"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Friday, August 29, 2008

Yeshua the annointed one

There's a detailed discussion on the existence of Jesus over at Stephen Law's blog, which visitors here (assuming there still are any) might want to take a look at.

Personally, I've never found the arguments for the divinity of Jesus convincing. All history is a matter of probability, and the probability of Jesus being able to perform miracles because he's an aspect of a divine being given flesh is always going to be much lower than the probability of more mundane explanations*.

(*Assuming you've had no prior contact with said divine being, which would - if itself valid - alter the probability considerably.)

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12 Comments:

Blogger mutleythedog said...

I am still visiting...

3:38 PM

 
Blogger Linda said...

Personally, I've never found the arguments for the divinity of Jesus convincing.

That's good. I would have to question someone who is convinced by mere arguments.

7:53 PM

 
Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

I've been over there thrashing it out for a while now.

Quick point, Matt. You can't actually appeal to probabilities post hoc without falling into the same inverse gambler's fallacy that many theists often fall into.

First, a miracle is an improbably event anyway, so saying that it is improbably does not refute its occurrence, but only confirms that it was indeed improbable. Of course, it's the improbability that makes these events so crucial to the Christian narrative.

As for the inverse gamblers fallacy, it's not appropriate to apply an assessment of probability retroactively as shown by this example: If I throw a coin ten times and note the sequence of heads and tails, I could then calculate the probability of that particular sequence falling out. Of course, if I did this I would inevitably conclude that there was only a tiny probability of having say, heads, tails, tails, heads, heads, heads, tails, heads.

So conjecture is no use for refuting the Resurrection. Only credible evidence suggesting that something else happened will do. Other than that, it's a faith call.

11:55 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Mutley,

Always nice to see your face around here.

Linda,

That's good to hear.

Incitatus,

I'm not really trying to refute the Resurrection, merely suggest historical accounts alone provide no real justification for believing it happened.

I don't think the inverse gamblers fallacy really applies here (though I could be wrong), as we're not trying to work out the probability of an event we know has happened. The point of using probability here is to (try to) establish how likely it is that these events occurred.

There's another (smaller) debate about this issue going on between two ex-Christians here. As one of them explains:

If you accept the premise that God is active in your life today, then the only measure of reliability that is applied to scripture is how well it conforms to God’s words and will as understood and accepted by the individual Christian today.

If that God isn't active in your life, the only measure you have is how likely is it that such events happened - which brings us to the odds.

3:29 AM

 
Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

Rapid point,
That blog you link to has a great format. I like the comments being listed down the side like that.

10:46 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

p.s. ya for the new profile pic Matt!

7:35 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

My .02

There's a lot of truth in what Linda says. Funny how Jesus didn't say "Therefore go and convince all nations that I did miracles and rose from death." Rather he says:

"If you love me, you will obey what I command." (Jn. 14:15)

And what does he command?

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (Jn. 13:34)

So when Jesus says love each other as I have loved you, what does that look like?

"Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 'I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.'" (Mt. 15:32)

"The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) (Jn. 4:9)

"After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." (Jn. 13:5)

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (Jn. 15:13)

We do a lot of arguing over here... and that's all well and good, yet it occurs to me that, though certainly enclosed within the Kingdom, the Kingdom itself is much MUCH bigger than arguments of this sort (and I mean arguments in the best possible way).

There is the temptation to let arguments show their darker side (and I know I'm guilty of this). In this way each person has their position they are committed to, then the goal is to destroy the other's position by asserting your own. It's much more controlling and conquest oriented. I think a better way to look at dialectics is more like a dance. Each party knows the rhythms and movements of their own position, then, out of love, we invite each other in. We help each other to feel the movements of our dance (and here I'd stress this does not preclude critique!). Yet what of those who try and force their dance on others? That clever Brian McLaren once pointed out a name for that: It's called assault.

So, I suppose like Linda says, the arguments alone have never done it for me. They can get me part way down the road and honestly they really have, (Matt, you and I have done that a bit over the email, so you know about where I'm coming from there) but in the end it has been more of a "taste and see that I am good" type walk. Much more of a relationship than an argument.

for what it's worth.

7:39 AM

 
Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

Matt,
I don't think the inverse gamblers fallacy really applies here (though I could be wrong), as we're not trying to work out the probability of an event we know has happened.


It can still apply, I think. LEts say we didn't see the coin toss, but somebody reported it ti us.

"Dude, I just saw the wildest thing. This bearded guy flipped a coin hundred times at it landed heads every time. What are the chances!!!"

