Sunday, December 11, 2011

Matt 24 watch, 146b: Responding to the (implicitly anti-Semitic) Bible difficulties rhetorical game used to drag disucssions of unwelcome issues into a polarising side-track

In response to the just previous post here at KF blog, which I linked at UD, the immediate reply by one of the ilk of the hate mailer I exposed, was an attempt to drag the UD thread off into a side track on whether or not Deuteronomy 22 is [im]morally equivalent to the recent case in Iran where a young woman, having been raped, was sentenced to gaol for 12 years for fornication; and could only get out to raise her toddler child resulting from the sexual assault, by marrying the rapist. (This case, of course, I had highlighted in a previous post in this blog, as just linked.)

This is an example of the sort of (1) distract, (2) distort, (3) denigrate and poison 1-2-3 trifecta combination fallacy rhetorical tactics too often advocated and used by today's new atheists. 

At no point was there any willingness to be accountable over the hate mail already exposed. 

That is already a serious warning-sign on the irresponsibility, underlying hostility and unwillingness to be reasonable involved on the part of too many of these atheism advocates. 

Underneath lies an attitude that obviously wishes to improperly project unto Christians the notion that we are morally equivalent to the theocratic, tyrannical mullahs in Iran and/or Taliban or Al Qaeda terrorists -- when in fact such are not even typical of most Muslims.

That is already a direct case of hateful slander that should be acknowledged and turned from.

A further, even more dangerous issue is that in a vast majority of key cases of alleged Bible issues and difficulties being raised to try to indict the God of the Bible as a "fictional" "bronze age tribal deity" and "genocidal moral monster," etc, the texts being snipped out of context come from the Old Testament or the Tanach, especially the Pentateuch or Torah. 

That is, the texts are taken from the strictly Hebrew, i.e. Jewish, Scriptures.

So, Dr Dawkins and co, kindly note: the direct implication of these anti-God, anti-Bible arguments, is that they are implicit attacks on Jews and Judaism, not just Christians and Christianity. Those who would make them, need to ask whether they would be willing to explicitly substitute terms directly accusing or challenging Jews, for those that accuse or challenge Christians. 

For instance in Dawkins' The God Delusion, we may read:
The God of the Old Testament [read: Jews] is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully . . . ” [Cf. Lennox- Dawkins debate, here. For a quick initial response to this sort of rhetoric, cf. CARM here and JPH of Tektonics here, here, here and here. Also cf. Vox Day's short book length critique of the new Atheists in a free to download format here. (Available from Amazon here.)]
The subtext of thinly veiled Anti-Semitism* should be obvious, once we headline the reference to "The God of the Old Testament." Let's spell that out, a little more plainly: The God of the Old Testament [Jews].

Dr Dawkins, would you be willing to explicitly say that "the God of the Jews" is "jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully"?

Obviously not, or you would not have resorted to the sort of snide euphemism that allows you to pretend that it is only Bible-believing Christians who are in your cross-hairs.

So, I have a direct challenge to the legions of so-called new Atheists who are ever so eager to carry forth the accusation or snide insinuation that Bible-believing Christians are barbaric, potentially terroristic, theocratic, tyrannical and genocide-supporting followers of an imaginary "bronze age tribal deity and moral monster."

It is this:
If the arguments you use to try to discredit the Bible, God and Christians would be out of order and unacceptable if addressed directly and explicitly to Jews, such an argument, by simple fairness, is also out of order and unacceptable if directed at Christians.
Indeed, such an argument, like it or not -- and my accuser at UD did not like it and tried turnabout accusation tactics, is rather obviously implicitly anti-Semitic. 

(Just think, Christianity is NOT from the bronze age; that is the time of the Hebrew patriarchs, of Joseph, of Moses and on down to David -- who seems to have led Israel into the Iron Age through the immigration of 600 Philistines under his sponsorship; the Philisines having previously dominated Israel by monopolising blacksmithing, to the point where Israelites had to go to Philistia to get their iron agricultural implements -- obviously, bought from Philistines --  sharpened. So, do you wish to be of the ilk of the anti-Semites? If not, kindly refrain from attacking the alleged "bronze age tribal deity" you imagine you see in the Bible.)

This issue needs to be dealt with first, as there is plainly an atmosphere poisoning, polarising tactic that is being routinely resorted to that needs to be answered.

So, next time Dr Dawkins or one of his aficionados and talking point parrots tries to drag an inconvenient discussion off track by making such implicitly anti-semitic accusations, let him first answer, whether he would be willing to explicitly make that argument as a challenge to Jews.

