Friday, October 10, 2008

Faith & Reason - They Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Hank Hanegraff, President and CEO of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast opined:

"Punmeister Bill Maher in his new mockumentary Religulous, contends that Christianity "stops people from thinking" and that people who hold to the authority of Scripture have nothing but "blind faith." In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Ultimately what is blind and bigoted is the erection of an imaginary dichotomy between faith and reason.
In an age in which internet fallacies travel halfway around the world before truth has had a chance to put its boots on, it is ever more crucial to know what you believe and why you believe it." (emphasis added)

When I was in college, I was repulsed by all things religious and any person of faith because I thought that faith and reason were mutually exclusive. I basically thought that anyone who actually believed the Bible was half-witted.

However, I was a serious seeker of truth. I finally met a christian capable of explaining to me exactly what he believed and why. He was able to demonstrate to me that the Bible had to be divine rather than human in origin. Really think about this, how is it possible for forty different authors to write over a span of 1,600 years, on three continents, in three languages, on hundreds of subjects — yet, without contradiction — and with one central storyline, God’s redemption of mankind? Ok, so I know that someone is going to leave a comment asserting that the Bible does contradict itself. So in true Conservative Black Woman fashion -- BRING IT ON ..... I will have an answer!

17 comments:

Darren said...

Not to start a huge debate (especially since I'm going to bed), but I'd like to make a couple of assertions:
1) cold-blooded murder/rape/torture is wrong
2) 2 + 2 = 4

Now, those are two assertions that we know to be true. The first is fundamental, universal morality, and the second is logic/math. The problem for those who believe in an omnipotent god is that god cannot make those statements false. Even if he could screw with the laws of physics so gravity reversed and the son turned into a triangle, he could not make murder/rape/torture right, and he could not make 2+2 equal anything but 4. Thus, omnipotence (and therefore God) is logically impossible.

Darren said...

Oops...I meant "sun"

Conservative Black Woman said...

@Darren~

God is omnipotent or all-powerful. This should be understood to mean that God can do anything that is (a) logically possibly and (B) consistent with being a personal, incorporeal, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, wholly perfect, and necessary Creator

(a) It is not logical that "universal morality" be turned on its head. Come on Darren what are you smoking my friend?

(b) These attributes are not limitations of God's power, but perfection!!!! They are attributes at their infinitely highest level, which are essential to God's nature. For example, since God is perfect, He cannot sin; because He is personal, He is incapable of making Himself impersonal; because He is omniscient, He cannot forget. Since God is a perfect it is necessarily the case that He is incapable of acting in a less than perfect way — which would include murder, rape, torture ceasing to exist, and being ignorant.

God can only do what is logically possible and consistent with His nature precisely because he is
God!!!

Are you telling me Darren that you couldn't figure that out?

Darren said...

Wow. I'm not so sure you're helping your case by using circular reasoning (which of course is a logical fallacy).

Also, your Bible directly contradicts the idea that God could not commit murder, since did so on a regular basis in the Old Testament, often for awful reasons like not worshiping him. If that's not the very definition of evil, I don't know what is.

Conservative Black Woman said...

Darren~

Moral law is rooted in God's good and loving nature and it is impossible (illogical) for God to will something not in accordance with His nature like reversing moral law. How is that a logical fallacy or a circular argument?

Regarding your comment that "your Bible directly contradicts the idea that God could not commit murder, since did so on a regular basis in the Old Testament, often for awful reasons like not worshiping him. If that's not the very definition of evil, I don't know what is."

It is wrong for man to kill innocent people, but it is not necessarily wrong for God. It you hold that God is the Giver of life (as I do) then life is His to take as he wills. Secondly we must remember that God is just and it would be wrong to assume that those whose lives he took were innocent. In fact, the Bible says that the Canannites were so guilty that the land "vomited" them out. Even children are sinful at birth because we are conceived in sin and have a sin nature part of our DNA (theorhetically speaking). Actually Ps. 51:5 says "Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me." The Bible also says that the wages of sin are death. So you make not like it (because actually I don't) but there is no contradiction. Please allow me to reinterate lest I am accused of logical fallacy.

(a) God is the Giver of Life. Life is His to take if he pleases.

(b)Man has a sinful nature as he was conceived in sin and born into sin. The wages of sin are death (bibically, speaking)

(c)God's unchangeably just nature is the standard of Justice and it is presumptuous of us the created beings to judge God the Creator of life.

oh, yes, lastly two statements are said to contradict if the truth of one of the statements negates the truth of the other. God being a just God does not negate the fact that He is a loving God.

krogers said...

Here's a good election video, even if you're not Catholic www.CatholicVote.com

Darren said...

CBW, your reasoning is utterly faulty. You can't argue for the existence of your deity based on teachings from a book ABOUT that deity. You have to use external logical reasoning if you want to be taken seriously. Just replace "God" with Flying Spaghetti Monster or magical talking pencil in your above arguments and see if it makes any sense.

Conservative Black Woman said...

