Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fundamentalism, a very real problem

Fundamentalism is a problem, a very real problem.

The notion that we can arrive at and possess “the truth,” objective, absolute truth, runs counter to just about every real life, human circumstance or experience I can imagine. Not only is absolute truth beyond my reach, in reality I never even come close to it.

On an autobiographical note, I was reared in a religious tradition that assured me that absolute truth was attainable. All I had to do was read the Bible and it would be mine. Early on I came to realize that was not true! Ironic, huh? I've spent the last 30-plus years unraveling that childhood conditioning.

We move to a new level of absurdity when we promote the idea that this “attainable” truth can be gleaned from a particular source. Most onerous in this regard would be to focus on any one of several “holy books.” And, it’s not so much the books, but the conviction that my particular reading of these sources leads me to “truth” that cannot be challenged, must be defended and, even worse, must be propagated as a part of my life mission.

Fundamentalism, with its sharply contrasting black and white approach to issues, renders life largely, if not completely unworkable in a pluralistic, complicated world such as ours.

The particular brand of Fundamentalism doesn’t matter so much. The outcomes of the pursuit of such a system end up being about the same no matter what the particulars of the various sources.

Islamic Fundamentalists blow themselves up and kill innocents with great confidence and in the name of Allah for the sake of their Truth. Such extremists live to murder infidels as a sacred obligation before passing on to Paradise.

Jewish Fundamentalists refuse to recognize the claims of their Palestinian neighbors, claiming the Truth of the great land promises laid out so clearly in their Hebrew Bible. No concession can be tolerated for those who seek to block the certain eternal truths of the promises of their God.

Christian Fundamentalists preach a black and white message, are quiet certain about the truth of their Gospel and seem absolutely unquestioning in their approach to the Bible. With absolute confidence they murder doctors who perform abortions, regard homosexuals as perverts or objects of disdain, if not extermination, and consign those with differing opinions to Hell’s literal lake of fire.

In general, Fundamentalists don't do much to promote the positives of their various religious heritages.

Unfortunately, Fundamentalists are missionaries by definition. They must spread "the truth," their truth, no matter the cost. If called on, they willingly die def ending the truth about which they are completely certain. No room for conversation or new understandings.

Fundamentalism is a problem.

Too often it leads to death, literally and spiritually. Death is never good.

It cannot aid us in solving our most pressing problems today. In fact, it only adds to the problems we face. Dividing communities into warring parties, Fundamentalism stands over against almost every value necessary for human reconciliation and community building.

Fundamentalism is a problem, a very real problem.

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47 comments:

Chris said...

Larry, I would be interested in what your core beliefs are. Are you saying that it would be a problem to focus on the Bible rather than, say, the Koran? That's what it sounded like to me but please correct me if I understood it wrong.

RC said...

I agree with some of what you say, maybe most of what you say. I do have some problems. To be honest, when I finished reading your post I felt like I was reading the words of a liberal fundamentalist. You have some of the strongest, unbending views of any person I have read. That is not a criticism, just an observation. You seem to be 100% totally convicted that your belief system is right. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God to he exclusion of other "holy books," but that belief does not make me intolerant of others in the manner in which you describe.

Larry James said...

Chris and rc, thanks for posting today.

rc, I do have very strong convictions and opinions, especially when it relates to how others are treated. That said, I attempt to hear and understand other points of view. Just because I argue strongly for my point of view does not mean I don't respect the rights of others to havfe a differing perspective. And, I am constantly telling myself that I could be wrong. rc, given what you say, I would say you aren't a Fundamentalist.

Chris, I'm not saying it is a problem to "focus on the Bible." That is what most Christians do. But, there are many ways to "focus on the Bible." I hope we could read our scriptures and, at the same time, respect the views and holy documents of others. Any reading of any holy book that leads us to believe that we possess an understanding of truth in any absolute way is what gets us off track and at each other's throats.

Anonymous said...

Larry, thanks for such a thoughtful post. I understood you to mean that we should not focus on any book as the final understanding of truth (interpretation and opinion being as flawed as the reader is).
While I believe that the Bible reveals God to us, I don’t think it is the Word of God. I think Jesus is – and understanding that Word is a life-long process. I believe that when we approach the Bible as the Word rather than Jesus, we are more likely to find ourselves legalizing the message, rather than living it.

