Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Faulty marksmanship

HappyProphet said...

“I, for one, love reading about interesting things like talking plants, and fish used as cash drawers, and using wet wool to figure out life.”

1. There are no talking plants in Scripture. The speaker in Exod 3:2,4 is the Angel of the Lord, not the burning of the bush.

In Scripture, fire is a common element of theophanic apparitions or visions (e.g. Gen 15:17; Exod 13:21; 19:18; 1 Kgs 19:6; Ezk 1; 8; Dan 9:7; Rev 1:14).

Cf. D. Stuart, Exodus (B& H 2006), 113.

If HappyProphet wants to make the Bible look stupid, it would help his cause not to make himself look stupid by an elementary and persistent misreading the text.

But, of course, whenever you try to make the Bible look stupid, you end up making yourself look stupid in the process.

2. There's nothing all that unusual about fish swallowing flashy metal objects. The event is a miracle of timing.

Mt 17:24-27 is actually a very insightful story: a study in ethics. For it illustrates the way to finesse a pragmatic compromise without succumbing to a moral compromise.

On the one hand, the tradition of a temple tax existed in the time of Jesus. For several reasons, Jesus regards this tradition as essentially nonbinding: it’s an extrascriptural tradition; it treats the sons of the kingdom as if they were house-slaves or subjugated peoples; the need for the temple tax is mooted by the obsolescence of the temple itself in the person of Christ.

He points out that the royal family is naturally exempt from taxation. Indeed, a king provides for his own family rather than taxing his family members, as if they were commoners.

And Christians participate in the new world order of the new covenant, whereas the temple belongs to a defunct dispensation.

On the other hand, the issue is fairly trivial. Jesus picks his battles. Not every disagreement is a battle to the death. Jesus could rightly refuse to pay the poll-tax, but he’s not going to give unnecessary offense over a fine-point of symbolism. It isn’t that big a deal.

The solution is to pay his dues, but not to use his own money. That’s the beauty of the miracle. In this way, Jesus discharges a social convention without, however, conceding the obligation to do so.

So this episode is a very important lesson in tact and discretion. How to retain a sense of prioities. How to accommodate the other party without surrendering a point of principle.

The art of compromise—of how to be flexible without caving in—is a very important lesson for Christians to master and put into practice. This issue will crop up more than once in the life of the NT church (Rom 14:13-23; 1 Cor 8:13-9:1,12).

Many of the errors of church history result from either a disproportionate intransigence or an irresistible assimilation to the path of least resistance.

3.Our nullifidian commenter naturally misses the point of Judges 6:36-40 as well. As one commentator explains:

“Contrary to popular interpretation, this text has nothing to do with discovering or determining the will of God. The divine will is perfectly clear in his [Gideon’s] mind (6:16). Gideon’s problem is that with his limited experience with God he cannot believe that God always fulfills his word. The request for signs is not a sign of faith but of unbelief…He uses every means available to try to get out of the mission to which he has been called,” D. Block Judges, Ruth (B&H 1999), 272-73.

4.On a general note, the nullifidian commenter commits two systematic errors:

i) He merely advertises his disbelief in miracles. If you don’t believe in God, then it’s natural to disbelieve in miracles. So, on that assumption, it’s enough to smuggly cite some Scriptural miracle or another, as if citation were equivalent to disproof.

Notice, though, that our nullifidian never defends his position. He merely flaunts his personal opinion.

The miracles of Scripture are only absurd if miracles in general are impossible. Where’s the argument?

ii) By begging the question on (i), he doesn’t bother to exegete, or even read, what the Bible actually has to say on any given instance.

So this is another example of self-reinforcing ignorance. He never misses a chance to miss the target.

11 comments:

  1. Why is it that so many times we find ourselves having to correct another person's exegetical blunders? They wind up arguing not against what the text says, but a facile understanding of the text.

    This gets back to the problem they have with the meaning of the phrase "literal interpretation," I suppose. They somehow think it means we interpret the text like a first grader, not with respect to the grammar, syntax, historical background, genre etc., e.g. the rules of basic grammatical-historical exegesis. It really would save us and them time if they'd just bother to crack a commentary or two or three. All they wind up doing is demonstrating the truth of .

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  2. Now it is so much more believable, Steve. Thanks for that!

    HAW HAW HAW!!!

    Now I'm going to go listen to my fireplace give me some special messages for the day, and see if I left my wallet with the trout again.

    After that, I may just go sacrifice my first born, I have the feeling that a magical being just may put me to the test again today.

    Oh, and I can't forget to go look at all of the walls in the house...sometimes big fingers appear and start drawing cryptic symbols on them.

    And, oh crud, I forgot to write down my dream last night. I was going to go find the local "joseph" to interpret it for me. I have this nagging feeling that I'm in for seven years of poor harvest soon.

    HAW HAW HAW!!!

