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Jeff Mitchell

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« on: May 16, 2011, 05:49:12 pm »

I apologize for the long quote below, pulled from question 212 in the Q&A.  I tried to shorten it without removing important points.  This is in response to the question, 'if God knows what everyone is writing, doesn't his allowance of those writings imply his endorsement of them?'

Now, I think it's kind of a silly question- of course God would not endorse anybody's writing except... those that he endorses... but then I thought, how in the world are we supposed to know what God hath endorsed?  The ignorant answer to that would be, "if it's in the Bible, it's been endorsed."  But of course, the bible was written by men (even if divinely inspired), and certainly compiled by men (I supposed MAYBE divinely guided?), and then transcribed, translated, and (mis)interpreted by men (probably not inspired...).  But even this is a little off-topic: even if we take the KJV to be the literal, English language message of (not necessarily words of) God, who do I trust to interpret that message?  How can I possibly know if I'm understanding Him properly, and not just making stuff up from what I read?

My ultimate question is: how can we humans presume to know which letters and writings actually represent God's message to us?  It seems a little arrogant of WLC below to state "God wills," "He intends," "He allows" and "God does not see...."  How is it that WLC knows the mind of God so intimately?  Who is he to say what God's intent is?

From Question 212 (just search for it):

"...the essential difference lies in God's attitude  toward what is written.  In the one case, God wills to communicate via  the author His message to us.  He intends that the letter to the Romans  be His Word to us.  Romans is therefore a case of appropriated or  delegated speech, much as a boss makes a letter composed by his  secretary his own by affixing his signature to it.  By contrast, God  merely allows Hitchens to write what he does without endorsing its truth  or adopting it as His own.  God lets Hitchens put forth his falsehoods  because in His providence Hitchens' books have their part to play in  God's overall plan for human history.  But God does not see Hitchens'  books as His Word to us, to be trusted and obeyed.  Therein lies the  essential difference between the Bible and every other literary product  of free human activity."

I know this is not a new question; I appreciate your patience and willingness to consider it once more.




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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2011, 07:46:27 pm »

Thanks for the question. I will try my best to respond to it, but if you feel I have misunderstood your question or not responded adequately, feel free to point it out and I will try to respond better.

My  ultimate question is: how can we humans presume to know which letters  and writings actually represent God's message to us?  It seems a little  arrogant of WLC below to state "God wills," "He intends," "He allows"  and "God does not see...."  How is it that WLC knows the mind of God so  intimately?  Who is he to say what God's intent is?

From a Christian perspective, a true believer has be reborn in spirit, and has received the Holy Spirit by an inward gift. This is what Jesus says about the Spirit in the New Testament, "when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)" "... I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither  sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will  be in you." (John 14:16-17) This is spoken of in many other places, and is said to be given to every true Christian. So this would be how Craig knows what God's intent is. However strange this may seem, it seems more presumptuous to say that true Christians could not have the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. For the person who says they could not have this witness is saying so based on what evidence? In both cases, both parties are claiming knowledge about God. On the Christian side, that God has done something, and they have experienced Him directly, on the other side, that God did not do something.

But even this is a little  off-topic: even if we take the KJV to be the literal, English language  message of (not necessarily words of) God, who do I trust to interpret  that message?  How can I possibly know if I'm understanding Him  properly, and not just making stuff up from what I read?

Hey I know that actually this is not the Christian view. Only certain hardline protestant denominations believe the word of God is the KJV. The most precise definition is that the inspired word of God is written in the original languages. However, even if you were to only have the KJV, it is very accurate. The NIV is probably the most accurate up to date translation, but if your skeptical about something go to www.biblos.com and click "parallel" and you can view multiple translations at once.

This may not be the easiest answer, but I can tell you that I am a senior in college, and a Biblical Studies major, and I have never found a study bible that was deceptive or misleading. Much of the bible is written in simple language for common people, and if you look at any verse in the context of the whole biblical narrative, you are sure to not be mislead. That's the reason for study bibles, they are written by people who know the whole bible well.

So how do could we know any of it is true? According to Jesus' words in the New Testament, "if anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching  is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority." (John 7:17)

Don't forget, that we can know things needing a philosophical or scientific proof of them. For example, I know could know that a musician missed a note in a song without even needing to think about it. I can know that it is wrong to torture a child for the fun of it, without needing a philosophical or scientific proof for that fact. Likewise, you can read the bible and know it is true without argument or proof.



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Jeff Mitchell

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« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2011, 05:47:46 pm »
Thank you for the kind response- you took your time to honestly answer questions that probably sounded cynical, and I really appreciate that.  I still have questions of course...  But I'm sure the questions I have are basic, and probably addressed in forums and discussions and books so I won't take advantage of your willingness to respond by spouting the same old doubter challenges.  Unless you want me to

Thanks again, and good luck in your studies.


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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2011, 06:41:36 pm »
ReasonableJeff wrote: Thank you for the kind response- you took your time to honestly answer questions that probably sounded cynical, and I really appreciate that.  I still have questions of course...  But I'm sure the questions I have are basic, and probably addressed in forums and discussions and books so I won't take advantage of your willingness to respond by spouting the same old doubter challenges.  Unless you want me to

Thanks again, and good luck in your studies.



Hey thanks for the nice note. I would love to answer any questions you have. Theology is something I have spent a lot of time with and it feels good that there may be someone such as yourself that may be able to benefit from it. Even if it doesn't lead you to faith in God I am secure enough in my faith to give you the truth and leave it up to God. So lets do it! I am excited

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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2011, 09:42:20 pm »
emailestthoume wrote:
From a Christian perspective, a true believer has be reborn in spirit,  and has received the Holy Spirit by an inward gift. This is what Jesus  says about the Spirit in the New Testament, "when he, the Spirit of  truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)" "... I  will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with  you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because  it neither  sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with  you and will  be in you." (John 14:16-17) This is spoken of in many  other places, and is said to be given to every true Christian. So this would be how Craig knows what God's intent is.

So, given that Craig is a true Christian (I certainly don't doubt that he is), does that make him infallible in his understanding of God's intent?  I know that he subscribes to good, common Christian morals in the broad sense, but what if you disagreed with a specific idea of his, that he apparently believes to be God's intent?  Does his understanding of God's intent trump yours?  Does it come down to who is the truer Christian?