I have to agree that fundamentalism is a very real problem. I, too, grew up in the tradition that said “Just study the Bible, memorize it, believe what I say it means, and don’t ask too many questions.” Probing questions that challenged the accepted interpretation were considered a demonstration of a lack of faith, or worse, the result of a divisive spirit. As a result, spiritual growth ceased (how can you grow if you already know all the answers?), new insights/understandings were lost, and the community became an isolated sect who thought it was the last bastion of the “truth”. Anyone who disagreed was an agent of the devil, trying to shake one’s faith.

There are a couple of disturbing things to me about fundamentalism. One is that the fundamentalist wants to control what others believe and how they act – and it’s their version of truth that is the standard. The control can come in the form of intimidation or isolation, but it can take more aggressive forms as well.

The other is that it is driven by fear - fear of those who disagree or are different. The “truth” of the fundamentalist is threatened by difference and that fear creates enemies and enemies have to be challenged and defeated.

When I came to believe that it is not possible for one person or group to possess all truth, I was able to hear what other people of faith had experienced. We’re lucky when we get glimpses of truth as we read, study, meditate, listen to people whose experience rubs up against our own. Those glimpses allow us to re-examine what we have believed and be changed by it. It allows us to welcome diversity and live in community.

As usual, you have provoked thought about how we are to live together in a diverse world.
Ann

Larry James said...

Ann, very well said.

One of the most troubling aspects of the brand of Fundamentalism I know best, Christian, is that it prohibits honest assessment of the words of the Bible itself. The beginning assumption is that every word of the Bible is absolutely true and that it reflects the very heart of the God that Jesus portrayed. This leads to all sorts of difficulites while not allowing for the recognition of the human element/influence on the anciet text.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of what you say is right. From making Galileo recant his (correct) findings to burning heretics or hanging witches to blowing yourself up along with dozens of others around you, all such heinous acts have an absolute certitude of belief behind them. No one could do such things without it. Even if it doesn't lead to actual violence, the mindset that you have all the answers is usually destructive ... of relationships, open inquiry, acceptance of those who disagree, on and on. Just a little doubt - enough to stay open to other possibilities - can be a very healthy thing.

Chris said...

Larry, Jesus said in John 17:17, speaking of the Father "...thy word is truth." So I think there is such a thing as absolute truth.

While we should show respect to others as fellow human beings that does not mean we should consider their so called "holy books" as holy. The Bible is the only book we should consider holy.

I ask again, do you have any core beliefs when it comes to the Bible or do you consider the "holy documents of others" on the same level as the Bible?

Larry James said...

Chris, there may be absolute truth somewhere, but it doesn't matter really since no human can attain it.

No doubt, Jesus spoke the truth in John 17, the question is what is the word of God? Where does it reside? I believe that it resides wherever we find truth or principles arising from it. If you believe that Jesus had in mind the Bible that you now have on your desk or nightstand when he said that, then I disagree. The Bible's table of contents as we know it was not finalized until mid-fourth century and that by the action of a council of the post-Constantinian church.

Truth must be discerned as part of our journey. The Hebrew Bible contains many reports, stories and ideas that condone violence, discrimination and national hatreds. Are these words from God? Or, are we free to discover the truth behind the nationalism of many parts of that book? Can we discover the growth of the Hebrew understanding of things as the narrative unfolds? Do we really believe children should be executed for being disobedient to parents? Do we want to stone adulterers or homosexuals? Are we ready to accept the notion that whole peoples, including innocents, should be eliminated as the "will of God"?

Jesus leads us higher, immeasurably higher in his illumination of truth.

Love God with your entire being as you journey along.

Love your fellow men/women. . .all of them as you love yourself--about the only real way to demonstrate love for God. How else?

That is the core. The failure to recognize this core has led to the myriad problems we face today.

Anonymous said...

It seems there are two ways we get to know about God.
From the creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
From Scripture.
From these sources I have come to believe what Jesus said.
There is truth.
Jesus is the truth.

The problem comes when we become focused on judging people and excluding people instead of teaching people how to live as Jesus taught us to live.

Larry, I have seen the damage of man centered, self-righteous, toxic, legalistic, religion and I must admit that at times I have been a part of it by being puffed up with my own knowledge instead of humble in God’s love. “Knowledge puffs up, Love builds up.”

So I can agree that too often we are off mission.
Our call is to make disciples of Jesus. (We do this by loving our neighbor as ourselves, feeding, clothing, housing, forgiving etc. in His name.)
To baptize people into Jesus.
To teach them to obey Jesus.
To enjoy the presence of Jesus as we do this.

