Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pastor Matt's Olive Branch for Wolves, Part 3

Now let’s close this look at Pastor Matt’s commentary on harsh language.

Finally, are you saying that every 1st century custom used by Jesus and the Apostles shoud still be utilized today? Are the women in your church silent? Do they wear head coverings? I hope not. 

What I hope is that Matt is not so uneducated that he doesn’t realize that 1 Cor. 14:34 is actually Paul quoting his opponents and refuting them. I also hope he realizes the reason for head coverings. Of course, the latter devolves to the issue of whether harsh language has a reason to carry over into modern culture. We have already explained that it is, and despite Matt, showing it is indeed “giving in to bullies” to be what he calls “respectful” (that is, of course, when we are dealing with an actual bully). It is blasé attitudes like Matt’s that have led us to overwhelmingly ignore the perils of brothers and sisters in Christian in the Third World, when we should actually be protecting them.

Even if you somehow adopt a middle eastern style of debate as prescriptive, it is important to remember that they typically only treated the religious with ridicule not skeptics.

This is yet another typical straw man. Matt is certainly treading the ridiculous if he supposes the rules of interaction would have been different had Jesus had Sam Harris in front of him instead of Joe Pharisee. Of course, there were no Skeptics in first century Judaea, which makes such an idea conveniently non-disprovable; but in reality it is just as arbitrary as saying, “Jesus only treated Pharisees and Sadducees, not Essenes, like that” or “Jesus only treated people with funny hats like that”. It draws an arbitrary category line without any justification. In the real world of the first century, the real line was, those who deceived or worked contrary to the interests of the greater welfare.

Matt closes with what are in terms of evidential value, worthless personal anecdotes. His own ineffectiveness at harsh language is not much of an argument against anyone else using it. The one thing he misses, as always, is that the purpose of harsh language is not to open hearts, but to shut mouths. That in turn does make it easier to open the hearts of others. Even Jesus knew there were times when the dust ought to be shaken from our feet; but Matt has more wisdom than Jesus, and finds it much more appropriate to let the wolf wipe the dust off his feet and onto his chest.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pastor Matt's Olive Branch for Wolves, Part 2

Let’s now have a look at a few more words from Pastor Matt on the use of harsh language.

Debate like that was common in the first century, but it isn’t now, and in our culture!

That’s true. But that’s not the real question. The real question is whether the lower rate of occurrence is a good or a bad thing, and in what contexts. Pastor Matt seems to think we can never use harsh language, but he doesn’t explain the virtues of a total moratorium on it to any real depth. One of the reasons he gives is the old “we’re not Jesus” canard, which as we noted before, comes back to bite us on the butt. That’s also his best argument, as the rest of them show.

My own reply is that in modern culture, we are plagued with a lot of egocentric people who were told by their mothers that they were special, and never stopped believing it. In the parlance, such people need to be taken down a peg, because if they don’t, they’ll run roughshod over others. On the other hand, if we use Matt’s kid gloves, they’ll take it as verification that everyone is suitably impressed by them. Is this so hard to grasp?

I hope we are trying to bring people to God not just win an argument!

Yes, I hope so too. But Matt seems to think no one gets harsh unless they’re trying to “win an argument,” or are angry, or insecure. Why would he think that to be the case – unless it is the only reason HE would get harsh?

Paul said to be kind to enemies and heap coals on their head!

Kind of funny here, because Matt misuses Paul on this one the same way an atheist did who I confronted long ago:

We are told here that "Paul advocates what he calls love in order to defeat one's enemies" and thereby "undoes Christ's work and returns us to the pre-Christ era." [41-2] 

Really? As Klassen shows in his article "Coals of Fire: Sign of Repentance or Revenge?" (New Testament Studies 9, 1963, 337-50) the phrase in Proverbs is alluding to an Egyptian ritual of repentance in which the subject willingly carried embers in a bowl on their head as a public sign of repentance. It is unlikely that people in NT times were aware of this detail, but the Targum commentaries Paul would have been familiar with did still grasp that the person in Proverbs was a former enemy who had been turned into a friend.

