Shuck and Jive

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Paul and Homosexuality

Paul, in particular Romans 1:26-27, has been used as the central and defining text against justice for gay and lesbian people. Here it is:
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
You should read it first in the entire context of Romans 1. O.K. There it is. I can't blame it on "liberal Paul" or "conservative/reactionary" Paul. It is the historical Paul, as far as I know. So, what do we make of it?

I wish this passage was not in the Bible. I wish Paul had not used this example to make his larger point in Romans 1 that we have all fallen short of God's will. But, nevertheless, it is there.

Paul makes the claim that both women and men gave up what was "natural" for what was "unnatural." What is natural and what is unnatural and how is that determined?

I do not think these verses are the "Word of God" especially as they have been used ruthlessly against lesbian and gay people.
I think that these two verses provide an illustration by Paul of his larger point. Paul's illustration is in error. He thinks that homosexuality is unnatural, when we know that it is natural.

This isn't the first time a writer whose work made it into the canon of scripture is in error. The Bible is filled with errors. This particular error has been a damaging one. But let's see what
John Dominic Crossan has to say in his book, God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. Remember, Paul's judgement is that this behavior is "unnatural."
That judgment is echoed, by the way, in all other Jewish writers who mentioned that same subject in Paul's time. Indeed, along with idolatry, it was a standard Jewish accusation against paganism.

The problem, however, is that the natural and the unnatural are open to social and cultural interpretation, so that what once was accepted as natural can later be judged as unnatural and vice versa. For example, Aristotle judged slavery to be natural, but Philo, as we saw in chapter 1, judged it unnatural. So also here, but in reverse. First-century Jewish writers considered homosexuality unnatural because they judged from organs and biology. Many of us today consider it natural because we judge from hormones and chemistry. Similarly, of course, we think war is natural, but if our species has a future, later generations will deem it unnatural. We can all agree not to do what is unnatural, but we still have to negotiate what is or is not unnatural. Is capital punishment, for example, natural or unnatural retribution?

Furthermore, in a section from I Corinthians to which I return in much greater detail later, Paul makes another judgment about what is natural and unnatural. "Does not nature itself teach you," he asks, "that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering" (11:14-15). We would surely judge today that short male hair and long female hair are simply time-relative customs or place-relative habits at best, not irrevocable decrees of human nature. This is not to deny the existence of natural human rights or our ability to recognize and even legislate them, but nature neither commands hairstyle nor forbids homosexuality. (p. 144-5)
Paul, like all preachers, uses illustrations. This particular one, in which he stated that same-sex intercourse is unnatural, comes from his own prejudice and misunderstanding. There is no reason to belittle, to blame, or to condemn Paul for what that little sermon illustration has done to gay and lesbian people. But we must not regard it as a word from God and continue the harm and false witness against gay and lesbian people. Paul got it wrong. Let's get it right and move ahead.


  1. Hi John
    Thanks for this presentation of Rom 1.26-27!

    A couple of other points have greatly helped my work with this text:

    - Paul is discussing consequences of idolatry. His argument is "Look what happens if you worship idols--you wind up doing icky things like this." Because that's the line of the argument, it's hard to draw anything from this passage about same-sex love that is NOT caused by idolatry, except that Paul probably thinks it's icky to some degree.

    - This is indeed a small illustration--and Paul's rhetoric is leading right up to the big guns in the beginning of ch. 2: Making ourselves righteous and setting ourselves in judgment over our neighbor is the worst thing possible--especially if we, the judges, are doing the very same things as our neighbor! (Now, that starts to sound a bit like Christianity in the U.S. today...)
    That's the point of the whole first 2 chapters. Then, Paul gives us the grace in chapter 3--but now, with the understanding that we ALL need grace, especially those of us who are given to playing God by judging others.

    - James Alison has a very interesting essay on this text here.
    (and in his new book Undergoing God)

  2. Thanks Heather,

    I appreciate that. Good points. Thanks for putting it into the larger context! I will check out the James Alison link.

