Friday, July 24, 2009

Bishops answer questions from atheists

Bishop Alan Wilson answers questions from atheists.

CARR
Why did this Good Shepherd allow 250,000 of his sheep to be killed by a tsunami on 26/12/2004?

THE RIGHT REVEREND ALAN WILSON
Steven, dear bloke, you're just trolling. One reason your railing doesn't change anything much is that very few, if any, of the people whose religion you sneer at out of ignorance actually believes anyway in the kind of aunt sally deities you reject.

The problem of pain is very important. But your theory that natural disasters are caused personally by Jesus, or even that anyone would ever think that, is bizarre.


------------------------------------------------------
All I can say is that this answer is pathetic. Who would have thought that somebody who managed to become not just reverend, but 'right reverend' would be so offended by a question that he must surely have asked himself many , many times?

31 Comments:

Blogger Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Steven, I wasn't the faintest offended. Like every human being I have reflected in various ways, and to various ends on evil and suffering; What I found bizarre, and superficial in your question was the suggestion that natural diasasters are somehow personally caused by Jesus.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

I have no idea what you are talking about.

Here is my question 'Why did this Good Shepherd allow 250,000 of his sheep to be killed by a tsunami on 26/12/2004?'

Where does this suggest that natural disasters are somehow personally caused by Jesus?

You must be confusing me with the Prophet Isaiah, who wrote
'I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.'

Religion answers the questions science cannot.

And the answer is usually 'You are a troll for asking such questions....'

12:08 AM  
Blogger Hjalti said...

Is that man really a bishop in the CoE?

If you say "Person X allowed Y to happen" are you suggesting that person X personally caused Y?

4:02 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

If Person X stood by and watched Y happen, then person X did not personally cause Y to happen...

4:31 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

It seems to me that Bishop Wilson's response is a tangent. Whether God "allowed" or "caused" the disaster, the question remains.

Luke 13: 1-5 is instructive on Jesus's attitude to natural disaster.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Jesus attitude is that people who die in natural disasters are not worse sinners than those who have not yet perished.

They are all just as morally depraved as each other - both those killed by 'Acts of God' and those that have not been killed by natural disaster.

And that the people who have not yet perished should repent, or else they will also perish.

7:05 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

I would question your terminology, but your first two paragraphs are basically correct. I am not sure what you mean by "perish" in the third paragraph.

Jesus's point is that everyone needs to repent. So when someone dies, take it as a spur to repent, lest you die without repenting.

The point being: death comes to everyone. Concentrate less on the death itself and the circumstances - and more on the implications for you.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

The passage in Luke means that if people don't repent, they will perish in the same way as the people who were killed in a disaster.

One thing is certain about the passage. There is not a trace of warmth, pity or compassion for the people who died in the disaster. All there is a condemnation of them as being as sinful as other people, who should repent or they will perish the same way.

Jesus was not one to go in for crocodile tears, feigning compassion that he did not feel for people who were struck by tragedy.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Bishop Alan Wilson , in a startling show of ignorance, is now claiming that he cannot find any commentary which says that 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 is an interpolation.


These are some of the scholars who have pronounced 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 an interpolation:
- Birger A. Pearson: "1 Thessalonians 2:13-16: A Deutero-Pauline Interpolation," Harvard Theological Review 64 (1971) p.79-94
- Burton Mack: Who Wrote the New Testament? p.113
- Wayne Meeks: The First Urban Christians, p.9, n.117
- Helmut Koester: Introduction to the New Testament, vol. II, p.113
- Pheme Perkins: Harper's Bible Commentary, p.1230, 1231-2
- S. G. F. Brandon: The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church, p.92-93
- Paula Fredriksen: From Jesus to Christ, p.122

I wonder if he will post these references in his blog, in response to his claim that they do not exist.

3:01 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

"The passage in Luke means that if people don't repent, they will perish in the same way as the people who were killed in a disaster."

