Wednesday, October 23, 2019

"Sorry Guys, It's Still Immoral" - A Response To CMI (part 7)

This blog post is part 7 in a series responding to the Creation Ministries International article, "Is The Bible Immoral?", where I take a rational look at the claims made by one of the more prominent Christian apologetics organisations in its defence that the Bible is not an immoral book.

Previous posts here:

The next section of "
Is The Bible An Immoral Book?" is headed "Cruelty To Animals And Trees
?"

(Note: CMI have a plethora of articles available to peruse over at https://creation.com/qa, including some which may already answer points I have made in this series. Head on over, have a read, compare both sides of the argument!)

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The narrator waxes eloquent about God’s murder of millions of animals in the global flood of Noah’s day—despite the fact that he believes in neither God nor a global flood.
(Emphasis added from original) 

I love it when Christians respond to criticism of God with this kind of apologetic - it means they have no argument left, because if there was still a coherent argument to be made for God's existence (let alone for his morality being superior), it wouldn't rely on "You don't believe in God anyway!".

My favourite response to this kind apologetic is to remind Christians that you don't need to believe in Batman to know that The Joker is the bad guy of the story.

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To have any ground for moral outrage, he would need to be a vegetarian, and express similar horror at anyone eating a hamburger.

Indeed, some people are vegans on ethical grounds.

But when we're talking about the divinely ordained drowning murder of millions of people, to bring up the above point is once again a distraction from the point at hand. Rather than make the positive case for why killing millions of people is (somehow) moral, the author responds with a tu quoque.

Remember, the argument is about morality, and the goal of morality is to maximise human wellbeing and minimise human suffering - anything on top of that is personal ethics.


But even if you did want to take the author's point to ridiculous extremes, we should then be outraged whenever someone kills a cockroach, a bacteria, or even eats a piece of fruit - because these are all life forms, and all life was created by God, no?

No-one thinks twice about killing a cockroach to ensure the plates their children are eating from are healthy.
Anti-bacterial handwash is a requirement in medical facilities.
And to consume fruit, you have to cut it off from its life source, tear it apart and then soak the pieces inside a biological bucket of acid.

So let's be reasonable and agree to the fact that comparing the necesity of eating of food or killing germs to sustain life, to compare that with the drowning of every single infant in the world in a divine dummy spit is not a way to make your argument reasonable.

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Perhaps even more ridiculous is his condemnation of Jesus for cursing the fig tree because it didn’t have fruit—especially since it wasn’t the season for fruit. But this simply shows gross ignorance of the Bible, and of fig trees, for that matter. 
It is extremely unusual for a fig tree to have leaves but no fruit—Jesus wasn’t expecting to find mature fruit, but the tree should have had immature fruit that was nonetheless edible...
...Jesus’ curse of the fig tree serves as a caution to people who give indication that they should have spiritual fruit—professing Christians—but have none. 

I'm not going to get in to debate about botanical science, so I'll let Cosner's point about the nature of fig trees stand.
But when it comes to theology, I believe it is actually Cosner who is ignorant of the Bible.

Allow me to give an impromptu Bible study:

1. The two passages in the gospels that we get story of Jesus withering the fig tree from are Mark 11:12-25 and Matthew 21:18-21. (For some reason, neither Luke nor John saw fit to include a narrative of Jesus magically killing a plant during the last week of his life in their gospels, despite Luke explicitly stating that he was trying to bring the most accurate account).

Both of these passages explicitly mention that Jesus was hungry - so we need to think, how is it possible that the son of God, the agent of creation, the one who was there with God at the beginning of time, firstly gets himself in a position where he's hungry, second, act all surprised when he comes across a tree he should (fore)know won't have fruit, and third, behaves like this when he apparently created the cycle of the earthly seasons that dictate when fig trees grow fruit.

This whole episode makes Jesus as violent and unpredictable as his dad - instead of helping the tree to magically grow fruit (and satiate his hunger), Jesus takes a leaf (pun intended) out of his dad's book and decides death and decay to make a point are better outcomes.

Jesus was a dick to foreign women, and now he's a dick to plants.

2. When we compare the two gospel passages of Jesus withering the fig tree, we see a clear contradiction.

In Mark, Jesus first speaks to the fig tree in earshot of the disciples, they all then go and turn over the temple, leave in the evening, and the text explicitly says that in the morning (implying the next day) the disciples notice the fig tree has been withered after they have left the temple with Peter explicitly saying to Jesus, "that fig tree you cursed has withered".

But in Matthew, it says that fig tree withered immediately - no delay and no trip to the temple in between.

