Monday, December 31, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls Online

What Is Fundamentalism to Me?

We've all heard the term a thousand times, and one could probably say what has been said of many systems, namely, that there are as many definitions of fundamentalism as there are people using the term.

So let me today clarify the way that I use it as opposed to more historic uses. These historic uses were once matters of defining historic orthodox Christianity in light of nineteenth century liberalism. I, and any other orthodox Christian, am in some way a fundamentalist in this sense. When the Church did this, it was functioning as it should, clarifying its message in light of new heresies and apostasies.

But the term has evolved from this and now means something different.

Now, I do not use the term as the media does. Most of the media, and often liberal academia, uses the term in two ways: (1) to refer to people who have as their authority an outside source to themselves to which they devoutly adhere (i.e., religious conservatives of any sort), or (2) people who dogmatically believe and proselytize others in those beliefs.

However, I don't use the term in any of these ways. Instead, I choose to reserve it for all devotees of any worldview (i.e., regardless of ideological persuasion), although my use is equally pejorative. So what is a fundamentalist to me?

Christ once said that if the eye is dark, the whole body will be. A fundamentalist in my mind is someone who has a dark eye. He has not been trained to think critically of his own views. He cannot see his presuppositions and ultimate beliefs, and hence, he argues as though what he says is matter-of-factly true, even if what he believes is refuted by his own sources of authority, which are usually his own reasoning out of whatever authoritative source he values. He speaks dogmatically about that which he assumes to be true, but does not know that he assumes.

But I would add to this that most fundamentalists, again, according to my use of the term, don't want to bother to represent the other person's view accurately when critiquing it. They use a lot of strawmen and ad hominems in place of arguments.

In this regard, fundamentalists are dangerous, not because they make us think, but because they make us dumber. If iron sharpens iron when two critical thinkers of opposing opinions meet, then a meeting with a fundamentalist is like the clashing of iron upon cottonballs. The sword is not sharpened and the cottonball just turns into a million more little cottonballs, multiplying the faith of the fundamentalist in foolishness rather than changing him for the better.

In other words, I think the term "fundamentalist" to me simply means "unteachable." He's not a person willing to learn what his source of authority really is, what it can and cannot tell him, and whether he's understood it correctly. He just knows already, even in the face of evidence to the contrary--even in the face of evidence from his authoritative sources to the contrary.

He's not someone who is rigid in his beliefs. EVERYONE is rigid in his or her beliefs. Only fundamentalists, liberal or conservative, think otherwise. What I am saying is that he is not even teachable to the sources of authority he recognizes simply because he does not have a critical mind toward evaluating himself, his own ideas, where they come from, whether they are firmly established appropriately given his own sources of authority, etc. And he doesn't do this because he isn't humble. He thinks highly of himself enough to just keep on keepin' on, regardless of his misuse of the very authorities to which he says he is committed.

Hence, there are atheists who are fundamentalists, their sources of authority supposedly being logic and science. There are Islamic fundamentalists who attempt to use logic and the Quran. There are Christian fundamentalists who attempt to use logic and the Bible. There are even agnostic fundamentalists who just attempt to use logic and their own experience. Notice that everyone is using logic in their attempt to reason out and arrange their lives and thoughts according to a source of authority, whether experience, science, a holy book or tradition, etc.; but the fundamentalist is usually lacking in his ability to use logic, which is why I say he "attempts" to use it. But this means he will often misconstrue what his source of authority really says, since he is incapable of using logic that would arrange and organize that authoritative source in a way that cooperates with its real message and therefore would interpret it correctly.

Hence, the fundamentalist is one who has a deficiency in his own sources of authority. It is not simply that he does not believe the same as you. There are many non-fundamentalists who do not believe the same as one another. Instead, it is that he is incapable of evaluating whether his own views are consistent with his own sources of authority and the logic he uses to reason those authorities out. But it is not merely the deficiency of these that makes him a fundamentalist. This inability must be joined by hubris that gives him an unteachable disposition, so that his deficiency is never made sufficient. His lack of ability is never corrected to the point of ability. He is forever right in his own mind, though all that he pretends to believe are his sources of authority scream otherwise. In reality, he is his own cult leader, and one that will bring himself to ruin at that. For if the eye is dark, the whole body will be.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Honest Questions for Annihilationalists

I have some problems with annihilationalism, but I don't think those who hold it are outside the bounds of orthodoxy, unless they hold it because they think God would be a monster or something if the traditional view was true. However, I thought I would come up ten questions to which I would be interested in hearing the answers. A couple sound similar but are actually different in their nuances. So here they are.

1.       If some are punished more than others, how exactly does that work out in the annihilation scheme? I’m going to kill you, but I’m going to kill that guy more?

2.       If punishment is nonexistence then God is actually punishing an infinite number of humans and angels by not creating them in the first place. Furthermore, He is doing so without their having committed a single sin. 

