Friday, March 24, 2006

The Alpha, Not the Omega

What kind of oxymoron is the phrase “literal interpretation”?

People might think they believe in what the Bible “literally” says, but I can assure you, they do not. Even the most extreme Christian fundamentalists interpret passages of Scripture.

In fact, it’s not even possible, or at least not intellectually honest, to believe that every word of the Bible is literally true, because the Bible frequently contradicts itself. I’m not even talking about the Old Testament passages that Jesus overturned. I’m saying that as a historical document, it doesn’t line up. The creation timeline in the first chapter of Genesis contradicts the second chapter. But that’s nothing. Just try reconciling the different Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth.

When pressed on timeline contradictions, Fundamentalists will (accurately) point out that the Gospels were written decades after Christ’s death, and suggest that in the various memories of the Evangelists certain details got bumped around, though what matters most is not the chronology but the events and messages contained therein. Well, that, my friends, is an interpretation. That’s putting ancient documents in historical context. I’d like to encourage that trend.

A rabbi explained to me once that in Jewish tradition, the Bible is regarded as the start of the conversation, not the final word.

Many Christians would react in horror to the suggestion that the Bible isn’t the ultimate authority on everything. They insist the Bible is the word of God, period. But even they don’t really believe it, and here’s why.

Recently in a post where I debunked the religious right’s myths about legalizing gay marriage, I pointed to the following passage from the book of Deuteronomy: "If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her; he may not put her away all his days.”

What the…??? Can you imagine a Christian arguing that a rape victim should be forced to marry her attacker as part of HIS punishment because the Bible says so? (The passage also suggests that the punishment only applies if he’s caught in flagrante.) Our modern sensibilities recoil in disgust at the notion. There is no way around it: our internal moral compass tells us that the Bible is just plain wrong here.

Putting this verse in historical context, as we do with the chronologically conflicted Gospel stories, we see plainly that Old Testament morality has much more to do with cultural practices of the ancient middle east than God’s will.

What about the New Testament, though? Paul writes in I Corinthians that “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.” Apparently that doesn’t include the Pope’s hat. He follows that by saying, “Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.” Who adheres to these rules? It seems to fly in the face of the Gospel message that God cares more about what’s in our hearts than any outward gesture.

There are other passages that most Christians and churches recognize as being in conflict with the core of the Gospel: I Corinthians 14:34-35 is a lovely example. Exodus 21:20-21 is another. I could go on.

Just as we no longer stone adulterers or declare women unclean for seven days every month, I am convinced that Christian society will ultimately come to accept the truth that the Biblical statements against homosexuality reflect ancient cultural prejudice and not divine will. Let’s let the Bible be the beginning of our conversation about faith, not the final word.

61 comments:

kr pdx said...

Hey you. (Hello, everyone else, also.)

If you insist on being a "Christian," that inherently implies a Christ, and specifically Jesus Christ.

Jews are absolutely correct to consider the Bible as the beginning of a conversation; they (mostly) don't believe the Christ, which their Bible leads to, has come. (Apparently one leading European Jewish scholar a few years ago suggested that Jesus probably was The Christ, but he came for the Gentiles that first time and will come for the Jews the second time. I'm sure that went over well with European Jews :P. I wonder if he's heard the South American miraculous white-man legends/myths ... .)

SHORT RESPONSE:
You have not addressed any of my points in your post of 3/9, but instead insisted essentially that you cannot support your stand from Gospel evidence (whether or not supplemented by cultural evidence), so 'please let's just ignore the Bible on this one.' And you ironically tried to make the Bible ridiculous regarding men, women, and sexuality using the OT and the Letters, which normally liberal Christians nowadays argue aren't evidence for anything.

EXPLICATION:
Even for those of us who believe that Jesus can be met and known through through means other than the Bible, the Bible is still a reference point and key part of the picture. (Otherwise, frankly, how can you know you aren't 'meeting and knowing' an imposter, for those who believe in conniving evil spirits, or something you've created in your own head, for those who don't?) And while it is painful and inconvenient (admittedly more so for you), Jesus in the Bible does treat sexuality as a moral issue, an issue that has effect on how we relate to others and to God, and he does not overturn any standing prohibitions about homosexuality and tightens the ropes on heterosexuality. ("If you've thought about adultery with a woman you are guilty of the sin"??? How many people live up to that one?? Yikes! At least in a "literal interpretation" you'd go scot-free on that ;). )

As stated 3/9, I agree that Paul and the OT have some pretty culturally painful things to say. I, like you, am willing to study their cultural context to pry out what pertinence they have today vs. what pertinence they had then (Paul's "women's heads" stuff has some inner lessons--the should-be-obvious lesson that women shouldn't "advertise" in church is one; women tend to really not understand the degree to which heterosexual men are distracted by that ... I haven't looked into the men's stuff so much, understandably).

Paul is fairly sexist, and the OT, especially the earliest OT, more so, which is why (as a woman) I can see legitimacy in meeting you primarily at the Gospels. But if you can't meet me there, you need to reevaluate why you call yourself Christian. Not saying you aren't, just saying it doesn't appear to be logically consistent with your apparent rejection of the moral authority of the only document/historical tradition that gives us any reason to believe that (1) humanity should expect a Christ and (2) Jesus is the Christ. (Again, if God wants us to know Him, and God is something resembling what Christians think He is, the Bible should at some level have been divinely maintained as a useful document, particularly the Jesus-part.)

Homosexuality was common not only with the surrounding OT peoples but often with the Israelites (the surrounding peoples had much more sensible-seeming gods on a lot of issues, and the Israelites often tried to see their God more as more sensible). Greek and Roman cultures were often OK with homosexuality too, and obviously Christianity gained many converts from those cultures (that mystifies me a bit, actually--again, their gods were WAY more intuitively logical than our God, and it's not like he put burning columns of flame to guide them out of their pagan bondage, eh?). It is not like NOW is the very first, oh so enlightened time that large chunks of the population have decided homosexuality is fine, like we have some totally new never-before-developed in salvation history (and obviously not in human history!) idea on this.

Your only out that I see is to say: God speaking on sexual morality is a holdover from polytheist assumptions about what human actions gods had purview over. And I'll say, Jesus spoke on it ... who do you think Jesus is and what does he mean?

God chose to incarnate among those people, that he prepped, at that time. His incarnate self apparently never communicated (I don't think even in any of the "Lost Books of the Bible") that this was OK. You are welcome to go on thinking it is OK, but I intellectually object to your constant implication that because God loves you and you are a Christian, Christ must approve of homosexual activity. If you can't support it from the Bible one way or another, you aren't ever going to convince me.

I took two years to rally my arguments and then my courage to present them to you; I don't expect you to come back against them "tomorrow." (I was kind of surprised you were going to try--but then you don't have kids so you have more time, and you are inherently interested in the issue.) You are a smart guy, and if the arguments are there I am sure you will find them. This post isn't them. I look forward to your next installment, however long it takes. It's been an interesting 22+ years thus far :).

Time said...

So how does this book (Bible) with all its contradictions become the basis of the explanation of existence and the guide for moral society?
What you describe would be found in the fiction section of a book store.
Quoting the Bible to prove ones point on an issue is a waste; for I can open that same book to a different page and show you are wrong.
To murder someone (Afghan example) because he now believe's a different religious text over his prior religious text is an example why we should stop using religious texts at all; to decide absolute right and wrong.
When society can learn to love each other, respect each other's differences, and treat each other kindly without the use of the Bible or other religious texts, that's when people will stop fighting and dying over religious differences.
The only valid reason to believe God might be real (and the creator)is because so many millions accept that faithfully, not because it can be proven.
Mabey the writers of the Bible just invented stories to try to guide their society on how to live a better life and end violence towards each other.

Robert Bayn said...

I agree to a point the bible does contradict itself, but i think the misunderstanding of the bible has more to do with Theology, than it does the bible itself.

One of the best arguments is that for years people have said that Adam and Eve were the first people on earth, that is actually false if you read the bible, you see that in fact in the writings in Genesis.