  3. ((Paul's illustration is in error. He thinks that homosexuality is unnatural, when we know that it is natural.

    This isn't the first time a writer whose work made it into the canon of scripture is in error. The Bible is filled with errors. This particular error has been a damaging one. ))

    Hmmmm. The Bible is filled with errors, huh? Can you please tell me how you've arrived at that marvelous (and I suspect self-serving) conclusion? And could you also tell me how we are to believe anything Paul says (including his words about salvation, Christ's blood, God's love, etc.) if he's so clearly wrong about homosexuality?

    You certainly have an interesting hermeneutic going there. Can you tell me what you base it on?

  4. James Alison is quickly becoming a hero of mine. Have you read his book "On Being Liked"? Fantastic.

    John - your points about Romans are right on. In many ways I think the best way of handling the scriptural witness about certain ethical issues is to say, clearly the scriptures are advocating something morally repugnant here, which cannot be God's will. The fact is the scriptures were written by people of their era prone, just as we are, to biases and prejudices which are not defensible.

  5. He thinks that homosexuality is unnatural, when we know that it is natural.

    No, to be horny is natural. Paul spoke of "natural function". Now I ask you what comes out of the function of two men or women having sex? Babies? No. Cracker Jack Prizes? Not. Why? Because it is not natural. Romans 1:20 just prior speaks of God's other Book, Nature.

    Your ministry is not helpful to gays because they will not come to faith through their homosexuality but aside from it.

    Don't stop working on your interpretation. Blessings.

  6. Thanks Aric,

    For Alan and Jim, perhaps violence against gays is more natural. Here is "Christian witness" in Moscow against gays:

    Russian Police Suppress Gay Rights Rally

    MOSCOW, May 27 — Police officers and riot troops quashed a gay rights rally in Moscow today, detaining organizers as well as at least two European lawmakers, while members of Orthodox Christian and nationalist groups threw insults, eggs and fists at demonstrators.

  7. alan: Since I seem to basically share John's hermeneutic, I'll try to explain what we're doing here and you can go from there.

    If you found a pamphlet that said three things: "the Earth is flat", "the sky is water held back by a firmament", and "it is good to love your neighbor", you could clearly see that the first two were false, but through your experience and reason you might conclude the third is true.

    My hermeneutic when approaching the Bible is that the Bible isn't my only piece of evidence. I also have science, my own experience, the tradition that comes before me, other interpreters now, reason and intuition, etc. So we can trust parts of the Bible the same way we trust any claim made by any source - they make sense. Because I'm a Christian, I preference the Bible as a text because I think it is a witness to God - I just don't ignore all the other information I have access to.

    So, if Paul says homosexuality is unnatural, but there is a lot of evidence that it is natural, I can decide not to go with Paul on that one. When Paul speaks about grace, I trust him not because he wrote the words down, but because I have in part experienced God's grace. If I had never experienced God's grace, I'd have no reason to trust Paul.

  8. The Bible says, "All Scripture is God-breathed...." (2 Timothy 2:16-17) The Apostle Peter instructed the church that Paul's "letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16).

    Gee, I wonder if he was thinking of you guys.


    Aside from the fact that Peter was correct when he stated that folks like you would distort the Scriptures to your own destruction, are you suggesting that the portion of Scripture in Romans that you don't like was simply a day when God had bad breath?

  9. Aric,

    I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how biblicists approach the world. You seem to think that when we find conflicts or disagreements between what is encountered in one area of human experience and what is revealed in Scripture, that we just mindlessly toss out the contrary. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do not believe that we have the right to toss out evidence from either book of God's revelation (i.e., the created order and the Scriptures).

    Cornelius Van Til said that there's no such thing as a brute fact or a mute fact. Every fact is tied to its creator and finds its meaning and significance in relation to God. (Mikhail Bakhtin makes much the same point in terms of literary addressivity and authorship - so you see postmodernists also acknowledging this truism.) As people who have been convinced of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures by a supernatural working of the Holy Spirit (WCF 1.1), we are intellectually compelled to align every fact we encounter in relation to its creator. We know from the Scriptures that the whole created order has fallen into disrepair. We also know that our own heart (the Biblical word for the seat of intellect and will) twists our experiences and hides the truth from us.

