An Interesting Philosophical Conundrum
The Christian band Texas in July is going on tour with numerous other acts to raise money for a website called sexetc.org. According to Bryan Kemper, this website is staunchly pro-abortion despite purporting to present a “balanced view.” In fact, it only provides links to organizations that encourage abortions, and derides pro-life organizations in blanket statements.
Basically, the site promotes values contrary to Christianity and shouldn’t be supported by persons who call themselves Christians. Yet, Texas in July is a very vocal supporter.
A commenter to Kemper’s article, Jordan W., raises an interesting philosophical question:
As if any of you -author included- knows what’s best for the band. It’s pretty clear that this tour is serving the purpose of getting their name out there and promoting One Reality. I love this band, and I am a faithful Christian as well. Who are we to judge what they do? If you want to actually support the band, support them by going to shows.
Need I remind you that August Burns Red went on this exact tour with The Human Abstract a few years back? Cmon now, be supportive and quit your judging.
Kemper didn’t even touch on a philosophical response to what was raised here, but I wish he would have. He talked about the practical implications, responding that Texas in July was actually raising funds for sexetc.org, where the other Christian bands mentioned weren’t specifically doing that. Jordan kept up the “Stop judging!” reply, which isn’t really what Kemper was doing. He was, as he put it, “It is not about being offended, it is about calling out an injustice.”
But, the broader and more philosophical question not pondered is, “Can I do what’s best for me, even if it spits on the face of the God I claim to serve?”
Before I consider that, let’s get one thing out of the way: most of my readership is atheist. Therefore, general Christian living posts like this are met with irrelevant questions I don’t need to answer, rather than considering the issues I’m raising. The question that will come right here is, “Why do you think God is pro-life?” And then the litany of verses that allegedly “prove” God is pro-choice will follow, along with the asinine “God is the most prolific abortionist of all–look at all the miscarriages!” argument.
Let me stamp that out right now. This is primarily meant to be considered by Christians. Therefore, I don’t need to prove that God is pro-life, since my audience for this post already believes that. I don’t need to address the issue of miscarriages making God an abortionist, because in our secret enclaves hidden from atheist eyes, we laugh at the stupid oozing off of that statement.
The point: if you’re a professing Christian, your frame of reference starts at God. Which means that, if you’re a Christian band, then it is God who blessed you with your talent. You have chosen to use that talent for spreading the gospel, and God blesses your efforts with recognition and a recording contract from a major agency–which he has done for Texas in July.
Which brings us to the interesting part of this philosophical conundrum: If you purport to believe, as you proclaim, that God is the moral lawgiver, then can you reasonably support something that he is diametrically opposed to as a career move? He has ultimately blessed you with the success that you enjoy, so you repay that, how? By encouraging teens to utilize the anti-Christian worldview resources this website places at their fingertips, a website that offers no Christian insight to the issues of sex, birth control, and abortion?
Let’s illustrate. In the Terminator series, humans built Skynet and endows him with control of the planet’s technology. Skynet, in turn, rebels against us and destroys cities and subjugates humans under his control. I think that we register a double betrayal when we see such things, as well as a certain irony. We gave life to Skynet, and he ultimately uses the power and intellect we gave it against us.
Or, a more real-life illustration is treason. The government trusts someone (the traitor) with information or physical resources that the traitor then gives or sells to a foreign power. The information or resources are used against the United States. It’s reprehensible to even think a person would do that against his own country!
Are we starting to see the parallels?
God gave us talents and abilities. If we call ourselves Christians, then we ought to use those talents and abilities in his service, in submission to him. What Texas in July is doing here is treason–taking what is rightfully God’s and using it contrary to his glory. This is a lot more serious than many people want to admit.
Posted on May 14, 2011, in Bible Thoughts, God, Heresy, Morality, Pro-Life Issues, Sin and tagged abortion, Bryan Kemper, education, sexetc.org, treason. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.
you mention “the Christian perspective on X”.
Lets look at an example with more concrete boundaries – “the Catholic Church perspective on condoms”.
If we look at the catholic church’s policy statements, the catholic church is opposed to the use of condoms. However, the catholic church is a group of people, not a building. And 85%(guess) of that group of people are not opposed to the use of condoms. So we could also say that the catholic church is not opposed to the use of condoms.
I guess this is a round-about way of saying that:
When you (Christian) say that Yahweh is opposed to X, so other Christians should not support X, another Christian can just as easily say: “No, Yahweh is OK with X, so I will continue”.
And there is no way to settle the dispute over whether Yahwah approves or disapproves of X, so these exhortations will never cease.