Genesis 1:26&27:

26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.



It is not until chapter two is Adam created.

Jade said...

It sounds like you are making a similar suggestion as Bart Ehrman - he was a guest on Jon Stewert recently advertising his book "Misquoting Jesus." Seeing as how he was "schooled in evangelical literalism" himself, I'd be interested in your opinions of his work.

Anyway, from an outsider's P.O.V. it looks to me like everyone takes the text of the Bible and embraces the portion that they already agree with, sometimes ignoring the rest, sometimes putting it into "historical context". The disagreement comes when groups argue about which portions they should take literally, and which portions they should take with a grain of salt.

Andy said...

KR, it's nice to have a theological adversary who can speak coherently and doesn't just throw Leviticus like it's a molotov cocktail and run away.

(I use adversary in a friendly way.)

I'm sorry you didn't find my post as enlightening as I/you might have hoped.

Here's my initial response: The Gospels are, in fact, silent on the subject of homosexuality. So I'm afraid I'm permanently hard-pressed with regard to a challenge to cite Gospel chapter and verse to state conclusively that homosexuality can be compatible with a Christian life.

You are also similarly challenged.

This is rather difficult. I'm not sure it's appropriate to treat the Bible as a legal document, but if it were, I'd have to say you are arguing on the shaky premise that what is not explicitly allowed is implied to be forbidden, at least as far as the Gospels go. That is historically an unsuccessful court argument.

Your contention that everything in the Old Testament with regard to morality still stands unless Christ specifically overturned it leaves us in trouble because He in fact did not reject any of those verses I referenced. If your argument is that Leviticus 18:22 is still valid because Jesus said nothing about it, then we can in fact argue from a Christian standpoint that a rape victim can be compelled to marry her attacker because the crime is against her father who owns her, not against her own body and her own self. I do not assume that to be your position. He did not overturn your 7 days of uncleanliness, either.

What Jesus rejected is significant but still leaves us with vast amounts of regulations no Christians observe, including the Pope, unless he somehow manages to verify whether a woman is unclean before he touches her, or if he observes the regulations regarding the disposal of mildew, or requires people with certain kinds of skin infections to wrap themselves in sackcloth and go through the streets shouting "Unclean! Unclean!" Jesus didn't veto any of those things. Cotton-polyester blends? Jesus was silent.

It's not a matter of rejecting things willy-nilly or because they are deemed to be inconvenient; it's based on a great deal of thought by many people in many places from many different perspectives, and all have more or less come to the conclusion that much of what is prescribed by the Old Testament (and Paul) stands in conflict with the Gospel.

Ay caramba, I have more to say but I am at work and suddenly I find myself needing to send a FedEx package.

Hugs.

kr pdx said...

And (chaste :) ) kisses :).
(I have to work tonight, so this is the last installment today--probably ;). )

Robert Bayn:
I have never seen that interpretation of the two Genesis stories before. It's interesting.

Some folks:
I do not read the Bible literally, as I hoped was obvious but I guess wasn't. Taking it seriously isn't the same.

Time:
This is in the nature of a personal argument between Andy and I, which I offer here on his blog because I welcome those-who-agree-with-Andy to also comment. I use the Bible because Andy and I both profess Christianity, which is based on the Bible one way or another. Since I don't advocate killing Muslim converts, nor even abortionists (which at least might make SOME sense to me), I would really appreciate the atheists of the world backing the f*** off on the religious killing issue. Have you ever totaled up the huge nastiness and massive killing (and environmental degradation, too) attributable to communism and it's non-religious relatives? "Religious people kill other people" is a dumb argument against religion. Religious people are also big movers and shakers on the love-one-another front, the environmental front, and various social justice fronts that are based on the first two. From my point of view, the basic concepts inherent in Christianity have dug a lot of the world out from some very ugly, repressive cultural assumptions, and things are generally getting better (if we just had never invented WMD ...!). Maybe eventually homosexuality will turn out to be one of those.
You have no reason to be interested in this set of reasoning, which is fine. You might be right and religion is bullshit; hopefully we'll both end up at the truth of the situation before we die.

Andy: "I'd have to say you are arguing on the shaky premise that what is not explicitly allowed is implied to be forbidden, at least as far as the Gospels go."

OK, I've relocated my Bible, although not my catechism, so I'm less handicapped than I was.

First, this line of reasoning may be "historically unsuccessful" in courts, but that doesn't mean it is incorrect. It makes it easier for you to discount, is all ;). I didn't really expect you to jump up in a conversion ecstasy. Mostly I just want to provide an intelligent argument from "the other side" of this belief-gap, partly since I'm tired of liberals throwing "love your neighbor" as if it justifies everything--the same as I am irritated at people tossing Leviticus around as if it justifies everything.

RE: uncleanliness: Mark 7:14-16, which is described in The Five Gospels (which book I only quote because it is a source I overall disagree with so it is interesting when I agree) as "a categorical challenge to the laws governing pollution and purity." Also, things I have read (can't remember which ones now, sorry, but I don't read many feminist screeds so a decent chance this is not merely a feminist fantasy) have said (as I mentioned 3/9) that some "uncleanliness" was somehow wrapped up with the idea that "this is too sacred for you to touch," and that menstruating women were in that category.

AND! I did NOT argue that everything OT stands unless Christ specifically overturned it. Per 3/9, I was scanning the Gospels for overall themes and specific citations regarding sex, procreation, family, marriage, chastity (and "sins" related to any of those). I was clearly looking for _categorical_ confirmation or commentary. Specific OT refutation would be a pretty ridiculous search-criteria, since the OT is so much longer than the Gospels.

I don't see how your implication that "nothing OT stands unless Christ said so specifically" is any more intellectually honorable, standing against your own "courtroom" objection, than my "things can be reasonably presumed to stand unless Christ said something to suggest they shouldn't." In nations other than ours, legal precedent can include cultural norms. (I believe the British for a long time operated with this assumption: Tony?)

The rape-marriage:
1) an improvement to the men just feeling the right to use and toss away women, which is partly what it addresses by adding a clear consequence for the man (this seems to echo my favorite revolutionary religious idea, that Jesus -- and God per OT -- came as "males" because otherwise men wouldn't have ever bothered to listen ;) , when clearly "God" is a little beyond our concepts of gender). So yes, horrendous and ugly, but possibly a mote more protection than previously existed. (Women's rights crawl at a snail's pace in the Bible, but crawl they do. Well, maybe until Paul.)
2) Mark 10:2-12 : Interesting that Jesus phrases the question of divorce as "What command did Moses give you?" followed by "He wrote that commandment for you because of your stubbornness." (Five Gospels "more academic" translation: "What did Moses command you?" "He gave you this injunction because you are obstinate.") Jesus here clearly implies that some of the injunctions in the OT were because the people wouldn't bend to better teaching at that time. (And he goes on, then, about man and wife becoming one person--one of the previously mentioned places where he clearly doesn't support same-sex unions.) When God gave the OT Israelites a King, it is (in the story) because they insist they cannot live without one, not because He wants to give them one (he would prefer them to be more directly loyal to him, duh). Clearly, by both NT and OT record, some passages in the OT are more indicative of where the people were at than of God's preferred behaviors.

Stoning adulterers: Little CIcero already covered that one (albeit not when he should have, with his Leviticus observations): who can throw the first stone?

Which leads me to remind everyone that I do not think I am God or infallible--and I'm surely not sin-free!

Which leads me to JADE: YOU ARE COMPLETELY CORRECT. Your objection is one of the back-door arguments (the front door one is Jesus' recorded promise to keep us as one body) that there needs to be one Christian authority*, and that democratically run Christian churches, logically, cannot stand over time. (* Not "the Pope," by the way, although he has a special place and authority; in fact Catholics look to the Teachings of the Church for this singular authority, with aforementioned (on 3/9) study of early Christian writings as well as current translation techniques, scholarship, and philosophical trends examined for new light shed on those Teachings.)

Time said...

I am not an atheist and I didn't understand that this was only between you and Andy.

Andy said...

