mdarby wrote:My impression is that the Bible was once taken much more literally by most people. Over time, as the explanatory power of science grew, an increasing number of passages in the Bible were acknowledged to be false. (The age of the earth, heliocentrism, evolution, the value of pi, etc.)
mdarby wrote:Rather than allowing Christians to engage in ex-post special pleading about what in the Bible should be followed and what shouldn't, discuss optimal principles which in theory any intelligent person could use to parse the Bible.
Now, on to the main point: It's kind of true that the Bible was once taken more literally by "most people", especially if by "most people" you mean the illiterate masses.
The way you put it is that you've only given two options for how "true" a Biblical text can be: It's either "literal" or it's "false".
mdarby wrote:I think my point is valid even if you consider the views of church leaders, presumably among the most educated members of society through most of history. Do you deny that the consensus view of the church elites through much of history was that the world is <10,000 years old, that the Earth is the center of the universe, that Heaven is a physical place in the sky, that all life was created and did not evolve, etc.? Do you deny that fewer educated Christians hold these views today?
mdarby wrote:But passages which make factual statements can be either true of false. If you claim the Bible shows God finds homosexuality to be an abomination, subject to defining abomination properly this is either true of false in my opinion. Either God finds homosexuality to be an abomination or he doesn't.
mdarby wrote:My point was that if in the middle of a discussion about homosexuality, during which we are debating whether it is harmful, whether it is chosen or a product of birth, etc., you quote a Bible passage suggesting God abhors homosexuality, yet admit that on any given subject the BIble might be true or false or in between or neither, what place does quoting the Bible have in the argument?
mdarby wrote:If you are going to claim that you know which passages are about truth and to be taken literally and which are about metaphor, I would be more convinced if you articulated which are which in advance and how you know which are which. Otherwise, it risks coming off as ad hoc argument. ("Oh, yes, the passage on homosexuality is meant to be taken literally whereas the passage on slavery was just a product of the cultural norms at the time and should not apply today.") I would like to know the basis for this kind of thinking.
mdarby wrote:But I think it's possible to define a set of criteria for judging the truth value of the Bible in principle.
mdarby wrote:For example, historical sources are favored which (a) agree with other contemporary sources (b) are written by contemporary to the events described (c) are written by "enemies" of the espoused position (d) are written by people who would tend to be embarrassed by the espoused position (e) are supported by physical evidence (f) are not self-contradictory.
mdarby wrote:I would be curious to see a set of principles which, when applied, excluded the parts of the Bible which most reasonable people exclude yet which supported the popular beliefs and which also concluded that competing worldviews (like Islam, Hinduism, etc.) were invalid.
mdarby wrote:I would be curious even to the extent they could justify some popular religious rites (e.g. Communion) yet ignore various other archaic practices in the Old Testament.
mdarby wrote:I appreciate your detailed reply.
mdarby wrote:It's hard to disagree with your nuanced approach to the Bible, if I understand you to mean (approximately) that:
(a) a literal interpretation is inappropriate
(b) it should not generally be used a source for "truth" claims
(c) what the authors of the Bible mean in any given instance is not readily apparent, but frequently requires sophisticated historical analysis
(d) the interpretation of the Bible is dynamic and changes with the culture
(e) confidence in specific claims of the Bible should be subject, in principle, to the same principles of historical analysis as secular history
(f) interpretation of the Bible should evolve to be consistent will well-established scientific consensus
mdarby wrote:That being said, this has relatively little to do with my experiences with formal Christianity having attended church services over the years at a couple dozen churches.
mdarby wrote:Based on the fact that the Bible is quoted at every Christian service, that is is usually the only book quoted, that the parts which are believed to be invalid are never mentioned, that parts presumably known to be incorrect (e.g. the myth of Noah and the flood) are taught to children with no mention of their myth status, etc. gave me the strong impression that the "good" parts of the Bible (ie. not the obviously archaic parts) are held to have a strong truth value beyond the principles (a) to (f) above.
