Take the blog out of your own eye

As evidenced by the fact that you are reading what I have written, I am part of the generation that blogs. Those who find themselves a part of this generation probably blog thanks to a slightly overinflated ego. One of the most common threads in these blogs is that of criticism because there’s always someone who’s doing or saying something stupid. They’re all a bunch of hypocrites though…

In Luke 6:42 Jesus argues, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” It is lamentable to me that I am associated with this generation of critics who do not take heed of Jesus’ advice. They are so quick to point out specks in the eyes of others that they don’t have time to pull the logs out of their own. “Bloggers” is the perfect term for these poor wretches: derived from “web” and “loggers” because they write on the web and they are the lumberjacks of the ocular world. I write this because, people of my generation, I am more than willing to help you remove those logs.

I find myself surrounded by hypocrites.
‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men’

Ignoratio Elenchi (Latin title: probably irrelevant article)

For a few months I have been considering writing something brief on a remarkably popular line of reasoning that is often employed and yet, utterly fallacious. I began thinking about writing this after proofreading an essay for someone at college who made this mistake. I began actually typing stuff out after John MacArthur did it.

It often seems to happen when the topic of creation comes up, this is perhaps because creation is one of the most contentious issues amongst evangelicals. It is called “Ignoratio Elenchi” which is Latin and therefore must mean something important (see what I did there?). The source of all knowledge: wikipedia, explains those foreign words as, “irrelevant conclusion, missing the point – an argument that may in itself be valid, but does not address the issue in question”.

The example that pops up again and again seems to be something to the effect of

Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 2:16)–inspired truth from God. “[Scripture] never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Jesus summed the point up perfectly when He said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17, KJV).
The Bible is supreme truth, and therefore I am right!

By the way, I stole everything except the bold bit from Johnny Mac’s blog entitled “Genesis 1: Fact or Framework?”.

Now in general I don’t really like bashing chaps publically (like this). When you write a blog and get a million readers though, I feel like you need criticism (and I’ll email this to him as well – I get an absolute ton of readers so even if he doesn’t get my email, it’ll surely get to him simply by word of mouth). Here’s my criticism though Dr. MacArthur: The fact that the Bible is supreme truth would not be disputed by Meredith G. Kline. Why are you arguing for it? The answer is: because it makes your position appear to be the biblical one. Your argument, while valid, does not address the question. It’s really not helpful to say it, all it does is portrays those who don’t hold your position as people who reject the Bible. I believe that the Bible is inerrant, not people who interpret it.

Now you should know that you’ve got a bit of slippery slope fallacy sneaking in there as well, “Why could not the resurrection itself be dismissed as a mere allegory?” But I’m not really interested in that stuff, I just wanted you to know that I know a bunch of people who actually believe framework hypothesis and the Bible… For that reason, it’s really not a helpful to present a case for inerrancy or infallibility: if we are ever going to figure this stuff out, we need to start taking each others’ arguments seriously. As a starting point, let me suggest you imagine a person who holds to the framework hypothesis and rejects theories of an old earth and evolution and the rest, who believes the earth is young and who loves Jesus with all his/her heart – what is your argument now? Stop with the slippery slope stuff, stop with the ignoratio elenchi stuff and sit down and let us reason together.

What’s more haven’t you ever noticed that strawberries are red. Red is the color of incorrect things. If you like strawberries, you know what that means… That’s just a joke and considering the title of this post includes Latin, you couldn’t possibly have expected anything beneath it to actually be funny.

Evolving beyond faith, and ethics

It never really surprises me when I come across an article in public media that rails against religion (even less so when the article vilifies Christians). It was, therefore, not exactly shocking when I was presented with an article by The Times columnist, Fred Khumalo which does just that. To be fair, it was a bit of a struggle to figure out where he stands at all when he writes both, “those of us who are of the Christian faith … ” and , “Issues of faith or religion, are constructs of the human imagination”. I came to the conclusion that the former quotation was crafted to keep the reader in suspense as to where the author stands but Mr Khumalo can hardly be accused of vilifying Christians. His article is entitled, “The Darkness that zaps us from the sky” and assumes the Dennet-like arguments that religion is a construct from our evolutionary past and he complains about the fact that some people still hold on to these myths. His complaint was, I admit, understandable; the MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs in KZN told a family, some of whom had been killed by lightning, “We will do an investigation with a view of trying to identify the causes of the recent upsurge of fatal lightning incidents in the province.” But the idea that atheism somehow solves the world’s problems was too much for me, so I wrote a letter to Mr Khumalo.

