Are we forgetting how to argue in our society? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Max Andrews at Sententias.org has written a post on the culture of memes that can be found here. Andrews is talking about these images on Facebook that have a little caption meant to make an argument. Now he’s not opposed to all of them, such as the cute little ones you might see on LoLcats or something of that sort, but he is opposed to ones that make an argument.
Now I don’t go as far as Andrews does. There are times I will create a meme to share with friends and such, but at the same time I can back an argument. I think a visual presentation can be powerful, but it should not be something done that is devoid of an argument.
In the sense of being devoid of argument, I oppose such memes just as I oppose soundbite sayings that have been passed around and on the internet, spread faster than internet viruses. The Christian community sadly has many of its own slogans and such that work to suspend a lack of thinking on our part. After all, we’re concerned with being holy and righteous. Of course, we should be, but part of that is loving God with our minds. You cannot further holiness in the Christian life by bypassing the life of the mind.
The atheist community is largely concerned with being rational, and would that the Christian community for the most part had the same concern. Unfortunately, there is a belief that any time someone believes in God or something outside of the world of science, then that person is being irrational. A theist could obviously be an intelligent person, but they just check their brains at the door when they start thinking about religion.
What is sadly missing is a desire to truly be informed.
Now to be sure, there is no way any one of us can be informed on everything and that is a mistake with many today who wish to be polymaths and think that they are an expert on everything. Consider science. I have made it a stance that I will not argue science as science. I do not have the necessary training. Do I have opinions? Sure. Yet there’s no way that I could really justify my opinions scientifically. I do hold that, for instance, the Earth goes around the sun, which is fairly uncontroversial today, but I could not begin to tell you how that would be scientifically established. Now I can discuss the history of scientific ideas and I find that fascinating, but not the subject matter itself.
And you know what? I’m cool with that. It’s not a problem. As a result, I simply don’t argue it. I don’t even really think it’s that fruitful to do so but if a fellow Christian disagrees, well let them and God bless them in their endeavors.
Mainly I have stuck to the existence of God, using the Thomistic arguments, and the resurrection of Jesus, which largely encompasses much of the reliability of Scripture. I have sought to inform myself on those areas and am still informing myself. None of us should ever stand up and say “I’m informed” and therefore stop studying. We are all to be students learning for the rest of our lives.
Yet what I see is a sad state of intense misinformation. For instance, yesterday I am arguing with someone over the definition of faith. I was told the definition was belief despite lack of knowledge.
You might think that that is what faith is, but the question is, when we find the word pistis, the word translated as faith, in ancient Greek literature, is that what they had in mind? There is a simple way to check this out. You go do the research.
What I advised this person to do was to go to their local university or seminary and get out some lexicons and be looking up the word and seeing what the definitions are. Get the definitions from the Greek scholars of the language. After all, the NT did not make up this word. (Yes. Some words are coined in the NT, but some are not) This was a word that was used commonly in the time. I had also referred to the Handbook of Biblical Social Values edited by Pilch and Malina.
These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.”
And yes, I referred to my own blog post on Hebrews 11 that can be found here.
The main reply I got back was bias. Now I will not dispute that I have a bias. Everyone of us involved in this debate has a bias. The way we check our bias is by looking at the opinions of leading scholars, including those who disagree with us. A Christian wanting to debate the NT should be reading Ehrman, Crossan, Ludemann, Borg, etc. An atheist wanting to debate it should be reading Wright, Licona, Keener, Evans, etc.
The fact that there are people who are treating it as a serious claim to say that Jesus never even existed shows how far this ignorance has spread. Scholars of ancient history do not take such a claim seriously. Such people who claim such will not find teaching positions at academic institutes. For most NT scholars, it is lucky if it gets even a footnote in a work. Yet on the internet, resurrection is certainly a reality as dead arguments rise again with a new life in them.
The solution to this problem is better informed debates and realizing that you are not an authority simply on the basis of having an opinion. To be an authority, one must be doing the necessary reading and study. You are entitled to have an opinion. You are not entitled to be taken seriously if that opinion has not been rooted in serious study. My opinion that the Earth goes around the sun would be said by scientists today to be accurate, but don’t take it seriously because I said it! I’m not the authority! Take it seriously because of the evidence and because of reading the scholars in the field.
Those who want to go on arguing out of ignorance can go on and keep embarrassing not only themselves, but their cause as well, which sadly happens too often in the Christian church as well. The arguing from ignorance is why I don’t even bother replying to all comments on this blog. If I see no serious interaction with the subject matter, expect me to pass on by. My time is better spent elsewhere.
Inform yourselves everyone, including me. If we are truly seekers of truth, we should have no problem. We should welcome it.