Monday, August 16, 2010

Wagging the dog once again

JL: And we know this because the Bible says this is real testimony of a real event? Would someone PLEASE help me understand why this is not viciously circular?
VR: All I need is that it is testimony. It looks as if it is claiming to be about a real event. The historical argument does not assume any special authority for events recorded in Scripture, as opposed to events recorded by Tacitus or Josephus. However, the testimony is evidence for the occurrence of the event testified to. Maybe not good enough, people have to decide that. However, if Jesus was resurrected, the likelihood that Peter would testify to it is pretty good. If Jesus was not resurrected, we have to wonder why he would testify to it. So Peter's testimony is more likely given the resurrection than given no resurrection. It is, therefore evidence for the resurrection. Bayes' theorem at work.

Of course, the same argument can be applied to alien abductions. Just because we have evidence doesn't mean we have sufficient evidence. We can have independent reasons for rejecting testimony. You clearly think we do. However, to deny the existence of the evidence with the Yellow Brick Road argument is ridiculous. It also makes it clear what is wagging the dog here, it is not the evidence in the texts themselves, it is the antecedent improbability, on your view, of what they claim.

44 comments:

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, define "testimony." And note, what does the only first-hand testifier say about his experience of Jesus? He says that Jesus "appeared" to him. That's all he says about the experience in his own voice and in his own letters.

All other testimony is unnamed and not from first hand sources.

Is that what you call a court case?

____________

Also consider. . .

SCHWEITZER: . . . these writers are faced with the enormous problem that strictly speaking absolutely nothing can be proved by evidence from the past, but can only be shown to be more or less probable. Moreover, in the case of Jesus, the theoretical reservations are even greater because all the reports about him go back to the one source of tradition, early Christianity itself, and there are no data available in Jewish or Gentile secular history which could be used as controls. Thus the degree of certainty cannot even be raised so high as positive probability.
_________

Even if an oral tradition existed at the time Mark put pen to papyrus (already a huge assumption), that oral tradition had evolved and mutated over at least 40 years. Is some Q material earlier than Mark (as Borg and Crossan wish to be true)? Perhaps. But recent studies indicate that parts of Q were still in flux when Matthew first wrote the sayings down. They were still being retold and refashioned to fit current circumstances, evolving as they appeared successively in Luke, Thomas, the Didache, etc. So it's a moot question how much closer to the words of the historical Jesus studying the oral tradition can bring us. It isn’t as if reading an “original” Q saying is the same as listening to a Dictaphone recording of Jesus.

The Legend of the Resurrection grew and also experienced alterations (in contradictory ways) in the tale over time. Just compare the resurrection tales chronologically, Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke-Acts, John

Also, the number of words allegedly spoken by the post-resurrection Jesus grew over time (just perform the same chronological examination).

So the NT provides the evidence of the growth and alteration of legends about Jesus' resurrection. If that's "inspired" legendary growth and "inspired" contradictory changes, then I just don't feel very inspired to rationally defend such first century miracle mongering.

I posted the links to substantiate the above in two previous posts left at your site.

Steven Carr said...

'So Peter's testimony is more likely given the resurrection than given no resurrection'

Sadly, you have not one word by Peter testifying to any resurrection.

The one person who names himself as having seen a resurrected Jesus is Paul, who also claimed to have gone to Heaven, and who even Acts says had dreams and visions that he confused with the real world.

Steven Carr said...

And Paul says flat-out that Jesus became a spirit.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The one person who names himself as having seen a resurrected Jesus is Paul, who also claimed to have gone to Heaven, and who even Acts says had dreams and visions that he confused with the real world.

Is this true? I don't know much about the NT outside of the First Four. It would be useful if you gave some references to the verses, especially to his confusion of reality and vision. People say that there is no evidence for hallucinations or visions, but if what you say is true they seem wrong.

Steven Carr said...

Acts 10 says Peter saw things in trances.

