrong to kill children. It’s just a general given that it’s wrong, bad, evil to kill children.

    And so, when we see a text that has God commanding the killing of children and it conflicts not only with other biblical teachings (to shed no innocent blood, to love our enemies, to watch out for the least of these), but with basic, innate morality, we can have a good idea that the “love” is the filter, not the command to kill.

    Further, I’d posit that, as a Christian – one who follows the teachings of the Christ – I believe that Jesus gave us a filter. What is the greatest commandment? Love God and love people. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus said.

    So, what is the ultimate filter? The one of Love of God and Love of humanity.

    How about you, John? What are your criteria for knowing when to ajudge a text as literal or metaphoric? Is it a perfect and objective system or one that relies upon fallible human understanding and reasoning to reach and, thus, prone to lead us to honest disagreements?

    Thanks,

    Dan

  150. paynehollow says:

    To further answer your specific question…

    Why do you use interpret the older in light of the newer and not the other way around. Since the OT is significantly longer than the NT, the OT should weigh more heavily by your standard. Especially since there are only a few dozen sentences spoken by NT Jesus as opposed to thousands of sentences by God in the OT. Therefore given “the rest of the bible” is vastly more of the OT and not Jesus’ words, you dont have any reason to relegate the OT comands of conquer to metaphor.

    I am a Christian. A follower of Jesus of Nazareth, whom I believe to be the Christ. I believe Jesus is the best representation and understanding of God we have. He came to teach us the Way, by his words and by his life. He helped clarify, in his ministry, some of the mistakes that people had when it came to understanding Scripture.

    Thus, I am first and foremost concerned with the specific words of Jesus in his ministry on earth. I’m not sure how the OT being “longer” would mean it should “weigh more…” Is that what you think? If so, we disagree. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard an orthodox Christian advocate that as a criteria for hermeneutics.

    Baptists and anabaptists (among others) have long believed that when it comes to biblical interpretation, we should interpret the whole of the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ teachings on Earth, as we are followers of Jesus. Is that an unreasonable position, in your estimation? If so, we disagree.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  151. paynehollow says:

    John…

    What youre saying it all boils down to is you interpret based on your personal sensibilities.

    What I’m saying is we all have a responsibility to understand the Word of God and morality as best we can using Scripture adn our own God-given reasoning. It’s what we all do. Do you use something other than your personal reasoning to understand and interpret Scripture and morality?

    Now, to be clear, I believe in praying for insight, relying upon God’s Spirit to reveal, I believe in meditating upon God’s Word and using Scripture to inform me, but we all use our God-given reasoning to strive to understand. What else do we have to understand with but our reasoning? Unless you forswear any personal responsibility to understand for yourself and just go by what someone else tells you to believe, what else is there?

    Now that I’ve provided my criteria, John, it really would be helpful for you to extend the same courtesy to me so that we can see if we actually disagree and where. As my criteria is very basic and orthodox, I have to believe that you embrace roughly the same criteria as I’ve suggested. But you tell me…

    Thank you,

    Dan

  152. paynehollow says:

    …so, just to be clear, No, I’m not saying it comes down to our “personal sensibilities,” as that suggests something more whimsical than what I’m advocating. I’m advocating, rather, it comes down to we each have a responsibility to strive to understand morality as best we can using all tools and references at our disposal, as we use our God-given reasoning to sort them all out.

    I will be clear that this is not a perfect system, as we are imperfect humans and our God-given reasoning is not perfect. I’m just noting that it’s all we have, unless we abandon our duty to understand it the best we can and just rely on what some other human tells us to believe, which I believe would be a rational and moral mistake.

    Just for clarity’s sake.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

    • What you said dan, is when the interpretation by your metgodology doesnt yield results that you think are reasonable, you defer to your common sense to trump.

  153. “Look, why do you take “pluck your eye” to be hyperbole to make a point?”

    A number of reasons, not the least of which is your penchant for comparing the apples of Genesis to the oranges of Jesus method of teaching. Thus, I chose it on purpose.

    I don’t look at “pluck out your eye” and just decide it is hyperbole. But I do know that hyperbole in Jewish teaching is common, scholars inform us that it was common in the teachings of Christ, but more importantly, the lesson itself tells us that He didn’t mean for anyone who lusts to truly pluck out their eyes. It doesn’t make sense of the Son of God to instruct in such a way as if plucking out our own eyes would mitigate our lustful natures. The point of the teaching was to illustrate how bad it will be for those through whom sin comes, for those who lead children to sin (as do defenders of homosexual behavior). Entering heaven minus an eye or two would be far better than being cast into hell with both eyes still in your head.

    But this use of hyperbole and/or metaphor by Jesus is not in the least bit comparable to the things written by Moses. What’s more, by your standard, everything Jesus said suggests the OT was an accurate portrayal of events, given that nothing Jesus ever said so much as hinted that OT history was metaphorical.

  154. Continuing…

    You list your criteria for interpreting Scripture, but you don’t demonstrate that you follow it, when we can show how you fail so often. Look again at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. On what basis can you honestly dismiss this story, given all the miraculous events depicted throughout Scripture from beginning to end? Because of your subjective opinion regarding “Modern Era History-Telling”? This isn’t reasoning, it’s assertion.

    “Clearly, we know – it is written upon humanity’s heart; it is innate to humanity… it is wrong to kill children. It’s just a general given that it’s wrong, bad, evil to kill children.”

    Despite being corrected regarding the “written on hearts” bit, you continue to use it as if you can Biblically support it. You can’t as I’ve explained the outrageous problem in your application of that phrase. What’s more, you haven’t provided anything that is more than your own assertion regarding morality being an innate human characteristic, and assert it again when this issue comes up to argue against God using the ancient Hebrews to wipe out a culture He judged to be wicked and worthy of destruction. And because it is common that most people view killing children is wrong (though anabaptists won’t lift a finger to prohibit, restrict or mitigate abortion—hypocrites), and that God forbids us from murdering, you hold that God has no authority or right to end life as He sees fit, regardless of the fact that all life, all things, are His to do with as He pleases. Because YOU see it as horrific, therefore God mustn’t do it regardless of whatever His master plan might be. This isn’t reason. It isn’t reasoning. It is creating for yourself your own god, since the criteria of Biblical interpretation you claim to espouse does not in any way justify your conclusions.

  155. paynehollow says:

    Why is it not comparable, Marshall? According to whom?

    Consider:

    But I do know that hyperbole in Jewish teaching is common, scholars inform us that it was common in the teachings of Christ…

    And myth was common in this time period. An emphasis on story, not history, is common, scholars tell us, for this time period.

    but more importantly, the lesson itself tells us that He didn’t mean for anyone who lusts to truly pluck out their eyes.

    Indeed, common sense would dictate that. And common sense dictates that there wasn’t actually a “knowledge tree fruit” that one could eat to receive all knowledge. How would that work? Was the fruit magic? It’s just not rational, the less itself would confirm this, in my opinion.

    It doesn’t make sense of the Son of God to instruct in such a way as if plucking out our own eyes would mitigate our lustful natures.

    Similarly, it doesn’t make sense that all we need is a “knowledge tree fruit” to receive knowledge of right and wrong, it’s innate to humanity and we can see that observationally. And why would God NEED to have a magic fruit to give morality to people. God’s God. God could just say “poof! you have knowledge of good and evil…” It just makes no sense on the face of it if you try to take it literally.

    The point of the teaching was to illustrate how bad it will be

    And similarly, the point of the teaching is that humanity has within itself this sense of right and wrong.

    Point for point, the comparison between your example of not taking a literal interpretation and my example of not taking a literal interpretation holds firm.

    I return to my earlier question: What criteria do you use for deciding “This text is literal” but “THAT text is not to be taken literally…”? Are you doing anything differently than the criteria I offered?

    I would be interested in knowing both your and John’s answer. I’ve offered mine and it is orthodox and rational. How about it, gentlemen: What is your criteria/process? If you have some infallible way of interpreting Scripture perfectly, you should pass it on to benefit the rest of us. If, on the other hand, your process is much like mine, well, we have to just recognize that people do the best they can to understand these texts but sometimes come to honest disagreements.

    Marshall…

    What’s more, by your standard, everything Jesus said suggests the OT was an accurate portrayal of events, given that nothing Jesus ever said so much as hinted that OT history was metaphorical.

    Nor does anything that Jesus said ever so much as hinted that OT texts were to be taken literally. Indeed, he had to correct people who tried to take the texts literally, for instance, when he saved the “adulterous woman” from being stoned, according to Law. The Pharisees were taking the text literally and clearly, it was not to be taken that way.

    You can’t argue from silence, Marshall. That Jesus did not explicitly say, “This text is figurative,” does not mean that he thought the text was literal. Once again, I and mine will frequently reference “Adam and Eve” or “Jonah and the Great Fish…” but that does not mean that we are taking the facts literally.

    So, no, by my standard, Jesus did not suggest the OT was to be taken as a literal history.

    Hope that helps clarify my actual position. I hope you will offer your criteria, as that may help clear up things on your part.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

    • Dan. You regularly cite “common to use myth” in your dismissal of Genesis. Ive asked before and I’ll ask again. What examples of myth can you cite from the time Genesis was written, and written in the same region?

      If youre going to keep citing these unnamed mythical stories, youll need to actually give examples.

  156. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    On what basis can you honestly dismiss this story, given all the miraculous events depicted throughout Scripture from beginning to end? Because of your subjective opinion regarding “Modern Era History-Telling”? This isn’t reasoning, it’s assertion.

    Not my subjective opinion, Marshall. Scholarly opinion. Scholars tell us that the era of Modern History began roughly ~500 BC – ~500 AD. We have no evidence of Modern-style history telling prior to that, none that I’m aware of. I’m just looking at the evidence, or, in this case, the lack of evidence to support a more modern style history in Genesis.

    Beyond that bit of research-based opinion, we see tropes in these stories that are common to myth-telling, not common to history telling in the modern sense.

    I’ve said it repeatedly and it remains valid: These stories READ like other myths, not like history.

    That I regard the text to be, by all outwardly appearances, mythical in nature is not saying I dismiss the story. I dismiss the modern bias that would say these stories must be written in a modern style, but not the stories themselves. They’re great stories, rightly understood. But you can’t treat a parable like a news report, you can’t treat a poem like a rule book and you can’t treat a myth like a bit of modern history. It’s a matter of rightly interpreting text and the literary style it was written in.

    Again, if you don’t think it sounds like myth to you, then don’t believe it. But clearly, to many of us it does sound like myth and not for no reason. We’re not making up “Oh, it sounds like myth” because we don’t like it or because we want to diminish it. We’re just stating how it sounds to us, given all the evidence, text and context.

    If it is meaningful to you to take it as history, go ahead. I hope you’ll extend the same grace to those of us who find it more rightly meaningful as myth.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  157. while I realize that my questions have zero chance of getting answered, I’m so blown away by the last two comments that I can’t help but wonder.

    1. “Not my subjective opinion, Marshall. Scholarly opinion. Scholars tell us that the era of Modern History began roughly ~500 BC – ~500 AD. ”

    Evidence, please? Undeniable, objective evidence would be best. Thank You.

    2. “An emphasis on story, not history, is common, scholars tell us, for this time period.”

    Which is not the same as saying that ALL stories of this time period are myths. Can you provide evidence, beyond what things appear to be, that would suggest that the stories in question are mythic?

    3. “And common sense dictates that there wasn’t actually a “knowledge tree fruit” that one could eat to receive all knowledge. ”

    Do you realize that you have mis-characterized the story? Do you realize that your inability to get some of the basic facts of the story wrong doesn’t bode well for yoru credibility?

    4. “It’s just not rational, the less itself would confirm this, in my opinion.”

    rational by who’s standard?

    5. “God’s God. God could just say “poof! you have knowledge of good and evil…”

    If God has this power are you suggesting that He doesn’t have the power to inspire that writers of scripture to write in a manner unique from other cultures? Why is it so hard to admit that God is not bound by literary genre?

    6. “…it’s innate to humanity and we can see that observationally.”

    Exactly what source can you provide to demonstrate observationally that human nature is unchanged since Genesis? If it’s innate, where do innate attributes come from?

    7. “It just makes no sense on the face of it if you try to take it literally. ”

    Is this a statement of objective truth? Is this your opinion? If it is the latter, why is it “a sure thing”, while someone who believes otherwise is not?

  158. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    you hold that God has no authority or right to end life as He sees fit, regardless of the fact that all life, all things, are His to do with as He pleases. Because YOU see it as horrific

    Here’s the process:

    1. Look at obscure/hard to understand passages through the clear:

    “I want you to go in and kill them all, including the babies and children. -~God”

    Given that God is a God of love, this is a hard to understand passage, on the face of it. Why would a God of love tell people to kill not only the enemy, but the children and infants of the enemy?

