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Countering anti-biblical arguments

Postby Maxwell » Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:42 pm

How do you counter the most common anti Biblical arguments?

As I am new to learning about how to understand the case for Christian ethics and the case for an existence of heaven beyond this one and the Bible's validity, I was wondering how the following arguments against it could be countered.

If you are able to answer just one or two of the four, that would be totally fine too. Addressing any one, two, three or four of these arguments would be good to see here.

So if you could take any 1 or 2 or so of these 5 and address it, it would be great. And stupendous if you could address 3 or more of them.

That the Bible and Christian ethics teach us slavery, the kind where people are kidnapped and forced into slavery, is a positive good. As seen here: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_Bible

That the afterlife does not exist, as suggested here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-the-ldquo-you-rdquo-in-an-afterlife-wouldnt-really-be-you/%20https://samharris.org/the-mystery-of-consciousness/

That the Bible contributed nothing to modern development and that Europe was a region of nothing but terror, rape and pillage before Judeo Christian ethics were castrated by the Enlightenment, basically, that the Enlightenment gets 100 % of the credit for modern Western Civ and Judeo Christianity gets 0 %.

That the concept of heaven is incompatible with modern understandings of the universe.

How do you address each of these contentions that are used to show Christianity is wrong and should be discarded?
Maxwell
 

Re: Countering anti-biblical arguments

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jan 28, 2019 1:06 pm

PART 1: SLAVERY

The foundation of slavery as a moral practice rests on the concept of the fundamental inequality of human beings, and that it is both right and good to treat some people as less than human. From the outset, I can say with confidence that the Bible teaches no such thing. The Bible teaches that all humans are made in the image of God and endowed with the dignity that status confers. It teaches that all humans are endowed with this inalienable sanctity of incalculable worth and dignity. As such, owning another human being and treating them like property is contrary to the value God has made inherent in every individual of the human race.

Dr. Craig Blomberg rightly assures us that "the most important matter is [in what the Bible] actually says, and there is not a single text anywhere in the Bible that commands slavery."

Words change in their meaning through the eras. Slavery in the ancient world didn't mean what slavery means to us. With this accusation we need to distinguish between what we as moderns mean by "slavery" and what the ancients meant by slavery. Dr. Paul Wright, the president of Jerusalem University College, says, "When we think of slavery, the first thing that comes to mind is either slavery in the pre-Civil War U.S. or slavery as we hear it in places of the modern Middle East (via ISIS or such groups).

"The textual evidence that we have for slavery in the ancient world (—by this I mean the ancient Near East, the context in which ancient Israel arose, not ancient Rome) shows by and large a different kind of 'institution' (that's not the right word to use). For this reason, the Hebrew word, eved, is better translated 'servant.' The overall textual evidence from the ancient Near East shows that slaves had certain rights—they could own property, for instance, or determine inheritance. Or they could become free, as the Bible allows, given certain circumstances. They were typically not bought and sold, opposite as the case in the medieval and modern worlds. 'Forced Labor,' or the corvée, is a more complicated issue, essentially a tax on person by the government for a certain period of time (e.g., 1 Kings 9:15). Note that the servants that Israel is allowed to take from among the foreigners are able to receive inheritance from their 'owner' (Lev. 25:46).

"The larger question is to what extent the Bible participates in the world of the ancient Near East, and to what extent it expresses a set of ethical standards which at the same time presuppose it yet works to change it. There’s a whole lot of middle ground, actually. This is what makes an understanding of the context of that day so vitally important as a place to start.”

Dr. Wright continues that "there is no evidence of chattel slavery in the ancient Near East. While slavery was known in many cultures there, the type of slavery was debt-slavery, punishment for crime, enslavement of prisoners of war, child abandonment, and the birth of slave children to slaves."

Even about Leviticus 25.46 ("You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life") Jacob Milgrom says: "The law merely indicates that the jubilee doesn't apply to non-Israelite slaves. 'It does not imply that the slave is a piece of property at the mercy of his master' (Mendelsohn 1962:388)."

"Another indication that slaves were not simply viewed as property to be treated however the master wished can be seen in the fact that slaves sometimes shared rights of inheritance (Genesis 15.2-3), where Abraham’s servant will inherit his property if Abraham dies childless, and Genesis 30.1-13, where the sons of Leah's slaves become equal heirs with the sons of Leah and Rachel in the family of Jacob.”

"Slavery and indentured servitude in Scripture involved ownership of a person's labor, not ownership of the person. Any approach to slavery that implies one person can legitimately own another is contrary to Scripture because it denies the humanity of the slave."

And lastly, there is absolutely no extrabiblical data on any slaves in Israel. The private and public documents of the ancient Near East from 3000 BC to the times of the New Testament are full of references to the practice of slavery in the parallel cultures, but nothing from Israel. Cole agrees and says that "slavery in Israel was rural, domestic, and small scale. There were no 'slave pens' of imperial Rome, or the racial subjugation of colonial America." What seems likely is that slavery hardly existed in ancient Israel.

So let me try to pull this together for you.