So again. Larry, you made me think as you did some others with your post.

When I get tired of people pushing their fundamentalist religion instead of the grace of Jesus.
I will not move to the position that there is no absolute truth.
For if I think that
How do I know that statement is absolutely true?
But I will hopefully work in humility instead of arrogance.

Larry Wishard

Chris said...

The way we demonstrate love for God is to keep His commandments. While loving your fellow humans is one of the most important, it seems to me you have very little regard for God'd Word, for sound doctrine. I get the idea that with you, anything goes as far as doctrine is concerned.

Anonymous said...

Chris, do you have your own blog? I'd like to read it sometime.

Aaron

Terry said...

I have not been convinced to disbelieve Jesus and the Bible. If you do not believe that truth is attainable, I cannot figure out why you would even try to convince others. What's the point? You have already admitted not only that you do not know the truth, but that it cannot even be known.

Larry James said...

This format does not allow for the sort of face-to-face give and take that best serves such a conversation. And, I expect there can be no end to it! But, I want to respond first by thanking all who posted here. And, I want to clarify a point or two. First, I did not intend to say there is no "absolute truth." I did say that I have not attained it, nor do I believe anyone has or can in every detail. In my view, such a recognition ought to instill a humility within my life that makes conversation, connection and reconciliation in the real world much more possible. Since we are all struggling for truth and what is true, we ought to be able to approach one another with humility, kindness and honest curiosity. In my own experience, such a view or understanding leads to deep and enduring relationship wtih God, one in which faith, unconditional love, faithfulness and attention to the witness of scriputre are essentials for the journey. Personally, I don't believe I have attained all truth, but I'm on the pathway and in a continuing search as I reach out to others and as they reach out to me.

Anonymous said...

Larry,
For me personally, I am thankful for your search.
I had a few hours in juvy court this week with a family I was trying to help. It was sad and disorienting to see what abandonment there was of little innocent babies. I believe that work with deep hurt with broken people causes us to deepen our own questions. Mother Teresa showed her love and her doubts. I thank God for the hands and feet of Jesus in your ministry there, in Dallas, Larry.
Larry Wishard

Anonymous said...

From Gary Singleton, The Heights Church on our limited knowledge.
"When pursuing knowledge - especially knowledge about the infinite God - arrogance must be carefully guarded against. ... I was a product of the academy, where a premium was placed on being right, ready, and full of insight. ... The problem with this sort of posture - this sort of "certainty" - is that over time it becomes impervious to change, fresh insight, or new understanding. Before long, we move from being learners (which is the real meaning of the Greek word for disciple in the New Testament) to becoming protectors - protectors of 'what we have always believed.' ... I once heard the eminent New Testament scholar N.T. Wright say he is pretty certain that 70 percent of what he believes is wrong; he just isn't sure which 70 percent."
Larry Wishard

Anonymous said...

Larry W and Larry J.:

I already had great respect and admiration for N.T. Wright. Now it is even greater. What a great line! N. T. Wright is a great scholar and writer, and, for those of you not familiar with his work, quite conservative. However, he regularly enters into dialogue with those (much) more liberal on the theological spectrum, having even written a book with Marcus Borg, one of the most liberal theologians out there, in which they each set out there beliefs and had an honest chapter-by-chapter dialogue. They disagree strongly, but always civilly. If N.T. Wright, with all his learning and wisdom, can make this statement, it leaves little room for any of the rest of us to claim absolute certainty.

As I understand Larry J., this issue is a little bit like the color spectrum. Human eyes can only see so much of the color spectrum. There's stuff there we just can't see. Some other animals can see what we can't, but not what we can. This is a lot like truth. It's there alright, but we can't see it all. A little humility about our beliefs can help us remember that.

SeriousSummer said...

I think fundamentalists simply fail to understand that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23.

When you fully understand that scripture, it is impossible to remain fundamentalist.

Wayne said...

I usually just read the posts but today I will leave my 2 cents worth.

To hold to a belief that absolute truth is not attainable - is flawed logic. You are saying that you hold to an absolute truth - that no one can obtain absolute truth. Do you see a problem here?
I could understand an agnostic approach that says "I don't know if someone could obtain absolute truth..."

There are horrible examples of men killing men (and women and children) in the name of God and Peace - which is also a conundrum - in every religion.

