Monday, November 29, 2010

Laziness, Inc.: Part 2

So, let’s continue peeling the couch potatoes from last week, shall we?

You said explaining apologetics to a critic is like explaining nuclear physics to an infant. So that must mean you think apologetics is complicated, and the Bible even more complicated.

Wrong. It simply means the critics are extraordinarily dumb.

You compared potential inerrant originals of the Bible to the original of the Declaration of Independence. But the Founders are all dead, so they can’t make new copies. That doesn’t apply to God, who is alive.

Well, there’s another example of missing the point. It doesn’t matter if an author is alive or not; if they don’t produce any more originals – whether because they can’t, won’t, or whatever – then that original is all the more valuable and all the more subject to abuses or special protections.

We have people today who think their copies of the Bible are inerrant. Yet they don’t seem to be in any difficulty.

Wrong. Those sorts of people are full of difficulties and problems: They are precisely the sort who fall most readily for scams of the sort perpetrated by cult figures like Darwin Fish; they are also the sort who (like Fish) will refuse any contextualizing information and wield the Bible like a club in other areas (like politics). The only reason they do not cause more trouble is because we live in a modern democracy and they don’t have the guns – in contrast to Islamic societies, where the copies ARE still held in high esteem by all, including those in power. If that doesn’t let you know what kind of trouble inerrant copies can foster, then you’re too dumb to be rehabilitated. Look at Islam’s example, and at the example of relics in the medieval period – not at manifestations in a modern, democratic society where those who believe in inerrant copies are a fringe minority that the majority look at as benighted.

You say God would be a micromanager if He assured that every copy was the same. Well, isn’t that what you would be if you wanted to make sure your own books were reprinted accurately?

Yes. That’s why I wouldn’t do it. But it doesn’t matter anyway. When it comes to places like Xulon Press, it is totally the author’s job to check the galleys before printing is actually done. So I don’t need to bother anyone that way in the first place. They don’t do any editing unless I pay them to (and I don’t). Xulon does not have any “techniques” or other means to assure a faithful reproduction beyond that, unless one wants to be so absurd as to suggest that merely converting my Word file to PDF and running the software is a “technique” for ensuring accuracy in transmission. To put it simply, no one “micromanages” the copies, and unless someone wishes to make the exceptionally stupid suggestion that God ought to have imported modern printing technology into the ancient world – just to satisfy a few modern crybabies who don’t want to pursue a serious education – there’s no parallel to be drawn here.

Not that it matters. Precision copying is an obsession of modern graphocentrists; as Jocelyn Small has pointed out in Wax Tablets of the Mind:

Exact wording is rarely crucial in oral societies, but often of great importance in literate ones, though this aspect took centuries to develop…Most oral societies are not only uninterested in the detail of the words per se, but even unaware of the unit of the word…for oral cultures it is not the words but the story or the gist that counts.

To that extent, there is no reason for God to be a micromanager and assure that every word gets transmitted exactly; this is the petulant, childish demand of fundamentalist minds. Rather, as long as the ideas were accurately transmitted – and there is no reason to say, even with errant copies, that they were not – then there is no basis for objection other than childish whining.

Relatedly, one should not confuse accurate transmission of the text with clarity of ideas in the text, which are two separate issues. If the Bible as we have it had been transmitted with 100% correctness from the originals, this would have no bearing on the “clarity complaints” of critics.

Surely God could have come up with some way to do this, like maybe making it part of the natural order that copies of His Word would come out inerrant – you know, like gravity works.

How funny. When someone comes up with specific mechanisms rather than vague fantasy, they can give us a call.

But aren’t natural laws examples of God micromanaging?

No. It’s not constant interference with the process.

But those laws do restrict our free will.

No, they do not. Free will, according to the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy among others, is the “capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives.” It doesn’t mean the ability to do whatever comes to our mind, even the impossible (what might be called freedom of action). This is a distinction that is generally beyond most theological neophytes. Gravity restricts our freedom of action (we can’t float in the air whenever we want), but not our freedom of will (it does not stop our choices to try to float in the air, or to overcome gravity in an airplane).

Part 3 and last sometime soon!

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