    Because we know that we have a corrupted source of information in the fallen natural order and are incapable of perceiving the truth through our own devices, we set every truth claim against the backdrop of Holy Writ. We are not free to throw out what we find in nature, but are compelled to seek the personally-perceptable order placed therein by a rational, personal God.

    As for the special revelation - the Holy Scriptures - it's not the fundamentalists who feel free to rearrange the Word to our liking (vide supra).

  10. Very well said, Chris. I see from your own blog that you've tried to take this guy to task with your denomination for promoting heresy. I hope they re-examine him and correct him or toss him out.

    Keep up the good work!

  11. One of my professors at Princeton (Ellen Charry) once reminded a class session that the people who wrote the Bible and the early church Fathers were at least as smart as we are. And I would add at least as moral.

    Such modesty would be welcome when discussing Paul's writings in the Word of God, instead of the strained interpretation or even casual disregard of his letters.

  12. I think it interesting how this passage begins: "For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions." (Italics mine, of course.)

    So, even if Paul is talking about loving, committed, long-term homosexual relationships which put the vast majority of Christian heterosexual marriages to shame, and not the kind of rampant homo- and hetero-sexual abuse that was running amok in the late Roman Empire, even if Paul is claiming that only child-bearing heterosexual couples are "natural," even if Paul is claiming that artificial insemination, fertility drugs, and Viagra are the spawn of Satan, unnatural as they are, and even if Paul is claiming that the idea of "natural sex" is somehow self-evident, this kind of activity is not the creation of the participants.

    In Paul's own words, it's God given.

    Thank you for this blog. I am very glad I was referred to it.

  13. Good call, Doug.

    And welcome, Mr. Tim. Thanks for stopping by. Do need to warn you. Associating with me may bring on the self-appointed Spanish Inquistion in your presbytery!

    Fear not. Their bark is worse than their bite.

  14. This particular one, in which he stated that same-sex intercourse is unnatural, comes from his own prejudice and misunderstanding.

    Of course, everything in the Bible reflects the prejudice, cultural biases, and limited knowledge of its human authors. To mindlessly take what Paul, or any other biblical author, wrote without trying to filter that cultural bias out, or without using one's ability to reason, not to mention one's compassion, is a path to ignorance. Unfortunately, this elevation of ignorance to a virtue is what characterizes fundamentalism.

    Once you grasp that the Bible is a record of people's attempts at understanding God, one that evolved over time (as any serious study of the Old Testament makes obvious), you can understand not only that the Biblical writers sometimes got some things wrong, but that the ideal of universal compassion and love (which bigotry against gays clearly contradicts) has been a struggle and a process of theological growth over the centuries. One can see God breaking through the prejudice and the ignorance throughout the course of history, and throughout the course of the Bible. And, to me, that is the real value of the Bible--watching those developments, those historical "ah hah!" moments when theology makes a leap towards greater inclusion and greater love.

  15. Chris,

    I wasn't attempting to describe how I believe biblicists view the world, so I'm not precisely sure where the confusion comes from here.

    However, I will take it for granted that you describe your own worldview accurately and say that it is untenable to me. You claim that you do not feel free to "rearrange the Word to your liking" but that is precisely what you just did by proof texting throughout your comment. You took small snippets, completely out of context and presented them as though they all belonged naturally within the context of your argument when most of them had absolutely nothing to do with what you were saying.

    Case in point, you linked Romans 8 as apparently proving your point that the created order is fallen - however that is to read the text almost exactly in reverse. In Romans 8 Paul is talking about the hope of the New Heavens and the New Earth. The groanings of childbirth he describes are signs of HOPE for him, because they are proof that God is bringing about a good thing. To use this text to prove that we have flawed senses just makes no sense! There are plenty of good texts that highlight this theme - 1 Corinthians 13:12 among others.