I am a Christian and I am sick and tired of stories of "Bad Christians happening to Good People". This does not make Christianity or Jesus Christ's message flawed - it is an example of poor following.

I do believe that absolute truth does exist. I agree that I too have not yet obtained it. I believe that I know where it comes from. I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. I don't think you can approach it with a cafeteria mentality. (you can't just take what looks good and is easy to swallow). You must look at it as a complete work. It has withstood the tests of scholarship and textual criticism and has yet to be found in err. It is the most accurate and complete volume of historical record. It is also God's word revealed to man through divine inspiration.

I am not a blind theologian. I believe there is truth in life and many other "holy books" are worthy of reading. I have read the Koran, the Hadith, works by Plato, Nietzsche, Dawkins, Sagan and others.
When I weigh the evidence, I believe the Bible holds the standard as the word of God. I believe that it is accurate and holds the evidence of absolute truth. I also believe that God is too big for me to assume to have him "figured out". I believe that we will all be in awe when "all truth is eventually revealed".

Remember: truth does not need you(nor I) to believe in it - to be true. If truth does exist, then any opposing view cannot be true. Relative truth is no truth at all. "What's true for me" - is a stupid thing to say. Truth is truth whether I believe in it or not. Truth is not swayed by my belief - as if God changes him mind based on my faith.

God's absolute truth - absolutely exists.

belinda said...

Fundamentalist anything is never a good thing.

The Bible is a book written by disciples of Mark, Matthew, Luke, etc. They were originally labeled that way.

chris said...

If the Bible isn't the inspired word of God, I wouldn't bother with it.

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God..."

Anonymous said...

I think the point is a healthy skepticism about human understanding (of truth or anything else). As someone very wise (can't remember who) once said (paraphrasing): If you believe that you have understood, what you have understood is not God.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Larry! I'll tell you what's always been ironic to me is how people who claim they want to follow the Bible and believe every word as the "perfect" word of God ignore so much of it! They are big on getting saved, preaching about hell, holding out that they are right and others who see things differently are all wet, etc., but they ignore, I mean flat ignore all that is in the Bible about poverty, justice, peace, love, the aliens (immigrants), etc. It makes me doubt whether they really believe the Bible as the perfect work and truth of God or just want to believe in the correctness of their current traditions and practices. If I'm reading the experience of Jesus right, that's what he faced in the religious authorities of his day!

belinda said...

The "problem" with the Bible and our understanding of it generates from the King James Bible pretty much being the only bible we knew of for a very long time. Do some research! This version was printed in the 1600s - what was used before that? Books were taken out and parts of books were omitted. Folks, the King James version is NOT the inspired word of God.

For The Least Of Us said...

Bill said,

I am saddened to feel such disdain for the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. I sense the anger towards Fundamentalists a cover up for rejection of God. A Judo-Christian heart is not about religions, for our sects are man made; it's about believing God and knowing Him in our character and actions, and our personal relationship with our Father. I'm afraid those who deny Him most are those who don't devote themselves to His word. Here are a few passages that likely are applicable to this fine thread of Larry James.

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders, And He will be called Wonderful Conselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Price of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies will make this happen." (Isa 9)

"What sorrow awaits the unjust judges and those who issue unfair laws. They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans. What will you do when I punish you, when I send disaster upon you from a distant land? To whom will you turn for help? Where will your treasures be safe. You will stumble along as prisoners or lie among the dead." (Isa 10)

"In that day the Lord will end the bondage of His people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders." (Isa 10:27)

"But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat....In Jerusalem the Lord of the Heaven's Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the peoples of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well aged wine and choice meat. There He will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever the insults and mockery against His land and people. The Lord has spoken". (Isa 25)

Larry James said...

Bill, no disdain here for God. Just the manner in which the people who claim him respond both to the word and to the world. The texts you quote are seldom linked to the Fundamentalism I describe and that, after all, it the point.

For The Least Of Us said...

Larry,
I commend the "Truth Project" (Focus on the Family, Del Tackett)to you. It's an eye-opening 10 part video series sweeping America. Why did Jesus personally come to us? To "testify" to the world. Testify? Yea, as (if) a court trial. And while He is the Truth, and the evidence is there/presented, "we" will reject Him and He will suffer His life, and we "persecution" for touting His word.

Fundamentalism? Yes, the Pharisees were religious zealots, the super religious. Anytime the cause becomes our interpretation and direction, rather than His cause/command, we become fundamentalists/heretics.