* There was no such thing as chattel slavery in the ancient world. That didn't happen until the Greco-Roman era, and then just as tragically in the colonial West. That is not what the Bible means by "slavery."
* Most "slaves" of the ancient world were debt slaves or corvee laborers. Debt slaves were more like what we call employees now (working every day to pay off our debts); corvee slaves were employees of the government, much like FDR's CCC.
* The laws in Exodus and Leviticus about slaves are casuistic law (case law). They speak of hypothetical situations to guide judges; we cannot assume anything about them is an actual historical reality.
* There is no extrabiblical data on slaves in Israel. From all our records, it seems altogether likely that slavery hardly existed in ancient Israel, and certainly not chattel slavery.

PART 2: the afterlife does not exist

1. Language is effective only if it is endowed with meaning. It can only be understood as we assign meaning to otherwise meaningless sounds or symbols. Not only do individual words have abstract meaning, but also the sequences and combinations of words can yield greater meanings.
2. Meaning is non-material; it is neither matter nor energy. The essence of meaning is entirely distinct from both energy and matter. Therefore linguistic expressions are also non-material. A bodily thing such as a dog is different from the word “dog”.
3. Language therefore demands a non-material source, since it is impossible that the meaning of language has a material cause. Material causes are incapable of generating non-material effects. The laws of chemistry and physics offer no clue whatsoever that matter can assign meaning or otherwise deal with meaning at even the most rudimentary level. Atoms cannot assign meaning to meaningless symbols to form a vocabulary or to give meaning to vocabulary.
A. Mathematics is a language, and math has no material source.
B. The laws of nature themselves are non-material.
4. Language therefore demonstrates that we as humans possess non-material attributes. We not only form language and attribute meaning to it, we even create our own languages (such as computer languages). Our language ability demonstrates that we possess obvious and profound significant non-material capacities within ourselves.
5. Therefore, since material causes cannot account for linguistic phenomena, the most plausible explanation for the linguistic content of DNA is an entity with mental faculties qualitatively similar to our own, but vastly superior.
6. We can reasonably conclude that God exists.

J.P. Moreland has written or co-written two books, including “The Soul: How We Know It Exists and Why It Matters,” and “Body and Soul: Human Nature and the Crisis in Ethics” with Scott Rae. In both, Moreland makes the argument from Leibniz's law of the indiscernibility of identicals. It goes like this. For any X and Y, X is identical to Y if for any property P, P is true of X if and only if P is true of Y.
Now in English. To say any two labels apply to the same thing, everything that is true of the one thing must be true of the other. For example. I have three sons names Jesse, Thomas and Isaac. I am also the Chapter Director of Ratio Christi at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). If someone were to assert that the Chapter Director of Ratio Christi at CCSU was identical to the father of Jesse, Thomas and Isaac Wynne, every property of the one must also be true of the other, such as being 5'8" tall, weighing 200 lbs, being a graduate of Biola University, etc. If you can find one property of one that the other does not have, they are not identical. So, what does this have to do with the soul? Here is the argument. With all due respect to Donald, on substance dualism, we are body-soul unities. The argument for human souls can go as follows:
1. You are a body/soul unity or you are your body.
2. It is possible (by which I mean it is strongly conceivable, therefore I have good grounds to believe it is possible) for you to exist in a disembodied state.
3. It is not possible for your body to survive the death of your body.
4. Therefore, you are not identical to your body.
Further evidence can be offered by appealing to near death experiences (NDEs) I am not talking about the "Heaven is For Real" type (I am agnostic about that kind) but the kind that are well documented where the person who had the NDE had experiences of remote viewing where they were able to accurately report events that took place while they were dead, including things that were in remote locations.

Many skeptics and critics claim that we are nothing more than biology and chemistry and physical processes. That is, intelligence is reducible to brain functions, which in turn are reducible to the processes chemists and physicists study. But this objection will not do, because we then would have no grounds for trusting intelligence. If intelligence is the product of physical and chemical processes that don’t aim at truth, cannot understand, and are incapable of making judgments, then reason is unreliable. Physical processes don’t lead us to meaning, judgments, values, and logic (entities that do not exist in the subatomic, chemical, biological, or molecular phenomena). This reductionist-materialist objection is self-defeating.

There is nothing in physics to contradict the idea that we can live beyond death in other forms. There are many reasons to believe in the afterlife.

PART 3: European History

This perspective is revisionist. Europe was progressing just fine until the Islamic invasion of of the 7th century that plunged it into the Dark Ages. It was only the monastical movement of the Church that preserved Western civilization during the occupation, the Crusades that eventually (and sometimes barbarically) broke the bonds of Islamic restraint, paving the way for Christianity to once again thrive and give birth to science and academia. The Church was the only institution to survive the fall of the Roman Empire; the Church was the movement that preserved Western thought, and the Church was the environment that gave birth to the Renaissance, science, and the Enlightenment.

PART 4: Heaven

There is nothing about heaven that is incompatible with modern understandings of the universe. Heaven is not a spatial location but rather the presence of God. I'm not sure what all you're getting at here, but heaven is a spiritual position not a spatial location.


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