3.       If punishment is nonexistence, God is actually giving the most wicked amongst us, those who murder others and then wish to go out of existence, what they want. He is therefore rewarding them, not punishing them. Yet, He is punishing countless people  who are guilty of lesser crimes with what they do not wish—thus, rewarding the extremely wicked and punishing those who are less so.

4.      If punishment in the Bible really has to do with eternal separation from God's communal presence, does annihilationalism really just change the nature of eternal life to living a long time versus not living a long time? And doesn't this then still give the same punishment for the wicked even though punishments are said to be in degrees?

5.       If the story of the Rich man and Lazarus is figurative, why does it use names rather than generic designations? What does a disembodied person suffering in hell represent as he says, “I do not wish my brothers to come to this place”?

6.       The word “eternal” or “everlasting” is a gloss for the “into the ages,” designating the duration of punishment. But isn’t the punishment of annihilation really just a single event with continuing effect? Why would it be described as eternal? Do we really suspect that some would have misunderstood what Christ and the apostles were saying (i.e., that God was going to kill someone’s body and soul for sin but then might remake them after that)? Is there any evidence of a view in Second Temple Judaism that would believe such a thing so as to cause the NT writers to add the modifier “eternal” in order to clarify the duration of the punishment?

7.       If judgment is annihilation, why does Jesus say that the day of judgment (the future seat of final judgment) will be more tolerable for some than others? Everyone is receiving the same punishment.

8.       If punishment is annihilation, why does the NT use terms that in the Greek world indicate, not annihilation, but eternal torment? Would not other words be more appropriate, and would not the common words need to be continually redefined and clarified in every passage? Lack of such qualifications in texts usually means that the common definitions apply, not a departure from those definitions. What warrant is there for breaking that rule?

9.       If hell is made for the devil and his angels, and they suffer day and night forever and ever, why is it that humans who go to hell do not do the same? Does annihilationalism beg the question of physicalism when it comes to human beings and the devil and his angels are eternal, but physical human beings do not have a spiritual element and would be destroyed by the fire?

10.  If the fire represents destruction in the lake of fire, why does the fire in hades represent conscious torment, for instance, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus? In other words, if it is more according to the nature of God to punish by annihilation rather than with something more conscious and torturous, why does the temporal punishment not mimic the eternal? Is it not better to suggest that the eternal is an extension of the temporal and that the temporal is a foreshadowing of the eternal? Why not?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Frustrated with Gramcord

My old laptop went out on me, so I bought a new one. Of course, when I bought it, most new laptops came with Windows 7 64-bit Home Edition. Well, I've used Gramcord for years. I've come to rely on it like a third hand. It's become a part of my rhythm in studying the Scripture. It's the only Bible program I have simply because the scholar's bundle had everything I needed.

Well, now it seems that Gramcord is incompatible with my OS and the only solution they came up with is for me to use one of two advanced programs that I can't and don't want to figure out to use that would essentially make me install another OS (i.e. XP) on my system. No thanks.

This is really disappointing and now I need to figure out whether I should go with Logos or Bibleworks, but probably won't be able to afford something equivalent to what I had for quite some time. Bummer.

I've been a walking advertisement for Gramcord for all of these years, but this is just unacceptable. There needs to be a better fix than this. Oh well.

In the meantime, if my statements seem less specific and I don't quote from the original languages or give you a rundown on the way that grammar or words are used in various contexts, you'll know why.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Sentiments Exactly

Steve Hays wrote up a great response concerning the matter of treating our discussions of God as secondary to our relationships with one another. If God is more important and loved by us more than we love ourselves, then one cannot merely blaspheme Him in our eyes and remain in good standing with us. In any case, Steve said it better than I could, so do yourself a great favor and read something I think is profoundly wise today.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Post-Christmas Present for You

This book is free and looks interesting, so take a look. Might be a good book for our and the younger generation's inclination toward "moving forward," which really just means "moving around."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Calvinism Refuted

Finally, an historically accurate, logical, and well exegeted refutation of Calvinism. It would be funny if so many people didn't actually argue this way.

I especially like the bit where he says that Calvinism is "self-righteous." LOL. You can disagree with it, but it is the exact opposite of self-righteousness. That's the whole point of the system. No one is righteous, and therefore, no one is more righteous than another in order to be chosen by God. God must choose out of His own free choice, not something based within the human himself. Oh well. How can you refute such a well-constructed video with great special affects? 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

America's Big Lie: The Separation of Church and State

I'm not going to go on for long here, but instead simply ask one question:

If an atheist can sue because the presence of celebrating God and religion in the public square is offensive to his values, then why can't I sue because the absence of celebrating God and religion in the public square is offensive to mine?

