Saturday, June 8, 2013

Epistemologies Have Consequences

The last few weeks, Frank Turk has been re-posting an old series debunking the arrogant, ridiculous idea that old-timey people just had no concept of whether or not historical events actually happened. You know - they told these stories, and they were 'true' because they conveyed true ideas, regardless of whether they described actual events. Those simpletons just had no categories for stories meant to convey truth without having actually happened (words like parable, for instance). So we get these Bible stories that read like historical narratives, but of course they aren't, it's just because those ignoramuses had no idea concept of actual history vs myth. If you'd like to see a Pauline and Petrine sledgehammer wielded against this Ennsian jibba jabba, read here, here, here, and here. Enjoy!

It got me thinking back to a post I never got around to writing in about 2005, back when I was first introduced to Rob Bell and the Emerg*s. Remember this famous/controversial passage from Velvet Elvis?

What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?

But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word “virgin” in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word “virgin” could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?

What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?

Now if you remember, the typical conversation between a shocked Christian and a Bell fanboi went something like this.

Bellite: Rob Bell is awexome!!1!one!
Christian: Really? I heard he denied the virgin birth.
Bellite: No, he explicitly affirms it. He was just raising some questions. People r just h8ers.

And that would usually be that. Bell says he affirms it, so everything's OK, right? Not so fast. What he says here is every bit as bad as, if not worse than, outright denial. He's not saying it's untrue; he's saying it doesn't matter whether or not it is. It looks like a step further than Enns - not only do those ancient ignoramuses lack the concept of real history vs myth, to Bell it wouldn't make a difference if they did. True? False? Doesn't matter.

In fact, he's saying that this could be an outright lie intended to deceive pagan cultists, and it wouldn't matter a tiny bit. Think about that again: Rob Bell is claiming that lying Apostles could have made the whole thing up as a means of tricking cultists into "the way of Jesus", and it wouldn't have any effect on his faith. Actually, I kind of agree with him there - his 'faith' is such a mash of lies, deceptions, distortions, and jibba jabba, another lie here or there could hardly make a difference.

This is what made the kerfuffle over his "Love Wins" garbage so ridiculous. People seemed genuinely shocked that Bell was a universalist, as if he had been orthodox before that or something. Really? It was surprising that someone who bragged about his contempt for God's Word from day 1 would show contempt for particular doctrines contained within? Pro tip: if someone doesn't care whether the Bible is full of lies, he's probably not going to be the most faithful expositor.

Listen: when a guy's ministry consists of 'making people think' by asking innocent questions a la the serpent in Genesis 3, when he starts by ridiculing the truthfulness of God's Word and seeking to undermine the foundation of faith, when he is so openly contemptuous of Christianity and the very notion of truth itself, he's a wolf. Protect your flock from him, and move on.

Everything you needed to know that he was a rank heretic was right here (and a bunch of other places - he isn't shy about it!). Those who promoted him as if he were a Christian teacher, and those pastors who knowingly brought his vile teachings into their churches, will have a lot to answer for when the good shepherd demands an account.

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