Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mattering to God, Kid with Gun: Explanation needed

Narrator: If you don't matter to God, you don't matter to anyone.

I have pondered this ad, and in all seriousness, I don't get it. The positive restatement (If you matter to God, you matter to everyone/others), while still nebulous in its theological objective, seems like a possible, yet strained, foundation for a relational Christian ethic. I, however, genuinely don't understand the purpose of the negative, and the context of the homicidal youth doubly confounds me.

AnswersInGenesis.org made the ad, and I couldn't find any information about the ad on its website. It seems obvious, given the name, that this is a site advocates creationism, although the site does discuss other pertinent conservative evangelical issues (abortion, gay rights, school prayer, etc.).

With this in mind, using the context of creationism vs. evolution, the best I can come up with is this: If evolution is true, then it is a dog-eat-dog world. This kid is the big dog and he is about to kill you. But good thing evolution is false, and you matter to God. As such, you matter to others.

Two gold stars for the person who can best explain this ad. Play nice.

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)


Jason said...

I've actually had some run-ins with AIG as it's called (maybe ironic...no?), and have personally met Ken Ham, the founder, president, etc. or equivalent. I think that you're on the right path with the positive restatement and foundation for a relational Christian ethic. From my understanding of AIG and its specific "mission" and theology, without a literal interpretation of Scripture and the creation narrative in Genesis 1 (they don't deal with the one in Genesis 2 really) they claim there can be no "salvation." A literal perfect creation coupled with a literal fall is necessary in order to have any real "salvation"-- thus making a literal creation intrinsic to any soteriology (at least any atonement or ransom theory). They see Genesis as the "foundation" of Scripture, and that if it isn't true, then none of the rest is either (really taking the baby out with the bath water).

Just my thoughts...give yourself two gold stars.

Drew said...

Fascinating Jason. So Genesis 1 is the lynch-pin of their theology? Not the literal life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Jason said...

You got it. You need to take the Bible whole-cloth within their hermeneutic to get at any significant action from Jesus' death.

matt said...

i guess i'm the only one who noticed he used the wrong eye to site the gun?

Drew said...

Hahaha. I missed that. I am still dumbfounded by the message.

Pete said...

jason is right. they think if you can't trust the bible literally a history all the time, you can't trust in the rez.

if evolution is true, their weak ass bible falls like a house of cards.

so oddly, my errant bible is more powerful than their inerrant one. becsue one mistake invalidates their god, but nothing can invalidate the rez. of jesus, upon which an orthodx faith truly rests,,jesus not the bible

Kent H said...

Wading in - Respectfully, I think some of you miss the point of the conservative hermeneutic and soteriological issues.
First, I'm sure that I would have a higher opinion of AIG than any expressed here. The ad is basically making the point that if atheistic evolution is true, God doesn't exist, no one matters to that God, man is an animal and we can't expect everyone to respect the life of themselves or others at all.
The point about the connection of Genesis to the Gospel is a very important one. If the Bible is untrustworthy in one point (i.e. Creation), it is questionable in all points. Someone who would lie about money would lie about anything.
Secondly, Jesus himself held to a literal creation account (Mt 19:4-6; Mk 10:1-16; Lk 18:15-17) as well as the literal accounts of the flood of Noah (Mt 24:37-38; Lk 17:27) and Jonah (Mt 12:39-41) - AIG's other favorite subjects. If Jesus is not accurate in His accounts or beliefs about these subjects -- or He is downright deceptive, He is no proper Savior (at worst) or at least not divine.
The lynch pin of salvation is the gospel of Christ (death, burial, and resurrection). But the lynch pin of theology must be a believable revelation from God. If no such revelation exists, then no part therein can be trusted at face value. Man,then, is not left with answers or revelation he can trust. He is left only with deception and questions he'll never answer.

Jason said...

