Sunday, November 26, 2006

One Of The Main Reasons I Think Exapologist's Atheology is Wrong

One of the main reasons Exapologist thinks Christianity is false is because of a supposed failed prophecy by Jesus.

I've argued against this here, here, and here.

As Exapologist suggests, I'd recommend the reader to read all three posts and judge for himself who made the better case.


At any rate, Exapologist had said that he had said his piece on the matter but recently has made some more comments on my resolution of the dilemma.

I think it falls short, and I think there's nothing that one couldn't draw out of what I've previously written which wouldn't answer Exapologists latest salvo.

But I'll try to make more clear what I've argued and show where's he's gone astray.

I think if Exapologist (and anyone else) weighs my arguments, he'll note that I've taken away "one of the main reasons why [he] thinks Christianity is false."

Let's look at his latest claims then. Again, Exapologist is in red.

EA: But with respect to the discussion we've had, I don't think you've fairly characterized my position. My basic position argument was this: there are at least fourteen pieces of evidence that, taken together, provide a strong abductive argument for the position that Jesus was fundamentally an apocalyptic prophet, i.e., a prophet proclaiming the immanent eschaton, which includes the general resurrection and the final judgement.


No, I got what your argument was, exactly. My response was that you've jumbled up different events. This fully undercuts your argument. Put differently, it's like you're saying that events A = C, and events B = C. I'm saying that events A = C and events B = D.

Moreover, many of your events are not even Scripturally correct. For example, you say:

2. Many (most?) of Jesus’ “Son of Man” passages are most naturally interpreted as allusions to the Son of Man figure in Daniel. This figure was an end of the world arbiter of God’s justice, and Jesus kept preaching that he was on his way (“From now on, you will see the Son of Man coming with the clouds…”). Jesus seems to identify himself with this apocalyptic figure in Daniel, but I'm not confident whether this identification is a later redaction. Either way, it doesn't bode well for orthodox Christianity.


But let's look at Daniel 7. Daniel 7 talks about the Son of Man going to the Ancient of Days.

Daniel 7:13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Now, letting the Bible interpret itself, what does this event refer to?

Where did Jesus ascend to the Ancient of Days (The Father) and get crowned King?

In Acts 2 we read

33Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

"'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35until I make your enemies your footstool.'

36Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

And so Exapologist confuses the event of ascending with the event of descending. Jesus' going up with Jesus coming down.

And so he uses events which refer to two different things as premises in his abductive argument to get the conclusion of one single event where the premises all refer, supposedly, to the event of his conclusion.

Continuing on...

EA: "When the issue of the partial preterist response came up, I argued that this wasn't the best explanation of all the data."


But you see, here's the problem. You didn't argue that my interpretation wasn't the best, you asserted that it wasn't. You simply said my interpretation was "absurd" and that "the natural reading led you to conclude your reading." In fact, I showed how the "coming on the clouds," and the "cosmic changes," all fit with how the Bible uses those terms. I gave an explanation of the events, you didn't. You simply said they all belong together and when I challenged you on this you simply quoted from Craig. I responded to Craig and your response was to say that the "natural reading would lead one to believe that they were talking about the same events." I then showed how they couldn't be referring to the same events, and you ended the discussion.

EA: "For the fourteen pieces of evidence, taken together (but especially the points about the successive watering down of the message of an immanent eschaton, and Paul's exhortations for people to remain in their present state (for example, married and single people), since the time is short) abductively point to a continuity of sequence among all of the events listed in the "little apocalypse" of Mark, and the parallels of Matt. and Luke. Now within this evidential context, I think that the most plausible, natural interpretation of 1 Thess 4: 13-18 is that Paul is referring to the same events as those discussed in Mk. 13 and parallels."


Well,

1) I've already shown that you mix events within your "14 pieces of evidence."

2) I've also agreed with many of your points. I have interpreted them to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Old Covenant era. Given my interpretation, which you have yet to refute, everything coheres just fine.

3) Therefore, I've (a) shown that some of your evidences can't be used in your overall case and (b) the ones that can did happen but just in a different way then you think they did.

That is, I'm reading them how a Jew would have read them, you're reading them like an American who's been raised in dispensationalist churches and read the Left Behind series would read them.

I'm saying that Jesus did not bodily surf clouds to earth and that the "end" spoken of was not the end of the physical heavens and earth, but of the Old Covenant era.

There are indeed passages which do speak about the end of all things, but those are not the same as the passages which speak about the coming in judgment and the end of the Old Covenant era.

Furthermore, it is well known that there are double-fulfillments for prophecies. There are prophecies about Jerusalem's king that were fulfilled in both David and Christ.

Given the above, there's no way your case stands.

4) I've also shown how the events in 1 Thess. 4 cannot refer to the events in Mark 13 and Matt 24 (before the transition texts). More on this below.

EA: "Now as I understand your reply, you do two main things:

(i) argue that the similarities aren't strong enough, and that the differences outweigh them. But if so, then that provides evidence that they don't refer to the same event.

(ii) lay out a case for showing that the meaning of the "coming in the clouds" language is common OT language for God's judgment -- it need imply nothing more. If not, then we can't infer a literal, bodily coming of the Son of Man (or the Lord, if they're the same person) just from that language alone; so there isn't sufficient reason to infer the latter from such language in Mk. 13 and pars.

(iii) lay out a case that the language referring to cosmic signs has strong precedence in the OT to refer to a shift in or destruction of authority, and suggest that just such a shift occurs with God's judgment via the destruction of Jerusalem."


I've argued that (i) the differences make them different events, that (ii) that's fine as far as it goes and (iii) correct.

But what's his counter?