And this was from a *supporter* of Christianity!

Acts 16 has a man who 'appeared' to Paul in a vision.

The word for 'appeared' is the same word used to describe how Jesus 'appeared' to the 500.

Acts 12:11 has the Lord stand near to Paul.

But Jesus had flown off into the sky , long before then, so this could not possibly have been a flesh and blood person that Paul spoke to.

And remember this is all from somebody who believed Christianity, but knew perfectly well that Christians confused visions and trances with the real world.

Walter said...

Is this true? I don't know much about the NT outside of the First Four. It would be useful if you gave some references to the verses, especially to his confusion of reality and vision. People say that there is no evidence for hallucinations or visions, but if what you say is true they seem wrong.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4 is where Paul claims to have "visited" the third heaven. Whether in his body or not, he did not know.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Of course the Christian literalist would just want to say that he truly had a vision from God, it's clear that's what the verses mean. And then we'd be back to the original arguments.

Nobody has answered why it is so important for Christians to believe in a literal resurrection. I know many Christians who don't, but follow the teachings of Christ, try to live according to His will, even if that one part of the tales is not literally true. Does it matter if he literally was raised from the dead, when it comes to the subject of him suffering for our sins? Isn't the suffering the important part, paying the price for our sinfulness? The Great Comeback seems almost inessential to the spiritual point.

Blue Devil Knight said...

There must be a word for what I just described, the theological point is too obvious. That is, believing that Jesus died and suffered, but was not resurrected (literally). There must be a lot of Christians that believe that. It seems the most sensible approach, and then you get to have the 'He died for our sins' bit (nobody ever says he was resurrected for our sins).

It seems as if Tim, Victor, etc, are sort of focusing all this energy on what is arguably a spiritually and theologically insignificant detail about miracles. I can be a devout (reformed) Jew and not believe in the Jonah story literally.

What is it with so many Christians and the resurrection story? Seriously, is it really that essential to your understanding of the point of Christ's existence?

I tried going to church recently and was turned off by all the supernatural mumbo-jumbo. And it was a universalist unitarian church. :) I am hopeless it seems. Where are the more secular churches, the kind Joseph Campbell followers would join? :o

Steven Carr said...

VICTOR
'.... it is the antecedent improbability, on your view, of what they claim.'

CARR
Christians, by contrast, claim that they are quite probable events, even though it literally takes god-like powers to do them.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Yes, when Victor says "it is the antecedent improbability, on your view, of what they claim" he is right. I think it unlikely that people who say they were abducted by aliens are right. Same with ancient religious texts when they describe someone being brought back from the dead, or living in a fish for three days.

Who is being more reasonable with their priors?

Tim said...

BDK,

To understand the importance of the physical resurrection, read 1 Corinthians 15. Paul lays out the case pretty clearly.

terri said...

BDK,

The resurrection is held onto fiercely for many reasons.

A short explanation is that Jesus being raised from the dead in this new, "glorified" body is proof that he was sent by, or was God, depending on a person's christology.

Paul lays it out in 1 Corinthians 15 as the cornerstone of the faith and says that if Christ is not raised from the dead...that Christians are to be more pitied than anybody....basically for wasting their lives on a meaningless movement.

Because Paul's Epistles are a source of a large portion of Christian doctrines, most Christians take what he has to say very seriously. Whether one views Scripture as "inerrant" , or not, we don't simply push aside what the founders of the faith say very easily.

As for why the Resurrection is so important in the context of the first century...I would say that Jewish views of the afterlife were centered on bodily resurrection, not a heavenly/spiritual existence.

I am an annihiliationist and a believer in conditional immortality....which basically means that I don't believe that we have immortal souls by default...and that, I think, this is the general view of early Judaism....which is why the Old Testament never discusses a heavenly dwelling for dead Jews. It was all about real, physical, material life.