I know that the this scripture makes sense to you and must seem complete and to stand on its own.  But I don't see how this can be taken as an "objective" answer, and I certainly don't see why a questioning person would ever accept this line of justification.  It seems that an innocent reading of this is that if someone is able to convince themselves enough, they will be convinced.  This is one of many examples of what I consider to be using circular reasoning (the ontological argument being another).  No casual Christian could expect to feel or know the Spirit of Truth- you really have to believe before you can be reassured in your beliefs.  But at that point it's not needed, because you already believe.  It appears to me to be just a self fulfilling prophecy.  A more cynical way to read it would be that if anyone doesn't feel the Spirit, it must mean that they aren't a true Christian- but if they would only keep working at it they might get there.
But getting back to the topic title-
emailestthoume wrote:
So how do could we know any of it is true? According to Jesus' words in the New Testament, "if anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching  is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority." (John 7:17)

Again, this all seems so subjective.  It seems that, if my will was to do God's will (which for me it was, for a while), and I was brought up to be extremely prejudiced against gays, I might be convinced that it was God's will that I should verbally (or otherwise) harass them continuously to make them turn to God and admit their sins.  Or, maybe I should set fire to a gay bar so that sin can no longer be committed there?  And who is anyone else to tell me otherwise?  I would know in my heart that I was doing God's will.  A more moderate Christian might think differently.  This is just a long way of saying that God's will, while broadly described in the Bible, tends to be bent toward one's own human desires or "values."  If someone claims to "know the will of God," who are we to question it, even if it goes against our own values?  Craig argues that a supernatural God is the only thing that can provide an "objective" basis for morals, but I think that God's will is more malleable (and therefore less "objective" and more in line with human created ideas of morality) than people sometimes realize.

Thanks for having this conversation, I'm not one who is simply looking to "go a few rounds" with a sparring partner.  I think that any decent conversation should ultimately advance the understanding of everyone involved.  Looking forward to your reply.

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« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2011, 10:19:33 pm »
ReasonableJeff wrote:
So, given that Craig is a true Christian (I certainly don't doubt that he is), does that make him infallible in his understanding of God's intent?  I know that he subscribes to good, common Christian morals in the broad sense, but what if you disagreed with a specific idea of his, that he apparently believes to be God's intent?  Does his understanding of God's intent trump yours?  Does it come down to who is the truer Christian?


Not at all. The objective judge would be the biblical text, as well as objective reason.

I know that the this scripture makes sense to you and must seem complete and to stand on its own.  But I don't see how this can be taken as an "objective" answer, and I certainly don't see why a questioning person would ever accept this line of justification.

I would never expect you to accept what Craig says based on his own inward experience. What I intended to point out is that his inward experience could justify knowing things about God. He gives arguments for God and Christianity because he does not expect you to believe him based on his own inward experience, and neither do I.

It seems that an innocent reading of this is that if someone is able to convince themselves enough, they will be convinced.  This is one of many examples of what I consider to be using circular reasoning (the ontological argument being another).  No casual Christian could expect to feel or know the Spirit of Truth- you really have to believe before you can be reassured in your beliefs.

I could lay every charge you did against Christian belief against the belief in the external world. Both are justified by experience, not by argument. If the latter is justified by argument, I would challenge you to prove to yourself that the external world exists by an argument more plausable than your experience of it. And in any case, just to make clear, I do not expect you to simply believe me that I do have an expereince of God. What I am claiming, is that such an experience could justify my belief. For you, I would point you to Dr. Craig's arguments for God's existence or Christianity.

But at that point it's not needed, because you already believe.  It appears to me to be just a self fulfilling prophecy.

By the same token I could say atheism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That people just want there to be no God, so they accept bad arguments for atheism as well as get super skeptical about good arguments for theism.

A more cynical way to read it would be that if anyone doesn't feel the Spirit, it must mean that they aren't a true Christian- but if they would only keep working at it they might get there.
But getting back to the topic title-

According to the biblical definition, every true Christian should feel the Spirit. Just to be clear about Christian belief I mention this, not to argue for you from the bible.

emailestthoume wrote:
So how do could we know any of it is true? According to Jesus' words in the New Testament, "if anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching  is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority." (John 7:17)



Again, this all seems so subjective.  It seems that, if my will was to do God's will (which for me it was, for a while), and I was brought up to be extremely prejudiced against gays, I might be convinced that it was God's will that I should verbally (or otherwise) harass them continuously to make them turn to God and admit their sins.  Or, maybe I should set fire to a gay bar so that sin can no longer be committed there?  And who is anyone else to tell me otherwise?  I would know in my heart that I was doing God's will.  A more moderate Christian might think differently.


I am a theology major, and the bible is absolutely clear that violence in the name of religion is not justified. Paul over and over again uses the example of Christs willing suffering as a model to how we are to approach the world. If the world slaps us on the right cheek, we are to turn the left one. Whoever might tell you otherwise, that you should harass people, or anything more serious, is effectually throwing out the New Testament and pretending if it didn't exist.

And logically speaking, though I understand your frustration with "Christian" hypocrites (personally I think these two words are contradictory), it would only amount to an ad-hominem against Christian belief.

This is just a long way of saying that God's will, while broadly described in the Bible, tends to be bent toward one's own human desires or "values."  If someone claims to "know the will of God," who are we to question it, even if it goes against our own values?  


The bible makes it clear that we shouldn't just believe people because they claim to know the will of God. It is testable by objective reason and the biblical text.

Craig argues that a supernatural God is the only thing that can provide an "objective" basis for morals, but I think that God's will is more malleable (and therefore less "objective" and more in line with human created ideas of morality) than people sometimes realize.


I am not sure I am understanding your point here. But insofar as you say God's will is malleable, I am not sure you could still say that would be God. And I don't think Craig's point has to do with Gods will. If I am not mistaken, what grounds moral values according to Dr. Craig is Gods nature (perfect holiness, goodness etc...) not necessarily his will. His will would, I think, flow from his nature. But perhaps I am wrong about Dr. Craig on this point.

Thanks for having this conversation, I'm not one who is simply looking to "go a few rounds" with a sparring partner.  I think that any decent conversation should ultimately advance the understanding of everyone involved.  Looking forward to your reply.


