Sunday, August 28, 2016

Biblical Criticism

Atheist: I used to love Gleason Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Now they also have The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler. This is what I call the hermeneutical song and exegetical dance. I picture Richard Gere in the movie Chicago doing the tap dance. That's a good analogy to what these books are. The alternative model, that the Bible is errant and is not divinely inspired, written by several authors, each with their agenda, inspired by their culture, beliefs and superstitions, is a far more plausible explanation.

Me: (1) Do words have meaning? (2) Did the authors of the Bible simply assemble a collection of words with no apparent purpose or do the passages in question have an objectively discoverable purpose?

Your English teachers from high school taught you wrong. Not all interpretations are equally good, and truth isn't relative to each person. Some interpretations are right and some interpretations are wrong. All you're saying is that it's possible for someone to interpret the Bible as an incoherent mess. So what? Seriously, why should I care that someone found out how to interpret the Bible in a stupid manner? I'm sorry, but the fact that this is possible isn't shocking or new to anybody in the Evangelical community. We all know about Julius Wellhausen and the documentary hypothesis (which is only one of three alternative hypotheses to the traditional authorship to the Pentateuch, the other two being the supplementary hypothesis and fragmentary hypothesis), and just because it's possible to interpret the Pentateuch in this way doesn't mean it's the correct interpretation (as the existence of competing hypotheses in higher criticism shows).

If you decided to study a real humanities discipline in university, like the classics (i.e. Greek and Latin literature), you would know that the "reader response" theory of interpretation very quickly will make you a laughingstock among your colleagues and professors.

Another thing you would learn if you studied a real humanities disciple is that you always interpret any work in the most charitable manner possible. Your dismissal of any attempt to discover original purpose to the biblical canon as nonsense is extremely uncharitable and would not be accepted in academia.

On a tangential note: at the turn of the 19th century, inspired by positivism and Wittgenstein's sentiment that all truth is merely a culturally-defined language game, a group of artists decided to take this to its logical conclusion and produce anti-art. You see, in the artists' mind, their ability to produce garbage and say its art somehow proved that art was just culturally defined and that there is no such thing as objective beauty and excellence, so it went in their twisted thinking. But their reasoning is unsound. Their ability to betray the standard of art doesn't prove that art is meaningless, it just proved that they betrayed the standard. And your ability to disbelieve the truth doesn't disprove truth, it only proves that you disbelieve it. 

"If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is." (II Timothy 2:13)

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