The chances are actually exactly the same as if he's flipped a mix of heads and tails, if we interpret the data after the fact. Suggesting that the guy was using a double-headed coin would be an assertion based on weak induction in this case.It's just our mistaken intuition that thinks there's something improbable going on, because we don't know the context of the throws (and thus where those throws lie in the overall distribution curve of likelihoods). i.e. people have possibly been flipping coins for eons, and it just happens that this tiny fraction of coins happened to be the odd bunch that probability predicts will inevitably fall in the same sequence at some point or other.

This is, actually, a serious source of Type 1 errors in science. It is not uncommon for a scientist to generate some data in order to test one hypothesis, but then notice during analysis that there appears to be another variable that is different between the control and test samples. He might erroneously conclude that his drug, for the sake of argument, is responsible for this difference. If he's thorough, he will simply use this observation as a bases to weakly induce a hypothesis that would then be tested by repeating the experiment several more times, specifically looking at that variable. This doesn't always happen, and it annoys the hell out of me that some investigators don't even understand the flaw in their work when it is pointed out to them.

9:25 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Alex,

So, I suppose like Linda says, the arguments alone have never done it for me.

What's the saying? You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it think. Something like that.

No-one can change another person's mind for them. It's just not possible. You can be the most intelligent, well-informed and eloquent debate in human history and there's still not going to be any way to change the way someone thinks if they don't want to. The Internet is full of people talking at each other but never really listening to what the other person has to say. Actually, the world's full of it as well.

The most we can do is present our arguments as best we can.

If the other person doesn't want to listen, then nothing will change.

But if they do listen - then with any luck we've introduced them to a new piece of information or new way of thinking that they can take and run with. We don't change their mind, but we make it easier for them to do for themselves.

When others have challenged my arguments, or suggested alternatives, I've looked at what they've said and (initially) looked for counter-arguments - ways to make my own thinking more watertight. But in the process of shoring up my original arguments I've started picking at threads I either hadn't noticed or hadn't bothered about before, and gradually, because of this, my thinking has evolved.

Your arguments may not have convinced me (sorry!), but by making them you've created a situation in which I've been forced to shape up my own views and confront the vagueness and weak points - occasionally leading me to drop lines of thought that just didn't work for me any more. And once you change one thing, everything else is affected (even if just in a minor way) as well.

Only we change our minds, but others can help us along the way.

11:03 AM

 
Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

"I think a better way to look at dialectics is more like a dance. Each party knows the rhythms and movements of their own position, then, out of love, we invite each other in. We help each other to feel the movements of our dance (and here I'd stress this does not preclude critique!). Yet what of those who try and force their dance on others? That clever Brian McLaren once pointed out a name for that: It's called assault."

I wholeheartedly agree. And in an ideal world, this would be the extent and tone of discussion on these matters. But there are theists that don't think like that (the R VP nominee has dominionist tendencies, I hear), as there are atheists that don't think like that (communism isn't dead yet). And these people are not easily swayed by reason and moderation. They will only dance to their own tune.


Secular Americans (and indeed members of many other nations) have been provoked, and a degree of soul-searching is required among theists in these same nations to realise that it is those among their flocks that are very much doing the provoking. When a person who could well find herself in the most powerful position in the world says of the Iraq war, "It is a task from God", one wonders whether moderation on behalf of those who appeal to reason is an adequate response.

Possibly. IF moderate theists such as yourself strive to make their voices heard above the wailing and gnashing of teeth of their less tolerant but considerably vocal co-faithful. There can simply be no more pandering, no more excuses for some of the insanity that is being allowed to flourish in the name of certain religious ideologies.

My main criticism of Christian theologians is that they have a tendency to get too absorbed in their academic work, and fail to fulfill their responsibility to temper and guide the beliefs of there brethren.

On that note, I'm glad to hear you are volunteering in a youth program, and taking thee issues beyond the dusty tomes of the library.

11:04 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Note: I've decided to spend today blogging. Don't get used to it. :P

Matt + Incit,
"If the other person doesn't want to listen, then nothing will change."

And here it is. There is the tendency to feel that "if the other person doesn't want to listen" (to our arguments) then we can write them off and narcissistic imbeciles and be on our merry way (I'm not indicting you here. This is a personal temptation). The problem is then all discourse ends up being confined to mere language games amongst those who will listen (and more often than not, these already agree with you!).

So here it is. Praxis. Holistic praxis. Patient, empathetic, holistic praxis. Is is possible to move beyond mere argument and communicate our message in ways that are beyond verbal argument? (Lord knows I do not intend to reduce the importance of logic here) Something I've been realizing more and more as of late is Jesus' emphatic emphasis on doing. (not "opposed to," but "because of" believing).

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
(Mt. 25:34-40)

The modern era's emphasis on "right belief" (orthodoxy) has led to a neglect of right practice. (orthopraxis). This in turn nurtures an environment where we construct our intellectual boxes, then try and destroy our opponents box so they will see their error and maybe get in ours. You know how that goes, ay?