In what reality and in what theology do immediately and overnight both mean the same thing?

3. Cosner is wrong when she says that the story of the fig tree is a warning to Christians. 

In Jesus' time, there were no Christians - everyone who wanted to follow scripture had to be a Jew. This is a basic fact of history.

Which means the only way Cosner could be correct is to admit that the gospels were written with a theological slant - which means not dispassionately recording history - and that the gospels were written at least one, if not two or more generations after the time of Christ - when there were Christians to warn about not producing fruit.

It's like when Jesus says to Peter, "on this rock I will build my church!". Instead of saying "Yes, Lord", Peter should have immediately replied back to Jesus, "Jesus, what is a church?".

4. The truth of the matter is that Mark originally wrote the story of the fig tree not as a warning to Christians, but as a parable about the destruction of the Jewish temple.
This is not an unreasonable conclusion because first, the weight of both the scholarship and the actual evidence indicates Mark's gospel was the first written, and second, Mark frequently employs a writing style called inclusio where he writes one story in between the start and end of another story - he starts with the first half of story a, switches to story b, then goes back to finish story a.

So we see in this example of inclusio that Mark starts the passage with Jesus being hungry and cursing the fig tree. The story then has Jesus going in to the temple to clear it out. Once Jesus finishes with the temple, he goes back out and sees that the fig tree has been withered.

Start of a - move to b - finish a. Classic inclusio.

The whole passage is an interpretation of the destruction of the Jewish temple and a commentary on the corruption of the temple cult. Because far from being monolithic, first-century Judaism was a vast collection of beliefs and opinions, including the belief that the Romans were occupying Israel because the Jewish religious leadership was corrupt and that the temple rites had failed to please God.

We then know that in 70AD, the temple was destroyed by Vespasian during the First Roman-Jewish War - one of the key indicators that Mark was written after 70AD.

So Jesus curses the fig tree (the pronouncement of judgement on the Jewish elite), he next overturns the temple (symbolic of the defeat and destruction of the Jewish elite), and then pronounces that the fig tree is dead, indicating the end of the ability of the Jewish rites to bring about any change or good, thus ushering in a new faith system that doesn't require temples, markets or sacrifices - and Jesus knows just the bloke who can help with that...


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If the narrator has anything made of wood or paper in his house, he has grounds for outrage, because multiple trees have then died for his comfort. If it is acceptable for a tree to be killed to make a desk or a chair for him to use, then surely it is permissible for Jesus to curse a tree as part of an object lesson.

Again, the problem is there because CMI have not given us the link to the original video, it really comes across as CMI attacking a straw-man.

But I will leave my response to this: Sure, Jesus can curse a fig tree to make a point (even though I don't think he actually did) - but wouldn't it have been better to cause the fig tree to grow and make a positive case, rather than kill it perniciously and make a negative case?

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But once again, absurdities from evolutionists know no bounds: some have even called for plant rights.

But once again, fallacious and factually-incorrect absurdities from Creationists know no bounds.

CMI have engaged an association fallacy to attack evolutionists (yet again), which both nullifies any argument they make, as well as make it seem like anyone who believes in evolution is immoral/amoral. I'm sure Billy Graham and Dr. Francis Collins would love to be told their morality is flawed because of their acceptance of the findings of biological science.

To be clear, and to anyone who hasn't swallowed the Fundamentalist rhetoric - there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the theory of evolution that dictates who or what has or doesn't have rights. The theory of evolution by natural selection is, and only is, a theory explaining the diversity of life on planet earth. Nothing more. 
There are no morals prescribed with the theory of evolution, no behaviours prescribed, no indoctrination classes or re-education camps you have to attend.

But the delicious irony of this is two things:

1. While I can't read German fluently, I think the URL CMI have given is broken. So only when CMI can attack evolution do they bother giving an external URL (but in this case, they forgot to check if the link still works).

2. In America, there are Christian politicians who want to bring in a Biblical theocracy, including mandating the death penalty for anyone not living biblically.

I'm afraid to ask CMI what is more dangerous: someone saying plants have rights, or legally mandating death for someone who works on Sundays?

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To sum it up, ending the life of a plant or animal for the reasonable sustainment of life isn't a bad thing - animals eat plants and animals eat other animals all the time - and I would argue that a cow being slaughtered under ethical guidelines is a lot more humane than a lion tearing apart a live gazelle with its teeth.

But killing humans in a fit of rage is a bad thing.

And when people can understand that contrast, then we can have a rational and healthy conversation regarding morality.

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Until next time, stay healthy.

-Damien (quiterationaldad@gmail.com)

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