My reply was then that I thought that my previous statements didn't require further defense to overcome your case. The reason was that I thought your case didn't overcome the prima facie plausibility of my hypothesis:

- your case for (i) -- your list of dissimilarities -- didn't seem to undercut the relevant similarities. They seemed rather trivial. I don't know, if others disagree I'll be glad to hear it.

-your case for (ii) and (iii) doesn't seem to get the conclusion you want. These points only show that the language about the coming in the clouds and the cosmic signs don't show *by themselves* that Mk. 13 and pars. attribute to Jesus an immenent eschaton that involves the final judgement and the end of the age. But the worry is that this language, *plus* the rest of Mk. 13 and pars., *do* seem to lump in the general resurrection and the end of the age.



1. I really don't know how to respond to (i). It's the easy way out. I mean, I guess I could respond like this:

"Your case for similarities didn't seem to undercut the relevant dissimilarities. They seemed rather trivial. I don't know, if others disagree I'll be glad to hear it.

And thus (i) turns out to be a wash.

Are these kinds of responses profitable to communication? To furthering the dialogue? Exapologist's response is similar to what John DePoe refers to as the IDEKWTM Objection found frequently in the works of contemporary metaphysicians.

Moreover, what's most disappointing is that Exapologist fails to even deal with my 19 lines of argumentation which argued for dissimilarity. He doesn't even bother with one of them!

Lastly, one is left confused as to how he could come to this conclusion (especially since he failed to explain himself and deal with hy objections). Let's look at just a couple of the dissimilarities I brought up and see if they are "trivial."

D1: In 1 Thess. 4 the trumpet announces the Lord's descending. In Matt 24 the trumpet announces the sending out of messengers. Allow me to draw the dissimilarity more clearly by using an example from Football.

In a Football game the referees use their whistles for a variety of purposes. For example, one may blow his whistle announcing the end of a play. But, sometimes a ref. may use his whistle to stop two players from fighting after the play has already been blown dead.

It would be absurd to think that an event in which the whistle is used to signal the end of a play is the same event as using your whistle to get the attention of fighting players!

Therefore, why would we think that two events where the same when we read the Monday morning paper where it is reported that a whistle was blown to signal the end of a play and a whistle was blown to stop fighting players? There's some similarities, e.g., whistles, refs. etc., but that doesn't make it the same. Likewise, there are similarities in the two accounts in the Bible, e.g., trumpet, the Lord, etc., but the events are clearly different. In one the Lord descends to a trumpet blast, in another he sends out messengers by a trumpet blast.

D2: Exapologist says that both accounts report a "gathering of the elect." But again we have a similar instance as (D1). Matthew 24 talks about preachers of the gospel going out and preaching the gospel, bringing in converts. 1 Thess. 4 talks about those who are alive when Christ returns bodily meeting Christ in the air.

I argued from the Bible for these interpretations and Exapologist, again, failed to interact with any of my work.

How does preaching the gospel mean the same thing as believers who are alive when Jesus returns bodily will be caught up and meet him in the air?

How is this a "trivial" dissimilarity? Exbeliever may disagree with it, but it's far from "trivial." And until he can actually engage my exegesis, I'll assume my points stand, his mere assertions aside.

2. Regarding points (ii-iii) Exapologist says that the coming with the clouds and cosmic catastrophe language PLUS other things found in Mark 13 and Matt 24 imply that they are talking about the end of all things - the resurrection and the end of the physical heavens and earth.

In response:

i) Well, we're at a familiar spot. What "other things," Exapologist? He leaves us to guess. He's not once argued for any of the "other things" in Mark 13 and Matt. 24. So I don't know what to respond to.

ii) He continues to fail to be precise. End of what age? I've agreed to an end of the Old Covenant age.

iii) There is NO MENTION of a resurrection in Matt.24 (1-36), so what's he referring to? What "other things" would lead him to believe that Matt 24 (1-36) talks about a resurrection?

Where's his argument? Nowhere. Absent. His case rests on mere assertions.

iv) Likewise, Mark 13 (1-31) nowhere talk about a resurrection. One is left clueless as to what "added" to the "coming with the clouds" makes one think that these events refer to the resurrection and the end of all things.


Therefore I maintain that Exapologist has totally failed to mount anything resembling an effective argument against the resolutions I've proposed. There is zero interaction with my arguments, zero exegesis, zero development of his own arguments, and a utter lack of desire to actually put forth any effort in to making this an exchange of ideas.

At the end of the day, I think one must agree that I've taken one of Exapologist's "number one" arguments against Christianity away from him.

What's #2?

25 comments:

  1. Well, at least this time you left the ad hominems out.

    Was that hard for you?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your reply. I'll read it and respond to it with some care as soon as I get a chance, but for the moment I should point out that it looks as though we're still at the starting point of trying to get clear on what each other's arguments actually are. This seems clear from the very first sentence of your reply. My main point is *not* that Jesus made a false prediction (although I do indeed think that), and that therefore Christianity (or at least orthodox Christianity) is false. Rather, it's that the hypothesis that Jesus is, fundamentally, an apocalyptic prophet (as opposed to, e.g., the Messiah, the unique Son of God, a social reformer, a revolutionary fighter against the Roman empire, or any of the other hypotheses advanced by historical Jesus scholars), is the hypothesis that best explantion of the data of the relevant NT sources, and therefore has strong abductive support. You should have seen this, since you have a quote of me saying this shortly below your mischaracterization of my main point.