Well, Darren I have given it my best shot. I guess there is nothing further I can add since you deem my reasoning to be utterly irrational. All the best to you and your "rational" world devoid of substance and meaning since you were not created but are just a random byproduct of random forces of nature which is a byproduct of premordial ooze. (yeah, that's utterly rational reasoning -- for a twisted and depraved mind I suppose...lol)

Zimri said...

CBW - "Really think about this, how is it possible for forty different authors to write over a span of 1,600 years, on three continents, in three languages, on hundreds of subjects — yet, without contradiction — and with one central storyline, God’s redemption of mankind?"

The Bible is full of contradictions where it comes to "God's redemption of mankind". It doesn't even have a central storyline. You ARE aware that "the" Bible is organised differently, even with different books, by Jews and the various Christian sects... right?

The books were chosen and edited toward the central storyline - first by Jews and then by Christians, each with their own idea of what "God's redemption of mankind" meant. As a result, the Jewish Tanakh ends with the restoration of Israel; the Christian Old Testament ends with a series of prophetic speeches which segue into John the Baptist.

CBW, you're not going to get converts to Christianity with this argument. You're not even trying; you're arguing for Protestant biblical literalism, which is not the same as Christianity.

darren - I don't have a problem with God being subject to the laws of mathematics. Mathematical laws are not PHYSICAL laws. We Christians are not Pythagoreans who confuse math with physics. So, "omnipotence" is omnipotence over this universe.

Zimri said...

CBW - "Well, Darren I have given it my best shot. I guess there is nothing further I can add since you deem my reasoning to be utterly irrational. All the best to you and your "rational" world devoid of substance and meaning since you were not created but are just a random byproduct of random forces of nature which is a byproduct of premordial ooze. "

If you felt insulted by darren's pointing out that you can't prove the Bible is 100% factually correct by... pointing to the Bible, then all I can say is "I'm sorry you feel that way".

Circular logic doesn't work. It makes unbelievers think that Christianity is irrational, and forces them to look for other religions. Personally, I think Christianity IS rational, and beautiful, and I believe in it myself; but I had to jettison Biblical *literalism* to do it. (Which is *not* to jettison the *Bible*.)

Conservative Black Woman said...

@Zimri I didn't feel insulted that Darren doesn't believe that I can prove that the bible is 100% accurate because in point of fact I can not. But what I do know is true is that there are volumes of evidence that one could use to determine the reliablity of Scripture. First, it should be noted that the New Testament has stronger manuscript support than any other work of classical literature—
including Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, and Tacitus. There are
presently more than 5000 copies of Greek manuscripts in existence
and as many as 20,000 more translations in such languages as Latin,
Coptic, and Syriac. The earliest manuscript fragments can be dated
to within a hundred years after Christ’s death and resurrection.
The accumulation of fragments is now so large that one can piece
together most of the New Testament from fragments that are dated
within two centuries of Christ’s death and resurrection. This is
amazing when you consider that only seven manuscript copies
of Plato’s Dialogues are in existence—and there is a 1,300-year
gap which separates the earliest copy (eighth century A.D.) from
the original writing (fifth century B.C.). Similarly, there are only
650 copies of Homer’s Iliad (the bible of the ancient Greeks) in
existence—and there is a 1000-year gap which separates the earliest
copy (second century A.D.) from the original writing (eighth century
B.C.)

Aside from the manuscript evidence there is also archeological evidence which I don't have time to expound upon right now.

We are just going to have to agree to disagree regarding what "true Christianity" is because I am placing my bets on the given canon of scripture which have studied and devoured for the last 14 years.

I will also submit to you that there are passages in the scriptures which appear to contradict each other but (and this was my original premise) there are answers for all of those supposed contridictions.

As far as my trying to convert individuals to christianity with circular arguments is concerned I maintain that my arguments have been cogent, logic and concise and anything but circular. But when one's mind is already made up and they are not open to shifting paradigms it follows that they throw out preposterous accusations such as "utterly faulty" reasoning. I have many faulty faculties but assure you my reasoning skills are not one of them. So basically that's what I found insulting by Darren.

Zimri said...

The manuscript evidence for the Bible really isn't that good. All it proves is that people started to take note and copy it after the fact.

If I took the Book of Mormon into a Kinko's and xeroxed it a few trillion times, then by your logic I should be able to say that the Book of Mormon has been attested more times than, say, the book of Obadiah. And I'd be wrong, because my copy was so clearly after the fact. Even honest Mormons would point and laugh at me for that stunt.

The hundreds of mediaeval and late-Roman copyists were the Kinko's of their day. They produced codex after codex of copies, all centuries after the books were written. The Gospel of Mark, to provide one example, is first directly attested 200 AD. (We know it is earlier mainly because the Gospel of Matthew used it.) Remember that the "past is another country". To a Christian of 150 AD, the Gospel of Mark was a "lost gospel", rarely copied, and hard to find. It rejoined the canon later on.