Your welcome. I appreciate you taking the question of God seriously enough to engage in conversation. I think you hit on an important point also, that the goal should not be fighting, but the search for truth or understanding the others belief. Thanks for your time.

Cheers.
[/QUOTE]

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Jeff Mitchell

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« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2011, 09:23:23 pm »
emailestthoume wrote:
Quote from: ReasonableJeff

So, given that Craig is a true Christian (I certainly don't doubt that he is), does that make him infallible in his understanding of God's intent?  I know that he subscribes to good, common Christian morals in the broad sense, but what if you disagreed with a specific idea of his, that he apparently believes to be God's intent?  Does his understanding of God's intent trump yours?  Does it come down to who is the truer Christian?


Not at all. The objective judge would be the biblical text, as well as objective reason.


   

I don’t see how the bible itself can be an “objective.”  The bible is just a collection of words on paper.  It isn’t until those words are read and interpreted (understood?) by humans that a message is delivered.  How can we ever know that the message we receive is the one that was intended, besides personal revelation which is not objective?  And that was actually my question- how can an argument be objectively settled if you, citing biblical passages, disagreed with a certain understanding of God’s intentions that another Christian held, citing biblical passages.  I know this happens a lot of course (reference two rabbis dueling with competing passages), but I can’t help but think that if two people have a disagreement about something, there’s a good chance that neither of them are right.  I don’t think that disagreement is bad- science depends on it to continually refine its modeling of our world- but if people argue about what the biblical text means, I don’t see how it could be objective.

 
emailestthoume wrote:
I know that the this scripture makes sense to you and must seem complete and to stand on its own.  But I don't see how this can be taken as an "objective" answer, and I certainly don't see why a questioning person would ever accept this line of justification.

I would never expect you to accept what Craig says based on his own inward experience. What I intended to point out is that his inward experience could justify knowing things about God. He gives arguments for God and Christianity because he does not expect you to believe him based on his own inward experience, and neither do I.


   

The problem is that, while sometimes he presents arguments using philosophy and history (tools that every one can use and verify), other times he makes statements like the one I quoted- that God intended to do this or that, providing no reason to believe him.  I know it seems nit picky, but it has always bothered me when people say things as facts that really are not.  A fact is something that can be “objectively” proved or demonstrated (meaning, everyone else has a way to verify the statement), and I don’t see how Craig’s statements about God’s intentions can be verified.  Even in Christian terms- even for believers, I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t question Craig’s answer.  The question was essentially, if God allows Hitchens to write blasphemy, does that imply God’s endorsement of those writings.  Craig could have said simply that “logically, God ‘allows’ many things in this world that seem to be contrary to the biblical message and what we believe to be in God’s nature, but that doesn’t logically lead to His endorsement of those things- in fact, the only conclusion we can reach is that he does not endorse those things since they are against what we believe is His nature.”  But instead, he said something that isn’t even logically provable- it’s just a statement of God’s intentions, which does nobody good since we aren’t supposed to just take his word for it.  He even goes so far as to provide an analogy that isn’t provable.  How can we know that God “signed” Paul’s letter?  I don’t pick on this to try and find the one small crack in the great building and claim that it is about to fall down- this is symptomatic of a greater practice in religion that opens it up to abuse (not saying Craig is abusing it- just that he employs some of the same methods that abusers might use).

 

emailestthoume wrote:
It seems that an innocent reading of this is that if someone is able to convince themselves enough, they will be convinced.  This is one of many examples of what I consider to be using circular reasoning (the ontological argument being another).  No casual Christian could expect to feel or know the Spirit of Truth- you really have to believe before you can be reassured in your beliefs.

I could lay every charge you did against Christian belief against the belief in the external world. Both are justified by experience, not by argument. If the latter is justified by argument, I would challenge you to prove to yourself that the external world exists by an argument more plausable than your experience of it. And in any case, just to make clear, I do not expect you to simply believe me that I do have an expereince of God. What I am claiming, is that such an experience could justify my belief. For you, I would point you to Dr. Craig's arguments for God's existence or Christianity.


I agree that our understanding of the external world is based on our experiences- but those experiences, at least in a scientific understanding of the world, are experiences that everyone can have.  Even the more abstract theories are built upon experiences that are comm
   on to all humans, and those theories have no claim to “truth” (a loaded term, I know) until they are experimentally verified- a process that ensures it is in keeping with the experiences of all humans.  In the most philosophical sense, I guess I could never prove by argument that the physical world we live in exists.  If that’s what you mean by “belief in the external world” I will have to admit ignorance.  I don’t really want to try to wrap my mind around that one- I’ll leave it up to those who like considering such lofty thoughts.  But in the sense of constructing a model for explaining our common experiences and the existence that we all seem to share, I don’t agree with you that “belief” in the external world is subject to the same questions as belief in a god.
 


emailestthoume wrote:
But at that point it's not needed, because you already believe.  It appears to me to be just a self fulfilling prophecy.

By the same token I could say atheism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That people just want there to be no God, so they accept bad arguments for atheism as well as get super skeptical about good arguments for theism.


I suppose it depends on what your definition of atheism is- there are many, but I take “a-theist” simply to be one who is without theism- and theism is a belief in a personal god who has an interest in our actions and thoughts.  That is different than actively asserting the position that there is no god.  If you define atheism to be one that has a belief that there is no god, I would agree with you- there is no way that I know of to prove a negative, and therefore any belief that there is no god would require the same “faith” that belief in a god requires.  But an absence of belief in a god does not require any leap of faith- on the contrary, it just requires one not to take a leap of faith.  Non-belief doesn’t require good arguments to support it (because it’s not a belief…)- it just needs a lack of good arguments persuading someone to believe.  Which is kinda why I’m looking for good arguments J  I “believe” something, or hold it to be true, when I find sufficiently good reasons to believe it.  I don’t “want” there to be no god- If there is one, he hasn’t bothered me that I know of so I think I’d be fine with the idea.  

emailestthoume wrote:
this all seems so subjective.  It seems that, if my will was to do God's will (which for me it was, for a while), and I was brought up to be extremely prejudiced against gays, I might be convinced that it was God's will that I should verbally (or otherwise) harass them continuously to make them turn to God and admit their sins.  Or, maybe I should set fire to a gay bar so that sin can no longer be committed there?  And who is anyone else to tell me otherwise?  I would know in my heart that I was doing God's will.  A more moderate Christian might think differently.