The solution here, and I hasten to emphasis the manner in which it flows with impeccable logic from my faith in the God who is love, is not simply trying to get people to listen to us (well, it is in a way...); rather it's living all of life in such a posture as to invite others in. For me at least, what I argue about here is born out of a lived experience. It happens in reality, not in a text.

You've heard it said: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son..." Perhaps you've also heard: "God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:3-4) And further: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Who is our neighbor? Jesus points to the despised, religious heretic Samaritan man in Luke 10:25. But what does it mean to love? The cross displays it as the centerpiece of all Christian theology. The eternal I AM gives up his place of honor and glory to step in amongst a people who despise him, reject him and kill him? Why?

To save them.

This is love. And to the degree I fail to exemplify that I fail to honor my God. The religious folk who get all hot and bothered on the discussion boards (or in politics), I'm afraid to say, are not thusly because they take their religion too seriously. I would argue they don't take it seriously enough. Or perhaps they confuse their religion for the God of Truth, justice and love (happens more often than not it seems).

It's interesting that you (incit) peg me as a moderate. I've never been labeled that before (and yes I know the necessary limits/dangers of labels). I think it's an awkward fit because I really believe this stuff (sometimes it seems that moderates are analogous to nominalists) I suppose if by moderate you mean "the ones you can actually hold a conversation with" I'll wear it.

Matt, what you say is right on the money. We need to be challenged. Our finite position requires it! And for my part, I would say that to the degree you are putting yourself in the service of truth (or even the quest to get close to it) you are in the service of God. For not only is God love, but God it truth as well. Further, the manner in which you conduct your quest says much about why you search. Makes me smile.

Incit,
You raise the key and central objection to the spirit I have advocated: The fact that some cannot be easily won with empathetic loving dialog quickly enough to avert certain stupidity or worse. The "love method" simply takes too long and it's not bound to succeed. So what does work swiftly and certainly? Anyone got a gun? I'm not kidding, this is the revolution narrative. "We must regain power to stop THEM!" Do you think violence (physical or otherwise) is near at hand when this talk starts? You know it.

So the question comes down to where one's faith is at this point. What do we trust in? As a Christian my faith is in Christ. Jesus refused to pick up the sword. The people tried to make him their king by force, but he ran off. The "Kingdom of God" that is "at hand" is a kingdom where enemies are dealt with by self-sacrfical love (Remember that cross I was talking about?).

But again the protest! "If we lived like that we'd all be speaking German right now!" I don't know. God help those in power. As for me, I will leave nations and kings to their worries, my lot is with the every day lives I come in contact with.

"My main criticism of Christian theologians is that they have a tendency to get too absorbed in their academic work, and fail to fulfill their responsibility to temper and guide the beliefs of there brethren."

Lord help the theologians as well, seldom has there been a more suspected and often ignored lot.

As for my youth thing. I'm not volunteering (ya, I'm one of those guys now), I'm getting paid. I've been volunteering with youth since high school. Now I'm getting to experience the position of those I've so often criticized first hand. Talk about an education...

12:24 PM

 
Blogger Anders Branderud said...

Regarding miracles:

I want to quote a relevant quote: “The Nәtzarim Reconstruction of Hebrew Matityahu (NHM) reverses this Hellenization: from the Hellenistθεραπευω (therapeuo; attend to, care for) to טפל (tipol; actively tend, care for). NHM reads: "טפל (tipol; actively tend, care for) the weak, raise the dead, make the mәtzorâ tâhor, and throw out the demonic-forces" (for further clarifications, see notes in NHM 10.8). To follow Ribi Yәhoshua, you must do these things. Ergo, you must recover the key and learn how.

Surprisingly, raising the dead – as understood in those times – is the easiest. Lacking modern instrumentation, the ancients often couldn't distinguish between a deep state of unconsciousness and death. The ancients were aware that some people "came back" from the "dead." This is why the ancients always checked a sepulcher three days after burial, to ensure the "dead" person wasn't desperately trying to get out. Fear of waking up buried in a sepulcher was the greatest ancient nightmare and checking the sepulcher, consequently, was a high priority demonstration of caring for the weak and helpless. The closest modern counterpart would be comforting the bereaved family (see Maurice Lamm,The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning). Thus, all of these medical admonitions are achievable by everyone and subsumed in the first: tipol."“ (Source: www.netzarim.co.il ; “History Museum”)

Find out the Torah-teacher Ribi Yehoshua ha-Mashiakh’s (the Messiahs) real teachings on the above website, reconstructed using a logical analysis of all extant source documents to what was written before they were redacted.

4:21 PM

 

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