This is what you’re doing:
You are separating Christians into individuals for the sake of your argument. I don’t have time to look, but I’m pretty sure I could find an example of you lumping all Christians together for the sake of another argument. In other words, we are divided when it suits you, but united when it suits you.
I’m not falling for that. The Catholic Church is the sum of its teachings. Its official position is that condom use is sinful. Do all faithful Catholics believe that? No, of course not. Most believe that the Church is being archaic and stiff on that issue. But that doesn’t change the official teaching, does it?
The same thing with what I’m saying here. Officially, all human life (including the fetus) is sacred and prematurely ending the life of said fetus to further one’s own ends is murder. Therefore, the official Christian perspective is pro-life, regardless of how individual Christians try to rationalize or argue otherwise.
And all of that is completely irrelevant to my point, which is you can’t bite the hand that feeds you. It’s treason. You are severely distracting from that issue with these red herrings. Stop it.
you’re right, the idea behind the condom example (member survey vs official policy) is tangential. That idea has been interesting to me recently.
The main point is that these exhortations (Yahweh disapproves of X, so don’t do X) are so easy for the target to avoid. The target can use a different interpretation of the bible, conviction of the holy spirit, discernment, outright dismissal, avoidance, weasel words, prayer, my priest/pastor says X, conflicting bible verses, etc, etc, etc.
And there is no method to resolve the disagreement.
Boz, you say that there is no way to resolve a disagreement on what God says. You are wrong, now let me tell you why.
Mostly, it boils down to interpretation of Scripture. You cannot show a single verse of the Bible to be in genuine conflict with another verse. Despite many, many people claiming this is the case, not a single one has been able to satisfactorily demonstrate a single contradiction in the Bible. God doesn’t contradict himself. So, on that note, the Holy Spirit isn’t going to convict someone of something that contradicts God’s established, objective word in the Bible. Likewise, discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit and won’t screen out the words of the Lord. A genuine answer to a prayer for wisdom won’t yield an answer contrary to Scripture, and discernment (if you have that gift) helps you see the will of God in the subjective.
If someone is convicted of something that is contrary to the Bible, it isn’t by the Holy Spirit that he is convicted, no matter what he says.
Priests and pastors are fallible individuals and thus my response to the condom example stands for this, too.
If a person resorts to outright dismissal, avoidance, or weasel words, then those tactics speak for themselves.
So it all comes down to interpretation of Scripture. Speaking of outright dismissal or avoidance, I already told you how to resolve a dispute on interpretation:
In relation to interpretation, which hermeneutic shoule we use?
I am reading you saying: “I use hermeneutic A to conclude from the bible that X is true”.
And then another christian from another sect says: “I use hermeneutic B to conclude from the bible that X is false”.
And then another christian from another sect says: “I use hermeneutic C to conclude from the bible that X cannot be decided”.
And then another christian from another sect says: “I use hermeneutic D to conclude from the bible that X is irrelevant”.
And then there is hermeneutic E, F, G, H, etc.
This is evidenced by different christian groups using the bible to arrive at a variety of positions on topic X. And each group is (in their opinion), using their method to approach the bible fairly, in context, as the author intended, consistently, honestly, etc.
So why should an outsider accept the conclusion from your hermeneutic, when the christian down the road is equally persuasive and passionate in using a different hermeneutic to reach different conclusions?
And suppose we manage to agree to use hermeneutic G. There will still likely be unresolvable disagreements. This is evidenced by the variety of conclusions reached by biblical literalists.
getting back to the OP, the target of your urging can simply say: “That’s fine for you to believe X, but I use hermeneutic B to conclude that X is not true”.
So, Boz, you’re just going to repeat the argument refuted by both Indy David and me.
It left me to wonder why you ignored me the first time I explained this, but hiccuped the same argument unchanged the second time I explained this to you. Let’s summarize my position first, then get to why I think you didn’t try this before.
The first time we had this discussion was over a specific Bible passage, 1 Corinthians 1:18. DaGoodS made the passage out to say that Christians shouldn’t listen to common sense. However, I showed the passage to mean something different. You asked why you should believe me over DaGoodS, and I explained that I followed the entire argument for almost 2 chapters instead of isolating a lonely verse. The surrounding context made it clear what Paul was trying to say, and it was nearly the opposite of DaGoodS’s point.
I agree with you that people can isolate passages out of context to say virtually whatever they’d like. I’m advocating an hermeneutic that lets you follow the argument from start to finish, to see if that verse is really saying what you say it does. For example, Psalm 14:1b says, “There is no God!” Does that mean that the Bible proves that there is no God? Nope; read the entire Psalm to see why. You’re not answering the point that there is a right and a wrong hermeneutic, and that you can discover the true meaning of the passage by approaching it with a correct hermeneutic and pay mind to the documentary and cultural context of the entire passage. You’re merely pointing out something peripheral that I’m not denying.