    2. So, what are the clear texts in the Bible?

    “Do not shed innocent blood.”
    “For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does God tempt anyone”

    Those seem clear. DO NOT shed innocent blood. Not only is this straightforward, it conforms with God’s Word written on our hearts. It SEEMS right that we should not shed innocent blood.

    And it seems obvious that a good God would not tempt us or command us to do evil. This is just rational.

    So, I think most reasonable, moral people could agree that God does not command us to do evil, that God does not want us to shed innocent blood.

    Given that rational thoughts from the rest of the Bible, then clearly, we can’t say, “But sometimes, God MIGHT command us to shed innocent blood, to do what would otherwise be evil…” or even if you think that God might do this, you can hopefully see how rational people could reach this conclusion about a good God. You can see how this conclusion IS reached using the bible and the criteria I’ve offered.

    3. Further, given the criteria to “Remain open to common reason and real world evidence, knowing that we have our God-given reasoning and believing, as we do, that God’s Word is written upon our hearts…,” common decency would tell us that God would not command us to kill children and babies.

    This is further support that I reach my conclusion based on my criteria that I’ve offered. Now, you may disagree and think that a Good and Loving God WOULD sometimes command people to kill babies, but you should be able to see that I’m reaching this conclusion using the criteria I’ve offered.

    That you disagree with my conclusions is not evidence that I haven’t used the criteria I’ve offered.

    What are your criteria, Marshall?

    Thanks,

    Dan

  159. paynehollow says:

    Craig, as soon as you answer my question directly, I’ll be glad to answer yours.

    Respectfully, I’m just trying to be orderly in dealing with a discussion, trying to keep the flitting around to a minimum.

    Thank you,

    Dan

  160. paynehollow says:

    John, are you advocating that we embrace irrational biblical interpretation? That is, “Given what the Bible says, I think X is an irrational conclusion. Therefore, I believe X…”

    Is that what you’re saying?

    Do you have a problem with using your God-given reasoning to sort things out?

    Do you NOT use your God-given reasoning to think things through? If not, what do you use in place of reason?

    I am pretty sure you are a fan of Christian’s using their reason. Would you mind clarifying?

    Again, if you could tell us what your criteria are for sorting these things out, it would help. If you could just do for me what you asked me to do for you, perhaps we could make a bit more sense of all this. I have a hard time believing you’re actually arguing against using your reason.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  161. paynehollow says:

    John…

    What examples of myth can you cite from the time Genesis was written, and written in the same region?

    Sure….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_creation_myths

    That’s a list of many creation myths, some from this same time and region.

    John, may I respectfully ask that you take a break from asking questions and take a turn answering the one question that I’ve asked you – what is your criteria for deciding what is literal and what is not when it comes to biblical interpretation?

    Thanks,

    Dan

  162. paynehollow says:

    The Sumerian Creation myth was in the same time and region. How closely do you want?

  163. paynehollow says:

    John, do you have any literary scholars that say there are examples of modern history telling from prior to 1000 BC? Can you provide even one?

    ~Dan

  164. paynehollow says:

    I have zero evidence to believe that these stories (which were largely NOT written down, but passed down orally, thus, they did not have “authors…” just like the ancient biblical stories…) were written in a modern historic style. Do you have any evidence to think that?

    Do you think that the Epic of Gilgamesh was a literal history, told in a modern style? Do you think that the Babylonian or Sumerian Creation stories were literal history?

    I’m not sure what you’re arguing, John. Nor why you are only asking questions, and not being respectful and fair and answering questions, as well.

    Dan

    • Your assertion that because other stories were mythical and not intended to convey history therefore the OT is the same, is unsubstantiated. Youre presuming it.

  165. paynehollow says:

    Your presumption that we have ANY reason to think the stories are literal is unsubstantiated. You’re presuming it. What of it?

    ~Dan

  166. Dan,
    I’m sorry to say I suspected you would resort to this dodge once again. I’ve answered every direct question you’ve asked while you’ve answered none. I’m sure that this somehow seems rational to you but for you to brazenly deny the reality and choose to live in this world where you are exempt from the same level of courtesy you demand from others is just bizarre. Your silly petulant games are getting old.

    So feel free to embrace your hypocritical inconsistency, because you’ve certainly given up the pretense of the grace you claim to embrace.

    Or you can do something that is pretty foreign to you and provide evidence to back up your claims.

  167. paynehollow says:

    Direct question:

    Are your opinions about the early Genesis stories – Do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve, the single parents of all humanity? Do you believe that there was a literal knowledge tree in the Garden, and eating its fruit “gave” Adam and Eve knowledge of Good and Evil? Was their a literal Tower of Babel and that story explains literally where languages come from? etc – are they YOUR opinions and unprovable or are the reality of these stories demonstrable facts?

    You hinted to me that your opinions were your opinions, not clearly provable facts, but you didn’t answer directly. Would you mind clarifying?

    That is the answer I was waiting for, directly, not hinted at.

    Answering questions directly and in order helps make a conversation more orderly and rational, in my opinion.

    Thanks,

    ~Dan

  168. paynehollow says:

    Here is the closest thing I can find to an answer to the question I asked you…

    ” In no way would I ever begin to assert as you have that my belief is “a sure thing”.”

    So, to clarify, does this mean that your opinion about this is your opinion, not a demonstrable fact? If you’re not able to say it’s a “sure thing,” then it seems like you’re agreeing, that it is an unprovable opinion, not a demonstrable fact, but I’ve been waiting for a clear clarification, not a hazy clarification.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  169. Dan,

    So, despite that unnecessarily long bit above, your argument boils down to, “Oh, well, I don’t believe Moses wrote Genesis, so I’m right…”

    Gotcha.

  170. paynehollow says:

    No, Terrance. There is no evidence that Moses wrote Genesis, so I have no reason to believe it. I’m not sure of your point, here, though. I mean, I don’t really have any opinion about the Genesis author(s), but I have no great reason to guess that it’s Moses.

    Do you have evidence that Moses wrote Genesis?

    You know that these are stories that have been passed down orally, and that, as far as I know, there is no evidence that they were “written” by any one person?

    You know, I guess, that Genesis does not say it was authored by anyone?

    I’m not sure what difference it would make if there was any evidence that Moses wrote Genesis, though.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  171. Dan,
    I’m not sure why you think pulling random quotes is helpful, but you don’t like to answer questions so at a loss.

    Just so you will stop the ridiculousness, I’ll answer you again.

    I believe that the genesis account accurately portrays actual events. In this belief I gladly associate myself with the overwhelming majority of Christian thought and scholarship over the past 2000 plus years. I believe in a transcendent God who is able to communicate His story accurately without being bound by human limits.

    Can I meet your arbitrary unreasonable standard of proof. So in your condescending way feel free to dismiss this as mere opinion. Because you’ve been quite clear that anyone who doesn’t agree with your “sure thing” opinion is the equivalent of someone who clad to have a unicorn in their back yard. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what I say or what I offer in support. You will choose to characterize my position in whatever way suits you, and find other reasons to dodge the questions asked of you.

    So are you going to live up to your own standards?

  172. Dan

    If you do decide to finally start answering questions I can only hope you’ll be orderly and respectful and move through the questions in chronological order.

  173. “Why is it not comparable, Marshall? According to whom?”

    According to anyone who is truly reasonable and honest. It is not comparable because it is, as I said, apples and oranges. Jesus is not establishing a historic record. He’s teaching a lesson. Genesis is a historic record.

  174. paynehollow says:

    ?

    Any chance of answering the question I actually asked? I guess I must not be expressing my question correctly. I’m not asking if it’s “mere opinion,” and I’m not suggesting that a “mere opinion” is to be condescended. We all have opinions on matters that are not provable. There’s no shame in acknowledging an opinion that we have is not demonstrable.

    I have done so. I can not prove that there was NOT a knowledge tree in the garden any more than I can prove the fella does NOT have an invisible unicorn in his back yard. In that sense, it is an unprovable opinion, in that I can not prove a negative. No one can.

    So, my question to is this: Can you agree that opinions about a literal tree of knowledge in a literal Garden of Eden are not demonstrable facts? That they are, in fact, unprovable opinions?

    Given your hint at an answer, I think you are answering correctly. Yes, of course, these are unprovable opinions, not demonstrable facts. But could you clarify directly. Why not a simple yes or no? It SOUNDS like you’re saying yes, but you give this vague answer instead of a straight answer so I’m just not sure.

    I appreciate your efforts to clarify, and I apologize if I’m still not sure on your answer, but perhaps a straight Yes/No answer would help me understand.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  175. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    Jesus is not establishing a historic record. He’s teaching a lesson. Genesis is a historic record.

    Well, as noted, I am glad for you to hold that opinion if you wish and if it makes the most sense to you.

    Are you similarly glad to let me hold the opinion that makes most sense to me?

    Thanks,

    Dan

  176. paynehollow says:

    Terrance…

    your argument boils down to, “Oh, well, I don’t believe Moses wrote Genesis, so I’m right…”

    Just to clarify a couple of points:

    Does the Bible say anywhere that Moses wrote Genesis? If so, where, because I am unfamiliar with any such passage.

    Is there any literary or archeological evidence that says Moses wrote Genesis? If so, where, as I’m unfamiliar with it.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  177. Dan
    Despite having answered this earlier, I’ll try again.

    If you mean can it be proven to a 100% certainty then no. Of course nothing can. Does than mean my only other option is unprovable opinion, I’d disagree. I do find it problematic that you refer to your unprovable opinion as “a sure thing” while suggesting that to believe otherwise is somehow in the same realm of belief in unicorns.

    So, if you are conceding that your opinion is not “a sure thing”, then we should be done with your games and you’ll be responsibly and in an orderly fashion answering the lengthy list of questions you’ve managed to dodge while trying to make me repeat answers I’ve already given.

  178. continuing to respond to Dan’s post of 3/26 @ 5:07 PM

    “And myth was common in this time period. An emphasis on story, not history, is common, scholars tell us, for this time period.”

    “Common” and “absolute” are two very different things. You conflate the two in your argument against the historicity of Genesis. That is YOU say, because myth was common, then Genesis was myth. YOU say, because myth was common, there is no way OT history could be anything BUT myth. It doesn’t follow.

    “Indeed, common sense would dictate that.”

    Common sense dictates that one studies the whole of the passage to determine whether or not the suggestion that it would be better to pluck out one’s eyes wasn’t meant to convey that anyone actually should. The lesson in its entirety makes wondering completely unnecessary.

    However, the story in Genesis is not conveyed as was the lesson Jesus taught regarding leading others to sin (such as people claiming to be Christian saying that behavior God calls an abomination is OK if two guys love each other exclusively while doing it). It was conveyed in a “this is how it happened” manner. But you’re really going to pretend you’re offering a reasoned argument by questioning how miracles work? That I must explain why God acted in the manner He did? Well, I don’t know, Dan. How would that whole raising Lazarus from the dead thing have worked? Did Jesus have a pouch of fairy dust secreted in His robes? You know, that’s the thing about the miraculous, Dan: miracles can’t be explained. It’s kinda what makes them miracles. And really, which miracle is actually “rational” to you? Christ made a lame guy walk? Is that rational to you? What a stupid angle to take!

    “Similarly, it doesn’t make sense that all we need is a “knowledge tree fruit” to receive knowledge of right and wrong, it’s innate to humanity and we can see that observationally.”

    By observing what, exactly? Human history? Really? You support a “woman’s right to choose” to kill her own unborn child! Morality certainly isn’t an innate characteristic of YOURS!! 200 kids just rampaged in your own town. It certainly isn’t innate in them. Muslims are slaughtering non-muslims with alarming regularity. Seems hate and viciousness is innate in them, not morality. In fact, the more we look at human history, the more ridiculous the notion that morality is an innate feature of the human condition.

    “And why would God NEED to have a magic fruit to give morality to people.”

    He didn’t have to have His own Son die a horrible death, either. The Biblical answer is that His mind is not your mind. His ways are not your ways. The fact that He chooses not to explain every move He makes to Dan Trabue’s satisfaction, or that Dan Trabue is incapable of making sense of any of His actions and decisions, has absolutely no bearing on whether or not any given event actually happened in the manner described in Scripture.

    “And similarly, the point of the teaching is that humanity has within itself this sense of right and wrong.”

    Not even close. The point is that the truth regarding good and evil was discovered by Adam by eating of the fruit. We discover it today since, as history has clearly demonstrated, human nature does not necessarily possess this knowledge as we do arms and legs.

    “I return to my earlier question: What criteria do you use for deciding “This text is literal” but “THAT text is not to be taken literally…”? Are you doing anything differently than the criteria I offered?”

    Yeah. I actually follow that criteria. You merely pay lip service to it as your interpretations are generally laughable and self-serving. It’s not a matter of being perfect in our interpretations in absolutely every aspect of Scripture. But you’re not even close on so many of the issues discussed over the years.