I think that the "all or nothing" type of thinking that Kent articulates is sloppy thinking that has its foundation in the highly modernistic presuppositions of fundamentalist theology. Modern fundamentalist theology roughly goes like this: As long as the premises upon which our logical theology is based are true (e.g. the Bible), then the logical conclusions of our theology will also therefore be true. It's a straight-forward syllogism. The notion of preserving the Bible as a "true," "inerrant," or "infallible" document only came about in response to historical-critical, literary, and other forms of biblical criticism and scholarship as a way to maintain the theological truth of certain peoples' systems. When you pair this with the rampant denominationalism of the 19th and early 20th centuries, then you have a recipe for the type of hermeneutic that Kent espouses. Also, other hermeneutics have been practiced and considered "orthodox" throughout Christian history, including allegorical interpretations of Scripture in the period of the Church patriarchs. I believe that a good hermeneutic involves taking the Bible seriously on all accounts--theologically and critically. What kind of service are we doing to God if we don't approach the Bible with all of the available tools and use the intellect that we were given to think hard and seriously about the Bible--especially with regards to the body of knowledge that currently exists? Additionally, I think that the conscientious use of the Bible as a historically-conditioned revelation recorded within a hermeneutic loop of human authorship/human interpretation ("seeing through a glass darkly" type of thing) in conjunction with the Body of believers and the direction of the Holy Ghost is a more responsible way to use the Bible then simply as a presupposition to modernist theological needs to preserve "truth." I'm a Christian because I want to follow after Jesus, not because I believe the Bible has "truth" in a presuppositional manner. (I guess that would make me a Christocentric Christian, not a "Bible/truthiness-centric Christian--Thanks Colbert).

Secondly, as my old Christian Ethics prof used to say, "There is no such thing as 'Christian Ethics.' There is just 'ethics.' I've been trying to get this school to change the name of this class for 10 years and they haven't done it!" The point of that nostalgic quotation was to show that there need not be God added to ethical/moral considerations in order to make them valid. A corollary to a belief that God must be acknowledged in order to create a viable ethical system is to basically say that "Atheists have no ethical considerations at all," which is just silly to say. We all have received and practiced ethics derived from or impressed on us by our surrounding culture, our own intellectual conclusions, or from religious convictions. That's how we get our ethical compasses. Now in the best of cases, I would hope that Christians derive their ethical conclusions from their pursuit of the Jesus way. But to say that those who do not believe in a "creator God" place no value on human life is to also say that a human couldn't value humanity--which again I would say is silly.

And as far as humanity not having any revelation to trust, see the end of my first paragraph. The Christian Church existed for hundreds of years without a clearly defined canon, and yet it grew both in numbers and theological depth. How could this have happened? Well, it really couldn't have if one has a Bible/truthiness-centric Christianity rather than a Christocentric Christianity. But yet people were being taught the Jesus way (through oral traditions, letters, and preaching), followed it, prayed to God, worshiped together, and found meaning and direction for their lives in God. I'm committed to a Christocentric Christianity as told about in the Bible, not a Bible-centric Christianity as told about by Jesus.

And btw, the kid is using the correct eye if he happens to be left handed. Dominant hand and eyes are usually the same.


Kent H said...

Wow, there's a lot here but let's take a few highlights:

1) "other hermeneutics have been practiced and considered "orthodox" throughout Christian history, including allegorical interpretations of Scripture in the period of the Church patriarchs"

- Agreed but truth and error are historically reoccuring

2) "I believe that a good hermeneutic involves taking the Bible seriously on all accounts--theologically and critically."

- Your hermeneutics as described in this rather lengthy paragraph bring about a scenario where the interpreter becomes God (or the author of truth). No wonder this hermeneutic is so popular. If you add enough error (what you called "in conjunction with the Body of believers") and you can come up with nearly any interpretation you like. God intended to either communicate (straight-forward syllogism I think you called it) or to deceive. If no hermeneutic is consistent (which your cultural hermeneutic would not be) then anything goes.

3) "The Christian Church existed for hundreds of years without a clearly defined canon, and yet it grew both in numbers and theological depth"

- This is simply historically inaccurate. While it is true the New Testament canon (as we know it) was established in the 5th century or so, the early church had the established canon of the Old Testament text -- quoted very straight-forwardly throughout the NT.

