1 of 4
1
The Scripture Project?
Posted: 19 August 2008 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  405
Joined  2007-01-10

On the home page, the Scriture Project is introduced, including the following statement:

“With the input of the right scholars, we are confident that the Reason Project website will quickly become the preeminent place for scriptural criticism on the internet.”

Q:  What determines if a scholar is “right”?

Q:  Is it assumed that eternal truth, such as scripture is alleged to convey, cannot be conveyed in a work that also exhibits the foibles listed in the introduction? (e.g. historical inaccuracy, internal contradictions, scientific errors, absurdity, injustice, cruelty, sexism, intolerance, etc.)  If yes, what is the basis for such an assumption?

Parable

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 August 2008 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3255
Joined  2004-12-24
Parable - 19 August 2008 12:05 PM

On the home page, the Scriture Project is introduced, including the following statement:

“With the input of the right scholars, we are confident that the Reason Project website will quickly become the preeminent place for scriptural criticism on the internet.”

Q:  What determines if a scholar is “right”?

Q:  Is it assumed that eternal truth, such as scripture is alleged to convey, cannot be conveyed in a work that also exhibits the foibles listed in the introduction? (e.g. historical inaccuracy, internal contradictions, scientific errors, absurdity, injustice, cruelty, sexism, intolerance, etc.)  If yes, what is the basis for such an assumption?

“With the right scholars ... ” can be read as an if-then statement, so the right scholars would be those whose input will probably “quickly become the preeminent place for scriptural criticism on the internet.” The basis for the conclusion that “eternal truth, such as scripture is alleged to convey, cannot be conveyed in a work that also exhibits the foibles listed in the introduction” would be “historical inaccuracy, internal contradictions, scientific errors, absurdity, injustice, cruelty, sexism, intolerance, etc.”

Byron

 Signature 

“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 August 2008 12:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  405
Joined  2007-01-10

Your inference is not unreasonable, but it does not speak to the deeper issue of what attributes of the project authors are expected to lead to success of the project.

As for the second point, about the foibles precluding the presence of eternal truth, I will respond under separate cover.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 August 2008 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2818
Joined  2005-04-29
Parable - 19 August 2008 12:05 PM

On the home page, the Scripture Project is introduced, including the following statement:

“With the input of the right scholars, we are confident that the Reason Project website will quickly become the preeminent place for scriptural criticism on the internet.”

Q:  What determines if a scholar is “right”?

You’ve pointed to a problem word, Parable. “Right” can mean many things, and one meaning pertains to morality; another to simple correctness. One that may pertain to your question refers to scholars who have excess time and energy and are willing to devote it to a worthy cause. The right person for the job, so to speak.

“Right” is a word I avoid using other than when talking about directions or politics.

 Signature 

Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 August 2008 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  405
Joined  2007-01-10

I agree, the term is problematic, that’s why I asked for clarification. 

My concern is the term “right” may indicate a bias or prejudice, and if that is the case for the Scripture Project, then the likelihood of success as a rigorous academic venture is diminished.  It could easliy become the secular/atheist analog of the Jesus Seminar, which has virtually no credibility outside itself.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 August 2008 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3255
Joined  2004-12-24
Parable - 20 August 2008 12:41 PM

My concern is the term “right” may indicate a bias or prejudice, and if that is the case for the Scripture Project, then the likelihood of success as a rigorous academic venture is diminished.

Unless of course the “bias” is for sound epistemology and science and against the contrary, which is often considered a problem bias by religious apologists.

Byron

 Signature 

“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 August 2008 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  405
Joined  2007-01-10

As I understand it, SkepticX’s position is this:  The presence in scripture of foibles as listed (historical inaccuracy, internal contradictions, scientific errors, etc) precludes the possibility that eternal truth can be conveyed thru scripture by a supernatural agent for the benefit of humankind.

It would seem that the term “right” as used to describe authors conducive to success of the project means an adherence to this intellectual predisposition.  If so, then there can be no outcome for the project that objectively recognizes anything beyond this constraint.

However, if the project is to examine scripture objectively, it must be open to possiblilities or realities that are not dependent on the vagaries of the human condition, for this is perhaps what sets scripture apart from other works, an operational definition, if you will.

