Sunday, April 05, 2009

Trapped in the matrix

TRUTH UNITES... AND DIVIDES SAID:

“Do you think the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy creates false expectations?”

No. The Chicago Statement presents a nuanced statement of inerrancy which is designed to forestall wooden objections to the inerrancy of Scripture.

“I just read this morning this review by Professor James McGrath regarding Professor G.K. Beale's book on inerrancy. Would you say that McGrath is on the brink of apostasy, if not actually over the brink already?”

To judge by his favorite authors (e.g. Ward, Bultmann, J. A. T. Robinson), and his position on the empty tomb, I’d say he’s a standard issue liberal. Whether he’s an apostate, I can’t say, since I don’t know if he ever made a credible profession of faith. Clearly, though, his present position falls far below a credible profession of faith.

While we’re on the subject, let’s venture a few comments on his review:

“But surely, unless one wishes to posit a conspiracy to mislead and the gullibility of the students, then the study of the Bible at whatever institution ought not to have the results Beale suggests.”

i) There’s no such thing as a value-free study of the Bible. If, for example, you study the Bible with methodological naturalism as your axiom, then, by definition, you’ll end up rejecting all of the supernatural agents and supernatural events in Scripture.

ii) In addition, many students are very sensitive to peer pressure. They conform to make the grade–literally! That’s unfortunate, but predictable.

“In the chapter on the question of whether the book of Isaiah could have had multiple authors, Beale purports to be defending the Bible, but he is of course defending his doctrine of Scripture, and at times it becomes clear that he is determined to defend his doctrine of Scripture even from Scripture itself. Rather than allow the contents of this influential and powerful prophetic book to determine his conclusion, he is determined to force it into a straightjacket determined by his presuppositions about the Bible in general, and about the meaning of the New Testament when it refers to ‘Isaiah’ in particular.”

To the contrary, it’s a fundamental feature of Isaiah’s argument in chaps 40-48 that the true God, unlike the idolatrous gods of paganism, can foresee the future. If you treat the narrative viewpoint of Isaiah 40 and beyond as a vaticinium ex eventu, then you’re reading the text against the grain of the text.

“Beale regularly waves reference to ‘phenomenological language’ as though it were a magic wand that can make outmoded cosmological language cease to be a problem.”

That’s a caricature of Beale’s argument. Beale’s argument is not merely that Scripture uses phenomenological descriptions of the world, but–in addition–that some of the descriptions are–in some measure–symbolic. The use of architectural metaphors to foreshadow the tabernacle.

A symbolic depiction is not the same thing as a phenomenological depiction.

“But ultimately, the reason Beale draws the conclusions that he does is a lack of familiarity with ancient cosmologies. His discussion of whether the planets could have been embedded each in a separate dome, to account for their distinct movements, ends with the statement that ‘Such a view of multiple domes, however, cannot be found to have existed in the ancient world!’ (p.199). Perhaps not domes, but certainly complete spheres, made of ‘quintessence’, in which the planets and the sun and moon were embedded. Far from being unprecedented in the ancient world, this is the very ancient viewpoint, the Ptolemaic cosmology, that came to dominate much of Europe and Asia, and persisted until the time of Galileo. Since it takes very little research to become aware of this, I can only assume that Beale's interest is not in doing justice to questions of ancient and modern cosmologies and the Biblical context, but of defending his view of Scripture at all costs.”

It would be grossly anachronistic to construe the OT in light of Greek astronomy. That represents a fusion of naked-eye astronomy with Greek mathematics. To my knowledge, that’s quite alien to the concerns of OT writers. And it represents a historical development which you can’t very well retroject into the timeline the OT canon–unless he credits Isaiah with a prescient knowledge of Hellenistic astronomy.

“And yet, ironically, Beale is ultimately no friend of inerrancy. For in allowing that the Bible speaks about things as they appear, and not necessarily as they are, Beale has opened all the cans of worms he surely hoped to keep sealed up. If matters of cosmology can be described phenomenologically, then so can matters pertaining to our salvation.”

That’s completely equivocal.

i) To begin with, a phenomenological description is still a literal description. The phenomenon is not illusory. It simply takes into account the spatial perspective of the viewer–like the difference between aerial photography and ground-level photography.

ii) In addition, the distinction between appearance and reality has reference, in this case, to differences in sensory perception–depending on the position of the observer in relation to the sensible object. The fact, for example, that mountains look smaller at a distance.

That has absolutely nothing to do with matters pertaining to our salvation. For example, it’s not as though the Resurrection is dependent on the position of the observer–whether he saw the Risen Lord two feet away or ten feet away, saw him at eye-level or saw him while standing on a hill, looking down.

For someone who feigns intellectual superiority, McGrath’s little review is littered with basic conceptual blunders.

“Thanks for the comment, John! As you've already gathered, I think that the Chicago Declaration in particular defines inerrancy in a way that differs from what most laypeople would naturally assume the word ‘inerrancy’ to mean (the ‘death of a thousand qualifications’ I alluded to).”

That’s irrelevant to the grammatico-historical method. The only relevant question is how Bible writers would define inerrancy. What qualifications would they take for granted? That’s the real question.

103 comments:

  1. Dear Steve,

    Much thanks for your in-depth response. I have taken the liberty of inviting James McGrath to interact on this thread by posting a comment that's awaiting moderation on his blog post.

    I have also asked for Professor Jim Hamilton's feedback (FYI, I was first alerted to Beale's book via Justin Taylor's link to Jim Hamilton's review).

    Professor Hamilton wrote: "I think that Professor McGrath makes a number of assertions, but he doesn’t enter into actual discussion of the evidence. He simply assumes his own perspective then speaks triumphantly about how the perspective with which he disagrees is about to crumble."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for taking the time to interact with my post on Beale's book. I will let you read about my own conversion experience on my blog if you are interested; the authors that have come to be among my favorites did not achieve that status without a fight against them on my part. And I think this too tells against the "conspiracy theory" and "peer pressure" hypotheses. I attended Evangelical Bible colleges, and it was already in those contexts that I found the Bible itself raising the questions, and at times leading to the answers, that I resisted from "liberals". And you are surely aware that both Robinson and Bultmann can only be generalized as "liberal" if one defines that term to mean "anyone who doesn't adhere consistently to conservative Evangelical conclusions". Bultmann challenged classic Liberalism's assumption that one can merely remove the cultural shell of the first century and take a timeless core of Christianity out from within it, and his existentialist emphasis on personal decision became a key element of modern Evangelicalism. Robinson's conclusions on the date of New Testament writings are more conservative than those of many conservatives. This is one reason why terms like "liberal" and "conservative" are unhelpful: they suggest that there are two opposing views rather than a wide range of partially-overlapping possible positions, as well as the possibility of being more or less conservative on some issues and different on others.

    On methodological naturalism, I don't see how historical study can adopt any other approach, any more than criminology can. It will always be theoretically possible that a crime victim died simply because God wanted him dead, but the appropriate response of detectives is to leave the case open. In the same way, it will always be possible that a virgin conceived, but it will never be more likely than that the stories claiming this developed, like comparable stories about other ancient figures, as a way of highlighting the individual's significance. And since historical study deals with probabilities and evidence, to claim that a miracle is "historically likely" misunderstands the method in question.

    I do not claim any sort of intellectual superiority. I do claim to have spent many years wrestling with the Bible and to have given these matters a great deal of thought - that's all.

    Let me not make this comment any longer, but I will say that when inerrancy is nuanced and qualified as in the Chicago Statement, it is not clear what is in fact being affirmed. The Bible can be approximate and imprecise, and contains different genres - that is certainly true. But why then prejudge which texts represent which genres, and why continue to use "inerrancy" when that gives an impression to laypeople that is different from what adherents to the Chicago Statement mean by it? I think it is to create a sibboleth (sorry, I have trouble pronouncing that word) that will allow seminaries and theological schools to continue to be funded by conservative congregations and individuals, rather than educating them, since education inevitably involves having our assumptions challenged.

    ReplyDelete
  3. McGrath: "I will let you read about my own conversion experience on my blog if you are interested"

    Could you please provide a link?

    Thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The account of my own life-changing experience is actually deeply embedded in a dialogue I had with an atheist a while back. There's also a post on why I am (still) a Christian.

    Just so you know, recent posts don't have comment moderation on them. I just enabled it for older posts because I had a spam bot inundate me with comments which it took a good half hour to delete. Sorry for the inconvenience, if there is any! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. McGrath: "This is one reason why terms like "liberal" and "conservative" are unhelpful"

    Do you think using the term "fundamentalist" or "fundamentalism" is helpful?

    Be that as it may, I'm sure you're aware of the history of fundamentalism in the 1900's. Of the following 5 doctrines which of them, if any, do you affirm?

    o The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.

    o The virgin birth of Christ.

    o The belief that Christ's death was an atonement for sin.

    o The bodily resurrection of Christ.

    o The historical reality of Christ's miracles.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I sometimes use the term "fundamentalist" but rarely in its classic sense, since the number of people who represent the classic definition and would self-identify as fundamentalist is small, I suspect.

    Here's a brief answer to each of your questions:

    1) I do not affirm inerrancy. I tried for a long time to force the Bible to fit that mold, then decided that perhaps I should let the Bible shape my doctrine of Scripture rather than vice versa. I have no problem talking about it being "inspired", although I realize that is vague, but one could make a Biblical case for inspiration being a broader phenomenon than the writing of Scripture.

    2) Virgin birth? No, because if one cannot harmonize the historical type details in the infancy accounts of Matthew and Luke, why should I take their statements as factual when they make a claim about something fantastic?

    3) I don't see Christ's death as making satisfaction or as a penal substitution, but there are other ways of thinking about atonement - some closer to the root meaning of that term - that I'd affirm.

    4) I'll defer to my book on the burial of Jesus, which wrestles with that topic in great detail.

    5) On the miracles, I'm not sure on what basis I could affirm the nature miracles, such as walking on water. There are far more straightforward explanations for how we got those stories. But I do think that many people experienced various sorts of healing and liberation from "demons" through him and their encounter with him.

    Does this make me a "classic liberal"? Quite possibly. But this is how I see the evidence, and my ability or inability to make justifiable claims based on it, at present. I've changed my mind in the past, and am open to being persuaded to do so again...

    ReplyDelete
  7. James,

    I am not sure that you could ever affirm a miracle given your, apparent, acceptance of Humean skepticism towards miracles. At the end of the day it comes down to who you are going to "follow", I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think a distinction must be made. I cannot affirm a miracle as having happened in the distant past based on accounts in texts that have come down to us, because that's the way historical study works.

    When it comes to modern miracles, that's a question that relates to not only philosophical worldviews but also theology, experience and perhaps much else. My time as a Pentecostal has not persuaded me that regrowing limbs or anything utterly inexplicable of that sort happens today, and so I'm not sure why I should believe it did in the past. That's nothing to do with Hume, it's just a belief in divine consistency, i.e. that God did not do miracles in the past and then stop at some point. In other words, my reasoning is as much theological as anything else. But I certainly do believe that there are instances in which, as the New Testament puts it, "your faith has made you well".

    I ought to object to your point about who one decides to follow. We may have subjective spiritual access to Jesus and to the divine, but people make all sorts of conflicting claims about his will, and so that's not going to settle these matters. And so unless you have a physical Jesus stashed away somewhere, then we need to turn to historical sources, and neither you nor I can answer historical questions while bypassing the methods of historical study.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "I cannot affirm a miracle as having happened in the distant past based on accounts in texts that have come down to us, because that's the way historical study works."

    Historical study does not involve silently imposing a modern prejudice for secularism on the past, however, so as written the above comment is problematic. Possibly what is meant is "no one publishing academic material about ancient history in the USA in the early years of the 21st century is allowed to write as if the miraculous may occur if they wish to obtain or retain tenure."

    ReplyDelete
  10. Roger, I only found worry about tenure (or more generally about keeping my job) to be a concern at conservative Evangelical schools, where I was expected to sign something saying I affirm miracles if I wished to remain there. At the time, that wasn't a problem, but I've never faced the reverse situation at the non-religiously affiliated institution where I am now.

    I am a New Testament scholar rather than purely a historian, but it is my understanding (which historians I know have confirmed) that historical study works on the basis of probability, evaluating available evidence and drawing conclusions much as a jury might in a court of law. And I don't see how anyone could conclude "beyond reasonable doubt" that it is more probable that a miracle occurred than that a story about a miracle came into existence for some other reason. That doesn't mean that miracles did not occur. It just means that historical study can't "prove" that they did.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "I only found worry about tenure (or more generally about keeping my job) to be a concern at conservative Evangelical schools (etc)"

    You are no doubt correct that many universities, including Christian ones, would be places where your religious views or personal ethics or indeed academic achievements would place you in danger of dismissal (although why you point this out I do not know). Our abilities and our choices have consequences, as you have found. But I am delighted to hear that you have found other institutions which are less discriminating, and I wish you happiness there.

    I take it by your silence that you accept my comment about the nature of modern academic historical publishing.

    Certainly history is about marshalling the evidence. I'm not sure that throwing doubt on the validity of history is a position that an academic should adopt, however. Considering the current economic climate, the humanities need to stand together.

    "I don't see how anyone could conclude 'beyond reasonable doubt' that it is more probable that a miracle occurred than that a story about a miracle came into existence for some other reason."

    Doubtless you do, and it is your right to hold this belief. But you ought to know that others think differently; billions of them, indeed. Surely it is our duty to respect that difference of what is a religious opinion, and not to portray one or another as if it was the assured certainty of history, science, philosophy or whatever.

    I would prefer that history was written without regard for either set of prejudices, myself.