    “Nor does anything that Jesus said ever so much as hinted that OT texts were to be taken literally. “

    Actually, this is totally untrue. While I have stated that references Jesus makes to OT stories does not prove they were actual events, His references, and the manner in which He made them, are indeed hints of such at the very least. Without anything to say that He wasn’t referring them as if they should be taken literally, the likelihood definitely exists that He was, short of proof to the contrary. So it is YOU, once again, arguing from silence here. Not me.

    “Indeed, he had to correct people who tried to take the texts literally, for instance, when he saved the “adulterous woman” from being stoned, according to Law.”

    You just make shit up as you go, don’t you? He did not throw out the punishment for adultery in this story. Indeed, He provided opportunity for the punishment to be carried out according to the Law. Had anyone accusing the woman had any spine, they would have begun hurling rocks. But His challenge to them put them in an awkward position, as none of them would dare claim to be without sin, and it is more than possible that the woman was not even caught in the act, especially given that they needed to put to death both parties involved to be in accordance with the Law.

    What’s more, Christ’s issue with the Pharisees was not about taking the Law literally, but not acting on the true meaning of laws they twisted for their own advantage. Understanding any law begins with a literal understanding of what the law says. The problem was more the superficial understandings and the abuse of the Pharisees’ authority in how they held the people to the letter of the law when it suited them.

    SIDEBAR: Ya know, I’m not even the best student of Scripture and it amazes me what passes for serious study for some people. Could it be I’m brilliant? Doubtful. Could it be Dan is incredibly stupid? Can’t wager on that, either. Must be something else.

    more later…

  179. Dan,

    Many liberal Christians, if not most, attack the authorship of the entire Pentateuch. And why? Ideology. It’s easier to dismiss conservative Christians as “backward,” “regressive,” and “sexist” if there is no biblical support for their opposition to social change. Think about it.

    Of course, these attacks are without basis and Jesus’ own words prove it. Mark 12:26, “…have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” This is proof Moses wrote Exodus. And there’s proof that Moses wrote Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Numbers, and, yes, Genesis. There is simply no good reason to believe that Moses wasn’t the author of Genesis. You’re an atheist masquerading as a Christian, Dan.

  180. One could likely find more scholars that support the probability that Moses wrote Genesis than scholars that suggest that Genesis was written as myth. I’d take that wager.

  181. paynehollow says:

    Again, where does the Bible tell us that Moses wrote Genesis?

    Where does archeology or literary study tell us that Moses wrote Genesis?

    I don’t have a problem with the guess that Moses wrote Genesis, it doesn’t matter to me who wrote it. I just have never heard of any evidence that he did write it. If there is some evidence for this, I’d be interested in seeing it. It wouldn’t really change my mind about anything as I don’t see how it is relevant in the least to this argument, I’d just be curious to know the answer.

    So, respectfully, is there any evidence that Moses wrote Genesis?

    Just curious. If not, then we can move on. If so, I’ve learned something.

    ~Dan

  182. paynehollow says:

    Terrance…

    if not most, attack the authorship of the entire Pentateuch. And why? Ideology. It’s easier to dismiss conservative Christians as “backward,” “regressive,” and “sexist” if there is no biblical support for their opposition to social change.

    I, for one, am not attacking it. I just know of no evidence that Moses wrote Genesis. I am quite sure that you don’t think that merely asking for evidence is not an “attack,” correct?

    Regardless, I don’t see how Moses’ authorship hurts or helps either of our points we’re making here. If Moses wrote Genesis, it has no impact on anything I’ve noted thus far, not that I can think of.

    May I respectfully suggest that the reason I am asking is that many times we all (people in general, not just you, not just me) sometimes make sweeping fact claims as if were a done deal. John might state, “The Bible says X” (as he did in a recent post) or you might state, “Moses wrote Genesis,” or I might state, “These Genesis stories sound mythic…” poof! as if it were a done deal. When one makes a claim like that, IF one is asked, “Um, excuse me, where does the Bible say that?” or “What evidence is there for that?” these are reasonable questions to answer.

    If we can’t answer them, then it seems to me that we should clarify, “I made a mistake, I can’t support that claim…” or “It seems to me that this is the case…” or “well, traditionally, Moses has been considered the author, but I know of no evidence for it…” Just to help in conversation and moving on to other points.

    Respectfully submitted for consideration.

    Dan

    • Dan, since the jewish people ascribe Genesis to Moses, and Jesus ascribes genesis to Moses, why do you, as someone who thinks Jesus’ words trumps all, dispute Moses as author of genesis?

  183. paynehollow says:

    Craig…

    If you mean can it be proven to a 100% certainty then no. Of course nothing can. Does than mean my only other option is unprovable opinion, I’d disagree.

    Okay, what is your opinion about a magic knowledge fruit tree if not an “unprovable opinion…”?

    Craig…

    I do find it problematic that you refer to your unprovable opinion as “a sure thing” while suggesting that to believe otherwise is somehow in the same realm of belief in unicorns.

    Craig, I’d respectfully ask that you step back for a second and consider the point as if you were explaining it to a visitor from another planet – one who is familiar with the facts of our planet but knows nothing about miracles. Do you see how asking someone to believe “yes, humanity got our knowledge from a magic tree in the middle of a now-hidden garden that had knowledge fruit on it and when the first two humans ate knowledge fruit, that is how all of humanity received the knowledge of right and wrong…” is a rather out-there, mythic-not-real-sounding, hard-to-accept on face value claim – more akin to a claim of an invisible unicorn than whether a not a man named Jesus lived in Galilee 2,000 years ago, and even that he did things that appeared miraculous?

    Perhaps you don’t see it. Maybe it’s just me and people like me, but that just sounds incredibly mythic, not literal at all.

    No, I can’t prove a negative – I can’t disprove a magic tree in a mythic-sounding story was real or an invisible unicorn – but they are hard to swallow, nonetheless. I guess the thing is, it’s one thing to admit that we can’t prove a negative, but I’m asking if you can prove a positive… is there any evidence that this tree and its knowledge fruit actually existed, outside of this mythic-sounding story? The answer to that question is a simple No, right? And there’s no harm in admitting that, is there?

    What answer other than “No, I have no way of proving this” is there?

    Thanks for trying, I do appreciate it. I’m just not sure what’s wrong with “It’s an unprovable fact” in this case.

    I’ve got to go to work – doing a big training today and will be out of touch most of that time, I’ll try to find your questions and answer them later today. As a preview, I think most of the questions you’ve asked are not based on any claims I’ve made, so the answer for many of these questions, I think, will be, “I never said that, I don’t believe that.” But that’s just going from memory.

    Dan

  184. paynehollow says:

    John…

    since the jewish people ascribe Genesis to Moses, and Jesus ascribes genesis to Moses, why do you, as someone who thinks Jesus’ words trumps all, dispute Moses as author of genesis?

    1. I believe that the Jewish people ascribe Genesis to Moses out of tradition. I know of no other reason to do so. I know of no evidence that says Moses wrote Genesis. Do you?

    2. Where does Jesus ascribe Genesis to Moses? I am unfamiliar with that verse.

    This would be an example of an easy-to-prove claim. Does the Bible have a verse in it where Jesus said, “Moses wrote the book of Genesis,” or words to that effect? Okay, if so, where?

    Or, lacking such a verse, say, “My fault, I was thinking of the verse where Jesus mentioned Moses and the Law, but that wouldn’t be Genesis… sorry, my mistake, I guess Jesus did not do this…” just to clear things up.

    Is it possible there’s a verse saying this? Sure, I don’t have the NT memorized. I’m just saying I’m not familiar with it.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  185. Dan,

    Are you dense or just obtuse, I’ve clearly answered your question several times, yet you continue with the condescending crap.

    The problem is not my answer, it’s the premise of the question. When you only allow for two arbitrary options to answer your question, then all you’ve done is to set yourself up for frustration when you can’t jam any other response into this arbitrary framework you’ve established. Just because your brain can’t conceive of anything other that 100% scientifically provable and wild unsubstantiated fantasy, doesn’t mean there aren’t other possibilities.

    So when you assert that your position, for which you have offered zero proof, is both an unsubstantiated opinion and “a sure thing” you don’t seem to grasp that it can’t be both. You assert your version of events as “a sure thing”, yet provide no proof beyond
    “it must be this way”. I don’t think you understand that “it must be this way” isn’t proof.

    “Do you see how asking someone to believe “yes, humanity got our knowledge from a magic tree in the middle of a now-hidden garden that had knowledge fruit on it and when the first two humans ate knowledge fruit, that is how all of humanity received the knowledge of right and wrong…” is a rather out-there, mythic-not-real-sounding, hard-to-accept on face value claim – more akin to a claim of an invisible unicorn”

    Do you see that simply because YOU (and despite you protestations until you actually support your position it is clearly YOU and only YOU that take this attitude), find this scenario beyond that ability of your finite, flawed, minds ability to comprehend, others don’t. Further, the fact that you can’t comprehend this doesn’t make your position “a sure thing”.

    “I guess the thing is, it’s one thing to admit that we can’t prove a negative, but I’m asking if you can prove a positive…”

    As are we. You insist that your contention of Genesis as myth is “a sure thing”. If you actually believe what you say, and if it is so vital that others provide evidence, then step up and do what you ask of others.

    “is there any evidence that this tree and its knowledge fruit actually existed, outside of this mythic-sounding story?”

    Again, the problem here is with the premise, not any answer. The question is based on your assumption that your position is “a sure thing” and that any other position is fantasy. Let’s just look at the problems here. You ask for evidence with the presumption that only 100% undeniable objective evidence the only possible standard you will accept. Even though this is an arbitrary standard, that you quite obviously hold yourself to, so why hold others to it. The second unproven assumption in your question is that the fact that the story sounds “mythic” to you is proof that the story actually IS mythic. Yet, you still refuse to provide 100% objective undeniable evidence to support your presumption. Which leads to your final failure of logic in the question. Because YOU have decides that the story sounds mythic to YOU, then you presume that YOUR unsupported opinion must be “a sure thing” and therefore unassailable.

    So my answer to your flawed question remains. I cannot meet the arbitrary and unrealistic standard of proof you expect of others, but won’t offer to support your position. Since I can’t meet the standard of proof, you won’t meet, you will characterize any answer I might give in whatever way pleases you to try to make your point.

    Had I known that it was acceptable to you to answer your questions with ” I think most of the questions you’ve asked are not based on any claims I’ve made, so the answer for many of these questions, I think, will be, “I never said that, I don’t believe that.” , I would have saved myself a lot of time trying to answer your questions in good faith. Unfortunately, you’ve demonstrated once more that while you demand answers to your questions, you are unwilling to accord others the same degree of respect you demand. I thought you knew that the purpose of asking questions is to clarify what was said. So perhaps if you would proceed on from the position that the questions asked are an attempt to clarify what you actually seem to be saying, you might find a more respectful and fruitful path. Of course, I’m sure you will be answering in an orderly, respectful manner as you demand of others. Except, you just said you won’t be doing that, but instead will be dodging and dismissing as is your usual MO.

  186. paynehollow says:

    I am familiar with Jesus referencing “Moses and the Law,” or “as in the book of Moses, where he was at the burning bush…” (a reference, I believe, to Exodus). I am not aware that the references to “the Law” in the NT are inferences that Moses wrote the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Who has said this and on what basis?

    Again, that’s not a hostile question, it’s just a question seeking support.

    So, is the basis of your opinion that Moses “wrote” Genesis that Jesus sometimes referenced “Moses and the Law” and that some source says that this reference is to suggest that Moses wrote the first five books?

    If so, then this is not information found in the Bible, right?

    If not, where is that information found?

    Other than tradition, I am not aware of any source that says Moses was the author of Genesis. I’m just asking for a source.

    Not that it changes anything in our discussion here, but I do think it is helpful to establish some better communication between us all.

    It could be extremely well-known that Jewish scholar “Rabbi X” established in 1784 definitively that Moses wrote all five books of the Pentateuch, and that he established this based on the discovery of an autographed copy of an early Pentateuch or something… that this is well known and I am just ignorant of this knowledge. If so, enlighten me and you will have done a good deed in increasing the knowledge base out in the blogosphere. I am just saying I am unaware of this “fact,” or any reason to accept it as such.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  187. Dan,

    I would hope that this would give you enough of a starting place to do your own research on whether Moses authored the Pentatuch.