My hope for the project would be that it can help separate the wheat from the chaff, or perhaps the human from the divine.  That is, once all the critical review and analysis is done, what, if anything remains that merits our consideration?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 August 2008 08:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2818
Joined  2005-04-29
Parable - 20 August 2008 12:41 PM

. . . It could easily become the secular/atheist analog of the Jesus Seminar, which has virtually no credibility outside itself.

Although I live right outside of their home turf, I’m not a member of the Jesus Seminar (and it’s de"funk"ed now anyway, isn’t it?), yet I find the group highly credible. Statistically speaking, your point is well taken, as very few literalistically thinking Christians, I’m guessing, are able to find the group at all worthwhile, and most Americans seem inclined toward literalistic interpretation of ancient holy words.

By the way, my responses to you are not a dubious attempt to chase you away, Parable, but only to encourage you spend more time here.

 Signature 

Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 August 2008 08:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  405
Joined  2007-01-10

Interesting, i find the literalist interpretion the most limited in its insights, and most of the christians I hang with would agree.  unfortunately, the impression most people have of what it means to be christian is not what I have come to know. this doesn’t mean I spiritualize everything, but rather I focus my attention on the point of scripture, not the foibles, so to speak.

And thank you for your encouragement, but it was not necessary, I always enjoy engaging you.  Salty too, for that matter. My absence has been a result of simply not having the time or energy, for I have been enduring a most trying year at work.  Most of my energy has been expressing dissent in ways that don’t get me fired. So far so good.  Your prayers are appreciated smile

Parable

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 August 2008 09:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3255
Joined  2004-12-24
Parable - 20 August 2008 04:08 PM

As I understand it, SkepticX’s position is this:  The presence in scripture of foibles as listed (historical inaccuracy, internal contradictions, scientific errors, etc) precludes the possibility that eternal truth can be conveyed thru scripture by a supernatural agent for the benefit of humankind.

You don’t even have to take it that far. The fact that the scriptures communicate via the rather imperfect and often problematic medium of language establishes the fact.

Parable - 20 August 2008 04:08 PM

It would seem that the term “right” as used to describe authors conducive to success of the project means an adherence to this intellectual predisposition.  If so, then there can be no outcome for the project that objectively recognizes anything beyond this constraint.

Probably ... dunno.

Parable - 20 August 2008 04:08 PM

However, if the project is to examine scripture objectively, it must be open to possiblilities or realities that are not dependent on the vagaries of the human condition, for this is perhaps what sets scripture apart from other works, an operational definition, if you will.

Sounds like you’re suggesting that to be open-minded about the Bible we must close our minds to the unflattering information and focus on a more positive take, perhaps even if we have to stretch pretty far to find one (maybe even fabricate it entirely). That’s pretty standard religiospeak in my experience.

In any case, what realities can possibly be meaningful to us if they’re independent of the human condition, which inherently comes with its vagaries? IOW, can you translate that into rational-speak? If not then maybe that’s important as far as this notion is concerned.

Parable - 20 August 2008 04:08 PM

My hope for the project would be that it can help separate the wheat from the chaff, or perhaps the human from the divine.  That is, once all the critical review and analysis is done, what, if anything remains that merits our consideration?

Are you sure you hopw this project separates the wheat from the chaff? Are you sure you don’t mean you hope it will cast a favorable light on your perspective?

Byron

 Signature 

“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 August 2008 07:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  405
Joined  2007-01-10

In response to my summary of his position, SkepticX said: “The fact that the scriptures communicate via the rather imperfect and often problematic medium of language establishes the fact.” (the fact that the foibles of the human condition preclude divine revelantion through scripture)

If this is true, then pretty much by definition, scripture cannot be scripture, as it is held by those who believe it to contain divine revelation.  One way to interpret SX’s position is: the problems inherent in language preclude an accurate representation of divene eternal truth by human language.  If this is the case, then the accurate representation of any thought is likewise precluded, and therefore language is just meaningless noise.  I don’t necessarily disagree smile

SkepticX said: “Sounds like you’re suggesting that to be open-minded about the Bible we must close our minds to the unflattering information and focus on a more positive take…”

Not close our minds to the foibles, but rather incorporate them into a larger perspective that does not rule out other aspects of reality.

SkepticX said: “In any case, what realities can possibly be meaningful to us if they’re independent of the human condition, which inherently comes with its vagaries? IOW, can you translate that into rational-speak? If not then maybe that’s important as far as this notion is concerned.”