So...the Resurrection to early Christians, who were much more aligned with Jewish thought, was more than just a supernatural magic trick. It was an affirmation that the God of Israel had specially blessed Jesus, or indwelt him...again depending on one's christology....and was the ultimate sign of approval from God.

Not just that he was raised from the dead...but that he continued on living eternally as opposed to other people who were portrayed as being brought back to life who would eventually die again.

Belief in a literal Resurrection, and even the Incarnation itself, takes the concept of a Spirit God and brings Him down out of Heaven and affixes him to our physical location and history. It becomes a shorthand, spray-painted tag declaring "God was Here--33 A.D."

Going the route of "spiritual resurrection" comes at a cost to the Christian faith in the sense that it would throw all of us into epistemic uncertainty.

There are ways out of that uncertainty, but none of them are very easy.

terri said...

I see TIm already typed amuch more succinct comment!
;-)

Blue Devil Knight said...

Tim: I'd be interested in hearing what Christians would say, in their own words.

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."

Why would that follow? And is it important that Christ was literally raised to have a nonfutile faith? Until Christ was back with God, we are not back with God either, forgiven for our sins?

Fine, but now like Jonah, Noah, etc, I don't take it literally but interpret it metaphorically, put a different theological spin on it? What's the big deal? Why are these details about Jesus more important to take literally than facets of the story of Jonah, Noah, Adam, Eve?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Terri, yes, but he didn't actually answer my question, so thank you. My response to you both is largely the same, so see what I said to him...

It seems I can be a perfectly good Christian and not take it literally, just as I could be a Jew and do the same with those old stories about Noah, Adam, and such.

Also, you say: "Going the route of "spiritual resurrection" comes at a cost to the Christian faith", but doesn't it say in Corinthians precisely that we undergo a spiritual, not bodily resurrection?

Quotes:
-----------
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
--------------

That sounds to me a lot like spiritual resurrection. Which makes ma metaphorical interpretation even more plausible.

What does it even mean to say he was literally resurrected if it was a spiritual not physical resurrection? Observationally how can we tell apart death and annihilation, from death and 'spiritual' resurrection?

Yes, this metaphorical spin on all of these books would not be mainstream Christianity, certainly not contemporary nutball evangelical Christianity. But a more grounded, miracle-free, system that still puts Christ first, and attempts to follow his lead?

I mean, there are some that say if you don't believe Adam and Eve story literally, you can't be a Christian. I'm not talking to those of you that believe that, but those that realize many of the stories are not literally true (sorry, but come on let's be real).

Even if the Christ story is not literally true, that doesn't make it unimportant in my (metaphor-based) theology. I just don't feel I need to believe in miracles to believe in Christ's teachings, that there is plenty to learn without believing in supernatural acts.

Walter said...

Even if the Christ story is not literally true, that doesn't make it unimportant in my (metaphor-based) theology. I just don't feel I need to believe in miracles to believe in Christ's teachings, that there is plenty to learn without believing in supernatural acts.

BDK,

You might be interested in the theological views of a Progressive Christian like James F. McGrath who has his own blog over at exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com. He seems as skeptical of most biblical miracles as any naturalist. Like you, I have a hard time sitting in at most Churches. For me it the amount of "certainty" they espouse that drives me nuts. They just "know" that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, resurrected on the third say, and so forth. No talk of probability or plausibility. The language of absolute certainty gets under my skin.

terri said...

I think that what Paul mean by "spiritual body" is some sort of "super-body".

The end of all things, at this point in Paul's time, is described as the creating of a new heaven and a new earth...a physical recreation.

It's way of saying Jesus was a physical and still retains some weird, new kind of physicality in which all believers will eventually take part.

An analogy...imagine that science reaches the point where it can replicate one's mind for all eternity...one way might be to find a way in which a person's brain continues to live through rejuvenation...maybe by finding a way to switch off the aging process.

Another way to preserve the mind would be to upload the contents of the mind as a program onto advanced micro-processors....think Data's positronic brain.