4) "I'm a Christian because I want to follow after Jesus, not because I believe the Bible has "truth" in a presuppositional manner"

- But what Jesus might you be following? There must be an objective standard of propositional truth or there is no truth that can be established without mixture.

You prefer to err to the side that says man can determine all truth with the tools he has naturally. Respectfully, THAT is modernistic thinking in the spirit of the Renaissance and Enlightenment era. I choose to err to the side that says God is smarter than you or me and needed to put His word and will plainly on paper, preserve it, and reveal THAT by way of His Holy Spirit.

I am aware that this short snip in no ways addresses all you raise in this post. But thanks for the stir.


Jason said...

Hi Kent,

Since I seriously doubt that either of us would change each other's mind, though voluminous our writings may be, I really had to question: is offering a rejoinder even worthwhile, or would we both be speaking to walls?

But then I remembered that one aspect of theology that I love most is the ability to reason, think, disagree, and form community around theological conversations. So in the hopes that our rhetorical skills would be sharpened, that perhaps some educational value might be derived from these posts by a reading checking the posts, and to be just plain argumentative for fun (sorry, I was collegiate debater and I miss it!), let's continue our "conversation."

First off, let's take a wide view of the conversation--it seems that our disagreements have more to do about what the Bible is primarily and how to interpret it secondly. Though not apparent, these two ideas are linked--literary critics wouldn't exactly scrutinize a first grader's story-writing efforts with a structuralist lens, but such critics might apply sophisticated forms of literary analysis to Dante or Whitman. What we believe the Bible to be GREATLY affects what we consider to be appropriate interpretations of it.

With this in hand, let me briefly sketch what I believe the Bible to be: the Bible is a historical record of the revelations of Godself as perceived, received, written, edited, and preserved by humanity and as understood within the context of the multifaceted stories of Judaism and Christianity. We are human, not God, so any writing of any human's account of God's revelation to him/her is therefore necessarily human in context though its content may be divinely inspired, assuming that the "revelation" in question is actually one. I believe that the Bible is a compilation of such real revelations of Godself to humanity. As humans, we cannot receive or perceive anything out of our human context.(And, as I would argue, cultural context also, since wherever there is humanity, there also is culture.) Knowing that, I like to think that is one of the primary reasons why God chose incarnation--in order to better bridge the divide between God's existence and reality (the "wholly" other) and what we can perceive as humans.

Now I know that sends shivers down your spine, but that is really what we are left with. You see, even rigid verbal or mechanical inspiration theories of biblical authority fall short of giving "true," "inerrant," or "infallible" to any Scriptures that we now have because of the sheer history, copying, and subsequent editing of the Bible. Most literalist doctrinal statements about the Bible today always have some phrase that is tantamount to "the Bible is perfect, infallible, etc. etc. in the original manuscripts." (I think that AIG has that in there as well if I recall.) And that's the problem; we have none of them. Even if God had mechanically dictated the Scriptures and the human receiver had not made errors in it's composition, then there still could not be a true and perfect Bible because we don't have the originals. Even the most militant of fundamentalists have to say at some point that their KJV (or NIV, in some cases) that they hold in their hands could have errors due to the sheer fact of publishing, copying, preservation, and mistakes.

Now, on to how to interpret: I believe that one has to have very strict methods of interpretation including critical, theological, and devotional (yes devotional, meaning how God speaks to you and me through the Scriptures about being a follower of Jesus) because the Bible is a document of human composition brought about by a human author's recognition of God's self revelation. The Bible was written within and reflects the historical, social, religious, and, yes, even cultural contexts of the human authors who penned, edited, translated, and preserved it. The sheer fact that we have great translation resources and multiple manuscripts with which to work with is nothing short of miraculous given human history--I see the hand of God at work in the preservation of the biblical record in the form that we now have it.
And with regards to truth, a part of the human condition is to "see through a glass darkly." No one human or human construct (society, culture, etc) has a corner on what "truth" is. Now the Bible tells us truths about God and about Jesus (such as God wanting justice, Jesus offering healing, etc.), but to claim the Bible as "truth" or "true" in a whole-cloth manner is to disregard the way in which the Bible was (in my belief) written, preserved, edited, etc. etc. It also places the Bible next to God or Jesus as the crux of the Christian faith. As the author of Hebrews would point out, Jesus was superior to the Law (his "Bible" back in the day), and I don't think that elevation of the Scriptures makes sense. The Bible is the narrative of faith that points to God--it is not God.