Good day Mr Khumalo,

I have just been presented with your article on “The darkness that zaps us from the sky”. It led me to consider the way in which intellectual climate of our day has changed the weather. You are of course, quite correct in your assertion that lightning and thunder are natural phenomena. I found the idea of lightning hawkers quite amusing. Of course, the idea is not far from the indulgences peddled by the Roman Catholic Church not long ago (which could, for example buy time off purgatory). What disturbed me about your article is what you overlooked.

As a naturalist should, you affirm, “Issues of faith or religion, are constructs of human imagination.” Faith and religion are mere concoctions of our evolutionary past that have helped our ancestors to survive and with the likes of Daniel Dennet and Richard Dawkins you argue that we should move beyond them. The only thing that I would add to this is that we should move beyond our ethics too. After all, any notions of morality are only constructs of human imagination. Moral absolutes are for those who, in their cowardice hide behind religion – an antique of our evolutionary past. The call should not be merely to stop thinking that lightning had anything to do with a supreme power who could call to account for our ethical decisions but also to abandon the idea of ethics.
Sir, your worldview doesn’t work but I am more than willing to continue the discussion.

And I sincerely hope that the discussion will continue.

Thus Saith The Lord

A couple of days ago I was in a local bookshop where I picked up “The Surprising Work of God” by Jonathan Edwards really cheaply. Surprised at the price, the lady behind the till checked the publisher and then knowingly nodded; “Whitaker House,” she said, and so I asked her why the publisher was relevant. She continued, explaining to me that Whitaker House worked hard to publish books cheaply (the cover threw her off because it looked too fancy to be a Whitaker House book), although they don’t use much discretion in what they publish. So, in search of a good deal, I decided to visit the Whitaker House website which is where I discovered this interesting advert.

Two things jump out at me as being totally ridiculous in this ad. Firstly, the claim that God’s words are in red. This to me is typical of modern liberal Christianity. It’s just a slightly altered form of the Emergent idea of being a “Red-letter Christian” (i.e. we take particular note of what Jesus had to say; and, by implication, not much else). I can’t remember who said it but I recall hearing someone say something to the effect of, “I don’t care much for red-letter Bibles, those Bibles that put the words of Christ in red, because it seems to distract and detract from all the black words too much”. Well, I imagine that in this edition, wherever there is direct speech originating from God, it is printed in red. The problem with this not-so-novel idea is that it gives the reader a false view of Scripture.

Consider the fact that all of the Bible is inspired by God; He meant for each word written by the original authors to be written exactly as it was. What’s more, the entire Bible is infallible – not a single word is questionable and so we can wholly trust the Bible. If it were to be in error in even a single minor point, I would throw it out at once. God’s very nature is tied to His Word and if His Word is in any way erroneous then I cannot trust God. So how is the inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture relevant to the subject at hand? Simple; if, as claimed, every Word of the Bible was “breathed out by God” (as the Greek term for inspiration literally means), then why are any words highlighted or seen as more true than others? By putting God’s direct speech in red letters, the producers of this Bible imply that the rest of the Bible is not God’s Word and so may be in error (which is useful when trying to explain away uncomfortable Bible stories such as Jonah being swallowed by a big fish etc.). So yes, I have my own Bible with the words of God in black (which is why all the words are black). I’m sure that such a Bible will leave a reader with a much higher view of Scripture than its alternative because God is speaking everywhere, not only in the places where it says, “Thus saith the Lord”.

At this point you may have forgotten that earlier I claimed to have two problems with this advert, well it is true and the second issue I have with it is the claim “There is no other Bible like it!” In what way is this Bible unique? Have we been missing something for the two millennia that have elapsed between Christ and this brand new Bible? This is another way to lower a reader’s view of Scripture. If we can change things in the Bible and discover things that no one has known for 2000 years then how can we be sure that in a couple years, decades or even centuries, we won’t discover that the Bible is just a fake?

I am not saying that there can be no new insight into the text of Scripture or that it would be impossible to change an understanding that we have. However, I am saying that regarding any foundational issue, it is impossible to discover something new and change our view. This is the point at which the Emergent church veers away from orthodoxy. Something like our belief in the virgin birth cannot be lost because it is foundational to Christianity because it is vital to the atonement. The claim that “There is no other Bible like it!” is unhelpful to Christians and non-Christians alike and once again breeds an incorrect view of Scripture. If there is truly no other Bible like this one, I want nothing to do with it because it must be false since the others are true.

A high view of Scripture is absolutely crucial to Christians today, we seem to live a sort of candy floss Christianity not worried about our lives or our faiths. Concerned only with having just enough Christianity not to go to hell and in actual fact, this view illustrates unchanged hearts. How can we hold to Sola Scriptura if we view only parts of the Bible as being important or even accurate?