Is the Bible Clear on How Someone Can Be “Saved”?

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 20, 2010 in Bible,Christian Theology

Below is another post by Common Sense Atheism guest blogger Ken Pulliam of Former Fundy. Benefiting from his Ph.D. in Christian theology, Ken will discuss the coherence and plausibility of specific Christian doctrines.

One of the factors in my de-conversion from Evangelical Christianity was my realization that the Bible does not read as one would expect a divine revelation to read.

First, it simply reflects the ideas and beliefs of the time and culture in which it was written. It would seem that if it were a divine revelation, it would present ideas that would transcend those of its times. For example, why doesn’t it condemn slavery? Why does it attribute mental illness or epilepsy as demon possession?

Second, it contains much information and detail that seems to be unimportant and unworthy of a divine being. For example, the detailed genealogies in 1 Chronicles (9 chapters) and the gathering of 100 Philistine foreskins by David (1 Sam. 18:25-27).

Third, it is ambiguous on important matters such as how one is to be “saved” or redeemed to God. In an interview that I did with Luke on his podcast, I said:

If the Bible is really a revelation from God and if God really loves man and really wants to reconcile man to himself, would he not have made it much clearer how someone is to be saved? I know that if my children were separated from me and I had the opportunity to write them a letter to tell them how to get back to me, I certainly wouldn’t do it in parables and language that’s ambiguous enough that it can be interpreted a thousand different ways. I would do my best to make it crystal clear how they could find me .. and if I would do that as a finite human being, certainly God being infinite and being omniscient could find a way to do that. So as I looked at the Bible, as I read it, as I studied it I just came to the conclusion that it cannot be from a divine being.

Most Evangelical Christians will maintain that the Bible is clear on how to be saved. For example, Kevin Bauder, the President of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, writes:

In other words, the aspect of Scripture that can be understood by anyone is its saving message. Any truth that is essential to salvation is clearly and comprehensibly revealed “in some place of Scripture or other.” Anyone can learn the way of Salvation by reading the Bible. It is no small matter that the way of salvation has been revealed in language that any person can understand. We do not have to rely upon sophisticated intellectual tools. We do not have to rely upon specially-endued ecclesiastical spokesmen. If we can read the Bible in our hands, then we can know how to be saved.1

Bauder is espousing one of the main tenets of the Reformation–the perspicuity of Scripture. The Reformers argued that one could understand the major teachings of the Bible without any help from the Roman Church. The RCC, on the other hand, maintained, that they, and only they, could properly interpret the Scriptures. One Roman leader is reported to have said that if we allow each person to interpret the Bible for himself there will be total confusion and an unlimited number of sects. That is precisely what has happened.

The fact is that Evangelicals cannot even agree among themselves as to what the Bible requires for salvation. They unanimously maintain that faith is required but they disagree on the meaning of faith, the exclusivity of faith, the origin of faith, and the object of faith.

The Meaning of Faith: What Exactly is Involved in Saving Faith?

Those who believe the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God cannot agree among themselves as to what exactly is involved in having saving faith. For some, faith is simply intellectual assent. For example, on the website of the Grace Evangelical Society, one reads:

Faith is the conviction that something is true. To believe in Jesus (“he who believes in Me has everlasting life”) is to be convinced that He guarantees everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it (John 4:14; 5:24; 6:47; 11:26; 1 Tim 1:16).

No act of obedience, preceding or following faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, such as commitment to obey, sorrow for sin, turning from one’s sin, baptism or submission to the Lordship of Christ, may be added to, or considered part of, faith as a condition for receiving everlasting life (Rom 4:5; Gal 2:16; Titus 3:5). This saving transaction between God and the sinner is simply the giving and receiving of a free gift (Eph 2:8-9; John 4:10 ; Rev 22:17).

For others, such as John MacArthur, John Piper, and J. I. Packer, saving faith is much more than simply intellectual assent. It is that plus submission to the Lordship of Christ? In his very popular book, The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? , MacArthur argues that obedience

  • is included in the “definition of faith, being a constitutive element in what it means to believe” (p. 171).
  • is “an integral part of saving faith” (p. 174).
  • is “synonymous with faith” (p. 174)
  • is “indivisibly wrapped up in the idea of believing” (p. 176).

This is no minor controversy as it involves precisely what is required in order to be saved. It has evoked a number of books in which evangelicals debate one another on the nature of saving faith.2 The various positions are diametrically opposed to one another and cannot be harmonized.

The Exclusivity of Faith: Is Faith Alone Sufficient for Salvation?

While evangelicals such as John MacArthur and the Grace Evangelical Society disagree on what constitutes saving faith, they do agree that faith alone is the single requirement for salvation. Others who also believe the Bible to be inspired and inerrant, though, disagree. They would insist that water baptism is also required. Those evangelicals who trace their lineage to Alexander Campbell (including the churches of Christ, the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Evangelical Christian Church in Canada, and the Christian Church [Disciples of Christ]) believe that faith plus baptism is necessary for salvation. Campbell, a former Baptist, became convinced that the Bible demanded baptism in order to receive forgiveness of sins. He maintained that he was following the clear teaching of Scripture. Campbell’s maxim was: “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent.”

On the churches of Christ website, one reads that through baptism:

  • You are saved from sins (Mark 16:16 1 Peter 3:21)
  • You have remission of sins (Acts 2:38)
  • Sins are washed away by the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16; Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21)
  • You enter into the church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Acts 2:41,47)
  • You enter into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:3-4)
  • You put on Christ and become a child of God (Galatians 3:26-27)
  • You are born again, a new creature (Romans 6:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • You walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-6)
  • You obey Christ (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:48; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)

Other evangelical groups also insist that baptism is an important element for salvation, although they would disagree with Campbell that it follows faith (and must be by immersion). For example, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, holds that baptism precedes faith and somehow produces faith. On their website, they state:

Baptism, we believe, is one of the miraculous means of grace (together with God’s written and spoken Word) through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person’s heart (see Matt. 28:18-20; Act. 2:38; John 3:5-7; Act. 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5-6; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:13).

Although we do not claim to understand how this happens or how it is possible, we believe (because of what the Bible says about baptism) that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant. This faith cannot yet, of course, be expressed or articulated, yet it is real and present all the same (see e.g., 1 Peter 2:21; Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5-6; Matt. 18:6; Luke 1:15; 2 Tim. 3:15; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:13). This faith needs to be fed and nurtured by God’s Word (Matt. 28:18-20), or it will die.

Evangelical Anglicans also hold that baptism regenerates.  ((See Article XXVII in the Thirty Nine Articles (1563) and “The Public Baptism of Infants,” in the Book of Common Prayer (1662).)) The vast majority of evangelicals, however, disagree; but, yet all claim to be following the “clear” teaching of the Bible.

The Origin of Faith: How is Faith Generated?

Bible-believing evangelicals also cannot agree on how man acquires faith. Calvinists say that faith is a gift from God. According to them,  ”Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation – it is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God” (see here). While Arminians say that faith originates in man. According to them, “The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or resist God’s grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit’s assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth” (see here).

So, some Christians read the Bible and conclude that God determines who is saved and implants faith in those people and other Christians read it and conclude that any man can choose to have faith. This is a crucial matter but yet Christians reading the same Bible come to different conclusions.

The Object of Faith: In Whom Must One Have Faith?

Most evangelicals would hold that one must have faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. However, there is a growing movement among evangelicals who maintain that one can be saved without ever having heard of Jesus. For example, the evangelical John Sanders writes:

Saving faith … does not necessitate knowledge of Christ in this life. God’s gracious activity is wider that the arena of special revelation. God will accept into his kingdom those who repent and trust him even if they know nothing of Jesus (“Is Belief in Christ Necessary for Salvation?” The Evangelical Quarterly 60.3 (July-Sept. 1988): 252-53).

Similarly evangelical theologian Clark Pinnock states:

Faith in God is what saves, not possessing certain minimum information… A person is saved by faith, even if the content of faith is deficient (and whose is not?). The Bible does not teach that one must confess the name of Jesus to be saved … The issue that God cares about is the direction of the heart, not the content of theology.3

In other words, these evangelicals hold that as long as one has faith in accordance with how much revelation one has of God, that is sufficient for salvation. Other evangelicals violently disagree. They insist that one must have faith specifically in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.  ((See D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (1996) and John Piper, Jesus: The Only Way to God: Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved? (2010). For a debate among evangelicals on this subject, see John Sanders, Ronald Nash, and Gabriel Fackre, What About Those Who Have Never Heard?: Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized (1995).)) But then this group of evangelicals disagree among themselves on precisely what one must believe about Jesus in order to be saved. Must one believe that Jesus is a member of the Trinity, co-equal with the Father and the Spirit or is it adequate to believe that Jesus is the Son of God without being more specific? The debate goes on.

So, what must one do to be saved? It depends on which bible-believing evangelical you ask. Even though they all agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, they cannot agree on what it says. As I stated at the beginning, it seems to me that if the Bible were really a divine revelation, it would be clear and unambiguous throughout but at the very least it would be plain on how one is to be saved.

