Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top 13 List for Christian Debates

This list is mostly a joke. I just wanted to poke a little fun at Christian debate, especially Internet Christian debate. The following is in no particular order (except for the end), and details my (sometimes not so) mild annoyance with these kinds of things. Enjoy!

How to Annoy Me, or How To Beat Me in a Debate

1. Claim my argument is not found in Scripture, especially right after I show a verse where it is found.

2. Pretend your position is the default one to be preferred until proven otherwise.

3. Accuse me of wishing to worship myself or my ideas instead of God.

4. State that I do not believe in the “God of the Bible.”

5. Use slippery slope arguments whenever possible, so that any mild disagreement results in calling Jesus a liar.

6. Accuse me of denying inerrancy.

7. Misstate my position subtly, then defeat that and proclaim my position untenable.

8. Misstate my position obviously, then defeat that and proclaim my position untenable.

9. In the midst of a critique, randomly mention other, unsubstantiated objections. But quickly move on, thus allowing the critique to have the appearance of being warranted.

10. Bring up several objections, allowing me to dispel each of them one by one. After a while, bring up the first one again.

11. Repeat all of these, ad infinitum. Or at least until I get frustrated. Then…

12. Claim I have never dealt substantively with any of the criticisms/I don’t understand your position/I’m not spiritual.

13. Finally, if you happen to be rude during any of this, claim Jesus and Paul did it too.
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  1. lol is that a good wow or a bad wow? Might be bad. :>

  2. Re: number 6 -

    I am at a loss lately to understand a modern position on inerrancy. We could form a naive conception of what this means and say that my particular English translation (NRSV) is the inerrant word of God. But that doesn't seem to be correct.

    Well then we could go to the next level and say that if it were in Greek, then it would be inerrant. But that doesn't seem correct.

    Then we could move back to the earliest Greek manuscripts. But that doesn't seem correct.

    And on and on until we get to this position I've heard about the Bible being inerrant in its original form. Even if this is correct, I see two problems and I'm not sure they can be surmounted. First, we do not (and probably will not ever) have these original documents. Second, we use very precise verses to form doctrines when we are fully recognizing that those verses may not accurately represent the inerrant version.

    What do you think? Do you agree with this original form way to speak about inerrancy? If so, how much relevance does it really have to how people go about their business with their modern Bibles?

  3. Just a clarification - when I say earliest Greek manuscripts, I am refering to ones that we have recovered, not autographs.

  4. Hi Mike. Others have raised such a problem from within the Christian community, and thus have concluded inerrancy is false. To me, I wouldn't say these problems are for inerrancy's existence, but rather our knowledge of what makes up an inerrant text. It's an issue you have highlighted well.

    When we speak of the original autographs or manuscripts, this seems reasonable (if God inspired them as his very words and if God is truth, then no error will be in the text, so long as God's text means to affirm it as truth).

    The two problems you mention are actually related in their answer. I agree we will probably never recover any of the original manuscripts, since they were so well-used (in the case of the New Testament) and because they are so ancient (in the case of the Old). However, the plethora of manuscripts we do have allows us to say, historically speaking, somewhere around 98% of the text (occasionally scholars will admit nearly 99%) is authentic (that is, what was actually written--hence it is not required to believe the text is even true, much less inerrant, in order to accept this view). Now we do not mean by that that 2% of the text is inauthentic, and hence should be discarded. Rather, what we mean is that we have so much evidence as to be historically near certainty with what 98% of the text says. Now, we can be hugely skeptical, and claim that since we can't be certain that this was not one of the great hoaxes of history, that it may be that the original Gospels and epistles were just radically changed within only a few decades in some cases (less than 40 years with the Gospel of John). Note that this issue also does not rely on what should be accepted in the canon, church politics, or even authentic authorship. All it posits is that the particular text as we have it can be reliably construed to be what was written, because of the evidence. And if that is the case, and how it was written was inerrant, we can be sure that what we have is the Word of God.

    The second problem has two solutions. 1. No major doctrine hinges upon a disputed text. Of the two percent, no doctrine is taught largely or exclusively from that part of the text (at least in mainstream or evangelical Christianity). Second, no doctrine should, and no major doctrine is, taught from only one text, disputed or authentic. The reason we have this "rule" is mostly pragmatic. If one reaches an interpretation that is at odds with the rest of the biblical record, or is not found in the rest of the biblical record, it is just hermeneutically more likely that the text is teaching some other interpretation. That is, scant evidence should receive scant belief, in that hermeneutical endeavor.

    So in this case, inerrancy is not some apologetic to be used to convince an unbeliever, but rather a defensible corollary of an inspired text by a perfectly truthful God.

  5. Also, I'd like to add my percentage figures are for the New Testament only. Apologies for any confusion.

  6. Hmm. I'm pretty skeptical of the 98%, which I've heard elsewhere. I'm not expecting us to agree on this, but I kind of like what the Jesus Seminar did with their colored beads. I'd like to see that sort of confidence interval method replicated in a more precise way.

  7. I understand that, and in principle, this is fine. Two things though: 1. The Jesus Seminar had presuppositions that ruled out a priori things such as miracles as being authentic in regards to the text. That is, they not only judged words or sayings of Jesus but even events as well--and both were tainted by their presuppositions.

    Second, the 98% is largely justified through volume and date. In the philosophy of history, earlier and closer to a source is better, and multiple attestation is better. Combine the two and this is (largely) how one comes to historical knowledge of the event. It shocks people, but really there's technically more historical evidence that Paul (or whomever) wrote the words of 1 Corinthians as we have them than there is for most of the events of historical figures lives (or in some cases, even more evidence than their lives themselves!). I am not merely referring to the amount of manuscripts, though that certainly helps. But if we have, say, 5000 manuscripts extant that date from the 8th century to the 12th century, and which also agree concerning a certain reading of a passage, and then suppose we find a fragmented text, from the mid-second century, with an identical reading, that is nearly as sure as one can get!

    Historically speaking, ancient biographers had texts written as many as four centuries after an event, but the major details were and are considered historically reliable. Do not forget the church fathers, in whose writings they quote the vast majority of the New Testament, as we now have it, back in the second and third centuries--in many cases less than one hundred years removed from Jesus, and less than fifty removed from the last surviving apostles.


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