I didn’t suggest realities independent of the human condition, but rather those that are not dependent on the foibles of the human condition.  I submit that the human condition includes at least notions of or an understanding of the perfect or ideal or perhaps the permanent aspects of existence that are not affected by our flaws and limitations.

SkepticX said: “Are you sure you hopw this project separates the wheat from the chaff? Are you sure you don’t mean you hope it will cast a favorable light on your perspective?”

Yes, I am sure.  When the wheat and chaff are separated, my perspective will have been supported, because I’m saying there is wheat (divine wisdom) to be separated from the chaff (our foolishness).  I look to the Scripture Project to shine a bright light on our foolishness and thereby accentuate what remains as somehow different. Even if we don’t ascribe that difference to anything outside the human condition, the discovery that somehow we can at least recognize wisdom would be encouraging, that this difference is indeed part of it would perhaps inspire us toward it more.

Parable

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 August 2008 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5404
Joined  2006-09-27
Parable - 20 August 2008 04:08 PM

As I understand it, SkepticX’s position is this:  The presence in scripture of foibles as listed (historical inaccuracy, internal contradictions, scientific errors, etc) precludes the possibility that eternal truth can be conveyed thru scripture by a supernatural agent for the benefit of humankind.

If someone concludes that the presence in scripture of historical inaccuracy, internal contradictions, scientific errors and so on precludes its use for transmission of eternal truth by a supernatural agent, I don’t think there is much that can be done about it. There are many people, like myself, who do not even need that much study to conclude that scripture itself is not their vehicle of choice to convey aspects of “divinity” (which is as subjective a phenomenon as can be expected for something that is so actively discussed.) The main point as I see it is to have a clearing house for organizing the inaccuracies, contradictions and errors in order to confront those who assert that scripture is flawless, including the authors of certain scriptures themselves. I’m thinking, for example, of that material in 2 Timothy, or wherever it is, in the Christian Bible. If I want to explain to someone like yourself why I do not conclude that scripture is valuable for accessing the divine simply by virtue of its being scripture, I am happy to have some arrows in my quiver when my explanation is met with, shall we say? dismay.

I think the aims of those who want to call people’s attention to eternal truth may tend to become less-focused on using scriptures to do it. If a truth is true enough, I don’t think it much matters whether or not you can cite chapter and verse for it. I think the Scripture Project brings this problem into sharp relief for those, such as yourself, who want to convey eternal truth via scripture and back it up with the citation that it comes from scripture. The problem is simple: A notion is simply not an eternal truth simply because it can be quoted from scripture.

I also think linguistic arguments about whether one can tease out an unambiguous message from an interpretation of any piece of writing ought properly to be addressed by students of language rather than by theologians themselves. For all I know, some of the “right” scholars for this job will be students of language, and students of languages in which the scripture was originally produced.

Parable - 20 August 2008 04:08 PM

It would seem that the term “right” as used to describe authors conducive to success of the project means an adherence to this intellectual predisposition.  If so, then there can be no outcome for the project that objectively recognizes anything beyond this constraint.

There is no implication in the aims of the scripture project of a predisposition for finding scripture worthless, as far as what I have read. A preeminent locus of scholarly criticism on scripture will necessarily have among its interests the identification of its errors, contradictions, and inaccuracies. The work of teasing out the eternal verities is already well-managed by theological seminaries and other institutions of that nature. This is an old, old problem for both theology and scriptural criticism. It is my opinion that useful criticism of scripture cannot take place in an environment free of considering its errors.

Parable - 20 August 2008 04:08 PM

However, if the project is to examine scripture objectively, it must be open to possiblilities or realities that are not dependent on the vagaries of the human condition, for this is perhaps what sets scripture apart from other works, an operational definition, if you will.