    I am not questioning your knowledge of scripture. The point is, even aside from knowledge, the use to which biblicists put it is "rearranging the word to your liking". When the book becomes some kind of oracle by which you "compare" everything from the natural world - most of which hasn't been imagined or written of by the authors, you are abusing it. When single verses are pulled out to highlight a point you want to make without regard to the context, or purpose of the passage the Bible is being abused. When the text on the page, which is mute and dumb, is made into some instrument to use as a weapon against reason and experience, knowledge, inspiration, emotion and anything else scripture is abused.

    It isn't so much that progressives like John and I are so anxious to throw parts of the Bible out - I'm happy to have it all in there as valuable to learn from, even when the object lesson is negative (ie: how NOT to be a good person). It's that we are anxious to keep the Bible from being put onto the rack and tortured and flogged into some purpose it was never intended to serve.

  16. Aric,

    I disagree that the Romans 8 passage is used in such a way as to do violence to the context. Chapter 8 is largely about the assurances believers have that the old order of the world is being and will be overthrown. The section I reference (18-25) specifically addresses how the created order is in disrepair. My aim was to point out the inability of the corrupt natural world to overthrow incorruptibled revealed truth. The Corinthians text you reference speaks of a spiritual seeing - not one that is done with the natural organs of the eye. Thus, it doesn't address my point about the presupposition of materialistic naturalism. As for the other verses, you can say it's proof texting but the naked charge won't stand up without some explanation.

    I'll also have to object to your characterization of the words as "mute and dumb". Jesus spoke of the word as a living seed, able to make life in the right kind of soil. The author of Hebrews said that it is a living thing, cutting to the heart of matters. And that's exactly what we should expect from words that are God's and not merely some human's.

  17. Seeker and Aric,

    I think you have hit on an important issue. I have said this before. The problem with biblical inerrancy, or even declaring that the Bible is the "Word of God" is that it makes all of the texts even when they are not. It puts halos around bad texts.

    The best argument I have read is Robert Price. I wrote about that here and preached about it here.

  18. "I do not think these verses are the "Word of God" especially as they have been used ruthlessly against lesbian and gay people" (John)

    I wrote a whole point on this thing but the error thing happened and I lost it all - then I cried (LOL).

    But the point I think worth considering is the idea about the 'word of God'. I read this statement and then felt like a need for the writer to clarify what is and isn't the 'word of God'? Is there a methodology for determining this?

    I also saw the as part of the reason this was not considered 'word of God' was an the fact some people have used this scripture for 'evil' purposes - but does that neccesarily make something 'evil'? I found it more an emotional appeal than anything - and I agree - not cool for people of this faith to bash gay people (actually that's in opposition to Jesus' teachings).

    But as for Paul saying the use of human body is un-natural in this letter - I see very little qualms with that - since he is making a statement about a Roman society we did not see first hand and maybe Paul did - is Paul stating the obvious here? We can get into perspective and all that but some natural order of things (ex: child-birth) in his day were only one way and only could be. That is the natural order of things in the case of reproduction. So I get Paul's case here.

  19. Society,

    What is "Word of God?" That is exactly what I have been trying to understand. Despite the certainty of others, I am not so certain about what the phrase even means, let alone how it is connected with texts in a book, and how it is to be applied to life situations today.

    Texts do matter in how they are applied to situations of real-live people today. Frankly, I don't care what Paul thought about sexuality in his context. He is not God and he is not expert. He had an observation that he used as an illustration for a larger, much more profound point.

    But this text has been used--this puny little illustration, this tad bit of misinformation, this squiggle of wrongness--has been used to hurt people today. Those two verse are not the Word of God. They are not true, and they harm. Nothing against Paul or his genius or the truth he tells in other parts of that wonderful work of Romans.

    But he is wrong here and repeating that wrong has and continues to have harmful affects on real people.

  20. The whole question of what is "natural" is an interesting one. The problem with those who declare homosexuality among humans to be "unnatural" is that they are making tacit assumptions about what is and isn't "natural", and in the process they often delve into making scientific pronouncements--a fatal flaw that dooms so many religious arguments.

