Why the Need for Interpretation Does NOT Prove a Religion False


A few blog posts I’ve come across contend that the very fact that the Bible [or any other text that claims to be of Divine origin] needs to be translated automatically invalidates its claims to Divine origin.

One fellow even came up with a set of 3 Laws to determine whether a text were of Divine origin or not. Of course, upon further inspection it became obvious that he simply wasn’t accounting for free will. I commented on his site in the hopes that he’d see his error.

For example, in a post entitled, Requiring Interpretation Proves A Religion False by Sisyphus Fragment, the blogger notes that:

“The Bible, Koran, Torah, Book of Mormon, and several others can be interpreted in such a way that thousands of sects have branched out from them. This fact, to me, is a perfect example for why these weren’t written or inspired by the creator of all things.”

So because people get things wrong [willfully or otherwise], God must not have wrote it, right? But is that the way things really are in the real world? If someone misinterprets something I write, does that mean that what I wrote wasn’t true – or that I didn’t write it at all?? No. The comprehension of the text has nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – to do with authorship.

So then he sets up the premise of the straw man he’s about to thatch:

“This is the major problem with false religions in general. If a god has really inspired their book then he would have inspired them to write it in such a way that it would be true for all people and ages.” [strikethrough mine for weasel words]

He states that God would have inspired His Book in such a way that it would be true for all people and ages. Is that true? Well, yes. For example, the Bible is true and remains true no matter who reads it. It also remains true whether or not someone accepts it as truth or rejects it, but we’ll get to that.

Sisyphus Fragment continues:

“The range of how these texts can be read can lead one group of people to complete non-violence or to jihadists and the KKK. If these people can justify all kinds of cruelty through a misinterpretation then it was not written by a benevolent, omniscient, universe creating skyhook.”

Ok, the standard hypocrisy dodge with a slight twist. I reccomend reading an earlier post of mine, Hypocrisy As Apologetic. A misinterpretation is simply an inverse admission that there is in fact a correct interpretation just as the charge of hypocrisy necessarily admits that there was a correct standard of conduct by which you could even recognise such a thing as hypocrisy. As we shall see, he’s holding the Author accountable for misinterpretations under the onus that a Perfect Intelligence would not allow even the possibility that He might be misunderstood.

“A god who knows all things; what has happened, what is happening, what will happen, and shapes how the future occurs would be able to word a book more perfectly than those available.”

Here we go… I’ll address this whole “more perfectly” objection in my conclusion.

“It would explain the reasons for why things were disallowed in detail enough to show the perfect wisdom of such actions. Instead we have “don’t do this, if someone does do it, kill them” and then later in the book it says “don’t kill anyone”.”

I’ll address the 2nd part of his objection first. Simply enough, he’s not accounting foir the context of the statements, governmental law and justice [I’m presuming of course that the blogger in question does believe in law and justice] versus personal conduct. I would submit that the Bible does in fact explain “the perfect wisdom of such actions” when it notes that we do reap what we sow, that if we sow the wind we often reap the whirlwind and so we ought to do to other as we would have them do to us. Of course, I’m actually reading the Bible and meditating on it’s precepts instead of looking for reasons not to believe, so I can see why he and I would come to different conclusions based on our personal bias.

“If a book were really the will of a perfect mind then it could be five or ten thousand pages and people would still flock to it. Perfect wisdom would command such a thing out an individual.”

Now, is truth determined by our acceptance of it or by the popularity of its acceptance? Why not put it up for a vote, for crying out loud! The entire problem with his straw man is that he fails to account for free will. The God of the Bible values free will, specifically our willing worship, so He could not make Himself undeniable so that worship and acceptance were compelled or commanded; that would leave Him with automatons. Free will implies the ability to reject Him and His will, no matter how perfectly His will might be revealed. As Pascal noted, God has left us too little evidence to be sure, but too much to ignore” and this is exactl;y what conditions we should expect of a God that values free will. The God of the Bible has went to great lengths to reveal His will: reason, morality [His Law written on our hearts], the order and information contained in nature, beauty, the Bible, fulfilled prophecy and Christ Himself. Yet in such a way that we could still deny Him if we so chose.