    “The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is a view that understands Moses to be the main author of the Pentateuch (i.e. the first five books of the Bible). This belief has received criticism, mostly in the last 200 years, yet remains supported by both Scripture and early church tradition. The conclusion is not that Moses wrote all of the Pentateuch, but that he had a major hand in not only its writing and development, but even its composition (i.e. how it was put together).
    Support for Mosaic authorship
    Support from the Pentateuch

    Throughout the Pentateuch it becomes clear that Moses is recording what happens. Exodus 24:4 states that “Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said” and that shortly thereafter he took the “Book of the Covenant and read it to the people” (Ex 24:7). Moses also wrote down the Ten Commandments (Ex 24:27-28). Other passages shed light on the fact that Moses kept record of what was going on (Ex 17:14; Num 33:2), and there are clear references that Moses was the author of Deuteronomy (Deut 31:9, 19, 22, 24). Less direct references can be found in Ex 25:16, 21-22; Deut 28:58; 29:20, 21, 27, 29; 20:10, 11.
    Support across the Bible

    The Bible refers to Moses as the authority behind the books of the Law. The books are referred to as the “Book of Moses” (5 times [1]), the “Law of Moses” (22 times [2]), the “Book of the Law of Moses” (4 times [3]), the “Word of the Lord by Moses” (1 Time [4]), and the contents of the books are attributed to Moses over 32 times (cf. 2 K. 21:8, 1 Ch. 15:15, 1 Ch. 22:13, 2 Ch 24:6, 2 Ch. 33:8, 2 Ch. 34:14, Ne. 1:8, Ne. 8:14, Ne. 10:29, Mal. 4:4, Matt. 8:4, Matt. 19:8, Matt. 22:14, Mark 1:44, Mark 7:10, Mark 10:4, Luke 5:14, Luke 20:37, Luke 24:27, John 1:45, John 5:46, John 7:19, John 7:22, John 8:5, Acts 3:22, Acts 15:21, Acts 26:22, Rom. 10:5, Rom. 10:19, 2 Cor. 3:15, Heb. 9:19).

    Jesus (John 5:46, Mark 10:5), Paul (Rom. 10:5), and Philip (John 1:45) all attest to Moses writing.
    Jewish and early Christian support

    The Jewish talmud refers to the first five books of the Bible as the “Book of Moses.” Furthermore, the Mishna and the early Jewish historian Josephus both accepted the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Arnold and Beyer, p. 69).

    This is a section stub. Please edit it to add information.
    Support from Jesus

    Jesus divided the Old Testament into three sections in Luke 24:27, 44: Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Also, in Mark 10:4-8, Jesus quoted Gen. 2:24 as coming from Moses. In Mark 7:10, Jesus quoted the Ten Commandments as coming from Moses. In Mark 10:3 Jesus refers to Deut. 24:1f as being from Moses, and in Matt. 8:4 Jesus quoted Lev. 14 as coming from Moses. [5]
    References

    T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, “Authorship of the Pentateuch”, by T.D. Alexander, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (IVP, 2003) pp. 61-72
    Bill Arnold and Bryan Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament. (Baker, 1999) pp. 68-9

    See also

    Pentateuch
    Moses
    JEDP theory

    External links

    Moses: The Author of the Pentateuch? (CRI)
    Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch—Tried and True, by Eric Lyons and Zach Smith
    Pentateuch, Catholic Encyclopedia (newadvent.org)”

    Now clearly, Moses did not write the entire Pentateuch. For example someone, probably Joshua, completed it with the story of Moses death. But I think that the above references will give you plenty of good starting points to help you research the claims about authorship made in the Bible. Again, to anticipate your objection, in much the same way as most political memoirs are credited to the politician, but actually written by others, I suspect the same is true here, and am applying the same standard to this as to any other literary work.

    I’m glad to offer this as a way to help you deal with the ignorance you expressed above.

    “1. I believe that the Jewish people ascribe Genesis to Moses out of tradition. I know of no other reason to do so. I know of no evidence that says Moses wrote Genesis. Do you?

    2. Where does Jesus ascribe Genesis to Moses? I am unfamiliar with that verse.”

    Well now you do.

  188. “In the end, there is no good reason to deny the Pentateuch is essentially the work of Moses. Many passages, such as the one for today’s study, assert that Moses wrote down the Law, which Law includes Genesis. Moses likely used sources and stories preserved by the people of Israel to write the Pentateuch, and it is therefore not necessary to argue that he wrote every word. For example, he probably did not record his own death (Deut. 34). However, the Pentateuch, as we have it today, is substantially from the pen of Moses, given to him by the inspiration of God for the guidance of His people.
    Coram Deo

    Whether or not we affirm the essential Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch has a direct bearing on the Lordship of Christ. Our Savior affirmed that Moses wrote the Pentateuch on many occasions (for example, Matt. 19:1–12; compare to Deut. 24:1–4), and it is difficult to imagine how we could trust Him as Lord if He was mistaken about this.”

  189. paynehollow says:

    ? I have just a minute.

    How does affirming Mosaic authorship have an affect on the Lordship of Christ?

    The Matt 19 passage says…

    ““Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

    That isn’t a text that says “Moses wrote the Pentateuch, including Genesis.

    That people have different ideas about who wrote these books (or whether we can know who wrote these) does not say that we reject the Lordship of Jesus.

    I see that “Coram Deo” says the Pentateuch is from the pen of Moses, but says who? Based on what? Where is the evidence? Is there reason to think this or is it just a claim with no support?

    Do you understand what I’m asking here?

    Thanks,

    Dan

  190. paynehollow says:

    Or is “coram deo” not a source, just a latin phrase?

  191. If Moses wrote Genesis, it has no impact on anything I’ve noted thus far, not that I can think of.

    Then you have Alzheimer’s.

  192. Dan,
    I’m not your researcher. You expressed ignorance of Biblical claims of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and shockingly after a brief search I gave you plenty to get you started.

    But to be fair, I feel I must hold you to the standard to which your hold others. So out of a desire to be orderly and respectful, I am not going to answer your new questions until you deal with the questions that have been asked of you in a respectful and orderly manner. I know that you will find this to be reasonable, because you have made it quite clear that this is how you operate in conversations such as these. So out if respect for you and your desire to remain respectful and orderly, I am clearly unable to answer any more of your questions until the orderly process catches up.

    I know it’s frustrating, but had you chosen to deal with questions in the course of the conversation, rather that to impose your arbitrary “orderliness” standard, I would be free to answer your questions. Alas, that is not to be for now, as respect and orderliness are the parameters under which you insist we must operate.

    However, since I’m a pretty nice guy, I’ll give you a hint. If the person (Jesus) who is the focal point of both Christianity and Judaism, and who claims to literally be God incarnate, is untrustworthy in certain areas how then can anyone trust Him in other areas? I believe that to be the point of the author.

    I’m sorry of my desire to extend grace to you has obstructed your insistence on orderliness and respect.

  193. paynehollow says:

    Again, Jesus made NO CLAIMS of which I’m aware as to who wrote Genesis.

    If you all have a source for this, by all means, present it. It could be the case and that I’m just unaware of it. So educate me.

    I’m telling you I have no reason that I know of to think that Moses wrote Genesis. If you have some evidence to demonstrate that he did, present it and we’ll all be that much wiser.

    Gentlemen, you can’t keep making claims that you don’t support (or can’t support) about things for which there is no evidence, and expect people to just accept it because you said so. I wouldn’t expect you to do that for me and you can’t expect for others to accept your claims – especially about magic happenings, but also just dreary fact claims like “the Bible says…” or “Jesus says…” – without some support.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  194. Woops, I just made a huge mistake. I re read the quote I posted, and what did I find? I found the answer to the question Dan asked. So, one must wonder, did Dan actually read the entire quote? Does Dan have problems with reading comprehension? Did Dan somehow misunderstand the following sentence; “Our Savior affirmed that Moses wrote the Pentateuch on many occasions (for example, Matt. 19:1–12; compare to Deut. 24:1–4), and it is difficult to imagine how we could trust Him as Lord if He was mistaken about this.”? Is Dan so invested in his preconceptions that he chooses to ignore things that don’t support his position? Why would Dan pretend that the comment with multiple references that will help his ignorance doesn’t exist in order to ask a question about the second comment, which he would have known the answer to had he read the entire comment? Why would Dan say “I don’t know of any references…”, then say “Well of course I know about those references…”?

    Dan, these are rhetorical questions. Not additional questions for you to answer. I know it would be disrespectful and disorderly to add this many additional questions to the ones waiting for respectful and orderly consideration and answers.

  195. paynehollow says:

    Craig…

    Well now you do.

    No, I don’t. You did not provide a passage where Jesus says, “And verily, Moses wrote Genesis…” Again, I have no problem with it, it does not impact my views on anything, I’m just not familiar with any such passage.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  196. Of course you’re correct as long as you continue to ignore complete comments that give you enough Bible references to keep you busy for more than a few minutes.

    Or you could provide what you ask of us and come up with proof that Moses did not write the Pentateuch.

    Either way.

  197. paynehollow says:

    Craig…

    “Our Savior affirmed that Moses wrote the Pentateuch on many occasions (for example, Matt. 19:1–12; compare to Deut. 24:1–4), and it is difficult to imagine how we could trust Him as Lord if He was mistaken about this.”?

    Read the quote (from whom?). Read Matt 19. Does not say “And Moses wrote Genesis.”

    Thanks.

    Dan

  198. Dan,

    I am not aware that the references to “the Law” in the NT are inferences that Moses wrote the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Who has said this and on what basis?

    Yes, Dan. Your ignorance, unfamiliarity, and general obliviousness is painfully clear to the rest us.

    “The Law” absolutely refers to the first five books of the Bible.

    From Biblica.Com

    When “the law” is mentioned in the Bible, it harks back to the days of the Old Testament. There are hundreds of commands given to the Israelites, but the phrase “the law” refers specifically to the compilation of decrees found in the first five books of the Bible. This whole body of law was given the name Torah.

    From Wikipedia:

    In rabbinic literature the word “Torah” denotes both the five books, Torah Shebichtav (תורה שבכתב, “Torah that is written”), and an Oral Torah, Torah Shebe’al Peh (תורה שבעל פה, “Torah that is spoken”). The Oral Torah consists of interpretations and amplifications which according to rabbinic tradition have been handed down from generation to generation and now embodied in the Talmud and Midrash.[2]

    And of course Jesus says “the law” was written by Moses.

    Now, remember our earlier discussion?

    I said,

    If you believe that then I don’t think you understand the Bible as well as you think. John 5:45–47, Jesus says, “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

    It seems clear to me that Jesus expected people to believe the things Moses wrote. That would include the story of Adam & Eve.

    Furthermore, passages Matthew 19:3–6 and Mark 10:3–9 refer to Adam & Eve as the first married couple. Did Jesus treat this story as a mere allegory? No, He didn’t. He took it as literal history.

    You have no argument, as usual.

    You responded with:

    As to Moses, I do believe there was a Moses in a literally historic timeline. His story is not until later in time and in the Bible. Still in a pre-modern history time period, but later. The story does not read like myth, the way the earlier Genesis stories read.

    So, you attempted to sidestep my argument by disputing the authorship of Genesis. And since that tactic is no longer working, it seems you’ve lost, Daniel. Now, swallow your pride, be a good Christian, and admit your folly.

  199. “No, I don’t. You did not provide a passage where Jesus says, “And verily, Moses wrote Genesis…”

    My first thought is to say that you can’t provide ANYTHING that says “And verily the book of Genesis is written in a mythic style”.

    The problem with that is that them I just become like you and insist on some arbitrary unrealistic standard so that I don’t actually have to consider any evidence that might call into question my preconceived notions.

    I’m done doing your research for you, you clearly have no desire to do anything but summarily dismiss anything that might challenge your “sure thing” opinions.

    But your down with anything that gives you one more reason to dodge and obfuscate, right?

  200. Terrance,

    You and I both know that Dan will retreat behind the impenetrable wall of “It’s just unsupported opinion” or “It doesn’t matter to me who wrote what” or “It’s all just myth anyway” or “Well it seems to me…” or any one of his stock dodges when the evidence starts to go against his “sure thing” opinions. You have to wonder, if it really doesn’t matter who wrote the Pentateuch, why is he going to such lengths to argue that there is no Biblical support for the position that Moses did write the Pentateuch? I think we all have a pretty good idea of the answer, but the question is interesting nonetheless.

  201. Yeah. Just wouldn’t be a normal day if Dan argued a point with any integrity.

  202. integrity, schmintegrity it’s all just your unsupported unprovable opinion. ;)

  203. Dan,
    I missed your smart ass comment. The problem with said smart ass comment is that no one is making the claim you say is being made. Perhaps if you were to read more carefully you wouldn’t have made this mistake. Unfortunately we’ve all seen that your reading skills are sometimes sketchy. I’d suggest that asking questions for clarification might help, but in the interest of being respectful and orderly, I’d have to wait until you stop dodging and catch up before answering, so I guess you’re on your own here.

  204. paynehollow says:

    Another second:

    For the last several posts, Craig, I have been attempting to be quite respectful and serious. I have not intentionally made any disrespectful or “smart ass” comments. I’ve merely been trying to get information and pass on opinions in as respectful a manner as possible.

    I know sometimes in reading rather than talking face to face, comments may sound disrespectful, but please know, this is not my intent in the slightest. I am truly striving to speak respectfully and conduct an abundantly cordial conversation. My apologies if something sounded disrespectful, Again, not my intent.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  205. Earlier comments of mine might have been lost in the Interwebs — and they don’t need to be dug up and posted — but I do object to Dan’s insistence that he hasn’t shown any contempt for more literalist interpretations.