Which leaves us with the question of why you didn’t do this the first time. Because the first time I shut down that option by quoting 5 Bible commentaries that agreed with my position, all utilizing different approaches to the text than I did! Two of them were from Wesley and Calvin, bitter theological opponents who agreed with my analysis but for different reasons.
This kills your argument. And Bart Ehrman’s body of work. Orthodox is orthodox because the majority of commentators agree with a specific position on the meaning of a text, regardless if they use A, B, C, D, E, F, or G method of arriving at said position. Heresy is that because it defies the orthodox interpretation of the text. As Darrel Bock put it, “History is written by the winners. But sometimes the winners deserved to win!”
Boz, let me try a different argument with you. First, I am quite sure that Yahweh quite clearly knows those things of which he approves or disapproves. A putative Christian may not be as clear, but this is not the point. When a woman asked Lincoln whether he thought God was on the Union’s side, Lincoln reproved the question. He told her that the real question was whether we stood on God’s side. Perhaps this is why you see no way to resolve issues of what pleases or displeases God.
As long as we approach moral issues like Philadelphia lawyers, then we are bound to look at scripture as a source of self-justification. A Christian is told to seek God’s will with sincere devotion and clear thinking. When we seek to justify ourselves, then any defense will do.
Let me give you an example. You started off this line of comment by writing that the Catholic Church opposes condoms, yet 85% (your guess) of Catholics in general accept their use without judgment. You then conclude that, in a sense, the Catholic church approves of condom use.
Why you think that this point supports your contention that Christian moral theory is simply beyond resolution puzzles me. It is your point that is faulty, not Christian moral theory. Your contention is a fallacy of material relevance called division-composition, and you commit both sides of the fallacy.
Here is how the fallacy works. One contends that a quality of a whole must be shared by each of its parts. (Example: Ice cream is sweet. Salt is a part of ice cream. Therefore salt must be sweet) Or one contends that a quality exhibited by a part must be exhibited by the whole of which it is a part. (Example: Salt is exhibits a tangy bitterness. Ice cream contains salt. Therefore, ice cream must exhibit a tangy bitterness.)
You state the Catholic doctrinal opposition to condoms and then wonder coyly why many Catholics (sic 85%) disagree, as if it is reasonable to expect that each member of the Catholic Church should hold the same opinion. This is the fallacy of division. You then turn this around to claim that the quality of an assumed Catholic majority invalidates Catholic doctrine. This is the fallacy of composition.
I am a Christian, and I don’t mind accepting challenges from those who differ in their beliefs. But I do expect some discipline of thought. You rightly observe that one is criticized for violating God’s moral law that the response is typically a defensive, self-justifying one. And what precisely do you expect? This is a typical behavior in response to criticism. It’s not simply a Christian behavior. If you don’t believe that, then read some history of science that includes descriptions of personal interactions among scientific opponents.
Now, I agree with Cory. The band in question, I believe, is demonstrating bad judgment. That is my best evaluation. And I would urge the band to seek God’s will, seeking to stand with God on this issue. But whatever they decide to do, God still understands his own mind.
Will the issue be determined eventually? As we face issues of life, those who seek God’s face will invariably find it. You would have us to believe that knowing the good that we should do is so terribly difficult. That fact is, the hard thing typically about the the good is actually doing it. When we give an account of ourselves before God, the issue will then be quite clear. Each member of the band will understand the import of his/her decision in this matter. But I don’t have to judge the issue. God will do that. I can only give my best understanding to persuade. And I will stand responsible for that, as will you.
Now as to the difficulties of Christian moral theory, let me refer you to Peter Kreeft, a philosopher at Boston University. Look up his website. He is a Christian and a Catholic. He has lectures available on that page about moral theory that give you a much deeper grasp of Christian moral reasoning.
And one final point: Please take a course in logic before you try to argue academically. It will enable you to dispute a point of view more fairly.
Are you saying that there is only one correct hermeneutic method?
Are you saying that all(most?) approaches to hermeunetics lead to the same conclusion?
If so, how do these two assertions fit with the observation that there are may different denominations and sects, which have varying beliefs?
There may be more than one correct method. You can see that theological opponents like Wesley and Calvin, who undoubtedly approached the Bible in very different ways and concluded opposite theologies, still consistently interpreted passages applying to wisdom and morality exactly the same.
Consistent hermeneutics, even when approached from varying theologies, will lead to the same conclusions, yes. The trick is that it is possible to show some approaches to be faulty, as I demonstrated to you the last time we did this.