    Great stuff....

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  3. Anonymous said:
    "Now it is so much more believable, Steve. Thanks for that!"

    Which is beside the point. If you're going to attack the Bible, know what it's talking about in the first place.

    If you're going to flaunt the intellectual superiority of your infidelity, you might begin by demonstrating a modicum of intellectual competence. Don't attack the Bible unless you know what it says.

    In addition, what you find believable or not begs the question. The fact that you don't find something in Scripture to be credible isn't a reasoned argument for your unbelief.

    What you find credible or incredible is merely symptomatic of your experience, inexperience, and worldview.

    What makes your secular outlook credible? Do you have an actual argument to offer?

    Citing Scripture and disproving Scripture are two very different things.

    Once again, if you're going to flaunt the intellectual superiority of your infidelity, the time is past due for you to redeem your intellectual vouchers.

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  4. Steve the wordsmith says:

    "If you're going to attack the Bible, know what it's talking about in the first place."

    "Don't attack the Bible unless you know what it says."

    So, if I can't simply read the Bible to get my info, I can the go and ask an 'expert.'

    But which one? So much disagreement about what the book is 'saying.' I am then pushed to commentaries, and the original Greek, but there is disagreement there too. The catholics interp is different than the Reformed, and the Mormon's disagree with both.

    What is a poor seeker supposed to do?

    Your book reads like a collection of fables from uneducated simple folk of times past. It is no more worthy of my acceptance than any other book of fables from the other myth-makers out there. Why this is so difficult for you to see, I do not understand.

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  5. ANONYMOUS SAID:

    “So, if I can't simply read the Bible to get my info, I can the go and ask an 'expert.' But which one? So much disagreement about what the book is 'saying.' I am then pushed to commentaries, and the original Greek, but there is disagreement there too. The catholics interp is different than the Reformed, and the Mormon's disagree with both.”

    Notice how Anon is now having to retract his original argument and substitute a newer argument which cancels out the older argument. His original argument assumed that it was possible to identify various “unbelievable” incidents in Scripture.

    If you can’t even determine what it meant to say, then you can’t say it’s unbelievable.

    Now, however, he’s pretending the real issue is not what Scripture actually meant, however erroneous, but the difficulty of making out what it may have meant to say.

    So he’s offered two mutually contradictory objections to Scripture: We can’t tell what Scripture means, but whatever it means, it’s wrong!

    “So, if I can't simply read the Bible to get my info, I can the go and ask an 'expert.'”

    You clearly didn’t get the business about a talking tree from simply reading Exod 3.

    “Your book reads like a collection of fables from uneducated simple folk of times past. It is no more worthy of my acceptance than any other book of fables from the other myth-makers out there. Why this is so difficult for you to see, I do not understand.”

    And your objections read like a collection of illiterate, tendentious assertions from pseudoeducated unbelievers at present. They are no more worthy of my acceptance than any other illiterate, tendentious assertions from other secular mythmakers out there.

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  6. OK wordsmith....

    You go on believing in your fables, and I'll do my best to survive without that. ;)

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  7. Yeah Steve, go away and have a chat with your talking hedge!

    You will never understand how us 'brights' feel.

    We are cursed to wonder the earth as the only mortals with the penetrating insight to peer through and, yes, even *transcend*, the entangling web of religious fallacies. The mass of people are uneducated, barbaric.

    Ohhhh the existential angst.

    Money in a fish, talking donkeys, floating axe heads - How come *so many* people have no problem *at all* believing this stuff?

    No difficulties *whatsover*...

    They just say things like 'it's not a problem once you accept the existence of supernatural beings'.

    But that's not my point...

    Isn't there something - how shall I put it - inherently *silly* about dreams being interpreted, people coming back from the dead, the eyes of the blind being opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped... I mean, is that not hilarious? Funny, ha ha? Maybe my sense of humour is just more sophisticated.

    Shame.. Well I think it's a good argument....

    Thats why I've used it hundreds and times. And will continue to do so in the future.

    Just you try to stop me!

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  8. um....okay? Good for you? Go ahead, no one cares.....

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  9. give me a miracle1/10/2007 4:11 PM

    I love the miracle stories in the Bible. They give me hope of a better world to come, and a dream of what it was like to live in those holy and precious times of yore.

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  10. Heres a miracle1/10/2007 4:46 PM

    A story that I gather great strength and peace from is that of Lot's wife. As you all know, she was TRANSFORMED into a pillar of salt. It goes to show you that if you mess with the commands of God, you too risk the result of being turned into a table seasoning. Especially for doing the really bad sin of "looking back."

    Really encouraging story...

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  11. It's obvious that you don't care at all to interpret the Bible for what it actually says and means.

    The "looking back" wasn't a mere glance or consideration.

    Somebody more knowledgeable in Hebrew could point this out for you.

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