I am a theology major, and the bible is absolutely clear that violence in the name of religion is not justified. Paul over and over again uses the example of Christs willing suffering as a model to how we are to approach the world. If the world slaps us on the right cheek, we are to turn the left one. Whoever might tell you otherwise, that you should harass people, or anything more serious, is effectually throwing out the New Testament and pretending if it didn't exist.

And logically speaking, though I understand your frustration with "Christian" hypocrites (personally I think these two words are contradictory), it would only amount to an ad-hominem against Christian belief.


My point wasn't to suggest that the bible teaches violence (although, putting aside the sermon on the mount’s clarification/modification of some of God’s instructions, the Old Testament does encourage- indeed, demand- quite a bit of violence).  I just tried to give an example where one Christian could find biblical justification for an act that other Christians might disagree with.  I suppose a better analogy might have been the question of speaking in "tongues" and if or when it is justified by the bible.  I'm sure that you have an answer for that, and can cite passages to support your claim, but that's just your interpretation of the bible.  Who's to say, other than your god that you say is on your side, that you are correct and the other Christians are wrong to believe what they believe?  Who's to say that Joseph Smith's revelations (and those of all the other latter-day saints) are wrong?  How do we know that the angel didn't come down and provide a sort of "course correction" to a religion that had lost its way?

And I wasn't actually talking about intentional hypocrites.  I'm not here to point out the worst parts of Christianity and generalize about them.  Since you mention it though, how do we know who the “Christian hypocrites” are?  How do we point them out?  Although I think it’s much more easy to do with the Quran, there are ways of understanding the bible that will lead two different, but "good" Christians to different actions.  I can’t think of an intellectually honest example right now, but I’m sure I could provide one if needed.  In fact, I’m sure that you could provide many more than I could since you have studied the bible- I’m sure different understandings of it have come up in the course of your studies.  Bottom line, I don’t argue against belief simply based on the actions of some- I argue that there can be no “objective” reading of the bible since there is no way (other than personal revelation, which again differs between people) to understand how one should read it.  Yes, this is the case for any book or message, which is why so many books are interpreted in ways other than what the author intended- even biographies.


emailestthoume wrote:
Craig argues that a supernatural God is the only thing that can provide an "objective" basis for morals, but I think that God's will is more malleable (and therefore less "objective" and more in line with human created ideas of morality) than people sometimes realize.


I am not sure I am understanding your point here. But insofar as you say God's will is malleable, I am not sure you could still say that would be God. And I don't think Craig's point has to do with Gods will. If I am not mistaken, what grounds moral values according to Dr. Craig is Gods nature (perfect holiness, goodness etc...) not
   necessarily his will. His will would, I think, flow from his nature. But perhaps I am wrong about Dr. Craig on this point.


I may have wandered a little in going to Craig's arguments for God's existence, but my point was that even God's nature (and not just His will) is defined by humans- we decide what we think is "perfect."  Think about God's attributes- perfect love, perfect knowledge, perfect "goodness" (because, by definition, everything that God does is "good").  Those are the easy ones, because it's in our nature to value those things, and it also helps to define something as itself.  What else do I value- maybe God is perfectly... funny.  But perfectly jealous?  Perfect in vengeance? Would those be desirable attributes?

Not to twist your words, but your statement that "I am not sure you could still say that would be God" is actually exactly what I'm getting at- I contend that we can't really know what God's will (or nature) truly is, or if He even exists, so what religious people believe to be "God's will" or His message to us, maybe... isn't God.  I'm not saying that religious beliefs are a mental "illness," but some people with chemical imbalances in their brains believe that they can hear (and see) beings that aren't actually there (that we know of).  What's to prevent us from sensing a Holy Spirit that isn't there, even with "normal" brain chemistry?  I'm not trying to be offensive here- I think it's a valid question.

-RJ

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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2011, 11:09:09 pm »
Jeff, thanks for the amount of time you took reading and responding to what I wrote. I would like to respond to what you said in parts, as I am not sure I will be able to respond to all of it at once, and do so taking the time that you deserve to have me take in responding.

I don’t see how the bible itself can be an “objective.”  The bible is just a collection of words on paper.  It isn’t until those words are read and interpreted (understood?) by humans that a message is delivered.

Everything we experience must pass through our five senses as well as our brain, and I think everything requires some level of interpretation. Though I grant you interpreting the bible is not as clear as science textbook, it does not mean that there is no objective meaning conveyed in the text. For example, interpreting the writings of ancient philosophers or historians may require much more study, but they clearly had things which they intended to convey as objectively true. And if everything which must be interpreted cannot give us objective truth, than nothing can, for everything must pass though our brains which have been conditioned by our upbringing and culture. In fact, even the claim that "everything which must be interpreted cannot give us objective truth," is self refuting, for itself claims to be objectively true. ("everything which must be interpreted...")

How  can we ever know that the message we receive is the one that was  intended, besides personal revelation which is not objective?  And  that was actually my question- how can an argument be objectively  settled if you, citing biblical passages, disagreed with a certain  understanding of God’s intentions that another Christian held, citing  biblical passages.  I know this happens a lot of  course (reference two rabbis dueling with competing passages), but I  can’t help but think that if two people have a disagreement about  something, there’s a good chance that neither of them are right.  I  don’t think that disagreement is bad- science depends on it to  continually refine its modeling of our world- but if people argue about  what the biblical text means, I don’t see how it could be objective.


You are certainly right that many people argue about the meaning of passages, but I would like to do two things in response:
1. To show that this does not mean there is no objectively true answer
2. To explain why such disagreement might be so rampant specifically in the area biblical interpretation.


- 1. The first one is not so difficult, and I suspect your problem is really with #2. Just because people disagree on something does not mean there is no objective answer. The most important issues of politics have about half of the U.S. on one side of the issue, and half on the other. And I see no rule of logical inference from which to infer that there is no right answer about such issues. Though I feel I have solidly made my point for #1, I also would like to point out that when Rabbis or other people disagree about what the biblical text says, they both agree on one thing, that there is an objective answer. Their arguing presupposes that they think there is a right answer, namely, theirs!

