Humanist Ad Campaigns, Part III

See part I here and II here.

Sorry for not posting for so long.  The wrestling season tends to get crazy.  Anyway (where she says “QUOTE,” she is quoting me in order to give context to her words):

Margaret: QUOTE“…yet those ads treat the Bible like it is a collection of isolated sentences.”

I don’t think that is the intention. As you mentioned, an ad has the problem of limited space. Knowing the people who put the ads up, I think the primary goal is to get people to think about what is really in the Bible. Most self-professed Christians haven’t read the Bible, and so seeing those single lines out of it are likely to be surprised. I would hope that it would spark enough curiosity that they’d crack the book open and find out what it really says.

RB: Perhaps…but to that extent, the ads are misleading. Besides, I’ve seen the same kind of treatment several times in humanist/atheist polemics against the Bible.

Margaret: QUOTE “The Bible would be much less confusing to you if you read it like everything else.”

I am fully aware that different parts of the Bible should be read different ways. I consider the Bible to be a valuable book in-of-itself for several different reasons (some literary, some historical), with some parts much better than others. The problem is with people who claim that the Bible the infallible word of God that they supposedly base their ethics and whole worldview on.

QUOTE “No mention of the mutual submission from Ephesians.”

Funny you mention that letter. The majority of Biblical scholars believe the letter to the Ephesians to be written by someone other than Paul. Regardless, Ephesians does not speak of “mutual submission.” It says that wives should submit to their husbands and husbands should love their wives, and the metaphor used for both is that the husband is like Christ and the wife is like the church. How the heck do you get mutual submission from that? Also, you haven’t explained the the correct interpretation of that passage is. Part of my argument is that the Bible is inconsistent and often contradicts itself. So you pointing out that some passages sound mysoginist while others contradict that doesn’t necessarily prove that the mysoginist-sounding passages are in fact pro-woman. You have to explain how and why they are pro-women in their supposed proper context.

RB: What are their reasons for thinking that it wasn’t written by Paul? By no means do I disregard the voice of scholars…its just that the most important thing isn’t the claim “scholars say,” it’s their argument, the “why” behind their claims.

I got mutual submission from the previous verse: Ephesians 5:21—“submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Your question perfectly demonstrates what I’m talking about: taking the larger context of the passage you had in mind helps hone in on what Paul meant. Submit to one another, then he explains what that means according to gender roles in the home. Wives, respect the husband’s leadership. Husbands, love, protect, and nurture wives like the gems they are. I don’t know why that is so horrible. There are certain things that husbands are suited well for and vice versa. Each is made in the image of God and is therefore equally valuable, and each contributes something to the relationship that the other lacks. By no means are the parts interchangeable. For example, my wife has an 18 inch waist…me, an 18 inch neck (ok, little exaggeration, but you get the point..:) ). If an intruder attacks our home at night, I’m not gonna say, “hey honey, I think it’s your turn to go check out that noise.” Paul isn’t saying that the husband is more valuable than the wife and can do whatever he wants, and he’s not giving the husband carte blanche to order the wife around.

Though some might thrust that meaning upon the text, its just not there…in fact, if you look at it, Paul gives the husbands much more instruction as to what he’s supposed to do than he gives the wife.

as far as the 1 Tim passage goes, let me quote another author’s argument, one that is possible (not a scholar, admittedly, but he makes sense. There are other arguments out there that might suit the passage better. This is just one possible):

“…the word man is aner and the word woman is gune . In the case of the word aner , which occurs something like 150 times in the New Testament, fully 40 times that it occurs, it is translated “husband.” In other words, “husband” is a legitimate translation of the word depending on the context. When you look at the context, virtually every single time that it wasn’t absolutely clear that the woman with the man in the context was his wife, it is almost always translated “husband” and “wife.” So this really is an unusual translation, given the pattern in the rest of the New Testament.

So, I asked myself why would they break with the pattern in this passage? I think they were influenced by tradition, that’s why they translated this passage man and woman and not husband and wife.

What happens if we translate it husband and wife? That strikes me as a legitimate translation. It seems that when you translate it husband and wife, everything falls into place. Let me read it in that way: “Let a wife quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness; but I don’t allow a wife to teach or usurp the authority of her husband, but to remain quiet.”