    ReplyDelete
  12. James McGrath: "I sometimes use the term "fundamentalist" but rarely in its classic sense, since the number of people who represent the classic definition and would self-identify as fundamentalist is small, I suspect."

    So you admit using it in the modern mainstream media sense as a pejorative epithet by which to dismiss the arguments of others?

    Steve Hays: "To judge by his favorite authors (e.g. Ward, Bultmann, J. A. T. Robinson), and his position on the empty tomb, I’d say he’s a standard issue liberal. Whether he’s an apostate, I can’t say, since I don’t know if he ever made a credible profession of faith. Clearly, though, his present position falls far below a credible profession of faith."

    James McGrath: (After kindly stating his position on the "Five Fundamentals") "Does this make me a "classic liberal"? Quite possibly."

    Yes. At a minimum you're a classic liberal.

    And by the original definition of the term, I am a classic fundamentalist, and I suspect that all the triabloguers on this site are also classic fundamentalists.

    Gotta run. Will comment more.

    ReplyDelete
  13. And me. When people abuse fundamentalists, they mean me and people like me.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Steve Hays: "Whether he’s an apostate, I can’t say, since I don’t know if he ever made a credible profession of faith. Clearly, though, his present position falls far below a credible profession of faith."

    James McGrath: "There's also a post on why I am (still) a Christian."

    (From McGrath's aforementioned post) "I find very helpful an answer to this question that Marcus Borg has also articulated. I am a Christian in much the same way that I am an American. ... It is because I was born into it, and value the positive elements of this heritage enough that I think it is worth fighting over the definition of what it means to be American, rather than giving up on it and moving somewhere else. ... Why am I a Christian? Because I prefer to keep the tradition I have, rather than discarding it with the bathwater and then trying to make something new from scratch. When we pretend that we can simply leave the past behind and start anew we deceive ourselves"

    --------

    Dear James,

    (Prefatory: There are a number of entry points from which to engage you in. I just happened to select this one.)

    You wrote, "When we pretend that we can simply leave the past behind and start anew we deceive ourselves". In this vein which you opened up, I would respectfully contend that you are deceiving yourself. And my contention would center upon key definitions and meanings which I hope we could eventually agree upon. Otherwise, we'll just be talking past each other.

    For example, let's begin with your statement that you are a Christian. Many people, not just myself, would (for the sake of your soul and for the sake of truth) would state that you are NOT a Christian. And we would state it in the hopes of not giving offense and moreso in the hope of bringing helpful clarity to the discussion.

    Not only do you do not affirm any of the classical, historical understandings of the "Five Fundamentals", but as Steve Hays has remarked your "present position falls far below a credible profession of faith." Ergo, despite you having been born into a Christian heritage, you have not been born again (John 3), and you, unfortunately, are not a Christian.

    Now that's an aside from the discussion on the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, but it's an important aside. A very important aside. Whether you're apostate or not, you're not a Christian. You do not even affirm the bodily, physical, historical, factual resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    You cite Professor Marcus Borg. Let me cite Albert Mohler: ""I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection," says the Right Reverend N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham. This is a truly dangerous and unbiblical assertion, made all the more shocking when it is offered by someone of N. T. Wright's caliber.

    ...

    But belief in the bodily resurrection is not merely foundational, according to Scripture, it is essential. As Paul argues in Romans 10:9, the Gospel comes down to this: "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" [emphasis mine]. Beyond this, Paul's logic in 1 Corinthians 15 demonstrates the reverse -- if Christ is not raised then we are still dead in our trespasses and sins.

    ...

    N. T. Wright's comments about Marcus Borg are particularly revealing. Borg, of course, denies much more than the resurrection of Christ. Yet, leaving all that aside for the moment, we must ask just what Bishop Wright has in mind when he says that Borg "loves Jesus and believes in him passionately?" This Jesus whom Borg is claimed to love and passionately believe in is not the resurrected Jesus Christ of the Scriptures. Thus, Borg loves and passionately believes in a crucified and dead Jesus. How then can Bishop Wright even entertain the notion that he is a genuine Christian?"

    James McGrath, in the same way that Albert Mohler argues that Borg is not a Christian, you are not a Christian either.

    I pray that you eventually do become a Christian before it's too late.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dear James, fwiw, I wrote my previous comment without being aware that Steve Hays had written a follow-up post showing you the shortcomings of your a priori commitment to methodological naturalism.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hmm, so my conversion experience counts for nothing? :(

    I had it in a Pentecostal context, having been raised Catholic and having only had a brief encounter with Pentecostals (a concert on Saturday and a Sunday morning Sunday school class and service), as well as a hint of exposure to Christian music. And so my point was not that I was merely born into Christianity as into my cultural context, but because my born again experience was itself within a context of Christianity broadly defined. But my surrendering of my life to God was a response to seeing a greater reality to the Christianity of those I encountered first singing about their faith on the radio, and then at the concert, and finally in a church service. I was simply expressing my awareness that, for all I know, I might well have had, if I had been born in Turkey for instance, a similarly nominal Islamic faith, and then have been touched by the reality of the faith of the Sufi mystics, and perhaps have surrendered my life to God and had a similarly life-transforming experience in that context. I cannot say, since I cannot simply try on another tradition to compare. But I do consider it appropriate to respect the testimony of those in other faith traditions, just as I would want them to respect mine.

    So you are free to deny me the terms fundamentalist and conservative - indeed, I denied they applied to me before you did! :) But when it comes to being born again, if it is too much trouble to dig into that lengthy post, I will be sharing my testimony again soon, and then you can decide.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "Hmm, so my conversion experience counts for nothing?"

    (1) You certainly may have had an experience, but you beg the question when you call it a "conversion" experience.

    (2) "Counts for nothing?" Hmmmm, so far I would have to agree with Steve that your "present position falls far below a credible profession of faith."

    "But my surrendering of my life to God..."

    I don't know when we entered into the quagmire of semantics, but let's try to slosh through it anyhow.

    Seriously, and without undue offense or provocation, I think you're being incoherent. You say that you surrendered your life to God. And while God has many attributes, one of them that we should be able to agree on is that God is Supernatural. And yet you do not affirm God working supernaturally through the Virgin Birth, the Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the recorded miracles in the Bible.

    So please understand that when you write that you surrendered your life to God, you come across as incoherent and not believable.

    "... then have been touched by the reality of the faith of the Sufi mystics, and perhaps have surrendered my life to God and had a similarly life-transforming experience in that context."

    Let's transpose to your situation, Professor McGrath. "James McGrath has been touched by the reality of the faith of the Pentecostals, and thought that he surrendered his life to God in a life-transforming experience in the Pentecostal context."

    Just because you're touched by the reality of someone else's faith, doesn't mean that you yourself possess a regenerate faith.

    Nor does it mean that you surrendered your life to God as mentioned earlier.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I've posted my testimony in very brief, and some reflection on the broader subjects about which we seem to disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  19. “[James F. McGrath] I find it ironic that the reality of my own life-changing experience has been questioned because I don't affirm the absolute accuracy of certain specific beliefs that were defined as crucial by 20th century fundamentalists (using the term in the strict sense), but which we have no reason to think all the earliest Christians considered that important and definitive of Christian identity.”

    To classify the empty tomb as an article of faith is hardly an innovation of 20C fundamentalists.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'll grant you the resurrection - an empty tomb is probably implied in 1 Corinthians 15 since the burial is mentioned. But Paul's logic, that one type of body is sown and another raised, works just as well if not better if the resurrection body does not involve recycling the normal human body of this age.

    And I'm still not sure what to make of the Letter to the Hebrews, which seems to leave no room for Jesus to return and reclaim his body before proceeding to heaven to present his sacrifice there. And as I'm sure you are aware the only instance of anything that might refer to the resurrection is a single verse in Hebrews 13, which could easily be translated as "brought up from the dead".

    ReplyDelete
  21. James McGrath's claim to be Christian is mildly amusing, if you're as cynical as I am. On the contrary, he is a Christian hater as his blog and his comments here make plain. After all, he has volunteered that he doesn't believe that anyone can possibly know that God has acted in history. "History" starts the very instant that "now" stops. What can be left other than feelings?

    But in US society many people probably find it convenient to use the label for themselves? if so, I think that this is what he has done.

    Indeed I can't see anything to suggest that James' position is other than the one usual to most people; one where convenience determines what they say, and the values are such as are determined by the accident that they were born into the late 20th century US. Perhaps this is more apparent to me, in that I wasn't.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I find the statement that I am a Christian who hates Christians more than mildly amusing. But I find the claim that my views are anything other than the results of a lot of investigation, thought and reflection on my part offensive. I am certainly happy to acknowledge I might be wrong, completely wrong, in my conclusions. But I have wrestled with evidence that made me uncomfortable, resisted conclusions that were contrary to my conservative Evangelical faith, and much more.

    But this nicely illustrates my point. Those who resist the need for reliable evidence as the basis for history are opening themselves to making all sorts of claims about the past. Based on what? Can one decide what was or wasn't the case in my own experience or about the activity of my scholarship by a "leap of faith"? :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. James,

    Let me be the first to say that I think that you have wrestled with these big questions. I only have your word about your experience, and I will take you at your word. I, however, do think that you have accepted some less than obvious arguments against the Christian faith. We do of course all accept bad arguments, I know I have myself! Thanks for discussing these issues with us, it has made me see just how arbirtrary the assumptions of methodological naturalism are.

    The question of MN has been something I first ran into in the debate over the Delay of the Parousia, which has been the biggest challenge to faith for me. [If you are a Christian and haven't wrestled with it you should.] I came to the conclusion that that best context to understand Jesus in is the model of first century apocalyptic. I initially accepted N.T. Wright's interpretation of the Olivet Discourse, and related passages, but in time I found them to be a strained interpretation. Once you come to this conclusion you are stuck with the question of imminence and delay.
    There are two tracks one can take in reconciling the two perspectives. First, you can look at the first century christians as deluded followers of a failed prophet, or second, you can see this language as inherent to Judaism and Christianity. I wrestled with this question for over 3 years, and I have come to the conclusion that it can be viewed satisfactorily from an evangelical perspective without doing any violence to orthodoxy, or its meaning. I know that others have come to a different conclusion (Schweitzer, Allison, etc), but I can only give an account of why I did not come to see Jesus as a failed prophet.

    To be quick it came down to a question of how to interpret the bible. Do I find a problem in scripture, and conclude that there is no answer, and if there is an answer it must conform to my arbitrary criteria of methodological naturalism? Not an easy question!

    What I found in my studying is that you must reject a bunch of other beliefs that are bound up with the Doctrine of God, scripture, and the nature fo the biblical canon. For instance if one grants typology, the language of immience in the prophets, the unity of the OT and NT (there is evidence for it), and numerous other thorny problems. These questions are normally settled in the way the individual scholar answers certain philosophical questions. I have been chastised on other blogs for bringing this up, but I only get the retort, "Well, that is how we do history, and you don't accept miracles in other texts!" Well, maybe we do history wrong, and miracle accounts must be examined one at a time. Many times we are more certain of things than we ought to be. I have no problem with a little bit of skepticism, and doubt it keeps one honest about faith, and the case against faith.

    From my reading, and wrestling with faith I have not yet come across anything that cannot be answered satisfactorily. Some will disagree, but that is normally because of prior philosophical commitment. One of these days I hope to write something extensive on the the Delay of the Parousia, but I can never seem to find the time.

    Blake

    ReplyDelete
  24. JAMES F. MCGRATH SAID:

    “I'll grant you the resurrection - an empty tomb is probably implied in 1 Corinthians 15 since the burial is mentioned. But Paul's logic, that one type of body is sown and another raised, works just as well if not better if the resurrection body does not involve recycling the normal human body of this age.”

    i) Of course, you feel free to reject the Gospels of Luke and John, with their explicit emphasis on the physicality of the Resurrection. So you simply suppress any evidence that’s awkward for your thesis.

    ii) In 1 Cor 15, there are both continuities and discontinuities between the mortal body and the glorified body, but the primary difference is not that the glorified body is some sort of astral body (for want of a better term), but that the glorified body is immortal.

    iii) If Paul rejected the physicality of the glorified body, then his whole discussion is pointless since the Corinthian skeptics he’s responding to wouldn’t find anything objectionable in the idea that the glorified body was some sort of astral body. Therefore, your interpretation is at odds with the context.

    “And I'm still not sure what to make of the Letter to the Hebrews, which seems to leave no room for Jesus to return and reclaim his body before proceeding to heaven to present his sacrifice there. And as I'm sure you are aware the only instance of anything that might refer to the resurrection is a single verse in Hebrews 13, which could easily be translated as ‘brought up from the dead’.”

    i) Hebrews is not a historical narrative. In terms of genre, it’s an epistolary sermon or homiletic letter. As such, it doesn’t attempt to present a systematic biography of Christ–with a tight sequence of events.

    ii) The subject matter is naturally contingent on the occasion and purpose of the author. As you know, it’s generally thought to be addressing Messianic Jews who were tempted to revert to Judaism to avoid persecution.


    As such, the emphasis of the letter is thrown on the earthly sacrifice of Christ, which, in turn, lays the groundwork for his heavenly priesthood.

    iii) Beyond the bare sequence of events, in which the ascension and session necessarily succeed the earthly passion and sacrifice of Christ, Hebrews doesn’t present a tight chronology. But, if need be, it would be easy to intercalate the Resurrection into his highly selective sequence.

    iv) As Andrew Lincoln also points out, in his Guide, the eschatology of the author is not as ethereal or realized as some commentators think.

    ReplyDelete
  25. "I find the statement that I am a Christian who hates Christians more than mildly amusing."