- 2. So if there is an objectively true interpretation, why is there so much disagreement about what the biblical text actually says?  One thing I would like to point out is what Dr. Craig called "the skeptical dial," and I think it applies to everyone, me as well as you. People have the tendency to be more skeptical about arguments that have conclusions that they dislike. (not that we cannot become aware of this and do our best to transcend it) So someone could have a great argument, but since their conclusion is so disliked, people could become extremely skeptical about that argument, even though it was nearly perfect.

And the bible, though it has many things people do want to hear, it has many very difficult things to hear. One example is 'there is eternal judgment.' And these very issues are the ones people tend to disagree about. However, this suggests that people are simply turning up their skeptical dials because they simply dislike the existence of a hell. As in the example I have of the person with a great argument, (but skeptical dial raising audience) much disagreement does not show that his conclusion was not objective or his argument was not good.





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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2011, 02:02:12 am »
Jeff,
As I mentioned in my last post, I am responding to your comments in parts. This is part two, and my other response is directly above. I plan to respond to more of your comments tomorrow. Thanks for your time.

ReasonableJeff wrote: The problem is that,  while sometimes he presents arguments using philosophy and history  (tools that every one can use and verify), other times he makes  statements like the one I quoted- that God intended to do this or that,  providing no reason to believe him.


If this is what you are referring to...


Dr. Craig wrote: "in the one case, God wills to  communicate via  the author His message to us.  He intends that the  letter to the Romans  be His Word to us.  Romans is therefore a case of  appropriated or  delegated speech, much as a boss makes a letter  composed by his  secretary his own by affixing his signature to it.  By  contrast, God  merely allows Hitchens to write what he does without  endorsing its truth  or adopting it as His own."


I think Dr. Craig is defending the internal coherency Christian doctrine of inspiration combined with the Christian doctrine of an omnipotent God. Perhaps he should have said, "according to Christianity, God wills..." But then again, some Christians (in the popular use of the term) have different views on inspiration. And also the context of the question may indicate that he was defending the internal coherency of Christianity. As I mentioned in a different post for another reason, I have exposed myself to almost all of Dr. Craig's free resources online, and I feel like I can say with certainty that he doesn't expect you to believe that "God wills X," simply because he says it.

ReasonableJeff wrote: But in  the sense of constructing a model for explaining our common experiences  and the existence that we all seem to share, I don’t agree with you that  “belief” in the external world is subject to the same questions as  belief in a god.  


I am happy as a Christian to subject my belief to every critical question, but to respond to your argument here, I don't see any compelling reason to subject my belief in God to much greater scrutiny than my belief in the external world. You say that everyone agrees that the external world exists. But this is not so, in fact, there are philosophers who do not, and psychopaths, as well as people on drugs. And given evolutionary theory, which gives us perceptive faculties based on survivability, and not necessarily truth, I have another reason to subject my beliefs about the external world to scrutiny. Furthermore your inference, 'everyone agrees to X, therefore X is true' is a logical fallacy.' A real life example is when everyone thought the world was flat, but it certainly was not.


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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2011, 03:11:16 pm »
Response 3. I'm gettin' closer....

.  But an absence of belief in a god does not require any leap of faith- on the contrary, it just requires one not to take a leap of faith.  Non-belief  doesn’t require good arguments to support it (because it’s not a  belief…)- it just needs a lack of good arguments persuading someone to  believe.


I think we disagree on what the default position should be. I don't think there is a single culture, even independently of others, that we have discovered who has not believed in some sort of supernatural force. For the longest time all of western culture did, and many still do. Furthermore, I have heard that psychology suggests that it is the default position as well. And the declaration that non-belief doesn't require reasons, I don't agree with. It is not always the case that non-belief of something doesn't. For example, if I lack the belief that Obama was born in the United States, I should have good reasons. I cannot just say it is a non-belief and so it requires no argument.

Also, your definition of atheism is not the normal philosophical definition, I think since it fails to distinguish you from an agnostic--who also lacks belief in God.


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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2011, 03:54:01 pm »
I am almost finished responding to your comments. One more after this and I will be done. The other responses are above. Don't feel like you need to respond to everything I said, because that could mean this is just going to get exponentially longer each time.

My  point wasn't to suggest that the bible teaches violence (although,  putting aside the sermon on the mount’s clarification/modification of  some of God’s instructions, the Old Testament does encourage- indeed,  demand- quite a bit of violence).

Just a quick point-- the violence in the Old Testament is no longer valid, it was for a specific period in salvation history before Christ, as Christ points out, "My kingdom is not of this world, if it were of this world, then would my servants fight..." I know that quote might not be enough to prove it, but as I said, it is clear in the New Testament.

I just tried to  give an example where one Christian could find biblical justification  for an act that other Christians might disagree with.  I  suppose a better analogy might have been the question of speaking in  "tongues" and if or when it is justified by the bible.  I'm sure that  you have an answer for that, and can cite passages to support your  claim, but that's just your interpretation of the bible.  Who's to say,  other than your god that you say is on your side, that you are correct  and the other Christians are wrong to believe what they believe?  Who's  to say that Joseph Smith's revelations (and those of all the other  latter-day saints) are wrong?  How do we know that the angel didn't come  down and provide a sort of "course correction" to a religion that had  lost its way?


I think I answered this partly in another response when I spoke about the objective meaning of the text and the skeptical dials people are known to turn. As for Joseph Smith I am not educated on it enough but, I believe what he said contradicts the bible itself, and Christian teaching.

And I wasn't actually talking about intentional  hypocrites.  I'm not here to point out the worst parts of Christianity  and generalize about them.

THANK THE LORD I just say that b/c many people do that, thanks for your discretion.

 Since you mention it though, how do we know  who the “Christian hypocrites” are?  How do we point them out?

They would be people who act contrary to the morals that the bible teaches. Granted, there are people who disagree with what it teaches, but that does not mean that it is not clear about morals. I would again refer you to my response about the objective meaning of the text and skeptical dials.

...I  argue that there can be no “objective” reading of the bible since there  is no way (other than personal revelation, which again differs between  people) to understand how one should read it.