And that’s why Sisyphus Document’s claims miss the mark. But we’ll continue for the sake of argument and enlightenment anyway.

“A book written by a god would not be open to interpretation…”

Again, he’s holding the Author accountable for misinterpretations under the onus that a Perfect Intelligence would not allow even the possibility that He might be misunderstood. Again, he’s failed to account for free will.

“…every dilemma we might face would be in the book somehow…”

If he’s talking about the Bible, They are! But I know what he means to say. He’s objecting that the Book ought to answer every question he’s ever had. Let’s presume it does for a moment. The Bible says that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and therefore only the fool says in his heart, There is no God. It also says that all have sinned and that the wages [deserved earnings] of sin is death, but that if he were to confess the Lord Jesus and believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, he will be saved. Right off the bat, this blogger would be in serious trouble for he doesn’t always accept the remedy to his problems. Any more than he always obeys his conscience, knowing he’s about to do wrong.

“…and there would be no contradictions.”

Not to be trite, but name one. Too often, folks paint it all black and then complain that they see no light instead of examining what’s actually there before they sprayed their bias everywhere.

“Anyone who read it would understand it so perfectly that the message wouldn’t be lost even when translated to another language, no matter the level of the reader’s intelligence or the time period in which the reader lives.”

The Bible does evidence perspecuity, but again he fails to take into account free will, namely willful ignorance or outright rejection. He’s basically saying that because he’s free to reject the truth that it must not be truth for he as a good atheist would force everyone to accept to His will. Hubris.

“If future predictions were made they would be in great detail with no ambiguity.”

Straw man. Why would this even be necessary? Again, to keep free will intact, God would give us too much evidence to ignore [but not deny!] but too little to be quite sure. He’s also ignoring whether such prophecies [future predictions], whether ambiguous in his opinion or not, have actually been fulfilled or not. What does he mean by ambiguous anyway? Betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver which was later used to by a Potter’s filed, riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s foal, having his hands and feet pierced [when crucifixion was unheard of at the time Isaiah uttered the prophecy], being hung between two criminals, the place of his birth, his lineage, the miracle of the Resurrection itself was a prophesy from Jesus’ own lips, affirming that He would rise again after 3 days. That sort of thing’s too ambiguous for some folks, I suppose.

“I would expect nothing but the best explanation from something that wants to impose it’s own morality on another being and this is not what we have from any of the major texts.”

First of all, what if it is the best explanation? Secondly, the explicit morality of the Bible is implicit in universal morality. I suspect now that the author of this post really suffers from a volitional imposition rather than his proposed intellectual dilemma. He wants to live as he pleases and the Bible resonates with the prohibitions of his conscience.

“Now this argument doesn’t rule out the possibility that a god exists, which was not my intent for this post anyway.”

Which is a good thing, by all accounts.

“My point is: either all of these gods are less intelligent than the average atheist, or these scriptures are not the divinely inspired word of supreme intelligence.”

Ergo, he didn’t do it the way I would have because I want to do as I please and I value free will, so I would have done it in such a way that no one could ever deny it… er, wait. I always enjoy the “That’s not the way I woulda dunnit” objections. In other words, false dichotomy and poorly thatched reductionist straw man besides.

But his most priceless gem is yet to come:

“If I had to pick one, I would prefer a disinterested god over one of these imbeciles. Thankfully, I can pick none.”

Because you have free will to do so and you’re not compelled otherwise by God, though He would dearly prefer thet you made a far different choice. CS Lewis said it best in The Great Divorce:

“In the end, there are only two kinds of people: Those who say to God, Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, thy will be done.”