- Ken Pulliam

  1. Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 8“ []
  2. After MacArthur published his Gospel According to Jesus in 1988, Zane Hodges, a longtime professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote two books opposing his position: Absolutely Free: A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation (1989) and The Gospel Under Siege: Faith & Works in Tension (1992). Charles Ryrie, another professor at Dallas Seminary, tried to take a middle of the road position in his book, So Great Salvation: What It Means to Believe in Jesus Christ (1989) disagreeing with both Hodges and MacArthur. []
  3. A Wideness in God’s Mercy: The Finality of Jesus Christ in a World of Religions [1992], p. 158. []

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Wes Widner September 20, 2010 at 4:23 am

“So, what must one do to be saved? It depends on which bible-believing evangelical you ask. Even though they all agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, they cannot agree on what it says.”

This is a clear example of the genetic fallacy. Even if it were true that all Christians were confused in regards to soteriology, it would not logically follow there there were no clear coherent and rational answer to the question regarding faith.

“As I stated at the beginning, it seems to me that if the Bible were really a divine revelation, it would be clear and unambiguous throughout but at the very least it would be plain on how one is to be saved.”

You seem to be assuming that 1. God is obligated to provide a certain amount of revelation and 2. that God has not provided sufficient revelation on which to form epestemically warranted beliefs. I would argue that both of your premises are not only false, but that showing how Christians disagree on the matter is, as I stated above, a logical fallacy.

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Ken Pulliam September 20, 2010 at 5:01 am

Wes,

How is this a case of the “genetic fallacy”? My understanding of the genetic fallacy is that one discredits one’s argument based on the source of the argument. I am not discrediting the Bible based on the source of the Bible; I am saying that the Bible is not clear enough on how to be saved in order for those who claim to believe it to be able to agree on how one is saved. My argument is based on the ambiguity of the Bible which I take to be an indication that it did not come from an omniscient being. Your “clear coherent and rational answer to the question regarding faith” would be rejected by many evangelicals who hold as you do that the Bible is a divine revelation. It would not be clear and coherent to them. I am not saying that the Bible is unclear to an atheist; I am saying that is unclear even to those who claim that it is a divine revelation.

I am assuming that IF God is a loving God, and if he truly desires all men to be saved as 2 Pet. 3:9 states, then he should provide enough revelation that is sufficiently clear on how one is to be saved. What would his purpose be in making it unclear? If you deny that it is unclear, then why is there so much disagreement even among those who believe it is a divine revelation?

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MKR September 20, 2010 at 7:46 am

Any truth that is essential to salvation is clearly and comprehensibly revealed “in some place of Scripture or other.” Anyone can learn the way of Salvation by reading the Bible. (Kevin Brauder, quoted in article)

“In some place or other,” no doubt. I recall what Ned Flanders says to God in his anguish after his home has been destroyed by a hurricane: “I’ve done everything the Bible says—even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!”

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Bill Maher September 20, 2010 at 7:48 am

Wes,

Ken is correct here. There is no genetic fallacy. Ironically enough, your “rebuttal” committed a thinking error: ignoratio elenchi.

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Brian_G September 20, 2010 at 9:03 am

“In other words, the aspect of Scripture that can be understood by anyone is its saving message. Any truth that is essential to salvation is clearly and comprehensibly revealed “in some place of Scripture or other.” Anyone can learn the way of Salvation by reading the Bible.”

Scripture never teaches that it’s the only source or that anyone can understand it. This is a protestant doctrine and it’s self contradictory. This is why we have a Church with bishops in union with the Pope.

Baptism does forgive sins, as the Bible teaches and as Christian tradition has always proclaimed.

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svenjamin September 20, 2010 at 10:51 am

Brian_G,

“Scripture never teaches that it’s the only source or that anyone can understand it. This is a protestant doctrine and it’s self contradictory. This is why we have a Church with bishops in union with the Pope.”

Just out of curiousity, why do you say it is self-contradictory?

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cl September 20, 2010 at 11:29 am

FWIW, here are a few posts from my blog [a believer's perspective]. I would include links, but I don’t want to trigger the spam-catcher. Anyone can do a simple search on my blog if interested:

False Argument #16: Bible Offers Contradictory Criteria For Salvation

False Argument #17: Bible Claims Those Who’ve Never Heard Of Jesus Go To Hell

What The Bible Actually Says About Salvation, or, The Logic Behind Jesus As The Only Way To God

Ken,

First, it simply reflects the ideas and beliefs of the time and culture in which it was written. It would seem that if it were a divine revelation, it would present ideas that would transcend those of its times. For example, why doesn’t it condemn slavery? Why does it attribute mental illness or epilepsy as demon possession?

Personally, I’ve never been persuaded by these types of criticisms. We could seemingly ask “why” about almost anything. Also, the question of whether the Bible presents ideas that transcend those of its time is a subjective question, almost certain to be answered through the lens of the person asking it [and I'm as susceptible to a lens as anyone else]. That said, I think the Bible does present ideas that transcend those of its time: that there was a creation of the universe, or, that the universe is “in decay,” both strike me as transcendent [however much I dislike that adjective aside]. The main point is, that we may not intuitively see why the Bible didn’t include this or that is no argument against the Bible’s veracity. It’s just a set-up for an argument from ignorance, or possibly incredulity. What’s true is true whether it makes sense to us or not.

Second, it contains much information and detail that seems to be unimportant and unworthy of a divine being. For example, the detailed genealogies in 1 Chronicles (9 chapters) and the gathering of 100 Philistine foreskins by David (1 Sam. 18:25-27).

These objections fall into the same class as the first, IMO.

Third, it is ambiguous on important matters such as how one is to be “saved” or redeemed to God. … Those who believe the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God cannot agree among themselves as to what exactly is involved in having saving faith.

The “argument from religious dissonance” fails to persuade me. People disagree about all kinds of things; that doesn’t preclude the truth of any one interpretation. For example, scientists disagree about the specifics of evolutionary theory, but they don’t conclude that evolution is untrue because of those disagreements. This strikes me as a, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” type of argument.

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Joe Navy September 20, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Awesome post Luke. Lots of good quotes in here to be used for discussion.

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Reginald Selkirk September 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

This is why we have a Church with bishops in union with the Pope.

Oh is that why? I thought it was so they could coordinate the reassignment of paedophile priests to keep them ahead of law enforcement.

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Reginald Selkirk September 20, 2010 at 1:07 pm

The “argument from religious dissonance” fails to persuade me. People disagree about all kinds of things; that doesn’t preclude the truth of any one interpretation. For example, scientists disagree about the specifics of evolutionary theory, but they don’t conclude that evolution is untrue because of those disagreements.

I don’t buy these sorts of arguments when applied to a being who is allegedly omniscient and omnipotent. Scientists disagree about details of ANY scientific theory because the uncovered evidence is incomplete, and they have different experiences with the evidence which is available. Unless you want to claim that some sort of omniscient, omnipotent being wants scientists to have an accurate understanding of the details of evolutionary theory, I don’t see a basis for analogy.

If God exists and is omnipotent and omniscient, then He certainly knows what is necessary for members of the species Homo sapiens to achieve salvation (assuming also that we have souls, and that these souls can experience an afterlife, and that the everlasting fate of those souls is dependent on our beliefs or behaviour, or something else that God could, if He wished, communicate to us), and He certainly knows what it would take to get this message of salvation to members of the species Homo sapiens, except of course for those members of the species which He wishes to spend an eternity in Hellfire because they did not receive, did not understand, or did not accept the message.

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Bill Snedden September 20, 2010 at 1:07 pm

cl:

The “argument from religious dissonance” fails to persuade me. People disagree about all kinds of things; that doesn’t preclude the truth of any one interpretation.

Certainly true. However, that objection is irrelevant to the question this argument raises. Ken (and others who raise this issue) is not arguing that “religious dissonance” precludes any interpretation from being true. He’s arguing that “religious dissonance”, and the reason for its existence, is evidence against divine authorship.

If I were to conduct training classes or write technical documentation using the same methods as employed in the Bible to convey its “revelations”, I’d be terminated for incompetence. To hold that an omnipotent, omniscient being couldn’t come up with a better way to convey what is arguably the single most important set of concepts with which all humans throughout time, by its own design, should be acquainted is simply unreasonable.

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Jeff H September 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm

The “argument from religious dissonance” fails to persuade me. People disagree about all kinds of things; that doesn’t preclude the truth of any one interpretation. For example, scientists disagree about the specifics of evolutionary theory, but they don’t conclude that evolution is untrue because of those disagreements. This strikes me as a, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” type of argument.

I think you’ve misinterpreted what he meant here, cl. He’s not saying since nobody can agree on this, therefore there is no true interpretation. He’s saying that there is no reason why God would not make the most important message in history unclear, and he’s using the disagreement among even God’s own followers as evidence that it is so unclear. Despite the fact that Christians seem to think it’s perfectly clear, they all seem to think it’s clearly saying something different.

Thus, your analogy about evolutionary theory does not hole weight, because we don’t believe that evolution is a message communicated to us from on high from a being who has every reason to make it known clearly and unambiguously to us. It’s, instead, us muddling about trying to figure things out.