Truth is unattainable by man. We are at best, foot-soldiers, bodies under construction, in Heaven's armies, processing towards salvation, with a changed heart, filling up with God's Spirit, devoted to the marginalized and His word.

Anonymous said...

Larry James said “Not only is absolute truth beyond my reach, in reality I never even come close to it.”

Are you ABSOLUTELY sure truth is beyond your reach?

Larry James said “there may be absolute truth somewhere, but it doesn't matter really since no human can attain it.”

Are you ABSOLUTELY sure there may be absolute truth somewhere, but it doesn’t matter really since no human can attain it?

If we can’t know truth then how do you know what you are saying is true? How does anyone know what anyone says is true? Do you see that your statements are self-defeating? They are completely contradictory and thus false.

Let me give you the truth about truth. There are absolute truths that we can know. For example, torturing a baby is wrong for all people in all places at all times. That is absolutely true and we know it. And there are many other absolute truths.

Are you a postmodernist? I noticed one of your favorite books is Liberation Theology.

Larry James said...

Anon 4:07 p.m., thanks for the post. I agree with you about the torture of infants. Of course my point really had to do with religious people who feel and act as if they have all truth and armed with such then turn and impose and enforce their truth on everyone else without ever considering that there might be other ways to look at life.

Regarding your example, Fundamentalist Muslims and some literalist readings of part of the Hebrew Bible might challenge your "absolute truth" about the torture of babies. Fundatmentalists might argue that on occasion out of devotion to God, just such a horrific act might be justified.

See my point? You gather your absolute understanding from personal experience, common sense and a deep sense of your own humanity. Others with "infallible truth" in a book might say you just don't understand.

Anonymous said...

Larry,

Thanks for the reply. I think you are confused from all of the postmodern relativism and pluralism you have obviously immersed yourself in. Just because a religious person might think the Bible teaches it is okay to torture babies (which it does not) and so they go and do that then that does not make torturing babies ABSOLUTELY wrong. You do not gather absolute understanding from personal experience, common sense and a deep sense of your own humanity - absolute truth is discovered and not created. For example, 2+2=4 is absolutely true for all people at all times in all places. It is not that I think 2+2=5 and you think 2+2=1 and we are both right. There are clearly absolute truths that we can know.

By the way, would you consider yourself a Christian?

Larry James said...

Anon 8:40 a.m., I'm not suggesting that such is my view of truth. I am saying that those who hold such a ridiculous position on the torture of infants arrive at such a view as if it were absolute truth because example of such are found and suggested in "holy scripture."

I think you may not understand who I had in mind. I am talking about the religious extremists, who hold positions based on a reading of their holy books.

2 + 2= 4 for all people and for all times using the current theories of math that you and I are sure of and based on a decimal or factor of 10 formula.

All truth is not so clear and those who claim that it is often do terrible things.

Anonymous said...

Larry,

I am still trying to understand where you are coming from. Do you consider yourself a Christian? Do you believe in the innerancy and inspiration of Scripture? The deity of Jesus Christ? The Trinity? Miracles? The bodily death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

You have not answered whether you are a postmodernist? Are you a relativist?

Larry James said...

Anon 5:57 pm, I'll be happy to attempt answers to your questions. Yes, I am a Christian, and to your other questions, I consider myself orthodox by any normal, historic standard. What my faith does not allow me to do is use the Bible to beat people up or to assert that I possess all and absolute truth.

It would help for the remainder of this discussion, if it continues, that everyone provide their first and last names if they expect a response. Thanks to all who have posted here.

Bill Taylor said...

You did not answer whether you are a postmodernist or a relativist. You claim to be an orthodox Christian but your words don't match up with that. Are you a proponent of Liberation Theology?

Larry James said...

Bill, you'd have to provide definitions of "postmodernist" and "relativist," since both terms are so open to multiple meanings. As to Liberation Theology, I have read after various writers who would claim to embrace the ideas of Gustavo Gutierrez and other Latin American theologians. To simplify matters, let me say that I believe the biblical message and that of Jesus and the New Testament direct a radical concern for and commitment to justice in the here and now in this life, on this earth. As the Lord himself taught us to pray, "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Bill Taylor said...

Larry,

By Postmodernism I mean we cannot speak of any universal truth, reason, or morality. We just have fragmented perspectives. All metanarratives (systems or grand stories) are suspect-whether religious or not. No universal foundation for truth, morality, human dignity exists.

