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Saturday, March 14, 2009

An atheist stumbles over a poetic [non]hurdle

Occasionally some of us get momentarily sidetracked from our specific objective of exposing the stench of heresy within the Sydney Anglican Diocese that emanates from its leaders, priests (oh, btw, our cure of souls, Hosea has something to say: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for me, because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children [and Connect 09]”) and its putative intellectual heart, Moore College. It is not that we are unconsciously diverted from this aim; we do welcome setting any worthwhile issue aright.

Peter, a perennial atheist visitor to our blog, has recently attempted to undermine the monotheism of Christianity by isolating two verses in the Old Testament that, on his and a few theological hacks’ reckoning, most of whom are unapologetically Mormon, evince at first blush a polytheism with YHWH standing as some sort of celestial council overlord. Just 2 verses are supposed to undo 4000 years of Jewish-Christian history. That is, 10 seconds – the time taken to read these few lines – checkmates 4000 years.

Peter, our atheist fellow traveller, suffers from the opposite condition infecting, sorry, affecting, our SAD brothers and sisters. Whereas SADs are wont to draw malleable non-literal theological “truths” from the literal, Peter reverses this epistemology by deducing from the poetic, theological absolutes. Of course, there is nothing wrong per se with Peter’s practice – there’s much to learn from biblical poetry - unless of course there are a myriad of history passages which categorically rule out Peter’s polytheistic conclusion.

The two poetic passages of any consequence that Peter mentions are Psalm 82 and Deuteronomy 32. The latter, as Peter alluded, gains its far from perspicuous polytheistic purpose from the DSS and some versions of the LXX. I won’t be expressing any thoughts on this. On the other hand, Psalm 82 is considerably less ambiguous and is thus the more interesting.

Asaph, the author of this psalm, states that God judges “among the gods” and asks them why they haven’t pursued justice and protected the powerless in Israelite society. No where in Jewish writing is there, as far as I am aware, any prose that records that there are literally gods who serve on the Jewish judiciary. It is thus clear that this is a metaphor indicating the extreme high office that judges partake of in order to carry out the judicial responsibilities that any society, let alone a theocracy, demands. In any case, these “gods” are determined to die like men: only men die like men, certainly not gods, notwithstanding their non-existence, a fact the Bible makes clear in more than one place, something Peter conveniently ignores.

Jesus uses this psalm to prove that a certain group of Jews had yet another misunderstanding – though subtly different from the error in John 8 - about who he was. In John 10 this group took up stones because they thought he was identifying himself, a mere man in their eyes, with the Father. He then distinguishes himself from the Father by stating his Sonship with the Father and further that, though his office was eternal, they too had once shared in the transcendent by being “gods” in ancient Israel’s courts of justice.

That this is a metaphor, though serving in the judiciary was not, can be seen from Moses interaction with God. In Exodus 4:16 God calls Moses to speak to the children of Israel. God tells Moses he will be like God to Aaron and Aaron will be [God’s] mouthpiece. The other verse is Exodus 7:1 in which again Moses is God, but this time over Pharaoh. In both places Moses serves in God’s role of judge, the very role that Psalm 82 is discussing. Moses literally can’t be God and the judges of the Israelite kingdoms can’t be literally gods but both stand in for God in his role as judge because they were supposed to be acting as God would, impartially, wisely and morally.

Peter’s attempt to strip Israel of her monotheism fails principally because he is unable to distinguish between the poetic and the actual.

22 comments:

Healyhatman said...

Peter’s attempt to strip Israel of her monotheism fails principally because he is unable to distinguish between the poetic and the actual.

That's fairly hypocritical of you John. Accusing someone ELSE of being unable to distinguish literally recorded "fact" from poetry.

John said...

Healy, are you sure you're not Peter? You both seem to say little i.e. no detail, then run away.

Warwick said...

John,

In my limited understanding of Hebrew I understood 'gods' in Psalm 82 is 'elohim', in this context referring to judges who judge men, in the place of God. Being sons of God they were only men who were accountable to God. Is this what you meant to convey?