    When people try to say that something is "natural", they often belie their own prejudices. To claim that homosexuality is unnatural, for example, is to make certain tacit assumptions about the purpose of sex in higher mammals--assumptions that are usually false. Anyone who has ever studied our closest primate relatives, the bonobos, will tell you right off the bat that among non-human animals, sex can and does serve many purposes completely unrelated to procreation. And the fact that human females don't display visible estrus in the way that other animals does actually reinforces the non-procreative uses of human sexuality.

    I once got into an online discussion with a priest online who claimed that homosexuality was unnatural because same-sex couples have to improvise in order to make the sex work. I pointed out that nature has created a situation where large numbers of women don't orgasm through intercourse alone, thus requiring improvisation among many opposite-sex couples in order for the sex to work in a way that is satisfactory to females; so if you are going to use "nature" as an argument in this way, and a need for improvisation a definition of what makes something "natural" or not, then heterosexual intercourse must by that reasoning be unnatural! The reply I got to that was an embarrassed unwillingness to discuss female sexuality and a change of the subject.

    The point is that this argument by "nature" is usually a cover up for a deeper prejudice about what is natural and what isn't.

    I don't know for sure what Paul's own prejudices were, but it seems clear to me that using biblical source texts as a justification for bigotry shows what true hardass religion is all about. It's a "don't confuse me with the facts, and don't try to make me tolerant and compassionate, because the bible tells me what to think" attitude, and it shows the kind of evil that can proceed from biblical literalism, where compassion and inclusion are shoved away in favor of bigotry and intolerance.

  21. John,

    You said: Those two verse are not the Word of God. They are not true, and they harm. Nothing against Paul or his genius or the truth he tells in other parts of that wonderful work of Romans.

    But he is wrong here and repeating that wrong has and continues to have harmful affects on real people.
    Those two verse are not the Word of God. They are not true, and they harm. Nothing against Paul or his genius or the truth he tells in other parts of that wonderful work of Romans.

    But he is wrong here and repeating that wrong has and continues to have harmful affects on real people."

    I'm still waiting for you to explain how you arrived at the conclusion that the two verse you don't like are wrong, but other parts (that you like) are right?

    Again, I ask you, since the early church and the Apostle Peter understood that Paul's writings were "God-breathed", hard to swallow, but worthy of instruction in righteousness, how have you determined that the hard-to-swallow parts simply are not God-breathed?

  22. Alan,

    coherence vs. contingency. If you really want to know what I think read this


  23. Okay. Fair enough. I read it. Same old liberal dodge and twist. Nothing new there.

    I'll sign out by reminding you of this from the Apostle Peter:

    "Paul wrote with the wisdom that God gave him. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16,17).

    Peter was addressing the fact that some Christians were refusing to believe what Paul said about a certain matter (hmmmmmm, kind of like you), and so reminded them that God had instructed Paul and that Peter and the early church considered his writings to be Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures, just as the Old Testament was.

    That, of course, won't suit you, because you prefer to interpret things in light of your own desires. Shame, really. You're leading your flock astray. I'm reminded of the warnings of Isaiah and Jeremiah:

    "They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way." (Isaiah 56:11)

    "Many shepherds will ruin my vineyard and trample down my field; they will turn my pleasant field into a desolate wasteland." (Jeremiah 12:10)

    "Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: 'Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:2)

  24. Why is it that people who believe that the Bible is inerrant always seem to end up using passages from the Bible to justify that position? Is the concept of begging the question really that much over their heads?

  25. There is no need to beg the question. The answer is right there in God's Word. That's why we use it to support its own assertions.

  26. So do I, kiddo.

    And BTW, even if we ask the question, proper research shows that the Bible is VERY ACCURATE, does not contradict itself, over 2000 prophecies have already been accurately fulfilled, and the books and letters included in the canon of Scripture were considered holy Scripture by the early church as well as the Apostles.

    But I know I'm banging my head against a wall on this blog.

  27. Alan,

    I think the phrase you're looking for is "kicking against the ox-goad."