I am still having trouble understanding your view on truth. Do you believe that all truth is relative? Are there any absolute truths?

And do you believe that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation?

Larry James said...

Bill, thanks for the conversation. As I have said, I do believe in "universal truth," it is just my view that I don't attain it given my limitations as a human and the limitations of language as a vehicle of conveyance. That said, I do believe we attain to a level of the truth that makes issues of morality and human dignity self-evident in most cases.

I don't consider myself postmodern by your definition.

As a Christian, obviously, I believe that Jesus is the ultimate way to life eternal. However, even Paul seemed to assume that God was in charge of all such matters and that God would/could "reckon" the faith of outsiders as justifying (See Romans 2, et. al.). Again, the way of humility, in view of so many unknowns, seems most appropriate.

Bill Taylor said...

Larry,

Thanks for the dialogue. Your statements continue to be contradictory thus making it very difficult to understand your views.

Larry said “As I have said, I do believe in "universal truth," it is just my view that I don't attain it given my limitations as a human and the limitations of language as a vehicle of conveyance.”

Here you are saying that you believe in “universal truth” but that you can’t attain it. How can you believe in something you can’t attain?

You said you don’t consider yourself postmodern by my definition but is there another definition of postmodern that you fall under?

Larry said “As a Christian, obviously, I believe that Jesus is the ultimate way to life eternal. However, even Paul seemed to assume that God was in charge of all such matters and that God would/could "reckon" the faith of outsiders as justifying (See Romans 2, et. al.).”

You claim that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation but you seem to leave some room open for there being other ways to salvation.

Are you a proponent of Liberation Theology? Are you a Socialist?

Larry James said...

Bill, we need to meet and talk face-to-face. . .not enough time or space or place for complexity like this. . .though, I know to your worldview there is no doubt, no complexity, just black and white.

Your statement, "How can you believe in something you can’t attain?" makes me want to know your age! Your definition of faith and mine are very different. If there is no room for doubt or the possibility that one could be mistaken, then what is the benefit of faith?

I believe in perfect love, but I can't attain it. I believe in many things and truths, but on this side they are but shadows of the reality I trust is there. Plato said something about the shadows and what could be known.

I believe that many of the ideas and the approach taken by liberation thinkers are most worthy of serious consideration. I have a deep appreciation to liberationists who have taught me much that does shape my faith.

I am not a socialist, though Jesus seemed much closer to that theory of economics than they one prevalent in his day and the one operational in ours.

What about you? Are you a Christian? If so, what is your background? Are you a capitalist? How do you read the Bible? Upon what do you base your absolute certainty? Are you involved with "the poor" in any way? How do you regard and explain the persistence of poverty in our nation and around the world?

Larry James said...

Bill and others, my blog will be up this week, but I won't be managing it. So, if you post comments, I likely won't be able to respond until next weekend at the earliest. Didn't want anyone to feel as if I was ignoring them!

Bill Taylor said...

It looks like you know another absolute truth – “I know to your worldview there is no doubt, no complexity, just black and white.” You judge me based on a few comments back and forth yet you claim that “absolute truth is beyond my reach”. Are you ABSOLUTELY sure “I know to your worldview there is no doubt, no complexity, just black and white.” Evidently there is absolute truth for you when judging others inappropriately!

You statement “I do believe in "universal truth," it is just my view that I don't attain it given my limitations as a human and the limitations of language as a vehicle of conveyance” makes me want to know why you wasted so much money on your education! We can know universal truths. As I stated before 2+2=4 is a universal truth we know. Another universal truth is that it is always wrong to torture babies. Truth is absolute. It is not relative. Maybe you just need to clarify what your vague statement means. What is your definition of faith? I never said there is no room for doubt. There is plenty of evidence for the major truth claims of the Christian faith. We cannot know with 100% certainty God exists but based on the evidence we can know beyond a reasonable doubt that God exists.

Your example of belief in perfect love is a poor one. We are not talking about concepts that do not exist but we are talking about universal truths that we know exist. We know perfect love cannot exist because we are not perfect people. Remember the Fall?

I am not sure what you are trying to say by “I believe in many things and truths, but on this side they are but shadows of the reality I trust is there.” You use a lot of vague statements that most postmodernists use. By the way you never answered my question regarding whether you align at all with postmodernist thought.