    This is nothing but contempt…

    I can not prove of disprove objectively the non-existence of a magic knowledge fruit tree. Nor can I prove or disprove objectively the non-existence of purple unicorns with rainbow wings.

    …and, worse, it’s the sort of contempt that atheists show the devout, which Dan previously displayed when writing about “magic tricks” to dismiss those who insist in the necessity of the bodily Resurrection, a miracle which he supposedly affirms(!).

    The larger point ties into Craig’s astute observation that Dan cannot or will not be honest and accurate about the claims that others are making here.

    If Dan isn’t trustworthy when it comes to online, active conversations that we can immediately verify, I don’t see how he can be trusted to be entirely forthright about what we cannot so easily verify.

  206. Craig and Terrance have covered things well since my last comment. I, too, was going to ask that if we need to have the Bible say something about itself, why haven’t we been provided with examples of the Bible saying it was written in a mythic style? And if we did provide a verse that shows Jesus saying, “Moses wrote Genesis”, Dan would simply move the goalposts to “show me where Jesus said, ‘Moses wrote the entire Book of Genesis in a Modern Era style of history-telling”.

    I also had a list of passages from Scripture that stand as evidence that the Bible itself ascribes authorship of the Pentateuch to Moses, but I think it would be repetitious at this point to post it. But even if it provided a verse or two Craig did not include, what would it matter to Dan? His current angle is to deny the value and/or validity of any evidence presented. It is akin to a judge saying to the prosecutor, “All the testimony and evidence you’ve presented isn’t good enough. I need the defendant to say, ‘I did it’ and nothing else is good enough for me.” So the problem with the evidence thus far provided does not cover every single word of the Pentateuch, and leaves Dan the out he needs to avoid manning up and conceding the point.

    In the meantime, I remain hopeful he will address the problem of writing off the miraculous work of God in planting the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in it as “not rational” while belief in the miracle of Jesus rising on the third day is a rational belief.

    Less likely is

    -Dan’s explanation for how Adam, with no innate understanding of morality, did not discover morality by eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and

    -Dan resolving the evidence from history indicating how so many people seem to have very little in the way of an innate understanding of moral behavior.

  207. Bubba,

    I’m not sure contempt is the right word, I see it more as being dismissive. If he can equate those who hold to the Orthodox belief in a accurate account in Genesis with someone who claims to own a unicorn, then he doesn’t have to even work up the effort for contempt. This allows him to kind of giggle tolerantly at all the folks who just aren’t quite as enlightened as he is. After all the Orthodox interpretation is just a mere unsupported opinion, while his is “a sure thing”.

  208. paynehollow says:

    Again, gentlemen, I ask you to look at it from someone else’s eyes – someone who does not share your view of the miraculous, at least not to the same degree. To someone who does not already share the view that the world was created in six days, 6,000 years ago, and that humanity started with just two individuals who were given “morality” when they bit into a literal fruit from a literal tree in this literal garden… to someone who does not share the notion that snakes lost legs when the Serpent tempted Eve or that language “happened” when people built a big tower…

    For people who are not given to these beliefs, what you are speaking of sounds superstitious and like a belief in magic. To note that is not to denigrate those who do, it’s just how it seems to us. We mean no harm (or, at least, I mean no harm) to those who do hold those views – remember, I held those views, too, once upon a time, my parents and other loved ones still hold those views and I am not contemptuous of my parents or myself or other loved ones, I am greatly indebted to many beloved saints who introduced me to the Bible and the faith who have held those views. I am sincerely not contemptuous of my mother, father, brother or others who hold those views.

    Perhaps I should ask: How does one express the notion that, to us, you believe in what sounds like a superstitious belief in magical, mythical thinking in a way that you believe to be respectful? My using those words is an attempt to be merely descriptive, not demeaning. “And that is how the snake lost his legs, how people learned morality, how people gained different languages…” these all sound mythical to me. What words should I use to describe what sounds mythical and magical that you won’t take offense at? Let me know and I’ll be glad to use them.

    My sincere apologies for appearing disrespectful. I would no sooner disrespect you than I would my own dear mother and father.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  209. Dan,
    Unfortunately my commient to respect and orderliness compels me to pass on responding to your latest attempt to change the subject.

  210. “For people who are not given to these beliefs, what you are speaking of sounds superstitious and like a belief in magic.”

    That’s just peachy. But a request was made by one who claims to be prayerfully studied in Scripture that evidence from Scripture in support of a proposition that God is the source of morality. The story of Adam receiving the knowledge of good and evil by eating of the Tree of Knowledge is that evidence.

    Then, you condescend that merely pointing out that this Genesis story satisfies that request indicates superstition and a belief in magic, but somehow, all the miracles of the New Testament, not to mention Christ’s bodily resurrection, are not regarded in this manner. Cognitive dissonance, or rank dishonesty?

    And by the way, nothing in Gen 3 suggests the serpent had legs to begin with. It doesn’t say anything about snakes in general, but only the serpent who tempted Eve. It doesn’t say anything about whether having legs or not had anything to do with it being ordered to crawl on its belly and eat dust all the days of its life.

    “What words should I use to describe what sounds mythical and magical that you won’t take offense at?”

    How about the same words you might use to describe the miracles of Christ? Your use of such words at all in describing any miracle of God demonstrates a clear lack of reverence for God and the extent of His power and glory. You cannot crap on OT miracles without crapping on the whole of Scripture. Non-believers take your very attitude toward the whole of Christianity because they can’t buy into the notion of the miraculous. You’re doing the exact same thing with the Genesis story, and largely here because it provides evidence you prefer to believe does not exist in Scripture that God is the source of morality.

    How we argue the source of morality with non-believers is another issue entirely.

  211. MA,

    Good call. I thought about pointing out that we’re supposedly talking to someone who holds orthodox christian beliefs, not Frank N. Furter from Transexual Transylvania.

    This feint in insinuating that anyone would use Genesis as a starting point for evangelism is frankly bizarre. This is one more layer of obfuscation to take the thread further from the original topic and avoid answering questions. The best solution is probably not to encourage this misdirection and remain focused on the unfinished business that already exists in this thread.

    It’s so much more orderly and respectful if we try not to go off on new and different tangents with so much unresolved to this point.

  212. paynehollow says:

    Although I’ve yet to receive a direct answer from Craig – nothing so direct as you’re insisting from me, which I’ve provided repeatedly – I will honor his attempt to answer it (believing he has sincerely tried, or at least giving him the benefit of the doubt that he has sincerely tried) and return to his questions from earlier.

    I had said…

    “Do you recognize that your opinion about a literal “knowledge fruit-bearing tree” in a literal garden is simply your opinion, an unprovable interpretation of an ancient text, and not a fact?”

    Craig “answered” with questions…

    1. Do you realize that I never actually asserted any personal position on this issue, therefore your question makes no sense in the context of the conversation?

    I was speaking to the topic that was open and out there. If you wished to clarify that you didn’t think the literal tree was a literal fact, that would have been a fine answer. It appears that this is not the case, although I’m having a hard time telling what your answer is, since you won’t directly answer it.

    Craig…

    2. Do you also realize that there is enough support for the idea that the Genesis story is literal within the last few thousand years of Judeo-Christian scholarship that agreeing with this stream of thought places one clearly within the bounds of Orthodoxy?

    I agree that it puts you in the bounds of the majority of Christian believers. I don’t think “orthodoxy” has a position on these questions. That is, I do not think there is an orthodox answer to “is the tree with knowledge fruit in the garden a literal tree? And are Adam and Eve literal people..?” etc. These are not essential or even vital tenets of orthodox Christianity.

    I do not believe the majority or tradition settle right and wrong or decide what is and isn’t a fact. Do you agree?

    3. Do you realize that your “mythic” position is clearly a position held by a tiny minority of Christians, and would probably be considered (at best) on the fringes of Orthodoxy?

    Again, I do not think that there IS an “orthodox” position on the literal nature (or not) of Genesis. “Orthodox” according to whom?

    I agree that it certainly was the minority opinion all throughout the pre-scientific ages. As we moved into the age of more scholarly science, that opinion has certainly declined in popularity. I suspect most people agree today that the Bible is not a science book, any more than it is a history book, and treating it as either does a disservice to the Bible, to science and to history.

    If you look at the creeds of Christianity (not that I’m a believer in creeds), we do not find any that insist on a particular view of Creation, as far as I’m aware…

    http://www.creeds.net/

    Do you recognize that there is no one “orthodox” view on Creation?

    There’s one batch of questions… I don’t see what it has to do with why you could not just answer my question or why you felt the need to respond with questions rather than a direct answer, but there’s my answers to your questions (that batch, anyway). Thanks for your patience.

    Dan

  213. paynehollow says:

    Craig, you appear to have some question about my unicorn premise, but I can’t find anything that looks like a question, just statements, like these…

    Unless you answer my question about whether you equate a belief in a literal Genesis with a belief in unicorns, I’ve given you all the response..

    …it appears that you are equating anyone who might believe that the tree in the garden was actually real with someone who claims they have a unicorn in their backyard.

    Giving my best shot at figuring out what the question is:

    Yes, I’m equating one unprovable, yet hard to believe claim (I’ve got a unicorn in my back yard!) with another unprovable, yet hard to believe claim (God “gave” morality to people when God let Adam/Eve eat from the Tree with the Knowledge Fruit…).

    My return questions:

    What is the problem with equating two unprovable, yet hard to believe claims?

    Would you treat the invisible unicorn claim as likely or would you be extremely skeptical and feel justified in being skeptical?

    On what basis would you feel justified in being skeptical about the one unprovable claim, but think others are wrong for being skeptical about your unprovable claim?

    I believe that answers your questions that you wanted answered.

    I hope you’ll revisit responding now to many of my questions that remain unanswered.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  214. Dan,

    I’ve answered your question multiple times, I’m sorry you don’t like my answer. I even explained why the question is flawed. Unfortunately, you have chosen not to answer the questions in the orderly manner which you keep insisting others follow. I am unsure how to deal with this.

    I realize you don’t like the answers I’ve given, I also realize you’d rather not admit that your question could be anything less than perfect, what I don’t understand is why you feel the need to lie.

    “Do you recognize that there is no one “orthodox” view on Creation?”

    Do you realize I never said there was? Do you realize that the “Genesis as myth” unsupported opinion is not one that would be considered within the bounds of orthodoxy?

    Beyond that I know how important orderliness and respect is to you so as a token of respect I will withhold answers to your questions until you complete the respectful orderly answering of all of the previous questions posed to you.

  215. sorry, orderliness and respect mandates that I wait until you are done. I know you will understand and apporve.

  216. approve

  217. paynehollow says:

    I see no other questions from you, as indicated by a question mark. If you have questions that were stated in the form of a declaration, you may need to help me find them.

    Thanks.

    Dan

  218. Just for the record I first answered your question on March 24 around 3:00 pm. Which of course demonstrates that your continued assertions that I haven’t answered your question false.

    Second, your inability or unwillingness to put forth the effort to find the questions you could have chosen to answer earlier is not my fault. I’ll give you a hint though, there are a few after I first answered your question.

    Again, had you answered these as they came up, you wouldn’t have this problem now.

    It almost seems disorderly, doesn’t it?

  219. “Craig, as soon as you answer my question directly, I’ll be glad to answer yours.

    Respectfully, I’m just trying to be orderly in dealing with a discussion, trying to keep the flitting around to a minimum.”

    This statement came three days AFTER I had answered your question, as well as after a number of questions you chose to avoid.

  220. paynehollow says:

    I was waiting your answer first, Craig. And I’m sure you feel like you answered the question, I just disagree. You answered other questions, but not the one I put to you.

    At least in my opinion. Here, the question I asked (Do you recognize that the opinion about the Knowledge Tree Fruit is an unprovable opinion, not a demonstrable fact?), you responded (March 24, ~3pm)…

    I’ll do what you won’t. My opinion, is that the tree in the garden was an actual literal tree. Fortunately my opinion is shared by the majority of Judeo Christian scholars…

    I didn’t ask you if it was a literal tree, that was not my question.
    I did not ask you if that opinion has been shared by man Judeo Christian scholars.

    You went on to “answer…”

    I have no problem saying that I believe the Genesis account to be literal and am quite content to stand with the majority of Judeo Christian scholarship over the centuries. In no way would I ever begin to assert as you have that my belief is “a sure thing”.

    I did not ask you if you believed the Genesis account was literal.
    I did not ask you if you were prepared to stand with the majority of those who agree with your opinion over the centuries.

    You hinted at an answer to my actual question when you said you would not assert your belief as a sure thing. But I was not sure if that was the answer to the question, so I asked again. And on we went.

    Do you see how these responses are answers to a bunch of other questions, but not the answer to the question I asked?