  28. (Slaps hand on head!) Oh, I get it now! The Bible is inerrant because one of its passages (allegedly) claims that the Bible is inerrant, and since the Bible is inerrant, any passage within it claiming that it the Bible inerrant can't be in error, so the Bible must be inerrant! Wow! You can't argue with reasoning like that.

    And to think that some people consider fundamentalism intellectually unsophisticated. :)

  29. Seeker,

    You crack me up!


  30. Well, consider this, my skeptical friend:

    Skeptics had long assumed that the Torah, or Books of Moses, was the work of multiple authors. But scripture scholar Moshe Katz and computer expert Menachen Wiener of the Israel Institute of Technology refuted this belief. They discovered an intricate pattern of significant words concealed in the canon, spelled by letters separated at fixed intervals.

    According to Katz, the statistical possibility of such patterns happening by chance would be one in three million. The material, suggests a single, inspired author -- in fact, it could not have been put together by human capabilities at all. "So we need a nonrational explanation," he said. "And ours is that the Torah was written by God through the hand of Moses."

    The Old Testament was considered by its writers to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God. Our Lord Himself, the New Testament writers, and the early church, also affirmed its authenticity.

    Of Moses it is said, "Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said." (Exodus 24:4) David said, "The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue." (II Samuel 23:2) The prophet Jeremiah said, "The word of the Lord came to me saying..." (Jeremiah 1:4) Ezekiel, Daniel, and Amos made it perfectly clear that their messages were absolutely and wholly from God.

    Jesus frequently referred to Old Testament scriptures during His earthly ministry. In confronting the unbelief of the Jews, Jesus affirmed that "the Scripture cannot be broken." (John 10:35) During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, until Heaven and Earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)

    While teaching in the temple courts, Jesus cited Psalm 110:1 and declared that David spoke by the Holy Spirit. (Mark 12:35-36) After His resurrection, Jesus said to His disciples, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms." Then Luke notes, "He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." (Luke 24:44-45) The Jews used the expression, "The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms" to represent the entire Old Testament.

    Concerning the birth of Christ, Matthew records, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet." (Matthew 1:22) In quoting the song of Zechariah (Father of John the Baptist) concerning the birth of Jesus, Luke included the affirmation, "as he said through His holy prophets of long ago." (Luke 1:70) And the writer of Acts records Peter's speech concerning the fate of Judas who betrayed Jesus, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David." (Acts 1:6)

    Many other passages testify to the authority of the Old Testament, often with the words, "that the Scripture might be fulfilled," or "for this is what the prophet has written." Peter affirmed, "No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origins in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (II Peter 1:20-21)

    As the early church grew, differences in doctrines surfaced. But no matter how much the church fathers differed in their teachings, they were unanimous in one thing: that the entire Old Testament, God and Christ, the incarnate word of God, spoke by the Holy Spirit through men. They affirmed the writing of Paul to Timothy, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." (II Timothy 3:16) Unlike other doctrines, the authority of the Scripture was indubitable.

    Belief in the absolute authority of the Scripture is foundational to your faith.

    I'll post again if you're still skeptical about the NT's authority.

  31. (Slaps hand on head!) Oh, I get it now! The supernatural doesn't exist because scientific naturalism* says it doesn't exist, and since scientific naturalism says that the only allowable explanation for observed phenomena are naturalistic, any claim to the supernatural is naturally unscientific, so the supernatural must not exist! Wow! You can't argue with reasoning like that.

    And to think that some people consider scientific naturalism intellectually sophisticated. :)

    *I use "scientific naturalism" instead of "science" because - while related - they cannot be fully equated. The former is a worldview, the latter is a means of investigating the world. Your epistemology shapes your worldview which shapes your a priori. Belief in the supernatural and disbelief in the supernatural are both a priori commitments - the latter is just more stubborn.

  32. If Chris wants to assert that others are begging the question (an assertion he could make by trying to write an intelligent comment, which in his case would be a major challenge) instead of simply mirroring what others have written, he is welcome to make such an assertion. But that doesn't refute the point that some apologists for biblical inerrancy have simply assumed what they set out to prove.