Is that strained? Not at all. Is that difficult? Not at all. The “quiet” there is in the context of receiving instruction. I think the point is not that she never speaks, but that she is the one who is in the position of being taught as opposed to being in the position of the teacher. The word “teach” here is not in the aorist tense. In other words, an aorist tense means a single point in time action rather than a continuous action. So, it isn’t saying that a woman cannot have a moment where she can tell something to her husband, it’s that the woman should not be the teacher over her husband, but that the woman is actually under the teaching authority of her husband. He is the head of the household, spiritually speaking. That’s really what it amounts to.

Verses 1-8 is in one grouping, verses 9-15 is another. Verse 11 and following is directed at women in the context of their relationship with a man to whom they are supposed to be entirely submissive. That is a marriage relationship.

Finally, no other place in Scripture teaches that all women should be under the authority of all men in the church. If this passage is to be interpreted the traditional way, this makes a new and unusual pattern of submission. However, the New Testament consistently teaches that a wife should be under the authority of her husband. That fits the larger context of the New Testament much better.”

Margaret: QUOTE “If I treated a humanist’s writing like that, I’d probably get skewered as being irrational.”

Again, I invite you to do the same to us as an example. Take a passage from, say, the Humanist Manifesto (or some other Humanist declaration), put it alongside a passage from the Bible, in a manner that makes Humanism look as bad as the Bible is made to look in those ads.

RB: Well, meeting that challenge wasn’t my main point, and I think I’ve given examples enough (Darwin, Einstein) to substantiate my point…but, here you go:

“Human babies are not born self-aware or capable of grasping their lives over time. They are not persons. Hence their lives would seem to be no more worthy of protection that the life of a fetus.”

And

“The life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

And

“If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants.”

And

“If the killing of the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others it would . . . be right to kill him.”

–all by Peter Singer, 2004 Australian Humanist of the Year

Now for the Bible quotes:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:10

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”—Psalm 127: 3

Here’s another one:

‘The universe we observe has … no evil and no good….DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”

Richard Dawkins

“Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of evildoers, for they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.” Psalm 37: 1-3.

Margaret: QUOTE “Same for the one about trusting in the Lord…the suggestion is that the Bible is obviously against using the mind to rationally think with logic and evidence. Again, no effort to understand what the proverb might actually be suggesting. If it really did say that and that was the Bible’s message (“logic/evidence/intellect=baaad. Feeelings=goood!”), the history of Christendom most likely wouldn’t include guys like Augustine, Lewis, Aquinas, and Plantinga, and passageas like Romans 12 wouldn’t be in the Bible.”

Again, I argue that the Bible, being written by many different humans (not God-inspired) over a long period of time, it contradicts itself. Can you explain how and why the passage quoted in the ad isn’t actually discouraging rational/logical thinking?

RB: The proverb recommends humility about one’s finitude. Being human, we oftentimes get out of our ken. I find that principle at work frequently in my job. I am a young, inexperienced coach. Oftentimes I get angry at my wrestlers/parents/referees, etc for not responding as I’d like. In times like that, if I operate according to my feelings and what I think is good to do in the moment (aka, “my own understanding”), I often rush into things and make mistakes.

So I’ve gotten in the habit of conferring with one of my assistants, who is much older, wiser, and has “seen it all,” or I confer with other older coaches I know who have a much more circumspect perspective. They often calm me down and give me stuff to think about that I miss. The same is true on a cosmic plane. We are pretty finite, but God has “seen it all” so to speak. Consulting His wisdom through prayer, Scriptures, and the body of believers often yields understanding that is much more solid than our own feelings.

This is pretty far away from eschewing logic, reason, and evidence. In fact, if you were to keep in mind what I’ve been saying about context, you’ll see that there are a great many proverbs Solomon wrote that deal with the value of wisdom and knowledge.

You don’t have to believe that the Bible is the word of God to attribute minimal intelligence to Solomon, and that he probably wouldn’t contradict himself so many times in one book.

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One response to “Humanist Ad Campaigns, Part III

  1. Pingback: Humanist Ad Campaign, Part IV | The Pugnacious Irishman

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