I disagree, and I will tell you why. There is a clear face-value interpretation to the New Testament texts. Everyone should have to reckon with it, though some avoid it because they do not like what it says. And no theologians (that I am aware of) expect you to believe them because of personal revelation. Some of the greatest minds in history have investigated them with reason, such as Thomas Aquinas and Issac Newton. Granted, it is not an easy task, and not everyone will agree, but it is the same with important political issues.

Yes,  this is the case for any book or message, which is why so many books  are interpreted in ways other than what the author intended- even  biographies.

However, in the case of things like biographies, or to make the point clearer, auto-biographies, if you say that author really meant what he did not mean, then you would be being dishonest or mistaken. There is an objective meaning (the intent of the author), that you would be going against.

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« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2011, 10:46:40 pm »
This is exhausting... how do you do this all day???   You're quite active on this site, and I'm enjoying our chat.  I'll have to respond later, but a quick point-

I think the idea of the "skeptical dial" is a valid description of what I have (in my incredible cleverness) just dubbed the "belief hysteresis effect," where once someone gets into a state of belief about the world, it takes quite a nudge to get him to move in a different "direction" of belief.  However, one needs to be very cautious to not dismiss any dissent or unwillingness to agree with one's understanding/belief/interpretation/"truth" as simply the result of someone "turning up their skeptical dial."  I'm not saying you have crossed that line, and I'll go back and re-read everything, but it's kind of a slippery slope of rationalizing others' refusal to believe a certain way.

Cheers, and I look forward to responding when I have time.


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« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2011, 11:00:29 pm »
ReasonableJeff wrote: This is exhausting... how do you do this all day???   You're quite active on this site, and I'm enjoying our chat.  I'll have to respond later, but a quick point-

I think the idea of the "skeptical dial" is a valid description of what I have (in my incredible cleverness) just dubbed the "belief hysteresis effect," where once someone gets into a state of belief about the world, it takes quite a nudge to get him to move in a different "direction" of belief.  However, one needs to be very cautious to not dismiss any dissent or unwillingness to agree with one's understanding/belief/interpretation/"truth" as simply the result of someone "turning up their skeptical dial."  I'm not saying you have crossed that line, and I'll go back and re-read everything, but it's kind of a slippery slope of rationalizing others' refusal to believe a certain way.

Cheers, and I look forward to responding when I have time.



Hey take your time responding, (weeks, months, whatever) or just respond to whatever you want, I don't have much going on right now... and I think its for a good cause so that's why I've been doing this. With the skeptical dial point, let me give you an example. I did this years back with the bible. I didn't want the bible to confront me on a certain sexual sin so I looked into the Greek text as best I could, and came up with an interpretation of the word which is clearly referring to sexual misconduct and reinterpreted it. (though this word undoubtedly referred to sexual misconduct in the 1st century when the New Testament was written). This is a real life example of what I meant happens. I think you would see less of this if logic were taught as much as math in the schools. The reason symbolic logic was created is so that people could not get away with ridiculous logic like I was using in my example. If people all knew symbolic logic, (though its kind of a side point) I think there would be much less disagreement. I am not sure why this has to be a slippery slope, but if it does, its also more important if it is true or not.
Cheers

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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2011, 11:11:58 pm »
emailestthoume wrote:
I don’t see how the bible itself can be an “objective.”  The bible is just a collection of words on paper.  It isn’t until those words are read and interpreted (understood?) by humans that a message is delivered.

Everything we experience must pass through our five senses as well as our brain, and I think everything requires some level of interpretation. Though I grant you interpreting the bible is not as clear as science textbook, it does not mean that there is no objective meaning conveyed in the text. For example, interpreting the writings of ancient philosophers or historians may require much more study, but they clearly had things which they intended to convey as objectively true. And if everything which must be interpreted cannot give us objective truth, than nothing can, for everything must pass though our brains which have been conditioned by our upbringing and culture. In fact, even the claim that "everything which must be interpreted cannot give us objective truth," is self refuting, for itself claims to be objectively true. ("everything which must be interpreted...")

I am reading your responses very carefully because I want to make sure I really understand them- like I've said before I'm not here to just push my agenda.  I'm not 100% sure what my agenda even is.

I agree with your general assertion, which I think is that reading a text can (but doesn't necessarily) lead a person to understand objective truths under certain conditions.  But this is different than the claim that the bible is the objective truth.  I think you believe that the bible, if you read it and understand it, leads one to discover moral and religious truths through interpretation of the words and then realizing that interpretation.  Objective truths, like those the authors in the bible are supposedly trying to convey, are true independent of human perception, but they are only unrealized ideas- they don't do anything, they aren't realized, like a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it- until they are perceived/understood.  

Mathematical or logical "truths" (which we'll both agree exist, independently of anyone actually perceiving them) may be described in a book, but one person could read it and not understand it and declare it to be rubbish (therefore the book has not conveyed truth).  In this case, the objective truth may be there, but it isn't realized, so what's the point of discussing it? On the other hand, a biblical scholar might read it, understand what it is trying to describe, and realize the underlying truth for themselves, in which case it can be used for something, a noble cause (I'm big on utility- I'm an engineer...).

Here's the rub though- how can we know that this "truth" is actually the objective truth?  I'm not positive we can ever actually know if we've arrived at the objective truth (except for consistent mathematical or logical proofs), but we can certainly point out when we have not arrived at a truth.  It's easy to read something, and say "yeah, that's true," when in fact it is not.  If I read something, and through careful study I discover the "truth" that the earth is around 6,000 years old, I am likely to think that I have stumbled on an objective truth.  Who's to say that I haven't?  I could claim that if you doubt it, then you are not reading the bible correctly or literally, and you simply have your skeptical dial turned up because you want to believe in something else.  But that "something else" is the product of the scientific tools that we use to try as honestly as humanly possible to find objective truths in the world we experience.  And all I have is a book with words that I believe I have understood, that have led me to my truth.