I think that being “open to the possibilities or realities independently of the vagaries of the human condition” is a project that theology claims as its exclusive purview. Many people, especially scientists, question how “open” this inquiry is in actuality, since it is not open to the possibility that “possibility” is related to aspects other than divinity. Both the constants and the vagaries (as realities) of the human condition are subjects that science is also tackling enthusiastically, and is a job that it has wrested from theology not without some struggle. That considering “possibilities” alone is acceptable to many people - but that considering “realities” is not - is a function partly of the fact that the “realities” also include the “foibles” - the constants and the vagaries. Attempting to reconcile realities and possibilities is now an open competition between science and theology; the science of possibilities is mainly contained in complexity and chaos theories; theology has seen fit to stick with teleology. What is not well-handled by theologians is confronting the errors, inaccuracies, and contradictions of texts that purport to be considering accurately realities of the human condition while attempting to reconcile those with “purpose” and “possibility”, and remaining badly bogged down in teleology.

Parable - 20 August 2008 04:08 PM

My hope for the project would be that it can help separate the wheat from the chaff, or perhaps the human from the divine.  That is, once all the critical review and analysis is done, what, if anything remains that merits our consideration?

Scientific theories owe their authority to their ability to make predictions, connect with other unrelated theories, and to achieve any generality whatsoever in organizing classes of phenomena. When a scientific approach to teasing out eternal verities from scripture is achieved, I believe you will have what you are looking for.

What remains after critical scriptural review and analysis is performed will be, for example, a particular attitude about claims by scripture that it (and nothing else) allows access to the divine. When the job of critiquing that claim has gone on a bit more, then perhaps we will see what to make of claims that scripture is essential in accessing the divine. Those who rely on those sorts of claims about scripture may be motivated to seek other means to convey the divine than simply by uncritically accepting that it is because it is written there. Those who depend on authority and accuracy (critical values) to recommend scripture as means of accessing the divine will wish to find other means. Those who, like yourself, Parable, find symbolic access to the divine are still welcome to try to convey that to anyone who will listen, just as you always have been.

For many people, simply knowing that scriptures are flawed human documents will not deter them from continuing to seek their answers there. For others, it may be all they need to seek elsewhere. It places the burden squarely on those who wish to claim the wisdom of scriptures, and allows them to focus their attention specifically on those portions of scripture that have not been identified as being flawed by virtue of their errors, inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Based on what I have seen here, many people make a career out of trying to access the divine without being overly concerned with messages in a particular body of scripture. Those who invest special significance in the writings in scriptures as such may start to realize that theirs is, in part, an emotional attachment, and in many cases, may extend to a species of fetishism.

 Signature 

INVEST in cynicism!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 August 2008 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5404
Joined  2006-09-27
Parable - 22 August 2008 11:25 AM

If this is true, then pretty much by definition, scripture cannot be scripture, as it is held by those who believe it to contain divine revelation.  One way to interpret SX’s position is: the problems inherent in language preclude an accurate representation of divene eternal truth by human language.  If this is the case, then the accurate representation of any thought is likewise precluded, and therefore language is just meaningless noise.  I don’t necessarily disagree.

An executive summary of my really long post, just above is this:

The Scripture Project can only be a problem for those who think that divine eternal truth can only be presented by reference to scripture. There are many spiritual people who do not think this way.

As for whether or not it is simply language problems that plague scripture in its attempts to portray accurately a representation of divine eternal truth, I suspect nothing could be farther from the aim of something like the Scripture Project. This is the careless error by SkepticX that you have chosen to pick up and run with. Trying to distract us with the possibility that human language may be useless for the accurate representation of any thought is extreme to the point of absurdity, and very post-modern into the bargain.

In fact, what plagues scripture is its pollution by vast quantities of minutiae and extranea that have nothing whatsoever to do with an exploration of divinity (whatever it may be), as anyone who has ever tried to read, for example, the Judeo-Christian Bible or the Koran.

Someone like me suspects that the 99% chaff is there to distract people from adopting their own understanding of it in order to leave it in the hands of clericals and scholarly theologians to tell them what to think of it.

If you know which parts are the good parts, by all means let us know, but I suspect you do not need to back up your claims with chapter-and-verse citations. I remember going around with you about the grandeur of the heavens, and asking you whether the particular Psalm was unique in its value to convey this. I think what we really needed to discuss there was whether or not that verse is essential to anyone with access to something besides a Bible.

I simply ask now, is it great because it’s great, or is it great because it is uniquely scriptural. The Scripture Project is going to go a long way toward dismantling the notion that it’s great simply by virtue of being Scriptural, and that, by itself, a capacity to cite it is not any sort of recommendation to accept anyone’s particular notions about divinity, human possibility, or human destiny.