If not, then he has automatically disqualified himself from the circle of civil conversation if he tries to use such tactics against Christians.

So, we see that there is plainly a need to shift the whole tone and focus of discussion to a more civil and reasonable approach. 

And, those who have shown -- inadvertently exposed, in fact -- themselves willing to resort to implicit anti-Semitism, far from holding the moral and intellectual high ground,  now have a lot of quite serious explaining to do.

Until such "bronze age tribal deity and moral monster" talking point tacticians and those who willingly parrot their talking points are willing and able to explain themselves properly, they should be seen for what they are. Such, should understand that the price of re-admission to civil discussion is to turn from and apologise for such viciously poisonous tactics.

Dr Dawkins and co, with all due respect, this means you.

New Atheists etc, who have entertained and propagated such poison, this also points to you.

Your explanation for the above clip, and for keeping it up for several years now is  . . . ?

[The silence, is deafening.]

But, someone will ask, aren't there real Bible difficulties, that really do need reasonable answers for honest and concerned, or even perplexed people?

Indeed, but the shift in tone and focus needed to reasonably and fairly address such, should be plain. Until that step is taken, then no real dialogue is possible in a climate of willful false accusations and nasty caricaturing.

But, how can real Bible difficulties be reasonably answered?

We can start with a Google search or the like, under that name or the like. Easily done, and serious people will be able to find resources and points of contact for more specific discussion and follow up.

I just did this basic research step, and easily came up with the following top level hits that look reasonable for a first-look:
CARM first page on Bible Difficulties, here

Apologetics Index opening page on Bible Contradictions, here

Answering Islam's Bible Contradictions page (with a Muslim focus) here

R A Torrey's classic short work on Bible Difficulties is online as a PDF here

Philip and Cherian have a paper analysing the subject here

Geisler and Howe give a general approach here

Countering Bible Contradictions, here

Bible Difficulties: resources to defeat the skeptics and critics, which has a helpful guide and onward links to reference sites and books etc., here

(One of the sources this last lists is Tekton's Encyclopedia Apologetica search page, here. OT issues are addressed here, and NT ones here. The so-called enc of Bible errancy is addressed here. While I am at it, the Evil Bible site is answered here.)

The Bible Query page has a major index and reference here
In addition, there are many classic and modern reference works that can be seen for the price of a trip to your friendly local Christian book store, e.g. Gleason Archer's classic Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, now updated.

In addition, such stores, theological libraries, the sort of sites listed, and many other possibilities provide ways to have reasonable dialogue with the informed are within reach of the serious inquirer.

In short, it can hardly be said that Christians do not take Bible difficulties seriously, or that reasonable answers to serious questions cannot be found. And, there are obvious opportunities for live or web based dialogue for the serious inquirer.

That is the context in which I must take a dim view of those who want to push toxic talking points as though they are knockout arguments that allow them to get away with failing to think through their own worldview base from first principles and deal with the many worldview problems of evolutionary materialism.

As I listed such concerns in my just previous post, top issues for evolutionary materialists include:
1: just how evolutionary materialist atheism is inescapably self-contradictory and necessarily false.

2: just how it is inescapably amoral and so cannot ground OUGHT in a foundational IS, so it undermines rights and justice.

3: how a step by step analysis of credible worldview options leads to the conclusion that generic ethical theism is the soundest worldview option.

4: how the specific, Judaeo-Christian worldview and tradition is grounded in the historic evidence that undergirds the gospel as truth that brings us hope for redemption and transformation under God.

5: just how destructive and willfully, slanderously unfair is the attempt to smear Bible-believing, gospel-teaching Christian disciples with the false accusation that we are in effect the same as Al Qaeda's terrorists, would-be theocratic tyrants and general menaces to liberty, progress and democracy.
Before closing off, let me also briefly comment in more details on the difficulty in Deut 22 that was raised, for those who have a genuine problem, in light of basic principles of inductive Bible study. (NB: Beyond Bible study there are the principles of hermeneutics and the professional practice of exegesis based on technical knowledge, including history, background, theology, language etc. Nice introductory survey of the themes and approaches, here.)

A glance a few verses just above the text cited, will show that once rape was reasonably proved, the case law precedent was that the rapist was liable to be put to death. Indeed, in a case of a pledged girl caught and raped in the countryside, the law's presumption was that she screamed but there was no-one to hear; i.e. the presumption of hebrew law here is NOT that the woman asks for it and tempts the man into it.  Though, of course, the additional wider context is that Hebrew law was careful to insist on reasonable standards of testimony etc., most famously the need for two or three independent witnesses, separately examined. It is plain that a distressed pledged woman who had say gone out to get firewood [a major task for women in the days before modern cooking equipment] coming back crying for help -- and bearing obvious marks of assault -- seen by two or three witnesses in that condition, will be believed over her attacker, who is liable to the rigorous penalty.