    If you’d answered it straightaway, we wouldn’t have this backlog of your questions and my questions that remain unanswered. In the meantime, I have come across a few more questions of yours…

  221. paynehollow says:

    Craig…

    You do realize that it is a bit strange to state an unprovable opinion absent any reason to accept it as fact as a fact is contradictory, don’t you?

    If someone stated an unprovable opinion and declared it a fact, that would be strange. If that is what you’re asking, that is my answer. It is also my question (put another way) to you:

    Is it strange for someone to believe an unprovable opinion to be a fact?

    Craig…

    What do you think it is about your opinions that allows you to state them as fact without any reason to believe them to be actually factual?

    I don’t state my opinions as facts. I am always quite clear that my opinions are my opinions. At the same time, if someone else is offering as their opinion a point that seems rather difficult to believe to be factual and for which there is no hard evidence, AND they insist that this opinion is reliable and practically a fact (or words to that effect), I am rightfully skeptical.

    Thus, the fella who claims to have an invisible unicorn in his back yard receives skepticism from me, outside of any hard evidence.

    Does that same fella receive skepticism from you, even though you can’t prove his invisible unicorn isn’t there?

    I suspect that we share the same sort of skepticism for dubious and unsupported, unsupportable claims, even if we can’t prove a negative.

    Can you offer any objective evidence to support your opinion?

    If someone makes a claim of miraculous and hard to believe phenomena, the burden of proof is on the one who claims the miracle, not the one who claims reality-not-showing-evidence for the miracle.

    Again, people would be rightly skeptical of the invisible unicorn guy – yourself included, I’m sure – and if he wanted people to believe his claim, the burden of proof is on him, not us to disprove him.

    Do you have any objective proof to demonstrate your claim of the miraculous to be factual?

    Can you understand that when you state your unsupported opinion as “a sure thing”, that others may not have the benefit of your years of Bible study and evidence to back up your opinion and therefore suspect that you are stating a fact rather than an opinion?

    Again, the burden of proof is on the one making the spectacular claim, not the one who points to reality and a lack of evidence to accept the spectacular claim.

    Respectfully answering your questions. Looking forward to your answers to my questions.

    Dan

  222. Dan,

    Your argument is akin to saying that the sky isn’t really blue, but hot pink with purple polka dots. It’s clearly ridiculous and undeserving of serious consideration or respect.

    So, why do you ask us to respect an obviously false belief?

  223. paynehollow says:

    Terrance, just because I find no reason to believe what you believe, because you have no hard evidence to support claims that are not believable… this does not make my belief false.

    Jesus, the Christ, the son of God came to this earth teaching us God’s Way, the way of Grace, Love, Forgiveness. Jesus poured out his life for us and rose from the dead, I believe. I have repented of my sin and seek, by God’s grace, to make Jesus the Lord of my life and walk in his steps.

    Nothing false in any of that, Terrance.

    Not that this has anything to do with the topic or addresses any of the questions out there.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  224. Dan,
    You know what, it’s just not worth trying to pull answers out of you. So, just don’t worry about it. As long as you have the gall to assert that your unprovable opinion is “a sure thing” then contradict yourself, I just can’t take you seriously. I get it you don’t like my answer. I don’t like your question. It’s ridiculous, and I’ve given you multiple reasons why it is. You ask for hard evidence, you give none. You get evidence, you ignore it or move the goal posts. You expect others to behave in ways you refuse to. You refuse to answer questions, then complain that you can’t find them.

    Honestly if you had a shred of decency you’d go through and actually answer the questions asked, unfortunately I strongly suspect you won’t, which says volumes about your character.

  225. Just to be clear, before it happens Dan’s likely next move will be to complain that I am unable to answer his questions. The problem is that I have answered plenty of his questions, and I see no reason to continue down this one sided exchange. I know others of you have asked questions that remain unanswered as well. I wish you better luck, or more patience.

  226. paynehollow says:

    I’m sorry you feel this has been one-sided. For what it’s worth, that’s exactly how it feels from my side, too.

    Peace,

    Dan

  227. Terrance, just because I find no reason to believe what you believe, because you have no hard evidence to support claims that are not believable… this does not make my belief false.

    Fallacy. I do, in fact, have evidence that Moses wrote Genesis.and I posted it already. You are simply wrong. You were caught wallowing in blissful ignorance, completely unaware that “the law” refers to the Pentateuch. That alone proves you wrong.

    I firmly believe, Dan, that you’re an atheist masquerading as a Christian.

  228. paynehollow says:

    You are, of course, welcome to believe whatever you want.

    If you’d like to visit sometime, see my time spent at church, working with the least of these, praying, singing, studying Bible, spending time caring for my ailing parents, being a decent parent to my children and husband to my wife of nearly 30 years, helping my friends and church family, etc, and still think it is all an elaborate ruse, you would still be welcome to believe what you wish, but then it would at least be from a place of having solid information.

    Peace, young brother,

    Dan

  229. Look Dan the constant demands for others to live up to a higher standard that you hold yourself to gets old. As long as you continue to revel in your double standard and get all defensive when you get called out on it, you give the lie to your contention that you just want a respectful orderly dialogue.

    Terrance, you have to admit that Dan’s comments have much more in common with the atheists who comment here than with those who profess orthodox Christianity. I actually think that Glenn is closer when he compares Dan to a J.W. or Mormon. He uses christiany terms, but when pressed it’s clear that he has morphed the definition onto something unique to his own version of Reason or Opinion or whatever his interpretive lens du jour is. You’ve asked some great questions, I really hope you can pry some answers loose.

    John, it would seem that you have that correct. Although you must prepare yourself for the now mandatory moving of the goal posts.

  230. Craig,

    “He uses christiany terms, but when pressed it’s clear that he has morphed the definition onto something unique to his own version of Reason or Opinion or whatever his interpretive lens du jour is.”

    Some of us have come to this conclusion long ago. Note that the following:

    “… time spent at church, working with the least of these, praying, singing, studying Bible, spending time caring for my ailing parents, being a decent parent to my children and husband to my wife of nearly 30 years, helping my friends and church family…”

    …certainly gives a superficial appearance of Christianity, but is not exclusive to Christians. It is also notable that such things are never brought up in these blog discussions except by Dan as evidence that he is what he says he is. I don’t expect anyone on these blogs to track me down and scrutinize my day to day activities, but only offer my comments to demonstrate who I am and what I believe. Dan’s comments so poorly support his claims of serious Biblical study or Christian devotion, so he defaults to lists of his works, as if we’re going to go through the trouble of certifying the validity of his claims, and if we aren’t, then we cannot question his Chrisitan bona fides.

    Sad.

  231. Dan,

    “What is the problem with equating two unprovable, yet hard to believe claims?”

    Two come to mind:

    1. You could equate your unicorn crapola with any miracle in Scripture including Christ’s resurrection. But you don’t. You reserve this dishonest nonsense for OT events that confound your preferred but unsupported perception of God, His nature and actions He took during what you need to believe was a period of less than specific historical record keeping.

    2. The question is a cowardly dodge from the point of providing the Biblical evidence you requested for God being the source of morality.

    The fact remains, even if the story of the Tree is metaphor, that the story satisfies your demand for Biblical evidence that God is the source of morality. Even if metaphor, it demonstrates God providing the means of discovering moral truth through the use of metaphor. But the question of whether or not the Genesis tale is literally the way the universe began is irrelevant to the request you made and if proof was absolute, it would not mitigate the fact that the Biblical evidence you demanded exists plainly for all to see.

    And, to further move back toward the topic of this post, I will reiterate that without God, there is no morality at all, but only that which we, subjectively and by virtue of a majority consensus, say is morality.

    • Good point Marshall. If dan can so dismissively refer to the tree of knowledge of good and evil as a magic knowledge tree, why doesnt he do the same for the magic wakey wakey Jesus resurrection?

      Why Dan, dont you dismiss the resurrection or Jesus’ miracles as metaphor? Or do you?

  232. paynehollow says:

    Different time period, different evidence, different culture, different situation, different writing style.

    John, why do you ask questions but rarely answer them?

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  233. paynehollow says:

    It was not written in the pre-modern history era, but in the era of Modern History, with more attention to details and facts.

    It was not written in an era when myth-telling was the common way to report history.

    There were many witnesses to Jesus after his resurrection.

    The story reads like a historic story, not like myth.

    In short, I believe in Jesus’ literal resurrection for many of the same reasons as you do, I suspect.

    Why do you rarely answer questions, John? Do you not consider it impolite and not conducive to communication to ask questions (often rudely) but not answer questions, even the very same question you ask the other?

    Thanks,

    Dan

    • So there was no myth telling in the first century?

      Dont you find it a bit suspect that both depict miraculous events, yet you choose to believe only some of them despite both being superintended and inspired by God?

      I dont recall, but have you ever explained what the lesson God was trying to teach with the conquer and kill stories in the OT? You say they arent historical, but rather to teach something else. What is it?

  234. paynehollow says:

    I’ll respectfully pass on an interrogation, John. If at some point you’d like to have a conversation, let me know.

    Thanks,

    Dan

    • I completely understand why these kinds of questions make you uncomfortable. They expose the double-standards you employ when determining how you should interpret Scripture. The truth is, and you admit this in your “system” that your sensibilities trump grammar and genre. You arbitrarily determine some events never happened because you don’t like how it depicts God or Israelite history.

      You’re a hack. You’re a professing Christian who believes non-Christian (and anti-Christian) things. You believe heretical things about Jesus, why he died, and what it is he died for.

      I suspect you’re either in a cult, which is the most likely scenario; you’re a liar, since you claim to have been even more right wing and conservative than I which judging by your views now is impossible. The fact that you don’t know, or don’t adhere to common Christian ideas belies your assertion that you engage in “serious” study. To not know, in this example, that even Jesus, and throughout the entire Bible, which is inspired by God, that Moses is referred to as the author of Genesis is proof you’re a liar.

      It’s possible also that you’re an atheist troll masquerading as a Christian. You agree more with atheists and non-Christians on this blog than you do Christians.

  235. paynehollow says:

    John, you misunderstand. The questions themselves don’t make me “feel uncomfortable.” They are questions I am glad to answer, as demonstrated by my repeated answering of questions on this blog. I have nothing to fear or worry about in answering questions, I do it all the time.

    What is tiresome is the one-way nature of the questions. I’m always interested in conversations with people with whom I disagree on some points – two way, give and take conversations, with questions being asked and answered, as directly as possible, in both directions.

    I hope you can see this is just a reasonable, adult expectation of who respectful conversations are generally held.

    In fact, whatever you gentlemen may think, I am a Christian, saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, the Christ. I have been a Christian for over 40 years, now, and I’ve been prayerfully studying the Bible and seeking God’s grace and God’s Ways throughout much of my 51 years.

    In fact, I was raised in a conservative S Baptist church and embraced that conservative theology for over half of my life. It’s all a matter of record and discoverable by any who’d investigate. I was quite “out there” in my conservatism and evangelical beliefs back throughout the 1980s and prior to that.

    Whether or not you believe it doesn’t really matter, these are the facts. One day, assuming we one day find all the answers which we do not now know… one day, you will see all of this and be tremendously embarrassed about your behavior, I’m sure. As, no doubt, I will have cause to be embarrassed by some of my behavior, as well as some of my misunderstandings.

    In the meantime, I will fall on God’s grace for myself and strive to extend it to gentlemen such as yourself. I will surely do so imperfectly, but it’s the best I can do.

    To God be the Glory,

    Dan

    • I keep asking because your answers are not substantiated and essentially amount to speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You have a common practice of offering vague half answers, then diverting away from yourself when your answers are shown to be misguided by asking a bunch of other people questions.

  236. paynehollow says:

    Funny.

    Dan

  237. Dan,

    I’ve certainly not questioned your devotion to family and community. I’ve no doubt you’re an upstanding citizen. And I mean that sincerely.

    But it’s very hard to believe that you’re a Christian, Dan, when you treat the Bible as fantasy coupled with mere suggestion. You are pro-choice, pro-gay, and dismissive of Scripture that doesn’t conform to secular beliefs. I’m sorry but this is not faith, Dan. Faith is believing in a timeless truth that does not bend to societal whims or majority opinion. Faith is believing without that “hard evidence” you’re so fond of. Faith is something that I don’t see you having, Dan.

  238. paynehollow says:

    Again, Terrance, that I disagree with you about how to best interpret a text does not mean that I “dismiss” the text, any more than you “dismiss” the text when you disagree with my interpretation.

    Respectfully, what we have is a difference of opinions on non-essential Christian ideas.

    Again, I did not change from the traditional positions I once held to the ones I hold now because I wanted to bend to society’s whims. I did so to be faithful to the Gospel and the Cause of Christ as I understand it to be taught in the Bible and as I understand it just rationally.

    You might make that the case, IF I had been a liberal and went to find Scriptures to fit my liberal views, but I was a conservative and reading the Bible led me away from those conservative views, quite to the consternation of many in my faith family and even to myself, at times. But I must be faithful to God as I understand God, not humanity.