KR, obviously you've given me more to which to respond. There goes my weekend!

I did want to address what seems to be an implication that my rejection of the condemnations of homosexuality somehow translates into a rejection of a core tenet of Christianity.

I fail to see that.

I believe in the One and Eternal God, and His three persons. I believe in Jesus His only son, fully human and fully God, who walked among us, who was executed, who endured the torments of Hell, and by whose resurrection I am redeemed. I believe in the baptism of the spirit, the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the promise of eternity.

I believe in the Gospel of the Beatitudes, the Gospel that says that as we do unto the least of our brethren so do we unto Christ, the Gospel that says he who is last shall be first, the Gospel that says the First Commandment is to love God and the Second is to love your neighbor as yourself, etc. In no wise do I see my sexual orientation as being intrinsically disordered toward any of that.

I think perhaps we have stumbled onto why I'm not a Catholic.

In the words of Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, "We all claim the authority of scripture. The ancient creeds, the doctrine of the trinity, the nature of Christ -- all these things are not up for negotiation....I would say if sexuality becomes the ground on which division occurs, then it means sex is more important than the doctrine of the holy trinity and the divinity of Christ, which is a very sorry situation to find oneself in....The Episcopal Church is a questioning community....It's confident that Christ is at its center, and that gives it courage to look at things that are difficult. It is also a church that has lived with open-ended questions. It doesn't need to reduce things to absolutes. We can deal with shades of gray, we can deal with paradox and ambiguity without feeling that we are being unfaithful."

That is perhaps not your particular outlook and I suspect you'd take issue with that sentiment. But ultimately you've asked me to use the Gospel to support something which it fails to address. That's an impossible task.

Andy said...

PS, Time, I don't believe KR meant to imply that you're not allowed to contribute to the discussion.

If she did mean that, well..I'd tell her get her own blog.

Future Geek said...

Robert,

I read those first two chapters totally different. It looks to me like two totally different creation stories.

Reread it, don't you think so?

Jarred said...

I actually know of one Christian who vehemently objects to people referring to the Bible as "the Word of God." His argument is that the Bible is very clear on who "the Word of God" is.

kr pdx said...

Time: I didn't mean you couldn't comment, or that it was just betweeen Andy and I, but that the Biblical nature of the argument (which Andy introduced today) was inherent and therefore not so much to be tossed out. I apologize for assuming you were atheist; your comments here were fairly derogatory towards the concept of religion(s) and barely lukewarm on the concept of God.

Andy: Your presiding bishop sounds like a wise man. (The Catholic Church also thinks this "openended" way--just not on this issue, which it considers clearly textually supported. The Church is historically a little more open to the blandishments of Paul than I tend to be. Which is reason enough for you to not be Catholic!)

Yes, the Catholic Church does have a distinctly un-modern understanding of God's directives regarding sex--in that it believes there are some ;). Which at this time I have not found a reason to disagree with.

At this point it looks distinctly like I see the Gospels as addressing this question and you don't. (As to the Gospels not offering you specific support, that was one of the points of my argument ;). )

As to your Christianity, I was pretty sure you believed the creed (hard to show up for church if you don't!), which is of course the most important thing. You and I just have very different ways of examining our formative texts.

Agree to disagree? (And keep studying, of course.)

Robert Bayn said...

Future,

I agree they are two different creation story, the question that comes up which one was first.

If we beleive that the bible timeline goes in order, than we must beleive that the first creation was spreading life including human beings around the earth, and than the creation of Adam was made. We must remember the soul purpose of Adam's creation was for God to have someone to talk to, but that does not mean he was the first Man creation.

By the way this is a very common beleif, i actually never thought about it this way, until i was talking to a Former priest and military chaplin, who explain this more clearer to me, it makes sense to me.

Future Geek said...

Robert,

I recommend this book to everyone, but you might want to check out "Who Wrote the Bible" by Richard Friedman.

The different creation stories in Genesis are the basis for a whole lot of interesting knowledge about the world that produced the bible.

It is generally accepted by scholars that the two stories are indeed individual stories - the result of two different texts being combined to produce the first five books of the old testament.

Further evidence of this is in the story of Noah's ark, where God tells Noah to take two of each animal, then turns around and tells him to take seven pairs of some animals and two of others.

Andy said...

Jade, you make a very good point. As I've said, I don't think it's possible to be Christian and not have an interpretation of the Bible since an actual literal belief is technically impossible. Therefore, I can't criticize anyone for having an interpretation, and naturally different people will have different senses of what's most important. And you know, I think that's kind of what God wanted, actually.

What's essential is that we have discussions about our interpretations and at least be open to hearing other ideas. I think sincerity and humility in faith are more important than self-righteous certainty.

kr pdx said...

Before I reply to Andy:
Future geek: the Levitical Tradition imposed on the Popular Tradition, or does the book describe some other split? I can't remember if I've read that particular book--and I'll put it on my list if I haven't.

Andy:
sigh.
I would like to think I wasn't coming across as self-righteous, because I certainly don't FEEL that way (except when I was griping on the "religious people kill people" thing--again, sorry I was too strong there, but it's a continual irritation).

_You_ criticize people for having interpretations you don't agree with all the time(!). Some of your recent posts have been centered on such criticism.

Having pointed that out, I agree with you, to a point, about interpretations, and that different people value different things. But even you, by repeating the creed to me yesterday, admit by implication then that there is some stuff that at some level "must" be believed as a "Christian." Which sutff that is is (I hope clearly) God's decision, not any person's. There has to be a reliable, five-senses-able (the perceptions we can share are physical) conduit for God's decisions on that* ... otherwise all is chaos, which, again, you rejected in this string by implication--and, historically, by complaint.

* (The apologists at www.catholic.com would be the ones with whom to take up a real argument on the Church's Authority and Papal Authority, if anyone is interested; since I haven't struggled with it much, I haven't studied it much.)

Andy said...

Well, KR, maybe this is Clintonian of me, but in my mind there's a difference between disagreeing and saying someone is wrong. Of course I disagree with people, but I avoid saying people are wrong unless they're doing crazy shit like blaming hurricanes on gay people, etc. Then I have no qualms about it.

kr pdx said...

No, silly, you're just being a Liberal, uncomfortable with calling someone "wrong" ;). And you were pretty stridently saying all sorts of things were wrongheaded/wrong in your debunking post that wee not as ridiculous as the hurricanes weirdness. (And on political issues you have no problem calling people/their actions "wrong"--possibly because you have some more solid/less assailable evidence for that than we seem to in this inherently interpretive argument of ours. Or maybe because you are more willing to just insult Bushites ;). )

To me, if I disagree, I think you are wrong. (Which doesn't, obviously, mean you _are_ wrong.) But if I didn't at some level think you were wrong, I would be, ipso facto, in agreement.

So, perhaps we have uncovered a very interesting, subtle (but significant) semantic difference developing in English this generation. It would explain the frustration that people like us, in conflicts like this, encounter when they think each other incorrect.

When I say, "I think you are wrong," that doesn't (to me) impugn your character. Even stated at the end of an argument, it only means "You haven't convinced me and I haven't convinced you (so we both need to look harder, if An Answer exists)" ... ?

Two questions, which you can answer via email if you don't want to continue this string any further: Do you perceive "I think you're wrong (on this point)" to be more judgemental than "I disagree with you (on this point)"? (I suppose it is easier to depersonalize "disagree": "I disagree with your point." Interesting. "Hate the sin but love the sinner," Liberals' interpretation ;) ?) Secondly, could you try to differentiate what different things you think the two concepts mean? I'm genuinely curious--the armchair linguist in me.

kr pdx said...

PS Jarred: Which is a bit odd, since he relies on the Bible's authority on the subject to reject the Bible, eh?

PPS Robert Bayn/ Future Geek: The Genesis thing: Frankly, my first reaction was "Whoa, now THAT'S a _literal_ reading!" But now, I've just had the thought that this really clears up that whole pre-homo-sapiens (Neanderthals, etc.) period for Creationists, doesn't it? Huh.

Future Geek said...

