Board index Truth

What is Truth?

Re: Is truth separate from salvation?

Postby Last One » Thu Feb 21, 2019 5:13 pm

Another well-written and researched response! Thanks very much for all of your efforts and kind patience. I really enjoy reading your comments.

I may have to discourage you though because you may be so convinced of the truth of Christianity that my questions are outside of things you would consider. While impressively learned, your interpretations are classically apologetic. The Bible must be true, and where problems exist, that doesn't mean it's false, just that we don't know, but that's no reason to doubt, because it's true. You're a much better thinker and writer than that summary, but it still kind of explains what I'm hearing.

If I wanted to support an idea that the Giants were undefeated, I could do that by only showing you a record of their wins. Of course, I know the Giants also have losses. If I only showed you the wins, I wouldn't be trying to educate you; I'd be trying to persuade you. If my goal were to sell you a lifetime membership to the Giants fan club, my motivation might not be education at all.

This is how I feel about apologetics (across all religions, because they use the same techniques): only show the wins, but with the appearance of a neutral educator. It makes sense as a strategy because believers are seeking to be educated about God, and it doesn't work very well if we say the Bible is God-breathed, except for things people added later like the adulterous woman story, the Johannine Comma, the end of Mark, Luke 22:43–44, examples of editorial fatigue and likely more things that we haven't discovered yet.

I do understand that the Bible is quite different from the mythologies of the ancient Near East, when you only look at the ways it is different and claim those differences are the decisive evidence that Christianity is true. A Muslim apologist does the same thing. If the Bible and the Quran's strengths were reversed, you'd be focusing more on the philosophical and scientific, and they'd be focusing on historical arguments, like the ones you've made above.

Anyway, I wanted to be honest with you, and I apologize if any of that seemed harsh or unfair. I wanted to take a chance and be honest because you've made great efforts in your explanations. Thanks very much for all of the time you've spent discussing this with me.
Last One
 

Re: Is truth separate from salvation?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Feb 21, 2019 5:22 pm

> you may be so convinced of the truth of Christianity that my questions are outside of things you would consider.

It's mostly that I've been in the place of doubt, have done the research, and am confident in my conclusions. I'm always open to more learning. It's obvious to me every day that there is so much I don't know.

> While impressively learned, your interpretations are classically apologetic.

An apologist is just somebody who's done the research. Scholars become apologists for their positions.

> The Bible must be true, and where problems exist, that doesn't mean it's false, just that we don't know, but that's no reason to doubt, because it's true.

This is off the mark. We start with the evidences, and then conclude the Bible is true. We don't start with the Bible being true, and then only accept those evidences that support our preformed conclusion. That's just pure out bias.

Every discipline deals with data that doesn't fit the paradigm. I've read many times of scientists dealing with similar realities. Economists, political scientists, historians... We're all in that boat. Sometimes it takes a small evidence to sway a position, and sometimes it takes great disequilibrium, depending on the subject at hand, the weight of evidence, and the personality of the scholar.

> This is how I feel about apologetics (across all religions, because they use the same techniques): only show the wins, but with the appearance of a neutral educator.

I'm sorry that you have this view. It makes apologists seem manipulative. Politicians are apologists for their policies and parties. Professors are apologists for their position papers. I would hope that a large majority of us try to be honest and objective.

> Anyway, I wanted to be honest with you, and I apologize if any of that seemed harsh or unfair.

Nah, I appreciate your honesty. And I would hope it's mutual.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5731
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: Is truth separate from salvation?

Postby Last One » Sun Feb 24, 2019 3:08 pm

Thanks for your response and continued patience. That's an encouraging response. What do you think about the somewhat decent evidence that Judaism began within the Canaanite religion with El as the head of the pantheon of nation-gods, then YHWH was worshiped in Judea as their nation-god of war, then El and YHWH were combined, then Judaism split off of the pantheon concept and became monotheistic? Evidence also exists for this in the Bible, just different translations conceal it in different ways. If this were true, would that change your belief in Christianity? See, e.g., https://biblehub.com/psalms/82-1.htm. Note that translations commonly change the names "El" and "YHWH" in the Hebrew text, even though this seems to be hiding the names God told us. Thank you and best regards.
Last One
 

Re: Is truth separate from salvation?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Feb 24, 2019 3:08 pm

> What do you think about the somewhat decent evidence that Judaism began within the Canaanite religion with El as the head ... etc.

It's not decent evidence, but only one theory among many. The Israelites were very guilty of syncretization, so it's impossible to separate out derivation from syncretism. Secondly, it only really proves that Yahwism is part of its cultural context, not that Yahwism evolved from Canaanite religion. There is no clear and definitive evidence of monotheism's origins. Scholars like Mark Smith see a string of similarities that they attribute to derivation, but it's an unprovable thesis. There is on passage anywhere in the OT that conveys anything less than the uniqueness of YHWH, despite some occasions where the apostate Israelite community has compromised and syncretized their faith with their neighbors. But none of it proves Judaism being with Canaanite religion, or that El & YHWH were combined, etc. through your paragraph.

It's also true, as revealed in the Bible, that YHWH revealed Himself progressively to Abraham, his children, their progeny, the nation, and through to the monarchy. It is absolutely impossible to separate elements of progressive revelation from the accusations of derivation. It's simply a theory that cannot be proved, so the "decent evidence" is far from conclusive.