No. You are deliberately applying an over-literal hermeneutic. The gospels themselves record other deaths under other circumstances: it is clear that Jesus is using perish in a wider sense.

The context (see also the following section about the tree) makes it clear that Jesus is making a wider point about coming judgement. Death, whatever the circumstances, is an expression of God's judgement; the only way to escape eternal condemnation is repentance. (Jesus uses the word "perish" in a similar way in John 3:16).

As for your point about compassion: he is responding to people who clearly felt no compassion! He tells them they are wrong to think that the victims were somehow worse than them. Aside from that, I am interested that you are willing to extrapolate so much about Jesus's psychology when you castigate Bauckham et al for doing exactly the same in their analyses.

5:08 AM  
Blogger Bishop Alan Wilson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:18 AM  
Blogger Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Steven did not give his references last year, and I'm grateful to him for doing so now. I spent an hour looking down a shelf of commentaries on the book in the Bodleian, and what is plain is the extent to which his suggestion about these verses is a long way the mainstream of interpretation.

Brandon's theory from 1948 (Marcionite authoriship) has not been taken up much since in the thousands of sources on I Thessalonians. Brandon was an interesting scholar, and his theory about the Jerusalem temple, even though it again hasn't really been taken up in its entirety much, was a really useful critical tool in the 50's and 60's, even if rather eclipsed by an immense amount of work on jewish Christianity in the 70's, 80's and 90's.

I have, of course, published Steven's comment. As to discussions above, of course I acknowledge the difference between allowing things and causing things.

I think this discussion is probably really about hermeneutics, where Steven has the tendency to use a wooden literalistic hermeneutic to extract a soundbite which he then inserts into an argument about spmething else which could be conducted at far greater depth, but never is.

It's not exactly trolling, but it doesn't establish anything about religion except that Steven hates it and enjoys sneering at it in any way possible, whilst not understanding it in anything but his own terms.

5:23 AM  
Blogger Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I am interested in why when Brandon's suggestion didn't get further when given another canter round the paddock by Pearson in 1971, and hasnt been taken up more since. Back in 1948 NT documents were still being given very late dates — that was inherent in Brandon's whole thesis about AD70 — which have crumbled under 60 years of historical/critical analysis.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

PCRAIG
The gospels themselves record other deaths under other circumstances: it is clear that Jesus is using perish in a wider sense.

CARR
No, it is not clear.

Especially when you produce zero in the way of arguments for your position.

It is a plain fact that there is not one word of sympathy, compasssion or human feeling in Luke 13:1-5.

All there is is a condemnation of everybody as being a sinner.

This is plain to see in the text,unlike Bauckham's fantasy that the brothers of Jesus would never have referred to themselves as the brothers of Jesus.



My immediate reaction to hearing of people killed by 'Acts of God' is not to say that Pcraig is just as sinful as the people struck by tragedy....

Bishop Alan still produces no evidence that Paul thought of the Jews as people who 'displease God and are hostile to all men',and people on whom God's wrath had fallen.

It is the Christian attitude to condemn people, but Paul thought of the Jews as people God wanted to save, not as as people God had condemned.

6:13 AM  
Blogger Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Paul did not think of all jews in the way you say he did. You might as well say that when he says circumcisers should go off and circumcise themselves this is a policy statement about making mohels redundant. He plainly agonises over his Jewishness and the relationship of the call of God to the reality of Jews who do not respond to his gospel.

In Paul's developed thought God's wrath has fallen on everyone, Jew and Gentile. It doesn't mean what you seem to think it does, and certainly not int he way you assume.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

So if in Paul's thought, God's wrath had fallen on everyone, this makes it less likely that it was Paul who wrote a passage singling out Jews as the people whose wrath God had fallen on.

BISHOP ALAN
Paul did not think of all jews in the way you say he did...

CARR
Correct. So why did 'Paul' write about 'the Jews', rather than just 'some of the Jews'?

'For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved.'


Why would 'Paul' not have known that it was the Romans who had crucified Jesus?