KR,

Not sure what your terms "levitical" and "popular" mean exactly. I can't find the book right now to get the exact facts but there were apparently four main texts, written at different times, interwoven to form the Pentateuch.

The evidence is in the apparent contradictions in the stories, and also in the language in each story - for example, one creation story uses "elohim" to refer to god, and the other creation story uses "Yahweh."

That's all I can give you right this minute. You should read the book too.

Future Geek said...

kr,

Just found the book. There are four main texts - 1. the version that refers to Elohim, 2. the version that refers to Yahweh, 3. a priestly text that deals mainly with the affairs of priests and 4. a text that is found only in deuteronomy.

Maybe 3 is what you are thinking of when you say "levitical"?

little-cicero said...

Sorry I'm so late on this post, but let me ask some clarifying (if exhaustive and rhetorical)questions:

Does a dramatic, and to our sensibilities "outrageous" passage in a valid prophetic work that describes the punishment for individuals who do not abide by a moral instruction indeed identify an objective moral issue of God, or should it be ignored on the grounds of the obscurity of the punishment?

Do minute details which can easily be the result of mistranslations (be they God-Mortal translations or Cross-Lingual translations), or unfair moral instructions that are intended for a specific civilization (the Jewish People, of whom we are a desendent) invalidate the thematic moral instructions to which we, as Christians, are bound to adhere?

Is it not possible for those obscure moral/disciplinary instructions that you specified to in fact have been correctly followed in the time before Jesus (in literal form) and correctly altered in the time after Jesus, keeping in mind the "chosen" or "elite" nature of Jewish society in those days and the immense responsibility (which as always comes with drastic consequences accordingly) of that pre-Evangelical Jewish society. For such a people, stricter laws were appropriate, whereas in a more populist Christian tradition, they were to be altered?

The last (admittedly exhaustive) question points to a very important point: that if we are to literally interpret the Bible (which is indeed permissable) we must have a thorough understanding of all of its words, not only a select few. If we are to quote words of Mosaic Justice, we must aknowledge also the LOVE, and if we are to teach love and compassion from the New Testament, we must also acknowledge JUSTICE. These themes are indeed specified, and to be taken literally as they are the words of God, but not cannot be separated from one another.

little-cicero said...

Oops, no question mark after "altered"

kr pdx said...

Future Geek: Thanks; I don't think I have read that book. It will be interesting to see how the Levitical Tradition theory about which I have previously read (which would combine the priestly stuff with the more repressive version of God) compares to this analysis. I wish I could remember which theoretical Tradition relied on the "El" concept vs. the "YHWH" concept ...

Anyhow, though, I've got at least a year of reading to do before I come back around to this one. Thanks, though!

Jarred said...

Actually, KR, he's not rejecting the Bible at all. He believes that the Bible is an important document and in general takes a fairly literal interpretation of its passages. (You seem to be promoting a false dichotomy in that sense.) He's just rejecting the idea that it should be called the "Word of God" (a that title rightfully belongs to Jesus) or the seeming tendency that some have for raising the Bible to the level of the fourth member of the Holy Trinity.

Jarred said...

Also, just to help you in your further research, KR. ;)

Future Geek is referring to the Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch, also known as "the JEPD theory." Googling either or both of those phrases should find you lots more information. Some pro, some con. ;)

kr pdx said...

cool, thanks ... :)!

Andy said...

Hi Everyone, wow -- great discussion that's been going on in my absence here. Sorry, was too depressed over the weekend to care.

KR: no, I do see an important distinction between what I actually say on my blog and what you claim I do. Of course I express my ideas about faith and the Bible (and other things), and I explain why I think them and why I disagree with some other ideas or interpretations, and of course I passionately defend what I (presently) believe. My blog would be pretty weak and uninteresting if I didn't. Still, in my mind, at least, there is a difference between saying "This is what I think and this is why I think this is incorrect" and labeling other ideas "false." "False" to me would be intellectually insupportable ideas like belief in the literal coherence of the Bible.

I think you've missed the thesis here; when I say the Bible is the start of the conversation, I still mean the conversation is about the Bible. The bottom line is, "The Bible says so" is not good enough. Discussion is essential to the deepening if faith, I think. Jarred put it best; I'm not rejecting the "Bible," I'm making arguments that there are a few passages in the Bible that strike me as incongruous with the Gospel, and I submit the argument that they're there not because of God's will but because of cultural practices and prejudices which the Gospel serves to illuminate as false. As former Republican senator and Episcopal minister John C. Danforth wrote it his beautiful NY Times OpEd of 6/17/05, "Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws." I suggest this is one of those instances.

You may adhere to the theory that Christ's relationship to the Church is one of groom to bride, which therefore implies a heterosexual ideal. That's fine. The argument I especially wanted to make here is that all of the Biblical verses which explicitly condemn homosexuality come from these parts of the Bible that the Christian church has largely discounted in favor of overriding ideas about Love.

kr pdx said...

Good to go, thanks :). I'm sorry your weekend sucked.

I did catch your thesis; we each think the other's thesis has holes, is all. Which we have here illustrated ;).

If I didn't think your(/ many other people's) general thesis had intellectual merit, I wouldn't be here arguing--I'm not actually trying to "convert" anyone (including you), I wanted to bring my ideas and observations against someone I knew would "fight back"--and do so intelligently. (Having others in the conversation was a bonus, as it helped me see how strangers would hear things.) I'm getting a picture where some of our opinion gaps are. Not sure when I will come back to this issue (reading on alternative education and male physiology at the moment--well, and feminist historical fiction, to relax).

I am honored that you put up with me and my undoubtably irritating ideas. I may continue to read and tweak you where I think you go overboard, but I doubt I'll have anything to add to this part of the discussion for a long time while I mull things over. Thank you :).

Trickish Knave said...

I normally shy away from religious posts because they tend to get heated very quickly. I am by no stretch of the word a theologian but having gone to a Baptist college I was exposed to religious teachings and had to write many a paper on many topics in the Bible.

Andy, if I am to understand your post correctly, and as summed up in your last paragraph, you believe homosexuality will be abandoned as a sin just like stoning and treating women like crap because they are on their period were abandoned.

In short, I don’t think it will. Although it was a good workout to get into the good Book for this kind of research, my post started to wander into too many areas of dispute including “contradictions” in the Bible. Just because 4 different guys write a story about the birth of Christ doesn’t mean they are contradictory. But that is a full-page post with lots of bandwidth to eat up for another time.

There are a lot of great posts in this thread. One little piece I like is actually from little cicero’s last post. Although his post sounds like a cut-and-paste from the Forward of a theology book, his second paragraph has some good gouge. Basically, the stuff that happened in the OT was a long time ago and for a group of people who, although God specifically showed himself to, continued to shit on every piece of information He sent their way. Compared to Dead Sea Scrolls, well, those that are used in our Bible had very few changes. I would have to assume (gasp!) that since the technical clarity has been preserved for so long that what we have to day, in at least a one-step translation Bible, is correctly translated and accurate.

Archaeology has done nothing but preserve the historical accuracy of the Bible but at the same time raise more questions. For example, Babylonian and Sumerian accounts of the Flood are striking similar to the O.T. If you can’t figure out why this would make a student of theology scratch his head then you can just take comfort in the fact that there is not one reported case of archaeology refuting to a reasonable doubt anything in the Bible to be wrong.

Anyway.

Leviticus is a favorite of those who would probably like to be able to stone homosexuals. In fact that whole book is pretty specific on whose nakedness you aren’t supposed to uncover, among other things. But one thing is certain is that it is forbidden and punishable by death. At best, the worst that could happen today is that you might get a dirty sneer from a homophobe or at worst, perhaps become the victim of a “fag-drag”- both of which are demonstrated by intolerable people.

I know the N.T. talks about homosexuality a little, Paul being the most vocal. He wrote to Timothy and to the Corinthians about the subject, both letters not very tolerable to the lifestyle. Then again, Paul also set the work Christ did in promoting women as actual human beings back to the days of Leviticus. Interestingly, the passages I read of Paul never condemned homosexuality, and from his self-proclamation of being the worst of sinners, he just said “Don’t do it” and that if God has enough grace for a persecuting, zealous student of the Pharisees then he has enough grace for homosexuals.