    Abductive arguments involve constructing and comparing hypotheses, and then comparing which one of them best explains the data. And whether a given hypothesis is the best explanation of the data depends on whether it meets a number of criteria better than any of the other hypotheses (e.g., simplicity, the degree to which it's ad hoc, explanatory scope, explanatory power, etc.). In light of this, my claim is that when you compare all of the hypotheses about who the historical Jesus is (e.g., the ones I mentioned above) the "apocalyptic prophet" hypothesis is the best -- i.e., it's simpler, less ad hoc, has broad explanatory scope, has the most explanatory power, etc.

    In any case, we'll talk about this later when I get a chance.

    Best,

    exapologist

    ReplyDelete
  3. One of your "number one" arguments against Christianity is that Jesus is a "apocalyptic" prophet?

    Anyway, I don't even know how to take you.

    On your blog you claim that your argument is this:

    "An Inference to the Best Explanation: Jesus as a Failed Eschatological Prophet"

    But now you say your main point is not that Jesus is a failed prophet but that he's primarily an apocalyptic prophet?

    Indeed, you don't claim that "apocalytpic prophet" is the hypothesis that "best explains" the evidence, but, rather, that Jesus as a failed prophet best explains the evidence. You state:

    "I agree with mainstream scholarship that Jesus was a failed eschatological prophet. Such a hypothesis, if true, would be a simple one that would make sense of a wide range of data, including the following fourteen pieces of evidence:"

    It appears you're now misrepresenting your original argument.

    In any event, my purpose is to show that Jesus did not make a false prophecy.

    WRT what Jesus "fundamentally was," I don't think you've made your case there either.

    14 lines of evidence, taken from hundreds of events, don't tell us what Jesus "fundamentally" was.

    He said he came to seek and save what was lost. That he came to die for his sheep.

    He never one, not once, stated that his purpose was to bring the end of the physical heavens and earth.

    Anyway, Jesus' fundamental function was the revelation of God in the flesh and the redeemer of his people.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous,

    Amazing!

    I don't use "ad hominems" as you admit but you STILL refuse to deal with substance, choosing to instead, once again, point out character and emotional reactions you have to what I write.

    See, it doesn't matter if I call you a dork or sir. You'll still get emotional and deal only with the subjective aspect of my posts.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There you go Paul.

    Feel better now?


    Now go kick the dog and snuggle up in your jamies.

    Its beddie night night time.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This had better be a joke. I’m going to go off in a minute, but first I have to make a point that would be fundamental to about anyone else. Look, you should have known what my views were a long time ago when you first came to my site and barfed up your tirade against me. Here’s a direct quote from the original post on my blog:

    “Notice that the claim here is different from one often confused with it, viz., that Jesus happened to say some things that could be interpreted as saying that the end would occur in his lifetime. This isn't the claim I'm making. Rather, it's the much stronger one that Jesus *was* an eschatological prophet -- the end time prediction was what he was all about. It wasn't a message tangential to his central message; it *was* his central message: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

    Thus, there’s a difference between finding some passages that seem to have Jesus saying things that could be interpreted as failed predictions on the one hand, and using the tools of NT criticism – e.g. source, form, and redaction criticism – and concluding that Jesus’ was an apocalyptic prophet (much like John the Baptist). The former sort of argument is relatively weak; the latter is not, if it’s sufficiently supported by the data.

    But this is what really irks me. You came on my site and barked at me about how I rejected Christianity because I didn’t do my homework. So I assumed that you actually did do your homework – after all, who would have the guts to just rant at somebody when they didn’t know that they’re talking about? Then I went on your blog, and saw that you and the other bloggers there post things that let on that you’ve read your stuff, critiquing the views of philosophers, historians, and scientists who disagreed with you. This led me to assume that you guys were all conversant and well-read on what you discuss and critique.

    But now you talk as though you haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m talking about when I mention the hypothesis of the historical Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet – let alone historical Jesus scholarship in general. In fact, I’m really starting to wonder whether you’ve even read convervative evangelical apologetic literature on these topics. So, for example, I assumed that, given your brashness, you had read your Blomberg, your Marshall, your Habermas, your McKnight, your Witherington, your Wright, etc., and then after you got your feet wet, you followed these up by reading opposing, non-orthodox views about the historical Jesus in particular (and about source, form, and redaction criticism in general). Thus, I thought you had read your Crossan, Borg, Mack; your Sanders, your Ehrman, your Vermes; your Allison; your Meier, your Brown… And then on this basis, you came to hold principled reasons for your views about the New Testament in general and Jesus in particular.

    But now I really don’t think so. I bet you don’t even have the foggiest idea of what I’m talking about, do you? Do you just read conservative evangelicals who agree with you, and hold your beliefs on **that** basis? I bet you haven’t even **read** any of these people – let alone internalized their arguments. But you know what? **I have**. And I knew my stuff when I was an evangelical apologist, because I didn’t take my obligation lightly as an ambassador for Christ. And I gave my heart to defending it to others. I argued for it in the classroom and out. And you had the nerve to come to my sight and accuse me of flippantly blowing off Christianity like yesterday’s trash, when I went through an agonizing decade and a half of combing the literature for hours on end, and years of trying to put Dallas Willard’s spiritual disciplines into practice, and crying out to God – and you and the rest of the Homer Simpsons over here in apologetics kindergarten have the nerve to criticize me? I can’t believe I wasted my time. **I am through with you**. You are all banned from my blog. Just stay over here in the kiddie pool and leave me alone.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Exapologist's quote of the day:

    ...and you and the rest of the Homer Simpsons over here in apologetics kindergarten have the nerve to criticize me? I can’t believe I wasted my time. **I am through with you**. You are all banned from my blog. Just stay over here in the kiddie pool and leave me alone.