So, there are contrasting cases in view: where a cry for help was heard or could reasonably be presumed, the rapist was liable to the death penalty. But, then the focus changes; to a case where the boy who despoiled a girl is seen as liable to pay the bridal dowry, and to marry the girl without possibility of divorcing her. (Just as, a man who having married a girl but finding that he dislikes her falsely accuses her of not being a virgin on the wedding night, must pay a stiff fine to the girl's family and cannot ever divorce her, once the traditional tokens -- presumably, kept in custody of the girl's family (cf here and here) [and yes, a rabbinical source is obviously relevant]) -- are produced. [Do you now see the significance of reading and understanding textual, cultural and situational context, J et al?])

Why is that?

Is this a case of forced marriage to a rapist "just like" in Iran, as the skeptical accuser would have us believe?

Nope, not if we understand that the Hebrew culture was high-context in its way of communication, i.e. we cannot properly understand many things unless we have a highly nuanced understanding of context. (So, let the ignorant and hostile skeptic beware of declaring and declaiming on what he knows not!)

What is the key to understanding this case?

Simple, actually: this is c. 1400 BC, and boys and girls were not supposed to be off together in secluded areas without supervision.

No "parking" and no "light" or "heavy" "petting." No "lovers' lanes" and no "date rape" either.

The case in view -- this was doubtless based on an actual case -- therefore addresses what happens where that major cultural rule is broken, and there is a scandal and a he said she said situation, in the context of an unsupervised "date"; already itself a major violation of the cultural codes.

In short, if a teen aged girl (by late teens a girl would normally have already been married) goes along with a set up for seduction (going off to a secluded location with a boy . . . ), and there is a scandal or dispute thereafter, her father -- the implicitly recognised authority -- has the say on the prospective son in law. 

If he is willing to accept the dowry and the young man, the young man is married and has forfeited the possibility of divorce.

Implicitly, if the father is not willing to accept this young man for his daughter, he has an un-marriage-able, scandal-tainted daughter on his hands (virginity was an extremely important issue to the point where defrauding a husband to be on this implied claim was a death penalty matter).  But, he has a dowry to support her also.

This is patently utterly different from the case in Iran, where a girl was beyond reasonable doubt raped by some sort of relative, and she was gaoled for fornication (apparently, the men involved are deemed unable to resist the opportunity and so are held blameless . . . ), as she could not find four witnesses to the act to rescue her from the charge. So, she was forced to marry her rapist as a way to be able to raise her toddler child, the result of the rape, outside of gaol.

What was done at UD earlier today, then, clearly, was a willfully poisonous distraction, and J is inexcusable for his misbehavior there and at Anti Evo. Indeed, the full force of the issue of implicit anti-Semitism applies as well. Regardless of his attempts to twist that about.

Surely, it is high time for such skeptics to think seriously and act soberly with a due measure of reasonableness. 

 So, I invite us all to reflect carefully on the apostle Peter's remark shortly before his martyrdom c 65 AD:
2 Peter 3:15And consider that the long-suffering of our Lord [[e]His slowness in avenging wrongs and judging the world] is salvation ([f]that which is conducive to the soul's safety), even as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the spiritual insight given him,
    16Speaking of this as he does in all of his letters. There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own [g]utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures.
    17Let me warn you therefore, beloved, that knowing these things beforehand, you should be on your guard, lest you be carried away by the error of lawless and wicked [persons and] fall from your own [present] firm condition [your own steadfastness of mind].
    18But grow in grace (undeserved favor, spiritual strength) and [h]recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (the Messiah). To Him [be] glory (honor, majesty, and splendor) both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (so be it)! [AMP]
Let us pay heed to such wise counsels. END

F/N: Slight updates and added links, to Mon Dec 12.

F/N 2: discovered a defect in a link, replaced. 

*F/N 3. Dec 13:  I see where an objector elsewhere claims: (i) "I see no anti-semitism whatsoever, even when one substitutes "God of the Jews" for "God of the Old Testament." Dawkins's point remains valid and true," and (ii) "If you want to talk anti-semitism: why are you calling the Hebrew Scriptures an "old" testament?" In short, (i) he agrees with Dr Dawkins' claims as outlined above against the God of Israel, and (ii) he thinks that the Christian view that the messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, and so the Old Covenant was completed in him, is false. The first is hardly a sound rebuttal (simply compare what the above shows), and for the second, my comment is that we may all read in the prophet Zechariah as follows:
Zech 12: 10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit[a] of grace and supplication. They will look on[b] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son . . .  