Which one of those would be representative of the "real" you?

I guess it would depend on how you ultimately would define existence.

Physical existence has more weight in the 1st century than metal, non-corporeal existence.

What does it even mean to say he was literally resurrected if it was a spiritual not physical resurrection? Observationally how can we tell apart death and annihilation, from death and 'spiritual' resurrection?

We can't. I am an annihilationist because I reject the paradox that God is loving and yet somehow achieves anything through the eternal torment of those who reject him.

That's my personal choice....though I do think there is a strong case for it within the context of Christianity.

Yes, this metaphorical spin on all of these books would not be mainstream Christianity, certainly not contemporary nutball evangelical Christianity. But a more grounded, miracle-free, system that still puts Christ first, and attempts to follow his lead?

True. And, personally, I lean more toward the metaphorical...but getting there from the literal has been/is psychologically painful. It isn't easy for most conservative Christians because they are too emotionally invested in the literal.

What seems like no big deal to an outsider is actually incredibly disorienting.

Christianity is a narrative religion and when you change parts of a narrative it can have an unraveling effect on other parts of the narrative that you wouldn't think were related to the small change.

Changing from literal to metaphorical resurrection isn't a small change.....it's a huge change and you can't get there without rewriting certain parts of the narrative or dropping them altogether.

terri said...

I am terrible with the typos....sorry!

Tim said...

BDK,

Sorry, I didn't intend to be overly laconic; I just don't have a lot of time today.

No Jew conceived of the (ultimate) resurrection of the just in any way except as a physical resurrection. This point is driven home in exhausting detail in the first 200 pages of N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Still, why a resurrection at all? The answer is that the first Christians were preaching the inauguration of a new era in which God offered reconciliation and forgiveness of sins. But here's the catch: they needed to have grounds for believing that the reconciliation and forgiveness were real. God had to do a mighty work that would seal the offer as coming directly from Him. And the sign had to be unambiguously connected with the message of Jesus; otherwise, it could be variously interpreted.

So what Paul is saying, in a nutshell, is that if the resurrection -- the mighty sign -- didn't occur, then we're right back where we started. Jesus was just another guy who got killed, and nothing has changed about our relationship with God. Stories filled with woolly uplift about how Jesus' spirit lives on to inspire us won't do the job. "Your faith is vain ... you are still in your sins."

Does that help?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Terri: yes, I know it is a long road. :o I don't totally get what you are saying at the beginning, but I understand the last part of your post.

Tim: I understand, but it seems that my original point is right. Theologically the rising isn't that important, it was more important as a bit of evidence that would convince people of the importance of Christ's teachings, and his divinity.

It seems I can buy the importance of Christ, of God's forgiveness, even perhaps that He sent Christ to die for our sins, but not buy the resurrection bit. Also, maybe Paul was wrong. It seems an interpretation in Corinthians, not anything from God Himself.

Blue Devil Knight said...

For a while, as an undergrad, I followed the work of Sally McFague and tried to stay a Christian. Then I just gave it all up. Taking it metaphorically is hard, as Terri says, because there is a tendency to end up thinking it is all BS. But for some reason there are plenty of Jews don't suffer from this problem, who are happy to treat Noah, Adam, etc as metaphors.

I put the Christ story up there with the Adam/Eve story in importance. I don't mind treating either as nonliteral (though the former, I do think at least existed and preached, whereas the Adam and Eve story is BS from a literal perspective).

terri said...

BDK,

Sorry my analogy went off the rails...what I was trying to get at is that existence is tied to physicality.....so Jesus had to be physically resurrected in some way to "exist" in early Christian thought. Existing non-corporeally simply wasn't something that early Jewish Christians imagined.


"Paul could be wrong..."

He could be. From his perspective, because existence required tangible physicality, even if it was a supernatural physicality that nobody could quite explain in detail, admitting that a resurrected Jesus was merely spiritual, or non-corporeal, wouldn't be much different than saying that he was imaginary....or purely a mental communication from God.

