Friday, May 20, 2011

Religious Control Freaks

Inquisitors Attempt to Gag Freedom of Speech at NN&N
Who is Trying to Censor My Post on NN&N? "Answers in Genesis" or The Mysterious XXX Brotherhood? It's looking like the latter at the moment.

A rabidly fundamentalist article has appeared on the Christian Web site Network Norwich and Norfolk (NN&N) . The article is by an Answers in Genesis rep and consists of  the usual off the peg quip theology, backed up with spiritual threats implying Divine disleasure if the YEC view isn't believed. I posted a rebuttle, but unfortunately my main comment kept getting deleted by an anonymous "gremlin" user of the site who is presumbly  not at all pleased with my contribution. I in turn keep reposting it. To help things a long a little I'm posting my NN&N comments here so that I can use them as reference material if needs be: The gremlin will attempt to influence the site wallahs at NN&N in order to get my stuff deleted permanently. It is a classic fundamentalist ploy to attempt to gag the opposition rather than engage it in reason.

My apologies but the following won't be very meaningful unless you have followed NN&N; I'm just using my blog to as web space.

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The “hermeneutic” that this YEC author refers to does not lead to easy or infallible interpretations as he should himself be well aware of. Moreover meta-statements made by an author clarifying meaning must themselves be interpreted by the interpreter. Thus we ourselves are always, repeat always, the weak link that stops us short of claiming to have an infallible grasp of God’s Word. This then ought to prevent us making audacious claims about a particular interpretation of scripture. 

Re: The Historical Hermeneutic: This is particularly difficult to apply given that the contemporary mindset is certainly not identical to that of the Biblical writers. For example, it is unlikely that the early Biblical writers had any concept of the Earth as a globe and certainly not a spinning globe; their world view would be very geocentric. It is no surprise then that Answers in Genesis have clashed with Christian Geocentrists over the meaning of scripture. A sharp clash between AiG’s Danny Falkner and the Geocentrist scientist Gerardus Bouw can be seen here:

http://www.geocentricity.com/ba1/fresp/index.html

It is quite likely that the Greek concept of a spherical Earth didn’t figure much in the consciousness or interests of the Biblical writers and so perhaps it is not surprising that the Flat Earth society has, in times past, claimed their views to be based on “God’s Word”. See here:

http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/febible.htm

Let us also recall in this connection the Witness Lee Brotherhood, who have made frequent recent visits to NN&N’s web pages. They follow the teaching of G.H. Pember’s Gap theory interpretation of Genesis 1 – an idea which I think you will find is strongly opposed by AiG. The Witness Lee Brotherhood believe that a Gap interpretation is all part of God’s “recovery” modus operandi. For them the concept of recovery is very much bound up with the end time restoration of the church as a brotherhood that blends into a spiritual elite. The Witness Lee brotherhood isn’t some uber-unorthodox cult: Their scriptural interpretations are largely mainstream evangelical although some idiosyncrasies such as the “recovery” doctrine do set them apart and guess what, they would likely view AiG as part of the unblended Christian “Babylon”.

One thing is clear; whether we are talking about AiG, Christian Geocentrists, Christian Flat-Earthers, the Recovery Brotherhood, or numerous other exclusive and devout religious sects, all are very pious, very vehement and utterly convinced that they are “taking God at his Word”. In fact I have even heard of some fundamentalist ultras who are dissatisfied with AiG’s compromise of mixing scripture with science. For them Sola Scriptura really means Sola Scriptura and they would rather drop all scientific dabblings (Something which is actually impossible to do) and they regard scientific creationists like AiG to “have fallen into the trap of being Greeks looking for Wisdom. and trying to compete wisdom v wisdom.”  The overall effect of this plethora of conflicting claims by those who “take God at his Word” is to evacuate its apparent meaningfulness.

When I was first converted to Christianity I was given the YEC hard sell, a hard sell that carefully juxtaposed YEC philosophy with the phrases we can see in the above article such as: “Putting words into Gods mouth”, “Applying your opinion to scripture”, “Compromising God’s word”, “God means what he says”, “ignoring God’s word”, “believing atheistic systems” and threats of what might happen on Judgment day if you don’t take God at his word etc etc. All this was scary and intimidating and naturally enough focused the mind of the religious novice on his judgment before God if he didn’t consent to YEC. The truism that the reader inevitably supplies a fallible interpretation is paid lip service to; in practice man’s interpretations become identified to God’s truth; in practice man’s interpretations sneak past critical analysis and somehow appear to directly emerge from scripture without an act of interpretation; they thereby attempt to place themselves beyond critical scrutiny by claiming to have God’s direct authority.

To cut a long story short: As my faith, confidence and knowledge grew not only did I find YEC science wanting and their use of scripture suspect, I also became very disturbed by their implicitly threatening language which looked like an attempt to apply spiritual duress. Around the same time I had started researching the cults and the similarities were alarming. On a sectarian/cult scale of 1 to 10 I would put AiG at around 6+.

I see that same strident and intimidating tones from the author of the above article that I saw many years ago; the same threatening spiritual pretensions that implicitly masquerade as “God’s Word”. It’s sectarian and it’s cult like. Above all it’s all too conceitedly human; even fanatical. To think I was nearly rushed into speaking like that myself. Frankly I find the whole thing revolting. 

NOTE: We must also be very mindful of RichardL’s excellent point about the genus of Biblical literature.

…...following on from these comments I would like to add that the "historical hermeneutic" has several related problematical issues/questions: 

a) Historical context may be humanly unrecoverable. “Plain readings” are not necessarily the rule.

b) Translation/copying issues raise questions over the whereabouts of the “original word”.

c) Given that we are dealing with a Divine Omni-Agency, there is a measure of inscrutability as to how God might use his word: Conceivably he is well able to use the resources of a contemporary context (rather than the original context) to invest his word with new meanings in order to achieve his purposes.

d) Does the historical hermeneutic have the relevant Biblical meta-statements justifying its usage?

e) It is very likely that the general reader looks at the Bible unaware of the gulf in meanings that could exist by virtue of the separation of his context from the context of the writer. It is quite likely that general reader uses an informal “on the hoof” hermeneutic that often leads to meanings very differently from the original writer: Can such informal interpretations be detected and should they be rejected or accepted? 

f) Use of the Holy Spirit’s name to underwrite a proprietary interpretation of the text begs the question.

There are other issues, but that will do for now.

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