Now, on to your bullet points:
1). Uhm, that is if one can ever point to "truth" in an objective sense. My beliefs about the Bible do not allow me to place the label of "true" across it as it is a human-recorded revelation that has passed through many human hands. You'd be crazy to believe that the Bible still has some objective essence of "truth" throughout it given how many humans have had a hand in its history. I have things that I believe to be true about God that are in the Bible, but again, I'm not going to label it in order to get presuppositional grounds for modernist theological systems.

2. This one made me laugh a bit, thinking of myself as "God." Who was it that first said, "The most important step in doing theology is realizing that there is a God and that you are not him?" (sic., I prefer gender-neutral language for God.) I would never make a claim about my interpretation being "true" or being God's interpretation--we interpret as an act of reading. For instance read the following:


What did that say? It can be read in at least 2 ways: God is nowhere, or God is now here. Which one is correct? Is there an intrinsic truth within those letters that makes one way of understanding it more valid than the other? I would say, no. It's based on one's interpretative perspective. The same goes with interpretation of the Scriptures. Because I believe it is a human composition, etc. etc., then that opens up a variety of ways for other humans to interpret it. Is that enough to derive meaning or truth-filled, truth-pointing, or truthful things from the Bible? No, that is why we need additional interpretation help, such as the Body of believers, critical study, and the Holy Ghost to give more help and guidance in interpretation. Interestingly, you referred to the Body of believers as error--but wasn't it a voting process at some of the earliest ecumenical councils that determined what the NT canon was? A group of believers argued and voted on what to include and exclude in the Bible, a Bible which you would claim to be "true" and literally interpret. Using your analysis about Body of believers and error then, wouldn't your Bible have much error in it considering that was how the NT canon was determined?

3. "And all God's horses said, Neigh, neigh." Ok, that was a lame joke, but it's getting late. All I really meant to say was 'No." (Nay, negative vote, neigh, horses? Ok, I'm stopping now.) The early church did read the OT sure-- those believers who were Jewish and could read Hebrew or have a church leader who could, or who could even have access to copies of the Hebrews Scriptures, such as synagogues--places where Christians were ran out of in many instances. After the Church went mostly Gentile in the decades following the Jerusalem Conference, the vast majority of Christians relied on letters, Gospels, and the preaching and teaching of their church leaders as the body of their faith documents. Also, there was not agreed upon inclusion of the OT texts into the Christian canon until serious discussion about what should even be in the NT canon were had in the 4th century. (Just look at Marcion!)

4. I believe I'm following the Jesus who is relayed to me in the four Gospel accounts--which provides me with a compositional image (not an objectively true standard) of Jesus. Also, remember the talk about labeling the Bible as truth as opposed to the Bible having truths about God in it? Put that here as well.

I prefer to stay away from any methodology or system that has me or anyone else dispensing "truth." I prefer instead to participate in religious devotion as a follower of Jesus as he comes to me in the record of the Scriptures and as I am led by them, the Church, and the Holy Ghost.

Goodnight Moon.

Matt F. said...

Couple of questions Kent:

1. Why would the fact that evolution and biology is accurate and we are animals means we shouldn't care about each other? I personally think we should care about other animals also, but even if I didn't it seems clear that there are a number of non religious factors that set us apart from other species.

2. Why would the fact that God doesn't care or doesn't exist mean that I shouldn't care about other people or about being ethical? I really don't believe that the only reason that you are ethical or care about other people is due solely to your religious beliefs.