The varying beliefs rarely apply to ethics. For example, a Calvinist and an Arminian will argue over whether man or God has the final arbitration in who goes to heaven. The Arminian holds that man’s free will means that he decides, while the Calvinist holds that God’s eternal decree makes it God’s choice. But neither will disagree on murder or theft. Both conclude the same when faced with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The polarizing of Christianity over same-sex marriage is a fun counterexample, but it actually strengthens my point. In this article, I address many of the arguments of those who believe that homosexuality is acceptable and conclude that none of them hold water. To the extent that the passages of Scripture are addressed by the pro-homosexual Christians, the hermeneutic they apply is inconsistent and therefore faulty.
Whenever people can get something out of Scripture that is contrary to God’s Law, it can be clearly demonstrated that the hermeneutic is faulty. They are performing eisegesis–reading into the text what isn’t there. Conversely, a proper and consistent hermeneutic will perform exegesis–reading out of the text what is actually being said.
Go ahead and try to find a variant or controversial belief among Christians where two people, using proper and consistent hermeneutics, arrive at contrary conclusions. I will show you that one of the two is using eisegesis.
Boz, I find these comments astounding. You seem to be arguing that the true meaning of a scriptural passage simply can’t be known. Why? Because different people interpreting the same passage come to different conclusions about the meaning. Then you point to different sects maintaining different beliefs as irrefutable proof of you position.
So let me see:
1. If the true meaning of scripture could be known through proper interpretation, then Christian sects would exhibit a uniformity of belief. [We will symbolize this proposition with “S implies B”.]
2. It is false that such uniformity of belief is observed. [We will symbolize this proposition as “not B”.]
3. Therefore, the true meaning of scripture cannot be known through proper interpretation. [We will symbolize this proposition as “not S”.]
This results in the following argument:
1. S implies B
2. not B
3. Therefore, not S
I hate to sound like a broken record, but you need a couse in logic. Your argument simply is not valid. In this case, you commit the formal fallacy called “Affirming the Consequent”. So even if you claim happens to be true logically, the argument you present fails to prove it.
Why do Christians come to different interpretations about the meaning of scripture? For the same reason attorneys come to differing interpretations of the law, or scientist offer different interpretations of empirical facts. Such differences simply do not demonstrate that there is no truth to know or that we should not use the most rational techniques to ascertain it.
But let’s extend you objection to the ability to interpret scripture to other areas. Certainly you must allow for that. Do you think that because generals may disagree about strategy that the question of which to use cannot be answered? Do you believe that scientists who disagree over competing theories ought to abandon the scientific method because they cannot come to the same conclusion?
In fact, a popular modern approach to epistemology takes that view—Post Modernism. This philosophy affirms that there are no essential truths—factual or moral. Those who claim that such truths actually exist are simply attempting to manipulate and control others. And there is a method of reading all texts—not simply the Bible–that goes along with this view. It’s called “Deconstructualism”. According to this method, the passage has nothing to do with the author’s intent; instead, the meaning of what that author has written is constructed by the reader, and that become the meaning of the passage for that particular reader. In this view, truth in any logical sense simply evaporates, and morality becomes little more than class struggle. (The ideas summarized above would take too much time to develop, but if you are interested, research Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault.)
This philosophy bristles at any notion of an overarching narrative that explains creation and man’s purpose within it. These must be rejected out of hand, so Christianity in not even an option. I point this out because the presuppositions held within Post Modern thinking force conclusions that reject modern science, the possibility of political theory, the possibility of religious truth, and even ordinary language understanding. But they seem quite consistent with the argument you wish to raise against the systematic interpretation of scriptural texts.
It does not surprise me that Christians disagree about scriptural interpretation. Frequently the cause is not the method of interpretation but the differing presuppositions, frequently unexpressed, that different interpreters hold and impose upon their interpretative methods. If one disbelieves the historicity of scripture, then one will dismiss Jonah’s experience or regard the exploits of Joshua or David as mythical stories used to express a spiritual understanding or national pride. These debates rage even now in some theological circles. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. It happens in all branches of learning.
But to conclude, as you seem to do, that such debates about the meaning of scripture actually refutes the claim that such truth exists and can be known seems totally irrational. If your view is true, it proves too much. The same criticism could be applied to all arts and sciences, for there, too, disagreements abound, even among scholars who employ the same method. Consequently, you won’t simply give up the possibility of truthful interpretation of the Bible. The wider application of your view turns knowledge in all disciplines of human knowledge into hamburger. You will have to do without truth altogether.
Now that may be OK with you. But if it is, why are you attempting to use the tools of rational argument to prove the point? And if rational argument is the tool you wish to use, then please come up with something better than a formal fallacy. That proves nothing.