    I am sure you can appreciate the sentiment, even if you disagree with my conclusions.

    Dan

  239. “Different time period, different evidence, different culture, different situation, different writing style.”

    Yet the same lack of evidence.

    “John, why do you ask questions but rarely answer them?” “Why do you rarely answer questions, John?”

    I’m guessing it’s because he’s following the example you set.

    “Do you not consider it impolite and not conducive to communication to ask questions (often rudely) but not answer questions, even the very same question you ask the other?”

    Yes, I do. Yet you do it all the time.

    “I have nothing to fear or worry about in answering questions, I do it all the time.”

    Except when you choose not to. Or to dodge, avoid or obfuscate.

    “What is tiresome is the one-way nature of the questions. I’m always interested in conversations with people with whom I disagree on some points – two way, give and take conversations, with questions being asked and answered, as directly as possible, in both directions.”

    It would appear it is only tiresome what you are ASKED the same questions over and over again, not when you ASK the same question over and over again.

    “I hope you can see this is just a reasonable, adult expectation of who respectful conversations are generally held.”

    I’m glad you seem to understand the concept, now maybe you can actually practice what you preach.

    After spending the last couple of days with some health issues that my wife is dealing with, I needed a good laugh. Fortunately this was just the ticket.

  240. Dan,

    I don’t mind that people interpret the Bible differently, Dan. But your “interpretation” is not sensible, or in anyway supported by Scripture. It simply isn’t reasonable. And that isn’t just opinion; that’s demonstrable fact. Look at your absurd defense of homosexuality, for example. There is no Biblical support whatsoever for the behavior itself. It is a sin, plain and simple. Instead of loving the sinner and hating the sin, you love the sin and the sinner! That is not Biblical. That is dangerous theology, Dan. And then claiming that Moses didn’t write Genesis when Jesus said He did? Seriously, ridiculous.

  241. paynehollow says:

    But you do understand, do you not, that I find it reasonable, Terrance? And that I find your all’s position unreasonable and unbiblical?

    Do you think I hold these positions because I find them unreasonable? Why would I do that?

    No, of course – just like you – I study the Scriptures (as I have for lo, these 50 years), seeking God’s will, seeking wisdom, seeking insight. And, as I understand it – the best I can – I sincerely strive to walk in that Way.

    Could I be an embecile? Sure, although, my schooling would lend support to the notion that I’m not mentally deficient in reasoning or book-learnin’ – but sometimes smart people can be foolish, right?

    Could I be mistaken? Of course, we all can.

    The thing that I’m not, Terrance, is deliberately choosing “bad” interpretations because I think they are “bad.” I’m striving to follow God as best I can, to do the good, not the bad, to walk in the steps of Jesus, not the world.

    Do you understand that, while it’s not impossible that I’m mistaken, it is factual that I’m not deliberately choosing “bad” interpretations because I think they’re bad?

    In that regards, I’m striving to follow God as best as I can. And that is what I am hoping you all can respect, even if you disagree with my conclusions.

    After all, what sort of man or seeker of God would I be if I abandoned what I honestly believe to be the true, the good and the right, simply because some guys on the internet didn’t find my understanding good enough. You wouldn’t have me abandon the Way that I think God leads based on other people’s opinions, would you?

    No, I must say, along with Peter, “I must follow God rather than men…” lt is a biblical notion, after all.

    Peace,

    Dan

  242. Terrance,
    I agree that all of the conclusions you’ve drawn about Dan are completely rational given his writings and claims. However, I think the first sentence of his response completely explains where he is coming from “…I find it reasonable…”. He doesn’t necessarily find it to be True or correct or right, or even necessarily Biblically supported but it seems reasonable to him and that’s enough for him. He’s been pretty clear that it’s all just opinion anyway and therefore as long as his opinion seems reasonable to him, he’s satisfied. That explains why his answers to questions are either perceived as evasive or unhelpful or simply dodges. He doesn’t believe that his view is correct in any objective sense, it’s just what seems reasonable to him. I’ve often wondered why Dan never cites anyone who influenced his opinions, I think the reason is that he doesn’t care if he’s the only one on earth that is convinced that whatever opinion he’s come up with is reasonable. When Biblical silence is taken as support, you can claim anything is biblical. But when it comes right down with it the only way his positions make sense if if they’re filtered through the lens of Dan’s Reason.

  243. paynehollow says:

    Craig, praytell, what are you using to figure things out if not your reason?

    Are you relying just on what someone tells you the Bible means, or do you use your reason? I would be willing to bet that you use your reason, just as I do. I hope so, anyway.

    And Craig, I have told you who influenced my beliefs: The Bible. I started out conservative as they come and, by prayer and Bible study, reached the conclusions I have reached, using my reason to sort these things out.

    What people influenced me in my research? All of my conservative Sunday School teachers. CS Lewis. Billy Graham. Leonard Ravenhill. Eventually, some of the anabaptists (but I was lead to the anabaptists by the teachings and guidance of these others). You’ve read the list of my influences, if you’ve read my answers to these sorts of questions before.

    Friends, let’s not belittle our God-given reasoning or those who use it. God gave it to us for a reason, after all.

    Dan

  244. Dan,

    But you do understand, do you not, that I find it reasonable, Terrance? And that I find your all’s position unreasonable and unbiblical?

    Charles Manson thought his actions were reasonable, too. So, what?

  245. Dan,

    “But you do understand, do you not, that I find it reasonable, Terrance?”

    No kidding? The real question is “how could you?” Your defense of your positions amounts to “I find it reasonable because it seems reasonable.” You have no response for questions so forcefully provoked by your positions. Yet you cling.

    “Do you think I hold these positions because I find them unreasonable?”

    A typical question from you, but nothing that anyone here ever suggested or would suggest.

    “Could I be an embecile?” Well, you spelled “imbecile” wrong, so there ya go.

    “Could I be mistaken?” Almost always (I’m being gracious) and have been shown so backed by strong arguments you have never countered, except by saying, “That’s your hunch” or “I find that unreasonable” or a host of other non-responses.

    “Do you understand that, while it’s not impossible that I’m mistaken, it is factual that I’m not deliberately choosing “bad” interpretations because I think they’re bad?”

    Do you understand that no one has ever leveled such a charge against you and that the mere suggestion is insulting due to the stupidity of the suggestion?

    “You wouldn’t have me abandon the Way that I think God leads based on other people’s opinions, would you?”

    Not at all, and I’m pretty freakin’ certain that no one ever encouraged such a thing. We have, however, encouraged you to abandon what you believe because it is unBiblical and/or down right stupid. And that shows how much we care.

    “No, I must say, along with Peter, “I must follow God rather than men…” “

    But you so clearly don’t. Here’s the thing:

    I can concede that for whatever reason you have looked at some passages and come to a wholly incorrect understanding. I’ll even go so far as to say that this incorrect understanding was developed sincerely. But you’ve had many people point out the chasm-like holes in your positions, the fatal flaws, and have not matched argument for argument. When you are so often reduced to “I don’t find your argument reasonable” or “You are welcome to your hunch” or “I just don’t buy it”, then the truth is that you do know you are wrong but for reasons apart from what Scripture actually says, you cling to the incorrect understandings as if you’re married to them. There is no rational explanation you’ve ever given that compels any second thought to our positions because you have exposed nothing amiss about them. You don’t ever see anyone responding to you as you do to us. No “that’s just your hunch” ever came out of me or out of John, Craig, Glenn, Bubba, Neil, Mark or anyone else who sought clarifications for your positions.

  246. MA
    To be fair I have used the “it’s just your hunch ” line more than once. In my defense I’ve tried to use it situations the point out what an absolutely ludicrous response it is.

    Dan
    I’m well aware of how you see your Reason, please don’t subject us to anymore of that particular rant, we’ve heard it enough.

  247. Dan wants his absurd views to be taken seriously because he’s under the impression that justification comes with sincerity. I’m sorry but this is stupid. My tongue-in-cheek statement above isn’t that far off the mark. Fact is, your beliefs can still be absurd, unreasonable, and utterly ridiculous even if you sincerely believe them.

  248. paynehollow says:

    Indeed. I think that your opinions, however well-intentioned, are harmful, wrong and immoral. For reasons I have repeatedly pointed out.

    The point I’m making is that we all think we’re starting from the right place, we all think we’re being reasonable, we all think we’re being biblical and moral and, to the best of our ability and by God’s grace, in God’s Will. We disagree about a behavior (in the case of marriage equity). It happens. Certainly, one side is probably wrong and the other side is probably right. I am convinced that your side (my former side) is mistaken, for many good, rational reasons – reasons I have given.

    Clearly, you all don’t see the rationality of my positions. You don’t even see that I’ve given anything like reasons, apparently, by the way you sum up my positions by saying I’m just saying, “that isn’t rational to me…” Clearly, literally speaking, I’ve given many reasons, biblical reasons, you all, for whatever reason, are not able to see that I’ve even offered reasons.

    If nothing else, that should give you pause – the fact that you can’t even see the reasons I’ve given suggest a cultural blindspot. For my part, I know the reasons you offer (I used to hold them, recall) and disagree with them for, again real reasons I have offered and that, again, you have not even seen.

    My position is taken seriously, by and large, by an increasing majority of people. You all, increasingly, are losing this argument because it appears immoral and irrational. So, do I want my position to be taken seriously? Sure, because people’s lives and justice are at stake. But I also want both/all sides to learn to disagree in a respectful manner, not resorting to saying, “If you disagree with our opinion about this/these behaviors, you are immoral and not a Christian…” because I think that hurts the church and hurts society.

    This seems reasonable and biblical to me.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  249. Shocking Dan manages to bring “marriage equity” into a discussion that has nothing to do with his favorite topic.

    Earlier Dan argued that right and wrong aren’t determined by the view of the majority, then proceeds to use that very same justification for rationalizing his views.

    I think we all understand that Dan finds his views rational. I think we all agree that Hitler, Manson, and countless other whack jobs found their positions to be rational also. So that’s not really that impressive.

  250. Seems to me that “I find my own unsupported opinions and hunches rational” sets a pretty low bar. Of course it eliminates the need to provide evidence, and it means you don’t have to bother with trying to pursuance anyone.

    Really if you think about it it’s a pretty good way to organize your reality, you only need to pursuade yourself that your hunches are rational, not true mind you, just rational to yourself. Pretty impressive in some ways.

  251. paynehollow says:

    I brought that topic in as an example and because it is one that you all seem to have the hardest time believing that others can reach my opinion by studying the Bible, not from outside pressure/influence.

    And I’m not arguing that right or wrong are determined by the majority. I noted that our side is winning the argument, for better or worse.

    And I HAVE supported my positions, Craig. Repeatedly. The point seems to be that, while I can see what you all offer by way of support and don’t find those offerings compelling, you all – if I’m understanding your testimony aright – aren’t even SEEING my supportive reasons for why I find my position rational and moral and biblical.

    How about it, gentlemen… can you even tell me what the support for my reasons for any of my positions are?

    I think this is a pretty important question because, if you can’t see what points I’m making, or dismiss them out of hand, then you aren’t even really understanding the argument being put forth.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  252. Indeed. I think that your opinions, however well-intentioned, are harmful, wrong and immoral. For reasons I have repeatedly pointed out.

    Wait. What? It’s harmful, wrong, and immoral to oppose abortion? It’s harmful, wrong, and immoral to believe that people ought to take responsibility for their own lives instead of blaming everyone else? It’s harmful, wrong, and immoral to believe that homosexuality is a sin, when the Bible itself says so?

    You’re ridiculous. Do you know that?

    And truly, I couldn’t give a damn what you think of my view on abortion. Do you realize how disgusting I think abortion and its supporters are? Do you realize the utter hatred I have for anti-lifers? They sicken me. They make me want to beat the shit out of something. They’re immoral, evil, and should go right straight to hell. I can’t stand them. I can’t even stand to look at them. I wish they didn’t exist…

    And what? You think your self-righteous game is gonna change me? You think I care? You’re wrong. It’s been proven repeatedly. Your beliefs are wrong, utterly absurd, and dangerous. So tell me, how much do you really think I care what you think?

  253. paynehollow says:

    Yes, your positions on that are harmful and immoral, in my opinion.

    How is that different than your position on MY opinion?

    It’s okay for you to think that – not only am I mistaken, but that I’m wrong, harmful and immoral to believe as I do – but it’s not okay for others to think that of your positions? That is why we oppose them, because we think they’re wrong, harmful, immoral and, at least in my case, unbiblical. I think you are mistaken and that, while mistakes happen and we don’t need to break fellowship over it, your mistakes have observable harmful consequences to individuals, society and the church of our Savior, Jesus.

    THAT is why I speak out against your opinions on those few points.

    Did you not realize that?