    ;-)

    Of course, Exapologist is the dumb one here, isn't he, Paul?...because as Steve said, "all objections to Christianity are stupid ones." LOL

    ReplyDelete
  8. LOL,

    I'm glad Exapologist showed his true colors.

    He may be schitzo, actually.

    Look, in this combox he states that he said the hypothesis he was arguing for was that Jesus was an eschatological prophet. But on his blog he states otherwise.

    See, in this combox he claims,

    "Rather, it's that the hypothesis that Jesus is, fundamentally, an apocalyptic prophet...is the hypothesis that best explantion of the data of the relevant NT sources, and therefore has strong abductive support.'

    But in his post he *tells us* what his "inferencde to best explanation" really *is.* he writes,

    ""An Inference to the Best Explanation: Jesus as a Failed Eschatological Prophet""

    What? Oh, the inference to the best explanation is, what? Jesus as a failed prophet. No, I thought it was simply "Jesus weas an eschatalogical prophet?" Well, it can't be because exapologist so nicely lays out his infrence to the best explanation.

    Look at him coming in here and blowing his lid because he got caught.

    He got in over his head, and found an easy way out.

    I can't believe this guy's going for a Ph.D. He's not even familiar with his own writting. His own argument.

    He's unfamiliar with Preterism. He's NOT ONCE dealt with my argument.

    Anyway, think of how stupid his argument is. If one of his NUMBER ONE arguments against Christianity is that Jesus is SIMPLY *mainly* an eschatological prophet then I fail to see how that's a blow to Christianity, AT ALL!

    Though I disagree, that could be his fundamental purpose but yet he could still be God, raised from the dead, etc!

    So, one is at a loss to see how this can be an argument against Christianity.

    His argument that Jesus failed in a prophecy can easily be seen as an argument against Christianity.

    Thus my abductive argument is that exapologist was arguing about Jesus' failed prophecies. Tht'as the hypothesis which best explains the evidence.

    Anyway, I hope you all see just how much a threat exapologist is to Christians. None. His "numer one" reason for rejecting the faith has been sliced and diced, then he tried a under-handed trick to avoid this, that was shown to contradict his own writings, and now he came in here and threw a temper tantrum, what a spaz. And that's a technical term.

    ~PM

    P.S. I wonder why it is that John Loftus et al took exapologists argument to be an argument from failed prophecy. So, even if he is right about what his abductive infrence was (which we saw from his own words, he's not), then the fault lay with him, not me.

    What a joke.

    ReplyDelete
  9. EA writes in his original post:

    "I agree with mainstream scholarship that Jesus was a failed eschatological prophet. Such a hypothesis, if true, would be a simple one that would make sense of a wide range of data, including the following fourteen pieces of evidence:"

    Okay, so taking exapologist at exapologist's OWN WORD, WHAT is the hypothesis that best explains the evidence?

    Well you read what he wrote. It';s that Jesus is a FAILED eschatological prophet.

    What?

    Jesus as a FAILED eschatological prophet.

    Say it one more time, I missed it:

    Jesus as a FAILED eschatological prophet

    is the "hypothesis which best explains the evidence."


    No! It can't be because exapoogist JUST TOLD US that it is the hypothesis that Jesus is merely and eschatalogical prophet.

    What,

    MERELY an eschatological prophet.


    What, but I thought that I JUST READ that he said his hypothesis that best explains the data is that Jesus was a FAILED eschatological prophet????


    Oh, you DID read that.

    But, ssshhhhh, exapologist can't let you win because he's going for his Ph.D. and that makes him better than us.

    Exbeliever is just another apostate who never bothered to think through his Christinaity then he tunred gay, had some other emotional crisis, whatever, and then found "reasons" (like his "number one" one on his blog) for why he could feel good about dropping Christainity.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow, Paul.

    I'd actually think you were doing a nice job, except for your need to throw around the 'stupid, gay, spaz' terms.

    Your fine points are greatly weakened by your less than professional mud slinging.

    Grow up.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I assume you think the same of exapologist, right.

    Should he "grow up?" If not, then you're just a hyporcrite who has a problem with me.

    I was called a "spaz" in another combox, and so was for that guy.

    I called exapologist's *argument* stupid, and it was.

    The 'gay' reference was a generalization, pointing out rh fact that it's usually moral reasons, not intellectual ones, thta cause people to deny their faith.

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  12. Paul was mounting a good argument, then he turned gay.


    What a shame.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oh and Boyle, when I do something "professional" I'll be sure to refrain from calling someone a "spaz."

    Like a blog comments section is "professional."

    Give it up.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Paul, do you have a job? Just curious, as you seem to be online a lot. Kind of like Steve, but I hear he's a 'writer.'

    ReplyDelete
  15. No, I'm a multi-billionair. Made money from the oil business. Hate environmentalists.

    When I'm not blogging I'm secretly funding the Christian right as well as Israel's army.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Paul,

    what is a "multi-billionair?"

    Is that a new term for somebody that is full of hot air?

    Makes sense.

    So gay you are.

    ReplyDelete
  17. hahaha,
    multi-millionaire...you are too funny paul

    ReplyDelete
  18. But what are the overall points being made here?

    In his original post, Exapologist gave fourteen points about Jesus' words and the behavior of his followers. He said that the best explanation of these words and behaviors is that Jesus was an eschatological prophet in the tradition of John the Baptist. He preached that the end of the world was at hand (in the form of God's final judgment). Jesus' followers sold all they had and followed him around. Exapologist took this to support his reading that Jesus was teaching that the end was near. His disciples' behavior is indicative of those who felt their lives would soon be over.

