Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Atonement and Honor

Today's entry will be answering a set of objections and questions raised to my TektonTV vid below by a critic whom we will refrain from naming, for reasons that veteran readers will deem obvious.

Why do we have to follow this notion of honor when we interpret the Bible? Why does the culture have any relevance to God?

The simple answer is, because this is the context that the Biblical authors lived and moved in, and which governed their words, their actions, and their motives, and that context was used to reveal the structure of the theology.

The question, beyond this, is frankly an absurd one: Why would this NOT be the context within which these matters would be considered? Are we to impose a 20th century Western context? A 13th century British context? A 5th century Japanese feudal context? Or some context we simply make up out of thin air? If so, why?

There is an irony beyond this. Given that 99.9% of persons ever to have lived, and even 60-70% today, live in a social setting dominated by honor concerns, it is especially absurd to suppose that any other context ought to serve as an interpretive template for the Biblical text.

The real question is: Did man simply invent the concept of honor? Or is it derived from some notion of how God actually views reality? Those that take Scripture as a revealed product will have little choice but to take the latter option, since God speaks and acts and reveals himself in such a way that indicates a concern for honor. The alternative is to suggest that, eg, God and Jesus were merely acting that way coincidentally, such that it looked like they behaved with concern for honor, when they really did not.

If God has infinite inherent honor, then no matter how much you damage God’s acquired honor, His total honor remains infinite.

This point simply lacks cognizance of how honor works. One cannot add together acquired and inherent honor to come up with a concept of "total honor." The categories of honor are exclusive of one another and do not mix.

Relatedly, an error was made by the commentator in assuming that I regard hell as an “infinite reduction in honor.” That is completely incorrect; I do not regard the reduction as “infinite” – indeed it cannot be, since humans have only a finite amount of honor they are able to assume, and honor, like any limited good among humans, cannot ever be totally allocated to a single person. Rather, honor is reduced in hell (a state of shame) accord with ones works in life. So likewise honor is raised in heaven on the same basis.

The Bible compares us to sheep, and calls us children of God, servants, slaves, etc but nowhere calls us clients or God a patron.

This is again little more than a serious lack of cognizance of how Biblical society worked. The terms client and patron are what we have chosen to broadly describe a wide variety of relationships that existed in the ancient Biblical world, and indeed, dominated its functions. To object that these terms or concepts are not found in Scripture is no more a valid objection than saying the word “Trinity” is not found in Scripture. The terms accurately describe what is present in Scripture and in the ancient world.

Technically, master/slave is not reckoned as typical of the patronage relationship in the Roman era because the slave was property (though some scholars have assumed that it is). However, as we note in our review of MacArthur’s Slave, the use of that term in the NT for us must be reckoned by the Jewish Old Testament relationship, which was more in line with a suzerain-vassal agreement. This would be more closely akin to a client-patron relationship in the NT era. Further, note that Jesus qualifies disciples as “friends” which indicates something more substantial than an owner-property relationship.

What it amounts to is that a patron was anyone a client was in debt to, or owed loyalty to – and we are surely to be regarded as indebted to God for the gift of salvation.

Doesn't this concern for honor make God seem like an egomaniac?

Only to those who judge the text by anachronistic standards. Since honor was the concern of all persons in this society, one would have to then conclude that all members of honor-based societies -- meaning, 99.9% of all who have ever lived -- have also been egomaniacs. I think such a presumptuous conclusion speaks for itself in terms of its inherent socio-cultural imperialism.

As well, the entire concept of "ego" is an entirely modern one, limited to individualistic societies. In an honor setting, frank and honest recognition of one's own worth and capabilities is not "egomaniacal" but normal and expected. Indeed it would be considered just as offensive to understate one's qualifications and abilities.

Nor is it proper to say that God’s response is one of “revenge”. That too is a modern evaluation of ancient values. Rather, to seek restoration of rightly-held honor would be seen as a matter of righteousness and justice.

By your understanding, humans are a threat to God’s honor that need to be pacified, not made to actively help Him.

This is utterly false. One of the most basic functions of a client was to aid and serve the patron. At the same time, this is far from exclusive of the honor aspect; a client, too, could easily bring disgrace on his patron, which in turn would require action from the patron.

In close, we would recommend that those who foster objections of this nature read the texts listed in the link below in order to have a full-orbed understanding of these issues.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tekton Tenure, Continued

Been a while since we had an entry in this series…let’s check history from July-September 2003. Got some big names here!

Darrell Doughty – this fringe fellow – one of the Robert Price crowd – passed away in 2009.

Richard Packham – still maintains his website, though it still looks old school in terms of web design. He updates only infrequently; last time was October 2011, and before that, March 2011. His main focus remains on his former Mormon faith. – speaking of stupid, this Norwegian website, which I did a parody of on my toon site, is still around and has grown in terms of subjects addressed, but still has the same old garbage I refuted on the pages which I did address back then – unchanged.