And...Paul had a lot at stake. He had left Judaism behind in the dust for the the sake of his vision of Jesus and belief in him....and belief that God was no longer requiring strict adherence to the Law as a sign of righteousness.

The basic message of the gospel was that God was not angry at everybody...that anyone and everyone could be accepted by God and offered eternal life and freedom from condemnation.

We read the New Testament now and it is easy to think that Paul and his compatriots were kind of prejudicial and judgmental at times....but for them....a new vista had opened up and the concept that God could freely accept anybody was considerably less prejudicial and judgmental than the religion of their youth.

In the context of what was happening in Paul's mind....God was throwing open the doors and welcoming non-Israelites to the party. It is a story of greater inclusiveness, despite the fact that in our time Christianity is seen as being defined by its exclusivity.

Shackleman said...

Really good stuff in here from all sides...

I used to get really creeped out by attending church too. I felt like it was so much hocus-pocus and occult like chanting and such and it REALLY made my skin crawl.

But then once at a football game it hit me.

Here was 50,000 people all in the same (general) bodily position with their hands on their hearts, hats removed, standing in respectful silence (or in some cases, singing along in good harmony), but I was not creeped out at all by *that*. In fact, I was filled with pride and love of country, and enjoyed the fellowship.

Then I realized that church is much the same thing. What I thought was a brainwashing technique, turns out to be very much like the start of a sporting match. It's people who are *already* like-minded, sharing in a sense of *community* and *fellowship* with one another. Big difference.

From then on, I started to get less and less creeped out, and, as my understanding and faith grew, I eventually began to participate.

Now I look forward to the opportunities to share in the community of Christ with others. Even though I may not agree on all the finer points with everyone else, it's nice to share in the experience with friends and family.

Life is a difficult journey. It doesn't have to be made alone.

In fact, I believe a life of faith is not really meant to be a solitary endeavor.

"Whenever two or more are gathered....."

Steven Carr said...

TIM

.... in any way except as a physical resurrection. This point is driven home in exhausting detail in the first 200 pages of N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God.

CARR
In other words, Wright knows perfectly well that Paul says flat-out that Jesus became a spirit.

As Wright cannot allow Paul to believe that, he simply tells us what other Jews believed, and not what Paul believed.

And hey presto, Christians become Jews.

Just like that!

Blue Devil Knight said...

Terri: that is very interesting. Sort of like hylomorphism.

Tim said...

BDK,

Tim: I understand, but it seems that my original point is right. Theologically the rising isn't that important, it was more important as a bit of evidence that would convince people of the importance of Christ's teachings, and his divinity.

I worried that my previous comment, which stressed the epistemological side, might leave this impression. The other piece of the puzzle is that the resurrection is, metaphysically, the act that does the job. Now, to get into that discussion is to dive straight into the metaphysics of redemption. There's no lack of material to work with here. But one of the things that has kept our discussions focused has been a sort of tacit agreement to stick to the question of the evidence for the central historical claims of Christianity. The way I see it, if Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, we can sort out the metaphysics -- or all of it that we can expect to understand -- later. If he didn't ... well, that reduces the metaphysical discussion to a mere cognitive curiosity, doesn't it?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Tim said:
Now, to get into that discussion is to dive straight into the metaphysics of redemption.

Yes, and that, I think, is what I was getting at. If you think that the resurrection was key to redemption (not, say, just his suffering and death), then you would not be able to agree with my strategy here!

In that case I would say that I could agree with the spirit of that story, its the motivating point of redemption (perhaps rejoining with God in forgiveness after being justly punished), but not the literal bringing back from the dead of a H sapiens.

Shackelman: I don't mind group rituals, indeed I crave them at some level. It was the constant reference to God and supernatural stuff that bugged me. What I want is something more like a group of friends. Maybe I should become a Quaker. :) (jk)

Shackleman said...