    The difference between us is that I don’t call you a fake believer or a non-believer because of what I think is your mistaken position. I don’t suggest you don’t actually hold the opinion or that you aren’t who you say you are. I just believe that you are mistaken and, unfortunately, that mistake has some consequences for people beyond folk like you.

    I would love for folk like you (like me, formerly) would be responsible for themselves and abandon this lifestyle and I pray that it happens.

    But I don’t say that you’re making it up or that you’re not a Christian because we disagree on these handful of points.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  254. paynehollow says:

    Oh, and I don’t wish for those with your opinion to go to hell. I don’t find that loving, rational or biblical. I wish and pray that you embrace grace and that we share in that grace that is God’s Heaven, on earth as it is in heaven.

    Dan

  255. YOU HAVE NO REASON TO BELIEVE THEY’RE WRONG! Like a typical lib, you’re just making shit up as you go.

    And seriously, it’s wrong and immoral to oppose abortion? What the fuck are you? What’s left after crazy? Give me a fucking break.

    I’d love it if people like you would wake up. I don’t think you could honestly understand the hatred I have for pro-aborts. You couldn’t even begin to understand. And then to hear you – of all people – say that my view on the issue is immoral? To hell with that. You support the dismemberment of children, and for the most pathetic fucking reasons I’ve ever heard.

    So, honestly, what moral high ground do you think you have? You’re in a valley, buddy.

  256. paynehollow says:

    But Terrance, you’ve already allowed how as, to my understanding, I DO have reason to think you are mistaken, just like to you, you think you have a reason to think I’m mistaken. Just because you disagree with my reasons doesn’t mean that I don’t have reasons.

    Dan

  257. Um, sure, Dan, if you take my thinking you’re completely insane as a reason…

    The difference, however, is that you have no good reason. You spew nonsense and then expect it to be taken as legitimate. Um, no.

  258. “MA
    To be fair I have used the “it’s just your hunch ” line more than once. In my defense I’ve tried to use it situations the point out what an absolutely ludicrous response it is.”

    I obviously missed that. However, I have no reason to question your assessment of what you might have found to be an absolutely ludicrous response. That is, however, a little different from using the line when faced with a rational and substantive response, so I stand by my earlier statement.

  259. “The point I’m making is that we all think we’re starting from the right place, we all think we’re being reasonable, we all think we’re being biblical and moral and, to the best of our ability and by God’s grace, in God’s Will.”

    The point I’m making is that I don’t rest on what I think about a position. I offer substantive, fact-based and testable arguments. And I counter opponents with substantive, fact-based and testable arguments. I don’t default to the obvious, such as not finding an opponent’s position unreasonable. I show why it’s unreasonable. I don’t slither away with, “you’re free to feel that way” as if I have authority to deny anyone such a freedom. I explain clearly why one shouldn’t feel that way. I don’t recall any such reciprocation from you that isn’t some mealy-mouthed “don’t you know how that sounds?” as if my speaking truth and fact must be tempered in a blog discussion for the sake of the overly sensitive, which is really a passive/aggressive censorship.

    “I am convinced that your side (my former side) is mistaken, for many good, rational reasons – reasons I have given.”

    And those reasons were what, again? I don’t recall any reasons given (certainly nothing rational) that I am mistaken. “Reads like myth” is not a reason for rejecting my offering of Biblical support for why morality comes from God. It’s exactly the type of non-substantive counter response to which I alluded above.

    Nor have I seen any convincing descriptions suggesting that you were any more than superficially conservative on issues you no longer hold. (I’ve no doubt your reasoning was no deeper than “because the Bible says so”—not at all the extent of my reasoning.)

    “Clearly, literally speaking, I’ve given many reasons, biblical reasons, you all, for whatever reason, are not able to see that I’ve even offered reasons.”

    Clearly, literally speaking, what you typically call Biblical reasons are Biblical distortions and proven so. This is typically where you default to the “your opinion” dodge.

    “the fact that you can’t even see the reasons I’ve given suggest a cultural blindspot.”

    Nonsense. We see what you offer as “reasons” to be extremely and provably bad reasoning, lacking in substance; corruptions of verses, passages and teachings. This is another good example of your corruption. You like to suggest our explanations of what a given passage says and means is tainted by cultural biases. The reality is that what you regard as cultural bias is the natural and legitimate position of a culture properly influenced by the passages and Scriptural teachings in question. In other words, you have it backwards. This is especially true as regards homosexual behavior.

    “My position is taken seriously, by and large, by an increasing majority of people.”

    People who simply dismiss and reject the true meaning of Scripture on the topic in favor of the heresy that pleases them, as do you.

    “You all, increasingly, are losing this argument because it appears immoral and irrational.”

    Not in any way you’ve ever been able to demonstrate. Plus, given our position is solidly supported by Scripture, it simply can’t be either immoral OR irrational. We are not losing the argument. You are simply no longer arguing, but pretending your extremely weak position is rational and supportable.

    “But I also want both/all sides to learn to disagree in a respectful manner, not resorting to saying, “If you disagree with our opinion about this/these behaviors, you are immoral and not a Christian…” because I think that hurts the church and hurts society.”

    First, you ARE immoral and unChristian in your positions. We prove it always, though you choose to falsely regard our arguments as unreasonable or irrational without any real evidence. Secondly, we always begin from a place of respect and grace until long after putting up with the very graceless disrespect of insisting we accept crappy exegesis as legitimate alternative possibility. Thirdly, calling sin “sin” and heresy “heresy” does not hurt church OR society. What strife that might arise from doing so is merely the natural discomfort the wicked must go through when confronted by truth.

    “…if you can’t see what points I’m making, or dismiss them out of hand…”

    Have never done this. We explain in great detail why your points are crap. Dismissing out of hand is your thing. So now you’re projecting. “You’re free to feel that way” or “That’s just your hunch” is “dismissing out of hand”.

  260. Indeed, dismissing out of hand was exactly what you did when I provided the Biblical support you requested to support the premise that morality comes from God. Rather than accept that your request was fulfilled, you immediately chose to question whether or not the Garden story was real or metaphor as if by being metaphor, the story doesn’t satisfy your request. Dismissing out of hand is your thing.

  261. “I noted that our side is winning the argument, for better or worse.”

    Which is a distinction without a difference.

    “And I HAVE supported my positions, Craig. Repeatedly.”

    Sorry, but “It seems reasonable to me…” 1s not support.

    “… aren’t even SEEING my supportive reasons for why I find my position rational and moral and biblical.”

    Strangely enough, when you can’t provide evidence from the Bible to support your opinions, we find it hard to accept the hunch that said opinions are Biblical. Of course, “It seems reasonable to me.” does not constitute support. One more instance where you demand volumes of objective, undeniable evidence while providing none of your own. I’ve asked you for years for ONE Biblical reference that is either supportive or neutral towards homosexual sex, and you’ve admitted that there are none. I’ve asked you for any support that specifically says that Genesis specifically was definitely written in a mythic style, and you’ve provided…none.

    ” …can you even tell me what the support for my reasons for any of my positions are?”

    Yes. “It seems reasonable yo me.” or “I’ve never seen any evidence to…”.

    “I think this is a pretty important question because,”

    Of course you do. If you can convince yourself that you’re being victimized by the mean conservatives who just aren’t smart enough to understand your points or who just ignore your points it will make you feel better.

    “if you can’t see what points I’m making, or dismiss them out of hand, then you aren’t even really understanding the argument being put forth.”

    But we do see your points, and we’ve asked fro objective evidence to support them, repeatedly, and we get “It seems reasonable to me.”

    “I DO have reason to think you are mistaken, …”

    You seriously have reasons (actual reasons supported by objective evidence) to think that Terrance is mistaken to think that killing babies is wrong? Really” Please enlighten us.

    “My position is taken seriously, by and large, by an increasing majority of people.”

    The majority of whom aren’t and don’t claim to be christians. So, you’ve decided that bob christian support for your ideas somehow makes the case that those ideas are biblical?

  262. If anyone has actually dismissed one of Dan’s positions out of hand I can’t see why it bothers him so much, it is simply a reflection of his behavior towards those he disagrees with reflected back at him. Of course, I’m guessing he can’t prove this ridiculous statement either.

  263. paynehollow says:

    Well I’d certainly like to that you gentlemen for the conversation. I think we’ve all said everything we’re going to say and unanswered questions (ie, questions that appear to “us” to be unanswered) are just going to remain unanswered. I think this is probably a good lesson in how “we” (whoever “we” are) always have a hard time understanding what “they” are saying. Some here appear convinced I have left questions unanswered and evidence unprovided. I think the same for many of you all.

    In my case, I would respectfully point out that I can point to questions that have literally gone unanswered (or that were “answered” but the answers were for questions other than the ones I asked), but I’m sure that it would be of no help.

    As to the point of the post, I think many of us here agree that morality is not “invented” by humanity, but that it is innate.

    As to the Moses thing, I’d point out that I have not said that Moses did not write Genesis, just that I have no evidence that I know of that makes me think he did. Yes, I know the Bible points to “Moses’ law,” etc and you think that this is evidence that Moses wrote the entirely of the Pentateuch (except for the parts he didn’t write) and that’s fine if it’s evidence enough for you. Literally speaking, the Bible does not say who wrote Genesis, does not tell us that Moses wrote Genesis and does not say it really matters who wrote Genesis, nor do I know of any hard evidence from any source that insists upon it. If it makes you feel better to assume Moses, I have no problem with that, I don’t think it’s a problematic point, my only concern is the way we feel we need to insist we’re correct and speaking facts, even on points we can not demonstrably prove.

    Have a good weekend, gentlemen and thanks for this rambling conversation. It was a fun ride.

    Respectfully,

    Dan

  264. I can’t believe it Dan has decided to bail because his questions weren’t answered the way he wanted. But does that really surprise anyone?

  265. The only Dan can credibly make his last point regarding Moses it by pretending that he wasn’t provided with multiple biblical references that undermine his hunch. You know, if you ignore evidence it doesn’t exist, right? We’ve provided more biblical support for Moses authorship of the Pentateuch than Dan has for his hunch that God approves of gay marriage .

  266. Dan,
    “Some here appear convinced I have left questions unanswered and evidence unprovided.”
    Can’t imagine who those people would be. Most here, if not all, are absolutely convinced you have left questions unanswered and evidence unprovided. Unlike yourself, we have no problem showing why what you put forth fails and in fact have done so quite easily.
    “In my case, I would respectfully point out that I can point to questions that have literally gone unanswered…”
    Have at it. I would point out that what would constitute and unanswered Dan question would likely be one that is composed to provoke an answer that satisfies your preferences, but not truth and reality. It might also be one that presents a truly idiotic analogy or scenario, such as “If God commanded you to rape babies, would you do it?” Put another way, you routinely ask questions that do not deserve the dignity of a response. OR, you will ask a question such as “where does the Bible say that morality is grounded in God” as if Scripture needs to word anything in so specific a manner before one could legitimately suggests it teaches a given concept. If this was true, then your position on homosexuality becomes even more laughably absurd than it already is. But go ahead. Let’s see what you have.
    “As to the point of the post, I think many of us here agree that morality is not “invented” by humanity, but that it is innate.”
    I don’t know what you mean by “many of us” since you are the only one making this argument. Of the rest of the people commenting, there is besides you only George who has taken issue with the position I’ve taken, and only partially (he questions the proposition that non-believers do not have a true basis for objective morality).
    But even putting aside that unsupportable statement, the notion that morality is innate has not even come close to being supported. You’ve only made assertions, such as “everyone knows killing babies is wrong”, which requires one to ignore millions of abortions, Kermit Gosnell types of abortionists, historic evidence of child abuse and slaughter of children already born.
    As to Moses, there is far more than merely what characters is Scripture say for evidence of Moses authorship. For example, articles like this one are plentiful on the internet. In this link you’ll find examples of arguments against Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and responses to them. It also speaks of archeology supporting the contention and how it does so. And one can also find articles such as this one that speaks to Moses writing Genesis. It provides arguments and evidence as well, such as this for the notion of one author (without saying Moses was the author):
    The following quote comes from Omni magazine of August 1982:
    ‘After feeding the 20,000 Hebrew words of Genesis into a computer at Technion University in Israel, researchers found many sentences that ended in verbs and numerous words of six characters or more. Because these idiosyncratic patterns appear again and again, says project director Yehuda Radday, it seems likely that a sole author was responsible. Their exhaustive computer analysis conducted in Israel suggested an 82 percent probability that the book has just one author.’

    The question then goes back to Dan’s insistence that absolutes are required when our side provides an argument (“The Bible doesn’t specifically say Moses wrote Genesis”), while daring to put forth a contention with absolutely no firm Scriptural support, much less scholarly support, for things like his position on homosexuality.
    Who is arguing in a mature, respectul manner? It ain’t Dan.

  267. As to my last comment, I am wondering if Dan ever plans to defend his position regarding morality as an innate feature of humanity. Or perhaps in light of my responses to that notion, perhaps he is willing to reconsider his position.

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