> Psalm 82.1

Yes, the concept of a divine council is accepted in the Bible, but the biblical concept of the divine council is different from either monolatry or henotheism. In the Bible, the divine council is portrayed as a strategy by which YHWH administrates the cosmos, but with some significant modifications to the picture we find elsewhere in their neighboring cultures.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5731
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Re: Is truth separate from salvation?

Postby Last One » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:11 am

Ok but a polytheistic Israel appears to fit the evidence better than these explanations. Then the "royal we" in Genesis, the allotment of gods to nations in Deuteronomy 32:8 and and the divine counsel in Psalm 82:1 make sense. Since you agree that we can't know for certain which one is correct, I don't see how you could conclude that modern Christianity's view actually is the correct one vs a polytheistic Israel. Analysis of the theological evolution of Jesus from prophet to god, as we analyze Mark to John, and of the extra-Biblical concept of the Trinity similarly make more sense as humans changing their ideas than modern Christianity's explanations. I appreciate that you are much more studied in these areas than I am, so apologies if I'm showing my ignorance. What I see your last comment is a strict, narrow standard for problems ("one theory of many" "unprovable thesis") but then certainty with regard to harmonious views ("true as revealed in the Bible"). Isn't your assessment of progressive revelation also "one theory of many" and an "unprovable thesis"? Things like this are hard for most people to spot, but they're an important reason why I think apologetics is concerned with persuasion and not truth. Anyway, thanks very much for all the time you've spent discussing this with me.
Last One
 

Re: Is truth separate from salvation?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:50 pm

> Anyway, thanks very much for all the time you've spent discussing this with me.

You're welcome. It's been a pleasure.

> Ok but a polytheistic Israel appears to fit the evidence better than these explanations.

Concerning this, I radically disagree. Israel has always been marked by a radical monotheism forever being compromised and syncretized by weak, godless hypocritical people in the mix.

> Then the "royal we" in Genesis, the allotment of gods to nations in Deuteronomy 32:8 and and the divine counsel in Psalm 82:1 make sense.

The Bible clearly speaks of a divine council, but the biblical treatment of YHWH's divine council is markedly different than divine councils in the surrounding cultures. In the surrounding cultures, the councils are gatherings of the gods. In Yahwism, the council is one God with various emissaries.

> I don't see how you could conclude that modern Christianity's view actually is the correct one vs a polytheistic Israel.

Israel's perception of God was always different from its neighbors. In the ANE, people believed that the gods were manifested in the forces of what we call the natural world, as well as in celestial phenomena. The revelation of the Israelite God was leading them to something different, but it was a process. When YHWH first appeared to Abram, He neither clarified nor even discussed how many gods there were or whether Abram needed to consider Him the only God. When we get to Moses, the Decalogue states first that no other gods should be worshipped before YHWH. Yet even that phrase stops short of saying how many gods there are. The issue of religious evolution is therefore indecisive, since we cannot know whether the distinction between YHWH and other false gods was always clear and the Israelites either failed to understand this important distinction, rejected its truth, or neglected to reflect it in their daily lives. In other words, a difference should be noted between the revelation and its corresponding expectation on the one hand, and Israelite practice with all of its shortcomings on the other.

But Yahwism in Israel is distinctly monotheistic. No passage anywhere in the OT conveys anything less than the uniqueness of YHWH. The terminology itself is a problem. Monotheism is a useful term insofar as it captures Israel’s insistence that its deity, Yahweh, is categorically supreme. The term proves inadequate when restricted to numerical oneness in the divine realm or two texts that ostensibly deny the “existence” of other deities. For instance, Dt. 4.39 makes a claim that appears to be an absolute expression of monotheism. However, texts that date later than Deuteronomy make similar assertions while simultaneously affirming a “Host of Heaven” that worships Yahweh (Neh. 9.6). Even in very late extrabiblical texts (like the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, 4QSongs of the Sabbath Sacrifice fragment 1, column 1) the worshipper summons all ranks of heavenly beings to give praise to YHWH.

So the question, “How many deities did Israel recognize?” is far less precise and fruitful than we would wish.

There is a spectrum of possibilities, but we find that biblical writers are capable of expressing YHWH’s uniqueness within any system. One cannot create a chronological evolutionary and definitive graph based on terminology or rhetoric. That's why Smith's efforts about henotheism and monolatry fall short of convincing, and how cannot also claim that "a polytheistic Israel appears to fit the evidence better than these explanations."

> Analysis of the theological evolution of Jesus from prophet to god, as we analyze Mark to John, and of the extra-Biblical concept of the Trinity similarly make more sense as humans changing their ideas than modern Christianity's explanations.

I've studied this theory and reject it out of hand. Mark begins his Gospel (1.1) by claiming the divinity of Jesus. He is the fulfillment of messianic prophecy, the possessor of the Spirit, the divine Son, the fulfillment of the plan of the ages, the King who brings the kingdom, and who demands repentance, renunciation, and full commitment. He is presented as a prophet, the mouthpiece of God, the Holy One of God, and the judge over all who oppose God. And this is just Mark 1. There is no evolution of Jesus from prophet to deity.


Last bumped by Anonymous on Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:50 pm.
jimwalton
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5731
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Previous

Return to Truth

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


cron