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cl September 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Reginald,

So, if theists disagree over a revelation, that’s evidence the revelation is not divine, but if scientists disagree over a theory, that’s *not* evidence the theory is false? I don’t see that as consistent.

Bill Snedden,

However, that objection is irrelevant to the question this argument raises. Ken (and others who raise this issue) is not arguing that “religious dissonance” precludes any interpretation from being true. He’s arguing that “religious dissonance”, and the reason for its existence, is evidence against divine authorship.

I understand, I just don’t think the logic holds whatsoever. Religious dissonance cannot be considered evidence against the truth of divine authorship, any more than scientific dissonance can be considered evidence against any particular theory. Religious dissonance – like scientific dissonance – is evidence of human misunderstanding.

Jeff H,

I think you’ve misinterpreted what he meant here, cl. He’s not saying since nobody can agree on this, therefore there is no true interpretation. He’s saying that there is no reason why God would not make the most important message in history unclear, and he’s using the disagreement among even God’s own followers as evidence that it is so unclear.

I get that. I am objecting to the claim that religious dissonance is evidence against divine authorship. It simply doesn’t follow.

Thus, your analogy about evolutionary theory does not hole weight, because we don’t believe that evolution is a message communicated to us from on high from a being who has every reason to make it known clearly and unambiguously to us.

Now I think you’ve misinterpreted what I said: that evolution isn’t a divine message is irrelevant. The logical argument at hand is whether dissonance is evidence of a proposition’s mistruth. Whether we’re talking science, politics, religion, or history, I say no. Dissonance over scriptural interpretation is not evidence that scripture is not divinely inspired.

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Reginald Selkirk September 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm

So, if theists disagree over a revelation, that’s evidence the revelation is not divine, but if scientists disagree over a theory, that’s *not* evidence the theory is false? I don’t see that as consistent.

Three respondents in a row made the point, if you can’t see the point, the problem probably lies in you, so I won’t waste more time pounding sand.

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Rob September 20, 2010 at 2:54 pm

The responses by the Christians to this post are so confused that it makes me wonder if any real discussion is possible.

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sqeecoo September 20, 2010 at 2:56 pm

What about the RCC? As far as I know, according to their doctrine everyone is “saved” unless they commit a “mortal sin” – if they do, they need to repent to Jesus. A mortal sin is, depending on the interpretation of their own doctrine, either almost impossible to commit or committed by everyone on a daily basis.

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ildi September 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Three respondents in a row made the point, if you can’t see the point, the problem probably lies in you, so I won’t waste more time pounding sand.

This is what happens when one’s understanding of the scientific method is based on Uncommon Descent.

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J. Simonov September 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm

cl;

I am objecting to the claim that religious dissonance is evidence against divine authorship. It simply doesn’t follow.

Sure, but in the case of Christianity specifically, it does raise a question that can’t be answered without undercutting the religion in one way or another. We’re talking about a deity literally dying to have a personal relationship with humankind; one who has the means, the knowledge and the desire to send humans a clear message wrt their salvation, and who is claimed to have done so. Unfortunately, the actual message at hand has contradictory claims as to what is needed for salvation (and yes, I read and was unconvinced by your interpretation on the matter). How to explain this? At least one of the following has to go;

1. God wants to communicate a self-coherent message
2. God has communicated a self-coherent message
3. God is able to do so
4. God knows how to do so

The loss of any one of which is fatal to Christianity.

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EvanT September 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Dissonance over scriptural interpretation is not evidence that scripture is not divinely inspired.

I’ll agree with you on that. Dissonance in this case means that only one version can be right (or a combination) and especially if all proponents of a theory want to claim a personal relationship with their deity as they understand it and claim that their version is the “orthodox” one. Tell you what. You work it out amongst yourselves and once you have, we can talk about it again.

On the whole issue of the ambiguity of Scripture, however, I like to use a modified version of the Ontological argument. If God is greater than any god a human can imagine then, if a human can rewrite a part of the Bible making it more concise and unambiguous, then obviously that part was not inspired by a deity with the Christian omni-attributes. (I’d be willing to argue about other types of deities, though.) I treat arguments of the “Jesus didn’t mean what he was saying here”-type the same way. If he didn’t mean that, perhaps he could’ve saved us the trouble and made sure people wrote down what he actually meant (or maybe he could’ve written something down himself without proxies; go figure)

And a final remark. Is Evangelicalism Christianity-for-the-Lazy or something? I was under the impression that “faith without works is dead”. What’s with all this obsession with faith alone?

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cl September 20, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Reginald Selkirk,

Three respondents in a row made the point, if you can’t see the point, the problem probably lies in you, so I won’t waste more time pounding sand.

Argument from popularity.

ildi,

This is what happens when one’s understanding of the scientific method is based on Uncommon Descent.

Almost an ad hominem.

J. Simonov,

Unfortunately, the actual message at hand has contradictory claims as to what is needed for salvation

Bare assertion fallacy. I define a contradiction as an instance of X and ~X. Feel free to lay out your arguments for contradictory criteria.

EvanT,

Interesting ideas, but I’m not sure that any of them apply to what I’ve said. I’m not really sure what there is for us to discuss.

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EvanT September 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Interesting ideas, but I’m not sure that any of them apply to what I’ve said.

Only the first paragraph pertains to the quote and I obviously agree with you. Don’t let the fact that I’m an atheist throw you off balance. I’m allowed to agree with you if I think you’re right (even if I add a bit of sarcasm).

The second is just a general remark on scriptural ambiguity, though of course it is relevant to the first in the sense that an omni-being could’ve presented his message better so as to avoid dissonance altogether (and other consequences, much more dire, of course).

Basically, as others have already mentioned (I think), dissonance isn’t the problem, but the symptom of the problem which casts doubt on the whole “divine authorship”, i.e. sloppy writing.

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Garren September 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm

By chance, I listened to the Pulliam interview in my car today. Well done!

My background is in the Church of Christ. The “Biblical arguments” I heard in church constantly contradicted the “Biblical arguments” I heard in my private evangelical high school. Both sides felt confident the Holy Spirit was affirming their interpretation. I was so convinced the Church of Christ view was correct that I often agonized over the ‘truth’ that most earnest Christians I knew were going to suffer in never-ending fire.

Several years later when I started to have intellectual doubts about the truth of Christianity, it came as a major relief. I still don’t know how any Hell-believing Christians can claim naturalism is a downer because it lacks an afterlife. How selfish does a person have to be to think a worldview is better overall if one gets personal paradise while even one other suffers forever? (Let alone the kind of ratio implied by “the way is narrow” etc.)

Ultimately I could not reconcile the doctrine of a loving God who wants all to be saved with a Hellfire God who doesn’t even care to spell out essential doctrines as well as any given sect’s tracts and creeds do. Or as I would ask Church of Christ adherents, “Why didn’t God include a list of ‘The Five Steps of Salvation’” in the Bible?

…or a table of contents, for that matter.

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ildi September 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Almost an ad hominem.

No, really, Uncommon Descent is a terrible source for understanding the scientific method.

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Jeff H September 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Perhaps we can hash out a more concise version of the argument here. I’d suggest something like this:

1. God wants to communicate an important message of salvation.
2. The best way to make sure an important message is properly received is to make sure that it is clear.
3. Thus, God would want to make sure the message of salvation is clear. (from 1, 2)
4. God is omnipotent and omniscient.
5. Thus, if God wants to make the message of salvation clear, he can do so and would know how to do so. (from 3, 4)
6. Sincere Christians honestly disagree about aspects of the message of salvation.
7. Thus, the message of salvation is not clear. (from 6)
8. Therefore, if God could make the message of salvation clear, and yet it isn’t, then God likely did not actually inspire the message. (from 5, 7)

There’s a rough outline. It could probably be made more concise, but I think it’s essentially what Ken is trying to say. To me, the most flimsy premis would be 6, which could be denied if you are willing to posit that all Christians who disagree with your own views are insincere. That seems like a pretty myopic solution, however.

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nate September 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Don’t Christians interpret the Bible according to the leading of the Holy Spirit? Are there not passages in the Bible that say that only through God can Scripture be understood, that unregenerates cannot see the truth in the Bible because they lack the Holy Spirit? If that is the case, then it follows that all true Christians must interpret the Bible the exact same way because the Holy Spirit cannot lead to two different, contradictory interpretations.

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Brian_G September 20, 2010 at 9:25 pm

@svenjamin

I probably should have been more clear. The perspicuity of Scripture is part of the doctrine of sola scriptura (Latin for “Bible alone”). sola scriptura is a protestant doctrine which says that everything one needs to be a Christian is taught in scripture. The problem is that sola scriptura isn’t taught in scriptures which means it’s not a doctrine one needs as a Christian. It’s probably more accurate to call it self-refuting then self-contradicting.

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bossmanham September 21, 2010 at 1:58 am

This post is another example of how Dr. Pulliam’s Ph. D. really doesn’t seem to have profited him that much.

First, it simply reflects the ideas and beliefs of the time and culture in which it was written. It would seem that if it were a divine revelation, it would present ideas that would transcend those of its times. For example, why doesn’t it condemn slavery? Why does it attribute mental illness or epilepsy as demon possession?

