[ExI] Are literalists the only consistent members of a faith?

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 11 18:41:13 UTC 2009

--- On Thu, 6/11/09, Stefano Vaj <stefano.vaj at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 6:10 PM,
> Dan<dan_ust at yahoo.com>
> wrote:
>> Well, therein lies the rub: you're assuming being a
>> Christian or a Jew means you have to accept their respective
>> Bibles as literally the "Word of God" and, further, that
>> this is, for them, not open to interpretation.
> No, this is not what I am saying. Interpretation, by the
> way, is in
> any even unavoidable,

I agree that interpretation is unavoidable and said as much on this overall thread.

> as you study when you take your philosophy of law exam.

Rhetorical "you" I presume.  :)

> What I am saying is that you cannot at the same time claim
> that the
> Scriptures are Holy *and* orient your interpretation on the
> basis of
> the compatibility of the results thereof with parameters
> and factors
> which have nothing to do with the reconstruction of the
> "intentions of
> God" (i.e., adopt a an objective/evolutive criterium rather
> than a
> subjective/historical).

Okay, but still you have to weigh in on whether you believe that believe that the "Scriptures are Holy" is part of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim creed and that this specifically calls something other than the "intentions of God."  (Of course, presuming there were a God and that God has intentions.)
>>  Okay, though this seems different than your statement
>> that started this thread on literalism:
>>> "My guess is that those who *really* adhere to
>>> monotheist tenets usually practise >>"doublethink",
>>> especially when they do not have any other choice..."
>> Here you seemed to be saying they [monotheist
>> Christians and Jews] were being inconsistent with their
>> "monotheist tenets" if they weren't Biblical literalists.
>> I think this can be summed up as there being two
>> possibilities:
> As I say, it is not a matter of being literalists, simply
> of being
> "honest",

And I was arguing that I don't think they're being inconsistent or dishonest if they weren't Biblical literalists.

> that is being absolutely unconcerned by the
> inconvenience of
> a given meaning when assessing its plausibility, and
> interested in
> discovering the meaning the message had for its origin, not
> what use
> can be made of it for its recipients (as some school of
> thought suggest it should be done with "human" statutes) .

But it seemed to me you were arguing that "monotheist tenets" must lead to Biblical literalism if applied consistently or honestly.  But, again, what are these tenets?

>> I'm not sure, in this case, that there's a problem.
> The problem is: if you are a jurist, you could not care
> less about
> what Justian or Jefferson meant when they drafted a legal
> maxim, you
> are just concerned of what you can make of it here and now.
> If you are
> a historian or a philologist, for you this is simply a
> falsification
> of the meaning of the same maxim, because what you are
> interested is
> being as faithful as possible to the intention of the
> speaker as made
> clear by the words employed, its semantic universe and
> other available
> information concerning the context.
> Now, the Christian, Jews or Muslims tradition (not perhaps
> my
> neighbour's dog, but he is not generally credited to be a
> great
> theologian...) claim that the Scriptures are Holy, meaning
> that they
> have an authoritative nature owing to their Source. 
> If what matters
> is the Source, and not simply their being a text useful for
> making
> Hollywood movies which can be more or less faithful
> depending on the
> production requirements, it would seem obvious that the
> only admissible approach is the former.

I understand your point that if you accept the Bible as authoritative -- because it's the Word of God -- then, yes, you can't conveniently edit out the parts you don't like.  In other words, you can't have a faith of convenience -- or "cafeteria Christianity."  However, my point was that I don't think it's essential to being a Christian to accept the Bible as authoritative or authoritative in that manner.  One might still see it as a work of humans evne if divinely inspired or one might set it aside completely or one might adopt the view that it still must be interpreted.  It's even the case, for Christians at least, that the New Testament, in some passages, directly abrogates some of the Old Testament laws and views.  In some places, even in the Gospels, it seems there's room for a blanket rejection of the Old Testament; in others, this seems not to be the case.

(As the Bible is inconsistent, both between testaments and between books within each testament (e.g., the Gospels are mutually inconsistent on many points), there's lots of room to interpret away here -- whether honestly or not.)
> In other words: you cannot say "Who cares what God
> intended, it is
> more useful for me to give it another meaning" without
> contradict your
> claims as to the Holiness of the Scriptures and their
> intrinsic and final Truth.

Yes, but, again, see above.  Why is this integral to being Christian?  What are the tenets of Christianity?  If these tenets are just the Nicene Creed, then there's nothing in that creed that seems to commit anyone professing it that the whole Bible is holy or at least that it isn't open to interpretation according to the creed.
>> But the wider issue here -- rather than getting
>> further into the quagmire of literalism -- is can someone
>> take specific passages from a given religious movement's
>> sacred text* -- e.g., the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible,
>> or the Koran -- to draw the conclusion that all or most
>> members of that movement will follow a literal (and often
>> violent) interpretation of that text?
> Most denominational contemporary of those religions members
> ignore
> commands concerning "love", worship, faith, rituals, sins,
> sex, anger,
> gluttony, etc. Little surprise that they may ignore as well
> commands
> concerning holy violence, which are often even more
> inconvenient for their private interest and sake.

This is, again, dependent on what it means to them to be a member of their denomination.  You might argue that they must accept X, Y, and Z, but that seems like a True Scotsman argument, don't you think?  And it might NOT be that they're practicing a faith of convenience.  It might simply be what they believe -- in most cases because that's what they were taught and actually believe is correct.  You might fault them for not digging deeper into their history of their faith -- and I admit a good gambit for the proselytizing atheist is to bring up Deuteronomy 13, Psalm 137, etc.




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