Michael Martin – the famous atheist prof who endorsed the Christ myth and thought Jesus’ prohibition on swearing had to do with saying words like %$^$*! Still around teaching at Boston U.

Paul Jacobsen – critic of Lee Strobel – also still around, but only updates his site infrequently.

Randel Helms – still teaching at Arizona State, but hasn’t published a book on the Bible since 2005.

John Lynch – his ten reasons for not being a Christian are no longer online except in my rebuttal. His name is too commonplace for me to search further.

Dan Barker – still around in his same (in)capacities.

Stephen Smith – a hyperpreterist. Since his name is commonplace I can’t check further.

Back next week to round off 2003!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 7

Nick Peters now has this portion ready for us, and since I'm still stoned (ha ha -- kidney stoned) we'll use it this week.


We return again to our study of Krueger and “What is Atheism?” Krueger is going to attempt to answer the charge today on “Wouldn’t someone need to know everything in order to say that there is no God?” Granted, this is not the kind of argument I’d use, but Krueger does attempt argumentation here, so let’s see what he says.

Krueger starts off with ECREE, which is “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence” and that someone needs strong evidence to show that God exists. He tells us most people believe it is common sense that an extraordinary claim is false until evidence is shown for it.

Well, no. It’s just not proven true. That’s a long ways from saying that it is false. Has it been proven true that X committed the crime in the court? Well, no. Therefore, we ought to believe it is false? No. I have no problem with skepticism. It will not work to say that because one side has insufficient evidence, then the other side must have sufficient evidence.

Krueger also defines extraordinary claims as those that would require us to drop a common sense belief. What is a common sense belief? Considering most people today and throughout history have believed in some form of theism, then it would seem that Krueger is the one who has the extraordinary claim. Upon what basis can he say “Common sense says there is no God.”?

I could point to what most people believe in order to say that this is a common belief. This does not make the belief true. Many people can believe something and be wrong. Many people could have terrible reasons for believing in God, and in fact I’d say they do. That also does not make it wrong.

To the atheist, that God exists is an extraordinary claim, but to someone like myself, the claim that God does not exist is an extraordinary claim. Why should Krueger’s common sense belief not be considered an extraordinary claim, but my claim should be considered one?

And here we have the problem with ECREE. ECREE is way too subjective. Besides, what is considered extraordinary evidence? Does it glow? Does it leave you feeling minty fresh? Does it provide a burning in the bosom? Would it not be best to say a belief should not be believed without sufficient evidence instead?

Krueger decides to defend God’s existence by saying it is an extraordinary claim according to Christians. Pascal is said to have implied that some people needed to dull their reason to become Christians and Luther is said to have said that reason should be destroyed in all Christians. I would love to respond to these, but unfortunately, as expected, Krueger gives no citation. In what writing did Pascal and Luther say this? Who knows? What is the surrounding context? We don’t know.

There’s even a problem on the face of it. This is talking about becoming Christians and not becoming theists. One can be a theist without being a Christian. Is Krueger trying to claim all non-Christians for the side of atheism? Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Mormons, etc. would all be interested in knowing they’re atheists.

Furthermore, what is meant by reason? Luther used reason in a number of ways and he didn’t necessarily mean the thinking facility. Pascal’s usage could have been the same seeing as in their own right, both of these men were intellectuals.

Krueger then tells of a book by Michael Jordan (Not the basketball star) called “The Encyclopedia of Gods” and asks why Christians don’t think about those gods and wonder if they exist. The problem is that Krueger assumes the reason we don’t believe in those gods is the same reason that he doesn’t. His reason is because he has already ruled out the belief in any gods. Our reason as Christians is that we know that there is only one true God and we have strong evidence He exists, thus eliminating any competing theories.

Krueger claims that the criteria for evidence is different for Christians with their God than with other gods. This could be the case, but this needs to be argued for and not assumed. Can Krueger tell what my criteria is? Krueger thinks the atheist alone is being consistent. I will say the atheist is being consistent with regards to how he treats all theistic claims, but not with how he treats all claims. If he accepted evidence for the historical claims of Christianity and metaphysics, the way he accepts other claims, I believe he would be a Christian. It is because he raises the bar when it comes to other beliefs that he does not accept them.

Krueger now wants to show that the concept of God is incoherent. Krueger starts by saying that all religions disagree on their claims and they cannot all be true. True enough. The conclusion he reaches is there can be no being described by these religions. It does not follow. They could all be seeking to describe the ultimate being, but some of them are describing him wrong.