BDK,

"I don't mind group rituals, indeed I crave them at some level. It was the constant reference to God and supernatural stuff that bugged me. What I want is something more like a group of friends. Maybe I should become a Quaker. "

This struck me as completely funny, sorry. :-) You were surprised that in a CHURCH the conversation was singularly focused on God and the supernatural??!! That's genuinely amusing to me and it's charming in a way. :-)

I think, interacting with you occasionally over the years, I can say confidently that I was a much more hard-core atheist than you are (or ever was). Perhaps that's why I was genuinely freaked out the first few times I attended a church service. I won't begin to tell you what ran through my mind the first time I witnessed Communion. Let's just say "WTF" isn't close to being a strong enough representation of what was running through my mind.

If ever you decide to go again, be wary of the cheap grace so many are selling these days. I think, honestly, that that's what has burned our friend Walter. I know I've been pimping Bonhoeffer lately, but really, if you haven't already, give him a look. It doesn't make much sense to someone completely unfamiliar with the Reformation and Luther (not saying you are uninformed, I wouldn't know), but even still...if you pick up "The Cost of Discipleship", even if you only get through the first few chapters, I think you'll find that it may challenge some of your existing preconceptions of what it means to be a Christian. And, if it doesn't' enlighten any from a theological bent, I would bet money that his life story at least will be a worthwhile study, and one will find that he is a person worthy of the highest admiration, (regardless of one's Worldview).

============

Back on topic. I think Terri's posts here are all quite on the money. I would add that what is *ultimately* important isn't the Resurrection, per se. What is *ultimately* important is that Jesus is the Christ. That he is God incarnate. The Resurrection proves that point, but we mustn't lose sight of that *ultimate* point! (Remember my hand and moon analogy.)

So, while the importance of the Resurrection cannot be overstated (and indeed, I am convinced, strange as it sounds to some, that it was a literally true miracle of history), I disagree that one *must* believe it in order to still be a Christian (called a disciple of Christ). Christ, not His Resurrection is *THE* issue of paramount importance.

Was He born of a virgin? I think so, but it's not of paramount importance.

Did he *really* turn water into wine? Well, if God can make matter itself, then sure, why not. I believe He did, but it's not of paramount importance.

Did he *really* walk on water? I'm guessing not, but maybe. But, again, it's not of paramount importance.

All those things point to the truth that Jesus is the Christ. This *is* what we must believe in order to answer his call to discipleship. The rest is important, but not a requirement.

At least that's my take on it. :-)

Paul Manata said...

BDK,

"Tim: I understand, but it seems that my original point is right. Theologically the rising isn't that important, it was more important as a bit of evidence that would convince people of the importance of Christ's teachings, and his divinity."

I'll just drop this quick note:

The Resurrection is theologically important. Jesus was raised *for our justification*. Paul, in Romans 6, says that if Christ was not raised, you (believers) are still dead in your sins. But since he has been raised, this is a downpayment and you (a) have been raised from spiritual deadness and (b) will also be raised from the physical dead. Faith in Christ is the instrument through which we are justified---made right before God, declared legally innocent. So as Paul says in 1. Cor 15, your faih is in vain and you are still in your sins, which fits perfectly with Paul's explanation of the theological importance of the Resurrection. Moreoever, in Acts 17, Paul tells us that the resurrection is a bit of God's evidence for the judgment to come. God will judge all men. He judged Christ on the cross. Christ was legally innocent and he was vindicated through he resurrection. Likewise, those united to him will also be vindicated and come through the final judgment unscathed. Those not united with Christ will only taste his judgment.

Very beief run through, and a digression from the convo Tim wants to focus on with you, but it's just an explanation of the *theological* importance of the resurrection.

For some further reflection, here's D.A. Carson on the theology of 1. Cor. 15: 1-19.

http://www.thespurgeonfellowship.org/Downloads/feature_Sp08.pdf

For more reflection, here's abnout 50 articles on the theological importance of the resurrection (though I wouldn't agree with eveything in each article).

http://www.monergism.com/directory/search.php?action=search_links_simple&search_kind=and&phrase=resurrection

Blue Devil Knight said...