If so how does this relate to: 'Peter’s attempt to strip Israel of her monotheism fails principally because he is unable to distinguish between the poetic and the actual.'

John said...

Warwick,

The poem itself tells us that they were judges, quite a terrestrial job. Peter has gone out of his way to ignore the rest of the poem, concentrate his energies on one word - yes, elohim - so that in the end he has not seen the forest for the trees.

It relates to Peter in that he's trying to demonstrate that the Church hasn't had a unified theology and that we can still find remnants of this polytheism that she held to.

One must keep in mind that Peter is an atheist and thus is always on the lookout for any sign that proves 'his-God-does-not-exist' thesis. By throwing in his [unsupported] belief that Israel had an early polytheistic belief he can try to get people to belief that God was not really with Israel or behind their history because if early polytheism is true then their monotheism can't be and thus the Bible is a contrived and man-manufactured record and thus is false.

Peter said...

John,
are you baiting me to this discussion so you can throw in couple Ad Hominems and call me repeatedly anti-semitic as a debate tactic. I assume you also think Jewish scholars who think Israelites were henotheists are anti-semitic. So if you want me to present my case regarding this post you need to stop your personal attacks and retract your statements of me being anti-semitic. It is up to you...

John said...

Peter,

I couldn't be bothered "debating" you anymore. You've proven to be academically very dishonest. I have more productive things to do in my life. You only respond to the points you feel comfortable with. That in itself demonstrates you aren't willing to change your mind on anything, so why would I waste my time. If you're happy, whatever that means, with your atheism, then fine. Your loss. I've linked you to some sites which would help demolish your evolutionary views but you don't really want to follow that line. All you're interested in is to show the world that you're a smart chap and are right in every way. Fine. You make your bed, you lie in it.

BTW, you don't have to wear a Nazi uniform to be an anti-semite. If a people's present existence is built upon a particular recorded history and some bloke comes along and says that academia disagrees with you about this particular perception of yourself, that in fact you're living a lie and should completely change this distorted heritage, that, Peter, is a form of cultural racism and you are trying to push anti-semitism. The Jews have been a target for such activity before on more than one occasion. Dress it up with "serious" High-sounding nonsense and take offense if someone accuses you of anti-semitism, but the charge still sticks.

The question needs to be asked: Why the Jews? If God doesn't exist why bother spending your time arguing over a people's heritage if the basis for it is BS?

sam drucker said...

I am reminded of the old saying "a text without a context is a pretext"

Heretics and cults go down that path. So do those who search for something to undermine the truth of Christianity.

Peter said...

John,
You have been calling out people like Mike, Gordon and now me, but now suddenly you don't want to step up and defend your public accusations. On one post you ask me a favour and on the next one you insult me. A sad epic failure. Your Christianity seems to be throwing ignorant and arrogant insults from the side lines without having the warmth, respect, love and understanding I have encountered elsewhere in the Anglican community. You are so unlike Jesus.

Please forgive me for being so direct. All the best.

neil moore said...

Well, I guess that's telling you, John!

Neil

John said...

Oh, please Peter don't be such a spoiled child. You're dishonest. Your record here demonstrates this. I don't have to jump according to your whims and your timetable and agenda. You have been evasive right from the start. I can't understand what your purpose here is, sorry, was. You had a dummyspit when Warwick pointed out the high priest of atheism's inability to answer a simple question about evolution, making excuse after excuse for him. We know you're wrong about evolution and yet you won't spend any time researching the stupidity of this metaphysical enterprise.

It's somewhat bizarrely hypocritical to chastise me for being unChrist like when you don't even believe the man existed. You hang on to every word a Christian says waiting fo the right opportunity to hang him, bitterly throwing his religion back in his face. Mate, that's not really adult-like.

John said...