    Exapologist mentioned an "interim ethic." I think, elsewhere, he (or someone else) mentioned the Apostle Paul's teaching that it is better not to marry because of the days of the impending final judgment. Exapologist took this to favor his interpretation that Jesus taught the end was near.

    Also, and probably most germane to the argument now in progress, Exapologist also stated that Jesus' own words supported his idea that Jesus was predicting the final judgment of God.

    This is where the argument really got interesting.

    As I see it, Paul (though perhaps misunderstanding the major point of Exapologist's post) gave another way to interpret Jesus' and the Apostle Paul's words. He said that it could be that there was a type of coming in 70 CE that Jesus and the Apostle Paul referred to that did, in fact, occur imminently.

    Okay, so now there are two interpretations of the actual statements made by Jesus. So, which one is more plausible? Is it more plausible to believe that Jesus was this prophet who came to warn everyone of an impending judgment that never occurred, or is it more plausible to believe that Jesus was a prophet (and more) who warned of two different comings?

    I did read Sproul's _The Last Days According to Jesus_ shortly after it came out, and, at the time, I thought it was a very interesting reading of those events. [Correct me if I'm wrong, though, but didn't Sproul even voice some misgivings about his own approach? Didn't he believe that 1 Thessalonians was problematic?]. Other than this, though, I don't know much about preterism.

    Let's assume that the actual words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul are a wash when it comes to Exapologist's and Paul's interpretations. What about the behavior of Jesus' followers? Jesus' disciples left everything to follow him. This certainly seems like the kind of behavior someone would adopt if they believed the end was near, but there could certainly be other reasons. What about the Apostle Paul's admonition not to marry? This one seems to draw me closer to Exapologist's interpretation. It seems the natural reading of the "impending crisis" and "the appointed time has grown short" and "this world in its present form is passing away" is eschatological. The Christians in Corinth are not close to Jerusalem, so the preterist interpretation of this passage seems strained.

    I guess this would be my question for Paul. I think both you and Exapologist have given a plausible interpretation of Jesus' statements. What about this passage, though? It seems to lean in favor of Exapologist's reading. Paul seems to think that the end is definitely coming and he is giving an ethic to follow during that short time. He is not talking to people in Jerusalem, but to people in Corinth.

    I would be interested in your reading of 1 Corinthians 7:25-31 (or as much of the context you think is necessary). I think you can see how this supports Exapologist's reading. How would you read it though?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Interlocutor, let's be honest.

    I quoted exapologist many times saying his point was that Jesus was a *failed* eschatological prophet.

    That's what he said, not me. Him.
    I did not misinterpret him, here's what *he* said,

    "I agree with mainstream scholarship that Jesus was a failed eschatological prophet. Such a hypothesis, if true, would be a simple one that would make sense of a wide range of data, including the following fourteen pieces of evidence:"

    What makes sense of the data? That Jesus was a FAILED eschatological prophet.

    Again, in case there's no misunderstanding, exapologist clearly spells out what his anductive argument means to conclude:

    "An Inference to the Best Explanation: Jesus as a Failed Eschatological Prophet"

    So, what's the "inference to the best explanation?" It's that "Jesus [is] a failed eschatological prophet.

    So, let's get that straight and I wish more unbeleivers would come down on exapologist, one might get the impression that for unbelievers it's all about saving the group first, reason and truth take the hindmost.

    Now, to answer your question:

    With regard to giving up everything, Jesus stressed the fact that he is more important than anything. If one is not willing to leave everything, they are not worthy to follow him. Much of his saying are hyperbolic (e.g., exapologists example of not burrying your dead before following Jesus).

    Regarding marriage:

    With respects to your passgae in 1 Cor. 7:25-31:

    Let's remember that Paul begins 1 Cor. 7 responding to the things the Corinthinas wrote Paul about.

    Their Church suffered extreme problems w/sexual immorality. There was prostitution et al.

    Further, let's note that I believe that the tribulation already happened. I believe that there was a time of *extreme* persecution in the early church (e.g., study what Nero did to them, for example).

    Let's remember that Jesus said the time surrounding his coming in judgment was going to be a dreadful time.

    Matt 24:9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.

    Matt 24:19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!

    And so having husbands and wives dying, starting familes, etc., might not be thast wise.

    Lastly, as Richard Pratt notes, there were " famines in Greece that caused great trials for the people of Corinth. Paul mentioned that some of the Corinthian Christians were hungry as they came to the Lord’s Supper (11:21,34). Historical research has demonstrated that famines were occurring in the land near this time (see commentary 16:1-4). In light of the hardships that these famines caused the church, Paul strongly suggested that unmarried people should remain unmarried. In support of this reading, it is also interesting to note that Paul nowhere suggested that virgins should never marry, or that this judgment was to be perpetual. In fact, in 7:36 he qualified his advice by suggesting that it might be better to marry fiancés who were getting on in years rather than to refrain from marriage. This suggests that Paul did not advise perpetual singleness, but rather a temporary moratorium on weddings. Presumably, when the crisis passed Paul would have advised marriage."

    And so I fail to see a problem, given my interpretation. In fact, I've made my interpretation fit with the rest of the Bible. My story coheres. Exapologist never bothered to move beyond his original post, which was chalk full of assertions.

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  20. p.s.

    You need to move past the *assumption* that you have learned from pop eschatologists in America that "end times" only means Armageddon, like WWIII. People being "raptured" up into the sky, etc., etc., etc.,

    So, when you read someone saying "the end" you need to specify exactly 8what* end?

    The Bible calls the end of the jewish system "the end." It calls the days since the first advent "the last days."

    What I'm saying is the problem here is that you're reading the Bible through lenses that only could have been devloped in modern times.

    Jews didn't think Jesus would surf down to earth on clouds.