-Sirius Knott

Advertisements

7 Comments Add yours

  1. crispysea says:

    I find I must disagree with your suggestion that the Divine Evidence Laws don’t account for free will.
    You state in your comment that a person would be considered mad for choosing to ignore a blatantly divine document.
    I suggest that where free will is concerned, other peoples opinion of sanity is irrelevant, people make all sorts of choices that are diametrically different to ones own, or to what a majority would consider sane. People choose all sorts of things for their own reasons.
    A fully sane person may use his free will to rationally choose to not be part of the god’s post-death package.
    Besides, we are humans, check us out, we invented, and excel at, the full range of ‘sins’, to believe in the god because a book is blatantly divine is a million miles from living the whole of one’s life by the book’s rules and regulations!
    If a book were found to be divine, it would have no bearing on minute by minute free will and is not applicable to the laws.
    There is no reason why a god could not have delivered a text that fits within the Divine Evidence Laws.

    PEACE
    Crispy

    1. Sirius says:

      @Crispysea:

      Re: Your artless dodge regarding sanity and free will. If you deny sanity by this relativistic schlock you’ve unloaded on us, then you equally deny reason. Judging by this rant, I daresay none of us are surprised.

      Re: Your comment: “There is no reason why a god could not have delivered a text that fits within the Divine Evidence Laws”

      There is no reason why a God SHOULD have necessarily delivered a text that fits your arbitrary requirements. You might want to check out the God who is and the Text He was delivered rather than insisting that He didn’t do it the way you think He should have.

      -Sirius

      1. crispysea says:

        The laws are merely to illustrate, that there is no clearly divine scripture on earth, that all are merely the word of men and the faith one installs in those words, is no more than personal choice.

        No one ever said the god SHOULD have – only that without affecting minute to minute free will he COULD have, but instead he chose to to let millions die fighting over which ‘truth’ is real, when in reality Religious Free Will is The Ultimate Oxymoron and further, if there is No Divine Evidence, there cannot be a Benevolent God

        PEACE
        Crispy

      2. Sirius says:

        @crispysea,

        Again, your “laws” are simply arbitrary and not at all necessary, which makes your entire argument a farce.

        Having read the two linked posts, I can confidently say that you’ve not bothered to seriously engage these issues. You speak from the comfortable position of willful ignorance – which is, they say, bliss. For example, in Religious Free Will is the Ultimate Oxymoron, you contend that you ought to have your cake and eat it too. You are upset that to reject God is to embrace the default selection of damnation. But we are all condemned men. God in Christ didn’t come to the world to condemn it, for it was condemned already. He came to offer it salvation. Might I suggest an engaging and entertaining book, The Great Divorce by CS Lewis, wherein the author contends “In the end, there are only those who said to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says “thy will be done.””

        You also make the great mistake of presuming that all proposed religious Texts are all valid. This alone is enough to convince me that you’ve done no deep study of the issue. They are altogether different, as you note in passing in your remarks on proposed eternities. Yet since they are all contradictory to one another, it is more logical to assume that only one could possibly be true. Only one stands affirmed by historical, archaeological, geographical and prophetic accuracy. Only one accurately describes the world we live in [for example, Buddhism denies the reality of evil]. This singular text is the Bible, God’s revealed Word.

        Your second linked article is worse, since it represents circular reasoning. Again, you’ve entered into a false premise with your arbitrary conditions upon sacred texts. It may be true that the insane could have rejected such a Text of their own free will, but insanity is such an imposition upon free will that I daresay it is disqualified, for their intellect [by which volition/free will is exercised] is impaired by their degree of insanity. Since rejection of such a proposed text would require one to reject all reason, the degree of insanity would be, well, 100%. And it goes without saying that anyone of that level of insanity doesn’t really possess free will. He’s shackled by his dementia and must do its bidding. Granted, given Pascal’ Wager, I’d concede that only the truly insane use their free will to their own eternal damnation once they’ve been given a choice to avoid it.

        -Sirius Knott

        PS – I ordinarily do not simply allow someone to post a link as their argument. Kindly read my Rules of Engagement and

  2. crispysea says:

    “Willfull ignorance” – That’s rich! You are a proponent and purveyor of that which cannot EVER be proven and you have the audactity to accuse one who will only believe that which IS proven, of willfull ignorance.

    “Have your cake and eat it” – If free will is ‘true free will’, it’s my cake, so I can choose its destiny.