It “simply” reflects the ideas and beliefs of the culture? Can we see some argument for this assertion? Jews didn’t believe in a resurrection prior to the general resurrection at the end of the world, yet, in the Bible, Jesus is recorded as having resurrected from the dead. Seems to undo Dr. Pulliam’s first unbacked asertion.

Second, it contains much information and detail that seems to be unimportant and unworthy of a divine being. For example, the detailed genealogies in 1 Chronicles (9 chapters) and the gathering of 100 Philistine foreskins by David (1 Sam. 18:25-27).

Who is Dr. Ken Pulliam to decide what God puts in His book? Dr. Pulliam is again presuming to know what should go through God’s mind…is Pulliam claiming divinity here? Pulliam needs to give an argument for why God wouldn’t construct His word as the Bible is constructed. Giving us his personal intuition (which I’ll remind Luke he doesn’t like) and a couple of Bible verses he doesn’t like is not an argument.

Third, it is ambiguous on important matters such as how one is to be “saved” or redeemed to God

Orly? How about John 3:16-18 or Romans 10:9 or a bazillion other clear cut verses?

Now, if this is Pulliam’s idea of what ambiguity is, I wonder if he understands anything anyone writes. Seems there’s a comprehension issue going on here, which I find odd for someone who has completed Ph. D. work.

One Roman leader is reported to have said that if we allow each person to interpret the Bible for himself there will be total confusion and an unlimited number of sects. That is precisely what has happened.

People disagree on some points of Biblical interpretation, therefore no one can understand the Bible’s description of how to be saved? This argument is just a non-sequitur. Even if much of the Bible is obscure or not able to be understood by most people (which I’m not conceding) it doesn’t follow that the descriptions of how to be saved aren’t perspicuous.

Oh, I like this next thing Pulliam says. Hilarious.

The fact is that Evangelicals cannot even agree among themselves as to what the Bible requires for salvation. They unanimously maintain that faith is required…

So we can’t agree, yet we do agree……..? I’ll also mention that Roman Catholics also agree that faith is required for salvation. Of course I don’t want to be accused of taking DR. Pulliam out of context, so here’s the rest of the quote:

but they disagree on the meaning of faith, the exclusivity of faith, the origin of faith, and the object of faith.

Even if this is true, which I will concede the last two are contentious issues in the church, it doesn’t prove anything. Pulliam concedes that we agree on the need for faith. These other issues aren’t paramount in comparison to that, as they don’t nullify what we agree on.

Pulliam then stresses a non-issue of slightly different ways of defining what faith in Christ is. Is “trusting Christ” much different than “believing that Christ’s death saves.” The former seems to be entailed in the latter. This is not much more than a rhetorical game focusing on non-issues. That seems to be Pulliam’s consuetude.

Pulliam then goes on about the definition of faith again as it relates to faith being alone. Again, so what? His post is trying to show that the Bible doesn’t sufficiently explain salvation to people. But this line of reasoning doesn’t show that.

He makes a deal about the origin of faith. I’m not sure how this would help his point either, since it wouldn’t nullify the fact that he concedes we Christians agree on, namely that we “unanimously maintain that faith is required.”

Pulliam then addresses the wider mercy view, where some Christians think that Christ may save some people by His work in response to their acceptance of God’s general revelation. But, adherents could say that since Christ is the true God of creation, and this person who hasn’t heard Jesus’ name is crying out to the true God of creation, then this person is having faith in Christ. Furthermore, this still doesn’t show that the scripture isn’t clear on salvation

Even if my problems with Pulliam’s presentation here amount to nothing, however, this argument still doesn’t show what he claims it does. Just because he can rattle off a bunch of theologians who have nuanced views of what constitutes faith, it doesn’t follow that the Bible doesn’t sufficiently explain how salvation is achieved. At most it would show some guys disagree about some aspects of it, which we already concede.

Pulliam hasn’t told us anything we Christians didn’t already know! He needs to actually deal with the text of the Bible, not what some people say about the text of the Bible.

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Bill Snedden September 21, 2010 at 6:16 am

bossmanham:

Pulliam hasn’t told us anything we Christians didn’t already know! He needs to actually deal with the text of the Bible, not what some people say about the text of the Bible.

Congratulations on having missed completely the point of the article. Pulliam is NOT saying that no particular interpretation is true; he’s saying that variety in interpretation calls divine authorship into question. All you’ve done is defend particular interpretations, which doesn’t address his argument at all. In fact, it demonstrates it. Oh, and this is hilarious:

Even if much of the Bible is obscure or not able to be understood by most people (which I’m not conceding) it doesn’t follow that the descriptions of how to be saved aren’t perspicuous.

Perspicuous means “plain to the understanding especially because of clarity and precision of presentation”, so if in fact much of the Bible is obscure or not able to be understood by most people, then it absolutely DOES follow that the descriptions of how to be saved aren’t perspicuous. And that’s a major point of the article you’ve done absolutely nothing to address.

cl:

I understand, I just don’t think the logic holds whatsoever. Religious dissonance cannot be considered evidence against the truth of divine authorship, any more than scientific dissonance can be considered evidence against any particular theory. Religious dissonance – like scientific dissonance – is evidence of human misunderstanding.

No, I’m afraid you still haven’t got it.

Scientific “dissonance” can be, in fact, evidence against a particular theory. One of the strengths of the scientific method lies in the ability of any person to replicate an experiment and demonstrate by so doing the truth of the original findings. Experiments that can’t be replicated are evidence that the original finding was a fluke, or due to some error or other. In a case where a theory was confirmed by experiment and yet multiple subsequent experiments failed to yield the same results, we might indeed conclude that the truth of the theory was in question.

and THAT, in the final analysis, seems to me to be what Dr. Pulliam is saying. Multitudes of Christians have performed “experiments” to determine what’s required for salvation, but the results of these experiments don’t seem to align on the details. If the theory is that an omnipotent, omniscient being desired to tell us something important and chose the Bible as the primary means of communication for this task, we should indeed call that theory into question as the means don’t seem up to the task and it certainly seems obvious that an omnipotent, omniscient being could have done a better job.

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Garren September 21, 2010 at 9:14 am

@bossmanham

“How about John 3:16-18 or Romans 10:9 or a bazillion other clear cut verses?”

Individual verses may seem clear in isolation, but putting them together requires an external harmonization method. Christians differ on which method to use and so differ on what is required to gain (and keep) salvation.

Here’s a good sampling of verses used by sects like the Churches of Christ which strongly associate baptism with salvation: http://www.bebaptized.org/

The only way I see to confidently write all that off as optional is to apply a method of assuming verses with the least mentioned requirements (i.e. just having faith) are sufficient. But why not a method which gathers together all mentioned requirements? That’s how the Churches of Christ get a longer list…though it could be longer if Jesus’ teachings about giving up wealth and shirking earthly responsibilities are taken seriously.

I’m sure Pulliam is well aware that salvation verses CAN be harmonized. The problem is that they get harmonized in incompatible ways.

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cl September 21, 2010 at 11:39 am

30 comments deep, and not one supporter of Pulliam’s post has even attempted to demonstrate the alleged contradictions and lack of clarity. Y’all should take Luke’s “Why Atheists Lose Debates With Theists” series to heart. If anyone wants to show me incorrect, fallacies and snipes aren’t gonna cut it. Actual demonstration can. Bonus points if anyone brings up the example I’ve been thinking of.

EvanT,

I’m allowed to agree with you if I think you’re right (even if I add a bit of sarcasm).

Definitely. I just wasn’t sure, and so I didn’t want to assume. Internet dialog is tough because we lack visual and verbal cues we’d have in normal conversation.

Basically, as others have already mentioned (I think), dissonance isn’t the problem, but the symptom of the problem which casts doubt on the whole “divine authorship”, i.e. sloppy writing.

I understand that to be the thrust of their argument, but all I’ve seen here are baseless assertions. People are just asserting that the criteria are unclear. I have yet to see a single demonstration, and before I even spoke, I included pertinent counter-demonstrations from my own blog.

ildi,

No, really, Uncommon Descent is a terrible source for understanding the scientific method.

Non-sequitur. Look, it’s obvious that you’re just trying to insult. I didn’t come to understand the scientific method through Uncommon Descent. If you have anything germane to contribute, I’m all ears.

Jeff H,

Thanks for at least staying on topic and eschewing the snipes that seem ever-so-present on this “rationalist” blog.

7 does not follow from 6, and I would never suggest that Christians who disagree with me are insincere. That would be presumptuous.

Bill Snedden,

Experiments that can’t be replicated are evidence that the original finding was a fluke, or due to some error or other.

Of course. Thing is, “experiments that can’t be replicated” != dissonance.

Multitudes of Christians have performed “experiments” to determine what’s required for salvation, but the results of these experiments don’t seem to align on the details.

Oh please. Now you’re really stretching. If you want to convince me, make your case. Demonstrate the alleged contradictions and lack of clarity. You are misusing the word “experiments” in that statement.