mdarby wrote:For example, I brought up homosexuality in reference to the Christian and Atheist podcast on the subject, where the Bible was used as a source for potentially opposing homosexuality on moral grounds. Whether as you suggest the Bible doesn't in fact say this based on textual / historical / language analysis, the podcast discussion suggested that it did. (My casual reading of Leviticus 20:13 is also unambiguous, but I am sure a proper analysis of sources could raise many valid questions and I will check the forums as you suggest).
mdarby wrote:Regarding your final point, if you are saying the Bible condemns the act of same sex intercourse, but not the desire to have same sex intercourse or homosexuality, that seems a stretch to me. Given the flexibility to interpret the Bible favorably Christians employ, I think a reasonable interpretation of same sex practices would be homosexuality.
mdarby wrote:However, most churches I've been to describe it as "the Word of God" or divinely inspired by God.
mdarby wrote:So going back to the my original post about the homosexuality discussion on this podcast, "the Bible" and not a particular chapter author was cited as providing a moral justification that some people might use to condemn gays. The Bible quote was not presented as a view into a particular tribe's desire to be distinct from a different tribe many centuries ago. I think most people who bother to reference the Bible on homosexuality have a pretty clear negative agenda.
mdarby wrote:The collective weight of your comments makes me think that you believe passages from the Bible should not be used as a source for objective morality. You clearly acknowledge that it should not be taken literally; that seemingly clear passages really ought to be seen as something else (e.g. not a prohibition on same-sex intercourse but a statement about being different from competing tribes); and that there is no reason to expect different parts of the Bible to agree with each other. These are not the qualities of a document that should be used to document Divinely inspired morality.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
-- Luke 10:25-37 (NIV, minor editing by me)
mdarby wrote:The overall lack of clarity and contradictions in the Bible about such matters supports, in my opinion, the atheistic worldview.
mdarby wrote:But to answer your question, as I read the story "neighbor" refers to fellow men in general, but in particular men outside your primary social group and in particular men in need. Presumably the attacked man was not a Samaritan and was clearly down on his luck. My understanding is that Jesus is very clear about his strong feelings of connection to the poor, which is consistent with interpreting "neighbor" broadly and focusing on the needy. I believe the Old Testament was very much about identification with one's tribal group, and this story seems to expand upon that narrow view of social obligation.
I assume "most people" think something similar. I gather from you comments that a deeper textual analysis provides a different interpretation.
The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.
" 'Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
" 'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
" 'Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
Pseudonym, regarding the Good Samaritan story, wrote:Here's the thing, though: It's very easy to show pity on someone who is outside your tribal group, even someone your culture has a prejudice against. What's difficult is putting your life in their hands and depending on their pity, which is what's actually happening in this story.
Pseudonym wrote:That seems pretty clear to me. All of these "unlawful sexual practices" are pretty explicitly associated with those other unclean nations.
JustJim wrote:In what way did the victim of the mugging in the story "put his life into the hands of" the Samaritan and "depend on his pity"? It seems to me the victim played a totally passive role, while the Samaritan took on the merciful, "neighborly" role. And I think it's also noteworthy that, in the story, Jesus asks which of the three passers-by was a neighbor to the victim. That sets up a whole different perspective on what "neighbor" means, carrying it far beyond a matter of proximity or tribal relationship to a neighborly "action". He didn't really explain who our neighbors are - perhaps because that's so obvious - but he instead described what it means to be a neighbor to others. I like that....
StillSearching wrote:Interestingly enough, this passage was our Gospel reading this morning.
JustJim wrote:In what way did the victim of the mugging in the story "put his life into the hands of" the Samaritan and "depend on his pity"?
JustJim wrote:Even given your understanding of the association of those unlawful sexual practices with other (unclean) nations, isn't it still true that God is saying that such practices are nonetheless "unlawful" and, therefore, forbidden? Isn't he still saying homosexual acts are unlawful and immoral? Is there anything in these passages that provides a loophole for, say, our friend NH Baritone, to love another man and for them to act out their love for each other sexually?
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