    I am delighted to hear that you find sentences of your own composition so amusing.

    "I find the claim that my views are anything other than the results of a lot of investigation, thought and reflection on my part offensive."

    I am very sorry if your feelings are hurt at learning how the opinions that you profess in public strike others. I could wish that you were as considerate towards the feelings of others, when posting your claims to belong to Christianity, in between attacking it and introducing little jibes apparently designed purely to give pain. Perhaps a little less selfishness is in order?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Roger, my statements about matters of history and of doctrine are about things that have caused me pain as I've wrestled with them. I have rarely learned something or changed my mind about an important matter without there being any hint of difficulty or anguish about the process. I hope I will never cause pain for pain's sake, but I don't think the fact that some are offended by my views necessarily means I ought to cease to engage in public conversation about them. I am sure there are people who would take offense at some things on this blog, but that doesn't mean this blog ought to go away. And I certainly don't intentionally say anything simply to cause offense.

    Steve, I have to ask whether your statement was made out of ignorance of historical study of the Gospels or out of an attempt simply to malign my views. Anyone who has taken an introductory course on the Bible as an undergraduate ought to know that the Gospels of Luke and John are dated later than Mark. Certainly not everyone (e.g. N. T. Wright) reaches the conclusion that the physical elements like eating in these later sources are mere anti-docetic polemic without historical basis. But at the very least it is easy to see why many historians have doubts about elements that appear in later sources but not earlier ones. To suggest that I'm merely dismissing sources that don't agree with my presuppositions is not only untrue, but an argument that would only persuade those who lack even the most basic introduction even to conservative Evangelical Biblical scholarship on the Gospels.

    Blake, thanks for your comment, which I'll try to discuss sometime separately. For now I'll just say that the 'delay of the Parousia' and more crucially the question of whether Jesus was wrong about the timing of the end are certainly questions I've wrestled with too, and they are difficult indeed!

    Here's a link to my most recent post, which addresses the question of what a "Christian approach to history" might look like.

    ReplyDelete
  27. "Steve, I have to ask whether your statement was made out of ignorance of historical study of the Gospels or out of an attempt simply to malign my views. "

    Maybe Steve was doing neither one. This is a false dilemma. It depends on how late one dates the gospels, and one's view on the nature of the resurrection in Paul. I think that physical resurrection is assumed throughout the NT. Feel free to dispute it, but there are very good reasons for thinking that you are wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  28. "my statements about matters of history and of doctrine are about things that have caused me pain as I've wrestled with them. (etc)"

    The truth or otherwise of any intellectual position is unlikely to be determined by our personal experiences in acquiring it. Attempts to play for sympathy seem a little manipulative to me.

    Incidentally if you object to being characterised as a typical "liberal" apostate, you may want to avoid such stereotypical liberal statements as that. But that is up to you!

    "I don't think the fact that some are offended by my views necessarily means I ought to cease to engage in public conversation about them."

    I agree with you. I only wish that this reflection had occurred to you before you played the "offended" card earlier, and not only once you found the challenge returned. Convenience, rather than principle, alas, once again seems to be the basis for these remarks.

    One might add that just because someone claims that his views were arrived "painfully" does not mean that they should evade rigorous examination. Does not every renegade make claims of this kind? The sort of adulterer or traitor who snivels about how bad they feel for betraying their victims somehow does not enjoy much respect.

    In short, more reason and less manipulation, please.

    "Anyone who has taken an introductory course on the Bible as an undergraduate ought to know that the Gospels of Luke and John are dated later than Mark."

    Well, the position you wish to argue for is one I hold myself (although the final form of Mark may be later than that of Luke, I suppose). But really, should you wish to argue for some position on this issue, or indeed any other, please do so rationally by evidence rather than by appeals to authority of this kind. You surely know that the ancient data does not give us evidence of a hard and fast kind on this point.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Steve said that my failure to treat the accounts in Luke and John about Jesus eating in the presence of the disciples was simply discounting sources because I'd made up my mind beforehand. I don't know how I could possibly prove the order of my thinking on this matter, but Steve is wrong about this.

    Can one make a case that Luke and John preserve historical traditions, perhaps even on this point? Sure. But one also has, interestingly enough, Luke and John converging on the Jesus who appears after the resurrection not (or at least not always) look like Jesus. That, plus the fact that the eating is added to traditions that earlier lacked them, and as one gets towards the late first century we know from Ignatius and other sources that docetism was increasingly an issue, the possibility that these narrative details were added because of apologetic concerns must at least be considered. And yet because I consider it, as any serious historian might be expected to, I am said to be "dismissing evidence that is inconvenient to me". Actually, I don't think I'm the one who is doing that in this discussion.

    Perhaps we can start over, and Steve can explain why he considers these late traditions to reflect genuine historical reminscence?

    ReplyDelete
  30. I've posted my thoughts on doing history for rare events on my blog here.

    ReplyDelete
  31. JAMES F. MCGRATH SAID:

    “Steve, I have to ask whether your statement was made out of ignorance of historical study of the Gospels or out of an attempt simply to malign my views. Anyone who has taken an introductory course on the Bible as an undergraduate ought to know that the Gospels of Luke and John are dated later than Mark. Certainly not everyone (e.g. N. T. Wright) reaches the conclusion that the physical elements like eating in these later sources are mere anti-docetic polemic without historical basis. But at the very least it is easy to see why many historians have doubts about elements that appear in later sources but not earlier ones. To suggest that I'm merely dismissing sources that don't agree with my presuppositions is not only untrue, but an argument that would only persuade those who lack even the most basic introduction even to conservative Evangelical Biblical scholarship on the Gospels.”

    i) James, as a matter of simple prudence it would behoove you not to level accusations which are demonstrably false. My position on Markan priority is a matter of public record. Indeed, I wrote a book-length review of The Empty Tomb (Jeff Lowder and Robert Price, eds.), so, for that reason alone, I’m obviously conversant with both sides of the debate.

    When you ignorantly impute ignorance to me, that charge is bound to boomerang, making you look awfully maladroit and uniformed in the process. So I’d urge a bit more caution on your part in the future. You’re not helping yourself.

    ii) As to the substance of the charge, it’s a complete non sequitur to insinuate that a miraculous report must represent a later legendary embellishment. For example, in the history of postbiblical miracles, we have many contemporary reports of miracles. Now, regardless of how you evaluate the veracity of these reports, the point is that reported miraculous do not require any significant time-lag between the date of the reported event and the date of the report.

    iii) Likewise, the mere fact that Luke and John are probably later than Mark is wholly irrelevant to the veracity for their accounts. To take an obvious example, men and women who write autobiographies generally write them towards the end of life. So, when they write about their childhood or teens or twenties, they’re writing about events decades after the fact. That, however, doesn’t mean they’re making up stuff whole cloth.

    In the case of celebrities, biographies may be written about a celebrity many years before a celebrity chooses to write an autobiography about himself. The fact that his autobiography contains incidents which are not recorded in earlier biographies does not, of itself, cast any doubt on the accuracy of his memoirs.

    Likewise, children often write biographies about famous parents. The biography of a grown child may be written much later than biographies of their parents by contemporary historians, yet it may also contain many accurate details which were missing in earlier sources.

    Given that you have such a simplistic way of sifting historical sources, it doesn’t surprise me that you also have a low view of Luke and John, yet that reflects poorly, not on Luke and John, but on your simplistic criterion.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hmm, I don't see why, if you could understand perfectly well why someone with a mainstream historical approach to the Bible would be suspicious of the elements that appear in later Gospels but not earlier, you would accuse me of choosing just what suits my preferences. You could have responded as you eventually did, explaining your disagreement and presenting your case for the contrary. You chose instead to make a false accusation.

    As to your views being a matter of public record, that can be said much more readily in my case. In addition to blogging and my course web sites I've got plenty of peer reviewed articles and a couple of books that constitute my own "public record". But if I fail to mention something in a blog entry and someone asks me why I didn't deal with it, I wouldn't berate them for not having read my scholarly works, much less for not having kept up to date on my blog.

    I hope that, if we ever have another conversation, you'll be ready to engage where I'm coming from and not simply engage in misrepresentation and denigration. Even if that may get you some cheers from sympathetic onlookers, I'm only interested in having conversations in which both I and the other party are genuinely interested in learning from one another, rather than merely defending our own views.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hmm.

    "I hope I will never cause pain for pain's sake... And I certainly don't intentionally say anything simply to cause offense."

    Followed by:

    "Anyone who has taken an introductory course on the Bible as an undergraduate ought to know that the Gospels of Luke and John are dated later than Mark."

    Ouch!

    And then:

    "I hope that, if we ever have another conversation, you'll be ready to engage where I'm coming from and not simply engage in misrepresentation and denigration."

    Ouch.

    These are interesting remarks from a man who denigrated Christians and their universities, relevantly or not, in several comments in this thread. It's OK, tho, when *he* does it.

    I'm glad to hear that the pretence of being reluctant to give offense has been abandoned, tho. I myself knew it was intentionally misleading -- merely a convenient smokescreen -- but most Christians are well-meaning people who are unaccustomed to dealing with impudent hard-faced deceit.

    I would invite readers to compare the silky touchy feely rhetoric in James' comments with the actual content and likely impact, most of which contain barbs designed to give offence. Note how the subject is changed.

    Be aware of the "angel of light" approach. Some people really are dishonest and malevolent. Look at the actions, not the claims. Ecclesiastical liberals routinely adopt a sickly-sweet public face, while rooting viciously for their own advantage.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I am still waiting for Steve's initial points against James to be dealt with. I really thought fundamentalists were easier to refute, but I guess not.

    ReplyDelete
  35. What were his original points? That I feign intellectual superiority? Any suggestion on how I go about refuting such a claim?

    I didn't see any arguments in the original post. His opinion is that the Chicago Statement is "nuanced" - which doesn't do anything to counter my claim that it dies the death of a thousand qualifications.

    He tries to bring in the postmodern critique "there's no such thing as value-free study" in order to excuse his rejection of historical-critical methods, but doesn't offer an alternative method of examining evidence and answering historical questions.

    He claims that dating Isaiah 40-55 to the period of the exile makes it merely ex eventu prophecy, which is simply not the case. Deutero-Isaiah is understood by mainstream scholars to be talking about the present and near future of the exiles. It is not normally claimed that the return to Judea at the order of Cyrus had already happened. And so Steve tries to make it an issue of genuine vs. pseudo-prophecy, when it is really an issue of context. I've yet to encounter a reading of this part of Isaiah that can situate it in the time of Isaiah the contemporary of Hezekiah et. al. and yet explain why he would be calling in the present tense for the people to be comforted, and so on. This is not a prediction about the exile. It is a message addressed to the exiles, and taking that seriously should be commended rather than criticized by those who claim to be "defending" the Bible. But as I've said before, it is a doctrine about the Bible that is being defended here, at times being defended from the Bible itself. I hope those engaging in such actions will find it in their hearts to repent and stop demeaning the Bible in this way.

    My point about Greek astronomy was simply that Beale claimed that a worldview with multiple solid yet moving heavens might be required to take the Bible's cosmology literally, and that seemed to him implausible. I merely highlighted that he did not even seem to be aware of the Ptolemaic cosmology. I for one think that the adoption of Ptolemaic cosmology (reflected in some parts of the New Testament) marked a shift away from a simpler view reflected in Genesis 1 and elsewhere in the Jewish Scriptures. But that has nothing to do with my point. Beale claimed that no one could have thought about planets and other heavenly bodies embedded in solid "firmaments" since it would require multiple solid firmaments. I simply observed the irony that what Beale seemed to think was a reductio ad absurdam was in fact the very cosmology that Jews and Greeks and many others arrived at - if not in the time Genesis was written, then at some point later.

    I'll only mention one other thing, related to the question of phenomenological description. I wonder how many modern-day readers of the Bible truly understand the ascension literally. Was it God condescending to the worldview of the time, or authors expressing their conviction in terms of the worldview of the time? Or is heavenly literally up? - in which case, as Keith Ward observed, Jesus has still not left the Milky Way galaxy, unless he was able to reach warp speed...

    ReplyDelete
  36. Just a short reply to Roger - our attempts at communication always seem to end up here. He takes my disagreement with conservative Christians on certain points as attacks on Christianity, which they are not (obviously, to anyone who knows me).

    Let me paraphrase what Roger wrote: "Be aware of the "angel of light" approach. Some people really are dishonest and malevolent. Look at the actions, not the claims. Ecclesiastical conservatives routinely adopt a sickly-sweet public face, while rooting viciously for their own advantage." Is there any sense in which that doesn't cut both ways?

    My points of disagreement with certain views may hurt those who cannot separate their views from their person. But I'm not engaging in personal attacks. I'm seeking to criticize ideas, and were I to abandon that, I'd be abandoning scholarship.

    ReplyDelete
  37. James McGrath: "I've posted my testimony in very brief"

    Dear James,

    The most loving thing I can do is to convey to you something that will more than likely offend you or hurt you. I've read your "A Parable and a Testimony" and, of course, the various comments and blog posts that you've written since this interaction began. Based on the amount of data so far, based on your own comments that do not affirm essential and integral components of being a genuine Christian, and based on the (rotten) fruit that you've produced, I must sadly concur with Steve's statement that "Clearly, though, his present position falls far below a credible profession of faith."

    Therefore, the most loving thing is to share with you that you are NOT a Christian. Bear in mind that I don't say this with 100% dogmatic certainty, but all things considering, it would be sinfully remiss of me if I were to allow you to wallow in self-delusion that you are a genuine Christian.