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drj September 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Oh please. Now you’re really stretching. If you want to convince me, make your case. Demonstrate the alleged contradictions and lack of clarity. You are misusing the word “experiments” in that statement.

Just what are you demanding here?

Because what it looks like you are demanding was provided as far back as the OP. The Bible is obscure as to the means of salvation. Its been the ongoing theme of the comment thread.

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puntnf September 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Sorry for being off-topic, but I’m calling shenanigans, and this is WAY too tempting. From another thread, a list of cl-isms written by vanillacreamcake:

1. “Why don’t you quit worrying about superficial things and dig into the actual arguments for once? ”

2. “Your logic is invalid. Now, if you want to actually have a discussion as opposed to making baseless accusations…”

3. “Does anyone else find it odd that “rational atheists” would be…”

4. “when it comes to interacting with me, you make nothing but unsubstantiated, personally-motivated attacks”

5. “Unfortunately, I spent my time allotment on the mockers. I’ll respond to your comment later, and I apologize for not taking it first.”

6. “lest yours be another empty claim”

7. “where I asked Luke and Fyfe one question each, and… crickets. Point out contradictions and inconsistencies, and… crickets.”

8. “You are the positive claimant. Substantiate your claim. I’m not interested in arguing against your opinions and you ought to respect the burden of proof.”

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puntnf September 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Here’s the match up:

#1, #2 “If anyone wants to show me incorrect, fallacies and snipes aren’t gonna cut it. Actual demonstration can. ”

#2 but all I’ve seen here are baseless assertions. People are just asserting that the criteria are unclear.

#3, #5 Thanks for at least staying on topic and eschewing the snipes that seem ever-so-present on this “rationalist” blog.

#8 Oh please. Now you’re really stretching. If you want to convince me, make your case. Demonstrate the alleged contradictions and lack of clarity.

#4 Non-sequitur. Look, it’s obvious that you’re just trying to insult.

Honestly now…

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al friedlander September 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm

This is why I, as an agnostic atheist, believe that Calvinist doctrine is the only branch of Christianity that makes sense.

In my opinion it’s one of the most horrific/frightening sects are well, but it’s the most likely. The Calvinist-God can eschew these arguments because He -isn’t required to do anything-. His ‘chosen’ are the elect, and the reason why the ‘message’ is so ‘obscure’ is because He only wants the ‘cream of the crop’ to be in Heaven. Everyone else can just go to hell; literally.

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Patrick September 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm

al friedlander- I’ve noticed that as well. It was at that point that I realized that Cthulhu is actually just a rip off of Jesus. Both are amoral. Both are returning. Both promise to murder their followers first so that their followers won’t have to endure the horror of their coming. You can go on like this for a while.

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clamat September 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

@cl (re: Jeff H.’s post): “7 does not follow from 6.”

How about this refinement (keeping in mind that Pulliam’s OP focuses on “Bible-believing evangelicals”):

1. God is omnipotent and omniscient.

2. Thus, if God wants to communicate an important message of salvation, he can and will do so as effectively as is possible, so that very few sincere, rational persons will honestly disagree about the message.

3. Very many sincere, rational persons honestly disagree about the “message of salvation of Christianity” espoused in the Bible.

4. Thus, the “message of salvation of Christianity” espoused in the Bible probably is not from God.

A note on the use of “persons”: Just wanted to emphasize that the opinions of Christians are not the only ones that matter here. Sincere, rational non-believers, Hindus, Muslims, etc. can have a meaningful, informed opinion about what the message of salvation of Christianity is. We’re all working from the same materials as Christians, after all.

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Bill Snedden September 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm

cl: Holy crap…did you even read the OP? Dr. Pulliam gives a plethora of specific examples. The very fact that there exists a word to delineate the study of theories of salvation (soteriology) is, or should be, evidence enough to indicate that there are MULTIPLE theories of what’s required. Calvinists, Arminians, Universalists, etc. all agree that Jesus saves, but exactly HOW is a matter of some dispute and THAT is the point.

And as for “experiments that can’t be replicated” != dissonance, what else COULD it mean? YOU were the one who introduced the idea of “scientific dissonance”…what else did you mean by it? Scientific theories succeed or fail based on how well they model the real world. The way this is tested is through experimentation. What else could “scientific dissonance” mean except competing theories with differing experimental results? Even given two mutually exclusive theories with *equal* support we’d still have scientific “dissonance” and thus an inability to declare either one disconfirmed.

However, the question isn’t whether or not one of those theories is true, but why should there be so much “dissonance” in the first place. In science it’s to be expected because we’re fallible human beings trying to work it out for ourselves. In the case of the Bible however, we’re supposed to believe that an omniscient, omnipotent Being who loves us all and wanted us to know something very important picked a really inefficient and error-laden method of doing so. Wow. Great job.

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Reidish September 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Jeff H,
Thanks for the effort to assemble the argument. I’ll have to think about that one for a bit.
R

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ildi September 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Non-sequitur. Look, it’s obvious that you’re just trying to insult. I didn’t come to understand the scientific method through Uncommon Descent. If you have anything germane to contribute, I’m all ears.

What’s up with the fallacy tourettes?

Is not even near an ad hom to point out that you have demonstrated over and over again that your understanding of how science works is seriously flawed, and many of the ways you phrase your misconceptions are straight out of the ID phrasebook. (Scientific dissonance? wtf?)

It’s not an argument from popularity when RS points out that you have failed to understand a fairly simple concept that was explained several ways, I’m guessing most likely due to your flawed understanding of the scientific method.

It’s not a bare assertion fallacy to refer to the OP with its myriad examples of biblical inconsistencies regarding the road to salvation.

vanilacrmcake: I defer to your extended studies of cl-isms in determining which one this falls under:

I define a contradiction as an instance of X and ~X. Feel free to lay out your arguments for contradictory criteria.

I say none of them; what say you?

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bossmanham September 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Here’s the problem that the atheists here can’t seem to get their heads around; Pulliam’s argument seems to go like this:

1) If God wrote the Bible, then it should be able to be understood.
2) Many people disagree on how to interpret the Bible.
3) Therefore, the Bible wasn’t written by God.

This is logically invalid! The argument fails because it’s not valid. He’d need to go to the text he is criticizing and show that it is literally not understandable if this argument is even going to begin to work.

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ildi September 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm

3) Therefore, the Bible wasn’t written by God

or God is a Calvinist.

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Zeb September 21, 2010 at 4:13 pm

This has been an interesting debate to watch, though disappointing to see cl and his critics continue talking past each other. For fun I have tried to put the argument of the OP into a logically valid form, and extend it to the argument for atheism that I think some would imply. I’ve bolded the part of the argument that I think cl is challenging. If I am right about the argument and cl’s challenge I’d like to see cl debunk P6 or P7, and I’d like to see the proponents of the argument defend them. FWIW, I am not convinced of P1 and P4, so I do not arrive at C11 (No God), but I do arrive at C8 and basically agree with Ken right now.

P1. Salvation is necessary for a sentient creature’s wellbeing and happiness.
P2. A tri-omni god would provide a means for every creature to obtain wellbeing and happiness.
C3. A tri-omni god would provide a means for every sentient creature to obtain salvation. (From 1 and 2)

P4. A perfectly clear and explicit set of written verbal instructions for obtaining salvation would be a necessary part of the best provision of means for every sentient creature to obtain salvation.
C5. If there is a tri-omni god, there would be a perfectly clear and explicit set of written verbal instructions for obtaining salvation provided by that god(From 3 and 4)

P6. A perfectly clear and explicit set of written verbal instructions for obtaining salvation would not be interpreted differently by different people.
P7. The Bible has been interpreted differently by different people.
C8. The Bible is not a perfectly clear and explicit set of written verbal instructions on how to obtain salvation. (From 6 and 7)

P9. If the Bible is not a perfectly clear and explicit set of written verbal instructions on how to obtain salvation, then there is no perfectly clear and explicit set of written verbal instructions on how to obtain salvation.
C10. There is no perfectly clear and explicit set of written instructions on how to obtain salvation. (From 8 and 9)
C11. There is no tri-omni god. (From 5 and 9)

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clamat September 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm

@bossmanham: “This is logically invalid! The argument fails because it’s not valid.”

And if you declare something twice, it’s true!

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lacroix September 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm

As someone intimately acquainted with the debate within Evangelicalism on these matters, I would just like to make a minor correction. The closing footnote seems to suggest that Hodges wrote The Gospel Under Siege in response to MacArthur……actually it was the other way around. Hodges’ book was first published in 1981, well before MacArthur decided to cross swords on this issue. Pulliam makes an irrefutable point though…..you don’t have to ask too many folks in any individual group to get wildly divergent presentations of the gospel……you just don’t. Within the evangelical framework the unfortunate result is that no one genuinely experiences assurance so the theology necessarily produces fearful self righteous adherents. Calvinism, while coherent, is of little comfort in this regard which is why so many Calvinists themselves are self righteous….it is a desperate reaction to their deep seated fear that expresses itself in a preoccupation with proving the Spirit’s fruit……..a true road to nowhere since the evidence is never enough within a Calvinistic framework…….hence the fear and self righteous dogmatism. Ironically the champions of sola fide insist upon a level of authenticating works that robs faith of its solace……..I pity Calvinists.