3. Why would the fact that if the Bible is incorrect in one point it must be incorrect in another possibly make it more likely for someone to believe in the Bible? It seems to me it would make it much less likely.

I am not trying to be snarky or condescending here, I have never studied theology or spoken at length to a biblical literalist. I literally find your stance hard to understand, and am always fascinated by your take (although we probably disagree on everything).

Kent H said...

You are correct. We are miles apart. In part, I think that is because you "prefer" so much and think it more intellectual to create models, interpretations, and bring so many things into this process (Not being critical).
I am more interested in God being God and simply reading what He has provided as revelation.

What you say of Scripture, and what it says of itself are different things. You say Scripture is a human concoction, the Scripture says of itself things like "God-breathed" (theopneustos - 2 tim 3:16). The Bible over and over says "word of God" (genitive of source) not "a word about God." Often we read about what "thus saith the Lord" - not "thus saith author X about God." You prefer not labeling the Bible as "truth" and yet Jesus did just that ("thy word is truth" - Jn 17:17). The import of Scripture can hardly be overemphasized simply because God has made it so. God magnified the Word above His own name (Psa 138:2). Revelation about God (propositions) are necessary for the revelation of God (encounter) which you seem to be seeking without (or in spite of) the Scripture. He (not humanity by the way) has preserved His word through the mechanisms you have related. As you say, man is not able to preserve truth - but God is.

I don't believe that God is hindered by humankind's frailties of receptivity or ability. But you're right, the Scripture was given and "inspired" (in the biblical definition of the word) to men in human culture, condition, and context. But God chose incarnation because mankind needed a Savior. Christ came to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Mt 18:11) - to "destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn 3:8) - and that we "might have life and that (we) may have it more abundantly" (Jn 10:10).

Your ideas of OT use as a community revelation are slightly inaccurate as I understand it. There was already an established canon in the life of Christ (He quoted most often from the Septuagint - Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) and canonized, most likely, during the era of Ezra the Scribe (so no language thing for the gentiles).

I do hold to a verbal-plenary revelation of Scripture because that is what a literal hermeneutic of the Scripture proposes. And, you're right, that influences how the Bible is interpreted. I see God as a communicator and not as a deceiver. I believe He gave us His word so we can simply read what He says and believe. Other forms of interpretation do make the interpreter a god. If one sees the Scripture as just something they can add to or take away from as they "prefer" then that is making the interpreter the author of revelation and "truth" (if such things exist). You make all kinds of propositional claims and so do I. Yours come from all over the place with mixed validities and mine come (as best I can study) from one objective standard. If that standard is valid and God gave that standard -- this process gets really simple.

Your point on the original autographs is dead on. But, we have over 5000 copies of the Greek New Testament from ancient times - some from within 300 yrs of Christ. These can be evaluated against one another and checked for accuracy over a wide range of manuscripts. No other ancient document has the kind of textual support we have for the NT and we never question Socrates, Josephus, Plato, Heroditus, Aristotle, etc. with a combined manuscript count of less than 50.

It is also true that canonization happened by way of a strict evaluation process through councils - but content was never voted on or adjusted. The books were accepted (or rejected) whole-cloth.

You ended your comments with "I prefer to stay away from any methodology or system that has me or anyone else dispensing "truth." But without an objective authority of truth, your system does exactly what you are (rightly) attempting to avoid.

Matt F - let me rapid fire your (good) questions:

1) Evolution, etc. does not preclude caring but it does preclude having a set of established norms and therefore any "animal" can pick and choose morality as he/she sees fit. If they choose to violate your personhood (a religious notion) without your consent -- who (besides you)can say otherwise? And if they're "fitter," you're in a bad way.

2) The only reason I can think of to be consistently moral is religious devotion to God Who loves me and game me His Son. Yes atheists can be nice to each other, etc. But it will simply be because they choose an established set of behaviors. That set of behaviors is their ethical code. Biblical Christianity (as well as other faith systems) provides a code based on the will of God rather than the fickle will of the man/woman who is in charge at any given time.