    With painful candor, you are not a Christian. In fact, I think it's fair to say that you are an enemy of Christ.

    I don't say this to wound you or hurt you, but I cannot do the Oprah Winfrey thing and hug you and pat you and cuckold you and baby you, saying "James, if you say you're a Christian and you say that you had a life-changing experience in a Pentecostal service, well who's to say you're not a Christian? I say you're a Christian!" And Oprah's audience breaks out into loud cheer, while the likely event is that you're simply damning your soul to hell.

    I can't do that James. Clarity is more important than feelings on questions and issues of this eternal magnitude.

    You do not have a genuine salvific, repentant faith in the risen and living Jesus Christ. Jesus is neither your Lord, nor your Savior.

    To tell you otherwise, in the objective of protecting your feelings and emotions, is to tell you a lie.

    In all honesty, you need to repent and ask for forgiveness from the risen and living Christ. Why not do it this weekend with Good Friday and Easter Sunday coming up?

    ReplyDelete
  38. JAMES F. MCGRATH SAID:

    “He tries to bring in the postmodern critique ‘there's no such thing as value-free study’ in order to excuse his rejection of historical-critical methods, but doesn't offer an alternative method of examining evidence and answering historical questions.”

    i) McGrath commits another rudimentary blunder by confounding the grammatico-historical method with methodological naturalism.

    The grammatico-historical method isn’t concerned with the historicity of a text, but with offering an interpretation that’s consonant with the historical horizon of the original author and the target audience or implied reader.

    ii) Indeed, methodological naturalism is directly at variance with the narrative viewpoint of Scripture since methodological naturalism assumes a secular viewpoint.

    McGrath incoherently combines methodological naturalism with the grammatico-historical method under the rubric of “historical-critical methods,” but this is represents an amalgam of opposing principles.

    iii) In addition, he acts as though higher criticism (e.g. date, authorship) must yield liberal answers. Needless to say, moderate to conservative scholars who write Bible commentaries and introductions to the Bible, and monographs on higher criticism, address the same questions, but often arrive at different very answers than McGrath.

    It would really behoove Mr. McGrath to leave his bubble every now and then for a breath of fresh air. He has a persistent habit of stereotyping his opponents.

    “I've yet to encounter a reading of this part of Isaiah that can situate it in the time of Isaiah the contemporary of Hezekiah et. al. and yet explain why he would be calling in the present tense for the people to be comforted, and so on. This is not a prediction about the exile. It is a message addressed to the exiles, and taking that seriously should be commended rather than criticized by those who claim to be "defending" the Bible. But as I've said before, it is a doctrine about the Bible that is being defended here, at times being defended from the Bible itself. I hope those engaging in such actions will find it in their hearts to repent and stop demeaning the Bible in this way.”

    i) Of course, the claim that he has yet to encounter such a reading is vacuous since he fails to tell us what he’s been reading. Indeed, it’s just a tacit admission of his studied ignorance.

    ii) More to the point, Mr. McGrath fails to grasp the nature of visionary revelation. In visionary revelation, the seer foresees the future. In that altered state of consciousness, he perceives the future as present. And his prophecy represents a transcription of his visionary experience.

    Brevard Childs, a liberal commentator, draws attention to intertextual parallels between Isa 6 and Isa 40. Both are set in the context of the heavenly court. So that implies a visionary mode of revelation in both instances.

    It doesn’t look like McGrath has even bothered to keep up with the logical ramifications of liberal scholarship on Isaiah.

    “I merely highlighted that he did not even seem to be aware of the Ptolemaic cosmology. I for one think that the adoption of Ptolemaic cosmology (reflected in some parts of the New Testament) marked a shift away from a simpler view reflected in Genesis 1 and elsewhere in the Jewish Scriptures. But that has nothing to do with my point.”

    McGrath resorted to a patently anachronistic example to disprove Beale. But not only does Ptolemaic astronomy postdate the OT materials–it relies on mathematical developments to harmonize celestial motions which were unavailable to OT authors. Hence, this example is historically irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    “I'll only mention one other thing, related to the question of phenomenological description. I wonder how many modern-day readers of the Bible truly understand the ascension literally. Was it God condescending to the worldview of the time, or authors expressing their conviction in terms of the worldview of the time? Or is heavenly literally up? - in which case, as Keith Ward observed, Jesus has still not left the Milky Way galaxy, unless he was able to reach warp speed...”

    i) This is yet another example of Mr. McGrath’s studied ignorance. It doesn’t even represent a close reading of the text–much less an ear for literary allusions.

    The text doesn’t say that Jesus went straight up to heaven. Rather, it says Jesus levitated to a certain altitude, at which point he was enveloped by the “cloud.”

    ii) Moreover, the “cloud” is an allusion to the Shekinah. The Shekinah is a projection of heaven. That is how Jesus was received into heaven.

    Instead of attending to the actual wording of the text, as well as loaded literary allusions, McGrath flatfootedly superimposes a contemporary, Apollo 11 perspective on the text.

    ReplyDelete
  39. TUaD, what is my rotten fruit?

    Steve, I do hope you realize that, when taking cloud to mean simply cloud leads to a conclusion that you find unpleasant, you read things into the text that are not there. I hope no one will be deceived by your pretense of defenders of the literal truth of the Bible and Christianity. You have shown yourself to be more concerned to force it to be "right" than to take completely seriously what it says, and so I don't think I need to write anything further to make that case.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Sometimes coulds are special clouds. Silly, silly, James.

    Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=P9sYIRXZZ2MC&printsec=frontcover&dq=eerdmans+Dictionary+of+the+BIble#PPA110,M1

    http://books.google.com/books?id=7R0IGTSvIVIC&pg=PA709&lpg=PA709&dq=Allusions+to+the+Shekinah+in+the+Ascension&source=bl&ots=5cprLEW8Kp&sig=ZsVQ7lM9laNGy7L_zKHY32ujDng&hl=en&ei=3ETeScnZBueXlAesprRO&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9#PPA58,M1

    Since I work at OUP I figured i would use one of our resources. Check out Oxford Biblical Studies Online!

    From the Oxford Dictionary of the Bible:

    In the J tradition the people are said to be led by Yahweh in the form of a pillar of cloud (Exod. 13: 21) which at night became luminous. In an angry address to Aaron and Miriam he spoke out of the cloud (Num. 12: 5), and in the Temple at Jerusalem his presence (Hebrew, shekinah) is signified by a cloud (1 Kgs. 8: 10–11).

    A cloud therefore is established by NT times as a recognizable symbol for transcendence; at the Transfiguration Jesus and the disciples are overshadowed by a cloud (Mark 9: 7) and at the Ascension a cloud is described to signify Jesus's exaltation into heaven (Acts 1: 9).

    James, I think you need to apologize to Steve. Go ahead you have been shown to be telling lies for "scholarship". While you are at it maybe you can tell these other people who would disagree with you that they are wrong also.

    Blake

    ReplyDelete
  41. If the links are broke let me know. For some reason when I published my comment it wouldn't show the full link, I am sure that as good rational human beings you can go up to the right hand corner of the google books page and type in Ascension or Shekinah and read for yourselve. He is Risen, and Ascended. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  42. One more! FF Bruce in his Acts commentary points to parallels in the Transfiguration accounts and the Ascension accounts, but I am sure that since Bruce was an evangelical he should be rejected out of hand:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=YlRLghMu3n4C&printsec=frontcover&dq=Book+of+Acts&lr=&ei=_UreSZSCBoy0yQSjiMmzBA#PPA38,M1

    ReplyDelete
  43. Since there is some discussion about Jesus' physical resurrection and accestion into heaven, I have a few questions.

    If Jesus is in heaven now, are His atoms in heaven? If so, does the strong nuclear force exist in heaven? Is there any sense of taking about physical space for Jesus' physical body to reside in? Does His heart still beat(?) circulating blood that circulates oxygen from the lungs around the body? Are the top layer of His skin cells still dead, as they were when He was on earth?

    ReplyDelete
  44. I'm a huge fan of F. F. Bruce.

    I don't think I owe anyone an apology. I was (as I demonstrated, falsely) accused of using or rejecting passages as suited me.

    Then I'm criticized for not accepting the Bible as always literally true or factual.

    But then Steve, when it suits him, and now you, can say that a cloud is not just a cloud as it suits you.

    I don't have any problem with the statements about clouds representing the divine presence that you pointed to. Clouds are usually "heavenly" things, in terms of the ancient cosmology, and it would have been perfectly natural to use a cloud on earth as symbolizing a connection with heaven.

    I don't see how a potential connection based on a keyword means that the two instances describe the same thing. One is about a heavenly reality on earth, the other is about an ascent to heaven.

    Nor is it clear how the symbolism of these passages relates to my point - unless you or Steve wishes to maintain that the clouds and indeed the stories themselves are purely symbolic.

    But I grow weary of this. While you mine quotes from scholars when it suits you and dismiss them as appeals to authority when they do not, I myself have scholarly articles to write and book projects to complete.

    ReplyDelete
  45. When did I quote a scholar against you selectively? Am I supposed to assume that ancient people thought all of the clouds above their heads were part of the Shekinah? They could not distinguish between a glory cloud and a regular cloud? Do you have evidence of this?

    God could not use events in symbolic form? Is that what you are saying? James, I must admit you really do restrict God's abilities. It is almost as if he doesn't exist.

    Finally, you really need to stop using words like "literal" in such an equivocal way.

    ReplyDelete
  46. "Steve, I do hope you realize that, when taking cloud to mean simply cloud leads to a conclusion that you find unpleasant, you read things into the text that are not there."

    I also took this quote to be a dismissal of what Steve said about the Shekinah interpretation of "cloud" in this passage. Is that not what you meant?

    ReplyDelete
  47. James McGrath asks: "TUaD, what is my rotten fruit?"

    That's a fair question. It's fair to say that it wouldn't be self-evident to you, much like it wasn't self-evident to the naked emperor that he wasn't wearing any clothes until a truth-telling boy pointed it out.

    Your "rotten" fruit has been borne out of you doing this, and in your own words, "I myself have scholarly articles to write and book projects to complete."

    Lastly, although you are a clear enemy of Christ, I want you to know two things.

    #1. Christians are called to love their enemies. I pray that you have Divine experience like the Apostle Paul's on the road to Damascus.

    #2. I respect you for linking to Triablogue on Amazon.com for your book review. And for alerting your blog readers about Triablogue's rebuttals to your posts, particularly Steve Hays' thorough refutations.

    And as aside, you tend to quibble at the minor fringes, and, astonishingly, to think that by doing so, you've saved your leaky foundation from crumbling when Steve Hays points out your numerous, repetitive, and ill-thought out fallacies undergirding the main thrust of your arguments. He politely called them "conceptual blunders". And then another blogger asked you when you were going to address the main thrust of Steve's critique. He was really saying what I'm saying now: You muck around the fringes and think that that's sufficient to plug up all the growing holes in your foundation.

    We see right through that.

    ReplyDelete
  48. James McGrath asks: "TUaD, what is my rotten fruit?"

    It seems that you undermine the timeless Authority of Scripture in your teaching and writings. For instance, do you uneqivocally affirm that God has declared in His Word that same-sex behavior is a sin, a sin that transcends all peoples, all cultures, all times, and all places?

    It would seem that you do not affirm this based upon what you taught your Sunday School class at Crooked Creek Baptist Church on Romans 1-3 and Homosexuality.

    ReplyDelete
  49. JAMES F. MCGRATH SAID:

    “Steve, I do hope you realize that, when taking cloud to mean simply cloud leads to a conclusion that you find unpleasant, you read things into the text that are not there. I hope no one will be deceived by your pretense of defenders of the literal truth of the Bible and Christianity. You have shown yourself to be more concerned to force it to be ‘right’ than to take completely seriously what it says, and so I don't think I need to write anything further to make that case.”

    “Then I'm criticized for not accepting the Bible as always literally true or factual.__But then Steve, when it suits him, and now you, can say that a cloud is not just a cloud as it suits you.__I don't have any problem with the statements about clouds representing the divine presence that you pointed to. Clouds are usually ‘heavenly’ things, in terms of the ancient cosmology, and it would have been perfectly natural to use a cloud on earth as symbolizing a connection with heaven.__I don't see how a potential connection based on a keyword means that the two instances describe the same thing. One is about a heavenly reality on earth, the other is about an ascent to heaven.__Nor is it clear how the symbolism of these passages relates to my point - unless you or Steve wishes to maintain that the clouds and indeed the stories themselves are purely symbolic.”

    You have a fatal habit of underestimating your opponents. As a result, you keep making a public fool of yourself, which serves my purpose just fine.

    i) To begin with, even liberal commentators like Joseph Fitzmyer and Howard Key identify the “cloud” in Acts 1:9 with the Shekinah. Do you think they arrive at that interpretation because construing the “cloud” as “simply” a cloud was too “unpleasant” for them to bear?

    ii) You also commit the elementary blunder of confounding factuality with literality.

    I have never made literality my hermeneutical touchstone. I’ve always made grammatico-historical exegesis my hermeneutical touchtone.

    The grammatico-historical method doesn’t predict or either a literal or figurative interpretation. It depends on the passage.

    Where factuality comes into play is less about the interpretation of Scripture than the authority of Scripture. Having arrived at the interpretation of a given passage by grammatico-historical exegesis, do you feel bound by the results of your interpretation?

    In other words, if you think that represents the original intent of the passage, do you feel bound to believe it? If, for example, grammatico-historical exegesis indicates that Luke or John taught a physical Resurrection, do you feel compelled to accept their teaching?

    That’s the point at issue. Do we submit to the authority of Scripture as the word of God?

