The Tentative Apologist
6/26/10 at 12:14 PM 0 Comments

Is the Bible "merely" a product of its times?

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Sometimes running a blog is like working on an assembly line stamping widgets. If you go for a bathroom break the line doesn't stop and the widgets pile up and then you never catch up.

Unless your blog is your life, that invariably happens. I have a bunch of widgets (i.e. comments) piled up in my absence over the last 36 hours (a long bathroom break, admittedly) on two assembly lines (article posts). Fortunately the analogy breaks down since I'm not expected to stamp every widget in this forum, and I won't lose my job if I don't. But even so, I should be stamping at least a few. (Not stamping on them though: that's very different.)

So let's jump into the conversation over at "What would we expect God's Word to look like?" (Kudos to MGT2 for carrying on a conversation in this thread from multiple directions.) Here I'll interact with two comments:

Comment 1 by Aces Lucky

Aces Lucky writes that any word of God should be "infallible." (But no definition of what "infallible" is supposed to mean is provided. That's troubling because the word can then become a mere cipher, a grounds to say, ‘whatever infallibility is, your book ain't that.') AL adds: "Further, it should not be filled with error, immorality, and absurdity, as these prove it did NOT come from the divine!"

There is a bluntness in the way those comments are written that troubles me. After all everything depends on what the author of a text was intending to say. There seems to be no interpretive subtlety in AL's statement at all.

I like to use Jonathan Swift's classic essay "A Modest Proposal" as an example in these matters. (Swift's essay figures prominently in the chapter on how to read ‘moral atrocity texts' in the Bible in a book I'm currently writing on genocidal violence in the Hebrew Bible (aka OT).) Swift (writing in the 18th century) argues in the essay that the plight of the poor in Ireland can be dealt with if they will harvest a sizeable number of their infants for market. Yes, Swift calmly advocates mass infanticidal slaughter and cannibalism.

Now somebody could respond "No moral person could write an essay commending mass infanticidal slaughter and cannibalism." And therefore, if Swift wrote the essay, he is not a moral person.

But of course this begs the question of what Swift was intending to say through the voice of the speaker. In fact, Swift's voice diverged very sharply from the voice of the speaker, thereby making the essay a powerful tool of ironic social commentary, and a very moral one at that.

One cannot assume that the divine voice simply is the human voice in the Bible any more than in any other text. Thus it is premature to conclude that putative instances of moral atrocities being narrated in the Bible represent the voice of the divine author and can be used as defeaters for the claim that the text is inspired.

Comment 2 by Silver Bullet

Next, Silver Bullet directs a statement to MGT2: "Babinski has produced loads of evidence to support his claim that the bible is merely the product of its times; his essay is a tour de force. What is your evidence that the bible is something more?"

The one problem with this first sentence is the gratuitous "merely". Babinski has shown no such thing. He showed that the Bible is a product of its times. Of course. But where does the merely come from?

Silver Bullet thinks that "loads of evidence" have been provided to support the "merely". I see absolutely none. Nor does MGT2.

And that pushes me back to my complaint with the essay and The Christian Delusion thus far. If the book is written merely by atheists for atheists then its okay I guess. They'll leave satisfied, having heard what they already accepted restated.

But I have not seen a single argument thus far that would be of much interest to a Christian. And isn't that what this whole anti-apologetical project is really about? To show Christians that their faith is "delusionary"?

How impressive is it to argue a case that the Grateful Dead are the greatest American band if the only people who find any merit in your argument were diehard Deadheads to begin with?

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