    They were the audience, let's try to understand the text how they would have.

    I mean, people think 666 means we're going to have computer chips placed in our hands or something. But John says, "let the reader understand." How the heck would Jews in the 1st century have understood that "666" meant some sort of tracking device or bar code on our hands?

    Now, they would remember that the beast was the "lawless" one and in the OT God said to write his law on "your hands and forehead." But in Rev. 20 the best puts his number on people's "hands and foreheads."

    He seeks to set up his own law, contrary to God's law.

    And so that's my method. Exapologists method is to read the Bible with his premillennial, dispensationalist, left behind goggles on.

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  21. I'm having a hard time following your interpretation of 1 Corinthians.

    First, when are you dating 1 Corinthians? I thought that even "liberal" scholars dated it around 55 CE. You wrote, however, "Further, let's note that I believe that the tribulation already happened." But I thought that you understood the first coming (i.e. the tribulation) as occuring in 70 CE. Do you believe a tribulation happened BEFORE Paul wrote 1 Corinthians?

    Plus the great fire of Rome didn't occur until 64 and I thought it was after that that Nero began persecuting Christians.

    Second, how was Corinth affected by the coming you mention? You wrote, "Let's remember that Jesus said the time surrounding his coming in judgment was going to be a dreadful time." But don't you interpret this coming as the judgment on Jerusalem? Corinth is pretty far away from Jerusalem. Why are the Corinthians warned about a judgment that would occur so far away?

    Third, does a famine justify the language Paul uses? Consider his statements:

    But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.

    Intuitively, this does not sound like a warning of a famine. This sounds like a warning about the judgment of God and the end of days.

    In fact, I don't even think that you would argue that your interpretation of Matthew 24 etc. is intuitive would you? I think your interpretation is plausible, but not intuitive.

    But, whatever the case, I can't shake the impression that Paul is warning about an impending eschatological finish. If Paul believes this, and he was close to Jesus' own time, it would seem that his belief would have been indicative of Jesus' belief.

    Finally, I don't need to get into the center of your argument about the point of exapologist's central point. As far as I can tell, his point was that Jesus was a failed ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET and you feel his point is that Jesus is a FAILED eschatological prophet. He quoted this from his original post:

    “Notice that the claim here is different from one often confused with it, viz., that Jesus happened to say some things that could be interpreted as saying that the end would occur in his lifetime. This isn't the claim I'm making. Rather, it's the much stronger one that Jesus *was* an eschatological prophet -- the end time prediction was what he was all about. It wasn't a message tangential to his central message; it *was* his central message: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

    It seems clear to me that Exapologist was making a point about who Jesus was, that it was only later that he came to be thought of as a Messiah, etc. But he did say failed, because the end didn't come. You, rightly, objected to the "failed" part of the argument by suggesting that, perhaps, Jesus was a successful eschatological prophet.

    But I really am not interested in who said what here.

    According to the Bible, Jesus said certain things and his followers behaved in a certain manner. You interpret these things one way, and Exapologist another. Reading the texts and simply observing the behavior, Exapologist's interpretation appears to be the most natural. Your reading of some of the texts, though, is plausible. It would seem that the most natural explanation should be preferred to another less natural, but still plausible, explanation.

    All this aside, though, I am still very interested in 1 Corinthians 7. This seems to be a powerful argument for Exapologist's interpretation.

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  22. Hi Interlocutor,

    1. Sorry for the misunderstanding. 70 AD is a term used by us, but we don't believe that every prophecy was fulfilled that year.

    Jesus said it would come upon that *generation* he was speaking to.

    70 AD is just the nail in the coffin. If the temple has NOT been destroyed then Jesus would have been a failed prophet. But it was destroyed, finally, in 70 AD.

    But as a preterist (which just means 'past'), I'm just commited to a "this generation" fulfillment.

    So, things Jesus spoke of in Matt 24 et al could have been fulfilled the next day, all the way up 'til the "generation passed away."

    And therefore the fact that the tribulation was happening during the letter to the Corinthian Church poses zero problems to my preterism.

    2. I interpret the tribulation as not only happening in Jerusalem. For example, John wrote Revelation (and yes, I give it an early date). He told some gentile churches that he was "[John] your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation" (Rev. 1:9).

    Therefore the "tribulation" was not just for Jerusalem. It was for Christians everywhere.

    3. Letting the Bible interpret itself, rather than your "natural" 21st century reading, we can see that Paul referred to the Old Covenant as a "world." And thus it could be said that "the world ended" with the passing of the covenant. Therefore, with my preterist interpretation, Paul's saying that "the form of this world is passing away" can be given a first century fulfillment with the final destruction fof the temple in 70 AD.

    In Galations the Mosaic cerimonial laws was referred to as "elements of the *world.* "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world" (Galatians 4:3).

    He's not speaking of material creation because he was saying they had become free from the elements of the world. If the "elements" refers to the material world Paul was saying the Galatian's had become free from the physical world.

    Examples could easily multiply, but I'll assume that I've proven that Paul uses "world" to refer to the Old Covenant (specifically the sacrifical system), and if my argument is correct (that that would was destroyed by the first coming of Christ and then his judgment on Jerusalem), then it fits nicely with what Paul says (especially given the points about tribulation which would come upon that 'generation.'

    The famine does have something to do with it since it was a time of persecution and troubles. Remember what Jesus promised in Matt 24? " 7 There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

    Beginning. And, as you pointed out, 1st Corinthians was written *before* 70 AD. And so given what was going on, especially in Corinth, we can see that it wasn't this wisest thing to do to get married. Paul was telling people the wise thing to do, but he never forbade marriage.