He says the same is true of Christians. Some Christians say that God knows the future and therefore there is no free-will. (Krueger overlooks that a lot of us do believe God knows the future and that we have free-will.) Some Christians say God does not know the future. Both of these views cannot be true. Certainly. No problem with that. Saying both cannot be true does not show that both are false. Let us look at it this way.

Either mankind is here by a purely naturalistic process or mankind is here by a process of creation.

Both of these views cannot be true.

Therefore both are false.

Krueger would not accept such poor argumentation in any field. Are we to say that because contradictory things are believed about something, that that something cannot exist? Could it not be the simpler explanation that someone is just wrong?

Of course, Krueger tells us about the other great contradiction in Christianity, namely that 1 = 3, meaning the Trinity. Had Krueger actually read someone on the Trinity who was informed, he would have not made such an embarrassing blunder. See link below on the Trinity.

What about omniscience? How could it be that God knows some things that supposedly have to be known by experience? To begin with, it is an assumption to say one has to have experience to know something. There is a subjective knowing and an objective knowing here. My main stance with omniscience is simply that God knows all propositions that are true. God could know all experiences however by knowing all persons. All this would show is that omniscience is a difficult concept. It does not show it is false.

With omnipotence, Krueger asks the classic “Can God create a rock so big He can’t lift it?” Yes everyone. Someone wrote a book with an objection that’s high school level as if it was a powerful argument. Well, Krueger: If you’re reading this, I’m going to give you a simple answer to your question.


And I say that saying God is omnipotent because power cannot do contradictions.

God is able to do anything that power can do and nonsense does not cease to become nonsense because one adds the words “God can” before it, as C.S. Lewis said.

What about God being eternal? Can God act in time if He is eternal? Yes. God’s actions just take place eternally. God does not progress on the timeline but rather God is always acting in all things at once as He is not limited by time. Right now, God is creating man and judging the world both.

Krueger goes on to list that the Bible says God is male, but He cannot be if He has no body. To begin with, I think the body is an expression of maleness, but that is a reflection of an aspect of man that is male. (At least in men.)

Furthermore, the Bible does not say God is male (In fact, it explicitly says in passages like Hosea 12:9 that God is not a man.) but rather He is described in male terms. One might as well think our planet is female since we think of Mother Nature and ask where her female parts are.

Finally, Krueger goes with the problem of evil. I have written on this before in my review of John Loftus’s usage of the Problem of Evil. See link below.

Krueger returns to the Bible now to support nonbelief assuming the Bible is the only reason for believing in God with the objection of “Why did God not cause Bibles to rain from the sky.” JPH has written extensively on thinking like this with examples of the blue fairy and such. See link below.

From this point on, I don’t consider the arguments against the Bible relevant as it is a dismissal of the theistic arguments I do not believe Krueger has dealt with.

Next time I write will close up this topic.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rauser on Licona

Since I'm behind on my work thanks to the latest kidney stone, I'll take this week's entry to offer a link to Randall Rauser's blog in which he discusses the Licona-Geisler controversy. This again reflects why I consider it so important that Tekton retains its independence from other entangling alliances.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Tekton Tenure, Part 2

We continue our look back at Tekton opponents, picking up in April 2003:

Stephen van Eck – Eck is not the sort of guy who learns that it would be a good idea for him to shut up, and he hasn’t. He’s still there and still nuts – even recently (September 2011) suggesting that atheists can make a solid case for Jesus not existing by using sources like Freke and Gandy, or Burton Wolfe.

Mark Bonocore – when I ran into this guy he had a serious anti-intellectual bent. He seems to still be around – I found a debate he had with Jason Engwer, and another with Matt Slick (the latter dated 2008), but I don’t think he does this for a living.

Not an opponent, but in May 2003, current Tekton ministry partner Nick Peters wrote what we think is his first piece for us, on the angel of the Lord.

Joe Wallack – this fruitcake has had a site with “1001 Errors in the New Testament” for years. It’s also been stuck on #736 for at least 7 of those years. I think in no small part because Wally (as I call him) knew I was answering them as he posted them. He’s still around on debate forums.

Darrell Conder – this loudmouth was accused of some rather odd stuff in a blog here: As hateful as he was, this wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t find any evidence that he is actively writing online now. One thing I didn’t know is that he was once a high placed member of the Worldwide Church of God.

Sid Green – has written nothing for Internet Infidels since I addressed him in 2003. However, I found him debating on Yahoo these days (2010).

Edgar Jones – wacko in charge of Voice of Jesus. The site is still up, and still being updated now and then, but it hasn’t improved in quality.

Apostasy Now! – this nutjob Christian site is also still around and updated infrequently (last in 2010).

That gets us to June 2003. We’ll do another quarter next time. In 2003 I was updating every weekday at times; that slowed as I found less to do, so future entries in this series will cover longer periods as we progress.