    Obviously you don’t since you reject the divine inspiration of Scripture.

    The difference between you and me is not primarily hermeneutical, but doxastic. My position is that if Scripture teaches X to be a fact, then it’s my Christian duty to accept the factuality of X.

    If anything, your problem with Scripture is just the opposite: you interpret the Bible in much the same way as I do. And based on your interpretation, you think that Scripture often reflects an obsolete and erroneous worldview.

    But you’re too muddle-headed to clearly perceive either your own position or mine.

    iii) As a final specimen of your ineptitude, you confuse a literal interpretation with a factual referent.

    i) To identify the “cloud” as the Shekinah doesn’t mean it was purely symbolic–in the sense of a fictional description with no extratextual referent.

    Luke is describing an actual phenomenon. The fact that the Shekinah isn’t “simply” a cloud, like a rain cloud, doesn’t mean the Shekinah is just a bit of literary symbolism, with no underlying reality.

    ii) On a related note, you also lack the sophistication to distinguish between sense and reference (e.g. Frege, Quine). There’s a difference between the meaning or intension of the word “cloud,” and the extension or referent of the word–what the word denotes.

    Luke is using the word to signify the Shekinah. Even if that’s a figurative meaning, this doesn’t mean the word has a figurative referent.

    Your condescension isn’t matched by the level of your intellectual performance.

    ReplyDelete
  50. It is a source of perennial regret to me that I have never been able to have a sensible discussion with James McGrath. In each case he has met my comments with reiteration, or some other trick favoured by the shabbier sort of Christian-hater online. Such tacitics can only be met by identification. In each case I have drawn attention to the false argument. As a rule he then accuses me of being beastly, for refusing to fall for it. I do wish that he would eschew such self-demeaning behaviour. It is sad to see someone with so little self-respect.

    Stepping back a moment, we have seen James McGrath repeatedly demand or insinuate that we accept his claim to the title "Christian". No doubt he finds it convenient to make the demand and amusing to troll the Christians thereby? The enemy within is more pernicious than the one without.

    But if we ignore this and look at his chosen technique to press his claim, do we not find that it is merely reiteration? Again, what kind of argument is this? What kind of debate can follow?

    Christianity may or may not be true. But it is not false (or true) merely because someone says so; nor does something become so merely because someone wants it to be true (or false). If Dr McGrath accepts this, why does he rely throughout on this method of argument?

    We have all found that it is a standard ploy of those hostile to Christianity to say "who are you to say who is and is not a Christian".

    Anyone may become a Christian. The rules are the same for everyone; to abandon the right to invent your own beliefs and way of life, and to adopt what Christ taught, the apostles preached, the fathers record and the scriptures embody. Those who choose not to do so must find some other name for themselves; not because of any religious principle, but simply to avoid turning the word "Christian" into a meaningless term. Do we respect those who engage in Newspeak, who seek to manipulate language in order to advance their cause? Or those who offer plain evidence for plainly stated propositions? The slipperiness of the "liberal" is notorious, after all, and James has done little to abate this image.

    James McGrath said: "Then I'm criticized for not accepting the Bible as always literally true or factual."

    Almost as much as he criticizes people for holding such views, perhaps?

    Why he thinks that he should not be criticised for his views he does not say.

    James McGrath said: "While you mine quotes from scholars when it suits you and dismiss them as appeals to authority when they do not, I myself have scholarly articles to write and book projects to complete."

    It is good to hear that Dr McGrath has scholarly papers to write, and we must all hope that they go well, and produce some form of original information about the ancient world.

    But I do hope that he remembers not to use any of the methods of argument that he has used in this set of comments. Academic articles that consist of asserting whatever is convenient to the author and backing it by repeated assertion tend to be of little value other than as curios.

    ReplyDelete
  51. JASON SAID:
    Since there is some discussion about Jesus' physical resurrection and accestion into heaven, I have a few questions.

    "If Jesus is in heaven now, are His atoms in heaven? If so, does the strong nuclear force exist in heaven? Is there any sense of taking about physical space for Jesus' physical body to reside in? Does His heart still beat(?) circulating blood that circulates oxygen from the lungs around the body? Are the top layer of His skin cells still dead, as they were when He was on earth?"

    Heaven is a place. Jesus has a functioning body. Next question?

    ReplyDelete
  52. James McGrath asks: "TUaD, what is my rotten fruit?"

    Steve Hays: "That’s the point at issue. Do we submit to the authority of Scripture as the word of God?

    Obviously you don’t since you reject the divine inspiration of Scripture."

    And the grievous error of your usurpation of the Authority of Scripture is then compounded upon learning that you are a teacher of a Sunday School class at Crooked Creek Baptist Church. Because then your students may be negatively impacted by watching you model the undermining of the Authority of Scripture and then doing the same thing themselves because you did it. That is rotten fruit.

    James 3:1 "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."

    ReplyDelete
  53. "Heaven is a place. Jesus has a functioning body. Next question?"

    You didn't actually answer any of my questions. I'll repeat a few.

    Is the strong nuclear force in heaven?

    Is their oxygen in heaven to breath?

    Is the outer layer of Jesus epidermis consist of dead skin cells?

    This is not a trick question or anything, I just find it interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  54. The Bible doesn't spell out the details of heaven. But heaven has whatever is needed to sustain an immortal human body.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Reviling someone isn't the same as offering a thorough refutation.

    This has been an interesting experience - in my late teens I would have gladly had a blog like this one, would have treated visitors in the same way, and would have claimed victory when eventually they ceased responding to my belligerent attacks. And so just as you hope I'll repent of my "false doctrines", I hope you'll one day realize that your rhetoric does harm to the cause of Christ. Or was it the arrogance of the believers that you encountered that led to your conversions?

    So far you've still not explained what you think the cloud was or where you believe Jesus went. You seem to think that by stating the a cloud could represent the divine presence, you've explained something. But the text talks about Jesus going up into the sky, and I proposed a couple of different possible interpretations, none of which you either embraced or refuted (again, unless one defines "refuted" as "insulted the person making the argument until he or she stopped participating in the conversation, making you appear to have won".

    If you're ever interested in actually discussing the details of what Luke says, rather than what you are certain it must mean because you approach it with the assumption of inerrancy, I'll gladly continue the conversation. Until then, I'll leave you with your hard-earned illusion of victory, and get back to my work of serving university students, the scholarly community, and the church.

    ReplyDelete
  56. "And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'”

    Since the Glory cloud is quite clearly the Shekinah glory, it appears that the ascension (going up) represents the enthronement visualized of the Son of Man in Daniel. Does it require that Jesus went somewhere out into outer space? I do not see why. If humans naturally use spatial metaphors of going up to express exaltation, transcendence and other ideas I do not see why Jesus has to go somewhere in our spation-temoral world. Acts never tells us where he goes, because that was not the point. We can speculate all we want, but we miss the meaning of the passage if we ask questions about "where" Jesus went. Of course Jesus is in heaven, which is the place where God dwells. I am sorry if I cannot give you anymore of an explanation. I guess divine transcendence keeps us speaking on certain things.

    What are the disciples looking at as Jesus ascends? I do not know. We could assume that they where looking up at the clouds, but if this is a theophany maybe they are looking at something else. I am not sure.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Allow me to quote George Eldon Ladd's "New Testament Theology" about the Ascension, because I believe he captures the two options that we are discussing.

    "This story of the ascension of Jesus to heaven involves many difficulties. It suggests in the first place that the early Christians conceived of a three- decker world with heaven as a literal place above the atmosphere. However, if heaven, understood as the dwelling place of God, is a realm of existence other than and different from the physical universe, there is no other way Jesus could have signalled his departure into that other world than by a visible ascension as Luke describes it. It is doubtful that Luke was thinking in cosmological terms, He was describing the cessation of resurrection appearances of Jesus- "an acted declaration of finality." The cloud was probably not a cloud of vapor but the cloud of glory signalizing the divine presence. At his transfiguration Jesus entered teh cloud of the divine presence but did not remain there. As the ascension he enters it again and remains with the Father."

    I would assume that the early Christians would have been conversant with this passage:

    "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!"

    If they where I think it would be pretty obvious that they thought that the Ascension was an event on a wholly different playing field.


    James, I hope that you know that I mean no ill will towards you in our discussion. I have actually learned quite a bit. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  58. About inquiring after the place of Jesus after he was ascended into the Glory cloud, Calvin writes this:

    "And this seemeth to be the reason why the cloud did overshadow him, before such time as he did enter into his celestial glory; that his disciples being content with their measure. might cease to inquire any further. And we are taught by them that our mind is not able to ascend so high as to take a full view of the glory of Christ; therefore, let this cloud be a mean to restrain our boldness, as was the smoke which was continually before the door of the tabernacle in the time of the law."

    ReplyDelete
  59. Rest well everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Roger Pearse: "It is a source of perennial regret to me that I have never been able to have a sensible discussion with James McGrath."

    You're not the only one.

    "In each case he has met my comments with reiteration, or some other trick favoured by the shabbier sort of Christian-hater online."

    Disingenuous.

    "Such tacitics can only be met by identification."

    Agreed.

    "In each case I have drawn attention to the false argument. As a rule he then accuses me of being beastly, for refusing to fall for it."

    Yes. He does this all too frequently. It's really quite sad.

    ReplyDelete
  61. James said: "Reviling someone isn't the same as offering a thorough refutation."

    Indeed not, as anyone who reads James's comments following will think.

    James: "This has been an interesting experience - in my late teens I would have gladly had a blog like this one, would have treated visitors in the same way, and would have claimed victory when eventually they ceased responding to my belligerent attacks."

    Pity that he retained the arrogance he confesses to but abandoned the religion.

    James: "And so just as you hope I'll repent of my "false doctrines", I hope you'll one day realize that your rhetoric does harm to the cause of Christ."

    Which Christ might that be, man who believes nothing in the bible is reliable?

    But this is merely a jeer, like the rest.

    James: "Or was it the arrogance of the believers that you encountered that led to your conversions?"

    Reviling noted. Oh yes, it is rather cute of James to demand that others follow the authority of the bible -- "do not meet reviling with reviling" -- when he doesn't accept that authority! "Do as I say, not as I do", eh?

    The actual content of these remarks by James is merely an insinuated demand that Christians should not defend ourselves against someone who comes to a blog solely to attack the bloggers, and jeer at their religion. Why we should not do so is, of course, not explained. It is so tedious listening to him assert, assert, assert, jibe, jibe, jibe, and never, ever make a rational argument.

    James: "So far you've still not explained what you think the cloud was or where you believe Jesus went."

    Quite why this is the special problem of anyone here is not explained. But James neither knows nor cares; this demand is just a tool to try to beat people.

    James: "You seem to think that by stating the a cloud could represent the divine presence, you've explained something. But the text talks about Jesus going up into the sky, and I proposed a couple of different possible interpretations, none of which you either embraced or refuted"

    No-one can be this dim. Speculation requires no real comment.

    James: "(again, unless one defines "refuted" as "insulted the person making the argument until he or she stopped participating in the conversation, making you appear to have won"."

    As when someone starts a post by irrelevant jeering at Christian bible colleges?

    James: "If you're ever interested in actually discussing the details of what Luke says, rather than what you are certain it must mean because you approach it with the assumption of inerrancy, I'll gladly continue the conversation."

    Quite why anyone would be interested in James' speculations on the matter, considering that you believe the whole account is tosh, he does not explain. If we have evidence that a text is rubbish, and no other information on the events in it, then its interest is quite limited! It is quite possible to then use the story as raw material to make up some other stories and call this "what must have happened." But only a fool would be interested in that. So he has nothing to offer on this that anyone, whatever their religious views, would wish to hear.

    James: "Until then, I'll leave you with your hard-earned illusion of victory,"

    Sounds like James got what he came for.

    James: "... and get back to my work of serving university students, the scholarly community,..."

    Appeal to authority noted. But if James cared anything about scholarship, he wouldn't introduce it here as a jeer against others.

    James: "... and the church."

    Only if he proposes to become a doorstop or something.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Thanks for your note, Truth. Glad that you've seen what's happening here too.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Listening to a wolf complaining that the sheep won't let him in is a curious experience, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  64. JAMES F. MCGRATH SAID:

    “Reviling someone isn't the same as offering a thorough refutation.”

    I’ve answered you point-by-point every step of the way. I’ve given you far more detailed replies than you’ve responded to. Indeed, I’ve raised a large number of objections to your position which you haven’t even attempted to address.

    I also love your double standards. You impugn the honesty of Christians by insinuating that pastors and seminary professors are hypocrites who secretly believe what you believe, but put on a false front in the presence of their students or congregants. And you impute ignorance to anyone who disagrees with you.

    “I hope you'll one day realize that your rhetoric does harm to the cause of Christ.”

    Since you don’t believe in the Biblical Christ, what cause is being harmed?

    Moreover, you’re the one who’s trying to harm the cause of Christ. You’re a typical, militant apostate. Having lost your faith, you mission in life is now to undermine the faith of others.

    And, apparently, you’re used to debating laymen who don’t know enough to respond to you on your own turf. It comes as a rude shock to you to encounter Christians who can hold their own. You’re a bully who’s used to roughing up defenseless opponents. Now that you got a bloody nose, you run away in tears.

    “So far you've still not explained what you think the cloud was or where you believe Jesus went.”

    You suffer from a serious mental block. I specifically stated what I think it was: the Shekinah. So what does your question about to? Are you asking what the Shekinah is?

    The Shekinah is a type of theophany. A visible manfestation of God. God is essentially invisible and intangible. But he can manifest himself in sensible phenomena which symbolize his presence and attributes.

    The Shekinah both reveals and conceals God.