The truth is that Christianity celebrates the presence of God and Christians are commanded to celebrate and exalt Him in every place, public or private, and therefore, the atheist is attempting to dictate what commands, which a Christian believes to be from God, can or cannot be obeyed in the public square. But one either celebrates God's presence or removes that celebration. There is no middle ground, and that is why there is no such thing as the separation of church and state. You can either have the adoption of one philosophical worldview under which all other views either are tolerated (as when Christian ideals were implemented) or under which all other views are obliterated in tyranny (as in atheism, as seen in Russia, China, Cambodia, and now in the West). Which one seems best to you?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Song of Songs Is Pro-Birth Control?

Ya know, evangelicals are busy trying to use the SS to legitimize their use of birth control too. They just usually erect a false dichotomy between the celebration of the sexual act in pleasure and the fact that such sexuality should have a procreative aspect to it.

David Carr, a liberal scholar, however attempts to make another argument here, and as you may have guessed, I think it's an incredibly bad one.

His entire argument? That the SS mentions substances that were sometimes used as contraception in the ancient world, and hence, it's in favor of using birth control in the sexual act. What are these substances? Honey, pomegranate, myrrh, and spikenard.

Now, it should be noted here that Carr doesn't seem to have a clue as to how words actually work. Apparently, since there is sex in the context and these substances were sometimes used for contraceptive purposes in other cultures, that's enough evidence for him to suggest that the SS is pro-birth control.

However, let me note something that I think he doesn't understand.

1. Words are nuanced by their context and the context here is about the sweetness of sex, not the prevention of birth. There is nothing here about the woman using them to prevent conception, but everything about the woman talking about how sweet the sexual relationship is.

2. The imagery of the garden in the ancient Near East, and especially in a sexual context, is employed for the purpose of conveying the fruitfulness of sex (i.e., that it produces life).

3. The mention of the fact that the woman seeks to make a household, displayed in imagery of the oak tree, is certainly a reference to her desire to have a family through the sexual union of her lover.

4. To the more spiritually inclined, the Song is an allegory between God and His Bride, Israel. It displays the passion with which God pursues His people and the passion that God's people should have in pursuing Him. Such a relationship creates life within us and beyond us. But, regardless, the book isn't really about birth control in sex, because it really isn't about sex either.

But let me pursue the idea that because these substances are mentioned that somehow means that they are being used as birth control here.

1. Almost anything was used and tried as a form of contraception. Interesting that a half a million substances and practices that would definitively be viewed as birth control  in the ancient Near East are not mentioned here.

2. If we view these substances in such a way as to see them, then we end up with the same ridiculous arguments you get from laymen when they don't understand that they cannot transfer one context to another foreign context. If, for instance, we employ this methodology of lexicography to honey, apparently Israel is the land of milk and birth control, John the Baptist ate locusts and birth control, and the adulteress's lips drip with birth control (especially the last one since it's in a sexual context). So what attracts the man to the adulteress is her use of birth control rather than the sweetness of her speech (as the context actually indicates explicitly).

If we employ it for pomegranates, then God had the image of birth control hemmed into the priestly ephod (apparently God really likes birth control so much that after multiplying His people to a massive number, He wants to praise birth control), Solomon also depicted them on the pillars of the temple, thus showing that birth control is what calls God's presence.

If we employ it for myrrh, then the wisemen were saying to Mary, "Hey, nice baby, but you should think about controlling your pregnancies from now on." It was used as incense in the temple, which of course means that the priests were administering birth control to God. It was a powerful perfume, and of course, would not be used as perfume in a context where the woman is trying to entice her lover in the Song. It has to be birth control here. It was also used in Egypt to embalm mummies, so if we employ Carr's methodology, we can surmise that she is actually trying to kill her lover and preserve him in her basement to cherish forever. She loves him that much. Creepy, but it must be the same here, as Egyptians used it for that, so why wouldn't it be the same here in a completely foreign context? Makes sense, right?

Spikenard, the last substance mentioned in the article, was also used for perfume. In fact, it was a very costly perfume. But that can't be the reason the Song brings it up. What would a woman wanting to entice her lover to bed need perfume for? It must be birth control. When the woman pours it on Jesus' feet, she's clearly trying to prevent his feet from producing children as well. The Romans used to anoint their heads with it, which of course means that the Romans thought children came from the heads of males and needed it to prevent childbirth.

In all seriousness, read the Song. All of these are in the context of other fruits and spices that are sweet to the taste and smell. They refer to the pleasure of the sexual act with one who is desired. Most of them are euphemisms for sex itself, not just the pleasure of the act. But to bring in such an idea of birth control is just irresponsible for any scholar to use his credentials to pass off this rubbish as genuine scholarship. Carr wants to argue against the context and against the creation principal that the ENTIRE Bible lays down as the basis for its sexual (and non-sexual) ethics; and he does so on what basis? Some substances that are more commonly used for enjoying eating and smelling, and metaphorically (and this is the ironic part) used to convey fertility. That's why it's the land that flows with milk and honey, why pomegranates adorn the priestly dress and sanctuary, and why costly perfumes are used as incense in the temple. God isn't telling the Israelites that they'll all be barren in the land and in His presence (which is the opposite of what He promises them in the law). Give me a break.