I am a Christian. I am a capitalist. I believe in the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. You asked on what do I base my absolute certainty – absolute certainty in what? Please be specific. I am involved with the poor through missions work. The questions regarding why there is poverty around the world is one that would take too long to go into right now. Thanks for the dialogue.

For The Least Of Us said...

Bill said. Why complicate our conversation with esoteric terms. Scripture satisfies me. likely the most quoted portion in the Bible - the Shema,(recited each day on arising and going to sleep)is enough for me.

4"Hear, O Israel:(A) The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5You(B) shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And(C) these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7(D) You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8(E) You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9(F) You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

What does it mean? We are our brothers keepers consistent with how Jesus lived His life. That is the basis of what we are "commanded" to do

Anonymous said...

Bill Taylor, you tell us that you believe in absolute truth. From what you've written here, I assume your source is the Bible, correct?
You've also said that the torture of infants is always wrong, correct? If that is so, what do you do with a biblical text like 1 Samuel 15:1-3 and the rest of the story in which King Saul is punished for not slaugtering the innocent children of the Amalekites? The biblical verses clearly command the torture/murder of children and Saul is punished for not obeying the command. Where is the truth here--in the biblical command or in the value you put forth as universal?
Thomas Frank

Bill Taylor said...

The Amalekites, who were descendents of Esau, had been longtime enemies of Israel. They fought against Israel at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8). Apparently, they "entertained a deep-seated grudge against them, especially as the rapid prosperity and marvelous experience of Israel showed that the blessing contained in the birthright [Jacob and Esau] was taking effect." They were a constant threat to Israel. Therefore, God said to Moses in Exodus 17:14 “Write this in a book as a memorial, and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

God lawfully has the right to execute judgment upon anyone. The Bible says that all people have sinned against God and are under his righteous judgment. Therefore, their execution is not an arbitrary killing nor is it murder. Murder is the unlawful taking of life. Killing is the lawful taking of life. For example, we can lawfully take a life in defense of our selves, our families, our nations, etc.

When God authorizes the nation of Israel to wipe out a people, it is a lawful execution due to their rebellion and sin against God. Furthermore, such an extermination can be seen to be merciful by delivering the young into the hands of the Lord and possibly saving their souls by not giving them time to become "utterly sinful". Additionally, further generations that would have arisen from the perverse culture, are likewise prevented from coming into existence and spreading their sin.

Finally, one of the reasons that the Lord is so strong in the Old Testament and orders the killing of people is to ensure that the future messianic line would remain intact. The enemy, Satan, began his attempt to destroy God's people in the Garden of Eden, by also trying to corrupt the world (which led to Noah's Flood), by trying to destroy Israel with attacking armies, and by encouraging Israel to fall into idolatry by exposure to other cultures as well as intermarrying women from those cultures. The result of both the idolatry and the interbreeding would have been the failure of the prophecies that foretold of the coming Messiah which specified which family line the Messiah would come through. The Messiah, Jesus, would be the one who would die for the sins of the world and without that death there would be no atonement. Without the atonement, all people would be lost. So, God was ensuring the arrival of the Messiah via the destruction of the ungodly.

Anonymous said...

So then, Bill Taylor, your previous contention that "torture of infants is always wrong" is not true? Where is the absolute truth? In your view of the Bible--from which you draw out your exception; or in the universal truth that torturing infants is always wrong? Can't have it both ways, Bill. Thus, a part of the dilemma Larry was trying to deal with honestly, or so it seems to me.

Thomas Frank

Bill Taylor said...

What does this have to do with torturing infants being absolutely wrong? God nor the Israelites tortured infants. You don't have a point here at all. And neither did Larry. His blog was filled with contradictory self defeating statements. There clealry are absolute and anyone that says there are no absolutes is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Bill Taylor, anyone who does not consider the wholesale slaugther of innocent infants at the scale of genocide anything but torture has no right to lecture anyone on abolutes. I very definitely have a point.
Thomas Frank

Bill Taylor said...

Thomas,

You said "anyone who does not consider the wholesale slaugther of innocent infants at the scale of genocide anything but torture has no right to lecture anyone on abolutes." Are you absolutely sure about that? It looks like there are absolutes after all aren't there? By the way, you obviously did not read my explanation of what happened. Another good example of what we are discussing is explained at the link below by one of the greatest thinkers in the world today. Maybe it will help you understand.

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767