All that said, Matt fails in the usual way to grasp the public-private dichotomy that existed in Paul’s world: These instructions, like “turn the other cheek,” were meant to be applied to private relationships, not public confrontations. 

Using harsh language to evangelize flies in the face of common sense!

So it would. But this isn’t “evangelism.” It’s tying down wolves so that you can clear the way to evangelize open minds that won’t be deceived by their lupine rhetoric. Again, I rather doubt Matt has ever dealt with anyone like “YHWHisaHomo” from YouTube. Nor has anyone he cites as a role model (like the churches of Keller and Chandler).

We’ll wrap this up next time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pastor Matt's Olive Branch for Wolves, Part 1

I’m activating the Forge today for a series on a somewhat oblivious character styled “Pastor Matt”. Though he has something of a concern for apologetics, he also has fallen for the usual failed perception that it’s only useful for feeding sheep, not disabling wolves. Like many such commentators he thinks the two functions are mutually exclusive.

In particular, our focus in this series will be on a post (and comments) in which Matt asks if Jesus would post on Facebook. I’d have to say no, because Jesus would likely go for far more efficient ways to spread his message to the widest number of people. In his day, that’s what he did – preaching at the geographical, cultural and social crossroads of the greatest empire of his day; recruiting apostles perfectly equipped to communicate his gospel to the greatest number of people in the most efficient way, and confronting the greatest powers of his day in the chief city of the day, such that he was publicly crucified at the time of one of the most prominent holidays when gossip of the day would ensure that news would get to as many as a million at once, and be spread across the Diaspora. No, Jesus wouldn’t bother with Facebook.  He’d get time on Fox and CNN, and not waste time with penny ante stuff like Facebook.

Which is not to say that we can’t, or shouldn’t. Not all of us are capable of speaking on a national stage, and the Body of Christ is equipped to do different things. The mistake many make when answering “WWJD?” is in assuming that the answer also limits our options. Jesus wouldn’t bother with Facebook for the same reason most CEOs or national leader wouldn’t do so: That wouldn’t be his job, because as our ingroup leader, he has to take the point in more appropriate and honorable venues. Which means saying Jesus wouldn’t get on Facebook doesn’t mean we don’t. 

Matt does get one thing right: In venues like Facebook, we are “often challenged with political questions that aren’t really questions.” As I’ve said in other posts here, fundy atheists and others on places like Facebook and YouTube are there to do the GPA Dance – goad, provoke, and annoy – not ask honest questions. Matt also rightly observes that,  "Some fire back at these challenges and justify their actions by pointing to the way Jesus shredded opponents like the Pharisees.” But then he fails miserably with the tired retort that, “none of us are Jesus.  All of us are incapable of looking into the heart of an ‘opponent’ and few of us are good at threading are way through hot button issues.”

This is a hilarious response for a couple of reasons. One is that Matt is himself judging those who use such confrontational methods in the same way he says we shouldn’t judge our own “Pharisees”. He’s reading our hearts and gauging our abilities, based on his own judgments, which he admits are incapable. And if they really are that incapable, then he’s without a basis to judge our own competence. 

The other reason is that, as Douglas Wilson has pointed out in The Serrated Edge, the same logic also dictates that we can’t help people the way Jesus did, because we’re not Jesus. Jesus knew the difference between a person who really needed to be healed so he could work, and the person who wanted to be healed so he could get back to committing highway robbery. We can’t read their hearts, so we can’t imitate Jesus.

The point as well: I have multiple years of experience dealing with the sort of people Matt refers to. Based on his own reports, he doesn’t. So Matt is certainly not competent to judge anyone else and tell them what to do. That’s especially obvious in that, in further comments, Matt relates such tactics to “the desire to fight back” and “pride.” It apparently never occurs to Matt that this reflects his own weaknesses, not those he criticizes. Ironically, that’s a manifestation of his own pride, and desire to fight back, against those he criticizes.