    The Shikinah is a public, objective, visual manifestation of God. It’s called a cloud because it has the appearance of a luminous cloud. A nimbic aura. A radiant appearance–especially at night.

    It has its background in the OT, beginning with the Book of Exodus. It reappears in the NT at the Transfiguration. And it’s not coincidental that Luke has an account of the Transfiguration.

    Jesus went to heaven. Since Jesus is an embodied person, heaven must be a place. I don’t have to say more about heaven than Scripture says.

    “You seem to think that by stating the a cloud could represent the divine presence, you've explained something.”

    Once again, statements like this betray your chronic inability to think clearly. There are two distinct issues here:

    i) The hermeneutical question of what the word (“cloud”) signifies.

    ii) The ontological question of what the entity denoted by that word actually is.

    The word signifies the Shekinah. And the significate is the Shekinah.

    “But the text talks about Jesus going up into the sky.”

    Once again, that is demonstrably inaccurate. Rather, it describes Jesus rising to a certain point, then being enveloped by the “cloud.”

    And for Jewish or Christian readers who are not as tone-deaf to intertextual allusions as you are, the “cloud” denotes the Shekinah.

    “If you're ever interested in actually discussing the details of what Luke says, rather than what you are certain it must mean because you approach it with the assumption of inerrancy.”

    That’s a demonstrable falsehood. I cited two liberal commentators (Kee, Fitzmyer) to corroborate my interpretation. Neither one of them approaches the text with the assumption of inerrancy.

    You’re also too hidebound to realize that your accusation is reversible. When you persistently resist an interpretation of Acts 1:9 which even liberal commentators champion, then it’s obvious that you approach the text with a hostile agenda, then go for whichever interpretation which will serve your agenda. Your hostile agenda selects for your interpretation. For you, any interpretation which disproves the Bible is preferable to an interpretation which honors the veracity of Scripture.

    ReplyDelete
  65. James F. McGrath said...

    “He claims that dating Isaiah 40-55 to the period of the exile makes it merely ex eventu prophecy, which is simply not the case. Deutero-Isaiah is understood by mainstream scholars to be talking about the present and near future of the exiles. It is not normally claimed that the return to Judea at the order of Cyrus had already happened. And so Steve tries to make it an issue of genuine vs. pseudo-prophecy, when it is really an issue of context. I've yet to encounter a reading of this part of Isaiah that can situate it in the time of Isaiah the contemporary of Hezekiah et. al. and yet explain why he would be calling in the present tense for the people to be comforted, and so on. This is not a prediction about the exile. It is a message addressed to the exiles, and taking that seriously should be commended rather than criticized by those who claim to be "defending" the Bible. But as I've said before, it is a doctrine about the Bible that is being defended here, at times being defended from the Bible itself. I hope those engaging in such actions will find it in their hearts to repent and stop demeaning the Bible in this way.”

    Unfortunately for McGrath, his interpretation fails to represent a close reading of the text. As one scholar explains:

    “A special problem exists for those who hold to a Babylonian origin for the words of comfort in Isaiah 40-66 (40:9; 42:27; 46:13; 51:16; 52:7-8). If a prophet supposedly in Babylon speaks to exiles who are also in Babylon, how can he refer to them by saying, ‘You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice…; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God” (40:9)? According to the restructuring of the book of Isaiah, the people being addressed in Isaiah 40-55 are not in Jerusalem or the cities of Judah; they are in Babylon!” O. P. Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (P&R 204), 231.

    ReplyDelete
  66. One of the ironic features of McGrath’s studied ignorance is that, not only doesn’t he keep up with conservative exegetical literature, he doesn’t even keep up with liberal exegetical literature.

    For example, Howard Clark Kee has written a commentary on Acts. Kee is learned liberal. Here is what Kee has to say about the identity of the cloud in Acts 1:9:

    “The ascension of Jesus into the presence of God is connected with a ‘cloud,’ which in Old Testament tradition is regularly linked with the presence of God…” To Every Nation Under Heaven (Trinity 1997), 35.

    Kee follows this up with an endnote:

    “Cloud. The divine radiance that embodies the presence of God with his people in the wilderness appears to them ‘in a cloud’ (Exod 16:10), and a ‘thick cloud’ signifies that presence on Mount Sinai (Exod 19:9,16; 20:21; 24:15-16; 33:9; Deut 5:22) and as the journey continued toward the Promised Land (40:34-38; Num 10:12; 14:14; Neh 9:12; Ps 99:7). This is recalled by Paul in 1 Cor 10:1-2). The cloud of divine glory also filled the temple (2 Chron 5:13-14), but departed when disobedient Israel was sent by God into exile (Ezk 10:4-5). At the transfiguration of Jesus (Mk 9:5-7; Mt 17:5; Lk 9:34-35), the presence of God with Jesus is represented visually by the cloud that overshadowed him, and is articulated by the voice from the cloud acclaiming Jesus as God’s Son,” ibid. 308n5.

    Joseph Fitzmyer is another learned liberal who offers the same interpretation. Cf. Acts of the Apostles (Doubleday 1998), 210.

    Notice that the Shekinah isn’t a cloud in the sky. It isn’t “up there.” Rather, the Shekinah is mobile. It can be both a terrestrial and celestial phenomenon. It fills the inner sanctum. It leads the Israelites in the wilderness.

    So it has nothing to do with a triple-decker universe in which the clouds separate heaven from earth.

    ReplyDelete
  67. And we are still waiting on a reply......... I think he gave up. He says it is because we are fundies and we skew the meaning of the text. Still not sure how what we said skews anything. I am a little confused.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Blake: "And we are still waiting on a reply......... I think he gave up."

    If so, it would be nice if he extended his hand in a gentleman's handshake, and humbly acknowledge a conversion experience on those points which he dogmatically held on to so tightly, i.e., that he has humbly given up and surrendered to the better and far superior argument.

    Do you think it is misplaced pride on James McGrath's part that prevents him from publicly acknowledging his errors?

    "He says it is because we are fundies and we skew the meaning of the text."

    That's an example of the ad hominem fallacy, don't you think? He seems to resort to it frequently.

    "I am a little confused."

    Trying to understand and reason with an apostate will do that to you sometimes.

    I think James McGrath left a little parting shot with this post called Self-Critical Faith.

    Excerpts: "The unexamined faith is not worth having.

    There are those who would like to avoid such critical introspection and self-examination, perhaps at all costs.

    Be that as it may, if someone else wishes to live in uncritical self-deception (or at least the risk thereof) they are free to do so.

    And so, if you'd prefer not to be aware of potential difficulties with Biblical inerrancy, amd historical uncertainties about the stories contained therein, and other things that often get noticed when one examines the Bible critically, then this blog is not for you. You are under no obligation to ask the questions I am asking about my faith, any more than you are obliged to accept my answers. But don't begrudge those of us who do ask them, or who answer them differently than you might."

    What's ironic is that while he's accusing others of living in uncritical self-deception, he's unaware that his criticism applies to himself.

    ReplyDelete
  69. "Bullying" describes what he did well. I saw it coming, as he tried to wrestle the discussion round to a subject on which he, as a professional, would have the advantage.

    But I was thinking about this, and perhaps we should feel a little sorry for him (although not enough to let him injure us!).

    Isn't it the case that he's stuck in a career where every day he has to teach stuff that he believes is fundamentally rubbish, and study a book which he believes is nonsense? Imagine what that must do to you! And, since most people wanting to study the bible are Christians, and won't want to listen if they know what he intends to teach them, he has to deceive them in order to persuade them even to listen to him. Any academic papers he produces will be obsolete in a couple of years, as most such papers are. And for all this, he will receive only the miserable remuneration of a minor academic.

    No wonder if he engages in a certain amount of self-deception in order to cope, and lashes out at those who tear the mask.

    It's not much of a way to spend your life, is it? Hell must be just that.

    It's a warning to us to be careful about our life choices.

    ReplyDelete
  70. i've never seen so many partially cooked red herrings served to so many poorly crafted strawmen, as you all are wont to do.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Probably best to make arguments, rather than throw jeers.

    ReplyDelete
  72. r--

    you said: "Isn't it the case that he's stuck in a career where every day he has to teach stuff that he believes is fundamentally rubbish, and study a book which he believes is nonsense? Imagine what that must do to you! And, since most people wanting to study the bible are Christians, and won't want to listen if they know what he intends to teach them, he has to deceive them in order to persuade them even to listen to him. Any academic papers he produces will be obsolete in a couple of years, as most such papers are. And for all this, he will receive only the miserable remuneration of a minor academic."

    how tiresome a stawman you've painted here. couldn't you at least be creative? give james a pipe that he can't seem to keep lit, as a metaphor for some aspect of his theological worldview. give him leather elbow patches, so we know just what kind of academician he is. how about a persistant limp, from when he stumbled and broke a toe on a stack of king james bibles he confiscated from his students in religion 101?

    i mean really. if you're going to build strawmen, at least be interesting. channel mark twain for this type of sarcasm, and you won't come across so eye-crossingly small.

    in critical scholarship, strawmen, ad populi responses, ad hominem responses, authority-as-truth, and red herrings are fallacies. one can't support conclusions or arguments through valid syllogisms with them. they contain no value, except as cheap entertainment through misfeasance or worse, malfeasance.

    but i don't get around much, so perhaps such tools are stock in trade for confessional scholarship. perhaps the value of one's positions depend on one's personality, or carisma, or friends, or authoritative mandates, rather than through critical thought and reasoning.

    besides, i happen to know that the tu...ad who writes for you is an imposter. the real tu...ad died three months ago, terribly alone.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Someone in this bullying conversation said: "Jesus is neither your Lord, nor your Savior."

    What appalling theology. Who is telling our Lord who He is Lord of or Saviour of?

    And another said - "and perhaps we should feel a little sorry for him (although not enough to let him injure us!)"

    What! - doesn't our faith tell us to sacrifice ourselves for our brother? Should we be worried about our own injuries? Who was it that was injured for our transgressions? Why should we not be injured for his? But no - we defend selfish positions and definitions with hogwash. Such people can't even begin to define heaven because their minds, their own place, have made a hell of heaven by their logic. They are like those who banded together to hang the Lord Jesus so that their convenient theologies would not be shaken.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Scott Gray,

    Your post was ad hominem BS. Sorry, I believe that Christians are supposed to be honest, so I figured I would just name your post what it was.

    Bob McDonald,

    Appalling theology? No. Subjectively appalling to you? Yes. Who cares? Not us. I guess you would consider most of the orthodox theology in Christian history to be "appalling". I have a suggestion for you, James, and Scott... get over yourselves. I mean that in the most academic way.

    Of course none of us would suggest that Jesus is not Lord over everyone. It just depends in what way he is Lord. He can either be your master in judgement, or faith.

    You said that we defend "selfish positions" (what ever that may be) with "hogwash". Bob what was it exactly that was hog wash? Exposing James' arbitrary enslavement to the Methodological Naturalism? His sorry response to our interpretation of the Ascension, or his failure to interact with the unity of Isaiah 40-66? It is easy to call a position "hog wash" when you are not dealing with it. So, Bob would you like to join the fray? If not, be quiet.

    Your comments have done nothing to further this "bullying" conversation. Your accusations of "bullying" remind me of the kids in middle school who were not quite good enough to make the basketball team. When they got cut they blamed it on bullying by the coach, or the other players. Either bring substance or stay at James' blog.

    ReplyDelete
  75. i always love it when some one tells me to 'get over myself.' it's like telling some one to 'have a nice day.'

    the tale of tu...ad the first's untimely demise is long, convoluted, and dreadfully sad. it is sure to touch your heart, cause you to shed a tear or two, and raise your technorati ratings.

    would you like to hear it?

    ReplyDelete
  76. BOB MACDONALD SAID:

    “What appalling theology. Who is telling our Lord who He is Lord of or Saviour of?”

    I didn’t make these statements myself, but I”ll venture to speak on behalf of those that did.

    Our Lord is telling us who he is Savior of. Jesus states certain conditions to be a follower of his.

    “What! - doesn't our faith tell us to sacrifice ourselves for our brother?”

    In NT usage, a “brother” is a fellow Christian. McGrath is not a fellow Christian.

    “But no - we defend selfish positions.”

    We’re defending the Bible. We’re defending what the Bible says about Jesus. We’re defending what Jesus says about himself.

    “They are like those who banded together to hang the Lord Jesus so that their convenient theologies would not be shaken.”

    That kind of accusation, even if it were true, loses its sting if you take the view of Scripture that McGrath has taken. McGrath doesn’t regard the Gospels as a reliable source of information about Jesus. McGrath doesn’t believe in the Jesus of the Gospels. He doesn’t equate the “literary Jesus” of the Gospels (or the NT generally) with the historical Jesus. He regards the “literary Jesus” of the Gospels as largely fictitious.

    His Jesus is not the “Lord.”

    So what are you getting so worked up over? Suppose we are like those who hung Jesus? From McGrath’s perspective, we’d be hanging a fictitious character–like Spiderman.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Blake. You have changed what was written to defend this conversation. 'Selfish' was an unnecessary adjective - 'defend' is a sufficient accusation. Jesus does not defend himself. If we defend ourselves, we are not acting or writing like our Saviour. Perhaps there are reasons he did not write.

    What you wrote - "He can either be your master in judgement, or faith." is equally wrong. Do you not know that we will all come before the judgment seat of Christ where our work will be judged? What makes 'our faith' so right? 'The faith that you have keep to yourself before God' as the apostle writes.

    So without going through this conversation, I have in one word 'defend' shown selfishness and the contradiction to direct instruction in the New Testament of those who think themselves to be followers of Jesus. Can you see this truth? Or are you also blind guides - straining at a gnat but swallowing your own camels?