    “Your are upset that to reject god is to accept the default position” – That’s just because I’m sane! How did a god who set the default position to everlasting torture get the label benevolent?

    “presuming… …all texts are valid.” – I assume no religious texts are valid, but we must accept that the faithful of any religion accept it as valid, all followers of each faith are equally convinced of the validity of their tradition so to an outsider, all are equally valid – All posit an obviously irrational “supreme being” solution to the conundrum of creation, so none is more plausible the next, all are equally implausible; it’s their very implausability makes them equal.

    The point is not about whether one would have to be insane or not to reject eternity but about the lie of calling something free will, but limiting it to believe or burn. That is simply not free will!
    Is it? Can it be describe that way?
    And if you say it can, what would we call the level of free will, which doesn’t impose those ‘believe or burn’ restrictions? Free Will Plus? Freeer Will? Super Free Will?

    Also, as I said, the laws illustrate that a god COULD have chosen to avoid confusion, and millions of senseless deaths, without impinging on the minute to minute free will choices of each individual, by simply providing a clearly divine text. One could be totally convinced of a text’s divinity, but still not be good enough at keeping it’s rules, to be considered worthy of the post-death prize.
    Just knowing the word is divine, is not the same as following it’s path.

    1. Sirius says:

      @Crispy:

      “Willfull ignorance” – That’s rich! You are a proponent and purveyor of that which cannot EVER be proven and you have the audactity to accuse one who will only believe that which IS proven, of willfull ignorance.

      Sirius: So you’ve proven there is no God then? You, paragon of reason and intellect, having devoured all knowledge and having learned everything there is to know, have ruled out God’s existence? Of course not. Laying aside that proving God did not exist would require omniscience [an attribute of deity] and would therefore be hypocritically redundant, we must note that we ask no one to prove God exists nor disprove Him. His existence is self-evident in Creation, for everything which has a beginning must have a cause [an argument from causality] and we also note that information of specified complexity is always observed to have an intelligent source, so we may make an argument from anaology that universal laws, constants, free lunches and DNA itself must be the work of and Intelligence who is responsiblke for the Universe. We have a reasonable faith, built upon a weight of evidences and arguments as much as you would like to believe otherwise.

      “Have your cake and eat it” – If free will is ‘true free will’, it’s my cake, so I can choose its destiny.

      Sirius: You’ve conflated choice [ie. – free will] with the consequences of those choices.

      “Your are upset that to reject god is to accept the default position” – That’s just because I’m sane! How did a god who set the default position to everlasting torture get the label benevolent?”

      Sirius: I’m glad you asked. He gets the “label” benevolent because He did not have to provide a remedy for our situation. A real choice mandated the possibility that Adam could reject God. And to reject the source of all Life is to reject Life itself, to embrace death. In day-to-day existence, we have laws. We have free will to whatever we please, but we incur the consequences of choices that break the laws. God did not have to grant mercy. He could have simply let us incur the penalty and moved on with no guilt on His part. Instead, He set a plan in motion for our salvation which involved the death of God Himself in place of His Creation to absolve our debt and grant us eternal life. To whosoever will. Because in the end, He still doesn’t force us to do the thing that’s best for us. Again, free will.

      Why do I get the feeling that you don’t think there should be consequences for choices? Do you realize that a choice with no consequence is a meaningless act? If there were no consequences, there would be no meaning at all. Reason, the order of nature and morality [your conscience] all testify that choices do have consequences, so why not deal with the reality that actually exists, hmm?

      “presuming… …all texts are valid.” – I assume no religious texts are valid, but we must accept that the faithful of any religion accept it as valid, all followers of each faith are equally convinced of the validity of their tradition so to an outsider, all are equally valid – All posit an obviously irrational “supreme being” solution to the conundrum of creation, so none is more plausible the next, all are equally implausible; it’s their very implausability makes them equal.

      Sirius: So if anyone religious accepts a text as valid, it’s valid. But if you don’t agree, it’s not. That’s pretty arbitrary.