3) If the Bible were incorrect in one point, that does not necessitate error in other areas but it does open the possibility of error in any area. And since over and over the Bible claims to be the word of God, that puts God in a position of being wrong.

Enjoyed it. Not a debater but I hope I've helped at least clarify.

matt said...

Jason - your analysis is laudable to be sure, and clearly something you have spent a lot of time thinking about. However, I'm sure you realize that by virtue of your own humanity, coupled with your clear position that humans are infallible (which of course, we are), that your own analysis could be equally as "incorrect" as the human writers of the scripture. Can you really be as sure as you seem?

Jason said...

Hi Matt,

Sorry for the long period of non-communication; I was out of town on a trip. But you are correct in your assessment--I could be completely wrong. My analysis could be way off base and completely non-constructive to being a follower of Jesus. But two other other points on Scriptural analysis: 1. My perspective leaves room for growth, new knowledge, revision of the theory, and expansion. It may not be entirely "correct," (whoever the dispenser of that label might be), but it leaves room for improvement. Because of that, it is (I believe) the best way that we have to look at the Scriptures. 2. A perspective such a Kent's leaves no room for growth or even the shadow of the possibility of being wrong--for to even question the Bible is then tantamount to questioning God--which means biblio-idolatry in my book. And as for growth, revision or expansion, Kent runs in to the same problem that Plato had with his "world of the forms" and the subsequent philosophical and theological models derived from Platonic thought. This problem has to do with the logical extremes of "perfection." If something is perfect, and then it changes, then is it perfect any longer? Plato said no, and that is why the world of the forms never changes. If the Bible itself is perfect, and the way that we receive or interpret it is directly linked to its divine status (remember, what a thing is directly affects how one interprets it), then to change it at all would be to acknowledge its imperfections--which would not be allowable in a literalist, mechanical, verbal, etc. etc. view of the Scriptures and the associated interpretation. I would prefer to err on the side that I in my analysis could be wrong than on the side of "the Bible is perfect and therefore someone could be completely right." I think that analysis rejects a substantial view of humanity's imperfections and sin.

Jason said...

Now on to Kent, Hi. I was out of town for a while, so sorry for the tardy response. I will try to be brief and do a bullet point format.

1. II Tim Scripture: Written by who? Maybe Paul? This book is contested as Pauline or Deutero-Pauline. Written to whom? Timothy, early Gentile Christian and associate of Paul's? When was it written? Best guesstimate was before 100 AD. Was there the NT then? No--some of Paul's works were circulating as well as a few gospels. What does the "all" then refer to? I don't know, and I would question whether early Gnostic gospels (such as the Gospel of Thomas) or other early writings (such as the Shepherd of Hermas) would be candidates to fit into that "all" category given the view of Scripture that you espouse. This Scripture is routinely used as a prooftext to prove the Bible's inerrant or infallible status. Does the verse itself state that? No, it simply says the scriptures (writings? The “word of God” is not mentioned here) are inspired (a word and idea we would both agree on to some extent) and useful for the Christian life.

2. Linguistic analysis of the Greek: Genitive case is non-unique to derive special significance about the divine nature of Scripture. The genitive was used in various ways and with different intents, including “she was a woman of the night” (genitive) and “this is the word of King Xerxes (genitive as well). It does not denote an explicitly divine nature of the “words” or “text” in and of themselves. To expand this analysis, the OT prophets said “the word of the Lord” or “thus says that Lord,” and if we are to wade in the waters of an intertextual/interpretive framework, the word written about there was a verbal proclamation, a “word act” that was spoken and not written until later. As for John 17, Jesus is referring to a “word,” but what should we think that means? Did Jesus himself write a gospel? No. What word did he bring to the disciples? The spoken word or a metaphorical word of his own life (as "logos," from John 1) and the Kingdom of God. If anything, this type of intertextual analysis about “word” refers to a spoken event or metaphorical reference. To claim that Jesus was speaking of a written word (e.g. our Bible) would be to isegetically read the Gospel of John.