    But I will contribute to the conversation for the sake of the one who asked about heaven. The one who has questions is better than those who defend their answers.

    Here is Jason's set of questions - they are cute.

    >>If Jesus is in heaven now, are His atoms in heaven? If so, does the strong nuclear force exist in heaven? Is there any sense of taking about physical space for Jesus' physical body to reside in? Does His heart still beat(?) circulating blood that circulates oxygen from the lungs around the body? Are the top layer of His skin cells still dead, as they were when He was on earth?<<

    They need summarizing: 'Is love real' is a shorter question. The short procedural answer is - if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will find out.

    Then, I add, you will know about heaven, because you will have an unspeakable prepayment of the principal on your home. So the even shorter answer to your questions is 'yes'. The atoms become your atoms. His top level of skin your skin. His place, your space. His beating, your heart, His Spirit, your oxygen.

    ReplyDelete
  78. BOB MACDONALD SAID:

    "Jesus does not defend himself."

    Jesus often defends himself in response to his accusers.

    ReplyDelete
  79. steve, that's an unfounded assertion. you might wish to provide a few scriptual examples. or if you're really good, a few examples that fall outside of scripture, so that they have even more historical credence.

    ReplyDelete
  80. STEVE SAID:

    BOB MACDONALD SAID:

    "Jesus does not defend himself."

    Jesus often defends himself in response to his accusers.

    SCOTT GRAY SAID:

    “steve, that's an unfounded assertion. you might wish to provide a few scriptual examples.”

    Matthew 12:1-14

    1At that time(A) Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and(B) they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him,(C) "Look, your disciples are doing(D) what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." 3He said to them, (E) "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4how he entered the house of God and ate(F) the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5Or have you not read(G) in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6I tell you,(H) something greater than the temple is here. 7And if you had known(I) what this means,(J) 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For(K) the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."

    9He went on from there and(L) entered their synagogue. 10And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him,(M) "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"—(N) so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, "Which one of you who has a sheep,(O) if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12(P) Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So(Q) it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." 13Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And(R) the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

    Matthew 12:25-37

    25(A) Knowing their thoughts,(B) he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul,(C) by whom do(D) your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28But if it is(E) by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then(F) the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29Or(G) how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed(H) he may plunder his house. 30(I) Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31(J) Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but(K) the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32And whoever speaks a word(L) against the Son of Man(M) will be forgiven, but(N) whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in(O) this age or in the age to come.

    33(P) "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad,(Q) for the tree is known by its fruit. 34(R) You brood of vipers! How can you speak good,(S) when you are evil?(T) For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35(U) The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36I tell you,(V) on the day of judgment(W) people will give account for(X) every careless word they speak, 37for(Y) by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

    Matthew 15:1-20

    1(A) Then Pharisees and(B) scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2(C) "Why do your disciples break(D) the tradition of the elders?(E) For they do not wash their hands when they eat." 3He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God commanded,(F) 'Honor your father and your mother,' and,(G) 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' 5But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God,"[a] 6he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have(H) made void the word[b] of God. 7(I) You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
    8(J) "'This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
    9in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as(K) doctrines the commandments of men.'"
    What Defiles a Person

    10And he called the people to him and said to them, (L) "Hear and understand: 11(M) it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." 12Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were(N) offended when they heard this saying?" 13He answered, (O) "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted(P) will be rooted up. 14Let them alone;(Q) they are blind guides.[c] And(R) if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit." 15But Peter said to him,(S) "Explain the parable to us." 16And he said, (T) "Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that(U) whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?[d] 18But(V) what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19For out of the heart come(W) evil thoughts,(X) murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness,(Y) slander. 20(Z) These are what defile a person. But(AA) to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."

    Matthew 15:39-16:12

    39And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of(A) Magadan.

    1(B) And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and(C) to test him(D) they asked him to show them(E) a sign from heaven. 2He answered them,[a] (F) "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' 3And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.'(G) You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret(H) the signs of the times. 4(I) An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." So(J) he left them and departed.

    5When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6Jesus said to them, "Watch and(K) beware of(L) the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 7And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, "We brought no bread." 8But(M) Jesus, aware of this, said, (N) "O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9(O) Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember(P) the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10Or(Q) the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread?(R) Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12(S) Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of(T) the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

    Matthew 21:23-27

    23(A) And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him(B) as he was teaching, and said,(C) "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" 24Jesus answered them, "I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25The baptism of John,(D) from where did it come?(E) From heaven or from man?" And they discussed it among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us,(F) 'Why then did you not believe him?' 26But if we say, 'From man,'(G) we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was(H) a prophet." 27So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

    Luke 7:37-48

    37(A) And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and(B) wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If(C) this man were(D) a prophet, he(E) would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." 40And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "Say it, Teacher."

    41"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred(F) denarii, and the other fifty. 42(G) When they could not pay, he(H) cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly." 44Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house;(I) you gave me no water for my feet, but(J) she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45(K) You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to(L) kiss my feet. 46(M) You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore I tell you, her sins,(N) which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48And he said to her, (O) "Your sins are forgiven."

    Luke 11:37-54

    37While Jesus[a] was speaking,(A) a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38The Pharisee was astonished to see(B) that he did not first wash before dinner. 39And the Lord said to him, (C) "Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of(D) greed and wickedness. 40(E) You fools!(F) Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41But(G) give as alms those things that are within, and behold,(H) everything is clean for you.
    42(I) "But woe to you Pharisees! For(J) you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect(K) justice and(L) the love of God.(M) These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43Woe to you Pharisees! For(N) you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44Woe to you!(O) For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it."

    45One of(P) the lawyers answered him, "Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also." 46And he said, "Woe to you(Q) lawyers also! For(R) you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47(S) Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48(T) So you are witnesses and you(U) consent to the deeds of(V) your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49Therefore also(W) the Wisdom of God said,(X) 'I will send them(Y) prophets and apostles,(Z) some of whom they will(AA) kill and persecute,' 50so that(AB) the blood of all the prophets, shed(AC) from the foundation of the world, may be(AD) charged against this generation, 51from the blood of(AE) Abel to the blood of(AF) Zechariah, who perished between(AG) the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be(AH) required of this generation. 52Woe to you(AI) lawyers!(AJ) For you have taken away the key of(AK) knowledge. You(AL) did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering."

    53As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54(AM) lying in wait for him,(AN) to catch him in something he might say.

    John 5:16-47

    16And this was why the Jews(A) were persecuting Jesus,(B) because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working."

    18This was why the Jews(C) were seeking all the more to kill him,(D) because not only was he(E) breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God(F) his own Father,(G) making himself equal with God.

    19So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you,(H) the Son(I) can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father[a] does, that the Son does likewise. 20For(J) the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And(K) greater works than these will he show him, so that(L) you may marvel. 21For as the Father(M) raises the dead and(N) gives them life, so(O) also the Son gives life(P) to whom he will. 22(Q) The Father judges no one, but(R) has given all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son, just as they(S) honor the Father.(T) Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24Truly, truly, I say to you,(U) whoever hears my word and(V) believes him who sent me has eternal life. He(W) does not come into judgment, but(X) has passed from death to life.
    25"Truly, truly, I say to you,(Y) an hour is coming, and is now here, when(Z) the dead will hear(AA) the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26(AB) For as the Father has life in himself,(AC) so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27And he(AD) has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28Do not marvel at this, for(AE) an hour is coming when(AF) all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29and come out,(AG) those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

    30(AH) "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and(AI) my judgment is just, because(AJ) I seek not my own will(AK) but the will of him who sent me. 31(AL) If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. 32There is(AM) another who bears witness about me, and(AN) I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33(AO) You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34Not that(AP) the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35He was a burning and(AQ) shining lamp, and(AR) you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36But(AS) the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For(AT) the works that the Father has given me(AU) to accomplish, the very works that I am doing,(AV) bear witness about me that(AW) the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me(AX) has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard,(AY) his form you have never seen, 38and(AZ) you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39(BA) You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and(BB) it is they that bear witness about me, 40yet(BC) you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41(BD) I do not receive glory from people. 42But(BE) I know that you do not have(BF) the love of God within you. 43I have come(BG) in my Father’s name, and(BH) you do not receive me.(BI) If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and(BJ) do not seek the glory that comes from(BK) the only God? 45Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses,(BL) on whom you have set your hope. 46For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for(BM) he wrote of me. 47But(BN) if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"

    John 8:12-59

    12(A) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, (B) "I am the light of the world. Whoever(C) follows me will not(D) walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 13So the Pharisees said to him,(E) "You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true." 14Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness about myself,(F) my testimony is true, for I know(G) where I came from and(H) where I am going, but(I) you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15(J) You judge according to the flesh;(K) I judge no one. 16Yet even if I do judge,(L) my judgment is true, for(M) it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father[a] who sent me. 17(N) In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18I am the one who bears witness about myself, and(O) the Father who sent me bears witness about me." 19They said to him therefore, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, (P) "You know neither me nor my Father.(Q) If you knew me, you would know my Father also." 20These words he spoke in(R) the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but(S) no one arrested him, because(T) his hour had not yet come.
    21So he said to them again, (U) "I am going away, and(V) you will seek me, and(W) you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come." 22So the Jews said,(X) "Will he kill himself, since he says, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" 23He said to them, (Y) "You are from below; I am from above.(Z) You are of this world;(AA) I am not of this world. 24I told you that you(AB) would die in your sins, for(AC) unless you believe that(AD) I am he you will die in your sins." 25So they said to him,(AE) "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26I have much to say about you and much to judge, but(AF) he who sent me is true, and I declare(AG) to the world(AH) what I have heard from him." 27They did not understand that(AI) he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28So Jesus said to them, "When you have(AJ) lifted up the Son of Man,(AK) then you will know that(AL) I am he, and that(AM) I do nothing on my own authority, but(AN) speak just as the Father taught me. 29And(AO) he who sent me is with me.(AP) He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him." 30As he was saying these things,(AQ) many believed in him

    31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, (AR) "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will(AS) know the truth, and the truth(AT) will set you free." 33They answered him,(AU) "We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, 'You will become free'?"
    34Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you,(AV) everyone who commits sin is a slave[b] to sin. 35(AW) The slave does not remain in the house forever;(AX) the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet(AY) you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38(AZ) I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard(BA) from your father."

    39They answered him,(BB) "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, (BC) "If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40but now(BD) you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth(BE) that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41You are doing the works your father did." They said to him,(BF) "We were not born of sexual immorality. We have(BG) one Father—even God." 42Jesus said to them, (BH) "If God were your Father, you would love me, for(BI) I came from God and(BJ) I am here.(BK) I came not of my own accord, but(BL) he sent me. 43(BM) Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot(BN) bear to hear my word. 44(BO) You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.(BP) He was a murderer from the beginning, and(BQ) has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.(BR) When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47(BS) Whoever is of God hears the words of God.(BT) The reason why you do not hear them is that(BU) you are not of God."
    Before Abraham Was, I Am

    48The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and(BV) have a demon?" 49Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon, but(BW) I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50Yet(BX) I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51Truly, truly,(BY) I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never(BZ) see death." 52The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon!(CA) Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet(CB) you say, 'If anyone keeps my word, he will never(CC) taste death.' 53(CD) Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?" 54Jesus answered, (CE) "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing.(CF) It is my Father who glorifies me,(CG) of whom you say, 'He is our God.'[c] 55But(CH) you have not known him.(CI) I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be(CJ) a liar(CK) like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56(CL) Your father Abraham(CM) rejoiced(CN) that he would see my day.(CO) He saw it and was glad." 57So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"[d] 58Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was,(CP) I am." 59So(CQ) they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

    ReplyDelete
  81. scott gray said...

    "or if you're really good, a few examples that fall outside of scripture, so that they have even more historical credence."

    Why should I? Did Bob MacDonald cite extrascriptural examples to bolster his claim?

    ReplyDelete
  82. scott gray said...

    "or if you're really good, a few examples that fall outside of scripture, so that they have even more historical credence."

    And your assertion would have more rational credence if you had a supporting argument.

    ReplyDelete
  83. steve, you silly goof, just provide examples, and be done with it. you people could fret the doily off a black and white tv set before you ever actually said anything valid. let's parse over tea some other time.

    examples of jesus' defense, inside or outside scripture, plese.

    we'll nuance methodology later.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Scott, you silly goof, I provided you with loads of examples.

    Try not to make such an utter public fool of yourself–twice over.

    ReplyDelete
  85. hey, steve, so you did.

    let's start here:

    Matthew 12:1-14

    1At that time(A) Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and(B) they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him,(C) "Look, your disciples are doing(D) what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." 3He said to them, (E) "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4how he entered the house of God and ate(F) the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5Or have you not read(G) in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6I tell you,(H) something greater than the temple is here. 7And if you had known(I) what this means,(J) 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For(K) the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."

    9He went on from there and(L) entered their synagogue. 10And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him,(M) "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"—(N) so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, "Which one of you who has a sheep,(O) if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12(P) Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So(Q) it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." 13Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And(R) the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

    to defend is to ward off an attack. or to contest something. actually, the root of the word is to strike. it is to 'strive to keep safe by resisting attack' in the dictionary.

    and jesus doesn't 'strive to keep things safe by resisting attack.' rather, jesus looks to reframe the argument so that his wrestler gets an 'aha' moment, and changes, and grows. he's not looking to score points and do high fives and complicated handshakes with the apostles. he's looking to change the hearts and minds of the people he engages. a far cry from 'striking to keep things dafe by resisting attack.'

    defending rarely (i won't say never, but rarely) leads to a conversion moment. it's frankly what you fellows haven't figured out yet.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Jesus is defending himself against the charges of his critics. Therefore, Bob's denial is false, and your denial is false.