Paul thanks that is helpful, and I think Tim was getting at similar issues with his latest response.

I still wonder, though, if it hurts me as a Christian to think it didn't literally happen, but to buy the theological point about resurrection meaning atonement, but not thinking it literally happened (just as I can see Adam/Eve as not literally true story of someone eating an apple, but a useful story making a significant point nonetheless).

Shackelman, yes it is funny I agree. I for some reason thought a Universalist Unitarian church would be more secular in flavor, focus more on inclusive psychological terminology rather than Godly stuff that I couldn't relate to.

I wish there were a secular "church". Not a skeptics group (they typically degenerate into dorks sitting around saying how stupid everyone is), but a group of people there for fellowship and such. It's strange that such psychologically beneficial infrastructure is not in place for skeptics, unless you want to pay for therapy or something. But that's very different.

I guess that's what chess clubs, triathlon clubs, and such do for some people.

Paul Manata said...

BDK,

I don't see how you could do that without fundamentally changing essentials. I think you'd see that if you read at least the Carson essay. But I'll leave it alone so other issues can be debated.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Paul: the Carson essay basically repeats what Tim said, using the exact same verses. I am arguing that is just one perspective, but I am advocating something that is consistent, though admittedly less reverent of scripture as it suggests reading unbelievable tales as metaphorical or spiritual (like the Adam and Eve tale).

Paul Manata said...

Yeah, BDK, I don't see how you wouldn't make utter nonsense of some essential soteric claims in the Bible. But if you want to present your viable reading of the putative texts, I'd be interested in reading it.

I am wondering, are you suggesting that when God said without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sins, and that Israel was to sacrifice a lamb on the day of atonement in place of the death of the people, we can take these as non-literal life-lessons? I dare say that it is an odd belief indeed to claim that the OT system was intelligible apart from real sacrifices of animals. For starters, though, what is the basis by which God can forgive a sinner *without* the shedding of blood? And, on what basis are we legally justified before the Father?

Blue Devil Knight said...

So does that mean you take Adam and Eve literally too, Paul?

Paul Manata said...

BDK,

Are you saying Jesus never existed?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Paul no. And you didn't answer my question. Do you take the Adam and Eve story literally because to do otherwise would make nonsense of "essential soteric claims in the Bible"?

terri said...

For starters, though, what is the basis by which God can forgive a sinner *without* the shedding of blood? And, on what basis are we legally justified before the Father?

Isn't this a little inconsistent? Many apologists frequently appeal to God's ability to do whatever he wants to, simply because He's God, when it comes to supernatural miracles and suspending the laws of physics and time....seemingly implying that there isn't anything that God couldn't do...that he is not constrained to work within a naturalistic, uniform, manner.

Yet....the supposition that God could only forgive with the shedding of blood...is placing heavy constraints on God.

What is the difference between saying that God could do anything he wanted in a supernaturally miraculous way that breaks natural laws and that God could do anything he wanted spiritually that would break "spiritual laws"?

Paul Manata said...

BDK,

No, it is you who is not answering my question.

However, to answer yours, yes, I do take Adam and Eve to be historical persons, and the reason you cite is one reason that featutres prominently in my reasons for taking them to be so.

Paul Manata said...

Terri,

Inconsistency is a relational concept. You've cited no proposition of mine which is inconsistent with the proposition you do cite from me.

Anyway, yes, God has constraints. He has contingent, covenantal obligations he has taken upon himself, he also has constraints entailed by his nature. That's why, for example, the Bible tells us that God *cannot* lie and that he *cannot* deny himself. God also cannot make square circles, and move mountains he cannot move.

So, you're either reading the wrong Christian thinkers, or you're misreading the right ones.