You mentioned a lot of rules that aren’t around anymore that are laid out in the Bible and as those rules passed a sense of humanity and fair play replaced them in our current teachings. According to Paul woman aren’t supposed to be teachers but I attended a wedding where a woman minister presided. A good friend of mine is Jewish, and female, and just returned from Israel learning to become a Rabbi. So things that were prohibited in the Bible are turned over by modern ideologies. Unfortunately for you, the majority still considers homosexuality wrong and I don’t see a reprieve on the horizon.

Future Geek said...

there is not one reported case of archaeology refuting to a reasonable doubt anything in the Bible to be wrong

Depends on what you mean by "wrong" and "to a reasonable doubt."

Archeological evidence says the epic of Gilgamesh (which contains a flood story) predates the bible by about a thousand years.

So if you're saying that there is no archeological evidence that refutes a literal interpretation of the Bible, better check your sources again.

On the other hand, if you are saying that there is no archeological evidence that refutes the OT as an accurate historical document of the Hebrew people of 1200 - 700 bc, I won't argue with that, although I might disagree.

Andy said...

there is not one reported case of archaeology refuting to a reasonable doubt anything in the Bible to be wrong.

What? Well, I hate to burst this bubble, but archaeologists generally do not believe the Exodus took place; there is no evidence that there was ever any kind of significant Hebrew population in Egypt. Also, might I mention the whole "Creation" thing? Yeah...from a scientific standpoint, that's pretty much...well, wrong.

Now, I want to add the important caveat that just because the Old Testament contains stories that are not literally true does not mean they are of no spiritual value. I think there are many, many truths to be found in ancient Scripture, but you've already started down the wrong path if you insist that it is an accurate historical record.

Andy said...

Just because 4 different guys write a story about the birth of Christ doesn’t mean they are contradictory.

Well...actually, Matthew and Luke's versions of the nativity have many details that are irreconcilable; for example, Luke's geneaology list is different than Matthew's. Also Matthew and Mark have Jesus' cleansing of the Temple occurring during the final week of his life, shortly before his arrest. John puts it at the very beginning of his ministry. Seriously, the Gospels are a chronological mess.

There's a reason for that: the early Christian church was not really that unified, especially in the days leading up to the Nicene Council headed by Emperor Constantine in the 400s. (Hence the need for the summit.) And the general belief is that each Gospel was sort of tailored, if you will to emphasize various different aspects of Christ's ministry. John makes a much bigger deal of establishing Christ's divinity than the other Evangelists; Matthew is very concerned with the fulfillment of prophecy, heavily emphasizing Jesus' descendance from David and his birth in Bethlehem, "City of David." Luke doesn't mention Bethlehem; he also doesn't mention the flight to Egypt or the slaughter of the innocents. From Luke there is no reason to suspect that Jesus wasn't born and raised in Nazareth. Etc.

kr pdx said...

Not that I can even begin to literally interpret the Bible, but I have a hard time giving credence to the Exodus never happening. That's kinda a weirdly recent formative cultural experience for the nation of Isreal to have accepted an invented story, given that the oral tradition would still have been strong when the texts were written (which is why the Pentateuch has those various traditions melded into each book).

Admittedly I tend to favor things that trend to what I believe (as do we all), although I read more broadly, but the theory on why we have little evidence that Isreal was in Egypt is that most of the population settled in the delta--which is NOT a place where archaeological evidence survives well. I read about this because a few? (10?) years ago some ancient wooden huts were uncovered there (and immediately started to rot), so people were newly excited about finding "something"! (I don't think there was any amazing discovery in the end.)

The Great Lectures tapes on Egyptology in no way discount the possibility of Isreal in Egypt. He does say that most historical analyses have probably been based on the wrong Ptolmey(?sp) ... the popular nickname Dogface had something to do with it (I think there are some puns in the OT that reference the Egyptian nickname).

There is a magazine, called, I think, Biblical Archaeology, which focuses on bringing to print the minor and major findings that might support the historical portions of the Bible. (I hope it does not surprise anyone that these are perceived by the publishers to get repressed by "the media.") The arguments can get very arcane--one Egyptologist found one contemporary heiroglyphic reference that he argued to be the name David, and a representative of an American atheist group took scholarly umbrage (partly since Egyptians didn't have "D"), and he came back with all the complexities regarding the specific methods used in heiroglyphics to indicate foreign sound once Egypt got big enough to need to record such ... and his original article clearly presented it as "it could be argued," not as "this is God's Truth and proves King David existed."

I should look into finding and subscribing to that now that we have a little money. I am a sucker for culturally alternative scholarship. Oh, wait ... I have too much stuff to read already. Doh! Sigh ...

Trickish Knave said...

Also, might I mention the whole "Creation" thing? Yeah...from a scientific standpoint, that's pretty much...well, wrong.

You'll have to elaborate on that one, but good luck disproving creationism. Science has a hard time proving the primordial soup and Big Bang theories, which, in my opinion, take more faith to believe in than creationism.

Where the Exodus is concerned, those scholars can't get thier shit together on disproving that event. Some believe it did happen but at a different time.

No evidence of hebrews in Egypt? When you have a chance go to the Brooklyn Museum and look at a papyrus scroll that has almost 100 names of some slaves transfered to another person and signed by the Pharoh. Interstingly enough, the names are Semitic in origin and printed next to their Egyptian surname. You might want to redefine "significant population".

I don't know if the readers of my post got past the archaeology reference, which I knew would start some conversation with my qualifier 'never', but you can plainly rad that although archaeology and historical documents validate the Bible at the same time they raise new questions. So Andy, I'm not sure where your questioning of my "path" came from.

I could continue to counter-Google comments about the N.T. comments but this is why I don't usually get involved in these topics. Everyone has their own opinions and are firmly devoted to them. I have read and debated things that made me take a step back and rethink what I've been taught/learned over the years about my faith, but from what I've read on this post nothing has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, contrary.

I do enjoy the precept Bible research but I just don't have the time to devote to it.

Future Geek said...

TK,

I hope you are not a Young Earth Creationist? That is, do you believe that the earth is 6000 years old?

Andy said...

Wow, TK...I think the best evidence we have that science is right about evolution -- and hence, the age of the earth -- is that genetic experiments are working, that genetic-based medicine is hugely promising and growing field because we do, actually, know how genes work. We understand how viruses mutate and change. I mean, so much of modern science is based upon these ideas. Space travel, for example: when we launch satellites that are going to take years to reach their destinations, part of the calculations have to include consideration of the belief that the universe is continuing to expand as a result of the Big Bang: our calculations, as witnessed by the Mars landings and Saturn fly-by's, have been pretty damn accurate.

I'm curious about your reference to the scroll in Brooklyn, where you said the names are "Semitic" in origin. Where did you get that information? And, did the source use the term "Semitic"? Because I have to point out that "Semitic" does not mean "Jewish": Arabic is a Semitic language, and the Arabs are Semitic people. So to me, "Semitic" names on an ancient Egyptian document simply means people from the Semitic cultures of the Levant, not necessarily Hebrews.

As to KR's point, the texts referring to the Exodus from Egypt date back to the period of Israel's Babylonian exile; that an oral tradition probably existed before that is likely, but the scholarly argument, as I understand it, is that the story of the Exodus gained popularity and relevance for the Hebrew people because it helped them believe God would deliver them again, as He had once before.

As with so much else in the Old Testament, I think it matters not a whit whether the story is literally true or not; after all, Jesus didn't tell us "true" stories, He deliberately spoke in parables. The idea that the Lord is there and will free us from bondage, however that might apply to our own lives, is completely valid. It doesn't need to have been historically true for it to be spiritually accurate.

kr pdx said...

misc, 10 or 15 years ago folks In The Field started to wince at the name "Big Bang Theory." I'm not a physicist, but I have family ... some bits and pieces or other, They've decided, are not accurate about the Big Bang as originally sold to the public. Anyone interested would have to Google it, though, as I don't care enough to recall the details. Mostly they wince and carry on, as it is a passable approximation and selling it took 20 years of huge effort ... they want to really have something to say before they try another round of education.