I admit that at this point, I don't know if there is an objective truth to everything- like, an objective truth to which color is "best" or what is the "worst" way to die, or even "is it 'better' to actively kill one person to save a hundred or to passively allow the hundred to die?"  Logically, there are some truths- there exists a rock (or some set of identically weighted rocks) that is the heaviest rock on earth, for example- that are irrefutable just by their nature, but I do not believe that these truths are what Christians are referring to when they look to the bible for "objective truth."  Christians look to the bible to find objective truths that are not grounded in this world, and are not verifiable though any human-induced process.  There is no worldly judge of the basis for these truths, which is actually why many consider them to be objective- only an outside god can be an objective judge of human behavior and thought.  But even if this were true, it does us no good because we cannot know that it is true.  Even if it is an objective moral truth that "If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable" (Leviticus 20:13), how (other than taking the bible's word for it) can we possible know that it is an objective truth?  The only way is to (1) define "objective" as "that which is written in the bible," then (2) prove that we have interpreted the bible accurately so that we are actually realizing this objective truth.  I contend that (1) is an intellectually dishonest perversion of the concept of "objective" and that (2) is unprovable.

Just to be clear, and waste some more screen space...

- I am not saying that objective truths do not exist.
- I am not saying that written words cannot lead a person to discover an objective truth.
- I am saying that, except when referring to a mathematical or logical or similar proof that is consistent and a true concept independent of human perception, I don't think that an "objective truth" can be validated.  A person might understand one, but cannot be positive that it actually is one, and cannot declare it to be objectively true.
- I am saying that the bible is far from being a symbolic logic textbook in its assertion of "objective truths," and when all of the philosophical obfuscations are stripped away the central argument for biblical objectivity is reduced to the old parental standby argument I love and use so often: "Because I say so."

If it seems like my argument is evolving as I'm making it, it is.  I haven't yet formed a lot of my "beliefs" and pulling stuff out as it comes.  I'm sure that others have said what I'm trying to say, only more eloquently.  But it all makes sense in my head.


emailestthoume wrote:
You are certainly right that many people argue about the meaning of passages, but I would like to do two things in response:
1. To show that this does not mean there is no objectively true answer
2. To explain why such disagreement might be so rampant specifically in the area biblical interpretation.


- 1. The first one is not so difficult, and I suspect your problem is really with #2. Just be
   cause people disagree on something does not mean there is no objective answer. The most important issues of politics have about half of the U.S. on one side of the issue, and half on the other. And I see no rule of logical inference from which to infer that there is no right answer about such issues. Though I feel I have solidly made my point for #1, I also would like to point out that when Rabbis or other people disagree about what the biblical text says, they both agree on one thing, that there is an objective answer. Their arguing presupposes that they think there is a right answer, namely, theirs!



True- there may be an objectively correct answer to their argument, and people often believe that they have it.  However, just because the two Rabbis agree that there is an objective right answer, doesn't make it so.  Even still, I am willing to consider that, out of all the possible interpretations, there could be an accurate interpretation, and that interpretation might lead one to THE objective answer.  But even after all of that, there is still no way to prove that one has arrived at the objective answer (except in certain logical proof cases).

I've mentioned mathematical and logical proofs several times and I want to be clear- I consider the concept of 1+1=2 to be an objectively true concept that humans can understand and realize.  Likewise, I consider a hypothetical syllogism to be a logical truth (I just looked it up... I'm engaging in these forums to educate myself as much as anything  However, I do not consider logical truths to include one way orders ("Thou Shalt...") historical accounts- no matter how well argued ("The tomb was empty"), or "proofs" relying solely on human definitions ("God is is defined as the greatest being; a "greatest" being must exist; therefore, God exists").  "Oh no he di'nt..."  Yes, I did just trivialize the OA... but I think it's a pretty sneaky argument to begin with- just sayin'.


emailestthoume wrote:
- 2. So if there is an objectively true interpretation, why is there so much disagreement about what the biblical text actually says?  One thing I would like to point out is what Dr. Craig called "the skeptical dial," and I think it applies to everyone, me as well as you. People have the tendency to be more skeptical about arguments that have conclusions that they dislike. (not that we cannot become aware of this and do our best to transcend it) So someone could have a great argument, but since their conclusion is so disliked, people could become extremely skeptical about that argument, even though it was nearly perfect.

And the bible, though it has many things people do want to hear, it has many very difficult things to hear. One example is 'there is eternal judgment.' And these very issues are the ones people tend to disagree about. However, this suggests that people are simply turning up their skeptical dials because they simply dislike the existence of a hell. As in the example I have of the person with a great argument, (but skeptical dial raising audience) much disagreement does not show that his conclusion was not objective or his argument was not good.



I'm with you on the idea of a skeptical dial- there are experiments that one can perform to measure this effect.  There is anecdotal and experiential evidence for it.  The concept of being resistant to change (in surroundings, duties, beliefs, etc) is observable and understood.  But there is no way to know when one is increasing one's resistance against objective truth, or in support of it unless you first prove what that objective truth is.  If I have the objective truth, and you try to convince me that I'm wrong and I reject your arguments, is my "skeptical dial" tuning preventing me from coming to the truth?  No- it is preventing me from leaving it.  Of course you will think you have objective truth on your side and will consider me to be resistant to changing toward it, but I think that I have the objective truth and am right to reject your arguments.  Who is right, the "he said" or the "she said?"  To make the claim that someone is making a mistake by 'turning up their skeptical dial" because they simply dislike your idea, or disagree that you have sufficiently proven it, is to (1) assume they have trivial or incorrect reasons for their position and (2) assume that you have the objective truth and they do not.  These may actually be correct assumptions, but until you have some objective proof that you are in possession of objective truth, the accusation of skeptical dial has no grounds.

Also, concerning the the idea that the range of disagreement implies that one is farther from the objective truth: there is something to be said for the deviation from the "middle" of a topic- on a scale from one to ten, if someone thinks "6" and someone else thinks "4," there is not much disagreement and the topic might not be very controversial or complex.  If one person thinks "2" and the other "8," then there is much disagreement, and presumably there is a wide distribution of opinion (I know, small sample size, etc- just work with me).  However, this says nothing about where the objective truth lies.  The objective truth in the first example doesn't have to be "4," or "6," or even split the difference at "5." The objective truth could be at "10" or there could be no objective truth at all.  I might be getting too obtuse- What I'm getting at is, two people arguing vehemently says nothing about whether either of them are right, nor whether either is being obstinate for the wrong reasons.  