3. You are correct that the Septuagint was available during the life of Jesus (It was translated in Alexandria in the 3 c. BCE), but to claim a translation of the Pentateuch as “canon” is to confuse what the purpose of canon is. The purpose of canon is to gather an authoritative set of writing to guide and direct a community of faith. The Hebrew “canon” (the Torah, Kethuvim, and Neviim) was not finalized until the Jewish Council of Jamnia after the death of Christ (and it was in Hebrew, not Greek). Jews pretty much accepted the Torah (Law) and most of what we new refer to as the prophets (Neviim), but they didn’t agree on a final canonized form that included the writings (Kethuvim) until about 75 CE. Just because a translation of something is available doesn’t make it THE established canon—especially since there are so many variations between the copies of the Greek Septuagint and the Hebrew or Latin copies that we can now study today. Any good Bible dictionary (Harper Collins, for instance) brings this up I’m sure. But this brings up other thorny issues—did Jesus speak Greek? Could he have even used the Septuagint? What did Jesus read in the temple in Luke 4—Greek or Aramaic? Most scholars believe that Jesus spoke Aramaic, and since his family was poor, he probably did not learn Greek. But all we have here are guesses on both sides. Also, the availability of the Septuagint doesn’t mean, again, that it was used as authoritative canon for early Christian communities as well. Additionally, that argument can be turned on its head because if the early church used the OT in Septuagint form as “canon” in an authoritative way, why was there a clamor to establish a “Christian” canon later on?

4. NT accepted “whole cloth:” uhm, no. Early church patriarchs like Irenaeus, the Clements, Justin, etc. all had different lists as to what should be included in the NT canon. Some included the Shepherd of Hermas, some excluded 2 and 3 John, some had Revelation and others rejected that book. To claim that there was only one list discussed and then voted on “whole cloth” once and at one time is simply historically inaccurate. Additionally, if we’re talking about the councils as authoritative bodies for the establishment of canon, they included the Apocrypha! Yet most Protestants reject the apocryphal books—do we really want to go down this road? I can’t see how you supporting the council’s rulings can help your case.

5. Your point about the number of available manuscripts is counter-intuitive to how textual analysis and examinations work. The more manuscripts we have, the more variety, errors, etc. that we tend to have to evaluate and study—a situation that we find with biblical manuscripts as well. To go back to the Septuagint, the different manuscripts we have of it have varying inclusions and exclusions of material, and a lot of the times, the length of the Greek translations are different from the Hebrew or Latin translations we have of the Torah (comparing Septuagint to the Dead Sea Scroll, e.g.). Are you telling me that this is the “canon” that Jesus used?

6. I don’t ever recall saying that in my view a single person dispenses revelation or truth—in fact, I’m pretty sure that I avoid that at all costs. And what’s more—I could be wrong. I humbly admit that I might be wrong in my understanding and use of the Scriptures because I know who I am—a human who is fallible. I would rather gather the believers together and pray for direction under the Holy Ghost in conjunction with critical textual study with the possibility of being wrong and allowing God to correct our views than to equate the Bible with God and not give ourselves the chance to be wrong.

With these matters being said, yes, we are miles apart. We can call each other names, we can criticize each other’s views and raised serious critical questions about each other’s beliefs—but in the end, in my perspective of the Bible, I have to admit the possibility that you may be right. I cannot, beyond a shadow of a doubt be completely sure that I am “correct” and you are “incorrect.” I have to admit that because I am a sinner, I am at an epistemic distance from God, and, as the first rule of theology states, I am not God. But your views, when logically concluded, give me absolutely no chance of being “correct.” I would always be argued with but never acknowledged as possibly having God to speak to me through my methodology of interpretation. At a fundamental level, I would have to say that is the biggest difference between these two ideas and interpretations of the Scriptures—I can include you in debate and after serious discussions, my views might be proven to be” wrong” or I might be persuaded to change them, but you can never show the same degree of inclusion to me because it would cause your views/interpretations to collapse upon themselves. I wish to include and your views can only exclude. I believe that is at the heart of our differences.