[ Edited: 22 August 2008 09:52 AM by Traces Elk]
 Signature 

INVEST in cynicism!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 August 2008 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5404
Joined  2006-09-27
Parable - 22 August 2008 11:25 AM

I didn’t suggest realities independent of the human condition, but rather those that are not dependent on the foibles of the human condition.  I submit that the human condition includes at least notions of or an understanding of the perfect or ideal or perhaps the permanent aspects of existence that are not affected by our flaws and limitations.

SkepticX said: “Are you sure you hopw this project separates the wheat from the chaff? Are you sure you don’t mean you hope it will cast a favorable light on your perspective?”

Yes, I am sure.  When the wheat and chaff are separated, my perspective will have been supported, because I’m saying there is wheat (divine wisdom) to be separated from the chaff (our foolishness).  I look to the Scripture Project to shine a bright light on our foolishness and thereby accentuate what remains as somehow different. Even if we don’t ascribe that difference to anything outside the human condition, the discovery that somehow we can at least recognize wisdom would be encouraging, that this difference is indeed part of it would perhaps inspire us toward it more.

Every diffusely Christian transcendentalist who comes to visit here has this to say. Dwelling on “perfect ideals” is not something specifically Christian, and this probably reflects the Greek influences on the foundational developments of Christian theology. It also permeates all sorts of not-specifically-theistic attempts at spirituality.

All such attempts date from pre-scientific people’s first attempts to understand the universe. Conceiving of perfect forms is a childish error of mythic proportions that is preserved simply because it was a first attempt. Let’s give them their due, but note that this kind of thinking does not lead anywhere except to further contemplation of ideal forms.

Scientific approximations and realistic models have cured diseases and prevented flood disasters. Scripture says that disease is cured by the touch of a divine hand, and that floods are visited upon humans as punishment. Childish concepts of ideal happiness are, well, invitations to disappointment rationalized as divine punishment. That’s still all that transcendentalists are selling these days.

As for the bolded part in your words, there is no universally-accepted definition of “wisdom”, and it is in fact a word used by spiritual people to refer to transcendent knowledge authority, and elsewhere to hearsay that cannot be shown ever to be of universal applicability. With that, you are back to tribal storehouses of tradition. Wisdom is only a pre-scientific attempt at a labor-saving device whose efficiency can never be studied.

The busy work of separating wheat from the chaff is a distraction, and a project of deeply-rooted relativism.

[ Edited: 22 August 2008 10:20 AM by Traces Elk]
 Signature 

INVEST in cynicism!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 August 2008 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3255
Joined  2004-12-24
Parable - 22 August 2008 11:25 AM

In response to my summary of his position, SkepticX said: “The fact that the scriptures communicate via the rather imperfect and often problematic medium of language establishes the fact.” (the fact that the foibles of the human condition preclude divine revelantion through scripture)

If this is true, then pretty much by definition, scripture cannot be scripture, as it is held by those who believe it to contain divine revelation.  One way to interpret SX’s position is: the problems inherent in language preclude an accurate representation of divene eternal truth by human language.

There you go. I’d say, however, that a relatively accurate representation of ideas is possible through the medium of language, but any “layers” of communication added (such as by translation of language and/or of era) are compromising factors.

Parable - 22 August 2008 11:25 AM

If this is the case, then the accurate representation of any thought is likewise precluded, and therefore language is just meaningless noise.  I don’t necessarily disagree smile

That would be a perfectionist fallacy (see also: Nirvana Fallacy), which covers the rest of the post ... well, that and the “pure presumption fallacy.”

Byron

 Signature 

“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

Profile
 
 
Posted: 22 August 2008 10:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  405
Joined  2007-01-10

Salt Creek, I don’t disagree with much of what you have said, at least in the first epistle from St. Salty.

Salt Creek said: “A notion is simply not an eternal truth simply because it can be quoted from scripture.”

I agree.

“The bible is not the dictator of our conduct and faith. It is rather the record of persons who exemplified faith and virture. It does for religion what the dictionary does for speech. Its value consists in its agreement with experience, that is Truth, as Friends used to use that word. What is truth in the bible is there because it is true, not true because it is there. Its experiences correspond to ours.”—Henry Cadbury, a notable Quaker.

More later.

Parable

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 4
1
 
RSS 2.0     Atom Feed