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Reidish September 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Hi Zeb,
I think your P4 is false:

P4. A perfectly clear and explicit set of written verbal instructions for obtaining salvation would be a necessary part of the best provision of means for every sentient creature to obtain salvation.

That seems like a very strong claim, and I don’t think any Christian need commit themselves to it. I don’t know how one would argue plausibly that a written verbal set of instructions can be perfectly clear, and that such instructions are a necessary part of the best provision.

First, I can conceive of their not being a best provision. Perhaps there are simply a multitude of good provisions. Did you mean something like “that which maximizes the number of people that respond freely to God’s grace”? If so, maybe there isn’t one method how that occurs.

Second, I’m not sure I know what you mean when you say that something is perfectly clear. Perhaps you mean something like “not possibly misunderstood”? Well, if God’s aim is to maximize the number of those that freely accept His grace, it is possible there is no message that is not misunderstood by anyone. Or, maybe there are worlds where no sentient creatures misunderstand His message, but none of them freely accept it.

Finally, why think that written verbal instructions are a necessary part of the best provisions? Surely it seems there is a possible world where people are saved but without verbal instructions. Perhaps there is no difference between the number of people saved in such worlds and ours. As long as that scenario is at least possible, then it’s not true that written verbal instructions are a necessary part of the best provisions.

I think Jeff H’s formulation might have more going for it. I’d be interested to see what you thought of his argument, or if you might revise yours.

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J. Simonov September 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm

cl;

I have a raft of biblical contradictions handy, but one should suffice to meet your requirement for an “x & not-x” contradiction.

Here we see that works are necessary for salvation:

Matthew 19:17
If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.

Here we see that works are not necessary for salvation:

Titus 3:5
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

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clamat September 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Revised, and informed by other posts:

P1. God is tri-omni.
P2. If God wants to convey a message, he can and will do so perfectly.
P3. If a message is conveyed perfectly, exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about it.
P4. God wants to convey a message of salvation.
C1. Any message of salvation conveyed by God will be conveyed perfectly, such that exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about it.

P3. Many rational persons sincerely disagree about the message of salvation articulated in the Bible.
C2. The message of salvation articulated in the Bible is not a message conveyed by God.

More shaky, I think…

P4. The Bible as a whole can only be from God if the message of salvation articulated by the Bible is from God.
C3. The Bible as a whole is not from God. (From C2 and P4.)

I think P1 and C1 account for “human fallibility” and insanity — being able to convey a message “perfectly” does not mean it can be conveyed “perfectly successfully.” (But if God can articulate his message perfectly, yet still be totally misunderstood by billions of well-meaning, thoughtful people, what’s the point of the whole exercise?)

I don’t think this line of argument can support an argument that there is no God, however.

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clamat September 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Messed up my Ps!

P1. God is tri-omni.
P2. If God wants to convey a message, he can and will do so perfectly.
P3. If a message is conveyed perfectly, exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about it.
P4. God wants to convey a message of salvation.
C1. Any message of salvation conveyed by God will be conveyed perfectly, such that exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about it.

P5. Many rational persons sincerely disagree about the message of salvation articulated in the Bible.
C2. The message of salvation articulated in the Bible is not a message conveyed by God.

P6. The Bible as a whole can only be from God if the message of salvation articulated by the Bible is from God.
C3. The Bible as a whole is not from God. (From C2 and P4.)

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Kyle Key September 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm

@clamat:
But in accepting the argument (even if only through “C2. The message of salvation articulated in the Bible is not a message conveyed by God.”), you’ve accepted that an omni-max god failed at relaying the most critically important piece of information to its most beloved creations, thereby also denying itself what it seems to want most (the salvation of humans.) Unless I’ve made a mistake somewhere in there, that seems like a mighty large blow to Christianity.

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Bill Snedden September 21, 2010 at 7:12 pm

bossmanham:

1) If God wrote the Bible, then it should be able to be understood.

2) Many people disagree on how to interpret the Bible.
3) Therefore, the Bible wasn’t written by God.

This is logically invalid! The argument fails because it’s not valid. He’d need to go to the text he is criticizing and show that it is literally not understandable if this argument is even going to begin to work.

Ummm…that argument IS formally valid (I.e., the conclusion DOES follow from the premises). Your objection that he needs to demonstrate that the text is “…literally not understandable” is irrelevant to the validity of the argument (although it could be relevant to a discussion of its soundness, which is a test of how well-supported the premises are).

If a text is written in a fashion that allows it to be understood (read: perspicuous), there should be little to no disagreement over what it means. This is why “technical writing” can be a much-sought-after skill.

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clamat September 21, 2010 at 9:05 pm

@Kyle Key

Um, I think we’re basically on the same page, though I wasn’t trying to show “God failed,” but rather that the message imperfectly conveyed in the Bible can’t be from an omni-max God. Agreed that it seems to undermine Christianity, which was Pulliam’s original point.

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Zeb September 21, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Reidish
I pretty much agree with your doubts about my P4. I don’t think it is true, but I did think it was necessary for the argument that Pulliam and others are making. Why would we expect the Bible to provide a clear and explicit set of instructions on how to get salvation, unless we believed that such was a necessary part of the best means of obtaining happiness and welfare for all sentient beings at least? Personally I am not convinced that ‘salvation’ is necessary for the welfare and happiness of all sentient beings, or that clear and explicit written verbal instructions would be a necessary part of the best means of obtaining salvation. Actually I think clamat did a better job presenting a clear and concise, logically valid form to the argument, but he just asserts that the tri-omni god wants to convey a message of salvation, where I was trying to include a reason why a tri-omni must want to convey a message of salvation. Anyway, I’d be happy to see people address clamat’s version of the argument rather than Jeff H’s or mine.

clamat
What is the purpose of your P1?

Couldn’t your C1 be strengthened to “God does/has convey[ed] a message of salvation perfectly, such that exceedingly few rational persons sincerely disagree about it.” -Following from P4, P2, and P3? In that case, the general disagreement about any kind of message of salvation, Biblical or otherwise, could be used against the belief that a tri-omni god wants to convey a message of salvation.

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Patrick September 21, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Bill Snedden- bossmanham is arguing that even if the Bible is “capable” of being understood, it might not actually be understood universally, because a book that is capable of being understood might also be capable of being misunderstood.

Personally I think its just a red herring, though. The real problem is that he’s a believer, which means that he’s going to have a complete blindspot when it comes to the possibility that other believers might be sincerely and reasonably interpreting his holy text in a way different from his own. Its a typical theist defense mechanism. Its like believing that any de-convert from your religion must either be a sinner who’s embraced sin and willfully turned from god, or else a fake believer who never really believed in the first place. It doesn’t matter what the evidence is, this belief has to be maintained because the alternative is concluding that their beliefs aren’t self authenticating. This is a similar matter.

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Kyle Key September 21, 2010 at 10:24 pm

@Zeb: “What is the purpose of your P1?”

P2 wouldn’t work otherwise; that is, we wouldn’t be able to reliably say that “[god] can and will do so perfectly” if we didn’t know that god had the power and knowledge to do such.

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clamat September 22, 2010 at 6:22 am

@Zeb

Re: P1, what Kyle Key said.
Re: C1 – Actually, thinking about it, and given my aims, i.e., to show any “message of salvation” in the Bible can’t be from an omni-max God, I think I need to eliminate P4, and tweak C1:

P1. God is tri-omni.
P2. If God wants to convey a message, he can and will do so perfectly.
P3. If a message is conveyed perfectly, exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about it.
C1. If God wants to convey a message of salvation, that message will be conveyed perfectly, such that exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about it.

Thoughts?

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antipunt1 September 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

” 3) Therefore, the Bible wasn’t written by God

Or God is a Calvinist.

Thanks for pointing that out. I’m surprised that it isn’t brought up more often, because I’m pretty sure that a large majority of Christians would cringe at the possibility of Calvinism being the most ‘logical’ doctrine.

As I’ve claimed previously, even as an agnostic atheist, I’m convinced that Calvinism -could- be true. The problem is, I’d rather go down swinging than place my eggs in that basket.

*note: no offense to Calvinists at all, especially JS

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Kyle Key September 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

@clamat:
I don’t see any problems there; combining the old p4 and c1 doesn’t weaken the argument any.

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clamat September 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Kyle,

Good, thanks.

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Reidish September 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Zeb,
You wrote:

I pretty much agree with your doubts about my P4.

Alright then, you think your P4 is false. I stated earlier that I think denying P4 is consistent with Christian belief, and so no Christian is committed to accepting it. With that settled, I suppose we can set aside your particular formulation of the argument, since we agree it fails.

clamat,
I’m having a little trouble following your argument. Is this it?

P1. God is tri-omni.
P2. If God wants to convey a message, he can and will do so perfectly.
P3. If a message is conveyed perfectly, exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about it.
C1. If God wants to convey a message of salvation, that message will be conveyed perfectly, such that exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about it.
P5. Many rational persons sincerely disagree about the message of salvation articulated in the Bible.
C2. The message of salvation articulated in the Bible is not a message conveyed by God.
P6. The Bible as a whole can only be from God if the message of salvation articulated by the Bible is from God.
C3. The Bible as a whole is not from God. (From C2 and P4.)