Primordial soup: actually, that's cool: There are non-living peptide strings(? anyhow, small, inorganic potential building blocks of life) in asteriods (and therefore meteorites). Just for the heck of it, expecting their sample to be totally destroyed, someone a few years ago built a machine to smash some of those space-peptides at meteoric-impact energy. They weren't destroyed: they polymerized!!! Forming partial protiens! It was crazy--the funniest thing is watching the footage of her (the main researcher) realizing what happened. But then, I think scientists--real ones--are funny (I have family ... ;) ).

(I take the Creation stories as the closest description that [those folks at that time] could accept of the actual events. It actually maps, chronologically, alright, except the stars ... . Not expecting anyone else to jump on my bandwagon.)

Andy, just because something can be taken as spiritually pertinent doen't mean it isn't also a reflection of historical events. Denying that TK's Brooklyn scroll is a suggestive piece of evidence is weird of you ... certainly if the Eyptians had some Semitic slaves they presumably had others, and some of those might have been "Isreal." The fact that a group of them seem to have been transferred in a lot is interesting ... did the Egyptians normally keep slave-groups coherent (unlike, say, our American South did), or were they just a dime a dozen?

I have since remembered, btw, that that Egyptologist said the Exodus, if it occured, was more likely (in his opinion) 400 than 40,000 people ... which would be significant to them, in their own lore, but not terribly significant to the Egyptians. Egyptians were also MASSIVELY into historical revisionism. If they "lost" (a battle, a war, a piece of land--or, presumably, thousands of slaves) or if a decendent didn't like an ancestor, boy, they wiped out every record they could lay a chisel to as soon as they could.

Andy said...

KR: I'm merely pointing out that "Semitic" does not mean "Jewish." I haven't a clue how the Egyptians classified their slaves. I wasn't "denying" that this could be relevant, I was just warning against an assumption of proof based on this single word.

And yes, I think it's important and significant (is that redundant?) that Life, as it develops in Genesis, progresses from simple to complex and begins in the oceans. And if we agree that the birds came from dinosaurs, then having the birds appear after the fishes but before the mammals makes sense, unless of course you would consider "creeping things" amphibians which come next in the Bible but most likely came before reptiles.

But yes, I wholeheartedly concur that this was what the ancient Hebrews could have comprehended.

Furthermore, the Bible's purpose is not to be a scientific textbook, it's a spiritual textbook.

I can just imagine Moses sitting down with his papyrus and some ink on Mt. Sinai and God saying, "Okay, now...where to start, ummm...first off there were single-celled organisms, which reproduced through mitosis. Eventually organisms formed from multiple cells and became increasingly complex...are you getting this Moses?"

"Yes, Lord, yes, of course...could you just, if you would, go back to the part where you said...umm...the stuff...about...the things?"

*SIGH* "You know what Moses? Forget that. Just say, 'In the beginning.' We have to get through Adam and Eve and Noah and the flood and Jacob and Esau and of course the specs my designer and I worked out for the tabernacle -- we're going to do the curtain in purple, don't you think that will be nice? Anyway, so let's just summarize the Creation, it will be good enough for now."

Trickish Knave said...

No, I am not one of those 6k year old earth believers, FG. The Genesis story can be taken 2 ways, as I'm sure you are already famiiar with- each "day" a literal day or symbolically in that each day could span millions of years since time is of no concern with God. So, either he snapped his fingers and everything happened or it took time for this planet to evolve.

I believe that God probably took millions of years for the Earth to get to the point to sustain life. Everything points to that theory, in my opinion.

"Ya, know, these guys are going to invent machines that need gasoline. Guess I'll have the dinoaurs roam around for millions of years so they can have some oil." -God

Being a big time astonomy geek I just can't believe all that out there happened by chance, that our solar system just happened to steady out around this medium sized sun, and that all the planets fell into their respective orbits in a symbiotic ballet. We have discovered more planets outside our solar system than our own holds- planets in violent systems that are pushed out of orbit by gaseous giant planets, pummeled by meteors, or engulfed in their own sun.

Andy, I have no doubt at all the universe is expanding and I am familiar with what it takes to get probes to reach their destinations. However the expansion of our universe is not a factor when sending a probe to our planetary neighbors. It all boils doen to geometry and physics. I will spare you the math but Keppler's laws (either the first or second, forgive my laziness but I'm at work)are a big factor in determining velocity and trajectory of our probe to say, Mars, since you brought the red planet up. Time of launch, velocity of probe, shape of orbit and flight time are all that's needed to launch.

Anyway.

I don't think that I implied that I am of the gorup that doesn't believe in evolution. There is hard science that proves it beyond a resonable doubt- Darwin in the Galapagos is one pioneer. We can see the evolution of the physiology of man quite clearly in fossil records not just from thousands of years ago. We can see how humans are evolving based on their environment. I just don't believe everything on this planet came from a single-celled organism that poofed into existence from a lightning strike into some spitoon.

I hope you don't me taking up so much space on your site. Damn, I wish I got as many responses to a post!

Before I forget, I don't remember where I heard/read the Pharoh's slave document. It has been a long time but surely it can't be that hard to find since you live right next to it. I'll try and see if there is an online source.

kr pdx said...

(TK: You weren't clear one way or the other on Creationism/evolution. Which is why you were asked, I suspect.)

'Saw a PBS program last night about a French find in Kenya that puts hominid development back to 6 million years ("Lucy," discovered 1974, is 4.2 million). They were overexcited about their theories, but it was interesting :). Watching computer animations of upright monkeys is fundamentally disturbing, though, which surprised me. (I think the part where a modern leopard was cut in to imply the hominids were a foodsource was what did it. How's that for elitist of me? Big cats do still eat people, sometimes ... [heebie-jeebies!].)

Misc on dinosaurs: it gets a bit more complex because there were large "protomammals" in charge and then extinctified ( ;) ) BEFORE the dinos took over, but after some proto-dinosaurs and reptile-things had a reign on land ... I haven't actually compared Genesis and an oh-yeah-there-was-stuff-before-dinos paleontological timeline, so can't say how they line up (or don't) specifically.

Wouldn't surprise me if they lined up--if we knew the whole story. Suspect they don't right now though :).

Which leaves "Faith" a choice--or rather, a series of choices :).

Trickish Knave said...

Andy,

I had my wife dig through some college papers of mine to find the name of the Pharaoh or manuscript and sent both. I did some research to find a few sites for you and came up with this short list plus excerpts. Granted, these sources appear in religious websites and thus would be a logical place to find them to prove the existence of Hebrews in Egypt but it would be safe to say that since the scroll is so well known that it could be used as hard evidence. But you know what they say about assumptions.

“Before Moses, the Bible records that the Israelites were enslaved by their Egyptian hosts (Exodus 1:8-14). In the Brooklyn Museum (p.276, fig. 310) resides a papyrus scroll numbered Brooklyn 35:1446 which was acquired in the late 19th century by Charles Wilbour. This dates to the reign of Sobekhotep III, the predecessor of Neferhotep I and so the pharaoh who reigned one generation before Moses. This papyrus is a decree by the pharaoh for a transfer of slaves. Of the 95 names of slaves mentioned in the letter, 50% are Semitic in origin. What is more, it lists the names of these slaves in the original Semitic language and then adds the Egyptian name each had been assigned, which is something the Bible records the Egyptians as doing, cf. Joseph’s name given to him by pharaoh (Genesis 41:45). Some of the Semitic names are biblical and include:- Menahem, Issachar, Asher, and Shiprah (cf. Exodus 1:15-21).”
http://www.ensignmessage.com/archives/exodusscptcs.html

The names of the midwives (Ex. 1: 15), far from being 'purely artificial', are both genuine early West-Semitic names from the fourteenth/thirteenth centuries BC and earlier. 'Shipra' is found as early as c. 1750 BC in an Egyptian list of Asiatic slaves long before the Exodus, while Pu‘ah (as P‘gt) is well attested in the texts from Ugarit both as a word for 'girl' and as a proper name.
www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ot_context-2_kitchen.pdf

This source also records the scroll (a little more than halfway down) but more importantly talks about how new evidence in the Middle East corroborates the timeline of the Bible. I was fascinated when I read that there was actually a city, named Avaris, discovered underneath Pi-Ramesse (city where the Israelites are believed to have lived) that showed the Israelites had lived there long before any of the Ramesses reigned. I encourage you to read it. A few things in the article raised my suspicions but the evidence seemed compelling enough to substantiate, once again, the historical and archeological accuracy of the Bible.
http://www.ancientsites.com/aw/Post/168541

Trickish Knave said...