BTW, Peter, yes there are such people as self-loathing Jews. Chomsky is a prime example. So the fact that some Jews believe, like the Mormons, that the Israelites believed there were many gods, but only one they worshipped, doesn't surprise me. I really don't expect that these Jewish academics are theists.

neil moore said...

John said "It's somewhat bizarrely hypocritical to chastise me for being unChrist like when you don't even believe the man existed. You hang on to every word a Christian says waiting fo the right opportunity to hang him, bitterly throwing his religion back in his face. Mate, that's not really adult-like."

Yeah, it really aggravates me when the only time an opponent of Jesus Christ will take hold of him is when, so to speak, they pick him up and throw him at a Christian like a brick.

Neil

Healyhatman said...

Psht just made a huge post and it didn't process. gist of it:

Fuck you John, Fuck You all creationists, fuck you Sydney Anglican Heretics - the other mainstream Anglicans believe in and worship the same mythical superbeings you do, stop whingeing at them. fuck you doubly John for your "balhblahblah links that demolish your evolutionary worldview" bullshit. It's ALWAYS the same crap recycled over and over again. Something about the reason being that you're useless wastes of otherwise perfectly good oxygen that don't feel the need for making original thoughts since everything you need is in a heavilly-edited and poorly translated bronze age storybook.

There may have been an accusation that you're all closet homosexuals who harbour secret fantasies of becoming priests and sodomising altar boys but I'm not sure. Either way, I made it clear that I hate creationists. One of my friends is dating a creationist and she's a fucking bitch.

If you're wondering why I've missed some capitals, mind your own fucking business - that's why. don't bother responding, I couldn't care less if you offered me your fucking kidneys for the privilege.

John said...

Well, quite obviously Healy's drug dealer didn't come through with his stash and he's down to recycling butts and cleaning out the tar from his old bongs.

Or maybe he didn't have his Fluphenazine injection last month and his whole world is collapsing.

My oh my. The poor lad just can't take it anymore. Sad really.

John said...

PS Healy, my wife reckons the first sentence is a Freudian Slip. Do you want to maybe rephrase that so there's no misunderstanding?

neil moore said...

Mmmm, seems Healy has learned some new words since he was last here.

Healy, if you use that sort of language and attitude in the company of your friend's girlfriend it's obvious there's going to be friction. The girl's got class!

Neil

sam drucker said...

Healy Hatman you are forgiven for your abuse to us.

neil moore said...

Healy, how's your mate's girlfriend going since you last wrote?

I've been thinking of her and think she is super.

Neil

Warwick said...

Why am I surprized when a God-hater exposes his inner anger, substituting abuse for intelligent criticism?

I have to admit when I first read Healy's comments I was disappointed. But silly me, his comments are quite normal for a God-hater when confronting Christians who will not lay down.

When rather than lay down the Christian makes a good defence of his or her beliefs? We have to remember Healy et al are convinced, often without critical thought, that their views are scientific fact. Facts which ignorant supernaturalists (as he believes us to be) should not dare contradict. We need also remember that many such people have taken their naturalistic beliefs to heart because they are a self-raised wall against the intrusion of God into their lives. To even consider the alternative is deeply upsetting. I know this beccause I remember how angry I became towards both Christians and God, when they spoke to me of such matters in my pre-Christian days.

I saw much the same on the US website when an atheist and cultic people resorted to ridicule, when they had no sound argument.

I don't know about others here but I am not offended by Healy's petulance, as it is to be expected. Conversely what is offensive is the abuse, and ridicule from some who insist they are Christians, therefore our brothers. Abuse, and ridicule directed at those convinced God writes what He means and means what He writes? Is it abuse, and ridicule aroused because they feel their liberal views have been exposed? I think so.

John said...

Indeed, Warwick, I'm also not offended by Healy's pre-kindergarten petulant outburst. After all, someone who just isn't himself without the whacky weed must be pitied rather than condemned.

neil moore said...

I'm not offended either. Actually I was encouraged to hear of his mate's girfriend.

Neil

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