I’ll pose the same question to you that I posed to Zeb: what do you take it to mean that a message is conveyed “perfectly”? Do you just mean to define a perfectly-conveyed message as a message over which exceedingly few rational persons sincerely disagree?

Second, if P2 really is dependent on P1, then (a) this is not simply a premise, and (b) this needs to be made more explicit (that is, I think you’re missing additional premises before concluding with P2). How does “tri-omnification” imply the conveyance of a message “perfectly”?

What is the point of your C3? If a part of the Bible is not from God, that is equivalent to saying that not all of the Bible is from God, right? Of course, if you meant to conclude that none of the Bible is from God, then you need to revise P6.

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Kyle Key September 22, 2010 at 7:14 pm

@Reidish:

What do you take it to mean that a message is conveyed “perfectly”? Do you just mean to define a perfectly-conveyed message as a message over which exceedingly few rational persons sincerely disagree?

I think I agree with the need for clarification here. Instead of “perfectly,” it seems reasonable to revise P2 as: “If God wants to convey a message, he can and will do so in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about its content.” I find it extremely difficult to disagree with this statement unless we’re willing to say both that (a) an omni-max god wants to communicate with humans AND (b) this god doesn’t care how its communications are received by humans. Accepting (a) and (b) seems preposterous to me and is certainly not the position of almost every Christian on the planet, thus the revise premise.

Second, if P2 really is dependent on P1, then (a) this is not simply a premise, and (b) this needs to be made more explicit (that is, I think you’re missing additional premises before concluding with P2). How does “tri-omnification” imply the conveyance of a message “perfectly”?

I don’t think that this paragraph still applies to my revised premise. If God has a desire to communicate in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the content of its communication (and the Bible would be offered as evidence that it does have this communication desire), and has the power and knowledge to do so, it’s really just a restatement to say that god can and will do so. Power+knowledge+desire=desire can and will be satisfied.

Re: your 3rd paragraph, I’ll leave that up to clamat, as I’m only concerned with clarifying P1 to C2 at the moment.

Restating the argument with my revised premises up to C2 (and I hope that at least you and clamat will tell me what you think of it at this point):

P1. God is, at the least, omniscient and omnipotent.
P2. God wants to communicate with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content.

C1. (from P1, P2) If God wants to communicate with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content, he can and will do so.

P3. Many rational persons sincerely disagree about the message of salvation communicated in the Bible.
C2. (from P3, C1) The message of salvation articulated in the Bible is not a message conveyed by God.

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Paul D. September 23, 2010 at 3:41 am

@ Kyle Key

‘Instead of “perfectly,” it seems reasonable to revise P2 as: “If God wants to convey a message, he can and will do so in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about its content.’

I would add “tri-omni” in there, since it’s possible that a non-omnipotent God would be incompetent to communicate his salvation instructions clearly. While this “argument from incompetence” would not please most Christians, it does allow for both the existence of God and our complete lack of consensus on the salvation message.

I also like Clamat’s formulation, since we can kick out P4 (“God wants to convey a message of salvation”) and explore the possibility that Christianity is about serving God rather than pursuing salvation.

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Reidish September 23, 2010 at 10:00 am

Hi Kyle Key,
Regarding your formulation through C2:

P1. God is, at the least, omniscient and omnipotent.
P2. God wants to communicate with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content.

C1. (from P1, P2) If God wants to communicate with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content, he can and will do so.

P3. Many rational persons sincerely disagree about the message of salvation communicated in the Bible.
C2. (from P3, C1) The message of salvation articulated in the Bible is not a message conveyed by God.

I don’t think the inference to C1 from P1 and P2 is valid, for two reasons.

First, I think it’s plausible God cannot always communicate with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content. For just one example: if P1 is true (I think it is), then God knows every true proposition. But do you think exceedingly few rational persons would disagree about the communication’s content if He were to convey, say, the exhaustive truth regarding Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems (complete with an ontology of numbers, etc)? I think that’s false.

Second, an implied assumption prior to C1 is that God has no reasons for not communicating in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content. But as I said up-thread, suppose such communication results in exceedingly few (zero?) people freely accepting His grace? Perhaps more people accept His grace if there is broad disagreement on the “minors” of the message, but broad agreement on the “majors”. Indeed, from the OP it appears there is broad agreement on certain parts of the message, and it may very well be the case that these are the parts sufficient for salvation.

Regarding your P3, I think it’s true that many people disagree about the exhaustive truth of the salvation message, but it doesn’t seem to me that many people disagree about the sufficient details for salvation (as I alluded to above). I suppose that’s a matter of opinion, though.

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Kyle Key September 23, 2010 at 2:59 pm

@Reidish: Ah, so we can address your first critique of C1 by making the language of P2 and C1 more specific:

P2. God wants to communicate a message of salvation with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content.

C1. (from P1, P2) If God wants to communicate a message of salvation with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content, he can and will do so.

To be blunt, all I take from your second critique is that “God works in mysterious ways,” which really doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t subscribe to free will, much less think the concept is coherent, so I’m not sure what you mean when you say “…freely accepting His grace”–god withholding information and/or causing confusion doesn’t lead to a more “free” choice in any sense of the word that I can imagine. If you think that god doesn’t want exceedingly few rational people to agree about the salvation message, there’s not much for us to talk about here; the only purpose of my construction of the argument is to address that specific line of thinking, so if someone wants to eliminate that and postulate what god might want to do instead, I’m honestly disinterested in pursuing it.

“…but broad agreement on the “majors”.”
From my seat, the only major agreement I can see is that every Christian says you have to be saved, but that’s the very issue being discussed. Other than that (the topic itself) the “agreement” falls apart. Calvinists will tell you that God’s already chosen to save you or not; right away, that’s a huge disagreement on a major issue.

“…and it may very well be the case that these are the parts sufficient for salvation.”
Perhaps, but where are you getting the idea that “these…parts” may be sufficient? From the Bible, or elsewhere? The fact that it’s still guesswork whether the few–one? (being saved)–agreed upon part(s) of the salvation message are sufficient seems to only reinforce the lack of clarity, not undermine it.

But yes, I like your first critique, so I will add in the changes. I also now think that god would have to be omnibenevolent for the argument to work, so I’ll add that in too (he may have the power and knowledge to fulfill his desires, but without omnibenevolence, he may not CARE whether we get a non-controversial salvation message, but I’m not certain about this part.)

P1. God is, at the least, omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

P2. God wants to communicate a message of salvation with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the content of the message.

C1. (from P1, P2) If God wants to communicate a message of salvation with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the content of the message, he can and will do so.

P3. Many rational persons sincerely disagree about the message of salvation communicated in the Bible.

C2. (from P3, C1) The message of salvation communicated in the Bible is not a message communicated by God.

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Kyle Key September 23, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Sorry for the double post, a line in my first large paragraph above should read: “If you think that god doesn’t want exceedingly few rational people to disagree about the salvation message…”

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Reidish September 24, 2010 at 10:17 am

Kyle Key,
Although you’ve revised P2 (which I think is a true premise) and also C1, I think the inference is still invalid. Just because God wants to do something doesn’t mean He can, if it’s impossible. My first critique was:

First, I think it’s plausible God cannot always communicate with humans in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content.

Now, the exhaustive truth involved in the salvation message (complete with a thorough conveyance of, say, a theory of atonement justification, sanctification, and glorification) may very well be one of these instances where exceedingly few, sincere, rational people disagree. But really, so what? Suppose lots more people would be saved if a message were conveyed where people disagree just around the non-essential periphery? That’s quite plausible. Combine that with the idea that God might want to maximize the number of people that are saved, and you have a credible argument that God will not convey a message such that exceedingly few, sincere, rational people will disagree about its content. It may not be possible to do otherwise, given the entire scope of God’s motivations/reasons. So I don’t see how your current incarnation of P1 helps secure the inference you are trying to make.

My second critique was this:

Second, an implied assumption prior to C1 is that God has no reasons for not communicating in a manner whereby exceedingly few rational persons will sincerely disagree about the communication’s content. But as I said up-thread, suppose such communication results in exceedingly few (zero?) people freely accepting His grace?

You responded that: (a) this seems like nothing more than “God works in mysterious ways” and, (b) since free will is an incoherent notion (at least according to you), you can’t really make sense of my counter-example.

First, regarding (b): if you don’t believe in free will, then yes this is probably a conversation-stopper. I am relying on counterfactuals of human freedom to make my case here, and I’m not sure it works otherwise. But for the sake of completeness, I’ll continue on.
Regarding (a), I don’t know what to make of your response – it doesn’t really seem relevant. Lots of people work in ways that are mysterious to me, and probably to you as well. Nuclear physicists work in ways that are mysterious to me, but I don’t take that to be evidence that what they are doing isn’t rational, or that they have no reasons for what they’re doing. So I don’t think you really addressed my point, which was that God could have reasons for not conveying the message you expect.