Paul does agonise over Jews.

He says in Romans 10 that they can't be expected to believe because they have never heard of Jesus, apart from Christian preachers sent to preach about Jesus.

Paul makes a good point. How can the Jews be saved when they had never heard of Jesus, apart from the Christians sent to preach about Jesus?

6:28 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

"No, it is not clear. Especially when you produce zero in the way of arguments for your position."--The context is the argument. As the bishop agrees, you are applying an over-literal hermeneutic, ignoring all context. If a doctor says to you "Keep smoking and you will die," what does he mean? That you won't die if you don't smoke? Obviously not. He is emphasising a particular point about smoking, which you understand from the context. Jesus is making a particular point about how everyone is sinful, and what the implications are, which is also clear from the context.

"It is a plain fact that there is not one word of sympathy, compasssion or human feeling in Luke 13:1-5." - Well, it's an absurd step to go from that to saying that Jesus "did not feel [compassion] for people who were struck by tragedy". That's why I'm accusing you of jumping to a psychological conclusion like you condemn in Bauckham.

Similarly: "My immediate reaction to hearing of people killed by 'Acts of God' is not to say that Pcraig is just as sinful as the people struck by tragedy"--which (along with the earlier comment) reveals how blind you are to the context, let alone the literary form here. Do you think this is all Jesus had to say when people came to speak to him? Or that he did not have anything else to say on the matter?

Luke is recording what Jesus said because it was noteworthy. There is no claim that it is comprehensive.

6:29 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

PCRAIG
If a doctor says to you "Keep smoking and you will die," what does he mean? That you won't die if you don't smoke? Obviously not. He is emphasising a particular point about smoking, which you understand from the context. Jesus is making a particular point about how everyone is sinful, and what the implications are, which is also clear from the context.

CARR
I see. I am sorry that I was slow in understanding your point.

The doctor points out smokers who died a smoker's death and says that if I smoke I will die a smoker's death.

So Jesus points out the way sinners died in a catastrophe and says that people should repent and not be sinners, because if they do not repent they will die a sinner's death.

The implications of being a sinner are 'clear from the context', Jesus having just pointed out how some sinners had died , to establish the context of why people should repent.

I imagine it would be noteworthy if Jesus had shown some compassion for people killed in a tragedy, rather than using innocent victims of Pilate's brutality as a way to emphasise how we are all sinners....

6:36 AM  
Blogger Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Steven, you're in very interesting territory about Paul's Judaism. The exact meaning of the term "The Jews" in many NT books is highly subtle, sometimes shifting within books as well as among them. It can mean a specific group of Jews, or the whole people, or a faction among them, or even persecutors from one direction rather than another, according to context. It seems certain that St Paul, as a Jew, felt *both* strong attachment to his Jewish heritage and a painful awareness of what he came to see as its limitations, *both* a passionate rejection of those he saw as obstructing his gospel and a passioate attachment to Israel as a covenant community.

6:52 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

That clears things up a bit, but I still think you are wrong to think that Jesus is saying "repent, or you also will die in an accident/tragedy like that".

I can only offer the common-sense point: that Jesus can't have meant that because it's clearly not true (from evidence within and without the gospels). The following parable in Luke 13 about the tree, which clearly links repentance to judgement, supports the conclusion that he is pointing to wider/future judgement. That is clearly the connection that Luke expects us to make.

"I imagine it would be noteworthy if Jesus had shown some compassion for people killed in a tragedy, rather than using innocent victims of Pilate's brutality as a way to emphasise how we are all sinners...."--Well, but Jesus is reacting rhetorically to the people who came to talk to him. So his comment was in reaction to their opinion, making it noteworthy...it was a reaction against the consensus.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

A reaction against the consensus?

I imagine a consensus of people had sympathy for innocent victims of disaster.

Although some of the religious people would have regarded them as sinners. (Religious people often point out the sins of people killed hy accidents, if I read Luke 13 correctly)

Still, there is no hint by Jesus that there is a Good Shepherd looking after his flock the way that Christians look after their money, taking care that it is not destroyed or lost in an accident.

