Sunday, August 28, 2011

Orwellian doubletalk

I accept the plenary inspiration of scripture. I accept meticulous superintending divine providential activity as the primary means by which all these human writings were produced and recognized in a single canonical form called God’s authoritative Word which is uniquely authoritative for the community of faith.

A nice specimen of Rauser’s Orwellian doubletalk. For Rauser, “plenary inspiration” includes plenary falsehood. A “fully inspired” Bible that’s full of moral, historical, and scientific errors.

It’s only “inspired” in the sense that all these errors are somehow purposeful errors–according to Rauser’s makeshift explanation.

This is a man who expressed his “gratitude” for the “outstanding” collection of essays in The End of Christianity.  This is a man who praises Thom Stark’s slash-n-burn attack on Scripture.

So what’s the problem? The problem, apparently, is that I interpret the texts differently than Mr. Hayes [sic]. And for that I get called a “Bible-hater”.

i) Even if that were true, to say it’s just a difference of “interpretation” is a standard ruse among theological liberals who deny the inspiration and authority of Scripture. They seek to change Christianity from within. They seek to liberalize the church.

Although they think the Bible is a dangerous, hopelessly antiquated book, they know that it’s more tactically persuasive to recast their opposition in terms of competing “interpretations.”

An open attack on Scripture would provoke opposition. By contrast, if they package the issue as a matter of competing interpretations, that tends to disarm opposition. It doesn’t trigger the same defensive reaction.

ii) However, Rauser is dissembling. This is not a matter of interpretation, and he knows it. Here’s a genuine example of competing interpretations. Richard Hess argues that the “genocidal” passages have been traditionally misconstrued. He takes the position that the apparently sweeping language is idiomatic hyperbole. He also takes the position that sites like Jericho were military compounds staffed by men. Women and children weren’t on site.

We can debate the merits of his position, but he’s presenting an alternative interpretation.

iii) By contrast, that’s not how Rauser has cast the issue. To the contrary, he interprets the “genocidal” passages in the same way they’ve been traditionally understood. From what I’ve read, he’s highly critical of the way in which Copan, Hess, and Matt Flannagan reinterpret the offending passages.

Rauser interprets the offending passages the same way as Thom Stark, Hector Avalos, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. He admits that the narrator really did attribute these commands to Yahweh. And he thinks these command really are “genocidal” in scope.

For Rauser to belatedly reframe the issue in terms of competing interpretations, then backdate his ex post facto spin as if that’s what he’s been saying all along, is palpable prevarication on his part.

iv) Rauser’s fundamental position doesn’t turn on what the “genocidal” passages mean, but whether they are true. He doesn’t believe that God actually issued those commands, even though the narrator attributes those commands to God.

What is more, he doesn’t believe God issued those commands because he doesn’t believe God is morally capable of issuing those commands.

Since he takes the “axiomatic” position that “genocide” is intrinsically evil, it would be evil of God to command genocide. God would be evil if God commanded an evil deed.

v) This denies the inerrancy of Scripture at a radical level. For on Rauser’s view, Yahweh is an evil God. The OT depicts Yahweh in terms which, if true, make him evil.

And that’s another way of saying Yahweh is a false God. Yahweh couldn’t be the true God if, according to Rauser, Yahweh commands evil (i.e. “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing”).

Now think about that for a moment. One of the central themes in the OT is the revelation of the true God. Restoring the knowledge of the one true God. Worshipping the one true God.

That stands in explicit contrast to idolatry. Worshipping false gods. Throughout the OT you have a running antithesis between Yahweh as the one true God over against the pagan pantheon.

However, Rauser is putting Yahweh on the same plane as Dagon or Molech. Rauser is repudiating nothing less than OT theism. The holiness of God over against the unholiness of the Canaanites. They can’t be allowed to coexist.

And in so doing, he is repudiating NT theism as well. Yahweh isn’t merely the God of the OT prophets, but the God of the NT apostles. Jesus acknowledges the God of the OT as truly God. Indeed, Jesus is, himself, the God of the OT.

vi) Rauser is the modern counterpart to false prophets like Zedekiah (1 Kg 22) and Hananniah (Jer 28) who opposed God’s prophets. They tried to discredit God’s prophets. They urged the people to disbelieve the prophets whom God sent in his name.

When Rauser tells people to reject what OT writers say about Yahweh, he’s reprising the classic role of the false prophet.


  1. The point is that our moral reasoning, while logical, is nonetheless fueled by fundamental axiomatic starting points concerning what good and evil look like. In other words, it is fueled by strident basic intuitions over what must be the case and what cannot be the case. And in that regard it also closely parallels our logical intuitions. Both Locke and Descartes discussed at length the penetrating luminosity of our basic logical intuitions in a way that parallels to a striking degree our moral intuitions, with all their added emotionalism. Our emotional attraction to certain actions (e.g. altruism) and aversion to others (e.g. penal substitution) is the way we perceive truth in morality.

    I’m happy to say that any person who thinks God ordained the slaughter of his innocent Son on behalf of others to appease his wrath has spent one too many days in Sunday school (which by the way has some affinities with an SS youth camp or Hutu tribe).

  2. Ditto for Hell and everything else in the Bible which rubs me the wrong way.

  3. In short, EXCELLENT post, Steve!

  4. Before commenters pounce on Jonathan, he's quoting Rauser verbatim to supply documentation for my post.

  5. It does seem hard to distinguish between Jonathan from Rauser's sockpuppet.