"And if we agree that the birds came from dinosaurs, then having the birds appear after the fishes but before the mammals makes sense"

Cladistically speaking, birds are similar to dinosaurs but this is not evidence. Birds and dinosaurs do share a lot of features- extended forearms, hollow bones, 3-'fingered' hands and 4-toed feet, teeth, bone structures, etc. I'm not trying to turn this into a Jurassic Park lecture.

But there are some extreme differences between the two species that compell me to believe they are not related, but just look alike- kind of like how humans look like apes (yes, I know I am opening up a whole new can of worms).

The two most compelling arguments against birds-from-dinaosaurs that ultimately changed my mind from I learned were the finger structure of birds and the lower feet of birds.

The velociraptor, the dinaosaur that belongs to the group of reptiles birds are thought to have evolved (and one most famiiar thanks to J.P.) has fused digits 3 and 4. Scientists reevaluated the digits of modern day birds and have concluded that their digits have a 3,4,5 lineup. Evolution jsut does not support the change of digits from the terrible lizards to fowl- unless you would like to wait for the missing link between archeopterix and the velociraptor.

Concerning the bottom legs, there hasn't been a dinosaur found to date with its legs reversed, something birds have to better grasp tree limbs.

Evolution is a bitch, no?

Trickish Knave said...

kr,

I guess rereading my first paragraph I didn't not clearly state my position but alluded to with the possibility of a snapping of fingers or passage of time.

There are too many assumptions for the Big Bang that have to met to be a reliable source of the universe for me. For all the assumptions, there is hard scientific laws and observable that bring this theory into question- don't get me started on phase shifts and horizon issues.

I guess my answer is I just don't know. I don't know if it was created ex nihilio, if God had already created a universe in chaos and "In the beginning..." refers to the actual taming of the feral universe or any other theory.

I don't believe in creationism as the literal 6 day event, no matter how much people want to dispute the actual length of a day in that timeframe. Perhaps a million years passed as a second in God's timeclock before he took his lunchbreak on the last day. I don't know for sure.

So I'm not sure what label I fall under because I reject and accept some of each side. I think that the creation of the universe and the emergence of life is something that can't fall under one ideological umbrella, or at least one of the ideologies that are in the rack today.

Any of this make sense?

kr pdx said...

I think "I just don't know" is the answer most honest, intelligent religious people come to--and all true scientists as well, whether or not they are religious, as the fundamental assumptions of science include always holding open the possibility of disproof.

Anonymous said...

Andy,

I am afraid you opened a can of worms that you shouldn't have when you said:

"Wow, TK...I think the best evidence we have that science is right about evolution -- and hence, the age of the earth -- is that genetic experiments are working, that genetic-based medicine is hugely promising and growing field because we do, actually, know how genes work. We understand how viruses mutate and change. I mean, so much of modern science is based upon these ideas."

So if you beleive everything that you wrote then the following would be a logical thought that you should prescribe to. First, biologically speaking one of the main reasons we are here is to reproduce in order to perpetuate our species. This is a two party system so to speak. A man and a woman. Without the two pieces reproduction in our species is not possible. Second, I am not sure what you beleive but I am going to assume that you believe that you are born gay. Based on these two facts combined with what you wrote we can unarguably beleive that homosexuality is an genetic and evolutionary abnormality. Now if you want to back pedal and try to spin what you wrote go ahead.

I will say that I do not believe that Homosexuals should not be denied rights or be persecuted. However, I find it odd that as a society we are being told that we have to accomondate something that totally contradicts our biological purpose.

Anonymous said...

Before you have the opportunity, my poor grammar and spelling does not negate the point. So address the issue.

Andy said...

one of the main reasons we are here is to reproduce in order to perpetuate our species

I'm curious what you think the other reasons for being here are. If an otherwise heterosexual person proved to be infertile, are they lacking a reason to exist? What about post-menopausal women? Or people who just plain don't want to have kids? Catholic priests don't reproduce. What's wrong with that?

I know, I know, ultimately the point you want to make is that gay people must be incompatible with natural design because they can't reproduce, right? Well, sweetie, bombshell for ya: we all don't need to reproduce. I don't know a single homosexual who didn't have two heterosexual parents. Ta-da!

This is my favorite completely lame argument. You know, I work at a gay rights organization, so I see the hate mail. Once someone sent us a letter that said, quote, "A PENIS + A ANUS CANNOT MAKE A BABY." That one remains my favorite.

The human species is in no danger of extinction because of homosexual behavior. It's not contagious. If straight people could actually be converted, trust me, we'd have won Brad Pitt by now. If you have any evidence of waning heterosexuality, I'd sure like to see it. Seems to me the world's population continues to grow.

So fine, we can't reproduce with each other, and apparently Tab A belongs in Slot B, and that's sufficient to prove that's the only "natural" way to have sex. Well, as I like to say, if God had intended for men to fuck each other, he would have put holes in their butts.

I find it highly arrogant of you to claim you "know" what our biological purpose is and to assert that I and millions of people around the world run counter to that purpose. I suggest there are many reasons for why we might be here. God commanded us in Genesis to "be fruitful and multiply." Fine, you multiply, I'll be a fruit. Deal?

Anonymous said...

First off before we continue I am only a few classes from receiving a degree in Anthropology. So if you really want to continue I can. You label my argument as lame because that is the only way you can refute it. It is not a matter of "needing to reproduce." You were born with certain tools that were designed and intended to be used in a prescribed manner. If you choose to use those tools in another manner it’s a conscience choice.

If you have a friend who was created by homosexuals please let me know. I would love to win a Nobel for disproving science altogether.

Your extinction argument is just retarded and I will leave it at that. I never went down the contagious/conversion road. That is a standard homosexual talking point. Never implied that never will.

I implied that homosexuality is an genetic abnormality therefore not the normal result. Hence, the world will continue to grow. So will the homosexual population. However, that does not negate the fact that it is a abnormality. It occurs a percentage of the time and as the overall population numbers grow so will the numbers of the abnormalities. You probably want to ask me what that percentage is. Well, it is hard to quantify due to the number of those still "in the closet." You should do some reading on the effects of the diversification of the gene pool. It is really interesting.

If you find my claim of "knowing" what our biological purpose is as arrogant you must find science arrogant. That's not my theory.

Finally, I agree that we could be here for many reasons. That is why I was addressing the biological reasons. However, I am not religious so religious arguments mean little to me. However, I will address your Genesis quote because you attempt to mischaracterize what it meant.

You said: God commanded us in Genesis to "be fruitful and multiply." Fine, you multiply, I'll be a fruit. Deal?

Fruitful was a more eloquent way to say REPRODUCE! Adam and Eve had a mission in a sense to populate the world. Homosexuality would not have helped their cause.

Future Geek said...

Shifting goalposts detected...

hey anonymous, mind registering so we know who we're talking to?

Anonymous said...

I will, but does that really matter? I'm anonymous so anything I say can't be true?

little-cicero said...

I'm depressed ):

Now I know how it feels to have another blogger's comments take attention from your own.

Don't cry for me!

Future Geek said...

Just a little more accountability and respect... it doesn't have to be your real name.

Anthro said...

i am registered!!!

kr pdx said...

