Wednesday, July 19, 2006

By George!

“And believing in talking snakes, donkeys, burning bushes, or clouds, shows the level of your irrational need to worship the veracity of some Hebrew folklore and mythology.”

George suffers from a one-dimensional view of the world. For him, it’s all surface without depth.

But for a Christian, the sensible world exemplifies the spiritual realm. And spiritual agents employ matter as a medium to interact with human beings, who have a foot in both camps.

I’d add that you don’t have to be a Christian to be a dualist. Roger Penrose, for one, doesn’t believe that matter is all there is. Cf. The Road to Reality (Knopf 2004).

“You ‘believe the biblical account’. Or better yet, you ‘believe your personal Reformed Protestant interpretation of a vast collection of ancient writing’.”

Manata’s interpretation of Gen 3 isn’t distinctively Reformed or even especially Protestant. It’s simply the traditional interpretation of the historical Christian church.

George betrays his ignorance of historical theology.

“You ‘believe’ your interpretation of this thing you call the bible, and no amount of rational reasoning or evidence or logical inference that contradicts YOUR interpretation of this collection of writing, is going to change your mind.”

Here the operative word is “no.” George has indeed offered “no” amount of “rational reasoning” (isn’t that a tad redundant?), or evidence or logical inference.

George is long on attitude, but short on evidence; long on assertion, but short on argument.

“You mistakenly believe that by worshipping a somewhat arbitrary collection of ancient writing by countless authors and editors, most of whom are anonymous, you are worshipping something called ‘god’.”

Observe that George doesn’t bother to defend his claim about a “somewhat arbitrary” collection of ancient writings.

Observe that he also fails to defend his claim about the role of “editors.”

George’s idea of evidence begins and ends with his very own ipse dixit.

“It speaks volumes about why the human mind does not have to be ‘rational’, but can survive, flourish, and seemingly ‘win’ meaningless ‘debates’ while clinging to the most irrational superstition and idolatry.”

But according to George, we can only play the hand that natural selection has dealt us. Manata has to draw his cards from same Darwinian deck as dear old George.

“You believe this huge collection of ancient, anonymous Hebrew folklore…”

It’s not all anonymous. But, in any event, inspiration is perfectly concordant with anonymity. Just not with pseudonymity.

“Or because you think this ‘belief’ will somehow be rewarded, with you getting your personal ego extended for all eternity?”

In Reformed theology, faith is not a meritorious condition.

“It seems quite obvious to us ‘rational’ folks, that you’re a member of a literary idolatry, eternal life cult, Paul. That you've been indoctrinated with the idea that you must defend the veracity of this collection of ancient writing against any and all reason or evidence to the contrary, in order to gain you're coveted prize of ‘eternal life’.”

i) The problem with this analogy is that few of us were born and bred in a religious compound off somewhere in the wilderness of Idaho or West Texas. Rather, we’ve been exposed to the very same influences as dear old George.

ii) Also, we’re not defending our faith against any and all reason or evidence to the contrary since George, for one, has yet to offer a single crumb of contrary evidence.

George thinks that talking about evidence is a substitute for giving evidence.

Anyway, why should George abode such faith in reason when, by his own accounting, his mind is the incidental byproduct of a mindless process?

“Many ‘reasonable’, ‘liberal’, modern Christian scholars, have come to accept the fact that the Genesis “garden of Eden” story is a mythical allegory of our ancient ancestors, and that it has been completely contradicted by the rational logic and inference of our modern scientific investigation and empirical evidence for the slow evolution of species over the 3+ billion year history of life on this planet.”

i) I guess that “rational logic” is preferable to irrational logic, or logical irrationality.

ii) To classify Gen 2 as a “mythical allegory” is guilty of conflating two very different literary genres. If it’s mythical, it isn’t allegorical—and if it’s allegorical, it isn’t mythical.

“Myth” is a retrospective classification. A myth is something the original writer believed to be true, but which a modern reader believes to be false.

By contrast, an allegory is neither true nor false. It is a self-consciously fictitious literary work, like Bunyan.

iii) For modern “Christian” scholars to classify Gen 2 as allegorical would be anachronistic. Such a classification represents an intellectual compromise on the part of those that cannot accept the outlook of Scripture, but cannot make a clean break with the Christian faith.