(Hanegraaff knows all this of course. I've seen this lame argument, and seen THROUGH it, since 1995. On a personal level it annoys me to see this repeated, year after year.)

Getting us back onto topic, most of these copies you cite are not copies of the whole canon of scripture. A lot of them are copies of single books, or include books which didn't make it to the New Testament. The Codex Sinaiticus is complete - TOO complete, as it also has the Epistle of Barnabas. ALL of these copies, until Jerome, assume that the Old Testament included portions of the apocrypha and the Book of Enoch (still in the Ethiopic tradition).

Also, the "storyline" of redemption as envisaged by Mark 1-16:8 (the Son of Man arriving in glory to judge the earth) was opposite from that by John 1-20 (the elect sojourners in this world to return to eternal light). There is good evidence that Mark (and John 21) came about to absolve Saint Peter from attacks which are preserved in John 1-20. How and why they got reconciled is an interesting story in itself; I suspect that Tatian led the way with his Diatesseron harmony of the gospels, but that is speculation on my part. At any rate the Christians were stuck with two gospels other than Luke-Acts and Matthew, couldn't quite manage to keep them away, and so accepted them.

(Hanegraaff might not know all THAT, but the internal bickering among Jews and then Christians and, more dangerously, Muslims is well understood among biblical scholars.)

Did you mean it when you said that "faith and reason are not mutually exclusive"? I hope you did. You do claim to have read up on it for 14 years. I, coincidentally, have ALSO been reading (and writing) on this topic as a hobby for 14 years (although only 12 of them are on my site). I should like to see some evidence of original research in this, from you; not just quotes from silly men like Hanegraaff ("Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, and Tacitus").

Conservative Black Woman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Conservative Black Woman said...

@Zimri you wrote:"(Hanegraaff knows all this of course. I've seen this lame argument, and seen THROUGH it, since 1995. On a personal level it annoys me to see this repeated, year after year.)

Please share with me then Zimri which bible scholars I should be reading other than "silly men" like Hank Hanegraaf, R.C Sproul, Josh McDowell, Ron Rhodes and Ravi Zacharias?

These are the guys who have helped me through my unbelief. Who helped you through yours? If you have original scholarship then, please share.

Zimri said...

Ooh. That last question made me sweat...

The underlying issue here is in which way you wish to be guided. And I already know you don't wish to be guided into atheism. I don't blame you. I was there too and I can't live a life without meaning. Our pastor told us that "logos" - the Word - also meant "meaning" and "purpose" personified.

I got a lot of my information in the 1990s from agnostics, because ethically we are forced to get our information from unbelievers. It would be Bad to get information about, say, genetics from Lysenko; or (in the olden days) about astrophysics from Ptolemy's academy. It would be similarly Bad to get information about Christianity from Islam - or, from a hater like Chris Hitchens. But from agnostics, they are not trying to sell a competing product. They are (ideally) trying to do the same research you would ALSO want them to do on Islam.

Keeping your faith in Jesus after all that is hard. I got mine back but I had to go through a non-literalist church. Mine happened to be Catholic; but an Orthodox denomination could also work (I'd mentioned the Ethiopians; we could also talk Greek, or Egyptian, or Syrian). There are predominantly-black and also diverse Catholic churches. Episcopalian churches which have aligned themselves with African bishoprics are also conservative.

I learnt Greek and Latin, so in some ways my rants may have been unfair :^( That's not easy for people to pick up. Unfortunately that's what you end up having to do when you are trying to dig into WHY people say "Justin Martyr used a gospel harmony" or "Matthew is based on Mark".

The best place to start might be Ferguson's "The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity". I also got a lot out of Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels (but your eyes will cross and glaze over if your Greek is rusty).

I would not touch the authors you mentioned with the proverbial ten foot pole. MacDowell in particular got me into this subject - until I realised he was "lying in ev'ry word". They are capitalising off of ignorance, and are oft refuted on the 'web.

None of this can tell you how to live your life with an "audience of One", of course. Mind you, MacDowell can't do that either. What it CAN do, is to help you answer trolls like me.

Zimri said...

Who helped me through my unbelief... I only have a Catholic answer to that one I'm afraid!

IMAO.us asked in 2005 the question "if you wanted Jesus but he couldn't make it, who should take his place" - the answer, at the time, was John Paul II. (And then he went Protestant...) Also, there were the nurses at Saint Dominic who took care of my grandparents, one of whom was ardently anti Catholic and the other was a Jew. Lastly I went into the church in 13 January (feast of the Baptist) and was surprised by the Lord's mercy and love.

There's also the Tradition, and the idea of "communion of saints", which appeal to me but may not appeal to you.

Conservative Black Woman said...

Zimri~Thank you I will find a copy of Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels but I'm afraid I will have to find an english version because I don't know how to read,write or speak greek.

I don't consider you a Troll (trolls are mean and obnoxious) I would be interested in speaking with you further so please do not hesitate to contact me personally via email (see profile page). I can't quite get a handle on exactly what you believe and I'm interested in learning more.