I will agree though that just because an entire audience may disagree with a point, does not make that point wrong or objectively untrue.  I've tried to stay consistent with the idea of "objective" as being independent of human perception, meaning it's true even if every being in the universe (don't want to leave out our extra-terrestrial friends...) doesn't get it.  I hope you will call me out if I'm inconsistent- I will then promptly change my definition to suit my beliefs

On a personal note, I don't believe in eternal judgement simply because I don't believe in a god that supposedly imposes that eternal judgement.  I'm not "afraid" of eternal judgement- you would have to believe in it to be afraid of it.  I'm aware of the "no atheists in a foxhole" argument that claims that even atheists will have last minute conversions "just in case."  But I'm not sure which god I'd pray to- I suppose in the spirit of Pascal's wager I'd pray to the one with the worst consequences for unbelief (maybe Allah?).  No, I think that any sensible god would only punish hypocrites all the more for chickening out at the last minute.  It would really tick me off if I were God- "had all your life to be scared into believing me and NOW you want the comfort that belief in the supernatural provides???"  I think I'll stick with what I've got...


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« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2011, 05:13:37 am »
Jeff, thanks for the response. I am enjoying this, its cool that the internet can be used to have these intense philosophical discussions. (not just videos of "epic fails" where people run their cars into trees while "surfing" on the hood) I have read your post multiple times, but for clarity I decided to quote two things: places that I think sums up your assertions well, and places that I disagree and I think it is important to point out how and why.

             

Christians look to the bible to find objective truths that are not grounded in this world....

 


   

- I don’t think this is true, if I am understanding you correctly. (as I read this again I think maybe I wasn't, but I kept it b/c one part of this response I refer to later) For example, the biblical assertion that Jesus of Nazereth existed would be an objective truth grounded in the world in a sense—he was physically present in this world a crucified. I know that objective moral truths cannot be grounded in this world, but I think that having objective moral truths are important weather or not you are a Christian. For example, it is objectively morally wrong to rape children for the fun of it.

 
             

The only way is to (1) define "objective" as "that which is written in the bible," then...

 

I will get to your "then" later on, but I wanted to point I that I am not sure this is what I would define objective truth as, or even the objective truth that is conveyed in the bible. The bible interprets itself as a narrative where certain things change. For example, the New Testament clearly points out that the Jewish food laws are no longer binding. Therefore, it must be interpreted with honesty and reason. (I know you might be objecting at this point, but I think I might respond to your objection in the rest of this post)

             

- I am saying that, except when referring to a mathematical or logical or similar proof that is consistent and a true concept independent of human perception, I don't think that an "objective truth" can be validated.  A person might understand one, but cannot be positive that it actually is one, and cannot declare it to be objectively true.

 

To affirm this poses the same problem for everything outside of mathematical and logical truths. For example, on this view, that it is wrong to rape a child for the fun of it independently of human opinion is not a mathematical or logical truth. Therefore, if you hold to what you said above, it cannot be validated, you cannot be positive it is true, and you cannot declare it to be objectively true.  

I feel like you also affirmed in this post often that biblical objective truths are unprovable, (though not always explicitly) and so...

          it does us no good because we cannot know that it is true    


(idk why but I can't make that smaller) First, if you are defining proof only as that which is as clearly demonstrated as logical and mathematical proofs, then nothing but logical or mathematical truths are provable (and "it does us no good because we cannot know that it is true). However, that would omit the moral truth (which I hasten to repeat) that I mentioned, since it cannot be demonstrated as necessarily true as can 2+2=4 or some syllogism.

However, if I were to grant you that we do only know logical and mathematical truths with complete certainty, what about our other important beliefs? In the public square, we would expect argument for them, but not mathematical certainty.


For biblical truths, (though one would have to first accept the authority of the bible to consider them true) there are some things that are obvious that one would have to be dishonest to say that the bible does not affirm them. I bet you would agree as well. Things like "God exists," and "Jesus is the Son of God." I am not saying everything is obvious, but I think the basics of what one would need to know to be saved are. Certainly, I would say, that some things are unclear to me about the bible, but that doesn't mean that important objective truths are not.

             

-       I am saying that the bible is far from being a symbolic logic textbook in its assertion of "objective truths," and when all of the philosophical obfuscations are stripped away the central argument for biblical objectivity is reduced to the old parental standby argument I love and use so often: "Because I say so."

 

I agree that the bible is not a symbolic logic textbook, but as I pointed out above, our most important beliefs are not provable by math or symbolic logic either. I feel like there is a deeper argument you would like to affirm here about the bible not being clear, or something like that. If so, feel free to post it in your next post, but I don't want to put words in your mouth so I will let you do that if you would like.

For the second part of the sentence, "the central argument for biblical objectivity..." I am not sure I understand your meaning. Perhaps you could clarify it. I will hold of from responding so I don't misrepresent it.

If I have missed any important points feel free to bring them up again. As for the eternal judgment aspect, I understand why you would have trouble with it. I
   only understand how it could be after I have experienced God as an infinity worthy and innocent person. A sin against such person would merit an infinite punishment. Thought perhaps the concept of infinity is flawed. However, I am undecided on weather there is eternal conscious punishment for all who reject God. I heard a debate on the topic, and I think there was a legitimate argument that such a punishment came from the Greek philosophic idea of the eternal of the soul, rather than the scriptures. Eternal punishment, in the scripture, could possibly mean eternal in its effects--sort of unchangably final. I looked at all of the scriptures about hell, and I find that though I am pretty sure it affirms that all who reject God will go there, I don't find a singe passage which says that they will stay alive in hell forever. It does say that the devil and his angels will, and also indicates that those who commit apostasy will, but I don't think it says all those who reject God will. As a fire would consume a branch, I think it is possible that hell will consume some souls, so that their time would be limited in hell, where afterwords they would cease to exist.

And I don't think you should believe based on Pascal's wager, though I am a huge Blaise Pascal fan for other reasons. (one of which is that I live in Chicago and its hard to be a Bears fan) As for the foxhole, if it is true that such a fear of death is rational for you to call out to God, (perhaps it is just an irrational response, or perhaps it would bring you closer to consider the reality of the possibility of death more seriously) I wouldn't wait for a foxhole, because we could die any minute, for reasons we did not foresee.

But anyway I hope I didn't seem like I was responding to your weakest points. I read you post many times, perhaps I have just missed some arguments, but I think you may have arguments about the bible that are more implicit and I didn't want to put words in your mouth and phrase them myself.

Cheers,

- Jeff (my name as well)