Sunday, November 10, 2013

Response to Joel Anderson's Critique of My Book, Part 5

Recently, Dr. Joel Anderson wrote a critique of the chapter "God is Omniscient" from my book "God Is: Exploring the Nature of the Biblical God". Here is my response.

Joel went quite easy on me this time, probably because he understood where I was coming from as far as my approach to the chapter went. I point out early on in my book that while much of what I critique is the Bible itself, a large part of it is more of a critique of some people's beliefs about the Bible. Joel is apparently not a fan of systematic theology in that it takes an a priori belief and attempts to find Biblical passages that support that belief. Joel believes in Biblical theology, where a person just accepts what is said without trying to read more into it than there is. I agree with this approach.

One of the biggest problems I see with some people's study of the Bible is how they rationalize certain parts of the Bible they don't like to make it fit with other parts they do like. I say let the words fall where they may even if you end up with a contradiction. Doing otherwise is akin to systematic theology in that you have a priori determined there are no contradictions in the Bible and therefore must reinterpret parts to make the whole consistent. This is a no-no in my mind. (NOTE: No-no does not here refer to a hair removal system regardless of what my head looks like. ;>) )

Concerning my comments about Jesus' lack of knowledge of certain things, Joel says that nowhere in Christian history was it taught that Jesus was omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, etc. I would say that is good, since Jesus was indeed none of these things. However, many Christians today teach that Jesus was all those things. They believe him to be God incarnate and thus in possession of all the attributes of God himself, which they believe include all those things. I believe Jesus was simply a man that was disgusted with the Jewish leadership of his day and spoke out against them. At most he was a man that perhaps had more insight into the mind of God than did most people of his day. He was rather like Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five Theses pointing out the errors of the religious leaders. Jesus' harsh commentaries eventually got him killed.

Regarding my concerns with God's omniscience and man's free will not being compatible, Joel says, "At some level beyond our finite human understanding these two things work together. We’ve just got to accept it." To Joel I paraphrase HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, "I'm sorry, Joel, I'm afraid I can't do that." It's by reasoning through some of these issues that we can conclude that certain ideas are untenable.

I was glad to hear that Joel sees Biblical prophecy the way I do. The OT prophecies were concerned with events that took place back in OT times, not NT times or current day. The linking of Jesus' life to OT prophecy was simply the writers' way of relating Jesus' life to that of their ancestors. But some might say that even if that is so, those original prophecies still came true back in OT times. Well, that's not necessarily true. When you have one writer relaying a prophecy as well as its fulfillment, things get problematic. The prophecy and its fulfillment could have just been made up or certain events simply interpreted as a fulfillment. But on the other hand it could simply be that there were many prophets predicting a variety of things. By pure chance, some would get it right, some would get it wrong. If the latter were killed as false prophets and the former kept alive and their writings preserved, it would appear they have special powers they in reality did not have. I am reminded of a story I heard from a friend.

Suppose you want to start a financial newsletter and charge people a large sum of money for your financial expertise. You might be pretty good at predicting markets, but you are by no means perfect. So, what do you do to make people think you are a financial wizard worthy of a substantial part of their income. Well, you first start out by sending out a sample newsletter. Half of them make one prediction, the other half the opposite. You'll lose the people that receive the wrong prediction, but get the attention of the other half. Now, send out another half and half newsletter to just the ones you sent the correct prediction. Soon you will have some fraction (1/4, 1/8, 1/16, or whatever) of the recipients thinking you to be a financial genius and willing to send their money to you for more advice. Something similar could explain the prophets of old. After eliminating the wrong ones, you'd still have some fraction of them appearing to be God's man of the hour. As Joel says, "The Jews kept the writings of Jeremiah because his prophecy about Jerusalem’s destruction came true; they ditched the prophecies of Hananiah because his prophecies about Judah breaking Babylon’s yoke was proven to be false."

To better understand my views of the Bible and Jehovah, be sure to read a copy of my book, God Is: Exploring the Nature of the Biblical God. I am also the author of two other books. Passion is a Harsh Taskmaster is a mystery romance novel. Beginnings to Endings is a humorous philosophy book written in the style of one of my favorite humorists, Dave Barry. I also have four photography books published. Check out the ads to the left and below for links to these books as well as my various Web sites.

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