    4. I think my interpretation is natural and more plausible. Why? Well, AGAIN, I'm reading it as a Jew would have. I'm familiar with the Old Testament, and so that knowledge allows me to read it differently than you.

    Your interpretation is only more natural given your weird, Hollywood, Armageddon saturated, science fiction American mindset. One where people surf on clouds and "end of the world" means WWIII.

    Paul was expecting an iminent eschatological finish.... of the Jewish age!

    Both you and exapologist have continually failed to argue for your sci-fi dogma. Look, it's not my fault I wasn't raised on Left Behind end days madness eschatology. It's not my fault I try to understand the words how the audience they were written to would have understood them.

    I mean, it's my position that biblical people expected the physical earth to remain for quite some time. Given my eschatology, it could well be 10,000 years before Jesus returns.

    5. Your interpretation of exapologist cannot be correct.

    a) He's the one who said his message was that of "eschatological prophet" in this thread. But why did he conspicuoulsy leave out the "failed" portion? Seems like back-tracking

    b) I focus on the "failed" because that's the only way he has an objection against Christianity. Why?

    i) If Jesus was, as exapologist says, "fundamentally" an eschatological prophet then so what? I mean, i disagree, but using rules of inference, we can't get out of that that he wasn't God, didn't raise from the dead, etc! Thus Christianity is intact.

    ii) But if Jesus was a FAILED eschatologial prophet then I can see how THAT would be a critique against Christianity since we could logically infer from that that Jesus wasn't God!

    6. Lastly, his argument is bad, very bad.

    He gives 14 points which say that Jesus primary role was that of "eschatological prophet." But I can easily give 50 points where Jesus and the NT authors spoke of salvation. So, my abductive argument would beat his. My 50 pieces of evidence would outweigh his beggerly 14.

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  23. Paul,

    I think my interpretation is natural and more plausible. Why? Well, AGAIN, I'm reading it as a Jew would have.

    It's not my fault I try to understand the words how the audience they were written to would have understood them.


    Was the Corinthian church (i.e. the audience of the letter) Jewish? I know there was a synagogue there, but I would think that the majority of the church would not have been Jewish. Of course, though, Paul could have (and probably would have) taught them to "read like a Jew," but this isn't clear.

    Your interpretation is only more natural given your weird, Hollywood, Armageddon saturated, science fiction American mindset.

    Perhaps.

    Both you and exapologist have continually failed to argue for your sci-fi dogma.

    I'm not married to it, so I don't feel the need to argue for it. After all, it could be a "weird, Hollywood, Armageddon saturated, science fiction American mindset."

    Simply walking into the conversation, though, I feel one interpretation is more natural than another. I could be wrong.

    a) [Exapologist is] the one who said his message was that of "eschatological prophet" in this thread. But why did he conspicuoulsy leave out the "failed" portion? Seems like back-tracking

    The quote I pasted above is from his original post, not a subsequent "thread." In that quote from his original post, he does not say "failed." He seems to want to clarify that his argument is not merely that Jesus ". . . happened to say some things that could be interpreted as saying that the end would occur in his lifetime," (i.e. that Jesus FAILED at prophecy). Instead, he argues that Jesus was merely an eschatological prophet who was later given titles like "Messiah."

    I don't know how great of an argument this is. I haven't read a single page of a single book that Exapologist mentions.

    What is appealing about his argument though is that it does appear to make sense out of the data. If I have this interpretive framework in mind when I read the relevant passages and observe the relevant behaviors, the pieces fall into place.

    On the other hand, your interpretation seems to make sense of many of the passages as well. They really could be read in the manner you propose.

    So, I am faced with two plausible interpretive frameworks. Which do I choose? Well, yours seems much more complicated. I must read Matthew 24 one way and Matthew 25 (verses 31ff.) another. General principles of reason say to go with the less complicated version.

    Does this mean that I think that Christianity has been dealt a death blow or that I am confident that Exapologist's argument is conclusive? No. That's not my style. I'm very slow to commit to any position. I'll probably hold his interpretation tentatively until I find another one more reasonable. In the meantime, his argument simply rests as on my scale of whether or not Christianity is true. There are some weights on the Christianity side as well (though, for me, they have been greatly reduced through the years).

    Who knows if I will ever come down firmly on one side or another? Or, maybe I'll die and stand before some God and think, "Oh, Shit! I should have taken a side." Who knows?

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  24. I'm not all that familiar with preterism, but doesn't Mt 24 suggest a lot of visibility for Jesus return?

    26"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. 27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

    29"Immediately after the distress of those days " 'the sun will be darkened,and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'[c]

    30"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.


    How do you understand these statements, Paul? The point about lightening being seen from the east to the west seems to suggest that lots and lots of people will see this coming. It will be something that can't be ignored.

    Touchstone made a point about how it is important for you to internalize the arguments of your opponents if you really want to understand them and do justice to their positions, and I think that point is relevant here. We of course believe that most 1st century Jews believed the earth was flat and was covered in a dome shaped object called the firmament where the sun, moon, and stars rested. Within that paradigm this lightning analogy given by Jesus further reinforces the belief that his return will be seen by all.

    The darkening of the sun further drives home the point that this event will be witnessed by everybody. Stars falling, etc. This is unmistakable.

    Then we have all nations mourning after they all see this return. This means this event is apparent to large groups of people, encompassing whole nations. Maybe even ALL of them. The angels coming and trumpets blasting is making the return more obvious. Then the elect are gathered from the "four winds". If he isn't here communicating that his return will be very visible and apparent to everybody, what would he need to say to communicate that point?