      You see, your assertion is based on your opinion, not reason. The very existence of reason, order, information, causality. logical fallacies, etc, all point to to the very rational possibility of a Supreme Intelligence, whereas you believe that chance created everything though you’ve NEVERobserved this to occur and logic tells you it CANNOT happen in this universe. A tornado in a junkyard will not produce a Boeing 747. An explosion in a print shop will not produce an encyclopedia. You cannot become a billonaire by giving away your money a dollar a day with no income. But your position is rational?

      The point is not about whether one would have to be insane or not to reject eternity but about the lie of calling something free will, but limiting it to believe or burn. That is simply not free will!
      Is it? Can it be describe that way?
      And if you say it can, what would we call the level of free will, which doesn’t impose those ‘believe or burn’ restrictions? Free Will Plus? Freeer Will? Super Free Will?

      Sirius: Again, consequences versus choice. They’re not the same thing. I understand that you don’t like the outcome of the choice you’re making. Make a different choice while you can!

      Also, as I said, the laws illustrate that a god COULD have chosen to avoid confusion, and millions of senseless deaths, without impinging on the minute to minute free will choices of each individual, by simply providing a clearly divine text. One could be totally convinced of a text’s divinity, but still not be good enough at keeping it’s rules, to be considered worthy of the post-death prize.

      Sirius: wow. OK, here’s the thing. God did provide a clearly divine text. He just didn’t follow your arbitrary requirements. He validated with historical, geographical, archaeological, moral and supernatural accuracy. The latter can be reasonably infered from any investigation of fulfilled Bible prophecies and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      The other thing. Christianity is a peculiar religion. We don’t believe that anyone is particularly good at following the rules, even Christians. Ever since Adam, our minds have been at emnity against God. This is usually refered to as depravity. If we could simply follow the rules, God wouldn’t have sent His Son to die for our sins. He would have simply said, “Try harder!” You can’t live a perfect life. You need a Saviour.

      Just knowing the word is divine, is not the same as following it’s path.

      Sirius: True, but you accept the consequences of the path you choose.

      –Sirius Knott

      1. crispysea says:

        A note from Sirius.

        Crispy did in fact respond to my rebuttal [below] but his hate-screed against a God he claims he doesn’t actually believe in convinced me that I’m simply casting pearls here. I do hope that Crispy comes to the knowledge of Christ. I have to wonder at the rationale of people like Crispy, PZ Myers, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and the like who spend so much time trying to attack a belief in God when they profess to believe that this life is all they have. A curious way to spend sucha finite and indeterminate amount of time, if they truly believe that God doesn’t exist, doesn’t matter and that, well, in the end neither does anything else.

        “So you’ve proven there is no God then?” – One does not have to know everything there is to know, to make reasoned judgements based on the available facts. The most important available fact – there is no evidence, and never has been, that humans have an eternal spirit. Without evidence of soul, any proposed post-death scenario for such an entity is no more than supposition. Until we have proof of soul, post-death speculation about what other supernatural entities there may be is irrelevant and the default position for everyone is the human lifespan is all there is.

        Sirius: He moves the goalpost here. From God to the soul. My guess is that he realizes he’s lost the former argument about God. But as to the soul, I wonder if he’s aware of experiments demonstrating that consciousness exists independently of mind and therefore matter. I wonder how he accounts for the phenomenon of Near-Death Experiences. The dichotomy of matter/mind is as far as we can test this subject by the scientific method, so we would be forced to look for corroborating evidence of an afterlife. Put simply: Test fulfilled prophecies and the resurrection claim of Christianity. If you can reasonably place your trust in these, then it follows that you could also trust the text is correct on the account of eternal life and consequences. My proposal is especially cogent, since the Resurrection is a claim of enduring life after death.

        “He did not have to provide a remedy for our situation” But you are missing the point, he created the situation!
        By my reckoning, it’s his honourable duty to to remedy the mess created by his personality disorder. Remember, your hell ONLY exists because your god wouldn’t share his toys and spat the dummy. Talk about your control freak!
        I suppose you would also consider a tobbacco company benevolent for offering minimal medical care to those who contract cancer from using their product!