    Unfortunately, this illustrates why these sorts of conversations are generally fruitless. Then again, when someone who thinks that the world is 6000 years old tries to lecture people what what constitutes "science", one can only laugh at the absurdity of it all. It would be even funnier if so many serious attempts weren't being made to promulgate this kind of ignorance throughout the US (such as in the recent opening of the Creation Museum in Kentucky). The dumbing down of American society is nothing to laugh at, actually. But if you don't keep your sense of humor, you'd probably go insane.

    However, for the record, I will simply point out that some people in this discussion have used statements from the Bible as proof of truth claims about the Bible, which would only serve as a valid argument if the biblical passages used in these instances as proof texts were assumed to be true, which is of course the very point that they were trying to prove, because those passages come from the very Bible whose absolute veracity is in doubt. When I pointed out this classic example of begging the question, what I got in response were simply more biblical texts to prove the inerrancy of the Bible. And so it goes.

    Ya gotta love it, though.

  33. Well, Mystie, God DOES love it when we take Him at His Word. It's what the Bible calls "faith" -- the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Oops, there I go using God's own Word again to prop up my argument. Silly me.

    Frankly, Myster, I couldn't care less what you think about my approach. You're not the one I'm going to be hearing "Job well done" from.

    If you're at all familiar with Christ and His offer of forgiveness and salvation you might want to revisit the following verse one more time (unless, of course, you doubt it comes from God, too): "without faith it is impossible to please God....." (Hebrews 11:6).

    You might be pleasing your intellectual pride and a handful of friends, but your derision and skepticism isn't doing much for your relationship with your Creator.

  34. You might be pleasing your intellectual pride and a handful of friends, but your derision and skepticism isn't doing much for your relationship with your Creator.

    And your continued use of the intellectual fallacy of begging the question isn't doing much to establish your credibility.

    In a way, it is surprising that you don't care what others think of the approach you use when you try to convince others of your point of view, since one would have thought that using an approach that is doomed to failure would be kind of pointless. If you are going to be intellectually sloppy and use these types of arguments that anyone who took an introductory logic class in would reject right off the bat, then you are just wasting your time. Why even go through the motions of trying to convince people? More importantly, I would have thought it would have been important to one's own feeling of self worth and intellectual integrity that one were not throwing out fallacies like that.

    Then again, when there are no valid logical arguments at one's disposal, maybe that's all you are left with.

  35. I've studied logic, my friend. I know full well what you're trying to point out.

    However, accepting the Word of God as the full revelation of His heart is a matter of faith (which is what I was pointing out in my last point), not intellectual assent. As Paul points out this is foolishness to those who are perishing:

    1 Cor 1:18-25
    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

    "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."

    Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    Paul further said, "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness"; and again, "The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." (1 Cor 3:19-20)

    He also said, "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Corinthians 2:4,5).

    I'll never convince you from a logical point of view that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. That's foolishness to you, as God Himself understands. I can only give you the Truth of God and pray that He will open your eyes to see beyond your intellectual pride.

  36. **I'll never convince you from a logical point of view that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. That's foolishness to you, as God Himself understands. **

    Isn't the point of that passage that the cross was foolishness to people? And the resurrection, and so forth? The 'foolishness' wasn't that the Bible was the inerrant word of God.

  37. I choose not to believe in a God who would ask us forgo the use of our God-given brains. This idea that logic and reason are contrary to the faith that God asks of us is, in my view, insulting to God. Faith and reason are not contradictory--they complement each other. A faith that precludes reason is built on a foundation of sand.

  38. ((Isn't the point of that passage that the cross was foolishness to people? And the resurrection, and so forth? The 'foolishness' wasn't that the Bible was the inerrant word of God.))

    I'm glad you used the words "and so forth". This is my point. The cross and resurrection can only be certain if one believes that God's Word is certain. That's the "so forth" part.