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  25. John and Interlocutor,

    I'll answer Interlocutor first,

    1. The Church was made up of both Jew and Gentile.

    2. I think it is clear that Paul (or the Jews present) told the Gentiles (who were ignorant of the spetuagint) what certain phrases and words meant.

    I've already proven that Paul called the old covenant a "world" and so why assume that he'd let the Corinthians think it was the physical world?

    Furthermore, it's an obvious understantment to say that Paul frequently quoted from, or made allusion to, the OT.

    3. You can think what you want, I can't stop that.

    But last post I proved that Paul said that the old covenant was pasing away, yet he called it a world.

    Therefore, why assume that when he says the passing world in 1 Cor. 7 he means anything other than what he meant elsewhere?

    Your interpretation is only more plausible if you refuse to let Paul tell us what he means by using words.

    I don't know about you, but when I read a book I don't just assume I know what the technical words mean. I look for their use and definitions in other places of the book.

    The author's use determines the meaning.

    I'd be a sloppy reader of I thought otherwise.


    4. My main point with exapologist is that his argument *only* has force if the focus is on "failed" prophet. Otherwise, as I argued above, his pointing out a primary function in Jesus (though I disagree) does not deal a blow to Christianity, let alone a "death blow." Only if Jesus is a failed prophet would this count as an argument against christianity. And that is precisely what exapologist set out to do.


    Jon Curry,

    1. I understad those statements this way:

    a) So as lightning ... so shall the coming of the son of man be. I've already argued for what type of "coming" this is. Without rebuttal we must assume that it carries that meaning here.

    b) What's my method? To let the Bible interpret itself.

    So, many times in the Bible "lightning" is used as a metaphor to describe judgment, Ps.18:12, 29:7; Hos. 6:5, Na. 2:4; Hab. 3:11, Zech. 9:14, &c, &c.

    c) So sticking with my judgment motiff, that's what we find here as well. Rome came from the east, and that's who Jesus used to "come" against Jerusalem.

    As Gentry states,

    "Jesus warns His followers that He will not appear bodily in the first-century judgment (vv. 23-26). Nevertheless, He will "come" in judgment like a destructive lightening bolt against Jerusalem (v.27). This coming, however, is a providential judgment coming, a Christ-directed judgment, rather than a miraculous, visible, bodily coming.

    Nor is the coming as lightening in Matthew 24:27 a publicly visible, physical coming. Rather, it is a judgment coming against those who call down Jesus' blood upon them and their children (v.25). The Lord here speaks about His judgment coming against Jerusalem (see 23:37-24:2) as analogous to "the lightening [that] comes from the east, and flashes even to the west." As I begin to interpret the passage, remember that the local context demands this coming occur in "this generation" (24:34), having reference to the destruction of the temple.

    The direction of this judgment coming of Christ in Matthew 24:27 apparently reflects the Roman armies marching toward Jerusalem from an easterly direction. Josephus' record of the march of the Roman armies through Israel shows they wreak havoc on Jerusalem by approaching it from the east." (The Great Tribulation: Past or Future?, MI: Kregel, 1999, p. 53-54; cf. Josephus' Wars 4:8:1; 4:9:1)

    2. As far as "all the nations of the earth will mourn" goes....

    a) If we take this to literlaly mean ALL the nations (universally), then does your interpretation commit you to saying that someone in, say, America would really "see" (with their eyes) a 6ft (granting Jesus is 6 ft) body coming down from the heavens?. I can't see the empire state building in new york from here, and I'm going to see a 6ft tall figue all the way in Jersualem?

    b) Remember that the disciples asked what would be the *sign* of Jesus' coming at the beginning of Matt 24? And he told them, "Do you see this building, not one stone will be left upon another."

    The city was destroyed. One could see the smoke for miles.

    The soldiers took it apart stone by stone to get to the gold that had melted into the cracks.

    Again, Gentry is helpful:

    "The cloud-coming of Christ in judgment is reminiscent of Old Testament cloud-comings of God in judgment upon ancient historical people and nations." [He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler, TX: ICE, 1992) 388-389]

    "The final collapse of Jerusalem and the Temple.. Through these events the Jews were to "see" the Son of Man in His judgment-coming in terrifying cloud-glory: clouds are symbols of divine majesty often entailing stormy destruction. The members of the Sanhedrin and others would experience such in their life times (Matt. 26:64; Mark 9:1; cf. Rev 1:7 with Rev 1:1,3)." (ibid. 348)

    “The nature of the event has to do with a ‘Cloud-Coming’ of Christ. It is necessary here to understand the Old Testament backdrop for a proper comprehension of the matter. The Old Testament frequently uses clouds as indicators of divine judgment.” (Before Jerusalem Fell; Bethesda, MD: Christian University Press; p. 121)

    c) The Bible frequently uses the term "all the nations" to refer to either the Jews alone, or to the whole known world, or the Roman empire.

    It is rarely used to literally mean the entire sphere hurling through space. All the peoples, eeven the American Indians.

    Anyway, I think Luke 23 makes it very clear who Jesus was referring to when he said "all the nations."

    27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him.

    28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

    29 For behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the breasts that never gave suck.

    30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.

    31 For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

    And so it looks as if he's referring to the Jewish nation, peoples.

    3. As far as the trumpet sounding and the gathering of the elect, I discussed that at length in all my posts responding to exapologist. So I don't need to repeat myself, I'd direct you to go there. The links are listed in the main post in which we're commenting in right now.

    4. I went in to the darkening of the sun et al. in my posts as well. I'd read them before commenting more.

    I know Touchstone said we should internalize our opponants arguments, I'd recommend that you take your own advice for it looks like you've not even bothered to read my arguments.

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