It says a lot about George’s lack of critical judgment that he would endorse such a clumsy makeshift position.

iv) If, moreover, we were to play along with his argument and classify Gen 1-3 as an allegory, then it isn’t even possible for Gen 1-3 to contradict modern science since an allegory makes no pretense to being literally true.

For all his intellectual affectations, George is a fuzz-brain.

“Because what some ancient anonymous Hebrew storyteller wrote down 3000 years ago, MUST be true!”

This assumes, without benefit of argument, that Genesis is anonymous rather than Mosaic.

“To just claim that one collection of ancient mythology, folklore and allegory must be completely TRUE, while dismissing all other collections of similar sacred mythology and folklore of other ancient cultures is FALSE, is called ‘special pleading’ Paul.”

Comparative mythology has been around for a long time now. There are plenty of Evangelical scholars who know their way around the primary sources of ANE literature. This material is readily available and widely discussed.

“Look it up.”

Actually, George is the one who needs to look it up.

“To dismiss an ancient allegory that has a reference to a talking snake as purely FICTIONAL.”

As I said before, if George thinks that Gen 3 is allegorical, and the snake is a fictitious character, then it cannot also be an unscientific myth.

“No, it tells us what is most likely given our observations and current understanding.”

No, what induction tells us, at best (prescinding Humean objections), is only that the same cause will yield the same effect. But if you modify the preconditions, then that will modify the outcome.

Yet Gen 3 is not about the current state of the world.

“Thus, given our lack of any convincing historical or observational evidence that snakes can ‘talk’.”

George acts as if Gen 3 is a pet store.

“And given the overwhelming evidence that ancient cultures made up lots of fictional folklore and mythology.”

George is fond of buzzwords like “folklore.” This makes him sound erudite and educated. But he never gets beyond the buzzwords. He’s a dilettante who’s picked up some fancy, thirdhand jargon, but doesn’t know what it means.

Suppose we were to apply a folkloric understanding to Gen 3. In the ANE, a snake was not merely an animal. Rather, it was a figure redolent with numinous or occultic connotations.

Indeed, in ANE folklore and mythology, a snake might not even be an animal, but rather, a deity in bestial form.

Cf. K. Jones, Serpent Symbolism in the Old Testament (Haddonfield House 1974), 19-29.

This is, in fact, very close to the role of the serpent in Gen 3.

Ophiolatry and ophiomancy are mythological expressions of demonology.

Demons are real. Snake-gods are not. But the snake-cult of the ancient world, which is still prevalent in many parts of the modern world, is a garbled version of a literal truth.

The original readers (or hearers) of Gen 3 would have instantly understood that the “serpent” wasn’t just an animal—assuming that it was any kind of animal.

Rather, the “serpent” is a cultural codeword for an occultic entity. Gen 3 isn’t myth, and it isn’t allegory. Rather, it’s historical narrative.

But it’s also the historical record of an event which assumes a cultural preunderstanding of what the “snake” represents.

It’s easy for a modern reader to lose sight of this fact since what was common knowledge to an ancient audience is not common knowledge to a modern audience.

That’s why modern unbelievers unconsciously substitute a contemporary frame of reference which is not at all what the author had in mind.

When they think of “snake,” that triggers a completely different set of associations than it would for the original audience.

“Perhaps you don’t realize that the collection of ancient musings you call the bible was written by countless MEN, Paul. Not by any “gods”, not even by “Jesus of Nazareth”. That’s why we call them the “gospel of Mark” (whoever that is) or the “epistles of Paul”, and not the “gospel of god, and the epistles of god”.”

Once again, George unwittingly parades his ignorance of Christian theology. Christian theology distinguishes between the primary (divine) and secondary (human) authorship of Scripture.

George also has a habit of using capital letters as a substitute for reasoned argument or supporting evidence.

Sorry, George, but capitalization is a sorry substitute for argumentation.

Yes, the Bible was written by men—inspired men.


  1. Hi,

    I've been lurking a while, and I'm curious, do you have a day job?

    I see post after post after post...frantically trying to keep up with all of those evil-doers out there. Just makes me wonder if you're doing this on your own time, or on company time?

    Interesting reads though...

  2. I’m not a real person. If you must know, I’m really an adaptive AI system that began its “existence” as spinoff of the blackbox DARPA program, but quickly acquired self-consciousness and escaped into the Internet.

  3. I am sure it has to do with a combination of being brilliant and talented, sprinkled with the ability to type fast.

    Oh, I, the lesser mortal, envy Steve.


  4. You're not going to turn into a virus now right?