That leads to one good point Matt makes, which is that you shouldn’t go into such debates intellectually unarmed. Don’t debate evolution if you don’t know evolution. But at the same time, Matt himself doggedly makes a highly misinformed and presumptuous judgment against those who engage in Facebook and similar types of debate. 

I have news for Matt, though. If he thinks his 5-step system, which includes “affirm[ing] the person insulting you” and using “The Columbo Method,” will have any positive effects when dealing with the typical YouTube or Facebook atheist, he is sadly mistaken. Christian like Matt who use such tactics are nothing but fresh meat to users with usernames like, “YHWHisaHomo.” (Yes, that’s a real username from there.) They eagerly await such Christians, because they see it as a chance to spread more elephant dung. They’re not trying to “understand” anything. They’re trying to carve the living heart out of believers.

What Matt doesn’t get is that we don’t need “helpful ways of truly understanding what he or she is saying or questioning…” with such users. That is, unless Matt is so oblivious that he doesn’t easily understand such sentiments as, “F___ you and your biblegod!” especially when repeated dozens of times. Again, rather ironic that he feels competent to advise us on our behavior, but isn’t competent enough to judge that of someone like YHWHisaHomo.”

Next time we’ll look at some of Matt’s insensate comments in reply to criticisms of his post.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

Nervy Plagiarizer Accuses ME! HA HA!!!

This is a supplement to a vid I just loaded for the Plagiarism Hall of Shame on my YT channels – one that is quite ironic this time, because this person wrote me an angry email accusing ME of plagiarizing THEM. It’s too bad for them they left a lot of bumbler clues.

First, here is their article:

Now mine:

The vid documents two major bungles Ms. Yonan made. First, she lists the original date of publication for her article for 1992, but in one of the parts of my article she stole, there is a reference to Price’s book Deconstructing Jesus, which was published in 2000 – eight years later!

Second, it shows that she lifted from my article a special method of source citation I use (which is also used by Miller’s Thinktank) for just one of the books she lists in her bibliography. She didn’t use this method for any of the other books in her bibliography, though she did accidentally leave in one of my other abbreviations in her main article, and she also listed Smith’s Origins of Biblical Monotheism in her main text the same way I did – but not in her bibliography.

A final telling point is found in this parallel paragraph, one I didn't put in the vid. First from my article:

Tammuz was also called a "healer" (as a profession), and regarded as a savior, but as Langdon notes [Lang.TI, 34], those who referred to Tammuz by these names "have not those spiritual doctrines which these words convey in Christian doctrine" in mind, but use the words "in the sense that all life depended upon his sacrifice and especially upon his return from hell." (As a reminder, that is something Jesus didn't do.)

Now from hers:

Tammuz was also called a “healer” and regarded as a savior, but Langdon notes, (Lang TI, 34) those who referred to Tammuz by these names “do not have the spiritual doctrines which these words have in Christianity”.

This was a big mistake by Ms. Yonan – because while my quote of Langdon reproduces his exact words from his book, as the graphic below shows, it is clear that she was trying to paraphrase the words I quoted – yet she retained them with quote marks as though it were a quotation.

So, nice try Ms. Yonan. Say hi to your lawyer for me! HA HA HA!!!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Caught Plagiarizing Fundy Atheist #4

At this rate I'll catch every fundy atheist on YT in a plagiarism scandal by 2056.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Angry Jesus of Mark 1:41

I'm using the Forge this week to supplement a TektonTV vid to be loaded today. This is a reprint of material from Trusting the New Testament concerning a textual question surrounding Mark 1:41, as considered by Bart Ehrman.


Mark 1:40-1: The Mean Jesus

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.

This passage nearly always seems to arise when Ehrman wishes to illustrate how orthodox scribes corrupted the text of the New Testament. The case is as follows:

  • The word rendered “compassion” in the above should actually be rendered anger.
  • Christian scribes, puzzled by Jesus’ behavior and anger at this unfortunate leper, changed the word to “compassion.”