Blue Devil Knight said...

OK Paul, then we live in different worlds in terms of what we believe in the Bible. You are consistent, so in that sense we are similar. :O

Blue Devil Knight said...

Does every act of forgiveness from God involve bloodletting? And if so, does that mean if we just literally believe Jesus bled, but wasn't resurrected, we are OK theologically?

The goat I burn to God isn't resurrected, right? And Jesus is basically a lamb slaughtered.

terri said...

Paul,

I didn't cite anything from you.

I said "many apologists" because I try not to impute views to people if I don't know whether or not they personally have those views.


As far as sin requiring the shedding of blood:

Leviticus 5: 11-13

11 " 'If, however, he cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, he is to bring as an offering for his sin a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He must not put oil or incense on it, because it is a sin offering. 12 He is to bring it to the priest, who shall take a handful of it as a memorial portion and burn it on the altar on top of the offerings made to the LORD by fire. It is a sin offering. 13 In this way the priest will make atonement for him for any of these sins he has committed, and he will be forgiven. The rest of the offering will belong to the priest, as in the case of the grain offering.' "

It seems Levitical law makes exceptions for those who don't have the means to provide an animal sacrifice....which would undermine the idea that God must be appeased with blood.

I won't argue that point too much because I know that the way I read the Bible is vastly different than they way you read it...so we could argue about it....but we wouldn't get anywhere because we are not working i the same framework.

Paul Manata said...

Terri,

Blood was shed for the entire congregation on the Day of Atonement. You know, Lev. 16? "This shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year."—Leviticus 16:34. Then read Hebrews and see Jesus' role as the high priest, who sacrifices the lamb for the people, for the entire congregation. But Jesus' sacrifice is once and for all, not yearly, which is one reason why the New Covenant is better than the old.


BDK,

You have not offered a viable reading of the putative texts in terms of which the various soteric themes I cited are made intelligible upon the basis of a fictional Jesus, death, and resurrection. I tied my argument to the old testament, and unless you're prepared to argue that the Day of Atonement was a myth, and that no animals were ever literally sacrificed, then your position is an assertion in search of an argument. Also, the term "shedding of blood" means the life blood, not a paper cut.

The shed blood is for forgiveness of sins, and it looks like you want to grant that that happened. But this is not what the resurrection was for. That was explained above. It was for a legal justification before the father. Christ was declared innocent, and hence did not suffer eternal death. He was vindicated. Likewise, as Paul states, those who are united to Christ by faith are united to him in his death and life. He is the firstfruits of the resurrection. He is evidence that God will judge sin and will not judge those who are united to Christ, since he was killed and then vindicated via the resurrection. You have yet to make this intelligible with a faux resurrection. Indeed, you seem to have an odd mix on your hands: a real death but not a real resurrection. But Paul unites both of those and there is no hint that he is switching to a fictional story in the same sentence he reports a factual one.

Paul Manata said...

oh yeah, BDK, Hebrews speaks of Christ's current and active role as priest interceding for his people. This is tied into the OT system of priesthood and the need and use of the priest to mediate between man and God. Jesus, the god-man, now fulfills this role. If he is not resurrected, how are we being mediated for? The author of Hebrews presupposes the OT system for the very intelligibility of his theological claims. It would have been nonsense for him to tell the people that they could be confident since Jesus was interceding for the people after he made his sacrifice, just like the OT priest did, if, in fact, there was no risen Jesus interceding for the people. On what basis would you argue that a Jew no longer believed in the need for a mediator between God and man? A rotten mediator just isn't a mediator. However, a risen Lord can mediate, just as the author of Hebrews argues to show Jewish converts the superiority of the New Covenant vis-a-vos the Old. If there was no real mediator, the Old Covenant would be superior. But the author argues that the New Covenant is superior, hence there was a real mediator (according to him).

So, your argument has little going for it and is shown to reduce certain theological doctrines, and whole books of the Bible, to absurdities.