I want to draw attention to what you said here:

If you think that god doesn’t want exceedingly few rational people to [dis]agree about the salvation message, there’s not much for us to talk about here;…

But I didn’t say P2 was false, in fact I affirmed that I thought it was true. Again, I just think your inference is invalid.

…the only purpose of my construction of the argument is to address that specific line of thinking, so if someone wants to eliminate that and postulate what god might want to do instead, I’m honestly disinterested in pursuing it.

Well, I’m not postulating what God might want to do instead, but what God wants to do also, and this seems perfectly legitimate. Indeed, for your inference to C1 to be valid, you would actually have to take the stronger position here, which is that God has no reason for not conveying the message you expect. I gave a plausible example to defend my position; can you provide some argumentation for the position your argument (if valid) entails?

Finally:

Reidish: “Perhaps more people accept His grace if there is broad disagreement on the ‘minors’ of the message, but broad agreement on the ‘majors’.”
Kyle Key: “From my seat, the only major agreement I can see is that every Christian says you have to be saved, but that’s the very issue being discussed. Other than that (the topic itself) the ‘agreement’ falls apart. Calvinists will tell you that God’s already chosen to save you or not; right away, that’s a huge disagreement on a major issue.

Right, I was too obscure there, sorry. I meant something along the lines of taking John 3:16 to be true and acting on it. Just as we don’t need an exhaustive account of personhood to convey sufficiently meaningful content by saying “lukeprog is a swell guy”, I don’t think we need an exhaustive account of atonement to comply with John 3:16.
Also, I don’t think there is a huge disagreement on a major issue between Calvinists and other Christians just because “Calvinists will tell you that God’s already chosen to save you or not”. I’m not sure what you’re getting at here – can you explain?

Again, given the disagreement about free will, we may not need to go any further than this. You can have the last word if you wish.

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Reidish September 24, 2010 at 10:20 am

Woops, I said:

So I don’t see how your current incarnation of P1 helps secure the inference you are trying to make.

I meant P2, not P1, sorry.

[misses the old comment editor]

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cl September 24, 2010 at 11:26 pm

I gave y’all four days, and still, not one single person has produced an instance of a contradiction.

drj,

Just what are you demanding here?

That you make your case.

…it looks like [what] you are demanding was provided as far back as the OP. The Bible is obscure as to the means of salvation.

No, the OP shows that the stated positions of various believers seem to be confused on the Bible. Two totally different things.

puntnf,

Sorry for being off-topic, but I’m calling shenanigans,

You can call “shenanigans” to your heart’s content if that makes you happy, but it does nothing for me. Can you make the case that the Bible is contradictory and/or unclear when it comes to salvation?

clamat,

Thank you for eschewing nonsense and staying cold [logically]. The main problem I have with your re-formulation is that – even if I accepted your argument, which I don’t – it doesn’t hold. That rational, honest people interpret scripture differently is not a persuasive argument against divine authorship. It is a persuasive argument for human confusion. Similarly, that some people don’t understand geometry is no argument against the veracity of the Pythagorean theorem, and yet, that theorem is stated clearly.

Bill Snedden,

Dr. Pulliam gives a plethora of specific examples.

Pulliam gives examples of churches disagreeing, from which God’s error does not follow.

The very fact that there exists a word to delineate the study of theories of salvation (soteriology) is, or should be, evidence enough to indicate that there are MULTIPLE theories of what’s required.

Again, Pulliam gives examples of churches disagreeing, from which God’s error does not follow.

Scientific theories succeed or fail based on how well they model the real world. The way this is tested is through experimentation.

Correct. Soteriology is not a set of scientific theories. There are no “experiments” one could do to demonstrate the veracity thereof.

In science [dissonance is] to be expected because we’re fallible human beings trying to work it out for ourselves.

Yes, now you’re speaking my language. All these Christians Pulliam alludes to are also fallible human beings trying to work it out for themselves.

ildi,

What’s up with the fallacy tourettes?

It’s not my fault that you argue without cogency.

Is not even near an ad hom to point out that you have demonstrated over and over again that your understanding of how science works is seriously flawed,

That’s false. My understanding of science is sound. If it weren’t, would atheist microbiologists be giving me – a theist – props for sound description of evolutionary concepts?

It’s not an argument from popularity when RS points out that you have failed to understand a fairly simple concept that was explained several ways, I’m guessing most likely due to your flawed understanding of the scientific method.

What does the scientific method have to do with the subject matter of the OP? Oh, that’s right – nothing. Besides, you give Selkirk more credit that he deserves: he simply implied that since “three other commenters” agreed with him, that I was “probably” wrong. That’s about as close to an argument from popularity as you can possibly get.

It’s not a bare assertion fallacy to refer to the OP with its myriad examples of biblical inconsistencies regarding the road to salvation.

Show me one instance of Pulliam demonstrating biblical inconsistency – if you can. The OP – all 100% of it – describes inconsistency amongst believers.

Zeb,

This has been an interesting debate to watch, though disappointing to see cl and his critics continue talking past each other.

Hey, all I’m asking for is that somebody make their case, and I didn’t ask for a half-dozen atheists to raise up against me. Frankly, I wish they’d keep to themselves. As far as the arguments go, these people are claiming that the Bible is inconsistent – yet – not a single one of them has made the case. Not Pulliam, not Bill Snedden, not ildi, not Reginald… none of them.

If I am right about the argument and cl’s challenge I’d like to see cl debunk P6 or P7,

People with Daltonism and people that misunderstand the Pythagorean theorem debunk 6, and I agree with 7. I disagree with your 8, and – as I just said – not a single one of my detractors has made their case. I’m under no rational obligation to assent to assertion.

J. Simonov,

Well. Hats off to you for being the first one to even try. Unfortunately, the verses you offer are complementary, not contradictory. “Keeping the commandments” would mean all of them, including the commandment to repent and be baptized.

bossmanham,

Here’s the problem that the atheists here can’t seem to get their heads around; Pulliam’s argument seems to go like this:

1) If God wrote the Bible, then it should be able to be understood.
2) Many people disagree on how to interpret the Bible.
3) Therefore, the Bible wasn’t written by God.

This is logically invalid! The argument fails because it’s not valid. He’d need to go to the text he is criticizing and show that it is literally not understandable if this argument is even going to begin to work.

Why yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to explain.

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cl September 24, 2010 at 11:28 pm

An afterthought:

Although the title of the OP is, “Is the Bible Clear on How Someone Can Be Saved,” not one iota of the OP is about the Bible. To contrast, every word of the OP is about how believers interpret the Bible.

The OP doesn’t even touch the question it portrays itself as answering.

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Zeb September 25, 2010 at 11:16 am

cl
Glad to see you are back. I wish I had more time to participate in this discussion, but since I don’t I will just pursue my selfish desire to see other people hash it out. So, when you say,

That rational, honest people interpret scripture differently is not a persuasive argument against divine authorship. It is a persuasive argument for human confusion. Similarly, that some people don’t understand geometry is no argument against the veracity of the Pythagorean theorem, and yet, that theorem is stated clearly.

I don’t think this is a fair summary of the argument, or a fair comparison. That rational, honest people interpret scripture differently is meant to be an argument against the “salvation message of the Bible” being clear. Then, that lack of clarity is used as an argument against divine authorship (I disagree with that latter point). As I supposed, you reject P7 of my formulation, that “a perfectly clear set of instructions for obtaining salvation would not be interpreted differently bu different people”. You use the examples of the Pythagorean theorem and color-blindness to demonstrate that rational and honest people can disagree about…stuff? I don’t quite get the analogies. I’m not aware of rational, honest people who have put any effort into understanding the Pythagorean Theorem interpreting it differently, and I can’t imagine how they would – because it is perfectly clear. And how does color-blindness relate at all?

Anyway, I think the argument is clearer now – you want evidence from the Bible that the Bible is unclear, while the other side is making an inductive argument from the widespread disagreement about the Bible. I find the inductive argument convincing, and I would like to know why you don’t. Why would there be so much widespread disagreement about the meaning of the Bible’s salvation message? Can you either defend your geometry and colorblindness analogies, or provide some other analogies for clear messages being interpreted differently by different people, or provide a general argument for why that could or would be the case?

And if anyone on the other side can defend the premise that a clear message would not be interpreted differently by honest, rational people, I’d like to see that. It seems intuitively true, and backed up by anecdote in my life, but that’s not satisfactory.

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J. Simonov September 25, 2010 at 5:19 pm

cl;

I dunno. The first passage I quoted says you need to do stuff to be saved; the second says nothing that you personally do will be responsible for saving you; only God’s mercy can be credited for that. I don’t think your interpretation can render them complementary.

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ildi September 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm

My understanding of science is sound. If it weren’t, would atheist microbiologists be giving me – a theist – props for sound description of evolutionary concepts?

Yeah, run this moronic statement by them, and see how many props they give you for your understanding of evolutionary concepts:

If human civilization didn’t seemingly pop on the seen [sic] about 8,000 years ago, I’d be much more confident in the old-Earth view. For example, if we could demonstrate – without carbon dating – a line of documents extending backs tens or hundreds of thousands of years – that would be one thing.

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