    ReplyDelete
  87. methinks someone is trolling...

    ReplyDelete
  88. BOB MACDONALD SAID:

    “If we defend ourselves, we are not acting or writing like our Saviour…Do you not know that we will all come before the judgment seat of Christ where our work will be judged? …I have in one word 'defend' shown selfishness and the contradiction to direct instruction in the New Testament of those who think themselves to be followers of Jesus. Can you see this truth? Or are you also blind guides - straining at a gnat but swallowing your own camels?”

    Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is true, then it equally indicts McGrath since McGrath has been very busy defending himself.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Scott Gray wrote: "you said: "Isn't it the case that he's stuck in a career where every day he has to teach stuff that he believes is fundamentally rubbish,...'

    How tiresome a stawman you've painted here... (snip two paragraphs of this)"

    Should you have a rational objection to make -- my comment is wrong because you are bored?!? --, you would save the rest of us much boredom if you actually made it.

    If not, kindly push off and troll somewhere else.

    Scott Gray wrote: "in critical scholarship, strawmen, ad populi responses, ad hominem responses, authority-as-truth, and red herrings are fallacies."

    Indeed so. Perhaps you should apologise, then, for sneering ad hominem (and irrelevantly) at scholarship for being confessional, then.

    Scott Gray wrote: "they contain no value, except as cheap entertainment through misfeasance or worse, malfeasance."

    Agreed. So why did you post this?

    Scott Gray wrote: "besides, i happen to know that the tu...ad who writes for you is an imposter. the real tu...ad died three months ago, terribly alone."

    A crushing rebuttal of my comments indeed!

    You seem to be a troll. You have nothing to contribute. Since you appeared as soon as James had scampered away, with nothing to offer except insults for those who dared to disagree with him, I think we need a moderator here.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Can someone get rid of this troll?

    ReplyDelete
  91. Roger Pearse: "Listening to a wolf complaining that the sheep won't let him in is a curious experience, isn't it?"

    Steve Hays: "Moreover, you’re the one who’s trying to harm the cause of Christ. You’re a typical, militant apostate. Having lost your faith, you mission in life is now to undermine the faith of others."

    Steve Hays from the The Last Puritan thread: "But when he becomes a proselytizer, then I’ll disabuse him of his pretty illusions. Christians play for keeps.

    Apostasy is Good Friday without the prospect of Easter. McGrath denies the empty tomb. And by denying the empty tomb, he entombs us all."

    ------

    Here is a good graphic that's posted by Justin Taylor in reference to emergent Tony Jones that's arguably just as applicable to Professor James F. McGrath; it's a graphic of a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.

    JT's blogpost title is "The Implications of This Must Not Be Evaded."

    ReplyDelete
  92. Another troll from "Scott Gray" - can it be dealt with? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  93. Steve Hays: "Scott, you silly goof, I provided you with loads of examples.

    Try not to make such an utter public fool of yourself–twice over."


    Blake: "methinks someone is trolling..."

    Roger Pearse asks: "Can someone get rid of this troll?"

    -----

    The following may or may not pertain to Scott Gray's current trolling behavior, but I'll let you decide.

    I have located the Parchment and Pen blog thread where Scott Gray confirms that he's an apostate atheist. See comments 71, 73, 77, 82, 94, and 97.

    Excerpts:

    TUaD, #71: "Scott Gray,

    Are you the same Scott Gray who wrote the following elsewhere:

    “i’m an atheist, at least about the judeo-christian god. agnostic about other possibilities. i’ve been witnessed to, and asked about desired programing by local faith communities, and none of the life(style) of the christians i see is anything i’d want to emulate, or participate in.

    the only model of church i see of any value is church as servant to the world. if you are a christian, and you want my attention, your witness should be about asking me to participate in a habitat for humanity project, or a weekend at the soup kitchen, or a trip to the hospital to visit lonely oldsters, or a run to the local jail to minister with companionshiup and support needs of inmates and their families. any other witness is of no value.

    the local church once sent pairs of people door-to-door and they landed at my house. they asked what programs i thought their church should add to serve the community (they meant local homeowners and retired people as community). i asked how many homeless people lived in a 10 mile radius of the church and what programs they were running for them. the returned look was of disgust, and the answer was none. no programs. conversation over, except for the forced pleasantries of disengagement from these people on my front porch.

    why do you insist on offering salvation to people who perceive no need for it? if you as a christian want to witness, your primary text needs to shift from john 3:16 to luke 4:16-19, or isaiah 61. otherwise, i, and the world at large, have no use for your message.

    peace–

    scott”.

    Scott Gray, #73: "tu…ad!!

    my long lost sister/brother/sock-puppet-of-cmp/hider-behind-large-anonymous rocks!! good to hear from you!! happy veteran’s day/st. martin’s feast day to you!! how was your summer?

    scott

    p.s. yes, although i see i’ve been redacted and taken out of context.

    and i’m not even dead yet.

    the original manuscript is here:
    http://www.joethepeacock.com/2008/03/how-to-actually-talk-to-atheists-if.php

    comment #154. i thought joe the peacock wrote an excellent post."

    TUaD, #82: "Scott Gray,

    I’m not a sockpuppet of CMP. And I did not take you out of context since I merely wanted to identify whether you were the same person here as on that other blog thread.

    To know that you’re an “an atheist, at least about the judeo-christian god” is helpful to know.

    Given that you have a Christian background, and that you now acknowledge that you’re an atheist apostate, I think Susan’s exhortations to you are appropriate and well-intentioned."

    It might be helpful for you to look at CMP’s latest blog post about “Ten Arguments for God’s Existence” and participate in that thread since you’re a professing atheist.

    ReplyDelete
  94. Scott,

    You're welcome to post a substantive comment on the topic of this thread. If, however, you spam the combox will frivolous diversions, then your comments will be deleted.

    ReplyDelete
  95. Is "scott gray" merely James McGrath in disguise? A sock-puppet, in other words.

    Notice how upset he got about my (sympathetic) description of James as a poor soul teaching a religion he doesn't believe in? Who but James would *care* about such a thing? Who else could feel insulted by such an evident truth?

    ReplyDelete
  96. hey gang--

    it's been a lot of fun, but i have it on good authority (the highest authority, actually) that you boys are due to be on the receiving end of some serious plagues of, well, biblical proportions, and while i'll be watching closely so that i can tell the tragic tale that unfolds to others, i don't want to be following too closely, if you know what i mean.

    luv ya, see ya, bye!

    ReplyDelete
  97. As far as I know, the Old Testament does not record a "plague of trolls."

    ReplyDelete
  98. Roger Pearse: "Listening to a wolf complaining that the sheep won't let him in is a curious experience, isn't it?Dear Roger,

    Here's the problem. The wolf vigorously claims that he's not a wolf and that the earliest Christians did not affirm the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection either. Ergo, he must be accepted as a fellow Christian and not as a wolf.

    James McGrath offers up a unique defense which I have never seen before in the comment thread of his post Self-Critical Faith:

    "I wouldn't say I "reject" the virgin birth and the resurrection as a physical event. What I would say is that I do not find myself able, based on the evidence, to feel confident that either represents a historical fact. I've given the reasons in other posts and so won't repeat them here (although I'd be happy to upon request, if finding older posts on this subject is a hassle and you are wondering why I view things this way). And so the challenge for me lately has been what I ought to say as a Christian who doesn't find it possible to affirm a virgin birth or physical resurrection with confidence based on historical investigation, and who equally does not feel that he can bypass historical methods and say "Jesus must have been raised in a physical body, because I've had this life-changing experience".

    What I've found is that there seem to be other Christians, including in the earliest church, who were able to affirm their Christian faith without these components. The Gospels of Mark and John don't mention a virginal conception. Mark doesn't mention resurrection appearances, and neither Mark nor Matthew claims that the Easter experiences were physical in nature. Paul never mentions the virgin birth, and says that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God".

    I could go on. But my point is that it does seem to me that it is possible to be a Christian and not affirm these doctrines. It is not that I deny them on principle. It is simply that I don't feel that I have any way to confirm them, and must figure out what it means to be a Christian when I cannot prove these things, and what it is I am to proclaim as a Christian in this circumstance.

    Is there a danger of dilution of Christianity in my standpoint? It is absolutely a peril, one that has always been there. When I interact with, and sometimes learn from, other religious traditions, philosophies and the natural sciences, it is not clear that I'm doing something fundamentally different than the early church did with respect to Platonism, or the medieval church with respect to Aristotle."

    ReplyDelete
  99. "Here's the problem. The wolf vigorously claims that he's not a wolf and that the earliest Christians did not affirm the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection either. Ergo, he must be accepted as a fellow Christian and not as a wolf."

    Surely rather positive evidence would be required to demonstrate that the virgin birth and the resurrection were not held by the earliest Christians? On the other side, Paul states explicitly that if Christ is not raised we are all dead in our sins -- in his letters, the earliest Christian literature that has come down to us -- so we can see instantly that something unnatural is being proposed here.

    James: "I wouldn't say I "reject" the virgin birth and the resurrection as a physical event. What I would say is that I do not find myself able, based on the evidence, to feel confident that either represents a historical fact."

    This is what is called a distinction without a difference. What practical difference is there between the two positions?

    James: "what I ought to say as a Christian who doesn't find it possible to affirm a virgin birth or physical resurrection with confidence based on historical investigation"

    One might ask what historical investigation can be referred to, other than reading the testimonies in the NT and the fathers, none of which say this.

    James: "and who equally does not feel that he can bypass historical methods and say "Jesus must have been raised in a physical body, because I've had this life-changing experience"."

    This appears to be a strawman.

    James: "What I've found is that there seem to be other Christians, including in the earliest church, who were able to affirm their Christian faith without these components. The Gospels of Mark and John don't mention a virginal conception. Mark doesn't mention resurrection appearances, and neither Mark nor Matthew claims that the Easter experiences were physical in nature. Paul never mentions the virgin birth, and says that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God". I could go on."

    This is the old argument that unless a writer mentions something he disbelieves in it. I've not mentioned Iraq; that proves that I don't believe in it?!?

    Usually, as here, this approach is accompanied by selective quotation. There is no question that the NT witnesses to the virgin birth -- why else do we, with all the early Christians, believe in it? -- and the resurrection (ditto).

    James: "But my point is that it does seem to me that it is possible to be a Christian and not affirm these doctrines."

    No doubt. But how do we find out (not decide for ourselves) what Christ taught, the apostles preached, the scriptures record and the Fathers describe? Well, we go and look. We don't make rather pointless comments along the lines of "two gospels don't describe this, therefore their authors didn't believe it and those gospels that do mention it are lying."

    There is a common element here. Is Christianity something of itself, a lump of beliefs and values? Or it is some collection of whatever seems reasonable to us, onto which we can stick the name? James wants the name of Christian. The rest can go hang.

    So, what do the fathers say? Do they treat Christianity as some amorphous splodge? No: we know what Polycarp, the pupil of the apostle John said to Marcion when the latter demanded he recognise him. "I recognise the first born of Satan." We know what John himself said, on finding the early heretic Cerinthus in the baths; (paraphrased) "Let's get out of here. That man is so crooked that if he leans against a wall, the roof will fall in."

    We know what Christianity is. Those who attempt to confuse this never have good motives.

    ReplyDelete
  100. Roger Pearse: "James wants the name of Christian. The rest can go hang."And therein lies the problem.

    IMO, McGrath is a much more dangerous apostate than Bart Ehrman and John Loftus. At least those two apostates don't proclaim themselves as Christians and teach Sunday School at a Baptist Church like McGrath does.

    Furthermore, I don't see how Professor McGrath can honestly be a member of Crooked Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis. Their official formal statement of beliefs state:

    "... we hold the following beliefs as essential to our faith and practice.

    Christ: First and foremost, we believe that God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to dwell among us in human form, that he died on a cross as a sacrifice for our sin, and on the third day rose from the dead (Luke 23 & 24; Matthew 27 & 28). We believe that we receive Eternal Life when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Master of our lives and that He is alive in us today. (John 3:16, 17, 36 and Galatians 2:20). He is our assurance of life with God after death (1 John 5:11-12).

    The Bible: The Scriptures are our only written authority. We believe these sacred writings are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) and essential for establishing a vital Christian faith. No other writing before or since equals God's Word in revealing His truth and love to us."

    ----------

    We have Crooked Creek's Statement of Beliefs and we also have McGrath saying that he doesn't affirm the physical, historical, factual resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    And McGrath teaches Sunday School. Does the senior pastor or the board of deacons or elders or whoever's in charge of the spiritual care, feeding, and protection of the flock at Crooked Creek Baptist Church even know or care that Professor James F. McGrath does not honestly uphold their church's Statement of Beliefs and is teaching a Sunday School class?

    And if they do know about McGrath, and yet still permit him to continue, are they then not morally culpable for aiding and abetting any spiritual damage done to the Crooked Creek Baptist flock, not to mention the spiritual damage being done to McGrath's own soul?

    These are serious matters.

    ReplyDelete
  101. Interesting points. Most non-believers live as if convenience as their rule of life -- inevitably, if nothing else intervenes. It would seem that James does also.

    You note that his post just ignores all that has been said, in favour of reiterating "prove to me that I am not a Christian"?

    ReplyDelete
  102. That last post by "scott gray" should remain, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  103. How to get rid of "scott gray"... Ignore him. That is the only way to get rid of a troll. You have to stop feeding his appetites. Just a suggestion.

    ReplyDelete