14:1 A day of the LORD is coming when your plunder will be divided among you.
 2 I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it . . .
 3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south . . .
. . . I trust, therefore, that this critic will be willing to respond to the One who stands on that Mount, even if he has been "pierced" with nail-prints in his hand (even as Thomas responded in the upper Room), and has been as well the Suffering Servant of Isa 53 (and the one with 500+ eyewitnesses to his resurrection of 1 Cor 15:1 - 11). In short, a disagreement on theological matters hardly constitutes hatred of a people, but the unjust, jaundiced, superciliously denigratory and dismissive  characterisation of the God of Israel we find in Dr Dawkins' remarks as cited above raises serious questions about the implication of his words for both Christians and Jews; which is what was highlighted above.

F/N 4: I believe also, I need to note here, on an objection made by the same objector to this post at UD.  

He began by trying to defend radical relativism in morality, then when I pointed out that the cultural form of such would have no basis for condemning  actions of people under the Nazi German regime, he objected that "As someone of Jewish upbringing, I think you’ve said something very hurtful and stupid. What Hitler did, however was in fact legal. He made it so, and many “moral” institutions either helped out or looked the other way . . .

Immediately, we can see a thinly veiled blanket dismissal of the significance of the stance taken by Niemoller, Bonhoffer, Barth, et al (starting with the Barmen Declaration of 1934) , by the leadership and many members of the Catholic churches (consider here the White Rose movement, who at the cost of their lives, first made the holocaust a publicly known matter), and by others (think Oskar Schindler), at serious risk of their lives in the face of the calculated intimidation and ruthless brutality of a totalitarian regime. [Please read the White Rose movement's story, to see what was entailed in trying to resist by even just typing up and distributing some leaflets!] In short, it is the want of due balance and reasonable recognition of those who risked their lives to stand up in the face of demonic, totalitarian tyranny, that are ever so revealing here.  

But, in fact, I primarily had something very specific in mind, and replied by calling attention to the relativism-based Nazi defence offered at the Nuremberg Trial, and to US Supreme Court Justice and chief American prosecutor Robert Jackson’s devastating reply to the Nazi claims, which pivots on the premise that there is a discernible, well known moral law embedded in our nature to which we all owe obedience, based on our moral worth and our equality as persons of moral worth -- Hooker's key point that (through Locke's citation in his 2nd essay on civil gov't, Ch 2 Section 5 . . . ) is the premise of modern liberty and democracy:
In The law Above the Law, John Warwick Montgomery describes [the Nazi] argument: “The most telling defense offered by the accused was that they had simply followed orders or made decisions within the framework of their own legal system, in complete consistency with it, and they therefore ought not rightly be condemned | because they deviated from the alien value system of their conquerors” (emphasis added).4

But the tribunal did not accept this justification. In the words of Robert H. Jackson, chief counsel for the United States at the trials, the issue was not one of power — the victor judging the vanquished — but one of higher moral law. “The tribunal rises above the provincial and the transient,” he said, “and seeks guidance not only from International Law, but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence, which are assumptions of civilization . . . . ” 5 [Beckwith, Francis, and Koukl, Greg, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, Baker (2005 printing) pp. 50 - 51; Judge Jackson's words emphasised. HT, Google Books.]


Tony said...

You missed:

GEM of The Kairos Initiative said...


Thanks for your constructive comment, which gives access to a considerable body of articles responding to various Bible difficulties issues and skeptical challenges.

I am not very familiar with Creation Wiki, but a quick skim shows that the wiki has interesting and helpful articles.

You will understand that I took some time to wade through the hate mail and spam in my in-box to find your comment.

Thanks again.


GEM of The Kairos Initiative said...

F/N: Asa a quality cross-check, I looked at the Creation Wiki Islam page and its Crusades page [which turns out to be a stub with a very good first link here to remarks by a professional historian of the crusades], as these are topics that are generally poorly understood in our civilisation.

My finding, Tony, is that the tested pages show quite good underlying research skills, and are the work of someone who is trying to be fair, accurate and responsible.

On the strength of that test, I think that Creation Wiki is a worthwhile site to look at for a voice that needs to be heard on the various debates out there.

Good job -- and that holds whether or not I agree with everything you say on the above topics or others.