    How can I possibly be certain that Paul is correct about the cross and resurrection if I'm convinced that he's mistaken about many other things he taught in his letters? If there's no certainty that his words are God-breathed, as Peter affirms (2 Peter 3:16), then I can just as easily consider the cross and resurrection to be just as foolish and misguided as the proposition that the Bible is the inerrant, Spirit-breathed Word of God.

    Then I have no authority left to stand on but my own, and what I decide is true and false depending on where my research or deceptive heart leads me.

    This is why Paul said that this mindset of blind faith in God's provisions is foolishness to those who are perishing.

    "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe" (2 Cor 4:3-4)

    To decide that I am the arbiter of truth is to fall into the same trap that Satan suckered Eve into. "Did God REALLY say?"

    "Hey, girl, go ahead and doubt His spoken word [i.e. don't eat from that tree or you'll die], it won't hurt you. You'll be just like God if you do, deciding for yourself what is right and wrong. I mean, after all, only an idiot or a slave wouldn't question what God has said."

    To deny the integrity and veracity of Scripture is to open the door to all kinds of dodging and twisting on the things we don't like in the Scriptures. "Oh, c'mon", we say, "that's just Paul's prejudice, that can't be from God. I'm not going to accept or obey that."

    And we end up right back in Eve's court, deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong instead of trusting the spoken Word of God.

    Then it's GAME-SET-MATCH for Satan.

  39. **How can I possibly be certain that Paul is correct about the cross and resurrection if I'm convinced that he's mistaken about many other things he taught in his letters? ** Through a personal experience with God? Through seeing the power of the cross in one's life, when one lets go of sin and experiences a resurrection? Because that's what Paul had and the other disciples. The people they converted were converted through actively seeing God's power work through the disiciples.

  40. I'm afraid Alan has failed to recognize the circularity of the logic he is employing. Let's say that I have come across a book and start flipping through it. Somewhere in there I read a line that says, "by the way, this is the divine word of God and everything in it is true." What if that very line was false? If that line is false, then we have no reason to believe anything else in the book unless it somehow corresponds with our own experience. So the presence of that statement does nothing for its own truth value, nor for the truth value of anything else in the book. We must therefore go by the tested and trusted methods of textual criticism to discern the truth values of various statements found throughout the bible.

  41. Dunstan, several of us have tried to point out the circularity of that particular argument, but it just seems to go right over their head.

  42. Heather, you said, "Through a personal experience with God? Through seeing the power of the cross in one's life, when one lets go of sin and experiences a resurrection?"

    So what you're suggesting then is that personal experience is the great arbiter of truth? I'm arguing that the Word of God stands alone in its own integrity, and that we either have the faith to believe it, or the lack of faith which rejects it. You're suggesting that the only true measure of the truth of God's Word is your personal experience, either through science (as some here would argue) or through personal, mystical experiences. That's a dangerous ground to stand on.

    Science is forever adjusting and re-adjusting itself, and what it believed a decade ago has been changed back and forth several times. It's like shifting sand. E.G. Ten years ago calcium was good for your heart. Then it was dangerous. Now it's back to being good. What are we supposed to believe?

    As for personal experiences, my personal experience may be just as shifty as modern science. For instance, yesterday I may have great faith because I'm convinced I experienced God in some measure. But tomorrow I may experience the dryness of my spirit and a nagging emptiness inside. When that goes on for weeks or months it can lead to doubt and skepticism like what you see displayed on this board.

    Does that mean that suddenly what I thought was true yesterday is no longer true today? Of course not. The truth of a matter stands whether or not I personally experience it. There's lots of days that my experiences with sin and with God vary. But that doesn't change the veracity of His Word one bit.

    God's Word stands alone on its truth. Whether or not I experience or believe it does not change the truth of it. My grandfather, to the day he died, refused to believe that man had landed on the moon. Does that mean that man didn't land on the moon? Of course not. It just simply means that Grandpa didn't believe it.

    Was there evidence that man landed on the moon? Obviously. And is there evidence that all of Scripture is God-breathed? Yes. Thousands of biblical scholars would affirm that truth, in spite of what skeptics like Mr. Shuck prefer to believe and propogate on this blog.