Um, yeah. Boy am I glad Andy knew he didn't hate me before I started posting ... .

Anthro, if you're going to post something aggravating, it'd be polite to at least respect the blogger enough to attempt a tidy piece of writing.

I object to your line of reasoning because it is an inappropriate application of a macrocasm to a microcasm. "We" the species have an evolutionary (I wouldn't use the word "biological") imperative to reproduce, as an overall population. Variety within any natural population will exclude some individuals from the successful (goes forward) gene pool, for lots of different reasons. I'm sure Andy can run you around the "examples of homosexual individuals among the animals" if you want evidence from the non-human world (although using any zoo or lab animals is easy to shoot down because of the unnatural environment, btw, Andy).

Most of us have a biological imperative (meaning, "my biology pushes me to ..." ) to find pleasure in shared copulation, which various moral systems place various restrictions and values on, sometimes strong enough to prevent acting on that imperative. But do I have an imperative to "reproduce"? Well, I didn't, actually, until I met my husband. Make of that what one will ... .

Future Geek said...

Anthro:


You label my argument as lame because that is the only way you can refute it.

What exactly is your argument?

Based on these two facts combined with what you wrote we can unarguably beleive that homosexuality is an genetic and evolutionary abnormality.

So what? So is blond hair. So is giantism. So is lactose intolerance. If I have an unusually large penis, that's an abnormality. Are you making a value judgement here or just implying one?

I find it odd that as a society we are being told that we have to accomondate something that totally contradicts our biological purpose.

No 1: What, exactly, is our biological purpose?

No. 2: How are you being asked to accomodate something that "contradicts" your "biological purpose?"

Andy said...

Hello, sorry, I wanted to respond sooner, but I got to work this morning and *wham!* things got busy right off the bat. So...12:30 and I finally have a moment to sit at my desk.

Fruitful was a more eloquent way to say REPRODUCE!

Holy crap! Are you sure? I guess I was wrong.

I think you're trying to get me to say "you're wrong." But you've painted me into something of a corner. If you are trying to get me to deny that male and female genitalia are designed (ooooh, there's a loaded word) to fit together and that those two organs working together result in propagation of the species, well...yes, you are in fact correct.

But I'm not at all sure what it is you're trying to prove by that, other than to say that therefore homosexuality is "abnormal" because same-sex sexual activity cannot result in reproduction, and that therefore homosexuality is counter to our biological purpose for being here.

Two things. One, a minority of the population is homosexual, so it's "abnormal" to the extent that the majority is otherwise, but given that there are probably 20-30 million gay people in the United States (3-4 times the population of New York City), I think you're hardpressed to say that minority so large constitutes abnormality. And, as Future Geek pointed out, there are many recurring, recessive biological characteristics that are "rare" but not abnormal. (Assuming homosexuality is biological in origin, which it probably is in at least some cases to at least some degree...can we all agree on that?)

Two, if your understanding of humanity's principal biological purpose for existence is reproduction, you seem to be taking an awfully limited and pseudo-Darwinian view of mankind, because survival of the fittest is, as science presently understands the biology of evolution, the determining factor in who succeeds. So therefore we are biologically compelled not just to reproduce, but to reproduce for the promotion of the strongest traits and the elimination of the weakest.

But there's a big problem with that argument, because by that standard most of humanity is ignoring what you would describe our biological compulsion. In fact, monogamy would be anti-biological. If we're really to submit to our biological goal of propagation, then males should be competing for females (well, they kind of do...) and we would find ourselves in a society where dominant males control a group of females. (And actually, we can find that in some places/cultures/suburbs on Long Island). But the human appetite for monogamy and fidelity (not universally shared) runs counter to that biological imperative. Would you criticize a married heterosexual person for their choice to ignore biology?

The human virtue of compassion also runs completely counter to survival of the fittest. Medicine? If we lived in the Darwinian world that you suggest, we would just allow the sick and the weak to die and not slow us down and deprive the strong of resources; we would not allow the biologically infertile (um, or gay people!) to reproduce through artificial means, thus insuring the survival of the genes that caused the condition. We might protect our young and vulnerable, but the old and sick would get left behind.

Even democracy runs counter to this biological urge to reproduce, if you think about it, because that's a whole system of government designed around the idea that all mankind is equal, when biologically clearly some of us are superior in some ways, and others are superior in other ways. Historically, evolution has declared the victors. Now, human judgment and medical science is likely to alter that as we embark upon gene therapy to weed out what we determine is undesirable. (If you can't tell, I'm somewhat horrified at the prospect).

Anyway, so I feel completely justified in dismissing your argument as lame because while the points you make are true (penis + vagina = baby!), the conclusion that you draw from that fact (man + man = bad) is not supportable.

Anonymous said...

I never said it was bad. The 20 or 30 million homosexuals you refer to would be the percentage I referred to. That would be at most 10 percent of the current population as of the last census. So yes it is an abnormality.

You are correct in saying that humanity in general has ignored natural biology. I agree with all your examples. As an example take the case of menopause. Because our medical sciences have advanced greatly in the last 100 years the human lifespan has increased. Although I am looking forward to a long life it has had some indirect negative affects. Our physical evolution has not caught up to our medical science. We now outlive what our bodies were designed to by about 40 to 50 years. If you were to take mankind in its "natural" state in most cases a women would die before her reproductive organs began to shut down. We are the only species that the female sex outlives her reproductive sysytem by years. I can give you list of "conditions" that have become more prevealent due to this scenario.

So, now the question that you would logically ask me is that why am I willing to accept some things that in my own logic I beleive run counter to our biology. I believe that homosexuality doesn't provide anything beneficial for society as a whole. For the individual sure. Homosexuality is not detremental but in my point of view has no concrete benefitother than making a small percentage of the worlds population happy.

Future Geek said...

Homosexuality is not detremental but in my point of view has no concrete benefitother than making a small percentage of the worlds population happy.

Two perspectives:

1. Homosexuality provides an alternative perspective on society - thus the art, literature and music from folks like Oscar Wilde, William S. Burroughs, Elton John.

If we are looking at society from an evolutionary paradigm, these alternative viewpoints are highly valuable. Human evolution has passed beyond the point of simply having more offspring than your competitors. Our evolution is largely cultural.

Diversity provides more alternatives when a stressful situation faces a population or society.

2. How beneficial is it to humanity to deny the same rights to one segment of the population as we give to others? I believe that this exclusion (prejudice) is harmful in and of itself, regardless of whatever benefits that segment of the population can provide.

kr pdx said...

Future Geek: "Diversity provides more alternatives when a stressful situation faces a population or society."
Or, it adds stressful situations ;). (I agree with your point from an "evolution" standpoint, though.)

As to point 2, it is inherently damaging to deny any segment of the population their fundamental rights.

The question in which we are here often engaged is, which rights are "fundamental"? Other "rights," not fundamental but sometimes considered universal, are observably societally damaging: the right for a parent to do whatever they want to/with their children is an obvious one that many folks throughout history and around the world today would('ve) argue(d) is "fundamental."

Is gun ownership a fundamental right? Ironically, we have tried to make it (almost) a(n) universal right (barring felons, when we can manage to keep track of them) ... which I suppose is better than limiting that "right" to Wealthy Landowners or some dumb thing, but still seems odd to me.

And wouldn't it be nice to limit freedom of speech (which I _would_ label "fundamental") to non-hateful-people ;) ? (Hmmm ... 'think we could get a law passed that if a person is clearly speaking from hate they have chosen to temporarily abandon their humanity and so they don't at that time have ownership of the "human right" of free speech? Nah, probably not ... sigh. But that would leave the non-hateful bigots their free speech rights, providing aforeimplied evolutionarily useful "alternative thoughts.")

kr pdx said...

PS Anthro--last paragraph _not_ aimed at you, but in response to (what worry me the most) scary, physically dangerous cults (usually racist) who are "protected" by rights that are meant to encourage tolerance. And by the (minority) of anti-homosexual folks who actually hate homosexuals (as opposed to disagreeing with or being disgusted by or various other permutations).