Our analysis consists of three questions.

Is Ehrman correct about “anger” being the original reading? The answer to this question is, quite likely, yes. Ehrman’s case for the original reading being “anger” is coherent and logical, and is in accord with the evidence. It also fits well with the context, for as Ehrman also points out, the word used in v. 43 (“and forthwith sent him away”) is the same as is used of Jesus casting out demons. It is a strong word indicating that the leper was not treated with kid gloves.

Is it such a problem if Jesus was angry in this passage? It is here where Ehrman’s case is more controversial. In order for Ehrman to argue that scribes changed the text out of some sort of confusion or embarrassment, it needs to be shown to begin with that what is in the text is problematic. Ehrman’s argument in this regard is that the text shows Jesus treating the leper unfairly, in a way that scribes found embarrassing; hence they changed the text.

There are two aspects to responding to Ehrman’s analysis of the passage.

The evidence shows that scribes were not at all embarrassed by Jesus’ anger in other passages. Indeed, one wonders why, if this were such a problem for Christians, why did they not dispense with the Old Testament, and why did they identify Jesus with the YHWH of the OT? This was an option taken by the Marcionite heretics of the early second century, but was clearly not the path of orthodoxy. Beyond this, as Ehrman admits, even elsewhere in Mark (3:5) Jesus is said to be angry, and in Mark 10.14 he is indignant with his disciples.

It is here where we may take first notice of Ehrman’s way of presenting matters differently to his scholarly audience than he does to a popular readership. Ehrman, as Wallace notes, “argues implicitly” in a scholarly article on this topic “that Jesus’ anger in Mark 1.41 perfectly fits into the picture that Mark elsewhere paints of Jesus” and that “apart from a fuller understanding of Mark’s portrayal, Jesus’ anger is difficult to understand. In Misquoting Jesus, however, Jesus’ anger is presented as though it represented a significant difficulty for our portrait of Jesus, especially in Mark. 

Is Jesus’ anger in this passage somehow morally problematic? This question is the more critical one, however. Ehrman paints a picture of Jesus getting angry at a poor, suffering unfortunate who just wanted to be healthy. But several aspects of the story warn us not to take it so simply, and give us an intelligible reason for Jesus to be angry, and rightfully so.

o   We hardly need to imagine this person to be covered head to toe in leprosy and suffering in great pain. Indeed, by law and custom, he was required to stay away from others and openly declare himself “Unclean!” as a warning. Instead, he came to Jesus and kneeled down in front of him. For him to be able to do this suggests that his leprosy was limited in scope and coverage – otherwise he would have been detected long before he approached so closely.

o   The preceding passage (1:39) refers to Jesus preaching in the synagogues of Galilee. It seems likely that this episode occurred as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue setting, which also coheres with the indication that the man was “cast out” of the place where they were. In any event, the healing took place publicly – in such a way that this leper forced Jesus’ hand to get an immediate healing.

o   To make matters worse, once Jesus touched the leper to heal him, others would immediately consider Jesus ritually unclean. Correspondingly, Mark notes that once the man spread the word about the healing, Jesus could no longer enter the city, and had to stay in the desert (1:45) – which is what he would have had to do until the time of ritual impurity had passed. 

So it is that Jesus’ reason for being angry becomes perfectly coherent. By forcing Jesus’ hand publicly, and compelling him to leave the city for a time, this leper interrupted Jesus’ ministry and made it less effective by restricting his movements, and also compelling people to go where Jesus was to receive their own healings. The leper could have waited until Jesus was somewhere else so that the healing could be done without all the fuss. 

Thus, we have the final question: Was the change made out of embarrassment? From the above two points, the answer is clearly no. We can only speculate, then, as to why the change was actually made; perhaps scribes thought that compassion was a more likely reaction in the context, simply because it was a healing. But whatever the reason for the change was, it is obvious that scribal embarrassment over an “angry Jesus” was not one of them.