Why did the Good Shephers allow that tower to collapse?

6:57 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

You have understood what Jesus was reacting against: the idea that some people are more "deserving" of such a death than others. His answer is no. He uses it to illustrate the principle that we are all deserving of judgement - so repent. That is consistent with Biblical doctrine.

"Why did the Good Shephers allow that tower to collapse?" - I don't know, except that it's nothing to do with those people being more sinful/deserving than anyone else.

I think we have run the course on your point about Jesus's compassion. You are reaching conclusions based on a very short passage. Absence of evidence, in this case, is no evidence of absence. The whole point of those verses is merely to record one point of Jesus's teaching, nothing more.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

PCRAIG
Luke 13: 1-5 is instructive on Jesus's attitude to natural disaster.

CARR
I confess to not finding these instructions.

Is Jesus's attitude to natural disaster that it is a wake up call for us to repent?

Or that people who die in natural disasters are not any worse sinners than people who die in bed?

7:18 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

PCRAIG
You have understood what Jesus was reacting against: the idea that some people are more "deserving" of such a death than others

CARR
So the people who died in what NT Wright would call a 'violent revolt' did not deserve their treatment at the hands of Pilate?

7:22 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

I find it hard to believe that Pilate had those Galileans killed, and then Jews thought those victims of Roman brutality were more 'deserving' of such a death than others.

7:30 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

"Is Jesus's attitude to natural disaster that it is a wake up call for us to repent?/Or that people who die in natural disasters are not any worse sinners than people who die in bed?" - I would phrase the second point differently, but basically, both. They are related.

"So the people who died in what NT Wright would call a 'violent revolt' did not deserve their treatment at the hands of Pilate?" - I don't know what they did. But the point remains that they did not die in such a way because they were "more sinful".

7:31 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

"I find it hard to believe that Pilate had those Galileans killed, and then Jews thought those victims of Roman brutality were more 'deserving' of such a death than others." - Well. Some obviously did. Jesus obviously thought their attitude needed correcting as well!

7:34 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

So Jesus point is not that there is a Good Shepherd who looks after his flock.

His point is that people are going to be killed in natural disasters and there is no record of him showing the slightest bit of compassion.

Even if they are killed by brutal Roman govenors when worshipping in the Temple.

Just as there is no record of any Good Shepherd.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

PCRAIG
Well. Some obviously did. Jesus obviously thought their attitude needed correcting as well!

CARR
I see.

So a brutal Roman occupying authority kills Galillean Jews worshipping in the Temple,and the Jewish populace thinks those people deserved it?


This is nonsense.

And Jesus doesn't even think of condemning the brutality of the action, choosing instead to say that other Jews are as sinful as the people killed when worshipping in the Temple?

7:38 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

I am a bit embarrassed to even be having such a silly discussion. But I have committed now, so here goes:

"So Jesus point is not that there is a Good Shepherd who looks after his flock. His point is that people are going to be killed in natural disasters and there is no record of him showing the slightest bit of compassion."

Neither. First: no-one says that Christians will be safe from suffering in this life. In fact, Jesus's own example and teaching suggests the opposite (take up your cross/deny yourself/etc).

And of course there is a record of Jesus's compassion for others. "Jesus wept..."

"So a brutal Roman occupying authority kills Galillean Jews worshipping in the Temple,and the Jewish populace thinks those people deserved it?"

What do you mean, the "Jewish populace"? Jesus was speaking to some people about it, and he responded to that particular point. Just like you argue with bishops about theological points.

Your over-literal hermeneutic is leading you to false conclusions, which you use in turn to build up further conclusions which are also false.

7:59 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

"And Jesus doesn't even think of condemning the brutality of the action, choosing instead to say that other Jews are as sinful as the people killed when worshipping in the Temple?" - I am sure he did. But Luke chose to record another part of the conversation.

8:03 AM  

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