        Sirius: Free will involves real consequences, as I mentioned. I won’t rehash the argument, but I will comment on this: He didn’t create the situation. Man actualized the potential for damnation inherent in actual free will with its prerequisite to reject a Deity that is Life itself. [Yes, there’s a quid pro quo]. You can’t come up with a scenario involving free will that doesn’t involve mental impairment [and therefore impaired judgment and impaired will, not free will]. But you can impugn Goid for having the audacity to come up with the scenario that allows you ability to reject Him. You’d rather be a mindless automaton bereft of any actual reasoned choice.

        “He could have simply let us incur the penalty and moved on with no guilt on His part” – but then he would not be benevolent! If as you assume he is benevolent, then surely his conscience would not allow that option so the option was never a possibility.

        Sirius: Note that Crispy concedes my point about God’s benevolence here.

        “Why do I get the feeling that you don’t think there should be consequences for choices” – Free will has consequences in human society, but why do you assume the same is true for a soul? my point is, what is the point of having an eternal spirit if that spirit is similarly shackled by the human concept of consequence?
        I know you don’t like links but there’s more on this in my blog “The True Shape of Your Soul”

        Sirius: Here Crispy fails to reckon that the eternal spirit is actually making the decisions, not the mortal coil it inhabits. He also fails to account for the fact that free will doesn’t simply have consequences in human society [laws, taboos, etc] but also in nature [gravity, inertia, pain, etc]. In fact, an argument from analogy suggests that said consequences [of social laws] are not merely a human construct [an argument you could only make if natural law did not also exist] but are universal in application.

        “So if anyone religious accepts a text as valid, it’s valid. But if you don’t agree, it’s not. That’s pretty arbitrary.” If your ‘you’ means ‘one’ then Agreed. Religious people pooh pooh each others texts all the time, and as you know it’s written into many of the texts themselves so to do. And you can’t get much more arbitrary than, it’s my parents/communities religious tradition therefore it’s right.

        Sirius: No, I was just talking aboout you, Crispy. If you don’t agree with the conclusions of religion, they’re simply not valid, right? Of course, opinion nor popularity nor even acceptance determine truth. When you’re right, you’re right.

        You are correct that religious texts do make mutual exclusive claims; therefore only one could be correct. While atheist has no official text [unless we count Darwin], it is an exclusive truth claim about religious concepts. In other words, either God exists or He doesn’t. If He exists and He has revealed Himself, one of those texts may be that revelation, but not all of them if they make contradictory claims about God.

        Crispy is hiding behind a multitude of texts [and not investigating one of them] and arbitrarily claiming that they’re invalid because he believes in God does not exist [which he could never prove] and therefore such claims are unreasnoable. In other words, his objection about multiple texts is a smokescreen to hide the fact that he’s not really investigating any of them. I’m only asking him to text one particular text: The Bible. Of course, he’s intelligent enough not to engage me there, since he wants to remain an atheist.

        “God did provide a clearly divine text” – No he obviously didn’t – the facts that I drew up the Laws at all, and that we are having this discussion, are evidence that for my Genetic make up (and others like me) the text is insufficiently divine. And as I understand it, something can only be ‘divine’ or ‘not divine’; it’s not possible for something to be nearly divine! You may hold it so to be, but that does not make it so!

        Sirius: Well, since you, your genetic makeup and your intelligence came about by Chance mutation, how can we be sure you’re thinking about this correctly at all? While you’re thinking about that in whatever capacity you’re able, I should note that you correctly opine that a text must exclusively be either divine or not divine, but I haven’t made the claim that the Bible is nearly divine. Your refusal to accept the divine source of the Text doesn’t disqualify it, especially since your proposed laws are so obviously arbitrary and demonstrably insufficient to account for free will. The fact that you drew up the Laws at all, in light of your other writings, only suggests how desperate you are to justify your willful rejection of your Creator, to Whom you must still give an account after you die. The deserved earnings of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life to whoever will believe in Christ Jesus.

        Think it over.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s